To Chrome or Not to Chrome…

Chrome is Good! As seen in Car Kulture Deluxe Magazine – by Ron Springer

I guess I am little more than a six foot tall Pack Rat at heart because I, like the Pack Rat, have an eye for all things shiny. I like Brass, Copper, Silver, Gold, Chrome, Stainless, Polished Aluminum…almost any metal that gives off the telltale “glint” that says to me, “LOOK AT THIS!”

I remember when the “Monochrome” craze was just getting up a good head of steam in the car world. I was extremely, almost militantly resistant to the idea of painting all the beautiful, shiny parts of a car. I eventually came around to the idea after seeing a monochrome white F-100 in a magazine. I even tried the look on a couple of eminently forgettable cars of my own. But when I see a group of vehicles parked together, regardless of make, model, or year I always find myself seeking out the car with the most chrome stuff on it. Regrettably, someone coined the term “Bling” to describe all things shiny and over the years anything with an excess of Bling has become passé.

I am here to champion the cause of Chrome Lovers the world over. I say, “Stop taking all the cool Chrome and Stainless off of your car!” Invest in it! Add to it! Stick on, bolt on, or hang as much of the stuff on your car as you possibly can. Don’t shave the door handles and hood ornaments. Don’t Deck it and remove the trim. Don’t minimize the grill and downplay the beltline. Put a great big, in your face hood ornament on it and stand tall! These are the things that make the cars of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s what they are – Over the Top! There’s a good reason Appleton Spotlights are chrome, and the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz has the most square feet of chrome of any car ever made in America.                  Chrome is Cool!

This is not to say that I am some sort of backwards Hillbilly that doesn’t understand the importance of flow and symmetry in the planning of a build. But just gaze upon the Hood Ornament of a ’39 Pontiac Silver Streak or the Front End of a 1952 Buick Eight and tell me it would look better without all of that chrome. Take in the full effect of the venerable 1942 Lincoln Continental, or the the ’41 Cadillac Series 62, or even a ’64 T-Bird and tell me it would look better without all of that shiny stuff. Even a ’40 Ford just wouldn’t be the same without that awesome chrome grill.

Take away my chrome? “Say it ain’t so Joe, say it ain’t so!”

From the very beginning of Hot Rods and Customs, chrome has been king. In the early days of Rods and Customs every car on the road had tons and tons of chrome. Being different meant getting rid of the chrome. But truth be known and accepted…accepted is key…most of our cars spend most of their existence either in the garage or on the road alone.  When a car is viewed as a stand-alone, it looks better and draws more compliments when it has all of its shiny parts intact and gleaming for all to admire.

Don’t agree? Just try this experiment. Take two cars from roughly the same era and build quality to any place where crowds of people gather. Make sure one has all its shiny parts still attached, and the other one is shaved, decked, nosed and de-chromed. Park them 20 yards apart. Now stand back and count the number of people who pause to admire the two cars. At the end of the day, the one with the most chrome will get the greater number of gawkers. Don’t care what the “public at large” thinks?” – Liar – We all care about that. There is nothing more fun than having a group of average, non car lovers, standing around your car “ooing” and “awing” while you try to act indifferent.

If Customs aren’t your thing, then consider this; Isky’s T had shiny Valve Covers and Chrome Pipes for a reason.                                                          Ed liked chrome!

You could spend hours regaling me with tales of the woes of chrome. You could go on and on about how you spend all that time getting the bright-work ready for a show only to have to do it again when you arrive, and a third time when you get back home. You could complain that chrome is so expensive and it is difficult to get a good quality piece. You could rant about bulbous hood ornaments and garish side trim. You might even proclaim that too much “bling” interrupts the overall flow of the body lines and minimizing the presentation of chrome actually enhances the effect of the remaining shiny stuff because there is less of it to look at. Go ahead! Convince me!

There are plenty of arguments to be made both ways, but for my money, it comes down to just one thing…                        To polish or not to polish…and I…actually like to polish.

et ita abscedit  Ron

Soul of Iron

Does your Car have a Soul? As seen in CKD by Ron Springer

One of my favorite movies has always been Christine. Based on the book by Stephen King, the movie features a 1958 Plymouth Fury with a “dark side.” Christine is no ordinary car. She is an angry piece of iron bent on revenge and she shows it. I like the movie in part because it is good entertainment, but also because it reflects (Hollywood Style) what I truly believe…that cars have personality, emotions and a soul…albeit rarely as destructive as Christine.

Now, don’t flip the page just yet, stay with me for a few more lines before you cast me as some kind of Hillbilly Lunatic with too many quarts of Shine under my belt.

My belief in the existence of an Automotive Soul has come about over a lifetime of driving and maintaining almost every kind of vehicle you can imagine. I have had Model T’s and Muscle cars; Dragsters and Kustoms; New Cars, Tractors, Trucks and Beaters. Without exception, all of them have had “Quirks” and “Traits” that cannot be explained away by simply applying Mechanical Knowledge and Pragmatism. They have all exhibited, to one degree or another, “behaviors” that most of us would say are more common among Flesh and Blood than Rubber and Iron.

Take the 1976 Camaro I drove in High School as an example; I flogged that car on a daily basis. I raced her, beat on her doing Brodies and Burnouts, overloaded her suspension and even took her down roads better suited to 4X4’s than Sports Coupes. But I also cared for her daily with great love and concern. Over the years that I had that car I will bet I lavished a hundred gallons of wax on her. She got basic maintenance every time I took her out, and I showered her with gifts of performance goodies and accessories whenever I had two Franklins rubbing together in my wallet. I never gave her a name, unless “Baby” counts because that is how I referred to her when I patted her on the dash and urged her to give me just a little more. On one occasion, running on fumes with her gas gauge well past the red and with no source of fuel in sight, she got me in with a lot of coaxing and encouragement. “Come on Baby,” I said, “Just a few miles to the gas station…you can do it!” When I stood there at the station pouring Ethel into her tank I watched as the digits on the Gas Pump rolled past her 21 gallon capacity and kept rolling…all the way to twenty three plus. She had never held that much gas before and never did again. Even accounting for the filler neck and air space in the tank, there simply wasn’t room for all that fuel…She was very thirsty!

I have had other cars that were effectively “One Man Vehicles.” A little Jeep that I once owned would carry me around without so much as a Hiccup, yet whenever someone else climbed behind the wheel she would lay down and strand them. I would hook up the trailer to go and retrieve her (and whatever unfortunate person had fallen victim to her cantankerous nature) only to arrive and find that whatever issue caused her to stall had mysteriously vanished. It finally got to the point that nobody else would even ask to drive her. She never gave me any trouble, but then I did get her a custom car cover and I never drove her in the mud. She trusted me.

And what about the cars and trucks that start every time I bump the key, while everyone else who tries to bring them to life seems to need a set of Booster Cables and a can of Ether to get them to go. We currently have a ’53 Hudson Super Wasp that fires right up for me. I would wager that a half dozen people have tried to start that car unsuccessfully. But I understand her and know what she needs. I have taken the time to get to know her and I have made allowances for her idiosyncrasies. I also pat her on the back fender on a regular basis and reassure her that I have not forgotten her.

Tradition has it that all Cars are Women, and there may be something to that thought. Without relying too heavily on stereotypes, it has been my experience that if I treat my Cars at least as well as I treat the women in my life; They never let me down. But there is more to it than simply being faithful and doing the things that are obvious. I have found that when I am sensitive to the needs of my car by making her a partner rather than a slave, my car seems to respond by performing above my expectations. When I talk to them…compliment them and show them that I care, they seem to respond better than they do with I am preoccupied, insensitive and demanding.

There are however, some notable exceptions to this premise. Take the car I drove when I was single and uncommitted in my early twenties. She was a British Sports Car and she was definitely one of those “One Man” kind of cars. I loved that car, and spent countless hours proving my affection. I gave that little car much more than I took back. But on more than one occasion she simply refused to motor when I had a date in her passenger seat. There was a solenoid in the glove box that would freeze up every time a girl sat in the car with me. I would have to reach over, open the glove box door, remove an access panel and tap on the solenoid to get her going. I could just hear her chuckling every time it happened. When it was just the two of us, she performed flawlessly…never had to tap on anything. But bring a strange woman into the picture and her jealousy came out.

I am currently having some opportunities with my ’09 Sierra. I try to take care of her in accordance with what I perceive as her needs, but she seems to want more. I keep her relatively clean, change her oil as needed and I even bought her a new set of tires recently. She sees me in the driver’s seat for more miles than any other vehicle I own. But we are still having problems. I think one of her issues may be the name we gave her. We call her B.A.T. – “Big Ass Truck.” In the beginning, we were doing alright. She was new, and I added lots of accessories to her. She got bigger tires, lots of chrome, cold air intake, a cowl induction hood, and even a performance programmer. But apparently that has not been enough.

From time to time, when I run the A/C she will suddenly stop blowing cold and switch to heat…then back again. The folks at the Dealership are stumped and have not been able to diagnose the problem. Other times, her fuel gauge will give inaccurate readings which has resulted in two instances of her stranding me on the side of the road with an empty tank when her gauge still showed a quarter tank. Again; There was nothing wrong with the gauge or the sending unit. I have tried to keep my temper, but I have gone off on her a few times and I am not proud of it. But, truth be known, I’m not big on late model vehicles and maybe that shows. I would trade her off but she is capable of carrying 5 passengers, carrying a nice load of cargo and pulling our Fifth Wheel. I suppose we need to have some “alone time” for a good detailing and maybe an off-road adventure, but I just can’t get excited about it…slow learner.

et ita abscedit  Ron

A Simple Tune-up

by Ron Springer

Here’s a quote for ya.

“ That guy has probably forgotten more about cars than you will ever know!”
That phrase came out of the mouth of a friend of mine recently (not that he is the one who coined the phrase) in reference to long time drag racer and automotive engineering wizard Dan Griffin as he was tuning on car in our shop one day. Dan has campaigned his ’50 Olds Race Car, Wasted Childhood, for many decades and is somewhat of a folk legend with followers and admirers worldwide.

It all started when I spoke to Dan about the trouble we were having getting the engine to run right in a little 440 Dodge we were working on. It loaded up, overheated, idled rough and had a big fat dead spot off idle. Any number of people had made attempts to solve the issues, but to no avail. Dan took a brief look at it and listened to the engine run. He was convinced that the issues were in the Holly Double Pumper that sat atop the air-gap intake. Dan’s not a Holly guy. He suggested we let him find a good Carter AFB and rebuild it for us. I was a little reluctant since I was convinced we were already under-carbureted and what he was suggesting didn’t seem to fit that theory. But I liked Dan, and I agreed to accept his offer.

A week or so later, Dan swung by the shop one afternoon with the Carter. We bolted the newly refined unit to the intake and fired her up. Dan grabbed a screwdriver and went to work adjusting the idle mixture. Before long, the headers began to glow red and great explosions were taking place in the tubes that sounded like Cherry Bombs going off. There were several fellows standing around the car (including our Chief Mechanic) watching…or in this case, leering at Dan as though he was performing backwoods heart surgery on their prize Heifer. (The average age of the onlookers was about 35.)

After a couple minutes he signaled us to shut down the engine with a highly exasperated hand-slash across the neck gesture. Without saying a word he whipped out a wrench from his back pocket and started pulling the carb. “Anyone know what the total timing is on the piece of junk?” he growled.

He tossed the Carter on a makeshift bench and proceeded to pull it apart. In about four minutes (no exaggeration here) it was a pile of parts. Dan had brought a couple of small cardboard boxes with him, and he began to unload them onto the bench. There was one container which looked like something you’d see in a tackle box with dozens of carburetor jets in it. Another container had needle valves and accelerator pumps. There must have been enough parts in those boxes to rebuild dozens of carbs…springs, screws, gaskets…you name it. As he began to pull parts from the box I realized that this was most certainly NOT his first rodeo.

He fumbled around in the containers for the parts he wanted and without consulting a guide or a chart he made his decisions on the fly. He didn’t just change the jets, he changed everything; So much for baby steps. He called for a certain size drill bit, and using the diameter of the bit as a guide, he bent the float arms so that when he rolled the drill bit under the floats they just touched. Within a few more minutes he had the thing back together and we were bolting it onto the intake. We fired the engine and Dan grabbed the timing light. After readjusting things he leaned in under the hood spinning his hat around and cocking his head to the side. He closed his eyes and began twisting the mixture screws again. (Picture the same group of guys standing around the car, with the same scrutinizing expressions on their faces.)

As I sat in the driver’s seat monitoring the gauges and watching him through the gap between the hood and the cowl, I could hear subtle changes in the exhaust note, but Dan didn’t seem to be paying any attention to that. His ear was pointed toward the middle of the engine block. I listened more carefully trying desperately to hear what he was hearing. Deep inside the engine, I could detect all kinds of mechanical clicks and whirrs. But as I focused more closely, I could also hear a kind of deep hum, maybe even a kind of rumble. As Dan twisted the screws in and out the rumble-hum would change pitch and I could actually hear a kind of harmonic discord. What I was hearing was downright musical…like the sound a base string on a guitar makes when plucked out of tune. I continued to listen and the pitch would change moving up and down until it finally settled in a pleasant “in tune” place. There were no Cherry Bombs and the headers were fine. Then he blipped the throttle, and I mean blipped it! The sudden rush of sound startled me and it was then I discovered that I too had my eyes closed.

Dan stood back from the engine bay and motioned for me to shut her down. “Well…it’s a little better…I think,” he proclaimed.

I was stunned. The rest of the onlookers were slack-jawed. We all felt the simultaneous urge to bow as Dan walked past us with a grin on his face.

We all saw it happen! We all witnessed every step, but there was no explaining it. How did he know what to do? Why did he do what he did? What was going on in that obviously fertile and well plowed brain of his the last hour? We all wanted to question and grill him, but nobody said a word. We all just stood motionless staring at the engine as though we had just witnessed Jesus calming the storm.

Before Dan started tuning, there was no blipping the throttle. Opening the throttle yielded a magnificent roar, but you wouldn’t have called it a “rush of horsepower.” It was more of a crescendo. Now the engine idled contentedly in its own big cam kind of way but when you jammed your foot to the floor the response was nothing short of insane. It was genuinely instantaneous and the engine popped from idle to redline before you could pull your foot back.

We took the car out on the deserted road that runs along our property and made a couple of passes. I swear, the car felt as though it was going to leap out from underneath me; All this from a “simple” tune-up. That’s the power of experience!

et ita abscedit  Ron

Lowriders -VS- Kustoms

As seen in Car Kulture Deluxe Magazine by Ron Springer

 

So tell me, why is it that a bunch of guys and gals spanning multiple generations and multiple ethnicities who share a common passion for all things four wheeled cannot put aside their petty differences and “make nice.”
I can hear the notification tone on my Android going nuts even as I peck on the keyboard of this computer.
Easy answer is that we all think whatever we are doing is better than whatever someone else is doing and that “WE” have it right and “THEY” have it wrong.

 
Take the rivalry between the Lowrider crowd and the Kustom group…not that either of these examples show any signs of gelling into a cohesive group…but the basic idea is still sound – These are two groups of enthusiasts who share a love for all things “Low and Shiny.”


At the core of it a Traditional Lowrider or “Throw Back” is a cultural icon for a group of highly dedicated and skilled car lovers who design and build cars that… 1. Have a low to the ground stance. 2. At the pinnacle of the genre’, have insanely beautiful paint jobs. 3. Have interiors that are highly modified and expertly crafted. 4. Have drive-trains that lean toward reliability as opposed to horsepower. 5. Typically utilize Custom Wheels and narrow white wall tires. 6. Have numerous accessories added to enhance the exterior of the car including chrome, stainless and one off hand-made items.

 
The fundamentals of building a Kool Klassic Kustom or Traditional Kustom Car are fairly easy to identify as well. A Kustom has…1. A low stance relative to the ground. 2. A paint job that is very nearly perfect in execution and appearance. 3. An interior that is expertly crafted and unique. 4. An engine and transmission that will carry the car down the road reliably without sacrificing appearance or function. 5. Very Kool and often unique Wheel Covers wrapped in wide white wall tires. 6. Numerous body modifications including but not limited to chopped tops, shaved door handles, and frenched head and tail lights.

 
On the face of it, both groups of car enthusiasts would seem to be headed in the same direction. Aside from opposing preferences for Wheel Covers –vs- Custom Wheels and Modified Sheet Metal –vs- Accessory Additions, the goals are virtually the same.

 
The Kustom crowd has always tended to sacrifice the under hood and chassis areas of the cars in favor of spending their time and money on the body and interior. The Lowrider owner tends to shy away from the sheet metal work and instead concentrates on minute details and elaborate designs over the existing shapes and mechanisms. Why one prefers wheel covers and the other prefers wheels (aside from trying to achieve period correct status) is a total mystery; however that bias seems to be breaking down of late in both groups.

 
And why can’t a Kustom Car have a decent stereo system? For that matter, why can’t a Lowrider have a chopped top?

Just imagine for a moment if folks from both camps got together and collaborated on their builds. What kind of cars would come out of such an alliance? Here’s my take: Kustoms with:Chrome Wheels,Highly detailed engine bays,Paint that speaks to the “Art of the car.” Chassis and undercarriage detail that makes you want to lie on the ground for hours staring at the frame. Sophisticated suspension schemes opening up new avenues of possibilities…i.e. NO SKIRTS NEEDED because the car can be raised like an early Citroen to change the tires. Interior modifications that rival the best and most luxurious Coach-built cars ever conceived…and decent stereo systems.

 
Lowriders with:Body and sheet metal modifications that enhance and improve overall appearance.Insanely hand-built, one-off wheel covers sparking a resurgence of interest in creativity and workmanship.Wide white wall tires.Elaborate vintage engines and unique induction systems.

 
If I am wrong about all this, then by all means tell me. But don’t ring in to say that small tires just don’t look right, or that Subwoofers have no place in the trunk of a Kustom. Don’t drone on about how Lowriders don’t get awards at car shows unless it’s at an “all Lowrider show.” And I don’t want to hear about the time some “Hispanic Male” flipped you off on the parkway either. Put all that aside and tell me why the best things from both groups can’t combine to create even more creative presentations in iron, glass, rubber and cloth. Tell me that…or forever hold your peace…please!

 

et ita abscedit  Ron