Fast is never fast enough, and especially when you are chasing Jeff Kiesel and his green Sprite. I've lost count of how many National Championships Jeff has won over the years (more than 12) and it will not be an easy task to catch him. So in order to help us non-alien drivers like me to close the gap with Jeff, a winter overhaul of the Jeep was needed to make it even faster. Just to be clear, this is J1... Del Long has built another Jeep that runs DM and that is J2, and they can both be seen in the banner photo at the top of this page. I also have a ton of videos on YouTube of the car if you'd like to see them.
We've been running the car for about 4 years now will with it pretty much like it was when it was new. A few things were replaced here and there, and some adjustments made to the suspension, but for the most part, the car is just the way it came from Del Long. After discussions about what we thought the car needed, there were two main areas of concern... and almost the only two areas on the car, the engine and the chassis. The task of making the chassis and suspension of the car faster is Dan McMahan from Covington GA. Dan's experience goes way back as a kid when his family raced, and Dan has been the master builder for Jim Murphy's F500/F600 rental business for years, and with his son Clint racing F500/F600's. To top that off, Dan was a certified welder on a nuclear submarine, so he's no stranger to fabrication. Chris Phillips, from Atlanta, is handling the engine building/tuning. Chris's experience with the LNF series motors allows us to better maximize the potential of the little 2.0 Liter turbo from General Motors, and it should turn out to be a little beast. It appears that Chris has picked only the best parts to stuff inside this little engine, and I can't wait to press on that right pedal to find out just how much of a beast it really is.
The original story about the Jeep was reported here a few years ago, so I won't cover all of that again... but in short, the chassis was originally an Allison Legacy scaled down NASCAR chassis and was designed to turn left. Del Long took the chassis and with modifications, turned it into an E Modified (EM) SCCA Solo car. We knew something was up with the car when we started picking up the left front tire on left turns. Not only that, the car would lean more turning left than right, even though everything (springs, corner weights, and sway bar) were good. Come to find out after everything was out of the car and Dan had a chance to take measurements, it was discovered that the centerline of the car was not centered between the front suspension, the entire chassis was sitting 1.5" to the left of the centerline. Whoa... no wonder we had inconsistent handling. So Dan cut the entire front clip off the car and is re-grafting it back on the car like it's suppose to be. Here are a few of the changes to the suspension:
Dan is adding bracing to both rear and front clips which is not shown so far in these photos. The brace in the rear goes from the top of the turnscrew end of the Panhard rod to the opposite main frame. There will also be additional motor/transmission mounts to reduce the chance of cracking/breaking the aluminum bellhousing.
The entire suspension geometry for both the front and the rear should be dramatically improved over v1, and I'll have much more about this once I get the pictures.
To bring you up to speed, the motor was a junkyard motor out of a Chevy Cobalt SS and has been autocrossed for 4 seasons now. It's the same engine you could have gotten in a Pontiac Solstice GXP or Saturn Ion Redline, and is the 2.0 Liter LNF turbo motor. From the factory, it made about 260 HP and we were getting about 330-350 HP on an E85 tune. We had some issues during the year with the throttle body tubing coming the throttle body, and a few other minor things that seemed to be robbing a little power, but for the most part, the engine seemed to run fine. But since it was coming out of the car anyway, it was time to go through it.
Before, everything was stock except for the external plumbing and tune. After pulling the motor and inspecting the bottom end, it was determined that the rod bearings had taken a beating and there were little specks of metal in the pan, so the decision was made to tear it down and start over. The journals of the crankshaft were too badly scored so it had to be replaced leaving only the head, block and crankshaft girdle untouched in the motor.
Here is a list of modifications that are happening during the rebuild:
I told Chris that all of those parts sounded like a 450+ HP motor, and asked him what his power estimate was before the car heads to the dyno, he had this to say about the setup...
The motor is good for it. But in the beginning Jim didn't want to add that much power, so we settled on a turbo that was much less expensive and should get us to right at 400 hp. I proposed a turbo that would get us 450-500 hp, but it was about $1400 more and Jim said he just wanted it to keep building power and not fall off like the stock turbo. The stock one would lose boost, and in turn, the motor would lose horsepower at 5300 rpm and just drag out to the 7000 rpm redline.
My estimate.... 430 hp. :-) I think Chris is being conservative. While I await more pictures, Chris and Dan are currently awaiting the arrival of the clutch so they can get the motor back in the car and move it along to the dyno shop for tuning. We don't have much time before the SCCA Dixie Tour and still lots of work to get done. [EDIT: Clutch won't be here... we'll have to miss the Dixie Tour]
Here are links to all 5 of the blog post about the rebirth of the Jeep.
Just some thoughts about driving the "Jeep", a SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) E Modified car that remotely looks like a Jeep. The Jeep is owned by Jim Murphy, so I just show up and drive it!