It Lives! - Part 4 of Jason Scherer's Innovate New ULTRA4 Car
The clock is ticking with the MetalCloak Ultra4 Stampede less than two weeks away, and Jason Scherer and the A-Team of fabricators, welders, and mechanics that he has assembled are thrashing non-stop to get his new race car, The Gavel, completed before the race.
- Best case scenario: Time to shake down the car before the race.
- Worst case scenario: It is buttoned up the morning of the race.
- Unthinkable: The car is not done in time.
Jason is familiar with the worst case scenario. At the 2012 Griffin King of the Hammers Presented by Nitto Tire, Jason and his team changed multiple transmissions on the Johnson Valley lakebed in a brand new car. “We had a 300M input shaft that was bent, unbeknownst to us, and we kept reusing it,” Jason recalls. The transmission woes consumed all the time that would typically be used to shakedown the vehicle, dial in the FOX shocks, and identify and resolve issues prior to the green flag. Relying on experience, skill, and determination, Jason vows not to repeat the same mistakes. “If we were building a conventional Ultra4 car (if there is such a thing) it would be less stressful,” Jason concedes. “We are trying things that have only been conceptual up until this point though. That really increases the challenge when you are up against a deadline.” The engine was fired for the first time recently, which provided a huge boost in morale for the entire team. It didn’t come easy though. Since the Pacific Fabrication LS engine uses a dry sump, Jason sourced a remote oil filter that has a provision to prime the engine. This is critical for a new engine, but even after initial break-in it can be useful on a race car, where it is not unusual for the vehicle to sit for weeks at a time. The directions for the filter were vague, and the rotary pump got hooked up backwards as a result. When Jason primed the engine, the oil gauge jumped to 75 psi. What he didn’t realize was that he had only pressurized the gauge, not the engine. “My father-in-law suggested that I pull a valve cover off to ensure that there was oil,” Jason shares. “How often does anyone listen to their father-in-law? I didn’t want to get oil all over the headers, but he finally won me over. When we took off the valve covers the engine was bone dry. My jaw hit the floor.” The team troubleshot the oiling system and found the issue, but they had to order new parts in order to properly plumb the system. The cost for overnight shipping was more than the cost of the parts, but it was a valuable lesson on doing things right instead of being in a hurry. With the oiling resolved, the engine fired on the first turn of the key. The crackle through the Dynomax exhaust from the 14:1 compression V8 provided more motivation than any energy drink possibly could. “Instead of saying ‘Oh we still have to plumb the brakes’ now the attitude is ‘Let’s get brakes on this thing so we can drive it!’” Brakes are just one of the remaining items on the to-do list. “I have always said that the last 10% of a build is the most important,” Jason shares. “The details. You hear about guys losing a race because a bolt broke, or something silly gets overlooked. Everyone here is so passionate about building a winning car though. This isn’t like a job where you clock out and go home, we all live and breathe racing 24 hours a day.” Doug Kennedy has handled all of the wiring, and like the rest of the crew he is a wheeling enthusiast who relied on his experience instead of settling for the norm. Take for instance the fans. They have individual relays but all run off of one switch. This might not scream “race car” like a bank of switches and circuit breakers, but it sheds weight and unnecessary complexity. Weight was a big factor when Jason was designing The Gavel, living by the mantra “ounces make pounds”. The new Ultra4 car is 3900 pounds, a full 300 pounds less than Jason’s last buggy. And this despite increasing from 1 ¾-inch to 2-inch tubing for the chassis and upgrading from 2-inch FOX coilovers and 3-inch bypass shocks to 2 ½-inch coilovers and 3 ½-inch bypass shocks. Chad Lujan has measured every bolt and sourced the exact length F911 fastener so there is no excess, and all of the body panels are made from 0.040 aluminum. Center of gravity is another factor that was important for Jason. “By running a dry sump we could put the engine lower in the chassis. Sourcing a shallow transmission pan on the Reid Super Hydra 400 allowed us to mount the transmission lower. And using a divorced Atlas transfer case let us place this 110 pound component much lower than we could have otherwise.” Not everything has gone exactly as planned though. “I am nervous about the angle on the divorced transfer case. All of the geometry is set up for the u-joints to cancel any vibrations, but the High Angle Driveline is only 11 inches long and has 13 degrees of angle.” When the buggy hits the dyno, Jason plans to monitor the temperature of the u-joints. “If they get over 230 degrees we are going to have to go back to the drawing board,” he notes. “Heat is the best indicator of whether they will survive or not.” Before the scheduled time on the dyno, everyone works on their individual task to bring the car together. By delegating to such a talented team, no single individual feels rushed or overwhelmed. “You can do it one of two ways: You can do it fast or you can do it right!” The shop is abuzz as Ben Bower modifies fittings on the dry brake fueling system. Oly Storzrozn deburrs and buffs any edge that might rub on a hose. Brett Lujan and Brett Ratto work on the stainless steel brake lines and tabs to hold the lines in place while Brian Ferris fits the 10-inch differentials in the Spidertrax Pro Series chromoly housings. All in an effort to reach the best case scenario.
Check back at DrivingLine.com next week for a special surprise - then also the week following Norcal Stampede for a follow-up report on Jason's experiences during his first race in The Gavel!
Jason would like to forward thanks to the following partners: Rubicon Express, Nitto Tires, DynoMax Exhaust, Spidertrax, PAC Spring, Method Race Wheels, Powertank, FOX Shox, Reid Racing, ARB, Jamar, Fishmouth Fab, Pacific Fabrication, Advanced Adapters, Wild West Off-Road, RCV, High Angle Drivelines, Redline Oil, 4130 Clothing and the entire Rage 4th Crew.