Type the word “racecar” into Ebay Motors and you’re bound to find something interesting. You’re also likely to find some deals. However, the more interesting, the car, the less likely you are to get a deal.
NASA Northeast’s Vinnie Allegretta was looking for a racear on Ebay and found something very unlikely: a mid 90s Trans Am Camaro with a motor — and the price? $31,000.
“A guy in New Jersey had it,” Allegretta said. “He just raced in historics races, in HSR series. He had it a bunch of years and he only ran it a few times a year, when he had time. That was it.
“I stole that car. I did put a $20,000 engine in it, though,” he added.
Allegretta removed the 600 horsepower engine that came with the car and replaced it with the 800 horsepower SB2 engine he had in a 1972 Camaro. If you don’t already know, an SB2 engine was designed specifically for NASCAR competition. The SB2 features a new cylinder head with revised valve angles and layouts, which also means it requires a proprietary intake manifold and exhaust headers. Allegretta also had to have a custom oil pan made to fit the engine in the car.
So now, instead of a 2,700-pound car with 600 horsepower, Allegretta had a lightweight tube-chassis car with 800 horsepower. With the Camaro, Allegretta won nearly every NASA race he entered. He has since sold the car and is having a new Trans Am car built so he can compete in Trans Am in 2016.
“For me personally, I love the cars,” Allegretta said. “That’s why I’m having one built now to race a full season in Trans Am this year and whatever NASA races I can fit in between in the schedule in the Northeast I’m going to make. My NASA people are my roots, you know what I mean? It’s kind of an honor this year to sort of go pro and race against the big dogs and see how I do.”
It will be fun to watch his progress. Allegretta started his driving career in high-powered cars. His first track car was a 1969 Camaro with 700 horsepower. From there, he moved to the 1972 Camaro with the SB2 engine in it. Obviously, the original suspension on those cars had been replaced with more modern hardware.
That introduction to track driving was a good proving ground for driving a Trans Am car, Allegretta said.
“The cars are a handful. You definitely have to muscle them around,” he said. “You have an 800-horsepower car that’s 2,700 pounds with no ABS, no traction control, no power brakes. You have to man-handle it. We run little 5.5 inches clutches in the cars, so the clutch is like an on-off switch, but it’s actually easier to drive the car at speed than it is to drive it slow, if that makes any sense.”
This kind of racecar also requires a lot of attention, he said. It’s not the kind of car you can race one weekend, park in the trailer, then race it again without servicing it. What is nice about the cars is that they’re not complicated. They’re old school, complete with a carburetor and everything. Allegretta’s car also has fully adjustable sway bars front and rear, which are operated with push-pull plungers on the dash. Pull the top plunger out to soften the rear bar. Push the lower plunger in to soften the front.
The plungers actuate a cable that rotates an extension of the sway bar made from a flat piece of steel. In soft mode, the extension lies horizontally. In stiff mode, it is vertically oriented. It’s brilliant and not complex at all.
“You can adjust the front and rear sway bars from inside the car,” Allegretta said. “I usually start out the first couple of laps, I run them a little soft and then as soon as the tires start to heat up, you stiffen them up and then throughout the race, if it’s a long race, and the tires start to go away you can soften them up again.
“It is pretty cool and I’m actually shocked you don’t see it in more cars because it’s a pretty simple thing, and effective,” he added. “It doesn’t really cost a lot, either.”
Allegretta takes it all in stride. He loved the car when he owned it, but he’s looking forward to his time in Trans Am, a series he has prepared for by driving the hardware for the last couple of seasons in NASA.
“It takes some getting used to, but for me, my first car in Time Trials was a ’69 Camaro with 700 horsepower. Then my first racecar was a ’72 Camaro with 800 horsepower, so I was used to the power and used to having to muscle the car around, so for me it really wasn’t that hard.
“It’s pretty crazy what you’ll see at a NASA race,” he added. “You’ll see some guys come out with some pretty crazy cars in Super Unlimited. It’s pretty cool. It’s always a cool surprise.”
|Trans Am Camaro|
|2,700 lbs. w/o driver|
|358 CID SB2 Nextel Cup Chevrolet, 822 horsepower|
|Front: Double wishbones with double-adjustable Penske shocks|
Rear: Four link with live axle and double-adjustable Penske shocks
|Front: Hoosier 25.5 x 14 R16|
Rear: Hoosier 28 x 14.5 R16
|Front: Alcon six-piston, 13-inch rotor|
Rear: Alcon four-piston, 13 inch rotor