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Troy's Ole Days: AMC's first win

 
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Troy



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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2012 5:30 pm    Post subject: Troy's Ole Days: AMC's first win Reply with quote

Okay, I am not JEEIII but I am copying him :)

Penske Perfect.

We have all heard the announcers on races say it. Kinda tongue in cheek, but kinda serious. Where did this expression orginate from??? Mark Donohue. Mark Donohue was an incredibly gifted racer, a winning driver in about every series he raced in, he had race wins and championships in all forms of racing. You name the series, the type of car or the track and Mark more than likely won there. Penske and Donohue formed a partnership in the '60's that laid the groundwork for the Penske dynasty we see today. Roger Penske (an accomplished racer himself) started Penske Racing with Donohue as the driver and has been winning ever since.

The Race.



Donohue (16) chasing Hershel McGriff (04) at Riverside, Donohue would go on to win the race. (Photo from our friends at the HAMB board)

Ultimate Racing History (www.ultimateracinghistory.com) has the race innocently listed as "Winston Western 500, January 21/1973", showing Donohue as the winner in a 1973 AMC Matador.





Mark Donohue in the AMC Matador, from our friend Jayski (www.jayski.com)

The race has other notables, Bobby Unser ran the last race Holman Moody entered, David Pearson started the race from the pole and started his amazing 11 wins in 18 races season. Richard Petty was in the race with a Dodge Charger, after running 1972 with both Plymouth's and Dodge's. The race was your normal mix of Grand National drivers, Winston West drivers and road course ringer's like Donohue and Unser. Other notables include Buddy Baker begining a sucessful relationship with the K&K team and former K&K driver Bobby Isaac running with Bud Moore. (Also of note, several of the cars in the race exist today, Unser's H-M Torino exists basically as raced, the Petty Charger is being restored by our friend Mopar Dealer, Ray Elder's Charger is owned by our friend Doug Shultz and the Wood Brother's Mercury sits proudly in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. I am sure there are probably others still around as well.)

From the stats at Ultimate Racing History, Donohue led 138 of 191 laps, with only Bobby Allison and Richard Petty leading laps, Allison finishing second, one lap down with 14 laps lead and The King finishing 21st after leading 39 laps, with a blown engine. Looked like a Penske Perfect day.

The Car.



Penske Matador in testing at Daytona. Photo courtesy of eBay.

Dr. John Craft has told us Roger Penske had the two original Matador's built at Holman and Moody, with H-M using exisiting half chassis underpinnings with Matador bodies and AMC engines. Suspension was similar to era Torino/Cyclones, with AMC components being engines and body skin. The front suspension would have been similar to a '65 Galaxie, the rear having rear coils with a Ford 9" and FOUR wheel disc brakes. The car would be brand recognizable and would have an AMC engine, more than likely a variant of the 360 AMC small block engine. NASCAR still allowed big block engines (the 41 H-M Torino of Unser's had a detuned Boss 429 in it), but the small block engines had a significant advantage. With the cars being the tried and true proven H-M chassis and AMC providing engineering and the very experienced Penske Racing team, it made the Matador a shockingly good race car. (See detailed period article below)

The Man.



"He's a racer's racer" is an expression we all hear describing drivers. Sometimes it is over used, sometimes it is accurate. Donohue was indeed a "racer's racer". He won dozens of races, maybe more (his offical win record is stated as "54 major race wins"). He won in all forms of racing. Donohue was an engineer by trade. He tested cars and understood chassis dynamics and understood how cars worked and how to make them work better. He wrote a book called "The Unfair Advantage" in setting up race cars. His politeness, even temperment and reparte with fans made him popular to fans and sponsors. Donohue "understood" racing, like only select drivers did, like Petty, Allison and Andretti. Sure it is about competition, going fast and winning, but it is also about fans.

Donohue was in the middle of a Penske assault on Formula 1 when he died in a practice crash in Austria August 19, 1975 at 38 (Mark would still only be 75 today). It has been said he had reservations about F1, the dangers and the lack of performance in his car. It is said he had been contemplating retirement at the time.

All of us here has stated that race car drivers were our hero's of youth, may it be Fireball Roberts, Curtis Turner, Richard Petty or Dale Earnhardt. For me it was Mark Donohue. Donohue's smile and red, white and blue AMC cars covered my Dad's car magazine's. My Dad even painted one of his local short track race cars the traditional Penske red, white and blue, even though we were/are proud Canadians. Mark was my hero because he was really, really good. And he won, defeating the best. NASCAR, Indy Car, Trans Am, Can Am and probably dozens of other series.

The Aftermath.

Penske Racing went on to be one of the strongest teams in professional racing, winning hundreds of races in all forms of auto racing, including numerous Indy 500's, the Daytona 500 and others. Penske raced AMC cars into the mid '70's with Bobby Allison and Dave Marcis (amoungst others) and Allison catching 4 more wins in Grand National/Winston Cup in Matadors.

Riverside Speedway was demolished in the late '80's to make way for urban development. A housing complex and shopping mall sits on the same land that Donohue thundered in his Matador.

AMC was a small company that tried to compete with the big three, eventually gobbled up by by Chrysler Corp. in the '80's after a failed merger with Renault. The AMC brand still lives on today in Jeep products.

But for a brief time in the early '70's AMC had the best driver, best team and results such as the Riverside race showed what the marque was capable of.

And what Mark was capable of.


Last edited by Troy on Fri Jun 22, 2012 7:02 pm; edited 4 times in total
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DR JAY



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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2012 5:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for that...great pictures. So great, in fact, that the JoHan AMC Rebel kit I was saving for a superdetailed kind of build has NOW been earmarked for Penske/Donohue/ Grand National duty. Thanks also for the description of the chassis- a much needed detail when you have no reference pictures!

Great...as if I didn't have enough projects. I'll phone Keith Marks and see if he wants the decals he made for me back.
(ALWAYS use prepositions to end sentences with....!)
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Tom M.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2012 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I believe the Matadors had coils in the rear. The cars were required to have whichever type of spring was the factory type. I have no idea if they were long arm or short arm cars, however. Very little is known about the early Matadors, maybe I'll ask Dave Marcis or Don Miller the next time I see either of them.

I still remember one Sunday morning in '75. Sitting in the grandstands over the backstretch at Talladega, watching the 917-30 make a parade lap in honor of Mark Donohue setting the world closed-course record a week or two before after getting the word that Mark had suffered fatal injuries in Austria that same day, then sitting in those same seats watching two fans from the infield trying to extract Terry Link from his burning Pontiac while safety crews were helpless to do anything for Tiny Lund in A.J. King's Dodge.

It was a somber drive home that evening.
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Tom M.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2012 6:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Also, I think there's a good chance the Bud Moore car from this race also still exists and Bill Tower claims the Bobby Allison car exists but I'm not as confident as he is about the identity of that car.
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Troy



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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2012 7:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tom is the man, as usual. I will update the article:

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Tom M.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2012 7:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So the rear was a 3-link with Watts link. I bet it was a clone of the '65-'66 Galaxie design.
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bvaughn



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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2012 8:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the pics & info. Does anyone have any other pics of Herschel McGriffs #04 Plym from this race???
Thanks
Bill
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JEEIII



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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2012 10:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have a 1973 Racing Digest article on Mark Donohue's retirement, he said he was glad he got out before ever being seriously injured but like a lot of racers, he missed it and went back........Troy, I can never write that detailed an Ol'e Days but will try and be more of a topic starter! When I go back to the Airliner Modeling site, Ol'e Days is in good hands!!!


John
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Troy



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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2012 11:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JEEIII wrote:
I have a 1973 Racing Digest article on Mark Donohue's retirement, he said he was glad he got out before ever being seriously injured but like a lot of racers, he missed it and went back........Troy, I can never write that detailed an Ol'e Days but will try and be more of a topic starter! When I go back to the Airliner Modeling site, Ol'e Days is in good hands!!!


John


No brother, the Ol'e Days are yours, I was just copying you. Mark Donohue is a racing topic I can talk about all day. I am just an imitator :)
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George Andrews



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PostPosted: Sat Jun 23, 2012 1:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Thanks for the pics & info. Does anyone have any other pics of Herschel McGriffs #04 Plym from this race???
Thanks

An excellent driver's side 3 / 4 rear photo, appears in the UMI Publications 1973 Winston Cup Grand National Series yearbook. It's on page 17. Note that the interior of this red car is painted Petty Blue !!! Go figure... Laughing
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JEEIII



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PostPosted: Sat Jun 23, 2012 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Troy, I'll post that Mark Donohue Racing Digest article. It's very sad to read, knowing what later happened.........Not only was he a GREAT driver but his Engineering background gave him a unique perspective.
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C5HM



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PostPosted: Sat Jun 23, 2012 2:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tom M. wrote:
Also, I think there's a good chance the Bud Moore car from this race also still exists and Bill Tower claims the Bobby Allison car exists but I'm not as confident as he is about the identity of that car.

Tom, so you are not confident about Bill Tower. It quite naturally follows that you met him, then? Here is what his supposed Bobby Allison Chevelle looked like when it was waiting to become in the Gastonia Flash's scrap yard:

Back in my young and gullible days, I actually introduced Tower to the Flash. Tower was sold this Chevelle as "The Donnie Allison, DiGard #88 near Daytona winner" Once in Florida the car became the Bobby Allison Coke Chevelle almost over night. It may be important to note that he car rolls on a Galaxie, rear steer, snout. So, it appears that Tower and the Flash are a perfect pair.

Sorry for hijacking the thread. I will make amends in one moment.


Last edited by C5HM on Sat Jun 23, 2012 3:00 pm; edited 1 time in total
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C5HM



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PostPosted: Sat Jun 23, 2012 2:54 pm    Post subject: Troy Now you have gone and done it Reply with quote

I have been a long time fan of first generation Matadors. They were Holman Moody cars after all. Your thread today inspred me to do some scanning (when I should be in the garage turning wrenches). Hope you guys enjoy these shots:
Rear brakes and suspension. Trans AM based discs, short Torino style trailing arms and coils. HMMM. This is an AMC?




These brakes came right off of Penske's Trans Am Javelins according th AMC guys I know. Before that they were used under certain Porsches. Note how far in-board the disc had to be mounted to clear the H&M double centered rims. Also note that this "AMC" was actually a 1965, rear steer Galaxie in terms of front suspension.


The next few shots show the Matadors in the first year racing livery at Riverside.



Mr. D. In the cockpit during a pit stop practice session. Note the fabricated rear wheel-houses that H&M started using in 1971 or so.


Note the Holman Moody dash.


Last edited by C5HM on Sat Jun 23, 2012 3:31 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Troy



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PostPosted: Sat Jun 23, 2012 3:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

@JEEIII, I was doing some reading last night and after Mark retired he tried all of that stuff he mentioned doing in the article, and realized he was actually a better driver than an engineer and team manager. That F1 bug is a dangerous bug to get, a lot of drivers have either met their demise or it ended up ruining their career either physically or emotionally. Mansell left CART as the best, he returned to F1 and left a broken man. I don't think Michael Andretti was ever the same after he returned from F1, some say the same for Mario.

@JAC/Tom: Did we ever figure out if that Carolina Cooler car was indeed "the" BA car??? I would be SHOCKED if BA had built a Chevelle with rear steer in it. Bobby was SO anti rear steer it would be shocking to think he would have built a rear steer car at HIS shop.

@JAC: Sorry to have impeded progress on your Galaxie... Those detailed pictures of the disc brakes and the huge gap between the rotor and rim had to have been a massive advantage (an unfair advantage perhaps???), the disc would have been out in the cool air. Did Mark ever race the Matador in these colors??? Hadn't Donnie drove the car initially??? Was the Penske/AMC deal what fell through with Bobby and Ralph near the end of '72???
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C5HM



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PostPosted: Sat Jun 23, 2012 3:21 pm    Post subject: More Ramblers (Troy...this is all YOUR fault!) Reply with quote

Second season (Winning) Riverside livery..

Left/Right fruit cupper tracks in the rear view. Time to put on big boy pants.




Flat head screws on the spoiler??? HMMM

Hey!!! The fruit cuppers never bashed fenders like this???

While I am no big fan of the Kermit the Frog Matadors, here is one cool shot from Daytona testing.


I've got more Matador shots. But I hear an H&M Galaxie calling me...


Hope you guys enjoyed these shots.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 23, 2012 4:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not to hijack the thread but on the "Allison" Chevelle, I haven't examined the actual car up close but I have spoken at length with the person who did most of the restoration in his shop and viewed the restoration album. I doubt it's a genuine Allison GN car but there really wasn't much left on it that was unmolested when it was found.

On the Matador brakes, the H&M wheels wouldn't clear the calipers if they were buried up inside the wheels like they are installed now. That was one reason the Clement 5-slot wheels came into use during '72-'73, they would clear the calipers better.
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BrittB



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PostPosted: Sat Jun 23, 2012 4:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've got to find me a JoHann AMC Machine kit now!
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Tom M.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 23, 2012 4:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You'd be better served getting a MCW Matador resin, an AMT NASCAR Thunderbird, and an AMT '70 Monte Carlo. From the looks of it, those would get you close and I think you can get all three for the price of one of the Rebel Machine kits that still needs a ton of scratchbuilding on the nose.
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The Dark Side, when cars were steel, bumpers were chrome and men were iron...

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 23, 2012 4:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not to mention, that's when you can find them!
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 23, 2012 5:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Years ago, there was an F1 book about accidents and no doubt Grand Prix racing's safety record was the WORST! Not only fatal but so many disfiguring accidents, unsecured armco. Losing his team mate in the horrific Watkins Glen accident will always be part of the Jackie Stewarts last race in '73.......



John
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 23, 2012 5:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hahahahaha "Kermit The Frog" Matadors....hahahahahhaa


Wade


Awesome stuff!
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 23, 2012 10:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes MCW does the Matador body..It is a good resin body..It comes with which ever decals you wish to depict. I helped make the MAster and it has been a good seller for MCW for a while...I don't mean to sound like that, I'm just saying it is a fine resin body and with the deacls you can make Donahue,Allison,Marcis,& Bentenhausen's cars...

Terry
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 12:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
HMMM. This is an AMC?

Penske Donohue AMC!! Yes....Penske did borrow stuff from other makes for his AMC's. The brakes were indeed Porsche units with a AMC part number!!
But it's not that unusual as I found out I can use Toyota disk brakes on my drum equipped Javelin!!

AND...watch those Kermit Matador comments.......
[list=]
One of the best driving cars I own...modern or vintage!!! Could be the one inch rear sway bar and fat disc brakes!! [/list]
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 2:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Had a neighbor that bought a new one. Matador X with the 401 and a 4 speed! I can tell you the car was not a slouch for the year!
And yes it handled and rode great!

Something I remember from the 70's.
I was running once in a while at the track north of the Dells in Wi.
That was where I met Dick Trickle and even raced against him, (he is actually the guy that put me out of the racing business, but that's another story.) Laughing

I remember one weekend he was just into Nascar then and they announced that his AMC entry had been disqualified because of non AMC parts. I believe the spindles were mentioned but that was a long time ago and I don't remember for sure.
Any one remember this or anything about which car or team he was driving, if it wasn't his own entry.
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Dave Van



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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 3:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't remember any AMC being disqualified from a race. Q time maybe?? Penske made sure AMC put part numbers on anything he used....no matter who made them!! Laughing
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 3:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I remember Bobby getting fined around $9500 and penalized points at Ontario in '74 after his first win with the Matador. They had roller-ish (but not traditional roller) rockers. Bobby told me someone in NASCAR had approved them before they took them to the track but you've all heard the stories about how the Gazzaway Brothers disliked Bobby. :)
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Johnnys1977



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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 3:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dave Van wrote:
I don't remember any AMC being disqualified from a race. Q time maybe?? Penske made sure AMC put part numbers on anything he used....no matter who made them!! Laughing


It may have been his own car that he was trying to qualify and it didn't pass tech. I don't believe he even made it on the track.
The wife's cousin said it was because he had Ford spindles on it. Which I take it that perhaps he didn't know how others were playing the game? Laughing
I don't remember the particulars myself. idunno

Sucks to get old and lose these memories. Crying or Very sad
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 3:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If the front end of the Johan Rebel wasn't so different I'd be tempted to build Mark's car.
Think I'll just try ad find the "Machine" decals and restore it to what it was. Laughing
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 4:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tom M. wrote:
I remember Bobby getting fined around $9500 and penalized points at Ontario in '74 after his first win with the Matador. They had roller-ish (but not traditional roller) rockers. Bobby told me someone in NASCAR had approved them before they took them to the track but you've all heard the stories about how the Gazzaway Brothers disliked Bobby. :)



IIRC , that was mark / penske who was fined $10,000 for using a roller cam in winning at riverside . IIRC [ again ] it was that Naaaash's first win [ not counting pops' victory in that bathtub in the '50's Very Happy ]

jack
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 4:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

genuine jack wrote:
Tom M. wrote:
I remember Bobby getting fined around $9500 and penalized points at Ontario in '74 after his first win with the Matador. They had roller-ish (but not traditional roller) rockers. Bobby told me someone in NASCAR had approved them before they took them to the track but you've all heard the stories about how the Gazzaway Brothers disliked Bobby. :)



IIRC , that was mark / penske who was fined $10,000 for using a roller cam in winning at riverside . IIRC [ again ] it was that Naaaash's first win [ not counting pops' victory in that bathtub in the '50's Very Happy ]

jack


From Nascar Rules-Cheatin'

1974
After winning the season-ending race at Ontario, Calif,, Bobby Allison's Roger Penske-owned AMC Matador is found to have illegal valve lifters. The win stands, as do the points, but the team is fined $9,100
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 5:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Johnnys1977 wrote:
genuine jack wrote:
Tom M. wrote:
I remember Bobby getting fined around $9500 and penalized points at Ontario in '74 after his first win with the Matador. They had roller-ish (but not traditional roller) rockers. Bobby told me someone in NASCAR had approved them before they took them to the track but you've all heard the stories about how the Gazzaway Brothers disliked Bobby. :)



IIRC , that was mark / penske who was fined $10,000 for using a roller cam in winning at riverside . IIRC [ again ] it was that Naaaash's first win [ not counting pops' victory in that bathtub in the '50's Very Happy ]

jack


From Nascar Rules-Cheatin'

1974
After winning the season-ending race at Ontario, Calif,, Bobby Allison's Roger Penske-owned AMC Matador is found to have illegal valve lifters. The win stands, as do the points, but the team is fined $9,100



i THOUGHT i remembered that deal so clearly Embarassed . i was going to check it in greg fielden's book , but "oh no - no need for that - i remember it like it was yesterday !" . well , i finally did check it , and i'm absolutely wrong . i'm going to have to learn to check things first , or keep my big mouth shut [ i guess in this case that would mean keeping my typing finger in my pocket - or as smoky might've said - in my nose , where it might do some good .
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Dave Van



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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 8:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I remember the lifter issue....but was sure the win stood.
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George Andrews



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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I recall reading somewhere a quote by Bobby Allison to the effect that the camshaft bearings were a weak spot on the AMC motor. ( Too small ) Perhaps the roller lifters were just an attempt to ease the strain on the cam bearings ??? idunno And yes, the fine did occur at Ontario, not Riverside.
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Tom M.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 4:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Small cam bearings limit the cam grinder's ability to use aggressive opening and closing velocities, because the cam profile has to be smaller than the cam bearings in order for the camshaft to be installed into the engine and so to get the necessary lifts it forces the base circle of the profile (the part where the valve is closed) to be a lot smaller in diameter. This means that for a flat lifter the profile needs to be gentle to not get up onto the edge of the lifter.

The way I understand it, Penske's engine builder installed lifters with a circular profile machined into the end of the lifter. Not a roller, but the radius allowed more aggressive valve acceleration without hitting the edge of the lifter. Technically not a roller since nothing actually rolled, but "not approved". Later in the '70s NASCAR did begin allowing mushroom lifters, which were flat lifters that had a much larger diameter head than stock. This also allowed for more aggressive cam profiles and were NASCAR approved. IIRC, the smallblock Mopar engine had a similar issue and that led to NASCAR relenting and allowing everyone to use the mushroom lifters.
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Troy



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PostPosted: Sun Aug 19, 2012 1:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bump, 37 years ago today we lost Mark.
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Tom M.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 19, 2012 6:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just to add, it's been determined with a fair degree of certainty that the Bill Tower Chevelle is almost certainly a DONNIE Allison DiGard Chevelle that may or may not have worn Coke colors prior to its DiGard incarnation. An Allison build, but it's looking as if it was likely an original DiGard car rather than a Coke car beforehand.
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The Dark Side, when cars were steel, bumpers were chrome and men were iron...

"You should never point a loaded gun at anyone. This is not a hard and fast rule, however. A hard and fast rule is that you should never, ever, point an unloaded gun at anyone." P.J. O'Rourke
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