Friday, March 07, 2008

A car guy . . .

. . . that's me. If it turns money into noise or speed, I'm there. I've been that way since I was sixteen and hot-rodded a 1952 Chevy. The last car I owned in high school was as 1956 Oldsmobile "Super 88" that I repainted Cadillac red and cream.

My first "real car" when I got a "real job" was a 1968 Pontiac GTO in "arrest me red." I wore out the engine, then I rebuilt it to about 450 HP. Gas was cheap. Luckily for me, I guess. The car got about six miles per gallon. When the salt and sand in Omaha ate up the paint, I repainted it in my garage.

I eventually had to sell the GTO. It was worn out again, and it wasn't the ideal family car. When I think about our cross country trips with the kids - in the days before seat belts - I get cold chills.

In the early 80's, I was out looking for another vintage GTO when I stumbled across a 1930 Ford Tudor sedan. When I hauled it into my garage, it looked like this.

After I built a new frame and suspension, swapped in modern running gear, chopped the top and painted it, it looked like this. After it was finished, a man from Harrisburg, PA saw it in a car show. Even though I told him it WAS NOT FOR SALE, he kept upping the offer until I caved. I regret it to this day.

After living without a hot rod for a few years, I just had to find another. A friend of mine did most of the work on this 1972 Chevy Pickup. It had louvers everywhere, a custom paint job, a motor with an obscene amount of horsepower, and was totally impractical. Of course, I bought it. I drove it until I wore it out, then sold it for exactly what I paid for it.

There's a story behind this race car. I was visiting a friend who owned a body shop. An acquaintance of ours had a race car to sell, and needed to sell it in a hurry. It seems he had taken out a loan on a title to a wrecked car. He missed the payments, and the bank was threatening repossession, and he was looking a fraud charges.

I made an offer that he apparently thought was too low, and he started cursing and screaming into the phone, then hung up. About 10 minutes later, he called back and said he would accept the offer. Of course, I immediately lowered my offer, and he went postal again. Fifteen minutes, he called back, but before he could say a word, I lowered the offer again - and bought the car.

When we picked up the car, it looked worse than this. It was a bare frame, with only the rear half of the body shown here. I chopped the chassis in two just ahead of the firewall, rebuilt the front end and designed the aluminum body.

When we were done, it looked like this. It had about 700 horsepower - for racing only of course. It would accelerate from 0 to 174 MPH in about 8.75 seconds. Eventually racing became way too expensive, and my partner and I sold the racing team.

I didn't have a true hot rod for a long time, then In 2003, we moved to Virginia, and I caught the bug yet again. This photo was taken a few months into the project.

A little more than three years later, after much welding, fitting, assembly, cursing, disassembly, reassembly, sanding, cursing and painting, it looks like this.

The last photo (I'm sure you're bored senseless by now) is my daily driver. Twelve years ago, I wandered into a Chevy dealer's lot in Kansas City looking to replace a pickup that just went off lease. I didn't see a pickup I liked, but I had always - as long as I can remember - wanted a red Corvette. I drove it home, and I still have it.