Saturday, August 22, 2009

If We Only Knew Then What We Know Now

Wouldn't it be cool to go back to High School knowing what you know now? Kind of like Michael J Fox did in Back To The Future. Street racing? I would have taken it to the tracks. (back then there were plenty) Auto shop? I would have paid more attention to my teacher, Mr. Love. Sports? I would have actually played some to remedy my dislike for them today. Cruising on Saturday night? I would have stayed out later and had more fun. Friends? I would have made more, lot's more. Heck, anyone got a Delorean they want to sell?

Sad to say I have only stayed in contact with a few friends that I knew when I was in High School. Ironically, most of them did not even go to my High School. One of my best friends was a fellow gear head like myself, and also a Pontiac lover. I have owned almost every make of car but my favorite by far has always been Pontiac. Many, many years ago my dad owned a '58 Starchief and I have a picture floating around somewhere of me sitting on the rear quarter when I was about 7 years old. Right after the picture was taken I actually remember breaking off the antenna! Boy was my dad mad!

In my youth, my life was void of Pontiacs until my friend Duane showed me his dad's '67 GTO. It had been stored in his Grandfather's garage for upteen years just waiting for when he turned 16. Can you imagine giving a 1967 Pontiac GTO, 400 V-8 with a 4-speed to a 16 year old? Yea right, ain't gonna happen today. We lived in a different world back then and things were just different. (they were, weren't they?) If my memory serves me right, I don't think the original motor lasted very long after Duane took possession of it. I'm sure it was old and wore out and had nothing to do with the fact the the driver was 16 years old. Really... honest... it could happen. Anyways, the motor needed rebuilding and we needed the experience, so out came the motor.

Back then rebuilding motors did not seem like that big of a deal. I remember putting every paycheck into my motors. You know what? They would get done real quick. Maybe it was the fact that we didn't have any real bills so most of our money could go right into our projects. When Duane's motor was done I was there to help install it. Putting in a new motor always brought everyone together. The more hands the merrier, especially if you were dealing with headers.

Believe it or not, that's me circa 1980 standing on the fender of my friend's GTO! Oops, I don't think any of us would do that today.

Live and learn. These cars were almost a dime a dozen back then. We use to see literally dozens of them in the local junkyards. Imagine running across junked GTOs, engines intact, some still sporting their tri-powers! Yes, we removed quite a few tri-powers from junk yard cars. You don't even want to know about the '69 Judge that got turned into a dirt track car, or the '69 GTO that I scrapped out just because I got tired of seeing it in the yard... My '67 factory 400, 4-speed Firebird that I traded for a Plymouth... My '68 GTO 400, 4-speed car that I sold to a friend on payments... all the tri-powers... Ram Air motors... 421 Super Duty factory cast iron headers... excuse me, I think I'm going to be sick.

We finally got the motor all in and hooked up. Awww, there is nothing like your first rebuilt motor. Believe it or not, my friend still has this GTO.

Although my first car was nothing to brag about, my second car was the one I wish I still had. I went from a 4 cylinder Triumph motor to a small block Chevy. The first time I mashed the pedal down on that 307 V-8 I was hooked. Talk about a cream puff, the car only had 28k original miles on it when I bought it. I literally bought it from a little old lady, only she wasn't from Pasadena, she was from down the street. I remember it still had the original spark plug wires, cap and rotor. This car was so grandma stock it was sick. After years of extracting as much horse power as possible from the 307, I decided to put a big block and a Muncie 4-speed in it. The engine of choice was a .030 over 396, better known as a 402. This was one wicked sounding big block. I'll never forget the night I got it running. In my haste to make it to the local cruise spot, I left the hood off and just bolted the mufflers directly to the headers. Man was this thing loud! I had also managed to tuck P305/50/15 BFG Radial T/A's under the rear on special offset Weld Racing wheels. These were the largest radial tire made at the time and it made the car look like it was mini-tubbed. I don't know what got more attention, the engine or the rear tires.
As I pulled into the Gemco parking lot it seemed like everybody standing around turned to look at my car. (in reality it was probably only around ten) I had 90/10 shocks on the front and Moroso springs so all I had to do was goose the throttle a few times. With the big tires and all that available torque, it didn't take much for the front end to lift. No air but it sure looked good. I'll never forget the song that was playing on the stereo either. It was Loverboy's Working For The Weekend. Funny how we can relate songs to certain times in our lives.

Other cars that I wish I still had and could kick myself in the ass for selling include:
1970 Plymouth Road Runner, 440 with a 727 torque flight.
1969 Camaro, factory Hugger Orange with hockey stripes, 350 with a TH350.
1970 Camaro SS396 Pro Street
1969 Chevelle SS396 with a 4-speed.
1968 Chevy II Nova SS 350 with a 4-speed
1967 Chevelle L-79 car, 327 with a 4-speed
1967 Chevelle 396 with a powerglide.
1969 GTO, 400 with a TH400 and his and hers shifter.
1968 GTO, 400 with a 4-speed.
1969 Firebird convertible
1969 Firebird, SOHC 6 cyl, 4 bbl carb with a 4-speed
1968 Firebird, 400 with a TH400 automatic
1967 Firebird, 400 with a 4-speed
1967 Mustang, 390 with a 4-speed and a 9 inch rearend with a detroit locker.
1964 Sprint, 289 V-8
1957 Chevy Belair hardtop, 327 with a 4-speed.
1955 Chevy Belair post, 396 with a Hooker conversion kit and a Muncie 4-speed.

Gosh, I never realized how many it was until I saw them all listed, and this doesn't even include all the variants of these cars that I owned. The last count was well over the hundred mark. Now I really am going to be sick. It's just like the title says: If we only knew then what we know now.

Here is my friend's car today. Still intact and recently running again with a fresh motor. Time has not been to kind on the exterior but the Pontiac is still wearing it's original paint. Duane suggested we recreate the original photo of us putting the motor in. I told him that I didn't want to crush his fender!

The car is safely tucked away from the damaging rays of the sun, rain, and prying eyes in a private hanger. Like all projects, time and money will determine when it's completed. As far as selling it, forget it. If it one thing we have learned it is the value of these muscle cars, and perhaps even more the value of our memories in them, which just might be priceless.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hell Freezes Over!

No, this is not a blog about the Eagles album from 1994. Nor is it about Van Halen reuniting with front man Sammy Hagar or GM changing it's mind about axing Pontiac. It is about the fact that my '72 Cutlass, Number 1, actually made it into a magazine! No, it was not Classic Car Trader either!

Here is the photo the magazine used, complete with their official moniker.
Grab the August issue of Popular Hot Rodding and check it out. I bought like a hundred copies. Just kidding, I only bought fifty. You know, that reminds me of the movie Splash when Freddie Bauer (John Candy) buys a zillion copies of Penthouse because his letter got printed in it. Real movie buffs will connect the hammer in the above photo with Splash also. Remember when Allen Bauer (Tom Hanks) is in the motor boat with Fat Jack (Al Chesney)? The engine dies suddenly and Hank's character starts to panic. Fat Jack tells him "Don't worry, I'm a mechanic, I can fix anything" and picks up this hammer and starts beating the crap out of the engine. I laughed so hard the first time I saw that I think I missed the next five minutes of the movie!

So what's next with Number 1? Progress is slow not only because of the lack of funds, but also because it is my daily driver. Any work has to be completed over the weekend. Add in a "honey do" list, other vehicle maintenance, home repairs, yard work, eating and sleeping, and... I think you get the idea. Shoot, I'm still trying to put on the ram air hood I bought for it over 2 years ago! I did manage to put the old grills back in. It had been so long I was trying to remember why I removed them in the first place. Then I remembered that I took them out to install a custom transmission oil cooler. (look closely, it's a refrigerator condenser coil) Talk about lazy, I never put them back in. I guess it took seeing the car in a magazine without the grills to get me to reinstall them. Considering most of the plastic mounting tabs were broke off, this was no easy task. I had to get really high tech and use zip ties. I owe Number 1 some body work, so I think that has to be next on the agenda. Now if only hell will freeze over again...