Author: Craig Perronne Photos: Boyd Jaynes
One of the most unique aspects of Ultra4 racing is that there is no proven formula for what works and what doesn’t. Much like the early days of Trophy-Trucks, before they became somewhat standardized, this has led to the creation of all kinds of beautiful exotica as fabricators search for the best design to give a competitive edge. And, just like their desert brethren, the top tier of Ultra4 is mostly unrestricted with very few rules governing construction thus allowing designers to dream up whatever they desire. For John Reynolds the design that seemed to have the most potential to be effective in the many different terrains of the Ultra4 series was one that blended aspects from both desert and rock racers. “I wanted the car to be low and with a forward as possible seating position,” explains Reynolds. “With IFS you really have to be careful with placing the tires correctly so vision is important. That is why it is similar to a Class 1, it is a real far forward seating position and there is not much of a hood that slopes off fairly quickly. It is all about vision.” After doing extensive research on desert technology, Reynolds approached Jeff Russell about the project. “I presented him with the idea of building the car and he quickly became interested in it. Before I knew it, we were talking about components and a couple weeks later he bought an LS7 out of a Corvette on eBay and we were off,” recalls Reynolds. Russell, who enjoys the building process as much as driving, became the owner of the car, but was not just a hands-off financier. He spent plenty of time helping with fabrication as well. The result of the pairing is the innovative Ultra4 racer seen here that blends many of the high-end components found in desert racers into a much smaller and more maneuverable package perfect for the tight confines of technical rock trails. Perhaps even more amazing than the beautiful finished product is that the effort was a first for Reynolds. “While I have done plenty of fabrication, this is my first ground-up build,” notes John, who managed the project to completion as well. And, on top of that, Reynolds’ main profession is as a musician, with fabrication more of a serious hobby. From the looks of it, we would say a very serious hobby. All of these factors combined to make it a natural choice for this month’s Masterpiece in Metal.
Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, Reynolds turned to ProAm Racing Products to use the same IFS setup that had been pioneered on Shannon Campbell’s Ultra4 racer. A huge aid is that the system comes already designed and plotted from ProAm, leaving only its construction to the fabricator. It cycles to 16 inches of wheel travel controlled via a 14-inch stroke King 3.0 bypass shock and a 12-inch stroke King 2.0 coilover shock. Four-wheel drive is provided by ProAm 35-spline 300M axles with Series 30 CVs that attach to the Currie 9-inch IFS housing filled with an ARB Air Locker and 5.40 gears. Completing the front end are ProAm hubs, 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers.
A Howe 2.75-inch Truggy steering rack and custom tie rods attach to the beautifully constructed hub assembly.
Found underneath the custom equal length headers built by Reynolds and the Dynomax UltraflowX muffler is a 7.0L LS7 originally sourced from a wrecked Z06 Corvette. It was taken to RPM Motors who ported the heads along with fitting it with a custom camshaft and dry sump. A FAST 92mm throttle body is controlled by a MEFI 4 ECU and wiring harness by Steve Humphrey. Dual Advanced Air Cleaner Systems filters feed air to the mill that is cooled by a Ron Davis radiator and fans. Running through a TransAction-built TH400 three-speed automatic and an Advance Adapters Atlas transfer case, the LS7 delivers 475 horsepower and 444 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels.
The rear four-link suspension was designed by Dan Barcroft (who also helped with the proper location of drivetrain components and the design of the front upper shock mounts) in SolidWorks and then fabricated by John Reynolds. It yields 25 inches of wheel travel with the help of King 2.0 coilovers and King 3.0 bypass shocks. Also visible is the Tube Works rear housing equipped with ProAm hubs. Rapid stops are also handled by ProAm with their 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers used to slow the Ultra4 racer.
The 44-inch-long lower arms connect to a custom Tube Works rear housing that was trussed by Reynolds. Another ARB Air Locker is used in the rear along with a Super 14 dropout carrier equipped with 10-inch 5.40 gears and TCS 300M 40-spline axles.
Inside the tight cockpit rest twin MasterCraft Safety 3G seats with G-Force restraints. Driver interaction occurs via a Momo steering wheel, Art Carr shifter and twin Atlas shifters. Positioned in the Reynolds-built aluminum dash and ensuring the occupants never get lost are dual Lowrance HDS-5 and HDS-7 GPS units while a smattering of Auto Meter Ultra Lite gauges relay critical information. Communication to the outside is provided via a Kenwood race radio, while a PCI Comlink 10 allows conversation between driver and co-driver. All of the wiring for the instruments, radio, GPS units and everything else in the car was performed by Prowire.
The unique body was handcrafted by John Reynolds and Jeff Russell using aluminum. An eye-catching paint job was then laid down by Northern Paint and Body, along with an air-brushed mural. Illumination comes from five Vision X 50-watt HID lights on the upper rack and a Vision X LED light bar in the bumper.
Despite riding on 39-inch BFGoodrich Baja KRTs on forged ProAm 17x8.5-inch aluminum beadlocks, the racer still sits very low. A key to its low center of gravity is the divorced transfer case located lower in the chassis than a more conventional setup, allowing the occupants to be closer to the ground as well.
POWERTRAIN Engine: Chevrolet 7.0L LS7
BUILDER: RPM Motors
MAX Horsepower: 475 hp
MAX Torque: 441 lb-ft
MODIFICATIONS: Ported heads, custom camshaft and dry sump oiling system INDUCTION: MEFI 4 ECU, 92mm FAST throttle body, dual Advanced Air Cleaner Systems air filters TRANSMISSION: TransAction TH400 three-speed automatic TRANSFER CASE: Advance Adapters Atlas with 2:1 low range
SUSPENSION Front: ProAm Racing Products IFS built by John Reynolds, King 3.0 14-inch stroke bypass shocks and King 2.0 12-inch stroke coilovers, ProAm hubs, 16 inches of wheel travel REAR: Four-link designed by Dan Barcroft and built by John Reynolds with 25 inches of wheel travel, King 3.0 16-inch stroke bypass shocks and King 2.0 14-inch stroke coilovers
Cooling Ron Davis radiator and heat exchangers
Plumbing John Reynolds
BRAKES Front: ProAm Racing Products 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers REAR: ProAm Racing Products 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers WHEELS/TIRES WHEELS: 17x8.5 ProAm Racing Products forged beadlocks TIRES: 39x13.50R17 BFGoodrich Baja KRT-B
BODYWORK: Custom aluminum body
PAINT: Northern Paint and Auto Body
INTERIOR MasterCraft Safety 3G seats with G-Force restraints, dual Lowrance HD GPS units, Momo steering wheel, Art Carr shifter, Kenwood race radio, Auto Meter gauges, twin Atlas shifters
CHASSIS: Ultra4 UFO racer DIMENSIONS: Wheelbase: 112 inches Overall Length: 169 inches Overall Height: 70 inches Track Width: 86 inches Overall Weight: 4,100 lbs.