AA Recap to mid-2008

9 July 2008

There has been a lot going on, and I haven’t posted here for a dogs age. I’m going to start again since I’m doing stuff to both Peyote and Peyote’s little brother–the Ambro 001 that I’m calling Mescal.

For those of you saying “Huh” I should explain that Bill Ames, the guy who built Peyote teamed up with his friend Dewey Brohaugh about a year later (roughly 1960) to start building fiberglass bodies to sell–a popular thing in the early sixties (Devin, Kellison, Meyers, etc.). When the first body came out of the mold they built a car for Dewey from a TR3 donor. This is that first car.

So why did I buy a car so similar to Peyote?  Mainly because I was thinking about building one anyway. I have an Ambro body that I bought a few years ago, and I used to have a spare frame (before Peyote needed it) and a lot of TR3 and TR4 parts to construct a modern Ambro. the owner, Doug Karon, wanted a pretty aggressive price for the car, but considering what it would really cost me to build a fake, the original seemed like a rational deal. OK, yeah, I paid way too much for it, but that’s done.

Since Peyote was still not ready for the Northwest Historics and the Portland Historics (I took it off the stands and was disappointed to find the suspension was seriously screwed up) I decided to race the Ambro and get a benchmark at the two tracks I race at the most: Pacific Raceways and PIR. To make a long story short, I found that the car was very heavy, didn’t handle very well, and lacked power. But it was pretty.

I turned a respectable time in the main race at Pacific Raceways, starting the weekend with times in the low 1:50’s and finishing in the 1:45’s. At Portland I did better yet, determining that the tire pressures I was using for Peyote (About 15 PSI cold) was way too low for a car that weighs 250 pounds more to start with  (1800 vs. Peyote’s 1550) and a driver that has somehow gained 15 pounds since leaving Maui (might be all that food I ate).

I started in the back of the pack, turning 1:40’s and after a lot of tire tweaking and a new set of Hoosier Speedsters running 24 PSI and a bit of tweaking, got down to 1:35: something finishing 5th or 6th overall. Still five seconds slower than Peyote, but a respectable showing.

So now Mescal is disassembled in my shop. There are a lot of simple things I plan to do. First is to put that original body into storage and mount the new one I bought. It’s at least 200 pounds lighter. I can’t lift the original nose by myself, and I had to drag the rear body section off the car–can’t lift it at all.  Clearly it’s the first body they built and they must have thought they were building a sailboat. Or maybe “If a little glass is good, more is better. Lots of glass and LOTS of resin. It’s weak and heavy, and it’s also original, so I don’t want to take a chance of damaging it.

Next is reworking the roll cage. The cage is similar to Peyote’s except for the way the rollover bar and bracing works. It has all the weight of Peyote’s cage with fewer benefits. The rear end of the car is as floppy as a stock TR3 frame–which is EXTREMELY floppy. When I put a jack under either rear corner I can lift the wheel way off the ground before the other wheel even comes up on it’s springs. With Peyote, if one rear wheel lifts the other comes off the ground with one more pump on the jack.

Also the car was lowered by extending the shackles a lot. That’s got to account for some of that rear end wobble. It feels like the car has a hinge in the middle. It’s got an ugly panhard bar setup that can go away, but it needs radius arms. The Armstrong shocks have all the damping of a screen door closer.

In the front is a plumber’s nightmare–a secondary radiator, remote oil filter, and lots of plumbing for the accusump. All that can go away. I like to plumb the accusump directly to the oil gallery. The second radiator supplies water to the #4 cylinder. A worthy idea, but one that can be accomplished with one pipe instead of a tangle of plumbing and an extra radiator. I can probably eliminate 100 pounds in the engine bay.

It’s also got an overdrive transmission. Lots of people love these for race cars. I’m not one of them. A four speed dog box is more my style and will probably drop another 30-50 pounds.

Finally the motor lacks beans. I can fix that. I’m tempted to ditch the SU carbs, but I might keep them just for historical reference. I hate ’em, and I have a nice set of webers on the bench–tanned, rested and ready. But they might stay there.

I’ll shoot some pics of the guts, and post some pictures from the races next time.

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