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For those of you with a memory as long as mine the name of Ken Veney will be familiar as the man who was a major force in the Pro Comp class in the USA for several years with a string of blown methanol-burning dragsters and funny cars.  According to the NHRA (who should know!) Ken Veney is seventh in the all-time list of event winners (if you would like to find out more about Ken's illustrious career click here).
Well the good news is that the fifth incarnation of Veney's Vega is going to be restored to its former glory by ex-pat (and Acceleration Archive contributor) Pat Neal and his wife Linda.  This car, the last and most rapid of Veney's BB/FCs, won the SpringNationals, the SummerNationals, the WinterNationals, and the GatorNationals in 1976.
The car is now in very safe hands because Pat is a highly experienced engineer - you can read something of his earlier exploits building and racing motorcycles in the UK elsewhere on the site by clicking here.

We shall start with a selection of pictures of the car when it was in its pomp in 1976.



This Ray Faucher photo shows Ken burning out at the FallNationals.





This picture was taken by Herman Marchetti but the venue is unknown.



The colour is a bit off in this shot but the car was pictured launching hard at Union Grove.


And here is Ken pitting his funny car against a Pro Comp dragster at Gainesville on his way to winning the 1976 GatorNationals.
The two pit shots below were also taken at the Gators.



Ken also won the '76 SpringNationals and these two pictures were taken at that meeting.


And finally, a shot scanned from a Valvoline Oil hero card.



These two pictures were taken at Englishtown in 1976 and were sent in to Pat by one of Ken Veney's relatives who is following the restoration of the car with great interest.


So much for 1976.  The car was sold to Frank Hawley (he of the famous drag racing drivers'' school) who ran it first as a BB/FC and later as an AA called the Pop Shop Funny.
Here are a couple of shots of it whilst in his possession.




Barry Paton was the third owner of this famous car.



The fourth owner of Veney's Vega did nothing with the car and sold it to Jeff Kempton who preserved it in his basement for 23 years before selling the car to Pat and his wife Linda.
Here are a selection of pictures taken by Jeff on the day that Pat and Linda picked up the car.



Pat has had the chassis cleaned up and changed the roll cage.  Frank Hawley was quite a bit bigger than Ken Veney and consequently had to enlarge the roll cage and replace the steering box cross beam.  Linda will be driving the car so Pat has gone back to the original dimensions to fit her more snugly and also to get the body stance right.  Here are a selection of pictures showing the chassis after this work was carried out.
Looking good . . .





And here are some shots showing further progress on the chassis.
The tank, seat and butterfly and steering box were all obtained courtesy of Nathan Bugg, owner of Lil' Nate Racing, who races the BDS nostalgia funny car operating out of California.  The clutch technician on this team is Carrie Ferguson [nee Cox], daughter of Ken Cox (SPE) the original builder. Carrie still has a warehouse of SPE parts so the parts are thoroughly in keeping with the car.
As you can see the steering cross member is now straight, that is Pat's binnacle on it with the fire bottle pull handle below the butterfly, cables travel up the tube and connect to the handle this end and the pull levers on the bottle the other.
The tray behind the tank will hold fuel filter,dry sump tank and puke tank, the fuel tank is 7 gallons, which is enough for alcohol.
The shots also show the cage without inserts [cut and re welded] and the 1" helmet bars and kidney bars installed.
The tach is temporary just to get line of sight over the wheel.  It looks rather high but the Enderle bird catcher is 41/2 " higher.  Linda tried Jungle Jim's  #2 car for size at Bakersfield last year and asked Randy Lieberman 'how do you drive it?'  Randy said 'I don't look ahead, I look at the side lane lines, all these lowboy floppers are the same'.  That's why for the first year the  car will be injected until Linda gets a handle on it.




Update 13 October 2011



This is Pat laying out the rear motor plate using his Steel Master before it was machined and fitted.


On the left is the instrument panel with the edge wired on prior to welding by Pat's good friend Darrell who is a helicopter ticket Tig welder.
The picture on the right shows the panel mounted on the chassis after Darrell had weaved his magic on it.
The car will run oil pressure, temp, and a 5" tach but no shift light as Linda always does it on feel.


Here are a couple of shots of everything mounted in the chassis with a dummy Powerglide to check clearances for Linda's feet and the installed floor and drive shaft shroud.
Pat won't use a Powerglide but the Lencoglide (a Lenco with a torque convertor) that is presently in the rail is the same dimensions as a 'glide just different actuation and rated at 2200 bhp with the big 1 3/8" shafts.  The car will not have that power of course but when  running in the 7.90 class it will repeat all day.



The next jobs will be mocking the shifter, parachute release, fuel shut-off and various sundry items before stripping for final chassis paint.  Stay tuned!



Update 12 November 2011



These two pictures show the isolator mounts for the accessory tray.  Big inch Chevys vibrate a lot under large fuel loads so all sensitive parts have to be rubber mounted.


A couple of shots of the radius arms (unfinished) and the parachute and fuel shut-off levers.  The 'chute lever is an accumulator shut-off arm from a scrapped Le Blond CNC lathe.  Shame to waste it as it looks so close to the original!


This is the master cylinder on its mounting plate together with the push arm.  The arm looks rather slender but it is 14m grade titanium so plenty strong enough.  This is the biggest departure from the original as the car is running a convertor and Linda likes to keft foot stage and shut down.



Update 5 December 2011



These two shots show the chassis after all tags, bars and brackets have been welded on, normalized and last light polish.  Pat used a thin coat of Imron, no undercoat and thinned down by 20%, that way if any stress cracks develop the paint will not mask them.


Here we see the front axle, straightened, shot peened and magged; the Anglia-style spindle arms [SPE] and Pitman arms [eBay]. The aluminum brackets are lower frame supports for the zoomie headers, yet to be split, they will take a short strut to help with the header weight.





This picture shows the assembled rear half, seat trimmed to fit, Zeus fasteners in and upholstered with a charcoal grey anti slip matting, steering box, binnacle with gauges in, and the Lencoglide SFI bell housing mocked in, shifter, chute and fuel shut-off installed.



This shot through the roll cage shows the white face gauges for that  period look.  Also it will be dark in there with the body down . . .
Next up is the big expense - rebuilding the Ken Cox full floater rear end, this was his own design with Ford 9" centre and a one piece single axle [no half shafts].  This has to be married to a Strange aluminum third member with 4/11 pro gears to the SPE spool and MW 'greek' coupler.  This may take a while!


Update 6 January 2012



The motor is out of our rail,which is now sold.  It ran 7.80 seconds  at 168 mph with a 1.09 second sixty foot time.  It's an all-aluminum Brodix BBC with dry sump, raised cam with Ford Nascar-style roller cam bearings, and an all Lunati rotating assembly.  We traded the Enderle stack injection for a tunnel ram / bird catcher to give a better look with the body down.  We have a Vertex magneto and the injector lines at present on it will be the gasoline warm up circuitry, the barrel valve will feed port injectors for better tuning.
The block was an interesting story, It was advertised in a Canadian race web site as a rebuild as it was in a sunken speedboat in Vancouver! . . . luckily in freshwater!  After 3 new sleeves, a line hone and a set of bronze lifter bushes I had an aluminum block at one fifth the going price and it 'flexes' far less than the stock 454 type under large fuel loads, plus with the raised cam, it could go al the way to 708 cubes.  For the purists out there we have started a Hemi savings account, the car will end up with a Keith Black mk3 in it, just not yet . . .


The upper shot opposite shows the steering damper converted to Heim, it's a Volkswagen Super Beetle unit, same as the original and about 15 pounds on ebay, it's a good price as these take a hammering on 'short cars' and only last one season.
You can see the spacer under the incoming Pitman arm, that's because at 9 degrees of castor, the drag link 'climbs' into the tie rod at full lock so the spacer keeps things apart . . . the castor angle is critical to stop that front end shake you see at the end of burnouts so often.
Also on the front is the billet tow eye for pit work and top end recovery.


This is the switch panel to be located in the roll cage as there is no 'dashboard' within reach when Linda is strapped in.  Also shown are the header stubs, a local friend built his own CAD/CAM plasma cutter [it pays to know people like this!] so Pat gave him a BBC big port exhaust gasket, he scanned it and cut it in 3/8" 1040 steel, the stubs are 2.25 id  chrome moly tigged on with nickel bronze filler.  People this side of the pond are very suspicious of brazing until you remind them that every jet turbine since 1947 has the 'hot' compressor blades brazed in . . . case closed.



This is Pat's filter mod for his last three cars, take an Enderle 'clamshell' fuel filter and make a 1 litre spacer in between, it gives room for any sediment to settle and a place for any air bubbles to sit (bumpy track, end of burnout) and still flow 21 gallons per minute.

This picture shows the switch panel in place, also shown is the ignition switch and launch control on the butterfly.  

The launch control is an electric/pneumatic arrangement, it provides a dialable stage rpm, rate of throttle opening and line lock release all in one thumb release, ideal for taming a short violent car


This is the fuel tank installed after Darrell has welded in the baffles and outlets, bottom centre is the 1" supply [-16], top right is the air bubble return from the filter (with non-return valve), top left are the three return lines from the injector system, bump valve, shut-off valve and high speed leanout.  I like to keep these lines separate and all the way back to the tank, then if you have a one way valve leak you don't 'back feed' an air bubble to the barrel valve . . . not a good idea at 8000 rpm!


On Christmas day Pat got bored (terrible TV in Canada) and started on a single point 76" wheelie bar.  Over the years Pat has built a few of these and has come to a conclusion; if you run slicks wider than 12" or less than 10 psi, run a single wheel, otherwise the engine launch torque will smack the right wheel first and point you at the left guard rail.  Pat and Linda run a small swing arm at the end of the bars with a mountain bike 'shock' connected to the wheel, this makes the bars 'think' they are longer and less violent.  It was no problem for Christmas day as Pat and Linda have no relatives over there and its Linda's car so she helped bend the bars!


Update 6 February 2012



This is the new owner of Pat and Linda's old dragster collecting his new ride.
He drove down from northern Ontario (a 4 day trip!), wrapped it in cling film and disappeared into the snow.  It is his first dragster as he wanted a change from pro mod snowmobiles.
The car served Pat and Linda well . . . 283 passes in the 8s and 67 in the 7s.
Linda went to work, she didn't want to see it leave.


On a happier note - look at Pat's shiny new blower.
An absolute gentleman from New Brunswick rang Pat in early January.   He used to race a '32 Ford with a 392 blown hemi in the '60s, but now races Lobster fishing boats [!!!!], a big series over in Canada, 42 foot fibre glass hull with twin blown 596 BBCs.
Anyway, he had been following the build here on the site and offered Pat a big rotor Littlefield 6-71 for a nominal sum as he wanted to see the car run.  Needless to say Pat grabbed that offer and mocked it up on the motor.  The car will still be shaken down on injection but the GMC will be waiting in the wings.



This is the Ken Cox full floater rear end getting stripped down.  Pat will keep the Strange spool but replace the third member with a Strange aluminium through bolt unit and go up in bearing size to 3.25" for strength.  The housing will be paint stripped, polished, magged and new floater bearings, seals and 'O' rings installed.  After cleaning one of the first jobs is to 'tig' up all the 'ovalled' mounting holes, re-heat treat and ream back to round, a common problem with old blown race cars.


A close-up shot of the billet swing arm on the wheelie bar with about 1" travel.  S&W supplies the roller bearing wheel and the shock is a 'heavy' mountain bike unit from Pat's local bike shop!



This is the first mock up for ride height. Pat was hoping he  could use his spare set of  32 x 16 Goodyears but with only 1 1/8" of ground clearance he will definitely have to use the original size 36 x 17 top fuel tyres.  Shame because those are not cheap!
The front tyres are 23 x 5 Goodyear Front Runners, these too will have to be replaced with 25 x 4.5 (same as original) to get a little more ground clearance.  North west strips are not as smooth as the pro tracks . . .




The rebuilt housing installed in the car, welded, magged, powder coated with new filler and drain caps and drilled discs, new Timken  taper roller floater bearings and seals.



These pictures show just how rapid Pat's progress on the build has been.  The stance of the car looks spot on to my eye.
Linda may have been sorry to see the dragster go but she looks happy enough to me in the shot on the right and who can blame her.


Update 26 March 2012



As Pat was assembling the car he realised that there was nowhere positive to jack it up, especially when re-fuelling (got to get rid of emf and static).  He therefore made this billet 'foot' and chute tether to mount on the bottom of the rear end housing.  The ring engages on his lever jack and should stop any incidents.



This is the new Strange 'pro' pinion (4.56-1) being installed on the 20 bolt Strange spool.  Pat pre-heats to 130C and uses guide studs to line up the stud holes.


Some tension on the bolts and a gas torch to keep the heat up until seated.



The Strange aluminium bolt-through third member.  There's always a lot of loose scale on new castings - not so good in bearings!


This is the 20 bolt ring assembled on the spool, gears de-burred and polished, the Mark Williams 'Greek' coupler on the pinion, and a custom coupler wrench for assembly by Pat's local rear end guru Greg who finally assembles all Pat's rears.



The original axle retaining caps on the full floater rear were only " thick and quite bowed (crossed-up burn outs will do that) so Pat's trusty SouthBend lathe was used to make something more substantial in 392-t6.
At the same time an O-ring groove was cut to save on messy paper gaskets.


As the bottom tubes of the frame are 'S' shaped, Pat had Spruce Aircraft make up two  5/32  swaged  cables, rated at 7200 lb.  By varying the tension inside the bottom tubes it is possible to tune the chassis response to  different traction conditions side to side, also if the car has a really big blow up (crank through the side) it stops the frame 'stubbing its toe' on the ground.
Its an old '70s tuning aid, made acceptable by a certain gent in Florida, although the first recorded use was by Count Zboroski with 'Chitti Bang Bang' at Brooklands in 1922.


This picture shows the body mount rebuilt and a rear deck with 'chute box' attached.
This is for testing in altered form.

When the Vega body is finished the box will turn into a holder for rear end and tranny overflow tank as the chute will attach to the body.


Making the front motor plate, proprietary ones won't fit because of the raised cam.  Only the inner details are finished as the motor is hung on the mid plate and  the motor angle needs to be checked  for crank to pinion centre alignment (no universal joints on blown cars).  Then  the front measurements can be taken and the frame tabs, fuel pump and sundries can be machined in.


The first motor installation attempt.  The pan 'kick out' and starter mount lug fouls on the right, and the oil filter boss and oil sender lug hits on the left.  Some tigging on the pan and light grinding on the lugs is needed, maybe a remote filter . . . apart from that it went well !!!
Next is to make a crank-mounted  mandrell bar to check intersection.


Update 30 April 2012



With the rear motor plate in place and the engine bolted in, a billet hub was machined to take a mandrel tube so Pat could check crank to pinion centre line and engine 'attitude'.





As you can see the mandrel lines up nicely with the pinion bearing.  Some people put the mandrel 0.050" high to allow for launch chassis flex but you tend to load the pinion bearings on shutdown so Pat keeps it on centre.



Now that Pat knows the motor is in the best place, the front motor plate can be finished.  He has to be particularly accurate here as the Cox chassis bolt holes are all a ream fit.


Pat made a cardboard mock-up and his friend Darrell welded up a neat battery/electronics box to fit over the rear end.  This pivots on Heim  joints to access the rear end hatches for fluid and wear check [Saturday night check]. Two pit pins hold it in place at the bottom.


Making the zoomies.
The previous shots showed the flange plates, the 2" runners were cut to length and nickel bronze welded in place with a 30 lean-back, the straight edge on the floor is the body dimensions.  The runner ends are bent from  90 to 78 progressively for that splayed look to match the body.


Two shots showing the motor in with the injector set-up for the first year only.
As can be seen with a stock 454 pan there are clearance problems, that's why Ken ran a dry sump on his #4 and 5 cars.  Fortunately Pat has a good Peterson 5 stage left over from the rail, he just has to find room for it !


A front view with the injection in place, not too bad.  Linda says as long as she can see the guard rail and the other car, she's good.





Now a picture showing the blower mocked up.  The bird catcher is 1" lower than the roof,about the same as in '76 but it certainly looks a bit dominating.  Now is the time the build is less of a slog and more of a pleasure.
Linda shows this shot and the one below right to her friends and workmates to scare them !!!!



And this is what it looks like from  the cockpit.  Just like Randy said, look for the lane lines (if the front isn't up !).


Enderle 110 pump (left) and Peterson dry sump installed with all bracketry and  tensioners  made with the 3 way shut-off and high speed lean out plumbed in.  There was no room inside the frame rails for the big oil pump so a small belt cover will keep front wheel stones off the Gates belt.
When the blower goes on, Pat will move the fuel pump up to the cam drive and put a small belt pulley on the front of the blower drive for the oil pump.
Next job is to make a 5" deep dry sump pan with kick-out and 4 take-offs.



Update 25 June 2012



The original brakes were Airheart double piston.  As the spares for these mid 1970s calipers are very limited and the performance questionable, and Pat is building a working car, the decision was taken to replace these brakes (and brake handle) and put them on the shelf to stay with the car.
Instead Pat will use the 4 piston Willwoods in competition, this entails making new mounts in 6061-t392 material.



After band sawing the shape out and flapwheel finishing the edges, Pat's big old drill press was used to rough the mount bore and and his little bench top mill finished this to size.



By using the original mount brackets and a locator plug, the bolt holes were transferred through and counter-bored to accept the cap head screws.



Bracket on, brakes mounted and lines ordered and on to the next bit!



This shot shows showing the Strange centre section mounted and Mark Williams 'Greek' coupler installed, this lines up well with the rear safety loop, when the transmission is put in the the coupler shaft can be measured and ordered.
In the background is the servo for the line lock on the brakes, this will work in parallel with the launch control.



The dry sump tank installed and the pump drive finished.
The tank is an ex-Nascar unit shortened and flanged (with thanks to Pat's friend Darrell) to clear the body when down, the overflow can is a water drink bottle and the feed pipe half a sink U-bend.  Sometimes you just have to improvise!


This picture shows the throttle linkage to the bird catcher with double spring return, there is another spring on the foot pedal, and the cable is a push/pull type with a pull-back hook on the pedal . . . just in case!


Update 23 August 2012



This picture shows Pat about to embark on rebuilding the transmission planetaries.  There are 40 needle rollers in each planet - be grateful for assembly grease!
The gauge on the right of picture is home-made and measures the stack height of the gears.  The nearest specialist is 400 miles away so it pays to be able to do this yourself!



Two shots of the new pan made to Pat's specification by Aviad.  This company has been going since 1957 and Pat believes they made the original pan for the Allard Chrysler dragster.  Pat still had to notch the pan to clear the Enderle pump.  The pan is made from steel - easier to repair on the road.


The pan, dry sump pump, lines and stainless steel mesh filter all installed.  The pan is only 5 inches deep but the Peterson pump pulls a real vacuum.


The car will initially be run as an altered hence the need for this cowl made in .060 t6 material - a good flame deflector although let's hope that property is not required.


A general shot showing the transmission cooler, water cooler, injection lines and general injection layout.  Once Pat and Linda get to grips with the car the blower will go on . . .



A shot of the barrel valve, bird catcher etc.



The front of the car all plumbed in - injector feed, water lines, drysump tank and overflow and all the fuel return lines.  It looks just like the 1976 photos!



The block was stripped for the last time before the initial fire-up.  New Lunati lifters were fitted (and will be replaced every season), Smith push rods and Isky gold stripe springs.


General shots of the car in altered mode after its first fire-up.  It has such a purposeful stance I just had to include all the pictures Pat sent me.
Pat is waiting for the drive shaft to arrive from Mark Williams and, if it comes in time, the car will be run at the Greenfield Fall Nationals.
Watch this space!
In the meantime a good friend of Pat has made a wooden buck in which to mount the body and flip it for repair work.


This seems a good point to finish this page which is getting rather long.  Page 2 will be following the car on the strip and the repair work to the body which you can be sure will be carried out to the same high standard as the rest of the re-build.



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