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“Survivor” Sounds Like a Stretch

The Ted Kennedy Collection promises to be a huge draw at next January’s Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction…

(cue rim-shot)

It Doesn’t Always Need to be About the Past

shoeboxed

Why is is that every time an automaker re-designs a particular model, or brings back a nearly-forgotten nameplate, or even mid-cycle facelifts a car, that the very first fucking thing I have to read is every self-important know-it-all posting that they should have made it look like the 1961 model? SERIOUSLY?!

Here’s a quick thought, you morons: Not every car has to look JUST FUCKING LIKE THE ORIGINAL MODEL. Tastes and design requirements change. You wouldn’t sell a whole lot of Cadillacs today with giant fins or 150-lbs of trim on the flanks. Oh, you can bet your ass that there would be a half-dozen greaseball mooks on the East coast putting in advance orders (“Hey Joey… weez kin paint ‘Teen Angel’ on da continental kit! An’ I gots you some new fuzzy dice, bro!”), but following that, it would have no place in the modern day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for brand and model continuity, and a little nod to tradition is outstanding. Hell, I bought my Challenger based on that. Then again, that car was done RIGHT. It’s not a cartoon-ish caricature of the original like a certain Camaro. On the other hand, would I have been even remotely interested in the car had it looked like the ’78-83 models? Probably not. It’s about instilling some heritage, and knowing how that will work with the current (and future) brand direction.

Consider the return of the Thunderbird in 2000. Holy moly… what a catastrophe. That whole retro-design phase ruined it for a lot of cars, not to mention design enthusiasts. Back to the Challenger, what if, in 1970, we weren’t offered a fresh take on the Pony Car concept, but rather a 1937 Dodge coupe-looking thing with a wing on the back and a dual-snorkel hood? Would have failed, and gone down as a styling flop. This would have happened because people used to celebrate design and inventiveness. Perhaps this explains why every TV show is the same regurgitated bullshit, and why reruns of said shows sell like hotcakes. Originality just ain’t what it used to be.

Nostalgia can be a great thing, just keep it the fuck away from the new car-buying public in general.

That One Cool Car

thumbs-up

To this day, the image of one car remains burnt into my brain, and quite possibly my psyche. To say that this one car’s impact had depth would be grossly understating the profound effect it had on me. As the vision of that car passed from my eyes, it left ripples along my optic nerve and slammed into my brain, forming the surface of that surrounding gray matter into some cars-only territory.

Whether it was some combination of the right time and place, or perhaps my Dad had reacted and it triggered me to do likewise, I cannot be certain. Yet, I can still vividly picture it in my mind as it drove by, and have never forgotten the scoops on the fender, the way the tail lamps looked, or even the guards on that rear bumper… Knowing what I do today, I realize that the car in question was a ’73 Challenger Rallye, and that blue car set off a chemical reaction like no other. I was hooked. It was an impression that has lasted my entire life, and chances are, will continue to linger.

challenger

Consider the impact of that particular experience on my younger self. I had no real idea of what a cool car was at that age, outside of what I may have liked, be it color or general shape-wise. My brain wasn’t quite ready to form those particular opinions yet, but I certainly knew what kinds of things appealed to me. And that Challenger, well, it had appeal. Examining this a bit deeper, consider, too, how few modes of personal transportation can have the effect of a ‘cool car’. The car is universal. It can spark conversation, and even provide equal ground between strangers. I’ve probably made more friends via the automobile than any other of the interests I have, and some of my life-long friendships began through conversations about cars.

I often wonder if the owner of that blue Challenger had any clue of the effect that his (or hers — I cannot recall the driver no matter how hard I try!) simple act of driving a cool car had on that little kid walking with his Dad. While that car continued on the way to wherever the driver was headed, there was another chance experience with yet another blue Challenger, this time being a Bright Blue Metallic ’70 R/T. I was eleven or twelve years old, and as a friend and I pedaled our bikes into the convenience store parking lot, my jaw dropped. As the driver’s door opened, I managed to squeak out ‘Cool car!’ (or perhaps ‘Rad car!’ — it was, after all, that time), and the owner proceeded to answer all of my questions.

Here was this guy with a cool car, taking time to talk to some wide-eyed kid about it. I was stoked. I became convinced that the Challenger may be the coolest car ever, and that if you owned one, you had a responsibility to be cool about it. Kid logic reigning supreme, I swore that one day I’d have a Challenger of my own, and that I’d make time to talk about it, too. While there was a string of cool cars in my driveway between that Summer day and now, it took me many years to hold the keys to my own blue Challenger. I can say with conviction that I have a pretty good idea of how it feels to be that driver, and while I don’t own a first-generation Rallye or R/T, I did own a Blue Streak Pearl 2012 model for a while… Was my color choice influenced all those years ago? I’d venture to guess that it didn’t hurt… And did that patient driver influence my eagerness to talk with complete strangers in parking lots and stop lights about my car? Oh, you can bet it did. Wherever my wife and I take it, we can almost guarantee meeting at least one new friend along the way, and enjoying their story, memories, or simply answering the ‘So, how do you like it?’ question. Our answer is often multi-layered, but can be neatly summed-up in explaining that we simply love this car.

I hope that one day as I drive through a parking lot, that some kid is looking at my car and having some life-altering moment, and if one day it will be a memory of that brief moment that hangs around and shapes the kind of car fanatic they are to become. I’d like to hope so. After all, I’m fortunate to be able to drive my dream car, and be a part of the Dodge musclecar legacy. And as an independent, self-appointed (by my twelve year-old self that long-since passed Summer day) ambassador of the cool car club, it is my duty to inspire that next generation, so that we’ll always have cars with soul to inspire those who come after.

Apologize? NEIN!

blackface diesel

One of those “from the frying pan into the fire” kinda things. Willing to bet that this isn’t one of those scandals that will just rinse off in the shower for these particular Germans.

Although, you do have to admit that having him sing “Blue Skies” was a brilliant idea.

More Delicately Interconnected Things

lisk challenger

All things are delicately interconnected.

I’ve had this shred of paper hanging over my desk for as long as I can recall, and the words on it have always proven true.

I was but a toddler when Steve Lisk’s brutal ’71 Hemi-powered Challenger (it was originally a 383 car) prowled Woodward Avenue, yet that car carved a place into the foundation of my car guy-ness. My introduction to that car came via a feature in Hot Rod Magazine and a trip to the barber shop. I’d bet that not many people can connect a lifetime fascination with a particular car with a visit to the local barber shop when they were but five years old. If you can, I’d love to shake your hand, as we share an eerily similar past!

For me, it was around August of ’77, and my Dad had taken me to Bob and John’s Barber Shop for my start-of-the-school-year haircut. What was great about that place (beyond the cool guys who ran it, and those who seemed to populate that place, and the foosball and pinball tables upstairs!) were the stacks of cool magazines in the waiting area. They had what seemed like everything! The learning potential in that barber shop was mind-boggling. Whether you were listening to the conversations, or reading about some far off land, or even witnessing the skill of some pool shark, I had a theory that someone raised in that place might be overwhelmingly well-rounded in the art of street smarts.

woodward avenue

Speaking of street smarts, I happened to grab what in hindsight, anyway, was the perfect magazine at the perfect time. For in it, I glanced upon a car that would leave ripples across my brain. I had asked my Dad what this ‘Woodward’ place was, and thus began a series of tales of this amazing street where hundreds of cool cars would drive, and occasionally engage in a grudge match. To my 5 year-old brain, this was a magical land! Had you offered me the choice between a playground made of cake and candy or this Woodward Avenue, you can bet that we’d be stopping to fill the tank. The more I thought about it, the car in that magazine grew on me. It sparked a dream to one day be like the owner of that red Challenger, and cruise Woodward Avenue in a Hemi Challenger. Hell, talk about fate… When the Challenger concept was unveiled back in 2006, it was as though the universe had agreed that I damned-well should have one of my own. So it took me three years deep into the model run to grab my own… But that same universe provided me with an understanding wife who went along with the idea. Talk about delicate interconnections.

It may have been three decades in the making, but a couple of years back, I realized the dream, thanks to Dodge and my great friends over at Ignite Social Media:

I cruised Woodward.

In a Hemi Challenger.

hemi blacktop challenger
All things are delicately interconnected. There it was again. From a simple one-thousand character entry on a whim, to a stop at the NY International Auto Show, to realizing a childhood dream. Weird how things go.

Heck… I walked around and talked cars with Steve Magnante. A magical land? Oh, you only know part of it.

While we’ll get into some of the stops we made at historical plants and places around Detroit in later posts, I have to share the magical interconnections of that half-week. You just know that things are going to go well when you’re scooped-up from the airport in a Challenger Blacktop (Track Pak car, no less!) by one of the great friends you’ve made on this amazing journey (thanks, Eric!), and the first stop you make is Vinsetta Garage. At that point, the cosmic interconnections became even more vivid.

Standing in front of Vinsetta Garage on Woodward, I took a few moments to ponder the history, the incredible iron that cruised that fabled stretch of blacktop, and just smiled. That day in the barber shop came flooding back, and all seemed right in the world, accentuated by the rumble of cars passing, the scent of high octane, and just being back with the friends I was fortunate to make as part of the REDLINE Blog.

And then cosmic coincidence turned and winked at me. All things are delicately interconnected.

two challengers

Tim Kuniskis, CEO of Dodge, pulled up in his personal 1971 Challenger. My brain melted a bit. There I was… this lucky guy who wound up in a place he’d dreamed of as a kid, hanging out with people who just ‘get it’, drawn there by chance, having a love for the history surrounding that red ’71 Challenger, and now the CEO of Dodge is pulling up in his ’71 Challenger. Coincidence? Hardly a chance. Add to it that both that red, Wodward-dominating monster mentioned earlier, as well as Mr. Kuniskis’ beautifully restored black R/T began life as 383 cars, and each sported fire-breathing, modified engines, and the list of cosmic oddities was growing by the second. If there were ever a place which, car-related, anyway, I was meant to be, it was right there, right then.

On Friday and Saturday, I lived my dream of cruising Woodward in a Hemi Challenger, and enjoyed every single second of it. Not having found the time to have ever taken my personal car up to Detroit for the event, I did suffer a slight twinge of guilt, as mine sat back home in the garage, a couple of thousand miles away… Yet I digress. As many have said, it’s a thirteen-mile traffic jam you want to be stuck in, and it was nothing shy of amazing. I saw great cars, met some fantastic people (even made friends with a gentleman who, get this, works at the plant where my Challenger was built!), and made another huge batch of memories. It’s been like building this giant layer cake, adding friends, memories, and dreams realized to an already astounding recipe. Yeah… ‘Dream Cruise’ is a fitting name for it. All things being so delicately interconnected, I’m beginning to see just how strong those bonds can become, and can honestly say that I’m stoked to be a part of these many links fitting together so neatly.

cruising woodward

Do you have a Woodward ‘dream’ story? Has there been a series of ‘delicately interconnected’ events or experiences that brought you and your car either together, or to a place where you may have made a friend?

Scratching the Surface

unrestored super bee emblem

My earliest memories are loaded with inquisitive adventures. I was one of those kids who would take everything apart to examine and explore all of the inner workings of virtually anything I could get my hands on, just to see what made it function. Occasionally, I’d manage to put everything back in some semblance of working order, as well, which had the effect of encouraging my seek-and-dismantle missions. Oh, certainly, there were misadventures, and the Frankenstein-ing of a few, less-than-fortunate items into, well, objects whose end purpose was quizzical at best, and dangerous at worst, but it fed a child’s mind, and paved a few neural pathways with some rudimentary engineering knowledge.

patina VS restored

It’s no surprise, then, that I became fascinated with cars over time. That fascination grew from bicycles (as most of us in this car thing start out) to nearly anything mechanical. The function of some machine is a marvel on nearly every level, from the very idea for the machine, to the design, to the final step of manufacturing, it’s a nearly-miraculous series of events that bring such things into our lives. When you stop to consider all of the intricately connected things that need to occur to create something that works, it’s mind-boggling! Imagine, then, just what has to happen to create an automobile, with the many systems and subsystems which need to function in some sort of harmony; having so many computers and sensors in a new vehicle, the sheer number of things working together is exponential. If you look only at the surface, at the sum of the parts, a mechanical creation like the automobile becomes almost magical. But, if you scratch the surface, a whole other world opens up.

I mention this obsession of mine simply to set the stage for an even deeper fascination I have for what happens to a machine when it is no longer deemed ‘useful’. That tipping point wherein someone makes the decision to park or part with a machine that has either become less reliable, or perhaps even inoperable. Having that ‘need to see what makes anything tick’ personality trait, I’m also burdened with the constant whispering of ‘we can fix that!’ in my brain. That urge to dig in, and see just where the trouble might be. As a self-described automotive archaeologist, I feel this urge, this need to discover the story behind the car, the owner(s), the events which conspired to place a particular car at that specific place and time… The adventures, the trials, the memories made in and around the time that car was in the care of whomever it was while all of these things were occurring. I’m the kind of guy who utilizes a mental list of the cars I’ve owned as a key to the events that occurred in my life at a particular time. It’s a way to mark a timeline, and cements that car as a part of who I am, or was to become, be it based upon a repair I learned to make on that car, or even a simple memory of the exhaust note. Knowing that one or two of my past rides is being preserved and made a part of someone else’s life gets a little warm and fuzzy feeling going, and when I see an old machine brought back from the brink and being used by someone else who appreciates this particular love for mechanized mysteries, well, it’s game on for me. I want to hear the tales, listen as someone recalls the good old days, or imagine what happened during those gaps in a car’s history.

unrestored pace car retored challenger pace car

Walking the grounds at the Carlisle All-Chrysler Nationals some time back, I was surrounded by many examples of beautifully preserved and restored examples from the brand’s past. Spending hours looking over the survivor cars on hand (there was a great display of Mopar Survivors under a special tent, by the way, showcasing a number of very well-preserved cars), both in the show proper, as well as the car corral and swap meet, I found my attention drawn back to a certain few cars that were, well, somewhat worse for wear, cosmetically. Cars with some great age and patina, working together to create some outstanding character. Every dent, crack in the vinyl, faded stripe or rock-chipped emblem quietly whispering its tale. My ears were certainly tuned-in and ready to hear of each incident and passing year.

barn find super bee

Just why I was attracted to these cars was no mystery: That love for all things mechanical, with the added bonus of the story. Those missing puzzle pieces to explain why this car was left outdoors, or forgotten about, or even neglected were bouncing around in my mind. And, as an artist, the textures and patterns of the paint chips and rust and weathering were simple mesmerizing. The blemishes and dents and cracks and checks on the surface that tell part of the tale, leaving the rest just below to be discovered. On a few grand occasions, I’d spot a preserved or restored example of a car I’d just seen in weathered condition, and to compare the two begged the question:

If you were to find a complete original, but weathered example of your dream car, would you leave it alone visually, opting only to repair and update the mechanical parts to make it road-worthy, or dive in and restore it? Granted, you could have your cake and eat it, too, by working out some mechanical and safety issues and enjoying it as a time capsule, and then go for the restoration. Being of the inquisitive sort, as we explored earlier, either path might prove a challenge for me. On one hand, having an untouched piece of history would be incredible, in that I’d be afforded a vehicle to explore some mysteries, and could research and fill in the holes, all while preserving it in as-found condition. On the other hand, I could tear into it, and make some discoveries about its past as I took it back through time to as-new condition, and cater to that side of my brain that just wants to tinker with something, and (hopefully) improve upon it.

What would you do? Taking that a step further, what memories are you making in your currently-owned ride (be it new, old, restored, or even a barn-fresh time capsule) and are you taking any steps to document the car for future automotive archaeologists to enjoy?

A Visit to the Shrine of Stein

max wedge master

While the Max Wedge reached its pinnacle in 1964, when the Stage III version was released, the legacy lives on in the garage of Mr. Jerry Stein. One of the most respected of the Stock Eliminator racers, Jerry managed to not only have a career as a Physical Education teacher, but raise a family as well, all while besting the bigger-budget ‘other’ makes on the track. As a young man, I had looked up to what Jerry was achieving, and simply marveled at what ingenuity and creativity, coupled with a deep understanding of the mechanics involved could produce. In Jerry’s case, it was success after success on the strip, netting him NHRA records, and a very impressive collection of trophies and accolades.

I was honored with the opportunity to visit with Jerry as a stop on the Dart Road Trip, riding along with another of my automotive heroes, Mr. Steve Magnante! Never could I have imagined riding shotgun with a walking encyclopedia of all things Mopar, but to stop with him and visit Jerry Stein, and see, in person, not one, but two of the Teacher’s Pet cars! It made for a number of raised-pulse moments with every turn and glance around Jerry’s garage, and certainly etched that afternoon deep into my brain. Rather than clutter what was indeed a tremendously visual visit to the garage of Mr. Jerry Stein, I thought it best to approach this entry much the same way as I did:

In quiet reverence of the incredible history and collection of rare and just plain cool parts and pieces contained within. Enjoy.

max wedge 426

jerry stein
The man himself, revisiting some great memories.

lightweight max wedge car and parts
Just a peek at a small portion of Jerry’s collection of parts and pieces… not to mention two versions of the famous Teacher’s Pet.

more parts
max wedge crossram manifold
While some may offer their eye teeth for one, Jerry has some Max Wedge intakes stacked like fire wood in his garage.

timing cover 426 max wedge
lightweight max wedge hood
max wedge car
door lettering
lightweight fenders
max wedge lightweight aluminum fender

Aluminum front end pieces? Yeah, Jerry has those, as well. Consider what seeing these did to my inner 14 year-old: I had only read about these as a car-obsessed kid… and there I was on a sunny NJ day, staring down a pair of aluminum fenders, resting atop a Max Wedge car, in Jerry Stein’s garage. With Steve Magnante. Mind blown.

Consider just how cool this is… Aluminum pieces used for weight savings back then would have been considered exotic. My Challenger has an aluminum hood, and the weight-saving materials on the Dart Rallye we drove to Jerry’s place, along with the technology on board, would have seemed far beyond exotic in the days of the Max Wedge cars. Having both the Dart and the classic racing parts and cars in one police was a study in contrasts to be certain, yet, the logical progression from drag strip to fuel-efficient thinking  and design seems quite natural. Following this visit, my mind has been working over-time on some ideas to combine the power-hungry Max Wedge days with the modern day Dart, but more on that in a future blog. At that moment I saw the aluminum fenders in question, it was as though I had peered back through time on a number of levels.

As an aside: Growing up, I was (and remain to this day) a custom car fanatic. Taking the aluminum front end story a step or two beyond the lightweight racing purpose, consider how, just a year after the Max Wedge cars dominated, the mighty Hemi was to return. I mention this simply because of the unique tie it has to my custom car appreciation: In ’65, the first Hemi cars were slated to become Max Wedge cars, much like the pair you see here. These were switched to become Hemi cars, and a few were shipped to the famous customizers, the Alexander Brothers in Detroit, to be converted to altered-wheelbase cars (having the wheels moved forward in the chassis for better weight transfer). My mechanized adventure in Jersey continued to scramble my gray matter. I was standing in the presence of history, and inching closer and closer, in terms of degrees of separation, to realizing so many of the car-crazy dreams of my youth. I was beginning to fear that the goosebumps may never go away, and that was just fine by me.

max wedge aluminum hood scoop

This selection of photos scratches the surface of our visit to Jerry Stein’s incredible collection of racing parts and history, and I truly hope that you feel as though we were there together. It bordered on overwhelming at times, attempting to mentally catalog all that was contained in that garage, as well as listen to Jerry tell some great and entertaining tales, and Steve pointing out unique parts and supplying facts and figures which brought that history to life… This was certainly a day that I’ll never forget, and hopefully you’ve seen a few things here that you’ve always wanted to see, and will never forget as well.

max wedge lightweight aluminum
NOS max wedge parts
headlamp rings max wedge
mopar valve cover stash
440 race block

Family man meets racer:

class champion stickers
more championship decals
two max wedge lightweight cars

Where’s Wally? In Jerry’s dining room. Many times over.

wally trophy
more wally trophies
car craft championship

Peering over the shoulder of a giant:

jerry stein max wedge

Bonus points if you can name this nifty little piece and what makes it so darned nifty:

damper

The past and the present in some wonderful harmony under a clear New Jersey sky:

two darts

This selection of photos scratches the surface of our visit to Jerry Stein’s incredible collection of racing parts and history, and I truly hope that you feel as though we were there together. It bordered on overwhelming at times, attempting to mentally catalog all that was contained in that garage, as well as listen to Jerry tell some great and entertaining tales, and Steve pointing out unique parts and supplying facts and figures which brought that history to life… This was certainly a day that I’ll never forget, and hopefully you’ve seen a few things here that you’ve always wanted to see, and will never forget as well.

Put Down the Frosting and Start Designing

show me
I have always been baffled that anyone who has no real experience building a car could ever consider customizing (or “designing”) one. I mean, consider the engineers who worked on the first computers. Guys like Gordon Bell or Alan Kotok who, having worked on the earliest computers like the TX-0 and so forth, and called upon their experience with the limitations of that machine when designing future machines (like the PDP-10 for example). They understood the machine. They had a grasp on the engineering behind the very function of it, and could utilize that experience in the trenches to craft each newer and better iteration. They found limitations in the machine. Weaknesses. They sought answers to the question “How can I make this BETTER?” …and they did so from the bones outward. They were connected to the very ideas behind what they worked on, and could thus move in new directions in an intelligent manner.
 
Being a custom car designer is no different. Without having an intimate understanding of the design and engineering of the systems which comprise the machine as a whole, it’s virtually impossible to “design” anything for it. Oh, sure, you can decorate that cake and put little frosting flowers all over, or plop a neat-o dingleberry or put some twist on an existing part, but you’re not really DESIGNING anything. If you’ve never torn a car down and then repaired things and put it all back together, you’re ill-prepared to hot rod anything. If you’ve never diagnosed an issue and then found a way to REPAIR a component (NOT simply “unbolt-and-replace”), or given thought to a shortcoming in the performance of or a component on said vehicle, and then engineered a fix, you’re not prepared to design ANYTHING custom for one. Even if you can imagine the shapes and flow of lines, or draw them in stunning detail, without that understanding and experience, you simply cannot effectively design fucking anything. You may be able to alter the look, but you sure as hell cannot design a better one.
 
This truth laid out, I find myself in an industry wherein I’m constantly reviewing and revising “designs” conceived by some talented illustrators, but the ideas presented lack application in any real-world scenario most times. And while I can’t blame these guys for trying, and certainly cannot fault them on creativity, I am forced to battle uphill, working through a pile of dreams and hopes that have gelled when met with the cold, hard truth of ENGINEERING. In almost every case, the pitfalls presented could have been avoided by having had some time in a shop, building and engineering solutions to the very design problems faced on each project. I’m forced to ask once again: How in the fuck can you DESIGN a complex machine when you LACK THE KNOWLEDGE OF HOW THE DAMNED THING WORKS IN THE FIRST PLACE?! In many cases, I’d bet that it’s innocent omission… But every now and then you come across a blatant slap in the face, wherein the “designer” doesn’t give the respect to understanding the very thing he’s working on in the first place.
 
Is it too much to ask to have armed yourself with core fundamentals like basic suspension geometry or structural engineering or even chassis architecture? I’m not asking for someone to know it ALL (shit… there’s ALWAYS something to learn), but if you’re “designing” a wheel arch or opening, and you give little or NO thought to the wheel/tire combo and the resulting radius needed to clear that nifty new fender lip and avoid rubbing, or are slicing into a panel to move it with no thought of how that will affect the understructure (or how changing THAT will affect the vehicle in terms of strength or handling dynamics, and where plumbing or wiring will need to be re-routed), then you’re doing it wrong. Grab a fucking crash book, or spend a day in the wrecking yard. Do your homework. Measure things. KNOW that car, and design it INTELLIGENTLY. “That door handle is sure slick, buddy… but you have left no room to utilize any sort of MOUNTING HARDWARE.” From the simplest things to the more complex, I find that some guys pass by function and go straight for “wow” factor.
 
This all brings us back to our pal Leepu. The guy has a TV show, and in a bio it is stated that he had visited GMI (General Motors Institute), and I quote from that: “However, he was put off studying there by the volume of technical work therefore he decided to open his own workshop to get some practical experience.” VISITED a school. Put off by technical work. This may explain why he’s so willing to slice into a main structural component on a vehicle and compromise the very bones of the car, or ignore things like aerodynamics or suspension or even pesky trifles like wheel fitment. Effectively, we are presented with a hack… a 1:1 scale kit basher. Don’t get me wrong, it takes some skill to weld two things together, but it doesn’t impress me when you have no fucking plan or explanation for just WHY you’re joining those things in the first place. And you lose all respect from me when the combination of those parts you’ve created is questionably functional at best, and marginally pleasing to look at on the best of days. I bring this guy into our conversation here because he illustrates, nay, REPRESENTS everything that is wrong with what is sold as “design” in many cases.
 
Our industry sees a few shining stars each year, build-wise… Cars that look great and perform just as well. Yet for each of those, we have a handful that are loaded with “custom” touches applied simply for the sake of applying them, and can barely tolerate a drive from the trailer around the fairgrounds and back. The price tags are high, yet the engineering level is limited. And therein lies my frustration: We have at our disposal some of the finest engineering with regard to components… Bolt-in ready chassis, near-1000 HP engines and transmissions that can live behind them. Wiring systems that allow for plug and play performance and luxury accessories in hours versus days. Everything engineered to free up time to ENGINEER. We have the perfect storm of self-perpetuating design advancement, yet we lack the manpower and the fortitude to raise the fucking sails and capture that wind. The work involved in hoisting those sails is metaphorical, of course, it being more a case of learning vehicle systems and construction, and then applying that knowledge to DESIGNING versus simply decorating another theme cake.
 
Yet, here we are, sitting back while the world consumes shitty TV show after shitty TV show that do nothing but slap what I and many more have fought to make a legitimate industry of… Watching two-bit hacks run around like primates, pantomiming to some “drama” written by someone outside of the industry, and playing up the “grease monkey” mentality. I don’t see this industry as a soap opera. I see it as the means by which I feed my family. It’s about passion and intellect and talent and drive. Applying experience, knowledge and a desire to not just hang a scoop or bolt some large-by-fucking-hugely-oversize rims to a car, but to change the game and dig deep into that original hot rodding ethic of working to make something better in all ways than it could have ever been imagined when it rolled off of the assembly line. And as I see it, if you lack the fundamental knowledge and skill set to be a true custom car designer, then you are nothing more to me than some panel-banging monkey on a reality show, and my sworn enemy in the business.
 
Don’t get me wrong: If the TV shows like the one mentioned above are some sort of satire, at least have the courtesy of mentioning that in the credits or opening sequence. Give a disclaimer before some idiot attempts to mimic this crap, or worse, walks away with the feeling that this is what our industry is all about. Over the course of our history, we’ve had enough black eyes handed to us courtesy of a few miscreants. We stand at the crossroads of becoming the legitimate powerhouse of creativity and engineering that can push us well into the next century, or we can become the punchline to a joke on some poorly-produced cable TV show.
 
That said, ask yourself the next time you sit at the drawing board if you’re a designer or a decorator. And don’t get me wrong, there is a place for both… But know that if you’re the latter masquerading as the former that while I’m laughing at your shit, I do sincerely appreciate the check that came with the job of actually making your flourishes into something that works… even if two-thirds of it wind-up in the trash. And if that doesn’t get you angry enough to step up your game, you can always get a TV show and blow signal flare smoke at that rear spoiler. Some people like to watch that crap, and with your TV money you can open that bakery and really decorate some stuff, cupcake.

Fuck You, History Channel

abomination
You know why the Bangladeshi space program never really took off (I mean notwithstanding their technological breakthroughs in… uh… well, gee… screwing up their environment, or more dirt bikes per capita than any other country also named Bangladesh it’s hard to just name one, really)? I’d imagine due in part to having a country full of “designers” like this Leepu guy. Far be it for me to shit all over someone’s parade route, but I have to be as frank as possible when I shout a hearty “FUCK YOU, HISTORY CHANNEL!!” from the rooftop. What in the serious fuck were you thinking with this show??!
I have two theories:
One: The people behind this show are absolute trolling geniuses. From the creators and writers on through the actors, this could be the funniest thing on TV. And not in the “Ha-ha!” way, but the “Fill a viewer with absolute rage and send his mental state plummeting through concentric circle after concentric circle of blind hatred and sorrow and mistrust and fear and then something like understanding and then back to unrivaled anger and then a depressed state and then hopelessness and finally numbness and resolute passiveness” funny. Like a Woody Allen film wherein all of the jokes were written for his friends, so the hope of understanding it all is lost on you, unless you were married to the adopted daughter of your girlfriend, which is not unlike one of those jokes I just mentioned. It wants to be funny, but it leaves you feeling like you just showered with that odd little bar of soap in the hotel, and you can’t rinse something off of yourself.
Two: This show is serious, and the central characters and all members of History Network’s creative department are brain damaged.
Should it be numero two, then by golly, anyone watching this and thinking “hey, this guys IS brilliant” is in even worse shape than the stars of the show. I’m talking Dominoes pizza-ordering-and-setting-aside-time-to-gather-friends-for-the-show-level moron. The sort of guy you’ve worked with who is content to be in his entry-level job for eleven years, but bitches because he knows more than the suits, while showing up late every day and failing to complete even the simplest of tasks, yet can tell you every “fact” about some race bike he’ll never own and just how it’s all Bush’s fault as he brushes his ever-whitening mullety mane back from his forehead.
And far be it for me to bring “science” to the table, but for fuck’s sake… Watching a full episode the other night had me teaching my TV (and neighbors, I’m told) all about Bernoulli’s principle and other such engineering trivialities at very high decibels. Let me bring you up to speed.
Loophole and Fartwad were apparently setting out to build some drag car from an Olds Cutlass… but let’s not hold that against them. The slow kids all start someplace, and for many, it involves thinking that a GM-powered car can be a “race car”. The REALLY dim ones stick with that idea later in life (some even slap a fiberglass body around a Chrysler HEMI-powered tube chassis and think it’s a Camaro or some shit. That, my friends, is called NHRA Funny Car and Pro-Stock, but I digress). Having (thankfully – occasionally the universe throws even ME a bone) missed part ONE of this travesty (yes, a TWO-PARTER! In the first season. WTF.), I quickly gathered that a boat race led to some challenge to build a car, using a preposterous betting scenario – which may have been contrived by someone slightly LESS intelligent than our pizza-eating friend from earlier – which was somehow going to generate EIGHT HUNDRED HORSEPOWER from some wrecking yard LS engine with some poorly-designed turbo plumbing. Don’t even get me started on the PCV/catch can fix or the apparently left-alone stock rear end, mystery transmission and other nonsense. But hey, it has big-ass, shiny calipered brakes.
Aside from the technical faux pas all over this mess, it was the “aerodynamic research” that had me laughing and then thrown into a rage.
Limeaid was going to do the usual “groundbreaking design” and slap a Daytona/Superbird-style nose cone and rear wing on the car, but oh, my friend, ’twas the “logic” and “science” of it all that leads me to believe that the minds behind this are either again severely damaged, or of an utter demigod-level trolling brilliance that simply cannot be captured by mere mortals. You see, they were going to wind tunnel test this. Yes, test the aerodynamic properties of a slope-nose design wherein, mind you, THE FUCKING TOP WAS LEFT OPEN, CREATING A CLEAR PATH TO THE VERTICAL WALL THAT IS THE RADIATOR. So this “genius” has, in effect, created a shape that creates and probably AMPLIFIES the eddies as air tries to flow over this sad iteration of an automobile. I can’t begin to imagine what the Cd of this monstrosity is now, compared with its former brick-shaped self. But THAT isn’t even the funniest part. No… that comes when you see the “wind tunnel”. Now, when you think “wind tunnel”, you think “a tunnel with some wind-generating machinery”, correct? Apparently not in Bada-Fucking-Bing Noo Yawk or Bangladesh. No… they can make do with a shop fan in an open area. And a DAMNED SMOKE SIGNAL FLARE. While I could choose to go on about THAT, let’s concentrate on the science behind their “wind tunnel”, shall we? A shop fan. Benefit of the doubt given, let’s say we have a fan displacing sixty inches of blade length, each blade being three or so inches in width. Such a fan, if it’s a good one, can push between 17,000 and 19,000 CFM. That known, we can estimate air flow, when operating at peak efficiency to be around oh, say EIGHT, maybe EIGHT AND A HALF MILES PER HOUR. Add to that using a signal flare that is designed to disperse over large distances, and you can see where this is headed. Yet, the “genius designer” was out to prove that the three-foot wing “worked”… if the smoke were to flow to it. Let’s examine that just a bit. ANYTHING blown over a car will reach the back. Water. Poo. The kerosene film emanating from the landscaper’s truck ahead of me because he filled the tank in Enchilada before crossing the border this morning. A drunken bum (if you have enough lead-in speed). Apparently smoke from a signal flare blown at 8 MPH in a dispersed breeze. None of this proves any worth of design or function. Even in the remotest sense. The only scientific data to be gleaned regarding said wing would be that of visual proof that it exists somewhere on the physical plane, and that could be accomplished without the aid of Linguini’s thick-ass glasses. Yup… there it is, tacked onto the deck lid, providing absolutely no function whatsoever, unless that function is to waste materials, which you’d think that coming from a place like the sneaker-sewing capital of the universe that this ass hat would be far more frugal when it comes to things like steel or aluminum.
That all said, dear History Channel, please fuck yourself one more time. You’re undermining the things that I and others in the custom car design community have worked for, by presenting this hack as some “designer” (for fuck’s sake,he was “put off studying” automotive design “by the volume of technical work”. Jesus H. Christ… IT’S ALL FUCKING TECHNICAL WORK IF YOU UNDERSTAND THE JOB), and showing some wrench sketching something that passes for a “rendering” on the skill level of a seven year old, and then cobbling-together unsafe heaps in the name of “cars”??! Stick to “HISTORY” like your contrived bullshit shows like “Life After People” and other nonsense. It’s one thing to present garbage in the names of “entertainment” (i.e. Lifetime, Oprah’s network and MTV, for example), but to bold-faced lie to viewers (i.e. made-up timelines and budgets and other dramatic bullshit, but a quick stop on Wikipedia of all places (I know… it’s like going to CNN, MSNBC or Brian Williams for the truth most times, but till, let’s try to keep things on the level here), but in the intro, Loadsofbull claims that he brought Leapfrog to the US to build cars. Hmmm. Seems that Discovery Networks has a long history with this guy, starting as far back as 2006. This latest show is just another iteration of the prior two failed attempts. He’s lived in Idaho since at least 2013. Again, this could be one of two things going on:
One: The people behind this are mad geniuses, furthering the agenda to push the “immigrant comes to America and makes it big” pablum via a contrived TV show or
Two: The creative development at your network is in the spiral grip of the flushing toilet you float in, and you feel that this is the best you can do to feed the viewing public with insipid programming that further insults their steadily declining intelligence.
I’m really looking forward to Life After the History Channel.

Transprovenance

patinal vinyl wrap

Oh, I’ve had a few things to say (as have others) regarding this:

rusty wrap

But what if we look at the positive things this sort of thing can bring (aside from my business plan to market portable storage structures that look like vintage barns, allowing you to “find” your “treasure” each day)?

Consider the prank market, which appears to be booming on YouTube. You rent a car, and return it wrapped like this. Or you wrap your house like this to scare the neighbors. T-shirts printed to look all rusty (or sunburnt, or covered in lesions or appearing to have holes and wrinkles in them… Already bought the Patent rights, potential squatters. I’m calling those ventures “Skintina” and “Gutter Find” respectively)… No longer will your Corvette or Saturn or Fiero which identify as a steel-bodied car have to live with being called “plastic”.

Imagine a world where wide whitewalls and smoothie wheels will have a home, no matter what the vintage or history of the ride are? Street cred for all… at the expense of the actual meaning of “street cred”, of course. But hey, it’s all about changing the meaning anyway. “Transprovenance” is an issue that needs to be brought to light in our industry. Far too many cars are simply transportation devices lacking a real history or importance in a world where everyone is a superstar and deserves a trophy.

Yeah, this is just about as fucking stupid. Which is which? You decide.

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