The Start Of The Show
Avid racer J Bittle of JBA is known as a hard charger. At Hallett, every time his group was called he was out on the track in his restored '68 Trans-Am Mustang. He never misses a chance to drive, and on top of that he's good. In short, we wanted J to pilot our Mustang because we knew that the wily business owner from San Diego would drive the wheels off. Of course, Nick was not so keen about the situation, but we were looking for unbiased results and J would provide that in spades.
Around 1:30 in the afternoon, J was given run of the track in order to be unhindered in his quest for the best lap time in the little coupe with its stock suspension. Jason handled the play-by-play from the announcer's booth while we found a great photo spot in the corner affectionately called "The Bitch"-so-named because the ess into a dog-leg corner trips up many seasoned drivers due to its rolling up and then downhill tight turn.
As we set up, J made his first run and we could tell that the car was as much fun to drive as a runaway stagecoach. The inside tire was nearly lifting off the ground coming out of The Bitch. The outside tire was smoking due to extreme compression of the suspension and wicked camber changes that caused the tire to whack the outer wheelwell. We witnessed J thrashing around in the cab trying to get the Pony under control; he met with limited success.
His second pass was little better. J was driving brilliantly in what we later discovered were terrible conditions-by Lap 2, the four-speed was trying to drop out of Second and Third gears. By Lap 3, the coupe was overheating. Still, J posted a best lap time of 1.52.
Inspecting the post-run footage, we were impressed with the speed-rated BFGoodrich ZR KD tires. Our hunch was that the KDs were about the only mechanical advantage J had on the track.
Still warm from its hot laps, the hardtop rolled into the Stephen Brothers Racing garage in preparation for its conversion to the RRS system. "The car ran really hot but seems OK," Darell mused. Dale Childress shook his head, still reeling from the beating his old "shed motor" took.
J looked the car over and laughed, "I could hardly keep it on the track. Between the four-speed and the suspension it was quite a ride."
As we looked on, the boys from Gateway went to work removing the old parts from the car. The goal was to completely dismantle the front suspension and get the new RRS system ready before 4 p.m.; it was now 2 p.m. "The track closes at 4 today," Jason said. "I don't see a track-side hotel and spa, and besides we want to hit the cruise tonight."
Darrel begins the front suspension...
Darrel begins the front suspension disassembly by loosening the strut rods and getting the front end ready to go away.
Bill Bufka begins to remove...
Bill Bufka begins to remove the 8-inch rear axle in preparation for the 9-inch that's part of the RRS three-link rear suspension.
This is expedience at work....
This is expedience at work. Lonny and Darrel dropped the suspension out by removing the upper control arm nuts and lifting the car off the blocks. They're crazy and from Missouri; we recommend the use of a spring compressor.
Darrel found the best way...
Darrel found the best way to get the old steering box out in one piece was to remove the exhaust manifold and valve cover. He also dismantled the steering column by taking off the wheel and removing the C-clip, thus allowing the shaft assembly to slide out. The front seat was removed for clearance as well; that was OK because it needed to come out for the three-link install.
The Gateway gang put their collective heads together and got to work. Soon parts were flying off the car. By 4:15, the stock suspension was history.