HINO SAMURAI  By Ron Bianchi (Past owner - Text was dated at 2005.8.14)

I began racing sport cars in 1958 with the then California Sports Car Club soon to become a part of the SCCA Sports Car Club of America, then on to IMSA and an FIA license. 

Prior to that I had raced midgets both on the “Red Circuit” in the east with a few midget races in California.

My sports car racing career spanned well into the late 1970s, from production models to proto types..

Some of my most memorable starts and finishes were a first, second, and third in three different types (class’s) in four different Gran Prix’s for sports cars. 

For the most part I drove for automobile dealerships and private owners. In my career I have owned but two racecars of my own.

The most challenging was the Hino / Samurai

I was driving a Porsche at Riverside Raceway in California for a Mr. Bud Patterson when I first noticed what I thought was about the sharpest racecar I had seen in years.. The Samurai..

I went over and spoke to the owner. I had no idea it was Mr. Terry Hall whom I had raced against in the Porsche class several years before.

Terry was very disappointed having put a connecting rod through the engine block of the Samurai during his race in CSR, C Sports Racing.

Terry complained he just could not get the race package together and hinted that he might sell the Samurai project.

Several months passed. I looked for but did not see the Samurai entered in any races. I called Terry and was told the package was for sale, was I interested? An appointment was made and a deal was struck. 

There were literally hundreds of spare parts but no manuals available. Of the four engines, all stripped, there was a push rod engine and parts for three twin cam engines, plus the blown engine in the chassis. The side windows had been removed, there had been slight but repaired damage to the nose section.

I took the Samurai to my shop where it sat for the remainder of the race season while I continued to race for Bud Patterson in his Porsche.

I was introduced to a mechanic that said he could put a twin cam engine together from the parts for the new season.  He would set up the chassis and go through the braking system. After many delays we entered our first race about one quarter into the season with disasterest results. The engine did not develop enough horsepower, the brakes were less than what I expected and the chassis was a handful to try to control. I tried another mechanic with the same negative results.

I was contacted by a race engine company that was interested in installing a Fiat engine in the Samurai for exposure to their engines. The working relationship was not there!

I decided to form my own complete race team.

The first thing was to talk to camshaft companies. I settled on one and had them profile a set of camshafts. Then it was off to a race engine machine shop. This engine was assembled, dyno tested and showed promise but I was not comfortable with the power band. The engine seemed to be more in tuned to a dragster engine.

The first race with the new engine and the qualifying went fine. During the race the engine went flat, lost power.

Back to the drawing board and a new cam builder. This one knew exactly what I needed!

After a complete rebuild and during the installation of the engine into the chassis late into one night we developed a heating problem. A gentleman was standing at the opening to our garage looking at us work. He asked what the problem was and could he lend a hand. The guy was fast and in no tine had located and fixed our problem. I felt I owed him something but he refused any payment. I extended him an invitation to be my guest at the next race to be held at Riverside Raceway, which he accepted. I picked him up at his home at the appointed time. For the remainder of the day at the racetrack he was not to be seen. We had a fourth or fifth place finish as I remember. As we were loading up he returned, when we arrived at his home he invited me in to meet his wife. Both spoke with a heave accent, I found she was from Holland and he had been raised in Germany and Holland. I asked if he was into racing. Both looked at me strangely, I was invited to look at Mr. John Hamilton’s trophy room. The room was full of trophies and photos of John with the Mercedes racing team. Seems he had been a 550-motorcycle champion in Europe, joined Mercedes with the race development department and was into his son Freddie driving twin-engine go-carts. Freddie had several wins and possibly two go-cart championships at the time.

John joined our team of one! The guy was a past master at machine work and preparing a racecar but light on engines.

I was told about a young man just in from England that was working in a local Jaguar service department that “may have a racing background”. I called and spoke to a Mr. Paul Albertson; an appointment was made for a meeting at our race shop. Paul did not show. Several evenings later this un-likely looking thin, about a hundred pounds soak and wet guy with a thick British accent entered the shop. Apologized and said his wife would rather he did not get involved with the race crowed again. Paul had letters of completion and recommendations from International race drivers and had worked for the Cosworth race engine department verified by a portfolio he carried.

Paul joined our team of two.

Next came Paul White. Paul was into tires, compounds, pressures, etc.

Enter Paul W. into our team of three.

For the next race season we tried to sort the Samurai out. It seemed we could not finish a race. We would qualify well in front then things would start it happen. I lost the brakes in one race, an oil line coupling broke costing an engine, a brand new throttle cable bound during a race while the peddle was full on the floor, one more engine, we replaced the rear up-rights with brand new magnesium ones, the right rear one broke during a race sending me into a wild ride, I lost fifth gear while leading, a brand new right rear tire went down during a race, I would enter a corner at the same set up and without warning the Samurai would, snap, swap ends going into a hair raising skid or spin, I had a solid first place when the engine blew on a back straight away on the last lap.

Paul A. was trying to get all he could out of the engines but he felt we were on the edge but not there yet. I was about to give our engine project up. 

During one of our post race meetings at the shop I was convinced into keep going with what we had. 

I decided to contact Ed Iskaderian the cam builder. I had used Ed’s cams in my midget days. Ed asked me to bring in the engine specs. I was introduced to a Mr. T. Willie Hutchens who was instructed to do a work up for my engine. In about an hour T. Willie came in and said they could produce two sets of cams, one for a maximum of 8200 RPM, the other for a maximum of 9200 RPM, both with a power band of 2000 RPM. Ed waived the price “for old time sake” if I would put his decals on the car, with the promise to supply cams “till we get it right”.

A couple weeks later U.P.S delivered the four “new cams”.

Paul A. did his magic with the engine. On the dyno run the engine came alive and developed the H.P. we were looking for.

I had always been into chassis tuning and decided to visit Red LeGrande’s racecar shop, and the manufactures of the Samurai chassis. Red had produced several winning chassis.

After several discussions with Red I decided to go it on my own and re-do the suspension. I had read and studied the results of placing the attachment points for the rear A arms as close to the center of the rear frame as possible. We completely re-worked the suspension.

John had completely up graded the braking system; Paul A. had the combination to developing H.P. Paul W.  knew what tire compounds and pressures we needed of track conditions. I had dialed in the chassis.

The next step was testing.

We went to Willow Springs Race way in California to do our testing. By the end of the day we knew we now had a competitive racecar. 

The very next race we finished first in class. 

For the next four years the Samurai never failed to finish less than fifth with a total of over twenty-five first and about half again as many second place finishes, with two class championships.

I had made a personal promise to myself that when I tiered of racing I would stop.

During a race at Riverside Raceway as I was coming down the back straight away I asked myself what I was doing. My foot came off the throttle, I headed into the pits, and the crew came over the wall wanting to know what the problem was. I said simply “we are through racing”.

I re-located to the southern part of the United States where the Samurai sat in a rented garage for several years.

Mr. Peter Brock the designer of the Samurai and a prominent figure with the Hino / Samurai racing project, among other outstanding race cars, contacted me several times wanting to know if I would sell the Samurai. I knew Pete from being around the Shelby Cobra operations. Pete is well known for the Shelby Cobra, GT 350 Mustang as well as the Shelby Daytona Coupe. Finally Pete and I agreed on a price and the Samurai was his once again. Pete in turn sold the Samurai to a Japanese gentleman I had the pleasure to meet and entertain at my home, a Mr. Satoshi Ezawa. 

Satoshi contacted me and said he had purchased the Samurai, would I be agreeable to him coming to America to discuss what had been done technically to turn the Samurai into a winner.  

I am still in contact with Satoshi. It is my understanding that the Samurai has been totally restored and is in the Satoshi Hino collection. 

(Originale Text by Mr. Ron Bianci - 2005.8.14)

20190826 Samurai by Bianci

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