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HCOTY Nomination: The Vallero’s Racing Porsche 912

Bradley Brownell December 15, 2015 Hooniversal Car of the Year 10 Comments



In previous HCOTY years, I’ve chosen cars that didn’t win favor with the Hoonitariat the Hoonstituency. I don’t think I’ve ever placed higher than dead last, but perhaps this year I’ve brought you a story that can beat that of “What Dat Teal Do“. The Vallero’s VW Werks drag racing 912 is perhaps my favorite story in all of automotive history. It begins with a young Ray Vallero drag racing Beetles against muscle cars in the late 60s, and ends more recently with a reunion. If you’ll allow me, I’ll lead you through the timeline of this story, and throw in a few anecdotes to convince you that this 50 year old Porsche, which was turned into a drag racing car in 1976, might just be the most Hoon-worthy car of all time.

I’m ashamed to admit that I’m a bit late to the game on this car. I wasn’t exactly alive when it was racing, and having grown up in Michigan, I didn’t hear much about Volkswagen Drag Racing lore. Once I moved out west, I started seeing bits and pieces of this car’s history floating out of the ether. I saw a photo of the Vallero’s 912, and decided to look them up. As it would turn out, the shop was/is based in Auburn, California only a 2 hour drive from my home base in Reno. Last spring I asked if I might be able to stop by and talk to Ray about the car he’d built in the 70s. As it turned out, it was a very good day. Ray was about the nicest guy I’d ever met, and while he didn’t really remember vivid details of the car, he had some good stories.


Ray told me about the first time the 912 showed up at a race track to run in the VW-powered classes. As soon as he got the car off the trailer, a flock of people gathered around, bringing the stewards of the race with them and shouting about legality. The Chop-Top 912 was certainly something different that most had never seen before. That can’t be legal, can it? After an inspection and assurance that the car was class legal, the crowd dissipated. As soon as everything had returned to normal, Ray essentially turned on a neon sign with his next move, and they were back to shout about legality again. The car was built as a ‘flopper’, and Ray had tilted the whole damn thing forward to access the engine compartment. He chuckled when he remembered the events of that first race.


In the early days, the car was known as the “R&S Express” as Ray had started a machine shop business with his friend Sandy Braden. While Ray was already a drag-racing nut, he developed the 912 partly as an advertisement for the shop. His previous Volkswagen racer, a Beetle he built in 1969, had run under the national record, splitting the timing beams at 11.41. The goal for this more aerodynamic Porsche was to get into the tens. I couldn’t find proof, seeing a few videos of the car running very low 11s, but Ray seemed to remember having broken that mark a time or two. If so, that’s wicked fast from a car with less than 2 liters of motivation in the 1970s.


While the car was the star, it was really the heart of it that made it so successful. This custom-built 1915cc engine was a masterpiece. These specs come directly from Ray’s records; The engine used an AS 41 case with 94mm AutoCraft cylinders and custom Weisco pistons. The cylinder heads were stock castings that had been heavily welded and machined with a “spread port” design and valve springs from a small block chevy. Because of weaknesses in the rocker arm studs, the cylinder head was custom tapped for 5/8″ course thread, and the studs reduced to 1/2″ at the rocker shaft. An FK89 camshaft, and trade cut cam gear, made the valvetrain operate at max efficiency.

Vallero VW pic - older

For longevity and lightweight rotating assembly, the engine used forged aluminum connecting rods of stock length with Chevy-style 2″ journals. The crankshaft itself was a custom weld-and-cut with custom counter weights. A high volume oil pump was sourced from Deano Dyno-Soar. Custom made lightweight aluminum push rods were used, which was unheard of at the time. Even the flywheel was custom machined by Ray to lose some precious weight. The engine spun to 13,0000 RPM in the mid-1970s, so you could say it was a success.

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After meeting with Ray, I’d planned to write something up on the 912, and the shop as it stands now. I had a great time, heard some great stories, and had plenty of material to progress with. Shortly after I got home, I received an e-mail from Ray’s girlfriend letting me know that the 912 had been found in a pretty sad state in France, and some of Ray’s friends had purchased the car to present to him later that summer. I postponed my story and looked forward to the day when Ray would be reunited with his old race car.

Ray and the Porsche

The reuniting was intended for an upcoming running of Bug-O-Rama at his old stomping grounds at Sacramento Raceway. Unfortunately shipping delays meant that didn’t happen. I kept in touch with those involved in the secret, but the unveiling was planned for a day when I would be away. I wasn’t there to capture the reuniting. Further plans were made for me to make a trip out to see the car in person, and chat with Ray about it again. He was going to revive it, take it back to the track, make it run again. As happens, things get in the way, and time passes. I never did make it back to Vallero’s, and he never did see the car run at the track again. Ray passed away last fall, suddenly. A light went out. The community lost a good one. I’d only met him the one time, but I knew he was a special character, and I wish I’d made time to go back.

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I am fortunate to have met Ray, and his legacy is still strong in the California Volkswagen community. He was a true Hoon, taking extreme and innovative measures in the pursuit of speed. We can all relate to that, no?


I did finally get to see the car in person this summer, as it was finally brought out to a Bug-O-Rama, sadly without Ray there to see it, and sadly still not running. The car is planned get back in running condition, but the timeline is unknown. Hopefully it’ll be back out and running 10s again in no time.



So I politely ask you to honor this beautiful and unique car by bestowing it with the title of 2015 Hooniversal Car of the Year. It deserves it.


[Photos: Vallero’s Archive, and Bradley C. Brownell]

  • CruisinTime


    • Bradley Brownell

      Would you care to expound on this comment?

      • CruisinTime


        • Bradley Brownell

          Consistency is key…


      Sir, you hit this nomination square on the head with your comment. Well done.

  • bigredcavetroll

    That’s a wicked fast 2.0L Porsche, and an even better story.

  • Sam

    13000rpm… 13,000…. wow

  • Kiefmo

    My favorite so far.

    I hope it does get restored, and that you can get video. I need to hear what a 13k rpm beetle mill sounds like. I need that in my life.

    • Alff

      Can’t get you to 13K … but here’s 9K.

    • GTXcellent

      My guess is that the pitch is so high, it’s above the human audio spectrum. You’d simply start bleeding out of your ears and suffer TMJ from the perma-grin spread across your face. Maybe it’s best to be left alone.



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