FEATURE: The flat pack doorslammer

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Swedish furniture giant Ikea is famous for its flat packed furniture, using inspired design to create stylish household items that you can build yourself, often with just their famed allen key. There is a drag racing version of this.

Tim McAmis Performance Parts is one of the USA’s most in-demand chassis houses, offering both complete race car and kits you can assemble. You’ll need considerably more than an allen key, but for drag racers with the right engineering skills it is literally possible to order a doorslammer that comes in boxes.

Western Australia’s Wayne and Lisa Keys have one of the longest competing blown sedan operations out west. The family team was first known for racing Super Gas at Ravenswood Raceway, before Wayne moved into the driver’s seat of a supercharged BMW for AA/AP duties in Competition. Later the Keys wanted to go Top Doorslammer racing, so the BMW was rebodied as a Holden Monaro in order to meet body rules.

The budget team have enjoyed considerable success over the years, including an ANDRA national championship win in Competition and three WA state championship wins in Top Comp. Their quickest time with the Monaro was a blazing 5.83sec. run, a seriously quick effort from a chassis the better part of two decades old.

With changes to Pro Slammer body rules imminent, Wayne and Lisa thought about updating the look of the car.

“We thought we might reshell the Monaro at first, there was nothing wrong with the chassis,” he said. “But in the end I thought I would try to sell it first and if it went then we could buy a new one.”

The car did sell and so the Keys went in search of options. Purchasing a brand new car came with a couple of complications.

“Buying something out of the States already built was not going to be legal body wise,” Wayne said. “We didn’t think we had the funds for buying a car as a complete roller either.”

After researching a number of chassis builders, Wayne settled on Tim McAmis, whose workshop has constructed many of the quickest cars in the US Pro Mod scene.

“I went with McAmis because he had a lot of information on his website. He is a renowned long term chassis builder for this kind of car, so I talked to them a bit and I liked what they said.

“My preference would have been for a welded chassis, but they were looking at a 14 to 18 month waiting list at that time so we bit the bullet and ordered a chassis kit.”

The kits come very bare, with notched and bent tubing that needs to be welded up to give you the basic layout of a doorslammer. Ancillary elements are then added on in the form of other kits allowing the builder to either fabricate their own add-ons or simply use what McAmis use in their workshop.

“I was confident with our own skills to build a jig and tackle the job,” Wayne said. “We put a four link in the Monaro in house and it worked a treat, so it was only a small stretch to do a whole chassis so long as we had good blueprints.”

Fortunately the information included with the chassis, combined with additional resources on the McAmis website, provided all the steps needed.

“I believe you need to have basic fab skills to build one of these cars but if you can follow a blueprint and you can weld that is all there is to it. There is an enormous amount of back up from the Tim McAmis corporation. Billy Johnston (from the support department) is the go to man and I had a million questions, so I would email him at night and nine out of ten times there would be an email waiting for me the next morning with pictures on how they do it.”

The chromoly tube arrives flat packed on a pallet or two, with Keys electing to also add essentials such as a pedal skit, a steering column kit, window kits and so on.

“For what you pay for them finished it is not worth messing around in the shop and building them. We ordered as many kits as we could and used them within the build.”

Wayne progressed through the build relatively smoothly, with only a few hurdles as he learned more and more about building a car.

“There were a few tough bars because they go on such weird angles and are notched at either end. All the tin work and the carbon fibre work was tricky too, as I didn’t have a lot of experience in that area. With the exception of any long bends we needed to do we did the whole lot in house.”

The Keys family are always well presented at the track, but not flashy. Wayne is a bulk services offer at the Fremantle port while Lisa is a librarian. Racing at a pro level has required them to learn how to ‘do it yourself’ for nearly every element of the car,a long with drawing on their support network.

“We are only a little family team, we don’t have any corporate sponsors, just a lot of friends and willing helpers. Al McClure really comes to mind, he did all the body prep in the shop and the car went to the painters on a Thursday morn ing and was came back Saturday morning. That speaks volumes of his bodywork skills and it was was a huge help. Mark at B&Bs put the paint on and he worked between Christmas and New Year to paint it and then the final assembly began.”

While between the Monaro and the Camaro, the Keys family took the opportunity to thank their long term crew members in a unique way, putting their engine into a dragster owned by Neville Bowden and offering them the chance to get their licence.

“Getting a good consistent crew is one of the hardest things to do in racing and we have had the same crew for so many years now,” Wayne said. “We were looking at a way to pay them back and I came up with the idea of putting some running gear into the dragster.

“We put six guys through that in the end and we had an ET range of 6.41 to 6.79 between the six of them. The fastest pass was 221mph and we went to the start line 55 times.

“Neville got the chance too, it was fitting he ran the two quickest passes in the car being the owner, 6.41 and 6.42. That really rekindled his interest. He was always interested in going racing but he wasn’t sure how much, but now he is now collecting the bits which creates another car for our fields here.”

Soon the day came for the Camaro to make its public debut. After an unveiling in their shed, the Keys packed up the brand new race car and made the short drive to Perth Motorplex.

“We leaned on Tim McAmis for a basic chassis setup which he happily provided us. The first time I sat at the start line I was a little bit apprehensive, I have done a lot of laps in these cars but to have a brand new one makes you nervous.”

The first run for the car saw it hike the front end up and move left, with Wayne out of the throttle by 60 feet.

“We made a small rear end adjustment we probably should have done earlier, but we ran out of time. The very next burnout and launch was straight.”

Wayne was conscious of the different aero on the Camaro. While the Monaro had a very large deck that providing much downforce, the Camaro has been designed for stickier tracks that don’t require as much air pushing on the top of the car.

“The Monaro was very predictable and I could do pretty much anything with that car with the big rear deck. I will need to be more aware until I get to know this car, it certainly drives every bit as nice as the Monaro. I feel comfortable.”

At the Motorplex’s Nitro Night, Wayne finished with a best of 6.15 after going 3.98 to half track, shutting down the run just after 1000 feet. In testing the following day, the car went the distance with a soft 6.17 at 230mph to finish performance testing and get the tick of approval from ANDRA.

The Camaro is using the same engine combination as the Monaro while Wayne benchmarks its performance.

“I wanted to run the engine as it was so I could compare old for new. We have a few ideas for an increase in performance but for now we want to get the car sorted and after we have done that we will try to find an increase in horsepower.”

The Keys family are no strangers to travelling across the country to race and once they have the Camaro fully sorted they are keen to hit the road once again. With capacity to race in both AA/AP and Top Doorslammer the team has their choice of brackets.

“At the moment we would like to support the Summer Slam Series at the Motorplex, but Top Comp is also light on for numbers. The heads up starts are a good thing in the Doorslammers, but you have some tough customers against you.

“Once the car is sorted we will run a few Pro Slammer rounds. Lisa loves to travel. Our main aim is to finish this season locally and make sure the car is sorted then put together a schedule next year.”

So next time you are Ikea, maybe ask when their range of drag cars will be available. You could be on your way to racing against beasts like this.

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