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Betcha He Changes His Mind!

Betcha He Changes His Mind!
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I am not a big fan of fads in hot rodding, especially fads that spill from the drag strip to the street. These hiccups of the moment range from running fake window numbers to quarter-mile only engineering exercises. Take the newly evolving Gasser giggles.

Yes, I know that my buddy Ronnie Poo Ceridono is making a semi-clone of that high and mighty Mopar thingy out of Detroit. It’s interesting, but not at all my thing, especially not the solid front axle stuff. Been there, done that, got the bruises.

Remember all the whizz-bang about Pro Street not so long past? I have no idea how much money and effort was wasted on that exercise in futility, but I certainly got to see some fine examples of just how atrocious some projects became. In particular, I remember doing the Goodguys Indy outing one year, then jumping in the Junkyard Dog roadster and heading back to Idaho. Somewhere over near the Missouri border, I came up behind a Pro Street car that had been at Indy. It was very shiny, with all the necessary bling, and the guy was poking along at about 40mph. At an almost immediate gas station, I pulled in to fill the tank and shortly thereafter that POS pulled in. The guy did the plastic man imitation out of the drivers office, and in the course of conversation, he conceded to how the car drove awful, was totally unsuitable for any kind of comfort, and he was lucky to get four miles per gallon from the overkill, blown big-block. Plus, he couldn’t exceed 40 MPH or the car wanted to leave the four-lane. Have I missed something here, or is the gee-whiz factor from pre-pubescent adolescence at the corner candy shop more important than reality in hot rodding?

Years ago, guys running pre-cave age front suspensions started to run big slicks on the rear. The tires would not fit in the Detroit fenders, so the rear was jacked up and wider tires began to stick out the side, sometimes as much as five inches. Wow, that must be a real wicked hauler (the Bon Ami fake class and numbers on the windows were confirmation this was a for-real race car!) Big whacker at Bob’s drive-in on Van Nuys Boulevard. In short, it’s a pretender. Look back at pictures from street rodding in the ‘60s and you see the same rear tire treatment on street rods. The same cars often had a proliferation of speed equipment decals on the glass, giving rise to the deprecatory snigger of “lick ‘em, stick ’em” hot rods. The major reason we set that original street rod nationals cut-off date at 1948.

Posing may have worked OK at the high school parking lot, but it didn’t wash with the real rodding world. And it created some very unsafe vehicles. Ok by me what you do to yourself, just don’t hang results of your mistakes on others. Take those slicks, for instance. An example: I pulled up to Foothill Boulevard one day, right where the road sweeps down from Sunland to cross the Tujunga Wash Bridge. It was raining softly, and a Model A coupe whizzed by, at about the speed limit. All of a sudden, the driver lost control as the slicks lost pavement contact and began to hydroplane. That coupe did a number of 360s on the wide bridge. Luckily there was no oncoming traffic. This was all caused by a wannabe poser. Big drag slicks did not make a drag racer.

And maybe that last thing is the real crux here: knowing what you are about.

There is no excuse for poor hot rod engineering these days. The magazines and books are full of good designing, if not perfect execution. Yet, on occasion, bad examples slip by, especially from that small group wanting to do things like “we yoosta!” I can tell you this, if Ronnie Poo ends up with a poor handling or unsafe gasser on the rack, it will go for a full reconstruction. And he’ll be the first to tell you.