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Featured Car - A closer look at one of the unique cars in Formula 4


Here is a new member to the 3/4 Litre Association and he's all the way from British Columbia.  Ted McHenry wrote us the following note:

I've recently joined the 3/4 Litre Association. I live in BC and am unlikely to meet most members face to face, so I thought I'd send along an article about myself and my car, by way of introduction.

My car is a Xpit F4, chassis number 406 (CASC 3-323). I'm told that it's a fairly early example of the marque, probably built around 1974, but I have very little information on it's history. As I'm running the car in vintage out here, I hope to eventually put together a complete history, but right now I don't know much about it.

The car has a bog-stock Honda CB750K2 engine, which pulled about 70 HP on a chassis dyno last year. Pretty tame by F4 standards! Fortunately, I got a more race-appropriate engine with the car, and I hope to have it overhauled and ready to go for next year. The "race" engine is also a CB750 (remember, I'm running vintage). But it has high-compression pistons, bigger valves, a more aggressive cam, and Hilborn fuel injection. Methanol is not allowed at Mission, but M85 is, so I plan to run M85.

Judging by the bits and pieces I got with the car, it at one time ran a GSXR750, which must have made it significantly peppier than it is now! We have recently made a change to our vintage rules out here allowing formula cars up to 1989, so I could convert it back to the GSXR engine and still run vintage. I might do that at some point, but for the moment a more cost-effective project will probably be to overhaul the "race" CB750.

I also have wings that I'm not running. Since I have no other F4s to race with, and since Mission is such a slow track (less than 60 mph average speed for a car like the Xpit), I decided to leave the wings in the attic for now. Just one less thing to fuss with and potentially damage. The wings are also extremely heavy -- not sure why. They feel like they have lead in them! If I do decide to run wings at some point down the road I will probably build lighter, replica wings. I had a brief, abandoned foray into airplane building a few years ago, and I still have all the fancy sheet metal tools.

One thing I will also definitely do very soon is put the car back on slicks. When the car first ran vintage here the rules, which were written with sports cars in mind, required everyone to run treaded tires. I'm finding it impossible get enough heat in them to make them stick. Also, they're not very good in the rain, which we get a lot of out here. So I'll be buying a second set of rims, some rain tires, and some slicks once my Scotch heart is satisfied I've got my money's worth out of the treaded tires.

I bought the car in 2009 from Bob Smith, in Tsawwassen, BC. Bob had bought the car a few years earlier from someone in the northwestern U.S., and had planned to run it in vintage in BC. Unfortunately, a bad crash in his first race with the car, at Mission, resulted in some fairly serious damage to the back of the chassis and the right rear suspension.

The chassis damage was "repaired" when I bought the car, but after three race weekends I began to discover things I wasn't happy with, so I ended the 2010 season early and started pulling the car apart. From the roll bar forward, where there had been no crash damage, everything was fine. Level and diagonal measurements across all the pick-up points showed everything to be true within a sixteenth of an inch, except for one pick-up point that was slightly tweaked. But behind the roll bar it was a mess. The rear bulkhead was shifted 3/8" to the left, and twisted out of line with the front of the chassis. Everything was quite "sprung," so that to install the engine I had to leave everything loose and then pry and jack and generally muck about to get the last few bolts in. Even worse, in one place the "repair" consisted of hammering the tubes back into line and then bondo-ing the dents to make it look like a good tube!

Over the winter I repaired all of that. The offending tubes were cut out and replaced, and the rear pick-up points are now as well lined up as the front ones are. The engine and rear subframe go together with virtually no "persuasion." I also did a proper alignment on the car which, judging by the odd directions the wheels had been pointing, had not been done for a very long time! It's now nicely aligned, bump steered, and corner-weighted, and feels much better on the track. If I'm honest, though, I have to admit that I'm not yet going fast enough with the car to know much about the handling.

As a driver, I'm coming back from a very long layoff. I raced FF and F2000 in Ontario region from 1980 to 1985. But then I quit racing to join the air force and didn't set rubber back on track until 2010. I have been a bit surprised, and somewhat disappointed, at how long it is taking me to get back up to speed. I honestly think I was driving better on my sixth race weekend ever, back in the day, than I am now on my sixth weekend with the Xpit. I guess age is taking it's toll. On the other hand, being in vintage I get to run with lots of older drivers, most even older than me, and some of them drive very well. So I'm going on the assumption that if I stick with it that old "feel" will eventually come back. Regardless, I'm really having a lot of fun with the car. In some ways I'm even having more fun than I had back in the day, probably in part because I'm taking a much more relaxed attitude to the whole thing.

Relaxed, but not casual. When I first got started in racing Alf Zeller, who some of you may know, gave me some great advice that I've always tried to follow. He said, "Racing is fun, but it's serious fun." I love that phrase "serious fun," and I've always tried to approach it that way.

If you have any questions or information about the car, please write me at tedd@mchenry.ca. Like most racers I'm more than happy to bench race and talk about my car, any time any place!

added SEPT/11

Thank you to Paul Bonner for the photography.  And be sure to check out the Vintage Race Club of BC http://www.vrcbc.ca



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