IMSA Race Car
Rasey Feezell built a GTV-based race car in the early-to-mid seventies to compete in the GTU class in IMSA. Although he had decided to utilize a GTAm-spec engine, he started with a 1967 step nose chassis. He had a lathe in his basement garage/shop and fabricated several parts for the car, some with more success than others...more on that in a minute.
He purchased a new narrow angle twin plug cylinder head and monosleeve from Alfa Romeo USA in New Jersey. I do not recall now whether he acquired a complete ready-to-run head, or an unfinished bare casting (but with cam caps) that came with a set of blueprints showing how to finish the ports, etc. Alfa USA had both versions on the shelf at the time. He did not want to fool with injection, so he ran 45 DCOE Webers. His big mistake was to try to machine his own block to accommodate the monosleeve. Either forgetting or not knowing to heat the block before removing the head studs resulted in disaster. While running in the newly assembled race engine, several studs pulled out of the block, taking chunks of the block with them. After buying a properly machined block from Alfa, he assembled another engine that stayed together, at least for a while.
The car had a regular close ratio gearbox (regular GTA ratios), which I bet came out of the old Ti Super race car, because I bought the Ti Super with a standard ratio 5 speed), mechanical linkage clutch, and a rear axle into which he installed one of those ratcheting limited slip units, not the common clutch pack LSD unit. I remember you could actually hear the clicking ratchet sound when pushing it around in his driveway or in the paddock at the track. He also put one of the Montreal sumps on the bottom of the diff to increase fluid capacity. It had a sliding block, too, with much of it homemade. I know because I spent the better part of a Saturday in his shop smooth sanding to his satisfaction the bronze block used in the sliding block assembly, after he had cut it off of a piece of bar stock.
It had stock 1600 uprights with knuckle risers. Brakes were stock 1600, as I recall, and utilized the stock master cylinder with a single reservoir. I remember that he mounted a second reservoir beside the first one up on the inner fender, and the pipe from it went down under the car to nothing. IMSA required separate reservoirs for front and rear brakes and Rasey didn't think it was necessary, so he did that to fool them. I guess one could say that some of his decisions on the car strayed from commonly-accepted practice on race car building. Is that tactful enough?
One of his brilliant moves, to me anyway, was his choice of wheels. Under IMSA rules wheels were "free" meaning you could run any width and even use center-lock wheels. To me, that particular Halibrand design is similar to the Campy designs seen on some exotic Italian super cars of that period. So they seem so natural on an Alfa. I believe he actually got the idea to use Halibrands from the huge annual or semi-annual (forget which it was back then) sale that Holman-Moody held regular as clockwork. They would take out this huge ad in Competition Press (now Autoweek) and list all of these neat race parts and tools that were obsolete to them. Those ads were always so interesting to read because it showed you what kind of projects they had been working on besides NASCAR.
So they listed their inventory of pin drive Halibrands that had been part of the GT40 LeMans program that H-M had been involved in. They were 15” diameter in three widths: I think they were 8, 9.5 and 11 inches wide. First Rasey ordered one of the narrowest, along with some pin drive adapter hubs, and made sure they would fit. Then he ordered one of the next widest and went through the same fitment process. Once he ascertained that it would work, too, he ordered one of the widest wheels to see if it would fit. It did – in the rear only. Since they all fit (widest only on the rear), he finally called them and bought out their complete inventory! He ended up using the 9.5’s on the front and the 11’s on the rear. Since he had no use for the narrow 8’s, he asked me if I would like to have him adapt them for the rear of the Ti Super…Let’s see, bolt-on GTA Campys on the front and pin drive Halibrands on the rear of an Alfa sedan? Uh, no, I don’t think so, Rasey. Thanks anyway. He said adapting the pin drive hubs to the rear was very simple, but putting them on the front required a lot of machine work.
As for body work, Rasey hated the bulbous look that GTAm flaired fenders gave to the front end, so he didn’t use them. Instead, he massaged stock inner and outer panels on the front to make those Halibrands and appropriate tires work. On the other hand, special work was needed to cover the super wide wheels and tires in the rear. First he took some regular GTAm rear fendrs, mounted them, and then used them to make molds for even wider flaired fenders that still retained the GTAm fender profile. First, he screwed sheet metal screws into the fenders at regular intervals and all to the same depth, so that they all protruded from the fender the same distance. Then he draped angel hair fiberglass over them and covered the angel hair in epoxy resin to set it. Voila! A new fender just like the old one, only sticking out farther. Very creative, or resourceful…or both.
Rasey ran the car one year but had a poor record with it. At the end of that season, he sold it to Ernie Smith and John Foshee, less the GTAm cylinder head. He would not say who he sold the head to. I could never figure out the need for that secrecy. Here are a couple of pictures of the car at Road Atlanta when Rasey owned it, and then a couple of the car at the same track a year later when Ernie and John first got it and began racing it. As you can see, one of the first things they did was update the look with a two headlight nose. You can also see that the engine has a single plug head. That was a “high port” head done by Ron Neal, complete with custom intake manifold with no water circulating through it. The block was monosleeve. While they had it, Ernie and John did a ton of work to the car. In a separate post, I’ll include pictures of the car after their improvements, and provide an account of the IMSA race at season’s end in 1977 that cinched the class trophy for Alfa Romeo that year.