Gunner’s Great Garage (www.gunnersgreatgarage.com) specializes in the mechanical restoration of old cars. One of the most important mechanical components in any car is its engine and this has been a week of work involving engines.
This FoMoCo 390-cid V-8 “grew” during its rebuild.
Last Friday we got back an engine we have been waiting a long time for another shop to complete. It is a 390-cid Ford engine for a 1967 Cougar XR-7. The owner elected to have this engine built with Edelbrock heads and Super Stock exhausts. We got him a discount of $70 per head direct fron Chrsty Edelbrock. The 390 is a big engine for a sports-compact like the Cougar. With the new heads and big exhaust manifolds the engine is going to be an even tighter fit in the car. In fact, we are going to have to measure very carefully before we go dropping it in. It is a beautiful motor, though.
A second engine for a customer car that we had in another shop also got finished. This is a rare 1948 Chrysler straight eight. The shop has completely rebuilt it, but because of the snow and some personal considerations, we haven’t picked it up yet. We have to figure out how to handle a big straight eight once we get it back in our shop. Modern engine stands aren’t designed for big, long motors.
This Studebaker “Big Six” was formerly a “boat anchor.”
A third engine we have been tinkering with is the one for my son Jesse’s 1949 Studebaker Commander. This is a 245-cid six-cylinder flathead engine known as the “Big Six.” This engine had been stuck for about 30 years. Last week we got it apart and the only special thing we’ll need to do is have the cylinders sleeved. The old pistons were frozen almost solid in the cylinders so liners will be required. The cam, crank and most other internal parts were in good shape. You get a great feeling inside when you think about bringing a 65-year-old engine that was a “boat anchor” back to life. That feeling is one of the reasons people spend more restoring a car than it’s worth when it’s done.
The Muscle Car & Corvette Nationals (www.mcacn.com) in Rosemont, Ill., on Nov. 22-23, features many special Corvettes and muscle cars. The show is held at the Donald E. Stephens convention center, close to O’Hare Airport. Each year the attractions the show lines up are impressive.
Car personalities who attended MCACN include Linda Vaughn, Jim Wangers, Mondello and Grumpy Jenkins Joel Rosen of Baldwin-Motion fame has shown up, as has writer Joe Oldham, who penned many muscle car road tests.
Of course, the cars are the big attraction. They have included the Hemi-powered Dodge Diamante dream car, the Hemi Under Glass Barracuda, the 1970 Baldwin-Motion Maco Shark Corvette, the 1969 Mr. Norm’s Garage Mod Top Plymouth Barracuda, the Packer Pontiac 1963 lightweight Super-Duty Catalina, the Oldsmobile “Fournado” and countless other one-of-a-kind cars.
Visitors to the show are extremely impressed when they come upon special exhibits featuring multiple COPO Camaros or row after row of Yenko Camaros, Chevelles and Novas. A display of ’69 Pontiac Trans Am convertibles it included six of the total eight-car production run. That was an exhibit that many muscle car experts thought would be impossible to arrange, but there they were!
Features lined up for the 2014 Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals include: The First Cobra 427 serial number CSX3002; the 1956 Corvette SR2 roadster; a Chrysler Hemi 50th anniversary exhibit; a “Color My World” grouping featuring mod colored muscle cars; the Buick GSX Invitational; “Real Pace Cars” presented by the Sloane Museum of Transportation; a Mustang Madness Anniversary exhibit; Ford “Cat House” featuring Cobra-Jet cars; Plastic Fantastic real vintage racing cars and the “Class of 1964” invitational. Also, the winner of a giveaway 1970 Oldsmobile Pace Car will be announced on Nov. 23.
The Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals also includes vendors throughout the convention center, plus a swap meet and flea market featuring the real hardware and the research materials that collectors need to restore muscle cars and products to take care of them once the work is done.
My friend Ralph Kramer, who was Chevrolet’s Director of Public Reklations for many, many years, grew up as an Indiana farm boy. In 1955, when he was about 12 years old, he and his friends decided to spend the Memorial Day weekend at the Indianaolis 500 Mile Race.
They traveled to the “Brickyard” — the Indianapolis Motor Speedway — and found a spot around the track where they coud stand and watch the race. (I guess the track was a little less built up back then).
Prior to the start of the race, the Official Pace Cars circled the track. The pace car for 1955 was a red and white Chevrolet Bel Air convertible. The man driving the actual pace car was wearing a white blazer and red tie. Sitting on the rear deck was entertainer Dinah Shore dressed in a white skirt and red top. She was holding a bouquet of flowers and waving to the crowd.”There we were,” said Ralph. “A pack of impressionable young hids standing there in our jeans and T-shirts and we just knew that Dinah Shore was waving right at us!”
Bring your vintage racing car to Iola!
My reason for telling this story is to announce that the theme for next year’s 2015 Iola Old Car Show will be “Race Cars & Pace Cars.” The car show committee is getting together this week to lock in this exciting concept and to start looking for vintage Race Cars and Pace Cars to put in the spotlight at Iola. If you know of someone who has such a car and would like to exhibit it at the Midwest’s largest old car show, please tell them to get in touch with the Iola Car Show office. Here’s the info:
Four Days of Exciting Family Fun – IOLA ’15
Featuring Pace and Race Cars!
Email your “PACE” cars to
Email your “RACE” cars to
Include your car info and
contact information for
consideration for IOLA ’15.
From July 9-12, Iola becomes home to the Midwest’s Greatest Old Car Show and Swap Meet!
Long Motor Corp. is headquartered in Lenexa, Kan.
Back in June I was traveling to the Pontiac club (www.poci.org) convention in Wichita, Kan. and noticed that we would be passing by LMC Truck Parts (www.longmotor.com) in Lenexa, Kan.. We decided to stop and tour the LMC Truck division.
We got there at 4:30 in the afternoon and thought everyone would be leaving. Then we found out that the company has over 400 employees working split shifts until 11 pm at might. Holy cow!
LMC is a company that can supply reproduction parts and accessories for a variety of cars and trucks very quickly and efficiently. Truck parts are the biggest piece of the company’s pie.
Long Motor Corp. has been around 30 years and currently stocks 30,000 truck components. Parts for 1947-2013 trucks are carried in inventory. LMC Truck has 24 separate catalogs for different years and models of GMC, Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge trucks.
The inventory includes body replacement panels, chrome bumpers, replacement gas tanks, chrome replacement grilles, steering wheels, seat belts, upholstery and trim items and more. The company also sells accessories such as LED light bars and some custom-designed parts that improve original equipment parts that had quality issues.
The LMC Truck operation that started in 1993 is the largest part of the company. Pallet racking filled with parts stretches up towards the ceiling and the ceiling was higher than we ever want to climb inside a building. Special electronic “tracks” guide forklifts down very narrow aisles without hitting the racking to allow more parts to be stored in a certain space.
The headquarters in Lenexa (a western suburb of Kansas City) also has two “factory outlet” stores where visitors or local enthusiasts can buy parts over the counters and save shipping costs. Since the company also sells parts for British and Japanese sports cars, there is a separate store for those niches. And since the truck parts are the biggest branch of the company, they have their own store. Both of these outlets are well stocked with both parts and catalogs.
Vehicles in storage range from new to old and restored to parts trucks.
Warehouse organization is well planned to use space efficiently.
Truck in HQ’s store is flanked by 24 different LMC Truck parts catalogs.
You could practically build some trucks with available repro parts.
Parts include body panels, upholstery and mechanical items.
Last winter the red Fox Valley Technical College Firebird became the “Silver Streak” with a new paint job.
The Firebird you see in these pictures has flown to a speed of 193 mph over the salt flats at Bonneville, Utah. That was back in 2011, when the car was painted red and we took it to Bonneville Speedway with a student team from Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wis.
Things have changed a bit since that time. Driver Dave Sarna traded another car the Fox Valley Tech and took possession of this one. Most or all of the young guys have bowed out of the project. Bonneville was a bit grueling for many of them. They’d rather drag race on Friday nights at Wisconsin International Speedway with their friends watching. As a result, the Bonneville team dwindled down to the veterans who were advisors in 2011.
Despite some intensive work sessions in Tom Ale’s garage, the car wasn’t ready in time for the September event at Bonneville.
Plans to return to Bonneville in 2012 failed to gel. In fact, very little got done to the car that year. This turned out to be a good thing, since the weather at Bonneville that fall was bad and the “World of Speed” event that we ran in was affected. Chance are the long haul to Utah would have been a wasted effort.
In 2014, a lot of work was done to the car—including the new “Silver Streak” paint job—but as fall approached we began to realize that we were not going to join the Utah Salt Flats Racing Assoc. (www.saltflats.com) at the “World of Speed” for the second year in a row. Despite all the efforts put into the car and the engine, our low-budget project did not come together on time.
Too bad! From what we hear, the 2014 “World of Speed” was an outstanding event. Motorcycle racer and team owner, Valerie Thompson, set her 7th land speed record on her CTEK sponsored BMW S 1000 RR. Thompson made her first pass at 209.85 mph and the return run was 207.71 mph for an average speed of 208.81 mph, high enough to take the record in the MPS-6-1000 class and put her in the 200 mph class. Another record was set by a race team closer to home, on Sept. 7, when Milwaukee Midget Racing’s MG Midget established a new course record of 122.539 mph for the I/GT class. This was the oldest standing record in the GT category. It stood unbeaten for over 22 years.
Work on the “Silver Streak” Firebird is continuing, with hopes of taking the car back to the “World of Speed” in 2015.
It’s a good thing we’re filled up with cars at Gunner’s Great Garage or I might be tempted to take a serious look at an unusual car one of my friends is selling. The car is a 1946 Armstrong-Siddeley Hurricane drophead coupe. That’s the British term for convertible and there’s no doubt that Armstrong-Siddeley sounds like a rightious British name.
As you can tell in the photos, the car is a classic in the rough. Everything is there and there are many great parts that don’t need replacement. But the car does need a bit of restoration work in order to be really nice.
With a $25,000 asking price, the car is pretty affordable for what it is. It has a genuine classic look to it and it’s rare. It’s the kind of car that can appreciate overnight, especially if it gets restored. Want to bet I’ll be kicking myself someday for not buying it? Do you know how many good deals I passed up over the years? I’d be a millionaire if I had followed my instincts a couple of times.
If you’ve been wondering why I haven’t posted new blogs here, it’s because I got sick in July, went to the hospital for a month and then went into a recouperation mode. The doc’s say it will take me a year to recover 100 percent, but I think I am doing OK so far. Now, I am getting back to posting blogs.
Before I got sick I was working in the archives at Gunner’s Great Garage and came across a flyer for a Chevrolet Monte Carlo special edition that Jim Wangers–the godfather of the GTO–sold when he had a Chevy dealership in Milwaukee. It was called the “Milwaukee Classic” Monte Carlo and it had a few special trim features that Wanger’s dealership added.
I did a story about the car that appeared in OLD CARS WEEKLY and a little while later I got an email from a man named Larry in Milwaukee. He had a “Milwaukee Classic” Chevy Nova. This was a car I had not found any flyer on. He said that as far as he knew, Wanger’s Chevy dealership made only four of these cars.
I am trying to research the Nova “Milwaukee Classic” now. If anyone has information please email me at Gunnellj@TDS.net.
Brand new 1999 Mustang 35th Anniversary GT Convertible.
Sixteen model years have passed since the Christinson’s 1999 Mustang was new….sort of. Well, let’s say that 16 model years have passed since the car was made. That would be more accurate, since Marc’s 35th Anniversary Mustang convertible is still new. It only has 136.7 miles on its odometer!
Marc’s car is not one of the 5,000 Limited Edition models made in 1999, but it does have the beautiful wreath-design front fender emblems that feature a solid ring encircling the classic running horse and a tri-color bar. In 1989, Ford had been criticized in the press for “forgetting” the Mustang’s 25th anniversary, So, in 1999, Ford gave fans of the marque a year-long surprise party. All Mustangs (whether powered by the V-6 or V-8) were 35th Anniversary models.
James Sarria was a electrical engineer working for Ford International at the time the 35th Anniversary Mustangs came out. He was involved with supplying batteries for cars exported to other countries that were shipped overseas without batteries in them. He was also Christinson’s wife’s uncle.
Sarria was near retirement and had plans. Around 2000, he bought his wife Marian a T-Bird convertible. Then, he started looking for a ragtop for himself so they could tour together. His buddy was in charge of selling used cars from Ford’s corporate fleet. He told Sarria about a Performance Red ragtop that had spent the last year on display at Ford International Headquarters in Dearborn.
The car had never been used and was for sale for $20,000. Sarria bought the car, but then his wife got sick with cancer. She passed away and he fell into a state of depression. Then, he developed congestive hear failure and moved to an assisted living facility before he also died. Both convertibles remained in their possession, but sat, under custom made car covers, not being used. The T-Bird still has very low miles. The Mustang has traveled only 136.7 miles in 16 years.
Christinson got the car from the estate, He has put only about three miles on it, driving it to a shop that checked it over for him. The shop ran the VIN and told him that the car is the 35th car made in the 35th anniversary year. Mechanics who went over the car said there was not even dust in the engine compartment. It is brand new in every sense except for the number of years that have passed, The red body and beige convertible top are like new, the interior looks like it did when the car rolled off the line. The engine bay is spotless. Christinson has complete documentation for the car and it even wears Sarria’s Michigan plates.
In addition to the Performance Red paint, the car has the 5.0-liter V-8, power seats, power steering and brakes, a high level audio system, and a host of other options because it was a special display unit. Christinson, a school system administrator, wants to sell the car and thinks it might be worth at least double what it sold for new. With 2014 generating tons of excitement over the Mustang’s 50th birthday, who knows what a car that’s probably the only “new” 35th Anniversary model around may bring? One thing’s for sure,,,the car is Sweet 16!
Driver side of car is just as nice and new.
Car still has its original Michigan plates.
Digital odometer tells the mileage story.
The inside looks like no one ever sat in it.
The engine needed a new, correct fuel pump and nothing else.
Mustang 35th Anniversary emblem.
The ’49 Commander is Jesse’s first two-door old car.
For a few weeks we have been looking for an old car that my son Jesse could squeeze into his budget. We do know the wisdom of paying a little more to get a better car. After looking at some of the jalopies $600 won’t buy you today, we decided we were not going to get anything rebuildable at that level and started looking at cars priced a bit higher.
How about that roof treatment? The “Starlight Coupe” is a genuine postwar “special-interest” automobile that woke the Big 3 up to the fact that their early postwar designs were out of date.
Jesse is pretty good at car hunting by computer and it wasn’t long before he discovered a couple of possibilities. The most interesting was a 1949 Studebaker Commander Starlight Coupe with the unusual rear window treatment that looks more like the pilothouse of a boat than a Dodge Pilothouse pickup does. The Studebaker was in northern Illinois, but my friend Marv Richer lived close by. He has mechanical experience and has owned a lot of old cars himself.
Marv ran down to take a look at the Studebaker and gave us a fantastic report on its condition and owner history so we bought it. Once a Mississippi car, the Commander was pretty straight, largely rust free, fairly clean inside and out and had tires that looked really good. The engine is stuck and apparently has been for years. Jesse is not against a non-original swap, though we’re hoping to stay with Studebaker power if we can fix the 245-cid six or get another one.
The interior is from an era when “classy” was standard equipment in American automobiles and it looks to be in pretty good condition.
We do not have the car yet, but as a first step we put the word out to our network of hobby friends that we want to get a car transported from the Crystal Lake, Ill. area to Iola at a cost that a young man on a budget can handle. If we don’t catch an empty trailer deadheading home to north central Wisconsin, then we’ll borrow an open-car trailer and hitch it up to our own pickup truck.
With his experience at detailing cars at Midtown Motors, in Waupaca, Wis., Jesse is anxious to see if the paint will buff up and the chrome will shine.
Stay tuned for regular reports on our “new old-car adventure.” Yours truly has no experience with Studebakers, but we’re sure that Jesse is going to learn about them very quickly. We advised him to join the Studebaker Drivers Club (www.studebakerdriversclub.com) to begin with. Too bad the old Newman & Altman Catalogs we have in the literature collection are so far out of date.