In the comic Superman, Jimmy Olson is a young reporter with red hair and a bow tie that tags along with Clark Kent and has a secret crush on Lois Lane. He probably doesn't own a Jeep; he probably lives at home with his mom and rides a bike to work. We recently caught up with the real Jimmy Olson, though. However, instead of working at the Daily Planet he runs Edgewater Jeep & 4x4 in Denver, Colorado. Not only does Jimmy run a Jeep shop, he also has the coolest ice racing Jeep in Colorado, which he calls Black Ice. Jimmy and his wife, Andrea, race the Jeep in Georgetown, Colorado, with Our Gang Ice Racing.
Jimmy's flatfender sits atop a heavily modified DJ frame. The frame has been boxed and reinforced with an eight-point cage constructed from 13/4-inch, 0.095-wall DOM tubing. The cage was originally built by Jimmy with Rusty Syzmanski ten years ago when Rusty owned the Jeep. At that time, club rules mandated running leaf springs. When the rules were loosened though, Jimmy and Rusty were the first to take advantage of the opportunities and push the sport of ice racing forward. The current suspension consists of Koni coilover shocks and Hypercoil springs front and rear. The Konis allow Jimmy to adjust both the compression and rebound damping independently, which is advantageous depending on the track design for a given ice race. And since Jimmy is one of the course designers, he usually knows exactly what suspension changes are necessary.
The axles are located by rather unconventional wishbone setups at each end. Both ends use straight upper links with a lower wishbone with two mounting points on the frame end and one mount on the axle end. Ground clearance is not an issue in ice racing, so the suspension links can be vertically separated enough to provide proper geometry. The front wishbone is connected from drop brackets on the front of the frame horns to the bottom of the axlehousing, while in the rear the wishbone runs from under the transfer case crossmember to the center of the rear axle. Sway bars from AAI Speed Equipment help the Jeep track flat and level across varied track conditions.
Jimmy races his Jeep in Our Gang's highest category: the Competition Division. Three different sets of tires are used to allow Jimmy and Andrea to race in three different classes and maximize their fun. In the Bare Rubber class, Black Ice runs on Pike's Peak Specials that are also used in the summer for hill climbs. For the Studs Class, Jimmy uses 29x12.50-15 Goodyear Terra tires. The Terra tires have 324 studs per tire, with each stud hand placed. "If you build them right, they will last forever," Jimmy explained, but doing so is as much an art as a science. If the studs are placed too shallow, they will rip out. If they are too deep, they don't provide good traction. More custom labor goes into building tires for the Cheater Class, which start as standard 205/60-15 street tires to which 98 11/2-inch long bolts are ground to a point and added to each tire to allow the Jeep to accelerate faster than a speeding bullet.
Black Ice is powered by a 406 ci small-block Chevy that was balanced and blueprinted by F&M Performance in Wheatridge, Colorado. The stock 400 ci V-8 was bored 0.30-over and the stock two-bolt mains were converted to splayed four-bolt caps for added strength. The internals feature a steel crank, 6-inch H-beam rods, Wiseco forged pistons, and a Crower roller cam. Atop the block, the Brodix aluminum heads are filled with Crower 1.6:1 roller rockers, 2.08 intake valves, and 1.60 exhaust valves. An Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold was port-matched to the heads and topped with a Holley HP 750 carburetor. The air and fuel are lit by an MSD Pro-Billet distributor and 7AL-2 ignition with a 7,400 rpm rev limiter.
The combination produces a potent compression ratio of 13.7:1, so Jimmy only feeds the Jeep 112-octane Sunoco race fuel. Power is estimated near 500 horsepower at the 7,000-foot elevation where Our Gang holds ice races. A Barnes dry sump oiling system with braided steel line and AN fittings keeps the engine lubricated regardless of the angles and forces the bolted tires exert on the Jeep.
With an engine more powerful than a speeding locomotive, Jimmy needed a stout transmission. Arnold's Transmissions of Wheatridge, Colorado built the TH350 with upgraded clutches and bands, a modified valve body, and a 10-inch torque convertor with a relatively low 2,500 RPM stall to complement the torquey 406. An adapter from Advance Adapters was used to mate the three-speed automatic to a Dana 20 transfer case from a CJ-5.
More CJ-5 parts are found under the front and rear of the Jeep. The front axle is a narrow-track, open-knuckle Dana 30 with disc brakes, an open differential, and 4.27 gears. The rear axle is a centered Dana 44 with flanged axles, a Power-Loc limited slip, and 4.27 gears. Jimmy fabricated brackets to add disc brakes from the front of a CJ to his rear axle as well for more stopping power.
Body and Interior
Jimmy's flatfender is unlike most of the features you read in Jp, where the body and frame are the only thing left that is Jeep. Instead, he still has a Jeep transfer case and axles, but there is not much body left. A Mallotte fiberglass shell was added atop the DJ frame and Progressive Signs created a full wrap to the one-piece front end and tub to ensure that it would not get scratched or chipped in the frigid cold. Plastic racing seats with padded covers and five-point harnesses keep Jimmy and Andrea safe on the track. Behind the seats, a two-core aluminum radiator sits above the custom 5-gallon fuel cell and keeps the engine cool.
Instrumentation in the Jeep consists of a multitude of Auto Meter gauges that monitor not only the oil pressure and coolant temperature, but also RPM, oil temperature, fuel pressure, transmission temperature, and voltage as well. The steering and brakes are what really keep Jimmy busy while he is racing, though. The quick-release steering wheel is linked to a standard Saginaw box, but Jimmy used a longer pitman arm for quicker steering. The drag link mounting location on the passenger side knuckle was also changed, resulting in super-quick steering with only one-and-a-half turns lock-to-lock. "I learned how to ice race by riding with my father as a kid and watching his every movement," Jimmy noted.
The brakes have been optimized for the unique environment of ice racing. The swing pedal is attached to a billet master cylinder that activates the four-wheel disc brakes. A Jamar cutting brake lever is plumbed into the front brakes to allow Jimmy to lock up just one front brake for tighter turns. "I use this setup with the bare rubber and studs, since the speeds are lower," he explained. "With the bolted tires I have the brakes plumbed so that only the left front and the two rear brakes are used, since things happen so fast with those tires." Next to the brake pedal, the gas "pedal" is actually more of a cage that ensures that Jimmy's foot does not slip off the gas when he is racing.
Good, Bad, and What's It For
While most of the Jeeps that ice race are relatively simple and nostalgic, Jimmy took his flatfender the other direction with the coilover suspension and dry sump oiling system. "I would love to see more people get involved in ice racing," Jimmy told us. "If anyone wants to know what went into building my Jeep, instead of feeling threatened by the competition I will give them an honest answer." This not only allows him to show off the abilities of Edgewater Jeep & 4x4, but also have a whole lot of fun with his family as well.
Why I Wrote This Feature
Jimmy is a third generation ice racer and his grandfather was one of the founding members of Our Gang Ice Racing. He is also one of the guys who is infusing ice racing with new technology and demonstrating to others what is possible. That makes him The Man of Steel (and fiberglass) in my opinion, and I felt that innovation needs to be shared. -Harry Wagner
Engine: Chevy 406 V-8
Transmission: TH350 automatic
Transfer Case: Dana 20
Suspension: Koni coilovers w/ wishbone four links front & rear
Axles: Dana 30 (front), Dana 44 (rear)
Wheels: Vary according to class
Tires: Vary according to class
Built For: Hauling ice