Every car has a story and some tell those stories better than others
In this business I talk to a lot of people but some I look forward to talking to more than others.
A buddy of mine from the East coast is always one of my favourite people to talk to. He called today to order some magazines but of course we ended up talking cars for about a half hour.
Actually Bill did most of the talking as he’s a great story teller with a genuine love of all things automotive. He also has a rich history to draw from – yep, he’s waaaaay older than me. If conversation is an art form, Bill is Picasso.
Today he was waxing poetic about his newest purchase, a 1964 Buick Riviera (425ci) he picked up for under $7,000 and has done nothing but drive the wheels off it since. He’s reluctant to make any “improvements” because the car is perfect the way it is. From there the conversation started to go back in time.
He was telling me about a shop teacher he knew from a small East Coast town who bought a 1967 Belvedere with a 426 hemi brand new and made sure it never saw a snow-covered road in the entire time he owned it. In fact, in 1973-74 he purchased from Chrysler NOS fenders, doors, quarter panels and even roof sheet metal. If he hadn’t bought it, it would have been scrapped.
The car didn’t need new sheet metal but guess he was planning for the future. Bill doesn’t know what happened to the car or the sheet metal but I imagined the car sitting in a dark barn with a tarp and boxes piled on it just waiting to be discovered and brought back to life by some lucky bastard who won’t be me. He told me about an S10 Xtreme he passed down to his daughter who is now sufficiently infected with the gearhead disease that she refuses to drive it in the winter for fear of damaging the still original paint.
We talked about a TV show (well, it could have been a magazine article, he couldn’t remember the actual source) he had watched recently featuring a junk yard 5.3 Vortec motor (LS by another name) that with only very minor tweaks to the computer and a set of roller rockers was putting out almost 500hp, then 800hp, then 1,100hp. In the end they discovered the motor wasn’t even a 5.3L but a 4.8. We marveled at the horsepower potential and talked some more about junk yards he’d visited and cars he’d built and cars we both liked but thought were underappreciated. (Second generation Rambler Americans came up in the conversation) but I had to get back to work so I wished him a Merry Christmas and hung up the phone, but the conversation, in a sense, continued.
His story about the big horsepower 4.8L seemed somewhat familiar and though Bill has more knowledge in his big toe than I do in my entire body, I felt there was some detail missing in those horsepower ratings. I did a google search that led me to a Hot Rod magazine article that told a very similar story. In the article ported heads with bigger valves and Fast LSXR intake with larger injectors woke up a junkyard 4.8L which at first was thought to be a 5.3. The first naturally aspirated combo put out 450HP. A set of 76mm turbos at 18psi boost had the little 4.8L (294ci) putting out an astonishing 1,200hp….with stock internals. Crazy.
Bill’s conversation, the internet search and article led me to a couple of conclusions: Horsepower is easy with turbos and modern metallurgy and the internet is a rather sterile environment to gain knowledge.
These days you can find out so much about a subject without ever having to leave your office. There is no doubt this generation and future generations will be smarter than we are. But I hope they never lose an appreciation for the art of conversation.
If you’re lucky, you’ll bump into Bill someday and I guarantee you’ll become an aficionado.