I started writing this for my son. He loves cars and is currently 7 years old. For most of his life I have been working (slowly) on a project car. He can't remember when I got it, he doesn't remember all of the work put into it. All he knows it that with some help from a few friends I've built it and now it runs. Now that it runs he loves to ride in it. Like any project car, my project is far from done. But now it is a safe, working car. In about a month my 4 member family will be taking this car and my Lotus on a 3 day 1000 mile tour of the state with a bunch of other older cars.
My son doesn't even know about the cruise yet. He doesn't know I'm pulling him out of school for a day and making a long weekend to take him on it. But I know that when he gets to be older he will probably remember this trip. If he is ever wondering how the car we are taking on the trip came to be, this is his answer.
With the car's transformation from driveway art to car. I feel like I should write this down while the memories are still fresh. I've decided that not only should I put it down for him, but perhaps others would like to hear the tale too.
As you can see this is going to be a multi-part thing. I'm putting it all together from memory so things sort of come out in blobs. Some folks may or may not enjoy that. Also, I'm going to refrain from talking too much about the cars make. If you can't stand that, feel free to look at past posts of mine. But I don't think the make of car is important. This isn't about one make. This is the story of a car, a story made for a boy who may one day want to know more about the car his dad built.
Every time a wrench turns the dream is closer. At one point this car was a dream. My goal has been to re-realize that dream. At some point in history this car was once on a sales lot. It once impressed someone to the point that they bought it. They paid for it an took it home. It was once a machine made to run. Made to turn gasoline into propulsion. It was a tool made to take the will of the driver and turn it into reality. But like all tools, it wore out. It became a knife without an edge, a hammer head without a handle. It fell from grace. When I found it, it was far different than what it has become now (September 2013).
In 2007, I wanted a 240z, a First-Gen Supra or an early RX-7. A little Japanese sportscar that would be fun to drive. I wouldn't care how fast it was. If it was right and together I'd leave it alone and pound out miles enjoying a car about my age. I went back and forth for a month about getting an orange 240z I drove by every day. It had a few issues. It was missing a door card. It had some minor rust underneath it. But it was pretty straight and had about 20K on a fairly recent rebuild at $2400 it was well priced. A door card would be easy to source and Z-cars are easy to keep up.
By the time I worked it all out and decided to move, someone else already had. It was gone and I started looking for its twin. For weeks I watched Craigslist and elsewhere, but never found one in both the price range and quality.
Keywords, they open up an ad. Bringing in folks that were looking for something else to your listing. While hunting for a 240z, keywords brought me to a different car entirely. Google helped me find out a bit more and got me interested. Visions of puttering along mountain roads in a classic 70's Japanese sport coupe were pounded to bits by a turbocharged fist. What can only be looked as a Japanese muscle car soon eclipsed the 240z.
If power is one thing, it is attractive.
I called the number listed. The ad said the car was rough. The owner told me more. It ran, but needed work. Power-steering probably needed bled. The engine ran rough, but the car could go down the road under its own power, and the engine had no rod knock. The car was complete and was $1200. My wife got off work, we picked up my son from daycare and we went to see it (in the near dark).
The seller told us he bought the car to turn into a drag car. He had planned a motor swap, bought all the bits, then got laid off. If the layoff hadn't happened that car would have been transplanted. The layoff happened just a week or two before the engine would have come out. He bought the car in its current state expecting to sell the engine for scrap. But with no job, the parts and the car had to go. The V8 and transmission he planned to swap in sold quickly. The car was all that was left. The car's low price had his phone ringing off the hook, but they were all people looking for a properly running car. He told them he would feel bad selling it to them, this car needed work.
After assisting the owner in digging it out of the garage. My wife and I put the child seat in the back, loaded the kid into it and we took the car for a spin.
The car ran, that is about as positive as the experience gets. The car had a horrible idle. Lumply, not in a good big-cam way; Rather in a deeply disturbing one. Throttling up seemed to smooth it out only slightly. Most times 3K was as far as the engine would rev. Occasionally you be able to pull 5K or so out of the engine but at no point did it feel good. Once off the throttle, RPM drop was accompanied by the ringing of metal on metal. The sound was sort of bell-like, reminding of and egg timer. The turbo spooled making a whine, but you knew it wasn't right. The turbine sound was exaggerated, nearly jet-like.
The power-steering made horrid groans as you turned the wheel. It would also cut in and out of assistance as you wandered down the road. The chassis seems suspended on springs and nothing else. The body bounded over even slight bumps and never were any of those bounds even. It preferred to launch one corner higher into the sky; You couldn't count on which. Nor could you guess the cars attitude once it had returned to earth.
The rodeo didn't stop there. The interior spoke of the era of the cars birth, not todays relatively smoke free age. It was complete as stated and not in particularly bad shape, but it had it's share of smokey smell and a musk to it. The black interior held tight the secret of the musks' origination. But the velour seats gave up and showed signs of at least one past owners enjoyment of cigarettes.
After covering 137K miles the car wore every bit of them. While decently straight the car's exterior showed parking lot battle damage and scrapes and scratches.
We completed the drive, got out, thanked the owner and headed home.
Over a day or 2, I pondered the car. Having modified and campaigned a relatively modern car in regionally SCCA Solo, I sort of wanted to build something up of my own, rather than just making changes to an already working stock car. I wanted to be able to stand up and say, “I made that”. I wanted to have a car not everyone had as well. Every car guy will tell you not to buy a troubled car, especially a rare troubled car. They say this knowing full well it is the best advice, but it can be very hard to follow.
I picked up the phone told the seller I'd take it.