Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Music Man Steve Morse Guitar

 
For the past 25 years, Ernie Ball/Music Man has been building the Steve Morse model. Despite it’s good looks, great playability and numerous tonal options, this guitar is still somewhat of a rarity. There are two simple reasons for this. For starters, it’s not a Fender or a Gibson. So many people are afraid to step away from the industry standards. Jimi Hendrix played a Strat and Jimmy Page played a Les Paul. It’s that simple. People are afraid to try new things and are very comfortable with what they already know.
Second, the Steve Morse model has four pickups and three separate pickup selector switches. Over my 25-plus years of playing, the most players use only one pickup all of the time and almost never touch even their volume knob other than to turn the guitar off between songs to keep it from feeding back. So I issue a challenge to all my fellow guitar players. Step away from your comfort zone a live a little bit. Experience new horizons. And the Music Man Steve Morse model is the perfect guitar to break you away from your comfort zone.
First, it’s really not that different from what many players are used to. The guitar is based on Morse’s old Franekentele. Although it resembles a Strat at first glance thanks to the double cutaway body, the guitar is pure Telecaster. It has the big thick slab body with no arm or belly contours that all Tele players are comfortable with. The body is built out of poplar. For anyone unfamiliar with poplar, it’s very similar to alder: very balanced with an equal mix of lows, mids and highs. My own personal Steve Morse guitar is finished in the attractive blue burst color, just like Morse’s personal number one.
Let’s talk about the four pickups and three switches. This is what initially drew me to the guitar in the first place. I remember seeing pictures of Steve Morse in guitar magazines years ago and thought it looked really cool, not to mention different. And different it is indeed; and when I say different I mean different tones.
The pickup layout from neck to bridge is humbucker, angled single coil, single coil and humbucker. The three-way Fender-style blade switch is wired a little weird. All the way back is the bridge humbucker, the middle is the neck humbucker and all the way forward is the angled single coil.
The three-way switch located at the back of the pickguard controls the single coil next to the bridge pickup. When the switch is down the pickup is off; when it’s in the middle, the pickup is added to whatever pickup you’re on; and when the switch is up it’s only the single coil. Steve Morse says that he likes to use the bridge single/humbucker combination for his country style picking and the bridge single for times when he needs a volume drop that still has a lot of top end.
The two-way switch located closer to the neck pickup controls the bridge humbucker. When it’s up, it’s off. When it’s switched down it adds the bridge humbucker to any pickup combination you happen to be on.

I know this all sounds confusing. But it’s not really that bad. After about 20 minutes of playing I had it figured out. After a short while, the multiple pickup combinations are perfect for those who hate relying on channel or pedal switching to go from clean to dirty. Just set your guitar for a nice crunchy sound when the guitar’s volume pot is cranked, then switch away and adjust your volume and tone pots to taste.
When adding a single coil to the neck or bridge humbucker, you’ll be surprised how you can clean up the sound yet still have a lot of high end sizzle and a decent amount of crunch. For me, one of the nicest features is being able to go from an overdriven humbucker rhythm sound to a straight single coil with added distortion or fuzz. Sometimes when driven too hard, humbuckers can become too muddy with added distortion devices. But the Dimarzio single coils still cut through nicely when pushed hard.
The guitar’s neck took me longer to get used to than the unorthodox pickup and switching set up. The neck is a thinner, modern-style carve. I was used to baseball bat necks prior to owning this guitar. But after numerous trips up and down the fret board, I soon became accustom to it. The natural oil/wax finish on the guitar’s neck is great. It gives the feeling of a vintage, well-worn neck. It’s a comfortable feeling from day one, unless you really dig the cold, smooth feeling of a new neck.
The Music Man Steve Morse model is a very well built guitar. I’m very impressed with the body’s finish quality. After numerous four-hour bar room gigs and countless hours of practice, the finish still looks he same as the day it showed up on my doorstep. The durability, playability and tonal combinations make it the perfect working man’s guitar — especially if you don’t want to bother with bringing multiple axes to a gig.
This guitar’s only cons are if you don’t like Fender-style guitars with bolt-on necks and 25½-inch scale lengths. Although, the 12-inch fret board radius makes big bends easy.
With a street price of less than $1500, the Ernie Ball/Music Man Steve Morse model is within most players reach. That’s not bad for an USA manufactured guitar. Remember, you get a whole lot of tones for one price.  

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The One That Got Away : 1978 BC Rich Eagle Supreme.

 


1978 BC Rich Eagle Supreme.
Very few of these handmade guitars were ever produced. Even today, you have a better selection of 1950s Fenders in vintage guitars shops then you do original BC Riches.

And they were pricey when new. An old sales brochure lists the price at $1599 in the late ‘70s. Remember, the average automobile cost a little over $6,000 during this time frame according to the US Department of Commerce. 
 
I worked in a greasy spoon restaurant to buy that guitar.
I simply fell in love with the look of the early BC Rich guitars. They were so unique. Plus, my guitar teacher owned one. So I was able to see it up close.

I parted with my beloved guitar only a couple of short years later thanks to the foolishness of youth. Stupidly, I sold the guitar to fund the purchase of another.


Out of all the guitars I have owned over the past twenty years, this particular one has always held a soft spot in my heart. I always knew that it would be easy to find if it ever came up for sale. There weren’t that many ever made. If it ever came up for sale I knew it would be listed at some vintage shop or prominently featured somewhere on the web. Plus, I still knew the old serial number and the wood grain would make it easy to identify.

After a decade-plus of sporadically searching for the guitar on Google, a familiar site popped up at beginning of January.
 

I looked at the ad’s photo for about five seconds before I said to myself, ‘that’s my old guitar.’ It was midnight, right before I went to bed when I found it. I had to wake my wife up to tell her.


I called the number listed in the ad and spoke to the current owner. He said he a some attachment to the guitar since he played it onstage with Rod Stewart at Madison Square Garden.

It turns out the guitar belonged to Oliver Leiber, who is the son of the legendary songwriter Jerry Leiber. Besides his stint as Rod Stewart’s guitarist, Leiber is also an accomplished record producer and songwriter; he even produced and wrote a number of former American Idol judge and ‘90s pop star Paula Abdul’s biggest hits. He’s currently member of the band fDeluxe, which features former members of Prince and the Revolution and Morris Day and the Time.

I recited the serial number from memory to Oliver and it matched. That’s when we both knew for certain that there was no questions regarding the guitar’s history.

On January 30, I sent Leiber the money for the guitar. One week to the day later, the guitar arrived in Sioux Falls from California.

There were a few wear marks that I remembered from when I had it before I notice when I first removed the guitar from the box. 

It's a great guitar and it's meant to played. And this time I’m not letting this one go! They’re too hard to find these days.


Check out a short video of love rekindled. 


The One That Got Away : 1978 BC Rich Eagle Supreme


EXTENDED VERSION
Everyone knows the clich├ęd story about the one that got away. You know, the high school sweetheart or the old car that everyone wishes they had held on to, but youth’s foolishness got in the way. 

The one that got away wasn’t the prom queen or a hot-rodded car, it was a guitar. I worked in a greasy spoon restaurant to buy that guitar, I even had my senior pictures taken with it.

The special guitar is 1978 BC Rich Eagle Supreme. Very few of these handmade guitars were ever produced. Even today, you have a better selection of 1950s Fenders in vintage guitars shops then you do original BC Riches.

And they were pricey when new. An old sales brochure lists the price the my old guitar at $1599 in the late ‘70s. Remember, the average automobile cost a little over $6,000 during this time frame according to the US Department of Commerce.

Why did I want such an expensive, rare guitar in the first place? It wasn’t a Stratocaster or Les Paul, which are the standard guitars for any budding rock star.
I simply fell in love with the look of the early BC Rich guitars. They were so unique.

That fascination led to an unpleasant high school job — a waiter in greasy spoon restaurant. I knew waiters made good tips; I needed to save up some serious money to buy that guitar. I used to have to work the ‘bar rush’ shifts on the weekends. Now that was rough, especially when you’re only 17. Finally, in the middle of my senior year in high school, I saved up enough money to purchase the guitar just in time for enior pictures. 

It wasn’t like it is now with the Internet, when purchasing the guitar. I had to track one done by calling all over the US to vintage guitar dealers. I found this guitar at a store called Outlaw Guitars in New Jersey. The price they wanted was pretty good, so I sent off enough money for them to hold it.

There were a couple bumps in the road before I could get the guitar. First, on a sneak trip out of town with a family vehicle, the timing belt slipped and he had to pay to get that replaced, plus find a shop to fix it the same day so no one would get suspicious when he wasn’t home on time. That repair bill put a big dent in the guitar fund. Then in December 1992, I finally saved up enough money to own the guitar of my dreams.
I paid extra money to get the shipped second-day air because my senior pictures were a week away.

But South Dakota’s unpredictable winter weather made getting the guitar on time a challenge. A December blizzard struck, grinding all Interstate traffic to a halt for a couple of days. I had to drive out to the UPS garage early in the morning on the day of my senior pictures and track down my neighborhood driver to pick up the guitar. I opened the box at the photographer’s studio. Those pictures were the first time I held the guitar. I was excited.

But I let my beloved guitar get away only a couple of short years later thanks to the foolishness of youth. I sold the guitar to fund the purchase of another. I really didn’t realize how rare these things really were. To this day, I’ve only seen a couple other examples in person. And this guitar is the only one I’ve ever seen in person with the fancier inlays and bound neck.

I have been playing guitar for 25 years, I spend vacations checking out vintage guitar stores in other locations, but out of all the guitars I have owned over the past twenty years, this particular one has always held a soft spot in my heart. And when the world went to the Internet in the late ‘90s, the search for his old friend began.

I always knew that it would be easy to find if it ever came up for sale. There weren’t that many ever made. If it ever came up for sale I knew it would be listed at some vintage shop or prominently featured somewhere on the web. Plus, I still knew the old serial number and the wood grain would make it easy to identify.

After a decade-plus of sporadically searching for the guitar on Google, a familiar site popped up at beginning of January.
I looked at the ad’s photo for about five seconds before I said to myself, "that’s my old guitar.”


The next day, I had my mother scan her copy of my senior picture so she could email it. After a quick comparison, I knew it was my old guitar; the high school sweetheart who got away.

Every grain of the wood was exactly the same.



After all these years, I wondered what had ever happened to the guitar. Did a collector have it? Well, the guitar led a very interesting life from the time I sold it until the present day. Besides a couple of close up pictures, the online advertisement also featured a photo of the current owner playing the guitar onstage at Madison Square Garden with rock legend Rod Stewert; the photo was from the late 1990s.

I called the number listed in the ad and spoke to the current owner. He said he a some attachment to the guitar since he played it onstage with Rod Stewart at Madison Square Garden. And when I spoke to him the first time, he was just leaving to go on tour in Europe for most of the month, but he would contact me when he got back.

It turns out the guitar belonged to Oliver Leiber, who is the son of the legendary songwriter Jerry Leiber. Besides his stint as Rod Stewart’s guitarist, Leiber is also an accomplished record producer and songwriter; he even produced and wrote a number of former American Idol judge and ‘90s pop star Paula Abdul’s biggest hits. He’s currently member of the band fDeluxe, which features former members of Prince and the Revolution and Morris Day and the Time.

When Leiber returned home a few weeks later, I recited the serial number from memory and it matched. That’s when we both knew for certain that there was no questions regarding the guitar’s history. On January 30, I sent Leiber the money for the guitar. One week to the day later, the guitar arrived in Sioux Falls from California.

There were a few wear marks that I remembered from when I had it before I noticed when I first removed the guitar from the box. 

Now that the guitar is back home, what am I going to do with it? I plan on
playing it!
They’re great guitars and they’re meant to played. And this time I’m not letting this one go.



Getting Better With Age : The 1968 Charger

Some things seem to get better with age.

And that statement couldn’t ring truer for the 1968 Dodge Charger. Restyled for the ‘68 model year, the car adopted a new sleek Coke-bottle shape that set standards for how a muscle car should look. If you were to ask a non-car lover to name one muscle car, chances are  “a Charger” would be at the top of the list.

And a special 1968 Charger owned by Vern Olmsted of Huron, South Dakota shines brighter now then when it left the Motor City forty-plus years ago. What started out as a base Charger model with a 383 two-barrel and a four-speed has morphed into fire-breathing green giant. Now armed with one of the muscle car era’s most revered engines, Chrysler’s mighty 426 Hemi, the car ‘s not only fast and good looking, it’s dream machine become a reality.


Back in the Good ‘Ol Days
Before we get a rundown of the car’s current condition, let’s flashback to 1970. Richard Nixon was in the White House and a gallon of gas was around 36 cents. A young Vern had just finished high school a year prior and was due up for a present to congratulate all of his hard work. And as a diehard Mopar fan, a ’68 Charger was the perfect gift.

“I got it for a late high school graduation present in February of ‘70,” Vern says. “I was the second owner.”

The previous owner bought the car new, but had a short-lived career with the car. The Charger’s aggressive styling combined with the big block V-8 made for a troublesome combination.

“His wife made him get rid of it,” Vern says. “She would get mad when he would get too wild with it.”

Even to start with, the two-barrel 383 (heck, muscle cars are at least supposed to have four) put out 290 horsepower and a stout 390 lb-feet of torque. But that was nothing when compared to the Hemi with 425 horsepower and 490 lb-feet of torque. During a November 1967 Car and Driver test of the ’68 Charger, the car managed to do the quarter mile in 13.5 seconds at 105 mph; and remember that’s with slippery old street tires. The car tested also had a cruiser friendly set of 3.23 gears, great for cruising down the freeway but definitely not what you want for tearing down the drag strip, slowing down the quarter-mile test time a little. The car had a top end of 158 mph.

It was the high-performance image that made a young Vern to fall in love with Mopars, especially the new Charger.

A lifelong mechanic and hot rodder, it didn’t take long for the Charger to gain a little more muscle. For starters, the two-barrel intake came off and was replaced by a four-barrel.

“I replace the two-barrel carb with a four barrel one, then added some headers,” he says. “Then I found out that the four-quart oil pan isn’t big enough for shifts at seven grand.”

Then came a new cam, ported heads and an advanced oiling system. With skills gained from his Dad, along with engine work experience from a Bjorke Cycle, a local Honda shop, the Charger started to become a rip-roaring muscle machine.

“I’ve won a lot of beer money with this car,” he says. “We used to travel from town to town looking for people to race.”

One memorable race was with a fellow car nut from Lake Preston, SD who had a fast ‘68 Chevelle. Whoever won the battle would walk away with $100 from the other driver. When the Chevelle came up short in the quarter mile, the owner didn’t have the money to pay. Luckily, he had other options.

“His Dad owned a bar over there and he just went and got a bunch of cases of beer to pay us with,” Vern says remembering a good time had by all afterwards. “And I had to dive back to Huron with a couple teeth missing from my 4.88s.”

The Charger also drew some heavy competition. A pair of brothers from Tulare, SD owned a nice and light ’64 Chevy Nova. Every time Vern or the “Tschetter brothers” would do something new to their car they would have a match to see who would walk away with bragging rights. The competition led to not only a lot of great quarter mile shoot outs, but also to camaraderie and an intense knowledge of what worked and didn’t work when it came to making a car go faster.

Besides the, uh, not-so-legal street races, the Charger saw its fair share of races at Thunder Valley Dragstrip in Marion. Vern first journeyed down to the racetrack shortly after it opened. And after a lifetime of hot rodding and rag races, the years seem to blend together. He can’t remember exactly when he made his first trip to the strip.

“I was there either the first or second year they opened,” he says. “Then I started taking the Charger down there.” 
But the Charger holds more memories than as just a race-ready street machine. It was the car that he owned when he met his wife, Janelle (Nellie).  The couple has now been married for 39 years.

“I have a lot of memories with that car,” she says. “It was part of [Vern] when I met him and first fell in love with him.” I’m sure there are many gearheads out there who wish their wives were as supportive.

Nellie says Vern used to pick her up in the Charger at her folks place just south of Iroquois, SD. “He even let me drive it home once,” she says. “But I don’t know if I would want to drive it now,” in reference to the car’s high-powered power plant.

The Transformation

Remember the comic book Hero the Hulk? The muscle bound green beast. He started out as just a normal man. Well, this green automobile has undergone a similar transformation from normal to beast.

The Charger has the same green paint and vinyl top as a famous Dodge ad for the Charger R/T package; the “Ramrod” ad is still in print as poster today. Legend has it that the “Ramrod” car was modified Hemi R/T Charger built by famed Chrysler race engineer Tom Hoover. Vern already had the car, a metallic green Charger with a green vinyl roof. He just needed a Hemi and a few other parts to make his dream car a reality.

Luckily, someone else’s bad luck turned into his good fortune. 

“There was 69 Hemi GTX that sat at service station in Pierre,” he says. “Someone took it for a joy ride down the hill and made it to the curve by a railroad trestle and wiped out. I heard about it but I didn’t have any spare money, so I told a friend about and he drove out there and bought the motor and transmission.” Then several years later he went over to visit the friend armed with a saved-up pile of $100 bills, and the mighty Hemi was his.

“I just kept laying down the $100 bills until he couldn’t stand it,” he says.

The Hemi is a story itself. With less than 4000 miles on it, it still has the original crank, rods and pistons. And that’s saying a lot for something that was usually trashed to its maximum potential on each use.

This particular Hemi found its way into Vern’s Charger in the early ‘80s. Finally, he had the dream ride was after since he was teenager.

In the mid ‘90s, the car’s original paint started to show its age. So the Charger went into the body shop to get a fresh coat of paint. And thanks to the great work of the folks at S&S Paint and Salvage located just outside of Forestburg, SD, the ol’ 68 Charger looks better than ever. Most of the interior looks great as well. Only the carpet and the front bucket seats have been replaced.

Even though the Charger has reached the ultimate in Mopar Performance cool with the Hemi, the original 383 two-barrel ranks among the rarities. There were only 283 of the cars built with a four-speed for 1968.

“A guy came up to me at and said I should pull the hemi out and get the 383 back in,” Vern says remembering an incident at an all-Mopar car show in Sioux Falls some years back. The guy asked him why he would do something like that to a rare car. The answer was simple — “Because I want to go fast.”


Yesterday’s Race Car, Today’s Show Car

Lately, the Charger has become a staple at regional car shows. Its good looks and aggressive vibe has earned many first place trophies. “Everybody knows the car when I bring it out,” Vern says. The car even earned so many first place awards at Huron’s Back Street Cruisers’ Car Show that they told him he won too many times and that the trophy had to go to someone else. But the Charger’s great styling combined with the Hemi and the attention, love and detail eventually earned him top honors again when he brought it back out after a hiatus.

The car brings a lot of onlookers.

“ I love going out cruising in it,” Nellie says. “Everywhere we go we get thumbs up and waves, and people shouting ‘nice car.’”

Although it’s not a numbers matching Hemi Charger R/T, it’s got a numbers matching show beauty beat on several levels. For starters, no one in their right mind would want to modify an all-original model, unless they’re also into burning money in the fireplace. A car like this can still be driven and let everyone know why the muscle car era still reigns at the top of the automotive hierarchy. Beside, “it’s got a lot of better parts in it,” says Vern when comparing to an original.

The car has one numerous trophies from area car shows including Canton and all-Mopar Moparama currently held at Billion Dodge.

100 Percent Mopar

How many homes in South Dakota can claim to have a ’68 Hemi Charger and ’70 Hemi ‘Cuda sitting out in the garage? Not too many I would bet.

The Mopar bug bite Vern when he was a youngster. Racers like Sox & Martin and Dick Landy were tearing up the drag strips in their Dodge and Plymouths. Plus, Ma Mopar cultivated a strong a performance image back in the ‘60s with their aggressive power plants, cool cars and wild paint and striping options. Chrysler sported more performance vehicles than any other Detroit auto manufacturer in the ‘60s.

Although the Charger holds a special place in his own history, it’s far from the only Mopar he’s owned or raced. Today, his garage also sports a 1970 Plymouth ‘Cuda, that, just like the Charger, started life as a 383 car and now sports a Hemi, and a super-light 1976 Duster drag car with a worked-up 440.

In today’s market, the Mopars are some of the most sought after beasts from the muscle car era. But back when Vern first started buying Dodges and Plymouth in the early to mid ‘70s it was different story.  

“I saw a lot of ‘Cudas and Challengers with Six Packs (440s) and Hemis go for $800, $900 dollars,” he says. Although the market has settled a little since the recession, a lot of those bargain “gas hogs” fetch well into the six-figures today.

When asked why chose Mopars over the other competitors with cool cars back in the muscle car days, Vern says, “I wanted to be a little different. Everybody had Chevy’s and my parents were into Fords.”  Reliability was also another factor. “I never saw too much go wrong with Mopar stuff, unless they weren’t take car of; gee, when was the last time I changed the oil … type stuff.”

His garage is filled with all sorts of Mopar goodies, mostly stuff he’s picked up over the years when it wasn’t desirable or second hand at swap meets. As someone who isn’t a rich, retired banker or racer with big sponsorship deals, a lot of the parts he’s acquired over the years are second hand.

“My Dad always told me that used parts were the way to go,” he says.  “If they are still work after all this time, you know you’ve got a good one.” 

He’s passed the love for Chrysler products on to his family. His wife Nellie used to drive a gray 1970 Cuda as her daily use vehicle. She would pick up the couple’s daughter, Angie, from school in the Cuda. Needless to say, Angie’s mom had the nicest ride of all the school’s parents. Although that particular ’70 Cuda had a low compression 400 engine that was suitable for a going to the grocery store, it was also outfitted with a slick nitrous oxide unit that made a rather fast car. An old time slip from the Marion drag strip shows the silver Cuda tripping the quarter-mile lights at 11.92 at 122.95 mph.

And when it came time for his daughter Angie to climb behind the wheel, she wound up with a Panther Pink 1970 ‘Cuda. Although it took several years to restore, the car became the home of the Charger’s original 383 motor. Talk about keeping a great tradition going. Recently, Vern helped his grandson build a worked up 360 for his ‘90s Dodge Dakota pickup.

The Wrenching Never Ends

The ’68 Charger must be a familiar sound to Vern’s neighbors.

The Hemi’s exhaust runs through a set of two-inch Hooker headers into 3-1/2 exhaust pipes (fashioned from Chevy drive shafts, no kidding) with two-chamber Flowmaster mufflers. The exhaust tone catches your attention, and nothing quite sounds like a Hemi. With this car it’s safe to bet that even those who hate the idea of a gas-guzzling beast are happy to catch site of such a beautiful machine.

The car is like being a loud rock concert; it’s over the top, a little bit dangerous and way too loud. But that’s the charm. There’s no power brakes or steering in this baby, because, as Vern quickly points out, that would take away from the rear wheel horsepower.

Although he still does a little bit of racing at Marion in his Duster, Vern prefers to be out in his garage working on his next project. Surrounded by a lifetime’s collection of engine parts, car show and drag strip trophies and, most importantly, memories. Plus, he keeps those old Dodge and Plymouth muscle cars running and looking great.

Plus, he’s always got new project on the backburner. On recent trip to his garage there is an engine head from a 440 up on a stand for a little port and polish work.  And, what’s this? … GASP … A Ford 351 head getting the same port and polish work in a die-hard Mopar fan’s garage!

It turns out passing on any of his hard learned hot rod knowledge is something he loves to do, even if it isn’t for a Dodge or Plymouth.

“I like helping people who aren’t afraid to do the work themselves,” he says. “I never had a lot of money, so I had to work to make these things run faster.” 

The Hot Rod


I’m very lucky. I have a car that many people only dream of owning: a real Detroit muscle machine with a big block V-8.

My car is a 1970 Dodge Coronet R/T. And it’s a real one, not a base model Coronet dressed up to look like its more powerful and prestigious brother. It has everything a muscle car needs — a four speed, a 440 cubic inch motor, heavy-duty suspension and a bullet proof Dana 60 rear end.

I first purchased the car in 1998. I can’t believe that the last dozen-plus years have gone by so fast. At first, I wanted to buy a ‘68, ‘69 or ’70 Road Runner with a 383. There were a good number of Road Runners in my price range during the mid ‘90s. But one ad kept catching my eye.

In Deals on Wheels magazine, there was a Richard Petty blue 1970 Dodge Coronet R/T. And it was less than a three-hour drive away. There was only one problem: it was out of my budget. But it kept showing up for sale month after month. Finally, the car’s price dropped $3,000, and if I spent most of my savings, I could have it.

 But I was a little nervous. Shouldn’t I save my money and invest it wisely?  The answer is probably “yes.” But what the hell, you only live once and you’re only young for a short period of time. I missed out on the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Instead of Hendrix and Free my generation had Nirvana and Soundgarden. And instead of real muscle cars we had crappy Camaros and Mustangs — I’m not talking about the classics here. Despite any detriments to my future, I went for it. I wasn’t going to let a relic from the high point of American automotive history just slide through my hands.

It’s crazy how something that’s an inanimate object, like a car, can bring back so many memories. When I went purchased it I rode a bus to where I met a good friend who is now deceased. He was going to take me the final 50 miles to look at the car. The first sign of good things to come was when we went to an area casino and he won $350 on a slot machine; it was his birthday after all.

I remember when the storage shed where the car was stored in Vermillion, SD opened up and there was this blue beast sitting comfortably inside. I remember the rumble when it started up. I was so excited. Then came the test drive.

I rumbled through the streets of Vermillion. After turning a corner with the car in first gear I stomped on the gas. It broke the back tires loose in a cloud of white smoke. I had never been in a car with so much power and torque. I guess that was the selling point; there was no turning back after experiencing that.

I drove the car without any upgrades for a couple of years. Then I decided that the engine compartment needed to look a little prettier, so off came the rusty old exhaust manifolds. Like all simple jobs, it soon became much more difficult when a bolt broke off in the head. So off came the cylinder heads and then came a head port and polish job, larger valves and ported intake and exhaust manifolds. Now, the car really runs, yet retains the stock engine components and looks.

My car isn’t perfect and isn’t going to win any titles at the Mopar Nationals, but it’s all mine and it sure does look cool.