Friday, March 18, 2011

Scott Parkhurst Interview Part II

(Theme music) (Applause) Welcome back! If you're just joining us, we're talking station wagons with 'Chevelle from Hell' owner/builder, Scott Parkhurst. Now, this thing is just nuts - a full on Autocross and Road Course terror that floats down the highway on 87 Octane swill! There's some pretty bent wagon owner/builders in this book, but you sir, are seriously twisted.


When we went to break, you were decided on a 6-speed trans for the car. Was that like installing a locomotive switchyard in a shopping mall?

(takes sip of coffee) ...Well, the aces at American Touring Specialties had pioneered the A-body swap kit for the T56 and they worked with me to insure that it was flawless.

Is that because you offered them magazine exposure that could potentially make them enough money to justify GIVING you a tranny?

(blows coffee across room) Damn, Scotty! Actually, ATS used my car to prototype their T56 swap for A-bodies. My trans came from Rockland Standard Gear - makers of the 'Tranzilla T56'. Mine is officially a 'Son of Tranzilla' version.
Ah, got it. And did the swap meet your expectations?

Yes. By using a lot of factory (LT-1 F-body) parts, the upgrade is simple, once the trans tunnel is replaced. The T56 makes the car what it is and once it was in place, the notion of the wagon as 'tow vehicle' was gone for good. (more coffee)

The road narrowed at that point.

(nodding) Now it was a summer only car. ATS offered geometry-correcting spindles for the A-body, so I wanted a pair of those. They're based on late model Corvette hubs, which allow for use of huge Corvette brakes. Nice! What else could I do to improve the handling? I coordinated with various experts and chose QA1 double adjustable coilovers  - soft for daily driving, stiff for the road course at high speed, or stiff compression and loose rebound for the dragstrip. Simple adjustment with a knob, too. The swaybar is from Hellwig and it's designed to match their adjustable rear bar.

Can I drive it?

(dismissive wave of hand) Wait! (puts coffee down) The rear suspension is where the men and the boys go their separate ways. After making wholesale changes to the front end until it worked well, the back of the car was nowhere close to keeping up. At speed, the front would grip and the back would predictably come around. Not good.

I'd drive it!

(sideways glance) So when Hellwig created their adjustable chassis-mount rear bar, I was all over it.  A set of upper and lower control arms from Currie Enterprises , teamed with the adjustable bar from Hellwig and another pair of double-adjustable shocks from QA1 really brought the rear suspension into the same dimension as the front. I then learned from Mark Savitske at SC&C (who has been my suspension coach from day one) that Jim Fay at Fays2 was releasing a bolt-in Watts link for the A-body. This would allow the rear suspension to travel up and down as much as it wanted, but wouldn't allow the axle to shift from side to side. That's all the motivation I needed to get one.

A longroof slot car! That's how it sounds, anyway...

It corners nicely. Some stickier tires (Nitto's 555 design, with a 300 treadwear rating) helped too.

Shifting gears here, but they're easy on the eyes, too. Your rolling stock, combined with the stance and paint, make for a fun but aggressive visual package. Did that look just fall together, or was it all planned from the start?

(leaning forward, inspired) Style-wise, I wanted to retain some vintage flavor. I decided to stick with some late '60s/early '70s inspirations, without letting van-era disco sillyness get the better of me. I love the Trans Am race cars of that period and they served as loose models for my mods. Where function was critical, I let performance take over. Where visuals were key, I stuck with 1970 as a time stamp.

Personally, I get a kick out of how the two-tone paint scheme seems to drive home the Trans Am look, even though those cars were mostly monotone.

The wagon has a gold interior. Typical in 1967, but when's the last time you saw one? It's simply too cool to replace. So, I brought the gold interior to the outside and kept the factory off-white as the lower half of the two-tone. The stripe separating the two colors is thick and purposeful and gives the scallop stripes on the hood and roof a reason to exist. It looks old and fast - which is good, since the car is both.

Could I just have it for a weekend? I'm a very careful driver...

(scowling) No. I've had it for seven years now. The first year, I drove it as it was when I bought it. The next three years, it was in pieces as I upgraded the suspension, drivetrain and paint. It's been on the road for the last three years, but spent most of 2010 sitting, as the engine ate a rod bearing and blew up in May and wasn't running again until September. That pissed me off, sure... but it happened on track, down the long straight at Road America in Wisconsin.  I'd been beating on it relentlessly all weekend and was traveling at about 100 MPH when it let go. So I got over it pretty quickly.

That NEVER would've happened if I'd been driving it. I always keep one eye on the oil pressure gauge and -

(sneers) The rebuilt engine is pretty much a duplicate of the original, with a touch more compression (10:1 vs 9.7:1), H-beam rods, shaft-mounted rockers, Tri-Y headers, etc. I plan on attending a few Track Day events, some Autocrosses and maybe even a couple trips to the dragstrip. Mostly, I'll just be driving it on the street and enjoying it the way I'd initially intended. It's comfortable, delivers 20+ MPG and is just a blast to drive. (nervously glancing at wristwatch)

Hey Scott - before you take off, whatever happened to the GTO clone project?

I sold it, unfinished, last year. It was the car I always wanted and I began building it at the highest level of performance and quality - I always envisioned it with the best of everything. About halfway through the build, I realized there was no way I could afford to see it through to completion on my current salary. So away it went. But, the wagon I bought to tow it with is still here and hopefully it will remain for many years to come. Or, at least until I can get the speedometer and heater to work.

At that point, Scott's army of interns, attorneys, managers and press agents whisked him from the building and out to the sidewalk. I saw them pile into the wagon and make a dramatic exit, cutting into heavy traffic with tires ablaze and RPMs still climbing, as they disappeared in a cloud of tire smoke and clutch dust.

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