I’ve been racing various cars starting in 1998 with NASA, which stands for National Autosport Association http://www.nasaproracing.com. My 1st racecar was an early VW Jetta which I purchased from fellow Capri racer Ali Arsham. Ali showed me the race car in 97/98 and I just had to have it. It didn’t run but it was registered, street legal and best of all, cheap. After a little arm twisting, Ali agreed to sell me the A1-Jetta and I fixed the car and prepared it for my first NASA event as a real racer in the PS3 class which is comparable to SCCA’s ITB class. The first event was at Sears Point Raceway and a major storm was occurring with massive winds and heavy rains. Here is a picture of the car at that Sears Point event and it quickly became nicknamed the Golden Goose.
My original intention was to just go out and have fun but I somehow qualified on the pole position out of 60+ Pro Sedan racecars. The heavy rains had negated the horsepower advantage of most of the other cars and my underpowered, softly sprung front wheel Jetta was hooking up and went faster than any Porsche out there. I finished that weekend and won 3 out of 4 races and became hooked on winning. I decided to simultaneously compete in the Enduro series in addition to ProSedan 3. At the next event at Thunderhill Raceway, I discovered the limitations of the Jetta and finished well back in the pack due to excessive understeering and inadequate power and decided I just had to have a faster rear wheel drive car. I decided that I needed a tow vehicle, trailer, etc. and I was going for this all out so I wanted a rear wheel drive Capri race car. I was unable to find a Capri, so I bought another orphan car, a 1980 Datsun 510 Series II and developed it to the point that it was very fast and reliable.
I enjoyed racing and had great results in the next several dry events. Unfortunately, I wrecked it by mistakenly letting off the gas while the car was oversteering and I went off track and rolled it 3 times but I escaped unscathed. The motor mounts were broken, glass smashed and all the steel severely bent. The car would race again – as a super unlimited racecar in the following NASA 12 hour enduro.
I heard of a GT3 Capri for sale by a former Cal Capri Club member, Dave Benzel. Dave had bought the car from Jerry Kunzman. The Capri was originally built by Bruce Silver, an active participant in the SCCA club racing scene. I went to look at it and decided that I would buy it and convert it back to PS3 and ITB specifications. It wasn’t terribly modified and the motor was stock. I worked all month, repainting the car, replacing all the plexiglass with glass, cutting out the illegal portions of the roll cage that went through the firewall to the front suspension. I updated the safety equipment, and the car was ready for the next points event located in Tecate Mexico.
Mexico was a lot of fun, the weather was swealtering hot in the 115+ deg F range and while the drivers got free Tecate beer, nothing special was offered to the cars. The Capri drove fairly well, I recall I won the first 3 races although the motor was weaker than a competitor’s VW GTI racer.
In the 4th and final race, I was racing down the front straight and when I was about to pass a Spec 7 car, I was accidentally punted by a ProRX7 and I headed off the road and hit a concrete fixture at 80+mph. The car launched over the concrete fixture and rolled three times in the air before landing on some railroad tracks. The safety crew was quickly on the scene but I elected to not be transported to the local Mexican hospital. My collar bone was obviously broken and I got taped up and discussed my options with the NASA physician. I was ready for the long ride home. The car was picked up by a forklift and put on my trailer. The locals enjoyed the show, I received standing ovations as we drove out of town on the way back to the USA.
The next Capri I bought was built by a local shop in Milipitas by Mike Stevens. It was a roller but it came with plenty of spares. I was looking forward to racing this car as Mike had competed quite successfully in SCCA.
I built several motors, learning what not to do but eventually got one right that made the car go quite fast. I had difficulty working on the car with a broken collar bone so I brought the Jetta back out for the next event. It was interesting trying to shift with a broken collar bone, but I was out there just to get points and I stayed away from trouble. The Capri became ready the following event and it dominated and I eventually was challenging the higher class cars.
The hard work and $$$ resulted in various awards in 1998, including the PS3 and E3 championships. I also received a special “Best wrecks” award and 1998 Rookie of the Year at the NASA Annual Banquet.. I raced the Capri with NASA a couple more years, my driving improved and the car proved reliable and fast. After winning both the 1999 and 2000 PS3 championships, Idecided to try out SCCA Club racing in the ITB class for some new competition.. My intention was to further develop the car and Norm of Team Blitz has provided some excellent suggestions.
I ran the Capri at one ITB event in early 2002 at Thunderhill raceway. Thunderhill is my favorite track, the Capri and I currently hold the NASA PS3 track record as of 9/2003. My 1st SCCA foray resulted in my first SCCA win. My crankshaft pulley broke late in the race, I didn’t let up and I overheated the motor until the oil started burning/smoking in the head. At this point, I retired the car and started a complete car rebuild in preparation for my 2003 ITB season.
Starting in May 2002, I completely disassembled the car, including motor, suspension and many interior parts. I had to weld in some new roll cage bars due to updated ‘03 rules. Here are a few pictures showing the work to update the cage:
Cage before the additional cross bar
New cross bar and emergency power switch
New shocks and bushings
The inner control arm bearings are worn out from 3 seasons of racing and even the cross member bolt holes are seriously elongated. I found that the front sway bar mounts were cracking so I had to do some body repairs. Here is some pictures of the cross member and control arms with “trick” spherical bearings. Phil Kingham’s advice for the spherical bearings saved me a lot of potential aggravation – thanks Phil.
Here are some pics of the engine rebuild. Of course, I had to go through my spare parts pile and pick out the best of the best.
Which is the best head? Here is the rebuilt head, Team Blitz supplied a new cam which is a welcome addition based the condition of all my used parts.
They installed a used crank in the lower end which unfortunately left the crank and rod bearings with a little bit too much clearance. The crank worked well for several events until I started pounding out rod bearings. Here is a pic of the lower end as I assembled it.
Here is the completely rebuilt strut, new wheel bearings, new brake pads, Koni MR2 struts, TCA with spherical bearings in the TCA.
I finished the car just prior to the first 2003 event. Below are my results prior to the engine rod bearing problems. I had issues with oversteer but eventually worked them out. Power was good despite an initial poor Dyno performance which measured the rear wheel horsepower at 94.8hp. Evidently, the dyno I used measures way low as compared to other dynos. Using their conversion information, my motor has approximately 133 flywheel hp. My Capri is quite fast, it is about mid pack on the straights as compared to the other front running BMW 2002s.
Race 1 (ITB)
1st- BMW 2002 2:00.212 (new track record)
2nd- BMW 2002 2:00.967
3rd- Ford Capri 2:01.244
Race 2 (ITB)
1st- BMW 2002 2:00.869
2nd- Ford Capri 2:00.829
3rd- Toyota Celica 2:04.672
1st- BMW 2002 1:53.849
2nd- BMW 2002 1:53.469
3rd- Ford Capri 1:53.569
(I was leading this race but went off course on the very last turn just before the checkered flag!)
The motor developed a rod knock at the next two events. My next step is to pull the motor and replace the crankshaft and measure and replace rod #4 if it is deformed.
Here is the Capri at Thunderhill raceway on it’s way to it’s 1st SCCA win in 2002.
Here are the results from that race:
Here are some pics of my ITB Capri in action in ‘03
2004 Goal – SFR SCCA ITB Championship! The car is fairly well sorted, motor makes good power, suspension works well enough and I even have good brakes in the front and rear. I was using Porterfield R4 custom shoes in the rear which work great, but I am experiencing too much wear at Laguna Seca, which is notoriously hard on brakes. During a 30 minute race, I wear more than 25% of the brake material front and rear. The problem with the rears is that they do not self adjust while racing, so my pedal keeps getting longer and longer. I will be trying Carbotech shoes next year, others tell me they are durable and have good torque.
My rear end is bent a bit from an incident several years back. The rear has 1/8” toe out which is one of the reasons the car oversteers so much. I actually have gotten used to it, but the tire drag is probably slowing the Capri a bit in the long straights. The limited slip is a bit tired too, I might get the housing straightened when the limited slip is freshened.
Here is a pic of me standing next to my Orange VW GTI. I’ve updated the car extensively and keep it as my ITB backup racer in addition to my primary race car in PS3 NASA. It’s not as fast as the Capri, but it is still a lot of fun to drive. The car is also easier to drive in the rain, so I might take it out to SCCA if the weather promises rain.
SCCA ITB – 1971 Ford Capri
NASA PS3 – VW GTI
NASA SM – 1991 Mazda Miata (SpecMiata)
I’m also planning to compete in a weeklong Rally Race in Peru called the Caminos del Inca which starts in Lima Peru and finishes in Cuzco Peru. I have no Rally experience, but plan to attend some schools time permitting. I’m in the process of translating the rules, I’m planning to modify the VW to compete in the Rally.
VSRG Trans Am 2.5 also looks like fun. I have a Mk1 Capri which looks ideal for the vintage class.
Copyright © 1997 Capri Club North America. All rights reserved.