Friday, April 29, 2011

The Metal Man - Fournier Enterprises

Ron Fournier - Photo by Bill McGuire of Hot Rod

Ever since my freshman year at CMU, when I took metal shop, I've wanted to learn more about custom fabrication using metal. I'll admit, I've forgot more than I remember, as it's been 16 yrs since I had that class, nearly half a lifetime ago. Still, I wanted to learn how to form metal, using such tools as metal brakes, English wheels, bead rollers, pipe benders, etc. The April issue of Hot Rod had just the article, or more specifically, the type of shop, I've been looking for. Low and behold, this metal working genius is located in Metro Detroit, just 30 minutes away in Shelby Twp, MI. Fournier Enterprises was launched in 1991, and continues to be a specialized fabrication shop today, while expanding into a shop that offers multiple classes on metal working, in hopes to keep this specialized trade alive.

The price is a bit costly, at $1,000 for a 3 day class, but I'm confident that with class sizes limited to 6 students, the amount of skills you will learn in those 3 days are second to none. In addition, the classes seem to be in high demand, considering there is only one class opening left in October of this year. I'm planning on taking this course in 2012, and by the looks of it, I better sign up early!

Ron Fournier: Metal Fabricator - Metal Man

Fournier Enterprises - 13326 West Star Dr. Shelby Twp, MI 48315
1-800-501-3722 or 586-323-9160

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Just Dashes...and more

Here is a company that has been around for as long as I can recall, and are often considered the best of the best. They are not only capable of repairing your cracked and beat up dashes, but also most of your other interior needs. In addition to repairing dash boards, they can now build custom pods in the dash to house gauges. When new parts aren't available, I'd turn to Just Dashes for my interior needs.

Just Dashes

Red Line Gauge Works

Red Line Gauge Works is a full service speedometer shop offering, restoration, repair, and customization of most automotive gauges. They manufacture speedometer cables for all applications. They are also capable of manufacturing custom/personalized gauges.

Red Line Gauge Works

Deuce of Spades

Photographer: Faith Granger

Tagged by Hot Rod Magazine as arguably the best movie since American Graffiti (1973), Deuce of Spades definately sounds like it's worth a look. Aside from a few viewings at a few choice theatres across the country, it's a straight to DVD release. For $22, I think it sounds like a movie well worth it. I plan on purchasing the DVD in the near future and look forward to writing the review.

Deuce of Spades

Car Restorations vs Values

One thing that has always baffled me when it comes to cars is how they are valued, and how those values vary on so many factors. If certain, well known builders, put their hands on a car, it seems to be transformed into an instant high dollar car. On the flip side, if Joe Average spends his life savings restoring his ride, it's not unusual to see it advertised for sale for 1/2 the money invested in the project.

With that said, it leaves me to question as to why this particular trade, automotive restoration, is not on par with other specialty trades? Plumbers, carpenters, electricians, and even your mechanic at your local dealership, make a respectable rate for their experience. So why do car projects often fail to offer the type of return on money invested that they deserve? All too often, labor costs/time invested is an automatic wash, and almost as often, even the money invested in parts alone is hard to recover, depending upon the project.

Perhaps the most puzzling of all to me is the direction the street rod market has gone. You can pick up an all original, or at least an era correct restoration, for a fraction of the cost that many kit cars will fetch. When I say kit car, I'm referring to what is now likely the majority of street rods on the road, either fiberglass bodied cars, or a steel reproduction of an original. Street Rods often lacked the special engine/special options that drive the prices amongst the muscle car era, and yet these kit cars often demand more money than all but the rarest of muscle cars.

I have always had a deep love for 3rd generation Firebirds/Camaros, and there is no denying their performance abilities with an updated powertrain/suspension. Yet this is another example of a car being a lost cause when it comes to your return on investment. For my particular Formula, I envision an LS3 with around 400 hp under the hood, backed by a T56, drop the curb weight from 3,400 lbs down to something below 3,000 lbs. Update the suspension, and stiffen the car up (expecially the t-top cars), and you have a nimble, lightweight, powerful car that would knock down around 30 mpg. With gas prices seemingly going to stay north of $4 a gallon, and likely keep rising, one would think there would be a market for such a performance car that gets such respectable mpg and performance. Reality is, you'd likely have $20,000-$25,000 invested, while lucky to fetch $10,000-$12,000 on the open market.

Why a topic on car values? Well, I have a deep desire to start restoring cars in the coming years, with the plan being to sell, and hopefully make a little money to put into future projects. I have a few cars I have come across locally that I'd like to restore, though I question whether some of them would equate to a loss when it came time to sell.

I enjoy wrenching on cars almost as much as I do driving them, which is evident by how long my projects sit undrivable. That said, anybody who has restored a car knows the attachment that often comes with it. Any future projects I start with plans to sell, I will have to carefully choose, so as I don't have such an attachment that it becomes just another one of my cars that I end up holding on to. Ideally, it would be nice to finish a car, hit some major shows around the area and out of state, and sell it during the car show season, and move onto the next project. At least that's how it would go in a perfect world.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Building of a Legend

I was contacted by a guy in Justin, Texas about 6 months ago. He was looking for a paticular set of wheels for a 1966 Fairlane he's been building for 3 years. It's a replica of a car his Father had owned back in the day. The wheels? Keystone two peice - steel wheel, aluminum centers. He's been looking for them for 3 years. I knew the style of wheel but not that keystone made a version also. I knew them as classic torque thrust wheels. But the set had to be the Keystones, because that is what his Dad's had.

The quest to rebuild a car our parents drove in their youth is one I surely share since I was very young. My Mom had a maroon 66 chevelle 283 2speed coupe. It was nothing special, but it was to her. My Dad a special ordered navy blue 66 Chevy II w/ 350hp 327 and a 4 speed, ordered as a base model, the lightest model - my uncle and him had parts all over the garage floor and the heads sent out and the short block out and off to balanced and blue printed same day he drove it home from the dealership. Dad (my Grandpa) was furious!

I grew up hearing stories about these legends. Good ones, how that little 289 with the right driver, Pam in this story, knew how to make it move and surprise quite a few guys cruising Woodward avenue in 68. Another story, that after a race my Dad would have to reset all the radio stations because the Chevy II pulled so hard off the line all the radio buttons popped out to the reset position. I still have never been in a car that did that. He drove it to the track, and raced with guys with trailered cars like Don Garlits. I badly want to rebuild both cars some day. I have a 283 on a engine stand i picked up about two years ago. I haven't progressed any soon as i find one to start with and the money to to do it, it's on - and seriously a 350hp 327 Chevy II...that's a 50k car now i think! A real legend.

So, after telling Alan that there has to be a set out there somewhere, I warned him, it could take months or even a year for me to find a them. He said he may want to go with an similar set and wait til the set appears. So about a week ago, Alan sent me out a set of very similar vintage Ansen 1 piece aluminum wheels to change bolt pattern and re machine the edges. The previous weekend I ran across a guy who told me he had a set of 60s keystones. I contacted Alan and let him know I think have a set that I located that may be the wheels. The owner told me they were 60s and for sure Keystones and I was driving up Tuesday to see them. It was a two hour drive to look at a set of wheels, but they were the right ones. They were the set that took 6 months to find, and at the last minute of course. So that's the story, just one of the quests to locate just 4 parts in a restoration of a legend.

Out of all the things we do and have done with cars, it is a great honor to be a part of restoring or building a tribute to a legend. Each one with a story about why and how it all happened to come to sit in row of legends, at your local car show.

New Author: Meet Scott

I would like to take a moment to introduce everyone to my friend Scott from Detroit Vintage Wheels. I met Scott back in '95-'96 while at CMU. We were both going through CMU's Industrial Tech program, with an Automotive concentration. A few other friends may be joining as authors soon as well, and an occasional poster from a few years ago, Wes, looks to rejoin us. My hope is that I can not only offer more frequent blog posts with multiple authors, but also offer a wider variety of car projects, dream projects, and number of car shows covered. Scott has one entry pending, which I will follow this post up with. I just didn't want to do so without a proper introduction.

Monday, April 11, 2011

2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302: Laguna Seca Road Test

The other day I picked up the latest issue of Motor Trend, a magazine that is somewhat out of my element, though occasionally draws me in with their modern muscle car reviews. On this particular day, it was the Boss 302 and Camaro ZL1. After a quick read, I was most impressed with the Boss 302. It seems that Ford really did their homework and built a damn good handling car that is powerful, quick, and nimble.

While I'm sure Chevy and Dodge are paying attention, and a Camaro Z28, and possibly Challenger T/A are in the future, I doubt that either one will be able to measure up. Chevy, at 3,900 lbs, and Dodge, at 4,100 lbs, can through more power and stiffer handling into their cars, but in the end, the Mustang is still going to be 300-500 lbs lighter, and ultimately, still likely to be the best handling car of the pack. While this particular article is from Road and Track, their assessment is the same.

2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca - Road Test

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Death of a Legend, last ride at Porky's in St Paul, MN

Photo courtesy of Autoholics

This was one of those places I always hoped to visit one day. With a future trip to the Car Craft Nationals held at the fairgrounds in St Paul, I have read for years about the legendary Porkys. Sadly, as I read today, such a trip will no longer be possible. Places like this, as well as Metro Detroit's Vinsetta Garage, are important parts of Americana in this country. They are a reminder of a different time, an era long gone, but not forgotten. It always saddens me when places like these are lost, as with them, decades of memories past/present/and future are erased.

Death of a Legend, Last ride at Porky's

I have also added this site to the side bar - Autoholics


Here's another great site for a vast variety of car videos.


Power Drifting Semi - Powered by Detroit Diesel

From the "Dare to be different" crowd, this is pretty sweet!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Hot Rod Muscle

Here's a website that concentrates on Hot Rods and Muscle Cars. The real honey hole of the site is the gallery section, loaded with tons of cool pictures. Unfortunately, the video section doesn't seem to be working. I've emailed the site, so hopefully the issue will be resolved. I've added a link in the side bar for future reference. Check it out.

Hot Rod Muscle

Monday, April 04, 2011

Mid-Life Crisis: Sorry, I'm not qualified

While I'm not there yet, the thought crossed my mind the other day. I'm now married, we have our first child, both of us have stable jobs, and I'm knocking on 35 years old. For me, I've always thought "mid-life" applies to those in their mid-40's to mid-50's. The typical Amercican family (or perhaps a recently divorced male/female), likely with teenagers, or perhaps grown kids. Maybe they had to sell off their toys long ago, or maybe they were never in a position to enjoy toys in life. In a nutshell, that's what I've always considered "mid-life crisis."

Now however, I question the validity of this so called "crisis." When I look in the mirror, and I consider where I am in life, I simply can't even begin to comprehend a "crisis" 10-15 years from now. Maybe I'm amongst the exceptions to the rule out there, one of the lucky ones.

At age 15, I already had a car, and it was rear wheel drive, V8 powered, and manually shifted via the 5 speed. When that car got cracked up, I replaced it with an even cooler V8 rear wheel drive 69 Camaro, that was by age 19. By 23, I built my first engine that broke the 500 hp barrier. Today, that car (with nitrous added) is knocking on the 900-1,000 hp door.

While I can't say I still own my first car, My current 1989 (same year) Pontiac Formula 350 in Maui Blue (also same) is about as close as you can get, minus the 5 speed, but with an extra 45 cubes and better handling. Slide behind the wheel, and I feel as though I've stepped back in time to 1994, pop in some 1980's Metalica and it's a done deal, though my bald had has replaced the buzz cut.

Sadly, the job market forced my hand and required the sale of my second muscle car, a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T, which I had bought by age 24. Still, the fact that my dad now owns it, the sale was relatively painless, and I'm confident I will own that car again some day.

Aside from a hand-me-down 1990 Buick Regal, which served me admirably, I have only owned V8/rear wheel drive fun-on-wheels. I've admittedly had it pretty good, with maybe my only regret being that I went nearly a decade without my Camaro or Challenger being roadworthy. As for my wife? What can I say? The Camaro is off limits for sale as far as she is concerned. While perhaps she'd let the Formula go, why would we? The market for it in the condition it's in and mileage makes it a pretty mute point. She's only ever drove Dodge Dakota trucks, and wants a classic Mopar some day, preferably an early 1960's. A Dodge Caravan? (or any other mini van) not gonna happen on her watch, as she refuses to EVER own one of those hideous contraptions.

So considering I won't be the guy without any toys by "mid-life," how would people view any toys I bought during that period in my life? I wouldn't mind a Corvette some day, but considering my Camaro makes more power than anything on the road from factory, a Corvette would be a good handling car I could putz around in, and wouldn't be anywhere near the king of my stable. What about project cars? Considering I've "been there, done that," why would the age in which I would start a project change a thing?

Mid-life crisis? I'm convinced that such a term is reserved by those who are jealous, unable to obtain the toys from their past, or maybe life never offered up the opportunity to ever aquire those toys. I would hardly label somebody FINALLY able to get that car, or perhaps Harley they've always wanted, as having a crisis. How about Mid-life reward? A bit more fitting of term if you ask me.