Years ago, one of ACDelco’s marketing strategies was to sponsor race cars in the NHRA and NASCAR racing circuits. Over the years, ACDelco has changed their marketing strategy and stopped the sponsorship of race cars. The years of ACDelco sponsorship of racing faded into photos and memories of that era until now when Ray Noreika restored an ACDelco sponsored NHRA Pros Stock car at his own expense.
Ray, the owner of Big Boyz Toy Box in Paterson, NJ, used to lease indoor and outdoor vehicle storage areas. Several years ago, he leased an outside storage area for two trailers. The lease had expired and the trailer owners never responded to renew the lease. Ray then applied to the New Jersey State Court for possession of the trailers due to abandonment and recovery of lost rent. The court subsequently awarded him ownership of the trailers. Inside the trailers, he discovered a damaged and disassembled NHRA Pro Stock car. The body was a Chevy Cavalier with no associated markings. The body was painted blue with bubbles. The frame tag - however - showed that it was built by Jerry Haas. The parachutes also displayed the ACDelco logo and colors. Ray began to research the history of the chassis and discovered that ACDelco sponsored Kurt Johnson as a Pro Stock driver in the NHRA circuit. This car was one of two ACDelco Chevy Cavilers built by Jerry Haas Race Cars, Fenton, Missouri in 12/2000. After researching the vehicles history, Ray decided to rebuild and restore the car to its original design to preserve a piece of drag racing history. During his research on the history of the car, he discovered that Action Collectables produced a limited 1:24 scale model edition of the Johnson ACDelco Chevy Cavalier. He purchased one of these models and used it as a visual blueprint to restore the car’s outer shell.
Ray contacted ACDelco about the restoration and received permission from ACDelco to use its name, logos and paint colors with a stipulation that ACDelco was in no way sponsoring the restoration process. Ray, a former Oldsmobile Master Technician, showed the disassembled racer to Jerry Thomas who is his account manager for Tonsa Automotive (an ACDelco Distributor with locations in NY and NJ). Jerry committed his assistance to Ray and informed Leon Bobelian (President of Tonsa Automotive) of Ray’s restoration plans and Tonsa Automotive supported and sponsored the restoration process.
Ray totally disassembled the car and rebuilt the vehicle to meet the current NHRA chassis and safety regulations. The original vehicle was registered for the NHRA Pro Stock Class but Ray would rebuild the car to participate in NHRA’s Top Sportsman Class. He completely rebuilt the engine that was found in the trailer, a 598 cu.in. DART M Block with DART Big Chief Heads. The carburetor, a 1200 C.F.M. Holly 4BBL, was also installed by Ray and flow tested to match the current demands of the engine. The engine was then dyno tested with C14 race fuel at 1,005 HP at 7,100 RPM. The 5-speed manual G force transmission found with the car was replaced with a 2-speed power glide transmission which required sheet metal fabrication to fit the transmission. A MSD Grid Computer System was installed to monitor and control the performance of the car. The 200 plus damaged areas on the carbon fiber body were painstakingly repaired by Ray. The restoration process was slowed because the rear wheels were missing. Ray could not locate a set of the original rear wheels until he had a conversation with a business associate in New York who told him that he had the other Haas built ACDelco Cavalier. The racer was in pieces but he had the original rear wheels. There were several other parts that Ray could not locate so he fabricated the needed parts in his machine shop. The outside professional vendors that assisted Ray in the restoration process were excited to use their skills to bring the car back to its current pristine condition.
The chassis just received the NHRA 6.0 chassis certification. Ray is currently in process of renewing his NHRA Driver’s License so he can drive the car for his enjoyment during the 2015 NHRA and IHRA season at a few of the Northeast race tracks. Future plans are to display the restore ACDelco race car to support events sponsored by Tonsa Automotive and other regional ACDelco distributors.
Ray’s restorations involved thousands of dollars and hours as well as a lot of help from friends of his in the automotive world. He bestows his thanks to all of them. This restoration was fueled by Ray’s passion for anything automotive. He began turning wrenches at a local gas station at the age of 14 years upon getting his working papers. His mechanical skills were improved through education and training he received through the U.S Army truck and also track schools after being drafted. Upon his return, he started turning wrenches for Ratner Oldsmobile where he continued to excel in his craft. He would rebuild all the alternators and starters needed for the shop as well. Ray later bought the station where he started. From his exposure to ACDelco and GM, he only sold Delco batteries “with the green eye” and also participated in the ACDelco cabinet program where a local vendor would restock him weekly. “I have always found ACDelco parts to be of a superior quality and reliability and continue to use them today".
Ray had retired at the age of 51 to enjoy life but got bored after 7 years. He returned to “work” through his hobbies which include owning and operating schools for motorcycle and marine licensing as well as being a professor at Warren Community College specializing in motorcycle repair classes.. His next project? “I am looking to restore or hand craft a boat”. Is Dennis Connor’s 1987 America’s Cup winning ACDelco sponsored “Stars and Stripes” yacht sitting around anywhere?
The restored ACDelco car is proudly displayed and housed at Ray’s place of business. He welcomes anyone that wishes to see the vehicle to stop by the building.