Volume II, Issue 8, Page 7

TWO KINDS OF CAR GUYS


8/15/2007

I’m new to this column gig, so I’ll begin by telling you a little bit about my passion and relating some insight I’ve recently had about myself. I’ve just finished the mega-car-build of my life and I’m coming down off the long, long road of solving problem after problem.  You know, stuff like “can I run the battery cables that close to the shifter” (battery’s in the back, mates), or “how can I hide the gap between the firewall and inner fenderwell where I got too enthusiastic with the grinder”, or “how can I keep the radiator from falling out of the car at 150 mph.

How fickle was I about this whole thing? Oh, just a little. Before the car was “done,” I’d gone through three engines, two transmissions, three rear suspensions, three fuel tanks, two rear seats, three front seats, three pedal set-ups, two EFI controllers, two intake manifolds, two hoods, two sets of wheels, two sets of brakes, and 1½ roll cages. Luckily, my wife blames Pro-Touring.com, not me!

It consumed 7 years of my life, so now I’ve been out celebrating it on the streets and on the track. My car’s a corner-turner, so that means auto-crossing and track days, not necessarily the drag strip. It’s an awesome thing to drive a car that you built with your own hands. It is literally a fantasy come true. I can’t tell you how many times I actually dreamed that I was driving the Nova. After years of Pro-Jack Stand, I was finally doing the Pro-Touring thing. Yahoo! 

A couple of weeks ago, I took it to the track and had spent the previous day getting ready for it. I loaded the trailer, sorted my traveling tools, got the navigation system figured out, and made sure I had enough drinks and sandwiches for the day.  The next morning I got up early, woke my son, and away we went. We both had a great time, not just racing the car, but hanging out with other enthusiasts and doing some cool father-son stuff.  But, here’s the rub: I was really dreading the whole thing, and was almost wishing something would go wrong so I’d have an excuse to stay home. Stay home? I thought, “What kind of car guy am I?” My kind, that’s what.

Here’s the conceit: after the day’s events, I needed to fix some things.  The electrical system was discharging at idle while I was in the staging lanes, and the fumes wafting into the passenger area told me I was a bit rich.  As I put the car on the trailer, the low-hanging fuel filter scraped (the car is kinda low). On the drive home I found myself planning how I was going to fix each of these problems.  I needed a bigger crank pulley to change the ratio of crank to alternator RPM from 2 to 3:1, and I needed a new power steering pulley to keep it at 1:1 with the crank. I needed some 5/8-inch hard line to make some new fuel lines to relocate the filter, and a tubing bender to do it.

I got home, ordered the parts and tools and spent the next several days waiting for them to show up. When they arrived, I pulled the power steering pulley. I mean, the pulley was off the car within an hour of the replacement arriving on my porch. Three hours later, I had the new pulley on-–we’ll go into my desperate last-ditch method of pulley installation some other time.  For now, we’ll just leave it that an oven was involved. Anyway, I enthusiastically swapped crank pulleys, drained the fuel cell, and made my hard lines and new filter mounts.  I was the happiest guy on earth to be in my shop making stuff with my mill, welder, tube bender/ flare tool, and kitchen oven. (I couldn’t get the press-fit power steering pulley on, so I heated it to 500 degrees F and then slid it into place with my wife’s oven mitt protecting my hand.)

There are two kinds of car guys (there are probably more, but that’s enough for now). Some car guys love the thrill of driving and racing their cars, hanging out with other racers, and the whole “go to the track on the weekend” deal. And then there are those who like cars because they represent an infinite series of problems that need to be solved.  That’s me, the car geek who prefers making parts to making passes. 

ED Note: John’s car is featured in the September, ’07 issue of PopularHot Rodding. It rides on a hand-built frame and suspension system and is urged by a 630hp 427ci LS2 and TKO-600 5-speed. It’s probably the finest hot rod not built by a professional that we’ve ever come across. 

Here's What's New!