Somebody pinch me! I can't believe I am driving my almost-finished project car. I say almost finished, because you never are. You've been reading about our '75 Chevy Laguna project for two years, and I have been dreaming about a Laguna for way longer than that. In fact, my rants on GM's forgotten '73-77 A-body have been steady, going all the way back to my first days here at PHR. In those years, I had plenty of time to ponder and scheme. I must've built this Laguna a hundred times in my head and driven it a thousand times.

You know what I'm talking about. You stare at catalogs, you daydream at work, you surf eBay Motors and Craigslist, you read magazine stories, and you keep a sharp eye out for anything and everything that might provide the inspiration or the means to make it a reality. Then there are the late nights and weekends of endless toil in the garage. At times, it seems the world is conspiring to construct the perfect diabolical obstacle course for the completion of your project. But you are resolute, and persevere. Finally, the day arrives when you twist the key and hear noise!

You are like Dr. Frankenstein bringing your creation to life. "It's alive!" you scream maniacally. That moment is usually tempered shortly thereafter when you find a host of gremlins that need to be dispatched. More work ensues; the obstacle course has grown complex. It seems Dr. Frankenstein's monster is not the perfect creation, but needs some additional love and encouragement!

In the case of the Laguna, we have negotiated past most of those initial teething problems, and I am now the supremely satisfied motorist/racer. It's now possible to reconcile my current driving experience with those I imaged two, three, or seven years ago. So what's it like wheeling a 2-ton NASCAR-themed tribute car around town, down the freeway, and on the track?

For one thing, it's a terrific conversation starter. Everywhere I go, it elicits questions and compliments. Yeah, the crazy orange graphics and unusual body style have a lot to do with that, but the same thing happens to guys with red '69 Camaros. To "average" people, even a red Camaro is way off their radar. Nothing beats that feeling of standing out from traffic in a good way.

Then there's the raw power of a .600-inch lift solid-roller cam holding court over a 408-inch small-block that belts out 560 hp at the flywheel. As many of you know, big power can make up for a lot of missing creature comforts, and trust me, we're missing a lot of them in the Laguna. This car has no air conditioning, no power windows, no power door locks, no stereo, not even a heater.

Early on, I imagined the Laguna to be a highway hauler getting 20 mpg. It only gets 14 with the overdrive and lockup converter engaged, so it's falling short in that department. Still, it gets 40 percent better miles per gallon than my big-block Chevelle, so I'm not too wiped out by that. Considering the Laguna's weight and horsepower, I was being a tad too optimistic anyway.

This summer has been a blast because I've driven the Laguna everywhere-once to Phoenix, once to San Diego, twice to Las Vegas, and every place in between. I know every nut and bolt on the car, I know every noise, I know every idiosyncrasy, and that kind of familiarity makes you confident. I carry fewer tools and spare parts now as a result. I'll be headed back to Phoenix next month, and I'm not even concerned. About the only thing I miss is air conditioning.

Perhaps the biggest thing that surprises me is how reliable and maintenance-free COMP's solid-roller valvetrain has been. I haven't adjusted it once, and considering how it's been autocrossed several times, road raced, drag raced, and subjected to thousands of miles of endurance driving through the Mohave desert this summer, we are ahead of the curve.

I am finally living my Laguna dream, but I'm not the only one. Photographer Robert McGaffin is living his Oldsmobile dream this summer, and freelance contributors Stephen Kim and Liz Miles will shortly be living their individual Mustang fantasies. We will be giving you all the scintillating details as they emerge. Above all else, we hope we have inspired you to live your rock 'n' roll hot rod dream this summer. If you aren't so lucky, keep your head up, tackle those obstacles, and keep the dream alive for next summer!