In April of 2000, an idea was conceived and construction began for a road car that could compete through endurance racing against the icons of American sports cars; the Chevrolet Corvette and the Dodge Viper. It would be a low production sports car with a proprietary turbo charged V-8, unique transaxle, composite aluminum honeycomb chassis and a unique retro “California Hot Rod” body design.
This project was presented to Grand American Road Racing and the project was conceptually approved. This twin turbo motor, which was designed as a two valve push rod motor for the INDY 500 by Roman Slobodynskyj could rev to 10,000 RPMs and initially produce over 960 HP. This amazing 322 pound twin turbo 3.2 litre V-8 motor was the basis for this potentially awesome race car. With restrictors featured into the turbo inlets to this motor, which were required for racing classes in Grand Am, would still produce over 600 HP with a very quick, broad and flat torque band. In essence, Grand Am approved this race car to race car against Corvettes and Vipers, which were compromised race cars and modified from their original production vehicles.
Design and construction progress continued on the SportStar prototype and the idea was conceived to present the opportunity to Harley Davidson to compete with these American Sports Car icons as a marketing platform to generate additional sales for Harley Davidson and increase attendance at Grand Am events.
In September of 2000, we met with representatives of Harley Davidson in Milwaukee to present the concept. We made our presentation of this business plan via a four minute audio tape describing the marketing plan through an imaginary 12 hour endurance race that was held at INDY. This race featured NASCAR drivers racing these Corvettes, Vipers and our little SportStar, which of course, won the race by a fraction of a mille-second. It was all imaginary, but the broadcast by Larry Huffman made it seem very real. We were told that this was the most exciting presentation they had ever seen and they would guarantee that the concept would be copied for future presentations they made.
The concept was very interesting but Harley had existing partnerships with Ford and others that made it impossible to undertake the concept. I found that the Harley Davidson people are very conservative but are the most down to earth people that you could ever want to deal with. Probably the greatest distinguishing factor about a Harley Davidson motorcycle show is how different and unique the vehicles are. The most unique project typically takes top honors at bike shows. Harley people at the factory are like this. Contrast this with concours car events for Ferraris, Corvettes, Mercedes Benz, etc.; the car that is the most like the original model that came off the assembly line wins the class. How boring. When I told the factory reps at Harley Davidson at the Milwaukee factory that I was building a Harley Project bike, their first question centered on how unique the bike would be.
In spite of the turndown by Harley’s involvement in the project, we continued with the design and construction of the project. We were able to almost completely finish the tub, motor development; tooling, suspension and body buck before we found out that Grand Am changed the entire focus of their rules related to production vehicles and went toward a focus for their Daytona Prototypes class. This put the project into “moth ball” or “flower pot” classification. The question became, “What do we do with this investment and how can we benefit from it?”
After the obligatory one year of feeling sorry for ourselves for the lost opportunity, we decided to create something quite different and follow another path. To put this whole automotive design and development project into perspective, I can give some insight as follows:
Who designed the SportStar?... Everybody on the block, but primarily through the passion and inspiration of God Almighty. I have no formal training in design, engineering or vehicle production, but have “felt” two hands on my shoulders for many, many years inspiring these designs and ideas. Automotive construction are never composed of one person. Race car, concept cars, show cars and production cars are always done by a team of designers, stylists, engineers, modelers, fabricators, CNC operators, etc. The original SportStar “plug” started life as an endurance race road race car. In contrast to the major design and production studios, all of our projects have been built at my race car shop at my home with a team consisting of about 5 to 7 members.
Our effort also includes a select few outside sources for motor development and CNC machining talents and project partners which are usually known as project sponsors. This humble team is on a mission to build a project that will, hopefully, be seen by millions of people for the purpose of raising an immense amount of money for world charities.
Designing and building a world class entrant in the Super Street Rod / Race Car category takes an immense amount of energy, a lot of time and money and the patience to wait for a lot of companies to make your prototype CNC parts before the thousands of parts they already have ahead of your production schedule. Because of the purpose for which this car is being developed to fulfill, our team wanted to build something that has never been seen before. In order to create a sports car of exceptional appeal, it must do at least the following:
• Have great style and proportions to make a statement of complete uniqueness and to capture your attention above all other participants.
• Exhibit exceptional performance, acceleration, handling, cornering, balance and braking.
• Exude immense power and sensuous sounds from the engine bay and transaxle.
• The interior must be simple, sexy, stylish, classy, unique, comfortable, and illicit a feeling of a competition race car.
We are told that the SportStar has lots of style, swagger and sex appeal. If you make a car and everybody has seen it, nobody will come to the party. This car has a great purpose for the Lord. Our partners are all great charities and humanitarian causes, all centered around the “love you neighbor” Biblical concept. You might say, “Power on Purpose”.
We have evolved the SportStar into a race car / super street rod with the concept of the a high performance sports car with steel tube chassis ( like a motorcycle ) and power the car with a pair of Harley Davidson motors. Our goal is to develop a car with the performance somewhere near the performance of the best sports cars that you can buy off the shelf today, such as a Ferrari, Porsche or Corvette. We figured that over time and development of our own Harley Davidson based motor ( with a head designed along the lines of our turbo charged push-rod V-8 that we developed ), we could make some serious horsepower. We estimated that the finished car would weigh about 2,100 pounds and would eventually have in excess of 300 HP, or about 7 pounds per horsepower. Powerful production sports cars typically range from 8 to 12 pounds per HP.
The start of the layout and the steel –tube composite honeycomb chassis
Coupling twin Harley Davidson motors to a transaxle has been an immense challenge. We have developed mock ups and prototypes from about every conceivable combination imaginable. As was the case with Thomas Edison and his light bulb, he had tried just about every material on the planet to create his light bulb; we had very few options left to try to couple these motors together. The best motor drive system design was inspired last, after spending a considerable amount of money on all the other options. It centers around a Corvette automatic transaxle longitudinally mounted with a 45 degree Harley motor mounted on either side. From the front, it looks similar to an antique airplane radial motor. The drive shafts transmit power through a quick change gear system for optional top end speed choices.
The chassis features chrome-moly 4130 steel tubing which will be practical, strong and lightweight. An aluminum front bulkhead serves multiple functions, including a mount for the upper A-arms, shock rockers, steering rack, anti-roll bars lower front suspension arm, and steel frame members.
Headlights are made from billet aluminum and the billets weighed 144 pounds before we removed 139.5 pounds to make this unique bezel. Nobody has ever seen a headlight bezel quite like this.
The cockpit is purely a two-seater with no doors. Tubes were placed in the cockpit to provide the cab with more security and doors would reduce that security from side impact. The instrument panel is quite unique. We started with genuine Harley Davidson instruments and made new 5” bezels from aluminum billet and Honduras Mahogany. We wanted the feel of a yacht and the interior is very simple yet very elegant.
Wheels are two piece wheels made from a billet forged aluminum center sections welded to formed aluminum outer rings. One of my most interesting days was sitting at the CAD design desk of Victor Moreno at Intro Wheels while he designed a wheel while I was explaining what I wanted. We spent about 35 minutes on his computer and then went out to his shop and saw the wheel center section carved by a CNC mill in about 30 minutes. This 15 spoke design is original and there is a beautiful spine in the center of each spoke rib.
The front grill is a retro version of somewhere in the mid 1930s something, fashioned in an elegant manner from billet aluminum, polished and then either chromed or blacked chromed for that never seen before look.
Tail lights are multi-functional designs consisting of a billet aluminum bezel and various components to house and display LED lights and a stanchion bracket to stabilize the outer wing canards.
The wing is made from carbon-fibre and is mounted high on a vertical stabilizer and features outer ribs connected to the tail-lights to secure the canards.
The front end aerodynamics is quite unusual and incorporates a few unique features. The front surface between the fenders and bonnet serves is an upward sloping wing to provide down-force. The inlet below this area is a diffuser to allow incoming air to pass between the front tires and the nose and side of the body to cling to the cab as it passes by into the engine bay to cool the V-twin air cooled motors.
The exhaust system is made from stainless steel and exist in four 2” sculptured megaphone tips adjacent to the rear wing stabilizer.
After the Twin Harley Davidson project was tested and driven for a couple of years, we converted the SportStar into a Corvette powered LS-1 mid-engined super car. Performance is exhilarating and the car is the ultimate ride- kinda like a Go-Kart, just not as smooth.