Volume IX, Issue 1, Page 7

Need Your Suggestions For A Street/Stripper

Last month I wondered where the next generation of drag racers and enthusiasts was coming from. I’ve decided to try to do something about it close to home. My 15 year-old son is a poster child for the modern teenager who lives online. His skin isn’t quite as sallow as most of them, but he really can’t help his addiction to computers. I used to write technical info on them back in the ‘70s when they were making the transition from mainframes to PCs, so he’s been around PCs all his life, along with racing and performance cars.

It hasn’t helped that the video game and cell phone industries have taken over from cars the “coolness” factor for most of his generation. If I’d had the Internet or online combat video games growing up in the ‘60s, my folks would have had to throw me out of the house to get any exercise. (It was bad enough they caught me at 2:00 a.m. reading books by flashlight under the bed covers and listening to the Los Angeles R&B stations most nights.)

In most quarters of his high school it’s more important who has the latest flip phone that can take photos and text message and go online, or who sports a water-cooled PC computer gaming system that has a bad-ass graphics card and power supply that dims the lights when you plug it in, than what kind of car you drive. Seriously, computer processor clock speed (and overclocking) is discussed like we used to do with horsepower and torque. Guys his age save up for extra RAM or a higher dpi mouse for their computer systems so they can excel online with their world-wide Halo or CounterStrike gamer buds. [One advantage of this is that I get his castoff computer gear as he upgrades – man, I have an infrared mouse that screams at word-processing.]

His high school hasn’t abandoned auto shop like many have, but they have become more exclusive as to which students they will allow to take it. In fact, his overall grades are generally too high for him to be allowed in such a “technical” course track, as opposed to the “academic” one he is on! Now, how upside down is that? There is a small cadre of auto gearheads at his modest-sized school, but it is really very small compared to the ‘50s and ‘60s.

One of his older friends has a tuned-up modern Mustang GT, but he recently got his school parking privileges suspended for doing a burn-out in the parking lot. What do you expect from a male and 4:10 gears? At least they didn’t prosecute him for “reckless endangerment.” The guy does race at the local 1/8-th mile on Test & Tune nights, and I’ve really tried to impress on him to keep his escapades restricted to there and not on the street.

So, with all these forces conspiring against his learning about and increasing his enthusiasm for performance cars, I’ve decided to take a home-schooling approach to automotive repair, performance, and general know-how – I’m starting the search for a street/strip project car for us to work on together. I figure too that I want him to experience a modern V8 before they are relegated out of existence altogether.

That’s where you readers come in. I’ve managed circle track racing car projects (and had to justify the $$ to upper management), but have never taken on a street/strip type of car as an adult. IF I had the money I’d look for a ‘60s big-block musclecar and relive the youth I wanted to have.

But this isn’t about me (too much) and I’m thinking more along the lines of finding a mid-‘90s Chevrolet Caprice Classic and making it an Impala SS clone and more. Of course this sort of ride suggestion gets great hee-haws from the son and his buds – but an EFI’d big block in a lowered Caprice would tend to get their scattered attention.

A couple of parameters to keep in mind with your suggestions is that mucho leg and headroom is a fixed requirement – the kid is 6-ft, 4-in. and still growing, and I grew up with full-sized cars. Plus the ride has to be emissions-legal in its ‘modded state. It would also be handy if it would not embarrass itself at the local Test & Tune 1/8th mile if it came up against a certain Mustang GT with 4:10 gears.
 
So let me know what you think would make a good car to start with or send in your examples of this sort of project you may have done. I’m looking forward to your comments. 

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