Tuesday, August 13, 2013


                                                                 From this...

To this! Returning a hot rod to glory, one part at a time. It's more satisfying than sex! Well, it's pretty satisfying. And you can do it almost anywhere without getting arrested, infected, or impregnated. The I-beam connecting rods in Ray Guarino's Pontiac were no match for his size 13 right foot. Ray has higher expectations for the new H-beams. (Photos courtesy of Ray Guarino) 


By now, you've probably read Spike Kilmer and Joseph Alig's East vs West Showdown, wherein they pay homage to the polarizing coastal rivalry that once prompted territorial fistcuffs. It's a fun read, with great photos. Highly recommended.

In my eyes, the Atlantic vs Pacific hot rod wars pretty much turned pointless once we all came to realize that we're in this together and need each other to survive. Despite the peace treaty, both coasts still sport instantly identifiable styling cues, born of regional history and philosophies. Today, we celebrate these differences, rather than razz each other about them. And a couple of guys who know a thing or two about celebrating and razzing just happened to send in photos last week from the East coast.

The SGE staff tends to take on a nervous giddyness when Motormouth Ray Guarino reports in. At once edgy, studious and funny, Ray can blow a productive day at the office completely out of the water with a single one-liner. Anyone who's listened to the Motor Mouth Radio Hour can attest to that. But when he dons his grubbies and dives under the hood, Ray becomes - well, he just becomes even more funny. But he gets the job done too, in traditional hot rod fashion. The very same can be said of Lance 'Jumpstart' Sorchik, who also checks in this week with some tech tidbits of his own. Grab a grease rag and enjoy the view over the shoulders of these East Coast luminaries, as they approach soft and hardcore challenges (respectively) with a wink and a grin. The hand cleaner is over there by the bench...


Ray's real world '65 GTO revival is an SGE favorite. He installed a new set of headers last week, "in between a chiropractor visit and a dad-chauffeur run. The install went from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM. My friend John (or Tom, as some call him) came by so I could get him some auto parts with my discount, and he stayed around to help out. Thank God! What an unsuspecting, trusting soul he is, eh?"

Ray's been porting these heads like a possessed coal miner. His efforts would be in vain without a port-matched set of appropriately sized free flowing primaries and collectors. What's involved in making that happen, Ray?

"There's a good reason why all the major header companies went from making 4-tube Pontiac headers to 3-tube units, with the two center tubes being siamesed: It makes for an easier installation! The 4-tube sets are for higher horsepower cars, requiring better cylinder scavenging and a cleaner exhaust pulse. These are vintage 1975 Hookers, with quarter inch flanges and thicker wall tubing than today's primaries. I had them Jet Hot coated about 20 years ago and have been waiting to use them ever since. Note that I knew better than Hooker's engineers, and chose to cut out the flange sections between the tubes to prevent them from pulling against each other during cooling, so the bolts won't loosen." (Less weight and a less painful install, too! - SG)

Driver's side view exposes hybrid aftermarket/Ray-built tubular control arms. Ray felt a straight tube axle would be cool (Agreed!), but this approach lent more driveability to a car intended for more than just local use. Have you driven a straight axle car on the Long Island Expressway? The defense rests.

"Now I'm going to have to re-plumb some of the brake lines I've already bent, due to their proximity to the rearmost header tube. Oh well. I wasn't completely happy with the way they came out anyway, and practice makes perfect, right?"

Free and easy on the passenger side.

Road clearance seems adequate, from this angle anyway. What now, Ray? "I'll weld some old header collector flanges to a set of tube mufflers I scored for free. Then I can drive the car into Brooklyn, to have Gary's Meineke shop install Flowmaster mufflers and pipes. That's gonna be a flashback ride if I ever had one, with two open tube mufflers right under the front seats. Yeah, baby!" (Welcome to my world, Ray.)

Ray spends Friday nights at the Bellmore train station on Long Island. I look forward to receiving photos on Saturday mornings. This place is happening! Here's my favorite from last week...

An MG with an LS engine completely concealed by the stock hood = Super Sleeper! Way to sniff 'em out, Ray! "On his way out, the guy yells at me, 'Don't forget to post this on Youtube!' Okay, dude." So much for keeping a secret. Ray, did the guy look like Edward Snowden? (Photos courtesy of Ray Guarino)



Old pal Lance Sorchik has been cranking out his twisted (yet all-too-true-to-life) hot rod cartoons since the early 80's, while simultaneously creating 1:1 scale versions of said caricatures from his home shop in northern New Jersey. His freshman effort went platinum - you may remember the Jersey Suede '34 3-window... Like all Sorchikmobiles, it began as a sketch, then was animated in three dimensional metallic taffy.

One of the best weekends of my life was spent blasting "the Suede" through north Jersey's rolling hills, with Lance riding shotgun. The gear drive in the J-2 Olds engine sang lead, backed up with Muncie 4-speed and quickchange rear harmonies, providing an inspiring soundtrack that prodded me damn near to the Canadian border before Lance insisted on turning around and heading home. I reluctantly obeyed. Did I mention that I'm the luckiest guy in town?

This more recent Model A truck build took the same route...

There have been several more surrealist badasses from Lance, but you get the idea. He builds and drives what he draws. That alone earns him hero status, but Lance and wife Diane stand beyond heroship, to me. They're dear friends and total funsters. We've shared a few laughs over the years...

I once arrived carless at Sorchik's place (this was several years ago), and he tossed me the keys to the loaner car. I'm tiptoeing it through York, Pa in the photo below (shot from their '48 Chevy pickup). The '33 roadster had been sitting for decades before Lance resurrected it. It ran, but was oh so tired. Lance and Lady Di are bona fide road dogs, but their adventures in the roadster got shorter and shorter as it grew longer and longer in the tooth, ultimately restricting it to staying this side of the City Limits sign. The party was over.

Lance stripped the roadster down to the short hairs and considered the situation. Priority 1 was to create a rolling engine stand worthy of carting around a 24-stud flatty that had powered his late dad's tractor. The original '33 V-8 60 was found to be about one mile from drawing its last rattling breath, so this step was a no-brainer. One secret to Lance's wrenching success is an honest assessment of his limitations: He's capable of doing whatever needs done, but sometimes farming out specialized chores to a veteran craftsman trumps ego trips, in the long run. So dad's old V-8 was shipped off to a friend's machine shop, while Lance focused on the chassis. Upon deciding the roadster's next incarnation, the sketch pad was attacked with abandon. Now he had a plan. The '33 frame rails were in good enough shape, but the rest was beat to death. Where to start?

Lance called his pal Jesse Coots at Old Soul Hot Rod Shop in Leroy, New York. Old Soul does good work, so the shop has been very busy since opening. So busy that Jesse now needed a vacation. And so it came to be that Jesse closed the shop for a week to supervise/mentor Lance through the process of realizing the chassis that had been banging around in his head. That was the original agreement, anyway...

I received the following photos of Lance's trip to Chassis Camp last week. The roadster is well on its way to being completely unrecognizable as the highboy beater I bashed around Pennsylvania. I'll let Lance explain:

"The week at the Old Soul shop turned into a marathon of six 18 hour days - 6:00 AM to midnight and then some. When you love what you do, it's all fun. Our plan now is to run torsion bars both front and rear. Jesse and I are both totally psyched about the concept of torsion bars, and how the simplicity of them is probably what scares most people away from even trying to build them. We're both novices when it comes to them, so this is a big experiment. But we have lots of fatherly guidance from Lee Osborne and we know he won't do us wrong. We have it all figured out: Rear will be cross torsion bar, perpendicular to the frame rails and hidden up under the gas tank cover. This necessitated moving the fuel tank to the trunk area, but that's okay with me." 

"The front is a bit unconventional, but the torsion bars will rest on top of the frame rails, just in front of the cowl, and end near the front of the engine, in a heavy-duty brace/cradle. It's almost completely hidden by the front inner fender panels. The only hint will be the arm poking through the inner fender panel and resting at the top of the axle, where it starts dropping down to the spring perch. That's it. No front or rear spring, or visible perch; A wishbone and shocks, and that's about it. When the fenders are on the car, you'll see a front end that has a dropped axle, but nothing really out of the ordinary, until you see the torsion arm. It'll have all kinds of adjustment, too. Nothing for the torsion bars has been fabricated yet."

"We moved the wheelbase forward one and a half inches and I think it looks great! I could go another half inch if I want. And the way the front end is set up, we could do that extra half inch anytime down the road - even after the car is 'done'. I get excited, just seeing the 'look' of the car. I can even go 'highboy', since the car is so clean looking, but I'd need an abbreviated gas tank cover, or a dummy upper half of a gas tank to sit on the rails and hide the rear bars." (Photos courtesy of Lance Sorchik)

And just like that, Chassis Camp was abruptly postponed so Jesse could focus on the upcoming Hardcore Happening, presented by the shop annually. Stay tuned for more details as they develop on Lance's '33 and Ray's GTO...

There's still time to make this mega-jangle, if you hurry. It was on my itinerary, until the entire itinerary was cancelled at the last minute. Damn it! Great artwork on the poster though! (Image courtesy of Old Soul Hot Rod Shop)



Ray Guarino saw last week's mention of my bedtime stories and couldn't resist topping me.  He has ink stashed in every room of the house, for quick and easy access. Wise man. You beat me fair and square, Guarino.
These bottom two are standard East Coast fare and were Ray's choices on the night he shot them for SGE. Funny - A few of the East Coast editorial guys who knocked out these magazines have been trickling into my life lately... (Photos by Ray Guarino)

I'm not exactly an East Coast guy myself (my place is about 50 miles due east of the Pacific), but since this is my blog, I guess I can post MY big ink news of the week: The Proof copy of Racing to America arrived today! I've been waiting almost two years for this leap-of-faith plunge into independence - the first Gosson Bros. Racing Library title. To finally hold it in my hands and thumb through it was a surreal adrenaline rush. I'll give it a thorough going-over tonight, then we should be sending it out into the world in the next few days. May it entertain, educate, or inspire you in some way...

Christmas in August! Opening the package from Mr. UPS Guy at Saint Shellski Cathedral. I wasn't expecting this for a few more days, so this was quite the happy surprise. (Photo by Shellski)

Yeah, it's that amazing. It looks different than I imagined it, but that may be a good thing. I'll know more after careful inspection with my Junior Detective Spy Glass. But at first glance, it's killer! This is only a Proof copy, so everything is still elastic. We (Graphic Designer Christy Collins and myself) can make any needed changes with a click of the mouse - click again and it goes to print! Presto! The Binary Code age isn't all evil... (Shellski shot)

How the cover appears when not vibrating in my shaking hands. Just look for the Lance Sorchik cover art at your local bookstore. I doubt there will be anything else on the shelf that resembles this.


ALMOST EAST COAST NEWS (To equally offend citizens of both coasts and everyone in between)

For those living on the West Coast, anything east of the Rockies tends to be considered the East Coast. Not quite accurate, nor fair to either party, but oh so ingrained. Nebraska is plenty East enough for me (I qualify to be so flip, having spent 20+ years there), so here's a peek at one of the most unique and coolest events in the country, the Sandhills Open Road Challenge (SORC) in Arnold, Nebraska.

The Sandhills (gateway to Wyoming) is ranching country, where long ribbons of deserted narrow County roads connect scattered towns like Arnold - deemed the Radiator Springs of the Midwest when the Interstate Highway System passed it by. That very isolation now deems Arnold the Home of Great Plains High Velocity. See last year's extensive SGE coverage for more details.

Last year, my brother Wayne and I assisted Wayne's son Jeremy (AKA Jerm) to 180+ MPH in his Procharger-equipped Z06 Corvette street car at the SORC One Mile Shootout. This year, Jerm and Wayne set their sights on 200 MPH. But, for reasons that still haven't been explained to me, the Vette was wearing its stifling street exhaust system. Jerm topped out at 174, but said they were having too much fun to care. Mission accomplished, gentlemen! Excellent prioritization. (Photo by Jerm Gosson)

Besides the One Mile Shootout, the SORC also includes a Half Mile version, plus a couple of timed runs through several hilly and twisty miles of farm and ranch country. Jerm surprised me with this snapshot of my ex-CarTech editor Scott Parkhurst's '67 Chevelle wagon. With pal Scott LaPointe making his freshman debut behind the wheel (and Parkhurst navigating), the N/A smallblock station wagon went 130 in the Half Mile, was excused from the One Mile (due to lack of rollcage), and won the 94 MPH (average) class in the Open Road Challenge cross country dash! P-Hurst reports,"We didn't get the specifics on performance. We weren't really that close on time, either. It's just that everyone else sucked worse than we did. We were a tad more than two seconds fast - an eternity in this game, for folks who do it often. Most of the other folks in the Optima 94 MPH Class weren't that experienced either, so we ended up winning. It was Lapointe's first time driving at speed for extended periods, and my first time navigating this course - switching roles from the last time we had the car here, in 2009." A fluke? No. Parkhurst and the "Chevelle from Hell" have won the Car Craft Real Street Eliminator and countless other contests over the years, combining jumbo track savvy with mammoth blunt force. Arnold was just another checkmark on the list. (Photo by Jerm Gosson)

P-Hurst sports his game face while stalking the mean streets of Arnold, Nebraska: "You never know when you might get jumped by a gang of Ninjas!" Note that he's packing enough doors for four complete sets of heavy vinyl numbers (AKA blatantly illegal ballast). (Photo by Omaha World Herald)

Amusing sight #231, en route to Nebraska from Minnesota. (Photo by P-Hurst)


It's tough out there. Take appropriate measures. This guy has the right idea, but someone forgot to tell him to cover his ass...

Next week: It'll be a surprise to both of us...