One thing about growing up in the San Fernando Valley that anyone who has lived there knows, it gets HOT in the summer time. Maybe not as hot as some parts of the nation or world, but when you’re twisting wrenches on a hot motor — and out in the sunshine during mid-day, an umbrella from the back yard is a welcomed “tool”. When I was 17 it was a big moment for me to be able to buy a 1970 Plymouth Road Runner, yet as my income from working on cars grew it was when I was able to add my second car — a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS396 that I felt particularly fortunate.
Since I had modified the Road Runner for strip/drag racing, between rear-end gear ratio (4:56 to 1) and engine performance/fuel consumption (12.7 to 1 compression and an 850 c.f.m. Holley), a stock SS396 Chevelle was a great “daily driver”. Here in this photo I am enjoying a moment of “pride of ownership” with my fellow car buff Jim Hignite — who had purchased his own fun muscle car: a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T 440 (440 cubic inches; 850 Holley w/mechanical secondaries; 4-speed transmission with the famed Hurst “Vertical Gate” linkage with straight throws, no “H” pattern and reverse lock-out, along with that crisp “rumpity-rump” exhaust note through Hooker headers and Chrysler “hemi” mufflers.
In the foreground of this shot we’ve got my roll-away tool box parked in front of Rick Cole’s 1969 Plymouth GTX: 440 cubic inches with a modified (strip/street ) Torque Flight automatic transmission with a Hole Shot torque converter (when they were just introduced, in fact, Rick’s GTX was used by B&M to test a prototype version of the Hole Shot). Rick’s GTX was like a rolling showcase of aftermarket performance parts.
While the car was a good runner when Rick bought the GTX stock, after we installed a higher stall-speed torque converter, Hedman headers, Edelbrock Tarantula intake manifold, Holley 780 cfm carb and the Crane camshaft kit that we were putting in the day this photo was taken — Rick’s GTX became a new “beast” on Van Nuys Boulevard and blistered the then-quarter-mile drag strip at Irwindale. Once modified after our aftermarket performance-parts buying spree, just listening to Rick’s GTX idle at a stop light was fun … it sounded like a monstrous, if slightly muffled-up, popcorn popper!