Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Reminiscing about old driving routes

These past few days have taken me back to my old stomping grounds, Toledo, Ohio. Growing up in Adrian, we used to make frequent jaunts down to Toledo, as it was only about a 30 minute commute...if you drove the speed limit. :)

Back then, driving the speed limit was something I seldom did, nor did most of my friends. In fact, during my recent application to a local law enforcement agency, they inquired about my past driving record. While my current record is squeaky clean, I admitted that back in the day I had racked up a fair share of tickets, always for speeding.

It's amazing that most of us seldom got caught for our stupidity back then. Aside from one time for me, which the officer who pulled me over said "I was going 65 mph trying to catch you, and you were pulling away fast." Little did he know, I had a gear to go yet. He checked the car out thoroughly, as I later found out he was a big time gearhead, and even though was left with a 15 mph ticket, I knew he wasn't fibbing when he pleaded that he could haul me to jail and tow my car for that little stunt.

These past days, I came across several of the old country roads in which I used to travel on my way to Toledo. Travel we did, as you could go for miles without passing a house, and intersection, or even another car. It was upon those very back roads in which I rid myself of all fears from going fast. Those back roads were where I first hit the fuel shutoff in my first car. Let me tell you, when cruising along at three digit speeds and your fuel pump shuts off, first thing that came to mind was "OH MY GOD, I BLEW MY ENGINE!" Those worries soon fade as the pump kicks back on and you resume speed, though I was still left wondering "What the hell was that all about?" Even an aftermarket computer chip didn't omit the fuel shut off, as I found out. Seems you have to sign a waver in order for the company to program it out.

Those back roads where home to many burnouts, leaving your mark on roads traveled. Often, you'd run across the marks from one doing a reverse to drive slam, which is enough to make a person cringe, with deep regards to the short life that transmission will have. These were also the roads in which I perfected the power drift, a fad now amongst the front wheel drive crowd that utilizes an emergency brake. Back then, we drifted with V8 rear wheel drive cars, with only power and momentum as our friends. The emergency brake was reserved for pulling donuts in the winter, or sliding on wet pavement.

The last few days took me through small towns, where nothing much remained aside from old Inns or perhaps a party store amonst the abandoned buildings. Little villages were scattered along the way, though few survived the years to warrant the "historic" label. Crumbling barns, wide open fields, and roads as flat as the eye could see. It's no wonder we'd use these paths as high speed transit to Toledo, it was always so inviting. I believe my quickest time into my chosen spot in Sylvania, Ohio was something like 17 minutes, on an otherwise legal 30 minute commute, you do the math.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

1969 Chevelle SS396

It had been a long time, in fact, I had to stop and think for a second before recalling when the last time was. Earlier tonight, I went for a ride in a classic muscle car with some serious power. After thinking about it, the last ride in such a car was this same owner's 1966 Chevy II, packing a good 400+ hp, though that may be an overestimate considering the car is light as hell, it wouldn't take as much power to get that baby movin'.

Tonight, the power came courtesy of a 396 big block powered Chevelle. My seat-o-the-pants meter concluded that the hp rating must have been in the same ballpark as the little Chevy II parked in the drive, though I may have to give the upper hand to the Chevy II, the sound of a big block was so much sweeter.

It made me long for the day that my car is finished, though that day is nowhere in sight. I've come to realize just how much of an obligation owning a house is. In addition, how discouraging it can be living in a state with the worst economy in the nation, with little relief likely in the near future. I won't sell myself short on my plans for my car, so the day it returns to the road continues to slide back. Nothing less than a 1,000 hp street terror would be satisfactory for the amount of time the car has been off the road. In the mean time, I'll continue to work out the plans for what is now my dad's 1970 Challenger R/T. As it stands, I think I just about have him talked into the six speed transmission, though it seems the 383 will remain at home in the engine bay, though bumped up to a more respectible 400-450 hp. I'm guessing that the car should still be able to knock down decent gas mileage, probably in the upper teens, which would be damn good for a carburated car with that much power.

The guy who owns the 1969 Chevelle was thinking along the same lines. He is leaning towards building up a numbers matching 396 with good power and placing a 6 speed behind it. While nostalgia is great, more and more gearheads are taking routes that will increase their gas mileage, efficiency, and dependability of their classic rides. I've never been one who is anal about all original, numbers matching, era correct cars. So I say let the hobby evolve, keep up with the times, and help continue the hobby's strong following. I'm sure a day will come when the classic cars with efi and overdrive transmissions begin to outnumber those carbed non-od cars...who knows, perhaps that day has already come amongst the street rod scene.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Detroit Grand Prix & Le Mans

This morning, shortly after I woke up, I walked to the back of the house to take a peak outside to see what the dogs were up to. As I did so, I heard a high revving engine, though assumed it was just another race taking place between a few motorcycles on Grand River. The sounds persisted however, and I soon realized that I was actually hearing testing for the Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle. I opened the windows to take a better listen, and was shocked to hear just how clearly the sound would travel. I'm a good 5+ miles from where the race will take place, in addition, numerous multi-level, even skyscrapers, cover the distance.

I had planned on attending the event, though time, money, and other obligations dictated otherwise. I am very excited that racing will make it's return this weekend to the Motor City, for several reasons. First and foremost, it places Detroit amongst international viewers, and during a weekend in which tons of events are taking place. Secondly, and almost as important, racing belongs in the Motor City, plain and simple.

So instead of checking out today's race, I'll be pushing to get the exposed, bare wood on my house prepared for paint before winter is upon us. Also, family obligations will prevent me from attending Sunday's race as well. Still, it's a welcome return, and hopefully the start of another great tradition that will compliment the Gold Cup Race over the summer. While the concrete slab placed near the foot of the bridge is a serious eye sore, I'm sure that as years pass, the Isle will benefit greatly from renovations and improvements thanks to the race. Though I can't attend, I'll be watching the Le Mans tonight as it's broadcast via a delay at 9:30 pm on Speed, and again on Sunday on ABC for the Grand Prix.

Detroit Grand Prix