Seth Emerson's A/Modified, Corvair-powered Lola
Seth Emerson is a long time SCCA competitor. He's had three decades of racing experience in Corvairs and his Corvair-powered Lola. After racing Yenko Stinger YS-003 and F-Stock SCCA Corvairs in autocross, in 1988, Seth sold his Stinger to a restorer and set in motion his plan for a Corvair-powered open-wheel formula car to run in the A/Modified class. He kept his hand in by running a Street-Prepared Corvair.
Finding a chassis to accommodate the flat-six Corvair engine was the first step. He looked for and found an early (pre-1976) SuperVee chassis, designed for use with a Volkswagen Type III or IV flat 4-cylinder engine. Working with the American distributor for Lola Cars, Seth sourced all the parts he needed to build his hybrid.
The Corvair engine was at least four inches longer than the VW motor, and the combination required a 2.5 inch increase in the wheelbase. His busy racing and maintenance schedule (not to mention a regular job) wouldn't allow him to do the work himself, so he assigned the chassis job to a race car fabrication shop while he finished up the '89 season in Street Prepared.
The Hewland transaxle used in the Lola required an adapter to be mated to the Corvair engine. Since the Hewland is based on the VW case, a Crown Corvair/VW adapter worked perfectly. The flywheel and clutch parts were supplied by Kennedy Engineered Products. The expensive Hewland input shaft was replaced with a standard VW part ($8), and a modified Corvair starter was used. An Otto Parts pan and baffle spacer cleared the lower chassis tubes perfectly, and a stock alternator cleared the frame, allowing Seth to use a stock-type fan and drive assembly.
Using a motor based on the one used in his Yenko Stinger at Denver in 1981, Seth installed factory turbo equipment, heads and a stock F-flow compressor. To ensure good power in corners, he installed a 40 DCOE Weber carburetor, using a Crown adapter. With a dry weight of 950 pounds, the power-to-weight ratio approximated a full bodied Corvair with 450 horsepower!
In an article he wrote for the Corvair Society of America (CORSA) publication, Corsa Communique, Seth described the Lola driving experience by saying, "I now have a great admiration for those race drivers who road-race turbocharged cars. You have to have a fine touch with the throttle. It is non-linear with a disconcerting twist. You can be accelerating out of a corner nicely with your foot holding the throttle steady, and 'bang!' boost comes up and away you go (or around and around you go). Is is a rush, though! My first time on course, I only spun it three times."
In 1992, Seth converted the car to normally aspirated intake. Weber 3-barrels from a Porsche 911 replaced the turbo. Although not as powerful, the car was easier to drive fast. This resulted in the 1993 SCCA San Francisco Regional A/Mod Championship. Seth also won two CORSA Don Yenko awards and the car became a CORSA Senior Division Concours champion.
Lola T320/Corvair Specifications
The Car - 1973 Lola T320 SuperVee -Chassis #19
Originally VW powered (type IV, 1.6
The Engine - Modified 1966 Corvair 140 HP
Built for mid-range power, not
Suppliers and Constructors
Chassic modifications, AMAC
Fabrication, Santa Clara, CA
Update: October, 1998 - Seth Emerson's Lola was sold to an East Coast Corvair enthusiast who races it in the South Carolina area. Although Seth still owns two Corvairs, he raced a 1996 V-6 Camaro during the 1997 season, winning the SF Regional Championship in G/Stock. He ran a 1994 Camaro in the SCCA C/Prepared class during the 1999 season.
Thanks to Mike Mann for his editorial assistance in preparing this feature. Both Mike and Seth post to the Virtual Vairs Forum. Subscribe by visiting the Virtual Vairs site. A link is provided in the Links section, under Clubs/Organizations.
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