In a recent conversation with a fellow team member here at Cars Illustrated, the topic of our past vehicles became the focus of our talk. When asked how many vehicles I’ve owned and what were my favorites as well as why, memories instantly came flooding back. Never keeping an accurate tally, I do know that I’ve owned over 200 cars in my time, over 60 were 1987-1993 Mustangs, over 20 were 1986-1987 Turbo Buicks, and too many various others to ever count. When challenged to pick my 10 all time favorites, and why they were, I came up with this list….
#1- 1989 Mustang /Blue- This particular Mustang was documented as 1 of 4 that was built in 1989, being a 5.0 coupe, Regatta Blue with gray vinyl interior. This car was bare bones, no power anything, radio delete, antenna delete, roll up windows and all. The only actual options on the window sticker were the vinyl interior and an AOD. This car was me reincarnated into a car.. no fluff, no bling, just bare bones plain and simple and it was an absolute joy to drive. With a PI converter, my own valve body, 3.55 gears, and a few simple bolt ons this car ran consistent 13.20’s at 102 mph. I owned this car 3 times, and would buy it back today if it hadn’t been cut up and turned into a race car.
#2- 2003 ZO6 Corvette /Black- What is there to say about a 405 horsepower LS6 Corvette Fixed Roof Coupe with a 6-speed manual and a loud as hell Corsa exhaust? Evil looking black paint combined with the sound turned everyone’s head from little kids on bicycles to seniors sitting on their front porches. This car got more thumbs up’s than anything I’ve ever driven, and gave you a constant feeling of control and respect. The C5 is a great platform for mods and so much fun, anyone that owns one will say the same.
#3- 1971 Dodge Charger SE /Red- Not being my first attempt of building a street car this Dodge was my breakthrough car. It was the one I learned the most from, and the one that put me on the local street rodders of the mid 80’s respect list. This Charger was bought with beautiful red lacquer paint and flawless black interior, and a big block for a measly (now) $1800 when I was 17. The Pro Street movement was in full swing at that time. I stuffed in a Hemi grind purple shaft, bolted on a Weiand Tunnel ram and a pair of Holleys, had our local Mopar guru and racing legend Arland Vankey rebuild the 727 and install a manual valve body, and with 3.91 gears it was a runner for those days. Pulling into any cruise night with this car at 17 years old with it’s lumpy idle fueled the flame for a lifetime of hot rods….it was officially part of who I was, not just to me, but to everyone that knew me. I drove this to my high school graduation, and with a few taunts did a mind blowing 500 foot burnout riding the brake as I pulled out of the high school, stopping traffic in both directions as far as you could see….probably the best car memory I have.
#4- 1975 Toyota Corona /Pile of Sh*t Brown- Bottom right corner of photo- Yes, you are reading this one correctly. My first beater, at 17 years old the freedom of driving was finally there, and with a stick shift it just begged to be power shifted and the clutch just asked to be dumped. I have no idea how that little rusty station wagon survived, but it was at Dragway 42 every Wednesday night and it taught me to bracket race. That little car was indestructible, leaving off the rev limiter it would wheel hop so badly that the front fenders would flap because the bottoms were rusted off. Never letting off the gas and I must have power shifted that mini beast 1000 times and it never so much as let out a peep of disagreement. One of the best memories of that little car was sitting outside the local ice cream shop late at night waiting on my beautiful 16 year old girlfriend Chylece to get off work and take her home…..to this day hearing pretty much any song by Ratt reminds me of this….the Pioneer tape deck and Jensen Triaxels jamming away… That was a great summer, and I still have boxes of trophys won by this special little car.
#5- 1987 Turbo T /White- Anyone in to 80’s muscle knows exactly what these cars are. GM built these low key beauties on the popular G-body platform and were just like the legendary Buick Grand National but in different colors as to not draw too much attention. My example was a 1 owner, 42k mile virgin and ran 13.80’s in completely stock form. With a paperclip and threading the wastegate actuator it ran 12.80’s. Adding in the neighborhood of $2500 in well chosen bolt ons this car ran 10.76 at 123 mph with the original motor still factory sealed, the factory transmission and converter untouched, and full weight. This car was so fast in fact, that protests by local Buick enthusiasts prompted a tear down. The car was taken to Norwalk and made one pass of 10.97, loaded on the trailer and taken to a local Buick experts garage , myself and a few protesters took the motor out while it was still hot, tore it down to the short block, and proved my point. It was 100% internally unmodified in any way, just bolt ons that anyone could do. Tuning these cars is the key, and not everyone is as dedicated to it as I was at that time.
#6- 1992 Mustang /White- Following in the Turbo Buicks footsteps this little LX took on the same approach. Bought as a mint’92 LX 5.0 with an AOD, I set off to see how fast it could go without opening up the motor for any reason. Again using my favorite PI converter and my own valve body to correct Fords wonderful shift pattern, I bolted on shorty headers and full exhaust with high flow cats, a little suspension work, a Snow Methanol Alcohol kit, and a Vortech S-trim. With a considerable amount of street testing it ran 10.91 @ 124 mph, through the exhaust, pump gas, drag radials, catalytic converters, and a stock ecm. After an offer from Ricky Best at Vortech Engineering, I was encouraged to try a T-trim head unit leaving everything else the same. That simple blower swap took the car to 443 rwhp and an astounding 557 ft lbs of torque resulting in a 10.67 @ 129 mph….valve covers never off that little 302, all while shoving 27 psi through it with pump gas, and a squirting in as much methanol as the early kit I had would supply. This car ended up on the cover of Race Pages magazine, and a full feature in 5.0 Mustangs and Super Fords.
#7 1979 Z28 /Green- This awesome Camaro Z-28 followed the Dodge Charger when I graduated high school. Absolutely loving the very odd green with green interior, these F-Bodies were the cars dreams were made of in the 80’s. I found this car about a mile from my house, in a garage, with a locked up small block. After forking up the enormous sum of $1400 this absolutely mint and rare Z-28 was mine. It didn’t take long to score a relatively stock 427 big block for $600 and it swapped right in place a couple weekends later. A super platform for easy modifications, they made every part imaginable. Resisting the urge to modify too much (because I was a broke 18 year old) I did what any teenager would do and neglected my bills and bought asset of Centerline Auto Drags and Pro Trac tires for my sweetheart… Good times in that car.. lots of memories……until I wrecked it while racing a white 1969 Camaro at a local hangout that the cops ignored. I had the 69 by a car at the 60 ft mark and was pulling hard on him when a girl pulled out of Burger King right in front of me…I still say I won the race, but I lost the battle. The Z got parked, then eventually parted out. I clearly remember the song by Judast Priest, “Turbo Lover”, that was playing upon impact. I still to this day have never seen that color combination on another one.
#8 1998 Formula /Red- Ahh, the LS1 F-body… just about the average guys best bang for the buck. Built on a platform well supported by the aftermarket, and with the more popular now than ever LS1 motor, these cars flat out screamed. My Formula had a “little” extra, including a small cam, lightly worked heads, an LS6 intake, full exhaust, and a Yank converter. With practically no tuning or any practice the only time I had it to our local drag strip it pulled off an impressive 11.47 on drag radials. The factory torque arm style suspension seemed light years ahead of the outdated 4 link style on the Fox bodies I was used to, and this car would absolutely dead hook on wet grass it seemed like. So much fun to drive, so easy to drive, we parted ways when an offer that I couldn’t refuse came my way shortly after completing it. I’ll always love the LS1 F-bodies, probably todays cheapest/fastest introduction to drag racing.
#9 1986 GN /Black (duh)- Following closely in the White Turbo T’s footsteps came this 1986 Buick Grand National. Found neglected and in need of a serious buff and shine, this car was purchased rust free for $4600. The 1986 Turbo Buicks were the first of the only two years they came equipped with the legendary 3.8 Turbo SFI motors that we’ve all seen ridiculous performance out of with very little work. After a serious clean up, and using spare parts from the white car, a couple days of simple mods had this black wonder running strong, to the tune of 11.14 @ 119 mph. My father asked to drive it once, and it never again came back to my garage. He owned it a year or so and in 1997 it was sold to a local Police Officer that still owns it to this day. Driving one of these Darth Vader inspired cars gives you instant respect, and somehow, everyone you encounter knows what it is…. most say “Nice Monte Carlo Man”.
#10 2003 Ford Cobra/Red- When these amazing cars came out it was all any automotive publication talked about. When Ford announced the 2003 Cobra would have an Eaton supercharger and put down 390 horsepower, orders flooded in and these cars were tough to find. I searched for quite a while and found this beautiful Anniversary Edition with red/black leather two states away, piled the kids in the truck and headed out. An amazing car, hard to believe that in those current times something like that could come right out of the factory. I actually bought mine specifically to do a series of magazine tests and to write stories on as it was modified. It ended up getting little things like a hand held tuner and a set of pulleys for more boost, but the big mod for this one was the solid axle conversion. This car pretty much wrote the book on how to do it in Race Pages magazine, including every part number for every part needed for a factory perfect installation. This Snake also served as my test bed to help CHE develop rear control arms with built in pinion angle adjustment, and the first bolt on axle bracing system for the 8.8 rear axle. If you look to this day, all of CHE’s part numbers for these components all start with “TS”…my initials and originating from this car.
#10 1/2- I had to include my Chrome Yellow 1999 Mustang GT. The highlight of this daily driver was the simple addition of cutting the rear end down 2.5″ per side to use wheels with very little backspacing, and the use of Fox body front control arms to tuck the front wheels in. Lots of fun to drive on trips, with these simple mods, it gave everyone the impression it was waaay fast for the street and not to be messed with……shhhhh, we won’t tell.