We were fortunate to strike just the right mixture of all the necessary ingredients
when we went after.....and set......106 American &
International speed and endurance records, with American Motors AMX at a test
track in south Texas.
The plane was to run two cars and I was anxious to get started. We decided
that one was to be powered by a 290 cubic inch engine and the other with a
larger and more powerful 390 cubic inch power plant.
We would seek to set American, National and International Closed Car
records, as well as American and National Unlimited records.
Two brand new AMXs were shipped from the factory to my shop in Torrance,
California,. The engines were pulled immediately and sent to Traco Engineering
to be expertley blueprinted, meaning every part was sight checked and even x
rayed to make sure the clearances, tolerances and other technical
specifications were met to the letter.
The onlt departture from stock was a slight overbore on both engines to
make them a bit more powerful. The 290 was bored out to 304 inches and the 390
to 397 cubic inches. Not much, just enough to give some added zip for the long
stretches at high speeds.
We also replaced the stock cast iron manifolds with headers, enlarged the
oilpan to eight quarts and added baffling to keep the oil around the pump
pickup; and installed a Holley four barrel carburetor on the 304 engine and
the 397 was fitted with a three barrel. Both carburetors were mounted on high
rise aluminum intake manifolds. A racing camshaft with solid lifters and
stronger springs replaced the stock setup.
Inside the car, a full rollbar cage was installed for driver protection and
the stock bucket seats were slightly modified to give additional body support.
A full set of engine instruments were added so the driver would constantly
know how the powerplant was performing.
Engine and rear end oil coolers already had been installed along with a 37
gallon cell type safety gas tank. That was it for the inside.
We lowered the front end slightly, slanting the hood down, and put a splash
pan spoiler just below the front bumper, so that the air pressure at high
speeds would act, instead, to force the front end down and keep the car on the
The track was a perfect circle, five miles in circumference, with enough
cactus, rubble, dirt and sand for a John Wayne movie set.
The Class C car, the 290 stock engine, was the first to run. The plan was
to go as hard as possible for the next 24 hours.
At the onset the car ran beautifully. Then little things cropped up. First
we flipped a fan belt and the car was buttoned down in the pits for 10 minutes
while it was fixed. Later, with my wife Lee tooling around each lap at about
156 miles per hour she complained the car was not handling as smoothly as it
But we decided it wasn't enough to worry about, so she waited for her
normal pit stop. When we checked we found that Lee had been driving on a flat
tire, that only the safety innerliner had kept her from a disastrous spin out.
My portion of the run with the C car got pretty hairy. The test was going
perfectly when, just after sundown, the altenator failed, the headlights
started to fade and the engine began missing. I had just over one hour to go
for the 12 hour record. If I came in for a pit stop, the time required to
change the alt or a battery would cost us the record. I decided to go for the
record and turned off my headlights to save power. I figured, with luck, the
battery would supply enough current to run the engine for the necessary time.
I could afford the pit stop after we had reached the 12 hour mark as the
records were much slower after that time. I pulled the car down off the top of
the track and towards the bank at the inside of the track, because there was
no guardrail and I was afraid that without lights, I might go off the top of
We had kerosene burning flamboes every 500 feet around the inside of the
track and placed every available car at points along the five miles to help
illuniate the way with headlights. Travelling 155 miles per hour in the darn
presented some anxious moments but we managed the 12 hour record.
When I came in for my pit stop we decided to change batteries at each stop
thru the night instead of replacing the alternator. The battery changes meant
slower speeds but in the end we still averaged 140.790 miles per hour, covered
3380 miles in the C car and established 90 new records!
Several days later we geared up for another test, this time with the larger
engine Class B car. And for awhile it would seem that it would be more
successful than the C. But shortly after the 8th hour, just when we were
getting into the groove of the track, the car experienced a gearbox failure.
The 175 mile a hour speeds and a slightly bumpy track made the wheels go
airborne every time they hit a bump.
The added load when the wheels came back to the track was too much for the
transmission. By the time we got it changed, we had run out of good weather
What did we prove? Even in the abbreviated eight hour test, the class B car
set 16 records. Between them the two AMXs rolled up 106 speed and endurance