‘American Graffiti’ times a thousand

In the 1950s and ‘60s in Detroit, Michigan, Woodward Avenue was considered ‘the biggest illegal drag strip in the world.’ In the northern suburbs, above Nine Mile Road, on Friday and Saturday night, Woodward was like ‘American Graffiti’ times a thousand.

Totem Pole Poster

Four lanes north and four lanes south with a large grassy median, Woodward is like a grand boulevard. The large median has created what many call, the ‘Michigan left turn.’ The intersection of Woodward at the Mile Roads and the half-mile roads are so large with big volumes of traffic, if you want to turn left on Woodward, you have to turn right and quickly there is a U-turn turnaround to get on Woodward going in the opposite direction.

Ted's Drive-in out front

During the ‘50s and ‘60s, this 15 mile stretch of Woodward had dozens of drive-in restaurants and regular restaurants that served unique food. But on Friday and Saturday night, that’s when the magic began. This was Detroit, and Motor City people love their cars. All the big three auto manufacturers executives lived in the suburbs of Ferndale, Royal Oak, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Berkley, Huntington Woods and several other quaint villages. They all had the hottest and newest cars as exec demos and they, their sons and daughters, and just about everybody drag raced on Woodward. Everybody.

Maverick's on Woodward

The cops couldn’t keep up with all the drag races. Tens of thousands of people cruised Woodward and cruised all the drive-ins as well. There were two large drive-ins at either end of this 15 mile stretch, The Totem Pole and Ted’s Drive-in. In between were many drive-ins, some featuring roller-skating waitresses and they all had their special burger with their own special sauce.

IMG_1180

The most famous burger was the Totem Pole’s Big Chief. The sauce is incredible and like biting into history. The Big Chief can still be had now at Duggan’s Pub on Woodward, between 13 Mile Road and Normandy (13 ½ Mile Road). Duggan’s also has Ted’s 5 x 5 cheeseburger and a number of other ‘signature dishes’ from the old drive-ins, like the ‘Suzie Q fried fish.’ Larry Payne Sr. had the forethought to buy the recipes and serve them at Duggan’s.

teds-4

The favorite sport that guys loved was, ‘chasing skirt,’ and a nice car would act like a ‘babe magnet.’ Nice cars included old cars that were fixed up to be hot rods and the people who worked on these cars were called, ‘gear-heads.’ There were plenty of new hot rods too. Not just Corvettes, but Mustangs, GTOs, and so many that I’d have to have a whole blog to identify all of them, and still wouldn’t get all of them. However, there was one hot car that made them all look slow; The Silver Bullet. 1967 Plymouth Belvedere GTX, affectionately known on Woodward as, The Silver Bullet.

Silver Bullet of Woodward

The Silver Bullet was the baddest street machine on Woodward and won more than it’s fair share of glory between the lights. More can be found out about the Silver Bullet in this excellent article on Carcraft.com at: http://www.carcraft.com/featuredvehicles/906_1967_plymouth_belvedere_gtx/

Whether men and women want to admit it or not, they judge one another based upon the class and power of the car they drive. That’s been a part of America’s love affair with the auto since Henry Ford started mass-producing them at a cost that most people could afford. Costs have sky rocketed for cars, but people still love them, and they love Detroit muscle cars especially.

Duggan's Pub on Woodward

The annual Woodward Dream Cruise in August is getting closer. Soon over 1.3 million spectators will descend on Woodward and it will be time to cruise or just watch all the ‘Dream Machines’ cruise by. I can hardly wait.

Mid-west classic car season begins

IMG_2290

This year has been harsh on mid-westerners. 6 months of winter followed by a week of spring. It is finally June, the month where you usually expect mid-80s weather with the back yard grill working overtime. We all hope that is true.

IMG_2156

But what is true, is that there are a number of mid-western cruise-ins scheduled in June and the weather can just be damned if it’s bad. This weekend was calm with a smattering of cruise-ins at smaller venues, like the big sports bars like, Quaker Steak & Lube. Usually their cruise-ins are just bikers, but many times they have classic cars and hot rods as well. You just have to look in a directory. What directory?

IMG_2266

There are many mid-western sources of cruise-ins and events with classic cars and hot rods. One is cruisin’ times magazine out of Cleveland, Ohio: http://www.cruisintimesmagazine.com. Another is Cruisenews magazine out of Detroit at: http://www.cruisnews.com.

There are a number on online lists for mid-west cruise-ins as well:

In Chicago you could go here: http://www.carcruiselist.com/.

In Columbus, Ohio go here: https://www.facebook.com/columbuscruisein.

Cincinnati car fans can go here: http://www.countrycruiser.com/cincy.htm

In Louisville, southern Indiana, go here: http://www.cruisenightcars.com/

In Pittsburgh, go here: http://www.carcruises.com/cruise_list.asp?month_select=5&state=Pennsylvania.

Indianapolis: http://www.oldcarsonly.com/page/page/187576.htm

St. Louis FB users go to: https://www.facebook.com/pages/St-Louis-Classic-Car-and-Hot-Rod-Clubs/97883669371

This online list has cruise-ins all over the country: http://www.carshowguide.com/

And this one also offers a nationwide source of various classic car and hot rod events here: http://www.carshowlist.com/

There continues to be an amazing source of cruise-ins in every town in America. Google or Bing “(Your city) classic car cruise nights” and I think you’ll find cruise-ins, auto collections, auto museums, and auto shows everywhere. That’s because America still has a love affair with their automobiles. It’s their personal ‘Dream Machine.’

IMG_2207 IMG_2273

 

 

 

Restoration projects and metal benders.

I have been thinking about this for a good while. What makes a person restore an older car? What drives him/her? How does a normal everyday person decide to rebuild a car they saw in their childhood?

This week I ran into a quasi-relative at a first-year-old’s birthday party for my…Nephew-in-law’s son. Cliff is the child’s father’s uncle, which would make him a great uncle? I’m sure he is. Or is it…well, it doesn’t matter, I’ve played golf with Cliff for over 20 years so he’s considered, a friend, a friend that I never knew that well. I didn’t know, until now, that he is an artist…with metal.

IMG_2514

Cliff also told me something else that he never mentioned to me, that he rebuilt a classic ’56 Chevy B210 into a very nice lookin’ Dream Machine that has some nice power as well. The car used to have a straight 6, but now has a Chevy 350 V8 that has about 300 HP. He also mentioned that he made many parts from scratch; he’s an expert welder and bends metal to his liking.

IMG_2516

This I had to see. So, my kids and I rode out to Cliff’s place in the country. Way out in the country. My 17 year-old daughter, Courtney, and her twin, my son, Chase, was with me and when they saw the car as we drove into the driveway that features a four-car garage, they gasped and their eyes grew large.

IMG_2518

The Chevy is a gorgeous shade of orange, like an Orange Crush. Beautiful. Cliff told us that he carefully, and meticulously painted the car in his garage. I took a peak inside at the interior expecting to see floor shifter and yes, there it was, but it looked different. It was an automatic transmission. Cliff said he didn’t like shifting a lot whenever he’s in a parade or at a cruise-in.

IMG_2517

Cliff’s wife, Joy, invited us inside for a drink and we got surprised again. Cliff is such a good metal bender, that he makes model ships…out of stainless steal. Not small ships, large art sculptures with a lot of detail. I’ll post some pictures. Out back of his house was another surprise; a 30’ deep pond with fish and a diving board. Not a bad lifestyle.

IMG_2527

Cliff wanted us to see his neighbor’s project car, so we hopped in his Chevy and took a short ride with a low rumble. His friend Rocky, lives just a few houses down, but his large barn-like garage told me a lot. The garage door was open and inside was a hot rod made from a ’30 Ford. It was on a lift, but the closer you got, the better it looked. Court and Chase were mesmerized by this…work of art.

IMG_2530

Rocky told us that many parts on the highboy were hand made from stainless steel (I could see Cliff, had a hand in this). Rocky agreed to build the car for a guy named, Jerry Bullock, who is going to give it to his 70 year–old wife. Jerry gave Rocky plenty of money to work with so it would come out spectacular. It’s quite evident that Rocky is another artist. The paint job alone was gorgeous, which included a very detailed paint job on the engine as well. The 350 Chevy Corvette engine was ground down to smoothness so the paint could go one evenly and smoothly. Awesome. Even the bottom of the car was spectacular.

IMG_2534

In the back of the garage was a ’64 Pontiac GTO that needed a lot of work. Cliff mentioned that he needed a body panel so he just made it from scratch. In another room, Rocky converted it into a paint shop. Inside, under wraps, was an old Jaguar that they had just dropped an engine into, but it was a long-term project.

IMG_2532

Metal benders like Cliff and Rocky can turn a piece of metal into art, functional art. They built a real Dream Machine, pretty much from scratch.

IMG_2535

There’s an interesting article about restoring a car that is in much more detail than I can give. Check out this Dream Machine project at:  http://www.chevyhardcore.com/project-cars/project-swinger/project-swinger-the-project-build-wrap-up-for-our-71-nova-part-i/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=project-swinger-the-project-build-wrap-up-for-our-71-nova-part-i

IMG_2520IMG_2521

IMG_2524IMG_2526

 

 

 

Rained out cruise-in

IMG_2466

Cruise-ins are so much fun, unless it’s rained out. Nobody shows up. No classic cars. No hot rods. Nada. Zip. Nothing. It was also a bummer.

So, this will be a short blog with some pictures I took from last year’s Woodward Dream Cruise in Detroit and some pictures from last year’s Blue Suede Cruise in Norwalk, Ohio.

IMG_2140

While at a birthday party this weekend I talked to a few people that were relatives of a sister-in-law. They know about my book and one asked about the value of his 1972 Ford F-250 pickup truck. I don’t know, but I do have a lot of friends who know the value of classic cars.

IMG_2264

The problem with determining value of a classic car is that there are many determining factors; Popularity of that model and year, the amount of factory options, the amount of after-market products, the engines size and horsepower, the interior’s condition, exterior’s condition and a whole lot of other stuff. Also, the person doing the appraisal can make a difference.

IMG_2328

I’m going to do some research and come up with a list of classic car sales sources. I know a lot of sites that do this, but I know there are many more. So coming soon to this blog, will be that list.

IMG_2230

Another subject that came up at the birthday party was restoration projects on classic cars. Another relative of a sister-in-law has several cars he is working on and he invited me to stop by. So, another future blog will be about restoration projects and all that it entails.

IMG_1142

So, sorry this is so short today, but I’ve been rained out of this one. The weatherman says it will be nice this weekend, so I will have plenty of time for a couple of cruise-ins checking out all the awesome Dream Machines. Talk to ya next week.

IMG_2261

Roger’s Chevrolet Camaro show

IMG_2504

I wasn’t sure I was going to drive 2 ½ hours to go to a Camaro Show in Trenton, Michigan, but I did. It was beautiful weather and my 17 year-old son, Chase, needed driving time for his license, so I had him drive me. I didn’t have to grit my teeth…much. My hidden reason to go was that I used to live in Trenton for only one year, during my 9th grade of High School. It was a nice chance to show the school to my son.

IMG_2503

By the time we got to the Chevy dealership at noon, the place was packed with Camaro fans and Camaros. The cruise-in was dubbed, ‘The 6th annual Rodger’s Chevrolet Camaro Show,’ and it was sponsored by the, Detroit 5th gen Camaro Club. I was surprised this many people were here at a Chevy store because this was in the middle of Ford country, way downriver from Detroit. Ford’s massive Woodhaven assembly plant is a stone’s throw and it sure looked like a lot of Fords were driving by.

IMG_0046

The dealership had a lot of gorgeous new Camaros intermingled with the Camaro club’s classic Chevys on display and the crowd loved it. We were checking out a ’69 Camaro SS convertible when, VROOOM!!! A Camaro started up with a roar and everybody ran toward the sound of power.

IMG_0050

It was a Camaro with a big block V-8 Yenko engine and a large hood scoop sucking in air. The deep-angry-loud revving shook the ground and reverberated right through your body. This Camaro was drag-strip ready and the girl that got to start the car was in shock how loud it was inside the car, even while wearing ear protectors. When it shut down, a huge silence occurred, but only momentarily as the crowd gave up a rousing cheer.

IMG_0047

Something caught my eye; a Camaro with flip-up doors like some Ferrari’s have. Nobody was there to answer my questions if it was from an after-market company or just an individual with a talent for sculpting metal. Definitely, cool.

IMG_0044

A guy sitting next to his classic ’68 Old 442 convertible responded to a guy complaining his car wasn’t a Camaro, “Go play in someone else’s yard.” He awkwardly walked away, apparently looking for another yard. Goes to show, you just can’t please everybody and there’s always a grumpy person in every crowd.

IMG_2511

There were probably about 100 cars in the show and it was fun to see some of the old designs and paint jobs Camaros had over the years. It seemed most of the cars were SS models, but a few V6s were just as nice looking. In a way, it was like Mustang Alley at the Woodward Dream Cruise, woodwarddreamcruise.com, only with Camaros. Of course, Mustang alley featured close to a thousand Mustangs, but this was nice seeing these American, iconic classics.

IMG_2502

There were free hotdogs, drinks, trophies, raffles, door prizes, music, photo booth, as well as plenty of friendly and not pushy salespeople around, just in case you wanted to check out a new car. There were also several after-market companies hawking their ability to boost your Dream Machine’s speed.

IMG_2512

All-in-all, a good time and worth the drive. Pictures cannot compare to actually being there, seeing and touching. America has always had a love affair with cars and classic cars run even deeper to the heart. In Motor City, this is very true and has been like that since Henry Ford started the very first assembly plant here. It’s the stuff that Dream Machines are made of… (yeah, I stole it from Sam Spade).

Also- check out my Facebook page at:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dream-Machines/560475744012570

IMG_0042

IMG_0040

IMG_0045

IMG_2510

IMG_0048

IMG_0041

Cars & Coffee cruise-in at Lingenfelter Performance Engineering

Every town has them. They gather like birds in the park on a statue. Cruise-ins. Cruise-ins for classic cars and hot rods. Going to your local ‘cruise-in’ to either park your Dream Machine or gawk at them, is a great pastime. You get to see some very cool classic cars and hot rods, as well as meet some interesting people that have similar interests. Just don’t be shy.

IMG_2486

Most cruise-ins I go to usually are on certain nights of the week or maybe a Saturday or Sunday afternoon at a drive-in, diner, dive, restaurant, sports bar, or even a large parking lot. Not this one. It happens every Saturday morning from 8am to 10am at the ‘North Engine build facility’ of Lingenfelter Performance Engineering at 47451 Avante, at Beck Rd. in Wixom, Michigan.

IMG_2494

This was the kickoff event for the summer, except spring hasn’t sprang out of there yet and it was a cold and rainy morning. Despite that, a good crowd showed up with lots of hot iron. I say ‘hot’ because on closer examination under the hood, a lot of these muscle machines were sporting a Lingenfelter Supercharger. Hmmm.

IMG_2491

My daughter, Courtney and I went inside for some coffee. Inside, there were a couple of gorgeous cars displayed that had…Lingenfelter Superchargers. Hmmm. I was anxious to see the main engine building room, but my friend Ken Lingenfelter, the host of the cruise-in, said it was closed today because, “there’s some super secret ‘future’ stuff going on back there now.” Hmmmm.

IMG_2495

My immediate thought went to a ‘Flux Capacitor.’ Then again, that’s from the movie, ‘Back to the Future.’ ‘Dilithiam Crystals?’ No, that’s ‘Star Trek.’ Apparently, they are doing some hanky-panky with superchargers to do what? Increase the warp speed, of course.

IMG_2496

Ken said he goes to a lot of drag strips to test his motors and to show spectators what they can do with cars that come right out of the new car showroom. I asked him if he’ll be at the ‘Blue Suede Cruise at Summit Motorsports Park Dragway in Norwalk, Ohio in July. “Oh, yeah.” I don’t know how he keeps up his schedule of going to racetracks and cruises. Norwalk is by Sandusky, Ohio, home of Cedar Point, where they have the ride, ‘Top Thrill Dragster,’ Courtney’s favorite ride. I want to go too!

IMG_2469

We finally found the black gold: great tasting coffee and a ton of donuts of all shapes and sizes from Tim Hortons. That took the edge off the cold 50 degrees and a light drizzle back outside. More cars and people showed up and the two hours went quickly. If you’re looking to put more muscle into your Dream Machine, be it new or not-so-new, a supercharger will give you more…speed. For your Dream Machine, give Ken a call at Lingenfelter Performance Engineering, http://www.lingenfelter.com. Or, on Saturday mornings, stop by and gawk and drool all you want.

IMG_2487

IMG_2492

IMG_2493

Classic car collections – Ken Lingenfelter

Wow. Talk about, ‘Dream Machines,’ this car collection has been listed as one of the top ten car collections…in the world. I believe Jay Leno’s collection is also on that list.

IMG_2464

The Lingenfelter collection is owned by, Ken Lingenfelter, who is an old friend from back in the…’60s. He’s all grown up and owns and operates a ‘speed shop’ type company called, Lingenfelter Performance Engineering, http://www.lingenfelter.com, which has in the past specialized in modifying GM products, like Corvettes and Camaro, but now they have been expanding into some Fords, like Mustangs, as well.

IMG_2465

If you have the ‘need for more speed,’ but don’t want to buy another car, Ken is the guy to call. His speed shop will build muscle into your machine. They can also modify the car body, making dramatic statements, sometimes with spectacular results.

IMG_2467

Ken’s collection is in a very large building in Brighton, Michigan that makes a large new car dealership look small. There are enormous rooms and each over-sized room is jammed with classy cars. I didn’t count, but one person at the hot dog stand told me there were around 200 cars…indoors.

IMG_2473

Each room is filled with primarily one type of car. Like, one room had predominately foreign muscle cars like Bugati’s, Ferraris, Porsches, a Bentley, and one I wasn’t sure about.

IMG_2472

In another room is a lot of classic cars like ’63-’72 Chevelle SS’s, 442’s, Camaro SS’s, and too many to list. Check out the photos. One car was a ’64 or ’65 Pontiac 2+2 convertible, which had 421 inches of modified power. It was very similar to my old ’62 Bonneville convertible, but with more power per inch.

IMG_2476

In yet another room was a beautiful sight. It was packed tightly with wall-to-wall Corvettes. Mainly early ’54-mid-60s, but all the way up to a 2014 ‘vette. Walking into that room, I overheard a guy in the crowd, who was looking at a ’67 Covette with a 427 LS7 engine say, “Smells like America.”

IMG_2475

REEE-OAR!!! In the foreign room, Ken fired up a hot looking Enzo Ferrari and the loud blast from the sweet sound of high-performance power, sent the excited crowd running toward the rumble. By the time I got there, the large crowd was squeezed against the car and Ken was out of the car waving to a loud cheer, and now crushed by admirers and their high-tech questions on super-chargers vs turbo charged and power-tech issues that were way out of my league, but he could answer off–the-cuff.

 

Ken Lingenfelter

Ken Lingenfelter

I’m hoping to see Ken again soon at his very cool new summer-time Saturday morning tradition, ‘Cars & Coffee’ cruise-ins. They start May 3rd and go on every Saturday morning from 8am-10am. It’s at the ‘North Engine build facility’ of Lingenfelter Performance Engineering at 47451 Avante, at Beck Rd. in Wixom, Michigan.

IMG_2479

All makes and models are welcome to this cruise-in, it’s free and according to the printed announcement, the Cars & Coffee is, “a gathering of like-minded enthusiasts. It’s a place to take your ride, share stories and see some amazing cars.”

Of course, I prefer to call them; ‘Dream Machines.’

IMG_2480

IMG_2485

IMG_2477

Classic car collections – 1

Remember the ‘Cannonball Express?’ The race that Burt Reynolds made famous in his movies, was inspired by Erwin George ‘Cannonball’ Baker. Cannonball Baker, to create publicity for the Templar line of cars, was timed from New York City to Chicago, in 1920, covering 992 miles in 26 hours and 50 minutes (which included stops for fuel and sandwiches without turning off the engine). The race may be over, but the cars still exist; in a collection.

IMG_0007

I am constantly amazed at car collections, big and small. Car collections are a reflection of our history, which is sorely missing from our education today. Ask any college freshman what the constitution guarantees, our Bill of Rights says, or even what Abe Lincoln said in his historic, Gettysburg Address, and you’ll typically get a blank face reaction.

Car collectors I know normally have some kind of a car connection; like owning a car dealership. However, I found a classic car collection from the most odd source; my sister-in-law Chris. Her cousin, Dave Buehler, has a fascinating collection of cars manufactured in Cleveland, but were failures in mass sales; The Templar Motor car company. These are not what I’d call classic cars, but antique cars because they were built in 1917.

IMG_0011

I think the name kind of doomed the brand; Templar, which comes from The Order of the Knights Templar, which was a monastic order formed in Jerusalem in 1119 to protect the holy sepulcher and defend the crusaders. Yeah. We know how that turned out. However, free masons and the Masonic Lodge would be proud.

IMG_0023

These Masons wanted a beautiful, luxury car; their own ‘Dream Machines.’ The cars were very advanced for their early beginnings; like aluminum bodies and an array of nifty innovations like the closed circuit battery ignition system, Jacox steering gear, Perfection springs, Nigrum oilless spring bushings, Schwitzer universal joints and Goodyear tires.

IMG_0015

Apparently a lot of competition in auto manufacturing at the time is what killed the brand. After WWI, a long time ago, a lot of auto manufacturers thought that there would be a post-war boom for cars. Ford won this battle to prove at the time that, ‘less expensive’ was better. Smaller companies that offered excellent quality, but higher prices, went out of business.

IMG_0025

The Templar collection I visited is in an odd corner of Cleveland in a manufacturing building that the original Templars were built. I was shown how the final product had to be delivered by elevator to the main floor. According to everything I’ve read about the history of building cars, Henry Ford would not approve of car elevators.

IMG_0021

I asked Dave, who owns all these cars, what he’s going to do with the collection. He didn’t really know. I thought of the Crawford Automobile Museum, in Cleveland, but apparently they’re not sure what to do either. Anyone out there, especially Masons, know what to do with these antique ‘Dream Machines?’ Let me know.