I'm 24 and I've been fascinated by cars since I was able to walk. My dad is a backyard mechanic and has been building mid to late 60's and early 70's muscle cars since before I was born 24 years ago. He used to bring me out to the garage where he'd place me on top of his blocks and let me play with his tools. We used to venture out to Gateway International (when the strip faced the OTHER way) for races, swap meets and car shows, drive state to state to pick up cars or engines and we'd always have people over having him work on their car. As if it isn't already obvious enough, I am one of those people that sheds a tear or two when I sell a car that is dear to my heart due to memories. One of my earliest memories was an old Chevelle, I'm unsure of the year, that was never actually painted and it remained that ugly, primer yellow color the entire time it lived in our garage. We lived on the outskirts of the city, so at the time, we didn't have a lift in our garage ... so he opted to use the old Oak tree in the backyard, some ropes and a chain to lift up a car to work on. Probably not the brightest of ideas, but hey, it worked!
|Some of my dad's cars and me as a little one|
I remember in 6th grade the first time I ever laid eyes on a Trans Am on TV. Those guys at Pontiac knew how to market a sexy, fast car. The black WS6 in the commercial was gorgeous and when they panned thru the car, into the engine and out the exhaust pipes ... I was sold (or as sold as a 13 year old girl can be). I wanted one from that day forward. Fast forward to being 16 years old - I didn't get a Trans Am, I got a hand-me-down from my mom. A boat sized, dust colored, high mileage 1995 Cougar ... BUT it had a pretty peppy v8 in it and it moved from Point A to Point B.
When I turned 19, I decided to start actively hunting for that perfect WS6. I looked a few and never went for them ... too high of mileage, I didn't like the color red, the car had been wrecked, it was too far to drive, whatever excuse I could find to tell someone I didn't want their car.
One day, while sitting in my cube at Toyota, listening to people complain about their extended warranties on their vehicles, I logged onto Craigslist. I searched all of Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee's pages. I decided to go out on a whim and check out Oklahoma's pages ... I found the WS6 of my dreams that day. It was Arctic White with black z06 wheels and relatively unmodified. I got with the owner to discuss it even though it was nearly 500 miles away ... I found out it was a previously salvaged vehicle and over 100k on the clock ... BUT IT WASNT RED! A week later, I was road tripping to OKC with my boyfriend, a cooler and a rented Mazda 3! Nine hours later, I held the title in my hand and I was driving back to St Louis. I finally owned the car of my dreams, even if it had a four page long CarFax report. I was in love.
I took advantage of all the high tech machinary, tools and electronics we had in the shop during my time at Ranken Tech in the High Performance Racing Technology program. By time Christmas came in 2009, I had successfully completely machined and rebuilt my LS1 over a time-span of three weeks, with the help of my instructors and two classmates. My engine was one of five I had built in that program. I spent a lot of time smoothing out some frays in what I had built, what damage any accidents had caused and modified some things that were overlooked on the line in 1998. My car was going to be perfect.
Last Thursday, August 18th - I woke up bright and early to shoot for insideSTL's Girl Next Door Campaign. I wanted to shoot with my car so I shined her up and got her all prepped for an afternoon in the sun, heat and more than likely, up in North City. The night before, I did a tune up, which by the way, I finally got all 8 plugs down to a science in under 45 minutes! I pulled out the #5 spark plug and was kind of taken by surprise ... the tip had gouges and chunks taken out of it. I figured it was maybe something that could have been there when I put in the last set when I installed my headers or maybe it was just oil build up from when I decided to install my catch can. My car started up that morning and we set off downtown for the shoot.
|Newly installed catch-can, shortly before her death|
The shoot went awesome, the photos came out beautiful. All was well minus my car started sounded like one of those old, hunk of crap cars you stare at at stop lights because of all the racket they make. I was so embarrassed. I joked with the photographer, Emily, that my car was going to blow up. I should have bit my tougue. I safely drove home from Shady Jack's on North Broadway (AKA the HOOD) and made it off the highway and started driving down Reavis. The awful noises started getting worse... *ping ping ping knock knock KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK bang bang bang BOOOOOOOM* anddddd SEIZE. I blew my poor, hand built LS1 right there on the side of the road.
|Terry's Towing, always helping a sister out! 8/18/11|
The emotions are hard to describe. I spent over a hundred hours on the car, tons of $$$, defended it when the Ford guys talk about their Mustangs, abused it, already have tons of memories in it ... the stupid car has also cost me time and money at the hospital when I dropped my block on my hand, breaking two fingers and when I slashed my hand on my radiator and couldn't tell if I needed stitches or not. I didn't know if I should have been angry, upset, screaming or what. I had never experienced catastrophic failure from the inside out ... especially on something I had built myself, something I had gotten an A+ on in class. I reasoned with myself, telling my brain that it happens to all engine builders at some point in time and that I have always stayed on top of taking care of my WS6 like it was one of my dogs.
I've decided to take this opportunity to turn something really crappy into something brilliant. I'm going to document the entire rebuilding process - photos, video, give you guys reviews, tips, anything I can think of, whether it be a good, bad or ugly day in the garage. It'll be fun ;)
|4am at Ranken Tech - the night I finished rebuilding my car|