The end is near! THE END IS NEAR! That’s what people were screaming in Phoenix last night until they realized that it was just a rocket launch, but they weren’t that wrong…the end of 2017 is upon us. It’s been a sold year filled with work and fun and all of the ups and downs that occur in my world, but before I go into Holiday Hibernation mode and we all take some time off to be with family and friends for the holiday season, I thought I’d look back on some of the bright points of this last year from my point of view. Enjoy!
11. Drove the Woodward Dream Cruise!
I had an absolute blast last year at Woodward, and I knew that I had half-assed the coverage by just standing on the street corner in the Modern Street Hemi Shootout parking lot in Pontiac. This year, not only was I able to drive Angry Grandpa up and down Woodward Avenue, and not only did I leave my mark on the pavement (several times, in fact!) but I got to have my wife with me for the trip. That’s a win. So was catching this biker chucking up the peace sign at me as he rode past!
10. I Survived One Scary-Ass Road Trip!
This was a fun one: on my first trip out to Denton, Texas and North Star Dragway, I had to drive through the remnants of Hurricane Harvey to get there in a rented Hyundai Santa Fe. Just before I left that morning, I realized I had two main options to get there: either by going north up through Paducah, Kentucky and St. Louis, Missouri before heading south, or by dropping down through Nashville and heading west towards Memphis. Being half-awake and barely with the program, I chose south. Two tornado warnings, at least an hour locked down at a rest stop for one funnel cloud, and another hour at a truck stop for another, plus torrential downpours and one of the most horrific wrecks I’ve ever seen later, I couldn’t have been happier to be at Denton.
9. The Test-Drives
I’ve been having fun test-driving cars this year, and while the Hellcat Charger was a high point, my favorite still is the two-door Jeep Wrangler Rubicon with the six-speed and the crank windows. If I could’ve bought it, I would have in half a second, with no regrets whatsoever. I loved that it was so new yet at the same time felt so old-school. Hopefully I get more to drive in the next year…anytime I’m behind the wheel, I’m a happy man!
8. My First Announcing Gigs!
Whoever thought it was a great idea to hand me a live microphone at an event might have others questioning their sanity, but it happened this year AND I managed to:
- Not embarass myself or others, and
- Not drop an F-bomb over the mic.
Far as I’m concerned, that’s a win. And when you get the nod of approval from Brian Lohnes himself, it is a win.
7. King Of The Heap and the Now-Infamous Camaro Incident
I’ve never, ever laughed harder at an event where I’m driving and/or shooting like I did at the inaugural King of the Heap event at NCM Motorsports Park. A week before the race, I had resigned to the fact that I’d only shoot pictures. The day before the race, I knew I was driving a Crown Victoria. That morning is when I got told that I was getting handed the keys to a Chevrolet Camaro Z28 that had three wiped main bearings, plenty more totaled rod bearings, and a life expectancy measured in minutes. I actually took ownership of this car, beat the living hell out of it for the morning, and it took everything I had up until the LT-1, which was making all sorts of noise after five WFO laps of the race course, projectile-puked it’s guts out. I sold the car at the event, and here in a couple of weeks I hope to see it return triumphantly to the course. At least, that’s what I was told would happen…
6. Sawzall, Meet Junk Truck!
Arguably the best couple hundred bucks I’ve spent on a vehicle in years, this 1998 Ford Explorer was a “mild rollover” case that was ready for the yard, once I plucked the 5.0L, automatic and other useful bits from the truck. The Explorer is long gone, the engine and trans are waiting for parts, and there’s a guy in Tennessee who bought the whole front axle and other parts, putting me into the black on the whole deal. Win!
5. The Gran Turismo Awards Party
The one thing I look forward to at the SEMA show is the Gran Turismo Awards party. Since Brian has been tapped to judge the Hot Rod class for the last few years, I’ve gotten to go in and watch the full-on throwdown that happens in the club. This year was even more special, because his choice for the show was Suzy Bauter and her Rambler, the “Flare Witch Project”. While she lost to a Honda Civic, the fun of having Suzy, Rodney, Mike, Rollie, Steve and everybody else in the club having fun and blowing off some steam in the middle of the week was just awesome.
4. Hanging With Friends
I work for two of the coolest bosses in the world. That’s not an ego-inflator for them, that’s the damn truth. Since the day I agreed to start writing here, Brian and Chad been supportive and helpful in getting my introverted ass to change ways and to be a better, more approachable human. This year I’ve seen the results…people who would come up and tell me how they read my stories, people who would stop by while I’m on Livestream to see if I needed anything, racers, builders, wrenches, writers, photographers, and buddies who will stop by my house to help tear something together or to put it back the way it was. You know the guy on the left…Finnegan is one of the coolest people I know in the business, always friendly, always humble. The guy on the right is Chris Conn, a friend of mine who works at Holley who helped relieve the Rollover Explorer of it’s engine and trans on what was a pretty awesome day. He was on the concrete with me, laying in the spilled trans fluid and getting just as dirty. Good people make life that much better, remember that.
3. The Imperial Was Saved, And My First Full Engine Rebuild
Let’s go full confession on where the Imperial was throughout the year: It almost didn’t make it. I was so pissed off at the car that I tried to sell it. That almost happened. I considered LS-swapping it…yeah, that almost happened, too. And when the deal to sell the car failed, I was ready to part it out or sell it to the first person with decent cash and a trailer to load it up. The only reason the Imperial has a new life is all due to Eric Rood and the 360 and automatic that he sold me. It’s done two things: it’s given me hope for my car, and it’s given me a reason to learn how to rebuild a 360 after the plan went haywire when I found loose main caps. You can’t drive ’em if you can’t fix ’em, and putting an engine together is something I’ve needed to get done for years.
2. Drove a Nissan Skyline GT-R!
Ever since my car-averse little brother used one of these to brutally kick my ass while playing Gran Turismo on the original PlayStation as kids, this one Nissan has had my curiosity. Ever since the Fast and Furious movies made them a buzzword, I’ve had to listen to hordes of fans praise the boost to the point of annoyance. This year, Bird and Corinne at Roadtrip Motorcars gave me the keys to several very cool Japanese market cars to sample, including a 1-0f-500 Toyota Soarer Aerocabin, but this R32 Skyline GT-R was the pinnacle, no doubt. It lives up to the hype. Every last statement. Driving this thing was an eye-opener to what that engine and that platform can do.
1. The Mustang LIVES!!
Ever since I was introduced to this car when I started dating my wife, I’ve wanted to do something, anything with it. This year was the start of honest-to-God work, and the results have been amazing. It’s been driven on the Interstate with not one bitch. It’s been driven in absolutely crappy, rainy weather with no faults (just today, in fact.) The heater works, the A/C works, the stereo works, it drives fine…and we haven’t even gotten to putting in good stuff yet! I’ve wanted to bring this car up to snuff for my wife…it’s her car, after all…and so far I’m on the right path. And knowing that has been such a help for when I’m pissed off at something else.