Five Things You Won’t Expect When Your Race Car Catches Fire

Stephen Cox Blog Presented by McGunegill Engine Performance It was exactly one year ago that my race car caught fire at Circuit of the Americas during an endurance event. You can read more about it here. Suffice to say that as fires go, this one was bad. Perhaps the following thoughts from that experience will be helpful to my fellow racers. 1. You won’t be able to see a thing, and it’s worse than you think. If you’re racing in daylight, your eyes will adjust to the ambient outdoor light as you drive. When you glance down inside the cockpit, you Read More

TRIUMPH SQUARE BARREL: From WWII Bomber to Grand Prix Winner

Stephen Cox Blog Presented by McGunegill Engine Performance Triumph took the world by storm in 1938 by introducing its Speed Twin, the first of the great British parallel twin street motorcycles. But their enthusiasm – and sales – were cut short by World War II, which began the following September. Triumph engineers quickly adjusted to wartime production by re-designing the Speed Twin’s excellent 500cc power plant for military use as a portable generator. The cylinder heads and barrels were cast from aluminum and the generator’s operating temperature was kept in check by connecting an external fan to the engine’s tin, Read More

PLYMOUTH SUPERBIRD: The Car That Richard Petty Built

Stephen Cox Blog Presented by McGunegill Engine Performance It has been claimed that Plymouth’s legendary winged muscle car, the 1970 Superbird, was the brainchild of NASCAR champion Richard Petty. The rumor has been around for decades but I’ve never found anyone with first-hand knowledge who could absolutely confirm or deny that the car’s origins truly began with The King of Stock Car Racing. But opportunity knocked two weeks ago when Petty was in attendance at the Mecum auction in Kissimmee, Florida, which I co-host for NBCSN. I found him relaxing backstage late in the show and hollered, “Hey, King!” Although Read More

MECUM ANAHEIM and the Man I Never Expected to Meet

November 23, 2016
Stephen Cox Blog Presented by McGunegill Engine Performance
 
 
Do you remember me?” the strange man asked insistently. “Your show gave me something to live for. I've been waiting for this all year. You told me to come back, and I want you to know I made it.”
 
We were halfway through NBCSN's live coverage of the Mecum collector car auction in Anaheim last Friday when a middle aged man walked up to me with tears in his eyes. “Do you remember me? Do you?” Honestly, no, I didn't. But as he told his story it began to come back to me.

RACING’S GREATEST UPSETS: Trans Am’s 1966 Pan-American Endurance Race (Part 3 of 3)

November 15, 2016
Stephen Cox Blog Presented by McGunegill Engine Performance
 
 
(Part 3 of a 3-part series) John McComb ordered a new car for 1967. The choice was easy. Given his success in the 1966 Group 2 Mustang, he ordered a new notchback for 1967 to pick up where he left off with the Shelby program.
 
The 1967 Mustang was the model’s first major redesign and the car gained both size and weight. McComb didn’t care for either.
 
Even though the ’67 car had a wider track, it was a heavier car, so I don’t really think the wider track helped,” McComb said. “The ’66 car was just a very reliable, quick car. I always thought the ’66 car was better than the ’67 anyway.“
 
While awaiting delivery of the new car, McComb pulled his old mount out of the garage to start the new season. The 1966 car still ran strong, competing at the Daytona 300 Trans-Am race on February 3, 1967 and in the 24 Hours of Daytona the following day.

RACING’S GREATEST UPSETS: Trans Am’s 1966 Pan-American Endurance Race (Part 2 of 3)

October 20, 2016
Stephen Cox Blog Presented by McGunegill Engine Performance
 
 
The next weekend John McComb was racing again. The Trans-Am Series Six-Hour Pan-American Endurance Race was to be held at Green Valley Raceway in Texas. The sanctioning body mandated a second driver for each team due to the length of the event. McComb chose veteran Brad Brooker, a successful club racer who had logged plenty of miles in the Group 2 notchback’s nearly identical twin, the Shelby GT350.
 
Run entirely in a downpour late on Saturday evening, September 10, 1966, the Pan-American race would become an epic battle that still stands as the #12 Group 2 Mustang’s greatest triumph.

RACING’S GREATEST UPSETS: Trans Am’s 1966 Pan-American Endurance Race (Part 1 of 3)

October 5, 2016
Stephen Cox Blog Presented by McGunegill Engine Performance
 
 
On a hot summer afternoon in late August 1966, the telephone on John McComb’s desk rang.
 
On the other end was automotive design engineer Chuck Cantwell of Carroll Shelby’s legendary racing shop, calling with the surprising news that Shelby had a Mustang Group 2 racecar for sale.
 
McComb was delighted since his prior inquiries at Shelby had been met only by rejection. He had raced MGB sportscars for years but his first taste of Ford V-8 power came while driving Peter Talbert’s notchback Group 2 Mustang earlier that summer in the Trans-Am event at St. Louis. McComb and Talbert were leading the race until an exhaust pipe came loose, forcing them to settle for third place.
 
But McComb was already hooked. The car was more powerful than anything he’d ever driven. He wanted one of those Mustangs.

STEALING THE 500: The Story of Carroll Shelby’s 1968 Turbine-Powered Indycars, Part 2 of 2

September 7, 2016
Stephen Cox Blog Presented by McGunegill Engine Performance
 
 
(Read Part 1 by clicking here) Ken Wallis was running out of time. Both of Carrol Shelby's turbine-powered cars were now at Indianapolis but they were nowhere near race-ready condition. His drivers, McLaren and Hulme, had only a six-day window before they returned to Europe for the Spanish Grand Prix.
 
In a desperate bid to make the cars competitive, Wallis used a liberal interpretation of USAC's rules to design a new annulus (the engine opening that fed air to the turbine). When measured by technical inspectors, the annulus was under the legal 16-inch limit. But at full throttle on the race track, a variable valve system opened to permit greater air flow into the turbine. At best, this was a careful translation of the rules. If they were caught there was no guarantee that USAC wouldn't immediately disqualify the Shelby/Wallis Turbines. Such a move would be an unmitigated disaster not only for the team principals, but also for Goodyear, their drivers and their sponsors.