Monday, February 29, 2016

Looking Back - '64 Galaxie

Cars are cool.  I think we can all agree on that, but the fun thing about cars and car culture is that there are so many different ways cars can be cool.  There's a lot of different schools of thought on cool cars and cool builds.  From import tuners to American muscle, road racing to drag racing, and concourse restorations to rat rods, everybody has their tastes, preferences, and ideas on what to build and how to build it.  No two builders have exactly the same style, and likewise, every car has a little different flavor because of it.

Different Car Cultures - Love them all
I trace my automotive roots squarely back to my ride to preschool.  My mom may have dropped me off in her '87 Taurus wagon, but dad would pick me up in his '64 Galaxie 500 sedan.  This thing was by all means a Charlie Car.  It was handed down by a great uncle or something like that to my dad, and I bet he paid next to nothing for it.  It was a beautiful two-tone of rust and metallic brown.  The exhaust must've been an option back then because there wasn't hardly even traces that it had been there.  From the stories I heard, I think it had the 2-speed Ford-O-Matic trans, so it was likely temperamental and got horrible mileage.  But in my 4-year old mind, this old family sedan was the coolest thing I'd ever seen...  I suppose it probably was at that point!  It was huge and awesome, and it looked cool, and it was fun to ride in, and it had "power," and the 289 sounded awesome, and... I think you get the idea.  Preschool me was all about that Galaxie.  I absolutely loved going out to meet my dad and his awesome ride after school each day!  I even remember when he replaced the rear leaves with some custom ones that he asked for a little extra arch to jack up the back.  After a few years he got a deal on a '67, and it took me a solid decade plus to appreciate the look of that one.  I blame that Galaxie for a few things, but most notably, my obsession with full-size Fords.  (The wagons got tacked on somewhere else in history.)  I liked that car so much, I was mad at my dad for years when he junked it when we moved out of state.  I also bought my '64 Fairlane wagon mostly because it reminded me of that car.

If you can picture this without the flames, the spot light, the spare tire, the vinyl roof, the lake pipes, the rims, and the fender skirts, that's what my dad's looked like.  Just a plain old '64 sedan in metallic brown with body matched steel wheels, rust quarters, and no exhaust.  Perfection.
 On a similar note, I really enjoy looking old pictures of '60s and '70s drag racing.  It really makes me wonder what it must've been like back in the day.  Those old gassers and funny cars and pro-stock dragsters just look so cool and muscular.  I'd love to have a car built to be a replica and do nostalgia drag racing.  Who am I kidding?  I just want to go watch nostalgia drag racing!  One of these summers, I'm going to find a race to go watch; just you wait.

These Duster's are always cool.
It's really neat to learn from the past when you are growing up and trying to move yourself toward the future.  I've adopted a motto to help remind myself of that; "as long as I learned something, it wasn't a waste."  Whether it's photography, working on cars, or even relationships, as long as you take something away that sticks with you and makes you better, stronger, or more ready to adapt to the next challenges, it isn't the worst thing you could've done.  Granted, it would've been better to not need the lesson, and it would be even better to not repeat the same lesson fifteen times, but we all start somewhere.  Learning from the past and our predecessors is the smartest way - to learn from other people's experience.  But sometimes we want to have that firsthand experience too.

Can you smell the rubber in the air?
Putting that all together (and you thought I was just rambling this whole time!  See?  I do have a plan hidden in here!), I would love to someday own the experience of old school hot rodding by rebuilding a '63-'66 Galaxie 2-door hardtop.  I would even build it to be old school.  Stock suspension, as stock of brakes as deemed reasonable and prudent, top-loader 4-speed, and a stock rebuilt 390 V8 with a 4 barrel carb.  I'd love to have dual quads, a high-rise intake, a lumpy cam, or to magically find a 427, but I think a rebuilt, stock 390 would be the most accurate portrayal of the big, full-bodied beasts roaming the streets back in the '60s and also a cooler, hotter version of my dad's car from back in the early '90s.  All I really want to do is bang through the gears, smoke the tires, and glide down the highway thinking about what it must've been like driving one of those everyday... and how much my dad would also have loved to have a 2-door with a big block!  I hope, when I die, I get to pull my supercharged, 6-speed Crown Vic into the the parking lot of the pearly gates next to him and his Galaxie.  Long live the the full-size!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Sno Leopard Part 2: The Acquisition, Sort of

Picking up where we left off from part 1, we went to get it.  For all interested parties, this is what the ad said:
"I have a 2000 Mercury Grand Marquis I am looking to sell.  It has just under 111k miles on it.
The car starts, but seems to need quite a bit of work done.  I'm just not 100% sure what exactly needs to be done.
It starts, but will not push over 25-30 mph.  I got it looked at and was told it was the engine, but they aren't sure what exactly.  And it will cost more for them to diagnose the issue.  I have been looking for a new car anyway, so I figure it's just time to get rid of it now.
There's paint damage on the outside, scratches, passenger mirror missing...  There is some damage inside as well.  Small burn holes in the seat, cup holder needs to be adjusted and fixed, radio buttons are stuck (but radio still works)...  The whole interior probably should just be reupholstered.
I'm not asking for much.  I really just need to rid of it.  I have a junkyard willing to come take it and give me $300 for it.  Just wanted to see if there were other options before I had them come take it.
Contact me at [867-5309]. Text anytime.  Calls before 4pm."

This sounded to me like a dream come true for the project I was setting out to do.  I was giddy as a school girl.  The only downside is I had to wait a week to pick it up.  The guy was cool and said he'd hold it, so all I had to do was survive the week knowing that I got to buy a car at the end of it.  I'm never good at the waiting game with all the anticipation.  Plus I'd had the itch to buy another car for about 6 months now.  It's like chronic herpes; my itch to buy a car flares up pretty much annually.
And how could you say "no" to that face?  For $300!

My favorite phrase: Negotiable Price
I talked to him the day after he posted it (Saturday) and told him the soonest I could be there was the following Sunday.  He told me that he'd hold it for me for a week.  I started getting my ducks in a row.  I realized I was going to be a little short on funds once you add on gas, food, tolls, etc, so I called in a favor from the guy who I helped buy a motorcycle a year and a half ago to spot me the rest of the money, and he was cool with it and coming along for the fun.  I asked a guy at work, and he said he was in with a truck, but I still needed to find a trailer.  I looked and looked, and finally, I found out that my old mechanic (who also happens to rent U-haul) would streamline the operation by coming along with his truck and trailer to go get the car.  This was all looking good by Tuesday, so I sent the guy a txt confirming our Sunday meeting and that all was good on my end.  No reply.

Thursday, I heard from the guy with the trailer that he lost his transmission, but he said he was taking it to a shop to get rebuilt that day, and he was optimistic that he'd have it back by the end of Friday on a rush job.  I wasn't so hopeful.  Friday came, and it was clear his truck wasn't an option.  I asked the original truck guy, and he had already made other plans for that day.  On top of all that, my buddy with the money wasn't feeling up to coming along anymore either.  I txted the guy with the car, and he says he has  to work all day Sunday (because I'm sure he didn't know THAT a week ago...).  I txted him a few more things, and never heard back.  It's been about three weeks now, and I'm still watching for another screamin' deal like that to keep this project almost a reality.  Sounds like that car wasn't supposed to be, but I'm still optimistic for the overall project.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sno Leopard Part 1: The Hunt

I was at work the other night, and one of my regulars came in to pick up a part he ordered.  This guy builds crazy lifted trucks in his free time, and I'd talked to him before about Alaska and lifting a Vic, but not seriously.  He always said I should go four wheel drive, and I just dismissed it as opposing viewpoints.  I mean, I wasn't gonna lift the car anyways, right?  Well, then I realized that I wasn't going to be able to build the Ranger for Alaska, but then I saw this:

Now that's a look!
This I could get into, and in my mind, I figured I could just get one of those lifts for the big rims and slap on mud tires instead.  So I started talking to him about lifting my Vic with this kind of "not quite the intended use, but should get the job done" method (a method I normally embrace wholeheartedly). He explained there are different types of these lifts and that some would work better than others for what I was talking about doing, but in the end he says to me, "you should just do what I've been saying all along; make it four wheel drive with some Grand Cherokee axles (because they are both coil spring vehicles with control arms and you'd only need to add brackets), and find a pull-stick transfer case from an F-150 that'll bolt right in, a couple of driveshafts, and you're good to go."  (That might not all be a direct quote, but close enough you get the points he made.)  For some reason, I hadn't heard all this the first eight times we talked about it, and this time a light went on. (Also knowing of a rusted out ZJ for $200 helped convince me.) Then he added on, "I've got a set of axles at my shop that I'm not gonna use," and I was hooked.  I went on the glorious list by Craig that night, and I even found a 4R100 and transfer case out of an Expedition for only $100!  I later was told not to get that because it's probably push-button, but still!  The wheels were turning in my head at full speed by now, and it was really hard to concentrate at work.

People who know me and my Crown Vic fetish will know that I put a veritable shit ton of money into the suspension on my current Vic.  While I only paid $1250 for the car, I probably stuck another $2000 of suspension under it between neglected maintenance and upgrades.  It handles really good now, let me tell you!  Needless to say, I didn't want to scrap that, and with the nearly rust free body and frame, I wasn't too interested in goin' all Mike Finnegan on the wheel wells.  Quick!  Back to the Craig's Cave!  Oh man!  Look what I found!  It's even old man blue!!

For the record, this is the second worst color they put on a Vic.  My uncle had a salmon colored one.  Excuse me while I go puke...
I found this little beauty for only $300, and it was only 2 hours and 40 minutes from me, and it ran rough, wouldn't go over 25-30 mph, and I don't have a trailer, and my tow vehicle needs a tranny!  (I really hope your voice went up in pitch from giddy anticipation as much as mine did. Otherwise, I'd feel bad that you missed out.)  $300. Score!  I txted the guy the next morning, and he said he'd hold it for a week with the assumption that I understood it wasn't a daily driver at this point.  I asked everyone I knew who liked cars if I could borrow a trailer (or if they even had one), but then it hit me; if I dragged it to my southern mechanic and left it there for a while, I bet I could get AAA to tow it!  I mapped it out, and sure enough, 81 miles if we took the back roads!  My plan cover 4 tows annually up to 100 miles each time.  This looked like it was going to work!  Chicagoland, here I come!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

AK or Bust: Plans Change

Last April, I decided I should save for a year and go on an adventure.  Summer came, and between all the awesomeness I did and all the money I poured through my car, I pretty much failed at saving anything.  I also have a new-ish job, so I didn't think I'd be able to get away.  With the new year being upon us, I've revisited the concept, and would like to try again for April 2017.  I wanted to build a 4x4 to drive to Alaska, but the other Day I was talking about it with my mom, and she said that I'm aiming too high, and I should just take a Crown Vic because it's something I know, and it isn't the usual vehicle someone would take to Alaska, so it's unique and attention grabbing.
Plus they are fun in the snow!
Originally, I was planning on buying an '83-ish Ranger roller from my friend's grove (well, more of a frame and a bare cab).  I wanted to buy the motor, trans, and transfer case out of a late '80s F-150 with the 5.0 and swap it in and convert it to a carburetor for ease of install.  Then I was going to build a roll cage that would tie into the frame and cab and morph into a tubular flatbed in back.  Finally, I was going to scrap the I-beam front axle and buy a cheap parts Jeep Cherokee and steal the axles out of it for this project (and add an XJ lift) and use the motor for a different project that would happen later (heirloom FC).

Just look at how cool this is.
This was apparently too much.

Enter Crown Vic.

In case you don't know, I'm infatuated with Crown Vics.  If I won the lottery, I'd spend most of it on Vics.
However, I'm planning on taking a Vic to Alaska.  Not just any Vic, mind you, an Ice Vic (which could also second as an ice race car... just sayin').  What constitutes an Ice Vic, you say?  Well first thing's first; I'd have to start with making sure all the maintenance is up to snuff because it's a used police car and all, but then the only way to go is up.  I'm gonna find one of those lift kits for like 30" rims and get some ground clearance, throw on some truck tires, replace the plastic bumper covers with some tube bumpers, and trim the wheel wells to clear the tires during suspension travel.  I'm also going to add a hitch for a tow point.  I also want to build a cradle to mount a winch to that could slide into the hitch.  Then I'll add a piece of square tube in front so I can mount the winch on either end since it is only a 4x2 in the land of the ice and snow.  I'm on the fence about a roll bar only because I doubt I'll need it, but it might find its way in anyways.  Other than that, I'm gonna do some exhaust work and add some radios for emergency communications, and it should be ready to rock!
So in the next year and a third-ish, I'll be saving for travel costs and building this Vic (which is still way easier and cheaper that the Ranger).  As it happens, I'll keep you all updated on here. Can't wait to see how the build goes!
Viva Alaska!

Blustery Driving

I was driving home from work the other night, and is was Winter out.  While it wasn't snowing, per se, but it was blowing pretty hard and drifts were forming on the road as well as the road getting covered.  I was coming into a small town that I drive through, and I noticed I was gaining on the guy ahead of me.  Normally, I deal with this 2-3 mph difference by downshifting and letting the mechanical disadvantage work to my advantage.  There is a sweeping curve going into this small town, and I popped it down a gear by instinct (without thinking) right as we were turning into the curve.  Then I was suddenly reminded of my seasonal faux pas.  I was no longer closing the gap between us, but rather, I was now drifting and having to counter steer to keep the back end from passing me.  I have quite a bit of snow driving in my history (heck, I got my temps in November, back in the day), and I've gotten myself out of some interesting situations on snow before, so this wasn't a difficult thing for me to rectify once I realized what I'd done.

Not the road in question, but it looks pretty darn close between the curve and the snow that day
The rest of my ride home, I contemplated an episode of The Racing Line on the Motor Trend Youtube channel that I watched recently.  This video popped into my head because in it, Randy Pobst was talking about an improper downshift can jolt the tires enough to lose traction and have a sudden oversteer situation.  This is not the fastest way through a corner.  It is also not the safest in traffic on a snow-covered road.  Drive safe, everybody, and even if you've had a long day at work, think about the road you're on as you go along it.

I didn't mean for that last part to sound so deep, but hey, think about the road you're on in life too.  I'm gonna go think about how I need to build more cool cars.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

AK or Bust! The Genesis

Last Spring my best friend, Chad, moved to Alaska because he wanted to live the dream of the rugged outdoorsman living off the land out in the harsh terrain and desolation of a place as remote and dire as Alaska.  His wife gave him the extra push he needed to make it actually happen too!  They quit their jobs, stored their stuff with family, cleaned out their apartment in Milwaukee, and flew to Alaska with just what they fit in their two rolling suitcases.  They live in Anchorage, but they're up there and had basically nothing to get reestablished with.  They had the balls to go out and do something crazy, and that's the kind of gutsy move you don't see very often most of the time.

The wild and desolate wasteland... oh wait
I've always thought similarly to my buddy, Chad, and we also have the same ideas about living off-grid somewhere remote where we can be left alone by the majority of the world.  I've also always had a desire to see the glorious landscapes I've heard about and seen pictures of in Alaska.  I take pause at moving away from everyone I know and care about, but it's always been a draw for me.  Now I know someone up there who happens to be my best friend, and I see no good reason why I shouldn't go stay there for a while.

I also want to go on some photo excursions up there
The original plan was to save money from April '15 to April '16, and head up there right at the end of Spring.  I was even going to transfer my job up to a local parts store chain, so I wouldn't have to worry about finding work once I got there.  I hoped to work and use my weekends to go exploring in the back country of Alaska.  I promptly never saved a thing and blew all my money on car parts, tools, and a sweet Canon T5i camera.  While I would hesitate to label those things as mistakes, I also failed at my goal and let Chad down at the same time.

And I didn't get any aurora pictures
On New Years Day 2016, I was thinking about things including the awesome trip we're taking this May, and I started to think about Alaska.  As you'll read later, the trip in May has a $20/week savings plan to pay for itself attached to it from January first until we go.  This sparked some math, and according to my most likely flawed calculations (I'm not a stellar mathematician), if I pushed the trip back a year and saved $20/week from January first 2016 until April 2017, I'd have roughly $1500 to get me there.  It's about a 3700 mile trip one-way, and figuring 15mpg at $3/gallon times 3700 miles... I figured that'd be enough... to get there.

Only 68 hours, 3700 miles, and two border crossings away...
That's right; I'm driving! I mean, this is a car blog.  Why wouldn't I want to drive 3700 miles through Canada on the Al-Can highway from Milwaukee to Anchorage via Canada and Fairbanks?!?  If that wasn't enough, I figured I was gonna need a sweet all-capable 4x4 to get me there and take me four wheeling in the Alaskan countryside once I got there.  What better vehicle than a 4x4 Ranger chassis and cab that my friend had parted out and had sitting in his yard?!

It's a little rough...
Is it bad that the cab to 100 yards from the frame?
Worthless 2.8L V6
Wouldn't really need that bed either
I wanted to build a wicked rock crawler out of this thing with trimmed cab and a tubular flatbed and a roll cage tying the whole thing together.  I wanted a 347 stroker motor, manual valvebody automatic, built solid axles with lockers, a built-in tool box, room for all my stuff, the whole thing powder coated and skid plated, and lights everywhere.  This thing would be the ultimate trail rig... someday and with thousands of dollars strained through it.  It'd be the Ranger to end all Rangers.

And very multi-terrain oriented!
And so I'd take this Ranger from the rolling hills of Wisconsin all the way up to Alaska and hopefully to the Arctic Ocean to see how far North I could go.  I planned I would leave in the spring of '17 stay a year and a half (to experience a Summer, Winter, and Summer, because I doubt I could leave at the start of Summer), but as I learned with my saving for the original trip, not all thing are meant to be...  Stay tuned

Saturday, February 13, 2016


Hi.  How's it going?  It's been a while; I know.  I'm gonna cut to the chase.  It's been a few years since I've been posting on here mostly because my computer hasn't been set up in the last year and a half, and my great cool car pics haven't been accessible to enhance my posts.  That said, I have fixed that situation, and am moving in a positive direction in that concern.  My goal for 2015 was to build a badass daily driver and take it to as many car events as possible.  That went pretty well.  I missed a few that I was planning on, but I did a whole lot more than I had ever done in one driving season in the past, not to mention the first car on which I'd ever actually been able to afford to fund some good upgrades!  With that amazing automotive year in the rearview, I feel it's only right to kick-start my blog back into commission.  That said, I'm going to stick with the idea of weekly posts, but I'm going to have a few more categories than I originally set out to write.

Gotta get the wheels turnin' on this blog.
Originally, I started this blog to be "Car of the Week - The Cars in My Head," because I have too many wicked builds rolling around up there that I want to share, but I have no money to build and not nearly enough car friends to be able to talk about them with.  Not many people like to hear about your passion as much as you like to talk about it, especially if they're not passionate about it as well.  The "Car of the Week" part of it not only dictated how often I wanted to have posts going out, but it was also a nod to my brother who said when I was in high school that I wanted a different car every week.  While that wasn't too far from the truth, I've also been noted as seeing too much potential in vehicles and not what they really are.  I can't tell you how many deals I tried to make with my local junkyard when I was in high school, but in my defense, he had some pretty cool stuff hiding back in those rows upon rows of vintage steel.

If you can picture this without rims, axles, engine, trans, seats, twin scoop hood, and some of the floor, I could picture it becoming this car plus or minus the wheels.  I'm a big fan of Ansen slotted mags.

The rebirth of this blog, along with the name change, will bring more facets of the automotive culture into the posts found here.  I'm still going to talk about the cool cars I have lodged in my head; that's the main point of doing this; for sanity's sake.  I'm going to add posts about the builds I'm currently working on (or working toward working on, as the current case may be), posts about trips I've taken or am taking, posts about events and shows I'm attending, garage related stuff (because you need to have a place to work on these cars), crazy stuff I find working with cars and parts (we'll cover that in a second), car reviews, and write-ups about cars that I shoot.

This was a customer from the parts store who had a pretty good looking car.  She liked to work on it herself, which is pretty cool too.  See more at my Facebook page
Wait, what!?  One of the things I've grown quite passionate about while I've been absent from this page is photography.  I wish I could make money taking my cool night pictures, but the truth is the money isn't in the prints but rather in the photo shoots.  I'm working on enhancing my portfolio of intriguing car shoots in 2016 in order to be able to market my skills and get more people to hire my to photograph their cars.  I'd love the opportunity to make a living shooting pictures of cars and writing a blog like this, especially if it affords me the ability to go around to more places, shows, events, and anything else car-related to write and photograph those too.  Anything that gets me out on the road in my Vic seeing the countryside!

I'm very proud of this shot because of the subject and the photographer.  I am driving my Vic here at the 2015 Car Craft Summer Nationals in their first year in my backyard in Milwaukee.  This picture was downloaded off of when they posted a page talking about the autocross that year.  I got my car into a magazine... website!  I'll take it!  I'll tell you more later.
I supposed I should update you all from the last time I posted somewhat regularly.  I'm no longer in college, so that's a start.  I work in a car parts store and also in shipping and receiving in the parts department of a local GM dealership, which I know is a turn-coat thing to do with all the blue ovals in my veins and the three out in the driveway, but I had the connection to get in there.  It wasn't the task I really wanted at the dealership, but my foot's firmly in the door, and it pays the bills and gets me discounted parts and tools from more places than the parts store would get me.

The Escape doesn't seem to have made the cut on this shot, but I only own the Vic anyways.
My current car is an '02 Crown Vic LX Sport.  You'll note that the LX Sport is a P73, not a P71, so no, it has never been a police car, but I was told that the original owner was the aunt of a cop or something like that.  Who knows?  I have no reason to make it look like a cop car, so I'm leaving it like this.  I did put some police parts into it, but it was mostly suspension parts.  I've taken it autocrossing, and it wasn't terrible.  I love this thing, and while I'd love to leverage it into a better, faster '03, I don't think I can bring myself to sell it, although the offer has been made to trade it for a supercharger setup and some cash which would be moving toward the faster Vic.  Who knows what will come from that either?

She's not done, not by a long shot, but she is miles ahead of where she was when I bought her.  Also miles away from where I bought her.  Future post...
My other car hasn't been viewed by my own eyes since the summer of 2009.  It's a '74 Ford Maverick sedan.  It has the "Luxury Decor Option" which basically consists of a fancy leather (?) bucket seat interior, fancy wheel covers, air conditioner, and some stomach-turning paint options.  This one originally cam with a 250 inline 6 and either a C3 or C4 transmission.  I don't quite remember if I figured that one out or not.  I bought it with no motor, and I wanted to do a 302 swap, but we didn't have the resources to make it happen.  Between my dad working all the time, myself not knowing what I was doing to do it alone, and not having the space or tools to make it happen through my own dumb luck, the car really had no likelihood of getting done.  That pretty much describes the build (or lack thereof) of my Maverick.  I bought it at the age of 14 in the year 2000, and I last moved it from my third neighbor's shed to my fourth neighbor's shed when we moved away from it in 2009.  Now I live in SE WI while it sits decaying in a barn in SW MN, and I often wonder how I could find a way to bring it down here and make it run just so I can say I had this car for 16 years and actually got to drive it.  Someday...

This is a picture of the cars I owned when I was 17.  Not terrible.
This is getting long, so I'll wrap it up.  You can be sure you'll hear more about these cars and more in the posts that WILL be coming to follow this up and pump new and current life into this sadly forlorn blog.  I can't wait to make this what it should've been all along!

I know I only took this shot with my cell phone, but it still looks kick-ass.
If I can quote another automotive journalist, "The road is calling; what are you gonna do about it."