What a long, strange road it’s been….
While it isn’t that unusual for a car building project to take longer than expected, there aren’t too many that took as long as this one. Dick Forton, the 30-some year Detroit Autorama Show Chairman, and Jack Kampney, a show car builder and artist, were talking about what could be done for the USA Bicentennial Celebration over drinks at a local watering hole, when they came up with the idea for a mid-Corvair engine powered, track style, T roadster. After a lot of napkin sketching, it would have a great diving eagle graphics across the long hood area. Unfortunately, the complexity of the project and the required engineering delayed things well past the initial goal of 1976. Bake in numerous other projects, running a business- the world famous, Forton Mower Service and Intellectual Conversation Center, and progress was slow. Throw in learning how to operate a mill, clay model a nose, and build fiberglass molds and parts, and one decade starts to run into another.
Inventing the necessary parts, and sometimes re-inventing them, eventually got where they needed to go, but at some cost in time for the learning curve. Add some lower enthusiasm delays, and things just go on slowly. Even if you go out there and work on it all of the time, it is very difficult to maintain momentum. Finally, about 3 years ago, things started heating up and everything started coming together. Originally, the car had a basic Corvair engine. Later a higher performance 140 HP Corsa motor was added, but using only 2 carbs. All of the engine polishing and plating was completed, the carbs were upgraded to Webers, and the bodywork was at last in the home stretch. Al Bergler louvered the aluminum decklid, and made the underhood aluminum work. Many small details were made and massaged where it was necessary. Finally, a serviceable, tan vinyl, interior was stitched up.
Fellow Competition Specialist Auto Club member, Tim Godbout, finished the body work and black paint, fighting some difficult surface problems that again set back the completion date. He also worked on a lot of the hand-made linkages, brackets, and the new rear independent suspension uprights. There is still a flip-back, removable, fiberglass top that needs to be trimmed and detailed, but the fun is always in going topless, so this hasn’t been a big priority, yet. There have been a couple of hundred developmental miles put on it in anticipation of this summer’s rodding season.
One of the neatest things about the car is the apparent lack of a front suspension.All you really see outside the body is just the chrome tube axle and tie rod. The Bonneville racer feel is emphasized by the inside and outside, Moon-style wheel disks, on the front wheels. The nicely proportioned tires provide a really low stance. Minimalist headlights, and ‘50 Pontiac tail lights are the extent of the external adornment. The interesting windshield is a highly modified, Healey. The fiberglass body started out as an AI piece that was significantly modified with a trunk, an opening door, and cowl and sill reshaping. The handmade rectangular tube frame was modified several times to mount the different Corvair engines in a mid-engine position, and a new reverse cut ring gear makes everything work correctly. You really sit low in the car, gaining access thru the functioning door on the right side. The famous Gratiot Auto Supply Mr. Horsepower graphics now grace each side. The entire nose tilts up, giving access to the fuel tank, battery, and the electrics. There is an additional engine air intake, right behind the seat, helping the air cooled engine breath better and run cooler.
The best thing about this project is to see the big smile on Dick’s face now, when he drives it! Look for him at a Midwest run this summer.