As far as BangShift is concerned, 2018 is over in my world. The presents have been opened, the photos have been stored away onto the storage hard-drive and the work to prepare for 2019 has all but been completed at this point. What a year it’s been…I started on a wild note and ended the year on the highest of highs possible, by adding on to my list of accomplishments. I’ve shared that joy with friends who are as deep in this automotive sickness as I am, a wife who is fully supportive and tolerant of this life, and two bosses who make this job unlike any other kind of employment that I could have dreamed of. Yeah, it’s got it’s perks, and yes, it’s still a job that has to be performed. To everybody who has helped, lended advice or support, or has simply left their comments on the stories I put up, thank you. I’m looking forward to what 2019 brings, but since I haven’t heard “Auld Lang Syne” until I’m ready to puke yet, let’s look over some of the highlights from this last year:
11. King Of The Heap Racing$1,000 beaters racing around for the hell of it…of course I was going to be all about this. Since this is an over-winter event, we can go from the 2017-18 season that still had the rallycross portion to the 2018-19 season that saw the Cadillac limousine that we had bought finally hit the track. The racing here is surprisingly phenomenal. You can take that as the old adage of “driving a slow car fast” or what, but from where I sit, you are more comfortable to drive at 10/10ths when you simply don’t give a rat’s ass about the car you are beating on. As of writing, we are probably going to sit out the January KOTH date, but we expect to be back in February with a new car now that the Limo has been squished to a third of it’s original height!
10. The Test Drives
Credit has to be given to Scott Renshaw for hooking me up with the keys to vehicles that ordinarily I would never get the chance to experience, be it the brand-new Kia Stinger GT and 2019 Ram 1500, or some tasty used car selections like an SRT-8 Challenger and Shelby GT500. I’ve always said that my happy place is behind the wheel driving somewhere, and if I’m going to drive it, I might as well give you an unbiased opinion of what it’s all about, right? From basic transportation like the six-speed Jeep Compass that I would rock as a daily driver in half a second to an SRT Grand Cherokee that I would rock the wheels off of every time I used launch control, I’ll tell you all about what I think of it, good bad and otherwise.
9. The Polaris Romp In The Nevada Desert
Sometimes we get invited out to do some really cool shit. This was one of those deals…BF Goodrich invited us out to Las Vegas to check out the Legends Rally Ride and Drive, part of the pre-festivities for the 2018 Mint 400 race. The short end of the story was that I paired off with Steven Olsewski from Off Road Xtreme and Diesel Army in a Polaris RZR S 1000 EPS and we spent a day hauling balls around the southern end of Nevada along trails that were the historic stomping grounds of Mint. We ate at ghost towns. We ran down desert roads at great speed, catching air, rattling kidneys and spines, and finished the event covered in a layer of dust. You can read more about that trip, plus see some on-board footage from my camera HERE.
8. The Rise Of The YouTube Car Builders
This year the theme for me was “old car revival”. I wanted to see and cover tons of cars being dragged from the weeds and back into life, and not just by big-budget names, either. I wanted your everyday average Joe to be out there picking whatever interested them and I wanted them to do it on their budget and on their time. And I’ve run into three names that have been doing just that in spades: Dylan McCool, Kevin Brown, and Luke Finley. These guys are young, they are motivated, and they all have their eyes on whatever interests them at the moment. McCool is big into restoration-style work with Chrysler products, Finley does a lot of tips and tricks in addition to Ford work, and Brown will wrench on whatever comes his way. It’s a funny thing…I once read an article that was the usual tripe about young people not being into cars, and a response nailed what I see perfectly: that while there are a lot that aren’t interested in anything more than their smartphones, those that are interested are diving in head-first and are learning everything they can with a passion that shocks even the old-school folks.
7. The Little Wagon That Could
In September 2017 our friend Suzy Bauter invited us down to check out her nearly-completed 1963 Rambler American station wagon. The car was in primer, the interior was still in-progress, and the deadline to get the car onto the floor for that year’s SEMA show was looming tall in the background. But the car was there, and from that moment forward we’ve gotten to see her go on a whirlwind ride that the “Flare Witch” has taken them on. We caught the car testing at the SCCA/OUSCA event at NCM Motorsports Park, where Rodney Prouty was busy sorting some kinks out of the powertrain, and we saw it at LS Fest, cornering as flat as can be. Everywhere the car was, there was Suzy with a smile, loving every moment.
But that was only half of the experience. The car was nominated as one of the Hot Wheels Legends finalists, which brought the little Rambler back to SEMA for 2018, and while she didn’t win the ultimate prize in that contest, letting Jay Leno wheel the car around has to be a sweet consolation prize. Rodney and Suzy are good people and seeing what the wagon has brought their way has been fantastic to watch from our viewpoint.
6. Learning Experiences
At no point in time have I claimed to know everything there is to know about cars. Ever. Each lesson I have learned from, I’ve learned the hard way. You don’t pull the vinyl roof off of a 1973-77 A-body without preparing yourself for disappointment. You don’t chase Chrysler dash lights unless you want a good idea of what insanity looks like. And you don’t expect everything to go your way when you are building your first engine. The 367ci Chrysler mill I built this year threw me plenty of curveballs, but the oil pan had to be the most annoying part. First I had a truck pan on instead of a car pan. Then I found the car pan, just to learn that it was shot. Then, the point came where I had to bite the bullet and just buy a new car pan. Live, learn, move on. Expect more of this for 2019 as well, because there are plenty of projects lined up for the Thrown Wrench Garage.
5. Lapping The Stock CarI’m still not 100% who thought shoving me inside of a legitimate NASCAR cup car for a few laps on a legitimate track was a good idea, but bless them for allowing it anyways. Yes, they weren’t a full-fat, 700 horsepower screamer, but when you’re allowing any paying customer the chance to rip around an oval at high speeds, maybe that is for the best. The cars are plenty stout as it is, but it wasn’t the speed that captured my attention so much as how the car handled. My ride was a Dodge Charger-bodied machine (#7 in the background, actually) and for several minutes, I was both fully trusting the car to stick in the corners with my foot buried all the way until the rev cutoff, and wrestling that thing around due to steering geometry that I’ve never encountered before. It was a loud riot, one that left me wanting a lot more.
4.The Bus Chevelle
Another car that we’ve been following since 2017, this ex-stocker Chevelle has been hard on our radar for it’s history and for the fact that it’s honestly driven. Mostly, though, it’s the history…a former circle-track car that raced around the Kentucky-Tennessee area, this real-deal Malibu SS is now leading a charmed life as a cherished machine. I’ve had the privilege of coming to know not only Chris DeWeese, the current owner, but Ruben Lancaster, the driver who wheeled the car in it’s heyday. I’ve seen fans who remember the car from it’s battle days walking up to it at shows and going into full nostalgia mode just at the sight of the Chevelle sitting in the grass. History living once more…gotta love it.
You can see more of The Bus by checking out it’s feature HERE.
3. Gravelrama 48One of the few events I knew from childhood that I had to attend, Gravelrama was finally checked off of the list this year. After making the drive up to Cleves, Ohio, I spent the better part of one day checking out the sights and scenes, and of course shooting the action that went down. Yes, I was there for the big hill and the violent efforts of rigs to climb it. But I also got to see kids running dirt drags with their families and friends near them too. And that was just one day out of a multi-day event that goes on at the IOK off-road facility. That didn’t count the uphill drag course, the big-boy sand drags, or the off-roading obstacle course that encompasses most of the footprint of the place. What do you think…should I head back?
2. The Night of Fire at Rocky Mountain Raceways
The trip to Salt Lake City for Rocky Mountain Raceway’s last-ever throwdown was one of the most bittersweet things I’ve been a part of since I became part of BangShift. From the moment I left the house until I returned to the house, the trip seemed to be cursed, and the live-feed certainly seemed to be. It all came to a head on the last day, when I packed the equipment away, broke out the camera, and started shooting all of the photos I could. I still wish I could’ve brought you the live footage of what went down, though, because I don’t know if I’ll ever see a scene like that again. And I mean that. I’ve seen crowds at races. I’ve seen good racing, and I’ve seen jet cars. But I’ve never seen racers throw the rule book out of the window and inform me ahead of time that they were going to nuke the hides for a burnout shot. I’ve never seen jet cars literally scorch the burnout box to death. There were tears of happiness and sadness all over the place as RMR staff and racers alike threw down one final party to go out in a blaze of glory before the track went silent. The literal miles of parked cars all around the track told the tale: this is one strip that shouldn’t have become a warehouse lot. The staff were gracious and inviting, the facility was awesome, and the location was fantastic. But if it had to go away, at least it didn’t go quietly into the night, but with as much fire and ferocity as the wildfires burning just miles away had.
1. Raven Imperial runs!
The second the idle came down from the cam break-in and everything sounded happy, half of the county probably heard me scream out, “It’s about f**king time.” That’s no lie, I said that. The Imperial project has been the strongest love/hate relationship with a car I’ve ever had. I was intent on selling the car in the spring of 2017, that didn’t happen. I was hoping to have a drop-in engine when Eric Rood brought the new powertrain down to me, and that wasn’t the case (no fault of his!) Over the course of 2018 you’ve seen me building up the engine with parts courtesy of Mahle Motorsport, who supplied the gaskets and the engine bearings, and I’m happy to say that the 367ci mill runs like a dream. It fires right off, it idles beautifully…and that’s all I can tell you. Unfortunately, the A-999 automatic backing the engine is missing third gear and we’re already deep into figuring out the problem. If I have to bite down on a full rebuild, I will. But the Imperial will be roadworthy for 2019 come hell or high water…I did not build an engine just to hear it run a couple of times and to putt around at 30 MPH!
You can catch up on the activities involving our resident J-body Chrysler by clicking HERE!