Smokey Yunick's 7:8 Scale Chevelle
Smokey was brilliantly talented at skirting the rule book, and outright cheating when necessary too.
Smokey Yunick is a legend of American motorsport and especially NASCAR. He was born in Pennsylvania and served as a bomber pilot in the Second World War before opening his ‘Best Damn Garage in Town’ in Daytona Beach. He raced occasionally but was better known as a master mechanic, engine builder, and car designer. Smokey pioneered the study of aerodynamics in the early days of NASCAR. He was brilliantly talented at skirting the rule book, and outright cheating when necessary too. To his mind, anything that wasn't explicitly outlawed in the rules was fair game. He reasoned that every other team was cheating so his less-than-legal tactics were simply keeping him on a level playing field with the competition. His 1967 Chevelle is a prime example of that mindset.
The infamous ‘7:8 scale’ Chevelle, was the second of three ‘67s that Smokey worked on (the first had qualified on pole, seriously embarrassing factory-backed teams from Ford and Mopar). It was built by Chevy and then modified at Smokey’s shop. NASCAR folklore says that the car was a perfect 7:8 scale replica of a Chevelle built to have less aerodynamic drag than its competitors. In reality, a 7:8 scale car would have been blindingly obvious among the other full size cars. That's not to say that Smokey didn't employ his trademark trickery in modifying it.
The exterior of the Chevelle was modified to be as aerodynamic as possible. The bumpers were made flush with the fenders and all the door handles, turn signals, etc, were removed and smoothed over. To get around a rule banning flat belly pans on competition cars (introduced because of Smokey’s designs) he had tunnels installed in the floor to lift the headers and exhaust piping up out of the air flowing under the car. A custom chassis was fabricated and the body sat two inches further back than stock for better weight distribution.
Despite all the trickery and ingenuity, the Chevelle never turned a wheel in anger because NASCAR suppressed Smokey’s innovations. At the car's planned debut the tech inspectors removed the fuel cell to examine it. They then presented Smokey a list with ten items that needed changing before the car would be legal. At the top of the list was the removal of the custom frame and fitting of a standard one. Knowing he was beaten, Smokey threw the disconnected cell into the back seat of the car and shouted "make it eleven!" before starting the car and driving it from the racetrack back to his shop. Adding extremely thick fuel lines arranged in coils had allowed him to sneak an extra 19 litres of fuel into the car.
At the time, stock cars were essentially road cars with roll cages, bigger engines, and racing tires. Sadly, there was no place for Smokey’s ingeniously modified Chevelle on the NASCAR grid. As Einstein once said, “great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” Smokey Yunick was truly a great spirit.