Ridetech President, Bret Voelkel, Reflects on the 33 Ford’s successes this year after becoming the 2012 GoodGuys Autocross Champion:
“As with any story, there is a “short version” and then the rest of the story. Here is the short version of how we did with the RideTech 33 Ford this year:
• Battle at the Banks – didn’t run the car…steering not done
• Nashville Goodguys – ran the car with old hard tires, no swaybars, & frontend chatter – finished 4th in Pro
• Midwest Musclecar Challenge – car ran great, then broke camshaft on the fourth lap
• Optima Qualifier Texas – ran great, top 5 finish overall
• Optima Qualifier Road America – ran great, top 5 finish overall, wore out clutch
• Columbus Goodguys – 106 degrees outside, posi problems, more frontend chatter – poor finish,10th overall
• Motorstate Challenge – spun car twice, still finished 5th on road course, but would not run for autocross
• Run Through the Hills – broke power steering, coil died, but still finished 8th overall
• Goodguys Indy – everybody was really close…5th overall
• Goodguys Texas – got it all together…1st place!
• Day at the Strip – tight racing…2nd overall
• Optima Vegas event – Autocross – 5th, Road course – 12th, Speed Stop – 1st!, Design Challenge 18th…tied for 3rd overall!
• Scottsdale Goodguys – very close racing…3rd overall
• Del Mar Goodguys – the 33 worked great on this track…1st by a lot!
• OVERALL GOODGUYS PRO CLASS and STREET ROD CLASS 2012 Champion!
And here is the rest of the story for those who can stand even more of my relentless drivelings…
At RideTech we use “suspension research and development” as a great excuse to build hotrods. A couple of years ago we decided to do something that was a bit more “traditional” looking…something light…something that would show hotrodders that you didn’t have to necessarily build a Camaro, Mustang, or Corvette to be cool and go fast.
Enter the RideTech 33 Ford. Starting with a Factory Five chassis and body, the project migrated from a simple “throw it together and go fast” deal, to a full on 3000 hour racecar/street car/fabrication exercise. [any of this sound familiar?] The 33 actually uses a lot of used, fabricated, or otherwise pre-existing components. The 427W engine used to be in my 69 Mustang [before an oiling problem left the crank laying on the track at Road Atlanta a few years ago], and the Rankin clutchless 4 speed transmission was a remnant from the Jasper Engines NASCAR program a few years ago. The Winters quickchange rearend was bought new. The 6 piston 14″ rotor Baer Brakes were left over from another project, as was the Holley Dominator EFI system, the MSD distributor and Digital 6A box, as well as the Racepak dash. We then spent from November 2011 to May of 2012 fitting the body, fabricating the double paneled insulated sheetmetal interior, building the seats, making the stainless headers and oval exhaust system, fitting the Tilton pedals and IDIDIT tilt steering column, creating a full stainless rollcage, installing a Fuelsafe fuelcell and fire system, and making all the little hinges, handles, brackets, and riveted sheetmetal trim pieces that appear all over the car.
The 33 incorporates some suspension stuff that I had been wanting to try for awhile. The rear suspension is a “wishbone” design…2 bottom links and a single “A” arm on the top to control both lateral and axial rotation. While on paper the rear roll center seems a bit high, in practice the car is stable, predictable and fast. I intend to use this design more often!
The front suspension retains the original Factory Five control arm pivot points, but we built new control arms that were just a little prettier, with delrin bushings and replaceable balljoints. The biggest thing we did to the frontend was to change the steering system completely. The car comes with a manual rear steer rack that is, in my opinion, just a bit small to get the job done with a 315mm tire on the racetrack. We installed a Woodward front steer power steering system. Because it was a complete custom installation we had the latitude to work with rack location and steering arm design to reduce the bumpsteer to under .050″ through 6″ of suspension travel. It is beautiful to drive on the street…or at 150mph on a rough racetrack!
Another major variation from the FFR design was to cut the recommended spring rate in half and build front and rear swaybars. The result is that the car not only performs well on the track, it rides comfortably and is very tunable to a variety of track conditions via shock, swaybar, and tire pressure adjustments. (more information about the build is on the online, click here)
We debuted the car [at least visually] at the Battle at the Banks event in Salem, In. on May 5th. We didn’t run it there because the steering was not completed yet. The first driving event was the Nashville Goodguys autocross in May. With some old, hard tires and no swaybars, the car did well, but we knew there was so much more potential.
By the next week at the Midwest Musclecar Challenge we had swaybars built. We made 4 autocross laps and the car was just getting fast when the distributor gear on the camshaft died.
After that was fixed we took the car on the Hotrod Power Tour and the first Optima Qualifier in Dallas Texas. This was also the debut of the new Falken 615k tires. What a dramatic difference! The 33 ran top 10 in all the segments and nothing broke! Later in June we went to the 2nd Optima qualifier at Road America. We did very well there too but wasted the clutch in the process. Back home to get ready for Columbus Goodguys.
I spent most of the ridiculously hot summer tuning and learning how to drive this thing! It was fast, but not as fast or smooth as I needed it to be. The biggest problems were the explosive acceleration [light car, lots o horsepower, and a really light carbon clutch], a front end chatter that I could not seem to locate, and an obstinate EFI system [or so I thought]. At the Run Through the Hills event in September we resolved 2 of the problems: the EFI problem turnout to be a bad coil…it finally died, we changed it, and it has ran perfect ever since!. The other problem resolved was the front end chatter. It was bad enough that the power steering slave cylinder rod broke off. Bad news…BUT the frontend chatter went away! Now instead of chasing an illusional mechanical flex problem, I started looking at the hydraulic system. A quick call to Woodward steering [why didn't I think of THAT before?] got the answers: the pump was cavitating. Move the reservoir up, increase the return line size and make sure it flows evenly downhill to the pump with no dips or humps. Problem completely fixed!The last problem that we fixed was the very cool but somewhat temperamental 5.5″ carbon clutch. We replaced it with a Centerforce DYAD unit just like we had in the 48 Hour Camaro all this year. What a dramatic difference! It went from a juvenile delinquent to a refined warrior…and got REAL fast and predictable. NOW I could concentrate on learning how to drive the thing! We went to Texas Goodguys and won. We went to Putnam Park to test on the road course to prepare for the Optima race in Vegas…it was perfect, we changed nothing. On to Vegas!
We felt really good about the Optima race in Vegas. The car was good and we were ready. I felt we could run top 10…maybe even top 5.
The crowds at the SEMA show loved the car! The drive to Pahrump was uneventful [if a bit noisy from all the trans and rearend gear whine!] The first event was the autocross…we placed 5th! Next up was the road course…all was going well until the in car camera fell of the windshield and got tangled up in my feet. The race director very graciously allowed me to make another attempt. 1:52…3 seconds quicker than the 48 Hour Camaro last year, and good enough for 12th. On to the speed stop. I knew this was traditionally my weakest event and that the competition from the 1200hp all wheel drive, ABS equipped Nissan GTR [and several other cars] would be nearly insurmountable. Well, I have no idea how, but I won the speed stop! Now we were in good position to do well overall, assuming the design challenge portion went ok.
It must have…we tied for 3rd place overall!
So what’s next for the RideTech 33? Well, now that it’s respectably fast, we’re likely going to put some pretty paint on it. The original plan of wrapping that car at the Hotrod Trade Show last March was waylaid by the dumbasses at the Mutoh Corporation and the Fellers Corporation who, one week before the show, decided that the project was too hard for them to do. Nice.
Other refinements will be cleaning up some mounting bracketry and wiring routing, building a hood and hood sides…and changing to air suspension. Now it’ll get REAL fast!
We had a LOT of support throughout the year on the 33 Ford. Centerforce built us a great clutch. The Falken Tires are unbeatable, as are the Baer Brakes. Forgeline built us a really cool [and light] set of wheels. Holley went out of their way to get this thing to run [even with a bad coil], Tony Woodward is a steering system genius, and Sunset Racecraft builds one badass Ford engine. …and the engineers at Fox Shox made us all look like heros on the track. The triple adjustment capabilities of our new shocks has really proven its worth this year! Greg Schneider, Kurt Blackgrove and Dennis Neihaus at our RideTech shop built a fast reliable, cool looking 33 Ford. It was my privilege to get to drive it every week!