Mike Knittel's Chinook Mk12 Formula 5000 RacecarOwner: Mike Knittel
City: Chittenango, New York
Model: Chinook Mk12 (circa 1970)
Engine: 1969 Ford Boss 302 V8
Originally built by: Fejer Brothers, Toronto Ontario
Restored and race-prepped by: Mike Knittel of Chittenango Auto Repair
Mike Knittel's Chinook Mk12
Mike Knittel is a professional mechanic who operates a shop called Chittenango Auto
Repair about thirteen miles east of Syracuse, New York. Mike has always been
interested in auto racing and has a particular affinity for Ford engines. However,
his first racing experience was as a mechanic with a team that campaigned Chevrolet
Corvettes for four seasons in SCCA's Trans-Am series, back in the seventies.
In 1984, Mike and his wife took a vacation in the Bahamas. They scheduled their ten day vacation to span over a five day vintage car race "weekend". Mike explains that he thought he would be a spectator, but since he was willing to turn wrenches people put him to work. It was a great vacation and it got him hooked on amateur vintage racing. He returned home and went back to his regular job, but he was on the lookout for a car of his own.
In November 1986, a friend mentioned he'd heard rumors of a formula car with a Ford V8 engine for sale up in Buffalo. Not much of a description to go on! Mike got an address and went up to have a look. The seller didn't seem to know what he had. Mike didn't recognize the car, but the engine was certainly a Ford Boss 302 V8. The price was low. Mike bought his Chinook Mk.12 the weekend before Thanksgiving 1986.
A Canadian built race car, but with very strong similarities to a Lotus 70.
Nearly anyone could be excused for not recognizing the car as a "Chinook Mk.12".
Frankly, it looks like a Lotus product. In its current, spectacular black paint it
bears some superficial resemblance to the famous John Player Special Lotus 72 Formula One
car of 1972. In more specific details, the Chinook resembles one of that car's
predecessors, the Lotus 70 Formula 5000 model. Lotus only built about nine 70's,
and the whereabouts of six of them can be found with a quick internet search.
The Chinook may, possibly, have been built from the remains of a destroyed Lotus 70.
Certainly, actual Lotus suspension components were used in the Chinook Mk.12's construction, although exactly how they came to be used isn't public knowledge. The Chinook's pivoting cast aluminum upper front shock absorber mount is very distinctly a Lotus design feature. The Chinook's suspension uprights have Lotus part numbers cast into them. The basic wedge-shaped profile of the body is quite similar too, although the panels are different. The Lotus 70 carried a single nosepod-mounted radiator, whereas the Chinook has dual sidepod-mounted radiators. The current sidepods are newly fabricated, but we haven't found evidence that the Chinook ever carried a nosepod mounted radiator. The Chinook's monocoque tub differs from a Lotus in construction details too. Incidentally, the quality of Chinook fabrication appears excellent.
The name "Chinook" and the maple leaf trademark belonged to the Fejer Brothers of Toronto, Ontario.
George & Rudy Fejer built about 100 race cars of various designs, from Formula Ford through Indy cars.
Only one Chinook Mk.12 is believed to have been built, and its racing career
was apparently very short.¹
The car sat in a barn and collected dust for many years. When Mike found it, the engine didn't run and the aluminum monocoque tub was badly oxidized. It seemed to have two layers of paint: a turquoise and black paint scheme had been applied over an earlier orange paint scheme.
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What to do with the car? Mike had the car torn down to a bare chassis by black Friday.
Putting a car back together is always a bit slower and more difficult, but the
good news is that almost every original part (excepting rubber hoses and seals) was
found to be in good condition and could be re-used.
1969 Ford Boss 302 V8, bored 0.020" over (4992cc).
Mike is still racing the original Ford Boss 302 that came in the car. Obviously
he's rebuilt it, but the only really significant change is in camshaft specs.
Ford's "canted valve" iron cylinder heads, which characteristically have their
intake and exhaust valvestems on separate planes, aren't the lightest or the
best flowing by modern standards, but they're authentic.
The dual Autolite inline four-barrel carburetors are another interesting and unusual feature. Ford originally developed their inline four-barrel carbs specifically for the Trans-Am race series, but SCCA wouldn't approve their use. They're pretty rare, but sometimes they're used by dragracers. In setting them up, Mike that found much of Ford's published instructions for tuning them is "upside down". He's got them working nicely now, but he wonders how many racers gave up in frustration, back in the day.
Mike had his Chinook all back together by September 1998, and he's been entering it in occasional races ever since. The car was never really "developed" in its original racing career, so Mike has made gradual refinements that are generally consistent with the car's original character. Nonetheless, they're noticeable improvements. The front wings (shown below, featuring rake adjustment, side plates, and Gurney lips) are a good example - they would be revolutionary by 1970 standards. Mike's Chinook Mk.12 is a living, breathing race car, not a museum piece! It provides him a basis for his own creative expression, while being a car he can really enjoy racing.
Features and Specifications
|Engine:||1969 Ford Boss 302 V8, bored 0.020" over (4992cc).
Static compression ratio is 12.5:1.
JE Pistons forged aluminum pistons, used with Ford "Trans-Am" forged steel rods.
Ford steel crankshaft. Isky flat tappet camshaft.
Ford canted-valve iron cylinder heads, fitted with titanium valves.
Crane needle-bearing fulcrum, roller-tip aluminum rockers (1.73:1).
Doug Nash intake manifold with two Autolite four barrel carburetors.
Accel dual point distributor.
Mallory Voltmaster Mark II coil.
Dry sump oil system, featuring Weaver Brothers pump.
|Cooling:||dual side-mounted C&R aluminum radiators, plumbed in series.
|Exhaust:||custom four-into-one equal length headers.
|Transaxle:||Hewland LG500 4 speed with Tilton 3-plate 7.25" clutch. Cam and pawl locker.
3.57:1 final drive. Girling clutch master and slave cylinders.
|Front Susp.:||Lotus uprights.
KONI 8212 series double adjustable coilover shock absorbers.
|Rear Susp.:||Lotus uprights.
KONI 8212 series double adjustable coilover shock absorbers.
(Note: the rear shocks are longer than the fronts, but otherwise they're similar.)
|Brakes:||(master) dual Girling master cylindes with bias bar.
(front) Lockheed (AP) CP2271 four-piston calipers and vented rotors.
(rear) outboard mounted, with Girling calipers and vented rotors.
|Wheels/Tires:||Cooper wheels with Avon tires (24x10.5x15 front and 27x15x15 rear).
|Electrical:||switches (left to right) fuel pump, ignition, lights, starter.
No charging system. Stock Ford starter motor.
|Instruments:||(left to right)
Smith's oil temperature gauge (40-140C),
Stewart Warner tachometer (0-9000rpm),
Smith's coolant temperature gauge (40-140C),
AutoMeter oil pressure gauge (0-100psi).
(A VDO 0-15psi fuel pressure gauge is mounted in the engine area.)
|Fuel System:||original Firestone fuel cells.
Total capacity is 30 gallons.
Holley electric fuel pump, rated 110 gallons/hour at up to 15psi.
Holley adjustable fuel pressure regulator, currently set at 3.5psi.
|Safety Eqpmt:||Crow Enterprises six-point cam-lock safety harness.
Amerex Halotron I fire extinguisher.
|Weight:||1425 pounds, without driver.
|Completion:||restoration completed September 1988.
|Racing Class:||Formula 5000.
Doug Nash intake manifold with dual Autolite inline four-barrel carburetors.
Custom fabricated coolant header tank.
The aluminum sidepods are newly fabricated replacements.
Dual sidepod mounted C&R aluminum radiators, plumbed in series.
Accel dual point distributor. Mallory Voltmaster Mark II coil.
Holley fuel pressure regulator, with VDO 0-15psi fuel pressure gauge.
Custom four-into-one equal length headers.
Dry sump oil system, featuring Weaver Brothers pump. Remote mounted Wix oil filter.
Dry sump oil reservoir.
The pivoting cast-aluminum shock absorber mounting was clearly derived from a Lotus 70.
Both front and rear uprights are Lotus parts too.
KONI 8212 series double adjustable coilover shock absorbers.
Armstrong CP2271 four-piston calipers and vented rotors.
KONI 8212 double adjustable coilover shocks. They're similar to the fronts, except longer.
Canted-valve iron cylinder heads have their intake and exhaust valves on separate planes. They
aren't the lightest or the best flowing Ford heads by modern standards, but they're authentic.
Connection of the trailing links to the aluminum monocoque tub.
The rear anti-sway bar is designed for convenient fine adjustment.
Overview of the Chinook Mk.12 cockpit.
Crow Enterprises six-point cam-lock safety harness.
(left to right) Smith's oil temperature gauge (40-140C), Stewart Warner tachometer (0-9000rpm),
Smith's coolant temperature gauge (40-140C), and AutoMeter oil pressure gauge (0-100psi).
Rollhoop and headrest.
Mike's supportive wife helps him prepare for each race.
Back in the Formula 5000 paddock.
The front wings feature rake adjustment, generously sized side plates, and Gurney lips.
The rear wing.
Avon tires (24x10.5x15 front and 27x15x15 rear).
Formula 5000 records show that Nat Adams of Hamilton Ontario drove a Chinook in
the "L&M Continental Seattle Grand Prix" of June 7, 1970, but no car model
designation appears in the records. The copper-colored car wore racing number 17.
Adams qualified last of 33 cars entered, and completed only eight laps before
retiring with engine problems. The race report indicates that a Chevy engine was
being used in that race, but that may be inaccurate.
Three V8-powered Chinook cars participated briefly in the Canadian Formula A/5000 series in 1969 and 1970. The race records appear to be incomplete, and the Mk.12 model designation doesn't seem to have been recorded anywhere within them. The three Chinooks could very well be entirely different designs. Three Chinooks, two of them Chevy-powered and one Ford-powered, reportedly entered the races at Harewood Acres on August 17 and again on September 27, 1969 but none of the three cars finished either race. Two of these three apparently entered the season finale at Mosport on October 14, but again neither car finished. Chinooks were even less impressive in the 1970 season, and interest in the series seemed to be dropping. The CASC didn't include Formula A in their calendar for 1971.
There are unconfirmed reports that someone named Tony Nawrocki (possibly spelled "Narocki") of Sardinia, NY raced the Chinook Mk12 in regional SCCA events during 1973 and/or 1974.
For more information about period Formula 5000 race results and much more we enthusiastically recommend www.oldracingcars.com. Allen Brown's online archive was our source for this notes section.
All photos shown here are from September 2009 when we viewed the car at The US Vintage Grand
Prix at Watkins Glen. All photos by Curtis Jacobson and Don Moyer for BritishRaceCar.com, copyright 2010.
All rights reserved.
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