Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Further Adventures of The Son of Godzilla

Last week, the Son of Godzilla Morris Minor was trapped at the end of a pitch dark rural drag strip at midnight, with speeding race cars hurtling toward it at full song. It didn’t look good for the littlest hero and time was rapidly running out. With only a hundredth of a second to spare before imminent destruction – I don’t remember what happened. You’ll have to revisit last week’s blog.

In 25 years of building/owning/driving the car, there were way too many escapades to recall here, but the highlights began on the maiden voyage and continue, unabated: Like blasting sideways in a cloud of noise and tire smoke, inches from a startled Iowa State Trooper on a Des Moines, Iowa freeway interchange; breaking a chintzy throttle cable in Omaha evening traffic and proceeding home with a friend running alongside the car, working the carb linkage by hand; towing to Bonneville, only to be rained out, then joining dozens of other frustrated racers from around the world in an impromptu street race, where we drove each others’ cars; getting caught in a cattle drive in eastern Oregon and literally covering the car with bullshit; coasting six miles down a mountain grade after running out of gas (and losing a $5 bet with my dad in the process); getting into the tens for the first time; driving two miles up a steep, deeply rutted mountain trail to surprise a friend on his birthday; filming movie scenes on a city backstreet at 2:00 AM for a whacky comedy about street racers; taking my family members and friends for their first ride in a real hot rod; returning to Bonneville, running 140 (complete with funhouse spin-outs) and writing a feature story about it; teaching my girlfriend to drive the car; participating in three of the Americruise events and a bit of one Power Tour; this list could go on for a number of pages…

There were no cameras present for most of those high jinx, but I was lucky enough to get some snapshots of a few other high points of my time with Lil Zilla…

Is there any better hot rod fun than grudge racing your best friend? Dr. Lockjaw and I helped each other build these cars, then pitted them against each other at every opportunity. To me, this is the ultimate fulfillment of the build process.

Racing against personal heroes (and friends) like Craig Wallace was priceless. This particular match was a classic: Something went wrong with my transbrake at the launch and as I slowly coasted to the 330’ mark, waving my fist at Wallace to entertain the troops, I finally realized he had redlit! I idled it downtrack and beat him. Or so I thought – I carded a 31 second ET on that pass and it was explained to me that anything over 30 seconds was a disqualification – no time. So I managed to lose the same race twice to a guy who redlit! Anyone here ever hear of such a thing?

After Dr. Lockjaw whipped up one of his top secret Custom Metal anti-roll bars for me, the nose stayed grounded and level. Now the runs are mostly drama-free, but still fun enough to keep the driver awake. (Dennis Vollmar Photo)

At Bonneville, I spun out at anything over 137 MPH, but CC somehow finessed it to 140 – all of this at half throttle. I had the flu and still had the time of my life. Details are in the April 2008 Rod & Custom magazine.

Old pal CC is taking excellent care of  Zilla Jr and occasionally uses it as a work commuter. It still has cooling and charging issues, fouls plugs, rattles like a can of skeletons, and the combo of camshaft overlap and open headers shakes every window in the neighborhood. Just the way I left it. We’ve been invited to display it at the Hot Rod Magazine Homecoming in 2013. All we need is travel money and vacation time (ie: Ain’t gonna happen).

CC re-enacts a recent full throttle pass through town.  Due to packaging constraints, this vehicle must be driven in the “Giving Birth” position – but is worth it (ergonomic, no - egonomic, sure). Besides, with a two gallon Eelco fuel tank and an EPA estimated 5 MPG, frequent gas stops offer plenty of leg stretching opportunities.

The part I miss the most. I still wake up in the middle of the night with some great idea for a better way to mount something, and have actually started walking to the garage before remembering I have no garage and no hot rod anymore. But I'm working on the latter. More will be revealed...

Next week: Back to reality.