THE MISTRESS AND THE TEACHER
DON KURAMOTO IS A QUICK STUDY
Don Kuramoto is a Quick Study
DON KURAMOTO WAS DESTINED TO BE A TEACHER. In 1976, Don began his career as an automotive technician. After nearly 20 years of working on cars, he made the first of many life-changing decisions. In 1994, he moved from San Jose, California, to Phoenix, feeling like Jimmy Buffet: “Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes.” According to Don, “I just like the weather in Phoenix.”
Then in 2011, Don made another major decision and became an instructor at Glendale Community College’s Automotive Repair Program.
Coincidentally, about this same time,
Don decided to get back into drag racing. He’d raced in his younger days, but “retired” in order to focus on his career. He blames this decision on his friend, Joe Landavazo. “Joe had a car he was racing and asked if I wanted to come out to Firebird and watch one Saturday. I did, and the rest is history.
“I always wanted to have fast door cars,” Don said, so he bought an F-Body Mustang, with a long-range plan to compete in Pro Mod. Although the Mustang was more of a Top Sportsman car, Don needed a place to start. A string of cars followed, including a
Dodge Dart, a dragster, a Camaro and his latest, a McCoy-built ’63 splitwindow Corvette modified by Jerry Bickel.
“The Corvette was built as a Top Sportsman car, then it was sent to Bickel for updates so it could run in Pro Mod,” Don told Drag Racer. Don was also drawn to the McCoy-built Corvette because of its removable body. “It takes us about 10 minutes to take the body completely off the car, which makes working on it so much more efficient.” Observing Don and driver Joe Landavazo quickly and efficiently remove the body from the chassis, it’s a wonder other car builders don’t apply the same design concept.
Don also had a plan to run Pro Mod with a different slant to his program. He reached out to Sonny’s Racing Engines and purchased the K-2 of mountain motors, 959-ci of Sonny Leonard artwork.
The plan was to run the car “all motor” with a Powerglide trans.
After initial testing and consultation with crew chief Mike Dever and Pro Mod standout Dennis Radford, a six-stage Speedtech nitrous system was added to the combination. This was done with great care because the amount of power produced by Sonny’s engine is not always kind to Powerglide transmissions. If this engine/transmission combination doesn’t perform as anticipated, Don will switch to a Lenco trans and a Bruno drive unit.
Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor, and attended to with diligence. —Abigail Adams
The silent force behind Don’s racing career is his wife of more than two decades, Sharon. She is supportive, and as is true of many racers’ wives, she’s the voice of reason. Sharon has the ability to see things both from the 30,000-foot level and from the hand-tohand fighting perspective. She is also the one who gave the car its very catchy name, The Mistress.
This Mistress has many suitors vying for her affection. Besides Landavazo, Dave Armstrong and Dennis Radford are scheduled to drive the car for the Kuramotos at various events in 2018.
Don is also planning to succeed in legal Pro Mod competition, starting with investing in one of Sonny’s 903 cubic inchers. The
959 will see action on the Outlaw circuit.
Safety always comes first, so the Corvette features
ISP pads and a poured seat, along with RJS safety belts and Simpson Race Product ’chutes. Racepak equipment is installed throughout. A Waterman Racing Components fuel pump feeds the 959, and Racing Electronics radios keep the team in contact on the track.
The Sonny’s power passes through a Powerglide transmission (Reid case, Geker internals), connecting to a Mark Williams rearend. American Racing wheels hold on to Hoosier rear tires, and steering is the responsibility of MT front-runners.
Don is now a willing pupil, The Mistress his teacher—and class is definitely in session.
The McCoy/Bickel ’Vette in its deconstructed mode. It makes maintenance so much simpler.
The justifiably proud trio
(L to R): Don and Sharon Kuramoto and Joe Landavazo.
In spite of its take-apart properties, the ’63 ’Vette’s body lines remain straight and true.
Sonny Leonard’s finest 959-ci aluminum features a six-stage Speedtech nitrous system and Waterman fuel pump.
The well-engineered interior features an ISP poured seat and pads, Racepak gauges and a Reid/Geker Powerglide.
A Mark Williams rearend easily handles the ample Sonny power.