The 17th annual Goodguys Del Mar Nationals, presented by Meguiar’s, started early at the scenic Del Mar Fairgrounds on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Known in the past as, where the “Turf Meets The Surf”. It featured speed, beauty, and celebrities.
Today the “horses” were under the hoods of pre-’72 hot rods, muscle cars, customs, roadsters, trucks, station wagons, Woodys, vintage and classic cars of all descriptions. Talk about “horses”, the Nitrothunderfest featured vintage top fuel dragsters cackling to life just a few feet from the fans! Speed was on-hand in the form of the Goodguys AutoCross racing competition.
Today the “horses” were under the hoods…
The event ran Friday through Sunday and featured warm, sunny weather with not a cloud in the sky all weekend. After exiting the last building of vendors and the Show n’ Shine cars, there was a huge parking lot dedicated to every type of car imaginable.
Vendors hawked a wide variety of goods: hoists, auto parts, time shares, personalized license plates, engines, polishes, jewelry, art, original gas pumps, auto insurance, custom car shops, bric-a-brac, Hawaiian and hot rod shirts, golden oldies music and tapes, bicycles, drivelines, hubcaps, tools, motorcycles and choppers, gaskets, rims, wheels, car seats and signs.
Every so often cars left their parking space to take a ride down the cruise route, past the Woodys pavilion, then back down the cruise route to parade in front of the crowd. There were friendly people everywhere who willingly talked to you about their cars, offered you a chair to stay awhile, and made you feel right at home.
Fantastic cars, wonderful people, nice weather, and a show that provided it all, wraps up this 17th annual Goodguys Del Mar Show.
.. a huge parking lot dedicated to every type of car imaginable
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the July 2017 print issue of the Drive Magazine.
Since the Willys reproduction era began, there have been many very fine examples of the street coupe, but perhaps none is more impressive and intimidating than that owned by the Jordan Family collection of Orange County, California. For Joshua Jordan, seeing this Willys was love at first sight. The family owns a stable of outstanding rods, customs and classics, but this monster of a street machine has a dominant aura. And why wouldn’t it? This is a killer build through and through.
The original construction took place more than a decade ago. Using an Antique & Collectible Autos high-quality shell, it was mated to a specially constructed tube frame chassis. A narrowed Ford 9-inch rearend was set up with parallel 4-link arms with coil-over shocks. Right from the get-go it was decided that this was going to be a beast worthy of its iconic status.
The first order of business was to go big, as in big-block. Noted engine builder Wayne Halabura assembled a 454 Rat motor punched out to 513 ci. Next 9.5:1 TRW pistons were added to the solid steel crank. A B&M 420 Mega Blower was added with a pair of Edlebrock four-barrel carbs. Everything was either plated or polished and all lines were braided steel with aircraft fittings. The goal was to exceed 1,000 hp. Actually dyno numbers confirmed the beast’s potential.
There was no intent to make the Willys cruise night friendly. The locker-style rear axles were mated to 4.10 gears. The performance-built GM Turbo 350 trans was also beefed up to handle the additional stress. If you’re going to do something, it pays to do it right. Nothing was more correct than custom-made Budnik wheels with Mickey Thompson 26×15 Sportsman rear tires. The fronts are Dunlop 15×6 radials.
Next on the to-do list was the interior. A multi-point cage was custom made and color matched. The Recaro bucket seats were modified and covered in ivory and blue leather. A custom center console was fabricated, as were door and cab panels. The cab was carefully traced out so matching leather-covered panels could be fitted into place. A tilt steering column with a Budnik wheel and billet stems provide the controls. Pile carpet was laid down and billet door handles finished the job. The custom-made dash is the result of hours of fabricating, fitting, smoothing and finishing in matching PPG paint. It was married to Dakota Digital gauges behind smoked Plexiglas.
The body was sanded to glass-like smoothness. Then, it was primed and graphite sprayed to reveal any and all imperfections. Next it was back for additional hand sanding prior to being sprayed with two-stage PPG Blue Wave Metallic for the exterior color, a hue akin to that used on the famous Stone, Woods & Cook gasser.
The Willys was returned to Rick’s Auto Restoration in El Cajon, California for additional interior modifications. The aluminum gas tank was sealed before being covered in leather and topped with a competition flip cap. Gas pressure lifts were polished and a long list of detail items were handled.
While at Rick’s, a 3-inch exhaust system was custom made and installed featuring side-exit paths and plated tapered tips. While testing out the exhaust note, a half-throttle run up a nearby freeway onramp revealed a glaring issue: torque lift, also known as pulling the front wheels off the ground. This was nothing a proper set of wheelie bars couldn’t solve, but common and proper are two different things. Off the rack would work, but custom tailored was better. A special unit was handcrafted using precise spring tensioning, and all components were chrome-plated and polished to perfection, of course.
For a final touch they had Mark Brink, a custom painter known for his innovation and quality work, come up with a ribbon overlapped with flames. The subtle, yet effective design was applied on a tamped angle from the hood’s point to the body’s beltline, culminating with a final lick that is in concert with the rear fender contour. That was it. No accenting pinstripes or designs were needed—neat, clean, perfect. Once Brink had done his act, the entire body was cleared once again, cut and buffed.
With 1,000 hp sitting just a gentle push away from the right foot, and an equal amount of hours going into the build, you’d think this wild ride would become a trailer queen. The fact is it participated in a cross-country Americruise, as well as regional legs of a Power Tour. There was a bit of detuning and a gear change to bring the fuel mileage up to 10 mpg. But, once the events were over, the optimum pulleys and gears were reinstalled to once again make this a wolf on Main Street.
Building a ’41 Willys is a tightrope affair, especially one that dares to have any visual connection to one of history’s famous drag cars. However, the Jordan family collection offers such a ride. Wherever it’s shown, this high-end build has the ability to create new memories and join the list of iconic Willys coupes.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the December 2016 print issue of the Drive Magazine.
In August my wife Carol and I, following our own lead, did a re-visit to the Grand Rapids, Michigan area for the 12th Annual 28th Street Metro-Cruise. We had such a great time last year we made arrangements with our host and SO-CAL Speed Shop dealer Steve Sturim (of Steve’s Antique Auto Repair, Wyoming, MI) to attend the 2016 event.
The Metro Cruise started as a way to draw attention to 28th Street, with the opening of the M6 highway. The real concern was 28th Street would become a ghost town with the local traffic bypass. This event showcases the area and local businesses. The business folk there have learned to embrace the Cruise, and even produce their own events in conjunction with it. A win-win-win for the parties involved, especially the car crowd.
The event produces some pretty impressive numbers. A whopping 275,000 to 300,000 visitors, if you can believe that, descend on 28th Street in Wyoming and Kentwood, Michigan to view over 15,000 classic cars. It’s really mind-boggling! That’s impressive by anyone’s count—more so when you consider that the event officially runs for only two days.
The cruise is a laid-back event with plenty of room for everyone and the schedule is unbelievable. It’s crazy-cool and the support from business leaders such as Marge Wilson, owner of “Marge’s Donut Den”, and our pal Steve Sturim, is what makes this type of event successful. It’s a ground swell that works from the “inside out”. Of course the other ingredient is a well-run police department. They show friendly control and in turn gets major respect from the attendees, something I really appreciate from both sides.
Even though it was a quick trip, and the show was a major time consumer, we were able to enjoy a pre-party BBQ at Steve’s shop and yet another BBQ at Mike Boerema’s Gas Axe Garage in Allendale, MI. By the way, the guys in the Relix Car Club were all over the place showing off some incredible cars and helping out whenever called upon.
On Sunday, Steve and Mike took a few friends to the Lake Michigan shore; our destination was a worthy one: a BBQ/beer restaurant. You know when I think of great BBQ it’s either Missouri or Texas—if that’s what you think also, then you’d be wrong! Go see for yourself.
The Snug Harbor Restaurant at the beach in Grand Haven, MI is stunning and like I said last year, “I’m in for another trip to the shore. Maybe we’ll get invited back.” Well, we were and it was fantastic!
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the December 2016 print issue of the Drive Magazine.
It’s 6:00 am and you’re driving with your lights on. You’re following someone because you have never been here before. You turn onto a single lane road. In about a quarter of a mile, you see a forest is on your right and a lake is on the left side.
As the morning light begins to shed some light on the flourishing landscape, you think, “Is this a golf course?” It doesn’t look like your usual spot for a car show. You’re then directed to leave the road and drive over the lush green grass to your parking spot.
You find over 250 hot rods and classic cars are parked on the grass inside The Grand Tradition Estate and Gardens with its 18 acres of first-class botanical gardens surrounding a Victorian estate and the luxurious Beverly Mansion.
This was the inaugural Fallbrook Country Car Show hosted by the Fallbrook Ag boosters. Meguiar’s and Jack Powell were proud sponsors of this event. Special guests included local long time resident and drag racing legend Dode Martin and the fire breathing extreme hot rod called “Wild Thang”.
The music was provided by Brett Harrell and his High Energy Sound Machine. There was food, beverages and some unique grounds to enjoy lunch. The handmade trophies were awarded to deserving cars and there was a cool “JR” class for 21 and under.
From the looks of the first edition of this event, it will surely be followed by many more. We certainly hope so.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the January 2017 print issue of the Drive Magazine.
Hi and greetings from Syracuse NY. It’s a long way from L.A. but what I saw here really made me feel at home. More than 8,000 classic cars and an estimated 90,000 people descended on the newly renovated State Fairgrounds for the PPG Syracuse Nationals car show (July 15-17, 2016).
The gathering of so many folks and the vehicles really knocked me out! Prior to the show I had heard from my pal Brad Fanshaw about how it was over the moon and he wasn’t kidding.
In talking with Rob O’Connor, organizer and son of Syracuse Nationals founder, Bob O’Connor, I learned that this year’s show, the 17th edition of the colossal event would attract even more than the 8,034 cars at the 2015 show with pre-reservations running about 200 cars over. It’s now the largest custom car show in the Northeast, and one of the five largest in the country.
The venue is beautiful and the new changes have created a park-like setting for a premier car show. There were a lot of celebrities, including old friend, American Graffiti’s, Candy Clark. She is always fun and treats us really well. By “us” I’m referring to the four guys from California that make up the podcast show, “Shift and Steer” (Brad Fanshaw, Matt D’Andria, Aaron Hagar and yours truly). We are of course always happy to see make an appearance at this type of event.
The O’Connors and pinstriper/artist, Art Schilling, invited us to host several events during the show, as well as getting a few more podcasts in the can. Two of the major events we took part in were “Arties Party” and the “Winfield Award”. The Winfield Award is sponsored by PPG paints and the purse this year was $15000, $10000 of which goes to the 2016 winner: Jack Kiely with his Ron Ida built 1940 full custom Mercury Coupe.
The car took best of show at SEMA in 2015—as you can see above, it’s an incredible piece of work! Winfield was there to ensure that all was good and proper—he did not disappoint, making a tough choice for winner (especially when the competition was so keen). At age 89 Gene still has the eyes of a hawk and the look of a man half his age.
Art Schilling’s 17th Annual “Arties Party” was an incredible showcase of pinstripers from around the world. The gang sets out to literally pinstripe anything that is not nailed down, and auctions it off no matter the price. The ONE SHOT Paint Company sponsored the event. All should be proud of the talent working out of “Artie’s Party”, as they raised over $72,000. Now you have to realize that’s a lot time and energy—bless you all!
We had a blast, met a lot of good solid people, had great food and—yes, we’ll be back. Syracuse, NY has it all, including a little bar downtown called “Wild Will’s”, but that’s another story!
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the November 2016 print issue of the Drive Magazine.
Meet Mike Norcia. In 1978, during his junior year in high school, he bought an 11-year-old Camaro, which has remained in his possession since. Today, the car is rebuilt in the style of a Pro Street machine, or perhaps more accurately a Pro Mod Street. Endowed with a 572-cu.-in. power unit (9.4-liter), GM’s biggest crate engine and rated at 620 bhp/650 tq the car is fast—operating in the high 9-second range over the quarter mile.
Norcia, who with his brother Pat, heads Ram Clutches in Columbia, South Carolina, was born in Canton, Ohio, and a few years ago, began to relish the challenge of shaping the hot rod just the way he wanted it. His affection for race cars and hot rods was awakened at an early age—undoubtedly transmitted by his father, John, who had formed the noted competition clutch company in the early 1970s.
“At the time I bought the car,” says Norcia, “I would have been satisfied with a 1967, 1968 or 1969 model. Although the body of the 1969 Camaro is different, the dissimilarities between my 1967 car and the 1968 model are minor—detected mainly in the grille, the quarter vent windows on the doors and the taillights.” Investigation into the serial numbers indicated the car was a Rally Sport model. The RS option represented an appearance package that included concealed headlights, revised taillights with backup lights under the rear bumper, RS badging and exterior bright trim.
“For $1200,” Norcia says, “I got a clean body with 34,000 miles of use, a Muncie M22 transmission, a Dana rear end and enlarged rear wheel wells, which indicated that the car had probably seen competition use. In the engine bay, it sported a nice 327-cu.-in. power unit—split down both sides of the block!” Abandoned in a barn over several winters and with a cooling system filled with water without antifreeze, crankcase destruction was inevitable. “I suspected the only tools the previous owner used to work on this car were a dead-blow hammer and a blow torch!” Norcia says.
The engine was replaced with a fairly radical 350 and the car was pressed into action for another year until one evening when setting the valves, oil issued from the exhaust and up the garage door behind. This was the result of multiple valve-seal failures on one side, following some spirited driving the night before.
The engine was replaced with a fairly radical 350 and the car was pressed into action for another year until one evening when setting the valves, oil issued from the exhaust and up the garage door behind.
The next engine combo was an LT-1 from a 1970 Corvette. “Around this same time,” says Norcia, “and with the help of a friend we stripped the car and repainted it. We chose Corvette Dark Red and incorporated Silver Blue flames coming off the front rally stripe. Being a typical 17-year-old, I didn’t do as good a job as I could have with the paintwork. But it certainly was an attention-getter!”
By late 1983, however, Ram had moved its competition clutch business from Canton, Ohio, to South Carolina and the car remained idle for over a decade. Norcia devoted most of his energies to the preparation of racing clutches and nitrous systems, working with several Top Sportsman teams in the infancy of Pro Modified racing. Then out of the blue in 1994, he towed the car to Stroupe Race Cars in Kings Mountain, North Carolnia, for a complete 12-point roll cage and back-half job—rebuilding the car from the firewall to the back end. The intention was to develop it as a Pro Street car.
But at the same time he started a family and, as a consequence, the car languished in the garage for the next 17 years. Then in late 2010, his son began showing an interest in reviving the project. The body was sent to Color by Weasel in Lugoff, South Carolina, and the car was completely rebuilt to its current condition, incorporating much of what he had learned over the years—“mainly patience!” he bridles.
When recounting the more memorable events of the project, the transmission initially came to mind. With the engine in place and while installing the Tremec TKO 5-speed gearbox, he encountered a peculiar difficulty. Fortunately, Hurst Driveline had figured out that to install the big-block in the Camaro an offset of around 0.750-in. to the right (the passenger side) was required. As a result, the transmission location is different from that of stock and for this reason a special crossmember is required.
“Transmissions vary and some Pro Street guys even run Lencos,” Norcia says, “but I use a 5-speed Tremec TKO 600, which has an overdrive top gear. It transmits through a Ford 9-in. rear end with a Strange spool, 4.10 gear and axles. This gearing arrangement generates around 55 mph at 2000 rpm, which suits my street driving.” The Tremec, incidentally, uses its own shifter with a round-style knob by Lokar, who also provided the pedals and pads.
Inside the Quicktime bell housing, which adapts the big-block to the TKO, Norcia, predictably, used a Ram Force 10.5 dual-disc clutch pack with their new hydraulic release bearing and connected the system to an American Powertrain master cylinder. Perhaps the best news for Tremec enthusiasts is that Ram recently announced information of their hydraulic release bearing development program that adapts Tremec’s range of transmissions to all muscle cars.
As the power increases, so too must the capacity of the rear tires to provide additional traction. Transmitting its power to the road is achieved by Billet Specialties Comp 5 wheels and Mickey Thompson 15 x 31.5-18 Sportsman radials (fronts: 15 x 5).
In the engine bay, Dynatec, aware of the necessary engine offset, produced an admirable header package that adapts the big-block to the Camaro. With coated pipes in durable silver, exhaust gases flow into Summit stainless mufflers with side exits. Speaking of the acclaimed Ohio speed shop, the car also uses a Summit aluminum radiator with a Flex-a-Lite fan and shroud. “I tried several fans,” Norcia says, “but this one is superior to the others. It maintains a reliable 192 degrees Fahrenheit regardless of ambient conditions.”
To increase the spark charge at the plugs, and therefore ignite the air-fuel mixture more completely, an MSD 6AL ignition box was installed in tandem with its electronic distributor and Blaster coil. Wires are by Moroso. More notably, perhaps, is that all the original wiring was replaced with American Autowire’s Highway series. “It’s a great deal,” Norcia says, “because you can conveniently rewire the entire car; it even accommodates an electric fan. You just terminate the ends and make the connections where you need them.” A 12-volt XS Power battery provides the electrical energy and a one-wire Powermaster alternator maintains its charge.
To feed the thirsty 572 big-block, the excellent Aeromotive A1000 fuel pump was put to good use. Pumping from a modest 12-gal. fuel cell, the pump is assisted by an Aeromotive fuel-pressure regulator and two filters; one placed before the pump, the other before the carburetor. Lubrication for the engine, transmission and rear end is entrusted to Royal Purple.
Common interests get projects going, but it is shared experiences that accumulate the memories—it builds the community—as no doubt Norcia and his pals will confirm. “I have always been a Pro Street and a big-cubic-inch admirer, and on this project we pursued a theme of ‘modern Pro Street’ or, put another way, what would the car look like if it were built to match the style of high-horsepower race cars today? The result is this—what I term Pro Mod Street. Could we be starting a new trend?”
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