Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Fail

Here's a nice little video I discovered on the interwebz yesterday. It features an older woman driving a 2004 or so Ford F150 quad zero visibility conditions on a desert highway speeds. It worked out really well for her right up until she gassed it into a  Nissan.

Warning: This Video Contains Harsh Language, But Is Not Graphic, Just Incredibly Stupid.

Everyone lived, and they turned out just fine. Lucky for them, because this had the potential to be really, really ugly.

This is why we should have one last test question on the driving exams. It would be a very simple one.

Question #42: "What kind of shoes do you wear?"

If the answer is're prohibited from getting a license.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Great Race Comes to Town -or- The Best Lunch Hour Ever.

Transportation is more than just a way to get from point A to B...its an adventure in the making.

I had the pleasure of covering the 2013 Hemmings Great Race today for my job as a radio operations dude. It had been a while since I actually produced a news story, (nearly 10 years to be exact), and I was grateful for the opportunity to head to the Peoria riverfront and get audio from a few passionate gearheads who were still covered in sweat and mud from their trip in 86 degree weather in an open car. Why would anyone in their right mind do that, you ask? To promote the love of the hobby.

Easily the Largest Hudson Built. A 1915 Hudson 6-40 Moving Through the Crowds.

If you're reading this, you're probably familiar with the Great Race. If not, I blogged about it back in December. Back in 1983 a pair of car guys named Tom McRae and Curtis Graf started a cross-country vintage road rally and over the next three decades the momentum has grown substantially. Today, thanks to groups such as Hemmings Motor News, Hagerty Insurance, and Coker Tires, publicity and participation in the premier road rally is up and the scenic routes change each year to provide fascinating new landscapes. This year's route from St. Paul, Minnesota to Mobile, Alabama included a stop in Peoria over the noon hour on Monday, June 24th. Several hundred spectators lined the riverfront's Gateway Building and enjoyed the sights, sounds, and smells of vintage rally cars in action.

Today's stop gave visitors the chance to meet and interact with driver and navigators from around the country. There was a team from California in a 1960 Fiat Multipla with a surfboard on the roof. Then there were the local heros like Dr. Richard McKone, the Peoria dentist who hopped into his 1936 Ford just hours after major surgery to compete in his 20th race.

Then I ran into these guys:

Rookies James Goode and Brad Epple of Jefferson City, Missouri standing next to their 1966 Corvette.

James & Brad had always wanted to do the Great Race. Brad said it was on his "bucket list" and he finally decided to pull the trigger and do it. He roped his navigator friend James Goode into signing up with him and the two combed over a red 1966 Corvette before throwing caution to the wind and premium fuel into the tank. After a rough start, Goode and Epple are now ranked 31 out of 99 cars (7 cars dropped out between Saturday and Monday). Not too shabby for a couple of rookies from Missouri!

 Now, the convertible may be a popular choice for rally racers, but with a Corvette you at least have a top that can be put up. What about the earlier cars without such luxuries? You employ whatever you can find to keep the water out.

Grocery Bags Make Good Waterproofing For Speedometers.  

Kirk and Rita Hill from Mississippi are competing this year in a 1920 Ford Model T speedster, a car with mostly wood framing and panels...and no top. The torrential downpours the duo endured over the past two days have really made for some difficult motoring. But Kirk told me they were still having fun. The Hills car appeared dry as a bone by the time it hit the Peoria streets. Other cars showed a little more wear and tear, and I even saw one speedster using the space age invention of duct tape to keep water out of its crevices.

The crowd enjoyed mingling and seeing the spectacle of The Great Race. Kids of all ages gawked at the cars, chatted with the owners and crew, and even watched a few parking lot repair jobs while the drivers hastily grabbed a bite to eat. Hannibal, Missouri was the next stop on the course.

Team Stovebolt, With a 1940 Chevrolet Master Deluxe Coupe. Nice Choice!

While recording audio for the radio station, I got to thinking about why vintage rallying is so important to the car hobby as a whole: It preserves the functionality of these machines. Cars like the 1917 Peerless "Green Dragon" Speedster in this year's race are nearly a century old...and they're being flogged on country roads that are in much better condition than any road was in the year that car was produced. The valuable antique car is not in a museum, its not in a garage, and its certainly not on a trailer. That Peerless is on the road doing what its creators intended...driving.  Its also driving on better tire compounds, and better fuel than was available in 1917 and achieving its full potential. The same with the 1940 Chevrolet Master Deluxe Coupe pictured above. Its a clean, original car and its enjoying a nice 2,100 mile walk around the block. As long as the owners keep them limber and well-fed, why not exercise these old treasures in a manner than respects them such as this?

The Hemmings Great Race and ambassadors to the collector car hobby such as the great Corky Coker of Coker Tire, (whom I had the pleasure of meeting during today's stop), are the key to keeping the torch lit. When everyone, especially younger generations are able to hear and see these works of art in motion, the flame will burn hotter and longer in the decades to come. To everyone involved, I wish you the best on your journey. Maybe we'll meet up again sometime when a certain black four door Fleetline from Central Illinois is added to the roster.

Drive Safe and Have a Great Time, Everyone. It Was a Pleasure.

If you'd like to see all the high-resolution photos I took today at the Great Race lunch stop CLICK HERE. 


If you'd like to hear the story I did for Peoria Public Radio CLICK HERE.


 For an official writeup of today's events from The Great Race's website CLICK HERE.  


Friday, June 21, 2013

Homebrew Hauler

Occasionally at the local car shows you'll run across people that claim to have thrown something together in their own garage with nothing more than spare parts. Many times the item is a jalopy Model A that was mail-ordered with reproduction parts, or its a rusty mid 50's Ford or Chevy sedan with newer EFI drivetrain and a lot of goofy faux 'patina' to make it seem rustic and cool. Neither one of those scenarios really do much for me. The owners didn't really create it themselves. They added to it. Outrageous claims are common, but sometimes ring true. Case in point, Sarah and I recently wandered past this in Metamora, Illinois...

Yes, what you see here is a homebrew trike that's powered by a late 60's Chevrolet 250 cubic inch six cylinder and three speed. My hunch is that the powerplant came from an old pickup truck. The creator, seen in the pictures wearing the coolest leather coat I've seen in decades, built it himself...using fabricated steel tubing, a welder, and a few donor parts from a motorcycle. Now he rides the hell out of it. And he knows it inside and out because he literally built it from scratch.

 I want to say I admire those who combine their dreams with acetylene and oxygen. I want to say "atta boy" when I see someone create a running, driving machine from a pile of cast-off parts destined for a scrapyard. I also want to say "Oh my God, look at how long those handlebars are. They bounced when he turned them. Maybe they should be braced or something". 

Yikes. Still cool, though, right?

Here's to automotive homebrewers: May they occasionally have good taste, and may their insurance policies be paid up and in good standing. 


Sunday, June 16, 2013

I Learned it From Dad

 I blame my Dad for a lot of things: My fast-growing hair, my giant feet with the high instep, and my Jif peanut butter habit. (Jif is light years better than Skippy, Peter Pan, or the house brands). Not to be negative, but those are the things I rib my Dad as being "his fault". Its fun to rib Dad. We all do it. There's also positive traits that I can trace back to my Pops, including being a good reader of people, the ability to take the reigns when the going gets tough, and the ability to speak the truth instead of what people want to hear. These attributes that I picked up from Dad have served me well at work and at home for many years. I'm grateful for the inspiration.

Above all else, I'd say the one major thing I took from my Dad  is my love for all things 4-wheeled. From a young age I remember auto parts store runs with him, watching him check the fluids on the family station wagon, and holding the work light while he tuned up the old car. He's the one who taught me how to time an engine. Dad's the one that taught me what a carburetor does, and what a starter solenoid's job entails. But where did he pick up the love for cars?

On the way up to a Vintage Chevrolet Club of America meet this past week, we had a nice 45-minute commute in Mom's 1986 Cavalier RS convertible. Dad taught me how to drive in this very car, and my Mom still occasionally drives it to work on sunny days. During the drive, Dad recalled his early drives with his Grandmother in her big, comfy maroon 1952 Dodge. He told stories of riding around Milwaukee running errands with her, and watching her take care of the car. My Great Grandma Scott always drove everywhere, and Dad's memory of a trip to the Dodge dealership in 1956 was as crystal-clear today as if it happened last week. He said his Grandma took him to the dealership to take delivery of a new 1956 Dodge and trade in the old maroon one. While taking care of the paperwork, a 3 year-old Dad wandered around the Dodge showroom and took in the tailfins. He recalls the chrome trim, the colors, and the interior fabric of the new Virgil Exner-designed Dodges. When the deal was finalized, Grandma told him it was time to go home in their new car...and Dad got upset. The new Dodge didn't look like "Grandma's Car", it was different. He told me he cried when they left the dealership, and he said he "didn't like her car" because it was such a radical change for the little guy to handle. Change is hard for a 3 year-old.

Little Steve Scott and Great Grandma's '56 Dodge Custom Royal
  Over time, Pops learned to accept the new addition to the Scott family. All of this was going on while the Scott family welcomed another addition, my Uncle Brian.  Dad spent a few more days with Grandma & Grandpa and rode around in the Custom Royal sedan some more. After while, the vinyl & cloth seats with the red flecks became a comforting sight, because they usually meant a trip with Grandma to somewhere fun. The Dodge shuttled them from their house off of Kinnickinnic Parkway to places like the American Soda Company on South 43rd Street, where Dad would watch the cases of soda roll off the conveyor. It likely took him to the Milwaukee Zoo or to a grocery store where he probably helped Grandma shop. This car, Dad remembers, was a ticket to adventure. Cars still are that ticket today, and Dad always enjoys a road trip.

As we drove through the Wisconsin countryside, more stories about the Dodge unfolded. It eventually got passed down to Dad's Uncle Rod, and was subsequently 'stolen' by some of his friends who pranked him by covering the car with mud and weeds accompanied by tall tales of driving off the road. It served the family for many more years and just became another family car. But in 1956, a trip to the Dodge dealership and a ride in a new sedan made my Dad aware of cars and how large of a role they play in our lives. They were, and still are, the way we get from point A to point B. They're the promise of new beginnings, and the genesis of many stories. Stories that Dads share with their sons while driving a family car with stories of its own. Happy Father's Day, Dad. Thanks for a great week together, and for rubbing off a little bit.

Dad and the Cavaliers at the VCCA Middle West Meet.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Why Rust Appeals To Us

This past weekend, my brother Gordon drove down to Peoria so he could get 4 hours of sleep and then wake up and drive 3 more hours to a car show in the middle of Northeast Missouri called the Rust Revival. Oh, and we got to visit and eat some killer BBQ ribs as well. For anyone who likes antique cars, traditional hot rods and customs, and even a stray farm truck...the Rust Revival is one heck of a show. There's no BS, no trophies, no 'pissing contests'. Its just a bunch of people with old stuff that they like to wrench on and drive. We took Oscar there, too and the 300+ mile trek across Western Illinois and through Keokuk, Iowa went just fine. Truth be told, it was one of the best road trips I've taken in a while since the weather was cool and there was just enough sun. Once we arrived at the show, we were greeted with every TRUE gearhead's favorite thing to see on an old car or truck: Rust.

You see, growing up with a family that ran around to car shows of all sizes & types, I always enjoyed seeing "show cars". These nicely restored or customized cars and trucks were the pride of their owners and had mostly been taken down, restored completely, and thrown back together to either win awards at shows or serious recognition from restoration enthusiasts. Fine. Those are still great to look at. Ever try to buy a restored car? Forget it on a regular joe's salary. Ever restore a car and then drive it? Forget it, you start to freak out over every tiny thing that can harm it, like rock chips and drunk drivers. Where the rubber meets the road for me and a growing number of gearheads is in unrestored rides. Imperfect cars and trucks that have never been apart, never been sitting in pieces in someones basement or never had someone's Uncle Cletus "tinker with it". Thousands of old vehicles still wear paint with some battle scars, that show the true age of these machines. To younger hobbyists, that is what makes us respect these classics even more than a base coat / clear coat paintjob, fresh motor and transmission rebuild, or new set of seat covers.

Sure there's a lot of work that needs to be done on these machines if you want to win awards, truly preserve them as factory original, or drive across the country. But take the AD Chevy pickup Gordon & I ran into last weekend in the picture above. It had a battery, and an external fuel tank installed...and it drove to the show. This old farm girl had probably been "dug out of a swap" as Gordon said, and with enough cases of oil and a few stops along the way, would probably still carry you as far toward either coast as you wanted to go.

Rust also shows the potential to go either way with a car or truck. Let it return to nature, or let it come back to life. It shows that what was once perfect and treasured by some, can be forgotten and tarnished over time. Insert your poetic metaphors here.

Rust can also uncover the true history of a vehicle. In the case of this old Plymouth, it unveiled its life as a family farm truck in rural Southern Illinois. Thanks to a digital image of this emailed to my Dad, it was also uncovered that he knew the descendant of this farm, miles away from any of us. The acquaintance was likely happy to see a part of his family's legacy was still alive and running in Wayland, Missouri 76 years after it came home... A small detail that would have been missed if it was covered with shiny new paint.

 For a killer video featuring highlights from the Rust Revival show, CLICK HERE.

And some pics I snapped are HERE.