The Cadillac Limo: Race Preparations
Turning $500 into the ultimate comedy show, Part One
I don't know if I had a leave of my senses or if I just needed a laugh when I agreed to provide a foster home to a rotting, decrepit Cadillac. I'm pretty sure my wife could provide an answer to that question for me...and for anyone else who is asking. But there it is, twenty-odd feet of a mental lapse, running and driving...and on December 1st, 2018, I fully intend on whipping this big barge around a legitimate road course and autocross. Yes, at speed. No, I have not been declared clinically insane, and no, I don't need to start taking my medication again, thank you.
Let's get down to the first of two questions I expect you have. The first is about the car itself. What you are looking at is a 1980 Cadillac Fleetwood Formal Limousine. It's a factory extended-length sedan that was popular with government agencies. According to the paperwork that I've found in the car, it's very likely that this car was a working vehicle for the state of Tennessee at one point in time...long ago, right about when I was born. Since then, it's lived one solidly abusive life. The car was purchased in late January 2018 for the princely sum of $560, with it's exhaust pinched nearly shut, a non-functional charging system, wheels last seen on a "Sport Truck" cover vehicle from about 1990, and enough mud in the rear bumper to mold a small birdhouse. The fillers between the body and rear bumper crumbled away long ago and the interior...ok, I'll be fair, the interior is actually in decent condition for the most part, apart from the HVAC and radio area. Being a Fleetwood Formal, there is a partition wall just behind the driver's bench, with two jump seats/foot rests and a backseat where the opera lamp is on the body. Underhood is a relic, a 368 cubic inch (6.0L) Cadillac big-bore engine, the last of a dying breed. Don't get too excited, it made a walloping 150 horsepower and 265 ft/lbs of torque. It did come with the stout TH400 automatic transmission, so all is not lost, and over the course of my ownership, I can say that it's been a dead-nuts reliable mill. It always starts without heavy cranking, idles fine, and hasn't had one hiccup ever since I discovered that fixing the "generator" dash lamp fixed the charging system.
The correct answer: thirty bags of mulch. That's how much fits in the rear passenger compartment.
Other than some basic truck-like uses, the Cadillac has only been stirred here and there since purchase. The pinched exhaust was fixed by cutting off the damaged end and fitting on the muffler from a Dodge Charger SRT-8, then running a side-pipe to a side-exit point. The carburetor had the silt dredged out of it and was cleaned up for basic use. And before the car actually hits the track, a set of Uniroyals (the spec tire for the event) will be fitted to those gloriously awful wheels.
This Mustang is rolling over more than the picture shows.
So, about the race itself. It is called the "King of The Heap" series and it is run at the National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park, hereon referred to as "NCM" for brevity's sake. The idea is simple: every car must be a two-wheel drive vehicle, cannot be worth more than $1,000, and must participate in all four aspects of the event. Last year those events included a 1/8th mile drag race, three open laps on NCM's "East Course", which includes a drop-corner similar to Laguna Seca's "Corkscrew" called "Sinkhole", an autocross course, and a rallycross event. Unfortunately, the rallycross proved to be too problematic, so for this year a new, as yet unknown event will replace it.
The one thing about KoTH is that at any race, the vehicle you brought can be claimed. The person claiming must provide $500...$250 to the team being claimed, $250 to the prize pot...and cars must be traded on the spot once approved by the manager of the series. This means that the Limo can wind up leaving my yard, and in place I could get a gem like a Lincoln LSC, a Chevrolet Chevette, or whatever other rolling scrapyard refugee shows up.
Not seen: half the engine internals and all of the engine fluids left on the track.
Do I have a good feeling about this year? It's too early to tell. I drove in the first race last year, in a 1994 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 that I was given ten minutes before the race even started, and did well...right up until I put a hole in the side of the LT-1's block that was big enough to hide a large housecat in. The Cadillac's big-block doesn't sound like it's self-boring the cylinders, though, so we will see!
That's the tire, I swear it.