The phrase “just do and ask for forgiveness later” is how Jeff Lyman described the building of his street legal Jeff Gordon NASCAR car…and it worked! So what exactly does that mean? Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon, upon finding out about the completed car, had to legally agree to the finished car, with certain terms for Lyman to follow…of course. The problem arises from potential copyright matters and other legal headaches when building a nearly exact replica. Anyway, the story goes: when the car was completed and on display at the Syracuse Nationals, some 10 years ago, the NASCAR series was racing at Watkins Glen and Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon found out about it. Lyman explains, “There was a bunch of photography [at the Nationals] and it wound up in the newspapers and they found out.” And with that — it started — the lawyers and such, and after a lot of back and forth, an agreement was finally made.
The planning for the build started some 15 years ago when Jeff Lyman purchased a backup NASCAR car from the Busch Series. The Busch Series (now known as the NASCAR Xfinity Series) is NASCAR’s “minor league” series, often used as a proving ground for up-and-coming drivers. The cars are very similar to the top series, currently known as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The point is, this car started out as a real race car with upwards of 650 hp.
When Jeff purchased the car it had been stripped down, with no brakes or drive train, and had been in a couple of accidents too. The work then started to rebuild the car back as close to original NASCAR specs, but in the end, it had to be street legal. The build took 1-1/2 years to complete. There were many challenges and a lot of engineering that went into getting the car done, and there were several other companies that assisted in the build. Some of the challenges included fabricating the doors so they open like a tradition streetcar. Jumping through the window, like the race drivers do, wasn’t going to work. There is also an air suspension system that can raise and lower the front end as needed.
The graphic kit is an original from the same company that did it for Jeff Gordon in 2006. Shortly afterwards, the company wouldn’t sell these to anyone, other than race teams, so Lyman was fortunate to get it.
The engine is from a Hooters Pro-Cup Series car, which has been detuned to about 500 hp. It has a carburetor, like the NASCAR cars of that era. The transmission is still the original 4-speed manual racing transmission.
Jeff Lyman started a separate business, Jeffrey’s Custom Conversions, for building these street legal cars and several cars have been built for customers. I must say, being a long time Jeff Gordon fan, I was intrigued and yes, it crossed my mind until Jeff spoiled any possible thought when he said the cost for these cars are very high. Ok, how much can they possibly cost? …well north of six figures!
Words by Bob Sblendorio, Photos by Bob Sblendorio