Nothin’ to that cooling stuff

The mini Ford GT held my attention. The sleek polished body was made of aluminum I think, almost seamless – was it chrome? When I first saw the car I thought it must belong to the liquid-metal Terminator bad guy. Each day walking by the Oskosh Ford pavilion it pulled me back in for another dream session, going back through the years to being sixteen years old in my two-speed PowerSlide ’52 Chevy imagining someday drifting such a machine as the GT through the hairpin Texas hill country curves. It seems to be a craze now but drifting ain’t that new of an idea.

In a documentary on the development of the Ford GT in the ‘60s, the way I heard it, Ford was in the process of buying Ferrari and something went wrong and the enraged Ford decided to beat Ferrari at whatever cost, in their own back yard – the 24 hour Lemans race. The resulting wrap-over doored racer had a brute-force-speed-shaped elegance that lit a fire in many of us.

Watching the documentary footage of the huge development effort was interesting but the thing that stuck is that after three years, right in the middle of their intense, no holds barred six year effort, the experts had to go back to the drawing board on the cooling. Ford had them working on the cooling 24/7 for some time, until they got it right. You’d think that those engineers would have quickly done that job up front, and it wouldn’t have been a problem after that. Ha. Not that I related or anything, but seeing the evolution of inlets and scoops was fascinating.

Today I am cruising along effortlessly at 8.5K, resting in the cool in the Eze enjoying the speed and the power and the sound and the hill country passing below, intimately speculating just how the airflow is swerving around the lower cowl and exits (I’m surely wrong) as they pull just the right amount of air around the oil sump and through the cowl and can I proclaim it loud enough, through the oil cooler. And remembering just a few days ago when the oil tracks showed the inner cowl air going backwards and out an inlet. One of my prouder days.

The new exits are a two-minute adaptation like Cory Bird’s yellow cowl exit vents pictured in the March Sport Aviation article on cooling, also with another look at Mike Arnold’s AR-5 exits.
These are basically a square on the lower aft cowl surface, cut on three sides, with the forward lip pushed up into the cowl about ¾ inch, for a 7 degree floor angle to the relative wind. I thought there might need to be a little surface area aft of the exits and guessed at how much would be best. They are about six inches forward of the aft cowl edge.
Those in the Sport Aviation picture have a neat leading edge lip to kick up the air to add to the low pressure, which was quickly added to mine using a curved aluminum spoiler. I still get goose bumps remembering seeing the oil temp gauge smiling 212 degrees and then 202 degrees back at me on that excellent flight where it finally worked. Nothin to it.

That night it did occur to me that I should have done whatever I did long ago. Seeing the Ford guys go through iterations of bigger engines and brakes on the GT 40 and then in mid-stream have to go back and redesign the cooling, I sneak a little smile and breathe a deep sigh of relief and remember that if it was easy, …how does that phrase go?

I can almost hear builders right now saying to themselves that they did all this long ago and never had any cooling issues anyway. Congrats to those accomplished wizards. I gladly defer to them for technical profundity and mention basic details, as each installation is so different. But I am making notes on ten years of plenum operations hopefully for next time.

The time for digging in and making the dream car a reality came and went and I didn’t grab for it. For now I am satisfied with a well-bought simple red Mustang ragtop with black Steve McQueen Bullet rims and matching black parking aid devices ( – don’t dare mention to my wife that they look more like racing stripes) … a car that I have never turned a wrench on. Sitting on the wrong side of having maintained a small fleet of cars and vans for the kids’ soccer practices and college, I gladly rest my auto socket set.

Instead of just a passion for cars, the winds of Mojave blew a wisp of fiberglass in through Texas, well, Japan, that moved most of my other childhood fantasies aside; or maybe encompassed and pulled them together.

Looking at the foot-long GT 40 on my desk I remember my dad leaning on his old faithful pickup and telling me why he kept his full size truck instead of one of the spiffy new mid-sized trucks -- because at 84 he could still get in it. And I imagine the contortions that would be required to get in that three foot high Ford GT.

What Eze back seat sight gauges? What longeron hippityhop? Gotta remind myself to do my stretches and limber up again tonight.

For some convenient reason the Eze isn’t held to the same comfort and maintainability standards that settle on the cars so easily. It is held to its’ own set of standards. Maybe I use a different measure here because it puts us right where the advertisers go to lure us to Oklahoma or Missouri or Hawaii, skimming us low over their best and most beautiful rivers and valleys and mountain crested spectacles – our back yard.

I may have started to understand part of the flying bug thing, thinking it probably has something to do with seeing Peter Pan again as an adult and recognizing through that doorway to the past some of the half-remembered, swimming-through-the-air dreams over and over through the years, struggling and jumping and kicking to get off the ground and pushing-off over the telephone poles and trees until finally breast stroking and dog-paddling enough altitude to get that breathtaking free sailing momentum going and then, and then, lofting easily over the cool green countryside – and later in the Eze chasing sunsets, being there again, about as close as a grownup can get

…for now having regained some respect and breathing room, at peace and grinning back at my unseen but respected miniscule nemesis contemporaries, the waskely air molecules back there gleefully running the rapids through the inlets and midlets and outlets, running just a little easier now.

Nothin to that cooling stuff. Right.

Bill James, Fort Worth VariEze

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