Updated: Feb 9
Smokey Yunick is a legend in motorsports. He ran his ‘Best Damn Garage in Town’ in Daytona Beach, racing occasionally, but was better known as a master mechanic, engine builder, and car designer. Smokey was one of the pioneers of aerodynamics in the early days of NASCAR. He was brilliantly talented at bending the rules, and outright cheating when necessary. To him anything that wasn't explicitly outlawed in the rules was fair game. He reasoned that every other team was cheating, so he was simply keeping things on a level playing field across the competition. His 1967 Chevelle is a prime example of this master mind!
The infamous ‘7:8 scale’ Chevelle, was the second of three ‘67s that Smokey worked on. The first had qualified on pole which totally embarrassed factory backed teams from Ford and Mopar. It was built by Chevy and then modified by Smokey. NASCAR folklore says the car was a perfect 7:8 scale replica of a Chevelle, built to have less aerodynamic drag than its competitors. In reality, a 7:8 scale car should have been blindingly obvious among the other full-size cars. That's not to say that Smokey didn't employ his trickery and magic in modifying it.
The Chevelle was built to be as aerodynamic as possible. The bumpers were made flush with the fenders and all the door handles, turn signals, etc, were removed to make the car a slick as possible. NASCAR implemented a rule banning flat belly pans on competition cars because of Smokey’s builds. To get around the new rule, he had tunnels installed in the floor to lift the headers and exhaust piping out of the air flowing under the car. He constructed a custom chassis and the body sat two inches further back than stock for better weight distribution.
The car weighed in at 3900 lbs, powered by a de-stroked 416 cid big block Chevy. Smokey’s thinking was by de-stroking there would be less rotating mess and would decrease stress on the engine, but this also increased RPMs. His Rat motor was turning around 7600 RPMs and pumping out 450 hp.
Despite all the work and ingenuity, the Chevelle never got a chance to run against other cars. At the car's debut the tech inspectors removed the fuel cell to examine it. They then presented Smokey a list with ten items that needed to be changed before the car would be legal to run. At the top of the list was the removal of the custom frame and fitting of a standard one.
Knowing his car was never going to race, Smokey threw the disconnected cell into the back of the car and shouted, "Make it eleven!" before starting the car and driving it from the racetrack back to his shop. He had also added extremely thick fuel lines arranged in coils which allowed him to sneak an extra 19 liters of fuel into the car.
Stock cars were essentially road going cars with roll cages, bigger engines, and racing tires. Sadly, there was no place for Smokey’s modified Chevelle in NASCAR.
“There are two types of racers, cheaters and losers.” -Smokey Yunick