A Good Year: Do You Conform With These Rules?

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

Like fine wines and their ‘good years’, a car’s desirability can also be signified by its year of manufacture. Just as a season of perfect weather conditions grace the land, producing palate-tantalising grape nectar, car designers manage to merge the combination of curves, lines and technological advancements to create an automotive ‘good’ year.

One of the finest years has to be 1957, a year Chevrolet nailed the Bel Air pictured above. Out of all the automotive TV programs I watch, “57” comes up the most. It’s not surprising, either; just look at the combination of curves and lines and the way it’s a fairly compact car but features those glorious fins.

This article features American cars because, although Euro and Japanese cars have their ‘good’ modes, they are defined more by their chassis number, spec and ‘facelift’ improvements.

1962 Ford Thunderbird

1962 Ford Thunderbird

Take the Ford Thunderbird above, for example, one of my favourite looking cars. Despite it being in my top 5 garage, I could only have one from 1961-63 because of those rear afterburner tail lights. American cars seemed to change their looks considerably over a short period of time, whereas the rest of the world hang on to their chassis number longer and work on technology and subtle design improvements.

1963 Corvette

1963 Corvette

Another extremely desirable car is the 1963 Corvette Stingray for the simple reason ’63 was the only year Chevrolet produced the rear split-screen.

1970 Plymouth Hemi Cuda

1970 Plymouth Hemi Cuda

In 1970, after Plymouth had a redesign on their Barracuda, shifting it away from resembling their Valiant design, they built a limited number Hemi ‘Cudas, a car now highly sought after because of its place and heritage in the 1970s muscle car story.

Last but not least… 1987… the Buick GNX. How could Gargling Gas not feature its all time favourite car? After Buick transformed their rather bland Regal into a turbocharged monster in 1984, calling it the Grand National, just three years on saw a farewell with their GNX, the X standing for ‘experimental’. This X meant 275-hp, a massively understated figure that left the GNX a must for the serious collector.

1987 Buick GNX

1987 Buick GNX

Of course, there are many more cars I could list, so forgive me for not listing them, but I’d be getting away from the point of my article:

So with my long-winded explanation that cars have their good years and all this talk of desirable models, do you conform to prescribed? Do you go along with these ‘good’ years, or do you like the ‘undesirables’, the ‘ugly ducklings’ you find alluring, looks that appeal to you simply because they tick all your personal boxes?

 

The Dodge SRT Hellcat’s Roar Reaches The UK

hellcat1

As an automotive writer, blogger, and owner of Gargling Gas – a site dedicated to the more aggressive cars and cultures – my ears obviously pricked up when I heard rumour of a 707-hp muscle car being given the nod. In an age of whining eco-warriors, eco-boxes and strict emission control, this was music to my ears, especially as all this horsepower was being hammered out by a giant supercharged 6.2-L V8 Hemi.

Okay, so the Dodge Hellcat’s monstrous power plant had to adhere to emissions, but as someone who fears the days of massive horse power generated by massive engines are quickly being replaced by smaller hybrid/turbo technology, it’s refreshing to hear an American legend has stepped up and injected their current SRT8 muscle with something a little more potent than those cliché steroids.

 

The first pictures I witnessed of Dodge’s monster showed it in an aptly bright green. The Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat was the same as its little SRT8 brother in the same way a Big Mac tastes the same as a lightly seasoned and seared fillet steak. It is worth noting that The Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is now easily available with sites such as 51st State opening the gates to import the model.

From a distance, the SRT Hellcat could be mistaken for the SRT8 model, as the Richter-scale damaging power is hidden within the belly of the beast. The one fantastic and obvious giveaway to a Hellcat (apart from the noise it creates if running) is the RAM air hole neatly positioned within the Challenger’s front lights. Using “angel eye” lights made popular by BMW, the Hellcat still retains its sidelights as air is helplessly gulped into its supercharger.

As for the Lambo green… were they taunting the Italians over the fact their muscle car boasted more horses than their Aventador? Were they having a dig at the eco-warriors painting such a mechanical behemoth green? I’d like to think so.

The Hellcat also comes in red, but I think the green is perfect and hails back to 70s and the days muscle cars ruled supreme.

I haven’t mentioned I’m a UK-based writer yet as all this talk of muscle and horsepower would seem ludicrous and incongruously placed on our small and winding country roads.

After a little research and interest (obsession) on the Hellcat it seems the UK petrolheads are all falling for its looks and are pining to experience the Jolly Green Giant’s punch.

When I hear people laugh at UK muscle car owners, always dropping the “mpg” debate, I do wonder if they include the Chelsea tractor owners, the supercharged Range Rovers, Porsche Cayennes and other heavy and petrol-guzzling 4x4s families buy to carry their 2.4 children – obesity in children is on the rise, but this is ridiculous.

With petrol prices tumbling in the UK and a machine available with 707-hp whilst offering similar mpg (22) as a Porsche Cayenne Turbo, why wouldn’t a serious petrolhead put in an order? What other car offers this much power for such a low price compared to its supercar rivals?

Even the infamous Ram 1500/2500 pickups are finding themselves in colder and damper climes. Thanks to Chrysler’s diesel Pentastar V6 power plants and 8-speed transmissions, the efficient torque and solid mpg figures are attracting customers across the pond.

No more massive V8s and leaf spring suspension; the current Ram 1500/2500s boast adjustable air suspension, touch screen technology and stylish interiors, workhorses going under the guise of a luxury hauler.

So is big always better?

Of course it is.

 

Video

Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing: The Sleeper Car

Ford Granada Sleeper ZZZ ZZZ

Ford Granada Sleeper ZZZ ZZZ

You may or may not have heard of the term “Sleeper Car” before – to some it probably sounds like a camper van vehicle or caravan – however, a Sleeper Car is the complete opposite of the meaning derived from the word “Sleeper”.

As you’ve most likely guessed from the title, this type of vehicle is a bog standard car hiding and possessing enormous amounts of power under its coat.

Example: How great would it be to embarrass a Porsche at the lights in an old Mitsubishi Galant? How is this done? Mitsubishi are primarily known for their EVO cars, the ultimate turbo tuning machines. Despite this, their Galant VR4 (pretty standard in appearance) comes with 276 bhp stock, so with some tuning and performance upgrades at a relatively low cost, they can be boosted to around 600+ bhp.

Mitsubishi Galant VR4

Mitsubishi Galant VR4

Depending on your budget, any car can be transformed into a Sleeper car. I recently watched an episode of Fast N’ Loud on Discovery where Richard Rawlings and Aaron Kaufman took an old ’59 Rambler Wagon (pic below), treated and clear coated its weathered body for effect, but installed a massive 4.8L Chevrolet V8 with an Edelbrock Carburettor and MSD direct ignition and disk brakes. From the outside it looked like an old truck, but a blip of the gas and it could shift tectonic plates.

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One problem you face boosting horsepower is hiding the upgrades needed to cope with the extra grunt. The main two are exhausts and brake callipers. Unless you purchase black callipers, simply paint them before installation. Exhausts are pretty simple if you can get under the car – ensure they are out of sight but still manage to function properly. Sports exhausts usually offer different styles, either for sound or performance. Try and pick one that offers optimum flow as well as offering a good amount of muffle – a deep rumbling exhaust suggests upgrades.

If you have bottomless pit of money to throw at car, check this Sleeper Car out for scaring pretty much any other potential racer at the lights. This is essentially an F1 powered Alfa 164 Procar. It was built in cooperation with Brabham and possess the only Alfa Romeo V10 ever built. This disguised Alfa produces 605 bhp at 12,000 rpm! – not sure what the insurance premium would be on this one.

Alfa Sleeper F1 Car

Alfa Sleeper F1 Car

The perfect wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Alfa Sleeper Car

Alfa Sleeper Car

My favourite and perhaps the ultimate Sleeper is “Farm Truck” from the TV show Street Outlaws – check out the video below and witness the power that old truck can lay down.

If you are thinking about creating a Sleeper Car with a small budget, aim for a small and light turbo car, something you can add a cold air intake and bigger exhaust to, also one in which an ECU tweak is viable. These three options can add as much as 60-80 bhp to a small turbo car, putting you in the same arena as the bigger sporty saloons.

The Bandit Makes $480K On His Trans Am

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If you like Burt Reynolds, Smokey and The Bandit films, or movie cars in general, this article I penned for Motorward should interest you.

Not only was the Bandit’s car up for sale, but Reynolds put up a whole host of items including movie props, awards and clothing.

The Pontiac’s greatest asset was the fact Reynolds kept hold of it after the movie was shot.

Click the link above for the full story.

Ken Block: My Modern Day Superhero

Now the dust has quite literally settled upon the sun-baked streets of Los Angeles, and Ken Block’s snorting ’65 Mustang is stabled and resting, I can reflect on Gymkhana 7 and how it turned back my metaphorical clock by three decades or so.

To elucidate on the actual driving that went on in L.A., I penned an article for Motorward magazine along with the video, ignoring all of the details such as driving techniques and listing reams of technical data, instead harping on about how Block and his fantastical machine took me back in time for 12 minutes, leaving me a little confused and angry at the fact I found myself back in 2014 as a 36 -year-old afterwards.

Rally purists may criticise Block and his Rally X/Drift hybrid style, but this is 2014 – if X Games dirt bike riders can get away with grabbing massive air, opening their legs and calling the move the ‘Paris Hilton’, then Block is doing the right thing here – it simply boils down to exciting and impressive viewing. Don’t get me wrong though; I’m a massive fan of the X Fighters bike format, along with all the X Games sports, and adding cars with 80’s Group B rally power to the list is obviously a recipe for success.

ken4

Big power and exciting viewing leads me neatly onto the superhero/stuntman angle I’m pushing here – for those 12 minutes I sat gawping as the Block’s Hoonicorn tore up the streets of L.A., miles of internal wiring fused inside my head, leaving me experiencing waves of nostalgia, seamless flashbacks of stars and stripes, bleating dixie horns, and a whole fleet of toys I put through a similar ordeal to the car on my computer screen.

Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle

Dukes of Hazzard Wrist Racer

Dukes of Hazzard Wrist Racer

007's Underwater Lotus Esprite

007’s Underwater Lotus Esprite

The toys pictured above were my favourites, and I think it was the combination of terrific film producing, the smoking and squealing of tyres, that evil Mustang, and of course its superhuman pilot that evoked their memory.

Dressed in a retro style leather jacket and donning a glittery patriotic race helmet along with meridian goggles and skull face scarf, Ken Block was my childhood Bo Duke, my Evel Knievel, my James Bond, my Bandit, and perhaps even my Superman all wrapped up into one super-being.

So now it’s all over, do I watch it again and go back to 1982, or do I face reality and help my wife lay the table?

I Need A Big Pussy In My Life

hellcat1

Non super car manufacturers not particularly associated with producing gargantuan power figures rarely decide to let their hair down and offer up a piece of kit capable of splitting the atom, but when they do, the news spreads like wildfire, especially if the creation is worthy of all the hype.

Remember when the ‘older persons’ brand of choice, Buick, released the muscle car-eating Grand National version of their Regal? Well, times that image by 10 and you have some idea as to the hype making the rounds surrounding Dodge.

Dodge may produce the Viper, and they’ve certainly produced great muscle cars of past, even rekindling their Challenger and Charger with modern Hemi SRT tributes, but to take this platform and give it a supercharged 707-hp is just plain… genius – a Dodge with more horse power than a Lamborghini Aventador!

The atomic version of the Dodge Challenger SRT pictured above also comes with a great name, a simple yet perfectly apt title: Hellcat. Imagine being able to say: “I own a Hellcat,” safe in the knowledge your 2-tonne feline can hit 62-mph in 3.7 seconds. Even if the person asking is a Ford guy with a Shelby GT 500, you’d trump him by 45 ponies.

That collection of nuts and bolts pictured above makes up a supercharged 6.2-L Hemi V8 boasting 707-hp and 650 lb·ft of torque. Notice the headlight – or lack of – allowing RAM air induction to produce more torque? I really like that touch; in an age concerned with helping the environment, I love Dodge for creating this car. Was it irony they unleashed this powerhouse in green?

I hope so…

Watch the Hellcat with its claws bared, 707-hp drifting in anger.

One Car Apocalypse

Zombieland

Zombieland

As a fiction writer as well as an automotive scribbler, I’ve not only noticed the ubiquitous appearance of zombies, vampires and apocalyptic settings in film, TV and books over the past decade, I’ve had a few ideas myself.

Of course, cars always find themselves into the forefront of my imagination, which in turn led me here to Gargling Gas and an important question I’d like all you petrolheads to consider.

28 Days Later

If you were a character in film, TV or a novel set within the aforementioned genres, what would be your car of choice?

Would it be a car chosen for pragmatic reasons such as reliability, economy or its ability to traverse all terrains? Or would you throw caution to  the wind and go for something fast, aggressive and loud?

Mad Max

Mad Max

As the choice can be made within the realm of fiction and fantasy, where cars can miraculously jump like the General Lee and land with no mechanical issues, I’m going to go with something a little more interesting than the ‘real world’ solution to zombies and the apocalypse I penned a while back – Zombie Benz.

Bellflower

Bellflower

Bellflower isn’t strictly an apocalyptic film, although the car, Medusa is a creation built should the apocalypse ever occur. I think the protagonists had the right idea, though, a muscle car possessing flamethrowers.

My favourite protagonist in any story has to be “The Kid”, a twisted and psychotic greaser from Stephen King’s genius apocalyptic masterpiece, The Stand. He is short and boosts his height by six inches by means of a tall hairdo and high-heeled cowboy boots.

He drives a heavily customised 1932 Ford deuce coupe, which he drives dangerously fast, “speeds high enough to induce brain damage”, always with a beer or a whiskey chased with Pepsi in hand.

The Stand

The Stand

I think if I were to appear in film alongside the undead, bloodsuckers and a world ready to leave me alongside a handful of survivors, my main priority would be vanity – I’d need to look badass. People would need to hear me coming, fear me once they saw my ride, and either bow down or swoon as I rumbled by, slowing to throw a glance over my RayBans whilst flicking a cigarette butt out of the window.

A Prius? No. A Lamborghini? Hell no. What then?

Fast & Furious

Fast & Furious

If you follow Gargling Gas you’d expect me to say the Buick Grand National, but since it has made a fair amount of on-screen appearances, including Fast & Furious (2009), I’ll go for something nearly on par with its legendary sinister looks.

My car of choice has a good amount of power, killer looks, retro lines and nickname pertinent to the genres. It would look menacing from the front, great from the side, and simply amazing sliding around corners and splattered in buckets of blood and zombie brains.

BMW E24 635 CSi

BMW E24 635 CSi

Let me introduce The Shark-nose, the BMW E24  635 CSi. Oh yeah, it would without a doubt have to black, like my current Bimmer, HeLLga.

So what car would you choose to drive in a world void of life, a world wanting either your blood, your brains or ultimately your life?

 

 

Buick, Please Don’t Taint The GNX Legend

When car companies decide to revive an old and popular model by building a ‘tribute’, they usually don’t do it any justice – it’s a bit like Hollywood rehashing a classic – think Gus Van Sant and his audacious yet appalling remake of Psycho.

One of my favourite cars (I’m going to own one to spank my midlife crisis into submission) is indeed the ’87 Buick GNX – I have professed my adoration for the Vader car in a previous post, Love At First Sight. The GNX is special in that is was unexpected and completely insane. Buicks weren’t and still aren’t known for power or outrageous styling; they were and still are comfortable and luxurious. When Buick released the Regal Grand National in 1982, the public took notice, and when Buick noticed the public taking notice, they upped the power almost every year until its final run in 1987 – the 87s are the most sought after because Buick wanted to bid the GNX farewell with a memorable send off, a special edition stroked by the McLaren brush and boasting a wildly underrated 245-bhp.

When Buick released the GNX, they gave birth to their black sheep of the fleet, a muscle car eater, a sinister machine fit for only Darth Vader, the choice of hitmen and serial killers.

Over the past year or so I’ve been following any news on the 2015 GNX, trying to find an accurate idea of what it’s going to look like – despite being released as a four door sedan and not like its coupe predecessor, I’d like to think it will resemble the picture above and the 2013 Regal GS below, because as far as modern designs are concerned, they looks pretty aggressive. Both the Grand National and GNX will be created on a RWD platform previously used by the sixth-generation Camaro and also the third-generation Cadillac CTS. Although concepts have varied, I know the figures are encouraging enough, but are they good enough to earn the GNX badge and status.

Owning a 2015 GNX doesn’t need to be the stuff of midlife crisis dreams either – the performance and looks will come cheaper than the 40s fantasy Porsche 911. Even if this is just out of reach, securing a car loan from a good bank will ensure the legendary GNX badge sits in your garage.

Casting the smaller engine options and models aside, the daddy GNX will have a twin-turbo 3.6-L V6. Phew, thank god they stuck with the V6 instead of using a V8. Twin-turbo is also good because it remains true to the original in that instead of using V8s like all the other muscle cars of its era, Buick decided to go with a V6 and a big turbo. The new model will possess around 400-bhp, but is this enough to challenge the likes of the Cadillac CTS, something Buick intended?

I personally don’t think it will live up to the GNX name in ground-breaking performance, but I do think Buick will create a great looking and fast sedan. The GNX will only come in black, just like its 80s daddy, so at least they’ve got that right. Perhaps if Buick found a few more horses and stripped away some of the weight using exotic materials (think BMW CSL), the GNX will be another Buick to remember. Okay, so it will push the prices up shedding weight, but it’s not like there’s going to be a shortage of people lining up to buy the new GNX.