Volume II, Issue 6, Page 4

Burk's Bowtie Blast!

Remember when high performance and Chevy were synonymous?

When I was about 12 years old I got my first real chance to drive a car. My Texan grandfather whose name was also Jeff Burk was a larger-than-life character. He loved fast cars, whisky, making money, his wife, his son and his grandsons with equal fervor. I remember him always carrying a half- pint of Old Grand-Dad or Old Taylor bourbon whisky in his back pocket.

He was from a time that few in today’s politically correct society can relate to. He was a force in my early life. Occasionally, when he ran out of booze -- and unbeknownst to my mom and dad, until they read this -- he would have me drive him the two blocks from his house to his local liquor store in his ’57 Nomad so he could reload. That was in Amarillo, Texas, circa 1958 and the world was a different place. Back there and then, if you could see over the steering wheel and reach the pedals and your granddad asked you to drive, you drove.

Granddad wasn’t much for rules, so as we were driving down the side streets headed to the package liquor store he told me to “step on it.” I did. He immediately hollered “brakes!” I hit ‘em and almost put his head through the windshield, but he acted as if nothing happened. We made it to the store and back in one piece. That was my first time to drive a car and the experience was transforming. I was truly impressed by the power of the V-8 under the hood of his ’57 Nomad and from that day on, like my grandfather and his father, I was hooked on fast cars.

Now my dad, who also carries the moniker Jeff Burk, was a Ford Man, so in about 1962 when it was time for me to get my own car, instead of a Chevy he found me a ’54, four-door Merc with a 254 ci, V-8 topped by what had to be the smallest four-barrel carb in history. That car was a pooch! I installed a set of Hedman “Hedders” and a Hurst “Mystery Shifter” I bought from my high school speed parts connection, Mark “Tex” Cooper, but the Merc always remained a pooch.

My pal Jerry Jordan had a ’54 Chevy Business Coupe with a stove bolt six under the hood. Every time I’d put a speed part on the Merc Jerry would come by the local drive-in and challenge me to a race. We’d go out on the county road, uncap the headers, and Jerry and his Chevy would beat the Merc and me like a base drum. I never got over the fact that his Chevy six would and did whip up on my Merc at will.

Despite that (and out of respect for my dad’s loyalty to the Ford brand) I kept on racing Fords. I knew in my guts, though, that Chevy made the fastest, most powerful cars. I lusted after Sammy Whittenburg’s ’58 Impala which had a 348 with three-twos and four-speed. I lusted after one of those Chevy II’s with a 360 horse 327 mouse motor under the hood that we all knew would do a wheelstand through the intersection.

And then there was my hero, local drag racer Jack Moss who had a series of supercharged small block twin and single engined dragsters. Oh yeah, I was a closet Chevy fan.

When the chance came later in life I finally got the Chevy I wanted and bought the 396 rat-motored, nitrous-injected ’67 El Camino (El Camino Nitrouso) I have now in my garage. I’d come out of the closet. I’m a Chevy guy.

But sadly, these days the horsepower landscape has changed, especially if you're a dyed-in-the-wool member of the Bowtie Brigade.

The Ford faithful have the V-8 powered Mustang that’s pretty speedy off the showroom floor, and if the stock factory unit isn’t enough for you there are always the Carroll Shelby and Parnelli Jones special editions. If you really have the spare change, a GT-40 is available. You can event rent a GT-350 Mustang from Hertz. The Mopar faithful can choose from a wide variety of SRT-10 Hemi equipped, factory hot rods, or a Viper.

However, if you’re a member of the Bowtie Brigade and want some kind of exotic V-8 powered factory heater, currently you’re basically limited to the ZO-6 ‘Vette. No RS/SS Camaro -- in fact no Camaro at all -- no SS Impala with a 425-hp V-8 under the hood. About the closest muscle car wanna-be you can get is something powered by a turbocharged Ecotec 4-cylinder in a (shudder) Sport Compact frame.

What happened to the Chevy of Zora A. Duntov, Vince Piggens, and Grumpy Jenkins? Where’s the next the Z-11 mystery motor? Where’s the beef for Chrissakes? I’m officially ticked. I’ve finally got to the place in life where I can afford to buy a bad fast Chevy and now they don’t have any!

As the editor of Drag Racing Online (my real day job) I can’t even get some kind of factory hot rod from the GM folks to road test and believe me I’ve tried. Oh well, guess I’ll go out in the garage, open up the headers on my Elk (El Camino), take it out in front of my house, do a burnout and hope that the geezers running Chevy soon come to their senses and give the faithful something to take the streets back from Ford and Mopar with. 


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