The Keeper

What Makes a Car a keeper?

Car and Driver: one car to keep for life.

A question I ponder from time to time is: “Will I keep the car I own now for my forever?”  I love hearing stories about someone running a million miles in the same car.  Or how about someone who has their Dad or Mom’s old car they loved and now want to restore it to its former glory or even better.

But what was it that made the old folks keep that car all these years to be there for the restoration?  Was it the car itself or something else?  The car might or might not be something special in and of itself, but rather the owner’s experiences in that car precipitated the keeping.  Or perhaps both are the drivers of the happening.

There can be another keeper such as the car might be worth more than its cost to the owner someday.  This is different and the car is being looked at as an investment.  No emotional content here.  And unless they spent big $$ buying the car they need to be very lucky or have to wait a very long time just to get most or all of their money back.  Don’t forget about inflation over time.

Another more common reason to keep a car is economics.  Cars are a money pit and avoiding new or just other used ones is a good idea financially unless the current car needs expensive repairs.

The keeping driver that interests me now is about fun to own cars that may be the last of their kind.  While we still revere that ’67 396 L78 Chevelle or that ’70 440 Six Pack Barracuda, they were awful cars compared to the cars we have today.   Although they look super bad.


Hemi_Barracuda They handled as if they were suspended on rubber bands and took eons to stop.  As for speed, most of the muscle cars were high 14 or 15 second cars at their best.  The fast ones could just get to under 14 seconds.  So while they are very cool, if you own old school muscle you probably only take it out in nice weather on Saturdays and Sundays for a scenic drive or a car show.  You wouldn’t dream of taking it to any kind of a race track.  Nothing wrong with that at all.

The kind of keeper I am talking about is the one where the car is everything you could want in a fun car, speed, handling, looks, tech, comfort or whatever.  A car that makes you stop and think how much is enough?  We are bred and socialized from birth to be relentless consumers.  This gives us an innate drive to always want more and the latest and greatest.  I am guilty as charged.  But what if we stop and think about who we are and what is really important to us to satisfy our car addiction?  Can we overcome our advertising brain wash to truly understand what would be enough to satisfy?


I fell in car love with the 5th gen Camaro when it came out.  But I always wanted a Corvette.  So when the 7th generation Corvette started showing up in showrooms I decided it was time.  This seemed like the ultimate Corvette and we know now it is the penultimate rear drive Corvette.  After driving a M6 C7 I really liked it, but after getting back in my 2013 Camaro 1LE I lost my Corvette fever.  The Corvette was cramped inside and was not a very useful car.  So if I could only let myself have one toy car I wanted that car also to be at least a somewhat useful car.  And while not as athletic as the Corvette, the 1LE also was very satisfying to drive.



If that 1LE was not totaled by my friend I might still have it.  See below.  But it was and I used my insurance $$ to buy a 2015 M6 ZL1.  I did really like that car but Its GM Stabilitrac brain went hay wire and GM bought it back.  Since the 6th gen Camaro had just come out I decided to try a 2016 M6 SS Camaro.  Once the 6th gen ZL1 came out I read everything I could about it.  Was this the ultimate car for me?  After owning the SS for two years I took the plunge and bought an A10 ZL1.


That car has the best and most fun automatic I have ever experienced.  But in the end it was still an automatic and I got bored.  And the car was so fast you could not use very much of it safely on the street.  I know what too much power in the wrong hands does at the track. 😦



I was missing the SS.


Since it was noticeably lighter to drive and also was low 12-high 11 fast, it was also thrilling to drive and got 35 MPG on the highway.  I started thinking about the extra complexity of the ZL1 over the SS and the possible impact of keeping it once the warranty expired.  Then I looked at the trade in value after one year of ownership I realized that besides my future worries I was burning money fast.  And the 2020s were about to come out.  Another depreciation hit.  So I sold my ZL1 and decided to take a car break with no fun car.  So I looked around for a while at used SSes and patiently waited until something really caught my eye.  I even considered a Mustang or possibly a Challenger.  After driving a number of them the Camaro still stood out.  It is the lightest of the modern muscle cars, the best handling, was just as good looking as the other two.  I would stick with a Camaro.

Then I read about the new for 2020 LT1 Camaro.  The name is confusing since it is the same name as the SS motor, but once I saw a few pictures my curiosity was piqued.  What the LT1 was is a SS without Brembo rear brakes and track cooling.  It still has the responsive and torquey LT1 engine and the SSes world class chassis and suspension.  No Magnetic Ride is available, but after owing 3 Camaros with it I will not miss it.  And I liked the idea of less complexity.  Also looking at the value priced LT1 I could appreciate the basic lines of the Camaro without the busyness of aero aids that are useless at street speeds.  And once I looked over the available options I realized I could build it my way.  I could not option it the same way on the 1SS.  And the LT1 is the lightest V8 powered Camaro coming in a little over 3,500 pounds.  I became smitten with the LT1.  Did GM build this car for me?  The porridge at the just right temperature?  So it seemed to me.

More on this next time…..

1973 Duster 340

I did post the Falcon buyer and he did not reply so far.  So no news on Falcooney.  Just as well, I have no time for projects.

So here I am getting ready for college now without my college purpose built college car.  It was a bad plan anyway.  Without telling me as I remember my dad went out and bought a 1968 red Plymouth Fury III 4 door sedan, 318 automatic.  At first it was a “spare” car.  But then I found out it was for me as I suspected.  Really Dad, a full size Fury sedan with a 318?  But after a while I realized the old man made a smart move for me.  The Falcon was not reliable transportation.  And my parents wanted to move to Florida from New Jersey after I graduated.  They had been waiting for that day.  So my barge was big and safe and reliable.  The trunk will hold 4 people.  Ask me how I know that.  But it refused to do a burn out, unlike my similar Dads, 1968 4 door hardtop 383 Commando powered barge.  No Commandos for me.  Good move dad.


This Fury III boat looks exactly like mine, except mine was Racer Red.  Check out the pickup sized trunk!  This one was also a 318 like mine with no Comando badge like my Dad’s Fury.  So those burnout marks were not made by this car. 

Anyway I decided to love the one I was with.  First order of business was a pair of 15 inch L70x15 tires in the back to harness my 318 automatic.  Even though speed was not the essence of this car it had to have a sleeper look.   A Cherry Bomb muffler finished off the Charade.  Actually this car was a move up from the Falcon considering the fact I had my first girlfriend.  That Fury was a moving motel room.  Also to step up the Fury to my standards I added a kicking stereo with 6x9s and front speakers bolted to the floor.  It was a love shack.

So after moving to Florida and abandoning my first high school girlfriend, I moved to Florida with my parents.  We drove down a day or two after I graduated with me driving the red Fury III.  The night before was my final date before moving to Florida.  I did not have much sleep and scared the crap out of my parents driving off the road once that first morning.  I needed a Monster!  Luckily for me in those days the road to Florida was mostly barren.  It did “wake me up” to the responsibility of driving a car.

I left home and drove to Villanova, my college NROTC destination.  At first I kept up my relationship with my girlfriend and every weekend drove back to Palmyra to hang out with her and my friends.  A date with her, then hanging up-town, then crashing wherever I could find a bed or not.  This worked for a few months.  After a Time I decided to get a part time job at school to make some extra cash once again washing dishes, my teenage career.  And I thought, man now I can upgrade the Fury!  I started working on my parents.  “That Fury is letting me down, it won’t last long.” And so on.

After whining for a few weeks/months they gave in.  (They always spoiled me.)  So I told them I had lined up the perfect car, a 1973 Duster 340.  It was just like Mom’s 1971 Dart except with a more reliable V8 and with a manual (4 speed!) for better gas mileage. I would order the car with few options to save the dollars and use whatever I got for the Fury 3 as a down payment.  What an iron clad plan!  They agreed.

Next decision, I really wanted bucket seats, but then thinking of my sweetie I would just get the bench seat so she could snuggle.  Smooth.  So I ordered a Plymouth Duster 340 with a four speed, vinyl interior (to get the cooler separate head rests), Rallye wheels.  It had front disc brakes stock!  And electronic ignition.  High tech!  I think it came to around $3,000 in 1973 with taxes and tags.   And I had the Jensen stereo with Jensen 6x9s from the red Fury so good tunes were mine.  Inflation moves on as a perfect 1973 Duster is worth around $30,000!  I should have bought 10 of them.  As I waited what seemed like forever I sold my Fury for $800 and waited for the big day.

Unfortunately this put a crimp in my relationship with my girl.  Since I disappeared for a while (and maybe because I was still a 19 year old child) her old boyfriend rekindled their relationship.  And my parents fought all the time and I remember telling her, “I never want to get married”.  Oops!  I was dumped and was devastated for quite some time.  I realized I was going to school because I thought I had to.   And now my future seemed lost.

I was very excited (a big understatement) when the 340 Duster came in and my friend Life picked me up in Villanova and delivered me to Cherry Hill Plymouth-Dodge.  I did have some good times with the Duster.  It was fun with the V8 burble and a 4 speed.  I have to admit it did soften the blow of losing my best friend in the world. Smart and beautiful she was.  I did carry that torch for a while.

1973_Duster ad

I thought for a while this was a pic of my car.  But the turn signal lights on the top of the fender were not on my car as I passed on that option.  Otherwise my Duster looked exactly like this.  I still carry a torch for this car along with Falcoony.

I still came back to Palmyra on the weekends.  But it was much harder to live out of the Duster like it was with the aircraft carrier Fury III.  Over time I stopped going to class and felt sorry for myself.  It was not pretty, but time heals, as I found out.  But College was not for me.  My Marine haircut was a badge of dishonor to the other students.  The times were still volatile in 1973.  My roommate Dan, and a guy across the hall, Tom were my only friends at college.  Most of the time at meals I sat alone and ate far too many hamburgers and hot dogs.  So I decided to check out.  Also with my NROTC Marine option my peers were a little too anxious to start shooting people.  And I resented the mind games to break me down to turn me into a soldier.  I remember a couple of want to be Marine officer invited me down to John Barry Hall to practice shooting Gooks with them.  That was the last straw.

I “marched” to Jon Barry Hall and requested a meeting with the Navy CO.  I told him I wanted out.  He was really nice to me and said I would make a fine officer once I got my stuff together.  I could even stay another year without any obligation to join the corp.

I replied that in good conscience I could not take that offer as I had already made my decision.  And in addition I was not sure I could ever pull the trigger to end someone’s life.  What if I hesitated and others died as a result?  I was not a solder much less an officer.  Well then he agreed with my decision and wished me well.  Right then I wished I was not color blind.  I could have been in the Navy and I loved being on the water.  But I was not a Marine.  I was not afraid of dying, given my number of brushes with death already.  But I could not be a killer.  And so when the semester was over I packed up the Duster and trekked back to Florida.

My parents were not happy.  Big understatement.  And I asked my Dad to sell the Duster.  I could no longer afford it.  He was mad I did not order AC, a must have in Florida.  Why didn’t he tell me to do, that?  But when he put it in the paper he sold it in one day.  It was a striking car and fun to drive.  He was surprised.  It was so with the bench seat and the tall 4 speed stick in the middle.

And so I got a job delivering newspapers to save up enough to move back to the north.  I lived with my parents again and dreamed of the day when I would leave for the north.

In the meantime my Mom wanted a new car, or so she said.  Currently she had a 1971 Dart Swinger that ran great and looked perfect.  So I researched the ads and found her a new 1973 Pontiac Ventura with an auto, v8, and air.  It was a left over and was listed at $100’s off.  She bought that car and later my Dad said this was the worst car they ever owned except for the Peugeot 504 I convinced him to buy.

But after the purchase my parents gave me the Dart Swinger.  I was underwhelmed, a 6 cylinder Dart with an automatic?  I was such an ungrateful POS.  I did save a little money and looked around.  I almost bought a 1969 Chevelle SS396 auto for $900, but when my parents learned of this they hit the roof.  Now I don’t blame them.  They won the battle.  In the meantime my friend Life offered his spare bedroom in his parent’s house in NJ to me until I found a job.

So at 19 I packed up my baby blue Dodge Dart and moved back to New Jersey.


My Swinger looked exactly like this.  It ran like a top for as long as I owned it.  That was not long……

Falcooney Part 3 – On the Road

Now that the sleeper Falcon was running and somewhat drivable I took my freshly built Falcon to the New Jersey inspection station in Cherry Hill.  I figured this was just a formality.  And mostly it was.  I think there was a bulb or two out and I forgot to plug the horn back in.  But also the car failed for alignment.  Toe In was out of spec.

This blew my mind until I thought about it.  I did stand on the fender and whack some pretty stout pieces of metal to get the engine to drop in.  Did I ruin the front end of the car?  I shook off that sick feeling and asked someone, maybe my uncle Gus, what exactly Toe In was.  He explained Toe and Camber to me.  Hmmm.  After putting all that extra V8 weight on the front of the car Camber should be out of whack.  But the inspection failure was mum on that topic.  How did I mess up the toe in?


My uncle also said there had to be a way to adjust the Toe in my Falcon, so have a look.  I don’t remember the number but I remember it was toe-in.  So the front of the front tires both pointed inward to each other.  I found the bar that tied (tie rod ends!) the two wheels together and they were in the back of the kingpin holding the wheel on so I pulled the back of each wheel “a little” closer together.  I threw the tools in my car and headed back out to the Inspection Station, confident in my new found knowledge.  But I failed again, too much Toe Out!  So I drove to a nearby parking lot, and went under the car to pull the Toe in again.  And then got back in line.

Failed again with Toe In.   Was I overdoing the wrenching?  Back to the parking lot and then back in line.  I forget now how many tries this took but it was at least three.  On the last time the guy came up to me and shook his head.  He said that the specs now were really close.  But he was going to pass me if I promised to take my car to an alignment shop and have the front end checked as soon as possible.  I always try to keep my word. Later I came to find out all of my front ball joints were loose and all needed replacing.  He said something like, I bet your alignment would jump all over the place, just how did you pass NJ inspection?

Even though on a project like this there are a myriad of small adjustments, things went smoothly for a while and I started taking my white beast to high school.  My close friends got together and decided to create a song for the project.  It went something like this:

“Mark had a Falcoony”

“He didn’t know what he was doing”

“Adding a V8 and a four speed”

“So he spent eighteen hundred dollars”

“To build his Falcoony”

You could buy an almost new car for that much.  And that did not include the value of the starter Falcon.  That song caught on and I would hear different versions of it as I walked down the high school hallways.  I was kind of famous in an embarrassing sort of way.  I decided to suck it up and go along with the merriment.

On the other hand having a semi famous car meant girls did not mind me driving them home from school or just around.  I remember one ride asking this beautiful girl I secretly was in love with if she wanted a ride.  Oh yes she did.  That was one of several rides including just riding around while her and her friends got lit up drinking this awful malt liquor called Country Club in very small cans and dropping them off at the school dance.  She never sang the Falcoony song in the car, although I remember giggling from the girls in the back.  We never did get together.  At the time she went out with a good friend of mine and even though I sensed something between us (or was it the powerful sounding car?) I never acted on it.  I would not be that guy.  When I was graduating she wrote in my year book was going to miss me as I was leaving for college.  And added in my book that she always thought I was the cutest and nicest guy in the whole school.  But then at that time I was going out with another girl.   So it was never meant to be.


On the other side my 351 4 speed Falcon was quite fast even with the two barrel 351 and was my passage into the local street scene.  Palmyra has a set of train tracks that are now a light rail commuter line.  But in those days there might be only one or two trains a day.  All the kids with hot cars met “Up Town” at the tracks.  On Friday and Saturday nights we would meet girls there or go on a date but then take them home around 10 pm to head back to “Up Town”.  The hot cars would stop and look for a run.  But then around midnight the stragglers would head out to the Philadelphia for Front Street and Island Avenue action.  Two of the big players in town were a worked 4 speed Tri Power GTO and an L78 ’69 Camaro.  Other cars from other towns would come looking for them. The back in the day tracks below and below that the tracks today.

palmyra tracks_old

palmyra tracks_new

One night I met up with a dark blue ’66 GTO who was looking for action.  We decided to head out to Taylors Lane in Cinnaminson where most of the local racing took place.  There was an industrial section where there were very few cars.  So we both pulled out of “Up Town” and headed down River Rd. towards Taylors lane. In Riverton we both met at the last light.  He revved up his engine and looked over.  OK, here we go. I treed him on the green and jumped out ahead a few cars.  But he started to run me down slowly.


But then things took a turn for the worst.  Flashing lights behind us.  The GTO still behind me pulled over. This was my chance.  I made the next right on the last Riverton Street and started weaving though the minor streets to get back to my house in Palmyra.  I turned on Rowland Avenue, where I usually parked and turned off my lights as I pulled to the end of the block.  Just as I was about to shut the car off a Palmyra police car sped right in front of me on Cinnaminson Avenue, lights and siren blazing.  Phew!

I found out the Riverton police called in a white Corvette.  Imagine Falcoony mistaken for a Corvette.  LOL.  Apparently that officer found a white Corvette on Route 130 and pulled him over I found out in school.   We had some police connections.  I dodged a bullet that time among others.  And this would be the first and last time I would ever run from the police.  It was in retrospect a really bad choice.

Not long after that I blew my diff launching the car.  At this point I was running the 6 cylinder 4 bolt rear on studded snow tires.  How did I ever pull that GTO with this set up?  So I went back to the boneyards and picked up a Mustang V8 differential.  I think it had positraction at least I my mind.  Maybe not.  I also picked up two five bolt chrome wheels and mounted the widest tire that would fit inside the wheel wells.  Traction was no longer a problem and hole-shots were much improved.


Then I remember one afternoon after school I was riding around and found my friend in his 396 Caprice.  He wondered if we could switch cars.  That seemed like an interesting idea, so we swapped.  The Caprice was a nice driver but was not as much fun as my little hot rod.  So I went looking for him.  Another friend found me in his car, stopped me and told me to follow him but didn’t say why.  We came upon the Falcon and my friend the driver was looking under the car.  What?  I got out and he sheepishly told me we had a problem.  So I started up the car and put it in gear.  When I let out the clutch there was a weird thumping sound but the car did not move.  So we tied up the Falcon with a rope and pushed it into my drive way.  That weekend I pulled the transmission and the main transmission shaft of the Ford Top Loader stayed in the clutch.  My friend had twisted the shaft right off.  I was devastated.

The next week I called a transmission shop and told them I needed my transmission rebuilt.  He never asked me what was wrong with it.  So I took the transmission there and dropped it off outside his office.  I went inside and did the paper work and he said the rebuild would be like $200 (as I remember).  He never looked at it.

About a week later I called back and it was ready.  But when I went to pick up the transmission he was super pissed.  I never told him the main shaft was severed.  How would I know to tell him that?  In any event he honored his price.  I felt bad, paid him, and left.  All I had was barely $200 with many ones in there.

That friend never offered to pay for the repairs or even helped me pull the transmission.  Later in life I let another friend drive my Twin Turbo SS 1LE.  That turned out even worse although this friend did pay for the towing and bought me an Atco sweatshirt for my tribulations. Another story for another day.

Here I realized that this hot rod Falcon, although very cool, was not the ideal go to college car.  So I reluctantly put it up for sale.  A day later the work got around about the sale and another friend offered me $1,800 just like the song.  While at that point I had well over $2000 in it I decided to cut my losses, sell the car, and paid back my parents all the money I owed them.  So now I had no college car but I was broke.  My dad solved that problem by buying a 1968 Fury III 4 door sedan and gave it to me.  How could I hurt myself with that car?  At least it was red.  Thanks Dad!  I installed a nice stereo in the car (my trademark over the years) and drove it to Florida and later to Villanova.  My first year in college.

The Falcoony is a cherished memory for what I learned and for the experiences I had with it.  And while it could have turned out badly, in the end it went well just by luck, not skill.  Is it better to be lucky than good?

The guy that bought Falcoony hopped it up more with a 4 barrel, a cam, and headers and I think a more sturdy transmission welded in mount and bigger tires.  I never saw it on the street, but I did stop by his house one day and he showed me all the work he did.  If that car has not yet met the crusher I would love to have it back.  I think I am his friend on Facebook.  I will check to see if he has any pictures.  If so I will post here.

Falcooney Part 2 – The Build

To take on this journey with my very first project car required me first to reevaluate what I knew about mechanics and the parts that were needed to make the project happen.  I quickly realized I was in way over my head.  While I considered myself handy with tools, all of my previous experience was with motorcycles and boat engines where I was just wrenching and replacing parts that belonged with what I was working on.  But here I was starting with a bench seat, 6 cylinder, automatic Falcon and planned to upgrade the car to a 351 and a four speed.  This was 1971 and I may have been the first person to drop a 351 in a Falcon.  Up front I made an assumption that all Mustang parts from 1964-66 would work on the Falcon.  I got lucky here and at least most did with one big exception.  There was no one I could go to for advice on this swap so I soldiered on alone.

So now I had a backyard with a big tree that could hold the weight of an engine, the engine, and the car to host the transplant.  I was on my way.  But this was just the beginning.  Next I had to assemble the parts need to make my dream come true, a V8 4 speed hot rod.   And so the next part of the journey was discovering all of the junk yards within driving range of my house.  First I found Methvin’s in Mount Holly NJ.   And it was not that far of a drive from my home base, Palmyra, NJ.  This was a lucky find as it was one of the best in the area.  And I could just walk the yard with my own tools taking off whatever I could find.  Here I scored a Ford Top Loader 4 speed (already out of the car luckily) and the beginning of a long list of smaller parts to make the transmission conversion.

  • Bell housing and bolts
  • Fork assembly
  • Pilot bearing
  • Flywheel
  • Clutch
  • Three pedal parts
  • Drive shaft
  • And more

And then there was the engine swap itself:

  • Motor Mounts
  • Exhaust manifolds
  • Dual exhaust system (JC Whitney!)
  • And so on

Naturally I bought some stuff that did not fit and when Methvin’s ran out of workable options I had to throw out a wider net for parts.  In the end I am sure I visited all of the yards within a 30 mile radius of Palmyra.  And there was no Web to find the yards, just word of mouth and the yellow pages.  And lots of times getting lost learning the roads of South Jersey and Philadelphia.  All through the project there were many disappointments.  But the dream would not die.

After a good amount of trial and error I had enough parts to get started.  After borrowing a come-along my friend Roach, who lent me his back yard, and a few other friends helped me get the 6 cylinder and automatic out of the car.  Then we attempted to drop in the 351 into the empty engine bay.  However the 351 exhaust manifolds I bought did not clear the fender wells in a big way.  So we took them off and then the engine fit!  But what now?

Around this time my project wore out its welcome with Roaches Dad.  Time to move on.  We towed the V8 Falcon back to my house with a rope.  Luckily the brakes were still intact.  Then it was back out the boneyards for early Mustang V8 manifolds.  After a trial fit I discovered there was no room to put them on.  But it was close!  So the engine had to come out again.

I had less room in my yard but at least I did have a tree that would suffice for pulling the engine yet again.  But after removing the engine what next?  How can I make this work?  Then I had an epiphany.  I could borrow Dad’s sledge hammer to perform the fine tuning.  After several whacks I tried to lower the engine with the 289 manifolds installed.  The final successful lowering of the engine took several tries, but then it was in!  Is it any wonder why later we had so much difficulty getting a good wheel alignment?

Okay next came another heart breaker.  I test fit the Mustang 4 speed and found the shifter was aligned right under a welded in tunnel brace.  Now what?  Again I gave the problem some heavy thought.  I did not know at the time the actual Falcon 4 speed had a different case that fit.  But I was out of money and having a hard time going back for more.  So the only possible solution was a hack saw.  I think I went through 20 blades cutting that tunnel brace.  But finally the opening worked.  Then another big problem. How am I going to hold the transmission up?

I think in a fever dream I came up with using a combination of exhaust U bolts bolted to steel plates I found on either side of the transmission tunnel.  I cut off the excess threads and covered the whole mess with the front carpet.  Now all I needed was a shifter.  I had saved up some money and bought the final part to the dream, a Hurst shifter!

After all that the rest was downhill.  I added a pair of Mustang bucket seats and reinstalled my 8 track player.  The engine wiring was simple enough for me to figure out and in a short period of time it was running!  Oh that first drive around the block with open manifolds.  The dream as on the road.  So I packed my JC Whitney dual exhaust kit and drove the white beast to a muffler shop in Cherry Hill.

The drive home was very exciting.  The Falcon sounded great and it was fun to drive.  And with the tunes the dream was a reality.

The car below is not my car.  But it is a very close approximation.  My Falcon 2 door hardtop Futura was also white but the trim on the side was blue.  This one started life with a V8.  And my wheels and tires were not as nice.  I bought a mismatched front and back set of wheels in the Pennsauken Mart parking lot.  And being short on funds at first I kept the original tires for the new wheels including studded snows in the back.  Traction was a problem.


End of Falcooney Part 2.


Falcooney Part 1 – The Beginning

By the time I was 16 I had already bought and sold a car, and more importantly, I did not lose any money.  Years later I did finally make money on another car, when my 1984 Mercury Cougar was stolen on Long Island.  Other than that, all losers.  I was given the car in this story, a white 1965 Falcon Futura automatic hardtop, but ended up losing in this one too.  Most of the time the money I lost went for purely for transportation but sometimes went for fun.


This pale Yellow Falcon Futura from the 1965 Ford sales brochure looks like my Falcon except for the colors.  Mine was all white including the top and the side trim was blue.  I wish I had a picture.  Had I read this page as a teenager I would not have been impressed by the 170 cubic inch 105 horsepower claims of “Up To 15% greater fuel economy.  I still would have chosen a V8.  At the time I thought my Falcon looked pretty good after the looks grew on me.  I still do, but that may be nostalgia talking.

Sadly this Falcon came to me as a newly minted driver after my grandfather passed away.  This car was supposed to be my car for the rest of high school and later for college.  As I remember this Falcon had very low mileage (around 30,000 miles or less) and was in pristine condition except for the scratches in the paint when my grandmother used a shovel to clear off the car.  The Pennsylvania Dutch were a practical sort, damn the torpedoes.

Of course after reading every Hot Rod, Car Craft, and Car and Driver I could get my hands on I was very disappointed.  I should have been grateful, but back than I was in immature blood sucker.  So after driving the car for a while I came up with a plan.  I would convince my parents that the 170 cubic inch 6 cylinder and automatic transmission would never last through 4 years of college.  What was needed was something more substantial like a V8 and a 4 speed.  And since I wanted to learn more about cars the process would be a learning process and be a valuable skill to learn.


This is the sadness under the Falcon’s hood.  Although my Falcon must have looked cleaner and newer.  Notice what seems like quite a bit of extra room?

I also had around $500 that I received for a row boat I sold after we sold our house on the Mullica River.  I am not sure how I paid for that boat, but I do remember receiving the proceeds.  My parents were selling all of their northern properties to get ready for a move to Florida.   Our favorite vacation destination!  So when I presented my plan I made a point of my bank roll.  I don’t remember exactly when I presented that plan, but I do remember doing it while they were watching television to catch them off guard.

They knew me well.  I am sure I did not win approval on that first try.  At that time I am sure I got two eye rolls, but also at that time I was not perceptive enough to understand what eye rolls meant.  So I was undeterred and kept at it.  I think over time I wore them down as I get obsessed with my crazy ideas and never give up.  I was a bit “spoiled” and this idea was crazy.  While I am sort of mechanically inclined (or so I think), up to this point I had only lightly wrenched the two motorcycles I “owned” in my past.  What did I know about such a project?  Well I read a lot of magazines, projects run smoothly as I read, so it can’t be that hard.  I don’t remember when gave in, but they did. “Life is for learning” was where I was headed.

So now with my $500 and parental approval.  I started looking for a suitable engine.  I had enough sense to use a Ford engine, but which one?  Big block Fords came to mind but I was told early on that they would not fit under a Falcons hood without a lot of metalwork, meaning torches and welding.  So I set my sights smaller.  My friend from the Mullica River told he knew where there was a Ford 351 Cleveland 4 barrel out of a Mustang.  Waoh!  A new Ford update to the old Ford small-block with higher flowing heads and with a 4 barrel carb!  A dream come true.


Here is a 351 Windsor in a Mustang.  See the small but available extra room?

So I made arrangements to go see it.  I was bummed as the engine was a 351 Windsor AND was a two barrel.  This was the lowest horse power 351 Ford made.  But I was almost new and here I was in front of me.  The project could begin.  Serendipity was kind to me here, as a 351 Cleveland-Falcon swap would have required torching.  Those higher flowing heads along with the higher deck height of the 351 over the 289 and 302 make for a much larger package.  But here I also found out the guy wanted $800 for the engine.  Wow, busted my bankroll just on the engine.

So I went back to my financiers for the first of many project cost overruns.  Next I started to think about where I might work on this project.  One of my friends from Palmyra offered up his big back yard with an oak tree!  So we went to his parents to ask permission.  And while I am sure there were more eye rolls, his Dad agreed.  I did not realize at the time this was a big ask as their yard, as I remember was quite nice.  I made a mess out of part of the yard, but I think after moving the car out of his yard I went back and planted some grass seed.  But maybe not.  If not now I wish I did.

End of Falcooney Part 1.


From Then to Now

Where does an obsession start?  As I mentioned in my first blog post I think mine started with my Dad playing the name the car game.  Somehow that interest stayed with me as I was growing up.  First by building car models at a very early age.  Then I caught the customization bug and started using modeling putty to my spin on a design.  But then reality hit as I found out about the tedious process of shaping and meticulous sanding.  It was hard work!  And then in the end my custom model was usually pretty ugly.  So after that I settled on building my dream car in a variety of wild colors.  I remember using gold often. That now seems so sad.

As I hit my teenage years I fell into more of a hot rodding mode.  But I wasn’t a Little Deuce Coupe kind of kid, I was more into modern 1967-1971 muscle.  The New York Motion Chevys really caught my eye.  They advertised that they could build you the Phase III Motion Camaro which was guaranteed to run an 11.5 second quarter mile or better.  Wow!  That was incredible back in the day and stuff dreams are made of for a young motor head.  That ET promise has stuck with me all these years.


I would be remiss not to mention my very first car a 1960 Plymouth Savoy 2 door sedan.  My high school friend Conrad had this car and at 16 decided to go in a different direction.  Or was it his Dad said to get it out of the back yard?  I forget, but as I remember he acquired it for free and so to show a profit he sold it to me for $1.00.  It ran and was drivable.  Other than family gift cars this was the best deal I ever made on a car as I later sold it for $15.00.  A 1,500% profit!  Did I share this windfall with Conrad?  I just don’t remember but I should have.

That car sat in our driveway for about a year until my Dad said get that thing out of our driveway.  Conrad and I used to walk over to Cook’s Market, buy some snacks and retire to the Savoy to play chess.  The front seat was as big as a picnic bench, four could fit in the front in a pinch. One day when my parents were out, I was practicing my later Atco launching techniques and ran into the front porch.  Somehow I managed to get the crooked porch column back to something resembling ninety degrees by laying on my back pounding the column with my legs.  I was a pretty strong kid.  The Savoy was not damaged at all.  If my parents knew about all this they never mentioned it. I guess I gave them more pressing issues to consider.  That is not my car below, but except for the shiny paint, my car looked exactly like that in extremely faded white.  This clearly was the most artistic I ever owned.  You can get lost in those fins.

1960_plymouth Savoy

As I grew up and was the responsible family man for many years I did try to buy fun cars when I could.  An there were a number of them such as Mustang GTs, a Lincoln Mark IV LSC, A Nissan 300ZX, three 4th generation V8 Camaros and a Firebird.  And then I graduated into the 5th gen Camaros after all of the peeps left the nest.  I owned three of those including an LS3 2SS, a 2SS 1LE, and finally a ZL1.  All manuals.  I added twin turbos to the 1LE but then that car met an untimely end.  Another story for another day.  Next I acquired a black 2015 M6 ZL1.  And I thought I had finally reached the end of my car quest.  The ZL1, a do everything fun car and the second best looking car I ever owned.  But then the electronics acted up and GM bought back the ZL1.

What to do next?  I loved the Camaro 5th gens, but they had come to the end of their run.  They were a show car come to life that was fast and in the right trims was a world class handling car.  But they were based on a large Australian sedan.  This made them larger and heavier than they had to be.  Chevrolet re-thought the Camaro for Gen 6 and based it on the smaller Cadillac body built to be a BMW 3-4 series competitor.  Really, a small BMW with a small block Chevy?  A dream Camaro?

It turned out even the base CA6 SS was a world class handler with the speed to match my last ZL1.  Sold!  I picked one out and months later I was the proud owner of a black M6 2SS, with a sunroof of course.  I added almost all of the bolt on power adders and drag tires and had a ton of fun with this car.  But it never was quite as fast as that original dream Phase III Camaro.  So I looked into adding a supercharger.


But the more I thought about it, was that a good idea?  I had previous experience building my Twin Turbo 1LE and I knew, while it was fun building a project car, there were bound to be frustrations, breakage, and was destroying the value of the car while flushing all of the mod money down the toilet.  And in the end I enjoyed driving my bolt on 1LE more than the Twin Turbo 1LE.  And while I beat an 11.5 ET once with the TT 1LE most of the time it was an 11.8-12.0 car.  It had big launching problem.  So while it was very fast with 600 HP to the wheels, in the end it was a bit disappointing at Atco.

Wait a minute.  What about the Camaro dream car Chevy was already building for me?  The 6th gen ZL1.  I could never build a Camaro like that.  Let’s do it!  So surprisingly I sold my CA6 SS in a couple of days. And began my search.  I also searched my soul.  Almost all of my performance cars were manuals up to now, but that new A10 automatic was getting rave reviews.  I should try one.  And I did not know this at the time but most dealers will not let you test drive a ZL1.  However luck was with me and the very first dealer I landed at let me drive a black A10 ZL1.  And the salesman with me said “Let’s see what it can do!”  In his defense he was new to his job.  I resisted temptation and drove it like a sane person.  But surprisingly I really liked it!  A10 it is.

After more searching and driving I found a loaded Red Hot A10 ZL1 for a great price.  It was 200+ miles from my house so I made a day of the delivery and took a train and an Uber to pick up my new red beast.  I stopped on the way home and gave my daughter Melissa a ride home from work in the car I now call Big Red.  That was a fun day!

After driving as recommended through the new car break in I changed the oil and took Big Red to the drag strip.  Lo and behold, my A10 ZL1 is an 11.5 second and faster 11.4 car all day long (with a good launch)!!!!  I know it has more in it but this was eye opening for me.  GM built me my very own Phase III Camaro.  And it is faster around a race course than a Ford Shelby GT350R, a Ferrari 458 Italia, an Audi R8 GT, a Lexus LFA, a Mercedes AMG GT, a Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera, and many more super expensive sports cars.  And it matches my dream Motion Camaro ET which is now a $500,000 collector’s car.  Completely stock with a warranty!  And while I will never race that list of world class super cars on a race track it is fun to know they all should run and hide in a garage while my ZL1 is on the track.  I might need the driver mod though.  And remember that black Zl1 was the second best looking car I have ever owned?  Big Red is number one.

This is my ZL1 as I first saw it sitting in the showroom in Virginia.  Car love at first sight.  I did sit in that Z06 behind it and decided this ZL1 is the Corvette I always promised myself I would get one day.


The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

I liked the WordPress blog starter so I kept part of it.  With my first car blog I will keep it short and sweet.


As far back as I remember I have been obsessed with cars.  I have my Dad to thank for that.  That’s him above with me in Florida, could you tell?  Starting at two to three years old he would ride around in the car with me standing next to him in the passenger seat.  He was not a bad Dad, that was just what everybody did back then.  I survived!

As we drove around he would call out every car we would see and then start quizzing me.  He would name car with a rhyme afterwords like “Buick Mubik” or “Dodge Lodge”.

It worked.

It went something like this:

“Mark, what is that grey sedan coming at us?”  My Dad pointed to a car in the oncoming traffic.

“Chevy Debbie!”

“Right!  How about that blue coupe behind the Chevy?”

“Plymouth Bimith!”

“Right Again. “  A pause due to a break in the traffic.  Pointing a finger he said “Okay, what kind of car is that big black sedan?”

“Caddlac Back”

“Ooops, sorry son.  That is a Lincoln Bincon.”

“Yes Dadday, a Lincoln Bincon.”

And so on.

After a while he couldn’t stump me. And sometimes my older sister would take me out to impress her dates.  Not sure if I was all that welcome on those dates but she says they were impressed and perhaps I was an inadvertent chaperone.  This how it all started for me.  And it continues to this day.

So I started in the beginning with cars like the VW Bug above.  Now  I am obsessed with cars like my current garage queen below.