The Undrivable Car

Last Saturday Harry Linsay arranged for the Early Ford V8 Club (EFV8) to go on a tour to Pinkees Rod Shop in Windsor, CO, which was followed by visiting the massive model railroad museum in Greeley. Since I am a long-term member of the EFV8 Club, I was honor bound to take my 1940 Ford hotrod which, if you only look at it, appears to be an original car. The aim of the EFV8 Club is to preserve originality; sometimes this is taken to ridiculous extremes. However, my 1940 Ford is far from original with its fuel injected 347ci overhead valve later model engine, power disk brakes, automatic transmission and totally altered suspension.

As you might expect, it has performance far superior to a stock flathead and can only be considered as a “hotrod.” Harry shares my outlook since he had Pinkees Rod Shop modify his original 1940 coupe into the hotrod of his dreams. It is a real beauty, and I think old Henry Ford would find it … amazing!

Pinkees has an earned reputation for being a world class hotrod shop having produced cars that have won the top show awards including the Ridler Award. They were also named Grand National Roadster Show Builder of the Year. What does it cost to have a show-winning car in an intense competitive builder world? As the saying goes: “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” Of particular interest to me and to most of the club members was a display of highly modified Ford flathead engines. Also of note was the surgically clean shop. I am sure they tidied up a little for visitors, but there was no denying that the shop is totally professional in operation. (My garage shop could be used as an example of how not to organize work space). The only awards I win are not having the neighbors complain.

I asked Russ Newnes to go with me on this tour and drive the car. Russ is a very good driver, which you would expect from someone who worked directly for Dan Gurney and was on his Indy pit crew. Russ assembled my engine when he was helping out Rob at the Blue Oval Engine Shop. He also assembled my 1940 Lincoln V12 flathead engine. We played nice and did not show off the power and speed of the 1940 Ford. This allowed me to look around at the countryside, in addition to the other people on the road not having to wonder if the old guy can still safely drive (I can).

As I looked with amazement at the cars under construction and the immaculate workmanship, my attention focused on what appeared to be a muscle car era Chevy Chevelle. What amazed me was the engine that is fed by two huge turbos mounted where the headlights used to be. You could look in the “headlights” and see the turbo blades. I asked Eric Peratt, the owner of the shop, “How much power does that engine make?” He responded, “1400.” Good Lord – 1400 hp in a street driven car? No way! Eric said he test drove that car, and all it did was burn rubber at any speed.

Now think about it: If you have four inches of gas pedal movement, a one-inch movement of the pedal could release 350 hp. I launched another question at Eric.
“Eric, is that car street drivable?”
“No, it is not.”

Not only is it overpowered, but with no air cleaner, the first stone thrown up by a semi I fear would detonate the turbo. So many hot rodders think there is no such thing as too much power. I think there is. What pleasure can it be to have to ride the breaks at highway speed to keep from plowing into the back end of cars in traffic? I have to place it in the same category as the “trophy blonde wife.” It is an ego trip.

Another undrivable class of vehicles in my mind are the “lifted” pickup trucks I saw on exhibit at the SEMA show. Only a high jumper can get in and out of those trucks. The center of gravity is so high that it probably is prone to flip. It will pulverize any car that it hits in the rear end. Just another ego trip unless you happen to live in a swamp.

It’s now time to get ready to take off in the 1962 Pontiac “Bluebird” for Lincoln, Nebraska and the Speedway Car Show. This will be the make or break trip for the howling Fabcraft limited slip differential. It just howls at 40 to 50 mph whether it is under a light load or no load. It is ok when under power and at highway speed. It might be getting better with driving as it seats in. The trip to Lincoln will settle that argument. It gets quiet, or it gets replaced (oh Good Lord – did I say that out loud?!?). Dusty Price, who essentially built the car, will hot shoe the car, while I try and figure out how the hi fi and navigation system work. I had to purchase the latest Escort radar detector to be on the safe side. This should prove to be a fun trip!

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