Our Hobby stock car awaits...
Our Hobby stock car awaits a make-over. This car was like many others in this stock chassis class, it pushed like a dump truck. We did a little investigation and found a combination of problems. Once solved, our car was much more competitive. Photo by Dave Shank
When I learned that my friend, and bank president, for some thirty years needed help setting up his dirt hobby stock car, I jumped at the opportunity. This little project would allow me to apply the technology we preach here in CT to a car with limited adjustment capability. Once we got into the car, I was surprised by our discoveries.
Joe Epton, Jr. from my home town of Ormond Beach, FL, has been dirt racing for six years, starting in the Pure Stock four cylinder division. I have watched him race at Volusia Speedway Park and he is very smooth and calculating, just what I would have expected, but he is in no way slow. With a good car, he can run in the top five in a division that routinely fields 25 or more cars in each race, and has won heat races and features.
Joe is no stranger to stock car racing. His dad was NASCAR's first chief scorer and timer for years starting way back in 1946, and his mom, Juanita "Lightnin'" Epton, started working in the Daytona ticket office in 1958 and is still connected with the speedway.
Before we disassembled the...
Before we disassembled the car, we noted that the upper control arm mount had been lowered by the builder, the steering arms strengthened with add-on pieces, and that there was sufficient clearance between the lower control arm and the frame. After we broke it down we found problems.
His racing career began with racing karts early on, but he soon realized he did not have the financial support to go full-time racing. Later on in life, he decided it was time to just go racing like he had always wanted to do, and he is realizing his dream on the dirt at Volusia. How cool is that? His crew consists of Charley Kinsey as crew chief, Roger Rose, Ron Koch, a local motorsports editor, and Charley, Jr.
The problem with this new car that he had built late last season was that it would not turn well (imagine that), and as a result would push on entry and go loose on exit. There are probably more than a thousand teams in this country that have the same problem. So, I saw an opportunity to jump in there, do an evaluation and try to fix it.
I normally work with late-model teams, often on asphalt and sometimes on dirt. It is a known fact to a small group of individuals that I helped a lot of asphalt teams win races and championships. And as for dirt, back in 1998 I developed a particular different kind of setup that ended up winning both the Dream and the World 100 at Eldora, drawing the wrath of CJ Rayburn whose car was featured in those wins.
Kenny measures the spindle...
Kenny measures the spindle height with the car at ride height. We do this so we can position the spindles at the ride height location after we have put the car on jack stands. We then can check for clearances, ball joint binding, steering Ackermann, camber and caster settings and shock shaft position.
The late-model cars have a lot more leeway in the rules and more opportunity for adjustment in the design than this class. That makes this job more difficult for sure, but also more of a challenge, and I love a good challenge. We will be looking at major issues and finally setting the car up with what has worked for me historically in this class.
The car is a 1985 Monte Carlo and has the metric four-link rear suspension, a stock frame throughout and must use stock type springs in their original positions. Shocks must be mounted in the stock positions and the car must have all stock suspension parts. As in most "stock" classes, teams are allowed to trade stock pieces from other model year cars as long as the brand is the same. This class also runs large Hoosier racing tires all around, where as the street stock classes are only allowed one racing tire on the RF.
The first order of business was to weigh the car on the scales and measure and record the ride heights and the spindle heights for future reference. We wanted to maintain the original ride heights after installing new springs so the geometry would be the same, and we needed to know the spindle height so we could check for proper clearance and make sure there was no bind of the ball joints while the car was on jack stands.
We removed the upper ball...
We removed the upper ball joints to get the old springs out of the car. This also allowed us to more easily inspect the bushings, both ball joints, as well as make some adjustments to the caster settings and upper shock mounting holes.
We proceeded to break the car down and remove the springs and shocks to see what we had. To get the front springs out, we had to remove the upper ball joints. This gave us a chance to inspect everything up close. My helper, Kenny Hellyer, was very familiar with the mechanics of these cars and was a definite asset in all of our re-design work.
The first problem we noticed was that the shocks on both sides in the front were rubbing on the inside of the height adjuster that was put into the car not to jack weight, but to create the ride height that was necessary to avoid bottoming out. The rear of the car had legal spring height/weight jacking adjusting bolts.
The shock contact was so bad, that one shock was leaking and both housings were bent severely. These were aftermarket twin tube shocks and still seemed to be working. I tried the standard method of checking them by placing one end on the floor and pushing in from the top. The shocks were so stiff that they barely moved.