Dwarf car racing turns into big hobby

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By Carol A. Clark

David Hand first set eyes on a dwarf car in 2005 when Jim Shinn entered Hand’s shop, Jona Manufacturing Services on DP Road.

Shinn asked Hand to fabricate some special parts for him. Hand took one look at the undersized racing vehicle and was hooked.

“I jokingly asked if he needed a driver and he told me  he had had another car,” Hand said during an interview this morning. “We went down in Rendija Canyon and I drove it around, then started racing for him.”

Hand raced Shinn’s dwarf car for one season before buying it, he said. Then his wife, Melanee Hand, caught the spirit and now she races her own dwarf car.

The Hands race at the San Luis Valley Motorplex north of Alamosa, Colo. and at the Aztec Speedway in Aztec, he said. They also travel the dwarf car racing circuit up and down Colorado and have raced in Arizona.

“It’s one of the most affordable cars for racing you can get into and it’s so much fun,” Hand said. “Dwarf cars travel upwards of 100 mph on the straight-aways. They are open wheel so you try not to make contact and tear up other cars.”

Following qualifying heats, main races typically consist of 15-20 laps, he said, adding that the larger venues can go up to 24 laps.

“Everybody helps each other at the dwarf races,” Hand said. “It’s not dog-eat-dog but more of a camaraderie.”

Dwarf cars are 5/8 scale replica models of vintage 1928-1948 American made automobiles, according to the sport’s website, www.southernrockiesdwarfcarclub.com. They have full steel roll cages, sheet metal bodies and are powered by 4-cylinder motorcycle engines up to 1220cc.

The cars have full racing suspension and with their size and quickness, they are perfectly suited to dirt track oval racing.

Dwarf cars started as a hobby during the 1980s in Phoenix, with the original idea of providing economical racing to people who were just starting out or who could no longer afford to keep up with the escalating costs of full size classes.

The dwarf car’s popularity is attributed in part to having a look that appeals to a wide variety of fans. Their “antique” look brings back the glory days when open wheel hotrods were the stars of the show on Friday and Saturday nights, states the website.

For the younger fans, their size and shape makes them interesting to watch and cheer for.

Dwarf cars use motorcycle engines as power plants, bringing interest from outside the normal “auto” racing crowd.

It’s not just Fords and Chevy fighting it out, but Suzuki, Kawasaki, Yamaha and Honda as well.

The sound of 4 cylinders at 11,000 rpm has quite an appeal, according to the website.

Its weight to horsepower ratio is even greater than a full-size late model stock car.

Dwarf cars are “real” racecars, not family go-karts, states the website. The cars are inexpensive to buy. A brand new roller car, complete less engine, drive shaft and headers runs $6,995. Most engines are supplied through the salvage pool and typically cost $1,500-$2,500.

Dwarf cars are economical to operate, too. The costs to race a competitive full-size car range from $200 for a sportsman type late model to $1,000 in a sprint car per race – assuming nothing gets torn up. Dwarf cars, on the other hand, cost less than $25 per race, for fuel and an oil change. The cost-per-racing lap is the lowest in motorsports today.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com or (505) 662-4185 ext. 25. Read her newsblog at www.newsextras.wordpress.com.