Category Archives: Cars

Hailstorm Aftermath


Last week, parts of the Upstate of South Carolina experienced a very severe storm with golf ball sized hail.  No, this is not an April Fool’s day story; on the contrary.  Because of the weather event, my wife’s 2008 Chevrolet Heritage High Roof (HHR) endured a great deal of hail damage, resulting in it being totaled.

Both of us had become attached to the utilitarian HHR not for its luxurious appointments but because it was a very versatile little vehicle.  I hauled lumber in it several times, took several long trips in it, and our two Corgis fit very comfortably with the back seat folded down.  The HHR got decent mileage and overall was very economical.  Perhaps the only shortcoming on the HHR is that it is nose heavy and thus the front suspension components take a lot of wear.  On the other hand, this HHR shares the same 2.4L Ecotec with bowtie6.

The storm hit late in the afternoon, around the time to leave from work.  Fortunately I was working late that night, and a good friend of mine called and warned me about the bad weather.  Since I didn’t want to have RedRock damaged, I took refuge in the underground parking lot at a mall across the street from my office.  Suffice to say, I was not the only one!

However, the HHR did not fare as well.  At the time of the storm, the HHR was in the parking lot at my wife’s workplace.  She took the picture shown here from the side door of her office.  It is a very helpless feeling when hail of this size falls knowing all too well the amount of damage being done.

The next day, my wife called our insurance carrier.  The rep was very nice and said they had received many calls reporting this sort of damage.  During that call, the rep gave my wife an appointment to have the HHR inspected.

As we talked about this with my wife later that night, I did a few Google searches trying to figure out the current value of our 2008 Chevy HHR.  It was then when I realized the HHR might be totaled.  Like I mentioned above, our HHR was not a luxury cruiser, however mechanically it was in perfect shape with something like 83,000 miles on the odometer.

After a lengthy 40 minute inspection, the adjuster gave us the bad news:  it would take almost $5,000 to repair the hail dings.  He said this is a very time-consuming process and the amount of time to repair damage was too large.  For example, the hood took several direct hits…

And these are only the larger ones.  There were multiple smaller dings that did not show up very well in these pictures.  What about the roof?  Well, these pictures show what happened there…

The insurance company gave us two settlement options:

  1. Accept the lesser amount of money, keep the car and have it repaired.  The problem with this option was the title would be re-issued as “salvage” and the HHR would need a road-worthiness inspection.
  2. Accept a larger amount of money and have it towed away.

The first offer didn’t thrill me.  That road-worthiness inspection has “hassle” written all over it and the salvage title means resale value would be non-existent.  So, we accepted the second offer which incidentally was very fair.  We had entertained the idea of trading the HHR and we were semi-looking but not very serious as of yet.  I suppose this means we will be getting a new car sooner than later (stay tuned, I’ll have an update on our next car!).

Sadly though, the rollback truck showed up yesterday and took the HHR away…

So long, HHR!

Jim’s Garage Rock Crawler

LS3 powered Rock Crawler

This past Thursday, I went to lunch with my friend Jeff to a local deli and on the way out, saw this Jim’s Garage rock crawler in the parking lot.  This is not something you see every day, so inquisitive minds wanted to “know”.  We walked over and found two gents discussing how they were going to unload the rock crawler and move it from one trailer to another.

After a few questions, we were able to ascertain the builder of the rock crawler was from somewhere in North Carolina while the owner of the vehicle was from somewhere in Alabama; I suppose they picked Greenville SC as a place to meet.  I asked if it would be alright for me to take a few pictures of the rig and they were kind enough to agree, so I started clicking away…

Not your typical Jeep!

This is not exactly my cup of tea, but I appreciate serious craftsmanship when I see it.  This rock crawler is something else!  The builder said he put the entire frame together himself.  The center console and dash is all aluminum and I asked him if he had also worked on that.  He said that came from another fellow that made it special.  This is what the dash looks like:

Check out the “hold on for dear life” t-bar

The rock crawler was pretty much complete, however it was not wired up nor painted.  The engine was not running as it had yet to be wired, plumbed, etc.  As you can tell, there is no instrumentation either.  I asked a few more questions about the powertrain.  This is where it got really interesting.  Lurking under all the sheet-metal and that awesome tube frame is a very low mileage LS3 from a C5 Camaro.  I asked about the throttle and the owner said is is a “fly by wire” unit.  I did notice none of the pedals were installed, however the owner said he had the correct electronic throttle pedal for it.  Wiring came from MAST and that included the ECU too.  The owner said the entire kit came tuned to match the hot cam in the engine.

Somewhere in there is an LS3

The rear suspension and axle are something else in order to stand up to abuse and the power of the LS3.  Unfortunately, I don’t have more info about all the components.  The two gents were really busy and I did not want to push my luck asking more than I should.  Here is that awesome rear axle and suspension.

Seriously beefed up axle

Somebody really did their homework on this machine.  The suspension is over the top, but anything else would be “uncivilized”.  As you look at each picture individually, notice the builder cut no corners:  the welds are impeccable and notice the generous use of grade-8 hardware.  Those end links are amazing.  Nothing is left to chance here – a truly purpose built machine.

The fuel cell sits behind the seats and the floor above the rear axle is a very nicely made piece of cut sheet steel.  Very nice work indeed, with the builder’s name part of the pattern.  Matter of fact, I had no clue who the builder was until I went through the pictures and saw this detail!

Builder’s name… Spot on!

In closing, the owner told us he plans to take the entire rock crawler completely apart and ship the frame off to have it powder coated.  Then, the body panels will be wrapped in vinyl and then the fun part starts.  Assembling, wiring and getting this thing ready for prime-time will be one hell of fun job!

I can only imagine the large sum of resources invested in this rock crawler.  Having built and worked on many cars myself, I know this kind of stuff takes commitment and deep pockets.  However, when this thing fires up in anger and starts attacking off-road venues, man!  What an awesome ride that will be!

And finally, right before I left I told the owner his rock crawler reminded me of a similar vehicle used in the film The Man From U.N.C.L.E..  He told me he had never seen the picture but he was going to try to check it out.

Well, interesting thing YouTube.  Here is that final chase scene from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. – make sure you watch the part where the off-road vehicle skims the surface of the water (starts at around 2:35)…  Wonder if the Jim’s Garage rock crawler could do this?  Hehehe…  :mrgreen:

 

Engine Rebuild in Time-Lapse Video

Some time ago, I posted an engine rebuild in time-lapse video of a Triumph Spitfire motor.  In case you want to see what that looks like, click here.  Well the history of Triumph engines is not exactly “stellar”.  You see, Triumph engines are not much more than glorified tractor motors.  In some cases, they started life as pump engines.  Want to piss off a Triumph purist?  Tell them their engines are tractor motors!!  😯

So back to today’s post…  My friend Michael sent me an email today with a very interesting link.  The link points to a YouTube video showing a rebuild of a classic Chrysler HEMI engine.  No tractor or pump engine folks!  This is the real deal; truly legendary stuff.  So kick back, and enjoy.

There is so much to see in this video.  I’ve watched it many times and every time I see something new.  But most impressive is:

  • The Intake –  the intake plenum and runners are all made from scratch from tubing.  Those long runners are for a reason:  produce torque.
  • The exhaust – check those tubes!!
  • The empty cans of beer – beer good!
  • The green MG Midget – pump motor anyone?  LOL!

This is an awesome video.  Thanks Michael!!

Incidentally, custom intakes and custom exhausts…  Been there done that.  My cousin Jim made both intake and exhaust from scratch in bowtie6:

Saving the best for last…  Here is a Chevy engine rebuild in time-lapse video…

Long live the Chevy Small Block!!

Somebody please give me a cigarette!  😉

1980 Corvette

img_2349I am constantly in search for a new restoration project and this weekend I took a closer look at this 1980 Corvette.  According to the owner, it has  been stored for a decade and is in need of serious restoration.  Yes, it is a basket case but…  It is a C3 Corvette and it is red!

The 1980 Corvette is not known for anything close to “high performance”.  Instead, this is the start of the last body change for the C3 Corvette.  For 1980 through 1982 Corvettes, the nose received a re-design as well as the rear fascia modifications.  Regarding the engine, well, that is another matter completely.  These poor cars became neutered victims of government emissions restrictions and thus, the California equipped engine produced something like 180hp, the standard engine produced 200hp and the high-performance version did at best a whopping 220hp.  Oh how things have changed in 35 years; contrast that with my 2014 Camaro packing 400hp of electronic fuel injected power.

So what do we have here?  According to the build decal on the driver’s door,  this car is vintage October ’79 production of a 1980 Corvette.  The paint is past its prime, the interior is nasty and the engine is not original.  I have no idea how the engine is because it is not running.  This is an automatic transmission car and it has power widows.  The red paint is very faded but I think it must be the original color because there is not evidence of any other color in the jams.  I tried to look for the plaque with the color code but did not find it.

In other words, this 1980 Corvette is in need of a full body-off restoration.  However, as the following photos will show, there is some good:  wheels are original aluminum options, it has original T-tops and the body panel gaps (especially the hood) fit exceptionally well.  I found the spare tire and all glass is intact including trim pieces.

Front Nose

Since this is a 1980 Corvette, the nose section features the improved aerodynamic design.  In my opinion, it is easier on the eye but not as nice as the chrome-bumper version.  I suppose this is a plus for this Vette.  You can also see what I mentioned earlier, the body gaps are all very nice indeed.  Just by looking at the surface this indicates no earlier collision damage, otherwise why would all this fit so well, right?

Rear and Side Panels

The rear of the car also fits well.  The plastic tail lights show some serious discoloration and weathering but the rear glass is in good condition including the rear de-fogger.  The black trim is all in place, but it has peeled a little on the driver’s side.

T-Tops

Oh yes!  T-tops are de rigueur on a C3 Corvette and this one has T-tops.  I did not see any damage to the T-tops although I did not try to remove them.  There is no telling how long ago it has been since they were last removed.

Interior

And now really ugly part:  the interior.  This poor Corvette has not been treated very nicely and consequently the interior is in very poor shape.  The carpet is expired, ditto for the seats, door skins and dash.  The console is also in poor shape.

The knuckle in the tilt steering is broken as well as the outside plastic trim on the steering stalk.  I am not sure if the cloth seats are “original”, perhaps they were re-upholstered at some point in time but they will need full restoration – they are nasty!.  Funny thing though… If you look inside the glove box, on the left are slots for 8-track tapes.  Gotta love the 70’s!

What Next?

A basket case like this is not a deterrent to me.  After all, when I first purchased bowtie6 many years ago, it was in very bad shape.  Prior to bowtie6, I restored a 1984 Jaguar XJ6 which I drove with Corvette LT1 power for 16 years.  It too, was in bad shape.  Finally I have my cousin Jim’s machine shop and his ability to restore cars.

Since the engine is not original in this 1980 Corvette, my plans would be to replace it with a new LSx engine with a matching automatic transmission.  My preference is always a 6-speed but that would need a new pedal box and that would add complexity.  In my opinion the existing engine is just not worth it; instead an LSx will offer enough power to make this Corvette perform to modern standards.

Paint and body work don’t scare me either; I have access to paint guns, and a paint booth.  Granted, I have never worked on a fiberglass body but the fiberglass on this car does not show any serious cracks or missing pieces.  There will be a great deal of work preparing the body for new paint but that is mainly hard work and patience and even more hard work.  Finally, there was a little damage to the tip of the edges on the hood near the windshield, but I can almost assume this is a common issue with these cars.

When we inspected the car yesterday, the area under the windshield wiper mechanism looked in very good shape and there was no evidence of poorly repaired collision damage.  Again, the body panels fit very well.  I also inspected the inside of the rear fender wells and there was no evidence of rust.  The rear roll-pan where the spare tire does not show any collision damage either so all-in-all the car looks solid.

One more concern is that both door latches did not work so well.  They appear to be gummed up because the mechanism did not release very well.  The door latches did release but not smoothly.

The interior will be the most challenging aspect.  I did notice the speedo looked odd.  From what I have researched Corvettes of this vintage had the dreaded 85 MPH speedometers installed.  This one did NOT have that; it was a normal speedometer.  Not sure what that means, perhaps this is because it is an October 79 production run.

The seats seem to be intact but the outside cover trim pieces are cracked.  I am not sure what availability of these pieces will be.  As for the rest of the interior, well I suppose that will need patience and a lot of work.

In Conclusion

I did not make an offer on the car.  Unfortunately the owner did not have a clear title and without that, I will not buy the car.  However I think there is potential.  Needless to say, we did not talk money yet but I am sure this car can probably be purchased at a low price.

OK.  I am a firm believer in buy the best car you can find.  However in a case like this, there is potential and if I were to buy this for a reasonable price then all for the better.  These are not super desirable C3’s but this is a C3.  I have always liked the aero treatment and I think they just look bad ass…

Finally I am going to reach out to you and ask for your opinion.  If you have owned (or currently own) a late C3 like this and would like to add any words of wisdom, please let me know in the “Comments” section below.  I also would welcome any advice on what you would consider a reasonable purchase price.

I have seen so many pictures of late C3’s this weekend my head is spinning!  And what makes this so hard to figure out is all those pictures are stunning!  A 1980 Corvette rebuilt is a looker for sure!

Thanks and look forward to any info, suggestions, etc.

img_2354

 

1937 Railton Special Limousine by Rippon Bros Coachbuilders

1937_Railton_12One of the featured cars in the August 2016 issue of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car magazine is a 1937 Railton Special Limousine by Rippon Bros Coachbuilders.  I had to do a double take when I saw the article because several years ago, I was able to photograph this very car.

But first, what exactly is a 1937 Railton Special Limousine?  This particular car hails from an era where a customer could have a car built bespoke to their specifications.  This Railton’s body was aluminum, made by one of England’s premier coach builders – the Rippon Brothers.  Matter of fact, Rippon Bros also built bodies for Rolls Royce.  This car was built for Reid Railton who was at the time, a land-speed record holder.

1937_Railton_11I had a chance to photograph this gorgeous car at a gathering of Hudson automobiles.  The event took place at the then owner’s home and there were numerous Essex-Hudson-Terraplanes on display.  But… What does this have to do with a Rippon?  You see, this limousine is powered by a Hudson engine!  Matter of fact Rippon cars were powered by Hudson engines and this was not the only one in the collection.  I’ll have more posts about the others soon…

Back to the 1937 Railton Limousine…

1937_Railton_02As you can see in this picture, the back seat has access to a pull-out table.  Each side featured a lift-top with compartments for many things…  On one side a fully stocked bar with crystal and barware necessary for making cocktails along with compartments for cigars ; on the other side a vanity, with mirror, hair brush, comb, and aspirin bottle.  There was even a center compartment with silver plated affairs to hold various snacks and sweets.  And that was just the start…

1937_Railton_03The rear trunk area includes custom fitted luggage!  That compartment at the very top, included plenty of tools all neatly arranged in their respective locations.  That trunk lid is special…  Note the part with the corrugated rubber – that is there for a reason:  it is designed for adults either standing or seated.  But why?  This car could also double as a shooting-brake and yes, it has a “secret”, water-tight compartment designed to hold shotguns.  I also remember seeing under the front seat several drawers containing an assortment of fuses, spark plugs, spare light bulbs, etc.  The dash also had a pull out map tray.  There was nothing left to chance here.

The chrome work around the front grille and emblem is something else!

IMG_3839The article in the issue of Hemmings Sports & Exotic car magazine mentions this car is now part of the Gilmore Car Museum (Hickory Corners, MI) and was transferred there by the car’s previous owner, a Hudson collector by the name of Eldon Hostetler.

These pictures were taken when the car belonged to the owner prior to Mr Hostetler at his residence in Greenville SC.  If memory serves me right, this was in the summer of 2006.

Finally, I do remember this car as being gorgeous but at the time was not in “museum quality”.  According to the article in the magazine, the limousine went through an extensive restoration and won numerous awards.

1937_Railton_081937_Railton_05

Further Reading

Conceptcarz.com article about the 1937 Railton Limousine – there are interesting pictures here.

LaVine Restorations article about the 1937 Railton Limousine – apparently the Limousine underwent restoration by this company and there are very nice pictures on this link.

1937 Railton Limousine at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance – this link opens to a beautiful photo collection from Ryland Scott Photography at the time the Limousine was shown a Pebble Beach in 2011.

Special Feature at Hemmings website – this link opens the article at the Hemmings website about the 1937 Railton Limousine.