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Everybody was a beginner once, even some of you older guys that have been doing this for years. Lets hear some stories about the dumb choices you made as a beginner hot rodder! I'll start:

I had never worked on an engine before in my life and had nobody to teach me, so I was on my own. Like many young hotrodders of my generation, I fell for every inside joke in the book and yes, that includes the blinker fluid.

Anyways I had gone to a car meet thinking I was the real deal with my 70 skylark (which actually had a weaker chevy motor swapped in. Go figure.) Now I had just finished bingeing all the fast and the furious movies, so I expected me to be winning every race like Dom Toretto. Naturally I challenged some guy in a civic. we pulled up to the strip and revved our engines. Mine had the typical growl of american muscle, while all of a sudden I heard this strange high pitched gasping noise coming from his engine (this was before I had ever heard of a turbo charger. the noise I was hearing was turbo flutter). Because my teenage ego was huge, I had the AUDACITY to ask this dude if his engine was alright! everyone laughed at me, we pressed the gas, his 12 second civic left my 16.7 second skylark in the dust. We became good friends afterwards but it was the first thing to humble me and ever since I've been chasing quarter miles!
 

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True Hotrodder
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This is very true.

I got started on my first real car project when I was about 12. I had this small set of tools that I had bought with my paper route money and I would get under the hood of my mom's Chevy and tighten up bolts here and there. I was too afraid to take anything loose. My mom didn't care for it and complained to my dad so he ended up getting me an old Ford at auction and that became my mechanical education. I originally rebuilt the top half of the 6 cylinder, rebuilt the single barrel carb, thought all cars had positive ground and every once in awhile my dad would take me and the car out for a ride. I then managed to crack the block one winter as I had no idea what anti-freeze happened to be. That lead to my first engine swap but that's another story.
 

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Brian Martin,Freelance adviser
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My stupidest 16 year old moment was starting to chop the top on my 64 Nova SS.........it went to the wrecking yard like this. It was a rust free, just painted (first lacquer paint job, second full paint job) super nice car.
Nova chop.jpg


Brian
 
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I will endevour to persevere
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My first car was a 1953 Chevy 4 door. 235 6cyl with a powerless Glide. The neighbor owned it but one night on his way home a plank wood fence jumped right out in front of him. He busted the radiator,hood,windshield, front bumper and grill.
During this time I was into anything mechanical and used to talk to this guy all the time. Just after having the fence incident he asked me one day if I would like to have a old car to work on and fix up? Of course I had to clear it with my dad and he was like ok but don't get in trouble with it. The neighbor put a tire on the front from a sliced tire from planks. I cut the fan belt off so it would start and move. The neighbor drove it from his place next door and all the way around behind our garage handed me the keys and said have your dad stop by and pick up the title later and he left! This car kept me interested in all things automobile and I fixed it slowly until I had a new radiator,Windshield,and hood. then I would sneak it out the back driveway and go cruising about the neighborhoods. Ahh but as always happens I got caught out late at night driving the 53 with no license. This was 2 years before my dad passed and I was just 14.

Well needless to say the car got sold to a local wrecking yard and I was grounded like for life!!! Within a year I had bought a 57 ford 2 dr hardtop. I rebuilt a 58 Ford 352 interceptor and put it in the 57.. Plenty of stories plenty of cars and motorcycles....:cool:
 

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Brian Martin,Freelance adviser
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Oh damn Rip, that is something else! I think we all took those drives, I was lucky, did it ALL THE TIME with my truck and never got caught! We had farm land and a new housing track next to us and I drove it all over both all the time. It took me 1.5 years to finish the chopped top I started after just turning 16 and I always joke it took me that long because I worked on it an hour then drove it two hours. LOL I would drive it with goggles on as it had no windshield because the chop wasn't done. It also had no hood and even sometimes, no fenders. I probably put a few hundred miles on it like this. LOL Once while I was out on one of these drives I had forgotten that I had removed the hood latch. I had put the hood on as the previous owner had without any hinges, just bolts through into the cowl to hold it. The hood came off to drive it so often showing off the hot rod six that he did this, I don't even think I got hinges when I bought the truck from him. Anyway, so I took off after working on the truck an hour for my two hour drive LOL and going down a long road the hood flew off! I think luckily I didn't have the hinges because it would have smashed onto the roof or something crazy and I could have been hurt. It was a very narrow road with some cars parked on the side and I had no mirrors on it. The hood was GONE in a split second flying off and I was going about 35 or so and looking out the rear window waiting to see the hood smash into one of those cars! It stayed up a hell of a long time and hit like a rocket upside down nose first in the middle of the street missing the cars by only a few feet! WOW! I was pretty lucky that day and every other day I drove it! Can you imagine if I had hit a car or something, wow, that would not have been good. I plan on driving it without any windows again like that, can't wait. Funny story on the glass. I put it off and put it off without ever getting a price, thought it would be many hundreds of dollars. After I got the truck in primer I made templates of where the glass had to be cut and took it all to the glass shop. They charged me as I remember $30 to cut them. So funny, the original windshield had marks from a worn out wiper blade in it. That mark went up to the roof as the top 4 inches of the glass was cut off. LOL Brian
DocImage46.jpg
DocImage22.jpg
 

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Brian Martin,Freelance adviser
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OMG I had forgotten how the passenger door had those six holes I had to weld up from where a business sign was screwed to the door! I had totally forgotten about that! I brazed them up as I remember being able to see little lumps of brass hanging on the inside. :ROFLMAO:

Brian
 

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I will endevour to persevere
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Brian I had a similar incedent with my 53 and the hood. I didn't have a hood latch on and used a piece of lamp cord to hold it down. I got going really fast down this long hill and about 1/2 way the hood started lifting and the wire gave way. The hood flipped up and backwards laying across the windshield. I couldn't see and almost ran off the road. the rear corners of the hood got turned up like little wings but no more damage except a small crease across the hood. I was lucky then.:cool:
 

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Brian Martin,Freelance adviser
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I remember that hood "dancing" I have to assume my eyes got as big as a friggin 45 record and I stomped on the brakes as the hood was GONE! LOLOL

Yep and 45 years later I drill a hole through my face, when will I learn?

Brian
 

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My first car was a '74 Vega GT. I bought it with no engine for $25 back in 1987. One of the dumbest things I did in that car was 'jump' it off the edge of the pavement in a construction zone. I came ripping out of a neighborhood, up near the top side of 3rd gear I remembered that the pavement dropped off to some patch work crap, but it was too late. Down-shift to 2nd, dump the clutch and nail the throttle. Unfortunately the oil pan on the 283 that I had in it was about 1/4 inch below the cross member. Ripped a small hole in the pan, and left a trail of oil from there to where we were hanging out. Left a pretty big puddle there in the parking lot, but didn't know it. Fired it up later and ripped across the lot to go behind the stores and left it idling when I got out. Buddy of mine came flying up yelling at me to cut it off, that I had left all my oil in the parking lot. Towed it home (that's a story for another time, lol) changed the pan and filled it up with straight 50w oil. Poor thing ran OK, but smoked and had no oil pressure after that. That 283 was a prime example of over cammed and under compressed if there ever was one. Whatever the stock compression was on a plain-jane 2bbl 283, and a Comp Cams .480 lift/ 280 duration cam. I did at least have an iron Q-jet intake and Q-jet on it. Oh yeah, the cam was used. Came out of my buddies 383 stroker. I put quite a few miles on that setup before the oil loss incident.
 

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Heh.

In my 283 2 bbl PG 67 Impala 4DHT with around 70K miles, under the encouragement of a friend who drove a 428 4 speed 67 GTO, in '85... late one summer night in central LA... we explored the unfinished nearby portion of I-49. Coaxed and reluctantly, I did run her up to 60 or 70. This was in the 55 era so that was a charge.

Found the end as I topped a rise in the ribbon of virgin concrete and simply rocketed that barge off the what seemed like a foot and a half drop, onto the pillowy dirt road bed. After bonking our noggjns on the roof, then came the oh :poop: glance at one another. Then, the Imp as our speed diminished was becoming mired in the soft dirt which was probably up to the Eagle ST letters.

I buried my foot and kept it going, unburied but had it stopped... we were busted. But now there was no clue how to navigate back to a road was my thought. Surely I hit the brights. A ways ahead on our initial trajectory, a car crossed our path on hwy 6. The hood on the passenger side of the black cloth bench across from me points out that if we saw them, they could see us.

Sweating bullets, I doused the lights and by dumb luck followed the right tire tracks. Popping out of the ditch onto the 6 while pulling the headlight switch, I putted away from the scene like this: :whistle: Whistlin Dixie. All nonchalant-like. Because I didn't have a General Lee horn.

Cannon ballistics come to mind, in retrospect. And in returning to the scene area close enough to see, yeah foot and a half drop with rebar hanging out and I remembered punching it to hit 70 going uphill just before the aircraft carrier "esque" launch of that heavy Chevy. Aside from maybe some control arm clod plowing dirt marks, the Imp never felt a thing and I still got 60K out of those tires.

That was the graceful sit-out year my folks were able to provide between HS and college. I scored the low miles cream puff so I'd have two years of tough, road trip reliable college car for Dallas. Sold the 72 SS Chevelle I seniored in to get it. Worked building boats that summer and at a dozen years old, being a MN car the SS's rear wheel opening lips were already gone. Fumes through the perforated trunk sucked but the fiberglass chop gun at the shop was mighty cool and that...

is another story. Heaven is merciful, there are many alarming tales. This one had common threads with Dave's Vega yarn, so... there ya go. All true lies!
 

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I've been airborne in a Vega GT Wagon before.
A friend of mine in the early 80's had one with a Cosworth 4-banger.
We were heading down the main north-south drag, coming up on some railroad tracks that you normally had to slow down quite a bit for. It was a steep little "ramp' just before the tracks.
Instead of slowing down as usual, my buddy downshifted to 2nd and floored it.
Fortunately he had his plumbing equipment in the back, which balanced the car in flight.
We were airborne into the intersection, and made a perfect 4-point landing.
As we landed, I looked to my right, and there was a cop sitting #1 at the stop light. We landed right in front of him.
We just kept going, and he just sat there. I've always wondered if he saw us, and was so impressed that he let us off the hook...
 

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OK, I gotta share the 'tow-home' story... Stupid is as stupid does. After we pushed my Vega back to the parking spot to cover the oil slick that I left behind, I was wondering how I was gonna get it home. I was pretty broke at the time. My buddy Greg drove a 4x4 Chevy pickup, and offered up a long rope and his truck to tow me home. Cool. We waited until about 1 AM or so to hopefully keep contact with the police to a minimum. We tied it off, worked out our braking signals, and headed for home. Another buddy, Ray, who was driving his mom's LTD since his hooptie truck was busted, decided to follow us in case something went sideways. Well, when we got to a long straight section of 4-lane road, Ray decided to challenge us to a race. Yep. Ray pulls up beside me, stomps that poor LTD a time or two, and then headed up to Greg. I'm in the Vega, yelling NO! NO! I guess Greg didn't hear me. I hear Greg stomp the truck, the 4-barrel opens up, and we're off to the races. Literally. I, in the Vega, which is tied to the back of Greg's truck by about 25-30 feet of heavy rope, passed Ray in the LTD. He was beating the seat like a jockey on a race horse trying to make it go faster. That poor LTD just didn't have what it needed that night. Made it home fine otherwise.
 

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Brian Martin,Freelance adviser
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When I think of how lucky I am to be alive, wow. I had a couple class mates and my brother had a really good friend die in crashes racing and both my class mates (two brothers in a Comet) and my brothers friend (in a Comet too!) hitting poles. When I think of going down our little country road in farm land with 1/4" marked off in my buddies 70ish Duster WIDE OPEN with the speedo bouncing off the bottom at 120 and my buddy is driving with one hand on the steering wheel lifting his elbow up so he could see the speedo!
This photo is of my brothers friends car that was torn in half, literally two pieces when hitting the pole of a VW dealer across the street from the high school our mom and him went to. They were racing and the other car bumped them, sending them out of control and hitting a feed store building next to the dealership which flipped the car up side down where it slid over hitting the pole and ripping it in two. I know my brother has always had a heavy heart for this being he pulled the 6 out of that car and put in a hot rod V8 just months before this happened. That piece of the quarter cut off was where the other car hit them, the police took it as evidence. Robert, the one who died went to my school and is in the memorial page in my year book.

Brian

Falcon.jpg
 

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I have to join in on this. At 16 my first car was a 1977 Oldsmobile Omega that had a 283 chevy and a powerglide transplanted in it. (bought it that way for a 125 bucks. This car was ROTTEN! Old stop signs for floorboards, rotted wheel wells, holes in the trunk and the rear bumper wired on. I thought I was speed racer in that car. The steering was always sloppy in that car but I got used to it. I challenged a Cutlass to a race and he quickly handed me my ***. Ego deflated I went back to school and trying to parallel park it the steering box literally fell out. I had just got done doing like 90mph in that thing! Oh, forgot to mention no rear shocks. the mounts on the body rusted away. Anyway I put a used steering gear box in and all was well for a while. A friend and I got a little goofy on a back road one day and put it in the ditch where the front subframe separated from the body on the passenger side. Game over. The local wrecking yard picked it up and pulled the motor and trans for me. When they picked up the car off the ground the rear end literally fell right out of it. I used to routinely take this car up to 100mph! There must have been an angel riding with me all the time because that death trap should have killed me many time over!
 

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Brian Martin,Freelance adviser
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WOW! Something similar happened to my brother in his 39 Ford coupe. He wasn't racing but just got back from a drive to a nearby city on the freeway and as he pulled up into the driveway behind where are shops were he decided to stop and back up and put it around front instead. As he did this, put it into reverse and the steering wheel spun in his hand doing nothing! The arm on the spindle that the drag link attaches to had fallen off the spindle! It had been "dropped" by heating and bending it down to match the dropped axle. It just fell off!

Brian
 
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