Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Cars in Yards: 1977 Cobra II Mustang

Grill front bumper of white and red 1977 Mustang II Cobra II

Snakes on a Pinto. This was not the sequel to a popular movie destined for B grade fame, this was the “new” Mustang with an all-new body for 1974. So new, in fact, they called it the “Mustang II.” I do seem to remember these overlooked cars from the extreme graphic era to be met with some degree of resistance from the automotive crowd of Philistines. 
  “A Pinto with snakes on it” was a phrase used by a friend of mine to describe the car that had just out ran me. My deep rooted GM ego hopes that car was a bit more than that under the hood.

Gauges of white and red 1977 Mustang II Cobra II
25,466 showing on the odometer of the 1977 Cobra II. Guessing it rolled over once?

Long-term parking

  We found a leftover from this love/hate era and had to photograph it. Presenting in Polar White with Bright Red stripes. Ta dah! A real 1977 Cobra II Mustang! This example was recently rescued from a long slumber and further proof that time is no match for the harsh Alabama elements. Time waits for no Mustang. By now the Cobra II, was mainly an appearance package with no indigenous go fast parts. It could be had with a 4-speed, but this example was equipped with an automatic. 

Engine bay packed with a V8 in the 1977 Mustang II Cobra II
A 130hp 302-V8 powers the Mustang II Cobra.

Eight is better than four
  Under the hood was not much fun. It was a V8 though. The dependable rolling 5.0 they offered in some form or another for years before and years to come. Ford didn’t even give you a 4-barrel carburetor, but hold your fire... it was a terrible performance era with souring fuel prices. They did (or didn’t do) what they had to do to keep everyone happy. Mine would have gotten heads, cam, intake and carb almost immediately. This example was pretty complete sans the air condition compressor. 

A plaid interior complement the white and red exterior.

Owner details
  This Cobra II was purchased in 1984 when the current owner returned from service in the Army to find his driveway empty. His father sold his precious Pontiac that he thought was waiting for him in the garage. The Cobra II was a affordable and it served him well for many years. He recalls commuting from Birmingham to Atlanta. He said it was comfortable and it handled well. He liked it enough to hang on to it for all these years but he is currently in a conflict about what to do with it. We vote that the owner should keep it and fix it. That is usually how we vote, never ask Junkyard Life if you should keep a car. If he decides not to keep it, we here at Junkyard Life hope it finds a good home.

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life: The Story Beneath the Rust

(Editor’s Note: After the “Time waits for no Mustang” line, Junkyard Life staffer Ron Kidd is now assigned to write “I will not turn quotes into bad puns” 500 times on the Junkyard Life chalkboard. He was warned.)

Parked since 1984, the weather hasn't been kind.
Ford built more than 1.1 million Mustang IIs during their 1974-1978 production run.

Ron’s Mustang II Fun Facts

  • Farrah Fawcett helped sell a few ponies when she drove a blue/white Cobra II on the hit 1970’s Charlie’s Angels. It was a 1976 model and I found some speculation that an identical 1977 model may have been used as well. 
  • Ford hopped on the hood graphics bandwagon. It took on a new meaning to the phrase, “look at me!” The King Cobra model utilized a cool spider image on the hood, joining the ranks of the Golden Eagle Jeep, The Pontiac Trans Am and the GMC Sprint.
  • The fate of the Mustang II was to provide front ends to many classic street rods. Why? Because they had disc brakes and rack and pinion power steering that easily transferred to 30’s and 40’s hot rods for an easy update of comfort and safety. 
  • The Mustang II has been regarded as the least favorite of Mustang enthusiasts. As time goes by, they are beginning to come into their own in collector circles. You know the rule – whatever the world didn’t like then becomes the thing we want the most now.
  • The Mustang II was offered in a hatchback and notchback sedan.
  • Despite what critics said in the day, the Mustang II shared very little with the Ford Pinto. 
  • A highly intoxicated woman called me in 1995 and accused me of disabling her 1978 Mustang II and said she had a warrant for my arrest. It really was a wrong number. I’m glad someone disabled it because this woman should not have been driving anything.
  • The Cobra II package was really an appearance package that gave you a cool hood scoop, spoilers and bold graphics. I couldn’t help but notice this Cobra II had a tachometer. 

Got a classic car in your driveway? Send us details!  Send emails to Jody Potter at junkyardbull@gmail.com and Ron Kidd at Kidd403@bellsouth.net.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Road Trip 2019: PART 1 - Three guys, four junkyards, seven racetracks and Power Tour

Shotgun! Junkyard Life set off on the mother-of-all round-trip, road trips during this year's 25th Hot Rod Power Tour. We crammed our gear into the much-too small for eight days on the road, heavily-modified, 1966 Chevrolet Impala. It's an LS-powered, All-Wheel-Drive beast. We planned to beat on the high-mile junkyard engine during high-speed blast at race tracks and on the backroads to junkyards. while trying to avoid speeding tickets between our destinations. Odds were good that we could at least get lost in the pack with thousands of fellow Hot Rod Power Tour participants should we get caught with our foot acting stupid.

Georgia on my mind
  Our first stop was H.L. Hodges Auto Parts in Monroe, Georgia. The yard is run by three sisters who are planning to close the business by the end of 2019. The sisters, Harreitte Hodges, Terri Hodges and Holly Couch, took over the business when their brother, Hugh Lamar Hodges, passed away 10 years ago. 
  Family-owned for many decades but the strain of maintaining a salvage yard and other careers has taken a toll. Many of the cars have been sold off or scrapped. Before the year is out the rest will be scrapped as well. We found plenty of cars and trucks worth saving. We plan to go back, before it's too late!

Lots of old iron at H.L Hodges in Monroe, Georgia.

Load'em up
  We hit the road again with Concord, North Carolina as the next destination. The weather forecast was great for ducks. We hit rain right off the bat but that didn't deter us. The 25th anniversary of the Hot Rod Power Tour awaited us at Lowes Motor Speedway. 
  Check-in, goodie bags then we grabbed dinner after a 700 mile day of driving. 13 hours spent riding and climbing in-and-out of the 1966 Impala that would be our home for many more hours during the next week.

Part 2: We head to Martinsville, Virginia.

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life: The Story Beneath the Rust

Saturday, July 13, 2019

WATCH: Crushing Junk Cars in Alabama

Big orange EZ Crusher has hydraulic cylinders that pull from top down to crush cars and trucks.

Crunch time! Cars get bashed and tossed around as a mobile car crusher tackles a storage lot full of junk cars in Alabama. The local "I Buy Junk Cars" guy was liquidating his inventory. A big, orange E-Z Crusher was helping him make money every time it flattened a car.

Metal money
Steve Argo, owner of the junk cars, was turning metal into money. Flattening cars means more mashed metal will fit onto a flatbed trailer. Packed trailers hauling more metal to the recycler means more money per load.
Metal prices fluctuate throughout the year. When metal prices are up, the junk car buyers are out hauling in junk to recycle and the crusher stays busy. When prices are down the storage lot stays filled with junk cars. The crusher is silent and grandma's junk car doesn't get hauled away.

I want a deal
Also, when prices are down it is a good time for your average Joe to score some cheap junk out of somebody's yard. Whether it's because the person is violating a city ordinance, by having an inoperable vehicle in the road or yard, or the family finally decides to let go of dad's old, rusty Chevelle, Firebird, Mustang, etc. The junk car buyers don't offer much when scrap prices are down. Grandma will gladly take your $300 instead of the junk man's $150 offer.
Argo crushed the majority of the lot (on this day several years ago) but saved a 1972 Chevelle, a late 1970s Corvette, and a couple of Firebirds to sell as whole cars.

I bought it for $800, non-running condition.
1980 Pontiac Trans Am in storage lot at "I Buy Junk Cars." I worked out a deal and had the non-running Bird delivered to my house.

I got a deal
I bought the primer-colored 1980 Pontiac Trans Am for $800. It was not running and I had to follow-up with a previous owner to track down the title. It all worked out for me. I got the battered Trans Am running and sent it to another home. It needed more work than I was willing to give. Too much Bondo and decades of abuse plus. In hindsight, I shoulda kept it.
At least I can say that I saved the car from the carnage of the crusher.
Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life: The Story Beneath the Rust

This red 1972 Chevrolet Chevelle with black vinyl top was not crushed. How it ended up in the hands of "I Buy Junk Cars" is anyone's guess? 

The round tail lights on the 1972 Chevrolet Chevelle are my favorite. A 1970 Chevelle front end looks great with these. Makes you wonder what happened at GM? Four round tail lights seem like a perfect match with the four headlights.

1992 Firebird waiting high in the air for its turn in the crusher.

Black third generation Corvette was also found on the "I Buy Junk Cars" storage lot. It was not crushed.

Side view of Black third generation Corvette on the "I Buy Junk Cars" storage lot. It was saved from the crusher.

Flattened cars are stacked and wrapped in netting to keep loose parts from flying off during transport on a flatbed trailer.

I'm guessing the car crusher was rented. Workers moved quickly to crush as many cars as possible.

A fresh stack of crushed cars is ready to wrap and get hauled to the recycler for money.

Have you saved a classic or muscle car from the car crusher Send us details!  Send emails to Jody Potter at junkyardbull@gmail.com or Ron Kidd at Kidd403@bellsouth.net.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Cars in Yards: 1974 Corvette, the family car fairy tale with a 4-speed

A 4-speed was the ticket for this Harley-Davisdson owner.

Family car Corvette. Imagine the ultimate Corvette fairy tale. One where dad decides to bring home a hot rod instead of a grocery getter. We all wish our dads would have done something like this! Kent Roberts pulled off the all-time best excuse to buy a 4-speed Vette. 
  Some guys are really good at math. Division is a great skill to have when you have real life math problems, such as Roberts' growing family transportation problem. He had a wife and a daughter and was about to have another. This sounds like a very common occurrence. The ‘I need a family car-thing’ has happened to many of us car guys. The only problem was, Roberts' main mode of transportation was a motorcycle. 
  Now that TWO girls would be occupying the back seat, his wife was rather insistent. 
  “You must get rid of the motorcycle and get a car!”
  When will wives and girlfriends learn that, with car guys, you must be specific? She wasn’t. That was where she went wrong. Roberts got a car all right. Oh, did he ever — a 1974 Corvette complete with an L82 and a 4-speed! So, with the motorcycle already (technically) having two seats... he was only a little more ergonomic.

Roberts bought a 4-speed Vette because his wife told him it was time to get rid of his motorcycle.

Simple math
  How does four divide into two? Despite not having an engineering degree, somehow for Roberts, it did. We figure that he must have had experience in Chinese jigsaw, because it worked for him. A wife, two kids and a really cool set of wheels. Mr. Roberts — you are a king.
  Let's go a little deeper into this family car scenario. Roberts knew he wanted a 4-speed. 
“Quadragear me!,” he declared. 
  Although, when Roberts was set to search for a suitable replacement for the motorcycle, he wasn’t necessarily focused on a Corvette. But when he found this 1974 example, it did indeed have proper criteria — the 4-speed. This was it. This was his car. Sold!

1974 was the first year for the body-colored rear bumper cover on the Corvette.

“What? I did get a car”

  The Vette was equipped with the higher horse L82-350 engine. It was a cool power plant indeed. Making 250 grocery-getting horsepower, it could get to softball practice in a hurry. It was the lack of a commodious back seat or trunk that was the problem. Roberts could indeed pick up the child, but the glove and bat would have to wait for the next bus. Imagine the negotiating skills this man must possess.

An L82 option 250hp/350-V8 is tucked beneath the fiberglass body.

Digging deeper 
  1974 was a series of first and lasts (see Fun Facts) and this Corvette was special enough for Roberts to hold onto for 38 years. The Vette was quick, fun and in retrospect, really didn’t use too much fuel. Gearing was perfect! Nothing less than a 3:08 gear ratio was available on this car. This was impressive for 1974, but Roberts knew the potential potency of the small block Chevrolet. He wanted more!
  A new set of aluminum heads found their way to the top of the L82, bumping the 9-to-1 compression up significantly. The cam was already lifting those valves high enough, so Roberts right foot was about to have a party.

Weathered emblem on nose of 1974 Corvette.

Color me brown
  We thought from a distance that this car was another color but this ’74 Vette was repainted at some milestone along the way. We (Ron) mistakenly thought it was the color we can’t pronounce easily. Don’t make us say it, but if we goof up the name Mille Miglia Red, forgive us, for we now know this example was born code 968 Dark Brown. Whew! We can pronounce that one!
  Chevrolet allowed GM to have their way with the interior colors. A handsome saddle hue in leather was the choice of the original owner. Chevrolet let you pick the exterior color, but the interior was only slightly negotiable. Only four colors were available to accent your favorite Corvette flavor. That narrowed it down a lot. Sometimes they offered five choices, but for the most part Chevrolet dictated that four was plenty enough. Whomever picked this combination did an exquisite job and had impeccable taste.

Only 6,690 L82-equipped Corvettes were produced among the 37,502 total in 1974.

Do you want to?
  Roberts has shared the life adventure with this car long enough for it to become part of the family. He cranks it regularly and has no intention of parting with it anytime soon. (Editor’s Note: This did not stop Ron from shamelessly handing Roberts a list of potential buyers, which was nothing more than a piece of paper with Ron’s name on it.) We here at Junkyard Life understand. 
  Thank you, Mr. Roberts for showing us a really cool car with an even better story!

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life: The Story Beneath the Rust

Brown velour seats in the 1974 Corvette.

Tachometer was replaced from a vehicle with electronic ignition when Roberts swapped ignition system from points and condenser.

Front and rear bumper covers were replaced after Roberts bought to Vette around 1981.

1974 was the last year you could buy a Corvette without a catalytic converter.

Saddle interior components complement the 4-speed stick inside Roberts' 1974 Corvette Stingray.

Unmistakeable profile on these third-generation Vettes.

The L82 350-V8 pumped out 250hp.
The Corvette shift plate alerts all to the horsepower under the right foot. The L82 350-V8 pumped out 250hp and 285-ft lbs of torque.

Stingray emblem is long gone but not forgotten.

A base sport coupe Vette cost around $6,000 in 1974. Looks like any "old" Corvette will eventually be worth more than MSRP. 

Junkyard Life’s 1974 Corvette Fun Facts 
  • 1974 was the last year for the optional LS4 454 engine. It was advertised at only 20 more HP (270) but admitted to a tire shredding 380 ft-lbs of torque at only 2800 RPM. 
  • 1974 was the first year with two non-chrome bumpers. This gave us an idea of what the Corvette had in store for us aesthetically in the coming years of the 1970’s. 
  • 1974 was supposed to be the last year for the ultra cool and dare we say sexy finned wheel covers-but it wasn’t! They stopped offering them in 1973. Boo. We do love the Corvette specific 15x8 Rally Wheel. Okay, fine. They are enticing as well.
  • Junkyard Life was wrong about the initial color of this car by a long shot. How could we mistake Mille Miglia Red for Dark Brown? This was not the "Little Red Corvette" that Prince told us about. 
  • Roberts entertained the idea of painting the Vette a pearl white. He even started some of the color change process. Then he experienced some degree of sticker shock when he found out how ridiculously expensive the pearl-based paint is. 
  • For drag racers, a Corvette was a sure path to the famed “4-bolt main” engines. This means there were four bolts on the main caps holding the crankshaft down instead of two. More insurance your motor will not fly apart at high RPMs.
  • Corvette’s name was defined as a highly maneuverable warship used as an escort. The association was not lost on American Airmen, as the Corvette proved to be very popular with pilots.
  • There is an irony to the origin of the (Ron’s mistaken color) Mille Miglia. This is a reference to an Italian endurance race that covers one thousand miles. The race began in 1927 and when it was resurrected, it limited the cars entered to be produced no later than 1957. The irony is that the 1974 Corvette would be too “new.” (Editor’s Note: Ron got the color so wrong, we made him look up the origin of the name
  • During the space race, there was a time when astronauts were presented with a new Corvette.

Share your car story? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Jody Potter at junkyardbull@gmail.com & Ron Kidd at Kidd403@bellsouth.net

Stick shift Corvettes command our attention no matter the vintage.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Behind the scenes of a "Roadkill" show episode at the 2019 Hot Rod Power Tour

Freiburger sits on the roof of a 1972 Ford Maverick while Mike Finnegan attempts a head stand on the fender of the beater car.

Roadkilling it! Junkyard Life buckled into a modified, all-wheel-drive 1966 Chevy Impala and ran into some greasy-handed celebrities on this year’s 25th edition of the Hot Rod Power Tour. 
  During our 2,500-mile road trip we stumbled across the Roadkill crew in the parking lot outside Bristol Motor Speedway. A small film crew wearing black Roadkill t-shirts, armed with camera gear and umbrellas, fought a big downpour as they hustled around a minivan wearing Tennessee plates. Their sights were set on a toasty-looking 1972 Ford Maverick. 
  We gravitated toward that car, which was covered in all shades of ugly. A State of California automobile title was on the dash of the Maverick, tucked inside a plastic sleeve with “paid cash $2800” scribbled in black ink. 

We saw it at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee.
A 1972 Ford Maverick was Roadkill's beater brought to kick-off their daily title-swap plan during the 2019 Hot Rod Power Tour.

Who wants it?
  The four-door Maverick would soon be part of a new episode of David Freiburger and Mike Finnegan’s latest Roadkill storyline. Their goal was to trade titles and drive a different car every day that they were a part of the Hot Rod Power Tour. They reached out on social media for Roadkill fans to bring a ratty car and their title to the Hot Rod Power Tour. Would-be traders also needed to bring lots of nerve if they were willing to trade their vehicle for whatever junk Roadkill would be driving and trading that day. The deals and ownership would be final.

Price paid was $2800.
A State of California title sat on the dash of the Maverick. "Paid cash $2800" and "RK 87" scribbled in black ink on the title's plastic sleeve.

Look over there!
  As luck would have it, we were parked near the Maverick, taking shelter from the rain under a tent beside the Junkyard Life, all-wheel-drive 1966 Chevy Impala. It was close enough to jump up and watch the fun when the cameras began rolling.

Cameras, light poles, and rain slick asphalt surrounded the duo.
David Freiburger, left, and Mike Finnegan work on a segment for a Roadkill episode at Bristol Motor Speedway during the 2019 Hot Rod Power Tour. Cameras, light poles, fans and rain washed asphalt surrounded the duo.

Lights, camera, action! And repeat that, louder
  Freiburger and Finnegan made quick work of their hot rod hi-jinx while loud exhaust rumbled past and fans and gawkers gathered around the spectacle. At one point Freiburger climbed up onto the hood and sat on the roof of the Maverick while Finnegan attempted a headstand on the driver’s side fender. It was all in fun to accentuate the craziness of their proposition. The crowd was loved it. 

Freiburger and Finnegan laugh it up with the next owner of the 1972 Ford Maverick.

Trade time
  A fellow with a long beard showed up holding the keys to his 1979 Jeep J10 4x4 truck. The first “victim” of the even swap shenanigans had arrived. 
  I asked the Jeep owner if he thought the J10 would make it to the end of the Hot Rod Power Tour road trip.
  “I dunno, we’ll see?” 
  The look on his face seemed a bit unsure but he was decked out in a Finnegan Speed & Marine baseball cap and Roadkill t-shirt. He wouldn’t trade them a bum steer, would he?

Roadkill stars chatting up the first title trader in Bristol, Tennessee.

Good fun
  During and after, the short, 30-minutes-or-so of filming, Freiburger and Finnegan posed for photos and signed autographs for fans young and old. They were friendly and charmed the crowd. All the while staying focused on the job at hand and smiling despite interruptions while they worked on scenes for the first trade segment. 
  Easy work for the guys who put the "fun" in malfunction and have perfected the genre of junkyard engineering fueled by wild ideas during the last seven years and counting.  
  The duo tries to keep the Roadkill ideas fresh while negotiating self-inflicted automotive nightmares that many gear heads have experienced. They build dream cars from the scrap heap and create cheapo solutions while burning rubber in the name of automotive fun. 

The Roadkill guys happily pose for pics and sign autographs for fans.
Junkyard Life meets Roadkill. Jody Potter jumps at the chance to meet Freiburger and Finnegan. 

Trade details
  • Trade 1: Bristol Motor Speedway - 1972 Ford Maverick for 1979 Jeep J10 4x4 truck.

  • Trade 2: Kentucky Speedway - 1979 Jeep J10 4x4 truck for 1987 Pontiac Fiero "Guy Fiero" or also known as the Baja Fiero.

  • Trade 3: Lucas Oil Raceway Indianapolis, IN - 1987 Pontiac Fiero "Guy Fiero"  for 1963 Plymouth Belvedere.

  • Trade 4: War Memorial Coliseum in Ft Wayne, IN - 1963 Plymouth Belvedere for Fox Body Mustang notchback. 

Swapping titles
  The Roadkill guys managed to pull off four trades during their title-swapping road trip. When they landed at the final stop of the 2019 Hot Rod Power Tour in Norwalk, Ohio they held the keys to a Fox Body Mustang. They spun the tires on the Mustang even after limping it to the track on less than all cylinders. 
  “We ended up giving the Fox back to the guy we got it from,” said Freiburger. “So he got the Plymouth AND his Mustang back!”
  Call it a goodwill gesture or part of the Roadkill master plan. They avoided the cost of avoid hauling a car home by giving the Fox Body back to the guy who traded it for the ’63 Plymouth (we spotted it on a rollback). That earns huge respect from fans and adds to the number of people willing to trade, should their be a next time. 

More roads ahead
  For those two people who don’t know about RoadkillIt's a streaming MotorTrend Channel show, that brings in tons of viewers. Before it went subscription-based, the first 82 free episodes have earned more than 40 million views on YouTube of as of June 2019. New Roadkill episodes, produced after October 1, 2018, became available on the MotorTrendOnDemand subscription service. 
  Freiburger and Finnegan continue to grow their brand of old school know-how and junkyard projects in the modern age via smart phones, computers and smart TVs. Ironic, yes? The success is unquestionable.  

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life: The Story Beneath the Rust

Junkyard Life crew crammed into a modified all-wheel-drive 1966 Chevy Impala to become a long hauler on the 25th Hot Rod Power Tour.

Freiburger and Finnegan chat with the first "victim" of the Roadkill title swap.

A 1979 Jeep J10 4x4 made the cut as the first trade. The ’72 Ford Maverick found a new owner (bearded man).

Bristol Motor Speedway, the home of short-track NASCAR racing, was the backdrop for Day 3 of the 2019 HRPT.

Freiburger (flip flops) and Finnegan (flat bill cap) at it again in their standard Roadkill black t-shirts.

Do you have a classic or muscle car barn find? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Jody Potter at junkyardbull@gmail.com