1978 Lightning, VIN Romlin 7, was designed by Roman Slobodynskyj and constructed at Don Edmunds Autoresearch facility. The "Romlin" moniker was a combination of Roman's first name and that of longtime Indy Car team owner Lindsey Hopkins. This car was originally owned by Teddy Yip, campaigned by Dan Gurney's All American Racers and driven by three time Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser. The car was first powered by a Cosworth, later by an Offy and then a Stock Block Chevy. This was a particularly fun project for me which cumulated with driving it over the block at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Arizona where it was sold!
The car as it arrived at my shop, as pictured below, after a successful shopping trip with Scott Daley (the fellow leaning over A.J Foyt's last Coyote Indy Car). Standing proudly next to the Lightning is my friend Mike Mullan who put this deal together to get the car. That fellow behind Foyt's car is my dear old Dad supervising the whole unloading process! Three cars were picked up on this excursion including an early Lola that was boxed up in crates! The Lightning stayed with me and the other two went off with Scott.
Here are some interesting shots taken at various stages of the restoration of ROMLIN 7.
A few interesting tidbits...Jimmy Schrum of Phoenix, Az. was responsible for recreating the outstanding graphics that were originally on the car. It should be noted that AAR was awarded the PPG Best Paint award at the Indy 500 in 1978 for this paint scheme!
A keen eye will also note the Edmunds Autoresearch ID tag on the front of the tub.
Another identifying mark on the left side of the tub was the USAC tech number etched into the left top side of the tub.
Back in the day these cars were completely hand built from designs that were generated not by computer but from the brain to paper!
The attention to detail and craftsmanship was outstanding!
These next few shots show where I had to modify the engine cover to work with the Chevy engine. When we got the car it did not come with the cover. Fortunately I was able to buy a new cover from Rolla Vollstedt who had the molds, as his cars were very similar to this one. However, as you can see from the big gap, this cover was designed for a turbocharged Offy engine, therefore I had to form some aluminum bits like this one to clear the injector stacks and some fiberglass sheet as well to make it all work and look correct.
Here a few shots of the car in my driveway after she was completed and running. Oh yes, I did take her for a run up and down the street to make sure she didn't miss a beat and that the Hewland LG 500 shifted properly...the neighbors loved it!!!
I also took her to a little car show. The Lightning along with Tommy Brawner's 1965 "Brawner Hawk" Indy Car that his uncle, the legendary Chief Mechanic Clint Brawner, originally built for the then up and coming "Indy Rookie" Mario Andretti. We decided to display these cars at a show in Fountain Hills, Arizona. The Hawk was powered by a normally aspirated 4 Cam Ford and was basically a copy of the Jack Brabham car from 1964. Mario qualified 4th and finished 3rd at the Indy 500 in '65 and took the "Rookie of the Year" honors!
These following photos are from the Barrett-Jackson Auction where I drove the car onto the block just after lunchtime on the Saturday of the event. Needless to say the sound of that unmuffled Chevy and the fresh aroma of Methanol Racing Fuel brought the crowd rushing back into the main tent to see what all the commotion was about! What a kick...look at the smile on the auctioneer's face!!!
And it's SSSSSold! Getting pushed back to the display tent by, left to right, Mike Mullan, Tommy Brawner (who graciously helped me out by operating the starter) and Larry Fleming who is Mike's cousin and was another customer of mine. Cool!
If you have any questions or comments I'd love to see them.
I should note, and observers with an acute eye will know, that the nose is not original as it was changed to a much more narrow version by Dean Vetrock who was the last owner/driver to try to qualify to get into the Indy 500 with this car. Although the car is gone, I still have a spare narrow nose as well as the original nose, spoiler and subframe...and it's just begging to become some type of retro art piece!!!