Tuesday, May 20, 2014

THREE DREAMS (Four, if you carry the One).


Dear aspiring hot rodder: Does your dream car seem hopelessly out of reach? Why aren't you allowing yourself to believe that you deserve to realize your goal? Have you bought into the same fears harbored by the naysayers? You know, the people too afraid of failure to take a leap of faith themselves, so they project their insecurities on anyone they see attempting to move forward. Well, do we ever have some good news for you: Scoffers gonna scoff. Let 'em. Shift your focus to somewhere more creative and productive, and you'll likely exceed your own expectations.

Meet Kaylin Stewart. The Bonneville salt flats have been Kaylin's playground since she was old enough to roll around on them.

Kaylin's mom and dad (Jessica and Tom) and their friends claim this turf as their own, so Kaylin had to earn her spot on it. She did that at 5 years old, by earnestly proclaiming, "I want to be the youngest person in the 200 MPH Club." And she's more goal oriented than ever, today. 

As she grew, Kaylin took on ever-increasing responsibilities with the race cars...

... and she helped out however she could with the racing infrastructure, volunteering for whatever needed done, from course prep to babysitting.

Yes, she has enjoyed some of the perks that come with being a familiar face on the salt. But from the beginning, Kaylin had a dream. A double-headed dream, actually...

Kaylin's primary goal has been to wear a red hat (awarded to 200+ MPH record breakers). How that plays out at Bonneville: If you stand around a pit (or the record impound area, in this case) for more than 60 seconds, you'll be put to work. If you work hard and display strong skills, your labors might earn you a spot on a crew. Kaylin already knew Wayne Jesel as a friend of her dad, and looked up to him: "He was the owner of my all-time favorite car out at Bonneville. I even had a picture of it hanging in my room when I was little." So no one was surprised when Kaylin began crewing on Wayne and Danny Jesel's Dodge Ram pickup (anyone reading this is doubtlessly familiar with the Jesel's valvetrain components). As illustrated here by Kaylin, crew members are at the course before dawn to prep for the day's activities. They keep busy until the course closes at 8:00 PM, then continue thrashing in motel parking lots (and motel rooms) until their mission is accomplished. Upon proving yourself as a crew member, you have an outside shot at "maybe someday" getting a turn behind the wheel. It's a slim chance, but  the odds are much better than when sprawled on the couch, reading the SGE blog, while your brain cells atrophy.

As her 16th birthday approaches, Kaylin finds herself sampling the driver's seat at every opportunity. She's pretty comfy in there now and will be a bona fide cyborg, come August of 2014. Kaylin will turn 16 and have a California Drivers License in her pocket, this July. An SCTA Competition License is next on the list.

But she still has that wistful look in her eye. Kaylin has some unfinished business...

It didn't take Kaylin all day to notice that only 23 of the approximately 750 200 MPH Club members are women. Those 23 inspired her attempt at being #24, which has already been an extremely rewarding adventure. Nevermind that she hasn't even crossed the starting line yet. As a way of acknowledging "the 23" and raising landspeed awareness in general, Kaylin set out to make a documentary film exploring the depth of passionate commitment required for entry into "The Two Club". Her co-producer and director is noted PBS film maker Harry Pallenberg. Kaylin adds, "I also have support from racer and photographer Holly Martin (now with Danny Thompson's landspeed record attempt), the SCTA, cinematographer Robert Morris, my adopted family at Bonneville, and, most importantly, the 23 women - my salt sisters." It's enough of a challenge for a 15 year old to finance a driving opportunity, let alone a film production, so Kaylin's website (www.chasing200.com) now features a dedicated fundraising campaign, solely devoted to supporting the documentary via T-shirt sales and memberships - just like Danny Thompson and Kent Fuller have successfully done this year. This level of motorsports doesn't get much more grassroots than that.

The fundraiser began last week, raising nearly $1,000 in the first 24 hours. Almost enough to pay for these first two film interviews. There are 21 more interviews to go, before location filming begins. Kaylin isn't sitting around, waiting for things to happen. She's on top of both projects fulltime, except for the hours spent finishing up her sophomore year at Central Coast New Tech High School in Nipomo, California. Regarding Director Pallenberg: "He recently did a documentary, called When They Raced. My dad gave him some historical photos of Ed Winfield for the film, so we met him briefly then. At the Grand National Roadster Show this year, we ran into him and started chatting about my project. A week later, he was on board."

The odds of Kaylin's red hat dream coming to fruition improved immensely upon connecting with the Jesel brothers. Their Dodge SRT is a proven entity, holding seven records in as many classes - the fastest of which is 262 MPH (with a 306" Mopar smallblock). Since their wives banned them from the steering wheel, the Jesels plug in a new driver each year. You may recall from SGE's 2013 salt coverage that NHRA Pro Stock luminary Jason Line was the shoe that Kaylin will be replacing this year. Do Tom and Jessica Stewart share Kaylin's dual dreams? "They were understandably terrified to have their 16 year old daughter drive 200 MPH. But my parents have always been very supportive of everything I'm doing. My dad wanted to prepare me to drive with extra practice street driving, extra driver's training classes, Go Karting, and three days at Bob Bondurant's High Performance Driving School. Wayne, of course, is happy we're doing this." Drop some pocket change at the Chasing 200 website and support the future of motorsports in America. And watch that kid's smile grow even wider this August at Speed Week. See you on the salt. (Photos courtesy of Chasing 200.com)

When one person's dream becomes another's, the combined momentum is as effective as a roller derby slingshot pass. Look out - the Jesel and Stewart juggernaut is headed straight at your excuses for leaving your dream on the table.


Regarding our Hit and Miss post of May 25 this year, SGE follower Norman commented: "I'd like to know a bit more about that sports car shell by Leighton Mangle. It's a beauty! Does it have a name? What chassis/engine does it have?"

Dear Norman: Yes, it has a name. Leighton calls the car his "Fake Ferrari". Speaking of names, we apologize to Leighton for not realizing his last name is actually Mangles (the "s" may have been lost in translation, via Marty Strode, as neither of us speak fluent English - just Oregonian, which we still tend to mangle - so to speak).

Leighton hereby responds directly to Norman, through the magic of the SGE digital hot rod connection:

"I've always felt that the late-50s Ferrari 250 Testa Rossas were the best looking cars of all time. I finally realized that the only way I'd ever have one would be to build it myself. I started by having a set of knock-off wheels built to closely replicate the original Borannis. Jim Meyer Racing (Lincoln City, Oregon) built the front and rear suspensions (their standard front A-arms, with a Flaming River R&P, and QA1 coilovers all around) and tied them together with enough frame to establish a 93" wheelbase, with mounts for a SBC/T-10 4-speed combo. A narrowed Ford 8" rear mounts Explorer disc brakes. The engine is a relatively mild 350 from an old pickup truck that has basically been balanced and overhauled. The trans was originally in a Camaro. With a finished weight of 2,100 pounds, this combination has plenty of power, and should last forever."

"I fabricated the body by taking slides of a model of the car and projecting those images full-size onto paper to establish patterns, which I cut from plywood. I filled the resultant framework with various types of foam, then carved the foam to the plywood templates, creating a pretty accurate plug. I laid up layers of fiberglass cloth and epoxy over the foam and wood structure. I filled and sanded between each layer of 'glass and each layer got smoother. Upon removing the foam and wood, I had a one-piece body. I cut out the doors, hood and trunk, and hinged them. I bonded in fiberglass to form wheelwells, radiator ducting, bulkheads, mounting points - even bonded in PVC tubing to run wiring through. One of the biggest challenges was forming an acrylic windshield. After scrapping several, I have one that's pretty good, but I might try again to make a better one. The gas tank that I fabricated from epoxy fiberglass holds a bit over 19 gallons. I widened a couple of Speedway fiberglass seats - apparently, my bucket is wider than theirs."

"Overall, it's been a very satisfying project. And it's a blast to drive! If I had befriended Marty while still in the chassis building stage, I'm sure it would have been even better. Marty did fabricate the exhaust system for me. It was eleven years, from start to finish on the car, but I had other projects come along, so it sat for extended periods of time." (Photos courtesy of Leighton Mangles)

So, you can hitch your dream to someone else's, or farm out the nightmarish elements to experts and still realize your end goal...


Steve Scott (standing) and brother John (on tire), prepping Steve's Uncertain-T at the '65 Oakland Roadster Show. Yes, it won the sweepstakes trophy, but it did so much more. It indirectly taught Scott what he was capable of. (Photo courtesy of Steve Scott)

By the time he was a senior in high school, Steve Scott already knew he could build anything. He had already crafted a very nice Caddy-powered '40 Ford sedan (which featured an extreme rake). The '40 won lots of races on the street, and looked sharp doing it. When a classmate sketched out Steve's next concept (also with major rake, and eventually dubbed the "Uncertain-T"), one of their contemporaries commented that such a car couldn't even be built. Steve quipped, "If you can imagine it, you can create it." Confident that he could build a cleaner car than those he saw at southern California car shows, Scott dove in, even though he had no budget, and no shop to build the car in.

Well aware that the paychecks from his three part-time jobs (as automotive upholsterer, carpenter, and busboy at the White Horse Inn at Northridge) wouldn't support a build at the level he dreamed at, Scott took on a full-time carpenter position, and soon bought materials to build an extension onto his parents' garage (in which Steve had been living for the previous four years). Working alone after hours, Scott laid a concrete foundation, complete with grease pit. He installed a double-wide door at the back of the building. He wired the shop for 220 power, and plumbed it for his 1 HP air compressor. He constructed a wooden workbench (with welding table) that ran around the entire interior of the building, adding heavy duty electrical outlets every three feet, and air chucks every five feet. His next-door neighbor (himself a master carpenter) laughed in plain sight as the teenage Scott struggled to install an 18 foot header above the entryway, which weighed several hundred pounds. The laughter was all the inspiration needed for Scott to complete his perfect workshop.

Scott staged this timed shot in his freshly completed dream shop - the perfect backdrop for the mocked-up T chassis. (Photo courtesy of Steve Scott)

During the shop build, Scott studied chassis fabrication and fiberglass body construction, and gathered parts from area wrecking yards. He took machine shop classes so he could use the school's mills and lathes, as he also did with junior college welding classes, enabling the use of school arc welders (until he could afford his own). It seemed everyone in town was aware that Steve Scott was working on a secret project, and speculation of its particulars spread across the valley. The ultimate 3-D realization of his angular vision silenced the doubters and even inspired several friends to join in the fun, once they saw the finished product. Scott's dad died (tragically young) shortly after the T coupe was finished. But the former Lockheed employee did witness the fruition of his DNA's potential before checking out.

As you know, the Uncertain-T was wildly successful on the show circuit, winning class sweepstakes at every show it was entered in, and there were many. Scott knew how to promote it with his keen photojournalism skills, which ultimately led to a job at Car Craft magazine. The high-G ascension was a heady ride for the former laborer, and Scott soon found himself yearning for the stability of anonymity. He joined the Coast Guard and moved on. Because he could. He could do anything he could dream of.

Painter, builder and pinstriper Tom Davison caught this rare image from a motel balcony, somewhere out on the Sixties show rod trail. That parking space would be empty, if not for Scott's trust in his intuition and the grit that God gave a hot rodder. (Photo courtesy of Tom Davison)

Scott, working on a Car Craft road test of the new 426 Hemi, in '66. Driver unknown. (Photo courtesy of Steve Scott)

Despite its lack of fresh ink for over 40 years, Steve Scott's Uncertain-T never left the public consciousness and remains an icon of the Show Rod movement of the 60s and 70s. Scott's story proves that the only method guaranteed to make you the sole owner of a dream is to make every aspect of it with your own two hands and the determination that comes from a place deep within, where so many fear to tread. SGE urges you to dive deep, get comfy with your inner workings, and savor the fruits, every minute of every day. You'll receive superpowers, but the clock will continue to tick...

Still shooting selfies, 50 years after inventing them, the still dapper Steve Scott invites you to his website (www.stevescottsuncertaint.com) to explore the rest of his story, and perhaps buy a T-shirt or two. (Photo courtesy of Steve Scott)



This really happened. A couple of years ago, a customer dropped off a tired old Studebaker race car at Dr. Lockjaw's Custom Metal shop for conversion into a street rod. When we discovered the car to be Ernie Nicholson's righteous "Super Stude" AA/GS coupe (a dramatic story in itself, detailed elsewhere on this blog), Doc worked a deal to purchase it, and a semi-restoration began. Doc built one of his signature Strip Bruiser chassis  (the original frame was just too far gone to even consider), and prepped a rowdy BBC/Glide combo for it. Then customer projects demanded the car be shuffled to the back burner. In the midst of Custom Metal's current purging of non-essentials, it was decided to put the Stude on the market. Last week, a buyer put down a deposit. The new owner will be taking delivery shortly (with plans for blown Hemi power, just as Nicholson last ran it before switching to his "Flower Power" Cuda Funny Car), so on my way to work on the SGE Model A last Sunday, I drafted members of Jacksonville, Oregon's Stray Cats club to help lift the old body onto the new chassis.

Rain was threatening, but the Ray's Market Sunday crowd was trickling in regardless, when I hit J-ville. The rodders were actually stoked to help with the Stude body - reminiscent of barn raisings of yore.

It seems only days ago that I described the J-ville rodders as "a loose knit group", but this week I found them sporting club colors and plaques. Even though they're now officially big shots, they agreed to lend us a hand, following a club cruise to a nearby Grants Pass body shop.

While waiting for the Cats to arrive, we managed to cut some of the ugly off of my '36 wishbones. Look for a fascinating feature on this breakthrough procedure and others, next week.

Sure enough, the Cats made good on their promise, signaling their arrival with truckloads of decibels.

At this point, the camera was placed out of harms way, and the grunting, cussing and farting commenced. Gross overacting, as the paper-thin coupe body weighs next to nothing.

For the first time in years, a shape that Ernie Nicholson could actually recognize. Light years from the crusty wobbling bucket that showed up here bound for lawnchair duty. Nicholson's Johnson Fiberglass one-piece nose will soon accompany the tin and steel to Las Vegas, Nevada. (Scotty shots)

Ernie in his element, hunkered down behind the wheel and banging gears. One of the few African-American owner/operators of drag racing's golden era, Nicholson's gas station took priority over racing (he had mouths to feed), so he never enjoyed the fame that could have been on the match race circuit. The Super Stude stayed close to home, rarely straying from southern California. During Doc's tenure with the car, the wheelbase was adjusted for much better fitment of rolling stock within the wheelwells, among dozens of other improvements that Ernie would have no doubt coveted. We wish it luck in the next chapter of it's already-storied journey. Here's to Ernie and the Super Stude! (Photographer unknown)



Is there anything cuter than a baby squirrel? Well...

I guess these both count as baby squirrels. So it's a tie.

Items displayed on and around the pegboard constitute the entire tool collection at Medford Oil Change. Tools and workbench shown are located in the drain pit. When you're as specialized as these guys, you don't need three rollaways worth of tools. Shot during my latest man-on-the-street report for Motormouth Radio, last Thursday. Certainly not my best performance, but a good time was had by all, and my pants came clean on the second wash. (Scotty shot)


More fascinating imagery from Medford Oil Change...

Actual customer car in the shop! The customers themselves (a quiet 20-something couple) stood well behind me (no doubt studying my technique) as I captured the action on an eerily quiet Thursday morning.
Worker bee Mike (last name withheld for unstated reasons), cleaning disgusting mystery skung off of drivetrain parts, while fluids drain. Shot from the pit, where customers assumed we were actually working. In fact, this area is a virtual Playboy After Dark zone - fully equipped, if you're picking up what I'm laying down...

Mike keeps his filters at the ready, arranged by popularity. Obviously, we Medfordites believe these PO-1s to be wise investments, but sorely miss our beloved PZ-1s. They don't make 'em like that anymore.

Shop owner Chad Sause tops off underhood fluids, while Mike checks air pressure. This vehicle was serviced and released in under fifteen minutes, thanks to training, experience, and gallons of Medford Oil Change coffee (straight 30 wt for me - no chaser).

Exclusive SGE photo of the parts room! Chad's personal project is in the next room over, but I was forbidden to photograph it. I faked my signature on the gag order, so can tell you it's a Chevy pickup.

One of the nicer waiting rooms in the Rogue Valley. Reading material included recent Hot Rod and Car & Driver magazines. No Hot Rod Deluxe issues were displayed - an obvious supply-and-demand red flag. This reviewer found the cookies to be almost completely mold-free, and the coffee was absolutely drinkable. However, condiments were disappointing, at best, with only artificial sweetener offered. Fail.

Hey, the SGE waiting room features this same image, hung in a similar manner. Coincidence? I think not... (Scotty shots)