The "Monster Geo" Story

ice race director / Tag: Ice Racing, spotlight
Photo Courtesy Jimmy McGlade

If you build it they will come too … The “Monster Geo” Story.

For those of you that know Tom Smith, you know that he does not do anything by halves. Tom competes in many disciplines within the grassroots-racing world, and for the solosprint fans among you, you all are aware of the spaceframed, winged demon that plies the pylons in the summer months. So when he decided to build the ultimate ice racer to compete in the 2012 Magnum series in Minden, I kind of knew it would be something extraordinary to say the least. Planning of the build started in the heat of the summer, and it took six months of graft, blood, sweat and grins, to get it together.

With mother nature having her weird way this past winter, the series was delayed and a much needed two weeks was afforded for Tom to finalise everything. What resulted was nothing short of awe-inspiring. When I met Tom at the track to pre tech the Geo for the season there had been little or no seat time, so there were worries that getting the thing to move smoothly off the line would be a problem. With so many custom parts, he had set himself up for complete failure and had all intentions of setting the thing back on its trailer for the trip home. The fact is nothing failed, and there were big smiles all around the paddock. Attention to detail is Tom’s greatest asset, and he made sure that the car conformed to all the rules within the 2012 regulations, and more so, installing a full cage and fire protection.

The first indication that this was a wild build came when Tom needed assistance to roll the beast off the trailer, you see, there is no reverse gear. Secondly when it was finally on the ground it all came to light.  The recipe for success? Take a Geo Metro shell, remove the engine, and throw it away. Install the same engine from the aforementioned “winged beast” where the passenger seat used to be, make it four wheel chain driven, give it active rear steering and a sound that is nothing short of symphonic! (For those of us that appreciate the sounds of F1 cars gearing up or down into and out of corners, or the sweet whines of straight cut gears in a full-blown Rally car, this is a combination of both at 12.000rpm!). You see the Motor in the passenger seat is nothing less than a Yamaha R1 motorcycle engine hidden under something that looks like the robot from “Lost in Space”. So with 150hp sitting next to you and all the chain tensioners whining away it is no wonder that Tom needs to wear hearing protection under his helmet.

I asked Tom about what was actually under all the firewalls and bulkheads … His reply?

“I had lots of little hurdles to overcome in building it that most would never think of or notice. Lots of time spent measuring to try and locate the diffs at the correct height so the cv's could run with as little angle as possible to maximise their life. All 4 CV joints are custom so having them fail regularly would be a drag. Next on the list of challenges was relocating another front suspension into the rear, I had to remove the complete rear floor section to allow room. Lots more measuring to build the brackets that locate the lower control arms, (each side is different due to the diff offset, and the arms are angled to the chassis centreline further complicating things). The inner toe link locations were chosen to allow rear wheel steering assist, essentially controlled bumpsteer. The jackshaft provided a big challenge and involved a lot of machining before getting it to work properly. Custom cables and bracketry for throttle, clutch and shifter operation took up a lot of my time…”

So, it was not long after Tom’s first race, that it became evident that this was a crowd pleaser to say the least, from spectators and drivers alike it always drew curious onlookers. Needless to say the car went like a rocket and Tom’s awards from the 2012 season can attest to that. It was also so much fun to drive. I was offered a drive that first day but I declined, just check out the various videos on media sites and you’ll see.

Sadly, there were a few racers at the annual spring drivers meeting that thought that Tom was having too much fun, and the majority ruled for a change in the classing to give “Specials and Modified” cars back their own class, instead of competing in class four. Needless to say Tom was mildly annoyed. “Spec & Mods” will still run with the class four cars but will be scored separately for the 2013 season. Fortunately, at the end of the season and after Tom had settled into the reality a little, he had this to say on our Race Forum:…

“After much thought I decided today not to build another car for next year, more effort and cash for not much gain. Besides after so much work to not enjoy driving the geo would be a shame. Part of the decision came from a strange place actually, while driving home Sunday night with the Geo in tow, we stopped for fuel etc in Carnarvon and about a 10 yr. old girl rolls the window down and asks if that’s the motorcycle engined car? I say yes and she says it’s the coolest car and her favourite to watch. How can I ignore that?”

Waddayaknow! Tom will be back for the 2013 season with this awesome winning crowd pleaser, and who knows what improvements may be lurking under a bulkhead or two?

The last time we saw anything remotely similar in outside-the-box design, was the twin engined Toyota Tercel of the mid ninetys.  

Keep up the good work Tom and we’ll see you next year.

Andy Hughes
CASC-OR Ice Race Director.