Home Travel Stories Destinations OOCC CORVETTE TRIP Part 4- GTO Nationals, Dayton, OH
OOCC CORVETTE TRIP Part 4- GTO Nationals, Dayton, OH PDF Print E-mail
Written by Double Dragon
Thursday, 24 March 2011 10:12

One Owner Collector Car- CORVETTE TRIP Part 4- GTO Nationals- Dayton, Ohio


Writing and photography copyright D. S. Brown

_______DAY 17___________________________________________________________

Milwaukee, New Berlin, WI/ Le Roy, IL/ Indianapolis, Richmond, IN

POCI/ GTOAA Co-Vention

For the first time POCI (Pontiac and Oakland Club International) and GTOAA (GTO Association Of America) were teaming up to hold the hugest Pontiac meet of all time. Never had there such a large gathering of Pontiac faithful before.

I was heading to the heart of the biggest Pontiac convention ever held in history in a Chevrolet Corvette.


A decades old feud had raged between 'C3 Shark’ Corvette owners and the second generation Pontiac Firebird Trans Am owners.

The Chevy/ Pontiac rivalry wasn’t as feverish as the one between the Porsche and Corvette people but it was well known enough for both Car & Driver and Road Test to make comment. In their tests they complained that the Corvette was often piloted by gold chain wearing midlife crisis guys. They also derided the emasculated 1970s Vette as the car of choice for blonde secretaries. The Trans Am was hailed as the last 'real man’s car'.

Of course, Corvette people smirked about Burt Reynolds and the Smokey and the Bandit movies. The Trans Am giant hood decal and the scoops and spats and spoilers became passé around the same time disco died. Towards the end of the 1970s the Corvette was faster and had better handling numbers, but the T/A was the only USA performance car packing 400 cubes.

The T/A handled almost as well as the Corvette, but importantly, it was much more predictable while doing it without the hassle of the Vettte's finicky IRS altered turning trajectories. Many magazines chose the T/A as the handling champion due to the confidence the no fuss handling inspired.

My appreciation for cars crosses the invisible walls. I have driven plenty of 1970s T/As and Vettes and enjoyed each for its merits. However, let's not kid ourselves. There are rabid guys out there frothing at the mouth with Brand Loyalty denouncing all cars other than their chosen ones as junk. They won't understand that I like different brands: they will just see The Enemy!

I was counting on the Chev/ Pontiac divide being less pronounced than the Ford/ Chevy rift. The Ford/ Chevy feud; particularly fine tuned with Mustang/ Camaro guys, is vicious. These guys have far more in common than say, a Mustang owner and a Honda Civic owner would, but the Mustang/ Camaro guys reserve their animosity for one another.

In the big scheme of things, all this hatred actually fuels something useful. Competition goads manufacturers to seek constant improvement. Chrysler's desire to own NASCAR led to the street Hemi. Henry Ford's rage against Ferrari gave us the GT-40 and 'Total Performance'. The giant aftermarket market exists solely due to owner pride and rivalries.

The passing of the years has mellowed some brand wars to the point where many car shows have The Big Three cars side by side and everyone is happy to be there. Hopefully things would be relaxed when I pulled into a sea of Pontiacs in a loud Corvette.

I just like the way the old Corvette Sharks look. I had the exact same instant infatuation when I first saw a Black 1969 Pontiac GTO or Maroon 1968 Cougar or a Plum Crazy 1970 Plymouth Cuda 340. There aren't many cars that are works of art. To me the brand is less relevant than the particular model.

In elementary school Corvettes made a big impression on us kids. My friends and I were peering into the submarine like black interior of a dark blue chrome bumper Shark Corvette in awe. It looked like some kind of spaceship inside there! My buddies and I earnestly promised each other we would one day own one.

Aside from the outrageous curves and imagery of the car they are great handling cars, and because they are so lightweight even the smog motor Vettes are quick.

Corvette haters

A gearhead motorcycle nut told me stories of gang wars between the cycle guys from the east side and the west side rich 'car creeps'. The ultimate 'car creep' vehicle was the Corvette. Motorcycle guys hated Vettes, Trans Am guys hated them, Porsche guys hated them, Mopar guys hated them... the list is seemingly infinite.

Oh, well. I would deal with being in the wrong car at the wrong place when it happened.

I followed Tom's advice to loop outside of Milwaukee and run wide in my southern slide to avoid the toll roads and heavy traffic in Chicago. After rush hour died down around 10 am I gassed up at Dick's Westridge station on W Small Road in a suburb west of Milwaukee named New Berlin. The entrance to busy Interstate 94 funneled me south at a leisurely pace.

Jack's & Love's, LeRoy

I made it into LeRoy, Illinois by dinnertime. Jack's Cafe on E Sunset Drive served good food at good prices. I gassed up at a Love's station on S Persimmon Drive and rejoined the heavy traffic. The Vette made good time just staying with traffic flow.

The I-74 took me to Indianapolis, Indiana. I enjoy driving around in strange cities learning the main routes and taking it in. There is nothing that burns up time quicker than driving at night. I had music playing on the stereo with the guttural thrum of the engine providing a backbeat. With perfect timing Charlie Musselwhite "I'm a Stranger" began played on the car stereo.


Blips of neon and brightness popped up occasionally after stretches of somber dark hulking dead buildings. New sights and street names glided past my window as I drove randomly here and there.

Back on the interstate the sparse traffic let me open up the car to clean out the secondaries in a nice late night blast of power. Leaving Indianapolis I switched to the I-70 and entered Richmond, Indiana at midnight and gassed up at Meijer Gas on Chester Blvd. In New Paris and Richmond I got off the I-70 and headed south east on Highway 35. I crashed out in the car.

______DAY 18___________________________________________________________________

Eaton, Dayton, Beavercreek, Fairborn, OH

Eaton to Dayton

Highway 35 south led to a Pilot station in Eaton, Ohio. I bought a pint of milk and ate some cereal. Highway 35 carried me east into Dayton, Ohio and then into Beavercreek where I gassed up.

Dayton is known as the birthplace of motorized flight. The highway wall shown in the photo below features relief sculptures of early flight.

oocc corvette trip dayton oh wall of flight highway

At first it seems confusing, because we all know that the Wright brothers first went airborn in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. The birthplace of flight is officially assigned to Dayton because the conceptualization and preparation all happened in the city of Dayton. Ohio is also the State that has supplied the most United States born astronauts.

I continued over to the GTO Nats being held at the Ervin J. Nutter Center which is the sports arena for Wright State University in Fairborn, Ohio.

The Nutter Convention Center is on the outskirts of town on 3640 Colonel Glenn Highway right at the off ramp. A parade of Pontiacs crept forwards. My attempts to slink into this show in a Chevy under the radar were doomed. To get to guest parking you had to circle the entire venue in plain view of every single showgoer present.

The pounding Vette engine boomed off the asphalt as the headers burbled and popped. The slow moving line of cars and speed bumps forced me down below 5 mph. The slow pace submerged the engine beneath gaps and misses as the performance cam spat and growled. The snorting engine threatened to foul all the plugs or stall. I was forced to use frequent throttle blips to keep it alive, making the car even more blatantly visible. So much for a stealth arrival.

Every head turned and stared with mainly quizzical but mercifully few hostile looks. Thankfully only one guy out of the entire crowd of people was actually pissed off. A red faced guy with a goatee screamed,

"Get that Chevy piece of shit out of here!"

Everyone looked embarrassed and instantly distanced themselves like the Red Sea parting. Most of the showgoers were here for fun and camaraderie not to perpetuate imaginary feuds.

Criss Cross Cars

I parked beside a modern Maroon Grand Prix in the lot. The guy who owned it smiled and said,

"My other car is a Vette."

I laughed and said,

"My other car is a Pontiac."

We noted that our cars were very close in color. Soon he had the hood popped to show me the supercharger. He enthused about how well the Grand Prix had driven on the road trip getting to the show. This nice encounter erased the screaming goatee guy bad vibes from earlier.

The entire parking lot was filled with amazing Pontiacs; mainly muscle cars but also some vintage early vehicles and some full size family type cars that remained in original condition. Amazingly the entire parking lot was free of 22 inch wheels and giant stereos or tubbed cars with green flames. Guys were keeping these cars in the spirit of the time period they were from. Some cars were 'Day Two' but with appropriate looking 14 or 15 inch Cragar S/S mags or Torque Thrusts.

1969 GTO Royal Bobcat RA V CARS magazine test car

69 gto ram air V royal pontiac turqoise

The outer ring on the top floor of the auditorium served as a tour of Pontiac history. The first car I saw was the 1969 GTO Bobcat Ram Air V shown above. Hi Performance CARS tested this car in a Florida test of the Ram Air V. See the full story on this car in the 20 YEARS PLUS section of this website.

More history overwhelmed my senses: the first disc brake experimental car, the 1970 red GTO convertible brochure car, John Sawruk's black 1971 GT-37 (see some of these cars profiled in the TWENTY YEARS PLUS section of this website), the Jim Wangers red 1964 GTO 421 ringer from the Car & Driver Ferrari vs. Pontiac road test. It was mind boggling. The white convertible Tri Power 4 speed GTO Motor Trend Riverside Pace Car with Hurst wheels was here nose to nose with the Gold 1965 GTO 'GeeToTiger' with Gold Hurst wheels.

gto nats nutter center main display 09

Down in the playing field area original Royal Pontiac drag cars and more Ram Air IV cars than I had seen in one place crowded the floor. There was not one, but two of the seventeen 1971 Pontiac GTO Judge convertibles on display. See Part 3 of the CORVETTE TRIP for a listing of the known 17 Judge convertibles.

Lucerne Blue 1971 GTO Judge convertible

See the story in the ONE OWNER section of this website for the tale of the very rare Judge Convertible seen below.

gto nats 71 gto judge conv lucerne blue

Quezal Gold 1971 GTO Judge convertible four speed

The second 1971 Judge convertible at the show was the Quezal Gold four speed owned by Milt Robson of Gainesville, Georgia. Milt's car, shown in the photo below was sold a year later when he thinned out his extensive car collection. What a great looking car. Aside from the Judge and convertible options it is loaded with power steering, power brakes, A/C, Rally IIs, Firestone Wide Ovals, Hurst T shifter in console, power driver's bucket seat, power windows and power locks. The interior is still about 90% original. Milt's friend Jake provided some details of the car.

71 gto judge convertible quezal gold 4 spd m robson 2009

No one knew where Milt was but today was July 8, which happened to be Milt's 74th birthday so he was presumably out at a celebratory lunch. Everyone else took off for lunch which opened up some opportunity to get photos of cars without people reflecting in the paint or blocking cars.

There was too much to see. If I drove into town to find food during the lunch rush hour it was going to consume 2 hours for certain. From a time perspective it made more sense to eat a 5 buck concession stand hamburger on the premises. It didn't make sense from a taste perspective! I downed the skimpy burger in 10 minutes and returned to the floor still hungry.

Polar White 1970 GTO Judge Ram Air IV black wing ad car

Down in the auditorium sat a Polar White 1970 GTO Judge Ram Air IV with the black wing. All evidence points towards this GTO being the same one used in the photo used for the early magazine two page layout ad titled, "After a few moments of respectful silence you may turn the page".

In conversation with Jim Wangers he commented to me that when that ad premiered at the start of the 1970 model year, Judge sales were in a slump. He attributes it to the low key white car in the ad. When pictures of an Orbit Orange Judge appeared in early 1970, sales of the Judge exploded. The Judge is a car that doesn't thrive on subtlety. Interestingly, the black spoiler on white car option was quite rare and has attracted collector interest.

The VIN on the white 1970 Judge 242370P139327 decodes as:

2= Pontiac division.
42- GTO model.
37= Two door hardtop.
0= 1970 model year.
P= Pontiac assembly plant.
139327= sequence number.

This Polar White 1970 GTO has the Judge option and the rare black rear wing option. It is equipped with a black interior, Hurst T- handle M 21 four speed, 4.33:1 Safe-T-Track rear axle, hood tachometer, Rally gauges, custom wood steering wheel, remote outside rear view mirror, remote trunk release, rear defrost, tinted glass, AM/ FM with rear speakers, fiber optics and most importantly, the potent very rare Ram Air IV engine which replaces the already tough Ram Air III engine standard in the Judge package.

Pontiac Motor Division owned it for 8 months. It likely used for the Judge promo photos and seen at displays from build date of October, 1969 until June of 1970.

The GTO was shipped to Jim Causley Pontiac Inc, Detroit, Michigan to be sold as a used car. Like other dealerships in close proximity to factories, these local dealerships often were the recipients of these special cars. To see a story on Jim Causley go to the DEALERSHIPS section of this website and look under MICHIGAN/ DETROIT.

Causley sold the GTO Judge to Jack Trusel. The GTO eventually wound up at Desert Motors, Phoenix, Arizona in 2001 in need of restoration due to those salty Detroit winters. Sheetmetal as well as mechanical and interior parts needed replacement. The GTO only showed 34,000 miles because of a spun bearing which sidelined the car earlier in its life. Rob Anderson from Texas bought the car in Jan, 2007 and finetuned the restoration in time to bring the car here to the GTO Nats.

Red 1970 GTO 455 4 speed convertible brochure car

That wasn't the only 1970 advertising car in the building. Upstairs Dean Price displayed his 1970 GTO red convertible brochure car. This was a pilot car as attested by the super low VIN number 242670P100052 which decodes as:

2= Pontiac Motor Division

42= GTO

67= Convertible

0= 1970 Model year

P= Pontiac, Michigan final assembly plant

100052= The 52nd car off the production line. That's a pretty low production number. Dean's GTO was shipped September 4, 1969 well before the introduction date for the new 1970 Pontiac models. The pilot car was shipped straight to the Pontiac Motor Division and put into photography sessions promoting the new bodystyle of the 1970 GTO. The car appeared in the dealership brochures.

As expected Dean's GTO is stacked up with options. It packs the optional 455 engine and 4 speed with wood shifter knob, hood tachometer, rally gauge cluster and G78 x 14 Whitewalls and full wheel covers. It has power steering, power brakes, power trunk deck release, power windows, AM/FM radio with rear speaker, custom seatbelts, visor mirror, remote control outside rear view mirror, and a console.

Despite showing what is generally believed to be only 65,000 original miles, the car was frame off restored due to its historical significance. Dean owned the car for 28 years before putting it up for auction at Mecum some time after the Dayton show.

The Humber: VOE 1970 GTO

A nicely restored Bermuda Blue 1970 GTO with blue interior was parked on the upper floor. This GTO is one of the few GTOs that made it out the door factory equipped with the VOE Exhaust option. Option code W73 provided the driver with a 'Tiger Button' which was in a bracket similar to the under dash Ram Air knob but it was marked 'Exhaust mode'. When you pulled a knob vacuum canisters mounted on the mufflers opened up the baffles inside the muffler to provide a deep growl.

Originally the VOE was just going to be one piece of a full system that advanced the timing and opened up the Ram Air system simultaneously. When it appeared as an exhaust control only production item it was only supposed to be offered on standard GTO engines because the vacuum required to operate the system wasn't available on idle with the Ram Air III or Ram Air IV engines which had more radical cams.

Pontiac put together a pretty hot commercial for the VOE which ran as a Jan 11, 1970 Superbowl TV ad. A cool dude pulls into a drive in with his 1970 GTO with black interior, Formula steering wheel D98 stripes (the stripes used on 1969 Judges) and hood tachometer. He proceeds to pull the underdash Tiger Button which sends burbling exhaust washing over the soundtrack. Heads turn, he appraises the girls and the other cars and heads out into the street while a rock group sings about his 'Humbler'.

Top General Motors management saw the ad and freaked out about the overt street racing youth message inherent in the commercial. The ad was yanked and the VOE option was cancelled. Only 212 GTO hardtops and 21 GTO convertibles made it out of the factory with the VOE option installed.

Inventory and tooling was supposed to be destroyed within weeks of the GM upper management clamp down. However, it seems a VOE GTO was shipped to Andy Klein Pontiac GMC April 24, 1970 which is long past the theoretical cut off date for a car to receive VOE. See the story in DEALERSHIPS filed under KANSAS.

st70 GTO VOE f

The placard in front of the VOE GTO lists the extensive additional options on this car. Aside from the rare VOE option it came equipped with 4 speed, power steering, power front disc brakes, special ride and handling package, Positraction, Rally gauge package, formula steering wheel, air conditioning, AM/ FM stereo radio. The current owner Joe, from Ohio is the second owner of the car.

70 GTO VOE rear

Suddenly it was closing time. A security guard shutting down the building began checking on the stragglers inside the suddenly quiet display area. The security guard was a genial fellow named George Sprinkles. We got into a discussion about the display of the early disc brake GTO which led to general car talk.

1983 Monte Carlo SS

George informed me that he bought a 1983 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS new from the dealer and still had it. It was stock looking but he had performed some stealth upgrades to the car to make it a true high performance musclecar. We arranged to meet up for a visit at George's house to photograph his car. See the story of George's 1983 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS in the ONE OWNER section of this website.

It was dark when I made it to my car in the virtually deserted parking lot outside Nutter Center. I hit a Tex Mex place just over the highway called Don Pablos around 9:30 pm.

A plump young girl leaning on an El Camino had attentively watched my car pull in. She was near my car smoking looking at her phone when I came out half an hour later. She asked if it was OK if she took a pic of my Vette. Marny was a waitress at a nearby restaurant waiting for her boyfriend Ken to finish his busboy shift.

Marny quickly finagled a spin in the Vette and dashed across the lot ducking inside a restaurant to ask permission from Ken. He was a very big, sweaty tattooed intimidating guy who regarded me with suspicion. After chatting about the Vette and his hot rod El Camino he thumped my shoulder and said,

"You're OK."

As the car tore into the empty night freeway Marny gave out a huge scream of delight,


Back in the parking lot she stood outside the car to watch the headlight doors pop open and shut. Unfortunately the brutish cam in the car makes it hard for the engine to generate much vacuum on idle and they often stubbornly refuse to re open.

When I told Marny about the GTO Nationals taking place just across the highway, she exclaimed,

"You're here for the Pontiac show? But you're in a Corvette?"

GTO Girl

I explained the whole twisted saga. She excitedly told me that her friend Lynn was a GTO nut and had been trying to buy a GTO a few months ago. She and Lynn were high school friends; now roommates in Dayton for the last 3 years following graduation.

Marny immediately launched into matchmaker mode. She showed me pics of her and Lynn on her phone. Lynn looked good! Marny took my photo on her cell and immediately Lynn texted back approval. Most of the time I have nothing but disdain for the modern expensive stupid gadgetry foisted upon us but this time it had actually served a useful purpose!

oocc vette dayton oh boarded buildings

Ken was stuck at work for another hour. Marny directed me through a rough area of Dayton past a series of abandoned buildings and vacant lots behind old wire fences. Progress was slow over layered asphalt patches and potholes and other bone jarring surprises that were punctuated by the rock hard suspension in the car.

oocc vette trip dayton oh old dairy building

Old manufacturing plants and empty lots rolled past. Its getting rarer and rarer to see water towers in big cities but Dayton had a few here and there.

dayton ohio water tower

An old impound lot held an Oldsmobile Toronado covered completely in rust languishing behind the wire fence. I got a photo of it the next day and it looked just as forlorn in daylight as it had in the shadows of night.

oocc vette trip dayton oh toronado impounded

The Vette rumbled up to a dark old brick apartment building.

"Is it safe to leave the car here?"

"Oh, yeah. Whenever Ken stays over he uses this spot. No one would dare mess with a car in this spot. Everyone knows him."

I was not totally convinced. Shady figures flitted around in the shadows and the area was run down. Guys in hoodies huddled around ominously. Up creaking stairs the halls smelt of smoke and age. Maybe this was a bad idea...

But when the door opened all doubt vanished. Lynn had a knockout build. She was a pale natural blonde with sharp features. Her intense personality captivated me right away. She radiated energy. Her pupils dilated when she focused on me for the first time in a way that made her eyes flash at me. I forgave the presence of a cigarette burning in her hand which is normally the end for me.

Pleasantries were exchanged about my trip and the website. Lynn talked about her hostess job in a Chinese restaurant and the GTO that got away. A friend's boyfriend was restoring a 1967 GTO factory 400 H.O. 4 speed in very rough shape. He bought an Ohio rusty 1967 GTO automatic parts car. He only took some chrome and interior trim pieces off it then dumped it for 800 bucks! Someone else scooped it up half an hour before Lynn arrived with money. The 400 H.O. project is now a rolling shell awaiting primer.

When Ken arrived he was tired and made curt conversation before he and Marny headed out to his apartment. The instant the door closed my whirlwind romance with Lynn began. That night I slept lightly. After breakfast we arranged to meet at Lynn's restaurant for dinner.


____DAY 19________________________________________________________________

Dayton, Beavercreek, Fairborn, OH

As the sun rose I hit the totally empty highway. A bit of dew and orange light on the pavement created a magical road. I gassed up at a Giant Oil BP on N Fairfield in Beavercreek a little after 8 am. The quiet ride ended at Nutter Center where plenty of activity was already starting. Cars were being unloaded, spectator cars filtering in, displays being set up.

Showing your car at one of the outside venues involves quite a bit of packing and unpacking. If you are inside the building you are committed to all the days of the event and many owners were babysitting their cars for the long hours that the show was open each day.

Zeb Morris

Today seemed to be the Day of Pontiac Celebrities. One of the first people I met was famous Pontiac collector Zeb Morris. He was a very friendly and charismatic guy who exuded a zest for life despite being physically weakened. He had a walker and also zipped around in a motorized chair.

Zeb enthusiastically described his Charlotte, North Carolina collection which he was storing in an airplane hanger. He had a big Pontiac Ram Air collection and urged me to go check out his prize jewel which was on display at the show. Zeb's pride and joy, "Big Iron II" was outside near the other race cars. I had passed by some funny cars and pure stock drag cars on the first day and didn't recall seeing this car. Zeb explained that it wasn't painted up with decals or numbers. He also assured me that it was worth a look.

Big Iron 1970 GTO RA IV

Big Iron II is a Starlight Black 1970 GTO Judge Ram Air IV bought from Kramer Motors in Scottsbluff, Nebraska and raced with great success by Ron Kister. See the story on Kramer Motors in the NEBRASKA Dealers story in the DEALERSHIPS section of this website. As I wound my way through the show I worked my way over to where Big Iron II was displayed but my timing was off kilter.

Black storm clouds doused the parking lot in heavy rain. Many of the cars were hustled into trailers, including Big Iron II. When Zeb and I crossed paths towards the end of the day, I told him about missing his car. He generously extended a standing invitation to visit him and view his collection. Sadly, I never saw him again. I didn't make it across the country before Zeb died in 2010.

gto nats nutter center Milt Schornack display cars

Milt Schornack

Another Pontiac celebrity who took time to chat with me was Milt Schornack who had an impressive display of cars arranged at one end of the floor. Milt wrenched on countless customer Bobcat conversions for Ace Wilson's Royal Pontiac high performance dealership and was also driver and mechanic to many of the landmark prototype Pontiac muscle machines of the 1960s. His later career as a contract employee with Pontiac Motor Division also provided some fascinating stories.

Milt spent over an hour recounting stories and sharing some of his memorabilia. Milt's personality is very meticulous and he strives to be very accurate about the details. Milt showed me the replica of the first GTO Tiger, which was a gold 1966 GTO.

1969 Royal Bobcat RA V

Milt also had some real deal Royal cars on display. After Ace Wilson's Royal Pontiac withdrew from the high performance business, Milt soldiered on with his own business. He built a 1969 GTO Royal Bobcat RA V experimental car finished in Expresso Brown and Hurst Gold Royal Bobcat paint job. This blazing fast GTO has a 440 (bored 428) tunnel ram RA V that Milt built on contract to Pontiac Engineering in Jan, 1970 through his new shop Royal Automotive. The GTO saw quarter mile duty in the NHRA. This GTO currently has a mere 19,000 miles on the clock.

Milt also displayed a new modern hot rod from his shop. The modern hot rod GTO is loosely described as a resto-mod but perhaps is best described as a 'Bobcat Continuation'. This is what a Bobcat would look like if they had been continuously offered without interruption since the 1960s.

Jim Wangers

That afternoon a large roomful of Pontiac fans gathered in an upstairs board room to listen to a lecture from Jim Wangers. Jim showed no hint that he had just turned 83 years old 2 weeks ago on June 26. Jim delivered a passionate and vigorous engaging speech clearly still brimming with powerful energy and conviction. He pulled no punches in his analysis of the problems at General Motors which led to the death of Pontiac. This was not a rambling series of anecdotes about times gone past but rather a clear argument built point by point.

Jim stated that by disregarding Pontiac's strong hard won image, GM destroyed the once proud division. Jim traced the history of GM from its inception, charting the gradual change in philosophy and management which led to a situation where financial wizards ended up dictating product. A financial genius does not necessarily appreciate some of the finer points of marketing and its key issue: image. Jim roared into the microphone,

"It's not what you are, it's what they THINK you are!"

Of all the GM divisions Pontiac needed image more than the others. Without image why does Pontiac cost more than Chevy? The blurring of the lines between divisions caused by smaller cars in the 1980s with generic jelly bean shapes required to meet Corporate Average Fuel Economy and 5 mph bumper standards left little room to put an individual division stamp on a car. This situation was exacerbated by a widespread desire to emulate foreign cars with their 'number names'. Hard won nameplates with customer loyalty such as Bonneville were thrown in the scrap heap.

An influx of top management non car guys applied the standard protocols which had worked for them when managing drug, cosmetic and food companies. Jim was very angry about the once proud Pontiac division dwindling and dying over a 20 year period of neglect when the passionate car guys were shut out of the game.

1969 Judge reclining seat option

Back on the floor I met Bill Napier who had worked on the restoration of a beautiful Matador Red 1969 GTO Judge with a plethora of options rarely seen. I marveled at seeing a reclining passenger seat, dual visor mirrors and shoulder belts for the rear passengers on a GTO.

The battery in the camera Marie lent me was too weak to produce a flash. I dashed out and drove over the 675 highway to the Best Buy in Beavercreek and got a rechargeable battery for the camera and hustled back to Nutter Center to get photos of this loaded GTO. See the story on this car in the 20 YEARS PLUS section of CAR STORIES on this website.

Bill promised to line me up with Kenneth Rahe who had owned the car for over 20 years. Bill told some hilarious stories from back in the day cruising with buddies in a Camaro Z28 with headers and slicks.

Suddenly it was closing time again. We bid each other farewell. I was always arriving at the spectator parking lot as the sun set or even after dark. Usually the Vette and one or two other cars were all that was left in the big lot by that time.

Cruising around Dayton, I spotted a pretty nice art deco bridge still standing. The Pennsylvania.

oocc vette dayton oh Pennsylvania bridge

It looks like most of the original buildings in this city are still standing. I passed a huge boarded up General Electric building.

oocc vette dayton oh GE building

I stopped in front of a pretty cool auto suspension place with a name right out of Wile Coyote's mail order supples: Acme Spring. Established in 1923, Acme has been in the building below with the period sign since the 1940s.

oocc vette dayton ohio acme spring

After circling around a bit I finally located Lynn's Chinese restaurant in a mini mall. Once inside it was larger and much more upscale than anticipated. I was underdressed in t shirt, shorts and flip flops. Lynn was dolled up in an evening dress with her elaborately styled hair held in place on top of her head with a tiara. She gave me a big hug at the front door then led me to a nice booth. Lynn arranged for my meal to be 'on the house'.

Dayton rambling

After her shift was done we jumped in the car for a guided tour of Dayton. Some of it I had seen before on my rambling about but hadn't made all the interwoven connections between the main roads which often crisscrossed one another at unusual angles. Many of the streets were incredibly wide with side streets attaching at shallow angles. It created a feeling of wide open driving which I like. Most of the houses were older originals.

oocc vette dayton oh Springfield st

Lynn said,

"Pull over here, I need to buy cigarettes."

"You aren't smoking in this car!"

She laughed and made a face. Dayton is a real car town- they even have drive through stores! Everyone has seen drive through fast food joints and ATM machines before but a drive through store? They exist in Dayton.

Drive through store

We pulled into a 40 foot long tunnel which was flanked on all sides with wares. The engine boomed and echoed in the small space as I pulled up to a tiny lighted booth. Lynn ordered her cigarettes and some chocolate bars. The guy fetched the items, rang them in then walked to the car and collected the money. He came back with change and handed over the goods. We drove forwards out of the 'store' onto a roundabout which deposited us back on the road. We never even turned off the engine let alone left the car.

Lynn told me that Dayton has always been a major car city. Ohio had some high profile performance dealerships like Ray Faro, Chesrown and Knafel. The town is so car crazy that even girls are into cars here. Lynn grew up on her uncle's stories about street racing in the 1970s when Dayton had been awash in speed shops and nightly cruising. By the time Lynn was born in the late 1980s the street freaks had faded away and her uncle was driving his kids around in a mini van. But the exciting stories and memories influenced her.

Lynn remembered riding in her uncle's Mach 1 when she was a very young kid just before he sold it. The excitement of that car infected her with a serious muscle car yearning.

Madrid Used Cars

She directed me to a miniature car dealership on Dixie called Madrid Used Cars. The one room office was closed but out front sat a yellow 1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1. It was a different year than the one Lynn's uncle owned but it brought up memories for her nonetheless. I went back and took some pictures in daylight. You can see the Mach 1 in the ALLEY FINDS section of this website.

dayton ohio smokestacks

We drove down Dixie which bridged the river and became North Keowee street. The Dayton Motor Motel promised free adult movies on the sign. Various street scufflers and hustlers stopped and watched the car glide past. As we drove further down the area became pretty bombed out. The suspension was also pounding us. Lynn directed me into a better area for some more cruising around before we headed to Lynn's place.

oocc vette dayton oh motor motel

Back at the apartment Marny greeted us. I made small talk with Marny while Lynn changed. The humidity inspired Lynn to change into shorts and a skimpy top. Lynn was a knockout and she knew it. Every eye in the neighborhood followed her graceful walk out to the car. We drove Marny over to Ken's house in the Vette with Lynn perched in her lap scrunched up into the t- top. The glass tops actually provide a bit more head room than the solid ones.

1971 El Camino

Ken showed off his blue 1971 El Camino which I had only briefly seen in the parking lot near Don Pablos. It sported heavily worn but original 1960s Cragar S/S mags with narrow fronts and massive meats on back. The paint was nice but the interior was a hodge podge of bits and pieces scavenged from junkyards.

Ken had bought the El Camino in primer with no interior or drivetrain. A buddy did the really nice paint job in a homemade paint booth. Ken helped with the wet sanding and it was free of dust and orange peel. Ken did most of the engine work himself right at his dad's house. It featured a built 350 with a full on rumpa rumpa idle just like my Vette. Ken had a stroker crank, aluminum high rise intake, windage tray and electronic ignition with good fat wires.

There was no shortage of visual add ons: chrome air cleaner and valve covers, dual remote oil filters on the firewall, a big fuel pressure gauge on the fuel line etc. The transmission was just the TH350 that came with the engine but it had a high stall converter with the obligatory B & M shifter poking up from a square hole cut in the transmission hump.

Although Ken was only 32 years old and wasn't born yet when his El Camino was manufactured, he had a car that could fit in with any mid 1970s era street machine back in the day. I thought this was an intentional tribute car until he talked about putting in a Raptor overdrive transmission and 20 inch rims with 40 profile tires on the car. The Cragars were from one of his dad's old cars and were there just because they were free.

I ranted and raved about keeping the wheels and tires in proportion with the car and to match the style of the wheels to the era from which the car originated. Ken was adamant about wanting to change the Cragars. I had to concede that they did look a bit shabby with rust and dings when contrasted to the new paint job. I finally wore him down to the point where he was willing to consider a compromise along the lines of a new set of 16 inch vintage appearing Torque Thrust wheels with some 60 series tires that would fill the wheelwells without looking wrong on the car.

I get really crazed when I have an opinion. Lynn and Marny had been laughing and shaking their heads in disbelief as I had berated Ken with hurricane force for a full five minutes about the wheels. Luckily Ken was a gentle giant. Lynn yelled at Ken mimicking me,


We all laughed.  Ken took me for a spin in the El Camino. The large aftermarket tach needle swept up really high before he set the car free. The end broke loose sideways spinning for at least one second before the tires found bite and we launched out leaving 30 feet of rubber on the road. On a deserted dark rough road the car crested 100 mph handling the bumps smoothly. The ride was really solid and smooth in the best GM style despite the light rear end of the pickup bed. We came back easy and he asked,

"Do you think this will take your Vette?"

Ken's car had an advantage with his B & M transmission but otherwise we were evenly matched with big jets, headwork, good ignition, headers, cam and large diameter true dual exhaust with Flowmasters. He might have some extra horsepower up near redline with his windage tray and extra cubes from the stroker crank.

But Ken's engine didn't seem as loose and responsive as the Vette. Budget engines are often put together with potential mismatching of parts or variable tolerances while my engine was professionally balanced and blueprinted by a reputable shop who knew exactly what parts to combine. The Vette engine just feels like it's ready to rumble.

I also assumed that any extra top end he had wouldn't likely be usable in a quarter mile because his chassis wasn't set up for drag racing. When we hit bumps in Ken's car I got a sense of his set up. His front end wasn't loose or softened to facilitate rearward weight transfer, plus his light rear end meant he wasn't going to launch as well as a Vette.

The Vette weighs less than the El Camino and my 3.90:1 Posi might keep me ahead of his 3.55s. If he had slicks and the right surface he could wind it up with his loose stall converter and get out faster than me and possibly take me at the top end. On street tires I felt confident running my mild shift kit TH350c transmission versus his beefed up unit.

As far as style went, Ken stabbed his brakes and gas instead of squeezing the pedals to maintain adhesion the way experienced racers do. His style might cost him on launch. His car was frequently lurching about giving away traction during transitions. Ken also weighs about 290 pounds to my 190. My verdict was,

"It can take the El Camino."

The girls squealed with excitement and insisted on co piloting. Now I felt really confident. Ken was not only giving me a 100 pound driver weight differential but Marny was heavier than Lynn.

Many people don't consider Corvettes true musclecars, but the 427 Vettes in the 1960s were a thorn in the side of all the street musclecar guys. Unlike the traditional musclecars of the era Vettes weren't affordable to a large group of people, and with only two seats and no trunk it wasn't a dual purpose daily driver/ racer. This invalidated it from pure 'musclecar status' according to some people.

It didn't help that Vettes were often classified as a 'sports car'. Real sports car guys laughed at that label. Foreign sports car people looked down on the Vette as a large overpowered domestic car full of styling gimmicks attempting to be called a sports car. Musclecar guys didn't care for such an over the top fancy image car. But as much as it may have not fit into anyone's ideal category the fact was that big block Vettes could be a terror on the street.

It wasn't just the 427 engine in a light car that sealed the deal for Vettes. A stock Vette chassis gets all the power to the ground due to 50/50 weight distribution. The engine and trans are set so far back in the car that even big block Vettes are still well balanced. The Vettes were also 500 pounds lighter than the intermediate musclecars of the 1960s. The only cars that had a better power/ weight ratio were the Shelby 427 Cobras. Vette guys slunk down side streets at the sight of one of those.

Trucker Road drag strip

Some of Ken's pals rode behind us in a 1980s clapped out Nissan Z car. Lynn's cell phone kept lighting up with calls from other friends. By the time we made it out to the 'trucker road' the kids used for racing we had 2 more cars following us. One was an awful rice rocket with one of those huge loud tail pipes followed by a 1987 brown Malibu sporting a big square homemade hood scoop that shook all over the place. The back end was jacked up over gigantic wheels with square patches of grey primer above the flared wheel wells.

We all parked where the road curved up towards an abandoned control tower. This used to house a transponder to direct trucks into a now closed yard. After the curve, the road ran arrow straight skirted by a cornfield to the left and a deserted highway to the right. The frontage road was lit only by moon and starlight.

In the distance a few headlights appeared. The leader was a really rusty dented late 1980s Camaro IROC with the factory 305. The clearcoat was peeled off the roof and hood. He was followed by a Chrysler Laser without turbo.

Everyone jumped out of the cars to look under the hood of the El Camino which was getting the once over by Ken. Ken had just installed a new carb that was completely new- not re manufactured. Instead of endless fiddling with a worn out carb nowadays you can bolt on a crazy performance piece in less time than it takes to tune an old carb.

Crickets provided a background soundtrack to the debate over the Vette and El Camino. The crowd favored the El Camino for an easy win due to its drag strip image: massive 275 rear tires on the wide rim Cragars combined with skinny 195s up front and a bubble hood to clear the high riser intake. It looked SERIOUS.

My 255 rubber on 15 inch factory aluminum mag wheels is stock 60 series and fits within the body work. But those tires are BIG. The Vette looks bone stock unless you raise the hood or start it up. The 'rubber bumper' sharks are derided as the slowest Vettes in stock form since the early 1950s models. The new arrivals assumed my Vette was a typical iron manifold, single exhaust with fake dual outlets and a big single catalytic convertor. It looked like a factory 190 horsepower automatic. And those cars came with a 3.07:1 rear. A mid- 15 second car.

Ken's El Camino came to life with a roar that blasted across the field. I fired up and attracted a lot of interest from the new arrivals. Guys came running over. The cam shakes the Corvette on idle bad enough that images in the rear view mirror are just a blur.  The Vette headers pulsed like a rabid dog ready to pounce. I was peppered with questions as guys quickly paced my car on foot while I rolled over to Ken's car.

Ken and I lined up. A girl named Sammy held a cel phone up over her head with the backside flashlight function piercing the night. She held it up the way people used to hold a flashlight to stage a race in the old days. I hit the power windows and sealed the car up.

I don't like to abuse my cars. I use a gentle launch technique. Even in a four speed car I don't rev up too high before launch. I kept my left foot on the brake and raised my revs up to a reasonable 1,200 with the car in drive. Ken had his engine wound up screaming begging to be released. Lynn glanced at me questioningly with a look that asked,

"Why aren't you revving up?"

I blocked her unspoken question from my mind, focused on the light above Sammy's head. I like winning using a moderate and smooth takeoff. If I don't win, no big deal- at least the car is still tight.

When I bought the Vette I replaced all the numerous U joints in the I.R.S. suspension, the driveshaft U joints and the transmission mounts. The prior owner who paid huge money for the engine buildup had believed in revving up before launch and probably thought nothing of replacing driveline parts repeatedly. Guys blow up clutches, diffs and trannies and consider it routine. It cost me a lot of money to undo the former owner's racing technique and I don't want to replace the driveline all over again.

Sammy dropped her hand holding the cell phone.


I released the brake and floored it simultaneously. I have very quick reflexes and nailed the car before Ken let the El Camino go. The Vette came out perfectly straight with no wheel spin. The Vette's ideal weight balance places every bit of power on the road through a good Positraction axle. The super hard optional Gymkhana suspension stays totally flat and the car rides out straight as an arrow.

Ken's El Camino headlights in my mirror attested to the fact that he had slalomed sideways while his tires spun on the rough surface. This old road was paved but porous with a pronounced middle crown which accentuated the sideways drift of Ken's car.

Lynn and I started out about 4 car lengths ahead of Ken but then he started to chase us down. His stroker crank provides extra torque. When the Vette passed 3,000 RPM the cam came on hard creating a screaming wail as the Vette sucked up all the air from the big corn field. Lynn yelled in unison with the car,


Ken stopped gaining on us once the Vette passed 3,000 RPM and started to make serious power. The Vette slammed into 2nd gear chirping the tires barely losing a tick of speed. Ken's car briefly loomed larger in my mirror until he barked the tires an instant later on his 1-2 shift and fell back. At the very top end he had ample revs and power and came up on us hard before his shift. His headlights wavered in my mirror indicating that the El Camino had once again lost precious speed trying to grab traction on his 2-3 shift. We rode over the painted quarter mile mark a smidge over 105 mph with Ken's car frozen in position slightly more than 1 car length behind us.

The Vette was wound out all the way and still gaining speed. I gently let off. If there was more road Ken might have eventually overtaken us when his extra top end worked his longer legged 3.55 axle. But the aerodynamic advantages of the Vette very well may have kept us out in front. The road wasn't long enough to find out as I gradually reduced speed. Lynn was giddy laughing uproariously in the wake of the race and half jumped across the console hugging me.

At the end of the road Ken yelled out his window to us. I realized that he had left his windows down when he ran. This was a tactical error because his rear window would act like a parachute slowing him down. I had my windows up for less wind resistance. I spun a U turn and lowered the window to clasp hands with him across the cars. He yelled,

"Good run!"

"You, too!"

Back at the 'pits' the guy in the Malibu was itching to run. I wanted time for my car to cool down and agreed to run him if he could take Ken's car. Ken had heard what I said which inspired him to also request cool down time.

For fun we watched the rice rocket and the Z car chase each other down the road while the hoods were up on the Vette and El Camino. The Z car won despite being a rust bucket and having a lot more miles than the shiny Honda. The IROC guy didn't want to run anyone because he was having trouble with the TPI system. It was getting him around town but acting up at wide open throttle. The Laser guy couldn't take any of these cars and kept quiet.

Malibu 402 vs El Camino 350 stroker

Eventually Ken and the Malibu squared up. The Malibu had an early 1970s Chevy 402 (still usually named 396 at the time of its release) and M20 four speed paradoxically mated to 4.11s. Talking to him later he explained that the trans came with the engine and they were a good deal. He knew that to really use the rear end he needed a M21 or M22, but life is a compromise.

When he dumped the clutch in the Malibu he sat still out of the hole like some frenzied beast smoking the tires and sending a gigantic cloud pouring over the rear of the car. Ken had come out softer having learned his lesson with wheelspin on his run against me and actually stayed with the guy. Ken's front bumper was a foot behind the Malibu's rear bumper.

Ken got even with him when the Malibu lost some of his lead banging his 1-2 shift. Barely anyone can shift as fast as an automatic. Despite whipping sideways on his shift Ken's automatic transmission still shifted cleaner and kept his revs up in the powerband on his 1-2 shift. Everyone scrambled into the road trying to peer into the distance to see what was up. Ken got ahead on the 2-3 shift and stayed ahead by about a fender length until he let off. The 402 was still coming on and with more road who knows what it was capable of.

I was off the hook. The Malibu guy would have now learned how poor the traction was on this old road and probably would adjust his launch and then he would have roasted the Vette. Of course the fact that these guys had been running here over and over also suggested that they hadn't really finessed some of the more subtle racing tricks. Lots of guys rev up dump the clutch and come on as hard as they can and that is the sum total of their technique. Smoothness will win over a long race course and even on a short quarter mile run it can close some gaps.

The Malibu guy lost time on his launch, then shifted hard but not quick. He lost revs between shifts with his wide ratio transmission in conjunction with the time lag in his shifts which cost him the race. His pedal to the metal technique might have worked for him on a drag strip with good traction but here on this old rock hard crowned road it meant a lot of tire spinning and lost time.

I got to enjoy reigning champion status despite being basically lucky the way everything played out. I was aware that everything could have ended up much different.

Everyone hung around the abandoned control tower. Both girls and guys had videos of old races on their cel phones. They showed me a shot of Ken and I at the start that quickly became nothing but a few red dots of our tail lights. My tail lights receded in a direct line while Ken's zigzagged their way down the road.

They told stories about the street racing in Dayton. Apparently the young kids were doing some racing but there were too many tragedies these days. Traffic was heavy, urban development had saturated most of the roads and there really wasn't a safe way to have a street scene anymore. Kids came out to old roads like this one every now and then. Obviously it didn't happen much since we never saw anyone else the whole time we were out here. The kids drifted off to a pizza parlor which apparently Dayton is famous for while Lynn and I headed 'home'.


_____DAY 20___________________________________________________________________

Dayton, Beavercreek, Xenia, OH

Next morning we got up bright and early. Lynn had the day off work and was anxious to accompany me to the Kil Kare Dragway on 1166 Dayton-Xenia Road in Xenia, Ohio where the GTO Nats was hosting some drag racing.

With only one gas stop in Beavercreek we made good time to Xenia. We were idling through the quiet town when Lynn called out,

"Pull over here!"

Lynn has a radar for these strange little drive through stores. Xenia is a well groomed suburban town but sure enough Lynn managed to spot a somewhat out of place ramshackle drive through store. She loaded up on cigarettes and candy.

Kil Kare Dragway

Around 9 am we made it through the gates and into the grounds of Kil Kare Dragway. Admission was 15 bucks. The booth guy collecting the money was surly to the point of hostility,

"You're not going to try and race THAT today?"


Lynn dived over the console stretching to see the guy and demanded,

"What's your problem?"

I quickly pulled away before any kind of confrontation could develop. I explained the Corvette/ Trans Am thing from the 1970s. Lynn didn't care about some decades old brand war. She was incensed and wanted to go back and tell the guy to learn some manners,

"He can't talk to you that way! If I was rude to a patron at my restaurant I would be fired. And I mean right then and there on the spot- FIRED!"

"I'm representing the website. The site is more important than some guy's problem with the car which has nothing to do with me anyways. Better to just let it go and forget it."

She was still fuming when we started to walk around the pits. Readers may remember the white Judge photo brochure car from Nutter center I saw a few days earlier. Well, we saw another white Judge in the pits at Kil Kare.

1971 GTO Judge 4 speed

This one was a 1971 GTO Judge with a white vinyl top and Lime Green stripe accents. It had 455 HO graphics on the edges of the rear spoiler. It had a light green interior, Formula steering wheel and the Hurst T handle shifter.

71 GTO judge white lime stripes kil kare 09

It looked really good. Not as much impact as an Orbit Orange car but if you wanted a white GTO in 1971 putting those Judge stripes on certainly lent it a bit of extra without slipping into garish territory where many of the Judges ended up.

Incredible cars were lined up everywhere. Some had already run the quarter before we got there. I pointed to the telltale black goo sprayed up on the rear quarter panels by the rear tires. Lynn knew her GTOs. She could distinguish between a 1966 and a 1967 GTO at a glance. She could even tell a 1968 and a 1969 apart. I was impressed. I wasn't the only person impressed by her. Many of the guys were impressed with her for other reasons besides her car knowledge. She strutted about in her hot pants and soaked up the attention she was getting.

72 lemans red endura kil kare 09

A red 1972 LeMans with Endura front bumper was buried in white clouds of smoke in the staging area. No GTO identification stickers were to be found on this car. Perhaps it had recent paint and hence no stickers yet or else it was a LeMans?

The drag racers are really LOUD. Lots of uncorked headers. Lots of smoke and screaming rubber in the burn out box. Some of the cars were well matched but occasionally there would be some odd runs where a restored stock spec car was up against some radical modified beast. The stands were pretty much empty. What a contrast to the old days when drag strips were packed with spectators every weekend.

The focus at the drag strip has changed for owners of classic musclecars. I counted ten times as many people in the pits chatting to owners and looking over the cars. Back in the day when competition was raising the bar every weekend guys were glued to the stands. Now this was more of a recreational retro event and absolute times were less important than the cars and their owners. People were communing.

Just as a car collector no longer uses a car for the purpose it was once intended (daily driving) the drag races here were less about intense competition and more about guys working against their own personal records or just running for the fun of it.

Dying drag strips

Drag strips became an endangered species soon after the classic musclecar era ended. Aside from the usual reasons that shut down musclecar production from the factories some additional factors pressed in on dragstrips.

Street racing was still alive and well in the 1970s. Guys may not have been buying much new factory muscle in the mid 1970s, but there was an army of guys out there who still owned their now 4 to 6 year old musclecars. The ones that sold off their musclecars as maturity and gas prices closed in on them passed the torch to younger guys. In 1974 and 1975 you could pick up used low mile musclecars for a steal. In the 1970s the musclecars were still out there despite expensive insurance and gas and all the rest of it. Cruising and racing survived. Street racing was particularly important because the great social experiment of sanctioned drag racing had failed the average Joe.

Drag strips were designed to channel the competitive racers into a socially acceptable safe environment, but for the average guy it was too expensive in terms of the time and money involved in traveling to a track to wait your turn half the day then pay fees just to run for 14 seconds. A guy could run other cars all night long for free if he knew the places to go. Meanwhile the days of the competitive 'little guy' were over. Big time sponsorship turned most drag strip attendees into spectators which meant they did their running on the street.

As population increased and public roads became ever more congested the places a guy could run were diminishing. Maybe this could have pushed the diehards back to the drag strip but at the same time drag strips were vanishing due to the same contracting forces. Increasing population spurred a jump in land value which placed dragstrips into prime real estate zones.

Suburbs sprouted up around existing drag strips which previously were in semi isolated environments. Pressure in the form of noise complaints and monetary incentives plus falling attendance spelled doom for many drag strips. Dragstrips still exist and Kil Kare seems to survive hosting NHRA events but the total number of strips in the country has dropped significantly.

Lynn had snatched my black leather cowboy hat to hide from the sun. The stands left us exposed to the broiling sun plus the additional heat and smoke of the cars revving up to launch. Her pale complexion couldn't handle much heat and her shoulders were getting red. She plonked my hat back onto my head and retreated under one of the tent displays to get shade. Guys had model cars for sale, some old magazine back issues and t shirts.

Wangers wows the women

I got into a conversation with a fellow photographer, Larry who was using some pretty impressive Nikon equipment. Other than us there were probably 1 or 2 other people in the stands. It was hot and eventually I needed to get to the shade, too. Lynn was now at Jim Wanger's booth. A big line of people stood waiting to get his autograph. She bought his book Pontiac Pizazz! which he signed for her with a twinkle in his eye. She blushed when he complimented her outfit.

It was lunch time but the crowd waiting for Jim hadn't thinned at all. I quickly outlined my website to him. Jim was an exceptionally friendly guy and made arrangements for me to visit him in Oceanside, California where he stores his car collection. See the stories of his 1965 Pontiac GTO in 20 YEARS PLUS, his 1987 Buick Grand National in ONE FAMILY and his 1979 and 1989 Pontiac Trans Ams in the ONE OWNER section of this website.

As soon as our arrangements were completed fans closed in on him. Whenever we walked past Jim's booth there was a crowd around him. He maintained a friendly repartee with everyone hour after hour clearly enjoying like minded people.

69 gto clone ra iv pure stock gto nats 2009

1969 GTO RA IV Clone

One amazing car that caught my eye was a cloned black GTO Ram Air IV. Lynn had already talked to the guy when I was in the stands,

"It started out as a silver 350 LeMans. He cloned it using all factory spec stuff."

The owner of that Ram Air IV clone was named Paul Glasgo. The Ram Air got the car down the quarter mile in a very quick 12.69 seconds at 112.77 mph.

The black GTO clone was well set off with a set of black steelies holding reproduction G70 x 14 Firestone redlines. The wheels used regular shiny lug nuts but from a distance it almost looked like it had chrome lug nuts. The car had the same mean purposeful look of the 440 6 BBL Roadrunners of 1969 with their black steelies and chrome lug nuts.

The rear license plate was a vintage 1969 Ohio plate with a Knafel Pontiac license frame. Knafel was a well known high performance dealership which sponsored drag racing cars. See the story on Knafel in the OHIO Dealers story in the DEALERSHIPS section of this website.

69 gto clone ra iv pure stock redline gto nats 2009

Time and time again Lynn and I were drawn to and entranced by the same cars. An unusual feature of Lynn's car taste is that unlike many younger people, she prefers the 1960s pure muscle machines and wasn't as interested in the 'tape and stripe' cars of the 1970s. More surprisingly given her age she was indifferent to the 1980s Star Wars digital muscle like Grand Nationals or the wedge nose F bodies or the Fox bodied 5.0 Mustangs. A lot of the younger generation don't draw the line at 1972, but Lynn did. I attribute that to the strong influence of her uncle from a young age.

Marlachi's Mexican, Detroit St.

After the drag strip we went to Los Mariachi's Mexican Restaurant on Detroit Street while waiting for the rolls of film to be developed at the Xenia Walgreens Pharmacy. Lynn was still full from gorging on candy and chocolate bars and drank two Margaritas for 'lunch'. I had a burrito.

Rolling through town Lynn's bargain radar was on full alert as usual and she called out,


She'd spotted a Dollar General Store on N. Allison Drive. Canned tuna was 65 cents each, canned clams were $1.75. Lynn of course loaded up on candies and chocolate bars. It was nearly 5 pm when we gassed up at a BP station on W Main and got out of town.

Cabin stream

On our way back to Dayton Lynn directed me to one of her 'secret spots'. She liked to run around barefoot as a young girl playing by a stream which ran past an old abandoned cabin. It was still there after all these years. She had her shoes off and was splashing and wading around in the frigid water slipping on the uneven moss slicked rocky surface. Somehow she kept her balance and made it back to shore. Sunset brought on the mosquitoes and it was time to run.

Dayton Dixie Highway

That evening Lynn took me along the Dixie Highway to some roadhouse bars. These traditional no frills drinking holes catered to plant workers 40 years ago and nothing has changed. The big brick building Maggies on North Dixie and Bartley was part food, part darts, part bar. Lynn said that it used to be well known for the chill but the original owner and his recipes were gone now.

OOCC dayton oh Maggie's N. Dixie and Bartley

Some of Lynn's friends were hopping around these places and  we worked our way along the highway. I attempted to hear stories over the pounding loud music. Drinkers told me that Dayton was a heavy manufacturing city for many many years before gradually phasing out a lot of the plants. The Air Force Base was still a big factor in the city and I did see several guys in uniform sprinkled throughout the bars during the night. The people I talked to told me that like Detroit and other big American cities Dayton's downtown gradually lost population due to suburban flight and slowdowns in manufacturing.

We got back to Lynn's place early in the morning after roaming all over Dayton. My second wind had kicked in by now and sleep wasn't on the program when I finally got her alone.


_____DAY 21__________________________________________________________________

Dayton, Fairborn, OH

Somehow I managed to wake up early. Lynn was working later today and needed to build up some sleep. I stopped at a Valero gas station in Fairborn at 9 AM to check the fluids in the car. The great thing about the USA is that even generic little gas stations have an incredible array of obscure niche market magazines on display. I picked up a one off magazine called Mopar Milestones.

At Nutter center I was going to focus on the 'pit' at the center of the building. Most of the cars in the main pit were intricate restorations created by teams of professionals. Occasionally, the actual owner of the car nearly gets lost in the shuffle when restoration teams present these incredible works of art. The quality of restoration they have done is so breathtaking that you really feel as if you are in a museum. This is the perfect place to assess a potential restoration company. You can examine their work close up and they will spend hours with you discussing how they achieved the results you are looking at. They know what piece was reworked, what was replaced, what materials were used and why.

Bill Nawrot

Mixed in with these heavy hitters who trailered in their vehicles, I met Bill Nawrot who was there with his 'team' which consisted of himself and his wife, Patti. Bill was not only fielding a non restored car, but DROVE it to the show. Thinking of the amount of bug encrusted mess that I had collected on the Corvette mirrors, front nose and grille I couldn't even begin to fathom how much road tar and debris would be accumulated on the undercarriage. The amount of cleanup Bill did before showing his car was enormous.

Bill Nawrot with his GTO at GTO nats Dayton OH

See the story of his 1972 GTO in the ONE OWNER section of this website. Bill applied his knowledge gleaned from working in a Ford factory to unravel some of the markings and techniques used to assemble his GTO. Bill gave me a guided tour of the GTO top to bottom. He has endless enthusiasm and is a storehouse of knowledge as well as being a very warm and personable guy. Over the years Bill and Patti became great friends and supporters of my writing.

_____DAY 22_____________________________________________________________

Huber Heights, OH

Around 10 am I bought some fruit from the Meijer store on Executive Blvd in Huber Heights.

1969 Grand Prix 428 Tri-Power

At 1:30 pm I was gassing up at BP station which was part of a UDF (United Dairy Farmers) store in Huber Heights. A conversation with a fellow Corvette owner at the other pump led to the revelation that his other car was a ONE OWNER 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix 428 Tri-Power! We drove in formation over to his house so I could do photos of the car still sitting in the garage all these years. See a story on this car in the ONE OWNER section of the CAR STORIES section of this website.

Driving into Dayton I picked up Lynn. We stopped in the Lone Star restaurant right alongside the highway. Semi trucks in the parking lot provided a bit of an endorsement. Sure enough, Lone Star offered good prices and served up ridiculously big steaks.

Lone Star

The Lone Star had a rough old west atmosphere with worn uneven planks on the floor, and a rough bare unsurfaced bar. At the tables which vaguely resembled old unfinished picnic tables a big metal water bucket full of salted peanuts in the shell provided an appetizer until my gigantic steak and baked potato in aluminum foil arrived. Lynn had already eaten for free at her restaurant and drank a beer and ate peanuts. Tonight was my last night in town.

I promised that I would see her again when I returned for the Buick Nationals and she seemed resigned to the fact I was really leaving so soon after we met. She was working some double shifts the next few days so we wouldn't have had much time together if I'd stayed longer anyways.

______DAY 23_______________________________________________________________

Dayron, OH/ Knightstown, Greenfield, Rensselaer, IN

A brief goodbye with Lynn was rushed because she had to go to an early work meeting. I dropped her off at work and wound my way through morning traffic. I was getting irritated by traffic jams until I reminded myself there was no schedule. I hung in the right lane and let the traffic flow determine my speed.

Knightstown, Indiana

Signs advertising an antique mall prompted me to get off Interstate 70 and check out Knightstown, Indiana. I had time. I grabbed my camera and found a love note pushed inside the camera bag from Lynn. What a sweet girl.

It was high noon. I was alone on the road and had nowhere to be and time on my hands. There was a feeling of total unfettered freedom under a giant open limitless blue sky. Nothing was stopping me from going back to Dayton to hang out with Lynn for a few more days. But she was going to be consumed with work shifts and I have some kind of internal engine that never stops. I am always moving always doing something always going somewhere. As Lynn commented last night in The Lone Star restaurant, it was an appropriate place for our "last meal". I am the Lone Star....

knightstown indiana main street

I picked up some color film from the CVS Pharmacy on Morgan Street and headed to the huge antique mall located on Carey Street. Some old very well maintained buildings in the heart of downtown featured parking that was massive. An incredibly wide street augmented by blazing light made the area feel like an open square or gathering place. Other buildings in town were rougher but had cool gothic spires that drew my eye.

knightstown indiana gothic house

Population here is about 2,000. The town gym is now called The Hoosier Gym because the 1986 movie Hoosiers was filmed in this gym. The movie starring Dennis Hopper.

Knightstown, Indiana morgan building

Next stop was the famous muscle car parts place The Paddock. It is located on the outskirts of town.

The Paddock

The Paddock traces back to 1965 when Jim O’Neil started restoring muscle cars. For years Mustang restoration parts were the Paddock specialty. Jim O’Neil was manufacturing steel patch panels and then branched out to include Camaro parts in 1980. Soon The Paddock moved to Main street due to large volume business. Long term employee Wes Watts bought out Jim in 1998 and continued to expand in size to include parts for most popular muscle cars. The inventory grew so immense he relocated outside of town.

I noticed a late 1960s Camaro and a 1970s Challenger standing out among a bunch of pick up trucks and surmised that I had found the parking lot for The Paddock. It was a huge building out of town on 7565 South State Road 109.

Knightstown, Indiana paddock gas pump

Massive inventory space in back was fronted by a large clean retail space. Three restored cars sat on display inside the showroom area along with some vintage restored gas pumps. An entire rack of parts catalogs listed the items available.

I bought zinc engine oil additive to preserve the cam in the Vette. It had very high lift and duration which made it particularly susceptible to damage from the zinc-less modern oils. Some of the parts I needed for the Vette were out of stock. The guy told me that they had been a bit low on inventory lately which didn't make me wonder at the time but the handwriting was on the wall when looking back at that day in hindsight.

Knightstown, Indiana paddock resto cars

The Paddock closed April 30, 2010. Its leftover inventory was auctioned off July 29, 2010. The 2008 economic crash had far reaching effects in the world of musclecar collecting and restoration.

Bamboo Garden, Greenfield

Leaving Knightstown I only cruised on the highway briefly before shooting down into Greenfield, Indiana to eat at the Bamboo Garden on N State Street.

At 4:30 pm I got off the highway again. I drove down State Road 114 to gas up at a Marathon station in Rensselaer, Indiana. I headed 13 miles to the town of Morocco. I just liked the sound of the name. It was a small town out in the sparse fields. Not much to see, but I saw what there was to see in Morocco...

_______DAY 24 ________________________________________________________________

Milwaukee, WI

As the car rumbled into town I needed to eat. At Johnny's Mexican Restaurant on S KK I devoured some food.

_______DAY 25 ________________________________________________________________

Milwaukee, WI

_______DAY 26 ________________________________________________________________

Milwaukee, Butler, Menomonee Falls, WI

I cruised out to Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. See the story on a ONE OWNER 1972 Skylark convertible. It was originally purchased at the Ernie von Schledorn Buick dealership at N 88 W. 14167 Main Street in Menomonee Falls. I decided to revisit the spot. While driving along Silver Spring Drive I saw a weathered Oldsmobile Cutlass and a weed obscured Oldsmobile Toronado parked in the Village of Butler.

_______DAY 27_______________________________________________________________

Milwaukee, Sturtevant, WI

At dinner time I cruised down to Sturtevant to a place named 1-800 Radiator and picked up a heavy duty radiator specific designed for my Corvette's Gymkhana suspension. Back at the house Tom eyeballed it and pronounced it a match to the factory original item which uses different outlet angles to allow the hoses to clear that super fat swaybar in the Gymkhana suspension. Trouble emerged in the transplant when the rubber mounts didn't fit. Tom was totally unphased and simply got a pocket knife out and began shaping the rubber to conform.

Tom had the radiator installed and hooked up in no time. He commented,

"Those GM engineers obviously designed this car for the standard suspension. There isn't even room for a shim to fit between the heavy duty suspension and the hoses and outlets."

We took the Vette out to drive it hard with the new radiator to check for any vibrations or rubbing from the tight fitting cooling system. One trick you can do in a Vette on hot greasy asphalt is nail it and the ass end comes right round. You steer into it and keep on it and you can do some stunt style driving. I did a 360 in the car then shot out hard before braking it down viciously. Then we took it out into the freeway and blasted past the few other cars out this late like they were welded in place. Tom was impressed,

"This thing really moves out!"

The car was as loud and raucous as ever. It didn't seem to have any unusual vibrations or noises. It felt solid no matter how much hard steering, braking or acceleration it was subjected to. Tom re examined all the hoses and mounting points when we got home. Things were tight and holding up fine. A job well done.

_______DAY 29___________________________________________________________

Milwaukee, West Allis, WI

Double Dragon

I ate lunch in the Double Dragon Restaurant in West Allis, Wisconsin. There was much amusement from the staff when they saw my business cards that used the same name and colors as their place. We both seemed to like burgundy. The conversation spread to other tables and I became entangled into a cross booth flirtation with a young looking Asian girl.

Finessing things was a bit tricky but I managed to arrange to meet up with her later. Kara was actually 27 years old but still lived at home. Unmarried Chinese girls live at home with their parents. She pressed a piece of paper into my hand as we chatted stiffly at the gum machine near the front door. She and her family left the building. She wanted to meet in a park. A gas station directed me and soon we were sitting on swings talking.

She wanted to hear all about the places I'd been to in the States, Canadian provinces and Mexico. A lot of the continent has passed under the wheels of my cars. Fragments of impressions and memories flowed as our swings slowly creaked back and forth. The sun dropped and our shadows stretched out.

She was talking about her routine and seemed to almost be grasping at some unknown hazy concept that was eluding her in life. We stood up and she was very close. I kissed her and she reciprocated for a few seconds then buried her face in my neck hugging me tight. Everything seemed dreamlike and obscured by a haze of memories, dreams, hopes. We were in an altered state together. She kissed me goodbye with shining eyes. It had been a great afternoon.

Back at the house I sent her an email. She replied immediately wanting to meet me in the park tomorrow.

______DAY 35__________________________________________________________________

Milwaukee, WI/ Volo, IL

I paid another visit to the Volo Car Museum in Volo, Illinois.

Last Updated ( Monday, 19 July 2021 18:18 )