Over the Top

Most of my friends will probably tell you the same thing. I’m over the top on things I really like. I don’ t know why I’m like this, maybe it’s because I have way too much enthusiasm for one human being. I love things that  grab onto me and rock me back. I think part of it came from my childhood. This goes back to the days of toys made in Japan that broke if you looked at them wrong. I had lots of those. It sort of made a life impression on me. I can’t stand anything that resembles “milk toast.” Middle of the road doesn’t cut it. Either get to my side of the road or get the hell off of it.

Fake hood scoops, stick on stripes, phony this and that will never be a part of anything on my cars or in my life. If my car can’t come by its appointments honestly then that part isn’t on it. I have a curiosity about lots of things that’s like a thirst I can’t get past. I usually try to come by my answers myself. Once in a while I get tired of trying and just ask. I have people who are my mentors. I don’t make any bones about telling anyone that they know way more than I do about the question I fielded them. If it’s one thing that really makes me laugh are posers. Yeah you know, the guys that ask you the questions then turn around and mouth  back your answers  to their friends like they’re the Shell Answer Man or some shit?  I learned my stuff by doing it all wrong most of the time. I’ve been down all the one way streets to screw ups in the wrong direction. I have also learned things by experimentation. I have ruined parts and systems in the process. I do have the ability to realize if I screw something up I try to make sure it’s worth is something I can afford to lose.  If you don’t try something you will never know how it might have worked.  I know some people who won’t try anything new. My Mother was one of them. She detested new stuff. It bumped her out of her comfort zone, and the worst part was that she never trusted me to know enough about the thing she was afraid of to help her thru it!  I always resented that part of her behavior.

So when I got old enough to start buying my own cars, guns, motorcycles and everything else I wanted to spend money on I had to try some of the more outrageous stuff. The first pistol I bought was a .44 magnum Ruger Super Blackhawk. I had a .41 Blackhawk, but I wanted the top dog in the pistol family at that time. I was told that I wouldn’t be able to shoot it because it was just “too much gun.” Funny thing, I would up shooting it as good as any of the rest of my pistols, usually better.

I started competitive shooting with the International Metallic Handgun Silhouette Association. Shooting 68 pound armor plate rams off their feet at 200 meters is a good trick. It requires a large-caliber handgun. .357 magnums used to be touted as the bad boy on the block in handguns, even sometimes overshadowing the .44.

In the world of the International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association, the .357 magnum was the absolute bottom end of the handgun set that might have enough power to topple a hard set ram at 200 meters. I’ve seen direct body hits by .357 mags that just went bang and rang the ram a little. It never toppled it over. In the sport of Metallic silhouettes if you don’t knock the target over you might as well have missed it completely because it don’t count friend!  Truth be told I liked even more knock down power than a .44 mag when it came to dumping rams off their stands. Oh yes there are pistols out there that even at that time made the .44 look fairly anemic. I had a .357 Harrett (a .30-30 Winchester case necked up to .357 diameter that I shot a big slug of Norma 200 in with a 250 grain .358 Hornady spire point it. It would knock just about anything on the silhouette range down if you could hit it.  I shot three guns in a match. Sometimes a revolver, (.44 mag), a production gun, (Thompson Center Contender with a 10″ barrel in .357 Harrett, and an unlimited Remington XP-100 chambered in full length .308 Winchester. Yep this bad boy had a 14″ Shilen barrel and shot a big load of Hodgdon BLC-2 that pushed a Hornady 165 grain spire point flat base bullet down range at a taste over 2250 fps. It was damn sure positive on rams. You could hit these guys ANYWHERE and it would spin’em right off the stands like a metal ballerina!

IHMSA had different levels of proficiency  in each pistol category. The Highest was International. Then it went down from there. I forgot the lower ones. I shot International status in the Unlimited class for a few years. I just sort of move up the scale like that, it’s just in my nature. Lots of guys are  content to shoot at a lower level but not me.

I started shooting rifles just for the hell of it. I learned to shoot the real way with my father. He taught me how to shoot and it’s stuck with me today. I consider myself not to be recoil sensitive. Some folks don’t like to get pushed around with the bad end of the rifle stock. Me, I don’t really even notice it that much.  I look at recoil like this;  if it doesn’t dislocate my shoulder or break it I’m ok. So what if I got some black and blue marks? I like stuff that rocks me back, remember? I bought a .460 Weatherby Lazer Mark and would shoot over 120 grains of powder in this thing with a 500 grain Sierra round nose in front of it. Yeah it kicked the shit out of me but I liked to shoot it. It was fun. I can still use my arms and shoulders. I later on bought a C. Sharps Arms 1874 Long Range express rifle chambered in .50 X 140 X 3 1/4. This is the hardest recoiling rifle I’ve ever shot. It’s just downright brutal. Sorta like getting ran into by a water buffalo. It will knock you, the chair you’re sitting in and the table your on back about 6 inches when you pull the trigger. It shoots about  130 grains of FFG black powder with a 700 grain Brooks Spire point cast lead bullet. I really think you could take out a T-Rex with this thing if they were still around. I know it would kill anything on the planet with a solid bullet in it.

I also have a Marlin Lever gun in .45-.70. Yeah it’s a light gun and shoots a  400 grain bullet and  it lets you know it’s there. I have a real sweetheart of a Winchester 1886. It’s chambered in .45-90. It shoots the same bullets as the .45-70 with a few more grains of powder. So what? It don’t kick much because it’s so damn heavy!

A few years ago I bought a Weatherby chambered in .338-.378. Talk about overbore capacity!  Not really any worse than a .338 Lapua actually. I think it has a couple of fps in velocity on the Lapua, but it’s just apples and oranges. This gun has a muzzle brake on it. Takes most of the sting out of it. It’s about like shooting a .300 Winchester mag. Some guys don’t even like shooting those things!

I have a good friend named Teresa Stegmann. She’s a gal after my own heart. She works for a Harley dealership. I was having some work done on my Harley and had to see her to pay for it. I noticed several large-caliber cartridges sitting on her desk. I asked her is those were hers and she said they were. I got to looking at them and she had a .460 Smith and a .500 Smith and Wesson Magnum sitting there and some other ones. Naturally we got into a discussion about guns and she admitted to me she had a large-caliber jones on handguns like I do. Cool! I didn’t have a .500 Smith at that time, but I came home and looked the ballistics up on it and decided I needed one. Oh I have a real pretty  Magnum Research .50 Action Express with a 10″ barrel on it. No compensation on this bugger either. It jumps up and rolls sideways in your hand when you let’er go. Hard hitting thing too! Well I decided to get back in touch with an old gun dealer friend of my named Royd, because Teresa told me he got her Smith for her right away. I called Royd and told him what I wanted and he had it for me in two days!  Cool!

My friends think I’m over the top. I guess I am. My pro street Olds is too, but it figures don’t it?


A Quick Fix For Fasteners and Other Suggestions.

Here’s a little trick I developed. My Oldsmobile has some short bumper bolts on the ends where the struts tie the corners to the frame. I bought some stainless nylock nuts. Much to my dismay they were way too tight to run down without causing the bumper bolts to rotate. Not a big deal with a steel bumper but it is for a fiberglass bumper. So I took the nuts back off and ran a 7/16 tap thru the nut until it just barely engaged the nylock insert. I ran the tap into the nylon until it showed some stranding from the flutes on the tap cutting the nylon. I put a dab of Never-Seize  on the bolt threads and ran it onto the bolt. It went onto the bolt fine and with a little torque I was able to run it down as far as I wanted to, without rotating the bumper bolt in the glass bumper. It seemed to be tight enough to hold the strut on. This wouldn’t work in a high stress loading of the fastener but it works great for light stuff like this.

I also ran into another problem. I didnt’ have any nylock nuts large enough for the frame studs so I had to use steel ones. The ones I have are all grade eight, but don’t use a friction locking device. So I took a center punch and put the point on the second or third thread down from the top and smacked it with a hammer. It put a little bur on the threads. I wasn’t sure if this was enough. I threaded it onto the bolt and it got tight enough to do the job. Again this won’t work in a highly loaded fastener. In very light applications it’s better than driving to the hardware store, which in my case, is 13 miles away.

I really don’t like nylock nuts frankly. They are to me, a pain in the ass.  Most situations installing fasteners with nuts it’s always been my preference to run the nut to the bottom of the bolt which keeps things aligned. It makes cinching them up with wrenches fast. Nylock nuts don’t allow for this. You have to manhandle the damn nut clear to the bottom fo the fastener. Then I think they’re probably only good for one or two applications they should probably be discarded. Still there is a place for them. They’re really cool if you don’t want to bottom the nut against whatever your holding so it can move around a bit. Beats using two nuts in a lock nut situation.

If you are in a restoring situation and want to use OEM fasteners over you can get all the rust and funk off of them by soaking them in a solution of Metal Prep 79 mixed 2:1 with water. I use Metal Prep all the time, it’s real handy around the shop. It works great for prepping a weld area, especially if you are gonna TIG it. It’s main ingredient is phosphoric acid. It leaves a phosphate coating over the metal so it won’t rust and it can be painted over with no problems. Most folks probably know this but it’s worth mentioning.

I found some great flat black rattle can paint at Fred Meyer’s. It’s the plastic stuff that Krylon makes. It sorta has this bullet shaped cap on it. It’s just called flat black. I soaked some stake nuts and assorted OEM fasteners in Metal Prep 79. I rinsed them off and blew them dry. I shot them with this flat black paint and it looked like I just treated them in factory black oxide! It’s the same shade of black sort of a dark charcoal color.

Well that’s it for now. Hope some of this is helpful.


There Are No Shortcuts

Among the other things I do is paint. Nope not with a brush if I can help it. I use spray guns and airbrushes, sometimes even the lowly rattle can. Yes indeed. I love painting. I like both ends of it. What’s that you say? I like the prep almost as much as the shooting. Even though the prep can get tedious it’s a time to meditate on what you are doing and time to think how the  results are  going to look.  Getting thru this part of the job is best accomplished when you have nothing but time on your hands. I have oodles in the words of Hannibal Lector.

Prepping a car, motorcycle, rocket, whatever for paint is the area that will not tolerate short cuts. I have found this out the hard way, been down every shitty, bumpy, dead road to disasters and “do-overs.”  So I just decided I can either fight this part of the job or adapt to it and make it somehow enjoyable. Here’s the way I go about it.

I program my Ipod for only the music I really dig. Not some of the peripheral crap I tolerate because it’s filler that got stuck on the album or CD when it was mastered. Yes I like my music with my sandpaper and blow guns. You also need almost every grade of sandpaper made too. Every substrata requires a different approach most of the time. Plastic reacts to sandpaper  differently from mild steel or wood. Plastics aren’t as molecularly stable and rigid as steel or even wood. Consequently they don’t tolerate boulder grit paper well. They show scratches much more predominantly than steels, aluminum, wood, fiberglass etc. So I have lots of different grits on hand. I also buy top quality paper because the shit they sell in hardware stores is terrible. Flint paper is worthless and is about as flexible as a piece of plywood. Sandpaper needs to be flexible to the point you can roll it up like a joint if need be and run it into corners and nooks.

A blow gun hooked up to a compressor is nice too. Especially if you get tired of blowing sanding dust off of what you are working on to see how you are doing. You are doing this right? You have to watch what’s going on to see if you have to make some changes. You can’t just plow into the work with a slam bam attitude. No Shortcuts here please!

If you don’t work this way your end product will look amateurish and not worthy of all the efforts you have put into it thus far. Your time is worth something whether you acknowledge this or not.

Another nice thing about the prep part is that it teaches you patience if you don’t have any. Any good craftsman or artist has lots of patience whether they know it or not. It takes this virtue to elevate work to an art form. Some folks don’t care  if they do work or make art of their work. To me I’d rather do the best I can. That’s just me. Being able to work at this degree is a lost art today. There aren’t many people willing to work like this. They’d rather pay someone like me to do it for them. Then walk around and act like they did it. You can see this sort of crap going on at automotive cruise ins all over America.

There are no short cuts to becoming a good musician either. You just don’t go around a corner one day and become a marvelous musician. Doesn’t work that way, we all basically know this but sometimes I wonder. I think some of these beliefs are lost on lots of young people these days. It’s not really their faults to some degree either. The schools don’t stress quality and patience enough. They’re so concerned with the liberal crap that infests the schools and not holding little Johnny back because he’d feel bad because everyone else graduated to the next level of education, never mind that 98% of the class can barely spell or read and write.  There’s no short cuts to the learning process either. There better not ever be either.  Brain surgeons need to pay attention for a long time. No summer schools for them.

I like the look on someone’s face when they look at something I’ve done and say “wow how did you do that?”  I like telling them that “I just figured it out.”  Most of this is true too. When you slow down and shit can the short cuts you learn lots of things about how the thing your working on was designed and made, this also gives you insight into how to fix the bugger too.

Being poor I don’t have the luxury of buying a part that probably won’t work to begin with. I also don’t have the money or time, or inclination to have someone else do what they think my particular job needs.  The old adage “if you want something done right you have to do it yourself,” is really true most of the time.  We all have standards or beliefs about how things should be done on our projects.  Unless you have someone that’s willing to really listen to you and actually do what you want them to do, most of the time you get their version of the job. Sometimes that’s a good thing especially if you don’t understand the repair  very well, they may have a better fix for you than what you had in mind. Someone like this is rare. Most dont’ want to listen to you. They want to “short cut” the job to maximize the profit to them. There are times when you can use a short cut to fix something but then it’s usually not a shortcut really. It’s a refinement of a job done over and over until it’s down to a formula. This also is rare because being a mechanic for over 30 years I’ve learned that every single mechanical job has a different set of circumstances that needs to be looked at if you don’t want the job coming back to bite you in the ass. No short cuts here either.

I have found other problems while trying to correct something quite different from what I had discovered. It comes from looking around and taking off the “tunnel vision” glasses when investigating a problem area. This blows the short cuts right out the window.  Yeah it adds to the repair time, but why kick the project out the door with existing problems left unresolved? It will be back in the shop next week I guarantee it. I don’t need the practice of redoing anything mechanical or paint related.

Repairing  paint short cuts can be time-consuming on an exponential scale. Unlike a mechanical just replacing a part or welding up a broken part , paint repairs can involve redoing the entire project!

I recently relearned this fact when I did a short cut on my Oldsmobile.Fortunately it wasn’t that big a deal. Yeah I knew better too!  I had forgotten the golden rule however. I got an excuse I’m old. Well I remembered when my paint deal blew up in my face.  So I redid it like I should have and it came out fine.  If we all go thru life without ever learning any short cuts, would we be any worse for it? I doubt it. Probably be better for it actually. It’s human nature not to dwell in an area we dislike. The key is finding ways to make it not so unpleasant.  That’s the challenge.  That can also be fun too. I know you think I’m daft here but I challenge you to find ways of making things you dislike doing more interesting. You are a remarkable biological entity. You are gifted with a marvellous, autonomous thinking organ called your brain. We are the only ones able to overhaul complex problems analytically and come to solutions if we apply ourselves. Getting there is not accomplished by trying to figure out short cuts to the problem. Each and every problem has a story to tell you. You just have to take the time to see it then read it.  Being smart enough to see the story is the first step. Some people never even see the story much less read it.


Let’s Not Fix Things

I was having a conversation with an old friend today. We were talking about some of the new polices the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA)  has put into effect in drag racing in the last few years. NHRA is responsible for setting rules and safety guidelines and regulations for drag racing. Most of which have kept drag racing the safest motor sport going. Most of their safety stuff I don’t have a problem with . I feel they have a good grasp on how to keep people alive while piloting the hardest accelerating cars on the planet.

In the past decade, top fuel and funny car speeds have been pushed over the three hundred mile per hour mark. Most dragstrips can safely shut down a two hundred and ninety mile per hour car ok. Shut down area is probably more on the minds of strip managers these days than ever before and well it should be. Two drivers have lost their lives in top end accidents. Eric Medlin and Scott Kalitta. Both accidents happened on the big end of the track close to the finish line. Both cars were running the full 1320 feet. Scott Kalitta’s car had an engine explosion which caused both parachutes to become detached from the car and was unable to slow down in the remaining shut down area.  Medlins accident was similar but I am unfamiliar with the details. So NHRA decided to make the 1000 foot point a mandatory shutdown line. So now all top fuel and funny cars have to shut down at the 1000′ point. This is a band-aid for tracks with shorter shut down areas.

Now I see some of the main people involved in the sport wanting to slow the cars down, to chemically re-engineer the nitromethane these cars use for fuel so it’s not so prone to detonation. I can tell you that exploding top fuel cars has rapidly declined in two decades. I remember watching Billy Meyers sneeze the supercharger off his funny car every run one summer!  I think he went thru three or four bodies until someone got the tune up right on the car. It’s in the nature of nitro powered cars to do this sort of thing. I’m not saying that’s cool it’s just in their nature as it is for a mosquito to bite you. So goes it with hanging a valve open longer than what the camshaft says and then lighting off an intake manifold full of nitromethane, it’s gonna go boom!

Here’s what’s bothering me about all of this. First of all drag racing is supposed to be done over a 1/4 of a mile. One quarter of a mile is 1,320 feet, not 1000.  So NHRA is saying that if an accident happens at 300+ mph that the extra 320 feet is gonna make the difference between a driver having a fatal accident or not? Top fuel and funny cars are light, but consider the fact that you have 1 ton of steel, carbon fiber and aluminum accelerated to over 300 mph, it’s gonna have a considerable amount of kinetic energy stored up. It’s gonna take more than 320 feet of extra shut down area to slow it down to a non-fatal velocity whatever that is.  Why not require the tracks to lengthen the shut down areas? NHRA sanctions a track to run fuel cars then there should be shut down area requirements that go hand in hand with other safety aspects to get an event sanctioned. I would think that some money could be generated somewhere from the sponsors to help offset the expense of lengthening shut down areas for track owners. This would be safer for all the cars not just top fuel vehicles. I don’t like hearing about someone dyeing in a drag race. No one does. But lets fix the problem the right way.  If there was a throttle problem such as sticking (not unheard of even today) and the driver couldn’t shut off at the 1000′ area by the time he realized the problem he’d be past that point. Sure you can kill the motor and pop the chutes but your still past the magic 1000′ mark.

As far as “fixing” nitro, well I don’t think you can take the bang out of nitro without taking some of its power producing capabilities along with it. It is what it is. It’s very explosive nature is what helps it make the sort of power it does within a top fuel motor. If we “fix” it then we may have a top fuel motor that is making 5500 horsepower instead of 8000 as we do nowadays. So does that then mean that because the top fuel cars are now making only 5500 horsepower that they will be slowing down so that we don’t have to shut them off at the 1000′ mark anymore, or will that mark stay and top fuel speed will be down 5o miles per hour over what they are today? Shades of NASCAR tampering with restrictor plates here folks.

I don’t know what the answer is but it seems we’ve come to a cross roads with track lengths, and horsepower levels. I keep thinking if we start putting limits on top fuel and funny car power levels and speeds then we should have also been content to send men to the moon and gone no further. But we didn’t.  Today’s fuel cars are more controllable, more stable and easier to drive than their predecessors from the past by a factor of ten at least. This has come about from diligence and study. We can do the rest of it too.

I don’t want to see NHRA go the way of NASAR with their Mickey Mouse polices. I remember when there were no such things as restrictor plates. When a factory car won because it was the best mouse trap at the time, period. Then because some of the cry babies that lost to the Chrysler Hemi’s and the GM Z11’s at NASCAR got that organization to disqualify those cars because they had an “unfair advantage”.  How so? Run what you brung. That’s what my generation used to say. Restrictor plates be damned. Why penalize a design because it is better than what everyone else is using? Another name for this is called “discovery!”  Imagine that?  I would hate to see NHRA go the way of NASCAR and start initiating all sorts of bullshit rules like they have.  I have watched drag racing over half of a century. I have seen it go thru its golden years. I have seen the extinction of class cars that really were a loss to the sport. One such class was Jr. Fuel. I have always been a proponent of this class. All you had to do was watch a small block Chevrolet with a set of Enderle injectors on top of it and 90% in the tank fire up and go down the track only slow on blown nitro cars by sometimes less than a second.

I’d like to see Jr. Fuel come back, and with some guidelines. One being that you had to use factory blocks. I know I can hear the safety people out there saying “that’ll never happen because we all know how weak factory blocks are.” Well maybe they are compared to a World Products aftermarket aluminum block, but with a decent bottom end set up and a little less nitro in the tank we can safely race Jr. Fuel again and do it on budget that blue-collar guys like me can afford. We used to do it folks, before the days of World Products blocks, there were none then.

I’d love to see fuel altereds back too. Spectacular cars, and how about A/GS  coupes, Stone, Woods and Cook come to mind.

Fuel roadsters, Pure Hell and Nanook were exciting to say the least.

I don’t want to see a sport I love become watered down to the point of boring because a governing body got too many “good ideas.”  I have to admit that I don’t really enjoy watching ESPN drag racing because I have to listen to some ding-dong recite stats on the drivers to me over the sound of a nitro motor. To hell with the stats I want to hear the engine not some bone head running his mouth. Drag race cars are unique in the sound department. Nothing else in the motor sport worlds sound anything like them. The noise is every bit a part of the drag racing experience as is the sight. Put them both together, and is it any wonder I’m hopelessly hooked on drag racing quite probably until the day I die.  I’m not the only one!