The Truth About Cars » Project Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 19 Oct 2014 11:58:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 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 » Project Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Thieves Take Students’ Project Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/thieves-take-students-project-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/thieves-take-students-project-car/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 01:30:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=866634 The students at Los Angeles’ Norwalk High School learned about the 1978 Mark Hamill movie “Corvette Summer” in the worst possible way this week when the 1969 Nova that they spent seven years working on was stolen from its parking spot in front of their teacher’s house at around 3 AM Monday morning. According to […]

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The students at Los Angeles’ Norwalk High School learned about the 1978 Mark Hamill movie “Corvette Summer” in the worst possible way this week when the 1969 Nova that they spent seven years working on was stolen from its parking spot in front of their teacher’s house at around 3 AM Monday morning.

According to witnesses, the car was picked up and taken away in just seconds by a dark colored tow truck in an operation that closely resembles those used by repo men. The car, which was purchased by auto shop instructor Ken Cook as a rolling wreck for just $600 several years ago, had been transformed through the work of more than 400 students into formidable street machine that Mr. Cook claims is currently worth between 25 and 30 thousand dollars.

News of the theft hit the local airwaves Monday evening when Los Angeles’ CBS affiliate KCBS ran a story on their PM newscast and then posted to their website. The car was last seen where it had been parked and is missing its hood, which had been removed while students worked to resolve an overheating issue. The license number is NHSRACE. Anyone with information on the car’s whereabouts is urged to call the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Pico Rivera station at 562-949-2421.

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Jeep Grand Comanche Episode 2: We Jack ‘Em Up In The Yard http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/jeep-grand-comanche-episiode-2-we-jack-em-up-in-the-yard/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/jeep-grand-comanche-episiode-2-we-jack-em-up-in-the-yard/#comments Thu, 07 Nov 2013 23:24:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=644274 If you haven’t heard by now, there’s a new project car in TTAC’s “garage,” a 2000 Grand Cherokee Limited. I of course use the term garage simply because “gravel driveway” fails to have the same ring. Why a car guy doesn’t have a garage is a story for a different time. All I will say […]

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2000 Jeep Grand Comance Project Car

If you haven’t heard by now, there’s a new project car in TTAC’s “garage,” a 2000 Grand Cherokee Limited. I of course use the term garage simply because “gravel driveway” fails to have the same ring. Why a car guy doesn’t have a garage is a story for a different time. All I will say on the matter is that I was promised a garage with a 2-post lift and I am still waiting…  Back to the car. Before we chop the lid off the WJ Grand Cherokee to convert it into a two door, two seat Grand Comanche we needed to tackle a few projects. We need a lift kit, off-road rubber, then we need to ditch the interior and take care of some general housekeeping items.

Iron Rock Off Road 3-inch lift kit

The whole point of this project car is for the Jeep to act as a farm utility vehicle. Since this 2000 Limited model was equipped with the “Up Country” suspension package it had a factory lift of one inch to 10.3 inches of ground clearance. If that sounds better than a John Deere Gator’s 8.5 inches, remember that the farm utility vehicle has a really short wheelbase. Translating that up to the project car meant adding three inches. (Keep in mind that since our Jeep had the factory one inch lift, the three-inch lift kits increase the height by only two inches since their base number uses the stock 4×4 ground clearance. )

After a an intense Googling session, I settled on the $499 Iron Rock Off Road lift kit. My logic was simple: it was the cheapest three-inch lift kit I could find. Why not four? According to the Jeep experts I asked, a four-inch lift would have required more complicated modifications including lowering the transfer case. I fell for the suggestion to toss in a $70 shock upgrade and my out-the-door was $633.98 after shipping.

Lift Kit In Progress

The kit arrived on time and in two large and heavy boxes. Everything was well packaged but the instructions could have been a bit better. While I pride myself as an above average DIY-wrencher, I would have liked some more detailed instructions simply as a safety margin. If you’re not comfortable disassembling your suspension, you’ll be paying hundred for the installation.

Because I’m a moron with a desire to live, when one of my spring compressors gave up on me, I decided instead of compressing the spring on side (and making it look like a big banana) I would just unbolt the suspension from the body so it would be low enough to install the springs without the compressor. This meant jacking the Jeep up one side at a time (two jacks would cost money and I’m cheap), placing a large concrete paver on the gravel to support a jack stand and then raising the other side in the same way. Right about the time I was breaking suspension bolts loose with a 24-inch breaker bar and making the Jeep sway on my dollar-store jack stands I realized this was stupid. Yet I continued.

With the lift kit installed after about 6 hours total I was able to bolt on the next item.

ProCom 16 inch steel wheels

Pro Comp 16-inch steel wheels

No project Jeep would ever be complete without steel rims. Black steel rims. Since I didn’t want to go crazy big and I wanted a large aspect ratio tire, I stick with a 16-inch wheel diameter and jumped up to an 8-inch wide wheel. Cost: $377.88 delivered. Yeehaw.

Pro Comp Xtreme MT2

Pro Comp Xtreme MT2 265/75R16

When it came to the tires my choice was limited. Because I opted for just a three inch body lift, I knew I couldn’t go too crazy on the rubber. I trolled all the Jeep forums I could find and my 30 second research indicated that a 265/75R16 would be the biggest thing I could stuff in there without pushing the wheel outside the body or sawzalling the body to pieces. After 30 seconds of online comparison I found a deal on Pro Comp Xtreme MT2 tires in just the right size for a grant total of $1,007 at my door. In hind sight a 4-inch lift kit would have helped me out here and something around 6 inches would have allowed me to get more serious 33-inch tires, but I was committed at this point.

Because I have a few connections in the fleet world, I was able to snag some time in the mechanic’s bay of a local company with a service vehicle fleet. Being the cheap bastard I am, I mounted and balanced the tires myself for free. This is also why one wheel has about 7 wheel weights on it, although I seem to have balanced them fairly well as there isn’t even a faint vibration on the highway. Score one for the cheap dudes.

Although there are more aggressive tires out there, I decided that it would be handy to be able to drive the Grand Comanche to the feed store directly. The alternative would be to drive something else to the feed store, pick up hay, straw, feed, etc, then swap it into the cut-up-hoopty for delivery. Even so the on-road toll is obvious with the tires being significantly louder than all terrains.

Jeep on alignment rack

Oops

This brings our total to $2,018.86 in parts followed by a $79 four-wheel alignment which is required after you disassemble this much of any car.  Since the car was gifted to the project, I considered this good value thus far. Then I decided to cross the creek and drive through the woods. More on that later.

 

This project is obviously for entertainment value only. My entertainment value primarily, but if you find it interesting to watch then we’re on to something. This means that comments like “why don’t you sell it and buy a X instead?” are pointless. Also obvious is the fact that I’ve never done anything like this before so it is incredibly likely that I’ll be doing stupid things, getting things wrong and generally making an ass of myself. That’s just par for this course. While I may mention specific products, I’m not endorsing anything and no person or company has given this project any free stuff. (This makes me very sad.) Lastly, if you have any suggestions, know of any sources for parts, or are in the area and want to check the disaster out, let us know.

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The Jeep Grand Cherokamino aka The Jeep Grand Comanche http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/the-jeep-grand-cherokamino-aka-the-jeep-grand-comanche/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/the-jeep-grand-cherokamino-aka-the-jeep-grand-comanche/#comments Fri, 01 Nov 2013 22:09:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=637329 TTAC has a new project car and it’s a beauty. Thanks to my dad who volunteered to drive from Austin to San Jose, I’m now the proud second owner of a 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited with 151,500 miles on the clock. If you’ve been following us on Facebook, then you might have guessed this […]

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2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited

TTAC has a new project car and it’s a beauty. Thanks to my dad who volunteered to drive from Austin to San Jose, I’m now the proud second owner of a 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited with 151,500 miles on the clock. If you’ve been following us on Facebook, then you might have guessed this project would involve a Jeep, but up till now I have kept the depth of the planned Jeep perversion secret. What I’ll be attempting over the next few months might be the dumbest thing I’ve ever done: converting a perfectly good unibody SUV into a “pickup.” Say what?

2000 Jeep Grand Comanche "30 Second Photoshop"

2000 Jeep Grand Comanche “30 Second Photoshop”

This isn’t the first time I have floated this kind of idea before. My last inspired vision was the Comanche reborn out of a Jeep Patriot. Sadly Patriots are holding their resale value too well and after months of searching I was unable to find something worth cutting up. Undeterred by my setbacks I saw an ad for a high mile 2007 Patriot while I was visiting my folks near Austin, TX. Although the lead turned out to be a bust, my crazy parents decided to buy themselves a snazzy new 2014 Grand Cherokee because “we’re already at the dealer.” Gotta love the logic. After hours of bickering, the dealer offered $1800 for their immaculate daily driver and my brain shifted gears. I offered the same price and my dad, in a moment of uncharacteristic generosity, said “why don’t I just give it to you son.” My new plan was put into action.

It is now time for some disclosures and important statements. This project is obviously for entertainment value only. My entertainment value primarily, but if you find it interesting to watch then we’re on to something. This means that comments like “why don’t you sell it and buy a X instead?” are pointless. Also obvious is the fact that I’ve never done anything like this before so it is incredibly likely that I’ll be doing stupid things, getting things wrong and generally making an ass of myself. That’s just par for this course. While I may mention specific products, I’m not endorsing anything and no person or company has given this project any free stuff. (This makes me very sad.) Lastly, if you have any suggestions, know of any sources for parts, or are in the area and want to check the disaster out, let us know.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Why on earth are you trying this?

Aside from the obvious perverse pleasure gained from sawing the roof off a perfectly good car, I need a vehicle that I can use around the house for moving manure, feed, hay/straw and possibly the odd animal or two. I have 9 acres of heavily wooded mountain property, so 4WD and knobby off-road rubber are a must. Logically something like a John Deere Gator would have been a good idea, but they are expensive, boring, and use a crappy rubber-belt CVT and a carburetor that has to be adjusted every hour to work properly.

John Deere Gator

Why a 2000 Grand Cherokee?

Well, it was free. It’s also easy to find parts for, fairly inexpensive to replace and there are a host of aftermarket off-road accessories that should make my conversion easier. Also, the unibody design on the Grand Cherokee is fairly stout for its age and it has “beefier” “frame rails” than most unibody SUV/CUV designs of the time. This additional floor strength should allow me to cut the roof off without too much issue.

It’ll fold like a taco!

Maybe. And if it does it should be incredibly funny. Hopefully it will also get caught on video.

What’s the condition of the donor car?

Near perfect for a 2000 with 151,000 miles on it. Since the Jeep was driven by a little old lady from Texas (my mom is 72 and 5’2″), everything is original, it has always been dealer serviced, has a recorded service history three miles long and everything except the CD changer works. The engine had some valve troubled at 140,000 miles and had a partial rebuild to address the problem, it has never towed and never been taken seriously off-road.

As soon as it arrived, the first thing I did was swap in a 3-inch lift kit with new springs, dampers, tie rods and a new track bar up front. Once the lift was complete I slapped on the 16-inch black steel rims shod with 265/75R16 rubber and that’s what you see before your eyes. What’s next? The removal of the interior.

 

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Behind the Garages At Sears Point: Treasure Trove of Hell Projects! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/behind-the-garages-at-sears-point-treasure-trove-of-hell-projects/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/behind-the-garages-at-sears-point-treasure-trove-of-hell-projects/#comments Thu, 28 Mar 2013 13:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=482582 I visit Sears Point aka Sonoma Raceway a couple times a year as part of my gig as Chief Justice of the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court. That means I do a lot of roaming around the facility, in search of vantage points to shoot photos of the action. Last weekend, while covering the […]

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I visit Sears Point aka Sonoma Raceway a couple times a year as part of my gig as Chief Justice of the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court. That means I do a lot of roaming around the facility, in search of vantage points to shoot photos of the action. Last weekend, while covering the fourth annual Sears Pointless race, I stumbled on a parking area outside a line of race shops just on the other side of the wall near Turn 10. Inside these shops were all manner of high-buck machines, but the get-to-it-someday stuff sitting outside was pretty interesting.
A well-weathered Lotus Europa with tags expired only six years— how hard could this project be?
Or a BMW 850 with peeling clear-coat and some body damage. Depreciation hasn’t been kind to these cars.
As a matter of fact, there was a LeMons 850 racing at Sears Point at the very moment I was admiring the potential project 850. It got stomped by a Buick Skyhawk and an MGB, among other glacially slow “race cars,” but it was still quite luxurious-looking on the track.
Guys that work at race shops cannot resist buying a Yugo when the opportunity presents itself.
This mean-looking Maverick Vega drag car looks like it has run fairly recently.
The kids these days, they like those Nissan Silvias.
This car sure looks familiar! This Plymouth looks like it might even be a runner (in stark contrast to my car, which has been dismantled down to the molecular level).
BMW E9 projects are always so tempting, though I’ve heard the horror stories from those who have attempted to fix up a non-perfect E9. Run away!

01 - Sears Point Hell Projects - Picture courtesy of Murilee 'Judge Phil' Martin 02 - Sears Point Hell Projects - Picture courtesy of Murilee 'Judge Phil' Martin 03 - Sears Point Hell Projects - Picture courtesy of Murilee 'Judge Phil' Martin 04 - Sears Point Hell Projects - Picture courtesy of Murilee 'Judge Phil' Martin 06 - Sears Point Hell Projects - Picture courtesy of Murilee 'Judge Phil' Martin 07 - Sears Point Hell Projects - Picture courtesy of Murilee 'Judge Phil' Martin 08 - Sears Point Hell Projects - Picture courtesy of Murilee 'Judge Phil' Martin 09 - Sears Point Hell Projects - Picture courtesy of Murilee 'Judge Phil' Martin 591-UG-Pointless13

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Piston Slap: The Project Car Beckons? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/460516/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/460516/#comments Wed, 19 Sep 2012 11:25:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=460516 Sam writes: Dear Sajeev, I am an aspiring shade-tree mechanic and I’m itchy to do some work on cars. Unfortunately, I own a 2006 Acura TSX, that needs basically nothing. Changing my oil twice a year isn’t enough for me so I need something else to work on. My dad owns a 2002 Honda Accord […]

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Sam writes:

Dear Sajeev,

I am an aspiring shade-tree mechanic and I’m itchy to do some work on cars. Unfortunately, I own a 2006 Acura TSX, that needs basically nothing. Changing my oil twice a year isn’t enough for me so I need something else to work on.

My dad owns a 2002 Honda Accord V6 with 175k miles. Out of boredom, I recently changed his spark plugs. He was still on the original plugs. I also changed his transmission fluid (it was dark). I also had to change the transmission fluid line that goes to the radiator because it had rusted and started a slow leak, which was fun. I’m thinking the next project will be to do a valve adjustment (also never done). The engine doesn’t seem to idle with noise, so I’m not sure how necessary a valve adjustment is. I’m wondering if you think I should do this or if have any ideas for optional work (mods) for my TSX. Also, I’ve been toying with the idea of buying an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider. Something about it appeals to me, and I’m hoping an old car will be simple enough to do a lot of work on without needing much help. Ebay seems to always have one or two rusty project Giulietta Spiders. Anyway, I’m curious what suggestions you may have. Thanks!

-Sam

Sajeev answers:

Mister Sam, you are one seriously cool dude.  Or maybe you are too much like me…which means you are a seriously goofy dork.  Either way, I like what I’m reading here.

That said, do you really need to touch the valvetrain on Dad’s Accord? Leave it alone, get a project car.  I’d caution you on damn near any European project car for a newbie, the price of parts and availability will be tough: especially a car as ancient as that Alfa. While there are a few worthy VWs, they aren’t the easiest to repair and diagnose. You are better off with something American or Japanese.

I see you as a potentially hard-core Honda person. And Honda made some great cars. They deserve more publicity these days. You really, really need to run with this, um, fabricated notion of mine.

Why the hell don’t you want a beater Civic?  A Ricer-Resto project!  Save an “old school” vintage tunerboi Honda from the crusher! The third, fourth and fifth generation Civics are cool cars. Listen to the guy pigeonhole’d as a Panther fanatic: the vehicle posted below is way, way cooler than any Alfa.  ANY Alfa!

OH YEAH: check out those wheels. You need to hit that Civic sh–…SON!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Piston Slap: Need a “Hans and Franz” ABS Workout? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/piston-slap-m3-needs-more-hans-and-franz/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/piston-slap-m3-needs-more-hans-and-franz/#comments Mon, 30 Jul 2012 11:25:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=454647   Craig writes: Sajeev, Some time ago I purchased a 1995 (E36) BMW M3 as a project car. Mostly I have limited myself to bringing the maintenance up to date. I have a more than averagely equipped workshop and can find my way around a car pretty well (I have even built my own Brunton […]

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Craig writes:

Sajeev,

Some time ago I purchased a 1995 (E36) BMW M3 as a project car. Mostly I have limited myself to bringing the maintenance up to date. I have a more than averagely equipped workshop and can find my way around a car pretty well (I have even built my own Brunton SuperStalker) One problem that has eluded me from day 1 is an intermittent ABS light.

Should I just ditch the ABS forever or is there a way to trouble shoot these things without Hans and Franz at the stealership taking me for a ride?

Sajeev answers:

I tend to like ABS, especially for a car that’s so race course worthy.  The E36 M3 is just a fantastic car in so many ways.  That said, I was disappointed when I googled Brunton SuperStalker and realized it wasn’t a murdered out full-size van with a suped up turbo diesel motor, air-ride suspension and big ass wheels.

A non-van referred to as a SuperStalker?  That’s almost criminal!

Right.  So, about the diagnosis, you have two options.  The first is spending a lot of time on the BMW forums, learning how to diagnose this vintage system and possibly finding a common problem with a somewhat easy to fix solution. Not really your cup of tea?  Then find an independent mechanic that specializes in BMWs and get 1-2 hours of their diagnosis instead.  It will be worth it.

The dealership isn’t the best move here, usually. Cars that are “E36-old” need a shop that is tailor-made to their unique needs.  Many (insert make here) dealerships know a good vintage (insert the same make here) shop and will recommend them to anyone. Yes, I’ve seen it happen! Most importantly, Hans and Franz will always encourage you to work your ABS.

“Hear me now, and believe me later: WORK YOUR E36 ABS!  ARE YOU A GIRLY MAN?” 

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Project G-Body Part 3: The Grand National Lives! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/project-g-body-part-3-the-grand-national-lives/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/project-g-body-part-3-the-grand-national-lives/#comments Thu, 14 Jun 2012 13:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=448821 When we last left off with Project G-Body in March, Joey was about to pull the trigger on a Grand National. Three months later, the Grand National is home, and nearly in showroom condition. A number of ratty cars with shady owners eventually led us to a ratty car with a shady owner – and […]

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When we last left off with Project G-Body in March, Joey was about to pull the trigger on a Grand National. Three months later, the Grand National is home, and nearly in showroom condition.

A number of ratty cars with shady owners eventually led us to a ratty car with a shady owner – and only 38,000 miles on the clock. A thorough inspection by Joey’s mechanic (which doubles as a GM performance shop) revealed a car that was in pretty good shape despite sitting in a garage for a number of years.

The main issue was the interior – the seats were in abominable condition, full of rips and tears. Joey made a bet that a rust-free, low mileage car was preferable to a car with a rusty frame or rockers, even if the fabric to re-upholster the seats might be hard to find.

Over the next three months, the car was brought up to what some call “Stage Zero” – a return to solid mechanical condition, albeit without any performance gains. A full tune-up was performed, along with new tires, brakes and suspension components.

On the cosmetic front, the window and door seals – most of the rubber components, really – were replaced, their cracked, brittle originals swapped out for New Old Stock bits. Joey was tempted to dive right in to the world of big turbos and drag strips, but wisely decided to enjoy the car in its original state for a few years before going too crazy.

Searching for the correct interior fabric took the better part of three months. All the Google searches and Ebay stalking ended up being for nought, as it turned out that a local upholstery shop that deals in high end restorations had some of the last New Old Stock fabric and seat covers. Joey bought their entire stock, though 98 percent of it is currently inside his car. The interior looks as good as new, and is good enough to go up against any low mileage garage queen. The beauty of Project G-Body is that it will be Joey’s daily driver. Joey believes that cars are meant to be driven and enjoyed, not detailed and admired from afar.

At this point, the car could use a good detail job, and perhaps a fresh coat of paint. But it’s driveable, and having never driven a G-Body, it’s certainly eye-opening. The turbo comes online right around the time you’ve finished your Philly Blunt, the steering wheel can be moved 15 degrees before the car changes direction and the novelty of peering over the hood and seeing “3.8 SFI Turbo” never really gets old.

 

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TTAC Project $1500 Volvo Is Here http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/ttac-project-1500-volvo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/ttac-project-1500-volvo/#comments Thu, 24 May 2012 13:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=445849 With the my Miata now gone (sold to a friend who has given me the right of first refusal when it comes time for him to sell it), I needed a new car with a bit more practicality, and a low price tag. A quick call to my friend Vasco, who functions as Toronto’s version […]

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With the my Miata now gone (sold to a friend who has given me the right of first refusal when it comes time for him to sell it), I needed a new car with a bit more practicality, and a low price tag. A quick call to my friend Vasco, who functions as Toronto’s version of our own Steve Lang, led me to the car you see above. Did I mention it’s a manual?

Originally, my plan was to sell the Miata and pick up a friend’s high mileage but well cared-for E36 BMW 328i. I’d already sold the Miata (for a sum that was impossible to refuse) and was looking forward to getting behind the wheel. The car drove well and was in great shape overall, save for one minor detail – during the government safety inspection, a portion of the frame near the jacking point was discovered to have rotted out. It was a double blow for me, since it wouldn’t be worth fixing, and I suddenly felt a wave of regret over selling my beloved first car, despite my now healthy bank balance.

A quick message to Vasco asking for “anything decent and cheap”, came up with the Volvo. It was his brother’s car, and Vasco had bought it at auction, using it briefly as his own car before handing it off to his older brother. For the last year, it had carried his brother, sister-in-law, their three kids and a large Rhodesian Ridgeback. It was a1998  non-turbo 2.4L with 162,800 miles on the clock, but it had a 5-speed manual and Vasco only wanted $1500 for it.

I hemmed and hawed for a few minutes (and looked at a couple S70 T5s – V70 turbos were all automatic, save for one V70 AWD that was questionable enough to make me walk away) but ultimately decided to take a chance with it. The Carfax came back clean, and although there were a number of scratches and stone chips, there was no rust on the rockers, quarter panels or frame rails. To pass inspection, it would need a further $325 for new rear brakes, parking brake shoes and a tie rod, plus $75 for the inspection and $30 for an emissions test. Another $200 or so for taxes, fees and licensing and it now sits in my driveway.

For now, the V70 will be a great shuttle to take me to Mosport for my bi-monthly karting series, as well as a bit of a beater to leave in parking lots while I have press cars. With the Miata, I always worried about leaving it sitting in outdoor lots for weeks at a time – it was in beautiful shape, but a few steps away from looking like crap. The Volvo is liberating in the sense that it’s totally anonymous, and any cosmetic damage is frankly inconsequential.

Although it’s not the most thrilling to drive, the V70 is enjoyable in its own right. As a manual wagon, it has its own novelty, and even with all those miles on the odometer, the engine is strong, the clutch feels like there’s lots of life left, and the interior is far better than the one in my Miata. The Volvo is also much better equipped (heated seats are going to make the frigid winters infinitely better), will fare far better in a crash and has some decent highway manners. With that said, I will likely have another Miata sooner than later (or something faster. who knows). The Volvo will go to my brother as a reward for his eventual graduation from a very demanding business school (and entry into law school, if he so chooses) – and also because his roommate has the exact same car, down to the wheels and missing roof rack.

Over at Edmunds, the team has started “Project Debt Free”, to prove that one can buy a decent car for a relatively modest sum of cash. They managed to come away with a $3800 1996 Lexus ES300 with fewer miles. Personally, I think our car is more interesting, but it may not have the clockwork reliability of the Lexus. In the spirit of that project, I’ll also keep everyone updated on any maintenance, issues and positive experiences. So far, the car will need some body work (14 years of stone chips has necessitated a re-spray of the front end), not to mention a good wash and a tune-up. But the V70, as boring as it may be, it’s not something I’d be embarrassed to drive, and is just interesting enough to make me look forward to driving it.

By the way, Project G-Body and Project Rallycross are still on. The Grand National is still in the shop awaiting some new old stock interior bits. Once that’s on the road, the hunt for a suitable Rallycross Project will begin.

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Ask The Best And Brightest: G-Body Project Car Hell http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/ask-the-best-and-brightest-g-body-project-car-hell/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/ask-the-best-and-brightest-g-body-project-car-hell/#comments Tue, 20 Mar 2012 11:30:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=435588 An impromptu dinner meeting with a friend last night led talk of a possible G-Body project car (and two very bored girlfriends). Joey, who has long wanted a G-Body Monte Carlo, asked what it would take to make a cool street car out of an old G-Body car, like a late 1980’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo […]

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An impromptu dinner meeting with a friend last night led talk of a possible G-Body project car (and two very bored girlfriends). Joey, who has long wanted a G-Body Monte Carlo, asked what it would take to make a cool street car out of an old G-Body car, like a late 1980’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS.” It can’t be that hard,” I said. “Can’t you just drop in a crate motor from GM Performance Parts?”

Joey and I traded text messages discussing various aspects of the project, but when Joey sent me a picture of a 572 c.i. big block, I knew it was time to ask someone who knew their stuff. Murilee, back from vacation and TTAC’s patron saint of bowtie projects, was happy to oblige.

I asked Murilee what he thought would be an appropriate course of action for a fast, mean-looking, mean-sounding G-Body, and whether there were any manual transmission applications available. I also wanted to know if this was a dumb idea and whether it was better to just go ahead and buy a Grand National. Mr. Martin chimed in below

“If it’s going to be a cruiser that sounds mean and has respectable power, it should be no problem on a non-insane budget– it’s when you need to get into the 13s or below at the drag strip that you have to start worrying about breaking differentials, etc. The G-body is a good choice, provided it’s possible to get it through the smog check in his state with modifications. The cheapest way to go would be to buy some old guy’s rust-free original car, with decent interior, etc., and then do a cam/intake/headers upgrade on a decent used 350. A manual transmission isn’t out of the question, but G-bodies either didn’t get them or they’re extremely rare, which means stuff like pedals and clutch linkage will likely have to be fabricated. Since that’s a problem that’s I’m sure has been solved many times, any halfway decent hot-rod shop should be able to do the job for a not-particularly-eye-watering price. Otherwise, the 200R4 or 700R4 that came with the car should be fine.

The ZZ4 crate motor from GM Performance is very nice, though it costs something like 5 grand. It makes 350 horses, which will make a G-body stupid fast (but will require a beefier differential, serious cooling system, and so on).

The LS engines are great, but they don’t bolt right in to a G the way the old-time small-blocks do. Buick GNs are getting really pricey these days, but there’s so much aftermarket turbo stuff for the Buick V6 that he could make something even more powerful for cheaper.”

I hadn’t considered a ZZ4 crate motor, instead assuming that an LS3, E-ROD or even the LS6 from the 2004 Z06 would be a nice addition. Those engines are all capable of making big power while passing emissions tests, though apparently they require more work than a small block.

At this point, I’ll turn it over to the B&B for ideas regarding engines, transmissions, accessories and the like. Out of respect for Joey, I haven’t discussed the budget – largely because he hasn’t told me what he wants to spend. I’m going to assume that, given his means, it won’t be a budget build, nor will it be an extravagant magazine quality show car.

And as a treat for those of you who made it this far, here’s the reason we went to the warehouse in the first place, a 1977 Pontiac Can-Am. I have no idea what’s been done to it, but judging by the anodized aluminum hardware, the engine bay that looks cleaner than an operating room and the glovebox mounted TV, it’s far from stock.

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1965 Impala Hell Project Part 7: Disc Brakes In, Massive Slacker Couch-Surfing Expedition Enabled! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/1965-impala-hell-project-part-7-disc-brakes-in-massive-slacker-couch-surfing-expedition-enabled/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/1965-impala-hell-project-part-7-disc-brakes-in-massive-slacker-couch-surfing-expedition-enabled/#comments Tue, 02 Aug 2011 23:30:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=405038 Introduction • Part 1 • Part 2 • Part 3 • Part 4 • Part 5 • Part 6 • Part 7 • Part 8 After installing a junkyard-centric, street-sign-based instrument panel and 20-pound “pullout sound system,” I hit the streets on my post-college-graduation job search. After all, with a newly-minted degree from the University […]

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IntroductionPart 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6 • Part 7 • Part 8

After installing a junkyard-centric, street-sign-based instrument panel and 20-pound “pullout sound system,” I hit the streets on my post-college-graduation job search. After all, with a newly-minted degree from the University of California in hand and the Bay Area from San Francisco to Concord, Santa Rosa to San Jose as my search area, I’d soon be raking in sufficient Benjamins to install a 6-71-blown 427 in my Chevy, right? Short answer, learned after several hundred increasingly grim job interviews: no. I really feel for today’s recent college grads, since I had it easy compared to what you poor 22-year-old, in-student-loan-debt-up-to-your-nodules bastids are facing… but still, with no income other than the occasional junkyard-wrenchin-fer-cash gig and death-to-soul office temping (more on that later) showing up for me, I felt the abyss (i.e. graduate school) looming ever closer. What to do? Hit the highway!

It was about this time that I became completely addicted to Peter Bagge’s brilliant Hate Comics, which seemed to capture the sense of diminished expectations and ironically-waiting-for-the-apocalypse mindset of my alleged generation a lot better than did Douglas Coupland with his much-hyped-by-mainstream-media novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (note: not that I have anything against Coupland; I’ve since become a serious fan of his work and recommend his novels without reservation). I suggest that you head over to Fantagraphics and buy everything published by Mr. Bagge immediately, pausing only to read his excellent editorial cartoons at Reason.

Just like the characters in Hate, my friends and I spent a lot of energy pretending that our educated poverty somehow made us cool, like we’d choose to live with 5 flatulent hipsters in a two-bedroom apartment in the Western Addition and drink Milwaukee’s Best-grade suds if we actually had, like, real jobs. My love of cars and junkyards bought me exactly zero coolness points in this crowd (some things never change), though my Impala was certainly well-suited to survival in the ghetto neighborhoods I found myself frequenting. While it did get broken into and searched for valuables every so often, and its complement of dents and dings appreciated rapidly, no meaningful damage was ever done to it during my travels about the bohemian Bay Area of the early 1990s.

It was a great real-world daily driver, but for one small detail: the brakes. Even after I’d replaced the shoes and adjusted everything with obsessive attention to detail, the Impala’s four-wheel drums were frighteningly inadequate for any speeds above about 20 MPH. Yes, yes, cranky old geezers, our forefathers did fine with drum brakes, but that’s because they didn’t know any goddamn better! I do know better, and after I came upon stalled traffic on the Nimitz Freeway and had my brakes fade to nothingness when attempting a looks-like-I-got-plenty-of-space stop from 60 (I nearly had to resort to scraping the guardrail to avoid hitting other cars), I decided to invest a few bucks in some junkyard upgrades. Full-sized Chevrolets from the 1965 through 1970 model years have full bolt-on interchangeability when it comes to front-suspension and brake parts, and the disc brake option became fairly common on the ’69 and ’70 models. In 1991, old Impalas and Caprices were just about as common in junkyards as are Tauruses today (as you can see from my extensive collection of early-70s Impala door emblems), so it was no problem to grab the master cylinder, lines, proportioning valve, rotors, calipers, spindles, and so on from a ’70 Caprice at Pick Your Part in Hayward. By waiting for Half Price Weekend (which used to take place every couple of months in those days), I scored all the parts for not much more than a C-note.

Once again, the inherent technological suckiness of the Allegedly Good Ol’ Days comes into play here; because I was documenting the project with 35mm film and not a digital camera, major milestones in the Impala Hell Project’s progress went undocumented. Such was the case with the brake upgrade, which was your usual weekend-long thrash and would have produced all manner of grainy, artsy-looking Plus-X black-and-white images… had I not spaced on shooting photos in the first place, or screwed up developing the film in the bathroom sink, or lost the negatives, or whatever the hell happened. In any case, the brakes from the ’70 big Chevy, which scaled in at 400-800 pounds more than the ’65 due to the inevitable process of Model Bloat, transformed my driving experience from terrified nostalgia to totally pleasant, just like that. One weekend of bolting on parts and my car stopped just as well as modern-day machinery. Hooray!

Naturally, a project of this magnitude never goes completely according to plan. While the complete everything-from-ball-joints-out assemblies from the ’70 bolted right into the ’65, the hub centers ended up being about 1-1/2″ lower relative to the suspension than they’d been with the drums. That jacked up the front of the car enough to reduce its mean-looking rake. I wasn’t about to hose my comfy ride by chopping the springs, so I decided to live with the change. At the same time, my 14″ wheels wouldn’t clear the disc brake calipers, so I had to grab some junkyard 15s immediately. Fortunately, I scored a set of Pontiac Rally wheels from El Pulpo at half off.

These wheels were once dirt-common at wrecking yards and they’ll bolt right onto a Chevy. To geeks who knew enough about old GM products to identify my wheels, I’d be committing a mild breach of some unwritten GM-fanatic code. To all my Generation X friends, however, I’d just upgraded my ride with the same wheels that came on Hot Wheels cars. Finally, a tiny vestige of hipster coolness for my car!

I was also lucky enough to score an HEI distributor at Pick Your Part around this time; this electronic distributor design was so many orders of magnitude superior to the original points ignition that came with my engine that it was like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow when I stumbled upon a late-70s El Camino with this distributor on Half Price Weekend. Chevrolet HEIs would last about 17 minutes in a self-service junkyard before getting snatched in those days, and the going swap-meet rate was still something like a hundred bucks. Ever seen the sequence in Slacker in which the junkyard scroungers score an HEI and stuff it through a hole in the fence? Whatever that film’s numerous flaws may be, that part was dead-on accurate.

I also did some tweaking of the transmission kick-down linkage, since the linkage on my Quadrajet had been intended for a ’69 Eldorado and never quite worked right on my TH350. After much futzing with junkyard linkage bits from a wide assortment of GM machinery, I came up with this low-buck drill-some-holes-in-scrap-of-metal fix.

The 350 seemed to run a little hot in traffic with the clutchless stamped-steel fan and washtub-influenced fan shroud that The General probably spent $1.24 to manufacture back in 1964, so I obtained an electric “pusher” cooling fan from an early BMW 7 Series.

Some plumber’s tape, a few homemade brackets, and wiring to the Space Shuttle-style instrument panel and I could drop the coolant temperature 25 degrees with the touch of a finger. That BMW fan drew more amps than the rest of the accessories, headlights included, combined, but you can always count on German overengineering to more than get the job done.

You don’t really need a heater in coastal California, but it is nice to warm up on a gloomy 45-degree February day. After donating the air-conditioning hardware to my engine-swap assistant, the Impala had a gaping hole where the evaporator coil housing had once lived. Since air destined for the heater core had to pass through this housing, I wasn’t getting any heated air in the passenger compartment… until I tin-snipped and hammered a piece of sheet steel into this block-off plate. I’d been trying to find a non-AC-equipped car in the junkyard, so I could use the correct factory piece, but it appears that most California full-sized Chevy buyers preferred their cars with 150 pounds of Frigidaire gear in the engine compartment, even in the 1960s.

After a winter and spring of bouncing between the home of my long-suffering parents on the Island That Rust Forgot and various flaky living situations in Oakland and San Francisco, I decided that perhaps a trip back to the car’s home turf would be just the thing: time to get over to I-5 and head south.

I’d made a few bucks replacing the entire clutch hydraulic system on an acquaintance’s Mazda 626, after she’d poured transmission fluid in the clutch master cylinder and ruined all the seals throughout the system. Paying me to replace everything with Pick-N-Pull components was way cheaper than what the dealership wanted (which shocked nobody), but it put enough gas and food money in my pocket for a lengthy Los Angeles-Orange County-San Diego journey.

I’d been experiencing some culture shock in the San Francisco Bay Area, after five years in Southern California, so it felt comforting to be back beneath the white sky, inhaling deeply of the petroleum-enhanced air down south.

Nothing but an endless grid of freeways and mysterious adventures to be had. I’d been reading Mike Davis’s City of Quartz in obsessive detail, so it seemed that I was encountering revelatory experiences on all sides.

My first stop was in Santa Ana, where some friends rented a big decaying Art Deco house. My friends in Southern California were just as broke and underemployed as their counterparts up north, but rents were cheaper and the recession’s teeth less sharp behind the Orange Curtain. Santa Ana is the city in which Philip K. Dick was living at the time of his death, having fled there from Berkeley in order to live in the least freaky region of California that he could imagine. I felt like I had come to the right place when I saw this ’65 Impala coupe in the neighborhood.

The neighborhood was one of those formerly prosperous suburbs that had been drifting in a gentle downward spiral since about the end of World War II; decaying 1920s crypto-Mission-style houses with a few hints of splendor here and there, but gang graffiti and boarded-up windows also demanding attention. Southern California has many such neighborhoods. My car didn’t attract much attention.

I drove around, chowed down at the taquerias, and shot a lot of photographs. This was the summer of 1991; Ice-T’s O.G. Original Gangster and the Butthole Surfers’ Piouhgd had just come out, and I listened to both tapes non-stop on my all-junkyard, eight-speaker Impala stereo. I started hearing more and more about the upcoming Lollapalooza Festival, some sort of Jane’s Addiction farewell concert tour that would feature Ice-T, the Butthole Surfers, and a bunch of other bands I liked. I forget how, but a friend in San Diego scored a bunch of tickets for the San Francisco show…

…and it made perfect sense for the Orange County contingent to head 80 miles south to San Diego, pick up some folks there, and then cruise 500 miles north for the show. My Impala seemed like the perfect vehicle for such a slacker hegira.

Better still, my friend Jeff had a rich girlfriend, and her arms-trader dad was overseas making Stinger missile deals with Adnan Khashoggi. His brand-new Mercedes-Benz 560SEL was just sitting there, all lonely in the driveway of its guard-gated McMansion, and so it was decided that a caravan consisting of my hooptie and Papa Stinger’s Benz would make the trip north. Fortunately, I thought to load a point-and-shoot camera with Tri-X 400 and hand it to the W126’s occupants, in order to photograph my car in its highway glory.

By this time, I’d installed a nine-foot whip CB antenna on the trunk lid, which didn’t do much good when attempting to communicate with the hardwired car phone of the Mercedes but allowed me to hear garbled smokey reports from truckers on my 23-channel Sears CB.

The level of luxury was somewhat lower in my car, what with the lack of air conditioning in the triple-digit Central Valley heat coupled with the howl of the headers and cheap 275-width rear tires, but we compensated with enhanced American Road Trip authenticity.

Still, I must admit I felt a bit of envy for the occupants of that gleaming black German luxury machine. Would I have traded places? Hell no!

I knew that it wouldn’t be many years before The Man had me chained into a veal-fattening pen in his cubicle farm, and that I’d be remembering my aimless Impala road-tripping period fondly as I smelled the burned microwave popcorn of Office Despair and waited for Death’s comforting arms to release me from the nightmare of the American white-collar workplace (I’d figured out by that point that the idea I had of making a living as a performance artist wasn’t exactly going to pan out). So, with that cynical Generation X perspective in mind, I was determined to have as good a time as possible.

Feet out the window, Midnight on cassette, the Gulf War over with no apparent nuclear annihilation in sight, and a Benz and an Impala full of real-world-avoidin’ types on their way to some sort of Gen-X mecca.

Lollapalooza #1 went all right; while I was somewhat disappointed by the performance of the Butthole Surfers in a big venue, the Rollins Band and Nine Inch Nails were pretty decent live. Time to head back south!

A couple of world-roaming Brits I met at the concert decided they needed to ride to the Mexican border in my “authentic” American hot rod (I didn’t want to disappoint them by admitting my engine probably made barely 220 horsepower), and so they dropped a couple of C-notes in my glovebox to pay for the trip back down I-5. I crashed at a friend’s place in San Diego for a while. Then I fell into some sort of deal with an art gallery in a crack-saturated ghetto on the edge of Old Town San Diego, in which me and my scurvy artist friends would do a live performance “every hour on the half hour” in the gallery.

We were called “Nureochiba and the Lizards” and we were terrible. The less said about our shows the better, I think.

I recall needle-tracked arms snaking in between the gallery’s window bars, trying to steal our effects pedals, and thousands of empty tiny plastic bags and burned-out lighters in the alley behind the joint, and tackling some junkie who’d grabbed an amplifier and attempted to run out the door with it. Gunshots and screams in the neighborhood every night. Oh yes, the crack cocaine epidemic was in full fucking effect; clearly, the collapse of Western society that would follow the end of the Cold War was just beginning.

I was certainly driving the right car for the Mad Maxian world soon to be upon us; the Impala always started, managed a steady 17 MPG on the highway if I kept my foot out of it, and could be parallel-parked in a shockingly small space (its turning radius was much, much less than that of my old MGB-GT, which should tell you something about the depressing limitations under which British Leyland had to build its cars). Even the most desperate crackhead’s theft antennae indicated “move along, nothing to steal here” when encountering my parked car, and I could sleep in fairly low-compromise comfort in the back seat if it came to that.

Even on my extremely tight budget, I could afford a few luxury upgrades for my car. A can of white spray paint, a junkyard mercury tilt switch, and an old taillight socket and bulb gave me this handy automatic underhood light. Just the thing for late-night fan-belt adjustments and the like.

Around this time, Nirvana dropped their album “Nevermind” on the world, and— seemingly the same day— the Red Hot Chili Peppers released “Blood Sugar Sex Magik.” I had done my best to avoid damn near all vestiges of popular culture up to that point, sort of a combination of snobbery and just being too damn lazy to keep up, but these two cultural artifacts swept all those principles aside and immediately became the endless soundtrack of our no-doubt-wasted lives. Give It Away and Smells Like Teen Spirit emitted from every amplified device in the world, sort of like Wolfman Jack coming from all the AM radios in American Graffiti, only without the optimism of 1961 Modesto and with the sense that life would always be getting worse from this day forward. Yeah, that was Generation X in a nutshell. I decided that maybe graduate school wasn’t such a bad idea after all, and that I could avoid both the uranium-factory Reeducation Center of all my dystopic-future tirades and the far-more-likely ennui-in-office-cubicle-land by getting a master’s degree and becoming a teacher of writing in some backwoods junior college. Plus, I still sort of had a girlfriend up north (actually, I was mistaken about that, but such are one’s 20s), so I figured I’d put the car back on I-5, crank Cobain’s voice on the cassette, and go back to the Bay Area. Next up: More primer, more junkyards, more art, more trips.
1965 Chevrolet Impala Hell Project Roundup
Impala7-54 Impala7-01 Impala7-02 Impala7-03 Impala7-04 Impala7-05 Impala7-06 Impala7-07 Impala7-08 Impala7-09 Impala7-10 Impala7-11 Impala7-12 Impala7-13 Impala7-14 Impala7-15 Impala7-16 Impala7-17 Impala7-18 Impala7-19 Impala7-20 Impala7-21 Impala7-22 Impala7-23 Impala7-24 Impala7-25 Impala7-26 Impala7-27 Impala7-28 Impala7-29 Impala7-30 Impala7-31 Impala7-32 Impala7-33 Impala7-34 Impala7-35 Impala7-36 Impala7-37 Impala7-38 Impala7-39 Impala7-40 Impala7-41 Impala7-42 Impala7-43 Impala7-44 Impala7-45 Impala7-46 Impala7-47 Impala7-48 Impala7-49 Impala7-50 Impala7-51 Impala7-52 Impala7-53 Impala7-55 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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1965 Impala Hell Project Part 1: So It Begins http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/1965-impala-hell-project-part-1-so-it-begins/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/1965-impala-hell-project-part-1-so-it-begins/#comments Fri, 27 May 2011 01:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=396134 As I explained in the introduction to this series last week, I’m finally tackling the story of the most significant car I’ve ever owned. This ’65 Impala went through ten years, 100,000 miles, and many conceptual shifts during its time with me, but it all started out as my attempt to make an art car […]

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As I explained in the introduction to this series last week, I’m finally tackling the story of the most significant car I’ve ever owned. This ’65 Impala went through ten years, 100,000 miles, and many conceptual shifts during its time with me, but it all started out as my attempt to make an art car that wasn’t A) lame and B) contemptuous of the idea of the car itself.

Let’s face it: most art cars are attempts by the artist to spit on the canvas they’re using, to subvert the paradigm represented by the evil chariot of sprawl, pollution, and oppression, blah blah blah. Even if you agree with that view of the automobile, art cars tend to be no more than poorly— if earnestly— executed hippie doodles, the kind of thing that requires only time and a willingness to piss off the neighbors.

Which isn’t to say that all art cars suck; the amazing Sashimi Tabernacle Choir, for example, makes up for all 10,000 Tauruses with plastic action figures hot-glued all over their flanks.

Back in the pre-Internet Dark Ages of the late 1980s, however, the only art cars I’d seen were pretty weak. At that time, I was an art/English major living in a middle-class shantytown at an image-obsessed Orange County (California) university. Obsessed with the work of UCI product Chris Burden and under the influence of various crypto-nihilo-miscreants ranging from Laurie Anderson to Survival Research Laboratories, I developed the delusion that I might manage to make a living creating weird art. My band, Murilee Arraiac (yes, that’s the source of my pseudonymous first name; more on where the Murilee Arraiac/Martin name came from later, if anyone cares), a sort of cut-rate Negativland/Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV-style difficult/noise outfit, played gigs in which my “instrument” was a police scanner feeding three OD-1 overdrive pedals and a Maestro “Wow-Wow” pedal.

I made Murilee Arraiac music videos with Super 8 cameras and tube-based thrift-store video cameras.

Meanwhile, I was abusing my privileges at the Art Department’s darkroom and metal shop, plowing through vast quantities of photo chemicals and welding supplies. Here’s a shot I made for a series of no-commercial-potential Christmas cards, entitled “Chicom Junky Santa Cookin’ Up Skag For The Holidays.” Note the cotton-ball beard.

Of course, UCI being a performance art powerhouse, I put together some performance/installation pieces. Here’s a 1988 piece entitled “Our Friend The Carburetor.” Clearly, I was a decade or two too early to be an “interdisciplinary multimedia artist,” but I still felt that I was going somewhere with my work. What I really needed, I decided in late 1989, was a piece based on a car that I’d buy and modify entirely for the sake of my art. Dropping in on a particularly bewildered art professor, I convinced him to sign off on some sort of “Independent Studies” sculpture piece, essentially granting me graduation credits for doing… something with a car. The question at that point was: what kind of car? I had a $400 tax refund to work with, plus a bunch of random Ford parts left over from the ’68 Mercury Cyclone and ’69 Torino fastback I’d owned in the recent past.

My daily driver at the time was a British Racing Green chrome-bumper MGB-GT, which I wouldn’t have hacked up even if it had been appropriate for the project I had in mind (in spite of being underpowered, ill-handling, and unreliable). No, what I wanted was a car that would let me riff on what I considered to be three very important American negative automotive archetypes:
1. The Official Vehicle: A boxy foor-door Detroit sedan, of the sort used by The Man’s muscle to keep order. I was thinking somewhat of American police cars here, but— this being the era of the Guerra Sucia, Salvadoran Civil War and Revolución Popular Sandinista— mostly I had in mind the death-squad enforcermobiles in Latin America. The Official Vehicle would need dog-dish hubcaps, minimal trim, cryptic numbers and emblems, extra antennas, etc. Top of the list: Ford Falcons and Fairlanes.
2. The Redneck Street Racer: Some sort of iconic Detroit mid- or full-size machine of the 1955-1973 era, featuring V8 engine with loud exhaust and lumpy cam, fat tires, and a proper butt-in-the-air rake. Imagine the kind of vehicle that would be performing smoky beer-soaked burnouts in a convenience-store parking lot in Muncie, Indiana in 1989. Top of the list: GM A-Body, Chrysler B-Body.
3. The Drive-By Shooting Ghetto Hooptie: A big Detroit luxury car of the 1960-1980 era, of the sort that Reagan Era suburban cul-de-sac dwellers imagine to be inhabited by Superfly and several Uzi-wielding gangster henchmen, while Parliament blasts from the stereo. Diamond in the back, sunroof top, etc. Top of the list: Cadillac Deville, 1961-64 Chevrolet Impala, Boat-Tail Buick Riviera.

Quite a dilemma, and no single car would be perfect on all three fronts. I scanned The Recycler classifieds every week, and finally came across this ad. The 1965 full-sized Chevrolet fit each of my three archetypes to a certain extent, junkyard parts (at the time) were ridiculously easy to find, and I could deflect criticism that I’d be “ruining” a “classic” by pointing out that the ’65 big Chevy had the highest single-year production figure for any vehicle ever made by Detroit: 1,463,200 Bel Airs, Biscaynes, and Impalas that year. I went to the bank, got 30 $10 bills (makes a fatter stack than $20 bills), and headed over to Surf City USA.

The car was located in a sketchy skinhead-infested neighborhood of HB, and the seller was a woman who alternated screaming at her many children and screaming at her many dogs as we negotiated. She kept pointing out that the high beams and low beams worked, to which I’d respond by pointing out that the 300,000-mile 283 smoked like crazy, the interior smelled like a mixture of boiling piss and burning horsehair, the tires were a mix of bald bias-plys and bald radials, and the oil-pressure light flickered ominously at idle. My plan was to drop in a junkyard 350 as soon as possible, but I still wanted to get a few miles out of the 283. The car had started life clad in Tahitian Turquoise paint, but a previous owner had applied a thick coat of some sort of industrial gloss-gray paint on it.

Flashing my fat roll of Hamiltons and standing firm on various lowball offers eventually paid off, and the car was mine for the sum of 150 American dollars. Roaring down the 405, with the smell of burning 30-weight in my nostrils, I felt excited but intimidated by the task before me.

Getting back to Irvine Meadows West, the UCI trailer park that was bulldozed by minions of The Irvine Company back in 2005, I admired the 283/Powerglide combo. The 2-barrel 283 had bad rings and valve guides, among other super-tired-engine woes, but it started readily and still offered decent power. The Powerglide worked fine, and would no doubt keep working until the day the sun went supernova, as is traditional for the venerable two-speed slushbox.

The interior needed plenty of work to fit with the triple-archetype concept behind my project. Actually, it needed plenty of work just to keep me and my passengers safe from scabies, ringworm, and lead poisoning; the front bench seat was stuffed with several layers of wet newspapers and dog-juice-soaked blankets, and the back seat wasn’t much better. The weatherstripping had long since dissolved into black powder, thanks to decades of high-sulfur-and-ozone Southern California air and blazing sunlight, so rainy California winters made for soaked carpets and excellent fungal breeding opportunities. Fortunately, self-service junkyards in 1990 were bursting with big GM sedans, so I’d be able to mix-and-match interior components while engine shopping. Next up: Part Two: The Modifications Begin.
1965 Impala Hell Project Roundup
Impala-1stDay-6 Impala1990Ad-520px Impala-1stDay-1 Impala-1stDay-2 Impala-1stDay-3 Impala-1stDay-4 Impala-1stDay-5 IMG_7538 SashimiChoir-10N Impala1990Ad-520px ChicomJunkySanta MGB-GT-1280px Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Art Car to Daily Driver to Drag Racer: 10 Years of My 1965 Impala Hell Project http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/art-car-to-daily-driver-to-drag-racer-10-years-of-my-1965-impala-hell-project/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/art-car-to-daily-driver-to-drag-racer-10-years-of-my-1965-impala-hell-project/#comments Thu, 19 May 2011 21:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=395412 I put in four years and thousands of posts at Jalopnik, writing about most of my formative cars… but never once did I write the story of the car that served me longest, gave me the most miles, endured the most engine swaps, and generally laid claim to a bigger piece of my heart than […]

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I put in four years and thousands of posts at Jalopnik, writing about most of my formative cars… but never once did I write the story of the car that served me longest, gave me the most miles, endured the most engine swaps, and generally laid claim to a bigger piece of my heart than all the rest of my motley lifetime fleet combined: a 1965 Chevrolet Impala sedan, built at the long-defunct South Gate Assembly Plant in Los Angeles, equipped with a 283/Powerglide drivetrain, and painted Artesian Turquoise. Today, at last, the story begins.

I bought it with tax-refund money during my senior year of college, with the idea that it would serve as my canvas for a high-concept mixed-media performance/installation art project (don’t worry, my version of an art car isn’t a ’79 New Yorker with plastic army men hot-glued all over it). This it did, helping pry loose a degree from the Regents of the University of California, and then it— totally unexpectedly— won me over and became a more-or-less bulletproof daily driver that put 100,000 miles under its wheels during the following decade. It moved me and all my possessions across the country and back, earned me the nickname “Mad Max” from my coworkers at Year One, survived the rigors of living on the streets of San Francisco, and accepted parts from hundreds of junkyard donors. By the end, it sported a three-dimensional patina that would make the most inked-up Billetproof hipster swoon with envy, and it was knocking off mid-13s at the strip with a low-buck small-block. It’s going to take a while to relate the entire story, so check in after this weekend’s LeMons race (part of the six-races-in-seven-weeks 24 Hours of LeMons Springtime Death March) to get the next installment.
Next: The Purchase.

1965 Impala Hell Project Roundup

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