Oh My God, a Mustang II That Doesn’t Suck

Photo courtesy Hermance Design

Photo courtesy Hermance Design

As much as I love Mustangs, there is one generation that we ‘Stang fans (for the most part) refuse to touch, or for that matter even think about.  The infamous Mustang II.  After the Oil crisis and resulting gasoline shortages, Ford decided they desperately needed to make the Mustang (which by 1973 had grown to the ginormous “whale body” design) into a smaller, smarter sports car that was more efficient.  This effort fell flat on its face.  The repulsive 1974 Mustang was styled nearly identically to the Ford pinto, albeit lengthened by a few inches.  Furthermore, 1974 was the only year the Mustang was not offered with a V8.  It was a dark and scary time for muscle car fans in general, but even more so for us Blue Oval boys.  The generation lasted until 1978. Ford finally Put the Mustang II out of its misery in 1979 by introducing the revered Fox body platform that ruled the land for more than a decade till the introduction of the SN95 chassis in ’94.  The few good things the Mustang II gave us were standard rack and pinion steering in the mustang, and a good front suspension setup that has become useful for hot rods and customs.  Until now.  Stang TV discovered this amazing Pro-Touring Mustang II project that not only contains the typical suspension, brake, and contemporary body mods that have come to define the genre, but also a custom built Ford Triton V10 and a rear mounted 6 speed to balance the weight of the motor.  Check it out, it’s finally a Mustang II I can condone to exist

© Text by Charlie Benoit, [April, 2013]. All rights reserved. Any unauthorized use will constitute an infringement of copyright.

The Gory Details…

As promised, here is the root cause of the carnage from my recent trans explosion. The gear whine noise was damaged teeth on the input shaft and counter shaft from the previous owner’s misuse (he lied about installing a new trans, I wasn’t knowledgeable enough at the time to realize). After racing long enough, the teeth couldn’t take it anymore and finally sheared off completely. My new trans contains a stronger gear set with higher nickel content, so this kind of failure should be avoidable in the future.

 

© Text and photo by Charlie Benoit, [April, 2013]. All rights reserved. Any unauthorized use will constitute an infringement of copyright.

Started off the race season with a bang…literally

Photo courtesy Lauren Bruski

Today was SCCA Chicago Region’s first autocross event for the year, and boy was I exhilarated to get back in the driver seat after this year’s long, monotonous winter. However, the past few weeks of prepping my car revealed that the known issue with the transmission input shaft bearing got significantly worse. A new Tremec T5 world class was ordered, but alas did not arrive in time for installation before the first race. I gave it a 50/50 shot, and went out in a blaze of glory after 2.5 runs around the course. Coming out of turn one, the standard whine of the bearing swiftly became a heavy clunk resulting in heavy vibrations of the entire car. Stay tuned for the carnage as I begin the tear down this week!

© Text by Charlie Benoit, [April, 2013]. All rights reserved. Any unauthorized use will constitute an infringement of copyright.

Rafiq Roman’s 68 Chevelle “Lost Hope”

Image Courtesy Samvestors

Image Courtesy Samvestors

Rafiq has been a friend of mine for the past year or so after I sold him a transmission I’d traded for.  It was one of those neat deals where you get a response to an ad and end up meeting someone that has a lot of the same appreciation for cars.  It turned out that he was building a pro-touring car too, a 68 Chevelle he’d picked up in Indy.  The car’s new heart is a 468 Big block Chevy V8 dyno-tested at 586 horsepower. I can’t wait to see the completed car, it’s sure to be a monster!  You can check out his full build here at Lost Hope’s Facebook page.

© Text by Charlie Benoit, [March, 2013]. All rights

reserved. Any unauthorized use will constitute an infringement of copyright.

No, I’m not dead…

Yes, I know that I havn’t posted anything recently, but fear not good people, I am still among the living!  I’ve been a little busy lately with school and such, But I”m going to start posting more in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, check out Chris Hafner’s excellent review of my favorite 80’s car commercial on the amazon blog Car Lust. I could not agree more! After all, “you’ve never seen anything like this before”.

© Text by Charlie Benoit, [March, 2013]. All rights reserved. Any unauthorized use will constitute an infringement of copyright.

The Good Dr. Kenneth is Once Again a Tank

Well you can add a rear end collision to the list of things Dr. Kenneth has shrugged off.  While on my way home from work, a Tahoe driver wasnt paying attention, and attempted to sodomize the poor doctor.  Luckily he fought quite valiantly, and made it out with minor scrapes and scratches.  As far as he’s concerned, this was nothing compared to when the tree in the front yard fell on him!

© Text & photo by Charlie Benoit, [February, 2013]. All rights reserved. Any unauthorized use will constitute an infringement of copyright.

What Happened to Budget Muscle?

photo courtesy oldcaradvertising.com

photo courtesy oldcaradvertising.com

One can argue that every teen yearns for a brand new car, regardless of whether they’re a gearhead. Nowadays (and especially in today’s economy), that dream is pretty far out of reach unless you enlist the help of your parents or a steep car loan.  Back in the 1960’s and 70’s, it was possible for kids my age to walk into a Ford, Chevy, or Dodge dealership and purchase a brand new V8 powered muscle car  for as little as $2,000-3,000.

Now of course there’s inflation to factor in, and many people will say that’s what makes today’s counterparts so much more expensive.  Given the annual inflation rate of 587.4% though, that still only averages out to around $15,000 in today’s money—less than half of what the average base price is for a V8 example of a modern pony car.  So where’s the disconnect then?  My money is on the move from optional items to standard items.

I once got into a discussion with a friend while we were working a corner at an autocross event.  I don’t remember the exact details, but somehow we got on the topic of having to remove the floor mats out of our cars before racing, as per SCCA rules.  He began to reminisce the days when even generic carpeted floor mats were an extra option, like on his first car.  That launched us into discussing how everything we take for granted now—things like A/C, radios, power windows and locks—were all at some point only options; options that could be deleted if the budget-savvy consumer wanted to save some money (or a gearhead wanted to save some weight).

Manufacturers also made it possible to order any number of different V8 power plants in even a comparatively poorly optioned car.  A relatively basic Camaro with cloth interior, steel wheels, and few other options was available with a 302, 350, 396, and in some rare cases a 427 V8.  One of the most recent cases of a car being offered in that format was the fabled fox body Mustang LX trim.

photo courtesy bringatrailer.com

photo courtesy bringatrailer.com

In the late 80’s and early 90’s, The LX started as the utilitarian base V6 trim line.  However, Ford threw a curveball and offered it with the 5.0 V8 as an option.  Now of course, you didn’t get the GT’s aero package, but that actually was beneficial due to the weight savings.  You could get an LX optioned stang with a 5.0 that would not only be cheaper, but also faster than the GT.   In ‘95 Ford also offered a special trim with the SN95 generation (94-98) called the GTS as a tip of the hat to the LX.  Like its GT brother, it had the beloved 5.0 V8, T5 five speed trans, and Traction-Lok limited slip rear axle.  Other than that, it was a base V6 model. No fog lights, no spoiler, manual locks and windows, cloth interior, non-illuminated sun visors…Simple, cheap, and lightweight.  The GTS could be ordered with as many or as few options as the purchaser desired, making it perfect for the enthusiast on a budget (how many of us don’t fall under that group honestly…).

Unfortunately for us, Ford has no plans to offer a modern stripped out variant of the mustang GT, which is truly a shame in my mind.  It’s been said that the closest option is the Boss 302, which is only offered with a manual, no Navigation option, and an optional rear seat delete.  And although I’d be lying if I didn’t say the performance you get from a Boss is a steal for the price, $40,000 is quite a ways away from $15,000…and who’s to say that manufacturers couldn’t benefit from an affordable performance car aimed at stealing the 16-21 demographic?  So here’s my verdict for the big three—Take away my A/C, my navigation, my leather, my power locks and windows, hell even my factory alloy rims…Just leave me my V8 and a stick for a reasonable price.

 

© Text by Charlie Benoit, [January, 2013]. All rights reserved. Any unauthorized use will constitute an infringement of copyright.

Daily Grind 1-22-13

Well, no large feature today and no updates on the cars (currently waiting for the Z28’s LS1 T56 trans to ship), but regardless I thought I should give a quick update.  Today, I spent the first half of school taking apart my first automatic transmission, a venerable Turbo Hydra-matic 350 standard in many GM cars from the 60’s and 70’s.  Strangely enough despite my previous inclinations, my friend Andy and I didn’t come across any sorcery or witchcraft while tearing it apart.  Mind=blown…

Among other interesting discoveries I made today, I stumbled upon the Gyrobus, an electric bus that didn’t use batteries or electric wires to store energy.  Instead, it stored its charge by spinning a magnetically suspended 3 ton flywheel up to 3,000 rpm with an electric motor.  The law of conservation of energy allows the flywheel to indefinitely keep spinning, unless energy is taken out of it.  Whenever energy was needed to run the traction motors, the charging motor’s polarity was reversed, turning it into a generator and slowing the flywheel.  Whenever it would stop to drop off passengers, three booms would contact a charging pole, and spin the flywheel back up to full charge.  And unlike batteries, these could be brought up to a full charge in as little as 30 seconds.  Check it out here.

Well, time to get back to homework, and then sleep. I don’t recommend staying up for 36 hours straight!

© Text & photo by Charlie Benoit, [January, 2013]. All rights reserved. Any unauthorized use will constitute an infringement of copyright.

Hockey’s unsung hero—The Zamboni

Photo courtesy Zamboni.com

Photo courtesy Zamboni.com

For as excited as the rest of the country is, I honestly don’t care that hockey is back on.  Something that you have to understand about me is I don’t really find sports entertaining unless they involve a motor and gratuitous amounts of horsepower.  Seeing as I’m trying to entertain myself while everyone else in the house watches the first Blackhawks game of the season, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to write about hockey’s only redeeming factor—the Zamboni ice resurfacer.

Frank J. Zamboni was originally a pioneer of the refrigeration business in the 1930’s and owned an ice block plant.  As technology improved and the need for actual ice blocks in refrigeration diminished, he realized he should branch out his interests.  In 1939, Zamboni opened the Iceland skating rink in Paramount, California.

For those of you who haven’t grown up around a skating oriented family, ice needs to be continuously resurfaced after extended use to ensure it stays smooth and unmarred (trust me, my figure skating mother and brother get really snobby about improperly resurfaced ice).  Between skating sessions, Zamboni would have to send out 3-4 employees to scrape down the ice, wash it, and squeegee it.  Then a layer of water would be spread across the fresh ice to build up the thickness lost from scraping it, completing the resurfacing process.  This was very time consuming and cut down on how much ice time was available.  Seeing an opportunity, Zamboni started developing a vehicle to fill this need and maximize efficiency.

Between 1942 and 1947, he went through many designs and attempts to reduce resurfacing time, but to no avail.  By 1947, Zamboni had a working prototype that shaved, washed, and squeegeed the ice.  It was built on an Army surplus chassis and utilized jeep components.  A blade mounted on the machine would shave the ice and carry the shavings to an auger, which transferred them over to a conveyor system, which then dumped them into a holding tank for storage.  A fresh water tank pumped water to a cloth and squeegee setup that was dragged behind the vehicle, creating a smooth sheet of ice.  It wasn’t until 1949 that the first production model, Zamboni Model A, was available.

The Zamboni Model A. Photo courtesy Zamboni.com

The Zamboni Model A. Photo courtesy Zamboni.com

The utilitarian design was not exactly attractive, to the point where a journalist noted that the Model A “looked like the offspring of a field tractor and a warehouse crate”.

Zamboni revised his design into the Model B.  Rather than utilizing only the chassis and drivetrain as in the previous design, he decided to simply build his resurfacing components into an entire jeep body.  Other revisions were made between the Model B and Model F such as a raised drivers position for visibility, greater holding tank volume, and slight visual changes, but the basic principles stayed the same.  The 1964 introduction of the HD series marked a new era of resurfacer design.  Many of the features still in use today were adopted, such as the replacement of a conveyor with a vertical auger, and a hydraulic snow-dumping system.  Before then, operators had to shovel snow out manually. Currently, Zamboni offers both electric and gas/CNG/propane powered models of all shapes and sizes, even tractor mounted units.  Prices range from $10,000 for tractor-mounted machines, to over $100,000 for a self-propelled fully optioned unit.

Now some of you may be saying wait a minute…this is supposed to be a blog about fast cars and racing, where does a vehicle with a 9.3 mph top speed fit into all of this? Believe it or not, there is at least one recorded event of a Zamboni being raced in a sanctioned event.

The epic V8 1959 Zamboni autocrosser. Photo courtesy grassrootsmotorsports.com

The epic V8 1959 Zamboni autocrosser. Photo courtesy grassrootsmotorsports.com

Rule 5 for the Kuhmo Tires Grassroots Motorsports $200X Challenge (an autocross, concours, and drag racing competition that is based around a strict budget of $2000 plus the year it takes place) states “Production-based passenger cars only. No kit cars, dune-buggies, or formula-type cars. The exception to this is Zambonis, which will be allowed to enter.” This rule had been interpreted as a joke for years, ‘cause who would race a 4,000 pound ice resurfacer? But one team took the challenge seriously in 2007, and shoehorned in a pushrod 5.0 out of an ’88 Mustang.  You can read more about their entertaining efforts on Grassroots’ website http://grassrootsmotorsports.com/articles/2007-a-zamboni-odyssey/

So while the rest of you enjoy the recently re-instated NHL season, realize that none of it would be possible without the dedicated work of Frank J. Zamboni.  As for me, I’ll just hope they don’t cut to commercials when they roll the Zamboni out.

© Text by Charlie Benoit, [January, 2013]. All rights reserved. Any unauthorized use will constitute an infringement of copyright.

2014 Corvette Stingray: Will it measure up?

Photo credit Jalopnik.com

Photo credit Jalopnik.com

This past Sunday, Chevy revealed the highly anticipated, redesigned 2014 Corvette at the Detroit Auto Show.  Departing from the beloved C6 architecture, this new C7 generation sports many new features and upgrades along with more international exterior styling and the return of the sacred Stingray nameplate.

Performance-wise, this Vette should be able to defend its title. The new LT-1 Direct Injection 6.2L V8 thrashes out 450 hp and 450 ft/lbs of torque while besting the previous generation’s 26 mpg average.  Following suit with the recent trends out of Stuttgart, a new seven-speed Tremec TR-6070 manual transaxle takes up the rear and helps achieve a 50/50 weight distribution.  For the first time, the base model will come standard with a fully aluminum frame previously reserved for special editions like the Z06 and ZR1.  This new skeleton will not only save 99 lbs off the C6 steel frame, but will also be 57% stiffer offering superior handling characteristics.

The redesigned interior is purpose-built to compete with the latest European supercars.  Gone are the days of the General’s infamous cheapy plastics. Chevy representatives claim that even the most basic base model will come standard with vinyl, with leather and carbon fiber options available.  2 types of seats will be available as well, one for comfort and one for high performance (including provisions for 5 point racing harnesses).

Then we get to the exterior.  Purists are obviously up in arms as this design takes the Corvette in a whole new direction.  The car is riddled with all sorts of functional vents to aid cooling, aerodynamics, and high speed stability.  The proportions and silhouette are typical Corvette, but certain styling cues like the front fascia, rear quarter windows, and wide squarish hips shoot spitballs as if to taunt Maranello, Italy. The rear is without a doubt the most polarizing part of the car.  Some say the taillights were grafted right off the 5th gen Camaros, and the angular design doesn’t work in place of the classic four circles. Personally, I kind of dig this new international direction.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved the C6 and previous generations just as much as the next guy, but the Corvette needed a more drastic reboot to keep up with the rest of the kids on the block.  The rear is starting to grow on me even in the last two days, so I have faith. Hopefully this generation will help boost the Corvette’s international status and appeal as more than just the poor man’s sports car. The Stingray title is well deserved in this case I think, but only time will tell if this generation will join the ranks of the past stingrays

© Text by Charlie Benoit, [January, 2013]. All rights reserved. Any unauthorized use will constitute an infringement of copyright.

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