Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hot Rods 'R' Us

Bit of a gear head related post today. Even though my interest in moto powered devices has plummeted over the years, I am a bit of a gear head at heart. Motorcycles and cars alike. Number one though for me is still bicycles - no worry there.

I'm more of a foreign car guy and always have been. Small, light, good handling, high rev motors. At times though, I get a kick out of the American hot rod and muscle car scene. I also get a kick out of the subcultures that develop around specific activities and hobbies. The bicycle and hot rod crowds couldn't be more different and mingling between the two is a goof and a bit of fun.

With that, the town of Bothell held it's annual street fair last weekend. A small car show included at no extra charge. Call now, operators are standing by.....

Super clean classic Nova. Old school American car expert I'm not - so have no idea what year this is. Whatever year, really well done. Agree?

Fairly clean Pantera to gawk at. Interesting car - Italian design and American V8 powered. I'd like to drive one of these just once. I'd imagine it being fairly crude, but sorta light and decent handling.

Pantera engine compartment. You just place the grocery bags on top of the transmission. Will that be paper or plastic?

My favorite ride of the show. Some old school hot rod pick up truck. Again, expert I'm not - don't remember what exactly this is.

Race seats and NOS bottle, just the items needed to impress the local Prius driver. This truck also appeared used, not perfect - and that's always a plus in my book.

Super clean restored Bug. Well done, though I don't dig the color combo. This VW has also been listed in Craigslist for weeks now. Asking $12,500, seems pretty steep. I'm a air cooled VW fan and amazed at what some people are asking for nice specimens.

Okay, maybe this is my favorite car of the show. Nice old school Barracuda.

Rear view of 'Cuda. I still remember seeing one of these for the first time as a young kid in the '60s. Yeah, I'm old.

Okay, that car show is over and now time for another one (of sorts). I've occasionally searched for a 1991 - 1996 era Chevy or Buick wagon online. Last of the old school, rear wheel drive, V8 powered beast. I thought it would make a cool family and bike hauler. Part hot rod, part mini van, something out of the norm, fairly cheap to buy and way different then what I usually drive. Despite my fascination with these oversized freaks of nature, I've never driven one.

Since my car blew up months ago, we've been living with one car (quite successfully thanks to bike geek me), but I've cranked up the search a bit for something used. At times, the second car is useful, but since it sits in the driveway most of the time - looking for something cheap, but semi-reliable. I'm all over the map looking at various rigs, from Toyota Yaris with remaining warranty, to early '90s era Miyatas, to mini vans, to air cooled VWs.

A few days ago, noticed a '96 Caprice wagon at a local used car lot. Time for further investigation. I check it out and take the family for a test drive. What a goof - huge smiles all around. Fits 8 people, with the rear seats folded down two people can easily camp back there. Chevy 5.7 V8 motor allows the monstrosity to accelerate way faster then you'd think. From what I've read online, 17 - 22 mpg, lame - but inline with many SUVs and mini vans. Smurfy, cushy interior. Years ago I'd gag at it, now a source of amusement. 79,000 miles, super clean body, asking $4400. I can picture some cheap black mags on the thing and 4 bike rails on the included roof rack. Windows are already blacked out. The mind considers the idea of owning this white beached whale.

Sales Dude tells me to take it home for the night. I tell him I need to work the next day - don't worry about - bring it back tomorrow night. Whoo hoo, extended test drive. I drive it home cracking up the whole way. Once home, break out the flashlights and call the neighbor for serious inspection. Everything looks great, except for a fair amount of rust underneath the whale's great white belly. This whale has sampled some salt in it's diet. It all appears to be surface rust to me. It also has a bit of an oil leak under the pan and the rear differential is seeping a bit. Otherwise, everything else looks great and it runs really well.

Neighbor declares it not worthy of purchase - but he admits it should be fine for years - just not for him. After blowing it around the neighborhood a bit, complete with big grins, I crawl back under it with a screwdriver and flashlight to poke around some more. Besides two small pinholes in the front wheel wells, most of the rust appears to surface rust on the frame and other areas. Nothing pokes through and I think its structurally sound. I decide to drive it to work the next day and have a ex-mechanic coworker give his opinion.

The drive to work is a goof, I dig this stupid rig. I bring cardboard to lay on, flashlight, screwdriver and rag to wipe hands off. Thoughtful me. Two coworker dudes crawl under there and poke around. They both declare it a bit rusted, the underbelly of the beast is a little sick. Far from perfect, but same opinion that it should last for years.

We're talking a $4000 car here, if it ran for 4 years - cheaper per month then what people pay for iPhone service. Still, I elect to return it and walk away. On the return trip, I still dig the thing - it's just stupid fun. Totally no pressure Sales Dude takes back the keys and I tell him a few people have declared it a touch too rusty. Visions of my hot rod family/bike hauler/camping freak mobile will have to pass. I'm a bit bummed as the wife and family pick me up.

The great white whale.

My, that's a mighty big rear end you have.

I'm still considering the mighty beast, but will probably come to my senses. Then again, maybe not. The search continues.


  1. ...the search continues.

    Thank you. My eyes! My eyes!

  2. Live the boat. Be the boat. Drive the boat.

  3. Hmmm, the "white whale" looks nice from this angle. :-)

  4. Yeah - I'm really get a kick outta the thing. Way different then what I usually drive. Total goof - but handy as well. Crazy amount of room. Punching the gas puts a smile on your face as well.