It Was One of Those Days - Part XIX

Raven

Here - watch THIS!
We had just pulled out of the car lot, heading for the Red Barn when I happened to notice that a big Chrysler was hanging back a couple of car lengths behind me. I was last in line, behind B, Stacy, and Kel in that order. I really didn’t think much of it because traffic had started to pick up almost immediately after we pulled back onto the street.

But after we had made a couple of turns to get over to the street that had the Red Barn on it (‘Restaurant Row’), that was when I noticed that this car seemed to be shadowing us. It usually kept a car or so between us when there was other traffic; when there wasn’t any, it hung back. I could tell by the street lights that it was a silver 300C - but that was it. Nothing special about it at first glance and to be honest, I never really gave it much thought other than it seemed a bit odd that it was – at least for the moment – matching each turn and speed change that our caravan had made.

But when 30 Seconds from Mars came on the radio with their recent hit, “From Yesterday”, I completely dismissed the notion that we were ‘being followed’. I simply got ‘lost’ in the song and dismissed the Oliver Stone mentality from my mind…

When we finally pulled into the brightly lit lot of the Red Barn, none of us even noticed that the big Chrysler slowed a bit and then quietly drove on by the restaurant and on down the road, disappearing in the traffic and the night. And of course, we had no clue that inside that car was Bill Reynolds along with three other men who we would later find out had reputations that made Bill’s storied past look like one of the Apostle’s in comparison… but we WOULD find that out later…

Wheeling on into the Barn’s vast parking area, a cornucopia of automotive performance came into view. The Barn has been around for years, almost going out of business back in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s - when it seemed that real performance was a dying passion and the young people of the day were busy building up their stereo systems much more than trying to wring a lower ET out of an anemic late ’70 Camaro or Mustang; when front wheel drive Mopars even dared to come calling with such hallowed names as “Daytona” or “Shelby”. It certainly seemed during those barren years that the oil companies and OPEC - along with the entire Insurance industry – were determined to kill performance cars. And worse yet, it seemed that the car manufacturers were buying into it as well.

But somehow, some way, the fire flickered - but it didn’t die. Ford gets a lot of credit, perhaps deserves all of it, for keeping performance alive during the transition to the fuel injected age with the Mustang. Many of us can argue that the Mustang II was hardly a performance car but as Brandon and I argued about for years (and that I ultimately had to agree that he was right), the Mustang led the way. Sure, the Camaro was around as was the Firebird – but the Mustang and the 5.0 especially had the support of the buying public as well as the aftermarket and because of them, performance did not die.

Sure – the Road Runner was gone. As was the GTO, the Chevelle, the Impala SS, the Fairlane, the GTX, the Thunderbolt, the AMX, the Javelin… they were all distant memories. As were engines such as would seem to never be seen again – LT-1’s, L-88’s, 426 Hemi’s, 390’s, 428 and 429’s, 340’s and on and on and on… it even FELT that performance – if not dead – was breathing its last breath… WAS it the end? We just could not be sure…

And then, in the early ‘80’s, even Buick’s performance team got their collective heads together and the turbocharged Regal came to be. Chevrolet grew a set and began to offer the 350 engine back in an F-body… the Mustang got healthier with the potent 5.0 gaining some horsepower in serious numbers… and the sinister intercooled Turbo Buicks came out to lay all to waste…

Performance was coming back… slowly… steadily… it was making a comeback.

I remember back in those years when we would all pull into the Barn, we would see a few of the dinosaurs… there might be an LT1 Vette, perhaps a Boss 302, maybe even a GTX; but they were few and far between. Usually, they were crowded out by the kids driving cars that – if they were lucky – had about as much horsepower as the number of dollars in those kids’ pockets. You would see Malibu’s, Laguna’s (what an UGLY name, we always joked, even if the car wasn’t THAT bad looking), Chrysler K cars, and – get this – even VANS!

Those were definitely lean years indeed… I guess that was why we always seemed to draw a crowd whenever Brandon or I would pull in with our own old dinosaurs. Performance people – REAL performance people - have always known what was real and what was just a car with stickers, a noisy exhaust, and a big stereo. Even when the auto industry was trying to convince us that if a car had even 175 HP it was a ‘performance car’, we knew they were lying.

Performance always came with big Horsepower numbers. It came with posi. It came in a V8. It came with a four-speed and a Hurst shifter (usually – we never did like to admit even to ourselves that a well tweaked auto could - and often DID - beat a guy with a four-gear). And performance ALWAYS had one absolute; one incontrovertible fact of life…

Performance ALWAYS came with AT LEAST the rear tires driving the car. No one ever took front wheel drive seriously back then – and if we’re being honest, most performance guys today (narrow-minded as we might be) will never admit that even those pesky SRT-4 Neon’s and Si Honda Civics are ‘performance’ cars.

Nope. Performance MUST have rear wheel drive, a locking diff (“Sure Grip”, “Posi”, “Traction Lock”, etc) and it has a big, healthy, stump-pulling V8. It needs a moniker like “LT1”, “LS2”, DOHC, “5.7 Hemi”, “LS7”, 6.1 Hemi, and so forth… yes, performance is breathing again… and now, it was parked in parking spaces that 30 years ago held cars with big engines with similar designations…

Performance is DEFINITELY alive once more…

So, when we finally found four parking spaces adjoining each other, we had already seen a LOT of performance cars around the restaurant, many of which that, like us, had just came from Tri-County. And people were everywhere, almost like you see at any typical car show in Anytown, USA on a weekend; they were out of their cars, some sitting on the hoods talking and bench racing… others were clustered around somebody’s open hood, ogling the motor and it’s shiny pieces, often commenting about how they might have hidden a Nitrous set-up or what specs the newly installed cam might have (or cams, as in the new OHC cars that are the rage today, especially those Mustangs and Cobras)…

Sometimes, they were crouched down beside a killer set of wheels and admiring the look that the 17’s, or 18’s, or even bigger added to the car. Lately, it seemed that 17’s or 18’s have become the most commonly installed size (well, other than those going for the mega-dub look, a look that you usually don’t see on a car that will be making a pass at Tri-County). Many were grabbing a bite to eat, having had the waitresses bring them their favorite Barn food; waitresses who, like those from the ‘50’s, STILL rolled around on white high-top, laced up and tied tight roller skates – a HUGE draw to the Barn…

This night was no different than many others… the Barn always felt comfortable and inviting. The lighting was great, the food was great (and cheap), the waitresses were GORGEOUS, and the car guys and gals loved the covered parking areas that still had the satin finished intercom systems that you pushed a button on to give your order to someone who was inside the building; that same someone who gave the order to most likely another young person with a passion for food and cars who fixed that order who in turn gave that prepared food to a wheeled waitress waiting at the open window who in turn brought it to your window… just like it was 1969 all over again…

Music blared over the P/A system continuously, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The restaurant was open nearly the same - except for major holidays. And the business was always good.

As we shut off the cars, Kelly hopped out of her GTO and slid in beside me. Stacy did the same, jumping in next to B with all of us busy scanning the menus that are posted on a brightly backlit area just above the intercom system (that looks a LOT like the speakers you used to see at the local Drive-In theatres). The menu at the Barn is simple – burgers (in every variation you can imagine), fries (that McDonalds WISHES it could copy) or onion rings, shakes/malts/sodas, and in a tip of the hat to healthier food, even a few salads are available. In a blink, we had given our orders to the voice behind the button so now, all we had to do was wait and admire the iron parked nearby, listening to the golden oldie of Sam Cooke’s playing loudly over the P/A…

” Don't know much about history,
Don't know much biology,
Don't know much about a science book…
Don't know much about the French I took…
But I do know that I love you,
And I know that if you love me too,
What a wonderful world this would be…”


Most of the cars were like all those you see on any given Friday night in any given town… Mustangs, Camaros, Chargers, Magnums, pick-ups, and such… they were everywhere. And, like you also see everywhere, there were various levels of performance.

But one that really stuck out this night was an old red Studebaker – a Commander I think- that had a huge blower sticking out of its highly polished hood, having huge meats out back with skinnies up front. There were so many people clustered around that particular car that I didn’t even see that it was a Studie at first. And actually, at first glance one might mistake it for a late ‘60’s non-fastback Barracuda. But this particular car was healthy and over the top. I never did get to talk to the owner, an older guy with thinning and graying hair, who told those who were fortunate enough to get close to him that his dad had bought the car for him when he graduated from high school; that many often thought it was a Packard, and that the motor in the car now was a GM 572 crate motor with a 6-71 blower on it, backed by a built Turbo 400 that twists an aluminum drive-shaft that twists the ring and pinion inside a Dana 60 rear. And, he also said he never had raced the car – he just built it because he wanted to.

That, my friend, is a car guy.

In the end, the rest of the night went by quickly… we ate our food, walked around the lot a bit admiring some more of the cars, and then unanimously decided that it was time to head home. Before we left, we all got a good laugh out of Brandon retelling his street race earlier in the evening that we all thought was going to end up with him and Derrick both behind bars. Finally, agreeing that it was time to go, we saddled back up and headed back to our house. Once we got there, Stacy parked the big Charger in front of the garage, tossed me the keys, and then hopped in B’s Shelby, both of them waving good-bye as they left and headed on out into the night.

The moon was out and it was a cloudless, cold night sky. Kelly and I just stood there side by side for a moment; enjoying the quietness of the late hour... it was hard to believe that it was already Sunday and that the events just hours ago almost seemed like surely they must have happened to someone else or that it must have been a long time ago…

I guess we were just… tired… and more tired than we really realized until we had stopped moving…

“Well, Steve… where are you going to park THIS car?”

She had a point. I hadn’t even thought about where I was going to park the SRT because I never DREAMED I would be coming home with ANOTHER car! But – here it was… all shiny red and with a clear title, it was ours. Now, many would say it was ‘mine’ but in my house, what is mine is ‘ours’. I guess maybe I just wasn’t ready to admit to myself that I actually owned a Mopar? Hmmm…. There’s always a first for everything.

“What do you think, Kelly? Maybe over in the ‘annex’?”

She just shrugged her shoulders at first. “I don’t know Steve. That part of the building has that ‘other car’ in it; you know - the one that ‘does not play well with others’, as you say? So – I don’t know if they will ‘get along’…” she said with a twinkle in her eye.

What she said wasn’t far from the truth. We had never parked another car next to ‘it’. I don’t really know why… maybe we just never felt that it should have to share space with less worthy mechanical beasts… because it had convinced us in some strangely mechanical and soulful way that it was indeed special; one of a kind and from an era when giants roamed the earth…. Giants who bowed their heads to NO man…

From the day we had brought it home from Dollar-Bill’s farm, we had no doubt that the Stage 3 GSX was special. I had never taken it out in the daylight – it just seemed to fit that it should stay hidden in the dark. I only drove it at night, usually week nights when the traffic wasn’t as prevalent, and often with Kelly at my side. Maybe we just never wanted to ‘share’ this car with the world… it was loud… it was raw… and it felt deliciously dangerous to drive it; like it was just on the very edge – even teetering OVER the edge – of being civil and friendly to anyone other than those who were strapped in its wide ‘bucket’ seats… the paint had been brought back to its deep lustrous finish, looking wet and deep… almost as if one could ‘fall’ into the hood and keep falling and dropping…. It was ‘our’ car and we felt that it ‘allowed’ us the privilege of riding in it; almost as a grizzly would tolerate us riding its powerful form – but only us and no one else…

So, when she said what she said, we both knew she was right… we couldn’t park the Charger in there… the GSX needed its own space… We only had one other car that we knew might be a worth stable mate to the GSX someday… and that car wasn’t running - just yet.

Close. But not quite yet… when it was finished, we had no doubt where it should finally be parked when not out on the street…

But for now, the GSX would sit alone in its dark bay, waiting for ‘its’ time… waiting… patiently, just as it had in that old dusty barn for so many years… just… simply… waiting… as all killers and predators do.

“So… with my Goat in the first bay, your GN in the second bay, the WE4 in bay 3 – or is it in 4? - and so forth – you really don’t have much choice do you? Hey! Maybe it could go out back – in the new building?”

I never gave it a thought to be honest. We had built the oversize building shortly after the first of the year, initially to be a new body shop of sorts. But, because I had to actually go outside to get to it, I had yet to move the painting equipment out there – it just didn’t feel ‘handy’ yet.

It was a 40x60 building, three ten-foot wide by ten foot tall overhead doors, insulated and heated, and it has a lift in it too. I got a good deal on the building material and a buddy who was begging for winter work put it up at a great savings for us. Since it had only been up for less than two months and since it was out of sight for the most part, it was easy to not think about it.

But not for Kelly… she knew it was there. We hadn’t got the drive back to it paved yet but the stone was down. Yes – it would be a perfect place to park the Dodge.

We both got in the SRT-8. As I slid into the racing seat I noticed how well built the car was, how solid the doors felt and especially the great fit/finish of the overall vehicle. I did like the fact that the ignition switch was on the dash – the place God intended it to be. Turning the key, the big Hemi started easily with the blower growling a bit as if to warn any nearby vehicle that this car was to be taken seriously. The instrument panel was well laid out and easy to read… the ergonomics of the car were perfect.

I wheeled the big car on around to the side drive and on out back to up in front of the first door of the ‘shop’. Kelly hopped out and using the keypad attached to the side pillar, entered the opener sequence which in turn opened the bay’s big overhead door. Immediately the light from the garage door opener came on which also triggered the overheads to come on. With that, the entire building was flooded with light. The white walls and the white ceiling shown brightly, increasing the reflective value of the three rows of 8’ fluorescents overhead.

The black/white checkerboard floor gleamed cleanly and as we drove on into the bay, the tires squeaked as they rolled over the surface. We shut the car down and I grabbed a screwdriver to remove Bill’s plates which only took a few seconds. With that, we walked back out, I hit the door button and the big door began to drop as the overheads went off.

We then walked back to the front of the house, put the other cars away, closed the garage doors and finally went inside. Cleaning up the cars (and especially the rubber off the fenders) would have to wait until tomorrow. I dropped the title for the SRT-8 on the bar as I walked by, thinking to myself that I would have to go to the title department on Monday…. And up the stairs we went…

After a quick shower, we called it a night…. Sheesh… what a day it had been… we had only gone to the track to have some fun. Now, we had a new car in the garage – I wondered how much more the insurance bill would be - and a bigger race than either of us ever dreamed was scheduled to occur less than 2 months away.

It was then that those doubts and fears began to creep back into my head…. But not for long. In less than a minute after my head hit the pillow, I was asleep.

Let the fear and worry wait until tomorrow… it was dream time now… But the problem with dreams is that often a dream is really a nightmare in disguise…

You just don’t know it at the time… or often until it’s too late to do anything about it but just meet it head on…

To be continued…
 

gearhead_9_9

You did what in your cup?
You know....

Raven, if this goes to film, there will be about 15K Turbo Buicks wanting to be in the movie. I'll be one of them. Let me know when you need a fill in GN for the movie, I am ready! :cool:

I envision the movie kinda like a modern day "Holywood Knights" but more race oriented. Need some funny business in the movie, JMHO. :biggrin: BTW, HK is one of my favorite movies of all time.

I can't wait for the next chapter(s)......AWSOME!

Joe
 
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