Sooo Politically Incorrect..
I’ve held off on this topic for a long time for a number of reasons. The biggest reason is I’ve noticed a type of resentment or anger when you talk about anything that costs money. Example: In a few submissions I’ve mentioned traveling or listening to music in my “SUV.” SUV to me is a descriptive term, a way of saying “car” or “truck” or “skateboard”, a way of describing what it is so the reader gets a better picture of the story. “SUV” is not a sign of wealth or means or bragging about money.. yet a few have insinuated in their underhanded ways (the way you do things when you don’t have the guts to say it directly to the person’s face) that I was bragging. Trust me, I’m not. I see nothing to brag about in an SUV, they’re about as ordinary and routine as a vehicle can get. I think I’ve mentioned I purchased an SUV over my usual extended cab pickup truck only because with the help of tinted windows it allows me to lock up and hide millions of baht of photography equipment. Oh crap, now I’ve bragged about photography equipment. What “tools” do you guys use to do your job? A big rig driver drives a truck worth millions of baht but no one says he’s bragging. Graphic designers have millions of baht of computers and printers and other machines and no one says they’re bragging. Should we go on? Hell, I know, and have taught, amateur photographers with more equipment than I have and they’re not bragging either. It’s their hobby and God Bless them their life had been going well enough for them to be able to afford to indulge. When I see an amateur with 2-3 times the value of camera equipment I have I don’t criticize them, maybe I’ll think their money might be better spent on learning to use the equipment.. but mostly I’m happy for them. I just don’t understand envy. If it’s something I want bad enough I’ll do what’s necessary to earn it whether it’s a skill or an object that costs money. Anyway I’m digressing. A low end SUV to me is a tool and I use it in my work and a Toyota Prius just isn’t going to get the job done and if anyone doesn’t like it then they can kiss my hairy Bocephus azz.. I really hate bringing this stuff up, it rings of childishness and grade school but there ya go. Still, in light of this new subject I felt I needed to preface this submission so you’d know where my mind is.
The new subject is about one of my passions and also about one of my investment vehicles (pun intended..:) and in just over a year I’ll be able to bring her here to Thailand and have something truly unique. I grew up poor. Well, at least part of my life. From eight years old I remember always being hungry, so that kind of poor. I stayed hungry until my first day in boot camp when we were marched into a “chow hall” full of wonderful food and told we could eat all we wanted in 15 minutes! WOW! It didn’t matter that the roast beef came from expired cans and was green around the edges or that the potatoes were from dehydrated flakes, it was food and it was nourishing and it filled my stomach. I never did understand all the whining and complaining going on over the food, to me this was heaven. Before boot camp I had given up all hope of college for various reasons, mostly because college costs money. When my high school offered a three year vocational automotive program for three hours each morning before school started (5 – 8 AM) I was first in line and was happy to get in the program, after all it beat what I was currently doing which was frying fish at a seafood restaurant. During those three years I learned everything there was about cars, especially performance cars. Hot rods, street cars, 9 second quarter mile cars. I was good at it and discovered I had a natural talent for driving. I saved and took every high performance driving class available. I learned to race, to drive, both on road race courses and the ¼ mile track, and I was good at it. Ok, now I’m bragging. Still, to this day I hold the high speed drivers course record for the SDPD which is where they send San Diego’s Police Officers to learn to drive the high performance Mustangs and Z-28s used to chase down sports cars and motorcycles. During my last 5 years in the States my sons and I would often visit the local track and we’d share the joy of building and accomplishing together. Heck, I can see right now this is going to be a two part submission. So much material to cover to give you the proper background. Let me get into the bad part.
Does anyone remember hearing about Wednesday nights on Van Nuys Blvd in the San Fernando Valley? Bob’s Big Boy drive-in? Every Wednesday night thousands of hot cars with drivers of all ages would “cruise” Van Nuys Blvd, do “show n’shines”, and the bad boys would pick up races for money, sometimes for “pinks.” We called them pinks because at the time in California ownership titles were printed on pink slips of paper, hence the term “pink slips.” I was bad but I wasn’t stupid. I couldn’t resist the money I could earn, especially considering I was making barely above minimum wage at my day job. Still, I was smart enough to realize that street racing was stupid and people could get killed. I participated in two types of races. ¼ mile events, often shorter depending on who called the race and who you were racing, and canyon racing. Even back then we were very organized. We had CB radios and red cones and we’d shut down remote stretches of road for our racing and we’d even insist the drivers wear helmets. We’d get laughed at but if they wanted to race our group there were rules. Canyon racing was different. We’d have spotters to let us know if traffic was coming, but you could hardly shut down Latigo Canyon Road or Mullholland Drive and the big races were saved for Mulholland and were saved for the very serious big money events that established regional titles. The players always had several cars going, and my cars were all Ford Mustangs or Shelby’s. A ¼ mile car was set up totally different from a canyon carver. Sometimes we’d put expensive engines in crap bodies when racing for pinks so if we lost all we’d lose is the engine. All sorts of games were played. I continued this sort of thing until I left the area, but picked it up again while in Japan for a few years. Of course I’d never do this in the Kingdom having long outgrown such illegal behavior. There, now you know my secret illegal background in street racing. Did I do well? Sure. Did I get caught? Never. Was I the luckiest SOB that ever existed? Without a doubt. I did well though and this enabled me to pay cash for my first “investment” that even back then I knew was an investment.
It was a 1965 GT350 Shelby. It was someone else’s beater but by then having rebuilt many Mustang’s for race or resale I knew how to source and put together the parts necessary to restore her to prime condition. Not yet having developed rust or been in a wreck it was mostly a matter of rebuilding the 271cuin hipo engine, putting in used but well preserved interior parts, and restoring the paint. White with blue stripes, rally pack, and Goodyear Redlines it was a sweet ride. 17 years old and I had this type of car that mostly sat in a rented garage and took it out for Sunday drives. At the time I had 5-10 other Mustangs for racing, reselling, whatever. I drove those. So it was with a very heavy heart that when my first son was born and the “social worker” told me the c-section and hospital bills would be covered by welfare, that I sold her and paid the bill myself, in full, and from that moment on never owned another Mustang (with one exception), raced, or participated in something I really loved. I was a Father now and with that came responsibilities and it wasn’t long until I enlisted in the military to learn a real trade, or so I thought but that’s another story.
I said “one exception” so I might as well fess up. A divorce and another marriage later while stationed overseas I had a friend contact me who ran across a 1968 GT500KR (Black in colour) with less than 30k original miles with the only damage being a cracked broken front fiberglass valance. My friend recognized a total steal of a deal when he saw it but didn’t have the money and he knew I loved these cars and the rest is history. He and a few other friends pushed it the 4-5 blocks to the garage I used to rent (my mom rented it then, rental garages for $15 a month in Santa Monica was unheard of so we kept it in the family), locked her up, and six months later while home on leave I saw her for the first time and visited DMV to change titles. It was love at first sight. I hoped the creeky old wooden garage door and was greeted with the two rows of taillights all covered with dust and I immediately felt sorry for her, how could my friend put her in there face first? Over the next 20 days of my leave I pulled her out, got her big 428SCJ rumbling to life (her engine was perfect, not even a oil leak!), and cleaned and shined her to an almost new look. A few rows of duct tape on the inside of the valance kept the crack from spreading while driving and I always meant to fix it. To this day I haven’t. The big crack is still there and now they’ve developed repair techniques to fix the original part like new so maybe someday. Before I left I bought two covers, a soft linen cover and a heavier rain proof “breathable” cover and during the middle of the night pushed her back in the garage, raised her on blocks, covered her, and left the keys with my mom. It was over ten years and another divorce before I unlocked that door again. By this time my “investment” had grown from it’s original $3500 to close to 100k! I’m not sure what it’s worth today, but it’s in another more secure garage and every 4-5 years I’ve done all the required maintenance and driven her enough miles to know she’s in great shape. Unless I need to sell her to pay for some medical emergency for someone in my family I imagine she’ll be owned by one of my sons someday.
I moved her to another location when I got lucky once again and acquired a 1964 AC Cobra (260cuin) which was a basket case, but all the pieces were there. We towed it to my insurance agent for pictures, rented a two car garage, and stowed both my babies
side by side. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to afford to restore the 64’, but it’s still a decent investment and I got it for almost nothing. If you have a lifelong interest in something, keep your eyes and ears
open, then occasionally something falls into your lap.
1998 was a significant year in my car days. For three wives and three sons I’d given up such things and owned mini-vans and SUVs and economical cars and any wrench turning was to save money on car repairs. I was trying to be responsible and do the right things and any time I’d brought up to a significant other that I wanted to buy a Mustang or talk about cars at all, they wouldn’t listen. They weren’t interested in the least. 1998 was the year my last divorce went final. She thought she’d cleaned me out, both her and her lawyers, but no… That day I walked into my local Ford SVT dealer and drove out in a brand new early 1999 SVT Cobra Mustang, black in colour of course. I’ll never forget that day. I’d forgotten how it felt to drive a car like that. The DOHC all aluminum V8 had 320hp at the crank, maybe 270 at the rear wheels, mated through a 5 speed manual box and a totally independent suspension. This was the first year Cobras (it was never offered on Mustangs) were offered with IRS (independent rear suspension) and while this sucked for the ¼ mile track it was a huge improvement on the track and for general drivability.
They handed me the computer chipped keys and the envelope with all my paperwork and I got in the drivers door and the smell of new leather was great. I put the key in and turned it to “on” and adjusted the mirrors and power seat. Turning the key to “start” the engine came to life in a surprisingly quiet tone, so smooth as the tach needle hung at about 1100 and then quickly dropped to 700rpm. Looking out over the hood I was all of a sudden nervous and my clutch leg started shaking and I just hoped I could pull it off the lot and out of sight of the guys at the dealership without stalling her. Pulling out onto the street her tires chirped, and chirped once again as I shifted into second and that’s when I saw a Denny’s. I pulled into the Denny’s and parked her right in front and sat there letting my pulse slow down and my breathing return to normal. Grabbing the owners manual I went inside for a meal and an hour later I exited a lot calmer and knowing all the good stuff in the manual. I was picking a friend up from the train station who was going to stay with me for a few days so I headed over to the train station and after parking her I sat back waiting for his train and watching all the people looking and commenting on my new car. Ya, it was a rush with all the attention. It felt good. When my buddy got off the train he was surprised, but on the way from Eugene to Roseburg he was so impressed that when he got back to Seattle he bought an identical model for himself. But that first weekend with my new car and my buddy visiting made me forget about the pain of my recent divorce and for a few days I was living again. Young ladies and fast cars have a similar affect on a man’s state of wellness.
I had no illusions about this 99’ being a fast car. Sure, for a stock car it was fast and handled nice and it was quite nice with its 800 watt stereo and AC and leather and all. But it was “stock.” Now, I’m the guy that received a brand new Harley 1200cc Sportster in the box (the way the military PX delivered them in Japan) and without even assembling it I put it in the living room of my Japanese home and totally disassembled the engine and everything else and when I put it back together a few months later it had enough power, handing and braking (with help from Buell) to compete with the local rice rockets at the midnight races. So keeping this particular Cobra stock wasn’t going to happen. Making some calls to friends still in the racing industry and a friend who’s an editor at Hot Rod Magazine, we made a plan. With help from some big names including Vortech Supercharging, K&N, Roush, and Kenny Brown, we put together a bunch of prototype parts that would eventually become that years “go fast” offerings from these companies and made arrangements to meet down at Fairway Ford in Orange County California. Remember the speed shops from the 50’s and 60’s? Back then the dealers featured speed shops attached to their dealerships and they’d source and install all the good stuff the boys in NASCAR and other racing events were using. Speed shops were big back then and as far as I know Fairway Ford in Orange County is the only existing speed shop still in business. I warned these guys that I was driving it the 1000 miles down there, and would drive it the 1000 miles back so we had to do it right. This was a new car and I wanted it to be able to drive in all conditions, Death Valley if I wanted (and later did), so doing it right was key. Being the prototype 99’ Cobra had its advantages when it came to cost and getting the good stuff before anyone else, and even making the front cover of Hot Rod Magazine.. but it was still risky.
We worked for about ten days, all day and all night. Many one-off parts were made and tested, re-made and retested. We made frequent use of the dyno. We built the bottom end to handle roughly 1000hp because they took seriously my request for a “bulletproof”
engine. When all was said and done, supercharger installed, etc, our last dyno number was 512 at the rear wheels. With the help of nitrox we pegged over 700 and called it quits. The next three days at Orange County Raceway we ran tests, took pictures,
and drove the hell out of it. This wasn’t just the engine, but the suspension (stage III Kenny Brown setup with Konis, chassis enforcement and more), brakes (14” Brembo’s), tires and wheels (18” 295/35 555 Nitto’s),
fuel cell, safety harnesses, fire system, and much more. A complete balanced package. On the way back up to Oregon a cloud of blue smoke and thick gear oil covered the rear and I quickly learned the seal on the rear end wasn’t installed
properly when we put in the 4:10 gear set. Ford replaced it under warranty (since all the work was done at a Ford dealer they honoured the warranty) and now with just over 30k miles on the clock not a lick of trouble, not even a oil leak. We installed
a racing clutch when we put the T-56 six-speed in but it’s ready to be replaced as are the brake pads before.. before I bring it to Thailand.
I was going to write this submission about what it feels like to drive this car, how I drove it, when I drove it. I’m sitting here in Thailand a bit annoyed that someone would think I’d actually brag about a rinky dink Toyota SUV and it brought back memories of what it felt like to drive a real car. But how can I describe how it feels to drive such a car if you can’t understand the genesis of the car and why cars like this are part of my life? I’m more than capable of going out and buying a ready built sports car like a Porsche or even modifying a Skyline like I had in Japan, but there’s a big difference to an enthusiast between buying a car someone else built (no matter how good it is) and building one yourself. There’s a difference of driving a car like this with normal driving skills, and driving it after being trained by the professional staff at Bob Bondurant’s racing school. It’s a matter of appreciation, and safety. This isn’t me bragging by telling you how much it cost to build such a car, but me sharing one of my passions by sharing with you how it feels to build and drive something of this caliber. I could write many submissions on cars, racing, restoring classics, and even the enjoyment I get visiting my two “investments.” But alas, they have little to do with Thailand. But the 99’, she will make her appearance in the Kingdom soon and the arrangements and logistics of her trip might be of interest to some, so it’s good for you to have a general history so you can understand why I’d even bother in the first place.
This is more than enough for one submission so I’ll share the driving experience for another time..
Until next time..
Very nice looking car.