VOLUME TWO BOOK SIX CHAPTER TWO
THE WREY CHIMERA
On November the fourth in nineteen sixty-three, according to the chronologie printed at the beginning of this automotive book six, of volume two, Wrye began building what the kids in the neighborhood would call the “fyootcha-cah.” in his vast workshop behind his vast studio in the vast arts in Louisville house complex. Wrye named the “fyootcha-cah,” “chimera” after the dictionary attribution –
- Greek mythology. A fire-breathing she-monster usually represented as a composite of a lion, goat, and serpent.
- An imaginary monster made up of grotesquely disparate parts.
The parts may have been disparate, but not grotesque. To enumerate: the chassis was a chopped 1960 English ford consul mark ii convertible of very rigid unit-body frame construction. The four-cylinder engine was eventually to be replaced by an Oldsmobile cutlass aluminum block V-8 engine and Chevrolet Monza transmission. The body which was to be fitted to this rigid frame was designed and built by Wrye of quarter inch thick laminated fiberglass.
As Wrye had never designed nor built an automobile before, being Wrye, he was not restrained by standard automotive design procedures. His modus operandi was straight forward. He would chop off the outside of a sacrificial English ford convertible, then build a new body upon it around himself, sitting at the steering wheel, out of plaster of Paris to see how it looked – no drawings or other engineering niceties.
Streamlining was much in vogue at the time. The “fast-back” shape of unbroken airflow across top surface of the car made sense. A laid-back windscreen, as the windshield was known by the brits, was apropos. An American ford falcon furnished the large safety-glass windshield to be ground to fit. The large fast-back rear window would be cold-formed of tinted Plexiglas.
Automobiles at this early period all sported big chrome-plated radiator grills for air cooling the water in the radiator and engine. It occurred to Wrye that this large hole in the front of a car was incompatible with the notion of streamlining. He found an obscure engineering report stating that the required area of a radiator for cooling the engine of a car in motion was but one quarter the area required for an engine running at idle speed, being cooled only by the air from the cooling fan,
Wrye reasoned that if the large hole were tilted top forward enough so that it offered the forced in-coming air a view of only a quarter of the overall opening, he would be dramatically improving the aerodynamics. By lengthening the nose of the car in the shape of a wedge, he was able to place a ducted to the radiator opening beneath the front leading-edge of the nose and at the same time counteract the potential aerodynamic lift by the aerodynamic down-force on the upper surface. It worked. Recessed headlights with shaped Plexiglas covers also contributed to smoothing the airflow.
Wrye bolted a bucket seat behind the wheel of this chopped-off sacrificial “buck” English ford chassis and developed the dimensional points by eyeballing-in the fender height, roof-line slope, rear-vision visibility, windows-size and shape, etc. He then welded a support frame of steel tubing to support a wire-mesh screen which would serve as the armature for the plaster for the sculpting of the male mold.
The male mold plaster was troweled onto the mesh and built up a bit over-thick to allow for sculpting when dry – but at this time only on the left side of a line down the center of the car – one side would be designed, sculpted to perfection, and then duplicated in mirror-image on the other.
After carving the left side of the plaster male buck with an electric hand plane which did a prestigious job of flinging vast rooster-tails of white plaster dust high into the high rafters of Wrye’s shop, more subtle hand tools were called upon for the more delicate shaping of the form. Rasps -coarse and fine, made especially for auto body work worked the surface down td fairly smooth. A coating of shellac coated the dry plaster as a base for several heavy coats of auto-body lacquer primer. At this stage the finishing was basic auto body work of finer and the finer wet-sanding of the surface. When completed to body-shop perfection, it became then time for the mirror-image duplication of the driver’s-side one-half a body for the passenger’s side.
At this point Wrye the sculptor became Wrye the inventor. A way was called for to copy the profile of the left side of the body-shell to the buildup the right side -exactly, precisely, without the tedious cutting of a big bunch of perfect-fitting aluminum templates for the transfer of the changing shape of the auto body the whole length and breadth of the car.
Wrye invented -what was somewhat later to be invented in miniature for the copying of molding shapes for floor-fitting, etc., in the building trades -a universal template device which was instantly adjustable to any place along the surface of his mold. It was a six-foot stack of pencil-sharpener sharpened three-eighths inch diameter two-foot-long birch dowel rods screw-clamped between two flat board uprights mounted vertically upon a heavy iron base. This device was presented to a finished contour to be copied, its points all in contact with the surface. It was then clamped tight and moved to the exact opposing position on the right side where the plaster would be built up to the described contour or checked later for accuracy. It worked.
The plaster work completed, Wrye then had a beautiful lump of lacquer-primed plaster of Paris – the m le buck. To make molds for creation of the fiberglass body shell this lump had to be used to create the fiberglass female molds in which the final body parts would be formed.
The body was designed to be an assembly of just major four parts – the passenger shell, the front-end engine and wheelhousing, and the two doors.
The finished male buck was given a six coats of lacquer auto paint, allowed to dry, and then fine-sanded and compound polished to a high-gloss finish. A thorough waxing with a special wax designed as a mold-release agent was applied. It was now time for the fiberglass reinforced polyester resin.
A drum of polyester resin, a sticky syrupy thick pink liquid, and a gallon or so of methyl-ethyl ketone peroxide as a catalytic hardner were purchased along with several rolls of glass-fiber cloth and matte.
To build up the female molds, many strips of catalyzed impregnated glass matte and cloth were built up as laminations upon the waxed and painted exterior surface of the plaster male buck. This was done in sections which would later be bolted together at. joining flanges f or the laying-up of the actual finished body parts. The body shell and the nose-piece were each built up in these two-piece flanged molds to make removal after completion possible.
The completed female molds edges were trimmed and their flanges drilled for bolting together.
The reader must understand that it is heaps easier to read about this project than to do it. It is probably April by now in the chronologie and still a couple of months to go.
One deadly vitally useful caveat was laid heavily upon Wrye early on by his chemist monitor Mr. Al Hundley of loop-goop plastics – when working with any thermoplastic resin, if – and you inevitably will – ever get a single drop of resin upon your person, remove it immediately – for if you do not- you will inevitably get two – and there the multiplication table comes into full effect. Soon you will rival a pancake on Sunday morning.
Wrye heeded – after the first buckweed cake adventure, and stayed squeaky clean from then hence.
The fabrication of the finished body parts in the female molds was less trying for Wrye by now was an experienced fiberglass manipulator, out of the molds the parts were trimmed and readied for assembly. A second English ford consul convertible was located, b ought and chopped and readied for ressurection as the chimera. A heavy duty interior roll bar was hydraulically bent to fit, bolted to the chassis and the fiberglass body parts were bolted to it and to the chassis. The body panels were lacquered in bright white lacquer and given their final sanding and polishing. The glass and Plexiglas windows were cut and fitted, air conditioning installed. The interior professionally carpeted and headlinered. There were new magnesium wheels and michelin tires and new bucket seats.
The chimera was ready to roll on the fourth of. July of sixty-four.
Wrye’s scheming plan was to sneak this “fyootcha-cah” with only slight modifications to its shape in under the guise of the already registered English ford. He blithely visited the county clerk’s office with the registration papers of the consul mark ii convertible upon which he had wreaked the fiberglass and transferred the license from its former owner into his own name and said not a word of the metamorphosis.
Licensed, and now on the street, is when the anguish began. Naturally. In nineteen sixty-four, the chimera stood out rather sore-thumbishly amidst all the still rather boxy domestic production machinery. One might venture to say that it attracted attention. And there is the rub.
With the windows open, at every stop light Wrye was interrogated from wide-eyed adjacent chauffeurs. It was evident that this would become old very soon. With the windows closed twirling hand signals mimicking window rolling were universal. A change to dark Plexiglas permitted some privacy.
But the there was parking. Wrye was forced to park, quickly exit the car, lock and run. Otherwise he would be rapidly surrounded by the interrogators who were understandably curious but did not consider that the questions they posed were the same questions that had been posed and had been posed and had been posed ad infinitum, and were becoming to Wrye vexing. “what kind of a car is that? Where did you get it? How fast will it go? -etc., etc., etc.
Wrye was stopped by just curious policemen, held up by curious turnpike toll booth attendants. He could no longer consider a drive-in restaurant for lunch, or a quiet ride through the park. The damn thing was not just a chimera -it was an albatross!
A trip through eastern Canada returning through new England down the Atlantic seaboard into New York city and even on to Sebring, Florida, and back, confirmed that the human population is rather homogeneous in its homogeneity. The reactions seemed universally mono-manically rehearsed.
The trip through the above, though, did confirm Wrye’s engineering insights. The car handled like a champ, was wind-silent at high speeds, at high speeds formerly unattainable, and its carburetor was far less thirsty than during its former incarceration.
After using its eyeball-gathering potential for the promotion of the “expo-go” exposition and extravaganza, -which see, in chapter four -Wrye, a very private person, regretfully but cheerfully bestowed this importuning mechanical masterpiece upon a young French friend of thicker hide, and returned to his drawing board and machine shop to design and create something a slightly less conspicuous -the olds Cortina. -see the following chapter, chapter three.
THE OLDS / CORTINA
VOLUME TWO BOOK SIX CHAPTER THREE
THE OLDS / CORTINA – HISTORY
After zapping about in numerous and varied English fords since the English ford consul acquired in France in nineteen-fifty, a list of which appears here somewhere in this chapter, Wrye came up with a slightly wrecked nineteen sixty-six gt Cortina (it had been run over by a tanker-truck). After removing a few dents, and replacing what the brits call “pieces,” it was driveable and raceable as sports-racing class-E sedan. It raced well as class e but Wrye was not the one not to consider improvements. Very shortly after, his class-e became a-modified. A-modified was the top of classes – for cars of over three and a half litre displacement – any modification allowed – run-what-ya-brung! strictly stock were all the other classes. Any modification – you ran modified – Wrye went all the way.
The racing was actually no more than speed and handling trials, called slaloms by the several sports-car associations about the region. Race courses – at most a half mile long and usually at least two laps a run for two dr more runs- were set up between pylons on large empty parking-lots on Sundays, where all the would-be boy-racers lined up and raced against the stop-watch whilst dodging the big day-glo orange plastic pylon course markers.
Competition was fierce. Differences of hundredths of seconds divided the winners and losers. More about all that later in the racing chapter.
With a less than 2000 lb. Car sporting a 225 hp engine giving a high power-to-weight ratio for acceleration, independent suspension stiffened all around for high-speed and flat cornering, the home-made olds/ Cortina was and a sobering experience for most of the fancy, expensive, detroit iron and foreign aluminum that came to play.
Actually, as there were few machines up and about to race against in modified classes, the weekend trials served mainly as engineering tests for the previous week’s modifications and improvements, tests that could not have been done on public thoroughfares without some trepidation.
This first olds/ Cortina lasted through most of 1972 until zapped again on those public thoroughfares. Noted. Its successor clone was built better, stronger, and faster.
The olds/ Cortina is no longer raced, officially, that is. Its first engine rebuilds, and probably its last, was in June of ’92, [ only 1200 hrs. Of running time on the engine dashboard elapsed-time clock]. The rebuild found even more horsepower than it D’origine. The thing is a bit more scarier now than it ever has been! It must be driven to be believed.
A stock 1966 English ford Cortina gt before transplants
The olds/ Cortina is driven about town by Wrye with Elan and vengeance, weather permitting. In the muggy heat of Louisville’s ridiculous summer, it is temporarily retired, as there is no room under the hood for the big engine and an air conditioning apparatus. It needs no heater for winter. The aluminum engine block radiates heat real good.
THE OLDS / CORTINA -TECHNICAL
In late nineteen seventy-two the original olds/ Cortina was destroyed in a vehicular altercation involving a red-light running ford station-wagon at the corner of 32nd and Virginia avenues and said Cortina. After bouncing off ford, fire hydrant, and telephone pole, the original was retired to that great. junkyard in the sky, but not before becoming an organ donor -drive train, suspension parts, instruments, etc. Were all salvaged.
A 1 962 Cortina was found in fern creek, KY. Minus its engine. The chassis and body were in good shape. The body was stripped to bare metal, scratches and dents fixed, primed, and painted in white lacquer. The body rebuild was completed early in 1 973. A new Oldsmobile all-aluminum short block! engine! Was ordered from general motors through the tri-city Oldsmobile dealer. It was built-up with a new crane three-quarter-race camshaft with hydraulic lifters and dual heavy-duty valve springs. A Stewart-warner high volume electric fuel pump, mounted above the fuel tank, feeds gasoline through the Holley double-pumper four-barrel six-fifty cfm racing carburetor, and then back out through in-shop-fabricated tubular exhaust headers into and through two twin two and a half inch Cadillac straight-through chambered exhaust tubes. The engine is fired by a Mallory dual-point, four-lobed cammed, rev-pol distributor and a dual output high-voltage coil.
The 10.25:1 compression ratio aluminum cylinder-heads are from the turbo-charged Oldsmobile engine of 1963. By some fancy welding, the aluminum-boxed borg-warner T50 5-speed transmission from a 1 976 Chevrolet Monza was later adapted to fit the original aluminum bell housing which enclosed an aluminum racing flywheel and clutch combination. A republic-weldng especially fabricated drive shaft. joined the torque to the 1965 Corvair Monza rear-drive assembly. The drive shaft connects to the Monza differential through a Wrye fabricated sealed ball-bearinged housing which replaces the original Corvair transmission. The rear-engine was replaced by a cover-plate.
The rear-end drive parts from the Corvair gave the olds/ Cortina, for handling, a much needed independent-suspension and much greater strength for absorbing almost three times the horsepower of the original design. A steel carriage for the differential was bolted to the frame members. Track arm mounts, which bolted through the original Cortina leaf-spring mounts, were fabricated to accept the Corvair track arms to locate the rear wheels and their chopped Corvair coil springs. The half-shafts required a three-inch shortening from the original Corvair dimensions.
The MacPherson original front suspension and steering remained stock gt Cortina although it was reinforced by twin anti-rollbars, koni adjustable shock absorbers, and the coil-springs were replaced by shortened, heavier duty. Corvair coils, which all together, lowered and stiffened the front end assembly quite effectively.
some discussion of the building of the olds Cortina ought be included in this chapter.
The stock Cortina weighed a mere 1700 lbs. This made it an excellent candidate for a car with a low weight-to-power ratio. The Oldsmobile cutlass aluminum block 215 cu.in. Engine of 1963 was the engine of choice for a swap. This engine, with starter, generator, fuel and exhaust manifolds, etc., weighed just 350 lbs. Coincidentally the iron so cu.in engine from English-ford weighed the same. This permitted an engine change without affecting the vehicle weight balance, thus preserving the excellent handling characteristics of the original Cortina.
The first swap made was one using the turbo-charged olds engine as it was the strongest of the various engines olds offered. It was a disappointment in slalom racing. The turbo response time was too slow to permit rapid acceleration off corneas, although when its boost finally did become effective it came on with a thrill.
The Holley 650 cfm 4-baaael racing carburetor soon replaced the turbo. This device had two accelerator pumps to feed plenty of fuel when needed. The off-the-cornea problem was fixed.
To fit this great v-b engine into a Cortina engine compartment took some doing. The olds engine is unique in that all its accessories are fitted in a single cast-aluminum housing stuck on the front of the block – the oil pump, the water pump, the cooling fan, the distributor, and timing chain assembly all bunched together up front. This was fine as it kept the overall engine width at a minimum, but it created a length problem for the shoat-nosed Cortina. A new radiator was designed and fabricated which was wider, thicker, and not as tall as the original. This was made to fit in front of the forward bulkhead of the engine compartment thus adding the required additional six inches. The firewall, as it is called. Needed a little surgery to accommodate the larger Oldsmobile bellhousing. The transmission tunnel, through the floor of the car, got a little wider, also. To support the engine, Wrye cut and welded-up a new cross-member which bolted to the Cortina frame rails. A second cross-member was fabricated for the support of the Monza T50 aluminum transmission box, and a third to carry the Chevy-Corvair rear-suspension assembly.
All of this extra Oldsmobile torque demanded bigger wheels and tires td push the ground away. The wheel-wells were all cut open and new sheet metal flaring was weld on. With a little hammering and body-putty there was now room for 1 4″ wheels fitted with 235-60 Pirelli radial tires in the rear and wider 1 3″ aims in front fitted with Pirelli 205-60 radials. That’s called footprint.
The independent rear suspension assembly conversion came about after about three Cortina axles were twisted off at low speed. To avoid wheel spin when one rear wheel lifted in cornering, the English-ford differential spider gears had been brazed together to prevent differentiating. This worked fine at racing speeds with all wheels sliding and spinning, but turning out of a tight driveway twisted the outside wheel axle to the limit – zap
A late model Corvair Monza was found which had been totalled by a hail storm. The body was ruined. The parts weren’t. The rear-drive assembly was relieved of its engine and transmission, its ring and pinion gears replaced by a set from a Corvair van, a 4.11 :1 gear ratio, which would produce more torque at the rear wheels at higher engine RPMs. To match this gearing, a new five-speed aluminum transmission, the borg warner T-50, was purchased to replace the iron three-speed olds cutlass box. Gear ratios and speeds are listed on the specifications page.
THE OLDS / CORTINA -TECHNICAL / INSTRUMENTS
The dash panel instrumentation has a lot of dials and switches. First installed when the turbo-charger was in use, it was a good idea to see what was happening to an engine before it happened. As fate would have, the original turbocharger waste-gate c which was spring-loaded to open at about 5 lbs., / sq.in.] Just happened to get welded closed -effectively turning up the boost to fifteen pounds. This caused things to run stronger -and hotter, and harder. The vacuum pressure gauges kept you informed of the manifold pressure. Water temperature is watchable and usually forgivable. Oil temperature isn’t. The ammeter and voltmeter keep a moving pointer on the generator and battery conditions, the fuel pressure gauge watches the Stewart-warner electric fuel pump. Incidentally the olds mechanical fuel pump furnished with the engine could not keep up with the fuel consumption of the beefed-up turbo or the four barrel Holley carburetor. The tachometer suggests that the engine stay below the 7000 rpm red line and the speedometer talked about speed limits -at first. With all the drive-line changes, wheel size, tire size, transmission changes, rear-end gearing, etc. The speed□ gears just could not keep up with the arithmetic. It just quit trying, but it looks quite nice there next to the tachometer, it kind of balances the display. The toggle switches control the lights, head and dash, the ignition circuit, the fuel pump, and wipers. Each has an amber panel lamp which signals each’s current status.
THE OLDS/ CORTINA – SPECIFICATIONS