Trans Am cars are a great complementary class with in sports sedans, some built in USA, some in Australia.
Many were brought across from running in the New Zealand series. With a very similar ethos to our big banger sports sedans it made sense they would become a strong part of the series. Phil Crompton races a Aussie built Mustang TA car, and gives us a bit of insight to the build and how it came to be that these beasts share the grid.
Here’s the interview Phil gave to Ran Maclurkin.
Ran – Phil, that orange rocket is a beautiful looking car, can you tell us a bit about the build history, when you built it and any interesting stories from along the way?
Phil – Shane Stansfield started work with me at the start of 2011 taking care of my race shop; he had worked in the USA with Junior Johnsons Nascar team before moving to New Zealand and working with Tranzaction Tranzam team and then in Australia doing some supercar work.
He had built a TA in NZ and I wanted to update my car so we decided to design and build a new TA for me incorporating what we had learnt. My son, Daniel, was working at an engineering company so he did a set of CAD drawings and steel detail from my pencil drawings and then they ran the 3D frame through a Finite Element Analysis so we could assess torsional rigidity. I make a couple of minor modifications following this and we have ended up with a very rigid platform.
We started the build in February 2012 and it took us about 45 full working weeks for both of us plus some part time help from a friend, Tony Apps, to complete. Everything including the electrical system was built in house. The body was sourced from Kerry Hitt at Advanced Composite Products in the USA. Andy Brown came up and stayed with me for a week and welded off the frame. He was still building his Camaro TA at the time.
Ran – TA is an approved class in Sports Sedans, can you tell us a bit about how that came to be?
Phil – We had a few cars come over from NZ, first in 1995 when they ran with the Thundersport group and again in about 2002 when they raced as invited with sports sedans. They were great cars and were competitive against our better SS cars. The Kiwis only wanted to come back if they could race in a championship so the National SS committee had a look at our rules to see what had to be done so that a TA could become compliant.
With the help of the CAMS technical manager we determined that if we allowed approved USA TA bodies in SS and allowed sports sedans to have optional opening doors then a TA car will actually comply with all remaining SS regulations. The NSSC passed the amendments at our annual meeting that was held at Ford Performance Racing and the following year being 2004 TA cars were compliant under the SS regulations.
Ran – Are their any advantages to running a TA car over a SS? or do you find they kind of even out over the year depending on the track?
Phil – There is definitely no advantage, the TA cars have less aero and are generally heavier with more weight over the front axle. The design of the cars with a narrower chassis and wide body means there is a tunnel down each side therefore the air is not forced underneath so they are quite efficient in that respect. You could make an SS car like that but most seem to have a full front firewall, it is a matter of packaging I suspect with the engine being inside.
There have been a lot of TA cars built over the decades so they have developed into a good race car. The centre of gravity is very low because we use a ultra-low ground clearance bell housing and gearbox package so the main weight offenders are down as low as is possible. This makes them handle very well if all else is sorted.
Ran – What are your plans for this year in the DEA National Sports Sedan Series? You ended 2018 with a great showing at the 50k plate.
Phil – Thanks, my small team came away from Phillip Island with a spring in our step, especially after placing second overall at Qld raceway in round 4. I did not think I would have enough engine at Phillip Island so we were stoked to run second there as well. I would be doing the entire series however I am away overseas for all of April so I will miss round 1. I will be at the remaining rounds with my favourite 5.5 litre D3 headed engine that I rebuilt and is on our dyno as we speak.
The engine we used last year was a fresh version of my old 6 litre C3 headed engine. I kept adjusting the map all year to improve drivability and mid-range and it turned out to be a great engine by the end of the year.
Ran – You are fairly instrumental in the class, can you tell us a bit about your role in the series, and why it is that you just love sports sedans?
Phil – I go back awhile. Bill Emeny was running ASSA when I was President of the Qld Racing Drivers Assoc. The QRDA covered sports sedans so I had input to ASSA. When Bill retired I took over ASSA and that then became NASSA. Barry Jameson was running the National series and he resigned so I ended up taking care of that also. I think that was about 2001. I just kept running it and then forged a partnership with the management of the Shannon’s Nationals.
Apart from one year, in 2009 I think, nobody has shown the interest to take over running the series and I was burnt out. John Gourlay & Michael Robinson gave me my chance to retire from running the series and they have shown the fresh motivation to lift the series back to where it belongs. It meant I could focus on my race preparation better and that has shown already in the 2018 race results.
I am still the President of NASSA which is the club that represents the National SS competitors for all things sports sedan wise. Once you have driven a good sports sedan you love them, they are ballsy. When you build and assemble your own car, build and tune your own engine, load it in the truck and drive if all over the country and share some time and race against like-minded people, what’s not to love. I have made many friends over the years and we always have something to talk about, it keeps us young mentally and physically.
Ran – If a new guy was thinking of getting into the class, what advice would you give, and what is the best path to go down to get on a sports sedan grid?
Phil – Buy good quality. You need access to a good engineer who can be precise and have a good engine builder. Read everything you can about how to set up a race car. I remember many years ago when Kerry Baily were talking running costs. I was spending more than him and he was winning all the races; he said to me to only buy good quality parts. I often didn’t due to purchase cost but I made an effort and he was right; the spending decreased as I was not repairing all the time.
The best part if you have good parts you get a good run from them and they are still worth good money to sell so they end up a lot more economical over the long run. It is not fun to travel long distance and miss races due to breakages.
Ran – What are your thoughts on the future of the class, many new cars being built and new drivers entering, which is fantastic, what do you think are the important areas to concentrate on?
Phil – Keep the rules stable. I have been accused of keeping changes back; an out of touch old fart. I am actually proud of that as not all progress is progressive. It takes some years for some people to build a good sports sedan and if you keep changing the tech regulations than no one will build a car as
it may be disadvantaged by the time it is finished.
There is nothing wrong with our rules, build a car to them and you can race it for many years. It is so important for the regulations to be stable, so many classes have come and gone. If the category is reviving it is because the rules are stable.
Ran – Thanks for your time Phil, and for all the effort you put into this great class, good luck this season.