SCORE Journal

SCORE Journal Issue - AUGUST 2017

SCORE Journal - The Official Publication of SCORE Off-Road Racing

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Page 58 of 103

Riding The Bullet By Dan Sanchez
Photos By ICON Media
 Malcolm Smith and Bud Feldkamp drove this Funco SS2 to several overall victories and changed how off-road vehicles were built for Baja racing. Long before the term “Trophy Truck” was ever invented, single and two-seater sand buggies dominated the SCORE Baja 1000 and Baja 500 races. These vehicles were often VW powered and were originally built to have fun in the sand. Visionary racers, however, saw the lightweight chassis and adapted a variety of new components to turn these vehicles into serious race machines that dominated the Baja peninsula from the late ‘60’s though the1970s. One of the most iconic was the blue Funco SS2 known as the Bel-Ray Bullet. Not only did this buggy win many off-road races, but it was driven by two individuals who changed off-road motorsports in their own right. Bud Feldkamp and Malcolm Smith, who are both inductees into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall Of Fame, got together after they had success in motorcycle racing, to campaign the Bel-Ray Bullet into the history books. Among the many victories that Feldkamp and Smith won driving the Bel-Ray Bullet, two of them were SCORE Baja 1000 (1975-’77), and two SCORE Baja 500 overall victories in 1978 and ‘79. The experience and driving skills of these legendary motorcycle racers in the seat of a four-wheel vehicle proved to be advantageous and led to their winning ways. Aside from their experience, the Bel-Ray Bullet itself was a machine that also broke ground with new innovations that would also change off-road racing. The original Funco SS2 chassis was stretched several inches to increase its wheelbase. This helped the vehicle absorb more of the rough terrain. These vehicles didn’t have modern suspension systems so anything that could smooth-out the ride was much appreciated by the drivers. At that time, Bilstein was also experimenting with fins on their shock absorbers, so the Bel-Ray Bullet (named after the lubrication company who sponsored the vehicle) was one of the first to be outfitted with them and was also one of the first buggies to incorporate an independent rear suspension system. The restoration of the Bel-Ray Bullet was Feldkamp’s idea, and he incorporated his long-time crew chief Dave Tilton to head the project. Tilton turned to Scott McKenzie who was one of the original vehicle builders in the early days, that took these sand buggies and transformed them into Baja-winning vehicles. Tilton had McKenzie and his team get the vehicle in original, but race-ready shape so that Feldkamp and Smith could race the re-born “Bullet” in vintage class racing. The original rear independent suspension system is the same one that the Bel-Ray Bullet had back in the ‘70’s, complete with six vintage Bilstein shock absorbers (three on each side) with the original cooling fins. The system provided six-inches of added suspension travel while a set of Porsche spindles hold on a set of 33.50x15-inch Western Auto Sand Blaster tires mounted on 15x6-inch Centerline wheels. Up front, the buggy utilizes a VW link-pin, front beam suspension system that is also supported by two Bilstein shocks. The suspension controls a set of E78/15 Western Auto Sand Blaster tires mounted on 15x3.5-inch Centerline wheels. The buggy was meant to be original, so the factory drum brakes are still used and offer enough stopping power to bring the Bel-Ray Bullet to a halt. The buggy’s VW engine now displaces 2180cc’s that was built by Jeff Gervais in Menifee, California who brought it up to racing specs. Fed with Zenith carburetion and breathing through a K&N air filter, the engine pushes out 120 horsepower that is more than enough to speed the buggy down the Baja peninsula. The exterior of the buggy was also brought back to its original blue and white color scheme by Tim Debor, who also included the Bel-Ray and ISS sponsor logos on the sides of the vehicle. Inside the single ‘70’s era, vinyl seat is still in place, with only a set of Crow safety harness as an upgrade to what was originally used. The cockpit is sparse and surrounded by aluminum panels and safety netting. There’s not much room to do much more than turning the oversized steering wheel and operate the factory VW steering wheel. The vehicle still uses its’ simple aluminum panel dash with pull switches that operate the fan, fuel-pump, and lighting, but a new Safecraft fire suppression system is a must to keep the vehicle as safe as possible during testing and competition. It’s hard to imagine driving a “low-tech” vehicle like this and all the vibrations and jolts it would place on the body. The realization of what it took these early pioneers in off-road racing to compete and win, is extraordinary and adds to the respect of what Bud Feldkamp and Malcolm Smith had to endure to win as often as they did. SJ

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