Tag Archive | dodge

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?

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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.

Throwing a Dart!

project businesstime

A quick pick-me-up for the start of your week, with a bold, bad Dart…

I had gotten the call from Tommy at Musclecar TV to sketch some visuals for the pro-street Dart they were planning, and got all sorts of psyched. After all, here was a (mostly) overlooked car, being built in a style I love… Throw on some plans for a blown Hemi, and I was lost in thought. Here was a shot to work with a good friend AND throw down some Dodge muscle with a historical twist! The very stuff I live for anyway!

The starting point was a decent little 1974 Dodge Dart…

dart before

…not too shabby, considering. This was, in fact, the very sort of car my friends and I had in (and just out of) High School! A mild street machine with some hefty goals.

Tommy and I decided early-on that the car would be bold, and we’d rely on classic Rapid Transit System colors, and some form of a Hemi billboard graphic. I had suggested keeping that graphic simple, so that any enthusiast could create a striking call-out at home. After a ton of deliberation and experimentation, I arrived at a mix of retro cool and modern style (with just a little pop) that could be replicated by hand, or by use of an inexpensive vinyl mask, which could be made in any local sign shop, and provide professional-looking results at nearly all skill levels. Here’s a peek at the colors we were narrowing-down:

dodge colors

…and the final decision? Sublime Green, of course:

project businesstime

It was a blast to explore the potential of the car, and to call on the storied history of Dodge with such a fun car. After all, when you drop the name ‘Hemi’, ears perk up. When you add ‘blown’ to that word, it gets even more interesting… and when you decide to wrap it all in a bright green, pro-street Dart, well… Need I say more?

Be sure to check out the build episodes here: Big Bad Dodge, and dig the way the guys incorporated my drilled bumper idea!

custom dart bumper

Speaking of Dodge, I have a shot at winning a gig writing for Dodge on their blog! I was selected as one of five finalists, and flown to NY last month (read more about that HERE if you’d like!) to wander the New York International Auto Show with representatives from Dodge and Ignite Social Media (thanks again!), and film a walk-around with the just-debuted 2014 Dodge Durango. The competition is in the final leg, and I hope that you’ll take a moment to vote for me (Brian S.). You can do that here https://bit.ly/XUMXLO through May 7… And you can vote once per day, every day, and I truly appreciate your support in helping me to not only get a great break, but bring the passion to a HUGE audience each week, and win some great prizes, as well!

Thanks, as always, for looking in!

Driving the Redline

If you follow along on the site or Facebook, you no doubt know that last month, Brian was flown to NY as one of five finalists in the Drive the Redline Dodge contest, thanks in part to the huge response from all of our loyal friends, fans and family. This is a shot to write for the Dodge blog for six months, and the opportunity is HUGE, not only for this little venture, but for the hot rod and automotive art industries at large… With such a huge audience, this could be a great opportunity to spread some knowledge about our side of the car world, and bring some attention to the aftermarket, and the artists and builders who may never before have seen such large numbers of readers.

drive the redline contest

As part of the trek to NY (courtesy of the great folks and hosts at Dodge and Ignite Social Media!), we five finalists were filmed by a great (and understanding and patient… well, you get the deal, they were AWESOME) film crew, doing a walk-around of a new Dodge vehicle.

I was fortunate to lay hands on the all-new, 2014 Durango, which had, literally minutes before, made its world debut on the very stage this was filmed on at the Javits Center! History in the making! Very cool indeed… Yet I digress: What makes this thing so cool is that you can customize this monster in over 1000 ways before it even hits our garage! This is the perfect bridge between what we do (design custom vehicles), and the new car market. Personalization is almost unlimited from the factory, and I have to say it, there are details on the Durango which hot wheels turning for projects. You can see a video below.

Speaking of that link, this is where you, humble and valued reader, come in. I’ll need some votes to make this dream gig happen… You can vote once PER DAY, EVERY DAY through May 7. So please, vote every day, share this, and help land the Problem Child in the driver’s seat!

You can either head here: http://blog.dodge.com/drive-the-redline-dodge/, or or, if you’re on Facebook, directly to my entry: https://bit.ly/XUMXLO , or simply click the image below, and be magically whisked away, and drop a vote for Brian S., Gilbert AZ!

drive the redline dodge

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