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  1. #1
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    Notes from the Flyover Zone...

    "Where to start???" - Fad15

    "Well now, I'll begin at the beginning..." Father Peter Lonergan in 'The Quiet Man'

    Thought I would go ahead and share a couple of stories here ; might help with someone's insomnia. But remember - y'all asked for it!

    Guess I will start by telling about my first car. [insert blatant, shameless plug for one of my blogs at www.firstcarstories.com here...as well as plaintive requests for submissions from forum members. ] Normally, I would say that my first car was a 70 Plymouth RoadRunner. But Stiff was kind enough to send in a story about his first car, before he could drive legally, which got me to thinking... I actually had a car before my Plymouth. Well, at least a part interest in one. Let me explain..

    At not quite 15 years old, we were living in a semi rural area outside of a [at that time] small suburb of Tulsa. I had a friend named Jim from across the lane that I rode dirt bikes with, played baseball with, and talked cars with a lot. Jimmy's dad was a mechanic and owned a small garage and wrecker service in town. Jim was already a pretty good mechanic himself, and went on wrecker calls if his dad was busy. The local constabulary knew him obviously, and knew he was under age with no license, but nothing was said as he drove well, didnt do anything stupid and was performing a valuable service. Hey, it was a different time...

    Anyway, we had a friend named Lawrence that was a couple of years older than us. Initially, Lawrence was dating one of Jimmy's 5 sisters, which is how we got to know him, but even though that relationship didnt last too long, our friendship carried on. Lawrence had a beautiful, metallic turquoise 63 Impala. Turquoise inside and out, it was just a 283 and Powerglide car, but ran fine and looked great with it's chrome reverse wheels.

    Late one evening, Jim's phone rings and its Lawrence. Lawrence asked Jimmy to bring the wrecker as the Chevy had stopped, apparently in a fairly spectacular fashion. James went and picked the car up, dropped Lawrence at his house, then towed the car to the Garage.

    The next day after school, investigation as to the cause of the breakdown commenced. It was immediately apparent that the engine was locked up tighter than a drum, but no external clues were extant as to the cause, so the decision was made to do 'exploratory surgery'. Removal of the valve covers showed that the car had dropped a valve, but that shouldn't have caused the immediate lockup of all rotating masses that Lawrence experienced. Upon removal of the pan, the issue became apparent. It had a bent rod.

    Now, I know what you're thinking [assuming you've made it this far and have ANY interest in, or knowledge of, things mechanical] but this wasnt just your ordinary bent, not broken, connecting rod. This one was wrapped AROUND the crankshaft. Wrapped around it... The rod looked like an " @ ". Never seen anything like it.

    Well, obviously this was major and fixing it was going to be a major expense. While we were all there standing around marveling at metallurgy, wondering what happened and discussing what to do, Lawrence finally looked up and said 'If y'all will pay the tow bill, y'all can have it.'

    'Have it? As in free? As in the car is ours?'

    'Yep. Pay the bill and its yours'.

    Jimmy ran in the office, stamped the bill 'PAID' and said 'Bring the title'.

    Lawrence took off on his TS400 and Sir James and I just stood there giggling.

    'Now what?'

    Now, this was several years before the movie, but like Spicoli, Jim's dad DID have this 'ultimate set of tools', so he says 'We can fix it!'

    Having both a garage and a tow service naturally meant that the back lot turned into a small salvage; people sometimes wouldnt or couldnt pay the bill [s] , so occasionally cars were simply abandoned to the service provider. We immediately began scouring the back for suitable donor parts. Fortunately, small block Chevrolets were reasonably plentiful, and many/most parts interchanged [just watch small journal vs large journal lower ends..] so before too long, we had a stack of 'serviceable' pieces. These, together with unused gaskets saved from sets over the years, would form the basis of 'our' first car's Phoenix-like ascendancy back to the streets.

    Jim was, and still is, a much better mechanic than I, so admittedly, he did do the lion's share of the assembly, but I poured plenty of sweat equity into the car as well. I'll not bore the reader here with the technical specifications of the finished powerplant, for not only are they not germane to the discussion at hand, but at almost 40 years, quite frankly, I dont remember! The one thing I do remember vividly though is that the car was never 'smooth'. It simply ran somewhat rough. Of course, the fact that we had mismatched heads, using the one, undamaged 'PowerPack' head from the original engine on one side and another of indeterminate origin from the junkyard on the other bank, undoubtedly yielding differing compression ratios side to side, couldnt have had anything to do with it could it?!?

    But the car ran, and actually ran reasonably strong for what it was. It still looked good too. That turquoise colour in all its slightly varied shades throughout the 60s was, and still is, one of my favourite hues on an automobile.

    Once running, Jimmy started driving the car around town with some regularity, volunteering to run errands as well as just driving for no reason when time and circumstance allowed. Mostly circumstance... I drove the car occasionally too, [no, my folks didnt know, and still dont, so ssshhhhh...] even getting into my first [4 wheeled] street race against some kid in a little Mustang with it. And yes, the Impala was victorious - all couple of blocks of the contest.

    Before too long, James had occasion to have a 'meeting' with a local policeman on the side of the road, and it was suggested to Jim's dad that the Chevrolet be sold or rendered inoperable until that time when young master James actually had a driver's license...the occasional wrecker call could be overlooked, but Jimmy's latest infraction was apparently stretching the limit. So Jimmy sold the car, for $200, and kept all the money himself. I saw the car again a couple of years later in the parking lot of the local dragstrip, but never after that.

    Like I said, it was a different time.
    Last edited by malamute john; 11-12-14 at 10:21 PM. Reason: change link

  2. #2
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    What a bummer! He should have given you something out of the sale at least.
    Things must be a lot different over there, even back then. I doubt any of the cops over here would have turned a blind eye to a 15 year old driving a tow truck or car on the street
    Any pics of the old Impala John?

  3. #3
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    Majic absoulute MAJIC. Loved every word especially this

    Turquoise inside and out, it was just a 283 and Powerglide car, but ran fine and looked great with it's chrome reverse wheels.

    Can see in my mind right now.

    Different heads on the same engine, my kind of man. get it working, and sort the problems if you need to. keep it coming.

    And to all you other guys out there reading this stuff, come on in the waters lovely... tell us what you did and what you thought, its great fun for us all.
    G

  4. #4
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    Great stuff John...

  5. #5
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    Spot on

  6. #6
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    "Any pics of the old Impala John?"

    Regrettably no. I was terrible about taking photos during that time - still not that great - of anything other than cars/bikes at races occasionally.
    Of the millions of regrets that I have, not taking tons of pictures whilst growing up - especially of everyday things and friends and their machinery - ranks near the top.

    Thanx for the kind words guys.
    Last edited by malamute john; 06-05-14 at 11:47 PM.

  7. #7
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    Thinking about the above story made a few more 'Jimmy' stories come to mind. Although a little off topic, thought I might share this one with you. Hope thats OK.

    I rode BMX in the mid 70s. Actually, I had been riding BMX since I was 4 years old, we just didnt call it that ; it was just riding the 'trails' or riding bicycles on the dirt. Anyway, there was a proper BMX track built in Tulsa, so naturally I went racing there. The last season and a half or so that I raced, I was sponsored by a bicycle shop called the 5-10 Speed shop. It was originally/mainly a shop for higher end European bikes, but got in on the growing BMX phenomenon early on. It was owned by a very nice gentleman named Sonny Wilson. Sonny's given name was Enus - google Enus Wilson sometime ; he was a fairly successful sportscar racer in the early 60s with several Maseratis [including a Birdcage] and Iso Grifos. I even found a thread on AutoSport's Nostalgia Forum about him once. Of course, I didnt know all this til much later in our acquaintance; I was actually more familiar with his sister's husband's family's name as they were local SCCA racers of some repute. ANYWAY... I digress....
    What started out as a second hand Schwinn StingRay eventually morphed into a purpose built, and for the time, pretty trick, BMX bike. Sonny gave me one of the first set of Moto Mags available, and I eventually bought [at cost] an early Mongoose frame from him. With a set of first run Ashtabula forks and crank and GoodYear Eagle MX tyres, it was pretty nice if I do say so myself.
    But I digress again.
    We had a small motocross track in a field about 3/4 of a mile from my house that we cut out, using the natural terrain and trees as a guide, but added a water crossing/mudhole by digging out in a low area. Had no idea who owned the land...like I said, times were different. Anyway, we raced bicycles and motorcycles down there a lot, but todays installment isnt about motocross - its about Land Speed Records. Yep, I maintain that my old Mongoose [should] hold the land Speed Record for BMX bikes.
    One summer day, I had been down at 'our' track most of the afternoon. I'd ride awhile, then sit awhile. Some other guys would come by, we'd ride and race a bit, try to do 'Flyin Hawaiins' over the big jump, sit and shoot the breeze a bit, then I'd practice some more, etc. Fairly typical summer afternoon.
    About 5:30 or so, it was time to go home. Just as I started that direction, here comes my buddy Jimmy. Now, James was [ still is ] about 6 months older than I and had a car. Actually it wasnt even his first car ; see post above, nor was it his first 'legal' car even. Anyway...James had a 71 Blazer at this point - red w/white top and interior. It had a mild lift and 33's as I remember. It also had, for whatever reason, those big, optional, rear view mirrors designed for trailer towing with the big rectangular mirror head and the support arms that extended down to about a third of the way down on the door. [and ruined the door skin...]
    Jim stopped and we talked a bit. Then some idiot [me] got a brilliant idea.
    "Hey James, I'm tired man. Why don't you pull me as far as your house? I'll just grab the mirror here and I can pedal the rest of the way after we get to your driveway."
    "Sure man. Hang on."
    So off we went.
    Everything was fine til we turned the corner onto the straight, half mile stretch of fine quality Wagoner County roadway leading past his house. Jim started grinning and began accelerating...
    Now, as we all know, teenage boys tend to think they are invincible. Plus, they don't always think about possible bad outcomes from their actions. And the worst indignation of all is 'chickening out'. So , as Jimmy continued to accelerate, I continued to hang on. When the secondaries opened up, I started yelling at him , calling him everything but one of God's children as he began laughing maniacally. Of course, I hung on, and of course, he continued going faster. Very soon, he had to start braking to turn into his drive, with me still loudly questioning his parentage, moral fibre and sexual preferences.
    Once we stopped, and after a couple of weak attempts to punch him through the open driver's side window, I breathlessly huffed out "How fast were you going you S.O.B?"
    "Ah , only about 75 you wuss."

    So, I propose that my poor old dirty bike may indeed hold the Land Speed Record for BMX bikes. Think the SCTA would recognise it and put me in the books at Bonneville?
    Last edited by malamute john; 07-05-14 at 08:53 PM. Reason: typo

  8. #8
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    That's a damn good advert for Goodyear!

    Great stories John

  9. #9
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    "advert for Goodyear.."

    Indeed; and in addition, the front one still has late 70s air in it! Drug it outta the attic a couple of years ago and the front tyre was/is still up. Don't make em like that anymore...

  10. #10
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    More on topic this time... but one more quick tale from the summer of 75...

    Had a buddy named Robert, who was the youngest of three boys. His oldest brother was named Gene - we called him Mean Gene, cause, well, he kinda was. Anyway, Mean Gene was a big ol boy ; dark brown hair about to his shoulder blades, a big bushy beard and arms the size of my thighs. I have literally seen Gene pick up a Cragar S/S with an L60-14 tyre mounted on it and throw it like a baseball...at Robert. Gene's daily driver was a 61 Corvette. Red with black soft top and interior, the car had Cragar S/S wheels - rears sticking out of the wheel openings a bit and 4 1/2s on the front- and a pretty stout 327 with 11:1 pistons and a lumpy cam. All this went thru a 4 speed to 4.88s in back. When Gene was driving down the street, all you could see was biceps and hair thru the side window.
    Gene had a buddy named Eddie. Eddie was the opposite of Gene ; trim , athletic build, blonde hair somewhat long-ish, but well within 'socially acceptable'/fashion at the time, clean shaven and soft spoken. And Eddie had a hardtop only 62 Corvette. Eddie's car was nicely turned out ; it was painted a metallic gold w/Cragars at this time, soon to be Centerlines, with a black interior. Eddies car had a very trick '301' in it with 12.5 to one squeeze, roller cam and rockers. It RPMed like a two stroke. A snorkel hood scoop covered the two 660s sitting atop a Weiand Tunnel Ram. That car was FAST. I saw it lift the wheels on the street, thru the mufflers and on street tyres, once. And that was in 1975. No tubs, no 4 link, nothing. Just 62 Corvette.
    Now, a few miles south of town, there was an area called the Catasham Bottoms. It was an agricultural area and sparsely populated. There is a stretch of road running thru it that is a reasonably wide 2 lane, smooth, flat and completely straight for nearly 2 miles with sod farms on one side and soybeans on the other. That particular area was fairly well known as a good place to conduct scientific and mathematical experiments ; you know, like discovering the practical application of Second Derivatives and doing physics experiments studying the relative accelerative capabilities of varying mechanical combinations housed in differing structures. Ofttimes side by side... All in the name of Science and Research you understand...
    So one Friday evening, I was 'spending the night' at Robert's house. We kinda forgot to mention to my folks that Robert's parents were leaving as soon as Robert's dad got home from work to go to a wedding of some relative's kid out of state and had left Mean Gene 'in charge'... Late that night, we piled up in Eddie's old International pickup, Gene driving, me in the front with Robert, a pair of slicks, a small floor jack and a few tools in the back, and followed Eddie out to the Bottoms. There was supposed to be this badfast Cougar coming out there that had apparently loudly opined that his car was the fastest accelerating contrivance extant in at least a hundred square mile area. Eddie had decided to go and prove his theory incorrect. [all in the name of science and research again... ] So, we all roll in, began the normal recon and psy ops, and Gene starts putting the slicks on the car. Pretty soon he hollers at Eddie to throw him the keys.
    'How come?'
    'So I can get the bleach outa the trunk.'
    'You've got the bleach in the truck.'
    'No I dont - you said you threw it in the trunk!'
    'NO... I said for you to throw it in the truck!'
    'No you didnt...' etc etc.
    They're still mildly arguing when Eddie crawls in the car to fire it up and get the 'experiment' rolling. Finally Eddie said somewhat dismissively 'Aw ferget it. Just p*ss on it...'
    Eddie pulled the car up and Gene walked out there with it as normal. However, after the Cougar had completed its 'warm up' and Eddie was pulling into his lane, Gene took him literally, walked to the side of the car, unbuttoned his Levis and let loose in front of the rear tyres! A puddle on each side. We're all standing there aghast and agape as Gene motions Eddie into the 'bleach box' and signals him to light em up! Needless to say that when that Corvette moved into the 'bleach', we all scattered!!!

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