The Truth About Cars » Hot Rod http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 18 Jul 2014 20:52:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Hot Rod http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Ich bin ein Hotrodder: A Story of My Opel Diplomat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/ich-bin-ein-hotrodder-a-story-of-my-opel-diplomat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/ich-bin-ein-hotrodder-a-story-of-my-opel-diplomat/#comments Sun, 20 Apr 2014 13:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=804154  tumblr_m5sxgur4Ci1qzut9po1_1280-394x350

While JFK was busy capturing the hearts of the German people with his Ich bin ein Berliner speech, the GM engineers at Rüsselsheim were busy at work finishing their next big project – the series of full-size (on European scale) luxury models, called Kapitän, Admiral and Diplomat. Introduced in February of 1964, the new models were meant to take on Mercedes-Benz, though they shared something in common with contemporary America cars, in that they were really just one car, offered in different equipment levels, and with different engine options. Kapitän was the cheapest, with an inline six under the hood, standard manual transmission and relatively sparse equipment. Its size, equipment and power put it somewhere between American compacts and midsize cars of the time, like a smaller 1964 Chevelle, with a dash of Buick styling.

The other two models were more interesting. The Admiral added some equipment, and available V8 engine – the venerable Chevy Small Block, in 283 cubic inch guise. The top of the line Diplomat, which came with even more luxury, shunned the six cylinder altogether. It was produced with a choice of the 283ci V8, and the famous 327, both teamed with a two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission. The Diplomat even spawned a sexy, Riviera-like V8 coupe model, with only 347 examples and now exceedingly rare – and terribly expensive.

In the next four years, nearly 90,000 KAD Opels were built. Most lived their lives on Germany’s roads and Autobahns, but some went to other countries. A few even got to the other side of the Berlin Wall. And at least two or three (although probably more) made their way to Hungary.

Around the time of the KAD’s final production run, a white Galaxie 500 coupe, with a 390 big block engine, rolled off the Ford assembly line on the other side of the world.

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For the next half a century, those were totally unrelated events. While the Galaxie 500 puttered around Southern California, preserved by the desert climate, the Admirals and Diplomats in Hungary led eventful, hard lives, which lead them in the state of wrecks.

But their stories were meant to come together. Early in the new century, a Hungarian guy called István bought up three KAD Opels, and started putting them together to build one good car. And some time after that, the old guy owning the Galaxie decided to put it on eBay, where a young guy from Czech Republic saw it, and decided to buy it. That guy was me, and the goal was to import the car, have some fun with it and then flip it for a profit. It didn’t work, because I chose the wrong car. Instead of buying a nicely preserved, but uninteresting four-door, with shiny paint and gleaming chrome, which would sell easily in Europe, I decided to buy a car muscle car enthusiast would like – two-door with a big block engine, discs in front… but also with faded paint and lots of dings and scrapes. Which meant the car didn’t sell, and as my attempt on US classic car importing business fell apart in the global financial crisis, I was stuck with a car I had no means to restore.

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At the same time, István fixed up his Opel. He put the best parts of the two or three cars together, fixing up the best body, rebuilding the 283 engine, fitting the modern 200R4 transmission with a bunch of hot-rodder upgrades, and painted the whole thing flat black, to achieve the cool hot-rod look. To spice things up, he added red wheels, and dual exhausts with glasspack mufflers. But before he got around to restoring the interior or finishing details, he got fed up with the thing. He needed change, and he wanted to go American.

I guess you can see where this is going. Two guys with cars that are hard to sell, both in Central Europe, both lusting for what the other one has.

I don’t even recall for sure who did the first contact. I think it was me. We exchanged e-mails for some time, sending photos of our cars, details about their condition, lists of what was done (on his) and what needed to be done (on mine). And eventually, we came to agreement that we really like each other’s car, and that we’ll go through with the trade. It was decided that it would be me who will do the trip, trailering my Galaxie to István’s place in Budapest. I called a friend of mine with a Seat Alhambra and a car trailer (yes, my American friends – while you think that your ¾ ton truck may not be enough to trailer a car, we do it with minivans), we agreed on a date, and off we went.

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The trip itself would be quite uneventful, with the exception of my idiot friend conveniently “forgetting” he was meant to do it for free (to repay some money he owed me), and needing me (totally broke at the time – partly because of said idiot’s actions, like blowing up transmission and differential in my Chevy Caprice) to pony up the fuel money. The exchange went well, I got a tour of the speed shop where István worked, full of cool muscle cars, hot rods and motorcycles. I did a test drive, and fell in love with the car. We shook hands, loaded the car, and off we went.

My slight annoyment about having to pay for the fuel grew into full-blown rage when I found out that we’re nearly out of fuel, have no Hungarian money and may not make it to the first gas station in Slovakia. I firmly decided to unload the Opel and proceed home, leaving my idiot friend stranded in Hungary – with no money, and no ability to understand their language. Fortunately, the venerable 1.9 TDI turbo-diesel marvel once again shown its unbelievable efficiency and took us to Slovakia, and then home.

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So, I was now in possession of a huge (for Europe, it was about the size of the S-class) beast with a slight identity crisis. The car wasn’t sure whether it’s Admiral or Diplomat (although the paperwork said Diplomat), and most of all, it was a cross between an old German luxury sedan and typical American muscle car. With some hot rod influences here and there, starting with the red wheels and Mooneye decals, and ending with the monstrous roar from the exhaust.

Simply put, it was a perfect car for my daily driver, and that was exactly what I wanted to do with it. At the time, I basically had no other fully street legal and functional vehicle, except for the steady stream of press cars. And I had this idea that unlike the 1967 Dodge Coronet, which I also owned at the time and which could only be registered as “antique”, slightly restricting the daily-driver duties, the Diplomat was the perfect solution for times when I had no press car.

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Of course, using the nearly half a century old hot rod for daily driver duties has its problems. If we dismiss the obvious stuff, like fuel consumption(circa 10 to 16mpg) and its enormous size, there was still the other white elephant – it’s a hot rod.

Those of you who live in good old US of A are probably familiar with what a Chevy Small Block with glasspacks sounds like. For the rest of you, it is best likened to four Harley-Davidson motorcycles with loud pipes, running in unison. Slight problem, if you want to go somewhere, or come from somewhere, during the night, and don’t want neighbors to key your car or throw stuff at you. But this could be avoided by leaving and approaching your home while idling – at least that didn’t set off car alarms.

But being a hot rod, meant for nice, sunny days, the Opel had no choke. And starting a carbureted vehicle with no choke, especially in colder weather, means revving the engine for at least a minute, before you set off. Or it would stall. Which gives your neighbours about a minute to come out of their houses and murder you.

Also, the car lacked some other unnecessary stuff, like a heater. And the lowered front end was pretty cool to look at, but the wheel lock was a bit reduced by the tires rubbing against wheel arches. Which sucks for maneuvering in parking lots.

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But non of it mattered, because, oh, boy, it was fun to drive. Of all the cars I owned, this got closest to my ideal of a big, evil, noisy hot-rod/muscle car thing. Not that it drove any good of course. Those big Opels were basically midsize American cars, modified just very slightly for European use. And even pure European cars of that time weren’t significantly better driving or handling than American ones – this came much, much later.

I don’t remember the handling of that thing very much, mostly because it didn’t have any. By turning that monstrous steering wheel in front of you, you were able to somehow tell the car where it should go, and it somehow obeyed. With disc brakes, it was somehow able to stop. But driving fast into corners wasn’t something that would ever cross your mind.

And the funny part was that it wasn’t even fast. It sure sounded fast, and with an open diff and 185-section tires, it was able to lay rubber, peg-legged, for maybe 60 feet. But the 283 was totally stock, with a 2-barrel cabrburettor, and it had 190 horsepower originally – which I suspect were SAE gross horsepower, leaving the “real” number somewhere around 160hp. I can imagine how slow the thing had to be with original Powerglide two-speed, but thankfully, the 200R4 made things a bit more sprightly. And extremely firm shifts of the hot-rodded tranny helped the “feeling of speed”.

The car roared off the line, with heavy jolts on each shift, squealing rubber… and then got beat by just about anything at least remotely quick, including some faster diesels. In a way, it was a really safe way of having fun, because you were going slow all the time, anyway.

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I had big plans for the car. Buying some nicer and bigger wheels, fixing up the annoying problems like too loud glasspacks or missing heater. Or at least registering it in my name, instead of running on the expired Hungarian temporary tags all the time. I even thought about adding some more horsepower, either by massaging the 283, or selling it to someone who wanted a stock engine, and building a Chevy 302. Actually, I think that was one of my best project car ideas of all time – German sedan with 8000rpm-revving Chevy engine.

But then life got in the way. A failing business meant debts to pay – and a lot of them. That’s why I still drive a borrowed Town Car, and why I had to sell the Opel some three years ago. I don’t think I drove it for more than maybe a thousand miles, but even in that short time, I’ve made tons of memories with it.

When I offered it for sale, no one in Czech Republic wanted it – even when I lowered the price way under its worth. I nearly sold it for peanuts, when I realized I didn’t try Germany. And of course, because Germans love old German cars, it sold – in about three days, for basically what I wanted in the ad (and I regretted not wanting more afterwards).

Last I heard from the new owner, he sent me some pictures of the car with new Cragar mags, straightened bodywork and a new paint (again flat black), and scoop sticking out of the hood. I guess the Opel is still alive and well, terrorizing the Germany’s streets.

Photo credits:
Opel, myself, Radek Beneš, István Zitas (pictures in gallery below)

Fotografie0309-1024x768 ulice IMG_0058 P1080758 P1080759 P1080760 P1080761 P1080772 P1080773 P1080774 P1080776 P1080780 P1080784 P1000107 P1000108 P1000110 P1080757 05 06 07 08 31 (1) 218 219 11 IMG_1285 IMG_1284 ]]>
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Piston Slap: What Would Ed Lister Do? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/piston-slap-what-would-ed-lister-do/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/piston-slap-what-would-ed-lister-do/#comments Wed, 30 Oct 2013 11:34:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=637417 TTAC commentator NoGoYo writes:

Sajeev,

I’m faced with a problem that’s hard to solve: the problem of being 21 years old and stuck with a grandma car. I drive a 1995 Buick Skylark coupe with the GM 60 degree V6 (3.1 liter) and a four speed automatic transmission. It handles rather decently for a pedestrian GM product, but as you would expect from a lower-RPM pushrod V6 hooked to a 4-speed slushbox, it has about as much power as Queen Elizabeth II.

I tried to sell my car and upgrade to something more speed freak 21-year-old friendly, but gave up after not even getting close to a sale. My question is…should I sell the car at a rock bottom price just to get a more lively set of wheels, or invest a couple of bucks trying to make the old Buick a bit less of a snoozer?

Sajeev answers:

Were you expecting a level-headed discussion on the merits of Hot-Rodding a potential Sleeper Skylark versus Not-Rodding a better vehicle? From a TTAC writer with two resto-mod Fox Body Lincoln-Mercury vehicles? Here’s the thing…

You didn’t mention a budget, so I’ll assume you’re a typical broke 21-year-old (no hate, we were all there) with far more time than money. And you own a seriously cool car (stay with me here) with a star crossed history. The 1992+ Skylark was such a radical design that it deserved better, but it was a product of a fundamentally flawed General Motors. And, OMG SON will you peep that interior???

Who wouldn’t want to beat the living snot out of some poor soul in a Civic/GTI/ST Ford/FR-S or get the jump on a careless driver in a Mustang/Corvette/Ferrari in a car this…well, this unbelievably, obscurely radical looking?

You think I’m nuts for saying you could shock a Ferrari?  Hear me out…

Just like my precious Fox Bodies, the GM N-body accepts a host of superior parts from other GM products, some will be easier than others.  Assuming you are good with wrenches and actually want to be a Hot-Rodder, let’s see what we can Google:

  • Suspension: Performance springs, shocks and sway bars (Addco and from an FE3 Oldsmobile) will be easy to find.  This thread has even more fun stuff, and this shows the independent rear suspension available on 1997+ versions.  There’s a good chance the IRS bolts-in with minor modifications, from N-body to N-body. I also really, really like this thread.
  • Brakes: Camaro front calipers sound like a nice upgrade from the forums.  And the IRS swap nets you rear disc brakes too, supposedly.
  • Wheels/Tires: Larger wheels from W-bodies look like a no-brainer.  Who knows, maybe the big, common and cheap 17×8″ wheels from a 1994-present Mustang fit.
  • Powertrain: A manual transmission swap and an upgrade to a better 60-degree V6 (3.4L, 3.5L or the big bore 3.9L, way-hey!) makes perfect sense when the right donor car(s) show up.
  • Education: Learn how to drive your Frankenstein-d machine at a drag strip and a road course. Talent makes up for a premium car badge: believe that!

But wait Sanjeev…how the heck can you get the jump on a Ferrari? You gone crazy?

Maybe this link will inspire you. Or this video:

Click here to view the embedded video.

You are driving the future, so make YOUR future a better one. Can you do an all-wheel drive, fully independently sprung, turbocharged LS4-FTW in your Skylark?  In time, I think you can.  What are you gonna be driving when you’re thirty…and is it gonna top this?

Ain’t nothing gonna top this, son!  I can see it, and it’s been done before.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Junkyard Find: Mystery Old-School Custom http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/junkyard-find-mystery-old-school-custom/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/junkyard-find-mystery-old-school-custom/#comments Sat, 11 Aug 2012 13:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=456331 I plan to visit the Brain-Melting Colorado Junkyard later today (to discuss the purchase of a certain early-50s machine I covet), and that means I’ll have a chance to ask the proprietor a question that’s been bugging me for over a month: What is this mysterious vehicle in your yard?
In the meantime, however, I’d like to hear some theories from the TTAC readers about what sort of car this apparent 1950s custom convertible might be based on.
I wasn’t able to get the hood open, so I don’t know what sort of engine (if any) once powered this machine. Quick, what is it?

05 - Mystery 1950s Custom Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - Mystery 1950s Custom Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - Mystery 1950s Custom Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - Mystery 1950s Custom Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - Mystery 1950s Custom Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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And the Winner Is… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/and-the-winner-is-24/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/and-the-winner-is-24/#comments Mon, 24 Oct 2011 05:32:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=415714 It’s been quite a year for the builders of the Model T GT: a feature article in Hot Rod, plus several races in which the T held the lead for quite a while before vaporizing the transmission. Finally, everything came together this weekend at Infineon Raceway aka Sears Point, and the world’s quickest road-race Model T turned more laps than every one of its 170 competitors.
The team’s route to the winner’s circle involved a reduction in power, going from a 500CFM two-barrel carburetor to a 390CFM model, then retarding the ignition timing. This slowed the car down by a few seconds per lap, but kept the fragile T5 transmission alive and reduced the number of fuel stops by increasing the car’s range on a tank of fuel.
I’ve known Dave Schaible, the hot-rodder behind the T GT, since he helped me build the Impala Hell Project’s engine more than a decade ago, and I know how he scrounged up the bits and pieces to build today’s winner (I also know he’s good enough at building engines that we did an impound-and-dyno-test routine on the T GT’s Ford 302— when it was in the Buttonwillow-winning Mustard Yellow Volvo Doing 45 In The Fast Lane— at a Thunderhill LeMons race a while back: 188 horsepower).
According to LeMons Chief Perp Jay Lamm, the rules will soon be a-changing, making quasi-scratchbuilt-chassis cars like this (the T GT is built on a much-modified Model A frame with Fox Thunderbird suspension) more difficult to get onto a LeMons track (rumor has it that motorcycle engines in LeMons cars may also be outlawed). The T GT has become Schaible’s daily driver, anyway, so maybe it’s just as well that its racing days will be over soon. Congratulations, Team Model T GT!

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Rust, Tatts, and Brilliant Engine Swaps: Billetproof California 2011 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/rust-tatts-and-brilliant-engine-swaps-billetproof-california-2011/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/rust-tatts-and-brilliant-engine-swaps-billetproof-california-2011/#comments Mon, 19 Sep 2011 23:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=411695 The rules for the Billetproof show are simple: Nothing newer than 1964, no trailered vehicles, no post-1960s mag wheels, no fenderless cars with independent front suspensions, and— above all— no billet anything! I flew out to California Saturday to check it out.
I’ve been going to these shows for a few years now, and I’m noticing a couple of very positive trends. First, way more engines other than small-block Chevy or Ford Windsor engines in patina’d-out fenderless rods. Even the flathead Ford V8s were getting boring.
Like, say, a Weber-ized Pinto engine.
Or a supercharged Toyota 22R. This one would have the old dudes at a pro-billet car show clutching their chests and toppling off their ice chests. All the Time Out Kids in the world couldn’t make up for the shock of seeing a rice-burning four-banger in a classic Detroit race car.
The Maserati Rod was back, and a big hit as usual… but isn’t it time someone built a ’58 Datsun (license-built Austin A50) with an Infiniti V8?
The other trend that’s so refreshing is the large number of examples of once-shunned-by-rodders marques such as Pontiac and Dodge.
Which is cool, because Pontiacs of this era have the extremely beautiful illuminated-Indian-head hood ornaments.
Though I prefer the Plymouth sailing-ship ornaments.
And where else would you see a 1945 International delivery truck slammed this low?
Even though I longed for a Maltese-cross rear-view mirror on my fenderless banana-seat Schwinn in 1971, I think the Maltese cross thing has been way overdone by now (and we all know who’s to blame). However, this version is still acceptable.
I think I need to start a car club, just so I can design a plaque like this.
It is impossible for me to go to any car-related event in the United States and not run into someone I know from 24 Hours of LeMons racing. Here’s the Model T GT, which is not only the quickest road-race T in the world, it’s also an excellent daily driver. Really, this car gets used for everyday transportation. I ran into members of the legendary Cannonball Bandits and a few other LeMons teams as well.
You can forget about the anorexic standard of beauty outside the gates of Billetproof; once you’re in the show, Bettie Paige and Tura Satana are the models for feminine beauty.
I’m working on a gallery of patina desktop wallpapers, to go with the Junkyard Desktop Wallpaper Collection, and Billetproof provides some great material for that project.
If you’d like to see some of these images in three corroded and/or button-popping dimensions, don your 3D glasses and head over to Cars In Depth.

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Cargo Capacity Slightly Diminished, But Totally Worth It! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/cargo-capacity-slightly-diminished-but-totally-worth-it/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/cargo-capacity-slightly-diminished-but-totally-worth-it/#comments Tue, 11 Jan 2011 17:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=380123
Here’s a totally practical daily driver I spotted on the south side of Denver a while back.

My sources tell me that this Svenmeister Hardcore Kustoms creation, which appears to be a ’49 Ford pickup, was driven to the salt flats and back immediately after completion. Must have been a rough ride, but who cares?

The only disappointment about this fine machine is the small-block Chevy, though the cop-enragin’ straight pipes compensate somewhat. If ever a truck needed a Lincoln 462, this is it!

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Shorty Shoebox-amino Astounds, Confounds http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/shorty-shoebox-amino-astounds-confounds/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/shorty-shoebox-amino-astounds-confounds/#comments Mon, 10 Jan 2011 19:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=380039
Not many of us wake up in the morning and say to ourselves, “I think I’m going to shorten and narrow a ’57 Chevy wagon, give it a truck bed, and install a 427 with a 5-speed!”

Check out the powered bed-cover! The owner of this incredible machine, however, did say that to himself, and I spotted the result parked in front of a Denver wrecking yard. He didn’t have a lot to say about his creation, no doubt because he’s burned out from all the constant questions lobbed at him from dudes with eyeballs bugged out of their heads in amazed Rat Fink fashion, but I was able to get the summary of what he’d done.

The best part? This beast gets driven on the street for everyday errands such as junkyard shopping expeditions. If only someone would do this for a Studebaker Scotsman wagon…

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