Influential Cars: What were the cars that really mattered in your life?

1964 Buick Riviera

All of us have our favorite cars–cars we’ve known, cars we’ve owned, cars we’ve loved, cars we wish we could own. But what were the most influential cars in your life, good or bad, and why? What cars shaped your outlook on things automotive? My list is below. What’s yours?

1973 VW Beetle

1973 Volkswagen Beetle. Photo by IFCAR.

1973 VW Beetle(s). I grew up in the back seat of a pair of them–both 1973s; one was white with no options save for an AM radio, and one was a red Super Beetle with every option including the air conditioning (with the CCCCOOOOOL sticker in the window) and automatic stickshift. It took ten years to understand why my mom had to shift her automatic, but the neighbor’s 98 Regency had a lever you could plunk and go, with no more crazy hand jive. I cried when the red one was traded in on a used ’79 Granada in ’82, and I carried a legitimate grudge against my parents for decades for dumping the perfectly good 150,000-mile white one in ’85. I fetishized Beetles for decades, until I had the opportunity to drive one. That opened my eyes real quick; the bloom is off the rose. But even that taught me: the proof is in the driving. It’s a lesson that is recalled every time I slip behind the wheel of a stranger’s car.

1971 Plymouth Satellite Sebring

1971 Plymouth Satellite Sebring. Cropped print ad from author’s collection.

1971 Plymouth Satellite Sebring. Mr. Miele, across the street, had an olive-green two-barrel coupe, with hubcaps, bench seat and a column shift. Nothing remotely sporting about it. But its shape was the first one that really had me look at a car and think, man, that’s good looking. The cars in my neighborhood tended to have sharpish edges, and this one didn’t. That fat C-pillar, those zaftig curves, that body-on-top-of-a-body look, the bumper that completely encircled the headlamps and grille … it made me think that cars were cool. Later, when I discovered that there was a Road Runner version, in cool colors and decent wheels and engines that made noise and power, I fell in love all over again. Had I not purchased my Mercury Montego all those years ago, I would have found myself a Satellite or Road Runner for sure (probably a Satellite, ‘cause I’m equal parts poor and cheap). I saw another one just like Mr. Miele’s this weekend at the local Goodguys event here in Scottsdale, except Cragars had replaced the stock wheels. So help me, I almost dropped a business card on the driver’s seat.

1949 Jeepster

1949 Jeepster. Photo by author.

Jeepster. In the spring or summer of 1976, when I was a boy of no more than six or seven, we traveled from suburban New Jersey to distant upstate New York to visit a college friend of my mom’s. And she had a yellow Jeepster. I had never been in a soft- top anything before–my parents were far too practical, and they didn’t really know the sort of people who bought convertibles anyway–and one sunny morning we went into town for a couple of errands, and for ice cream. I was on top of the world. For sheer car-ride-as-good-time machine, this Jeepster was my first.

1976 Impala Custom Coupe

1976 Chevrolet Impala Custom Coupe. Cropped ad from author’s collection.

1976 Chevrolet Impala Custom Coupe. My grandfather bought it new in the spring of 1976, the last in a long line of full-size Chevys that dated to 1960, because he heard that they were downsizing the big Chevy for ’77 and he didn’t want anything to do with that nonsense. Dark green metallic, with tan interior and some sort of houndstooth- patterend burlap seating areas that, I don’t mind saying, did a number on knees and elbows. His last car, and my first; I got my mitts on it in the spring of ’87. My high school graduation present in 1988 was a set of white-letter Dunlop GT Qualifiers–235/60R15s. During one and a half years of high school and all four years of college, it was my steed, my ticket to freedom. Its two-barrel 350 was rated at just 145 horses–the absolute nadir of 350-cube small-block power. The 26-gallon gas tank didn’t hurt too much when gas was a buck a gallon and minimum wage was $3.35 an hour. College buddies still regale me with tales about what went on with, and within, that car. Five years, 50,000 miles, and more speeding tickets than I can count (at least one of which I got out of because the short tires caused speedometer error!), I moved it along for what I paid for it; the money went toward insurance on my new buggy. I have a sneaking suspicion that mine ended up as RoboSaurus fodder at Englishtown Raceway Park sometime later in the ‘90s. Proof that the fun of a car goes beyond the performance attributes of the car itself, ‘cause man, this Impala didn’t have any. Part of me still wants to shoo my Dart out of the garage in exchange for a ’74 or ’75 Caprice ragtop in equivalent shape.

1996 Subaru WRX STI

1996 Subaru WRX STI. Press image from author’s collection.

1996 Subaru WRX sedan. At a press event at Pocono Raceway in 1996, I slipped behind the wheel of all sorts of things I had no business driving, from Land Rovers to extended-cab V10 Dodge pickups (which I accidentally spun coming out of the infield) and all manner of metal in between. Almost as an afterthought, I thought I would try something that Subaru brought along: a WRX sedan. It was silver, with gold wheels, and beyond the big lights and hood scoop, was the most unassuming little chunk ever. Truth be told, I wanted to try it because I’d never driven a right-hand-drive car before. But within 100 yards, I was hooked: as a performance car it was modern, felt tight, and offered power and grip like nothing I’d felt since. I decided there and then that if the WRX ever came to America, I’d buy one. And in 2001, I did. With 190,000 miles on the clock, it remains my wife’s faithful daily driver. I don’t care how many plastic bits fall out of the interior, I will be buried in that car, I love it so.

1964 Buick Riviera

The Riviera’s influential interior.

1964 Buick Riviera, 1946 Mercury convertible. An odd pairing, on their face, but both were cars I photographed for Hemmings Classic Car once upon a time. And both of them influenced my living space for about half a decade. (My once-Trading-Spaces- addicted wife saw any opportunity to get me excited about interior decorating as a plus, and encouraged me).

Driving the Riviera was an experience all by itself–it felt very Rat Pack, particularly the example I shot on the outskirts of Las Vegas. It was the first old car I’d driven that actually felt together–as if everything worked together for a singular purpose, rather than a mix of components doing what they needed to do. The interior was part of that: I wanted that relaxed feeling of leather and wood, with chrome accents, to help me wind down at the end of the day. It’s not every car I’d feel perfectly comfortable driving 400 miles across the desert and into my garage. My current Dart certainly isn’t one of them. But that Rivvie? Oh yeah. (It took a trip to Vegas, to meet the car owner in question, to express what I wanted to my wife. Once she sat inside, she got it. Happily). And so my living room was given a tannish leather-treatment paint on the walls, black wainscoting and chair rail, and a final, subtle touch: chrome. You know the 20-foot self-adhesive coils of wheeltrim molding you can get at the local Pep Boys? We pressed it into place where the chair rail met the wall; it’s not nearly as tacky as it sounds. Even today, half a decade after moving out of that location, we still call it the Riviera Room.

1946 Mercury

Right-hand drive 1946 Mercury convertible. Photo by author.

I was less inspired by driving the Merc, but just as influenced by its color combination: creamy yellow with a deep red leather interior, a combination that I never would have dreamed of, yet which looked darned good in person. I decided that this would work for my dining room–yellow walls, maroon carpet. With the existing real wood accents around the place, it worked out well. Someday, when the time for paint is upon me in our place in Phoenix, I hope to try out one theme or the other again.

By: Jeff Koch

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Posted in Interesting Stuff

Readers’ Corvette Rides

1967 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe Side View  

Feeling Blue

Who: Ronald Acker
Where: Waunakee, Wisconsin
What: ’67 Coupe

Like so many of us car guys, Ronald Acker let one of his earliest rides get away, only to regret it years later. Ronald was once a proud owner of a Marina Blue ’67 Corvette, which he bought new but ended up selling back in 1974.

It was 1996 when he bought this ’67 as a replacement to his original. The car looked good as it had been repainted the correct color just a year prior. Unfortunately, there were other issues including missing, broken, and incorrect parts. “My brother, Vern, and I took on the long-term project and performed a frame-off restoration and rebuilt the engine, transmission, and rear axle,” tells Ronald. “We replaced the springs and radiator, fixed the seats, clock, radio, odometer, and passenger-side window.”

1967 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe Rear  

To top off the build, they added the side-mounted exhaust and whitewall tires to match Ronald’s original car.

“It’s great to drive and a lot of fun to take to car shows,” said Ronald. “I was extremely lucky to find this exact match to my old ’67.”

2008 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe  

Red on Red

Who: Orestes Diaz
Where: Pembroke Pines, Florida
What: ’08 Coupe

Orestes Diaz grew up admiring Corvettes of all generations, and last year he purchased this red on red ’08 C6. It features the 3LT package, cross-drilled rotors with red Corvette calipers and polished Gumby wheels. The interior features a two-tone red and black combination with the carbon-fiber radio trim leather package, but the heads-up display is one of Orestes’ favorite options.

As of now there are no plans for performance upgrades, but he does plan to continue to cruise his Vette through the streets of his hometown of Pembroke Pines, Florida, for many years to come.

1972 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe Lt 1  

Newfound Glory

Who: Doug Lawson
Where: Cedar Bluff, Virginia
What: ’72 Corvette LT-1 Coupe

There’s just something about the sound of a vintage ride roaring back to life after sitting stagnant in a garage for a good number of years. Doug Lawson got to experience this firsthand when he purchased a numbers-matching Mille Miglia red on black ’72 LT-1, four-speed example that hadn’t seen the light of day for decades. “This is my dream car,” states Doug. “I had been pursuing this car for about 20 years before the original owner’s family had finally decided to let it go. Knowing it had been sitting for a very long time, I changed the oil, filter, plugs, and wires, and went through the carburetor before turning the key. Once I cranked it over, it made the most beautiful noise ever. You just can’t beat the sound of a solid-lifter small-block V-8 engine coming to life after sitting silent for so many years. It was truly amazing.”

So far, Doug has kept the upgrades to a minimum, changing only the wire hubcaps for rally caps and replacing the Goodyear Polyglas tires in favor of BFGoodrich TA radials.

1974 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe 2014 Corvette Coupe  

Seeing Yellow

Who: Pat and Carolyn Crowley
Where: West Palm Beach, Florida
What: ’74 Stingray Coupe, ’14 Coupe

As the saying goes, “good things come to those who wait.” Pat Crowley certainly experienced a huge gap in time between wanting a Corvette and actually owning one. “Ever since I was 16 years old I wanted a Corvette,” said Pat. “Forty years later, I got married then bought my first Corvette – a black on black ’05 C6 coupe.”

With Pat’s Corvette addiction in full swing, in 2011 he bought a yellow ’74 Stingray. He bolted on a set of side pipes for some additional flavor and was happily cruising the streets of West Palm Beach, Florida, in a sweet C3.

Pat was content with his current two Vettes until he laid eyes on the new C7. He knew right then he had to have one. He wasted no time in ordering up a Velocity Yellow ’14 in which he jazzed up with a black stripe and yellow brake calipers. Unfortunately, that meant parting ways with his ’05, but we’re betting having these two yellow beauties parked in the garage eases the pain of having to let the black one go.

1972 1989 2007 2001 Chevrolet Corvettes  

Cool Collection

Who: Charles Falter
Where: Indiana
What: ’72 Coupe, ’89 Convertible, ’07 Z06, ’01 Convertible

Charles Falter got bitten by the Corvette bug years ago when he first had the opportunity to drive a ’66 convertible powered by a 327/350. That initial drive coaxed him into purchasing a Targa Blue ’72 Vette. Although that’s the only Corvette he’s purchased brand new, the others he’s acquired were purchased used and approximately five years old. The ’89 and the ’01 were bought from the original owners, while the ’07 Z06 came from a Chevy dealer. “I drove the ’89 to Effingham, the Corvette Nationals in Indy, and the National Corvette Museum several times,” said Charles. “The ’01 and ’07 have less than 10k miles each and have not seen a drop of rain—at least since I’ve owned them.”

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Posted in General Motors, Interesting Stuff

Restoration Tip: Estimate Expectations

restoWhen it comes to having an old car or truck restored by a professional shop, always expect the unexpected. This isn’t negative criticism aimed at restoration shops; I say it only because it’s virtually impossible for the restorer to know ahead of time the condition of every single part on the vehicle. This is why you can’t expect a shop to give you a set price on restoration work. A generous price-quote range is one thing, but a firm set price is just not practical.

Keep in mind that restorers don’t possess X-ray vision like Superman that will allow them to see the condition of the metal beneath all those layers of paint. They can’t see any previous expert body repairs unless that paint is removed. They can’t see the rust on the floor pan unless the carpeting is lifted up. They can’t see the condition of the crankshaft bearings unless the engine is disassembled. They can’t see how much rust is on the underside of the roof unless the headliner is taken off.

There are literally hundreds of unforeseen circumstances that lie waiting to be uncovered, which is why you can’t expect a shop owner to give you a set estimate on work that he doesn’t know he may have to do. After all, if your employer told you that working overtime was mandatory but that you wouldn’t get paid, would you want to work all those extra hours? Of course not, so neither should a restorer be expected to labor on a car an extra 40 hours without getting paid, just because he didn’t know that the inner rocker panels were completely rusted through. No one can judge the amount of rust and body repair that might be required without disassembling the entire vehicle and inspecting every square inch of it. This is why those restorers who do operate with pre-set estimates will still include a clause in their contracts that states an additional charge will be incurred if extra work is required.

Estimate Expectations

To better understand how the restoration process works, just forget for a moment that you are dealing with old cars, and compare it instead to those businesses that also rely solely on a skilled workforce to manufacture a finely finished product, such as a furniture maker, custom dress manufacturer, piano builder or even a restorer of century-old Victorian houses. Their common thread is that all these businesses rely on extensive use of hand labor, and that each part they make, carve, stitch, paint or assemble is done differently from the next. By understanding the construction process that a shop proprietor has to deal with, you will be better able to comprehend why he has to charge for each of those tasks accordingly.

To obtain the best quality restoration work, always deal with shops that specialize in your particular car make and/or model. No restorer should be expected to know everything there is to know about many different types of cars and their parts, nor can they successfully solve all the inherent problems that are characteristic to each individual make of car. Keep in mind that if they’ve never worked on your type of vehicle before, your car or truck may be the experimental vehicle they are looking to learn on.

Dealing with non-specialists will result in higher restoration costs because those restorers will take longer to do certain jobs, due to their unfamiliarity with that particular car. When you are being billed for every hour that your car is being worked on, every minute counts.

Specialized restorers who have extensive experience with a particular model car or truck already know exactly how many hours of labor it will take them to disassemble that vehicle, restore its frame and rebuild the engine and suspension. This will allow them to charge a flat rate for each of those jobs, because the work really doesn’t vary much from car to car, no matter if it’s a 1965 Mustang coupe or a 1966 Mustang 2+2. However, when dealing with the body and all the hidden problems that lie beneath the paint, if extra repair work is necessary, expect to be charged at the hourly rate.

Remember, because no two cars are alike or are in the same condition when their restorations begin, it would be unjust for you to compare your estimate with that of another vehicle. Each restoration is unique, thus a program must be outlined that is tailored to the specific requirements of your car and the quality of work you desire.


Photos by the author. Editor’s Note: The following piece originally appeared in the July 2009 issue of Hemmings Motor News. It’s still good advice, which is why we’re running it here.)

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Posted in Industry News

Ford highlights Mustang concepts at 2014 SEMA show

By Kurt Ernst

The introduction of an all-new Ford Mustang was big news in early 2014, and now that inventory of 2015 models has begun to reach Ford dealerships, the automaker wants to keep its new pony car fresh in the minds of potential buyers. At the 2014 SEMA show, Ford displayed more than a dozen 2015 Mustang concepts, including the all-new King Cobra Mustang from Ford Racing.

King Cobra Mustang concept
Note the faux snakeskin finish. Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company.

Starting from a base Mustang GT, which comes with the 435hp 5.0-liter Coyote V-8, owners can build their own King Cobra using Ford Racing’s Drag Pack, Handling Pack and Super Pack. The Drag Pack includes heavy-duty halfshafts and a new rear sub-frame kit with stiffer bushings, while the Handling Pack includes front and rear lowering springs (with the front springs pre-mounted on new struts), rear shocks and stiffer anti-roll bars. The Super Pack adds forced induction, in the form of  a 2.3-liter Twin Vortices Series supercharger assembly co-developed with Roush Performance; the kit also includes the supporting hardware, intake manifold, throttle body, fuel rail with high-flow injectors, an air-to-liquid intercooler and the necessary ECU recalibration.

The net result is a Mustang that produces somewhere north of 600 horsepower, and is capable of running the quarter mile in 10.97 seconds, based upon Ford’s own testing. The automaker wasted no time in pointing out that this performance makes the car faster than the 707hp Dodge Challenger Hellcat.

Pettys Garage Mustang
Petty’s Garage Mustang concept. 

Petty’s Garage built its own take on a supercharged 5.0 Mustang, and the car sports a Roush supercharger beneath its metalflake black hood. Custom bodywork includes a reworked front fascia, revised to accommodate brake cooling ducts (which will make the six-piston Wilwood brakes that much more efficient), a custom rear spoiler and a rear fascia modified to accept a single center exhaust. The car’s most distinctive feature, however, is its metalflake Petty blue paint on lower panels that contrasts with the metalflake black finish on the greenhouse, hood, trunk and upper fenders. As a further nod to The King, the number 43 is ghosted on the C-pillars, and die-hard Petty fans will have a chance to own the car when its sold at auction to support the Victory Junction children’s charity.

Full Race Mustang concept
The Full Race EcoBoost Mustang concept. 

Not all Mustang concepts shown at SEMA packed V-8 power. Ford is giving a turbocharged four-cylinder Mustang another go, and any similarities to the Mustang SVO of the mid-1980s are purely intentional. In stock form, the Mustang’s 2.3-liter  EcoBoost engine is rated at 310 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. In the hands of tuner Full-Race Motorsports, which displayed its own Mustang concept in Ford’s SEMA booth, output will jump to an estimated 500 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque, courtesy of the company’s “Freako Boost” turbocharger upgrade kit.

Such a significant gain in horsepower takes more than just a larger turbocharger, so the Full-Race kit includes a new intake, a larger twin-scroll Borg Warner turbocharger, a new turbo downpipe, a larger intercooler, an oil cooler, a revised exhaust manifold and a new exhaust system from the catalytic converter back.

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Posted in Events, Ford, Interesting Stuff

1972 Chevrolet Nova – The Time Thief

1972 Chevy Nova Red Front Quarter View

By: Ro McGonegal

Is it still the same old story, a fight for love and glory, a case of do or die? According to Billy Utley’s brilliant ’72 Nova, the vein of that old tune runs deeper than that. All the best equipment in a finely crafted chassis surrounded by pin-neat sheetmetal is his signature, or more correctly the signature of B&B Classics in Ortonville, Michigan. B&B is collaboration, a cooperative between father Bill and son Billy that produces a prodigious amount of work all under one rather small roof.

But unlike the storied cobbler’s shabby shoes, Billy doesn’t drive a beater and dream of what could have been. No, he simply foreshadowed and built the best rolling billboard in the business. A car that began as a twinkle in his mind’s eye. All he wanted was clean piece to tool the streets. He began the project in 2007 with a simple mission: a nice stance, big wheels and tires, modified factory suspension, and a snappy carbureted small-block under the flap. My, how things quickly vectored to the moon. “It was to be built with the intent to cruise around,” he said sheepishly.

It seems that Billy was too conservative about his passion. How could he not celebrate the same level of sophistication that he was building for his customers on a daily basis? It didn’t make philosophical sense, but as you can see, he kicked that half-empty mentality out, laid his hands on, and didn’t quit until tire smoke was pluming out the back. Even as its progenitor, Billy claims his double-throw down enchilada is worth quite a bit of healthy stock.

The Nova’s mechanical realm is exemplary, from engine to chassis to rolling stock, B&B inserted aftermarket systems, not necessarily bolt-on equipment but stuff that has been proven a thousand times over. To Billy, such strategy would ensure completion in the least amount of time. He abandoned his uncomplicated blue-sky cruising dream for an active role in a driving experience that would push the limits of the equipment and the ability of the driver absolutely.

1972 Chevrolet Nova Sparco Steering Wheel  
1972 Chevrolet Nova Engine View 1

In his 28th year, Billy is not exactly a novice, having broken ground with an ’07 Subaru WRX STi and then his first ’72 Nova. Could it be that young Bill was headed in one direction and then saw the light as it infiltrated the B&B environs? Muscle cars and their variants are the lifeblood of the shop. His Subaru filled a need but it would never have the cache of a cool piece of Detroit. It would never run the quarter in 11.6 or approach a 175-mph top end.

Since Billy obviously wouldn’t be able to devote full time to the Nova, it became a two- year long after-hours celebration. And in the end, the mule would accelerate and stop and handle on the edge, a top-notch Pro Touring character free of excuses and brimming with potential. Somebody must have heard about it. In 2010, he got an invite to the Optima Ultimate Street Car invitational.

In 2011, he came back at the Midwest Muscle Car Challenge nailing the top speed award as well as first place in the speed/stop event. He cemented the deal with a second place overall in the Run to Music City event. In 2012, he was the overall winner in the Run to the Shore show and he copped second in the non-ABS road race and third in the non-ABS autocross trials at the Muscle Car Challenge hosted at Pittsburgh. He’s also affiliated with the American Street Car and Ultimate Street Car series as well as the festivities at Orange Cone Racing.

And Billy’s red devil keeps on rollin’.

Engine & Drivetrain

1972 Chevrolet Nova Engine View

The beauty of hot rodding is that it’s completely elective. Though most would have begun with a “simpler” LS engine design, Billy happened upon an L99 out of an SS Camaro, the one governed by variable valve timing (VVT). He sent the core to Thomson Automotive in Wixom, Michigan, for the machine work, internal expansion, and the build process. The L99 grew from a cast-guts 376 to an all-forged 416 via a Callies stroker crank, Oliver connecting rods, and Mahle 11.2:1 pistons. Thomson selected a Mast Motorsports VVT camshaft (something on the order of 230/237 degrees duration; 0.588/0.607-inch lift) and combined it with OE roller lifters and Mast pushrods. Although the cylinder heads were not modified, they host Mast 1.7:1 rocker arms and valvesprings. The intake tract is stock LS3 but supported by a K&N filter. Exhaust is extracted by 1 7/8-inch diameter primary tubes that feed 3-inch pipes. All accessories (sans A/C compressor) are gathered by a ’10 Camaro drive system. In factory form, the L99 produces 400 hp at 5,900 rpm and 410 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm. On the Thomson dynamometer, the engine twists out 580 hp at 6,200 and 554 lb-ft at 5,000 rpm. The torque parade begins with a Ram Force 9.5-inch twin-disc clutch assembly and Tremec T-56 (2.66, 1.78, 1.30, 1.00, 0.79, 0.63:1). A Dynotech Engineering prop shaft delivers it to the 3.89:1 gearset in a 9-inch style axle equipped with a Detroit Truetrac differential.


1972 Chevrolet Nova Rear Side View  

Back in the arms of B&B, the Nova was destined to retain originality. It was made whole again and sanitized against time. The Bill and Billy team shaved the side marker lights, filled in the license tag cove in the front bumper, and narrowed both bumpers slightly. They built the engine compartment, smoothing it out with a custom firewall. Premium Truck and Auto Body in Clarkston, Michigan, completed the application with BASF basecoat/clearcoat Inferno Orange.


1972 Chevrolet Nova Backseat

The Nova’s substantial underpinnings are founded on Detroit Speed hydroformed subframe (with rack steering, C6 spindles) and QUADRALink four-bar rear suspension. But for something a little different, Billy specified a full-floating 9-inch housing from Speedway Engineering in Sylmar, California. To adapt it to the Nova, B&B had it narrowed 3.5 inches (56.5 inches, flange-to-flange). While they were mucking around in the back room, they installed Detroit Speed mini-tubs to accept those big 19s. Eibach coils surround JRi double-adjustable shock absorbers that are mounted at each corner. To add stability to the chassis and to abet safety, B&B erected an eight-point rollcage.


1972 Chevrolet Nova Interior  
1972 Chevrolet Nova Racepak  
1972 Chevrolet Nova Seatbelt

Most of B&B’s effort was consumed by a hand-formed steel replacement dashboard fixed with a RacePak UDX view screen. It, and the Pioneer head unit (along with twin Polk Audio 6×9 speakers), is enabled by an American Autowire fuse block sprouting a custom in-house wiring harness. Paul’s Auto and Boat Interior in Pontiac, Michigan, covered the Recaro sport seats in Recaro Nardo and artista cloth. The door and side panels are retro. An unadorned Sparco 345 steering wheel on a factory tilt column sides by a Pro 5.0 shifter. Schroth Racing harnesses suck Billy to the seat.

Wheels & Brakes

1972 Chevrolet Nova Wheel

The energy burning equipment is typical of the Detroit Speed conversion: Corvette C6 ZO6 brakes with 14-inch DBA (Disc Brake Australia) 5000 rotors squeezed by a Wilwood master cylinder and six-piston calipers. The frictional coefficient is Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires—265/35 and 305/30—cohabiting with three-piece Forgeline ZX3R rims, sizes 18×9.5 and 19×11.

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Posted in General Motors, Interesting Stuff

1966 Chevrolet Chevelle – Canyon Killer

By Rob Fortier

What do you get when you mix road racing, SoCal canyon roads, and a childhood muscle car slash hot rod influence? In this case: Westlake Village’s Mike Cavanah’s curve-carving ’66 Chevelle.

“My father exposed me to muscle cars as a child” Mike remembers. “He owned a ’64 split-window Vette, ’68 and ’71 Vettes, a ’57 Chevy, and a couple of Model A Ford roadsters. I learned to drive in the ’68 on Stunt Road in Malibu; loved driving the Santa Monica mountain canyons as a teen and young adult.”

Cavanah still lives in the same area—and still carves the same canyon roads, behind the wheel of both European (Porsche 911s) and American muscle (’09 Challenger). The latter re-unleashed the muscle car bug, leading Mike to track down and acquire a ’69 Camaro off eBay. “When the car arrived” he recalls, “I didn’t like the way it drove.” A friend subsequently pointed him in the direction of Jason Pecikonis at Timeless Kustoms in Camarillo, and following some serious talks, the decision was made to step back a few years in time—1966 to be exact—and do a Chevelle instead.

1966 Chevy Chevelle White Front Quarter View  
1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Rear Side View  

Through a search on Craigslist, the appropriate project base roller was located back in 2010, and over the course of the following three years, the not-so-mild transformation ensued.

In order to provide not only the canyon killer handling Mike sought, but to achieve competitive results in various sanctioned autocross events (including USCA), Jason and crew at Timeless retrofitted the Chevelle chassis with Art Morrison/C6 front suspension, triangulated four-link, beefy sway bars front and rear, and RideTech springs. To bring the wide Boze Mesh 19-inch wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport radials to a suitable halt, 15-inch carbon Brembo discs were utilized, while an Art Morrison quick-ratio power rack helps keep things “on track.”

Then there’s the drivetrain: 416 cubic inches of LS3 goodness via Scoggin-Dickey put out a reported 698 hp at 5,500 rpm with a boastful 650 lb-ft a few revs up the tach. With LS9 injection, full complement of COMP Cams valvetrain components, Lingenfelter 30 percent overdrive pulleys, and custom long-tube headers (by Timeless), the V-8 feeds its 9.2:1 compression through a T-56 six-speed to a 3.73-geared rearend. A nice mixture of custom-shaped tinwork and Corvette shrouding artistically blend the LS into the Chevelle’s spacious engine bay.

Timeless’ adept handiwork flows well beyond the underhood confines, as you may well have already noticed. The Chevelle, wearing Grand Sport stripes on the passenger side only, features shaved handles and driprails, reshaped body lines, and custom hood vents beneath a flawlessly prepped, applied, and finished PPG white paint job offset by the aforementioned gunmetal gray Boze wheels and custom chin spoiler. The one-sided red racing stripes, among other things, lead the onlookers’ eyes within the car, where Agoura’s Eric Thorsen redid the cockpit in luxurious leather, including stock-bolstered Kirkey bucket seats and custom side paneling. The dash, reworked by Timeless, now houses instrumentation from Auto Meter, while a Focal-Alpine sound system and custom rollcage were also integrated.

And, as previously mentioned, Cavanah’s Chevelle was built to perform: “I debuted the car at USCA Laguna Seca in March 2014, followed by autocross in Pomona and Del Mar. But my dream is to get an invite to OUSCI in Pahrump after this year’s SEMA Show.” But Mike’s ’66 is also a family cruiser, as well, and with six kids, it’s rare that any of his weekend drives are spent behind the wheel “solo!”


1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Engine View

Texas-based Scoggin-Dickey supplied owner Cavanah and builder Pecikonis with a 4-inch bored and stroked (416ci) LS3 long-block (complete with Manley crank and H-beam rods, Wiseco 9.2:1 pistons, and COMP valvetrain) which Timeless Kustoms top-ended with later LS9 components, custom-fabbed tube headers, and Corvette-influenced external dress shrouded by handformed tinwork in the engine bay. Linking the Currie 9-inch posi to V-8 is a Tremec T-56 six-speed gearbox equipped with a dual-disc hydraulic clutch and B&M shifter.


The Chevelle’s stock chassis was retained, however, it’s been completely updated with Art Morrison Enterprises C6-based front suspension and quick-ratio rack-and-pinion, aftermarket coil springs and three-way adjustable shocks, triangulated four-link, and 15-inch, carbon-rotor’d Brembo binders.


1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Passenger Side View  

Save for the smooth removal of door handles and driprails, a little body line reshaping, and integrating hood vents, the Chevelle’s shell is “mostly” stock. Timeless’ painstaking bodywork is topped by an equally meticulous PPG white paint job. Red passenger-side front fender racing stripes go well with the gunmetal gray accenting of the Boze wheels and aftermarket front spoiler, as well as the chrome bumpers for that matter.


After Timeless Kustoms reworked the Chevelle’s dash and installed an appropriate rollcage, among other chores, Eric Thorsen dressed the interior up vividly in red leather, covering everything from stock-esque looking Kirkey bucket seats to the custom door panels. Vintage Air A/C, Alpine-based Focal sound system, and Auto Meter instrumentation provide necessary amenities.

1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Interior  
1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Steering Wheel  
1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Shifter  
1966 Chevrolet Chevelle Front Seats Seatbelts  


Wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 285/35- and 325/30-series performance radial rubber, 19-inches of wide Boze Mesh clench the normal wheel-size diameter of the 15-inch Brembo carbon rotors and accompanying calipers nestled snug inside.

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Posted in General Motors, Interesting Stuff

As original as it gets: Jon Gray’s 1937 Studebaker President rumble seat coupe

1937 Studebaker President

By: Kurt Ernst

Jon Gray with his 1937 Studebaker President. Photos by author.

Some see order where others see chaos, or majesty where others see nothing but disrepair. Jon Gray is one of these glass-is-half-full people, as evidenced by the 1937 Studebaker President he rescued from a 28-year garage slumber in 2012. A true barn find, extracting the Studebaker from its resting place required a chainsaw, a tractor and ample patience to remove the near-three decades of debris cluttered around the car.

1937 Studebaker President

Something of a local legend, the Studebaker was the property of a carpenter who’d fallen on hard times. Convincing him to even show the car took some doing, but Jon’s persistence paid off. Heeding the advice of friend John Royals, Jon bought the car not because it was a Studebaker with a rumble seat, but because it was a President, even though doing so required him to sell his 1936 Ford to raise funds.

Though once black, today Jon’s car sports car more oxidation than paint. He doesn’t seem to mind, and went to great lengths so show off the farmyard mud that still coats the inner fenders and parts of the frame. “We drove it to shows for the first year wearing a coat of dust, complete with raccoon prints down the windshield and across the hood,” Jon explained. It’s hard to top that for patina.

1937 Studebaker President

The Studebaker has since been cleaned, and Jon admits to vacuuming around five gallons of “mouse detritus” from the rumble seat area. He’s yet to pull the back seat out of the car, but is confident that more rodent residences will be uncovered when he does. The can of wax that Jon found stored on a shelf in the rumble seat compartment is still there, since as he explained, “it was a part of the car when we bought it.”

1937 Studebaker President

He confesses to driving the car home on its existing set of tires, but soon replaced them since the flat spots made the car shake badly. He’s changed a fan belt (with an original Studebaker replacement part), replaced a set of points, sleeved the wheel cylinders and the master cylinder, cleaned the carburetor and replaced the exhaust system, but that’s the extent of the mechanical refurbishing the Studebaker has seen. Jon even claims the spark plugs and wires are original, though we’ll bet that both have been replaced at some point during the car’s 77-year lifespan.

1937 Studebaker President

The, 115-horsepower L-head inline-eight engine still runs like a top, despite the car’s age and its 73,407 accumulated miles. The three-speed transmission lacks a Synchromesh first gear, and Jon’s Studebaker didn’t come equipped with overdrive, but neither item dims his enthusiasm for the car. “It’s from the Art Deco period,” Jon said, “and it features a Helen Dryden interior.”

1937 Studebaker President

Though industrial designer Helen Dryden was an influential figure in both the art and design worlds, she still had to answer to then-Studebaker-design-consultant Raymond Loewy. Nonetheless, Dryden got top billing for the interior of both the Studebaker Dictator and the Studebaker President, which the company proclaimed in period advertising as “styled by Helen Dryden.” Once described by The New York Times as, “the highest paid woman artist in the United States,” Dryden reportedly spent her later years living in a $10 per week welfare-subsidized hotel room, and today is largely unknown outside of art and design circles.

1937 Studebaker President

I asked Jon if he had any future plans for the Studebaker that survived the scrap drives of the Second World War, and he shook his head. “We just want to drive it and have fun,” he said, “People really appreciate the way it is and love to see it.”

Judging from the attention it drew at last Saturday’s Cruise-In Spectacular, we’re inclined to agree with him.

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Posted in Interesting Stuff