Saturday, February 26, 2011

Shelby made a pickup truck. Who knew?

What was the first rear-wheel drive thing that Carroll Shelby put his name to after the Mustangs in the '60s? It was none other than Dodge's compact truck offering, the 1989 Dakota. For most of the '80s, Shelby had been busy with turbocharging the living shit out of Dodge's little Omni penalty boxes. Those cars were dubbed GLH (its successor, GLH-S), which stood for "Goes Like Hell" ("-Som'more"). They really should've been called TSIATADAHFD (Torque Steer Into A Tree And Die A Horrible Fiery Death). After those crazy monsters, he tried his hand at useless and slow.
Seems like Dodge wanted to drum up sales of its relatively new small truck with a couple limited edition versions, including a convertible, and this here high-po Shelby Dakota with V8 power.
The regular Dakota's3.9L V6 is essentially a 318-cube (5.2L) V8 sans two cylinders; all Shelby's factory had to do was remove the V6 and massage the V8 a bit before bolting it in. The only special provision involved lopping off the crank-driven radiator fan and fitting an electric fan instead... which is apparently missing here. Good luck in traffic with this one.

This swap was so simple, in fact, that Dodge offered its workhorse 318 as the top-spec engine in regular Dakotas starting in 1991.

The truck received no handling upgrades to speak of, though the press release circa 1989 brags about its nitrogen gas shocks and 70-series radial tires. Oooooo, I'm all tingly. It did get the obligatory limited-slip differential and some newfangled fancy transmission, but that trans was an automatic. Boo. I guess a 4-speed overdrive slushbox was a big deal in '89.

What's especially disappointing is the fact that this truck pulls the same 0-60 time as a 1995 Neon, or a 1989 Miata. A blistering 8 seconds.

They only made 1500 of these, each with a numbered plaque affixed to the dashboard to remind you of your econo-with-a-six-foot-box exclusivity. This one's number 1202, and the current body-shop-operating owner has a big trophy in his office that it won at a car show a couple years ago. 
The trophy is in front of the window in this picture. He's selling this example, which has seen 62k miles, for a measly seven grand. I'll admit the graphics look nice, as does that styling thing over the bed. But a slow, unknown, 20-year-old truck with no street cred and a bunch of big-name badges is not worth that much money in my eyes. Maybe to the right guy wearing Mopar-tinted glasses.

The guy who was drooling all over this truck (when I stopped by this body shop for a quote on rust repair) also talked in very excited tones about the Chrysler Sebring parked next to it. Ouch. If you're interested in either one, there is no hope for y-- uh, I mean: They're for sale at Bob Schmidt Body Shop in DeKalb, Illinois.


Friday, February 25, 2011


Winter feels like it'll be over soon, so I get her sideways at every possible (safe) opportunity. That's made easier by the fact that my snow tires are pretty much finished. I'm getting new, cheap all-season tires for daily duty this weekend; I'll survive any forthcoming snow, and get some fresh winter tires next season.

Monday, February 14, 2011

2011 Chicago Auto Show.

I went to the Chicago Auto Show with my friend and mutual obsessor over cars, Mr. Eric. He's the guy in all those pictures. Above are the highlights (and lowlights) of this year's show.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Up and Comers for 2011

Last may, I wrote about my plans for the 2010 racing season. These included a lot of work on the Miata, which I couldn't take on because of limited time and/or money. Let's recap.

Things I did accomplish:
  • Completed a welding class. Got a welder for my birthday -- thanks, Mom and Dad!
  • Ordered all my LeMons don't-catch-my-ass-on-fire gear.
  • Tore down the free Miata engine (pictured above, though it was last weekend, not in 2010).
  • All my LeMons-related goals! Engine swap, cage build, wheel/tire fitment, finding enough drivers, getting accepted, and racing! Holy crap, racing!
Things I did not accomplish:
  • Race in enough events to be eligible for an autocross trophy.
  • Replace Miata suspension bushings.
  • Install Flyin' Miata frame rails.
  • Rebuild any Miata engine.
LeMons took a lot more research, effort, and straight up wrenching time than I anticipated, and limited what I could do on my street/autocross car.

What's coming up this year?

Complete my first (and perhaps second) engine rebuild ever.
The rusty Miata block is getting an overbore and new OEM pistons, but the bottom end is all in pristine, low-mileage condition. So that's staying as-is. Saves me the effort of Plastigaging all the bearings, and I'll have an OEM-quality bottom end. And that saves time too. I'm already on borrowed time with my timing belt, and I want to swap engines before the belt snaps.

I'm buying a cheap rebuild kit on eBay with standard bearings and rings. I'm initially just using the gasket set. After the first rebuild is done, I'll take my quarter-million-mile engine and give it a complete rebuild with the bearings and rings from the kit, buying just a gasket set and some Plastigage to complete the job.

Give the Miata a few little upgrades.
Namely, those same FM frame rails and perhaps those Energy Suspension bushings I wanted last year. Replace the speedometer cable. Get a new set of tires. Replace a few other small comfort or function items. Deal with the rust on the windshield frame. Fabricate a custom cat-back exhaust. Install new, not-from-a-junkyard speakers. Y'know. Just a few little things.

Race the Team Resignation Escort in one or two LeMons races, and break into the top 10 on laps.
Last year, I led Team Resignation to a Heroic Fix trophy at the Blago 500, and managed 60-somethingth place with 200-some laps despite almost an entire day of down time. We also got some internet and mainstream press coverage and earned a couple accolades. This year I want to keep it on the track and make it into the top 10 when LeMons returns to Autobahn in October. With a little luck, we might also run the July race at Gingerman.

A top 10 finish is ambitious, but top 20 is definitely within reach. The car will need more camber (as part of a real alignment), better exhaust, better springs, and a better engine computer, and a complete wiring harness that hasn't been hacked to pieces. All these things have either been purchased or are coming soon. We'll also need to seriously work on cutting down pitting, fueling, and driver-change times. Giving everyone specific jobs for each stop and practicing it all will be part of that, as will arriving at the track on Thursday to get a good pit spot.

And, of course, we'll need to not have catastrophic failures. To prepare for that eventuality, I want to...

Strip the parts donor and prepare a spare Escort drivetrain.
My old commuter car is still sitting in my parents' driveway, with the LeMon's blown engine in the trunk and its original transmission zip-tied in the engine bay (you read that right). I'm getting a spare engine and rebuilding that transmission (it needs a new shift fork), and mating them up. I want to have a complete drivetrain ready to swap in if anything goes bad, so we can get back on the track in (kind of) a hurry.

We're also stripping any usable parts off that ZX2 to keep as spares. Wheel bearings, brake rotors, and steering rack, primarily. And selling off the rest to offset some of the costs of racing.

Racing autocross events this year will primarily be to shake down the Escort and test suspension settings. I'm not renewing my SCCA membership this year because it's too expensive and I don't have the time to devote to it. Besides, the frame rail reinforcements aren't legal in STS class, and the SCCA is too serious and not-fun anyway. Which means there'll be an ugly, rusty, Contact-papered Escort running the cones with a bunch of Miatas. It'll be great. I'll run the Miata when I have time.

This is going to be one big damn year.
I'm pumped!

Oh yeah, the Supra.
My brother-in-law reminded me in the comments that he's got a Supra that's been sitting for a couple years. I agreed to toy around with it and see if I could troubleshoot its hot start issues.

I suppose it's more apt to say "I convinced him to let me do pretty much what I want with it while he's gone." And I have not lived up to my promise, since it's still sitting at his parents' place untouched. Oof. This is gonna be a big year indeed.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Another Sightings Hodgepodge!

From now on, I'm going to try and post my sightings more immediately. One by one. They'll be a little more timely, and hopefully a little more detailed too. But that's for later. Right now, PREPARE FOR MEGADOOM!

Uh... I mean, "Prepare for an unnecessarily long series of photos of weird shit I've seen."


Those are stock Ford Mustang 17" wheels, circa 1997. On a Dodge Caravan. I've seen this van around a few times now. They actually look pretty good, except for the leaping horse on the centercap.

On a country road. Saw this hitting the back roads on the way home after an SCCA autocross.
Keep it classy, Joliet.

What are those big-ass propellers doing underneath that weird-looking tiny car?

They belong there! It's an Amphicar! They made less than 4000 of these, in the early '60s. And I saw one on my morning commute. Definitely weird. I love the numbers on the side.

Ah, Panamera. You look good from certain angles. Not so much from others.

So, that's a weird-looking spoiler. What's going on? Somebody with lots of money and absolutely zero taste decide to put a ricer wing on a Porsche?

It was an epic downpour that day, so the license plate was hard to make out right away. But you can definitely see it's one spoiler on top of another. I thought this was incredibly stupid, until I realized...

It's a freakin' Tie Fighter! This man is no ricer. He's just an epic nerd. Props.

Handicapped spot. Farm & Fleet. What else can I say?

It's an LTD Crown Vic. Because you're not rich enough to get hauled to your grave in a Cadillac, or even a Lincoln. It's Police Cruiser With A Butt for you. You know what that means.

I'll avoid AC/DC jokes.

As long as we're on the topic of Panther platforms, check out this winner. Black Beauty indeed. That fake-gem-encrusted TV antenna is non-functional. There's no TV in that car. Trust me. The back windows aren't tinted, I could see everywhere inside it. Definitely no TV.

But goddamn does that V8 run hot. Thing's got vents all over the place.

Double the V8s, double your fuel consumption!

Well, of course it has a turbo. Only a total poseur would put a fake hood vent on his Grand Marquis if it didn't have a turbo.

Oh yeah. As though it couldn't get any more perfect. The guy must've robbed every single stick-on accessory from this place. I can't imagine any sane person actually buying all those. That's gotta be a couple hundred bucks worth of adhesive-backed plastic junk.

I really hope that's intentional.

Who are you trying to kid? The R33 wasn't even made by Suzuki, and even if it were, this car isn't even close. Though it is AWD. Maybe it's a reference to the owner's age. Yeah, I'll pretend that, even though it makes no sense.

 See, now THIS is a baby R33. Ask Alberto, he'll tell you.

Oh yeah, look at all those brand names! None of which are actually on the car! Pro tip for all you aspiring car guys: maroon and yellow are not friends.

 Obligatory wing and fart cannon.

I love the contrast of the fake wood dashboard trim and the nasty yellow aftermarket seat, steering wheel, and (for the love of...) seat belt covers! That's dedication. I suppose it carries through to the inside the yellow from the decals outside.

Think I'm going to make fun of the American Racing rims on a Japanese car? It's good for a giggle, sure, but I can't get away with that. I have AR rims on my Mazda. What you should look closely at though is that the owner even added decals to the wheels. LOBO! This man is the wolf! Ugh. He must have a buddy that does stickers. No sane person would pay for all this.

Alright, an interesting import! I couldn't get a decent photo of it, but that there is a Citro├źn Deux Chevaux. France's response to the Beetle. Spotted in Sycamore, and no, not on the weekend where they have that car show. Pretty neat to see, though in a really goddamned gross color combination. What did I say about yellow combined with reddish hues?

Chevrolet HHR owner loves shopping enough to get a vanity plate. Too bad s/he didn't spend more time shopping for a car. What a miserable me-too mobile. If you're gonna buy a sad, slow, retro-imitating penalty box, go all out and just buy the damned PT Cruiser already.

 Better still to skip the retro and go right to vintage. '66 Mini Cooper is mini indeed.
Sunuvabitch has 10-inch wheels. No shit.

Definitely the last thing I expected to see in the morning at work. Buh. Thankfully, he didn't hang around long.

Hipsters in an orange Gremlin. Thank you, Chicago. Did look nice in orange, though I suspect that's a respray.

Think that "X" over the rear fender means something sporty or cool? Nah, not really. Wikipedia says it was just an appearance package.

Speaking of appearance packages, what's the stupidest one of all? You guessed it: the Brabus-edition Smart Fortwo! Major price hike for some big wheels, showy center exhaust, and a lot of stickers. But zero actual performance upgrades. I can only hope the fool who bought this got it on a serious discount, salesman begging him to take it instead of the standard models on his lot.

I saw the Wienermobile again. Very weird to see it twice on the interstate.

Alright, seriously look at this. The truck has some plastic trim that is supposed to go along the edge of the running boards, but it started to come off. Instead of ripping it off -- because, judging by the rust, age, and missing trim on the front door, looks aren't exactly a priority here -- the owner decided to tie up the shitty trim! To the fuel door! Yeah! What the hell is the point?  Just tear the goddamned thing off!

A salad kit that reminds you of high-profile assassination.

A new piece on my desk. It's a gift from a guy I work with. I previously kept my pens and things in a Hormel Chili with BEANS (emphasis original). I think I prefer the chili, actually, but this is cool too.

Beer-shaped meat. I'd rather have a murder salad.

If you can't stomach the thought of beer-meat, flush it out with a Smooth Move.
I really do appreciate blunt marketing, especially for things that are normally tiptoed around. I'm still waiting for that idea to hit tampon ads.

There's something wrong here, but I'm not sure what.

Wasn't I saying something about nerds earlier?

Haha! It says anus!