By Mary Lendzion
As a birthday present to himself fourteen years ago, Jeff Toepper purchased his 1969 Camaro.
He drove it on the street before beginning a top to bottom, front to back restoration of his classic car in his shop in Illinois, and when the labor of love was completed three years later, he drove it on the street some more. He was enjoying every minute of it, but when he attended an NMCA event in 2014 to help his uncle, Bruce Boyle, with his MagnaFuel Open Comp car, he decided that he wanted to take his car from the street to the strip.
“For my first NMCA race, I entered Nostalgia Muscle at Route 66 Raceway in Illinois in 2015,” said Toepper. “The car was still set up for the street with a stock 350 cubic-inch engine, a Muncie four-speed transmission and stock suspension, and I ran in the 14-second range. I was immediately hooked, and wanted to learn as much as I could about racing in that category.”
Toepper began making plans for his car, and they included hiring Begler’s Auto Repair in Illinois, to take his engine from 350 cubic-inches to 383 cubic-inches. He went on to back it with a new PowerGlide transmission, run wires with a Painless kit and add CalTracs to his stock suspension set-up, and with each and every pass, he became closer and closer to being even more competitive in NMCA Detroit Truetrac Nostalgia Muscle.
Over the winter of 2019, C&M Engineering in Illinois rebuilt his engine and his GM Vortec heads, and that helped Toepper haul to 11.75-12.00 elapsed-times, a win in Bracket 3 and a runner-up in Detroit Truetrac Nostalgia Muscle at the last NMCA event of last year, the 18th Annual NMCA World Street Finals presented by Chevrolet Performance at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indiana.
“Having my first Aerospace Components winner’s circle experience with the NMCA was pretty exciting,” said Toepper, who was accompanied there by his family, including his wife, Kim, and daughter, Paige. “I think a combination of things is what finally got me there, including the work I have done to the car, how it has become more consistent and my reaction time.”
After securing a sixth-place finish in NMCA Detroit Truetrac Nostalgia Muscle points in 2019, Toepper turned his focus to 2020. He replaced his mechanical water pump with a Meziere electric water pump, and installed a new Flex-a-Lite electric fan, a March Performance alternator bracket and a Painless relay set for his fuel pump, water pump and fan.
“That will help me cool the car between rounds while also freeing up a little horsepower,” said Toepper, whose car rolls on Billet Specialties wheels wrapped with Mickey Thompson tires and stops with Aerospace Components disc brakes.
He also outfitted his car with a new set of Moser 33-spline axles with C-clip eliminators and a new Moser spool, and installed into it a new rollcage from Rhodes Race Cars with some help from his friend, Shawn Hoger. Ready to sit on a new Procar by Scat Racing seat and belt in with a new safety harness from RaceQuip, he headed to his first test session of the year at US 41 Dragstrip in Indiana in May.
“I had some trouble with an alternator bracket mount and I needed a different belt for it, but I was still running in the 11.50-11.60 range without the E-Z restrictor plate or weight that I usually have to run on my index, and I was happy with that,” said Toepper. “After that, I took part in a Bracket race at Byron Dragway in Illinois, and I went a couple rounds there.”
While Toepper wasn’t able to make the recent 12th Annual Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals in June at Atlanta Dragway, he’s loaded up for the Nitto Tire NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl presented by HPJ Performance, July 30-Aug. 2 at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois.
“I look forward to taking part in the rest of the NMCA events this year,” said Toepper. “I hope to continue to progress as a racer, and I hope to end the year on a high note like I did with the win and runner-up last year.”