JUST SAYIN

Chevy High Performance - - Front Page - BY: Mary Pozzi

Like any re­la­tion­ship, project cars needs to be nur­tured if they are to stick around in your life

This is a ques­tion I’ve won­dered about, and re­cently it’s smacked me side­ways. If “love” is a car project, we start out think­ing big—re­ally big—and usu­ally buy some­thing cheap. It may or may not even be some­thing we like, but it is usu­ally cheap. It can be the usual (i.e., 1967-’69 Ca­maro), ob­scure, or rare like a Volvo P1800. We seal the deal with money and a smile and drag our newly pur­chased love child home where it sits on wheels with dead-tired rub­ber, the in­te­rior gen­tly rot­ting away, paint peel­ing off as if it were an onion, wait­ing pa­tiently for your lov­ing touch to res­ur­rect it.

We then scour the fo­rums and ask any­one and ev­ery­one what they think of our build, only to get a myr­iad of an­swers (some good and oth­ers meh). Our nightly read­ing con­sists of Sum­mit and Jegs cat­a­logs in­stead of Rolling Stone and Play­boy (for the ar­ti­cles, of course). And more of­ten than not the cat­a­logs com­pound our in­de­ci­sion about the build di­rec­tion, and what was orig­i­nally in­tended to be a fun Pro Tour­ing car is now in limbo.

Even if ini­tially it seems very doable fi­nan­cially, it can quickly turn into a bud­get buster. Just se­lect­ing an en­gine can be daunt­ing, as LS any­thing is “the new black,” with bonus points if it’s got a pow­er­ad­der or a dry-sump. A tra­di­tional small-block Chevy is the pariah of pow­er­plants, right? Leaf springs?

Are you nuts! It’s as though if you aren’t able to out­fit your Pro Tourer with some­thing mul­ti­link or, gasp, in­de­pen­dent out back you shouldn’t even bother.

I could go on but you get the gist. It’s no won­der that a lot of us never com­plete the grandiose plans and sell off the project in what­ever state it hap­pens to be in. This is the “tween state,” and you need to get past this stage if you hope to have a chance of reach­ing project com­ple­tion. Do it quick, too. Think about it. How many times has some­one come up and said, “I used to have one of these. Had to sell it.” As for the rea­sons some of us stall and re­main in neu­tral, life in gen­eral ranks right up there as num­ber 1.

Sud­denly you’re years past your dead­line with kids in col­lege and a mort­gage or two to pay. Jobs, com­mutes, just keep­ing a home in shape and “tuned-up” also take time away from your project. Add in fam­ily obli­ga­tions and ever-present fi­nan­cials, and guess what? Your midlife cri­sis isn’t hap­pen­ing and I’ll tell you a short story.

At a Goodguys au­tocross many years ago a woman came up and meekly asked if I’d give her a ride. I did and that be­gan a friend­ship, and not one but two builds for her. She had a re­ally nice two-door Chev­elle that had the stinkbug “drag” look, and we cor­rected that quick. The driv­e­train was good but the wheels and tires were up­graded, which turned the seden­tary Chev­elle into a mean blue slalom ma­chine.

For a cou­ple of years, au­tocross was our lives. She’d come down to our place and stay the week­end plus drive in a lo­cal event. We had fun; she learned about apexes and brak­ing points, and did very well. Then she said she’d like to buy a Ca­maro, and found a beau­ti­ful ’71. As I was up­grad­ing from the scorned ZZ383 SBC to some­thing LS, she bought my old pow­er­train, wheels, tires, and other bits. In my mind, she had the ul­ti­mate car as she could drive it any­where, com­pete in a track day or au­tocross, and then drive home with no is­sues.

She got good, too, re­ally good, even though she’ll prob­a­bly dis­agree with that. Be­ing sin­gle at the time, she told more than a few of us, “If I meet some­one, they will have to love the cars as much as I do.”

And then life, and love, hap­pened. Her Ca­maro was driven less and less un­til it was rarely brought out. I’d visit her from time to time, and it was nice to see that the Ca­maro never had garage stuff piled on it like oth­ers in the sub­di­vi­sion did to their project cars. Four-wheel drives were now the fa­vored ve­hi­cles so it was no sur­prise when the once-prized Ca­maro found a new home.

Look­ing back, I can see no other op­tion for the Ca­maro even though we never re­ally dis­cussed it. All the signs were there: hor­ren­dous com­mute,

JFH (job from hell), new house that needed lots more at­ten­tion, and no re­lief from any of these three. Week­ends? They’re spent lick­ing her wounds from a week’s worth of ugh. She’s moved on and it’s good that her Ca­maro now has a chance to re­claim some of its past glory. And her spouse re­ally did love both cars.

But some­times, the love you have for your car—and com­pet­ing with it—is a ca­su­alty of mar­riage. A friend we knew from the fo­rums was be­trothed and his bach­e­lor party was a track day. Many of us used this as a won­der­ful ex­cuse to beat on our junk and cel­e­brate the im­pend­ing nup­tials. Over the next eight years we saw him driv­ing his Mus­tang only once.

Fi­nances are an­other killer of builds, and if this is the rea­son yours is lan­guish­ing ne­glected and for­lorn, the blame can only be placed squarely on you. Work within your means, money and time wise. Re­search and buy qual­ity stuff and don’t rush, as a good car build doesn’t hap­pen overnight.

Con­cern­ing the en­gine, I’ll be the first to tell you that there’s noth­ing wrong with that SBC if it works with your check­book. The same with leaf springs, as sev­eral com­pa­nies make darn good ones. Build some­thing you can first af­ford, and then drive of­ten. Just get­ting your build up and run­ning is an ac­com­plish­ment, and there’s al­ways time for up­grades. Trust me, they’ll al­ways be there.

Sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers and spouses MUST be on board, or guess what? Your build prob­a­bly ain’t hap­pen­ing. The so­lu­tion? Get them in­volved.

Ask them their opin­ions and take op­por­tu­ni­ties to ed­u­cate them.

When you at­tend car shows, do it on their terms. And un­less they’re color blind, even let them pick the color, if you dare. Don’t let that build be “the other woman (or man)” in the re­la­tion­ship. It’s doomed if re­sent­ment builds up.

I guess after writ­ing, then read­ing, this mis­sive it’s more about how to save re­la­tion­ships we have with our cars and less about the why’s that they fail. Just like any re­la­tion­ship, car or oth­er­wise, you have to work it into that pesky thing called “life.” Rec­og­nize that there will be ups and downs, good days and ones where the car, and life, will grind you sense­less. Above all, don’t be that guy or gal, who 10 years down the road, is walk­ing around a show won­der­ing why you quit or mut­ter­ing to your­self that you used to have one of those, but had to sell it.

Mary Pozzi is a part-time free­lance writer and 12-time SCCA Solo Na­tional Cham­pion.

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