Story by Marjorie Suddard - photos as credited

It took George Siegel years to get his 1970 Firebird restored and ready to vintage race, but it took only seconds for Formula One veteran Bib Stillwell to name it.
Siegel had spent the last three years building his immaculate blue-and-white Trans-Am series replica-instead of a planned six months-and he was finally participating in the action at the Walter Mitty Challenge when a rain delay put things on pause. He wandered over to the covered garages to catch a glimpse of a particularly beautiful Formula One ride, and ended up meeting its driver, Stillwell. After a chat about the car he was driving-a Keke Rossberg backup car from the early '60s-the Australian turned to Siegel and asked, in a very heavy accent, "An wat 'r you drivin' mate?" When the American told him he was driving a vintage Trans-Am replica, Stillwell replied, "Oh, drivin' a yank tank r we?" The name stuck, with an ersatz British spelling added for effect.
The "Tanque" is based on a 1970 Trans-Am roller that Siegel purchased in 1991. He has attempted to keep it as close to vintage Pontiac specs as possible, though he has had to make a few substitutions to keep the cost realistic. For example, there are very few 303 c.i. Pontiac engines available and those are astronomically expensive, so Siegel substituted a 400 c.i. Ram Air III, which is dimensionally almost identical to the 303s that would have been raced 25 years ago. Sometime this year, he plans to add a pair of Ram Air IV heads that he has built up. "This will provide a better sense of originality, as these heads were used on the 303 c.i. motors during the early years," he explains. The roll cage, window net, fuel cell, etc. have been kept as close to original as possible, and the frame and body are as-raced as well. Improvements center around safety features: the car now sports a Halon fire system, NASCAR-style driver's-side door bars, and a Cobra Kevlar seat.
After a rough start-the car blew an engine on its first outing, and the motor pictured here took an additional year to build-the Tanque has proven to be a reliable contender. Siegel finished third in class at the 1994 Walter Mitty Challenge, second at the 1995 event, and third again at last April's event. Siegel credits a number of people who, he says, "have helped dramatically in making my dreams come true," including his wife Sherry, "who has supported me even when it didn't seem logical to do so." He also voiced appreciation for Jeff Henninge, his best friend and crew chief; Ed Waller, who supplied him with all the vintage pieces; and Steve Simonaitis, who acts as the Yanque Tanque crew.


engine and driveline

engine make: Pontiac 1970 400 c.i. Ram Air III

engine mods: block bored .030"-over and mated to #12 heads with stock valves.

displacement: 406 c.i.

ignition: Pontiac 1977 HEI distributor with Accel 8 mm wires, MSD rev limiter

crankshaft: Pontiac nodular iron

rods: Pontiac 1974 Super Duty

pistons: Sealed Power .030"-over

intake manifold: Pontiac 455 H.O.

cylinder head: Pontiac #12 gasket-matched to manifold

camshaft: Competition Cams hydraulic

induction: 750 cfm Rochester Quadrajet blueprinted by Brad Urban

oiling system: H.O. Racing baffled/trap door oil pan, Warrior crank scraper, Canton oil line check valve, Long oil cooler, Moroso accumulator, Melling oil pump and Fram filter

cooling system: Modine radiator, Jaz one-quart overflow, Gates belt and hoses

exhaust: HO Racing tri-Y headers with Rainbow muffler 2.5" custom-bent aluminized straight exhaust w/crossover

fuel/oil lines: Aeroquip with aluminum fittings

clutch: Hays diaphragm-type

transmission: Muncie M-21 close-ratio 4-speed

rearend/ratio: Pontiac 12-bolt, 3.08:1

estimated hp: 410 @ 5600 rpm

est. torque: 435 lbs/ft. @ 4500 rpm


roll cage: Speedway seamless TIG-welded

harness: Pyrotect three-inch, five-point

seat: Cobra Silverstone Kevlar

displays: Jegs aluminum dash with Autometer tach, oil pressure, water and oil temp, and fuel pressure gauges, BSR starter and toggle switches, Moroso low-pressure warning light

fuel cell: ATL

Suspension and Brakes

front springs: TRW 500 lbs./in.

rear springs: Pontiac 4-leaf

fr. shocks: Koni

rear shocks: Gabriel high-pressure gas

fr. anti-roll bar: Herb Adams 1.33-inch

rear bar: Herb Adams 1.0-inch

lowering kit: Herb Adams, 2-inch lower

brake ducts: BSR 2.5-inch square brake ducts w/EVF hoses

fr. rotors: Corvette Brakes

rear rotors: Baer Racing 12-inch

brake pads: Performance Friction

calipers: Wilwood front, Baer Racing aluminum rear

wheels: American Racing Torq-thrust D, 8.5x15" front, 10x15" rear

tires: Goodyear Blue Streak Sports Car Special

Racing Info

owner: George and Sherry Siegel, Ellenwood, Ga.

racing class: HSR Sports Competition

Questions or comments about this car? George & Sherry.

This article was generously provided (and copyrighted) by Grassroots Motorsports.

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