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Charge On!, Issue #015: NEDRA, Electric Vehicle Racing, and Girls
January 20, 2012
I'd like to share a couple of new interviews with you.
First I spoke with Mike Willmon, president of the National Electric Drag Racing Association and driver of the Crazy Horse Pinto electric drag racer. We talked about electric drag racing (I got schooled on the finer points of bracket racing) and what electric racing has brought to the sport of drag racing AND to the world of electric vehicles...
...and then we talked a little about motors, batteries, and safety at insanely high speeds in an EV.
Here's a little extra from Mike for you on beating the pants off the gas-guzzlers and converting crappy old beaters to electric (sorry, I meant lightweight and economical donor vehicles, didn't I?)...expressly for the purpose of humiliating the unsuspecting drivers of those gas-guzzlers. Fun!
I also talked with Eva Hakannson about driving that big red pill - the Killajoule - at 218 mph around the Bonneville salt flats, also with a little extra here just for you.
Electrics Vs. Gas-Guzzlers
Lynne: Mike, I see the YouTube videos of the White Zombie racing a gas guzzler - and winning - but generally, electric cars don't race gas burners, right?
Mike: But generally...that is the point of what we do.
Most people think electric cars are for girls, right? Think about it - most folks don't see EVs as more than a glorified golf cart. NEDRA is here to show them that electric cars are for the masses, girls and boys alike.
Hm. Why didn't I think of that?
My friend John Wayland recently raced and beat a new Nissan GT-R "Godzilla" which has been the pinnacle of the Nissan racing series cars. It is ironic enough that John has a Datsun 1200 which was a forgotton Datsun rear wheel drive Japanese Econo-box car that happened to be souped up for gas racing for Trans-Am racing in the past. It may not be remembered that Pete Brock formed BRE (Brock Racing Enterprises) who focused on the ballsy Datsuns in the early 70s, teamed up with Nissan, and virtually owned the Trans Am 2.5 Challenge races, where his modified Datsun 510s, 240Zs, and yes, Datsun 1200s won pretty much every class they raced in!
You guys are secure enough in your manhood to drive girl's cars. Got it.
Yeah, Datsuns are girl's cars.
Tell that to the 'A Sedan' Vette and Camaro drivers that were getting lapped by the lower class 'B Sedan' Datsuns! If girls were to drive a Datsun, then yes! Datsun's are for girls too; )
Insanely fast electric postal trucks must be for girls as well, because Rod Wilde offered to scare the hell out of me in his "Gone Postal" if I wanted.
Wisely, I ran away screaming.
What's with the crappy old beaters being used as electric drag racers? Did this start out as Oregonian humor?
My friend Wayland's Datsun 1200 was a respected gas racer in the 70's. It took out many of the American Corvettes and Camaro's in circuit racing. But the allure of the older "econo- boxes" are that they were still made of steel, which meant that they were still of a pretty stout construction, and that most of them were still rear-wheel drive, which is the big benefit to drag racers. The thing that drag racers look for in a car are its light weight and its strength in the chassis. Its true that many of the old American muscle cars were heavy. But that was to house the enormous weight of the big V-8's they put into them. In a time where efficiency was only a small factor in marketing cars, the structural integrity of the overbuild was not impacted. If you were to apply the old (to us) adage, the "old crappy beaters" were not made of recycled beer cans. They were made of steel, just like all the rest of the performance cars of the day. And so for drag racing today, stronger and lighter is better.
Are you still racing that beat-up old Pinto?
Uh, yeah!! And for your information it is not very beat up. It was found in a yard from the original owner (originally bought from Cal Worthington in Anchorage, Alaska in 1978), with weeds growing up through the floor into the ceiling. I paid $400 for it and drove it home. (I have pics before and after the conversion). But the story behind the Pinto is that:
1) it was less than 2000 lbs stock weight (actual weighed weight 2035 lbs with the dirt and weeds included);
2) it came stock with a Ford 8" rear-end (a very desirable rear-end that also came stock in all but the HO Mustangs of the time), and
3) it was a Pinto and "Made in America".
Those were "ALL" the reasons I bought it. The #1 reason was because it was a light production car. Ford's main design selling point was that it was a $2,000 car less than 2,000 lbs to compete with the Japanese econo-boxes of the time. Those are its performance factors. The non-performance factor was its name. I have a 12 second electric Pinto. If I can beat you in a 1/4 mile you are not going to remember that I beat you with an electric car, you are going to be shamed to being beat by a "Pinto". That has happened to me before by a certain Corvette owner. And the "Pinto" is now safer without the stock exploding fuel tank; )
Eva Hakannson's Killajoule Electric Motorcycle
I talked with Eva Hakannson this week about her wicked fast electric sidecar motorcycle, the KillaJoule. You can read our KillaJoule interview here, where we talk about what it's like to be strapped into the Killajoule out in the hot sun on the salt flats, and what it's like to be a woman race vehicle driver in what is essentially a man's sport...
...but here's a little extra tidbit not in the article, in which Eva and I talk about her family and growing up with engineers and electric vehicles:
Lynne: Eva, I read that your dad built electric motorcycles and such when you were growing up. How did your family get interested in electric vehicles?
Eva: My dad Sven - and my mom Lena too, by the way - is a mechanical engineer and has worked in research and development all his life. He has raced and built motorcycles for a hobby since his teen years. (When I say "building" I mean everything, including the engines. My level of building is nothing compared to his. Yet.)
During the 70's oil crisis, the Swedish motorcycle manufacturer Monark hired him to develop an electric scooter. The crisis ended and scooter never went into production, but my dad was hooked on the electrics. EV's have never been a great source of income for him, but it has been an exciting hobby. He built one of the world's first modern electric motorcycles in 1994. However, the batteries weren't there yet to compete with the internal combustion engine. In 2003 he built an electric roadster, which I believe was Sweden's first car with lithium-ion batteries.
When I wanted my own electric vehicle in 2007, the budget and garage space was only enough for a motorcycle. This project became "ElectroCat" which I brought with me to Colorado.
My dad, now at age 79, is still building electric vehicles. He just started on another motorcycle project, but I am not allowed to say anything about it yet; ) (We typically keep a low profile until we really have something to show.)
Thank you, Mike and Eva!So...keep the interviews coming? What do you think?
All the best in 2012,
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