The RV

Christmas is in the air. For me, it doesn’t feel like Christmas until I’ve watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Many of you may have seen it o at least hear of this now holiday movie classic. In it, Clark Griswold aims to create the perfect Griswold Family Christmas. I won’t’ give any spoilers so if you want to find out how successful his efforts are, go watch it.

The star of the movie is Randy Quaid’s character of Eddie (not Clark), and even more of a star is the family RV he parks on Clark’s doorstep. It’s a beater of epic proportions. Other than the fact that Eddie had one and it’s “Shitter was full”  I didn’t know much about them (and still don’t), nut let’s take a look at it, shall we?


I don’t know much about RV’s other than your grandparents get one when they retire, your dad thinks it’s a good idea to haul his “too cool” teenage kids around in one, and that they’re the perfect thing to take to an endurance race (Sebring or Daytona in my case). Finding out the specs on Eddie’s particular flavor of RV was a bit tough for me.  Here’s what could find out, though:

 

 

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It is a 1972 Ford Condor, one of the few RV’s FoMoCo made in-house, meaning it wasn’t coach-built.  Condors were based on the M504 Truck chassis powered by a 390ci V8 and Cruise-O-Matic 3sp trans. So, they weren’t exactly speed machines, but what RV’s are made for relaxing long hauls, not speed records.

Eddie’s beloved clunker may not look the part, but back when new, a fresh from the dealership Condor was a thing of beauty and a luxury item.  While not quite Airstream quality, Condors were still very well equipped, with all the creature comforts of home for their $20k price tag.  Eddie’s was free.

If you’re interested in what happened to the movie car, MotorNomadics has an old post about it. f you’re interested in buying one, you can still find rust buckets pretty cheap, but as with any movie-famous car, the cleaner they get the higher the prices skyrocket. Other than that I haven’t been able to dig anything up.  If you have on or know more than I do, let us now in the comments below!


 

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It’s In The Name

Many manufacturers have practically useless and stupid trim options available. I would love to say that this is a recent occurrence but to be honest it has been happening since the beginning of time.  Some of my favorite Useless Trim Levels  are the “Splash” edition of the Ford Ranger, that whole thing Mazda did with their Millenia “Millennium” edition ( I’m sure they thought they were clever) and the Chevy “Xtreme” line of Blazers and S10s.  These were all obnoxious and badly aimed a very specific niche market.  It makes them look stupid, and I’m not afraid to say that I judge many of the people I see driving any of these cars that still have their trim badges on display.  I similarly judge guys that don’t wear helmets while riding motorcycles but that rant is for another pint of beer.

I similarly judge guys that don’t wear helmets while riding motorcycles but that rant is for another pint of beer.

Really it all boils down to trying to take advantage of the consumer, YAY MARKETING!!!  However, did any of these hokey pokey trim levels actually produce something good?  There was a time when Super Bee meant something on a Dodge now, not so much.  Remember the 1970’s when every car had a name or wonky trim level? The Judge (badass I know)? Little Red?  Those were good, right?  So, what happened? Where did beater manufacturers stop adding features and started slapping on a shiny sticker or badge and calling it a day? Why did VW make us buy the Wolfsburg Edition?!?!?!

So, I leave it up to everyone else out there, What is the worst named Trim level on a Beater? 

My vote, Eddie Bauer Ford Explorers.  I mean, come on right?

“When Will I Learn?”

Trucks, especially old trucks are made differently. They’re stout and built to take a beating.  Up until the ’90s there wasn’t such a thing as a luxury truck.  King Ranch and Denali editions weren’t a thing. Trucks were basic, honest, machines made for getting the job done.

Old Ford F100s are iconic work trucks. It doesn’t matter which side of the argument youre on, F100s are beasts, along with other old trucks, and don’t give in to breakdowns too easily.

Check out Steve’s old Fords for a prime example of built Ford Tough:


 

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I suppose my story really begins with Bob Chandler, Jim Kramer, and Bigfoot. I can remember watching VHS tapes that my grandparents would get by mail of monster trucks running other cars over with reckless abandon back in the days when in order to participate in the sport, you just needed a truck, a big block V8, some big tires, a mullet and a set of brass testicles that were hard-pressed to fit into the high-waisted jeans of the early ’90s. I was hooked.

 
Throughout my early life, my parents insisted that cars were appliances and drove mostly Toyotas that were, above all else, disposable. When one broke, they would get just enough of it fixed to hum the next few thousand miles in relative comfort and reliability. My grandfather stoked the fire that would culminate in my beater, but I’m getting ahead of myself. He tried and failed to sell his truck, and thus it was handed down to me: a white 1988 Ford Bronco II with a 2.9 liter V6 and a 5 speed made by Mitsubishi. (Not Mazda. They made the 4 speeds.) That truck is for another e-mail story.
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I eventually gave that truck away with nearly 300k miles on the clock to my brother in law, who needed a winter beater, and the Bronco still ran nearly perfectly.
 
I mourned for that truck. It had given me my first taste of freedom, my first wrenching experiences, some of my first…intimate and special memories with young ladies who were kind enough to have them with me.
 
While in my sackcloth and covered in my ashes, I stumbled upon it: a 1965 F100 with a big block. My beloved and long-suffering bride gave me the green light, and we went to pick it up for $600, and the ad promised that it ran! It was no Bigfoot, but it shared some of the same DNA, which was good enough for me.
 
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We lived and worked at a little conference center in Idyllwild, CA, and the truck was in East LA county. Off of Euclid, I think. So we drove the hundred or so miles to the house, and the truck was BAD. loose steering, terrifying brakes and a transmission that was present, but maybe not great. I was thoroughly in love. Money exchanged hands and we had just enough time to hit the DMV before–steam.
 
Steam?
 
Lots of steam. Goddamn it.
 
So I decide that since I still have some cash in my pocket, I would hoof it to the nearest parts house and see if they had a radiator in stock. And some tools, maybe. No luck. no radiator shop was open, and no parts house had a radiator. I sent my wife home in the other car while I waited for a tow truck. 100-mile tows with AAA are an awesome idea, by the way. An AWESOME idea.
 
So the tow truck got there and he loaded the truck up and the drive home was uneventful, until we went to unload it. The conference center has a baseball field, or did then, and it was really the only level place on the whole property, so the tow guy drives onto it, hangs a left toward a retaining wall, and begins to unload it toward the edge of the field, and the lower retaining wall, which is about a six foot drop.
 
Remember the scary brakes? Well, the truck had not moved in more years than was disclosed, and the wheel cylinders had apparently rotted. As soon as the truck was on the ground, rolling, the tow guy realized that the brakes were nonexistent.
 
I had not, to that point, ever heard the pall on a parking gear make that grunt-scream noise that they do when you try to slam an automatic transmission into park while at speed in reverse. The Effey stopped just short of the drop, and the driver got out, looked at me, and simply said, “That thing ain’t got NO brakes.” and then had me sign the paperwork and off he went.
 
The next chance I got, I tore into the truck. I found an improperly made aftermarket aluminum radiator, which I gleefully jammed into the truck in a super sketchy manner just to get it moving, which I did, up to the shop at the center, where I fixed a minor rust hole that bothered me, got it fired up, and reversed downhill.
 
Oh yeah, brakes.
 
BAM! I rolled into a stump, put it in drive, and found a level spot to coast to a stop again. Luckily, my ancestor of the god Bigfoot had been equipped with the thickest, heaviest rear bumper I have ever seen and it was fine.
 
At that point, life happened and the conference center and we (being my wife and me) underwent a…how did Gweneth put it? A conscientious uncoupling? We did that and decided to head back to our hometown, Modesto, CA. I rebuilt the brakes, bled everything, and test drove the still-unproven mystery FE-powered hunk of shit a few miles. It worked! It had an exhaust leak that made it sound like a broken tractor, I had vice grips to open the doors from the inside and I still couldn’t tell if I could trust the temperature gauge, but we loaded it to the gills with possessions and pointed downhill.
 
It made it 28 glorious, V8 powered miles before I realized that it was starting from a stop awfully slowly. And over-revving when I tried to get to highway speeds. And not going into Park. The Cruise-O-Matic was stuck in second gear.
 
I found a shop that generously let me park the truck while we made our way back to Modesto and made what turned out to be the dumbest plan I have ever come up with.
 
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“Wanna go on a road trip?”
 
The six words that no man in their mid-20s can resist. It was two weeks before we got everything together. It was me, one of my best friends, a rented flatbed trailer, and a 1990 Chevy 1500 single cab, short bed. The wheelbase was important for reasons that will become obvious shortly.
 
See, rental trailers are designed to work with as many applications and in as many situations as possible. It’s why they have surge brakes equipped, which are basically manual drum brakes with the brake pedal integrated into the tongue of the trailer. As stress is applied by the weight of the trailer to the tow vehicle, it compresses the push rod much like your foot would on a brake pedal and engages the brakes at a pressure consistent with the force at which it is compressing. Slick, right?
 
Well, a funny thing happens when there is a leak in that system: You now have about 5 inches of play in and out on the tongue of the trailer, and about an inch side-to-side, which is…well, it’s not great.
 
We had decided to cannonball straight to Banning, CA, made it to the shop with the F100 just in time to thank the owner and load the truck onto the trailer and get to our hotel for the night. Neither of us could sleep, so we decided a couple of hours later to just go for it.
 
The I-10 at 4 AM is strangely serene. The I-10 also has a long, gentle downgrade that you wouldn’t notice at all if you didn’t have a trailer with no brakes, a 4000 pound truck on it, and six inches of play in the tongue.
 
We were doing 55 when the trailer rear-ended us the first time.
 
“Dude, I don’t think the brakes are working on that trailer.”
 
Josh slowed to 40.
 
The trailer hit us again, hard, and the back end of the tow vehicle wobbled, so he applied just a little bit of throttle to straighten out. He backed out of it at 50, and the trailer caught up again.
 
BAM.
 
The Chevy held straight.
 
BAM.
 
“Not sure if I can hold another one.”
 
BAM
 
I looked over at him and said “Nope,” just in time for 8 tires to break traction seemingly all at once as the trailer pit-maneuvered the Chevy, sending it and the trailer spinning toward the guard rail. I have no idea how we were between clusters of traffic, but we were, and we were sitting, stalled out, across 3 lanes. Josh slammed the truck into park, started the truck, and gunned it into the dirt.

SAMSUNG

 

“I am NOT towing that thing another mile.”
 
So we pushed the Ford off the trailer and spent the next hour with jumper cables trying to start it. Pro-tip: If you’re going to try to start a vehicle in gear, don’t have a manual choke. In 40 degree weather. With the back wheels on the ground.
 
The big block finally sputtered to life and I just gassed the bastard down the highway when I found another cool feature! Intermittent headlights! They blinked off and on at random intervals just long enough for me to find my way off the freeway and onto a side street, where I stopped, let the truck die and called Josh to tell him where I was.
 
We were 100 miles from Barstow. Remember those AAA tows?
 
I found another place to dump the truck for another week while we sorted insurance with the rental company, who paid out more than the Chevy was worth without so much as a question when we showed them the empty master cylinder, and I went back with another tow vehicle and another rented trailer to get the truck, which this time, came quietly.
 
I replaced the transmission, added some speed parts and drove it daily for 3 years, back and forth from Fresno, Turlock, and still drove it when I got hired on at Gallo Winery.
 
Then came the end of the ’65.
 
I had been out and about running errands and such when my wife called and told me she was headed out to work soon and would like to see me for a few minutes before she did.
 
I drove home, parked on the curb, and chatted with her.
 
kaBOOM
 
“Did someone just hit your truck?”
 
It sounded like a forklift backing into a train of trailers at the winery, so the sound didn’t even make me flinch. I pulled one of the blinds down to glance at where I had parked, and the truck was gone.
 
I ran to the door, as though speed would make any difference at that point, and saw it: my truck against the big tree in my front yard with a Toyota buried in the back, still running.
 
I went out and asked the old lady driving “Are you okay?”
 
“…I saw a bird…”
 
“Do you know what just happened?”
 
“It swooped down from a roof over there, and…oh, did I hit your truck?”
 
I saw a pill bottle rolling around on the floorboard. “Yep.”
 
“Oh, dear, I’ll just drive home and get my insurance. I live just around the corner.”
 
“Nope. You’re staying here.” I reached in, shut the Toyota off, and called 911 to let them know to send an ambulance and police.
 
The truck looked like an accordion. I ended up saving the engine, which turned out to be a 390, the radiator and the horn button. the rest went to the local pick-a-part.
 
That engine currently resides in my new beater–a 1972 F100! This time with a short bed and way more rust!
 
God, when will I learn?

Rust Collection

Every once in a while you guys suprise the hell out of us.  Every once in a while we get a submission of a Saab, a sweet Impala, or in this case a Ford Taurus SHO and Mercury Capri and we lose our collective minds.  When we started talking with Nick we were expecting the usual single-beater post.  Then his submission came in and we found ourselves with a collection.

We spent a good two days trying to figure out how to break this up into several posts.  Gutlass then SHO?  Gutlass and SHO then Capri? It just wasn’t going to work. We had to share them all.

Here’s another Beater Feature from our Canadian brother, Nick:


Number One

I’ll start with my daily driver, a 1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham Sedan. Bodied by Fisher. Also known as the Gutlass.
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I got the car from a friend and fellow Oppositelock reader back in August for the grand sum of,  $0. He was moving out of town and just wanted the car gone, but not crushed. So I borrowed a pickup truck and a car dolly and made the 3 hour trek to Guelph Ontario from Kingston. The tow home was uneventful excepting the time I got caught on the Don Valley Parkway. At rush hour. Towing a 4000 pound sedan. With no trailer lights because the fuse popped on the way up there and I had no spares. A stop at a friends in Toronto was a welcome rest.
Guelph To Kingston
The car is powered by a 305 cubic inch Chevrolet small-block mated to a THM 200 (weak sauce) three speed automatic. I’m slowly fixing leaks and killing rust, though there was surprisingly little for a 32 year old Canadian car. Just the standard rotten dog leg that every single G body ever made has, and a little cancer in the wheel arch on the right front that you can see in the picture above. I still have the original wire hubcaps, I even have the factory tool to get them off. These (442? Rallye?) wheels came with  the car so I cleaned them up slapped a coat of paint on them and voila.
 
The next step is to do a dirtball rebuild on a 4 bolt main 350 that I got for $200 out of a ’72 Chevy truck and install it so i can shatter that flimsy transmission and find a beefier transmission. A 700-R4 would be nice so I can have the overdrive 4th gear.
And maybe some shocks.

 

NUMBER TWO

Here’s my 1991 Ford Taurus SHO.
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 To be more specific this is a 1991 SHO MTX (manual transaxle) with the ‘Plus’ package (just badging and some extra trim here and there) in Deep Jewel Green Metallic with black leather interior. Apparently that makes this a bit of a rare car, 1 of somewhere around 30 optioned this way in 91.
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I didn’t find out about that until after I’d bought the car, I only payed $400 for it so that’ll give you a hint as to what kind of shape it was in, but initially I never intended to put the car on the road, it was supposed to be an engine donor for my third vehicle that I’ll get to in a second. But being the sloppy emotional dates us car guys are, I got attached to the car and thus I spent nearly 2 grand rebuilding the brakes and suspension. Whoops.
 
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The best part of this story so far is what happened when I finally went to pick up the car. So I had bought the car off Craigslist where dude had it advertised for $600 US. I convinced my father, an ex military Vehicle Tech and a damn good shade tree mechanic in his own right, I’ll leave a picture or two of his current projects down below, to come along to look at the car. In the end I beat the guy down to $400 and agreed to come pick up the car in a couple weeks once the customs paper work cleared. So we wait, and three days before we go to get the car, my mother mails away my passport. Which is a problem because I live in Canada an the car was 2 hours away in upstate New York. The perils of freeloading off your parents.
 
Now, somehow all this time the dude selling us the car failed to mention that the car had no brakes what so ever. We never thought to ask. So because of the passport debacle, my father and one of his friends went to pick up the car for me. Great. They get down there and the previous owner wants his after market wheels off the car, fine, he gave me a set of the factory 16″ Slicers. Pull the car in his garage, swap the tires and be on our way, easy right? NOPE. Since the car had no brakes and the drive way sloped towards the garage, it rolled right into the door frame. That’s the first oops.
 
The second oops, and the one I’m still trying to fix, came last October while I was leaving work. I was making a U-turn to leave the parking lot when the steering jammed, either broke the rack or the k-member broke, and it steered me straight on into a steel fence post. I have found a fellow in Wisconsin who has what I need, I just need to get it.  So it sits. Waiting.
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Time for specs. This SHO is the last year of the “Gen 1” pre face lift cars, so it is packing a 225 horsepower 3.0l Yamaha developed dual overhead cam V6 that screams up to its 7200 rpm redline like a motorcycle. Makes sense considering the Yamaha connection. The cool thing about this engine is that Yamaha guaranteed the engine to survive speeds up to 10,000 RPM! The only reason that its pegged back is that Ford couldn’t figure out how to keep serpentine belts on it. Underneath the car is pretty much stock with the exception of a trunk mounted battery and some subframe connectors.
 
 
Here’s my 1977 Capri. Sold through Mercury dealerships in North America, every one of the left hand drive models was built in Cologne Germany by Ford, and sold as Fords over the Atlantic.
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The car is a basket case. Someone pulled the engine, a 2.8 V6 and 4 speed stick for a TVR replica as I understand, so its nothing but a roller right now. Plans are in the works to drop in a 2.0 litre Cologne V6 super charged with an Eaton Gen V blower from a mid nineties Pontiac GTP. But that’s down to road a ways yet. This was where that SHO V6 was supposed to end up originally.  Oh well.

Here’s some pictures of the Old man’s cars.

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Here we have a 1970 Ford Ranchero GT, a factory GT  speed car/truck/thing with a 351 Cleveland living under the hood. Its currently being reassembled after paint.
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And this is a 1989 Ford E-250 converted to a 4×4 by Quigley 4×4 for Bell Canada for use as a line service truck. The Hotwheels paint job is courtesy of the last owner, an avid Hotwheels collector. And yes, that’s a 10’000 pound Warn winch on the bumper. Its powered by a fuel injected 302 V8 backed by an AOD automatic running to a FarmBro 2 speed transfer case and a Ford 10.25″ rear axle and a Dana 44 front axle.
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And this is the family heirloom. A 1975 Ford Capri II John Player Special. This is number 46 of 50 built in 1975 for the German Touring Car series, and is currently powered by a 2.8 cologne V6 that’s boosted to over 300hp by way of an ancient Garrett turbo lifted from a Scania truck! 300 horses motivates this 2200 pound car pretty damn good.