Sunday, September 30, 2007

What To Inspect When You're Ready To Purchase Your New Hot Rod

Once you've made up your mind that you're ready to purchase your new ride, you've narrowed down the field to the make, model and year you are most interested in, and your ready to start looking, you're suddenly overcome with fear. Fear that you might end up one of the many unfortunate ones who have either paid too much (more than the actual value), bit off more of a project than you can fix yourself, or you find out too late that there were a lot of overlooked problems. Or, perhaps you've never even thought of the chance of this happening to you!

We've compared notes with other professionals like Motorheads Performance who are paid to inspect classic cars. We all agree that there is a standard list of items which are typically scrutinized. A buyer wants to be sure of what he is getting - this is why many are willing to hire a professional to look over a vehicle prior to purchase. The buyer has most often looked at many vehicles and has narrowed down his selection to just the one or two that have been his/her own criteria. Having a complete list will help reduce the list of "unexpected" repairs which will be needed down the road, give you greater bargaining power with the seller, and give you peace of mind that what you are paying is reasonable. With the prices of hot rods today, we find that there are many overpriced vehicles on the market just waiting for the unsavvy buyer to come along and fall in love with it.

You should be able to speak with the person who will be performing your inspection so that they can get a feel for what YOU feel is problematic or not. If doing the inspection yourself, be honest with yourself in asking: what will you be using the car for, are you willing to do work yourself, will you be hiring a shop to perform work for you (if so, what is your budget for this), etc. To some, a rotted floor may not seem a big deal, where a leaking transmission may end the sale right then. For another buyer, the opposite may be true. By this time, you should have a feel for what your abilities are, what you are and are not willing to do, and what your wallet will bear.

After rating all areas of the vehicle, you'll be in a much better position to make a good decision. In prior articles, we've looked at how to determine a car's actual value by consulting authoritative guides such as Kelley Blue Book, and other resources of information such as:

You'll rate the vehicle's value to cost before you even make an appointment to take a look at it. Once you have an appointment, you'll want to be prepared, not only with your list of mandatory items you want, but prepared to take a close look at all the things you don't want! You probably already know many of the basic things to look for. Using a checklist helps you organize your inspection, helps if you need to compare two or more vehicles, and keeps you from overlooking things in the moment of excitement as you're looking over a potential "winner". And, remember to keep a standard system of rating so the comparison is valid.

If you would like to receive the Vehicle Inspection Form we use at Motorheads Performance, please e-mail me at:

Motorheads Performance provides inspection services for anyone interested in purchasing a car or truck from 1920 to 1979.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Choosing Horsepower and Driveability:
Make Sure Your Ride is Enjoyable

It's all too easy to get caught up in the quest for more horsepower. It's easy to forget that we also want to ENJOY our ride, and to enjoy it, we need it to be driveable.

With the recent rebirth of the muscle car craze, everyone is in search of MORE HORSEPOWER. Go all-out and install a killer big block, 560 cu 800 hp drag racing engine that's built for the strip and you'll have something that'll light up your tires off a stop light, but will probably be a royal pain to drive in city traffic. Most of us want something that will ride nicely on the street, allow you to feel the power, turn a lot of heads, and light things up every now and then! Sometimes easier said than done.

Going overboard is a common mistake. At Motorheads Performance, we ask all of our customers to be honest about your intended use. You should look hard at what you enjoy, and how much time you'll be doing each of the following:

1) Daily driver
2) Short weekend day trips about town (within 100 miles)
3) Occasional cruise to the coast or Hill Country (trips 100-500 miles, a few times a year)
4) Regular cruises and rod runs (trips 100 or more miles, monthly or more per year)
5) Long rod runs (cross country trips and national rod runs)
6) Only for show (car won't be seeing much pavement)
7) Short rides for an afternoon or night out.
8) Occasionally want to "punch it"
9) Like to try the drag strip once to "see what she'll do"
10) Occasional trip to the drag strip "for the thrill" (few times a year at most)
11) Regular trips to the drag strip to "better my time" (6-12 races a year)
12) Serious drag racing (weekly racing but "I want to drive there")
13) Serious drag racing (she'll be trailered)
14) Looks only (won't be driving it much - "I want an investment")
15) ...any other use not mentioned above

There are many things a good performance shop will consider in helping match you with the right engine. For instance, a beautiful, throaty, loping idle usually has a long-duration cam that makes plenty of top end power. It also kills low-end torque and throttle response because it may be putting out a power curve that runs from 4,500 to 9,000 rpm. Great for the drag strip, but not practical or desired for the street. A good street cam will have a power curve that runs from 1,500 to 5,500 so that you get the low-end torque to make street driving enjoyable. There are good street-strip combinations which operate in the mid range of these if you are planning on doing a bit of both.

You should consider reliability of your engine. This can become a concern as your horsepower goes up. Most V8 engines can easily handle an extra 50 to 150 hp without throwing a rod or blowing head gaskets under most driving conditions other than serious racing. Most drivetrains can handle moderate increases without mashing your rear end or grinding up your transmission.

Once you get into the higher horsepower performance engines, you need to start beefing up your drivetrain and other components to handle the torque and keep things from breaking apart.

If you're thinking of serious horsepower, your stock block may have to be upgraded from a two-bolt main to a four-bolt main. Appropriate head gaskets need to be used in order to keep the pressure where it belongs. Performance gaskets are usually used for 400-500 hp engines, while anything above this would require sealing the cylinders with copper O-rings. Stiffer valve springs and pushrods, a larger radiator or supplemental cooling fan, larger high-pressure clutch and U-joints, as well as a stronger rear-end to hold things together. You may need traction bars for control, as well as stiffer rear shocks and/or springs. Even your fuel pump needs to be considered in order to ensure that you get enough fuel to feed your hungry engine.

Speaking of fuel, you'll need to consider the type of gasoline you'll need to use with all your new-found horsepower! The highest common octane is 93. If you have a high compression engine, you may need more than this, and may need to add an octane-booster. If you don't use high enough octane, you may risk damaging your engine from detonation and preignition. With gas prices sky high, your wallet will feel it every time you take her out for a little ride so you'll need to consider this because it may keep you from enjoying your ride as much as you'd like to.

And, something which always needs to be considered is cost. You want to balance your "need for speed" with the fact that SPEED = MONEY. The more horsepower you want, the more money you will need to spend. And, as you've seen above, there are certain hp threasholds that increase your expenses dramatically. Keeping your budget in mind is one way of keeping from going overboard.

What this all means to you is to think carefully about your intended use. Find out what type of engine and horsepower will deliver this and you'll be much happier when the job is all done. Your ride is an expensive project and you want to be able to hit the road with a smile, not a scowl of frustration.

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