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Truth or Fantasy?
You decide.
Robb's Scale Auto Modeling Page presents the story of the
Atlantic Hurricane
A tale of mystery, Friendship, and a passion for salt and speed.
(Key word here is TALE!)

Almost 40 years ago, the engineers at Chrysler Corporation, (now Daimler Chrysler) were hard at work putting the finishing touches on their new engineering test, the Chysler/Ghia Turbine car. It had a (for the time) Space-Age design, and a 21st century powerplant, the A83-1 gas turbine engine.  Approximately 55 were built, and loaned out to 203 people for 3 months at a time. The people were asked what they thought of them. They were returned to ChryCo afterward, and except for 9 of them, were destroyed between 1967 and 1969 at the behest of the Federal government, due to beleive it or not expired visas! Makes you wonder about the terrorists of 9/11, doesn't it?
Then, in 1995, Chrysler brought to the show car circuit the Chrysler Atlantic. To quote the ChryCo folks, "The Chrysler Atlantic was designed in the spirit of luxury French custom coach builders of the late '30s, who created distinctive, highly-stylistic design statements that were purebred luxury coupes. Under the long, graceful hood lies a 4.0-liter "straight eight" engine with dual overhead cams and 32 valves. Front and rear tires are huge -- 21- and 22-inches, respectively. Atlantic was designed to be what a two-door luxury performance car was meant to be ­­ bold, beautiful, sophisticated and bigger than life." 
Here's where the line between reality and fantasy becomes blurred. In 2001, in the Engineering section of Daimler Chrysler, an unnamed schlep, tasked with cleaning out a storage area came across a strange object. It was roughly 20 inches  around, not quite spherical, and coated with what appeared to be 40 years of crud. When schlep asked the engineer in charge, a brash kid just hired out of Michigan State 4 months earlier, what he should do with it, he was told, "Throw the damn thing out! I thought I told you to get this area clean!" Now, our Schlep wasn't the most educated guy in the department, but a voice in his head  told him this was something special. So, instead of throwing the strange object away, he spirited it out of the Highland Park complex hidden in the trunk of his 1980 Aspen, determined to find out what this strange but wonderful thing was. It had sat in Schlep's ratty garage in the suburbs of Detroit for some three months when an unfortunate turn of events befell him. Schlep, while on  his way to a KISS concert at Cobo Hall, was killed when he was catapulted through the windshield of his Aspen after crossing over into the opposing lane of traffic and hitting a delivery truck head-on. With no family to speak of, Schlep's worldly possessions were put up for sale. 
Retired engineer Rob Clifford was perusing the Detroit Free Press when he saw the legal notice regarding Schlep's belongings. Rob knew Schlep from the department but never said more than a hello when they met coming into work in the mornings.  But something told Rob to go over and have a look, just in case. When Rob arrived at Schlep's home, he was not really surprised to find no-one there besides, of course, the requisite lawyer type. It seems that Schlep was a bit of a pack rat. There was a little of everything in his garage. Old F-body parts, a few odds and ends, and piles of assorted junk. But there in the corner, sat something that Rob had not seen the likes of in 35 years, and was not real sure he was seeing now. Rob asked the lawyer what the estate was hoping to get for it. The response was, "Looks like junk to me, I figure maybe a hundred and fifty bucks would work." Rob gave the leech, I mean, lawyer the one-fifty, and started to leave. The lawyer asked, " What is that thing anyway?" Rob said that it was a planter that used to be in his old office at Chrysler Engineering. To which the lawyer said, "that's a funny looking planter." Rob mumbled something about one man's junk being another man's treasure, and beat a path to his Ram R/T, prize in hand.  
Now, Rob still had a few contacts at Daimler-Chrysler. And, he had a plan for his accquisition. After calling in a few favors, Rob was able to purchase an engineering mule from Mopar Perfomance. It was  a front-steer NASCAR chassis that was used for development work on the Winston Cup program. There was a lot missing from it, but It would make a good starting point. Some old freinds from the local Street Rod club pointed him to a Halibrand quick-change rear axle that was kind of beat up, but could be rebuilt.  Another former employee at the department provided a Torque-Flite automatic trans, and although it was missing the converter, this would not be a problem. Some off the shelf parts from a Ram pickup, and most of the pieces were in place to start Rob's dream project.
At this point Rob had to do some reasearch. Having been a Chrysler engineer, he had worked on some interesting stuff. Concept cars, test mules, trucks, he had an opportunity to work on most of them. But one thing he never got to do, basically because there wasn't much interest for it at Highland Park, was an Land Speed Record attempt. For some reason upper management, particularly Iaccoca, had no use for racing. He just didn't beleive that it would help sell cars. "How short sighted can one man be?"  asked Rob on many occasions. Mostly, the answer was a shrug of the shoulders. Well, now the idea that had been brewing in the back of Rob's mind for 30 years would come to life. An email to some friends in Southern California led to finding out that the SCTA had a class for what he had in mind. The 'planter' he had procured from Schlep's estate sale was the key. The A83-1 gas turbine engine had spent it's former life in a 1963 Chrysler/Ghia Turbine car. When the Feds in their typical ham-handed way demanded either a large sum of money from ChryCo or to have the beautiful Bronze cars destroyed for what amounted to an expired visa, Ma Mopar decided to destroy the cars. Some enlightened engineer had decided to save at least one of the A83's from being recycled and stashed it away in the storage area of the engineering department. How Schlep accquired it, Rob didn't know. But now it would live again. The chassis parts and the engine were here, but what to cloak it in? Here, luck was to play a role again. Rob's old buddy at Styling, Dave V, came to the rescue. Dave had somehow salvaged the original body bucks for the Chrysler Atlantic concept car. The swoopy, somewhat retro body could be reincarnated in carbon fiber, and another compatriot at Lockeed could get hime some CF at what he called a "reduced price". When Larry also promised to help lay out the bodywork, Rob was ready to start building what promised to be one of the wildest cars to ever turn a tire on salt.
Rob decided to get a "roller" going first. The NASCAR chassis was a 'drop snout" chassis, but was missing the snout. Knowing that the Atlantic was a long wheelbase car, this would not be a problem. Extending the chassis to approximately the Atlantic's dimensions with some recantgular chrome moly tube, he mounted a basically stock Ram R/T a-arm front suspension (minus the braking system which would only add unsprung weight, and besides, a 'chute would cover that). Using the body buck to get the shape and dimensions correct, Rob laid out and assembled a light but strong rollcage. The Halibrand was next, and it was mounted on NASCAR type "truck arms". Then a set of Goodyer slicks and Front Runners mounted on alloy wheels capped with spun discs finished the basic chassis.
The bodywork would prove to be tougher that Rob thought it would. When Larry, Rob's bud at Lockheed had the CF delivered, Rob realized he didn't know squat about carbon fiber. A quick call to  Larry provided (after Rob promised pizza and beer) enough help to get the body laid out. There were some minor changes made to the design of the body to keep it from lifting at the hoped for terminal speed of 280 MPH. A huge aim dam was added to the front of the Atlantic, and a horizontal rear spoiler were installed to better manage the air molecules sliding over and around the car. Basic cleanup of the geegaws and closing off most of the openings on the front valence would finish the job. Dave did whine a bit about the air dam, which he dubbed "The Cowcatcher" since he thought it made the car look like a steam engine. But since he had a few too many beers at that point anyway, Rob just laughed it off. Besides, at the speed this piece would be going through the traps at, it needed all the downforce it could get!
Well, after what Rob beleived to be a record, (10 large Pizza Hut pizzas, 6 cases of Stroh's and 2 weeks of work) the CF body was done. Dave actually started to like the way it turned out, and didn't whine so much about "The Cowcatcher" anymore, either. The Body was mounted to the chassis, and "The Crew" finished up the assembly work. But it was still in white primer, and it didn't even have a name yet. As far as Rob was concerned, the choice of color was a no-brainer. Pearl Orange, a color smilar to what Rob had seen on the Sidewinder Dakota concept would give the Atlantic a touch of flash. The name was suggested by Dave. "Since we know it will blow everything else on the salt  away, and it IS an Atlantic, how about Atlantic Hurricane?" A moment of uncomfortable silence followed by hoots and hollers loud enough to rival a Gibson Les Paul blowing through a Marshall stack gave Dave his answer. Thus was born one of the most unusual cars ever to see Bonneville.   
OK, for those of you who stuck around while I tried my hand at fiction, A BIG Thanks! here's the real story. A couple of months ago, I saw a article in Scale Auto by Drew Hierwater. It was about LSR cars, more specifically the kind of stuff you see at SCTA meets. In Drew's piece, he used a NASCAR '98 Taurus for the subject, and it WAS pretty cool. Cool enough for me to give it a shot. But I felt more could be done. I felt that since one tends to see lots of rather strange rides at the salt flats, (How about a 200 MPH International diesel tractor, for instance?) why not go WAY out there?  After about 10 minutes of digging through my spare parts pile, I uncovered a Lindberg Chrysler Atlantic. Well, the gears in my head started to turn, (slowly, of course) and I remembered the JoHan Chrysler Turbine Cars I had purchased on ebay. The second one, was an already built kit, (poorly built I might add)  and suddenly the idea of a Turbine powered LSR was starting to sound REAL good. So, at this point some reasearch was in order. After checking on a few sites on the Internet, I found that the SCTA not only had a class for turbines, but some rather notable individuals had run them. Donald Campbell of England ran a Turbine powered car at Bonneville. (see pic below)
Also, just recently Team Vesco set a new wheel driven LSR with the Turbinator.
So, I learned that the concept had already been proven. So with the idea in my head, and the parts on the workbench, I started off. Drew's car was basically a slightly modified NASCAR Taurus on a regular stock car chassis. The stock car chassis was do-able since I had a AMT generic Monte Carlo partial kit on the shelf. It would require some modifications, however. Since the Atlantic's wheelbase was about  5/8" longer that the Monte's, I had to stretch it out.  I used the chassis pretty much box stock after that, except for a few considerations. First, the front a-arms were missing. These were replaced by some pieces from a Dodge Ram VTS. And, since many Bonneville racers use a Halibrand quick-change rear axle, I used one from the '50 Austin gasser.Rear suspension was NASCAR truck arms with hand wound coil springs. The roll cage was constructed from a stock car piece I retreived from an AMT '75 Matador kit with some mods to make it fit the Atlantic's roofline. The seat was from the Matador kit, and so was the steering wheel.
Here's a shot of the salty side of the chassis. It's basically a NASCAR chassis that has been lenthened about 5/8" due to the length of the Atlantic's wheelbase. The lower a-arms are from a Ram VTS truck. They may be a bit big, but they solved a lot of problems.
OK, here's the top side. The roll cage was modified from a NASCAR '75 Matador's piece with what I felt was enough extra bracing to get the look right. The firewall was extended out to meet the bodywork. The upper a-ars are also from the VTS Ram.
The finished chassis. The seat is from the Matador kit, wheels and tires are parts box items. The belts are Detail Master stuff.
The body in progress. The technique I used to re-radius the wheelwells is shown here. I bent and glued sheet styrene, then used the Dremel to clear out the openings to a more usable size and shape. A little putty, and..........................
Presto! Body-in-white! Or at least, that's what it used to be called. Like Drew's example in SA, I used a horizontal spoiler, since the it would need to smooth out the airfow, not necessarily force the tail down. Also, I added some .020 styrene around the window openings for a place to mount the side glass.
Here's the finished car! The spun wheel discs are from Parts by Parks.
Rear 3/4 view. I am very pleased with the way this one turned out.
For those of you who might ask, I figured any car with "hurricane" in it's name would naturally be sponsored by The Weather Channel! The decals are a combination of old NASCAR contingency, and some things i printed on my PC.
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