Tuesday, April 8, 2014



I could be any of these awestruck kids standing in the shadows of their heroes. Today.

Heroes. Their mystique offered me hope, inspiration, and indirect guidance. From Wild Willy Borsch to Big Daddy Don Garlits, these guys were just being themselves (for better or worse), but doubled as my unintentional better-than-nothing role models. So I glommed onto their shirt tails and rode along. Over fifty years later, I'm still swinging from their tails (I think I'm going to be a late bloomer). This may seem somewhat sad to you, but it was just what I needed. And I didn't go it alone. I had plenty of company in the pits and the stands, which was reassuring.

Today's kids are largely their own heroes. Marketing groups as disparate as the NHRA's and PETA's are frantically competing for the attentions of these future market shapers, and have deemed them the last vertical consumer demographic of our time. And so the creepy branding courtship has begun. But there's a hitch. These kids want to play it on their own terms. And as market researchers are learning, the kids have a big head start on them, with DNA that reaches all the way back to independent thinking. Good luck catching up with these guys.

Change comes hard. It will likely take several more generations to break the cycle of adrenaline addiction established with the invention of the wheel. So far, so good. 

New heroes come along every day, but only a chosen few receive anointment from the gate keepers of media. We have chosen to bestow the coveted SGE bump upon Canadian nitro racer Jordan Pawlick for his bravery, for being a deep thinker, and for having such a big heart.

Jordan Pawlick debuted the Nitro Militia Mustang at the 2014 March Meet. I don't think he even qualified for the field, yet he left the event as a heavy favorite. How is that even possible?

"Epic" is a battered old noun that has earned its cliche status the hard way. Running side-by-side with "iconic" and "hero" for decades now, "epic" was shuffling its way out the back door to a quiet retirement, when a newfound credibility arrived last month in the bed of a tired pickup truck and drove it back to the top of the charts. "Epic" owes Jordan Pawlick a big exclamation point of gratitude for the definition.

Pawlick towed his trailer through ice and snow from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to southern California this March. He parked it behind fellow Funny Car racer Jason Rupert's shop and began pulling parts from the trailer. Those cardboard boxes contained most of the pieces of Jordan's Nitro Militia '71 Mustang Funny Car that he would race to a most unlikely result, five days later at the 2014 March Meet in Bakersfield, California.

The self-styled Renaissance man found it more realistic to haul the pieces than ship them over the border. Jordan, a former crewman/driver on the SinOil Top Alcohol F/C, had bought his ex-Del Worsham Funny Car (built by Grant "King Kiwi" Downing) previous to the event, but had yet to take delivery. So he showed up with everything but the body, chassis and rearend, and went to work. Jason spent most of the next week building the engine and fabbing related parts at Jason Rupert's shop.

Miraculous to everyone but Pawlick, the chassis and body were delivered just in time to install and test-fire the engine, then the car was towed directly to the starting line. Covered in sweaty greasy fingerprints and a fine coating of Famoso pit dust, the newborn colt took its first wobbly baby steps in front of thousands of instant fans (well aware of the circumstances) who witnessed its transformation into a purebred stallion by the finish line. Blower builder Brad Littlefield was involved in the pre-race and pit thrashes, and reports, "Jordan slept in the trailer for no more than a few hours every night, while he thrashed to complete (the car). His crew flew in for a long work day, one day before heading up to Famoso. Jordan was still building his car in the pits at Bakersfield when the race started, and fired it up for the first time on Friday night." Jordan got in a couple of test runs - one a "slalom course deal around the cones", according to Littlefield. But a 6.00 at 248 showed on the scoreboard after his second full pass.

Jordan was stoked to be invited to an Elapsed Times magazine feature photo shoot in Los Angeles after the March Meet, but his truck broke down en route and Jordan had to pay out of pocket to have the race car towed to the city.

Pawlick plans to run at an IHRA race in Edmonton and at the Hot Rod Heritage Series race in Mission, B.C. this season. Chances are, some other event opportunities will pop up in the meantime. Jordan can now be assured that the entire global SGE Nation will be cheering him on, no matter where he may decide to saddle up his nitro pony. Jordan Pawlick is an epic hero. An iconoclast for the new generation.


But my generation revered more heroes than just the racers, hot rodders, and other nefarious characters that I looked up to. And even the most mainstream heroes seem to have gone underground now, virtually vanishing from our national conscience. What ever happened to those icons of our pop culture childhoods? I sicked the vaunted SGE Research Team (Motormouth Ray) on the story, and present the findings here for your consideration.

Cinderella is coping with reality as best as she can, and is actually aging quite gracefully so far, being pickled in alcohol.

Snow White is one of us, living from paycheck to paycheck (when Prince Charming goes to work anyway), with some crucial help from Government Assistance.

Little Red Riding Hood's adventure continues, and will no doubt become more complex when the inevitable litter of wolf cubs are delivered.

Sleeping Beauty, still catching major Z's, and still beautiful, even while snoring and drooling. Her Prince has been holding this vigil since he was sixteen years old. So these two have enjoyed some solid sack time.

Things didn't work out so well for The Little Mermaid...

Barbie's on the other side of 50 now, but is still living fabulously.

Tweety Pie hit 70 last year and is feeling it. He's still one step ahead of Sylvester though.


Our local heroes remain the most personal to us, even when their accomplishments are celebrated on the national stage. One such example is the storied Marty Strode, of Portland, Oregon. Strode's adventures on dirt and asphalt are legendary, but may ultimately be overshadowed by the craftsmanship performed in his rural shop. His restorations of vintage race cars are well known, but we take a particular pride in presenting Marty's current chassis fabrication exploits. This guy is more than a hometown hero. Marty Strode is a national treasure.

If you've been following along, you're probably as amazed as we are at the speed of Marty's construction of Jim Lindsay's Blown Fuel/Modified Roadster. That's either Jim or one of the neighbor kids in the chair, getting a feel for what's to come this August on the salt.

Jim has to sit up front because this (soon to be blown) flathead has stolen his seat. Marty says a tin nose for the roadster is next to be scratched off the To Do list hanging on the shop wall...

... said proboscis will provide aero shade for Jim's expansive office.

The mono-nostril nose that Marty will be building from.

The long and short of it. Lindsay's roadster, next to Lonnie Gilbertson's Hit and Miss Special lakester.

Marty whipped up the flathead-powered '40 pickup in his spare time. Besides parts chasing, its duties will also include some high sodium pushing, come August. Be there and catch Salt Fever!


If you haven't already figured out why the Pacific Northwest is said to be permeated with a "rugged individualism", here's the very definition. Local native Sherman Parker scratched out a dusty living for years in various body shops before finally scoring an acreage in Southern Oregon's Applegate Valley. He built a house for the family and a shop. Then some more shops, which he stocked with a mix of antique and (mostly) home built machinery. As happens, word got out on "The guy who likes old cars and parts", and they began to take over the property. It could be said that every community has a character like Sherm, but on second thought, I doubt it. Sherman is definitely a staple of our local hot rod family, and I apologize to you and Sherm both for taking so long in getting around to doing this feature.

Sherman Parker in his natural habitat. He has a well founded suspicion of the media. Wise man. I stopped by his place last Sunday morning to pick up some wishbones for my Model A project and Sherm kindly granted me permission to snap a few images of his world. I visit often, but am usually in a hurry. Shame on me. This is a place to savor.

I'm not sure how many acres Sherm owns, but this fifty foot stretch of the driveway is the clearest spot on his land. Heaven on Earth.

Just a reminder to myself that the Model A will be needing a driveshaft pretty soon.

This Hemi roadster project is temporarily on hold. Please hold for the next available parts. Sherm has been hammer forming these custom dashes from heavy gauge steel for a while now. They're everywhere. 

The laidback grille and '37 Chevy headlights on the '36 roadster are noticeable. The rest of the work (including a 2 1/2" sectioning) is more stealthy. This project sent Sherm off on a '36 Ford styling tangent that has only gathered steam over time.

If not a '36 aficionado, you might miss the tons of work here. Strap on your drool bib before comparing this to a stocker. Yes, Sherm built the decklid hammerform. And the tools to make it.

Of course, the '36 got one of Sherm's signature dashes. He's building a '34 roadster now that employs '36 "Big Rolls" everywhere. It's killer. You'll have to trust me on that, as I didn't get photos.

I didn't even know about this '37 Chevy, hidden in a back room of the main shop. Ooh la la!

We all tend to carry emotional attachments to cars from our influential years. In Sherm's case, that means mid-50's F-100s. This is the latest. God only knows how many he's built. Extensive sweat has dripped onto this one (understatement). Look and learn.

Miscellaneous shots of the main shop area, taken while Sherm shared some secrets of metalworking eighty year-old tin. He humbly confessed to not knowing everything (but he knows almost everything).
Oh yeah. I went out to Sherm's for wishbones, didn't I? More on these guys in next week's blog.



We hear a lot of smack talk these days (mostly from domesticated Parrots - consider the source) about how flying squirrels ain't what they used to be. No matter what side of the debate you're on, you have to admit, this took some doing. Who'da thunk that some day a squirrel would land on the stump? We're very proud of the SGE Squirrels and take this opportunity to remind them: A grateful nation salutes you! (Photo courtesy of NASA)

Another from the extensive Kiwi Kev collection. Heroic tool boxes? You know it. White porcelain covers the tool storage unit in Kev's garage/showroom. Are you surprised? You shouldn't be. (Photo courtesy of Kiwi Kev)


Anonymous super hero (the best kind) from the dawn of the industrial revolution. Very rare. (Wood carving courtesy of Sir Isaac Newton)