Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Hub Garage

I just added a link to The Hub Garage off to the side. Seems this is a HUGE virtual garage/networking site for gearheads with around 25,000 members. Any way, I added a link, and created my own garage there. Check it out.

The Hub Garage
My Garage

Camaro Update: Engine, brakes, and steering

I've been starting to research the final parts I need to get the Camaro back on the road. For now, I'll just break it down into a few steps. I'll update my "Quest for 9 seconds" link off to the right when I get a chance.

Engine: I've got most all of my engine parts with exception of my cylinder heads and a few odds and ends to put the thing together. I decided upon AFR heads, which will set me back a cool $3,400+. I had pondered Canfields, though recently discovered that the company seems to have went outta business when the owner retired. I'm not sure if anybody bought them out or not, but either way, I decided I preferred the stability of a company that has been around the block and a proven leader in moving air. Once my tax return is here, the heads will be ordered.

I called up my machinist/builder at Tico Performance Engines to touch base. I told him my game plan, what parts I had, and inquired about recommended pistons, compression ratios, harmonic balancers, and other parts. I was relieved to find he had absolutely no doubts about the durability of my 2 bolt block (I pondered a 4 bolt splay), nor my factory forged crank. He did advise possibly going with a flat top piston if I were going to load up on nitrous though, so that is one area we'll have to discuss further. Idealy, I'd like an 11-1+ engine, as with that compression you get a nice crackle/rumble from the engine. If all goes as planned, my engine should be at the machinist no later that March.

I'm going with a Barry Grant Demon carb, though still unsure of which model, even after speaking with their tech department and receiving their recommendation. They have recommended an 825 Race Demon, which flows in the 900+ cfm range. I was a bit surprised, as the description does not seem to apply to the engine I'm building. Last engine build, they recommended their 750 Race Demon, and I'll admit, it seemed perfect for the build. Perhaps I should leave my selection to the experts and go with their recommendation. I suppose my one option could be to go with the RS (replacible sleeve) so I could always flow more air if needed, or built a bigger engine.

Brakes: I have checked into various brake systems, as the options are almost limitless when it comes to a 69 Camaro. Not only are the many companies, but the options of manual, power, hydraulic, vacuum, , rotor size, and whether to go standard/slotted/cross drilled rotors. In the end, I have decided to go with a kit by Wilwood. They seem to be used by many builders of vehicles on all levels, have been around many years, and offer the type of system I am confident will bring my car to a hault. I'm going with a manual setup, 11 inch slotted/cross drilled front rotors, an aluminum brake cylinder, proportioning valve, and sticking with my rear drums for the time being. Once I either build up my 12 bolt, go after market, or go Ford 9 inch, I will upgrade the rear setup to discs.

Steering: I had planned on converting my car to a manual rack and pinion. I have thrown that idea out the window. My thinking was, it would be nice to drop 30-40 pounds off the front of the car. Unfortunately, several concerns arose. First, few are setup for a big block car. Secondly, and of much greater concern, was the snaking of the linkage between the exhaust headers. I'd spent $450-$500 on my headers, I'm not about to start with a new set, possibly costing much more since they may have to be custom made. Then, on top of that, the $1,300 for the rack and pinion. Instead, after some net surfin', I found a much more economical option. While I won't drop any weight off the car, I will have quicker/tighter steering than my junk steering box that came off the car. I found that many people are installing 3rd generation Firebird/Camaro boxes into their 1st generation cars with great results. As luck would have it, I have a close friend with a parts car I can get the box off of. Total cost to install it will be in the $100-$200 range.

So there is a quick update as to what I've been up to. Expect many more entries in 2010, and a good number of Camaro related entries as I strive to get the car on the road by the time summer hits!

Camaro, Mustang, and Challenger

All three are true blooded American muscle cars, yet each one seems to possess it's own strengths and weaknesses. While all in the same category of vehicle, they all are significantly different when it comes to what one is looking for in a car. Though I've only driven the Challenger, and a Mustang GT (though it was the last gen version), I can speculate from what I've read, seen, and felt first hand as to how the models compare. Let's start with the Mustang.

2011 Ford Mustang GT: I drove a Mustang GT from a few years ago, actually, a production version long before they hit the road. Though I'm sure improvements have been made as far as handling and power, such as this year's bump to a 5.0 with 412 hp, I have a pretty good idea what the Mustang is all about. The new 2011 Mustang carries on the tradition of previous years, taking us back to the 60's, catching the tail end of that decade with this model. The Mustang is the type of muscle car that feels like your average mid-size car in many respects. It's a good all around car, with the lightness to make it quite agile compared to the Camaro and Challenger. With the 412 hp, I'm sure it will get a lot more respect running with the competition, likely even running AWAY from the competition this time around. The interior is nicely done, comfortable, and not too sports car feely, though you feel wrapped a little tighter than your average family sedan. Visibility from inside the car is better than the Camaro and Challenger by a long shot. All around, I think this new Mustang will be an even hotter seller than the last model. With a 300+ hp V6 that gets 30 mpg, I'm sure a great number will give the nod to the base model Stang.

2010 Dodge Challenger: I can actually say that I drove this model, the R/T, though it was the automatic version. The Dodge Challenger feels more like a high hp family car in regards to drivability. While the body says Challenger, it has the feel that is much closer to the larger/heavier Charger from the late 60's early 70's. Stomp the pedal and you just don't have the feel of a fast accelerating muscle car, yet the speedometer states otherwise. The styling of the Dodge Challenger is by far the most true to it's roots. Park it next to a 1970 Challenger and they look nearly identical, though the latest version suffers from an obvious weight problem. The Challenger is the all around boulevard bruiser, the heavy weight of the bunch. While this review may seem fairly negative, and perhaps it is, the Dodge Challenger will likely put a smile on each and every one of it's owners. The car has a special something that you just gotta like. For a cross country trip, the Challenger would be by far the most comfortable and pleasureful of the pack.

2010 Chevrolet Camaro: While my personal favorite of the bunch, the car has it's own shortcomings. Let me start by saying that I feel the Camaro styling combines the best body lines on a car ever produced (1969 Camaro) with that of the most cutting edge, dare to be different styles of today (Cadillac lines). Visually, it is the best eye candy of the bunch. The downside to that is the environment it creates within the car. While I feel the interior styling is better than that of Ford or Dodge, it definately has the feel of a cockpit...though lacking the visibility the glass bubble would offer. Instead, the windows on all sides feel more like portals. While seating is comfortable, you almost feel trapped inside the car. With the high body lines and relatively small front and back windows, it is not a car for those affected by tight confines. While I can only vouch for what I've read in regards to performance, the Camaro appears to be a great all around performer, topping it's competition in every area. That being said, the Camaro is only a few hundred pounds off the Challenger, and thus suffers to some degree in regards to throwing it around corners. At an approximate 3,900 lbs, I'm sure "nible" is not a word a driver would describe regarding the feel. Chevrolet also offers a V6 that knocks down 29 mpg, which should prove beneficial in the future as mpg standards get even tighter. So of the bunch, I'd say the Camaro would likely be the least desirable to your average car buyer, though perhaps the most desirable to the guy or gal looking for a car that performs and looks sexy as hell.

So my final verdict? I don't have one. Unlike the car bags, I just can't bring myself to attach a rank/file to each car. Each one has it's own personality, each one much more separated than the original three pony cars back in 1969-1970. All I can say is if you're looking to buy, take each one for a test drive, push it a little (or a lot), and decide for yourself which car fits your personality and tastes. With such great rides, whatever you decide, you can't go wrong.

2010 Detroit Autorama just around the corner

This year's Detroit Autorama takes place February 26-28th 2010. I will be attending the show probably 2 days this year, Friday and Saturday. I'll take tons of pictures as always.

2010 Detroit Autorama

Friday, January 22, 2010

2010 North American International Auto Show

If I could summarize this year's show in a single word, it would have to be BLAH! I'll be making a return trip tomorrow with the wife and inlaws, but today, me and my dad made the trek. The excitement this year was lost. I couldn't find a a single new model or concept car that blew me away. In fact, I found it difficult to find a car that could keep my interest more than a few minutes.

The most in depth conversation was with the guy working the Chevy Volt display, as I have been intrigued by this car, and wonder how it will change the industry. If hybrids truly are the next generation autos, then I think a gas/electric hybrid will be the most successful. An all electric car ain't worth shit if you're planning a road trip and 200 miles in your car is dead and needs to be charged for several hours. Even with extreme advances, lets face it, if the car takes longer than 30 minutes (while stopping for lunch/dinner) to charge, then it simply is not a practical means of transportation.

While I still liked to look at the Camaros, Mustangs, and Challengers, they are all on the road and the excitement of seeing them on display is sort of pointless. Though I'll admit, the bright green Camaro caught my eye, you wouldn't catch my ass dead in it. The Plum crazy Challenger on the other hand, man, pictures don't do the color justice! Not to forget the Mustang, which has by far the best visibility of the three from behind the wheel. The Challenger comes in second, with the Camaro a distant third. The Camaro is as if you're in a cockpit with portholes to look out of. Personally, I'd still sacrifice the visibility for the styling though.

Ford probably had one of the best displays of the show, even though it's pretty much a carry over of year's past. It also seemed to have more buzz than any other companies, possibly attributed to their recent success. The new Mustang is very nice. I like the styling much better, interior is nice, though nothing over the top. The 5.0 is making a welcome return. The Taurus SHO was there, though the main display had a deep, deep green color which did little for me. A very nice color, but just not what I would choose to bring to a show.

If it needs an introduction, then you really wouldn't understand anyway.

I sat in a couple F150's, including the Platinum edition, and reinforced that Ford makes the best damn trucks on the market, bar none. The interior is so over the top compared to the Chevy and Dodge that it's as if both are a generation behind Ford. Ford had one truck on display with a step that folded out of the tailgate, along with a cane/handrail to help one into the back of the truck. Something so simple, and yet for 100 years, nobody else thought of it. Lincoln and Mercury both had solid products as well. As I said, it was obvious that Ford was the leading car company at this year's show, as apparent by their amazing products. It should also be noted that the Ford Focus seems headed in the right direction. The new version on display looked much better than the same old styling that it has had for years. It doesn't look like a damn bubble anymore, it seems stretched. As far as small cars go, it is one of the better looking models out there.

New Ford Focus

Tailgate step with handrail.

Chrysler/Fiat felt very unorganized and thrown together at the last minute. Parking your Ferraris next to the Dodge does nothing to help Chrysler products, as the products and customers are worlds apart. Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep lacked any sort of new product whatsoever. In fact, the only product on display as a center piece was the Fiat 500, which is essentially a different kind of Mini in my opinion. Sure, the car looks fun, I'm sure it's fuel efficient, but not exactly the type of product that warrants a couple of tall/slender Italian females flaunting it as if it's the sweetest thing ever. Plus, to me it looks a helluva lot like the Neon in the front.

The Plum Crazy Challenger was sweet, though as my dad pointed out, the side stitching on the seats was already coming apart on both the driver/passenger sides. I would think that most companies would have rushed a new set of seats to the show and replaced them. As is, it appears to be a serious quality issue.

GM felt very stripped down. Gone from the floor were Saab, Hummer, Pontiac, and Saturn. The leftovers felt like a much smaller company, not the behemoth of years we've all become accustomed to. They did have a few nice products such as the Buick Regal GS, the Cadillac CTS coupe, and CTS-V coupe. The Aveo was a sharp looking little compact with some very aggressive styling. The Cruze, which I know GM is banking on playing a major roll in the direction they are heading, looked bland and boring. The Volt was there in the flesh, one of about 80 production version models that have been built. The spokesperson answered a few of the questions I had, including about the $7,500 tax credit. I'll be curious how the public responds to this car. I'll admit, my life would allow me to essentially always run the car in electric mode only, which equates to about 80 cents a day.

Here's a pretty tough looking truck Chevy had on display.

The Volt

Chevy Graphite or Granite, let's just call it an ugly attempt at a Flex.

Camaro Country, complete with a "Green" version. Al Gore would be proud.

This Camaro turns into a robot.

Here is the Buick Regal GS. Truly a car capable of lowering the average buying age of your typical Buick driver by 75 years or more.

Finally! A two door Cadillac! (XLR was really just a Vette in Cadillac clothing.)

While I can't argue the styling, the turd brown color didn't look good on 1970's Cutlasses and Camaros, why go down this road again?

Audi definately pushes the envelope with love it or hate it styling. Me? I personally like it.

This thing...well, if driving a Smart car didn't get you made fun of at the office, perhaps you should try this on for size. Yes, there is seating for two! Luggage and groceries however must be hung out the window.

Amphibicar 2.0.

An aftermarket company with their own supercar, powered by your choice of Chevy or Ford powertrain.

Matchbox cars in an assortment of colors.

Chevy's matchbox...not too bad looking, pretty aggressive front.

Lexus had their super car on display. For the $375,000 I saw it was going to sell for, I am less than impressed. Again, give me a ZR1 Corvette for a little over $100K and I'll run circles around your Toyota...and MY accelerator won't stick!

Last, but not least. Here is the BYD car, which stands for Build Your Dreams. A Chinese company, it looks like a car from the 90's if you ask me. Comes complete with lead paint finish and plenty of detachable components your children can choke on. I'm sure it's cheap though, built with non-union labor inside of labor camps.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Craig's List Car Deals of the Day

Last night, while lying in bad unable to sleep thanks to my late night Mountain Dew kick, I began surfing on my Blackberry. Soon, I found myself on Craigslist for Detroit, searching through the interesting cars.

Though there are a lot of "ho-hum" rides on there, a few really caught my attention. From time to time, I will try and sift through the garbage and post a few of the better deals. Here are just a few that really caught my eye.

Proof that cool old cars can still be had for a good price, and that thinking outside the box can score you a cheap ride that turns heads. Here is a 1948 Chevy Fleetside for $3,500.

How about a 1963 4 door Falcon for $1,400 obo? Sure, it's a 4 door, but if it's solid, it would make one cool ass daily driver/beater, or perhaps even build it as a cheap drag car.

Here is a very clean looking 1989 Mustang 5.0 for $2,700 obo

I'm sure this one needs some work, but as long as it's fairly solid and complete, seems like a good project starter, 1988 Pontiac Trans Am $1,400

Another classic for relatively cheap, 1969 Mustang for $6,500

Great deal on a basketcase, a 1965 Plymouth Fury.

These cars were all for today's listing, and all on the Detroit portion of Craig's List. I must admit, I never really took Craig's list that seriously when it came to classic/project cars, but now I'm a believer. Looks like you can get some killer deals on the cars you want. I'll try to stroll through Craig's from time to time and relay what I find. Perhaps next time I'll expand my search nationwide for specific models.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

One last look over the shoulder

I recently read an article by an editor of a car mag regarding the new Camaro and the attraction it's owners have. It was described as an attraction that hasn't been seen in a number of years.

Though cars have been far and few over the years, there have undoubtedly been cars that offer the same feeling in their owners. For me, my first car offered that sensation. My 1989 Firebird was nothing all that extrordinary, with it's TBI 305 cranking out just 170 hp and relatively rare 5 speed. Yet it injected me with an automotive passion that has lasted over half my lifetime. I remember a many times I parked my car, right after a hand car wash and blackened tires, looking back over my shoulder with a smile, often more than once.

It wasn't just the car, though I have always liked the styling. The car was fun in so many respects. The throaty V8 with Flowmaster mufflers, the low to the ground handling, the wind blowing with the t-tops out. It built an excitement, and the reason that there are cult like followings on the internet, and a growing number of aftermarket parts becoming available to restore them. Sure, the car had it's shortcomings, as dully noted to this day, such as the structural integrity being that of a wet noodle. Honestly, I'd probably have to agree, yet that did nothing to take from the thrill of the ride.

After that first car was totaled, I cried. Sentimental value aside, it was as much a part of me as anything else. The day she was totaled, I lost a part of me. The car I learned on, not only how to wrench, but how to drive. The hours I had spent both under the car and under the hood, seemed almost pointless at that point. Knowing that at any given time, all that work could be whiped out by another's disregard for a stop sign.

My next car, "The Replacement," was a 1969 Camaro. As bought, it was a good looking car, fun to drive, but it lacked the personality I had with my first car. I think a lot of that was the fact that the car was so nostalgic, had so many owners over the years, and just felt...well...used. As years would pass, my Camaro would be transformed into what I desired, and then morphed into other builds along the way. After the frame up restoration though, she was as much a part of me as my first car. Not only did it invoke the "look over the shoulder," but simply firing up the engine or dropping the hammer stood the hairs on the back of my neck up. Like an instant shot of adrenaline directly into my heart. Even on your worst days, a smile was just a Camaro ride away. Other people notice too when you drive a classic down the road, as evident by the smiles and thumbs up they forecast as they pass.

I hope that with the new "green" initiative, the building of cars people are passionate about is not lost in the mix. If the day comes when I have to drive a plug in vehicle, God help them if it looks like a damn Prius, Insight, or any other bubbly shit I've seen on the roads. If you gotta build a smaller car, then simply shrink the proportions of a car like the Camaro, Mustang, or Challenger. Offer many of the same signatures, be it the tail lights/head lights, hood design or body lines. You don't have to throw the design of the body out the window simply to build green machines.

Build me something, like my NEW 1989 Pontiac Formula I drive now, that I'm passionate about. 147,000 miles and 20 years of age, yet it still gets the over the shoulder look, and a smile....rust spots showing up and all. THAT is the type of thing that builds loyal customers who come back each time they need a new car, THAT is what gets people to park their rides to keep the miles down, and THAT is what makes a car a classic decades later.

2010 North American International Auto Show is upon us

The North American International Auto Show opened yesterday. I've already heard from a few of you regarding when I'm making the show, as some out-of-staters are anxiously awaiting the pictures and show coverage. As it stands, I will be going next Friday, January 22, as well as on Saturday, January 23. I'll be sure to take plenty of pictures, not so much of the stuff you see on the news, but the stuff that makes the American cars what they are. The cars that little boys and girls dream of owning some day, and that doesn't involve plugging a car in for recharging just yet.

Stay tuned!

North American International Auto Show

What a difference a year makes

It would be a stretch to say that the auto industry has weathered the storm, though brighter days to seem to lie ahead. Surprisingly, this round seems to have been won by Ford Motor Company. They seem to be making all the right moves, picking up both North American Car and Truck of the year, announcing 1,000 new jobs, and higher stock prices than in a long time.

Thanks to government help, GM and Chrysler have survived for another day, though both will look drastically different in coming years. As for Chrysler, it's hard to even predict what Fiat's plans will be. GM on the other hand has Saab, Hummer, Saturn, and Pontiac (RIP) all with one foot in the grave awaiting the dirt to be thrown on top. GM is now a much leaner/stripped down version of what it once was. On the bright side, at least both companies are still with us.

Onto the point, I am feeling much more excited about the upcoming years regarding factory performance. There is no denying the hybrids and electric cars are coming. Though there is still a spot left for the Mustangs, Camaros, and Challengers. Not only is there a spot, but as stated in another entry, the Mustang gets a bump to 5.0 liters and 412 hp to better run with it's competition. The Camaro in the mean time gets it's Z28 badging back, and with it, an approximate 556 hp supercharged engine to take on Ford's top Stang. Chrysler, for the time being, has it's SRT8 as it's top dog with 425 hp. Though notoriously overweight,I was happy to see that Chrysler does offer an optional 3.73 gear, which has gotta add some extra "oomph" off the line.

The Mustang and Camaro are both also available in "body in white," (though the Camaro is actually yellow) for those in the racing circuits. While the Challenger doesn't offer the same, they do offer drag race ready Challengers known as the "Drag Pak." Though not street legal, and not a strip down version to be built for any racing application, they do have drag racing somewhat covered.

The future for the Challenger is also looking much more promising. I believe I read somewhere that rumor was that the Viper was going away, though could have mistaken that for when the Viper brand was forsale. Secondly, Fiat recently announced that Dodge Rams would become their own devision known as "Ram." Chrysler would focus on cars, sharing technology/platforms with Fiat, while the Dodge brand would be reserved as the performance division. That, in my eyes, says that the Challenger will prove to have the staying power to keep it around for awhile.

Though the Challenger with it's extra heft and somewhat dated V6 aren't exactly fuel friendly, the Camaro and Mustang have recognized the need to offer a high mpg version to help fuel sales to the folks who aren't after the higher performance V8. Both Chevy and Ford will soon offer 300 hp V6 versions that get 29-30 mpg respectively. If Dodge chooses to leave itself to the performance enthusiasts, perhaps the V6 will simply go away. With a few V8 variations, and perhaps a V10 option, being the lone powerplants. Ford has even hinted that the twin turbo V6 powering the Taurus SHO and Lincoln MKX could find it's way into the Mustang. With little help, I'm sure Ford could easily get over 400 hp out of that engine. The question remains, will diehard Mustang enthusiasts embrace a twin turbo V6, or do they long for their tried and true V8's?

Any way ya cut it, the future looks much brighter for gearheads than it did in 2009.