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Author Topic: Trans-Am cheating fact or fiction ???  (Read 2632 times)
satman
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« on: March 26, 2014, 10:57:24 AM »


     Anybody who is a fan of early Trans-Am racing has probably heard stories of blatant cheating taking place by the factory teams. Having competed in the series back in the day, we were certainly aware of the fact that there was some, shall we say, 'creative engineering' taking place.  Though, we never really knew to what extent it was happening.

 My question to members of this forum is how bad do you think  the cheating really was? …............. Did John Taminus and the SCCA  inspection crew turn a blind eye to what was going on? And, if they did, was it detrimental to the sport ?

AL
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crazyamc
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« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2014, 11:32:52 AM »

My opinion (very strong, I might add- but, it's just an opinion..) is that, YES, done probably by all of the factories or front-runners. Often tried and never caught or it didn't matter on back markers...  2. some was "uintentional".... case in point; ( Car Life, Wagging the Dog article)....  " Ford had only produced about 700 Boss 302's at the start of the season... considering the SCCA could not find a single Tunnel Port Mustang the year before.... obviously, Ford never intended to sell TP's, but sold Boss cars quite rapidly..... parts homologation/production is another story.... then we get into tech, specs, weights, etc by individuals......   My opinion? Sure, a ton of these stories are part of the fascination and lore of the times,cars,and people we idolize..... the "good 'ole days"....... Let me pose this question to the few who actually competed at the time; At that time, did it make you really mad when "they can't do that?" .. " I can't buy that!"..... "You can see as plain as day that's not right!" came out of your mouth?   I can tell you as a current vintage racer, it's probably more prevalent, and USED to get me very upset..... I build and race my car LEGAL and CORRECT, even if no one else does..... Would the racing been better had no one 'cheated'?? probably not- just a tad slower, with a few slightly different results in a few instances.... but again... just my opinion..   Ken
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BULLITT65
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« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2014, 11:48:57 AM »

Good topic Al. So I have 2 questions: To the best of your knowledge was it widely known that the Penske team would use the #9 car for tech inspections on both cars and just change the number to 6 for the Donahue car?(  I read that somewhere)

Secondly regarding Smokey Yunick and other gear heads like him, was he admired for trying to bend the rules so much with ingenuity, or was he and other crafty engineers like him viewed or thought of as "cheaters". Or was it more the case everybody was trying to slip something by the tech guys so you just hoped you had the smartest guys on your team who could give your car(s) the edge ?
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« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2014, 01:42:27 PM »

I am hesitant to comment too much about this topic, as I am no racing expert nor have I been around the folks who did race. I did admire Smokey, very much, and read many things he wrote concerning this topic and followed his engine building ideas. I would start off by saying that if you were getting beat by Smokey or others, then you regarded them as a "cheat". If you were on the team that was winning, then, I am sure, you would regard the car builder a genius. So, it went both ways. What I recall Smokey saying, is that if the rule book did not address something specifically, then it was fair game. So, in essence, Smokey and others were responsible for the rules being created by their "innovations". I think one "mod" Smokey told was, that the fuel tank could only be a certain size (which he conformed), but he went on to state that there was no place that said the roll bar could not be used to store additional fuel. Cheat or innovative? you decide.
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satman
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« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2014, 02:49:16 PM »

Ken,
    First of let me say that the SCCA tried to do the best they could with a handful of people where Nascar would have a small army to inspect roughly the same amount of cars............... Did they overlook stuff, yes they certainly did I can remember being at St. Jovite in 69/70 when one of the local track stewards who was helping SCCA with the inspection produced a set of body templates to make sure that all the cars conformed to manufacturers specifications. The local guy was told to remove them from paddock as they had no intention of using them, obviously SCCA did not want to open a big can of worms.

        We all know about the acid dipped bodies and creative suspension mods and I am fairly sure that for the most part I think that a lot of teams were using over sized engines....... To the best of my knowledge SCCA never bother to test engine displacement till 1972 after getting a lot of pressure from the independents. I am not sure about Penske doing a car switch but it certainly would not surprise me .........But  I do believe they were caught being 250 lbs underweight in a post race inspection at Sebring.

       As far Smokey Yunick is concerned from what I read he was quintessential cheater but I don't think he had any influence in the Trans-Am series.
AL

    
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69Z28-RS
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« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2014, 03:15:13 PM »

It isn't 'cheating'..  it is 'creative interpretation of the rules'...   just as Smokey said.   And regardless of what anyone says, EVERY Racer I've ever known did that to the extent of their imagination and engenuity.  In my mind, it's NOT cheating if the rule book doesn't address an issue and you take advantage of it before or better than the next guy.

Over time, as the racers find the 'holes' in the rules, and the rule book was tightened up, the rules got better... Smiley

I can remember sitting in the race shop listening to four or five racers, reading each rule very carefully, 'word by word'... looking for a loophole..   It was very interesting.. Smiley      (Same thing tax lawyers do with the tax laws.)..
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crazyamc
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« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2014, 03:45:51 PM »

Please don't get me wrong- they most certainly did the best they could, were volunteers, different divisions, different interpretations..... and on and on... I volunteered to help bring racers closer to what I was told ( and believed) what our vintage club wanted..... I'll never do it again, and I'm sure it damaged a couple of friendships.. I hate that it went that way.   But T/A was a professional series, big money, careers, and car sales at stake.... Every good racer looks for an advantage, hopefully a legal one.... but, when a rulebook says, " unless this book specifically says you can change/modify or remove- you CANNOT.."  I would whisper,  "cheater" very quietly under my breath, and walk away....  Wink
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crazyamc
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« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2014, 04:03:20 PM »

I too still want to hear from the racers who were there.....  That's the important thing!!
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satman
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« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2014, 04:51:52 PM »

         I do not have  issues with those that use a bit of creative engineering when building their cars but I do have a problem with race teams that run oversize engines and have to add ballast at the end of the race in order to past post race inspections.

And by the way I was there.
AL
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MO
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« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2014, 09:45:56 PM »

There's an old racers moto that says "if you cheatin, you aint tryin". Cheating or not, you have to look for the loopholes if you are going to be competitive. That is true today as it was then.
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janobyte
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« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2014, 07:51:50 AM »



Don't forget about " cubic dollars "

This is what makes anything Al prints wonderful reading, David vs. Goliaths. Played by the rules and they were out there "doing it" being competitive.

I was wondering what your old partners are doing. Did they stay in racing or the high performance business ?


BTY...I really have no stomach for cheaters. Love to see who comes out on top in a level playing field, little bit of an idealist.
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satman
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« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2014, 08:52:31 AM »

Mo,
                     Back in 1968 when I took my entire life savings and decide to go Trans-Am racing I knew that I would be in tough against the heavily fund factory teams  maybe I was a bit naive but I thought that at least I would we would be racing on a level playing field............ To me when the rule books say your car has to way 2800 lbs. not 2650 or less and your engine should be 5 liters  not 6 or 7 liters.........Nascar spends millions of dollars to ensure that  all teams adhere to the rules and you can bet your ass that if any of their competitors were caught with an over sized engine they would be gone for the season.
   When we were racing back in the day we were playing to packed houses everywhere we went........ Maybe someone should have earmarked a little more of the attendance money for tech inspectors.

AL

   
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janobyte
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« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2014, 09:26:16 AM »

Roll cage for additional fuel....I think dangerous would be a good term to use.

There's a chassis builder in the area who at one time worked for Mickey Thompson. He was telling me many of what would be considered obvious rules  came about for driver safety.  Because of "cheating" which resulted in fatalities. . True story: a big name from the 60's who was very competitive in the gasser class , pre funny  car , used swing set tubing to shave weight for his cage. Very lucky man who lived to write about it.
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satman
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« Reply #13 on: March 27, 2014, 10:09:21 AM »

anobyte,
            Thanks for your comments I think your analogy is totally spot on........... With the purses dropping and waning interest in the series and I was forced to pull out of racing in 1972 . I continued to crew for Richard Hoffman on a part time basis...........My former driver Robert Barg continued to run as an independent for a few more years, while working in the revenue department for the Federal Government and Roy Bean one of my crew went on to work with the Maurice Carter Trans Am team.
 
     At present I own a Nursery / Landscape company http://www.hollandvalley.ca and in my spare time I like to restore classic cars...see below.

AL
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MO
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« Reply #14 on: March 27, 2014, 10:55:26 PM »

Mo,
                     Back in 1968 when I took my entire life savings and decide to go Trans-Am racing I knew that I would be in tough against the heavily fund factory teams  maybe I was a bit naive but I thought that at least I would we would be racing on a level playing field............ To me when the rule books say your car has to way 2800 lbs. not 2650 or less and your engine should be 5 liters  not 6 or 7 liters.........Nascar spends millions of dollars to ensure that  all teams adhere to the rules and you can bet your ass that if any of their competitors were caught with an over sized engine they would be gone for the season.
   When we were racing back in the day we were playing to packed houses everywhere we went........ Maybe someone should have earmarked a little more of the attendance money for tech inspectors.

AL

Al,

I completely agree with you. I'm not advocating cheating, just saying that you have to be willing to do what others are doing if you want to level the playing field. As for NASCAR, did you hear the comment that Chad Knaus made to Jimmy Johnson on TV last year? This stuff still goes on at every level.

http://www.sbnation.com/nascar/2011/10/26/2516121/chad-knaus-jimmie-johnson-nascar-talladega-damage-car-audio-chase-2011
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Jon Mello
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« Reply #15 on: March 28, 2014, 08:36:06 AM »

We know that the cheating went on from both the factories and the privateers who were just trying to do their best to level the playing field. The problem I see is if you tell the privateer he can't run because of a violation, it's not a big deal because there is probably some other privateer that could take his place on the grid. If you tell the factory team they're not going to be allowed to race, SCCA takes a lot of heat from both the factory affected and the track owner who is trying to sell tickets. It's the big name drivers who were driving the attendance and the big name drivers were only in the factory backed cars. It wasn't fair but the SCCA officials seemed to pick on the little guys more.
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satman
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« Reply #16 on: March 28, 2014, 09:41:46 AM »

MO,
      I agree with you 100% but at least in Nascar racing if you bend the rules you better be prepared to accept the consequences .....

http://www.popsci.com/cars/article/2009-05/nascar-driver-fined-200k-0-17-cubic-inch-engine-violation

AL
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satman
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« Reply #17 on: March 28, 2014, 03:04:46 PM »

We know that the cheating went on from both the factories and the privateers who were just trying to do their best to level the playing field. The problem I see is if you tell the privateer he can't run because of a violation, it's not a big deal because there is probably some other privateer that could take his place on the grid. If you tell the factory team they're not going to be allowed to race, SCCA takes a lot of heat from both the factory affected and the track owner who is trying to sell tickets. It's the big name drivers who were driving the attendance and the big name drivers were only in the factory backed cars. It wasn't fair but the SCCA officials seemed to pick on the little guys more.
Jon,
       I know the SCCA was basically between a rock and the hard place and they were trying to do the best job they could with very limited resources. But unfortunately this led to some of the competitors being able to take advantage of their leniency.........Example I think we were well into our 3rd. season before anybody decided to do a displacement test before or after a race. Hell even your local Stock Car tracks had stricter inspection procedures than we did//. But you know what in the end the racing was great everyone got their monies worth and I guess that's all that really matters.

AL
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« Reply #18 on: March 28, 2014, 03:44:11 PM »

I'm amazed with the displacement test---never would have guessed. Holds true no replacement for displacement, what an advantage that would have been. Good reading.
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maroman
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« Reply #19 on: March 28, 2014, 06:49:20 PM »

Would the privateers have gotten away with some of the things the factory teams did if they did it first? Like the acid dipped bodies or stretched fender wells, etc.
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satman
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« Reply #20 on: March 28, 2014, 09:40:38 PM »

I think that all competitors were treated equally............ Once at Mid Ohio we were cautioned on the offset off our rims ......... No problem we put the correct ones on then changed back to the good ones before the race. The whole inspection process was pretty rudimentary and I am sure that only the most obvious transgressions were scrutinized and very little if anything was acted upon.

Here is a link to a very interesting article that Sam Posey did for Hagerty about the series.

http://www.hagerty.ca/articles-videos/articles/2013/08/14/Trans-AM-Memories
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MO
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« Reply #21 on: March 28, 2014, 10:57:31 PM »

Some good postings Al!
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Trans Åm
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« Reply #22 on: March 31, 2014, 12:53:34 AM »

Absolute favorite line of the article: "It was Mark the good guy vs. Parnelli the spoiler, the hired gun — tough, mean, glowering, a man who wouldn’t hesitate to put you off the road"
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satman
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« Reply #23 on: March 31, 2014, 01:48:59 PM »

In my opinion they were both very aggressive drivers.......... I can still remember their famous duel in the desert at Riverside in 1969, watching the two of them go at it was some of the most intense racing action that I have ever witnessed............ Sadly for Ford the Mark's Camaro prevailed and they went on to win the race and the championship.
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« Reply #24 on: March 31, 2014, 04:30:50 PM »

I was told by one of the guys on the Yenko crew , when they brought the ex-Smokey Yunick Camaro to the first TA race, the inspectors recognized it as one of the old Yunick Camaros and refused to even look at it.

Don Yenko had to talk to them and explain that they did a lot of work on it to make it legal


 some pics of it in a 1969 TA race from the Sandford site

it still looks to have extensive modifications to the wheel wells - more then the other Camaros

the front had some type of head light covers that sort of looked like a RS grill

They ran about 6 TA races with it but was a low buck operation
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satman
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« Reply #25 on: March 31, 2014, 07:14:43 PM »

       Great looking car I am sure we must of had the pleasure of competing against it back in the day ....Smokey was quite a character and a brilliant engineer, but I think he got carried on his interpretation of the rules on some of his projects.........
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Jon Mello
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« Reply #26 on: March 31, 2014, 10:31:09 PM »

If you go to the Stanford website and blow up the images. that car is already kind of hammered and ratty and it's only 1969.
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Jon Mello
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« Reply #27 on: April 07, 2014, 05:05:30 PM »

  Since I was there at the time, I got to see a lot of the Yunick Camaro.When I attempted to buy the car in the early 70's, I looked at it even more closely. Smokey was very clever..often made mods that were fairly easy to spot in tech to direct attention away from harder to see changes that made a bigger difference in performance. Probably good that I did not buy the car then, as I was helping Warren  D. with a short track asphalt Chevelle and he wanted to make into a short track stock car.
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satman
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« Reply #28 on: April 07, 2014, 07:53:14 PM »

       Looking forward and in light fact that the Smokey car is probably worth north of $1,000,000 today ..... It might not have been a bad investment.
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Jon Mello
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« Reply #29 on: April 08, 2014, 11:13:30 PM »

Reading David Tom's Trans-Am book, it does not sound like the body that was dug out of the snow bank when he bought it was savable. That there are no pictures of a car when he showed up to buy it, just a handful of parts, is very telling to me. I would not personally pay a million or more for a car like that but maybe somebody would. Just my 2 cents worth...
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Jon Mello
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« Reply #30 on: April 08, 2014, 11:19:46 PM »

Reading David Tom's Trans-Am book, it does not sound like the body that was dug out of the snow bank when he bought it was savable. That there are no pictures of a car when he showed up to buy it, just a handful of parts, is very telling to me. I would not personally pay a million or more for a car like that but maybe somebody would. Just my 2 cents worth...

Smiley..  not even if I HAD a million to pay..  Smiley
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« Reply #31 on: April 09, 2014, 08:20:15 AM »

Reading David Tom's Trans-Am book, it does not sound like the body that was dug out of the snow bank when he bought it was savable. That there are no pictures of a car when he showed up to buy it, just a handful of parts, is very telling to me. I would not personally pay a million or more for a car like that but maybe somebody would. Just my 2 cents worth...
Reality always ruins a good story!!
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« Reply #32 on: April 10, 2014, 06:31:54 AM »

there was more then one Smokey Yunick 1st gen Camaro. They kind of blend the history together so it hard to tell what that car is or was
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« Reply #33 on: April 10, 2014, 02:22:40 PM »

I know that smokey had three '68 ? bodied camaros at bonneville to break records. I believe two were 302's & one was a 396. from what I understood in the article these were slightly modified Z'ders to start. I couldn't gather from the article if any of them were the car he raced at daytona & sebring. jon has posted scans of that issue of popular science, january '68 here in one of the threads.

group/7 in canada
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« Reply #34 on: May 03, 2014, 07:49:10 PM »

From my time crewing on A-Sedan / GT1 beasties, I seem to  remember something about 1967 T/A cars being weighed with a  spare tyre.  The story was, Penske's were filled with water.  Anyone confirm that? 
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satman
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« Reply #35 on: May 03, 2014, 09:10:09 PM »

Trans-Am cars did not run with spare tires but rumor has it that some teams would change to tires that were filled with water for post race inspection and apparently George Follmer had a helmet full of lead that a crewman would substitute for the real one at the end of the race ...

AL
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« Reply #36 on: May 04, 2014, 02:52:09 PM »

Yes, spares were not fitted for the race.  The story I heard was, the spares were included in the post race weigh in.  Again, this is just a vague memory............or imagined conversation. 
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satman
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« Reply #37 on: May 04, 2014, 07:13:45 PM »

We never made it to post race inspection but I am fairly sure spare tires would not have been part of the process.

AL
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« Reply #38 on: May 07, 2014, 08:46:11 AM »

We never made it to post race inspection but I am fairly sure spare tires would not have been part of the process.

AL

I agree with you on this, Al.
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