MY LIFE IN CARS Matt Le­Blanc

TGTV’s MLB isn’t just into heavy plant ma­chin­ery, he’s got a sur­prise or two in his garage

Top Gear (UK) - - INTAKE -

Ilearned to drive in my Dad’s pickup truck – a 1974 Dat­sun with a man­ual trans­mis­sion. He was a me­chanic, so I’ve worked on cars and had a big roller tool­box as tall as me since I was in ffth grade. He taught me to drive when I was 12 or 13, not out on the road, just around park­ing lots and stuf like that.

I took my driv­ing test in my step-dad’s AMC Javelin. It was beige with a brown vinyl top. It was the big­gest s**tbox: rusty, with a smashed-in pas­sen­ger door and it had a wood block on the throt­tle pedal so when my mother drove it she could reach the gas pedal. Oh, and the foor on the driver’s side was so rusted out you could lit­er­ally see the road.

My frst car was a 1984 Nis­san pickup truck, four-wheel drive, stan­dard cab, stan­dard bed, man­ual trans­mis­sion. I drove it for a year, sold it and bought a 1978 Chevy Blazer that had a six-inch lift kit and 36-inch Den­man Ground Hawg tyres, jacked up to the moon. It needed a hands-on kind of per­son to keep it go­ing and that’s what I wanted. I sold it when I moved to New York to start study­ing act­ing, then I didn’t have a car for a long time.

When I moved to Cal­i­for­nia, I bought an Audi 5000, the one that used to jump into gear and kill peo­ple, re­mem­ber that car? It never hap­pened to mine, but I got rid of it any­way.

My next car was the Fiat X1/9 by Ber­tone. I drove past it in a used car lot, turned around and went straight in. It was the poor man’s Fer­rari. I’d never had a con­vert­ible be­fore and I got sun­burn on the tops of my ears... I’ll never for­get sit­ting at a trafc light and pick­ing at it and the whole top of my ear peeled of in one piece. I was like, “Woah, no more cabrios.”

I got rid of that and bought a Chevy S-10 Blazer, the small one, but there wasn’t really any­thing af­ter­mar­ket you could buy for it, so I got rid of it and bought a 1991 GMC Jimmy. I got a bit car­ried away with that truck and learnt a valu­able les­son. I was pay­ing for it in in­stall­ments, about $600 a month, but I still had some cus­tom leaf springs in it, one-tonne axles, a big lift kit, and I put a Turbo 400 trans­mis­sion in it – the same shifter as the King of the Ham­mers’ car. Then I ran out of money and couldn’t aford the pay­ments. I had to sell it for what I owed on it and took a big loss.

Af­ter that it was an old 1970 FLH Har­ley. That was all I had for a while, but I sold it be­cause I needed food and had rent to pay. Next was a sec­ond­hand Nis­san 240SX that I put a cat-back sys­tem on and just a cold-air in­take. I’ve got to have some­thing to cus­tomise. I don’t know if that’s just an Amer­i­can thing? Then Friends started. I got rid of the 240SX, bought a Jeep Grand Chero­kee, kept that, and then I bought a 1970 De To­maso Pan­tera with 30,000 miles on it. That was a poster car for me, just al­ways loved it, be­cause it looked like the GT40.

I took it to my ac­coun­tant who was like, “You bought a what? Oh my God, why did you do that?” And I go, “I’m telling you it’s awe­some, I’ll take you for a ride.” On my way to his house, at a red light, the hat on a valve let go of the stem, fell down and twisted, and the pis­ton hit it. It wedged it­self into the top of the pis­ton, split it and there­fore split the block.

So I pulled the mo­tor from it and built a Boss 351 Cleve­land, which is ba­si­cally a Cleve­land with a roller valve train. I didn’t do it my­self, I was buried on Friends – it’s quite nice hav­ing a project like that on the side, some­thing that’s so difer­ent from the day job. But it wasn’t the power in­crease I was look­ing for, so then I built a real mo­tor, spent like $25,000. I built a 420 Wind­sor block with aluminium Yates rac­ing heads, stud gir­dles, ti­ta­nium valves, ti­ta­nium springs, a big high-rise in­take man­i­fold that was all ex­trude hone ported. I put on an 850 Hol­ley car­bu­ret­tor that was fowed to about 950. Also I in­stalled a stronger clutch, and then I started go­ing through the car.

I put big­ger, wider wheels on it, stain­less ra­di­a­tors and I cut lou­vres in the hood. I spent prob­a­bly $140,000 on the car and about two years build­ing the thing – in the end, it made prob­a­bly 575bhp on pump gas. It was stout. And it sounded badass. But then I got into Porsches and just stopped driv­ing it. So I sold it, took a bath on it, ob­vi­ously, and got rid of it.

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