Writing: Dave Smith
Photos: Sy Parrish
It’s work hard, play hard, Earnhardt for this pair of super-speedway refugee Chevys.
GM’s downsized G-body intermediate was born into a very low point in the US auto industry’s history. It took years to drag itself out of the doldrums, and one of the cars that helped was the Monte Carlo SS. Even that didn’t start out very special, with low-powered, small-block V8 propulsion, but fortunately, success on the NASCAR oval bolstered its reputation and, by the mid-Eighties, a firm fan favourite who had spent the majority of his career at the wheel of GM coupes was wheeling Monte Carlos to victory. It was the bad boy, the Man In Black, the Intimidator: Dale Earnhardt.
Outside of a few staunch fans, the NASCAR series doesn’t have that much impact over here, but, fortunately, some of those staunch fans are taking up the slack for the rest of us. One of those is Paul Yorkshire, a well-travelled Yank and NASCAR fan, an American car specialist at Auto Works American, and owner of these two fine stock car-flavoured Chevys. One is street legal, the other isn’t. See if you can guess which is which. In the meantime, here’s Paul’s story.
“I bought the car Monte Carlo from a friend in 2001,” says Paul. “I’ve always liked the Monte Carlo shape, and drove it round for six months in standard form. The car was originally white with a 305 cubic inch V8, automatic transmission and a lame 175bhp, but I had no intention of keeping it that way. The sole purpose of the car was to create a street legal Dale Earnhardt #3 replica, so I did the research and started buying modified parts to achieve my goal.”
“The engine that’s in the car now was originally built by me and was in Andi Pengelly’s Pontiac Firebird. He wanted me to build him a new race car so, as part payment for the work, he gave me the engine and transmission. Other than a few freshen-ups, piston rings and bearings, that engine has been in the Monte Carlo for 12 years and is a stout piece.”
“We then went to Florida to see the World Street Nationals at Orlando Speed World, and while we were there I purchased an ultra-strong 9-inch Ford rear axle made by Moser, along with wheels, tyres and more go-faster goodies, most of which were brought back in our cases. We got back and fitted all the parts, then went to Santa Pod where it ran 11.82 on the motor first time out. We were well pleased. Then I fitted a Cheater nitrous system and went to Shakespeare County Raceway where I was entered into a UK Streetracers event. After a couple of passes I ran a 10.96 with the nitrous – I was in the 10s, and overjoyed. I continued to run in the UK Streetracers throughout the year and came third overall.
“The sole purpose of the car was to create a street legal Dale Earnhardt #3 replica”
“I ran the car at lots of different events in the following years, leading up to when my wife and I decided to go and live in the States. We purchased a house in Orlando, Florida, moved out there in March 2009 and I enrolled at Universal Technical Institute, a hot rod/automotive college, where I did a degree in automotive technology. Of course I couldn’t leave the car behind so I shipped it out at the same time and at the weekends I raced the Monte Carlo at most of the drag strips in Florida, sometimes driving the car to the college and then driving on to the drag strip in the evenings. We also drove the car to the Oldtown Cruise in Kissimmee, where I won muscle car of the night and they even had a cruise on Christmas Day, so cool! I ran my best time in Florida of 10.33 at 133mph at Bradenton Motorsports Park. I also entered into a couple of street class events at Orlando Speedworld, where I ran a time of 10.59 at 131mph and came third overall in my class.”
“We were allowed to use the facilities at the college to work on our cars so we put the Monte Carlo on the rolling road dyno to tune it and got 542 horsepower to the tyres, on the motor, and 711 horsepower with the nitrous. I was over the moon, living the American dream, or so we thought. I completed my course at the college and came away with honours but sadly the American Government decided that no work visas for automotive technicians would be issued to foreign nationals because of the recession, and therefore we had 30 days to leave the country. I was absolutely devastated. I made arrangements to ship my Monte Carlo back to the UK, along with the Chevy Silverado truck that was my everyday vehicle. We had to sell our Florida house, find work and start again back in the UK.”
“We got back on our feet, bought a house in West Sussex and started racing again. UK Streetracers was no more so I entered Outlaw Street where I got runner-up after a year’s racing. I made a couple of modifications to the engine and upgraded the nitrous to a two-stage system. My best time to date on the drag strip is 10.18 at 137mph, but I still want to go faster of course.”
“The car took on a slightly different role when we raced around the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit at American Speedfest in June 2015. The Monte was driven by my good friend Simon Chalkly, whilst I drove my Impala NASCAR at the same event. We all had a fantastic time – what a well-organised weekend; we were amazed at the number of hardcore NASCAR fans.”
Wait a minute, did he just say “whilst I drove my NASCAR Impala”? He certainly did. If you’re going to play with big boys’ toys, you may as well do it properly. Paul continues: “I’ve always been into NASCAR since I can remember, and have always wanted to own a genuine one, so in 2014 I bit the bullet and decided I was going to get one. I did some research on the internet and checked out a fantastic website called www.racingjunk.com where they sell nothing but race cars and parts. Whilst looking through the website, an advert from a race team caught my eye – they were selling several genuine NASCARs with race history. I contacted them by telephone though I’m not sure they thought I was serious when I said I was calling from the UK. They asked me what I was going to use the car for and they told me that I should buy a “neutral chassis race car” so that it could be used on the road courses in the UK. They recommended the Chevrolet Impala SS, so I sent them a deposit to prove that I was a serious buyer.”
“A few weeks later I was on my way to North Carolina with my Dad in tow and the money in my back pocket. We had a planned route because Morgan McClure Motorsports, where the car was located, was in Abingdon, Virginia and there happened to be a NASCAR race that weekend in Richmond, Virginia. We drove from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Richmond, Virginia, to watch the race on Saturday night and then made our way to Abingdon the next day. On Monday morning we met up with everybody at Morgan McClure Motorsports and they showed me the car. I couldn’t contain my excitement. They even let me work on the car and set it up for road course racing. They gave us T-shirts, hats, race firesuits, fuel cans and numerous parts for the race car. The following day we hired a U-Haul truck and trailer and went back to Morgan McClure Motorsports and loaded the car up. We then started on our long drive to the port in Charleston, South Carolina, where the car and parts were loaded into a container ready for shipment to the UK.”
“I contacted them by telephone though I’m not sure they thought I was serious when I said I was calling from the UK”
“We had a few days to kill so we travelled around and checked out all the race shops, including Hendrick Motorsports, Stewart Haas Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, etc. We also checked out several NASCAR tracks while we were there, including Bristol Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Hickory, one of the original NASCAR tracks, though sadly not used by NASCAR anymore. What a fantastic road trip we had.”
“I then left the States and came home and waited for the race car to arrive at Felixstowe. This was longer than anticipated but well worth it. After lots of paperwork and proving to HM Revenue & Customs that it was a genuine race car and had taken part in numerous NASCAR race events, I was able to collect the car. Chevrolet Impala SS NASCAR Chassis No 91 was raced in the Sprint Cup series from 2007 to 2010 and driven by Ward Burton, Scott Wimmer and Kevin LePage, built and owned by Morgan McClure Motorsports of Abingdon, Virginia. The car has raced at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee four times; Martinsville Speedway and Richmond Speedway in Virginia; New Hampshire Speedway; Phoenix Raceway, Arizona; Dover Speedway, Delaware; Talladega Superspeedway, Alabama and Watkins Glen road course in New York. Chassis No 91 has earned $667,000 in prize money.”
“Chevrolet Impala SS NASCAR Chassis No 91 was raced in the Sprint Cup series from 2007 to 2010”
“Since being back in the UK I have raced and displayed the car at American Speedfest, at Brands Hatch in June 2015, the car was at the Mopar Euro Nationals at Santa Pod in July 2015 and was also raced and displayed at Wings and Wheels, Dunsfold Park in August 2015. We’re now looking forward to racing both cars throughout 2016 and beyond and to promote my passion for NASCAR and drag racing across the UK. I don’t think I’ll ever sell the Monte Carlo – it’s a part of me.”