Tuesday, October 15, 2013


When inspiration hits, nothing can stop the creative process. When inspiration withers, nothing can start the creative process.

Staring down multiple deadlines has taken a toll lately. I'm toast. At vulnerable moments like this, writing somehow morphs from a gift to a chore. Luckily, I love irony: The stories gone comatose before me are exactly the kind I love to tell - ripe and juicy. Alas, they just lay there, giving me the fish eye. Sure, I work on them, for hours and hours. Still, they lay dormant, sprawled out across my monitor, silently begging me to pick them up, shake them awake, and give them direction and purpose - a waste of elusive time, so far, with one false start after another. Another process that must play itself out.

This is new to me. A first. But I believe we only grow when we're off balance - out of our comfort zones. When we cling to comfort, we become stagnant - a deadly condition. So I should be celebrating this growth opportunity. I know I will, soon enough. At this moment, I don't have to like it, I just have to walk through it: Accept it, find my role in it, learn from it, and move on. And so I trudge.

Unfortunately, this process has left scant time to construct a lucid blog. So this week, I'm concocting a word salad of leftovers, topped with bits of found data. Not every post can be a delicious feast. Actually, I didn't make any of this from scratch - Motormouth Ray contributed nearly all of the content on this post, and I'm just relaying it to you. Thanks, Ray! And thank you, SGE reader, for pressing on regardless. I hope you find some message in here that serves you. Now if you'll excuse me, I must return to work and open myself to the spark that awaits me, somewhere out there in the cosmic alphabet soup.



Coast to coast, the clink of racetrack gates closing for winter announces the arrival of fall. The news echoes through every time zone of every latitude. Ramshackle one-car garages and corporate-funded monoliths alike begin vibrating with anticipation - the opening day of fabrication season is just around the corner! In between race season and fab season lies a sliver of time I call "The Downshift". Less than a week of days, where we recharge our internal batteries, breathe deeply, and contemplate past and future, while savoring the present.

SGE received two Downshift reports this week, from opposite ends of the 45th parallel. They illustrate the similarities shared by everyone in between. HAPPY DOWNSHIFT TO ONE AND ALL!!!

Motormouth Ray played hooky on Monday, kidnapped his family, and hightailed it to the Barton Orchard in upstate New York: "How could it NOT be a great day, when you're spending time with your family, out in the country? The nicest part for me is that my kids are 23 and 16, and still want to spend time with their parents! I'll take that with a side of slaw, any day. These apples agreed to pose for me since I swore not to make cider out of them."

"A 210 year-old oak tree on the orchard site."

An appropriate soundtrack is crucial for a successful visit to the hills, and Ray struck gold: "This bluegrass band is called Oxford Depot and they were great! I told them all about you, Scotty. You're gonna hear more about them, soon..." Thanks, Ray.

"The dining room of The Daily Planet, where we ate lunch. One of my favorite haunts when I go upstate."

"How could I not shoot an overpass called the Goat Walk?"

Speaking of Goats, shortly before leaving for the country, Ray had spotted this '67 GTO fixer-upper on Craigslist. An omen. All the signs seem to portend GTO sparks in Ray's immediate future. (Photos by Motormouth Ray)

A very similar scene was playing out simultaneously, about 3,000 miles west. CC dragged the family to a pumpkin patch outside of Portland, Oregon where they were all consumed by the Downshift spirit.

He's back! Secret Agent CC survived an out-of-control German Octoberfest (among other Euroadventures) to return to wife Sia and daughter Celina at Olsen Farms. Welcome home, cub reporter!

God only knows where Celina wandered off to while CC courted a coy Sia in the pumpkin patch. Someone call Child Protective Services!

Fearing a social worker visit, the neglectful parents hid out in this handy corn field until the coast was clear. Celina was discovered pedaling her tricycle down Hwy 30 at a high rate of speed, but was unharmed. Sia went CC's bail and the idyllic fall day went unblemished. A Downshift miracle! (Photos by Julie Cha)



Motormouth Ray cruises eBay occasionally and spotted this dandy Mopar street race special last week. Owner Jesse James was asking $7,000 for this '69 Roadrunner, purportedly campaigned previously by an outlaw biker gang. 10 second times were claimed. A "built" 440 supposedly "was running about a year ago" and was once backed by a 727 Torqueflight trans, which now "is gone". Still, in this day and age, it's probably a good price for a celebrity-owned car. Jesse lists the rear suspension as a "4-bar", but it's actually a ladder bar set-up, with panhard bar and coilovers. There's a full 'cage (that has been hacked on a lot over the years) and 2" X 4" rear subframe, supporting a Dana 60 (no gear ratio given). Fiberglass doors, fenders and hood are installed and gennie originals come in the deal. Rolling stock is referred to as "OG Centerlines", but only the fronts are legit Centerlines, while rears appear to be copies. All in all, a cool example of Mother Mopar's approach to street supremacy. Perfect for my skewered tastes. Your mileage may vary. Thanks for the heads-up, Ray!

Looks pretty mean, just sitting in front of the shop. In my eyes, the color mismatch of the 'glass parts actually adds to the attitude.

When's the last time you saw a non Stock-class Mopar big block sporting a Q-jet on an iron manifold? More street cred. I helped my pal Hippy Mike run low 12's with a nearly identical RR for a while. Won the track championship one year.

This could be the interior of any car I've ever owned. Other than the H-D floor mats (C'mon, Jesse), there's no cute stuff here. Just the facts, Maam.

The brightest red flag here is the cobbled fuel pump mount. But hey, we all have some skeletons in our closets. (Photos courtesy of eBay)

Bottom line: Hit the wrecking yard for a Torqueflight, cruise the swap meet for a converter, carb and manifold, and you're set to give the rearview mirror a workout, scanning for cops. Buy the car, make those changes, and get back to us with some ET slips: Instant glory!


We never know what's going to animate some long repressed emotion. No matter how tight the lid is screwed down, it can only contain the pressure for so long - then, one day - Ka Blooey! It happened to Motormouth Ray, just recently. He was strolling through a car show, minding his own business, not hurting anyone - when suddenly, without warning...

" I was digging this salty roadster. The tri-power drew me in..."

"Here's a really well built Chevy with no expense spared, where the body, paint and interior are concerned..." (I'm impressed with the integration of the Merc grille - SG)

"... but the poseur who owns it is trying to skimp out on the roots of hot roddery with a tri-power set-up that's really only a single two barrel (nicely bent fuel lines though)!"

"Add to that, the old trick we've all used at one time or another of stacking up washers to act as a spacer (in this case, for his fan shroud mount) and I have to wonder if all that custom leather and color left him too broke to buy or have a real spacer made from aluminum (or he could've just built a custom shroud that actually fits - SG). Or maybe it was the chrome button-head Allen screws he paid way too much for? I know the answer to that one: Since he most likely had the car built, he probably doesn't even know the washers are there in the first place! I deemed this car the farce of the show. I personally find cars that are built to such a high degree of finish, then have faux speed parts bolted to them just to look cool, an abomination and insult to every greasy kid and man alike who ever slung a wrench! Wow! That felt good! I'll take every bullet that flies my way on this. Unless one catches me in the side by surprise, like poor Walter White." (Photos courtesy of Motormouth Ray)

Thank you, Ray. This illustration of how little it takes to set off an otherwise peaceful and reasonable person has been quite enlightening. Perhaps car shows should employ metal detectors at the gate - you know, just in case...




Motor Mouth Radio has confirmed Sunday, October 20th as the date of Motor Doll Lori Bentley Law's live interview. Tune in to www.motormouthradio.com at Noon (EST) for insight into what makes this unsung hot rod hero tick (Spoiler: It's more serious than a sloppy valvetrain adjustment). Lori's star has been steadily rising among the underground, but her true persona has remained a mystery - until now. Mark this on your calendar, then write yourself a note to actually look at your calendar. Motormouth Ray and I have been presenting Producer Chris Switzer with a case for hailing women in hot rodding/motorsports. Circumstances are looking good now for a future slate of dynamic estrogen-powered wrench twirlers with amazing stories to tell. Isn't this what communications systems were intended for in the first place? It's about time.

This gal isn't some scenester, seeking shallow glory. She's an action figure who makes good things happen to ferrous metals. There's been much speculation regarding what's under the helmet. We're about to find out.

A bona fide literary scholar, Lori is a serious collector of the classics.

No stranger to the Mohave floor...

... nor the Saturday night dancehall floor, Lori and her faithful F-1 Bondorella seem to constantly be in the eye of the action, while somehow holding a low profile.

But it's what's under the hood that counts. Lori and Bondorella deliver the goods. (Photos courtesy of Lori Bentley Law)



Previously on SGE, we presented a peek at Billy Lynch's old AA/FD entry and Pat Foster's incredible recreation of it. Upon further review, Motormouth Ray has come across yet another image of the car. This is pretty special.

"Billy told me that Pete Millar had drawn his car on the cover of his Drag Cartoons magazine back in July of '64, and that after Pete's death, his  family was selling reprints of the original art to offset funeral costs. Of course, I bought one (and had Billy autograph it). This is it. Pretty damn cool, if I do say so myself." Agreed, Ray. And a rare peek back at the long defunct Island Dragway, where so much history was made in New York. Long live Pete Millar (wife Orah Mae and daughter Robin, too) and Island Dragway!

Billy Lynch fans will be happy to know that at least one piece of the original car remains. While scrounging through his attic, Ray also discovered a piston and rod assembly nicked in the explosion that caused the crash that caused the demise of Lynch's dual purpose (nitro and gas class) dragster, with Jack Ostrander at the butterfly in 1990. (Photos courtesy of Motormouth Ray)



This is Bob Lidell, finally enjoying some time with his GTO at Champion Raceway in Medford, Oregon. He waited a long time for this moment. Bob earned it with a long year of hard work and a pocketful of good Karma. (Photo courtesy of Dennis Vollmar)

There's more to Bob's Goat than just the driver's window. Here's the whole car, jumping for joy at historical Redding Drag Strip, with Bob at the reins. I believe he got it into the sevens more than once. (Photo courtesy of Redding Drag Strip)

I've never worked for any boss as straight forward, direct, and just plain honest as Bob Lidell. He brought me in to announce a couple of the events he put on at Champion Raceway during his tenure as Track Manager. We were both too busy to really get to know each other. But his genuine concern for the welfare of the entire Champion crew was obvious. Bob knew we'd all do a better job if we clearly understood our roles and his expectations. And he ensured that we had dependable tools and skills to handle any surprises (well, except for Champion's infamous computer system, "Old Faithful", which still surprises, hourly).

Most amazing was that Bob simultaneously managed Champion Raceway and Redding Drag Strip (and oh yeah, he also had a family and owned a swimming pool business). He'd bounce back and forth between Redding and Medford at least once a week, knowing that if he didn't put those miles on, Champion would have to close. For that alone, Bob will forever have the respect and admiration of the southern Oregon racing community. But everyone who ever met him respects and admires him for more than that. Our unique little track has had a lot of managers over the last thirty-plus years, but all agree that this guy was special.

That's right - the above was written in past tense. Bob Lidell passed away in his sleep last week in Redding. My heart goes out to his family and others who were close to him. I'm just happy that he finally got to put some laps on his beloved Pontiac before he had to go. And that he showed me what a real straight shooter looks like in action. Bob Lidell inspired me to try a little harder at that. Thanks, Bob.



First, a tip of the helmet to fans of our old Squirrel of the Week feature. Please join us in observing this salute...

Thank you. And now, on with the show! (Image courtesy of Motormouth Ray)

We have a triple feature for you this week!

Top: Motormouth Ray's bench box offers an inviting "lived-in" presentation, as does his entire garage.

Middle: More honest patina on this vintage cabinet under the bench. Cool decals earn bonus points and the cabinet door boasts some excellent examples. More bonus points for the clean layout, enhanced with understated pinstriping.

Bottom: Tell 'em, Ray: "When I helped him move a few years ago, Billy Lynch gave me some side panels off one of the Top Fuel rails he campaigned in the early '90s. He told me to never throw them away, because they're made of magnesium and I should look to sell them for their scrap value. I have one in the garage and one in the basement, plus some blanks stashed away for use if I ever build a rail!" (For the record, race car parts earn double bonus points - SG) (Photos courtesy of Motormouth Ray)