13 May 2009

Honey, I Shrunk The '34!

The other day, me 'n Mrs. G were out shopping for a new washing machine to replace the 25-year-old wearing-out one. We just happened to run into our old friend Dave who was standing in front of his shop in the same complex as the appliance store. We hadn't seen him in quite a while, years in fact, so we stopped and chatted with him for a few moments.

I've known Dave for 28 years. He's a gearhead of the first order. When we met, he was the proprietor of Hirschdale Auto Wrecking a few miles east of town down in the Truckee River Canyon, which is no more due to environmental concerns about having a junkyard on the bank of the Truckee River. That place was a hangout in the best sense of the word! Just as an example, Dave likes guns and so do we. Let's just say that, at the wrecking yard the hills were often alive with the sound of gunfire, sometimes with the shots coming awfully close to one another in rapid succession (wink wink nudge nudge - know what I mean?). Mrs. G had just gotten a new S&W .22 revolver, and in honor of the event Dave broke out a brand new good used California Highway Patrol car door skin for her to blaze away at. Heh.

Also, I learned a lot about cars there. F'rinstance, when a customer is interested in a used engine, there's no way in the world it will ground-start unless there are a half a dozen guys standing around it and they all have a beer in their hand. But I digress...

Dave went on to be a big rig mechanic (read: a lotta 3/4 and 1 inch drive stuff) and worked for years as a mobile mechanic. The CHP has an inspection station, aka The Scales, just east of town, where they weigh big rigs and inspect them to make sure the things can get over the crest of the Sierra and down to the Valley without wrecking and closing the Interstate and killing people. I'm sure he did engine swaps on occasion, but it was mostly safety stuff like air brake systems, suspension components, tires, etc. When the CHP sidelines a rig for a safety item, it stays right there until it's fixed. Dave worked out of a well-equipped truck and fixed rigs out in the open in all kinds of weather. This is deep snow country and it was no picnic sometimes. It paid pretty well. The truckers just wanta go and they pay, believe me.

Dave got tired of that after about twenty years (I don't blame him!) and opened his own shop, A-1 Automotive (first in the phone book after all the AA Automotives).

Dave's an old biker like me, so I decided to drop by the following day and show him my Royal Enfield. We had another nice chat. I was gettin' ready to throw a leg over my ride and head out when he casually dropped the bomb: "I'm runnin' the dwarf car now..."

I had seen pictures of them and thought they looked like big fun, but I'd never seen a real live one up close. Needless to say, both legs stayed on one side of the bike and I was there another half hour while Dave showed me his car and told me a lot about it and his racing. I brought the camera the following day. Hyar 'tis:

Click pix to embiggen

Here's Dave. I got him to pose after I reminded him he doesn't look like his 'wanted' posters any more. He had just crawled out from under a church bus after replacing a rusted-out fuel tank. Note the door. No way he'd get more than a little ways inta that thing through the window, although the visual of the Fire Department tryin' to get him back out if he tried is hilarious. While he was waiting for them he coulda sold ad space on his ass! Heh.

A little about the car: It runs a 1000cc (61ci) Suzuki GSX-R (Gixxer) motorcycle engine and gearbox, perhaps 160 horsepower, and redlines into the rev limiter at 12,500 RPM. This one is fuel-injected, but carbs are allowed as well. It is mounted longitudinally in the car as opposed to transversely as it would be in a bike. Drive is through a driveshaft mounted to an adapter that replaces the chain drive. There is a minimum weight requirement of 1000 pounds unladen and Dave has to run ballast to comply.

Do the math: 1000 lbs divided by 160hp = pucker power!

Here's a photo of the well-appointed interior. The padding on the far side covers the driveshaft tunnel. He's runnin' a Toyota rear end with one short axle and one long one. The motorcycle clutch lever is mounted to the shift lever, and he runs mostly in 3rd gear.

A little about the racing: Dave runs with Dwarfs At Reno-Tahoe (DART). They run at tracks mostly in northeastern California and Northern Nevada, but occasionally at tracks as far as 250 miles away. They have drivers from 14 to 78(!) years of age.

Dave is currently in 7th place in points so far this season. Pretty good, I'd say.

Go to DART's site and click 'media' and 'photos' for many good racing photos.

Here's an interesting point: Track operators love these guys. When the Dwarfs come to race, attendance goes up 25%. I believe it. I bet these things are a lot of fun to watch, and I'm planning to go spectate one of their races this season.

Interesting point #2: These $8000 cars run the same lap times as the $25,000 Late Models and Modifieds. I bet they're a lot more fun to drive too.

Below is Dave's car runnin' a Polish victory lap with its previous owner. I'd love to be there when Dave gets to do this:

DART photo


I took a printed copy of this post and the photos to Dave. He said if anyone would like to cough up some sponsorship money to call him at the number at the A-1 Automotive link. Tell him Gordon sent ya. Now there's a real racer! Heh.

No comments: