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Coupe Challenge: Building a Legend

Rating: 32 votes, 5.00 average.
I present to you the first of several Coupes which will be built specifically for racing in 2012. A small, but mighty group of very talented craftsmen, engineers, and owner-builders have been skunk-working this project behind the scenes for nearly two years, and today is a truly exciting day.

When we began our Coupe project almost three years ago, I could not have imagined the passion for racing that exisits within the Coupe owners group. The heritage of these cars has made the Coupes one of the most sought-after and well-recognized cars in the automotive world. Owning a Coupe is an experience like no other, and campaigning a Coupe in pure competition is indescribeable.

Big thanks to Hank Lopez (Hankl) who has been my "go-to" guy in our Coupe racing effort. Over the three years we've been developing and testing our car for pure competition, Hank has spent virtually hundreds of hours debriefing every event with me; listening patiently as I ramble on with the details of the car's nuances in the turns, or exit speeds and characteristics of the car's handling as it tracks out onto the straights...Slowly, deliberatively, Hank would take it all in, all the while asking focused questions to better understand the car's dynamics. As a person of action, Hank would then take ideas formulated in these conversations, and build, create, or improve upon the car's components......Often, he'd call days later, informing me that a drop shipment of "good stuff" was in the mail.....Simply amazing!

Big thanks to Dave Smith for believing in us, for encouraging and supporting our racing efforts over the years, and for helping make this next generation of race cars possible. We also owe a debt of gratitude to Factory Five's lead engineer, and on-track racing talent Jim Schenck, whose passion for racing, collaborative efforts, and pure design genious continue to serve as the rock upon which all Factory Five Racing efforts are based. We are grateful to the entire team at Factory Five Racing for their efforts to support the racing community over the years...Jason, Sally, Jesper, and everyone at FFR...Thank you!

Fellow Challenge Series racer and truly amazing friend, Rick Anderson will serve a lead fabricator for the Coupe project...He's promised to keep an eye on my welding skills, and I've promised not to hurt him with the plasma cutter..;.) RLA Sheetmetal in Healdsburg, CA will serve as the Coupe's build site, and under Rick's talented skills as a builder, our Coupes will be safe and Very Fast!

After six years of ownership, 210 competition events, 34 race victories, 77 podiums, five championships, 22,000 road miles, and all this shared with an amazing partner, an unbelieveable race team and a truly supportive group of friends......My first kit arrives!!! It really IS like Christmas! Karen

Updated 02-14-2012 at 12:07 AM by vnmsss

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  1. vnmsss's Avatar
    We've had these cars since November with lots off initial discussions regarding the direction for the project......Here's the link to the original thread:
    Updated 02-06-2012 at 01:13 AM by vnmsss
  2. vnmsss's Avatar
    In our work with the Coupe platform, it became evident early on that any project that would have the goal of creating a Coupe for the track, would have to start with the development of a completely Club Code and Regulation (CCR) compliant cage and frame. We have been working with officials from the National Auto Sport Association (NASA) and the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) for the last six months to design just such a cage, with the goal of providing Coupe builders a set of supplemental build instructions which, when followed would result in a sanctioned cage for the Coupe which would be recognized by these two organizations as meeting safety compliance and deemed "track ready." A by-product of the frame and cage design work, which is done for the purpose of safety, will be a resulting increase in frame rigidity (a much welcome improvement for the Coupes).

    The notion of adding the Coupes to the exisiting Challenge Series has been discussed at length within the online forums, as well as within the community of Challenge Series racers. It's become evident to me that the debate over the potential aero advantage and the endless discussions as to how to create parity would never be fully resolved. The resistance to adding the Coupes to the Series had became a roadblock to development of the cars. We're moving on, and simply developing a series of Coupes, all built to a "spec," and then gathering data regarding performance......Hence, the Spec Coupes.

    These cars are being built to a high degree of relevance across a number of racing venues. Within NASA, they would be built to compete within the same race group as the FFR Challenge Series competitors, however, the cars are being built to NASA ST-2, TTS, and Enduro EO spec. As planned now, the Coupes will run:
    302-based, 331 CID engine
    EFI, w/tuneable computer
    TKO-600R trans
    8.8 solid axle rear (Moser)
    3.27 gear ratio
    Brake package being finalized
    Tire/wheel package being finalized

    The stroked motor will provide the Coupes with the ability to dial in performance to meet a range of competition venues and sanctioing body rules. It's understood that folks building these cars may initially be competing within whatever sanctioing body offers the largest opportunity in their local area (region), and these Coupes need to be relevant on the landscape withing which their owners are competing. The target is 325 wheel hp, with the ability to dial up to 350 hp and down to 290 hp through the use of a versatile and easy to tune computer. Target weight will be 2490 lbs. (or less if we're good at this)

    Lots of pieces still in development within the build team....We also know that posting the "specs" will garner lots of opinions, and the discussion is welcome, as this is how developments and advancements for these cars happens.....What about using Coyote motors, why not IRS, this brake package or that, and what about ??? are all good questions and topics for discussion.

    Our primary goal in this project however, is to take what we know and get a group of Coupes built and on track in competition so data can be gathered on performance. We're going with a proven engine package and suspension parts that provide a dynamic balance of performance, availablity, and cost effectiveness. Yes, these cars could be built with much bigger motors and for a whole lot more money....I'll get the popcorn and watch that effort....For us, this is the path we've chosen, and we're looking forward to the future...The time for a group of Coupes racing alongside each other in competition is long overdue, and we're excited to be moving forward with this project.

  3. vnmsss's Avatar
    Three of the Coupes are being built in Northern California. Owners include Tom Coon, Hank Lopez and Karen Salvaggio. A fourth Coupe owned by Andrew Wickline is being built in New York State. Coupe builder Jacob McCrae from Pittsburgh, PA has graciously offered to take on the task of creating the Challenge Coupe build manual, and through his talents, that work is well underway.

    Work on Tom's and Karen's cars began today....Big thanks to Challenge Series racer Robert Walter and Team Thunder Valley Racing member Jeremy White, who generously offered their skills to the Coupe build....

    That's Jeremy White playing "engine" at the back while Tom Coon and Rick Anderson "steer" the car (with no steering wheel..;.) into the shop

    Coupe owner/builder Tom Coon

    Rick Anderson and Hank Lopez....Day 1
    Updated 02-14-2012 at 12:16 AM by vnmsss
  4. vnmsss's Avatar
    Task #1: Seat Modification

    Updated 02-05-2012 at 01:49 PM by vnmsss
  5. vnmsss's Avatar

    Updated 02-05-2012 at 02:16 PM by vnmsss
  6. vnmsss's Avatar

    Updated 02-05-2012 at 02:18 PM by vnmsss
  7. vnmsss's Avatar


    Updated 02-06-2012 at 02:54 AM by vnmsss
  8. vnmsss's Avatar

  9. 68GT500MAN's Avatar
    Nice work. The additional two inches will allow Rick to fit nicely.
  10. vnmsss's Avatar
    Next up......Roll cage.....

    The goal is to create a Club Code and Regulation (CCR) compliant roll cage which will meet NASA and SCCA specifications. The build process will be documented here, with the ultimate goal of creating a set of supplemental build specs whereby future Coupe builders could pattern a roll cage. We have reviewed both sets of CCR's and have been working closely with NASA officials on the design. We recieved final approval this week, and the fabrication began this weekend.

    Rick Anderson (Rocket) and Hank Lopez (Hankl) began cage construction on Karen's Coupe on Saturday (2/11) morning, with the goal of completing the door bars on her Coupe this weekend. Work had to stop early on Saturday however, as the group took time out to attend the NASA annual Awards Banquet held at Infineon Raceway on Saturday evening. Karen and members of Team Thunder Valley Racing celebrated receiving the 2011 Western Endurance Racing Championship award. Coupe owner and fellow builder Tom Coon was awared the 2011 Northern California Factory Five Challenge Series Championship, so the team celebration was big.

    Hank eyeballs the angle for the rear portion of the tube and marks it.

    Rick does a rough cut with the saw.

    Hank does the slow fitting with a grinder to get the best fit, as much safety gear as you can wear in one place!

    A nice tight fit, edges of the tubing chamfered for a good weld. Rick, stop leaning on the tube!

    Updated 02-13-2012 at 01:59 AM by Hankl
  11. vnmsss's Avatar
    Here's a trick little tool Hank made up, two pieces of 1 1/2" DOM .120 wall tubing, that were cut with a hole saw, with a 1 1/4 tube welded inside of one of the cut tubing pieces. The other tube was drilled and tapped for two 10-32 screws. This allows you to measure for an exact length of tube needed for some of the more complex verticals.

    Fine tuning a tube angle

    Must be lunch time.....

    Updated 02-13-2012 at 01:38 AM by Hankl
  12. vnmsss's Avatar
    One of Hanks other Trick Tools, the lower and upper tubes had adjustable jigs so we could measure and transfer the measurements to straight tubing,
    and bend it accordingly. Using the same trick as his little jig, the length, front to back, and the length from the rear bend to the slanted bulkhead could be adjusted.
    The bottom tube use just a straight piece in the front, and used a 30 degree bent piece for the top bar.

    Hank also figured out where he wanted the top bar to end up, and made two holders for the tubing, these two combined with the little jig and some magnets made life a lot easier.

    The little Jig helped more than you can imagine, like having a extra set of hands.

    The back part of the jig could rotate to lock in the correct angle on the slanted rear bulkhead, left or right side, it could adjust to either.

    Updated 02-13-2012 at 02:42 AM by Hankl
  13. vnmsss's Avatar
    The bottom bar has been tack welded in place, and the measurements for the top bar, and the rear vertical are complete and the screws tightened.

    The jig allowed us to tack the second row of verticals in place, so that we wouldn't have to hold them by hand.

    Hank pulling the jigs out, and taking them to the bending station.

    Updated 02-13-2012 at 02:16 AM by Hankl
  14. vnmsss's Avatar
    Tack, Tack, Tack........

    Rick telling his new Lincoln mig gun, how much he loves it!

    Updated 02-13-2012 at 02:19 AM by Hankl
  15. vnmsss's Avatar

    The Pro Tool Tubing Bender that we used for all of the cage bends.

    Nice option is the degree wheel, made repeatable bends easy.

    Updated 02-13-2012 at 02:22 AM by Hankl
  16. vnmsss's Avatar

    Rick's new Lincoln arc welder....An early Valentine's Day present....To himself..;.)

    Pure LOVE....

    OK.....Back to work...
  17. vnmsss's Avatar

  18. vnmsss's Avatar
    Best way to get the photo and not get sparks on the old Thunder Valley Racing jacket...Lots of flying metal in the garage for sure....

    Updated 02-14-2012 at 01:05 AM by vnmsss
  19. vnmsss's Avatar

  20. vnmsss's Avatar
    Tah Dah!!

    2 Coupes done with door bars in a little less than 18hours .......Hank's "special" tools and tricks + Rick's awesome welding and fabrication skills (and a neat shop for us to work in!) = 2 Coupes closer to getting those logbooks.
    Updated 02-14-2012 at 01:19 AM by vnmsss
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