The Buick and the Whale Tail Mustang 5.0 - April, 2007

A clear and dry night coming up Highway 18 East Bound

It was after 10PM on a Saturday night and Band On The Run was playing through the iPod (yeah, remember those). Already shaking in rain the Riv has already bombed up the hill as only drivers who give into their impulse to get up the hill give into. 

By time the Highway 18/I-5 interchange had come up, I thought the adrenaline would have burned off but thanks to a late 80’s 5.0L Mustang (White) heard cackling and merging – and pulling hard exiting the off ramp to Highway 18 the fuse, apparently, was re-lit. 

It was irresistible and in an instant the torque-y Buick downshifted from 1600RPM and 65MPH to 3rd gear out of Overdrive. From a roll the Buick easily walked the Mustang and he took it as a personal affront, as well he should have. 

 
3.8L Gen II Huffer

The next light was too busy and both street racers knew it so we rolled a few blocks.

Finally, after having enough time to disable traction control for the coming launch, our cars rolled to a stop. 

I pre-loaded the transmission and got the supercharger into producing some boost as the light was about to turn. The Mustang turns out to be a manual transmission as I can hear the slight bog at the light. We launched hard, the Riv’s torque spinning the tires off the line and grabbing quickly thanks to the dry street. 

After the light there was a downhill bank. The cars are evenly matched handling wise, but the heavy throttle through the turn had both cars asking everything of their tires. Traffic loomed up ahead in my lane so I backed off the throttle, not wishing to ask anymore of the hot tires on my car. The Mustang was behind me a half-car length at least and this easing off gave him an opening to jump in front.The next light ahead had four cars in each lane so we both shut down. 

Always liked the lines of the Riviera
To stop at the light, even though I was light on the brakes, the ABS kicked in a bit. I guess slowing down from 70 even in dry might have some uneven wheel spin. The best thing about this ending was the thumb up from the Mustang driver. The second best thing was as we shut down and coasted, loping down the street, we passed two of Federal Way’s finest watching the streets on a Saturday night. My guilty conscience assumed they were waiting for us… but no. I guess the Rivira is pretty quiet.


Maybe they thought I was driving an old man’s car.

Sticks and Stones My Break My Bones But they Also Can Fix My Chevy

I've posted a couple serious and deeply personal posts lately so I'm going to balance it back out with goofy car stories. This one is actually a "humble brag" post about my mechanical ability and ability to work a situation that isn't necessarily going my way.

In 1992 while driving in my neighborhood, I passed a car with a for sale sign in it and it immediately drilled into my psyche. It was a gunmetal grey 1962 Chevrolet Biscayne 2-Door Post. The "post" referred to the B-billar of the car. Oddly, to me a the time, it was also known as a "sedan" even though it was a two door.


Like this but grey
It had huge front and back bench seats and the seats were sprung, not of foam like modern cars are. The body was straight and it was a 283 V8 with a 3-speed and automatic overdrive, essentially making it a 6-speed. A great drag car!

The $1600 asking price was within reach - if I sold my 1968 Chevrolet 3/4-ton truck. I didn't need a truck, I'm not even sure why I ever bought it. 

I sold it.


Like this but grey.
The Biscayne I purchased the next day was just a joy. It was a 2-owner car, I was the third. The previous owner had installed cruise control, delay wipers, water injection and a 2nd oil filter under the hood. It purred like a kitten. It had the original hub caps on 14" bias-ply tires.

This is my 2nd favorite car I've ever owned. It never broke and I daily drove it for years to work and all over the Northwest.

Well, honestly, one day it broke. I had driven a good friend over to his not unattractive girlfriends home on the other side of the city. We listened to Queensrÿche: "Empire" on the CD player and 7 speaker system I had installed myself - and damn it was great!

The "breakdown" happened, appropriately for a Chevrolet, only after it delivered me to my destination. The clutch pedal went dead - to the floor - and for a few minutes my heart sank to the same place.

I had often bragged that I could fix a Chevrolet with sticks and rocks if necessary. I never had a wish to try it, it was bravado, but this day, this day I swear my only options were sticks and rocks.

I diagnosed the problem while my friend was in his girlfriends house doing who knows what. I found that the clutch pivot spring that mounts from the engine block to the fame, about 8 inches long, had broken the weld at the frame. This essential part was what let the spring "rock" when you engaged the clutch. No weld, no brace, no engaging the clutch.

As I eyed this problem, two factors immediately came to light. 1. I had not brought my tool box. 2. I did not know how to weld and even if I did, I'd need to fabricate a new part. The cherry on top of the shit sundae being that I was not a CNC operator.

The last thing I noticed was that forward of where the weld broke on the frame was the top of the suspension shock absorber. This was a stout mounting and here was where my mind went to work. Eyeballing the distance between where the broken weld was and this literal stud

Without even thinking of my past boasts about sticks and rocks, I began looking for... sticks and rocks. What I finally came up with was a nice piece of granite, a nicely dried 3"x½" stick of maple and the wonder of compressibility, a nice piece of bark off a giant Douglas Fir.

These three simple, natural items placed in the right order allowed the spring of the clutch to press into them. I hopped in the car and gave the clutch a press. I kid you not, it felt exactly as it did when everything was factory. Good pressure, the pedal returned to its normal height off the floor... groovy!

When my friend came out to check on me I had given it who knows how many pumps to see if anything was moving about under the hood - nope! In fact, the bark had already worn in a nice groove for it to rock in. I wasn't exactly 100% sure this would get us home but I had, as Astronauts say, "a high degree of confidence". I didn't ask how his girlfriend was.

My confidence was well placed. We got in the "Biscuit" as many of my friend called the Biscayne (they must not have been familiar with the bay but I'm a geography nut) and we sailed her home. Nary a hitch as Jet City Woman played on the CD player, an odd mix of 1962 and digital audio rolling through King County in style. Men in bland Honda Accords looked at me with our windows down, all smiles and I could read their minds: I wish I had never sold that car.

The most impressive part of my humble brag is that I drove my car like that for a good six or more months before finding someone who could take on the job of fabricating and welding in a new bracket at the great price of $50!

So if you wonder why the only tattoo I have is "1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2" and I bleed Chevy Orange, this is one of the many reasons. I've had many things let me down or not work as advertised or had small prayers not answered but Chevrolet has never stranded me, whether a 30 year old one with hundreds of thousands of miles on the odometer or a modern 2008 or 2013 model.

I still have those sticks and rocks packed away somewhere. So I implore you:

See the U.S.A. in your Jet-Smooth Chevrolet.

The Low Odds, High Desirability Event (Cars & Girls)

Hello, lovers. It is time to get back on the horse, or should I say horseshittery?

This story comes to us from the great state of Washington in the summer of 1990. If you've followed this blog so far you know that this is basically a blog revolving around funny or stupid things I did as a kid. So here we go.

I was 17 years old in 1990. In that year people in cars actually drove them rather than pretending to not look down at their own crotches while looking at their cell phones. By the way people, we CAN see you looking down at your phone even when you're tiring to make it look like your head is looking out the window - but that is another rant for another day.

My F-body Chevrolet (That is a Camaro to you) was never going to be complete without a CB radio in it. So, as a 17 year old in high school, working 40 hours a week and pulling 3.7GPAs I figured dropping $50 on a Uniden 510XL CB from Costco was more than a fair weekend joy. It turns out radio would be a life love of mine - and that I'd find out that looking for love on a CB radio was "all the wrong places."


The "Yellojacket" as my friends called my car.
My 1975 Camaro Rally Sport was one of 1500 Chevrolet made that year. Of course, I wrecked it because it was my first car and I was a boy. I didn't find out that the car was limited numbers until 20 years later when the Internet allowed looking up such banal facts.

Anyway, I think I prepared my whole life just for the day I could drive. I kept close attention to every single place we drove from childhood until that day Washington State handed me my permit.

I could attention seek and post pictures of all these treasured artifacts but you're here to READ so you only get one photo, kid.


Oh, the girl?

Yes, I was driving home from my grandparents place in on the Skagit River up in (heh) Skagit County back home to Renton. The South Skagit Highway is a Washington State best drive. (I almost hate to divulge this because I'm starting to not give up all my "best drives in Washington" for fear they will no longer be "best drives" but full of Subaru Drivers driving 5MPH below on the twisties, causing me to pull over for 20 minutes in order to hope they either drive over the bank into the river or give them time to get off the highway so I may do it properly).

The "low odds" event mentioned in my title is that on this day another Camaro was on South Skagit. It was not driving slow, it was the same generation as mine and it was RED. South Skagit is a two lane road with one in each direction. There are only a few passing points no matter how fast your car is or how masterful a wheel person you are. So, when doing 70MPH and I came up on the tail of this red Camaro, I was more intrigued than frustrated. A fellow petrol head!


This is not the car, you illiterate fool, we didn't have camera phones back then.
As Def Leppard played on my stereo, I slid into 4th gear and kept a "safe and sane" distance from this car and started to take it all in. The red looked original, less masculine (or asinine) than mine did. The person driving it had longish hair... and I kid you not, it had a CB antenna on the trunk. The spirited driving I had been doing up until now was nothing compared the way my heartbeat picked up. I'm not sure if it was just the hope I had to engage in some fun or if I truly expected anyone to actually engage in any fun with me.

I had been driving and riding the South Skagit for ALL of my 17 years and I knew every twist and turn. Which straight away could handle 140MPH and which ones you just motor on through at 35. I knew a left hander was coming up that rolled out into at least a one mile or more straight away that crossed one creek with a small bridge. As the corner loomed, I blipped the throttle of the V8, matching revs and downshifted into 3rd. When she had completed the turn and I was at the apex and could see no oncoming cars, I put the spurs to her. The M-22 transmission whined and the ker-chunk of the four barrel carburetor happened in quick succession. 

My Camaro not so much passed her, but leapt aside her where I peddled the car at 4,000RPM in 3rd to hold station. She looked over and all I did was hold up the microphone of my CB and dangle it so she could "get the message".. and all of this in the blink of an eye, she held up 7 fingers, not just the one finger I was expecting. I finished off 3rd and the pass and banged home 4th gear. The Coconut Little Tree™ hanging from my rear view mirror, heretofore rocking back and forth like a metronome during the maneuver, returned to its normal place. 

With my heart pounding, I dialed in channel 7 on the CB and then.... there she was! We were almost in the same car! For the next 45 minutes from the South Skagit Highway to down Interstate 5 we chatted as if we were having coffee except we were talking about cars, our favorite bands and whether we should stop and meet.

Before the exit was coming up I was already having separation anxiety. I was wary of stopping and she definitely had to be more wary, even as two Camaro owners - of the kid with the mullet and deadly good looks. I was just naive enough to think that "this has happened once now, it shall happen again".

At the exit we waved and laughed and I merged off onto Interstate 405. We kept talking until we were out of range - which was another 10 or more minutes and then our disembodied voices faded off into the ether. 

I never saw that Camaro or person again - and I still wonder where the heck she was driving from and where the heck she was going.

Here's to you, missy! You had reinforced a hopeful young mans belief in romanticism in the most perfect way it could have possibly been conveyed that day.

1998 The Daily 5AM Duel

OK, so my blog is starting to read that the only accomplishments I've achieved are driving cars and screwing around. In order to reinforce the fact that the thought that I'm a super talented person who just has a lot of interesting experiences - I have a fully new story to share regarding cars.

For a good one and a half years, every day when I got up to go to work, there was a 3 out of 5 possibility that when, after warming up my 1978 Z/28 to drive to Starbucks Retail Operations in Seattle from Renton that the "5AM Daily Duel" as I like to call it was on.

My 1978 Z/28 had 55,000 original miles and looked like it rolled right off the factory with the sole exceptions that I had dismantled the 5.7L engine (that's 350 cubic inches to you, kids), added a roller cam and rockers and a more modern Holley Double Pumper™ Four Barrel Carburetor. Usually Q-ships are cars that don't look fast but are. My car was a Q-ship if only because it was fast to begin with but the sleeper part was that it was faster than any 1978 Z/28 that ever rolled off Chevrolet's glorious assembly line.

I named it "The Menace".

The Menace is loose again.


I'd burble out of the garage onto Benson Road South and would pretty much let the 4-speed roll down hill in neutral... looking for a Camaro natural nemesis: A white 5.0 Mustang of about 1986 Vintage. The man who drove it was about my age (25) and his car was a stick too. His car looked stock like mine but clearly wasn't. When he woke in the morning I'd wager he was also wondering if he'd tangle with me too. 



There were two lights before we would hit downtown Renton at the bottom of Benson Hill. When we did spot each other, clutches were popped, V8s roared and since the streets were empty we raced to the exact same spot: the last light on Grady that turns onto 167 for 1/8th of a mile and then to 405 to I-5. The race stopped when we got to I-5 if only that driving 140MPH 3 times a week in an urban setting is just plain fun, er, dangerous.

I think we only ever made eye contact once in the 1.5 years and it was the first day we tangled. There was no posturing. No ridiculous exhaust sounds whose barks were worse than their bites. Just two Pony Cars whose owners love to drive them the way they were built to be driven. 

At that last light before the interstates, there were two left turn lanes. The inside one was the one the "loser" got stuck in. The outside left turn lane was the one to be in as it was an easy clutch pop and redline in first to that onramp and snicking the shifter into second or in my case, throwing the Menace into 2nd, you were golden. The car in the inside turn lane had to fall in behind and the chase was on to the I-5 onramp. There was no looking at the speedometer..... it was flat out Mustang GT versus Z/28 pride on the line.

To this day, I can't tell you the winning percentage of who had to watch the other guys tail lights to Interstate 5 North. I even remember the guys license plate and a bumper sticker, the sticker read "FoMoCo".

Now, just because I ended up behind him enough times to know that doesn't mean a thing. I'm pretty sure to this day he can see my Z/28 logo on my rear gas filler door and my RATT sticker placed very subtly low on my rear bumper; Dangerous but worth the risk.

But the very first time we ever tangled, he saw Chevrolet tail lights at every stop.


Nobody ruled the streets at night like me.