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Thread: Joe Chamberlain's IMSA Corvette

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    Joe Chamberlain's IMSA Corvette



    Kiwi racing enthusiasts will know the name Joe Chamberlain well. He is an American racing driver who competed in sedan racing from the 1960s and beyond. In 1969, he bought a near-new road going '69 Camaro that had been in a wreck. He rebuilt the Camaro to SCCA A/Sedan regulations, and raced it in both A/Sedan and selected Trans-Am events until late 1970, when he sold the car to New Zealand businessman Ian Rorison. The Camaro was shipped to NZ, where Chamberlain drove it at Bay Park and Pukekohe, before flying back to the US in early 1971, where he built a second '69 A/Sedan Camaro.

    This second Camaro he retained for much longer, and raced and developed it throughout the early to mid 1970s, racing it in both SCCA A/Sedan and Trans-Am, and with the new International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) group, created by John Bishop, who originally established the Trans-Am in 1966, while with the SCCA. Due to his popular visit to New Zealand in 1970, Chamberlain was invited back once more in late 1972, again to compete at Bay Park and Pukekohe. This time, however, he took his Camaro back home with him.

    Chamberlain's first Camaro is still in New Zealand, now restored by long-time owner Tony Antonievich, while the second Camaro is now owned by Steve Sorenson, and raced with the Historic Trans-Am group, for original 1966 - 72 Trans-Am cars: http://www.historictransam.com/Drivers/StephenSorenson69Camaro76.html

    Beyond the Camaros, Joe kept racing, and from 1978 through 1980, owned this wicked tube-frame Corvette, with which he competed in both IMSA and Trans-Am events, as essentially both groups were using the same rules. Initially, a twin-turbocharged small block Chevy was used, before reverting to a big block Chevy.

    These pics and info were sent to me by a buddy in California, as the Corvette is currently for sale (though not by him). Its an amazing car, and a complete time-warp, as it appears not to have been raced since Chamberlain's last outing at an IMSA race at Portland, Oregon, on 3rd August, 1980. It comes with a good spares package, but will need restored. But its a very neat historic car with some great history, a bit of a Kiwi connection, and something that can be raced in many categories throughout the world, as the IMSA regulations are recognised by the FIA for historic racing. Its also worth noting that New Zealand essentially adopted the IMSA regulations from 1975 through 1977, for which Red Dawson purchased his ex-Mo Carter DeKon Monza (chassis #1001) IMSA car, Allan Moffat briefly raced his DeKon Monza, and the PDL Racing Team built their wild PDL Mustang II. Additionally, reigning Castrol GTX production car champion Art McKee headed State-side and bought a Grant King built IMSA Monza.

    More pics and info to follow.

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  4. #4
    And as it looks today:








  5. #5
    Great pictures and info Steve, when i visited Joe back in 06 he told me towards the end of its/his life it had a twin turbo chevy V8 in it with 1100HP, but alas with 70's technology back then they couldn't get it to hold together though he said with a smile, it sure went like HELL when it did.

    Dale M

  6. #6
    1100ph! Yeah that'd get your attention. To a lot of teams in the 1970s and '80s it seemed that turbocharging was the best way to extract power, which was partially true. But it was also very difficult to fit a turbo to a production car motor that wasn't originally designed around being turbocharged, and make it reliable.

    In the old Can-Am sports car series, McLaren tried turbocharging their M20s in 1972 when Porsche and Penske Racing combined to build the 917/10, in which the complete chassis and driveline was designed for a turbo motor. It took some time to make it work right, and required plenty of Porsche money and engineering talent, along with driver/engineer Mark Donohue, but eventually it destroyed the Can-Am series, because it was so successful. After years of domination in the Can-Am, McLaren left at the end of the season, as even they lacked the budget to compete with Porsche/Penske.

    Shadow also tried turbocharging a big block Chevy in the Can-Am, and their attempts were just as unsuccessful.

    I remember being at a historic racing event at Silverstone in about 1993 and there was a race for Can-Am cars. The old Team VDS McLaren M8F was there. It had raced in the Interserie in the early 1970s, which was essentially a European version of Can-Am. It ran a twin-turbo big block Chevy, which it still used when I saw it at Silverstone. It had 1300hp, but almost never ran well, and was easily beaten by the normally aspirated cars.

  7. #7
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    June 1973. Trojan Racing. Croydon. London. Team VDS McLaren M8F Turbo.
    VDS mechanic, Graham Donaldson had just finished preparing the team's McLaren M8FT for the 1973 Interserie races in Europe, using the Trojan Workshop.
    I would hang around Graham and get to "touch the sides."

    Name:  McLaren M8FT_0002_NEW.jpg
Views: 1989
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    Ken Hyndman "touching the sides" and Team VDS mechanic, fellow Kiwi, Graham Donaldson
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 09-11-2014 at 12:24 PM.

  8. #8
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    M8F Turbo engine was a Chevrolet 8.5-litre which when turbocharged produced a massive 1300 bhp !

    Name:  McLaren M8FT_0001_NEW.jpg
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Size:  125.5 KB

    photos from Classic and Sportscar magazine. Dec. 1990

    Willy Green driving the VDS M8E Turbo in Super Sports Car series in Europe. 1990.

    Name:  McLaren M8FT_NEW.jpg
Views: 1974
Size:  103.5 KB


    ( Ken Hyndman )
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 09-11-2014 at 07:11 AM. Reason: Photo

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by khyndart in CA View Post
    June 1973. Trojan Racing. Croydon. London. Team VDS McLaren M8F Turbo.
    VDS mechanic, Graham Donaldson had just finished preparing the team's McLaren M8FT for the 1973 Interserie races in Europe, using the Trojan Workshop.
    I would hang around Graham and get to "touch the sides."

    Name:  McLaren M8FT_0002_NEW.jpg
Views: 1989
Size:  167.9 KB

    Ken Hyndman "touching the sides" and Team VDS mechanic, fellow Kiwi, Graham Donaldson
    Thanks Ken, what a great image! The McLaren is exactly as I saw it 20 years later at Silverstone except it had the VDS stripes, as in the 1990 article. The owner later removed the turbo and made it a normally aspirated car, which made it more reliable, but took away some of its character.

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    VDS driver,Belgian, Teddy Pilette would describe the handling of this turbo as "Terrific"
    which was a combination of "Terrible" and "Horrific. "


    (Ken Hyndman )

  11. #11
    Yeah I can believe that too Ken! Your image has reminded me of the modified nose on the McLaren which I'd forgotten about. Team VDS, like a small number of the privateer teams in the Can-Am also running McLarens, modified their nose to appear more like that on the Penske built Porsche 917/10 and 917/30. They found the steeper nose with greater protruding splitter provided better downforce at the front than the longer McLaren nose with its more gradual gradient.

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    Twin Turbo HP rating inflated

    As an employee of Hatch Engine Service, I machined most all of J. Chamberlain's engines from the early 70's through 1985. I also assisted in the dyno tuning as back then we used manual control and recording as computer control was not yet available. We used a rudimentary electronic ignition, and I clearly remember ( stupidly ) standing right next to it to check the timing on the crank damper @ over 7k rpm while the turbo's glowed bright red. We did get it up to 950 hp, but figured it wouldn't be reliable during a three hour race. So we detuned it to around 850hp and it had large numbers of torque. I traveled with Joe to Daytona in 1980. As advised by GM, the big block would easily last 24 hours if it was kept under 7k rpm. Unfortunately, after 17 hours Joe's co-driver Dick Valentine lost a rear tire in turn three ripping up the drivers door and LR fender. I guess as time passes, horse power numbers tend to get inflated so I had to set the record straight.
    Phred Lembkie
    Attached Images Attached Images    

  13. #13
    Hi Phred, wow, what a great first post! Your photos are outstanding. Thanks for the recollections, and for setting the record straight.

    Do you have photos of any of Joe's other race cars?

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    I just received this E-mail today(11th July 18)from Joe Chamberlains Daughter Mary, for those interested please read below. Dale

    Hi Dale, Joe wanted to thank you for your email and the picture that you sent.

    Attached is Joe, myself and my husband Ken on the Forth of July! One of Joe's favorite holidays. Joe began setting off fireworks about 48 years ago at his home in Tigard, and the show is still on this year. The City of Tigard now sponsors it and my brother John has been in charge for about 25-30 years.

    He hopes all is well with you.

    Joe turned 93 this past April and I have heard him tell people, he wants to make it to 100!

    Mary(Joes Daughter) for Joe
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  15. #15
    World Champion Roger Dowding's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kiwiboss View Post
    I just received this E-mail today(11th July 18)from Joe Chamberlains Daughter Mary, for those interested please read below. Dale

    Hi Dale, Joe wanted to thank you for your email and the picture that you sent.

    Attached is Joe, myself and my husband Ken on the Forth of July! One of Joe's favorite holidays. Joe began setting off fireworks about 48 years ago at his home in Tigard, and the show is still on this year. The City of Tigard now sponsors it and my brother John has been in charge for about 25-30 years.

    He hopes all is well with you.

    Joe turned 93 this past April and I have heard him tell people, he wants to make it to 100!

    Mary(Joes Daughter) for Joe
    Did the Ton in real life driving would be great to do the Ton in Age.
    My Motoring Uncle ED got to 98 and 6 months, had his drivers licence until 97.. Thanks Dale

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