Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It was a very good year... and then some (cont.)

It was a very good year... and then some (cont.)

It was a very good year... and then some (cont.)

...  yes, early stock car racing fans, that is a '57 Chevy "Black Widow". 

It was a very good year... and then some

A funny thing happened while I was going over the Brizio photos for yesterday's blog, I realized that all in the same day I visited both the Brizio shop and a private collection that is housed nearby. Don't ask me how I could have spaced this one, my defense is the old "different town everyday" I suppose. Don't mistake me here, I certainly remember seeing all of this, I just honestly forgot that it was the same day... and what a day it was. 

    I hope it's OK that I keep the owner of this amazing collection anonymous. Obviously they wouldn't want their name spread around a lowly blog, so I'll just say that the person who has amassed this incredible collection of cars, parts, and automobilia, is not only armed with impeccable taste but is also a seriously good guy for letting me cruise around his toy box and take in the scenery.  

    Many things in this collection really knocked me out, and I'll just take a minute to point out some things that were real highlights for me; For starters, the collection of early V8 Fords was incredible to see under one roof. The collector is obviously a hot rod and performance oriented enthusiast, so it made me very happy to see that he also has a sincere appreciation for unmolested stockers. Every day there are less and less of these cars and the more people who stand up and take notice of solid original iron the better. As the saying goes, "they're only original once", and I defy any hot rodder worth his salt to ride in a well kept original '32 Ford and not be amazed by the high quality product Henry Ford made available to his buying public. There is a reason these cars are legendary and it should be noted that they made their reputation long before they were made into hot rods. 

    Another aspect of the collection that I really enjoyed was the range of early American high performance, pre-muscle car era, muscle cars. I've always had a soft spot for the mid/late '50's- early '60s high performance production cars. I love the look of these cars as they read like something a skinny tie'd Darren Stephens would pull into the driveway after a long day at the office, but house something under the hood that is anything but conservative. Early Olds Rocket V8s, Red Ram Hemis, 2X4 nailhead Buicks, Paxton supercharged Y-block Fords, tri power W-blocks, letter series Mopars, J-2 tri-power Olds' ( we had one in our family- a '57 2-door hardtop, J-2, silver and slate grey two tone with a red interior... what a car! ), the 2X4 and f.i. '50s Chevys of course, and then the great early '60s super stocks that came after and never seemed to quite shed their plaid insert interiors even though they would ultimately house 400 plus h.p. solid lifter V8s under their hoods. I have a feeling sometimes that the mutton-chopped, bell-bottomed muscle car owners of the late '60s never put it together that their fathers knew all about this production horsepower stuff long before hood scoops and side stripes. 

   A few other things that I think you'll enjoy seeing are the various period crate engines hanging around. If memory serves, I believe every manufacturer was represented somewhere in the collection by their top of the line performance engine of the day. Fully restored or never run CE engines in the form of 409s, Hemis, Rockets, Nailheads, F.I. 283s and 327s, I even saw an L-89 (aluminum head) big block Chevy on an old GM crate. But what has to be the greatest single piece of automobilia that I have ever seen or even heard about is the original, never out of the crate, 1920s Ford dealership sign. How it could be possible that this thing made it so long in nothing short of new condition is astonishing. As I stood looking at it I still couldn't believe my eyes. 

   For the strict hot rodder, the black '32 roadster is Ed "Axle" Stewart's original hot rod... complete with period dry lakes timing tag. Other HR notables are the supercharged flathead and Buick 2x4 nailhead coupes... and for the record, the black '29 model A roadster pickup with the Cad is an original unrestored late '50s Hot Rod magazine cover car. 

   So sit back and enjoy cruising through the photos...   and have a safe and happy new years eve! 




Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It was a very good year... ( Part 1 ) cont.

It was a very good year... ( Part 1 ) cont.

It was a very good year... ( Part 1 )

Indeed it was. As I stated in yesterdays post, this really is the time of year for reflection and inventory and I've been doing my share of it. While relaxing with family back in Buffalo, I had some time to look back on '08 and quickly realized that as far as gearhead experiences are concerned it has indeed been one of the best years I can remember, if not the best. As I've stated many times, my job is a great one for taking in the occasional off-site adventure and I'm beyond grateful for that. The opportunity for great car-guy experiences are available in nearly every town if you're willing to get up and going, go off campus, find some wheels, and see what's around. Sometimes you get very lucky and end up in a town where a friend or acquaintance resides and your adventure is ready-made. Today's post falls in that column. Here's something you'll hear me say a lot, "thanks to my dear friend Tommy Sparks, I had the pleasure of..." Really, a lot, and this is one of those.

     Thanks to Tommy I've met the hot rod builder Roy Brizio on several occasions and every time we talk he extends an invitation to his shop whenever I'm in his town. Of course this is way too good an offer to pass up, so when I saw a tour date coming up in San Francisco this past summer, I put "Brizio" in bold letters on my calendar over the date and counted the days until I could tour one of the premier hot rod shops in the country. 

    I had seen many cars that were built in the Brizio shop and was familiar with Roy's Dad Andy who had made the Brizio name famous for building high quality, tasteful cars, and supporting the Bay area hot rod community for many years. Of course we all know how over the past several years Roy has taken this reputation and expanded it one hundred fold. What I wasn't ready for was seeing the Brizio operation in person. What struck me from the downbeat was how passionate Roy is, just as a fan of hot rodding. When talking with him you would never know the level he's playing at. His appreciation for the sport/hobby's history is through the roof and, I think because of that, he shows no signs of ego whatsoever. You have to be impressed with that considering his accomplishments. 

   One of the mistakes I made the day I went to visit the Brizio shop was not taking Roy up on his offer to come pick me up. I felt it was already more than enough that he was willing to give of his time on a work day and I'm always a little on edge about being a possible "time bandit". 
So I declined and said I'd just run over in my rental car. Little did I know that he was not talking about giving me a lift in his shop truck, he was going to shuttle me in a super bitchin' Gold '55 Chevy 2-door post that he backed out in the lot and had ready to go. I should have known this would be the case considering who I'm dealing with, and was informed of this when I pulled up, saw the car, and immediately started commenting on it. 

   The Brizio shop is located in a tidy, nondescript building, in an equally tidy older neighborhood in south SF. Other than a few eye catching rides in the employee parking lot ( a perfectly subtle early oval window bug that knocked me out for example ) and the small Brizio sign out front, this is a property that could go largely unnoticed. Maybe that's the point. I would  find out that this is right in step with Roy and the rest of the guys in the shop in that they really give you a "we let the work speak for itself" feeling. These guys couldn't be more laid back about what they do and seem to almost look at their exceptionally high standard of work as- just the way it is. 

   When walking into the shop through the big main door, the first thing I'm introduced to is possibly the best piece of hot rod wall art that I've ever seen. A complete early '60s Chevy powered front engined rail mounted on its side looking at you from about 8 feet up. This is not only a real car but it is a real car with history. It turns out that Roy used to see this car run back in the day at the great Bay area strips like Half Moon Bay etc.  He not only recently located and restored this car to period correct cosmetic and running condition, but reunited it with its original owner/builder and took turns making smoking passes down the quarter mile. A complete photo history surrounds the car on the wall. Remember, this was the first thing I saw! 

    If memory serves, I believe 18 cars were under construction the day I toured the shop. There were several period perfect '32 Fords going together representing every era and style of hot rod, a few other '30s Fords of varying makes, body styles and models, and even a few full bodied customs. Two of note were the '50 Ford and 5-window Chevy truck being built for long time Brizio customer Eric Clapton. Both are being built with modern drivetrains and will be serious performing machines. I was pleased to hear from Roy that Clapton is an all around serious and educated hot rodder who is involved with the design and concept of every step of the build. Another long time Brizio customer, and world class builder in his own right, is Jeff Beck... a guy who is in the top of my hero list. As a guitar player and fan, I couldn't help commenting to Roy how important these guys have been to me. He responded that they're just hot rodders like the rest of us. I'll take his word for it. 

    One of my favorite things when walking around a seasoned shop is to look in the nooks and crannies for parts in waiting. The Brizio shop did not let me down. Just for starters, how about original sets of Ardun heads?, all kinds of period speed equipment, 97s, intakes, flathead blocks, period superchargers, '32 Ford parts for days. In fact, I saw every conceivable early Ford part essential to a period correct build stacked by the dozens upon dozens. Original frames, K-members, grill shells, bodies and body pieces, an original rust free California '40 Ford coupe body on a skid, an un-restored '50s injected Chevy powered sprint car up in the rafters, etc etc. Just too cool. 

    As much as I'd like to go on describing this scene, I know that I can never beat just showing some photos of my time there. They'll speak much clearer. As for Roy and what a good and generous guy he is, in case you didn't know already, I'll leave you with this little story; 

   As I was making my way towards the door Roy asked me,"So what are you working on these days?" ( As if I have an answer to that question considering who's asking ) I tell him that I'm building a pretty straight forward '40s style lakes '29 A-V8 roadster all out of original parts. He then asks what parts, if any, am I lacking. I say mostly just some small stuff, a model A front spring, a couple of Kelsey Hayes bent spoke wheels, a pair of original '39 teardrop tail lights... right then he stops me and says,"Hang on a second." He runs upstairs to one of his parts rooms and comes back down about 3 minutes later with a complete and very well kept set of original '39 tail lights- lenses, surrounds, cups, and some original cloth wiring, all in great shape. He hands it all to me and says,"Here, you can have these. They should clean up OK." Of course I began thanking him and trying to pay him something for them and he stopped me and said,"No no, they're yours... just get your car done." 

   My thanks again to everyone at Brizio's and to Roy Brizio himself...  one of the original Good Guys. 


Monday, December 29, 2008

And we're back!

After a long break for the holidays away from the Steelworks post, we're back in the office and thinking all things gearhead once again. It's been one of the more pleasant holiday breaks that I can remember, of course a bit more traveling than I'd like as I do plenty of traveling throughout the year, but a very nice time all the same. As the tour came to a close in Nevada I opted to hop a plane for So-Cal instead of heading back to Nashville. I wanted to visit some friends and have a bit of a mini personal vacation before the family get together for the holidays started. California is always a blast and I'm certainly glad I went, but because I went straight from LA to the studio in Nashville to help track the new Floating Men record- for the three days that I was home before shuffling off to Buffalo- I'm feeling a tad bit unsettled ( especially considering the last time I was really home was the 4th of Dec. ) and very much looking forward to getting home and starting on the many projects waiting for me in the new year.

This time of year gets the mind working on many things past, present, and future. A sort of mental life-inventory... how it has been going, how it's going now, and of course the very dangerous,"What I need to accomplish in the coming new year." We all do this of course and I can think of some years when I've done better than others with my list of goals for the new year. This go around will be no different I'm sure. Some things will be accomplished and some things won't. My list is, unfortunately, quite long for '09, so I'm sure I'll disappoint myself when it is all said and done. All I can do is keep my head down, work steadily on the tasks at hand, and see where we end up at the end of the next 12 months.

My '09 list has a lot of items on it that are both mundane and of no real relevance to this forum, so I'll not get into them here. The usual home repairs, yard upgrades, financial tweaking, professional objectives, etc., are all over the place of course... the real stuff of interest, involving shop time and getting my hands dirty, is what I want to talk about and, thanks to an ongoing lack of maturity, are always at the top of my list.

Number one of course is finishing the old GA Bronco project. We've really entered the last minutes of play on this one and I know there are many out there who will understand this when I say it... I just want it finished. This is not to say that I'm not still jazzed about the project. This is not to say that I can't wait to see this thing in my driveway at idle, asking me to jump in and drive. I just want it finished. It's time. Number one, my customer, and boss, would like to have his truck sooner than later...( you can see the double whammy there obviously ) , and number two; I need to move on. I love this hobby and I don't like the feeling that grows from having a build drag on. It sours me. Also, I have an itch that is calling me in the form of the next project in line- my '29 A-V8 roadster project. All together it forms a bit of an anxiety stew so, again, I'm looking forward to being back home and back in the shop.

In addition to the roadster project is the ongoing '71 Chevelle rebuild that I just can't seem to leave alone. I've been driving it daily when home and am just not satisfied with some of the body work. I just don't want to be able to see any of it... of course! and when I can, it makes me crazy. I'm learning as I go so I can't get too hung up but at the same time it needs to be right. I'm looking to redo the rear quarters, the hood, the trunk, and to finally lay out and shoot the factory LeMans stripes back onto the car. In addition, I may have to dig into the engine on the old gal for the first time in many years as I think some valves and push rods were recently bent after letting a friend take a rather seriously spirited drive while home last week. We'll see where that goes. For quite some time I've been wanting to upgrade the cylinder heads and cam on the old 406 and this will give me the perfect opportunity to do so. Go ahead and laugh fellow gear heads as you watch me spin out into more project than is really necessary. I'm trying to leave that car alone as it is a consummate rat's nest but you fellow knucklebusters know how it is.

Mostly I just want to work on my roadster project and nothing else. I became infatuated with building this '40s style dry lakes hot rod sometime around 1993 and it has been a very very long time coming. I began buying period correct parts for it around that same time and now have the better part of a complete, but yet to be assembled, car. A lot of life has gotten in the way of this build over the years but now I feel like I may actually have a window to work in. Maybe '09 will be the year. I truly feel that once I get going on it and stay on it the build will go relatively quickly. Could it be done by the end of the year? It's possible. A talented guy with time on his hands could knock it out in 2 months for sure. Unfortunately, I don't have as much of either of those as I'd like. The engine is ready, the frame is ready, again, most of the parts have been gathered, but the body is going to take some doing as will the front and rear suspensions and driveline. It's unusual for me to be in this spot with a project but for once with me it's not about financing it's about time... and as always, time will tell.

Stay 'tuned' and welcome back!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The world's fastest chicken farmer

     Well here we are as promised. What a morning it was. Hit the bricks at 8am and were out at Shelby's place by 8:30. First of all, I didn't realize exactly where his place was in relation to Las Vegas motor speedway. Turns out, it's right on the premises, and he's not alone. The property reminds me of the west side of Indianapolis or the business parks outside of Charlotte that are solely occupied by motorsports businesses. It's a very cool thing to just drive through and see one familiar brand after another from the racing world, like it's the inner sanctum and you're seeing where it all happens. 

    As early as we were there, something sounding very "full race" was already out on the big banked oval putting in laps. What a great way to start the day that must be. As we were making our way to the Shelby Corner Cafe, the first striking sight of the day hit me... a parking lot full of brand new Shelby Mustangs. It immediately made me think of those great period photos that we've all seen of the mid '60s lots full of '65 GT350s as far as you can see. Makes you crazy just thinking about it, and it was inspiring to realize how things haven't really changed that much from then to now. Stock GTs are still brought in from Ford and a small crew of guys at Shelby's facility modify them to his various specs. I was really struck by how small the operation was. It almost seemed manageable when you looked around. There was a lot where the already mechanically modified cars sat and waited to go to another similar building where they would get their Shelby badging, interior treatments, scoops, wings, spoilers, and finally stripe packages. 

    You could literally stand in one spot and see this process in action. Out from the main   building, parked, then across the way others are coming out another door looking much more muscular with their outer facelifts completed, then a quality control check going on, every now and then a couple would go by on a test drive, then a final cleaning, and lastly, the window sticker gets put in place and they are left in the shipping lot. 

    My friend Alan Funderburk and I took this in for a while and tried to pick out which one we would take home. I think we both settled on a solid black GT500KR. These are stickering for between $45,000 and $50,000, so I don't believe either of us are going to make a move towards one real soon, but it's a nice thought. We then walked over to the Shelby Corner Cafe. This was a surprisingly nice experience. Instead of a completely touristy vibe, which is what I was expecting, it really felt more like the local eating spot for all of the folks who work on the grounds of the motor speedway... which is really what it is. Most of the folks in there for breakfast that morning either had on their mechanic wear or were sporting some kind of golf shirt with a racing team or racing components logo. Kind of gave me a slight feeling of the old school race world comradery that we always hear about. For the record, I had the Shelby breakfast burrito and it was really really good. Ol' Shel can even make good breakfast food. 

    The cafe was done up with some pretty clever examples of how to use car parts as home decor. Something I'm sure only a car guy could ever appreciate. Things like big screen TVs mounted in Mustang hoods and Ford FE valve covers mounted on the wall with cut outs housing overhead lighting. Also, you had the usual memorabilia littered about the place, but the photos they chose for the wall papering were really inspiring. Lots of photos I'd never seen of Shelby in his racing heyday. In particular, several showing him driving various birdcage Maseratis... a car that I never knew he had much wheel time in. Also some Shelby shop scenes from back in the day- always inspiring. 

     So it was on to the small Shelby museum which is attached to the main building housing the offices and the large constructing facility. Not a lot of cars but what they did have were serious. How about the very first Cobra? This is the car that Shelby traveled around with shooting it a different color for each appearance to make the auto journalists think he was already in production. Classic Shelby. But it did the early road tests and auto shows and put the young company on the map. An un-restored car I'm happy to say, and how nice that he kept it all these years. Parked in with that was the FIA championship winning 289 race car. A car that, it could be said, was as important to the future of the company as the very first car as it showed, without question, that Shelby and his team of American hot rodders were to be taken seriously on the world racing stage. Also on hand were some Shelby Mustangs from down through the years. One a Shelby owned '66 that he bought from Hertz after it was retired. A patina heavy car, it was fun to think of Shelby knocking around in this back in the day using it as a beater. 

    On to the tour of the shop and building areas. The tour lasted for about 30 minutes and was a lighter affair than you would generally think something like this would be. The guide was a pretty happy go lucky guy in his 50s that has known Shelby for many years. Several times during the tour he would drop in little personal anecdotes about some of the legendary, and not so legendary, antics that Shelby and his crew have always been known for. Someone has to do a proper book on Carrol, he has got to be one of the most colorful characters motorsports has ever known. 

    Once out in the shop, the real stuff was finally revealed to us. Cobra bodies on horses in various stages of assembly, and completed and nearly completed cars scattered all throughout the shop. Just made the mind reel. I saw mine in BRG under a see-through plastic cover. There were even some customer cars in for repair- a surprise to me. The biggest surprise for me had to be finding out that, if you want to pay the premium, you can have your new Cobra body built by hand in England by some of the original AC motorcars old world aluminum craftsmen. Again, if you want to pay for it, these guys will pound you out a body, just like they did back in the day, by hand, using the same techniques and tools. Now that would be the way to go. Apparently that is the 3rd level of car that they make. The entry is a fiberglass bodied car, next is an aluminum car made mostly from stampings and hand assembled. The other surprise to me was that a new Mustang customer could order a GT from their dealership, ship it to Shelby, have it Shelby-ized, and shipped back to them with a note of authentication from Shelby and its number in the registry. Maybe that's standard issue stuff but it was news to me. 

    All in all, a very satisfying little visit. For the record, if the one small photo of the Cobra shop seems like a bit of a let-down, understand that I was lucky to get that as photography in the shop area is strictly prohibited. Yeah, I know, I'm a bad guy. I have to say, as we were leaving, I couldn't help being a bit knocked out by the fact that, at my age and having grown up reading about the glory days of Shelby America etc., I can go and visit a place like this where it's all happening again... and the man who started it back in the day is not only still with us but is still heavily involved in the designs and the decision making that goes on. Pretty magical stuff. Of course it is no secret that I lean heavily toward the vintage side of motorsport, and it's true that I just don't get a visceral feeling that I would ever be able to connect with and feel the direct communication come up through you in a new Shelby Mustang like you would in an early one. But that is absolutely no reason to knock the great achievements being made in the modern world of production sports and muscle cars. Obviously, on paper, they do everything better than the originals and in a much safer way... and how can you possibly knock a production car with 500-600, and in the case of the new Shelby GT500KR Super Snake 725!! hp, on tap? And that's with cold AC and a good stereo! My hat is off to the folks at Shelby and to Carrol himself for keeping the faith. 

Shelby cont.

Shelby cont.

Shelby cont.

Shelby cont.

Shelby cont.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The good, the bad, and the ugly of touring

"Dues, dues, dues, you've got to pay your dues",  said the great Lenny Bruce when asked about what it takes to make a living as a performer. Nothing could be truer of course. The thing is, unless you're at the very top, it seems that the paying of the dues is a constantly recurring component of this life and, to me, it's a good thing. I can't complain about paying dues. The dues keep the balance, they keep your head in check, and they remind you of how good it is when it's good. In my opinion, the musician serves the music, not the other way around, and if you get into this line of work looking for "it" to take the trouble or the concept of work away completely, or worse, give you some kind of power, then you've really missed it. Now how's that for some soap-boxxy hubub? Because I started this little diatribe with a Lenny Bruce quote, I'll finish with my favorite touring story which involves the Benny Goodman orchestra. The story goes that the famous big band was on tour up in Minnesota in the dead of winter and were flying into one of the twin cities for a performance. Because of some nasty weather that had blown into the area that evening, the bus to take them from the airstrip to the gig didn't show and they were forced to walk, in their suits, instruments in hand, to the nearest traveled roadway to flag down some lifts to get them to their gig. While walking across a field in search of some kind of civilization, the musicians came upon a small farm house just as the dinner hour was coming on. Several in the group stopped, peered through a window, and witnessed the following; a perfect little home, fire crackling away in the hearth, a dinner table mounded with food, around which sat a young farmer, three beautiful children and his beautiful young wife, all beaming with smiles of comfort and contentment. The musicians stood outside the window, cold, hungry, their pants and shoes soaked from mud and slushy snow, taking in this Norman Rockwellian-like scene. After a while, one of them turned away from the window, looked at Goodman and said,"Man, I don't know how people live like that." 

     And that's the way you have to feel, or you're in the wrong line of work. 

     I was once again reminded of all of this while traveling over the past two days. What should have been a relatively easy day and a half drive, turned into a 48 hour trapped in a metal tube 2000 mile marathon. 

     Basically we were supposed to leave out of southeastern Minnesota on Sunday night after a show for a straight through drive to Las Vegas. The first bump in the road came from some very sketchy weather reports coming in regarding the upper midwest. This made us change our travel route to, instead of heading straight west and then south to Vegas, immediately head south out of Minnesota, down to Oklahoma City, and pick up I-40 to take west to New Mexico where we would then turn right and head north up to Vegas. I can promise you that it sounds  shorter in print than it actually is. 

     Everything was going to plan until we got to somewhere in Missouri. In the early a.m. of Tuesday morning we drove straight into a surprise ice storm. It seams that they were getting some serious rainfall during the night when suddenly the temperature dropped to way below freezing almost in an instant. As you can imagine, this caused some chaos. I've yet to see anything like this. Eighteen wheelers were off the road everywhere. If you looked out the front of our bus they were in the median or off the shoulder as far as you could see. Everything stopped dead for several hours while all traffic sat parked bumper to bumper on the interstate literally waiting for a slight rise in temp that was forecasted, hoping that it would be enough to melt the sheet of ice that was the roadway. Amazingly, it worked and at about mid day we all started moving again. Now understand that I'm not really trying to make what would admittedly be a pretty grandiose comparison between our situation and the famous Goodman big band story. I believe in a certain amount of relativity with all things... but us sitting on our bus, trapped, with no option but to sit it out ( with good heat, some food, pretty comfy bunks to nap in, and satellite tv ) is not quite the roughing it that the old Goodman boys experienced. To be honest, the most frustrating part for me was that, thanks to the extreme cold we had in Minnesota, the internet was out on the bus for the entire trip and I couldn't get my blog out. So, there it is for anyone who was wondering what happened to my yet unblemished record of keeping up with the copy. Mother nature is king.. or would that be Queen? 

     Either way, it's good to be off the bus, in a warmer climate, and back in the saddle. Tomorrow, me and a few like-minded folks from our crew are going to head over to Carroll Shelby's Las Vegas facility and see what's cooking. This would of course be firmly placed in the 'good' column of touring. Should be an interesting experience and one that I will be sharing with you in the following post. So, until then, stay 'tuned' and stay off the ice. 

PS...     The photo attached to today's post was taken of a car under construction at Roy Brizio's hot rod shop in south San Francisco this past summer. Lets see if anyone can name the make and model of the car including the engine? This should be an easy one. 

Friday, December 5, 2008

Man oh man the Bronco/ dept. of corrections

Sorry to say folks but this one is going to have to be short and to the point. I'm just getting in and it's after midnight. Shop time just slipped away tonight and then some. Good Bronco day overall though. Installed the shifter boot and surround, new shocks, plumbed the fuel system from the tank to the carb, and changed the fluid and filter on the trans. More proof that you have no idea how things will go with an old car, you would never believe what the biggest job of the day was from this list... any guesses? The shifter boot surround! Unbelievable. The transfer case almost touches the floor of the truck and 3 of the 4 bolts that hold down the surround were not only completely out of sight and impossible to get to with your hand, but were so close to the top of the case that you couldn't start a nut on them. The bolts had to be cut down to clear but still show thread when they came through the floor, and the nuts had to be held by small vise grips that I taped to a long wooden dowel that I fished up in there... all of which I could only see through a mirror stuck up in the trans tunnel that I could just barely get my shop light to shine into. When I had the nut in the visegrips resting up against the bottom of the bolt, I then went up into the truck and turned the bolt to try and get it started in the nut below. It took many many tries to make this happen. Yes I considered lowering the transfer case down a couple of times but talked myself out of it repeatedly. 

      I don't know if you can visualize this. If you can't then consider yourself lucky. 

      Lastly, I need to make some corrections regarding the story about the Johnnie Parsons little roadster. My friend Roy Caruthers was nice enough to point out some things that I got wrong and we'll start with the misspelling of Mr. Parsons name which is spelled Johnnie, not Johnny. The young woman who owns the car now, Joanie,  is not Parsons' granddaughter but her daughter. The job of restoring the car was originally offered to Caruthers but he passed on it as he felt the job was more for Jerry Weeks than for him. Finally, the man responsible for making the connection that the photo in the Rodder's Journal was the Parsons car is Roy Caruthers' step Dad, John Capels. 

     My apologies for the misinformation. 

  Have a great weekend folks. I'm back out on the road again as of midnight Friday night. The last run of the year! Saturday night Merrilville, Indiana... Sunday Rochester,Minnesota... then a big fat drive to Vegas where we'll play Thursday and Friday nights at the House of Blues in Mandalay Bay. I'm hoping that while in Vegas I can make it by the Shelby facility and report back. Speaking of, from Vegas we go to Wendover, Utah!, and you all know what that means... Bonneville!!! I'll be making my trip to the salt at some point while I'm there just to see it. I can never ever be that close by and not walk on the salt. A religious experience every time. 

   From there I'll be flying to LA to visit my friend Tom Sparks for about 4 days. I can assure you I'll have plenty to report on about that! Tom always has cool stuff going on... and it's LA after all. 

   So, there you go. Should be some good stuff around the corner. Keep checking in and always remember to 'Stay tuned'. 

PS   I realize today's photo has no connection to the post, I just like it. 

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Bronco ( Part 4 ) - drivetrain

As promised, we're back today to talk about the important stuff... the drivetrain. Ultimately, this is what will give the truck its personality, especially from the perspective of the driver. It dictates what sound you'll be hearing and what vehicle type you'll be dealing with. A simple bit of direction was thrown my way when the subject of the engine came up, I was told,"I want it to be scary fast!" Now that's something that I would say, surely, but I had to double check that that is really what he wanted and he stood by it. So I guess you could say we were off to the races. 

     When the truck was delivered to me it had a 351 Windsor that was reported to be in fine shape with low miles and was built by a reputable speed shop in Huntington Beach that built trucks for The Baja. Those are mighty good credentials so I went into the engine feeling positive. As it stood, it was dressed with quality speed equipment that was right for the time when it was built ( about 10-15 years ago ). An older Edelbrock aluminum intake sat on cast iron Dart heads which were fed by a very sick old Carter AFB. It had an old set of small tube headers and some other go fast goodies here and there. I was able to get it to run enough to assess the condition of the heads and whether or not it pushed good oil pressure. All of that checked out very good and, although it was tough to tell with the sick carb, as you had to drive it with 2 feet, it sounded like it had a mild cam and actually had some good grunt when the carb would momentarily cooperate.

      The week points to me were the older technology speed equipment like the intake, carb, cam, and headers, and the fact that I just didn't know for sure what was inside this thing and the true condition of it... not without tearing it down. Also, it felt like the stock torque converter was still in it and that wouldn't do for what I had planned. So out it came. 

      To say the least, it never goes like this, but... everything was checking out. First of all, when I pulled the valve covers the heads looked like an engine with 300 miles on it. Just immaculate. It couldn't have had more than a few thousand miles on it. The Dart heads had roller rockers with screw in studs. I pulled the intake and, again, immaculate. So, because we were in serious down and dirty 20 shows a month tour mode, I decided to farm out the go through of the engine. The building of an engine is hands down my favorite part of any build but to save time and keep things moving it only made sense to hand this off. 

      Far and away my favorite machine shop in the Nashville area is Shaklett automotive. Run by a father and son team, they have a small, clean, and organized operation. Both father and son are racers and communicate in a very neutral, direct, and honest way. If there is something that turns me off in a shop, it's when the conversation turns to tall tales or competitive brag-offs. You know what I mean I'm sure. Real racers deal with numbers and real results, some guys who don't can end up telling me a story about their Road Runner they had back in the day that used to be able to lift the front wheels over a pop bottle or that they once wound it up to 160 mph and it still had pedal left. These are the same guys that don't believe in Plasti-gauge. 

     None of this was a problem at Shaklett's and, in addition, they got everything done ahead of schedule! They tore down the engine the rest of the way and checked all the tolerances. Everything checked out good. The cross hatching in the cylinder walls was nearly fresh looking so this was not a candidate for a rebuild. The engine went back together with a new Comp dual pattern hydraulic cam, gross lift .519 and .523 intake and exhaust, a new Edelbrock air-gap dual plane intake, and a new Holley 750 4160 carb. To help it breath a bit better we replaced the old small tube rusty headers with new ceramic coated Hooker Comps. 

    We tuned it and broke it back in on the dyno at Shaklett's. With some carb and ignition tweaking running a pretty conservative set-up it pulled 384 hp. Not bad for a mild pump gas set-up. This will be transfered back through a C4 transmission with a 3,500 TCI stall converter and spinning 4.56 gears. Remember, it will have a tallish tire on it but even so, I believe it's going to be a pretty good thrill ride with the Bronco's short wheel base and relatively low weight. Will it be scary fast?, we'll have to wait and see.