Import Killer
One Aircooled VW Shaking Up the IDRC and NHRA Import Racing Series

By Karl Funke
Photography: Robert Hallstrom

Import drag racing is once again enjoying a spotlight within mainstream America. This time, the most recent movement of popular "import" racers has traditionally been restricted to watercooled, front-wheel-drive vehicles, specifically those wearing Japanese nameplates--Honda, Acura and Mitsubishi.

Southern Californian Scott Kelley is an anomaly in the face of mainstream sanctioned import racing. Once a regular on the air-cooled VW racing circuit, Kelley recently decided to take a different route and try his hand racing in a different venue. In 1999 he approached the Import Drag Racing Circuit (IDRC) about allowing him to run a Volkswagen in their series, which until then catered exclusively to the aforementioned Japanese imports. Though he encountered some resistance, the powers that be eventually allowed him to race in the interest of fairness and diversifying their own market, though you'll find it interesting the rules that apply to him are a little more stringent than those that apply to the Japanese imports. Even so, Kelley has made quite a name for himself in the four years he's run in the IDRC and, most recently, the NHRA import series. To date he's run a low e.t. of 10.65 @ 125mph on a naturally aspirated, all-motor, stock 1600-based configuration. His list of achievements include 22 career wins to date, 1999 VW Pro Stock National Champion, 2001 IDRC All Motor Champion, 2001 NHRA All Motor runner up, and 2001 NHRA and IDRC All Motor record holder.

Like a lot of others who get involved with the automotive power struggle, Kelley initially kindled an interest in muscle cars, big American V8s that can't help but make big power but compromise other areas, like economy and handling, for their straight-line dominance. Then, in 1988, Kelley was driving on the street when he got smoked by a hopped up VW. That day changed the nature of his enthusiasm--and the course of his life--forever.

Even at the time, Kelley wasn't a stranger to the world of air-cooled performance. His father, Larry, was one of the original air-cooled racing pioneers and a first generation VW pilot. So consequently had a lot of air-cooled performance parts lying around the shop, Kelley Racing in Yorba Linda, Calif. Knowing that his father's knowledge would help him get a leg up on the competition, Scott began searching for a vehicle to build on. The cheapest VW he could find was this 1969 Fastback owned at the time by one of his friends. Kelley walked away with the car for $600, brought it back to the shop and began work. Little did he know that one day the car would become something of a legend among the ranks of new, water-cooled, front-wheel drive imports of the late '90s. At first, the 'Back was to be a built street car, but the elder Kelley suggested another plan of attack in the interest of safety.

"Dad said, 'I don't want you racing on the street,'" Kelley recalled. "So he convinced me to go the full route and build a full blown track car."

Kelley ran the Fastback at VW specific events for a few years along with another car, a 1957 Beetle, in the Pro Stock class, at the time known as Pro Sedan. In 1990 he ended up third in points in the class, running a low e.t. of 11.17 seconds at 122mph. After that he decided to concentrate on just one car, his Beetle, and the Fastback sat for a few years. It even went up for sale at one point, and was nearly picked up before the purchasing party backed out at the last minute. At that point Kelley decided to salvage the car for the new import racing series. He's done pretty well to date, well enough to pick up a high profile sponsor in Toyo Tires, so now he's got some corporate backing in a sport that loves to burn money as well as it loves to burn rubber.

Kelley's Fastback relies on a stock 1600 case for motivation, but you'd be foolish to believe 1600cc is all this motor pushes. Bore and stroke now measure 88mm x 94mm to effect a total displacement of 2442cc, or 149 cubic inches. The case has been prepped by Kelley Racing for full flow and clearanced to make room for the new stroker package, which consists of a BUGPACK crank, balanced and micro-polished by Demello, swinging Pauter steel rods. JE pistons effect a screaming 15.5:1 compression. A wet sump and Melling high-volume oil pump keeps the vital PurePower 10/20 oil flowing. A pair of Bugpack SuperFlo heads, fully ported, polished and three-angled by Kelley Racing, house titanium valves, sized a whopping 50mm intake and 40 mm exhaust. A custom Webcam-ground shaft bumps the valves. Aspiration is facilitated through dual 60.5 JayCee Terminator carbs linked to BUGPACK manifolds, which in turn were match-ported by Kelley racing. The exhaust gasses are directed out the back through S & S custom built 2" stepped headers that are ceramic coated by EA Coatings in Vernon Calif. A Holley Blue fuel pump keeps plenty of high octane juice on tap, while ignition spark flares at the behest of an MSD 7AL drag racing ignition and Blaster coil.

To harness the power put out by this mill, Kelley procured a Type II gearbox using an aluminum spool and custom close-ratio Rancho gears. The independent rear was modified using chrome-moly sway away axles and Bus CV joints to deal with the increased torque levels. Kelley also rigged a special bracket that allows him to run dual Spax shocks in the rear, for improved stability out of the hole, without actually modifying the suspension components themselves. One of the stipulations for him running in import racing series is he cannot modify the factory suspension components in any way; therefore, suspension assemblies front and rear remain unaltered.

Though the car's interior features long expanses of bare metal, a single driver's seat and six point chrome-moly roll cage, Team Kelley actually had to start bolting stock components back onto the car in order to meet the weight requirements that the IDRC initially hampered them with. You see, another of the stipulations for competition in both the IDRC and NHRA import series require Kelley's VW to run at a much higher curb weight than the imports it races against. While many Hondas will run at feathery 1400 and 1500lbs, Kelley's Fastback runs at a mandatory 1800lbs. just to be able to compete. Sound unfair? Well, it may be, but Kelley remains undaunted by the fact.

"You've got to remember the sponsors of these events and a lot of the people who attend are not out there to see air-cooled Volkswagens," he explained. "If I go out there and kick the crap out of everyone else, that isn't really targeting the market that [the sponsors] want to sell to."

Even so, one of the main reasons he believes the sanctioning bodies and sponsors allow him to run is the degree of professionalism he and his team bring to the track. The Kelley's have been drag racing for a long time, and it shows in their demeanor and on-track etiquette. They'll continue to push the sanctioning bodies for what Scott calls, "weight breaks;" that is, lowering the required running weight for the VW in order to keep the car competitive in a field that uses technology some 30 years newer than that found in the Fastback. Whatever happens, there's no doubt that Scott Kelley is an emissary for the aircooled VW in a world of water-pumping Japanese imports. If there's an IDRC or NHRA import event near you, take a trip out to the track to support the man in his quest to open these series up to a more diversified field of competitors.

Pontiac Bonneville to Attempt Land-Speed Record

Pontiac, the excitement division of General Motors is making a pilgrimage to the namesake of the Pontiac Bonneville by attempting to set a Stock Class land-speed record of 210-mph during Speedweeks at the famed Bonneville Salt Flats just outside Salt Lake City.

"We're excited to mark Bonneville's nearly half-century of driving excitement by returning to the salt flats this year", said Jim Murray, Pontiac Bonneville brand manager, of the Aug. 12-18 Bonneville Speedweeks event. "The history of the vehicle at the flats has defined Pontiac as a performance brand, which we have continued to demonstrate with other products. We have the same confidence in the 2000 Bonneville."

One of an expected 300 entries, the Bonneville will be driven by 30-year race veteran Mike Cook, a member of the Bonneville 200 mph club. Cook has set records at El Mirage and Muroc, and is confident in the Bonneville's ability to meet the challenge of breaking the existing land-speed record of 209.21 mph, set in 1998 by John Raines in a 1998 Pontiac Firebird.

"Under normal driving conditions, the 3.8 liter V-6 engine can go from 0 to 60 mph in seven seconds", said Cook of the popular sedan. "We're starting off with a great product, which minimizes modifications. Because of the exceptional engineering that already exists in the Bonneville, we feel that our goal of reaching 210 mph is realistic."

The Bonneville is undergoing its transformation from a family sedan to a high-speed performance machine at Cook Motorsports in Noroco, California. Pontiac has assembled a team of engineers, expert mechanics and artists including Cook, Richard Lee, Jerry Magnuson and Doug Thorley to make modifications. Some of the modifications being made to the Spruce Green Bonneville include the addition of:

A six-corner roll bar attached to the roof line and chassis, creating a roll cage to provide additional roof crush resistance for the driver in the event of a crash
Jaz Products aluminum racing seats and covers in place of Bonneville's traditional bucket seats

Deist competition seat belts standard lap-shoulder belts

Custom-built "Intro" wheels, body lowered 4"

Moon wheel covers and lowered discs to deflect air

A comprehensive fire protection and extinguisher system by Deist

A Deist parachute at the rear of the vehicle

Customized graphics created by Chip Foose and painted by Pete Santini to reflect Pontiac's participation in the Bonneville event and added flair

The Bonneville's supercharged 3.8 liter V-6 engine, which uses an Eaton-Magnuson supercharger, is being reworked by Lee Performance Products. While utilizing all major production components (i.e. Crankshaft, rods, pistons and valve train components). the engine package has produced in excess of 450 H.P. at 6000 RPM. the cylinder heads have been reworked by Morgan Engineering to substantially increase the power potential of the stock cylinder head. Special crank and rod preparations along with balancing were performed by Evans Speed Equipment. Doug's Headers fabricated the custom exhaust system for the Bonneville with thermal barrier coating applied by Engineered Applications. A fabricated intercooler will be added to the vehicle to pass cooler air from the supercharger to the engine. The 4T65E GM Powertrain transaxle is also being enhanced by Hydramatic Motorsports to run over 200 mph and the final drive ratio is changed to 2.56 from 2.93.

The Pontiac Motor Division was established as a performance division largley in part because of its participation in runs at the the Bonneville Slat Flats. In June of 1956, 73 year-old race car driver Ab Jenkins and his son Marvin co-drove a Pontiac Series 860 two-door sedan for a run that broke all existing American unlimited and Class C stock car records for a 24-hour world speed records of 118.375 mph. Tom commemorates the achievement, Pontiac named the Series 860 after the Bonneville Slat Flats. Since that time, Pontiac's image has focused on performance, fielding entries in the NASCAR Winston Cup and Busch series, The National Hot Rod Association and the American Speed Association.

The Bonneville Slat Flats' Racing legacy began at the turn of the century when publisher William Randolph Hearst hired William Rieshel to attempt crossing the slat flats on a bicycle as a publicity stunt. Despite the fact that Rieshel completed his run in 22 hours, early attempts to promote the area as a raceway failed until Jenkins raced and beat a special excursion train by 10 minutes in Studebaker. Since that time, the salt flats have been the site for numerous land-speed records.



© Engineered Applications 2007