Thursday, December 24, 2009

Twas The Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the garage
Not a engine was running, not even a Dodge.
The valves were adjusted by the owner with care,
In hopes that internal combustion soon would be there.

The teenagers were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of street racing danced in their heads.
And mamma in her Starchief, and I with my tool chest,
Had just settled our cars for a long winter’s rest.

When out on the driveway there arose a bunch of valve clatter,
I sprang from the garage to see what was the matter.
Away to the roll-up I flew like a flash,
Bolting through the door in one quick dash.

The moon discs were reflected the new-fallen snow,
And gave the lustre of an Earl Scheib paint job to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a hot rod sleigh, with an eight cylinder John Deere.

With an old Nascar driver, so quick and steady,
I knew in a moment it must be Richard Petty.
More rapid than stock cars his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Jimmie! Now, Tony! Now, Jeff and Robby!
On, Clint! On, Casey! On, David and Bobby!
To the top of the race track! To the top of pit wall!
Now drag away! Drag away! Drag race away all!"

Just like the adrenalin rush you get when the green flag drops,
Lest you meet with an obstacle, after the clutch pedal pops.
So up to the top of the track the coursers they flew,
To make way for the sleigh full of parts, and Petty too.

And then with a back fire, I heard in the street,
The cackle and lope of a camshaft beat.
As I was about to go to bed, and was turning around,
Down the driveway Richard Petty came with a bound.

He was dressed in a fire suit, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with rubber and soot.
A bundle of car parts he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a racer, just back from the track.

His eyes covered with sunglasses, his smile how merry!
His mustache so signature, his ride always cherry!
And then when he spoke in his usual southern drawl,
His voice commanded attention, from one and from all.

The crop of a feather he had tight in his hat,
Never to be removed, not even when he sat.
He had a lean face and stood proud and tall,
With more guts then most and true grit most of all!

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the shelves, and then turned with a jerk.
Laying his finger aside of his nose,
Suddenly there appeared a new tool box from Lowes!

He sprang to his sleigh, and to his race team gave a thumbs up,
Away they all raced, like drivers competing for the Sprint cup.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

An original poem by Frank the Crank
©2009 Amberlight Garage

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wine Me, Dine Me, 1969 Me

OK, I know what you're thinking so get your mind out of the gutter. This blog is G rated and it's all about what I consider to be one of the greatest years in the muscle car era - 1969. To start things off and also make me feel sorry for myself, here are some '69 models that I use to own at one time or another:

1969 Chevelle Malibu (3 total)

1969 Chevelle SS 396, 4-spd

1969 GTO w/400, 4-spd

1969 Firebird Convertible w/400

1969 Grand Prix model SJ w/428

1969 Mustang Grande w/390

1969 Camaro (2 total)

I wish I would have had the hindsight to keep at least one of these, but that's the way the valve spring bounces. You know what they say, if we only knew then what we know now. Well, at least I can write about them. Let's take a trip back to 1969 and see what was offered.

1969 was a banner year for automakers. Believe it or not, only the AMC Ambassador and one model of Cadillac came standard with air-conditioning, even though it was ordered by the majority of buyers that year. This was also the year for major safety developments. Ford designed it's chassis so that its front would crumble at a controlled rate in an accident, protecting the occupants prior to the so-called "second collision". We now refer to this as crumple zones.
GM's safety contribution was guard rails that were imbedded in the sides of their full-size cars which were designed to deflect penetration by another car. Other less known facts from '69: Chevrolet offered an optional headlight washing system along with rear window defrosters on several makes, Pontiac offered the first radio antenna to be embedded in the front windshield, and several nameplates could be ordered with factory electric sunroofs, albeit at a substantial cost.

Here are some highlights of what was "new" for 1969 mid-size and sport coupes as compared to their previous year models:

1969 Falcon - Smaller fender lights, more spartan interior, and addition of a front disc brake system option. Top engine offered: 302 cid (210 hp)

1969 Nova - A pair of transmissions including the Torque-Drive, simulated fender scoops, instrument cluster, ignition lock, and no more Chevy II moniker. Top engine offered: 350 cid (300 hp)

1969 Rambler - No more convertible, "suspended" accelerator pedal, cable throttle linkage, and no more hard rubber batteries, as the transparent polypropylene battery case makes its debut. A Hurst option was also offered in mid-69, complete with big block power, 4-speed and ram-air induction. A plethora of performance options were available under "Group 19". Top engine offered: 390 cid (315 hp)

1969 Valiant - Full width grill, front disc brake option on all models, single tail lights, and door lock relocation. Top engine offered: 318 cid (230 hp)

1969 Belvedere - A convertible option, longer wagons, 2-way tailgate, a special ram-air package for the Hemi and 440, a "mod-top", 15 inch styled steel wheels, and a redesigned front end. Top engine offered: 426 cid Hemi (425 hp)

1969 Chevelle - Precision molded plastic grill, wider bumpers, ventilation for rocker panels, and power door locks. Top engine offered: 396 cid (350 hp)

1969 Coronet - Driver controlled ram-air, 318 cubic inch V-8, bucket seats that could be adjusted 160 different ways, and automatic speed control; AKA cruise control. Top engine offered: 426 cid Hemi (425 hp)

1969 Fairlane - Long stroke 6 cylinder, vinyl roof, "Cobra" performance package, two styles of wheels, trunk mounted battery, and "comfort weave" interior. Top engine offered: 427 cid (390 hp)

1969 Montego - A new grill, second generation emission control, dual action tailgate on station wagon, torque box on each wheel, 60 pounds of insulation and a locking differential. Top engine offered: 427 cid (390 hp)

1969 Cutlass - Turbo hydra-matic 350 transmission, 4-speed option and 2-way tailgate for station wagons, grills specific to each series, and no exhaust manifold heat valve. Top engine offered: 400 cid (360 hp)

1969 Rebel - New plastic grill, larger tail and back-up light package, "command air" ventilation system, redesigned instrument panel, and America's only overdrive. Top engine offered: 343 cid (280 hp)

1969 Special - Three grills for Special, Skylark and GS, 4-way power seats, GS 350 performance package, no vent windows, and a pedestrian warning light system. Top engine offered: 400 cid (340 hp)

1969 Tempest - A "wider track", new bumper, tail light and grill design, full instrumentation with hood mounted tach, functional ram-air scoops, special "Judge" option, ram-air IV engine available, and Hurst linkage no longer offered. Top engine offered: 400 cid (366 hp)

1969 AMX - Aluminized dual exhaust system, wide oval tires, larger 8000 rpm tachometer, 140 mph speedometer, and 4-speed transmission standard. Top engine offered: 390 cid (315 hp)

1969 Barracuda - Numerous changes in the grill, hood, and rear deck design, rectangular running lights, "Formula S" and "Cuda 340" performance packages, and a yellow flower print vinyl top option. Top engine offered: 383 cid (330 hp)

1969 Camaro - A little longer and wider then previous Camaros, new front grill design, 4-wheel disc brake option, torque drive semi-automatic transmission, engine block heater, rally wheels, simulated rear brake scoops, "endura" front bumper used on RS option, and an all new instrument panel. Top engine offered: 396 cid (350 hp)

1969 Charger - A "non-tunnel" fastback model called the "500" with a Hemi engine, 6-cylinder engine option, wood paneled dash and round gauges, electric sun roof, and a full choice of axle ratios. Top engine offered: 426 cid Hemi (425 hp)

1969 Corvette - Blacked out grilles, restyled tail lights, 4-wheel disc brakes standard, only production engine built that exceeds 1 hp per cubic inch, and a factory installed burglar alarm. Top engine offered: 427 cid (435 hp)

1969 Cougar - All new sheet metal, new grill, larger trunk and gas tank, fail-safe headlight covers, a convertible option, and a special scooped hood with hood pins when you ordered the ram-air option. Top engine offered: 428 cid (335 hp)

1969 Firebird - Redesigned front end, simulated air exhausts on front fenders, new instrument panel, full ignition locking system, "Sprint" option with an SOHC 6-cylinder engine, first year for "Trans Am" option, and a rubberized "endura" front bumper with a chrome center section. Top engine offered: 400 cid (340 hp)

1969 Javelin - Trans-Am inspired suspension, cable throttle linkage, Hurst transmission linkage, bigger V-8 available, and factory speed equipment available at the dealerships. Top engine offered: 390 cid (315 hp)

1969 Mustang - All new exterior sheet metal, dual headlights, ventless side glass, "Mach I" and "Grande" options offered, 3 inch wider interior, trunk mounted battery option, and new "traction-Lok" differential available. Top engine offered: 428 cid (335 hp)

That about wraps up my trip down memory lane. I know I left out the full size cars but I thought my list was pretty extensive as-is. Besides, I didn't want to bore you to death. Next up, you can look forward to my latest article titled "1979 - The last year of non-computerized cars" Just kidding, it's actually called "Front wheel drive performance machines of the 80's - Why you can't do a Rockford in a Citation"!