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STEVE COLE'S 124 BC COUPE VINTAGE RACER
Well, it all started so innocently. We had just moved to a new home with, and for the first time in my life, a three-car garage, so I could have a hobby car. One night while searching the internet I found a Lancia Zagato (in the street rides section) and ended up buying it. Neat car but now I needed an Italian mechanic for the hard stuff. So after a few months of searching I found Robert and Cindy Rodgers at Shadetree Enginetrics and took the Lancia out for some work. Unfortunately what I found was a dedicated racer who worked on cars to feed his hobby and I got hooked along the way! I had done ¼ mile with big blocks in high school and auto crossed an MGB in college and just watched racing since then so when about two years ago my wife heard that I wanted to race cars again it really took her by surprise. My only sport at the time was golf. But, after 26 years of marriage she has learned to not get too settled and off I went.
The car is a 1971 Fiat 124 Coupe of which I am the fourth owner. It has been around Dallas, TX its whole life and my mechanic once owned it and restored it after which it won a show. When I got it, the car had been sitting for a few years in an airport hangar with the motor disassembled and a little rust in the doors. The first thing I did was strip the car completely and send it to the painter for rust repair and a new red paint job. The car was originally blue and if it would have been a different blue it would have stayed this color, as I really did not want to change it. But after much discussion I went with the red.
Now I did not want just a racecar but a show car that just made a wrong turn and got on the track. This was a hard concept for me to get across to everyone who worked on the car as it would take quite a bit of conversation to get my point across. You want it to look good, go fast and it’s a Fiat? This was a common question. But Robert understood and with his and Cindy’s help we have accomplished most of the goals established for the car.
The car is street legal, in its current form, but over time I see it getting further away from this idea as I have turned out to be not a bad driver in the vintage series that I race in and the need for more speed is creeping into the equation. A few details of the car follow:
The list of items still to complete is a limited slip differential, a spare lower ratio rear end gear set, solid mounted front end sway bar, a screen grill to protect the oil cooler and the list just keeps growing. I guess it will never really be complete.
The final product has met all my expectations and in my first year of racing I have become competitive in the B-Sedan class I run in. At my first race the response that I wanted from the car was given while I was out on the track. My mechanic was leaning on the fence and next to him two guys were watching the race when one of them said “Hey, look at that BMW out there.” The other guy looked at him and said “That isn’t a BMW, it’s an Alfa.” Robert looked over and said “No, that is a Fiat.” The interested fellow racers and spectators don’t stop for the whole weekend usually. Now this is FUN!
Well, where to start? Racing requires an abundance of skill, patience and MONEY! I know that the car still looks the same but under the surface much has changed in a little over three years of vintage racing. During this period I have accumulated three second place results for each year and much on the track experience. The first year highlight had to of been almost turning the car upside down while chasing a car not even in my class! Lesson learned, Lotus Super Sevens are fast and not meant to be passed by cars in the B Sedan class. The second year was fairly un-eventful with no major on track problems….except for this small foaming oil problem? Hmmm When oil starts coming out of your catch can…STOP RACING! The oil thing went on for two races until the center main bearing had had enough of it. It seems that the head gasket had slightly blown into the oil journal feeding the main bearing of the crank. So this meant that I now had time to build a real race motor. New everything and 13 / 1 compression. Put the old head back on though as it was not damaged and went off racing again in May of 2005.
So far the season of 05 had not been a good one. Torn up motor and wheels flying off does not make for a good time. But then came November when ultimate embarrassment occurred. Going down the front straight I got passed by a Volvo!!!! Oh man, I had told my mechanic I wanted one of his killer heads he had bragged about. I came into the paddock and asked if he had seen the pass. His reply was “we got to build a head for your car.”
So now the little Coupe has a full out race 1760cc motor that gets tire spin shifting from first to second gear! I have no problem with 2 liter 911’s, 2002’s and others that could catch me on the straights in the past. In 06 I have lowered my best times at TWS and Hallett by 4 to 5 seconds at each track. Other drivers want to know what has changed. It is really two things in my opinion. The car is faster but at the same time I do not feel the need to really press anymore. Remember, smooth equals fast and I am much smoother out now. Other racers have noticed my line being much better to go along with better times. Three years of experience probably doesn’t hurt either along with many changes to the car.
As you can suspect, the changes to come on the car list never gets any shorter but for now I am thrilled to be in first place for the season! Have never been here before. Now this is really fun!
Steve sends us these update images:
Latest mods include this trick little adaptation for brake cooling duties. Steve starts with a conical intake attached to flexible ducting hose which then routes the air directly on to the rotor surface. To do it correctly as Steve has done is a tricky job at best given the limited space one has with 124 brakes and 13" wheels. But as we can see, it isn't an insurmountable problem.
Serious racers require serious seating, a must for safety and correct ergonomics. But serious seats also create ingress/egress challenges. Quick release steering wheel hubs provide the solution. Not a bad anti theft device either...
Fiat 124 ergonomics don't lend themselves well to racing. Especially if you are tall. It's bad enough in normal driving situations. Nothing worse than straining to reach for 3rd or 5th gear when you're harnessed farther back into that seat driving in competition. Steve shares our feelings about shift levers. They've gotta be in the right place. No luck finding that sacred 131 remote setup? Make your own dammit! That's what Steve did. A nice job making it look factory correct. As opposed to fitting the 131 remote mechanism this piece offers Steve the added bonus of conserving his mint lower console. No cutting up required. Function is very good with short, direct and precise gear insertion. Really nice work Steve!
UPDATED PICS: 03/2007
Administrator says we need an update Steve!