We bumped in The Colonel, and are asking about his first car. Lets get going!
Q- Colonel, its been cold, snow, more cold, more miserable news.
A- The folks in the plane in New York this past Thursday were very fortunate, that's good news. Its winter, and we knew that early 2009 was a challenge....the constant drone is tiring.
Q- What was your first car, and when?
A- My first car was a 1963 Chevrolet Biscayne 2 door coupe (with a post) white with a red interior, in the fall of 1968.
Q- What equipment was on that car?
A- ABS, traction control, air bags....how about a massive 140 HP Turbo Thrift 6 cyl, 3 speed column shift, AM radio, dog dish hubcaps, heater, a bit of rust, some corrosion, rubber floor covering (no carpet)...got it used for $400.
Q- You're kidding?
A- Very serious, I was a student, had to pay tuitions, and insuring the car was more than the price of the car....a tank of gas was about $ 7.00 in 1968.
Q- Did you do anything to that car?
A- My good friend had a similar car, same colour with a blue interior, we had a fleet of 2 63 Chevy's with the same equipment....yes they were affordable cars. What did we not do to the cars.
Q- What did you do to your car?
A- Lets see....the first thing was a Hurst floor shift with a T handle for the 3 speed, that 6 cyl was quite annoying, I had a 327 which made its was in the car the following summer, a Sun Super Tach on the dash, and Stewart Warner oil pressure/water temperature gauges. I have the Hurst shift lever with the T handle, and the Sun Super tach as memorabilia from the car.
Q- Tell us about the 327 that was a popular engine. There were a lot of 283's how did you get a 327?
A- That engine came out of a truck, I bought it disassembled for $50, shoved all the parts in the trunk of the car and brought it home. Those were the days of Smokey Yunick writing articles in Hot Rod on getting more power from a small block. Over the winter I found an intake manifold here, a camshaft there, a carburetor somewhere else, and other parts.
Q- Give us more details on this engine?
A- I'm on a tight budget, creativity, doing my own work was important, money for parts was scarce. The block was deburred, all the clearances checked, an oil pump from a big block, a 4 barrel intake manifold, an 097 mechanical camshaft. In hindsight it was a collection of parts that all worked together.
Q- How did that engine run?
A- It ran good, no vacuum advance it was a truck distributor, a huge 4 barrel from an Oldsmobile, no heat passages in the intake manifold, and on a strong run I would spin that engine to 6,500 RPM. I remember that it used a bit of oil, mind you I knew exactly when it would use oil.
Q- Don't tell us you used that car in winter?
A- The only car I had, did I forget to mention no choke...did I mention exhaust pipes from the engine, 2 glass packed muffler and 15 cm tailpipes...it was a little loud too. Cold weather it was an interesting experience to start it, and warm it up.
Q- Anything else?
A- Drum brakes all around, no power brakes, that car did not stop. The wear and tear factor was immense, brake shoes, clutches, broken motor mounts, anything that would break by using it aggressively broke, and was repaired.
Q- You were spending time servicing and repairing the car, especially that it originally had a 6.
A- Absolutely, it was normal, in those days to keep a 327 tuned to spin it at 6,500 you had no choice but to spend time doing extensive maintenance, and finding the right parts that would work. Come spring time the entire car needed a "tune up" to freshen it up. At that time with what was available, and my budget creativity was a constant.
Q- You were running mechanical lifters in that engine?
A- In those days "hot" engines had mechanical lifters, that engine had an 097 cam also called a Duntov cam, a 327 had little torque, and with a hot cam even less torque, the engine got on the cam a little over 3,000 and pulled to over 6,000. Keeping the points from floating, fresh spark plugs, good wires, was crucial if not the engine would start to misfire over 5,000. Adjusting the valves was always an adventure.
Q- How long did you keep that car?
A- Kept the car for 3 years, but used it for 2.
Q- What else can you tell us.
A- Manual drum brakes with exceptional fading power, manual steering, no seat belts, no speedo the tachometer was a dual function gauge in 3rd it would do 25 MPH per 1,000 RPM, brakes lines that rusted out, with a single master cylinder. Not only did the car not stop, but if a brake line broke that was it....forget the brakes.
Q- It was not a really good car?
A- It was my first car, it was reasonably fast, had pretty hot V8, a floor shift, a tach on the dash, made all the right sounds, was brutal on gas, a learning experience....it was cool, it was fun. It was not a good car, but it was one hell of a car.