August 2015

The Perfect Chevelle

69-chevelle_7443Mike Merlo’s ’69 SS396 scored a 1000 points at Chevy Classics’ 2015 Winter National

Owned by Mike Merlo #23438877, Boca Raton, FL

By Levi Watson Photography by Colin Date

I remember the first time I sat behind the wooden steering wheel of an A-body like it was yesterday. It was my senior year of high school and I was looking for my first real car. This wasn’t so many years ago, but I had my heart set on vintage iron. I had just barely missed out on buying a ’71 Firebird Formula 350 a couple days before and was starting to get a little impatient, edgy even. With a wad of cash burning a hole in my pocket I came around a bend on a quiet suburban street, a street I’d driven hundreds of times, and was surprised by the sight of a bright orange 1972 GTO. When I saw the For Sale sign in the side window, I stopped to look at it and within seconds of sliding behind the wheel I knew this car had to be mine. After a little back-and-forth with the owner, I plunked down the cash and called a buddy to come get my truck. My experience with that car was short lived, but it was definitely unforgettable. I did burnouts, broke parts, got sideways more than necessary, broke more parts, fixed them, and vaporized nearly as much rubber as gasoline. Eventually life intervened and I parked that tired old Pontiac, let it sit a while, and then sold it for way too cheap. Looking back, that car was a basket case, but I loved it the same and now that it’s gone I’ll never forget it. Continue reading

Are you up for a Burger Quest?

Colinheadshot-newBy Colin Date

What a great time of year! Summer is pretty much a guaranteed good time just about anywhere in this country. I was sitting in my car today at lunchtime, munching on a burger, thinking about another place and time long ago. I was living in Portland, Oregon back in the mid ’90s, and had been doing some freelance writing and photography for Tom Shaw at Muscle Car Review magazine. Seems like back then, ol’ Tom was always wanting some unique stories for his magazine– real human interest stuff. So, my idea ended up turning into a six-page feature in MCR entitled “Burger Quest”. Needless to say, it was a blast putting the story together.

First off, there was no way I was going to do this epic adventure in my wife’s Camry (my own car was down and out at that point). I needed a good muscle car, so I borrowed a friend’s 1969 Firebird Formula 400 convertible– Carousel Red with an interior to match. Of course, I wasn’t going to take this trip alone. When I tossed the idea out to my friend Paul, he enthusiastically volunteered. “Paul, you know this could take some time, right?” “Hopefully!” he quickly shot back, grinning from ear to ear (Paul was always looking for ways to avoid his daily job.) It ended up taking almost three days, and lightened my wallet by 300 bucks for food, gas, and Tums. Continue reading

Transmission removal and replacement

Transmission-shot-1Story and photography by Colin Date

Removing the transmission assembly from any vehicle is always a delicate procedure. It requires time, open space, and plenty of patience. Located smack-dab between the engine and the rear drivetrain, the transmission and its various counterparts literally serve as the middle man in the forever-valuable transfer of power. Whether you prefer manual domination or the creature comforts of an auto-pilot, the basic principals and operation of the transmission remains a constant. This goes for the same for the removing and installing as well. Although there are many modifications to be made on individual components, this project narrows the focus on just getting the beast safely in and out of the car. Make no mistake, this is an involved project. There are many steps, but none of them are overly-complicated.

You can make the swap as one complete assembly (engine included), or opt for the transmission alone. This is really just a matter of preference or necessity. Regardless, start by disconnecting the negative battery cable from its terminal post. Why leave any room for sudden surprises, right? Drain any fluids (i.e. coolant, engine oil, power steering fluid, etc.) from the motor that may result in a spill during the process. At this point, it’s a good idea to start taking pictures. Not only will this help you during the re-installation process, it will look good in the scrapbook too! Disconnect any and all electrical connectors from the engine/transmission assembly. This may include the engine harness, the neutral-safety and back-up light switches (if applicable), and the throttle valve detent switch. Keep in mind the order and approach may vary slightly from one tranny to another, as GM produced and offered more than a handful of different designs over the years.

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