Sunday, April 12, 2020

The American Ride

I ran across this short film by Motorsports Molly, it kind of has an American Graffiti vibe to it. I thought it was very cool, check it out...



Wednesday, March 18, 2020

FranktoidTM No. 21 - Cancellations are now a Pandemic

As I write this from my isolated room, on my freshly disinfected keyboard, sipping herbal tea laced with honey and self quarantined in my house, I can't help but wonder what is next? I just received an email that a car show I was registered for in early April has been cancelled. Another notification said this upcoming weekend's Cars and Coffee was also cancelled. The more I looked, the more was cancelled. Nascar, cancelled. Long Beach Grand Prix, cancelled. Monaco Grand Prix, cancelled. NHRA, cancelled. Supercross, cancelled. I could go on and on but I think anyone reading this knows the impact that COVID-19 is having globally. Is it fear or precaution that is driving us? Whatever it is, it's having a heck of an affect and is starting to concern me to the point of worry.

We all have a front row seat in this and are witnessing unprecedented events that are unfolding all around us. From collapsing financial markets to the closing of restaurants and everything in-between, it's the stuff of nightmares. Some folks blame the media, some blame the man in the White House, and others simply blame mankind. With all the finger pointing it is easy to forget what is most important - you.

We are all in this together. I was really hoping that people could put aside their political differences as this pandemic wanes on but there are more then a few individuals that are showing their true colors. Even worse, there are subhumans taking advantage of people during this time. Currently things are very fluid and there are a lot of uncertainties and unknowns, like the future of my job. What I do know is that we will get through this, I don't know exactly when, but we will, although there is likely to be more cancellations before we do.

I wish all of my readers the best of health. Please stay healthy and lets fight this together, and if it turns out to be a big nothing burger, then at least we didn't throw caution to the wind. With a little luck and a lot of faith maybe we can cancel this virus!



Saturday, February 15, 2020

North Main - Chapter Two

Shortly after my shenanigans with my sister's Mustang I was told that I was not allowed to drive it anymore. This was probably for the best as I had also recently performed my own testing with the car to see if it would actually do 160 MPH, because that was what the speedometer maxed out at. I mean, why would they put it on there if the car wouldn't do it, right? At least that was my thinking at the time as best as I can recall. I decided to conduct my test on a long stretch of a two lane road that was buried back in the orange groves near my house. It only had one stop sign and that was towards the end of the road where it made a sharp right. Staging the car at the opposite end of this road, I did absolutely nothing to prepare for my top end speed test. Tire pressure checked? Nope. Lug nut torque? Nope. Engine oil level? Why? I did check the fuel gauge prior to departing and managed to put $3.75 worth of gas in the tank. I was also very safety conscience and actually used my lap belt. What could go wrong with bias ply tires and manual drum brakes? I think I was reading too much Mad Magazine because Alfred E. Neuman was definitely having a negative influence on me. What, me worry?

In the end my top speed test was successful, sort of. I did manage to bury the speedometer needle at the 160 MPH mark, or at least that was where it was bouncing to. I know I was well over 100 MPH and was fixated on the speedometer, and not the road ahead, when I suddenly realized that I was very quickly running out of road. That stop sign was coming up faster than a Japanese bullet train and I needed to get that Mustang stopped now! Luckily I did not panic and mash down on the brakes, but rather I slowing starting braking at first and gradually increased my pedal pressure. The only problem was that I wasn't really slowing down, at least not as quickly as I had envisioned. I could now clearly see the stop sign ahead of me, glowing red in color, almost as if by anger. Why wasn't I stopping? More pedal pressure, then more pressure, then with both feet pressing for dear life on the pedal. I witnessed a car drive across the road at the stop sign ahead, the very same stop sign that I was barreling towards! The interior of the Mustang reeked of hot brakes and I was pulling on the steering wheel with my hands so I could exert even more leg pressure on the brakes. Suddenly both front tires locked simultaneously and the car started to skid like it's on ice, right through the stop sign! I swear it happened in slow motion because I could totally see the stop sign to my right as the Mustang seemed to slowly skid past it. Stopped at the intersection was a nondescript Plymouth of some sort. I could clearly see the driver's angry scowl on his face as I skidded through it. Ours eyes locked for a second and I saw his squint a little, and then I noticed the white collar and black shirt. He was a priest! Not only was I going to die but I was going to hell as well!

The Priest in the Plymouth continued on his journey, probably upset that I had caused him to take the Lord's name in vain, but unfazed. I wish I could have said the same for me. Remember what I said earlier about the road making a sharp right? Well, the Mustang ended up skidding through that turn and straight into a dirt berm. As luck would have it the stang ended up mostly climbing up the berm. I say mostly because that bit of off-roading did not come without some consequences. After rolling off of the dirt hill backwards I finally brought the car to a complete stop and quickly got out to assess the damage. To my enormous relief all that I noticed, besides the stench of hot brakes, was a bent front bumper. The bumper was actually still fairly straight horizontally but was bent vertically at an upward angle. With smoke still coming off of the brakes I fired the engine back up and headed for home, too full of adrenaline to be scared over what had just transpired. As I was driving home the adrenaline started to wear off and was quickly replaced by fear. How the heck was I going to explain the bent front bumper? My sister would be livid! My dad would be pissed! I would be in big trouble!

It has been reported that people in fear for their lives can suddenly sum up super human strength. That is what I needed to straighten out that front bumper, or did I? Maybe all that was needed was super human thinking because as I was taking the long way home, in hopes of coming up with a good excuse, an idea suddenly popped into my head. I quickly made a detour to a local parking garage and after a brief search found the exact parking spot that I was thinking about. The space in question had a large, low cement out cropping that created a pocket of sorts at the head of the parking spot. I would see cars nosed in there, the concrete hovering only a foot or so above their hood. This would be perfect for my idea! I figured that if a bumper jack worked from the ground up, it should also work from the ceiling down.  Do you see where I'm going here? With the Mustang nosed into that spot I pulled the jack assembly out of the trunk and proceeded to use it on the front bumper, upside down! That low, concrete overhang worked perfectly. I had to move the jack around to a few different spots on the bumper to get it even, but before long that front bumper was just about as straight as it had been before my "accident". Thinking about it now, it's kind of funny how I was so worried about the front bumper when I probably also boiled the brake fluid and crystallized the brake shoes from heat. Ignorance is bliss...

Now that the Mustang was off-limits to me and my dad was driving the only other cool vehicle we owned, the Datsun mini truck, I was left with the family station wagon to drive to school. It was either that or take the bus! My jonesing for my own car continued and was made even worse after I had went for a ride in my best friends 1967 Pontiac GTO. It originally was his dad's car that had been carefully stored in his grandfather's garage for years and then was given to my friend Duane on his 16th birthday. The goat was equipped with a 400 cubic inch V-8 and a Muncie 4 speed transmission. Just what every 16 year old needs, right? Well on this particular ride along Duane had just finished installing a tri-power carburetor setup on the goat. This time it was me riding shotgun as we took off down the street, slowly at first, and then Duane mashes down on the gas pedal and starts rowing through the gears on the Muncie. As he revs the Pontiac big block dangerously toward the tach's red line, I was suddenly transported back in time to when I was riding in my cousin's Camaro, as the g forces pulled me once again mercilessly into the black vinyl bucket seat. Just like when I was 10 years old that feeling of raw horsepower overtook me and left me wanting more. The roar of the big block V-8, the shifting, and the multiple carbs! I could actually hear the carburetors sucking air or maybe that was me trying to catch my breath... It is hard to put into words all the emotions that are felt but if you have ever been in that situation you know the feelings I am trying to convey. After this thrill ride I vowed to somehow procure my own ride come hell or high water.

 I begrudgingly drove the station wagon to school daily and parked it in the back parking lot as far away from everything as possible. Now I know some wagons can be cool but this one was the farthest thing from cool and big enough to hold a baseball team. My family just happened to own one of the largest vehicles General Motors ever made, a 1970 Chevrolet Kingswood Estate station wagon. Heck, even the name is long! This thing was a tank and built like one also. Optioned with a 400 cubic inch engine, a TH400 transmission, and a third row seat, it rode on a 1/2 ton truck suspension and also used the brakes and rims from the same. To make matters worse, it also had a luggage rack on the roof and stickers on the rear side windows from all the states we had traveled to in it. And, for a finishing touch, a "Have You Dug Wall Drug?" sticker was plastered on the rear bumper. If this were not enough incentive to get my own car, I don't know what was. As it turned out I would not have to drive this bulging behemoth for too long as I had recently spotted a very cool looking car in my neighborhood that I was hoping I could talk the owner into selling to me, but I was about to discover that I was not the only one looking at this particular vehicle...


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

North Main - Chapter One

My first real performance car that I rode in was my Cousin Mike's 1972 Chevy Camaro Z/28. If I remember correctly I was about 10 years old and didn't know squat about cars. My cousin was in the Navy, stationed in Southern California, and had just bought a bright red Z/28. It was equipped with the optional LT1 350 small block V-8 and a Muncie M-22 "rock crusher" 4-speed manual transmission. While on leave he drove it to our house and offered to take my dad for spin. When Mike asked me if I wanted to go I couldn't say "heck yeah" fast enough! I thought this was so cool. A chance to hang out with the guys and listen as they talked car stuff. I could have smelled the testosterone in the air if I even knew what that was back then. As all three of us walked out of the house and towards the car it was suddenly happening in slow motion for me, like in the movie Armageddon when the astronauts are walking to the space capsule. My first ride in a muscle car and I couldn't wait!

Before the ride began my cousin went over the finer points of his new ride which included popping the hood and showing off the engine compartment. Typical Navy guy, all technical and knowledgeable. My dad and him talked mechanical Russian, as in I didn't understand a thing, so I just stood there and pretended to understand. After what seemed like a Catholic High Mass the mechanical tour was over and we were ready to take "the drive". Dad was riding shotgun so I was regulated to the back seat. Sitting back there on the recessed seat cushion behind a high back bucket seat, I really couldn't see anything, so I scooted over and sat on the hump in the middle of the back seats. To this day I can still see the shifter vividly in my mind - a brushed aluminum Hurst T-handle on a shiny chrome lever poking out of the center console. A mesmerizing site of pure mechanical brawn for a 10 year old. When my cousin fired up the engine my ears heard the sweet sound of mechanical lifters for the first time in my young life. Of course I had no clue what was making that watch-like ticking sound, all I knew was that I liked it. Notching the manual transmission into first gear, Mike slipped out the clutch and the Camaro lurched forward eagerly. As my cousin rowed through the gears on the 4 speed, my eyes were fixated on the tach, watching the red hand sweep the face back and forth. My ears were filled with a combination of the throaty exhaust and the legendary wine of the Muncie transmission. The shifting, the tach, and the revving of the engine all combined was almost hypnotic. The faster he went, the harder I was being pulled backwards into the seat as the G-forces took over completely and held me prisoner against the black vinyl. That feeling of raw horsepower was unreal and unlike anything I had ever felt before. The whole experience ruined me forever as I was now obsessed with muscle cars!

Soon I started noticing muscle cars all over. Super Sport Chevelles, Novas, GTOs, 442s, and a few that I did not recognize but they looked awesome. On one Saturday I was walking up the street to my friend Ken's house when I spotted one of the coolest cars I had ever seen. Sitting in Ken's driveway was an orange '56 Chevy 2 door sedan with mag wheels and a perfect, sinister looking stance. On the rear quarter panels the name "sandman" was painted in gold leaf. This was my beginning of a love affair for tri-fives that I still have to this day. I found out the wicked looking 56 belonged to their gardener and after that I use to see it around town with a mower sticking out of the trunk!   

Although I was hopelessly hooked on horsepower it would be quite a few years before I owned anything even close to what I had experienced with my cousin's car. The first V-8 powered car that I actually drove was my sister's 1966 Ford Mustang. It was only a two barrel 289 with a C4 automatic transmission but it looked pretty good with it's U.S. Indy slot mags and blue paint. Equipped with Cherry Bomb glasspacks, the engine sounded faster then it actually was. It was a huge step up from an anemic 1300cc 4 cylinder Datsun pickup, which was what I happened to be driving after I got my drivers license. Remember what I said earlier about cruising being a precursor to racing? Well, one fateful Saturday night I was doing just that - cruising, in my sister's Mustang. I had just called it a night and had gotten on the freeway to head home when a couple of guys in a 71 or 72  Mustang Mach 1 pulled up in the lane next to me on the freeway and started goosing the throttle. I could hear the roar of the Mach 1's engine over my high winding 289, but it didn't intimidate me. Heck, I didn't know enough yet for it to intimidate me! Before too long the passenger was shouting out his window at me, "North Main!" Another words, if I wanted to race, meet them there. Not quite knowing what to expect, I quickly exited the freeway and headed towards North Main.

At this point in my young life I had cruised quite a bit and of course heard about all the street racing at North Main. I had even ventured down there to watch a few times in the aforementioned Datsun mini truck, but this was the very first time I was going there to actually race! I was excited beyond words and nervous as hell. As I exited the freeway and headed up the long stretch of North Main Street, I could see the parking lights of all the cars up in the distance, parked on both sides of the street. Approaching the end of the line of cars, I promptly pulled over and parked. I didn't even get to shut off the engine when the driver of the Mach 1 pulled up and signaled me to go over to the starting line which had just cleared. As I was heading towards the line I stopped before I got to it and attempted to do a huge burnout to heat up both my rear tires, or so I thought. Whereas my burnout consisted of a single skinny line of  Firestone G-70-14 rubber, the Mach 1 laid down two healthy lines of rubber as only a Ford 9 inch Detroit Locker with pos-a-traction torque twister tires can do. Suddenly there I was at the starting line with a very healthy sounding Mach 1 next to me. What the hell was I thinking? My sister's small block equipped Mustang was no match for this big block brute! When down track was clear the starter turned and gave us the signal to stage. The Mach 1 was holding his brakes and loading his torque converter big time as I could hear his engine over mine. My engine was just idling as I was waiting for the signal to go. Quick as a flash the starters hands were down and I mashed the gas pedal to the floor. The 289 revs quick and I was manually shifting the C4 trans, so as soon as the tires started to loose traction I shifted up into 2nd gear. Lacking the engine torque to continue to spin the tires through 2nd gear, my Mustang just hooked up and took off like a rocket. My competitor in the Mach 1 was not so lucky. As soon as he released the brake his tires went up in smoke. Realizing his predicament he immediately up-shifted only to be foiled by the outrageous torque of his big block Ford. As he continued to smoked his tires down the track and loose traction, I was pulling farther away. I will never forget that feeling when I crossed the finish line and realized that I had won. To say I was on a mechanical high would have been an understatement! More then a few people that evening were surprised to see I had beat that particular big block Mustang, but none more then me!