2017 Barber Historics: History In Motion

VW underneath a classic Italian body design.

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2017 Barber Historics: History In Motion

Post by FJCamper » Sun May 28, 2017 1:37 pm


2017 Barber Historics. History in Motion.

19 May 2017: Friday. The 3rd Barber Historics begin, sanctioned again by HMSA, the Historic Motorsports Association out of California. It is a big event, with colorful esoteric race cars, car club shows, swap meets, vendor arcades and side shows, tourists on golf carts, BBQ, and warm spring sunshine.

Above: The Ghia is right at home with the classics.

We are there with one well-waxed Ghia, our little brave Common Coupe vs the golden age of road racing bests, parked among the “real” sports cars on the paddock like an aspiring gladiator. Passerby’s comment “You don’t see that every day,” as they look over the Ghia’s competition car detail, aluminum driving seat, plastic rear window, decals, numbers, and cross-drilled brake rotors.


The Barber track and surrounding park is the very model of a modern racing complex. Porsche uses it for customer training. There is a fantastic motorcycle and automotive museum at the entrance. And lots and lots of realistic steel and concrete wildlife replicas in odd places, symbolic of Mr. Barber’s win over the naysaying environmentalists who tried to keep him from building the track..

The track itself is mostly up and down hill curves, dips, and sweepers, all on the tight side. No long straights here. A fast driver is a busy driver at Barber.

Driving for RetroRacing this event is Jamie Chambers, a team regular on Hawkeye’s LeMons Blitzwagen team, but new to solo hero driver competition. Today Jamie’s greatest aspiration (racing the Ghia) and greatest fear (ramming someone’s stupidly expensive vintage car with the Ghia) have met. But Jamie maintains. We don’t see him sweat. Or breathe. Or even blink. He’ll probably be better once he’s actually in the car.

Jamie brings Trevor, a teenage family friend, as volunteer crew. Racing needs new blood. Trevor is impressed with all the old, beautiful cars. They represent an era he didn’t even realize had existed. He doesn’t know a caster from a camber, but he can carry 5-gallon dump cans and move spare tires.

I am here for another dose of fulfilling my childhood dreams. When I was young I was a sports car, not a hotrod fan, and the sports cars we walk among here today were new, The Mille Miglia still ran in Italy. Road and Track carried stories and black and white photos of Lancia-Ferraris, Maseratis, and D-Jags … and most appealing to me was this upcoming Porsche marque, odd air-cooled racers the press called giant killers because they ran right on the big-engined car’s tails, ready to win if the leaders wavered.

Above: Parked beside us on the paddock, a 1962 Ferrari 250. You can see the spirit and the similarity of the Italian styling in the Ghia and Ferrari.

I wanted to be part of it, not just read about it. Historic Sportscar Racing and now the Historic Motorsports Association has provided me with my time machine. My car of choice for this is the Karmann Ghia. It’s mechanical layout is as close to a Porsche as you can get, and it’s styling is classic 1950’s compound curves, a time of overwhelming beauty. The Ghia is the sensual automotive interpretation of Sophia Loren.

Above: I’d rather my car look like Sophia Loren than Joan Jett.

{b}Above:{/b] An original Ford GT-40 and a 302 Camaro in paddock. The track is a living museum.

Above: Loti in a row, the same as they would have looked at Silverstone, just without the rain.

In Group 1, we are up against two 356 Porsches, a Lotus Eleven, two Austin Mini's, a Miata and a 1958 Corvette. Of the 356’s one is a 1962 B, and other a 1964 C or SC, which is allowed 4-wheel disks and the SC engine. I consider the 356’s our kin, and no matter how the race ends, it’s all in the family. Technically, the Ghia’s current 85.5x74 engine needs a better exhaust and more compression, to be competitive against a good 356.

The Eleven is a dedicated race car with a close-fitting aerodynamic body and a small but very strong 4-cylinder in-line engine. Eleven’s are to be respected. One finished 7th overall at LeMans in 1956. Actually racing against one is an honor.

The two 1965 Mini’s in our Group are the usual both quick and fast little terrors, With all the Cooper speed options, 1275cc to a bored-out 1300cc, 100+ horsepower will make a super light Mini get up and boogie. They dominated international rallying in the mid-1960’s.

The Miatas are a known item to most racers today. I don’t know how they got into Historic Motorsports, but there are a couple here. The one in our Group is a 1992 with a 1600cc engine.


Finally there was the 1958 Corvette. These heavy Detroit Iron came with 283 V8‘s and dual 4bbls or mechanical fuel injection. The vintage racing rules allow their front drums to be replaced with simple GM non-ventilated disks. Corvettes today are genuine world-class sports cars and racers, right up there with modern Porsche Cup cars. But in the 1950’s, they were boulevard cruisers, more show than go, and I remember them for the underdogs they were. That we get to test the Ghia up against one from that era is exciting.

We missed the 08:30 practice in the morning registration and tech confusion but are ready for the 11: 00 qualifying session. Jamie’s instructions are to just lap, watch the oil temps, and get a feel for the car all the while controlling his breathing so he doesn’t get startled, suck all the air out of his helmet, and pass out.

Within minutes on the track, Jamie feels ignition breakup, the tach needle bouncing, same as it was at the very end of our last race at the Mitty in April. Jamie brings the Ghia in. We’d suspected a failing tach, and just let it go. I disconnect the tach, and Jamie takes to the upper parking lot tier to rev the engine, practicing takeoffs. The ignition is still sputtering. When he comes back, I pop the distributor cap, rotor, and rotor disk.

I find the ignition module was working loose inside the 009 distributor, under the rotor disk and tighten it down with a handy little hex wrench from the ignition box, and reconnect the tach. We’re off to a humble beginning amongst our peers.

Above: Jim Roberts championship Gold Leaf Team Lotus.

Multi-SCCA and IMSA national champion Jim Roberts is at Barber this weekend running his Lotus 47 Europa in Group 2. Jim is an old friend of mine and I introduce Jamie to him. Jim and I started together in SCCA Showroom stock, and he taught my son Barret how to drive.

We have lunch, fuel the Ghia, and rest and wait. You can’t see the race from our tier, but we listen. The classics rip the air with their exhausts as they lap. You hear Webers lean-popping on deceleration, feel the big-block V8’s making the pavement tremble as they idle past us to their paddocks.

Today’s big feature is a one-hour enduro, all closed-wheel cars are eligible. The enduro is not mandatory. Jamie is a LeMons enduro driver, and takes hour driving stints in stride. It’s not that he must drive for an hour that’s worrisome. It’s that he has to drive for an hour right in the middle of a big field of historic, irreplaceable cars. He decides to do it anyway.

Just because the owners have great race cars doesn’t mean they have driving skills. That means Jamie doesn’t have to hit them. They might hit him first.

At 3:30 PM the enduro begins. About twenty cars are in the event. Jamie is side by side with 911’s, XKE’s, Datsun Z-cars, a Lola T-70, Shelby Mustangs, and one Porsche 935. All he can do now is stand on it, keep his head on a swivel, ask for no mercy and give none.

Above: Porsche #777 and Jamie roar out of the hairpin.

After about 10 blood pressure spiking laps the Ghia’s Falken radials were melting, and almost exactly half way through, the oil pressure light began to flicker. Jamie glanced at the oil temp gauge. It registered a very reasonable 220 F. considering the ambient air temperature was about 90 F. But something was wrong. Jamie took the escape road and drove back to our paddock area.


I was happy with his enduro participation. The newly relocated oil cooler was exceeding expectations. Jamie gets out of the car and his suit, sweating, hydrating on bottled water as I check the 3-gallon dry sump oil tank level. We are simply low on oil. We'd added no oil since the Mitty, and lost some in the oil cooler relocation.

We’re through for the day. Jamie does a quick plug check on our NGK BP8ES’. The ceramic electrode insulators are bone white. We need to richen up and get at least a gallon of oil.

The gear shift lever seems to needs some readjustment. Jamie finds it hard to shift out of 1st gear into second. We dismiss making the adjustment. Barret was having no shifting trouble, so maybe it’s just Jamie. Overall, the Ghia is running great. Jamie favorably compares the Ghia to the Blitzwagen, taking into account the Ghia slides where the BW sticks. The Ghia needs Hoosier "Speedster" racing tires.

"Man this thing has takeoff," Jamie says. The Ghia's power is peaky where the BW pulls like a truck all the way to its redline.

Jamie ran a 2:08 in the Enduro. The Blitzwagen had run 2:01 here last February. But Jamie is not pushing the Ghia. The high-dollar, original cars intimidate him. He is taking few chances, playing it safe.

Saturday morning 20 May. We top off the Ghia's oil tank with about ¾ gallon of Shell Rotella 15w40 (diesel) and I rejet the airs from 200 down to 190's. I’m hoping a smaller air jet will richen us up more uniformly than just one more larger main jet. We’re already at 155 mains on a 36mm venturi, all of which should by-the-book be too big for a 40mm barrel.

Above: Look at the monkey at the top of the tower.

At 8:40 AM, morning qualifying, for Group One, the tower board shows 1964 Porsche 356 #777 leading, Mini Cooper #51 second,, Lotus Eleven #7 in third, the 1958 Corvette #58 in 4th, Jamie at 5th, the 1992 Miata #31 in 6th, Porsche 356 #33 in 7th, and 8th (last) place for the 1965 Mini Cooper #61.

Above: Jamie dominates the Miata. “I just sent him home,” he bragged.

Jamie can stay on the Corvette’s tail, and harass the Lotus Eleven when the Eleven has to slow down for the turns. The 356-C and the #51 Mini are too fast for us.

Above: ChiCom copies of the Weber 40 IDF.

Above: Jamie gets bolder, and presses the Lotus Eleven. The Ghia takes the hairpin better, forcing Jamie to slow or hit the $$$ Eleven. Close racing like this does not look like cautious racing.

Above: Having forced Jamie to slow, the Eleven takes off out of the hairpin.

Oil pressure is good, 10 psi for every 1000 RPM, and the oil temp never exceeded 220F. A plug check finally shows a perfect tan. But the shifting problem is worsening. The four-puck feramic disk or Stage II pressure plate is failing on us somehow.

In the afternoon Group 1 race, the weather cloudy and overcast, Jamie finishes 4th of 5 in class. The 356 #33 blows up in front of Jamie, scattering bits and pieces of engine across the track. And something happened to Mini #61. The Miata was last. Our oil temps actually drop to 200F even with ambient temps in the 80F range. A cooler engine is less likely to suffer blowby, high crankcase pressure, and leaks. We have none of that.

But we are not without trouble. To calculate speed in gears, I asked Jamie what RPM’s he’s showing at certain places on the track. “ I don’t know,” he says. “It’s different every time.”

“Do you mean your tach needle is bouncing again?”

“No. I’m just really high in places where I should be low but not all the time.”

He is describing clutch slip. That’s bad, But it matches the response Barret got at Road Atlanta last month. We had to adjust and readjust the clutch, thinking it was that. And this fit with Jamie’s shifting trouble. The clutch wasn’t disengaging reliably even at full depression.

We have one more qualifying session tomorrow morning and our last race before lunch. Jamie is going to go out and do the best he can.

21May17; Sunday

A heavy overnight wind and rain storm destroyed our two 10x10 folding tents and paddock camp. Jamie and Trevor arrive in time to sort out the twisted canopy frame wreckage and drain the Ghia, but we miss the early morning qualifying session.

Not running the qualifying session is actually a bit of luck.. The clutch disk would not have survived for the race itself.

At 10:20 Group One is on track and the green flag goes down. There are now only four cars total., Jamie, the Corvette, and the two Mini’s. The Mini’s dominate, running well ahead of the Corvette, and Jamie stays on the Corvette. They are running a back-marker private race, the Ghia’s clutch slipping more and more. Jamie’s best time was a 2:10, off two seconds from his best.

In a dramatic moment, dogged by Jamie, the Corvette spins, close enough to threaten collision, but the Corvette recovers and manages to finish 3rd.

Jamie places 4th, but at least he places. All of us are proud of the Ghia and him. For Jamie, this might just be more seat time, but for me, deep inside I’m still the 12-year old sitting on the steps of my front porch with some well-worn sports car magazines, a plastic model car or two, and my imagination.

Above: Trevor helps with maintenance after the race.

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Re: 2017 Barber Historics: History In Motion

Post by itawolf » Sun May 28, 2017 5:53 pm

Wow that is awesome
I have to make it next year forsure
RET Marine 0317 --with VW on the lobe!!
Lots of iron in the fire

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Re: 2017 Barber Historics: History In Motion

Post by r@lf » Sun May 28, 2017 6:59 pm

awesome update and data-story! :)

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Re: 2017 Barber Historics: History In Motion

Post by doc » Mon May 29, 2017 8:43 am

Just waiting for the next chapter. Keep it coming.

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Re: 2017 Barber Historics: History In Motion

Post by eericson » Mon May 29, 2017 11:15 am

Love these stories. Glad to hear the engine is running cool.

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