I love writing these “year in review” pieces, mainly because it gives me an excuse to go back through my photos and blog items from the last twelve months and remember how many awesome experiences I was able to have being a (less frequent these days) contributor to what is still the best damn gearhead site on the internet. A few of those pesky “big life changes”, namely a new house and a new job, kept me from writing and shooting as much as I’d like in 2015, but four years later I’m still getting The Phone Call from Lohnes whenever he has some weekend antics up his sleeve, for which I owe both him and Chad a big Thank You.
All of that sappy feel-good preamble out of the way, let’s get on with my year. Below you’ll find a roughly chronological stream of some of my favorite happenings of 2015. They’re not all my “best” photos, but they’re the ones that I’ll look back on years from now with a smile and say, “Yeah, THAT was a good time“.
Red Bull Frozen Rush/BFG All-Terrain T/A KO2 Driving Experience
For the fourth year in a row, Lohnes dragged me out to some frozen corner of New England in January to take photos of trucks. This time around, it was a twofer of the 2015 Red Bull Frozen Rush at Sunday River and a driving day with BFG to showcase the new All-Terrain T/A KO2.
Given the sub-zero temperatures with the wind chill and those pesky labor laws, I didn’t have to sleep in the car this time around. If you get the chance, ask Brian about the phone call he got at 6 AM one morning when I managed to lock myself IN the suite that I was staying in.
My inability to work a doorknob aside, roaming trails at dusk with a small fleet of JK Wranglers and a freaking Land Rover Defender 110 is the definition of a BangShifty evening, even with Brian’s ridiculous hat (Checking to see if you’re reading this, boss!).
Brian handled driving duties with the old girl, while I did my best to not get hit while shooting mere feet away from vehicles coming at me with a full head of steam (Still batting 1.000!).
With that wrapped up, we still had two days of flying trucks, Red Bull, and ski lodge food to ingest at the Frozen Rush event. Probably one of the more challenging events for me to shoot thanks to where the photographer’s area was, but it was a great example of “make due with what you have”. Even without my camera, this would have been a killer event to attend. A must see if you’re in the area for January 8th, 2016. Lohnes and McTaggart will be there, so make sure to say Hi if you see those two jamokes.
All in all a great weekend, especially for this guy, Bryce Menzies, who took the whole thing home.
2015 Jeep Wrangler Test Drive
(For the review, click HERE)
February brought snow, snow, and more snow to New England, to the point where I was pretty much snow-blowing in the morning, leaving for work, and then snow-blowing six-plus inches of fresh powder when I got home.
It’s also the month that I later blew up the stock transmission in the daily driver Monte on the way home from work and spent six hours waiting at a rest stop for a tow, which of course was in no way due to autocrossing it practically every weekend the summer before. No, the car still isn’t running. We’ll talk about that later. MUCH later, as in sometime in 2016.
But, February wasn’t all bad, as Chrysler sent us a brand-new Rubicon for a test drive, which we promptly decided to do donuts with, because that is what you do with a $40,000 vehicle.
There was a thorough investigation of the mechanicals, as we take our test drives seriously:
Brian had watched the latest Captain America movie the night before, and felt inspired:
Of course, merely doing donuts wasn’t BangShifty enough, so off came the doors and the roof.
Oh, and more donuts. LOTS of donuts.
I’m hoping the snow we left inside the vehicle has melted by now.
Grand Cherokee Feature
(For the review, click HERE)
Either Chrysler didn’t get the hint or they really liked what we were doing, because once the snow melted a shiny new Grand Cherokee diesel hit the oily driveway of BangShift East HQ for our review.
The last one time I had seen one of these oil burners was our epic road-trip with Craig Fitzgerald to visit Lingenfelter and TrickFlow (Alternatively known as “The trip where Dave tried to grow a beard and almost wet himself out of excitement after sitting in an F40), so seeing another one in the flesh was a flashback to the good times of the previous year.
As mentioned, there was no snow to be found, however there was sand. LOTS of sand. So, donuts. Of course.
To the future owner of this press vehicle: Sorry for getting sand in the glovebox.
F150 Ecoboost Review
(For the review, click HERE)
Being New England, home of the tin worm thanks to all of the salt that is flung on the road until practically May, the first few months mostly cover press cars, and in some of the most questionable areas possible, because questionable areas make for great photo locations.
Like the dirt lot next to this bridge, which, if you’re my insurance company, totally wasn’t the site of numerous used needles and broken beer bottles.
Great looking truck, however.
Months later, I still cannot figure out what Lohnes is pointing at.
However, I am sure that the Ecoboost V6 can do burnouts:
Challenger Hellcat Review
(For the review click HERE)
The folks at Chrysler must really like us (Or never read our reviews), because handing over the keys to a six-speed manual Challenger Hellcat to the guys at BangShift is about as good a decision as soaking fireworks in gasoline before lighting them. There are people that hate it, but I don’t care. It’s big, it’s dumb, it’s loud, but it’s the perfect expression of America and everything that makes us so great. Also, McTaggart still is mad after finding out that we got to drive it. That alone was totally worth it.
In what should be a surprise to no one capable of critical thinking skills, a 707 horsepower vehicle will also do burnouts.
Man, I miss that car.
Autocrossing my Monte Carlo SS
(For the blog item, click HERE)
I was going to write this whole analogy about how owning two of the same car is like dating twins, which may seem awesome at first, but then completely falls apart when you start paying more attention to one than the other, but then I decided not to. Maybe I just did? Words are weird.
Anyway, while grenading the transmission in the ’87 Monte LS was a blow to both my pride and my wallet, it was also the best thing that could have happened for my ’87 Monte SS, which had been left to gather dust while I was off racing (And slowly killing) the LS the previous year.
Determined to attend as many SCCA events as possible, I decided to stop being worried about breaking the car that I had spent the last 10 years building and drive the damn thing. Best decision I could have made, as you’ll see once we get to talking about the CAM Challenge East event a little further down.
Well, second to mounting those gold GTA wheels. Man, I love those wheels.
Ken Block, Team O’Neil, and a Red Pony
July was a big month for me: I turned 31 (Officially getting old) and got to celebrate with a weekend at the Team O’Neil driving school, all thanks to Ford Racing.
Lohnes and I cruised up there in style in a brand new Mustang GT convertible, which never sucks.
Again, burnouts ensued, made even easier by the FACTORY line lock (We are living in a golden age, people!).
There, I got to learn that driving a G-body on pavement has done little to prepare me for a front wheel drive car on dirt. Humbling, to say the least.
Oh yeah, we also met Ken Block and got to go for a ride in a few prepped rally cars.
Below is what was inches away from being the last photo I ever took. Still pissed that it’s out of focus.
Here’s a video of me in that same rally car. See if you can spot the moment that I realize there’s a reason they made me fill out contact information for my next of kin. Here’s a hint: It’s right after the jump we hit going what felt like 80 MPH.
CAM Challenge East
Not to spoil the rest of this blog item, but CAM Challenge East made my year. There is nothing like driving 900 miles away in your old muscle car with nothing for support but a cell phone, a plastic tote full of miscellaneous tools, and some zip ties, only to crash on a couch owned by some guy you’ve never met before, race your car for three days, and then repeat the whole 14 hour trip again, all while hoping that nothing breaks.
Of course, it helps with that “some guy” is James Bishir, fellow BangShifter and all-around dude. We bonded over our love of G-bodies and he introduced me to Sharknado. My taste in movies has never been the same after seeing Tara Reid with a chainsaw for a hand.
The first thing that James saw when my car came rumbling into his driveway and about 30 seconds before I went off in search of tools to fix a header gasket leak. Surprisingly, he still let me in the house.
I could honestly post countless photos from the event, go on about all of the friends I made while I was there, or why you need to start taking your old muscle car on roadtrips, but I already did that. Read the story again HERE, and then check out the galleries: HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE
I also got to finally meet Lance Hamilton and his car Barney in person after following his build for several years. It’s everything my car wants to be when it grows up. Read more about the car HERE
You know what’s not like three days of auto-crossing a 1987 Monte Carlo? The BMW i8.
Brian was handed the keys to this three cylinder hybrid for a week at the end of August (Read about it HERE), and I still can’t believe that Doc Brown didn’t hop out of this thing when it pulled into my driveway. Piss and moan all you want about a BMW being on the pages of BangShift, but it has a carbon-fiber tub, runs high 12s in the quarter, and has gull wing doors. Everyone stopped to look at this car, and I mean EVERYONE.
Nothing this British should sound this good, but the F-type is a muscle car in Euro disguise, especially when equipped with the supercharged V8 (Read our review of it HERE). Brian and I cruised this monster into Boston early one weekday morning and managed to scare the Dunkin Donuts cups out of the hands of more than a few yuppies along the way.
Back in October, I hung out with a few of my buddies at the NAXJA Rocktoberfest event. There were a ton of interesting rigs there and I took plenty of photos. Expect a full write-up…eventually. Be prepared for flipped vehicles, some interesting uses of rope, and bunny masks. Jeep guys are weird, man.
So an Evo and a Plymouth walk into a bar…
For me, the year wrapped up with the turbo-charged Odd Couple: One small, Japanese, and very blue, the other as old school hotrod as could be.
Not everyone may dig turbo-charged 4 bangers, but as an admitted Subaru Impreza WRX fanboy I’m mourning the loss of the Mitsubishi Evo, and so should you.
Sad to say, but there aren’t many new vehicles out there that offer as pure a driving experience, even if it does come with a gigantic wing and an interior straight out of the 1990s.
Oh, and the engine cover makes for a nifty gladiator shield in a pinch
I’ll take mine in blue, just like this:
In case you were wondering, no, we didn’t do donuts in this one. However, we did do some light amateur rally.
Following the Evo came Jim’s Plymouth Hot Rod. This beauty was a few years in the making and is the epitome of the expression labor of love. Old school cool with a neato turbo setup to boot.
Check out the feature, including Brian “Hitchcock” Lohnes’ fancy film-making HERE
Last but not least, I also got to finally get a picture taken with a Lamborghini Countach. I’ll let Mr. Lohnes set the scene:
“So there we were driving along in central Massachusetts and Dave Nutting in the most impassioned voice I have ever heard him muster screams PULL OVER. And there it was, with a single shaft of light shining down upon it surrounded by air that smelled like cow diarrhea.
Dave wept softly as they loaded it on the trailer.”
The lesson to be learned here, boys and girls, is that if you work hard, you too may one day get to stand awkwardly next to one of your boyhood dream cars in an Ocean State Job Lot parking lot that is a stone’s throw away from a waste treatment facility.
Happy New Years, and here’s to a great 2016!