Westminster's Little adds suspension to drag racing


November 12, 1995|By Stanley Dillon | Stanley Dillon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Ron Little has been involved in motor sports for more than 20 years.

He has been a builder, mechanic and driver in both oval track and drag racing. The versatile Westminster native has just finished building a new dragster that may revolutionize how future cars are built.

Little used his past experience in dirt oval track racing to build his dragster. While the conventional long sleek dragster does not have any suspension, Little's prototype does.

His new design has a four-link coil-over suspension system with shock absorbers. Now, instead of the dragster flexing on its chassis, it comes from the rear suspension.

"Being from circle tracks, I feel I have a more rounded view of what makes cars work," said Little. "Dragsters make turns, too. There are a lot of things that apply to both types of racing."

Ten years ago, Little starting using weight and percentages to scale cars out, a procedure that was common in oval track competition. Today, more and more chassis builders and car owners are setting up their chassis on scales to distribute the weight proportionately. Now, Little has introduced a different suspension.

The four-link dragster chassis has been as successful as Little felt it would be. Earlier this year, he drove his new design to a runner-up finish in the first time out at 75-80 Dragway. Three weeks later he won with the car at Mason-Dixon Dragway.

The car has more than met all of Little's expectations. It is faster and at the same time safer.

In the conventional dragster, the chassis had to absorb all the vibration from the engine and the track.

Sometimes this would cause the long dragster to sway in the middle. Most of the time, the sway tended to be the greatest at the end of the run when the driver attempted to make a fast stop after reaching speeds in excess of 150 mph. Little's design dampens the vibration with the suspension in the back.

"There's no doubt its a better, safer, smoother car. It's just a little more expensive," said Little. "I jumped in my car the first time and turned the quarter-mile in 8.15 seconds, a little over 171 mph. It is plenty fast.

"The car is extremely quick, it is quicker coming out. The 60-foot times are real fast, in the 1.10- to 1.14-second range. It is most impressive in getting the car to slow. The car works real real well."

Little started in late model racing in 1974 as crew chief for Bill McClelland of Westminster. Together, the two raced three nights every week on the KARS circuit at Williams Grove, Selinsgrove and Susquehanna speedways.

In 1980 after winning the KARS championship, Little switched to drag racing where he started working as crew chief for Charlie Garrett of Hanover. Garrett has been one of the top pro drivers in the country and in the early '80s set several national records. While working as crew chief, Little built and worked on other cars in his spare time. In 1984, Little started his own business, Little Automotive and Fabrication in Littlestown, Pa.

While Little has been mostly a car builder and crew chief, he has raced dragsters as much as time permits. This gives him good feel for how his cars are performing.

But given a choice, his love is in building a car and making it work.

"I like working with the car the most," said Little. "I enjoy the challenge of beating the other guy mechanically, then driving comes second to that."

Little builds anything for drag cars, but it is his work with the dragster that has brought him the most recognition. It takes Little about four weeks or 160 hours to build a conventional rolling dragster chassis ready to go without the motor. It takes an additional 40 hours to build one of his innovative dragsters. He already has built four of the link suspension dragsters this year.

Little also depends on experienced drivers for feedback on his cars. Chuck Taylor of Westminster finished the year in Little's dragster and drove the chassis in the bracket finals at Maple Grove that provided Little with valuable feedback and exposure.

Weekend results

On the drag racing circuit last weekend, Joe Mayne of Mount Airy went to the semifinals in Class I. Cold weather forced cancellation of the final round and Mayne split first-place money with Troy Blair of Ijamsville. Jamie Talbert of Taneytown won Class I at Mason-Dixon Dragway.

On the oval track, Charlie Schaffer of Hampstead finished second in the 50-lap Delaware State Late Model Championship at Delaware International Speedway.

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