Joe Chamberlain drove this old style Camaro to some fine results.
|Body||Stock a-arms and spindles. Custom sway bar. Period bump steer correcting steering centerlink.|
|Rear axle/brakes||Stock a-arms and spindles. Custom sway bar. Period bump steer correcting steering centerlink. HD leaf springs. Custom panhard bar and sway bar.|
|Engine||302 c.i.d. small block Chevrolet.|
In 1974, a new professional sanctioning body, IMSA, was taking off. Camel cigarettes became the title sponsor of the IMSA series. With backing from Camel, prize money was sufficient to attract interest of SCCA Pro Racing teams. So, beginning in May of 1974, the Lennox team tried three IMSA races- with mixed results. The rules, in the GTO class, favored the Porsche Carrera. So, of course, the Porsches dominated the American pony cars, the Corvettes, and all others. The Porsche’s captured the top finishing positions, as well as the associated prize money. So, the Lennox team returned its focus to A/S racing. The Lennox team continued to dominate A/S racing in the Pacific Northwest. In five national events, the Lennox Camaro captured four wins and a third. The wins included the Rose Cup at Portland and the Olympia Sprints at Laguna Seca. With all the talented T/A drivers and top quality Trans Am cars, the A/S races were hotly contested. Sports Car magazine enthusiastically described the racing at the Olympia Sprints (which drew over 300 total competitors). At the end of the 1974 season, Joe Chamberlain had captured his fourth A/S title in the Northern Pacific Division. The team had won the A/S championship three consecutive years. With their focus on A/S, there was no doubt that the team would return to Road Atlanta for the SCCA Run-Offs. In that era, the title sponsor of the Run-Offs was Champion Spark Plugs. The official name of the event was: Champion Spark Plug Road Racing Classic. As in 1973, the field at the 1974 SCCA Run-Offs was composed of ex-Trans Am drivers and cars. Marshall Robbins was there with an ex-Bud Moore Boss 302. Jocko Maggiacomo raced the ex-Penske Javelin, and the ex-Chaparral Camaro was campaigned by Sid Rust. Joe qualified with the fourth fastest time against these strong competitors. Only 0.8 second separated the pole qualifier from the seventh place qualifier. However, Joe almost didn't make it to qualifying. During a test session at Road Atlanta, an A Arm buckled, and the Camaro bottomed out in dramatic display of sparks. Ed Fullerton repaired the A-Arm at the track in time for qualifying. Qualifying with the fourth fastest time is a testimony to the quality of work the Ed did at the track (and in the shop). On race day, the field got off to a clean start (not something to be taken for granted at the Run-Offs). Joe quickly moved from fourth to second. However, after eight laps, Joe trailed the leader by seven seconds. Joe knew that the leader was pushing hard, so he believed he would have a chance. On the ninth lap, the leader's engine expired at turn five. Joe led the remaining 10 laps, taking the victory by 2.2 seconds. On Saturday, November 2, 1974, Joe Chamberlain, his crew, and the Lennox Camaro became the SCCA A/S champions.
Firestone provided the tires for the Camaro. The Vels / Parnelli Jones dealership was the west coast distributor for Firestone at that time. So, the tires came from Parnelli Jones. Joe stayed with Firestone from 1969 through 1974. At the end of 1974, for the SCCA "Run-Offs", at Road Atlanta, Joe switched to Goodyear tires. Joe won the SCCA A/S Championship on Goodyears, and realized what he had been missing. It is remarkable that Joe achieved the success that he did on Firestone tires. From 1970 on, it was well known that the Goodyear race tires were superior to those of Firestone. Firestone withdrew from racing in 1978. When Joe won the A/S Championship at the Run-Offs, he took a victory lap. His crew joined him in the car- waving the checkered flag. At turn five, the corner workers gave Joe a bottle of champagne. In 1975, with an A/S Championship in hand, the Lennox team again dabbled in IMSA races. But, the results were the same as in 1974. The Lennox team ran well, but the Porsche Carrera RSRs dominated the races. For example, the Lennox team competed at Laguna Seca, where ten of the top thirteen finishers were Carreras. The team made their annual July trek to tracks in the east. In 1975, they competed at an IMSA event at Mid-America Raceway, in Wentzville, Missouri. This gave the team a chance to run the track for the first, and last, time. Joe was the fastest non-Carrera in the GTO class. However, this was only good for an 11th place finish. The next week, the team was in Road America for a Trans Am race. Joe finished 7th against a strong 32-car field, composed primarily of big block Corvettes. In 1975, the Lennox team shined at the local events. At the Seattle Trans Am event, Joe qualified on the pole. This was the first Trans Am pole for the team. Dinah Chapman reported that: “A local favorite, Joe Chamberlain of Tigard, Oregon, took pole position in his Arrow Heating Camaro …” Sports Car, August 1975. Chamberlain led through lap eleven when he spun in oil on the track in turn 5. Chamberlain returned to the race to finish 7th.
Two weeks later, at the Portland Trans Am, Joe qualified second. On race day, Joe led through lap 35- when the driver side front suspension collapsed. In 1974, Joe and his crew won the SCCA A/S Championship. They experimented with IMSA in 1974 and 1975, and found the rules stacked in favor of the Porsches. In 1975, by qualifying on the pole at Seattle and qualifying second at Portland, they showed that the car and the driver were as fast as any competitor in Trans Am. So, for 1976, they decided to try to win the Trans Am championship. This decision is obviously crazy. It is even crazier that they almost won the championship. To compete for the Trans Am championship was huge undertaking for Joe and his volunteer crew. The 1976 Trans Am series was composed of eight events, only one of which was on the west coast. So, for four months, the crew would be on the road. To make them even greater underdogs, the rules changed- in a big way. For 1976, IMSA realized that their races had becoming predictable Porsche parades, and banned the turbo Porsches. The SCCA took that opportunity to open the 1976 Trans Am races up to those disenfranchised Porsches. SCCA realized that there were a lot of turbo Porsches lying about with nowhere to race, and let it be known that it would take them in. Jo Hoppen, Porsche racing guy, thought that was just fine. The 1976 Trans Am season started in Pocono International Raceway, in Pennsylvania. At a track to which Joe had not been before, the Lennox Camaro finished a remarkable 6th. Three weeks later, the series was at Nelson Ledges Raceway, in Ohio. At another track that was new to the team, the Lennox Camaro improved to a 3rd place finish. This effort moved the team up to fourth in the Trans Am Championship standings. Things were looking up for the Lennox team and their championship aspirations. And, they were heading for their home track! Two weeks later, the Trans Am series raced at Portland International Raceway. Joe knew the track, and had won numerous races there. True to form, Joe used his expertise to capture his first Trans Am victory. Finishes of 6th, 3rd, and 1st put Joe in third place in the Trans Am Drivers Championship.