It's probably safe to say that the Car Craft Summer Nationals in St. Paul, Minnesota, has become an annual tradition. This was our ninth year traveling to the great, unfrozen north, and the show just continues to get stronger. This time around we logged a record 3,800 cars over the weekend, and plans are already in motion to raise the bar even higher next year.
The weather was definitely on our side for the '03 running of the Summer Nats. With clear skies and sun for most of the weekend, conditions were perfect for cruising and checking out killer iron. We were again astounded by the huge number of bitchin' rides that reside in an area known for bitter cold and chronic rust. Evidently, the Car Craft show draws lots of treasures from their secret garages, as many locals commented that there were scores of local cars on display that hadn't been seen previously.
We showed up at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds bright and early Friday morning expecting to find only show workers setting up, but there were already quite a few cars occupying strategic spaces on the main lanes of the fairgrounds. Some of the ground crew told us there were cars lined up and waiting at the gate when they showed up at dawn. By the afternoon, the show was going strong as we mingled with participants, bench racing and probing for information--the whys and hows of ownership, performance specs, plans for future upgrades, and so on. In doing so, we encountered quite a few interesting people with similarly interesting tales to tell. We've compiled some of them here in brief vignettes for your enjoyment.
Of course, there was plenty of excitement at the Castrol Syntec Dyno Challenge, particularly since we upped the ante by offering specially made jackets to the highest producers of rear-wheel power, both for naturally aspirated and for those running a power adder. We'll touch on the outcome here, but watch for a detailed account of some of the more impressive rides in an upcoming issue. Of course, what would the Nats be without a barrage of beautiful women decked out in as little as possible? The '03 Summer Nats bikini contest drew a healthy field of entrants and a huge crowd of spectators. This year's winner was actually a repeat performance by last year's Miss Car Craft Summer Nationals, Valerie Carpender of Forrest Lake, Minnesota, who looked even hotter than last year.
Special thanks goes to host club Jim Bemis and Friends for helping to organize and maintain this monster of an event. There's still some summer action left, and we'll be out again in force in Springfield, Missouri, for the Car Craft Street Machine Nationals in September (the 12th to the 14th).
Season: MAS Racing Products, MSD Ignition, Black Magic, Outlaw, Tires Plus, and Nitto Tires.
"The oil pump went out in the four-cylinder." That was the answer we got when we asked Minnesota's Tina Grohmann why she decided to install a Chevy 383 in the back of her Fiero. Actually, she went on to explain that this is her second mid-engined Pontiac, the first having met its demise thanks to a particularly harsh railroad crossing. The small-block is mated to a stock five-speed manual transaxle via an adapter from V-8 Archie; the setup fits together beautifully, though keeping the driveline alive has been tricky. "This clutch is custom-made--the last one was high-performance but didn't last, and don't even ask me about the other transaxles." Though this trans is still breathing, another is on the way with cryogenically treated innards so Tina won't have to be so cautious. "I love catching Second gear--I really can't baby it for very long."
'95 Impala SS
Many enthusiasts laden with family members to haul around found Chevy's Impala SS to be the perfect combination of hot rod and family truckster in the mid-'90s, but the big B-bodies do have their limitations, at least in stock form. Randy Atwood of Zimmerman, Minnesota, was addicted to open road course track events, and sitting on the sidelines was not an option. The solution was to convert the big Imp to a manual trans--specifically, a T56 six-speed. Using a conversion kit from B-Body Performance, Randy installed a Camaro T56, swapped the rear gears to 4.10s, and reassigned the factory automatic-trans cooler to chill the power-steering fluid. The trans swap and some mild suspension upgrades enable the fullsize Chevy to hang with the F-cars all the way around the famous Road America course.
These days we've become accustomed to seeing father-and-son teams at car shows, only lately, dad's the one driving the American muscle while junior is often seen polishing a slammed import. So you can imagine our delight when we spotted Joseph Huston's '69 Caprice, which was accompanied by a display board showing then-14-year-old Huston with a grinder taking the big Chevy's rusted flanks to bare steel. It seems that Huston the senior went to high school with the Chevy's previous owner back in the early '70s, and he remembered that the car had been parked in a barn since about 1972. The Hustons convinced the owner to sell, and Joseph got a crash course in automotive restoration. Obviously a quick study, Joseph performed nearly all the work himself, save for some final panel smoothing and the application of paint. The original 427 and TH400 still perform flawlessly, as proven during Joseph's 800-mile round trip.
It's amazing how so many of the valuable cars from the '60s and '70s were actually nearly worthless prior to the musclecar boom of the mid-'80s. We've all heard stories of super-rare factory cars that were traded off for pickup trucks or motorcycles, or simply junked, but this tale has a happier outcome. Back around 1981, Steve Glubke was a young guy looking for a home for his recently completed Hemi engine so he could go drag racing. As luck would have it, he happened upon a '64 Dodge two-door sedan that was already set up for the strip, less motor and trans, and it only had 1,200 miles on the clock since it had been raced from new. Steve bought the car, and then went back a week later with more cash to purchase the aluminum front body panels--that's right, Steve had bought himself an original Chrysler factory drag car. Today, the car wears a beautiful paint job in the original shade of red (the doorjambs and interior are still original and perfect) and the odometer reads just over 2,000 miles. The Hemi is still installed, but Steve also has a correctly dated '64 Max Wedge on a stand at home.
Larry Long/Bill Uttitch
"I've got a story for you," were nearly the first words out of Larry Long's mouth when we met him at the Nats. Larry trekked all the way from Boulder, Colorado, to come to the show, but that wasn't the story he was referring to. Instead, he proceeded to tell us about the program he and fellow autobody-repair instructor Bill Uttitch had begun at Boulder Tech vocational school where they teach. It seems Larry, a hard-core Olds enthusiast, had acquired a rusty '71 Cutlass coupe as a parts car when he had the idea to donate it to the school and have the students convert it into a race car. Part of the inspiration came from the High School Drags racing program at Denver's Bandimere Raceway. The school liked the idea, and the plan was set in motion. As hoped, the students swarmed to the project, and the body was straightened out while the engine--an Olds 350--was freshened, all at the school by students. The multihued graphics on the car's nose represent the colors of all the schools affiliated with Boulder Tech, and when school's out, Larry and Bill take the car to shows for fun and public relations. Check them out at www.bvsd.k12.co.us, and then select the Technical Education Center link.
'32 Ford and '66 Olds
Brad Hollenbeck of Andover, Minnesota, comes from a family of automotive enthusiasts, so it's no surprise that he's one himself. In fact, it's his intention to pass the torch to the next generation, so when his daughter was born, he picked up a new project car. The '66 Olds Delta 88 convertible seemed like a good driver that the whole family would be able to enjoy, and after several years of working on it while also using it as transportation, it was transformed into the slick cruiser seen here. Recently, Brad's grandfather decided it was time to pass on one of his treasures, and he handed the keys to his all-steel '32 Ford coupe to Brad. Grandpa had purchased the Deuce 20 years ago as a street-rod project and transformed it from a channeled, fenderless hot rod to the lovingly detailed resto rod also seen here. It's still chopped, but the rest of the body is nearly stock. Underneath lies a small-block Chevy, Turbo 350 trans, and a Ford 8-inch rear. When Brad took over the '32, he handed his Olds over to his wife, but the kids are already asking when they'll get the keys.
Everyone remembers his or her first car. For most of us, that meant an abused machine that probably succumbed to an ignoble and early death. Not so with Travis Howe and Crystal Oevering. Sharing a common interest in early Camaros, they pooled their high school graduation money to buy a seriously abused '69 SS 396 Camaro. Friends and family questioned this move as a waste of good cash. The two ignored these admonitions and focused on resurrecting the early F-body. The only break occurred in the midst of this thrash long enough for the pair to get married. After two years and roughly a $15,000 investment, Travis and Crystal have been rewarded with this beautiful big-block. Now all the family and friends want to do is go for a ride and tell them what a great job they did.
"This was our life for the last two years," Crystal said of the resto job. They had help with the outstanding paint and body work, but the Howes supplied all of the rest of the rehabilitation and detail. When asked if he questioned whether he could complete such a major project, Travis said "You can't be afraid of it. If you screw it up, you just go back and do it again." The Howes are now considering using this first transformation as a springboard to build a small family business out of their Minnesota home.
One of the highlights of the Car Craft Street Machine Nationals series is the Castrol Syntec-sponsored Werx Performance mobile dyno. This year's Summer Nationals added Minnesota excitement to the series as the dyno challenge turned into a heated battle between Carl Finney and Bob Brynteson, both from the mosquito state.
To make this a little more interesting, we showed up with two custom Dyno Challenge jackets for the top two horsepower producers in two categories: Normally Aspirated and Power Adder. When the wheels finally stopped spinning and the spent nitrous dissipated, Carl Finney and his Rat-motivated '29 Ford Coupe had laid down a nitrous-assisted 904 hp and 828 lb-ft of torque to take the top spot. Bob Brynteson fell just short of Finney's effort with 890 horses also coaxed with laughing gas. But Brynteson edged Finney out on the motor-only side with 614 hp to Finney's 582. So, both Minnesota natives went home with a new addition to their wardrobe. Both participants also wanted to thank the T/N/T Raceshop of Blaine, Minnesota, for helping set up these impressive cars. Honorable mention goes to John Garner of Hobert, Washington, whose street-driven centrifugally supercharged '90 Mustang convertible punished the rollers to the tune of 670 hp.
Carl Finney of Coon Rapids, Minnesota, brought his '29 Ford out to wage war on the dyno ro
...An Edelbrock Super Victor intake and Holley 1,250-cfm HP handle induction chores, while
...An Edelbrock Super Victor intake and Holley 1,250-cfm HP handle induction chores, while
Normally aspirated honors went to Bob and Joe Brynteson of Blaine, Minnesota, and their bi
...The Brynteson motor also relies on an NOS Big Shot unit. The big-block laid down 614 hp
This year's running of the Car Craft Summer Nationals, sponsored by Flowmaster, set new at
Long-time musclecar fans will remember Berger Chevrolet as one of the dealers that produce
Troy Trepanier's latest wonder car is the Chicayne--a '62 Chevy Biscayne commissioned by B
Some folks have been attending the Nats longer than we have.
The Minnesota SS Club was out in force displaying its members' late-model B-bodies, wagons
Some readers may recognize Jeff Schwartz's name--he won our Real Street Eliminator last fa
Cruising is sort of an unofficial activity at the event. Some cruisers are just on their w
One of the sub-gatherings that has evolved at St. Paul is Mopar Alley, an entire lane of n
Now if we could only find girls who think like this 20 years later.
Although this is a Car Craft show, other sects of the automotive hobby were out in force.
...but both feature "active" suspensions that get lots of attention when demonstrated, reg