• MARK II: CHEVY’S MYSTERIOUS 427!

    MARK II: CHEVY’S MYSTERIOUS 427!

    The real 427 Mystery Motor, unlike the Z11, was not available in a car, or to the public. You had to have serious NASCAR cred to get one of the 20 built.

    MARK II: CHEVY’S MYSTERIOUS 427!MARK II: CHEVY’S MYSTERIOUS 427!In the 1960s, Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen always seemed to be one step ahead of GM Chairman Fred Donner’s anti-racing missives. While running Pontiac, he had supported the Super-Duty Group that later, after he left, managed to get 421 Catalina Lightweights to drag racers before the axe fell. Then he moved on to Chevrolet in 1961 and supported the RPO Z11 drag racing and clandestine NASCAR 427 Mystery Motor projects. Both pure racing programs survived even though GM was officially out of racing. In the case of the Mystery Motor, everything was conducted through Chevrolet’s backdoor.

    The 427 Mystery Motor’s real function was that of a “bridge” between the old school W-Series 348-409 and the next-gen 1965 Mark IV big-block. It used the same bore/stroke block – 4.31-inch bore and 3.65-inch stroke – as the Z11 engine. But that’s where the similarity ends. Unlike W-Series engines with combustion chambers in the cylinders, the Mark II NASCAR engine utilizes canted and staggered-valve (Porcupine) heads with conventional chambers. This style head debuted in production 396-427 Mark IV big-block engines, affectionately dubbed “Rat Motors” by enthusiasts!

    Although developed primarily as a NASCAR race engine, Chevrolet did produce a singular variant for street applications, shown here with Ken Kayser, right, who had been Business Case Manager for the Mark IV big-block at Tonawanda. The Mark II in street trim, displayed for many years at GM’s Tonawanda, NY engine plant, was built to justify the expenses of building a racing-only engine. It is possible that at some point the project was referenced internally as RPO Code Z33. That would have been done only to disguise the 427 as an optional production engine so as not to attract unwanted attention. Interestingly, the Mark II engine was not produced at Tonawanda, the facility best known for Mark IV 396-427-454 engines.

    MARK II: CHEVY’S MYSTERIOUS 427!Part of the mystery surrounding the Mark II engine can be attributed to its planned public debut on February 24, 1963 at the Daytona 500. The first couple of engines were shipped to Smokey Yunick for use in Chevys being prepared for the 500. Junior Johnson and Johnny Rutherford were two high-profile racers originally slated to run this engine. However, Mark II 427s were in two Z06 Corvettes competing in the 250-mile American Challenge Cup, at Daytona on February 16! This was a race for sports cars and one-offs, not NASCAR stockers. Few people at the time realized that two of the split-window Sting Rays in the Challenge Cup had Mark IIs under their hoods. They were actually the first big-block Corvettes.

    Smokey Yunick prepared two Corvettes like NASCAR Grand National stockers and installed Mark II engines, sparked by magnetos with HD three-speed transmissions. Scheduled drivers were Junior Johnson and Rex White. During practice, Junior was not comfortable with how his Corvette was handling at 160 mph and decided not to drive. Bill Krause replaced him and went on to finish Third. He beat other Corvettes, Ferrari GTOs and Porsche Carrera Abarth GTLs. Paul Goldsmith driving a Pontiac Super-Duty 421 Tempest, won the three-hour race, followed by A.J. Foyt driving a Nickey Corvette! Bunkie was not unhappy!

    MARK II: CHEVY’S MYSTERIOUS 427!Johnny Rutherford driving Smokey’s #13 car finished 9th, the best finish for a Mystery-motored Chevy. Rutherford lapped the track at 165.14 mph, setting a closed course record. A broken distributor in the #3 Ray Fox/Holly Farms Impala sidelined Junior. Junior won 7 of the 55 Grand National races in 1963, including the Charlotte 400 in October. With no factory support for the engine, the car was parked in 1964. Junior’s iconic Impala, as last raced, survives today. It’s at RK Motors, Charlotte, NC,  https://www.rkmotors.com/

    The 427 Chevy Mystery Motor, along with other super-high-performance cars and engines from the period including the Z11 Chevy drag cars, are showcased in Marty Schorr’s new book, DAY ONE,  https://www.amazon.com/Day-One-Automotive-Journalists-Muscle-Car/dp/0760352364/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1493561421&sr=1-1&keywords=Day+One+by+Martyn+L.+Schorr

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  • NITRO REVIVAL: DRAG CARS AT LAGUNA SECA!

    NITRO REVIVAL: DRAG CARS AT LAGUNA SECA!

    Spring Classic hosts vintage Nitro-fueled drag cars and legendary racers from the 1960s to 1990s.

    NITRO REVIVAL: DRAG CARS AT LAGUNA SECA!The distinct cackle of Nitro Revival will be coming to the Monterey Peninsula during the second annual Spring Classic on May 18-20. The gathering of vintage and restored Nitro-fueled drag cars and legendary drag racing personalities will take place at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca during the iconic facility’s vintage racing event. Feature activity will occur on Saturday, May 19. Nitro Revival: Drag Cars At Laguna Seca celebrates motorsports eras from the Sixties to the Nineties.

    Nitro Revival brings the sights and sounds of the early days of front-engine Top Fuel dragsters and other organized hot rod racing back to life with a large lineup of fully restored machines. It serves as a reunion for racers from that era and gives fans the experience of a drag racing museum come to life. Fuelers will do push starts with period-correct push start vehicles and burnouts. There will also be a large turnout of classic street rods and hot rods. The Saturday event will close with a “Line of Fire” that will have the cackling sounds of vintage drag cars echoing through the rolling hills of the scenic Monterey Peninsula.

    NITRO REVIVAL: DRAG CARS AT LAGUNA SECA!“Nitro Revival is a unique car show with unique vehicles that celebrate drag racing,” said Steve Gibbs, Nitro Revival producer. “Laguna Seca is an iconic place with a facility that can accommodate the growth of Nitro Revival, and we are able to add a historical drag race element to their event. There is a lot of drag racing history on the Central Coast and Bay Area. Monterey also has a lot to offer as a destination.”

    Nitro Revival will enhance the paddock experience of the three-day vintage race held May 18-20. The 11 run groups of approximately 200 historically-correct sports and racecars that will run on the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course during the Spring Classic range from 1966-‘74 Can-Am to 1974-‘94 Stock Cars to Historic Motorcycle exhibitions.

    For more information about Nitro Revival and other events at Laguna Seca, please visithttp://www.mazdaraceway.com/

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  • GRID GIRLS: AN ENDANGERED SPECIES?

    GRID GIRLS: AN ENDANGERED SPECIES?

    Stephen Cox blogs about auto racing’s long-standing tradition of grid girls being the next casualty in the war for political correctness.

    GRID GIRLS: AN ENDANGERED SPECIES?GRID GIRLS: AN ENDANGERED SPECIES?It was early 2015 when the World Endurance Championships (WEC) got rid of them, and Formula 1 may be next. Director Ross Brawn of Liberty Media, the new controlling group of Formula 1, recently said that the tradition of grid girls is being reconsidered. For the uninitiated, “grid girls” are the pretty women who stand beside the racecars prior to many events to hold grid markers and sponsor signs, and, well… look pretty.

    Traditionally, grid girls have dressed to look attractive and feminine. That’s all well and good. Recent years have seen (some of) them dressing more and more scantily. In my opinion that’s not so good. But if I don’t like it, I’m still free to stay home. And that’s good.

    This is precisely why I don’t attend boxing matches and MMA fights, by the way. The ring girls aren’t just dressed attractively. Some of them are downright indecent. So I stay home, shut up and mind my own business. The girls can keep their jobs, the fight promoters can put on the show they like and everyone is happy.

    What, precisely, is being accomplished if Formula 1 decides to defend women around the world by firing hundreds of women around the world? The girls that needed these jobs will no longer have them. The girls who aspire to be models, spokeswomen, media personalities or actresses will have one less avenue available to enter their chosen field. The grid girls are not being well served by getting fired. The only people satisfied by their unemployment are people who demand that their agenda be dismissed no matter what the cost may be to anyone else.

    GRID GIRLS: AN ENDANGERED SPECIES?Have you see auto-racing enthusiasts protesting and rioting against grid girls at the last race you attended? Me neither. Motorsports series are not firing grid girls in response to an overwhelming mandate from fans.

    They’re doing this to please people who have little or no interest in motor racing, who may never attend an auto race, and who, in some cases, oppose the very existence of the sport. By definition, these are not people who are willing to live and let live. If they were, they would refuse to have grid girls at their book burnings and witch hunts, but leave you free to have them at your auto races.

    Racing officials need to understand one point very clearly – these people will not become fans once you fire the grid girls. Auto racing is a loud, dangerous, fatality causing, fossil fuel burning; cut throat competition that does not award trophies for participation. These people hate you. They are not suddenly going to embrace you as a forward thinking intellectual simply because you caved in to their demands and kicked a few recently unemployed women to the curb.

    If this artificially manufactured non-issue needs to be revisited at all, it should be revisited solely on the basis of what the teams, their fans and the grid girls want rather than on political pressure to conform to the demands of outside groups who don’t care one whit about the sport. Make your own decision and listen to your own fans and we’ll be happy no matter what the outcome may be.

    If I don’t like it, I’m free to stay home.

    Stephen Cox is Sopwith Motorsports Television Productions Driver, Super Cup Stock Car Series & EGT Championship, and Co-Host, Mecum Auctions on NBCSN. Sponsored by http://www.mcgunegillengines.com/

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