Monday, December 5, 2022

North Main - Chapter Four

 Although I did not have a lot of extra money I immediately short listed a few upgrades that I wanted to do on my recently acquired Chevelle Malibu. Nothing could be done until I paid my dad back the extra money that I borrowed to make that purchase, so that made the wait to fix up my Malibu seem even longer. I knew that new rims and tires were out of the question due to my meager financial means. I had dreams of Centerline or Cragar Super Trick wheels along with BF Goodrich Radial T/A tires, but with only a part-time after school job, I would just have to keep dreaming. 

The first planned modification to my '69 was dual exhaust as the factory single pipe and stock muffler were just way too quiet for me. I had already flipped over the air cleaner lid for "increased performance" and when I floored the accelerator you could hear the Rochester two barrel sucking for dear life against the exhaust which sounded like a vacuum cleaner about to explode. As I drove down to Jerl's Muffler Shop early one Saturday morning I had my mind set on new dual Cherry Bomb glass pack mufflers, dumped just before the rear axle with chrome tips. After I got there and my car was over the pit (which looked like an empty swimming pool) the owner came into the waiting room and told me he was out of Cherry Bombs. I was still a little naive about cars and especially exhaust systems but I had really wanted those glass packs. It's not like I could just drive home either because my old exhaust system had already been removed, so I had to make a decision fast! I think the owner sensed my hesitation (and disappointment) so he suggested Sonic Turbo mufflers. He told me that they would sound better on my Chevy and they were cheaper then the Cherry Bombs. Wow, cheaper and they will sound better. I agreed to the Sonic Turbos and also decided to get a set of Gabriel High Jacker air shocks installed, which just happened to be on sale according to the sign painted on the shops window. When the work was done and he drove my car up front to the waiting area I could not believe my ears! It was like a different engine had been installed because it sounded so good. The air shocks were about half way filled and now instead of the rear squatting it was raised up. The stock rims and bias ply tires now looked ridiculous and that prompted me to come up with a solution for procuring different wheels for my Malibu.

Custom wheels were all the rage and as such there was a glut of factory wheels available, rally wheels to be specific. I wanted 15 inch rims for my ride and as wide as possible. This necessitated me sourcing used rims from a Corvette. I had seen a few Chevelle's while cruising that had Corvette rally wheels on them and I really liked the look. The current trend was "big n' littles", that is big wide meats in the rear and skinny front runners. This was the precursor to the pro street trend where cars were back halved (tubbed with a narrowed rear end) to fit the widest tires possible in the rear paired with skinny front tires. Although the "big n' little" look was the general goal for my Malibu, I was open to other options. In my mind, anything was better than the stock 14 inch rims with hubcaps!

As soon as I got home from the muffler shop I grabbed the Saturday news paper, specifically the classifieds section. Under the Automotive Parts column I found a listing for a set of 14 inch US Mags, some Mopar rally wheels, and some Keystone Mag wheels along with other various car parts. I was debating calling about the Keystone wheels when I spotted an ad for an upcoming antique car swap meet (the largest on the west coast!) and it was happening the next weekend in Pomona Ca. That was perfect! I would have a little more money by then and my chances were good that I would score some nice rims there. Plans were made to attend the swap meet and next weekend could not come fast enough!

Now I had been to the swap meet a few times before in search of parts for my Triumph Spitfire so I knew what to expect. I learned that you either arrive real early (like when sellers are still unpacking) to score a deal or stay until closing to find a killer deal on something that the person does not want to pack back up. The problem with the latter is that you take the chance of missing out on the part you want because someone else already ponied up the cash and wasn't a tightwad like you. Because of my budget I decided to take the tightwad route and arrived late to the meet to see what I could find. There were a lot of custom wheels for sale but most were complete sets and were priced only a little cheaper then what I had already priced out at the Super Shops and Sears. I saw plenty of 14 inch rallys and quite a few single 15 inch but so far the Corvette specific wheels remained elusive. As I was perusing the rows there were tons of parts tempting me, but I was on a mission and needed to stay focused. I walked past polished Edelbrock tunnel rams, aluminum Holley 4 barrel intakes and double pumper carbs, Pete Jackson gear drives, Crane roller rockers, Moroso gold anodized valve covers and air cleaners, Milodon oil pans, Sig Erson cams, Mallory dual point distributors, Hooker headers, and almost everything else I could possibly want for my Chevelle. As I rounded the corner to yet another row I spotted the distinct shark nose of a late 60's Vett in a double wide seller's space. It looked like the guy was parting out more than a few Corvettes and had tons of parts. There were a lot of rally rims, enough to make a set, along with center caps and trim rings. I asked the seller how much for a set of four, silently hoping for a good deal because he had a crap load of stuff to pack back up. He told me $150 or he had a complete set of takeoffs with tires for $250. I didn't see any with tires but before I could ask he started to roll them out from his trailer to show me. Before my eyes was a set of 15x8 Corvette rally wheels complete with trim rings, caps,and wearing a set of Firestone Wide Oval tires. I looked them over quickly and bought them almost as fast. I finally had new rims and tires for my Chevelle! Well, maybe not brand new but new to me.

Temptation got the best of me and I ended up picking up a few more "necessities" while I was at the swap meet. Along with the rally wheels I bought a set of Edelbrock finned aluminum valve covers and a set of Stinger yellow jacket spark plug wires. The wires were needed because I had noticed that the Malibu was still wearing its original plug wires from 1969! The next few weekends were spent working on the Chevelle instead of cruising. The Corvette rally wheels fit like a glove and totally changed the look of the car, as it now had sort of a NASCAR look with its wide wheels all the way around. I picked up gaskets, chrome wing nuts, and wire separators from the local auto parts store to get the valve covers and spark plug wires installed. Before I started putting the new parts on I drove the car down to the local self-serve car wash to clean the engine. Even back then they didn't want you washing your greasy engine in the wash bay, but those high pressure wands did a great job of cleaning, so there were a lot of folks who just ignored the posted signs. After the engine and engine bay were clean it was a good time to detail them. Looking back I can pinpoint this moment as my first experience with the "slippery slope" of automotive repair. Painting the engine led to painting the entire engine bay, then the underside of the hood, control arms and then most of the front suspension. As items that were in the way were removed they were either cleaned, painted or both. I took the phrase "any job worth doing is worth doing well" to the extreme. It was well worth it as the end result turned out great and completely transformed the entire engine compartment of the Chevelle. 

My Malibu went through many iterations as I kept adding more speed parts. Aluminum intake manifold, 4 barrel carburetor, dual point distributor, larger valve heads, headers, and the automatic transmission swapped out for a 4 speed manual. Although I cruised the car a lot I never really raced it. Oh sure, I was challenged a few times but with only 307 cubic inches under the hood I knew better. In its final form the engine was probably pushing three hundred horsepower which was no match against all the 327's and 350's. It wasn't until I scored a killer deal on a big block that the Malibu made its way to North Main to see what it could do...

Saturday, September 24, 2022

FranktoidTM No. 22 - We Tired

Well it has been just over a year since I put fingers to keyboard (the modern equivalent of pen to paper) and boy what a year it has been! Regular readers of this blog might recall my post predicting about 2021. I think I got almost everything right except one item, I failed to predict my retirement. I will spare you all the details but suffice to say that I had to make some big decisions in a relatively short period of time and that also included a major move out of state. Yes, the Amberlight Garage has officially moved and let me tell you that was no easy task! With all of those things going on my blogging duties got put on the back burner. Even though I am really working more being "retired" then when I was actually working, I figured I better get back to blogging and give everyone a quick update. 

Project Yellowjacket was removed from it's mothballed state and shipped to my new location of the Amberlight Garage where it is safely cocooned until I finish unpacking and organizing the new digs. The 455 build is getting closer to completion with the recent addition of a set of aluminum heads and also a trick oiling system from Bernard Mondello Racing Enterprises. Mondello's oil system includes a special oil pan, windage tray, blue printed oil pump, and a modified main cap. By the way, Bernard is the son of the late Joe Mondello, aka "Dr. Oldsmobile",who was a cylinder head expert and performance guru. I also decided on the wheel and tire combo for Yellowjacket but only got as far as getting the rear wheels mounted before I had to start packing things up. 

More chapters of North Main are also in the works for those interested in my book that I am writing and sharing here. I just need to find some more time, but there is so much other work that needs to be done! I have also come to the conclusion that I have been pronouncing "retired" wrong, it's actually "we tired", literally.