Cars have a way of wearing their intent on their sleeve. Low, and slung over white walls surely means the car was meant to cruise the boulevard. A straight axle and nose in the air? A gasser ready to do the quarter-mile with style. Wide wheels, wide rubber, coilovers, and a hidden roll cage? Those are the makings of a Pro Touring car.
Tread Ware’s project Tarantula however is a bit of a chimera – a fire breathing hybrid creature that looks as though it should be confined to the circle track. But this car knows no boundaries. It can also be driven on the street, parked at a show, taken around a road course, and sent down the quarter-mile, all without missing a beat.
It’s a vehicle designed to take whatever you throw at it and respond with mechanical laughter.
Dissecting the creature, Project Tarantula is, to some degree at least, a pre-war Chevy coupe. Found in 2016, the purpose-built look of this once-forgotten racer, immediately intrigued Tred Wear’s Michael Hunt.
Converted to an open wheel car sometime in the ’60s, Project Tarantulas’ racing history is, unfortunately, lost to time. As such, the livery you see on the car, though aged, isn’t original. Nor is it inspired by any paint scheme the car was originally campaigned under.
When the car was picked up via Craigslist, it was wore a combination of primers with a healthy coating of surface rust.
Creating the car’s new livery was no problem for Michael Hunt and Tred Wear, as their business is aesthetics. Using early hot wheels cars as inspiration, Tred Wear came up with this white, red, black, and gold color scheme.
After being brushed on, it was painfully obvious that a fresh version of the new paint job didn’t match the attitude the car carried. To better suit the cars old bones, the fresh paint was sanded in the same areas it would have naturally worn.
This gives the vehicle the look of a car that’s seen plenty of door-to-door action, sliding around a dirt track in small town USA.
Just because the weathering isn’t 100% authentic, don’t for a second assume that this vehicle is some sort of performance impostor.
Project Tarantula is a Power Tour veteran. In fact, much of the car’s initial shake down took place during the 2017 Power Tour. This is where the Tred Wear team realized the car’s miles per gallon rating isn’t the greatest, running out of gas no fewer than three times in as many days.
Originally designed to excel at turning left, the car needed its fair share of work to turn both directions at speed. In order to, as Tred Wear calls it, “de-circlefy” the car, the rearend needed to be centered, which meant the left axle tube had to have length added back to it.
In the front, a new suspension crossmember was designed, and the front, left, lower control arm was extended to match that of the right.
Though square, the Tri-Five-rail-based chassis did need some modification. Seemingly set up for a driver of 5’5″ or less, it had to be slightly reconfigured to better fit primary driver Michael’s 6’2″ frame.
Because we’ve also learned a significant amount about safety in the 50-odd years since the rollcage was invented, it was reworked as well.
Project Tarantula gets its name from the way the Hella lights resemble a Spider’s eyes when positioned in the Ozan Chassis Shop-designed front crossmember. Afco circle track coils hang off that crossmember, paired with RideTech coils in the rear to keep the car well planted at all times.
Wheels can make or break a project, and a vehicle like Project Tarantula can really only wear a race-inspired design. The challenge was finding wheels suitable for road use that also matched the car visually. Wheels that fit such a unique bill couldn’t be found in a catalog.
The 20×11 wheels on the car now, are in fact, one offs designed and built just for this car.
Bolted to Wilwood wide-five hubs, painted gold, and wrapped in massive 305/50/20 tires, these wheels are quite honestly the perfect choice.
The large wing on the back of the car is a new addition for 2018, added after the car proved to be more than a little tail happy on the road course.
That’s what happens when you take a circle-track car and force it to smooth out the complex corners of a road course. Tred Ware reports the wing does a great job of doing exactly what it was designed to do.
Saving the most brutal feature for last, a Hamner Racing prepared ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America) engine sits between the frame rails. Jeff Hamner originally built the mill in 1988, later freshening it up in 2010, before keeping it on figurative ice until the right vehicle came along.
It’s a 9.75:1 compressed and naturally aspirated four-bolt main Chevrolet, fitted with aluminum, ported-and-polished Brodix 867 23-degree Pontiac heads.
Inside the block are Wiseco flat-top pistons, a forged crank, forged connecting rods, and a Competition Cams 288-R10 roller cam. That foundation is joined by Comp Cams’ 1.5-ratio aluminum rockers and a big-block oil pump. The engine makes 505hp and 460 ft pounds of torque.
The engine, like the body, has been weathered to fit with the vehicle’s aesthetic. It sounds as good as you’d imagine with the un-muffled exhaust exiting right below the doors.
When purchased, the car’s radiator was mounted up front, but that completely ruined the car’s lines. Today, the radiator resides in the rear. A deck lid with a few holes bored into it, along with a dual electric fan set up, keeps the car cool, both at speed and sitting in traffic.
Inside the car is little more than seats, pedals, and a steering wheel. Carpet, radio, and even heat are reserved for other vehicles, not the Tarantula.
Equipping a mid-sixties circle track racer with what it needs for the street is no easy task, but we’re glad the team at Tred Wear saw it through to the end.
Angry and full of venom just like it’s namesake, Project Tarantula is a car you can’t help but smile when you look at it. It’s this kind of build that makes us smile. Take an old ’40s Chev and resurrect is at rat rod racer.