MY RIDES: Past, Present, and Future
SOME PEOPLE talk a good game. Some of us have been there- done that and got the T-shirt. Here’s proof.
The first car I ever drove (Other than steering Dad’s car while sitting on his lap.) was a ’62 Volkswagen Beetle that my dad gave me at the age of 12. His logic was that I wouldn’t be sneaking around and taking cars on clandestine drives in and out of the yard like my older brothers did. Unfortunately no pictures of this car exist.
MY FIRST CAR was this ’57 CHEVY Sedan Delivery bought from Harper’s Metals for $20. bucks with a 394 Olds engine under the hood. It had a cracked block because of a hard freeze with just water in the cooling system. I yanked the Olds out with dreams of a 327 with a 4-speed. That didn’t happen as my dad sold the 327 to a customer instead of me. Mom wasn’t happy with what my dad did- so he wound up selling me a 301 small block instead. When it came time to drop in the 301, we found that the steering column had been re-located, and we couldn’t hang a clutch pedal in the car. The engine then went into a ’56 station wagon. The delivery sold at the auction sale when my dad closed the business in 1975. I did buy the car back a few years later (in primer), but I sold it to help finance the purchase of my second ’62 BelAir.
MY NEXT car was a ’56 Chevy 150 Handyman Station Wagon. It had a 301ci. small block Chevy with a 3-speed manual transmission. It was fun for peeling-out, but the column shift linkage would often hang up and stick in two gears at once. Got the stupid idea to make a profit and sold the car instead of driving it to high school when I turned 16. It was last seen at the bottom of a scrap pile in Harper’s Metals yard.
WHEN my dad forbade me to buy back the ’57 sedan delivery, I promptly went out and bought a 1948 Monarch coupe. This car had at one time been a LTCHS auto shop teacher’s project car, and the body was restored in the high school auto body shop. Like most projects undertaken by someone with more dreams than skills, this was a car that responded to efforts to revive it with a kick in the nuts.
WHEN it was all said and done, the toll was 2 engines, 7 transmissions, 2 rear ends, and 2 driveshafts. Not to mention the hit and run on the front fender, and the rear fender getting torn off by some high-school cheer leader.
BEFORE my dad found out about the Monarch, he tried to get himself back in my mom’s good graces by giving me a ’51 Ford F-1 as atonement for forbidding me to buy back the ’57. While this truck provided a number of ‘learning experiences’, we also had fun with it as well. I could say what, but I am not sure if ‘the statute of limitations’ applies. Then again, there might just be such a thing as KARMA after all,
ANOTHER potential Money Pit was my brother’s former ’64 Malibu SS that I bought after a subsequent owner had driven the car into the ground. I unloaded the car on a ‘friend’ who sunk a ton of money into it and never got it back together. He still considers me to be ‘the devil’.
THIS is just what I did before and during High School.
AFTER HIGH SCHOOL:
The first car I put together that did almost everything I wanted to do was this ’65 Falcon Futura hardtop coupe. It came into my life as another Harper’s Metals score with a good body and a bad engine. A 289 was sourced from our core pile and given a Red Deer Auto Wrecker’s overhaul. It was just fast enough to win its fair share of street races, and loud enough to attract unwanted attention from the cops.
MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE car came about as a result of my good fortune and tragedy for another family. The Bat Outta Hell 1962 BelAir Sport Coupe was one of my most successful street racing programs. The car itself came to us when the powerglide automatic gave out on the highway south of town. I have always liked these cars from first seeing pictures of ’62 Super Stockers in the pages of Hot Rod Magazine. For a hundred bucks, I was the new owner. The next stage of ‘the plan coming together’ involved a tragic and fatal accident that demolished a ’69 Ralley Sport Camaro and killed its young owner. A friend and I built the kid a ‘killer’ motor with a Corvette cam- unfortunately it lived up to its name. The engine only needed a thorough clean up and inspection of its components. The only glitch on start-up was a slightly bent valve. A full-manual aluminum Powerglide was built and installed behind the Camaro’s 350. Subsequent paycheques would see new go-fast speed parts added. Quarter mile times for this 3600lb. car got into the low 14s. Top end speed was a little north of 140mph.
“If I’da known then what I know now” best says what I think about most of the cars up to this point. None moreso than the BelAir. Its retirement didn’t end well. ‘Nuff said.
THE NEXT PHASE in my how to go fast on the cheap program was a succession of Pontiac Acadians and Chevy IIs. I started out with a rust-free ’66 Acadian Canso SD that my uncle had been in a collision with. (No good pictures to show you.) In the process of acquiring parts to restore the car, I collected several others, putting them back on the street while my best car sat and sadly never got finished. I eventually sold it along with a pile of new parts to save my first marriage. Needless to say, I should have kept the car. I have a stack of photos of ‘parts cars’ I cannibalized, but I will show you a couple of ‘death-traps’ instead.
This ’67 Chevy II was purchased from Popow and Sons Auto Wrecking for 2 or 3 hundred bucks with an expired engine. I just happened to have a 275 horse 327 out of an Impala that I bought from an insurance company. I also added the hood and mag wheels. It was fun to beat around in for a while- if you didn’t mind getting splashed in the face whenever it rained or the snow melted. I decided to park it before I got killed in it. The guy I sold it to put a drivetrain back into it (including a 4-speed). He dumped the clutch one too many times, tearing out the floor and sub-frame. Guess what? I sold him another car.
This ’67 Nova was another ‘parts car’ that I pieced back together and put back on the road. Believe it or not, I bought it from a fellow known as ‘Bondo Billy’. At the time I was holding onto a large inventory of parts for the ’66 Canso Sport Deluxe. They somehow wound up in this car as a compulsion to build something fast got the better of me. It got the Bat Outta Hell’s 350, a built TH350, and a 4.56 posi rear end, as well as Moroso front springs and 90/10 drag shocks. The goal was to build 2 identical cars to try to sucker somebody into a race as well as insure and license only one car. Fortunately, no cop ever looked at the VIN tag. Getting stopped 3 times in less than an hour “because I was so colorful” convinced me to get the body into just 2 colors. AND…
As they say, the rest is history. A fellow known as ‘Abdul Ben The Hacker’ finished the bodywork. Together we radiused the wheel openings to get rid of the rust and clear the 29×10 slicks. The quarter panels were also pushed out 4″ so the tires would clear the body when the air shocks were deflated. The cool part was that few people noticed something different. When my priorities changed, the car was pulled apart and eventually sold after it was painted.
Every hot rodder has had his or her fair share of beater cars. One of my favourites was a 1970 Impala 4-door I bought while working at the local British Leyland dealer for $100. We used to call it the Hobbema Cop-Car because the front doors would only open from the outside. This was soon fixed. The engine soon got a Red Deer Auto Wreckers overhaul (rings, bearings gaskets, valve job) with a Corvette cam thrown in for extra laughs. Big block front springs and station wagon coils were added for extra ground clearance. The factory posi-traction rear differential got this car out of a lot of places it shouldn’t have gone in the first place- like ice racing down the Red Deer River. 1/4 mile doughnuts were a lot of fun. The car was cannibalized of its goodies when a ’69 Impala hardtop came along. It was later put back on the road (as shown) with the drivetrain from a rusty ’67 Impala station wagon. Never to be seen again- damn I miss this car.
Another favorite ‘beater’ car was this ’72 Nova 4 door. It was a ‘back of the lot junker’ headed for the scrap yard. A new spindle and some ball joints got it back on the road. It turns out that this car was bought new by a man who used to work for my dad. As you can see, the car cleaned up fairly well. The only thing missing was some horsepower to make it the ultimate sleeper. The 250 6cyl. and ‘turbo-glide’ made it a great car to drive to college. That is, until I made the mistake of trading it for a POS 72 Ventura coupe.
This is one car that should have been a lot of fun, but was another of those cars that kicked you in the balls no matter what you did to fix it. 1972 Ventura II. Should have known better than to buy a ‘project’ from a mechanic. (After all, why didn’t he want to work on it?) The 350 Pontiac engine soon developed a collapsed piston and needed replacement. I had a 455 lined up from a wreck I had first dibs on at a towing company I worked for. The deal went south, and I wound up with a 400 from a Catalina instead. Better than the Pontiac 350, but a good 350 sbc could kick its ass. I eventually sold the car, and not long after it was totalled by an engine fire.
Note to self: Don’t leave keys with sketchy friend- even if storage is free.
My idea of a dual purpose vehicle came in the form of a well-beaten ’65 ElCamino. A local parts store used it for deliveries and it was eventually retired with about 250,000 miles. It took about 6 parts cars to piece this truck back together. It originally got a cammed-up 350 I had in a 70 Impala, which was swapped for a dog of a 283 when I drove the car to university. It later got the BelAir/ Acadian’s 350 and saw some street racing action. In the course of the rebuild, the ElCamino got a set of stiff springs, a TransAm front sway bar, and an SS rear sway bar with boxed trailing arms. This truck handled like it was on rails. I almost ran over an RCMP cruiser when I was blasting through an S-curve west of town at 120 miles per hour. Fortunately the mountie wasn’t aware of how fast I ran up on him. (No ticket that night.)