"Our current Chevelle project...
"Our current Chevelle project car drips cool everywhere it goes, which by default makes me the coolest guy at my kid's school ..."
The late, great editor Steve Collison once told me, "It's not about the money, it's the psychic pay." That was in 1992, and at the time, Steve had just hired me as a cub tech editor for Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords magazine. I was making thin gruel-about $25,000 a year-living in an old, cramped, over-priced New Jersey apartment, and having the time of my life. Before taking the job, I remember being concerned about making ends meet in a new-to-me urban landscape, but the job sounded too fun to pass up. In the intervening years, I've piled up tons of great memories, most of them centered around cars:
1987 Mustang LX 5.0:
Quickest Car I've Ever Owned
My first magazine project car would eventually run low-10s, carrying the wheels on launch, and running straight as a string. It had a Vortech blower, a DSS-built 310-inch small-block Ford, a killer C4 trans, and enough grunt to rip the tires in third gear from a roll. It split stock blocks in half with alarming regularity, and had to be sold because it got too expensive.
1993 Firebird Formula:
Fastest Car I've Ever Owned
This thing would do 145 mph down the back straightaway at Watkins Glen without breaking a sweat. MTI built the fuel-injected, normally aspirated 396-inch small-block LT1, which made 420 hp to the wheels. A full-tilt Kenny Brown suspension, T-56 six-speed, Nitto R-compounds, and huge Baer brakes made it easy to drive fast. I still can't forget the look on that M5 driver's face when I left him in the dust on I-81.
Trans Am Series Racecar:
Most Amazing Car I've Ever Driven
Trans Am driver Lou Gigliotti must be crazy, because the day after he came in Third Place in the Houston Grand Prix, he let me flog said race car at Texas Motorsport Ranch. The specs: 2,450 lbs, carbon-fiber body, 725hp Bobby Cronin-built 310ci SBC, Hewland five-speed clutchless trans. Nothing beats an 8,000-rpm clutchless upshift into third gear at 120 mph.
Katech Cadillac CTS-V:
Most Embarrassed I've Ever Been
I'm at Gingerman Raceway with a 500hp Caddy, the in-car camera is rolling, and Le Mans-winning driver Andy Pilgrim is in the passenger seat. Ever since having driven Gigliotti's Trans Am racer, I'm hot dooky. I'm doing reasonably well, until I go agricultural in a decreasing-radius turn. On the good side, it's funny as hell now, and makes a great story at parties. Thanks to my peeps at Katech for keeping the video under wraps!
Coolest Car I've Ever Owned
Our current Chevelle project car drips cool everywhere it goes, which by default makes me the coolest guy at my kid's school, any supermarket parking lot, any stoplight, any burger joint, etc. Even with the old motor, it was cool, but with a rumpity Thumpr cam in a 496-inch big-block, a Ferrari could roll up, and not get noticed. The other day at McD's, three schoolgirls asked, "Sir, can we take pictures of your Chevelle?"
1989 Mustang LX 5.0:
Most Frustrating Car I've Ever Owned
I loved my '87 so much, I made the mistake of buying one for my wife-then modifying it. It blew itself up so many times, I stopped counting. It had like $800,000 in parts, and ran 12.50s. And the psychic pay part? I discovered how much my wife actually loves me. It's also the car I drove my wife to the hospital in (at over 100 mph) when she went into labor at three in the morning.
1988 Firebird Formula
350:Best All-Around Car I've Ever Owned
This one was a fully loaded driver with cold A/C, power windows, cruise, a fuel-injected 396-inch small-block, bulletproof 700-R4 overdrive, big Baer discs, a tight Hotchkis suspension, S&W rollbar, and bright red paint. It was super comfy, got great mileage, turned heads, and ran 11.90s on motor. I sold it to pay for a new septic system when I sold my New Jersey house. Easy come, easy go...