Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bench Racing and Project Planning

While I haven't been posting as often as I was when I was hitting the shows this past summer, I have been doing plenty of bench racing/planning in the mean time. While I have plenty on my list for my Camaro, the focus has primarily been on my dad's Challenger. Within a few months, we will begin ordering up parts. Thankfully, I recently joined the forum on, and it led to a few last minute changes which were actually pretty drastic.

Most significantly, we have decided to go with the Hotchkis front suspension system. More than a few Mopar faithful chimed in, criticizing the independent front suspension I had planned on installing in the car. Though initially skeptical, a few others shared their concerns, and I am now convinced, and am going the route of a modified factory designed front suspension. I am going to add 2 inch drop spindles however, in order to get the ride height we need.

While still a few months out, by the first of the year, parts should be arriving with regularity to my dad's house. While somewhat difficult considering my work schedule, I will attempt to make it down to their house as often as possible, in an effort to keep this project rolling once it's started. Stay tuned, as I'll be following this restoration closely, and will have my dad email me updates when I'm unable to follow them first hand.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

2011 Ram 1500 SLT Hemi

Recently, it came to time to do some much needed maintenance on my wife's 2007 Dodge Dakota. I was very disappointed that the shocks seemed to start going in the mid 20,000 mile range. The ride quality was diminishing, and front end "clunking" was getting louder. The truck also was due for brakes and tires, both of which had served admirably for 59,000 miles. I had already received a set of 4 Rancho shocks from Summit Racing Equipment, and they sat on my work bench, awaiting installation. Having already dropped $300 for the shocks, and looking at probably another $800 minimum for brakes and tires, I decided to weigh our options.

My wife was never a fan of the white her Dakota was. At the time, it was what was on the lot, and the best deal her dad could find at the time. When our lease was up, there really were not affordable options, so we took on the note to buy the Dakota. While our Dakota served us well, I had much higher expectations for a truck, and the Dakota armed with a V6 would not have been up to the task.

I called my friend, a salesman at a local Dodge dealership, and wanted to look at our options. At one point, we even considered buying used, if it would save us money and get into what we wanted. As luck would have it, we found the perfect match in a 2011 Ram SLT Hemi, most importantly, in wife's first choice. It also came with the mandatory to me, hemi,pumping out 390 hp and 407 ft/lbs of torque. Also, nearly as important, we got the towing package. I have got to a point where from time to time, my Camaro needs trailered. In the future, I'd like to get back into drag racing somewhat regularly, and I want to be prepared when something inevitably breaks.

So, our stable of cars is now exclusively V8 powered. Somewhat sadly, my daily driven 1989 Pontiac Formula, with it's 350 TPI putting out 245+ hp and 345 ft/lbs of torque is the weakest of the herd. Oddly enough, I'm good with that.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Kia: Party Rock Anthem

While I can say I'd honestly never buy a Kia, as it doesn't fit my preference of automobile, their commercials are hilarious! Saw this one during the previews prior to seeing Drive.


After a wedding yesterday I had some time to kill before the reception, so I figured I'd catch a movie. After a quick check on my smart phone, I chose a movie called Drive. I recall seeing the previews once or twice, and the reviews were in the 90%+ range. This movie blew me away, way better than I could have ever expected!

I love car movies as much as the next gearhead, but let's face it, they are often mediocre movies at best which only shine thanks to the cars. This movie was different. From the start, this movie had that 1980's feel, thanks to the neon pink opening credits, followed up by, and continued throughout the movie, music that could easily have been made in the early to mid 1980's. Whatever film technique they used, it also felt like a dated style, similar to movies from the 1970's and 1980's.

This was film noir at it's finest. The blood and gore was reminiscent of a Quentin Tarantino film, not for the weak stomach crowd. The car chase scenes spectacular, if not a bit too short. Had they extended the Mustang/300 chase scene it easily could have been elevated to the level of Steve McQueen/Bullitt, as one couldn't help but watch, and even envision the 300 as a new Charger.

This particular chase scene got me thinking. There are so many modern V8 rear wheel drive cars to choose from, there really isn't a reason to trash any more classic cars in movies. While I would be hesitant to say trashing the more limited/out of production cars such as GTO's, G8's, Magnums, etc, we have plenty current stock to choose from. Vettes, Vipers (soon), Camaros, Mustangs, Challengers, CTS-V's, Chargers, and 300's. That is a healthy stock of iron in my opinion, and most are instant classics that will garner nearly as much excitement on the big screen as their classic counter parts.

So needless to say, I would highly recommend checking out Drive, and maybe if we're lucky, be treated to a modern rendition of Bullitt some time in the future, complete with new Charger/Mustang tearing up the streets.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Trailer Queen or Necessary Evil?

It wasn't until I bought my Camaro back in 1996 and really got into car shows that I first heard the term "trailer queen." It was, and still is, a term that I reserve for those cars that never see the road, trailered to car shows for one purpose, to clean house winning trophies. Having been into building plastic models as a kid, I viewed them as 1:1 scale models for grownups. I failed to understand the purpose, as in my mind, a car is built to drive.

Years have passed, and I now find myself questioning whether to trailer, or not to trailer. My car however doesn't fall under the "trailer queen" category in my mind. I got chips, stress cracks, and a few dings. While it's still a damn nice car, it has it's blemishes, none of which annoy me like they once would have 10 years ago. Today, I ponder trailering my car for one reason, practicality.

My car has achieved the 700 hp club in perhaps the most raw way one can, naturally aspirated, all brute force. With high horsepower comes the risk of breaking something. Without question, I would drive my car to any show within an hour or two away. Where the trailer comes into the picture is for shows further, such as Goodguys Columbus, where I may wanna autocross. Or, perhaps hit the drag strip at another out of town show. In addition, I don't feel it's worth the risk to drive to the drag strip as I have in the past. The reason being, as stated above, I'm now in a place where things are going to break, it's inevitable, and the nature of the beast.

So, having talked myself into it, I still can't help but wonder...will I be viewed as a trailer queen?

Friday, September 02, 2011

All American Road Trip in a Buick Roadmaster Stationwagon

Throughout history, many of the auto industry's oddities have gone on to become the most collectible. The two seat 1955-1957 Thunderbird, the 1963 split-window Corvette, and Chrysler's famous "Winged" cars. All were short lived, some often sitting on lots for long periods of time, perhaps a bit too extreme for their era. As years pass, that short production span, and lack of popularity, often works in the car's favor.

Yesterday, just prior to leaving to work, one such car pulled up and parked in front of our house. I can only assume that the California plates were proof of a road trip from the west coast leading to Detroit. The car? A 1991-1996 Buick Roadmaster Stationwagon, complete with wood paneling. Back when they were rolling off the lines, these massive Buicks, Chevy's, Cadillacs, and Oldsmobiles all were labled as grandpa-mobiles. They did not possess "chiseled" bodies, and perhaps were the car most representitive of our overweight American society.

While these cars didn't offer any ground breaking styling, they were popular in some arenas. To this day, my fellow officers with some time on the job regard them as the best scout cars the department has had in years. Outfitted with slightly detuned/iron head version of the LT1 Vette engine, they had great power, and the 9C1 police package offered handling that had them taking corners better than their genetics ever intended. With plenty of room both front and rear, they were not only police favorites, but also amongst cab drivers for obvious reasons.

I happened to spot the owner while typing up this blog, and being unsure as to how long they would be visiting at what I assumed was a couch surfing stop at our neighbors, I stepped outside to introduce myself. Most of my suspicions were confirmed after talking with the owner, Jon.

Jon, along with his wife or girlfriend, started out of Fresno, California. I soon realized, Jon and I shared the same line of thought. I have mentioned on my blog before how I would love to see the country by road, but wish to do so in the appropriate car. A few years ago, A Buick Roadmaster Wagon would have never crossed my mind, but as I looked the car over, sitting on it's American Racing wheels, this ride has grown (if that is possible) into it's Americana shoes, and a worthy car in my opinion.

John is a handy man/guy who buys and sells old cars. Because of John's self employment, he is able to plan out long trips, such as their current trip which is 5 weeks in. John stated that they actually had to find the right car for the trip. It had to be something big enough, comfortable enough, and get good mileage. The Buick fit the bill, and the search was on, for a woody version. As luck would have it, a worthy candidate would turn up in California, and $4,000 would be what it took to aquire. While John would prefer the stock wheels that came on the car, to be "less flashy," I found the American Racings to be a perfect match.

John's first modification, remove all the rear seats, build a plywood platform to store belongings below and offer sleep quarters on top. With the Big Bufford ready to go, they headed north to Vancouver, Canada, and then traveled all over the U.S., stopping to see friends along the way. Ironically, this is their fist couch surfing stop, and as luck would have it, the car woud be parked in front of this fellow gearhead's house.

John stated that he is a self proclaimed Mopar fan, and has a 1970 Roadrunner with air grabber hood as proof, I believe along with a few other Mopars. They have got plenty of compliments along the way on their car, which aside from the wheels, is all stock. It is another one of those cars that when built, missed it, and now that nearly two decades have passed, has found it. I know what "it" is, as do most of you. I promised to showed John my Camaro before they leave in a few days, and filled him in on the Walter P. Chrysler Museum which he was unaware of.

I won't lie, I am extremely jealous, and also inspired from what I saw. It was a reminder, that thinking a little outside the box, and a few decades later than I normally would, could be very rewarding. If the day ever comes when I search for that perfect piece of 4-wheel Americana to take the family on a road trip in, I think I'll broaden my search pattern.

Ironically, this is the second time I have come in touch with some stranger road-tripping across the country. The prior incident was a Highway Patrol Officer from California, again, road-tripping across the country t D.C. The only reason I came in touch with him was because of a call to our precinct, in which I answered, stating he was trying to track down somebody to exchange police patches with. Collecting patches is a hobby amongst many officers while on vacation. Having heard stories from both John, and the officer last summer, it seems like somebody is really pushing this idea of driving across the country. Though the officer did so in a Toyota Prius, nothing Ameicana about that, as they say though, it's the thought that counts!