What if big and little enos sponsored Bo Darvell in the 1981 24hr Daytona? Translammed is the answer. The worlds only wide body short wheelbase 77 trans am on a C5Z06 chassis. #nonakedtires
Fresh off the heels of his last trans-continental hijinx adventure, Bo Darvell turned his sights to road racing. Another friendly bet with the Burdette family landed him in the seat of his own race prepped 77 Trans Am competing in the 1981 Camel GT 24 hour Pepsi Challenge.
The race was to be held at the world renowned Daytona International Speedway. The bet was that he would have to set the fastest lap during the race. If he prevailed, all expenses for the season, including his car would be covered. If not, he would have to find the money elsewhere, possibly losing his seat for the entire season. It was certainly a win win for the Burdettes and Bo alike, but much more at stake for Bo in the ego department. This was far different from the rural tracks he dominated in his youth, and playfully dodging incompetent patrol cars on back country roads. Would he be up to the task?
The car was finished just in time for qualifying. They decided to name it TRANSLAMMED to commemorate all the times Bo had jumped a creek or ditch to escape turmoil. It seemed especially fitting with the extra wide and low stance the race prepped car had adopted. It looked as if some giant had taken a regular car and smashed it to half its height, causing it to bulge wide with a sinister stance.
Since Bo had no experience at Daytona, and the car was untested, the team co driver Dan Bergstrom took the wheel. Although it was less than they wanted, 18th place qualified them to race, and allowed them to get the bearings on the new car. Jan 29 the race began, and it became clear what a tall order the GTX class track record would be to break. The dominant Porsche 935s had been setting a blistering pace, including the pole at 1:43.104 by Rolf Stommelen. Bo knew he would need to get close to that figure in competition to win the bet.
Everyone seemed to forget this was an endurance race. The weather was their friend for a time but it also seemed to taunt all the competitors to frenzied speed. Although early traffic prevented anyone from nearing the pole lap time, it didn’t stop them from trying. This is the evergreen irony of the endurance race. Bo knew better than to enter that fray. He buckled down with steely determination to master the track and stay above the mayhem. By midday 11 cars had been eliminated from competition and this cleared the track for higher speeds. Just as he began to settle in consistent sub 2:00 laps it was time to take a break. He would have to make it in the afternoon session.
Just after 3, it was time for Bo to drive again. Translammed was doing well but the front bodywork had paid a price. The front spoiler was held on by speed tape and the brake cooling ducts no longer functional. He would have to baby the car to complete the race.
Nighttime was not going to produce the fastest pace and by morning, the car would surely be too tired for top speeds. He knew these next few hours would be his only chance. Settling into the harness, the track fell beneath him like a familiar friend. Lap after lap he sharpened his pace. Traffic was far less than the morning session and it was nice to let the car stretch its legs. Competition though, is never far from view. As he looked in the rear view mirror, the red and white 935 of Rolf Stommelen was closing. He had avoided sparring with the 935s in the morning session, but now the heat was upon him. He’d be dad-gummed if that air cooled monstrosity was going to put him to the side! Stepping up his pace the Porsche seemed to wane for a time, but he could not lose it. Just keeping him at bay would suffice.
Lap traffic is rarely a friend in the heat of battle and such as it was today. One of the Martini Lancias decided to lose an engine just at the end of the back straight. This was especially frustrating as the the long sweepers that followed were some of the fastest sections of the track and the smoke screen from the Lancia was going to kill that pace. Entering the first sweeper was a total white out. These are the moments that you pray there is not another car haplessly sideways in the haze. Slowing appropriately, the obstacle was passed but no! The Porsche had taken advantage, and gained precious ground.
Saving the car for the race was a hilarious luxury as the ominous 935 bore down in the mirror. Matching him turn for turn, Rolf was pouring on the heat. Approaching turn one after the straight was a suicidal game. Who would brake first? The Porsche had an edge using his draft as they approached 200 mph. The wall of turn 1 hurtled towards them as the 935 pulled to the outside. Momentum had carried him to within a foot of the translammed nose. He was attempting to pass! Holding his line, Bo clamped down on the brakes at the last possible second while the Porsche did the same. Two wide, they entered and exited the next few turns. The cars sharing delicate kisses as the drivers both fought with all their skill to prevail but not crash.
Onlookers stood agape at the dangerous ballet before them. The back stretch proved too much as the Porsche passed bo at the last second before entering the high speed sweepers. Rolf had proved to be over eager though, and the 935 drifted wide, hammering the rumble strips at an inoperable angle, and sliding momentarily through the grass. Bo witnessed it all in slow motion, each airborne speck of rubber and blade of grass seeming to wink and wave as they floated by. Impossibly, the Porsche regained control, but not before ingesting a gross of turf into the undercarriage. Bo blasted by, hurtling towards the front straight! But where was Rolf? He had taken to the pits to repair the damage. Victory! The 935 would have to fight another day! The next lap was a respite, but not enough. Debris from the incident had damaged the tire and bo limped into the pits 2 laps later. Grinning from ear to ear his teammates greeted him as they assessed the damage. Why were they so happy? His session had ended early and the flat tire had damaged the front brake line. Bo had been so preoccupied with beating the 935 that he had forgotten his goal. The fastest lap! Just before the incident he had turned a 1:46! As they prepared to go back out, Bo took a break and considered the good fortune. If it had not been for Rolf it was doubtful he would have pushed the car so hard. They did not finish the night due to further mechanical failure, and neither did Rolf. The remaining cars thundered on through the night and by morning the race was over. Bo had set the fastest lap in the GTX class! Little Enos was the first to congratulate him! “On to Sebring!” He said,
Heartily. “Me an daddy didn’t doubt you for a minute…. I mean, a minute-46… HA HAAAA!” He slapped Bo on the back, starling him with uncanny force for his size. “You know, we like under dogs -Bo. But why do you have to be so GOOD at it??! HA!”. Bo pondered this for a moment, Wondering whether it was a compliment or insult. He smiled to himself. “It’s good to be an underdog…”
Translammed finished out the season remarkably unscathed, and Bo checked off another bucket list item. The car was retired and put on display in Texas at the Burdette family offices. In 1988 it was parked in a barn at the family farm in Abilene where it was discovered in the condition you see it now. A rare unscathed piece of automotive history. TRANSLAMMED!