BACKGROUND on PROTOFAB:
Protofab was comprised of Bob Riley (chief designer), Bill Riley (asst. engineer), Charlie Selix (management), Gary Pratt (of Pratt & Miller) was a welder / fabricator, and Pancho Weaver (of Weaver Concepts Trans-Am cars) was also a welder / fabricator. From my understanding that was the entire staff.
Protofab Engineering was formed in late 1983 under the blessing of Ford Execs, in an effort to create an organization that could help them improve their racing image. They had fared badly against the DeAtley Camaros, which went 1-2-3 in the Trans-Am championship in 1983. Protofab built the chassis that the Ford-Roush-Protofab team used to win the 1984 Trans-Am championship as DeAtley fell well off their '83 pace.
In 1986, GM (Fishel) contracted with Protofab to develop a new Corvette platform to compete against the Fords. The earlier switch from the '83 DeAtley Camaro with a solid rear axle to the '84 DeAtley Corvette with independent rear suspension had not gone as well as expected. It was time to update, yet again.
THE “PROTOFAB” CORVETTES:
It is still not 100% clear how many Riley (Protofab) Corvette chassis were built and sold for IMSA/SCCA racing in the 1987-93 timeframe. The most favoured number is five....a number which is cited by Bill Riley. There is still some confusion on the body count, however, so if anyone has more info on the cars outlined here can certainly contact me directly at: email@example.com
Tommy Morrison, of Morrison Motorsport, appears to have had at least two cars. Two are fairly clearly identified as chassis # 002 and 004. Darrin Brassfield had one car running as # 88 (chassis number unknown). Two other cars (with or without drivelines) are thought to have been purchased...one each by Charles Hance and Luis Mendez. So that would make five cars. BUT, there is one fact that makes this count uncertain.....namely that there is one Morrison-Protofab car still in storage at the Warren Mosler facility and reported to be one of the 1993 Heinricy SCCA GT1 car. There may, in fact, have been six cars.
For the history of the Morrison cars, we know two cars were used in IMSA and SCCA TA. Pickett-Riggins were primary drivers on the # 2 car (for both IMSA/SCCA) and Wally Dallenbach Jr was the primary driver for the # 5 car, which also raced in IMSA and at least one race in SCCA TA. The “mystery” car at the moment is the # 97 car used in SCCA GT1 by John Heinricy (and others). Two cars or three?
The Darrin Brassfield car (# 88) raced exclusively in SCCA TA.
Two other chassis were reportedly purchased separately, by Hance and Mendez, but were never raced in the “pro” series in the USA.
The Morrison Cars
The first IMSA car to run as part of the in-house program was the #2 Pickett-Riggins IMSA car with MOBIL 1 as primary sponsor, in 1987. Tommy Morrison clearly owned this car and he indicates that this was the 2nd chassis built by Protofab. Bill Riley agrees and says it may have been one of the best they produced.
At the end of 1987 Protofab and Morrison more or less parted ways.
NOTE: This is also the point in time where Morrison was negotiating team management for the Brassfield SCCA TA car and carried his MOBIL 1 sponsorship over to that team. This arrangement didn’t last, however. They made it to the first race at Long Beach but that was the end of it. Brassfield took his car out of the Morrison folder and Pacific Racing was hired to manage his team for the bulk of 1988. They seem to have retained primary sponsorship from MOBIL 1, probably with some intervention by Fishel.
For Morrison, new sponsorship from Polyvoltac Adhesives emerged. Cars ran as # 2 and # 5, in the black and white livery of Polyvoltac.
For 1988, Morrison’s primary drivers were again Pickett and Riggins. John Jones ran with the team at Daytona. Jones also ran with Dallenbach at Sebring. And, for a couple races at Mid-Ohio and Mosport, the # 2 car was run (or tested) with a turbo V6; this arrangement did not perform to expectations.
Subsequent Owners / Race Activities
At the end of the 1988 season, the Morrison car was purchased from Protofab by Bruce Jenner, owner of Koala Springs bottled water company. Jenner also purchased the # 5 Dallenbach car. Almost immediately, the Koala Springs group was bought-out by Seagrams and it looked like Jenner’s racing plans might be scuttled. In the end, he negotiated a one-year sponsorship deal, as part of the sale. This seemed to allow Jenner to proceed with drivers for the 1989 year but, almost immediately, the cars began to be listed for sale.
For 1989, Richard Andison, John Jones, Hunter Jones ran the # 2 in the IMSA Sebring 12 Hour and various SCCA national events.
The Dallenbach car was run through 1989 as # 14 and 44 by Tom Moody and Steve Dymand (probably as rental drivers).
Again, information on internal team goings-on are hard to uncover but it seems that, somewhere along the line, there was a disagreement between the partners (Jenner/Andison) which ended in Andison owning the car. R. Andison was the Chairman/CEO of Powell Equipment, in Winnipeg MB) and the car ran under that sponsorship. Andison occasionally drove the car as # 2, in yellow livery, in the Central Division of the SCCA (National series events). The car was also driven by John Jones.
By the end of the 1989 season (or mid-way through 1990 ??) the Morrison (# 2 Polyvoltac) car was purchased by Rick Mancuso who reportedly paid $ 175,000. The car was returned to Riley and Scott in 1989 for a re-fresh and update. The car was then sold to Luis Mendez for somewhat more money. Luis Mendez ran the Puerto Rican, and possibly Venezulean GT series and the occasional IMSA in 1991 and 92 as # 68. He performed well in the IMSA races and finished 3rd at the 1992 race in Miami, beating out some of the “favoured” cars. In 1993, Mendez picked a ride in one of the Irv Hoerr built Oldsmobiles while his car was driven Tommy Riggins. Riggins crashed heavily on the second lap in turn 1-2 complex and severly damaged the front end. Luis Mendez had also built a second car using a chassis purchased from Protofab. Both cars were raced in the red and white Marlboro livery in the Panama GT.
After the 1993 season, Luis sold both cars to another gentleman, Carlos Rodriguez, in Puerto Rico. This gentleman also raced the cars and still has them. The red one is being restored (2013) and the yellow one is in storage. More info on these two cars is being solicited by Gerardo Vargas. Gerardo’s father drove the car at one race at the Rio Hato track (Panama) in 2002.
The Wally Dallenbach car (# 5) car was then sold to Charles Hance (Coast Corvette) with no engine, for his driver Bob Patch. When Patch stepped down from racing, Charles retained the car until August 2012 when John Goodman purchased it.
While Charles Hance owned the ex-Dallenbach car, he also purchased a rolling chassis from Protofab at the end of this vehicle sequence. He installed a body and GTP V6 engine that he had acquired. A few years later, he offered the car for sale and it was purchased by a collector/racer in Japan, named Ken Azawa...owner of West Racing. Ken did not want the turbo V6 so he had Charles Hance contract with Doug Rippie to install a big block. Hance paid Rippie to travel to Japan to assist Azawa in the set-up and tune of the car.
The Brassfield Car
Now, for the Trans-Am series, the ownership trail on the # 88 Brassfield car is quite straight forward.
Darrin Brassfield raced the full 1988 season and first four races of 1989. He had other commitments and went on to race NASCAR Winston Cup and CART in 1989. The car sat in Brassfield’s garage from 1990 to 2007, when it was sold to vintage racer Mike Haemmig. Mike still owns and runs the car.
NOTE: Bringing this story back to match the comments made in respect of the # 002 car, readers should note that Herb Fishel who had originally offered Brassfield a (Protofab) car. Although Tommy Morrison was also trying to negotiate with Fishel for some involvement in GM’s program for the ASA series, Fishel wasn’t as eager to have Morrison involved. As a result, Tommy bought into the Brassfield deal and, together, they formed Morrison/Pacific. From Tommy’s perspective, it would not be a big stretch to run 2 cars but, due to some personality and sponsorship conflicts, the deal unravelled. Brassfield hooked-up with Pacific Summit Racing for his race preparations and retained MOBIL 1 sponsorship.
Some Miscellaneous Notes on the SCCA TA Activities
It’s hard to keep chassis numbers clear but Tommy Morrison (working from memory) says that it was mostly the #004 car that was used in SCCA TA. Whether #002 or #004 Greg Pickett entered the 1988 Detroit race as # 21 and Dallenbach ran as # 65. Later in the year, there were numerous entries by Jack Baldwin, Tommy Riggins and Pickett using the race # 89....as each drove individual races.
For 1989 it is thought that the #004 car was the primary for SCCA TA. The car ran as # 90 with Pickett, Riggins and Baldwin driving (variously). Pickett drove solo at Detroit and won, somewhat upsetting Herb Fishel’s plans for his Kendall/Kneiffel Beretta.
Pickett drove it again in 1990 at Detroit but, for 1990 and 1992, it was mostly driven by Scott Lagasse. John Heinricy did most of the driving in 1991 and 1993 SCCA GT1. In 1993, Heinricy won the SCCA GT1 title running as # 97.
NOTE: Returning to the ownership issue, there is one Morrison-Protofab car still stored in the Mosler warehouse in Florida and was planned to be offered for sale at the Palm Beach spring (2013) Barrett-Jackson auction. Tommy cites this car as being the # 004 chassis and the one driven by John Heinricy to his 1993 GT1 championship but this conflicts with the idea that the car was sold to Bruce Jenner at the end of the 1988 season. This car is either a 3rd chassis or the car sold to Jenner was not the # 004 chassis. As it sits, it still wears the SCCA GT1 livery but that is not a conclusive indicator for tracking chassis numbers....panels are interchangeable. The car was not actually sent to the auction, however, and the car still rests at the Mosler location.