Monday, November 9, 2015



Magazine maestro Rob Kinnan snuck in one last summer adventure last week. This one should hold him for a while. This shot is from the first day out. Note dormant windshield wipers. Their static posture is telling. (Photo courtesy of Rob Kinnan)

If you haven't yet experienced the orgy of high performance automotive excess known as the SEMA Show (originally the Speed Equipment Manufacturers Association, now politically neutered to Specialty Equipment Marketing Association), we highly recommend getting there by any means available. Except for the one below.

Like anywhere, there are hobbyists and there are hardcores. The hobbyists are a reasonable lot, whereas the hardcores, well... they tend to operate more on passion than logic. A perfect example of the hardcore ethos played out on Facebook last week, when Mustang Monthly editor Rob Kinnan spontaneously decided to drive his '74 Mustang II (an apparent Craigslist find) from freelance scribe Cole Quinnell's Detroit, Michigan home base to Las Vegas, Nevada for the 2015 SEMA show, then on to Kinnan's infamous backstreet lair in Burbank, California.

Details are murky, but our understanding is that the Mustang was intended as a future magazine project car (inspired in part by the Gapp & Roush-built "Sudden Death" MII Pro Streeter of Joe Ruggirello). Conversely, Kinnan's disco-era score came with the original V-6/C-4 combo in place. Kinnan and Quinnell got the little colt running, then Rob hastily hit the road. There may have been some beers involved in that decision.

Meanwhile, Team Mustang Girls founder (and fellow Mustang Monthly scribe) Courtney Barber was considering her next long distance run (she's a cross country junkie) in her '65 Stang. Barber ultimately fueled her ride and headed out to the SEMA show from her South Carolina digs. It is unknown to us whether either party was even aware of the other's quest at first, but an entertaining week on Facebook was nevertheless underway. Alas, the Mustang challenge was so epic in scope that we only have room to touch on the highlights here.

Ya gotta start somewhere. Kinnan figured Cole Qinnell's driveway was as good a launch pad as any. Despite a missing wheel cover and zero test miles, Kinnan sputtered out of the driveway and just kept going. For a few miles. Off and on. (Photo courtesy of Rob Kinnan)

Courtney Barber in her long-term project car, somewhere in America. Barber's pony received more road prep than Kinnan's mount, by a bunch. (Photo courtesy of Courtney Barber)

Not a 409. Rob's late model relied on six bulging cylinders of gennie FoMoCo power. Right out of the gate, the vintage spark plugs showed their age with a consistent annoying miss. Kinnan eventually hit a parts store for a set of fresh plugs and a case of Rain X. The Rain X was applied successfully. The plugs required a (not-so-common-to- Rob) 13/16" wrench, so were tossed in the back seat for later reference. (Photo courtesy of Rob Kinnan)

Barber's smallblock Ford V-8 (of undisclosed displacement) purred along faithfully, but an undisclosed high pressure line (most likely power steering) needed replacement at one point. So Barber pulled into this roadside repair shop, paid the proprietor, and continued on her way. (Photo courtesy of Courtney Barber)

California Boy Kinnan encounters frostbite in Illinois. (Photo courtesy of Rob Kinnan)

The cooling issues began in Kansas. Search light illuminates secret magazine project car headed to Salina, where Kinnan bagged a motel room right next door to a repair shop owned by a Ford guy. Problem solved! For an hour or so. (Photo courtesy of Rob Kinnan)

All was cool, until the points fried in Nebraska... (Photo courtesy of Rob Kinnan)

... where Kinnan pitted ASAP for new points, cap, rotor, plugs and wires, but found no replacement for the missing wire basket wheel cover (on driver's side). Good enough. Refill the radiator with water and go man go! This looks like the O'Reillys at Alliance, Nebraska. (Photo courtesy of Rob Kinnan)

Kinnan lurched into Denver with "fuel issues"... (Photo courtesy of Rob Kinnan)

... which turned out to be cake, compared to losing high gear in the C-4 automatic. But wait - Rob forgot that he had disconnected the transmission's modulator line while dealing with the mangled fuel line. Once he remembered that, he was once again underway. (Photo courtesy of Rob Kinnan)

Dry radiator again, somewhere outside of Green River, Wyoming. Still no water onboard the vehicle. Kinnan had scoffed at an earlier suggestion to invest in a can of Bars Leaks. He captioned this image, "Think it's done. Waiting on AAA and a hellacious tow bill". (Photo courtesy of Rob Kinnan)

The next morning: Refilled radiator with water and it ran again. Vegas bound, baby! (Photo courtesy of Rob Kinnan)

But the water fell out again, somewhere around Richfield, Utah. (Photo courtesy of Rob Kinnan)

That's where Rob met total strangers "Dean and Beverly", who were headed to Las Vegas in their motorhome - a transport much more to Kinnan's taste. He somehow begged a ride with them, and left the Green Meanie sitting in its own puke-green puke, vowing to return for it after the SEMA show. Despite leaving his keys in the RV (now long gone), Kinnan wrestled the M II onto an LA -bound trailer after the SEMA show, then jetted off to Baja to prep for the off-road insanity that passes for racing down there. (Photo courtesy of Rob Kinnan)

By the time Kinnan was chauffeured into Vegas, Courtney Barber was removing the last layer of road grime from her Mustang and prepping for the return trip to South Carolina, with assistance from an anonymous studly fan. (Photo courtesy of Courtney Barber)

As for the SEMA Show itself, Steve Strope's "Ingenue" funny car-inspired '67 Buick project snatched a lot of attention away from the more "refined" cars displaying in Las Vegas. Better known for finely finished Pro Touring Mopars, Strope's earlier influences are now clearly surfacing. There will likely be no corner carving for this Hemified Buick, with a dropped tube axle under the oil pan. This car earned the coveted SGE Most Controversial award at SEMA, with a 50/50 Love it/Hate it ratio among showgoers and online opinionators. (Photo courtesy of Bangshift)

Jerry Lipori's Ingenue (driven by "Coney Island Ralph"), as I found it at the California Hot Rod Reunion a few years back. (Scotty shots)

Steve Strope discovered Ingenue way before I did. He fell hard for the big Bu as a toddler, and finally got his butt in the seat at middle age. Steve's Hemi version will be much more tribute than recreation. His plan calls for gloss black paint. (Photo courtesy of Motormouth Ray)
And finally, everyone's favorite uncle, Gray Baskerville, test driving Sudden Death for Hot Rod magazine in 1975. This was a new car, fitted with an all-out Roush Racing roller cammed 460, drilled and stretched to 505", and set back ten inches. Gray declared the Mustang to be even faster than his '32 roadster. (Photo courtesy of Hot Rod magazine)



When fabrication whiz kid and Northeast Medford SGE correspondent Twisty Ron Austin arrived at Jim Lindsay's annual shop party this summer, the women predictably came running. Aside from their obvious adoration of the West Coast's premier spark flinger, the gals were just stoked to appear on SGE. They send kisses to all readers!

The latest action in Twisty's shop is a remodel of this Austin Bantam Altered for two-time Dragster/Roadster class Champion Steve Marcus of Molalla, Oregon. 

So Twisty, why is this body doing the cockroach in your driveway? "I'm in the process of converting the Bantam from an old 'lay down' style chassis to the modern chassis that I'm building for it. It's a lot of work, but in my mind, the extra effort to make things fit right is a crucial step, and will be rewarded at the end of the project."

"After the initial mock-up, molds were made from aluminum and attached to the body in preparation for the fiberglass work. The body will be stretched nine inches, with extra material added to the wheelwell openings and bottom of the body. When the car is sitting on the ground with the body on it, I can go back and trim those areas for a perfect fit." 

Why I hang with guys like Twisty at every opportunity: "Just finished the rear housing for the Altered. I fabricate these from the ground up." So, if I shadow an artist long enough, will I receive their skills by osmosis? It hasn't happened yet, but I'm no givver-upper.

When not crafting masterpieces, Twisty Ron enjoys his hobby: "After racing a partial schedule for the last two years, the Slightly Twisted Gang ran the full season this year. Along with winning the 39th annual Oldies but Goodies event at Woodburn, Oregon, we clinched our fourth Dragster/Roadster Championship. The team this year consisted of Bob and Pepper Strobbe, Brandon "Moe" Pereira, and of course, Tami "Krankypantz" Austin. Without their hard work and sacrifice, this accomplishment would not have been possible. The Woodburn banquet is later this month at the World of Speed museum (in Wilsonville, Oregon), and should be a really cool way to cap off a great season!" (Photos courtesy of Twisty Ron)


Up at the top edge of the state, SGE Portland, Oregon correspondent Marty Strode checks in with an update on Hall of Famer Lonnie Gilbertson's "Hit and Miss Special". The single-cylinder John Deere-powered bellytank has been pulled from mothballs in anticipation of a possible reopening of the Bonneville Salt Flats, which may or may not be wishful thinking. Either way, we're certain Gilbertson will find a venue somewhere to chase his dream of a 55 MPH time slip. 

Marty narrates, "The first stop was Leighton Mangel's shop, for some fiberglass work: Aero improvements around the rear axle area, and the addition of a flair to the cowl." Marty's shop truck lurks in background. Could Mangel be making fiberglass spoilers for it?

"After Leighton finished his work, my task was to build a bulkhead between the driver and engine, and line the cockpit area with aluminum." 

"As you know, the rules require some sort of liner. It can be sheetmetal or netting on fiberglass cars. The reason is to restrain the driver's limbs, in case of a crash. The finished product sort of resembles a fighter plane cockpit, but shouldn't have any problem passing tech. This took me a week." Thanks Marty. This job would have taken me considerably more than a week (understatement), and probably wouldn't have passed a 55 MPH crash test! (Photos courtesy of Marty Strode)


Speaking of hardcores, I found a handful at the Jacksonville, Oregon grocery store, on my way to visit the perpetual SGE Model A project last weekend. A bonechilling rain kept the pretty boys at home, but these hard guys seemed nonplussed. For the record, all three badasses drive beaters (reflected in store window). 

My triumphant return to Allen Stewart's hot rod ranch, up in the Applegate hills. Allen's '40 pickup appears to be on its fourth gas tank swap now, but Mr. Stewart himself had escaped. I later learned he had been sunning on a Mexican beach. The resultant angry jealousy kept my core temperature up to survival specs.

Ah, just how I left it, except for the traditional fall surface rust. Even though the frame and chassis will be media blasted before paint and assembly, the rust still creeped me out. It always does.

The next step of the project is fabrication of body mounts. Before I can mock up body panels, the banjo rear must be removed to facilitate sliding the back half of the body (shown) over the chassis. 

The rear spring perch, rearend, and driveshaft will prevent fitting the rear body panel to the chassis, so I scribed a tentative centerline as a starting point to determine how much material to cut out, and where (based on a 14 3/4" pinion height, measured at ride height). 

Vintage photos of the car's basic layout illustrate how the rear of the body hugs the rollcage-style body bracing, requiring radical sheetmetal surgery to allow installation and removal of said body. 

Under-dressed for weather conditions and frankly, dog tired, I left the rearend removal and body sculpting for another day. I did spend some time sanding chassis components, then coated everything with penetrant to ward off the rust devils. I can remove the slippery stuff later with lacquer thinner prior to blasting. Not my most productive day, yet it still felt like another baby step forward. Which is nice.

Back at the climate-controlled SGE World Headquarters, I switched on the TV and settled in for some detail time. I try to do a little of this every day, knowing that it will add up to something eventually. The 2.3 Ford valve cover and distributor were dramatically greasy and corroded, but were attacked with hand-operated files, sandpaper and Scotchbrite pads in the course of an Oregon Ducks football game. In the end: Victory! (Scotty shots)



NASCAR's Car Of The Future for 2016 features grain-fueled squirrel drivers (thanks to the sanctioning body's partnership with the ethanol industry) and recycled body materials. Engineers are still addressing exhaust issues, but vow to have them inline with National standards in time for Daytona. (Spy photo courtesy of Mr. X)

My search for suitable SGE Model A on-board tool storage has reintroduced me to some past infatuations, such as sand casting (see last week's toolbox), and now, military surplus. When I served in the early Seventies, our toolboxes were heavy gauge steel, period. But injection molded plastic, fiberglass, and even carbon fiber are now rocking the olive drab, so I'm planning a return to the local Army-Navy store that I once loitered at weekly. 


On a 2015 Colorado adventure, print media elder statesman Dave Wallace Jr. happened across this beautiful roadside shoe tree, in full bloom. Thanks, Dave! (Photo courtesy of Dave Wallace Jr.)