He was your atypical racer. A corn and soya bean farmer, Carl Shafer began his professional career racing in the Trans Am series. He mainly drove Chevrolet Camaros, entered by Don Winters. Winding out some good results, he posted a fourth place at Road Atlanta in 1973. Then he began entering the Camel GT. He had purchased his own car, as did Mo Carter, and took on modifying the car. This ex-Chapparal Camaro had not been successful in the Trans-Am and he turned it into a car that could run with, and sometimes beat the Porsche fleet on a shoestring budget. The car grew wider and wider as the years went on, and Carl Shafer turned it into a real Porsche beater! The problem was that the transmissions would suffer from a lot of failures. The car was prepared in order to run both the Camel GT and the Trans Am series. It was a real rocket and could have been more successful, had Carl Shafer been backed by the GM. But it was never to happen, and he had to fight and rely upon some friends to pursue his relentless quest. He posted some very good results, as well as some victories, beating up Porsche stars like George Follmer, Hurley Haywood and Peter Gregg. Considering the fact that these guys were real factory drivers, you could guess that he really was an exceptional driver! Few private drivers could boast of doing the same. A fifth at Talladega was the best he could do in 1974.
Copyright Hal Crocker
Things would really get better the next year and At Road Atlanta in 1975. He qualified on the outside pole, but he was out of the race after five laps. He took a fifth place at Lime Rock, a 2nd place at Mosport, wound up the best lap at the Paul Revere night race and finished 5th at Mid America 2. At the Daytona Finale, he would run on a Porsche entered by Brumos!
The Trans Am '76 the rules were changed to allow the Category II cars, which included Porsche 934s, to be heavily modified. The Shafer Farms Camaro was modified to within an inch of its life and beared very little resemblance other than a similarity in body styles and a Chevy V-8 454ci big block was mounted. Carl Shafer won Trans Ams at Road America and Brainerd that year and took a 4th place at Mosport after leading most of the race, but George Follmer, in a Porsche 934, won the championship.
He was not as successful in IMSA, and was out of the race at Road Atlanta after leading the race. At Sebring, he was again running on a Porsche Carrera RSR with Jim Busby. They finished 8th overall but could have won, had they not lost a wheel while leading the race!. He did not win any race in 1976 and ended up the season driving a Brumos BMW 3.0CSL. In 1977, he ran another Porsche Carrera RSR at Sebring, with Tom Frank, but he only took a 7th. He went on modifying his Camaro, which was now a full-blown AAGT car with a huge wing and other aerodynamics features. He posted some good racing at Atlanta, taking a 2nd place, and Brainerd. But the transmissions again suffered. He ended up the season with a sixth place at Road Atlanta.
In 1978, he added a spoiler on the roof, to gain an aero advantage, but the IMSA stewards made him mount a 3-inch metal plate across the full width of the roof. Even modified to the limit, the four speed live-axle Camaro with the from sub-frame tied into the rest of the car via the roll cage could not match the turbocharged Porsches pace. It was an uneven challenge.
The required Chevy drive train was what kept it out of the winners circle. In 1977, Carl was getting ready to retire the car then as he could not afford the expensive mods. necessary to run with the Group 5 Porsche, especially as he was eating up even the best available transmissions and differentials at the time. As for the huge wing, the front end was modified in 1978, and the car appeared to have radically changed. Then he ran out of money and switched to a Gordon Oftedahl prepared Chevrolet Camaro. He would have kept running his car, but he needed some sponsorship that he never got. What a mess! He was very hard on the transmissions, which would break at a steady rate, but he was so good.
He ran the car out of friendship several times in 1978, where he was still the best of the non-935 brigade and then parked it. Fighting against the powerful Porsche 935s had become an impossible quest. He took a 3rd at Road Atlanta and a 4th at Brainerd. The car was entered both in IMSA and in Trans Am, but there was as much "stock" parts remaining as was required by SCCA rules, and they were more picky than the IMSA. The car was not a tubeframe car, and handled not that well. Carl's car was less radical than Greenwood's Corvette, and more stock than the Monza cars. But he was a true American hero, always trying to do his best with his own bucks.
Carl did not have the connections the Monza builders and Greenwood had, so what he did with that car was really amazing...
He drove for Gordon Oftedahl in the late 70s and early 80s, and posted some good results, but ran no more for the overall, as the cars were GTO cars. At that point, the Porsche 935s ruled the Championship. He was always amongst the best drivers in his class. He tried out a Pat Stairs' Chevrolet Monza once in the Hallett Trans Am in 1980, with no success.
In the 1980s, he again posted some interesting results, always driving the Oftedahl Camaros and Firebirds, but it was no more for the overall. He earned a 2nd place at Brainerd in the 1982 Trans Am. Then he would only run on an episodical basis. Always running strong, but his spectacular Chevrolet Camaro would never be seen again.
Much more later, he would be seen running a Cobra that he would enter in the Brian Redman International Challenge. One should remember the huge crash he was involved in 2005 at Road America. He was badly hurt.
From what I know, he passed away a few months later, which was very sad. We miss you so much, Carl.