Friday, April 13, 2018

Route 66, What this television show meant to me.

Route 66 premiered October 7th, 1960. I would have been six years old. It ran until March 20th 1964 with a total of 116 episodes. It was created by Herbert B. Leonard and Stirling Silliphant who also had developed the ABC television drama series "The Naked City." No wonder the stories were so compelling.

When ever I hear that evocative Nelson Riddle theme I am transported to a special time in my life. This was the early 1960's. I was an elementary school kid that longed for the time when I could take to the open road.  I longed to share the freedom and adventure experienced by Todd and Buzz; Martin Millner and George Meharis.

This is one of the books that started it all.
Not too many hidden meanings in this account.

It seemed that every young person in America was sharing the same longing which was reflected in the literature and music of the times.  Think about it: Jack Keroac's On the Road, John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley in search of America, Woody Gutherie's This land is your land. Bobby Troupe's Get your kicks on route 66. This was the entire social mileau.

There were things going on in Keroac's book that were more than a road trip itinerary, I must admit that when I read it in my Twenties some of it was kind of hard to understand, and seemed kind of dull. But that evocative name!

Steinbeck's book was more a detailed travelogue with the requisite social commentary.

Woody's song was clear and to the point; this entire Country belongs to you, and you have  every right as an American to see it, and experience it.

This era preceded the birth of the hippie generation of youth that took up hitch hiking and converted school bus campers.

Still worth reading.

The premise of the show is simple; two guys, one car, one country. All this adds up to a young American's idea of Freedom.

The show's opening scenes usually featured impressive open views of the surrounding countryside  or the gritty urban sprawl that they were entering.

With the packed luggage rack on the trunk, the Corvette was a replacement for the bedroll and pack of the traditional wandering Cowboy.

And these guys were travelling light.

The car was always one of the stars, as the Corvette was a personification of the American Dream.
Chevrolet supplied the cars and a new model was featured every year, although this was never mentioned by the characters.

By the final season the Corvette Stingray was one of the stars.
As a "sixty something" just saying that name is magic.

It wasn't just young guys out there.

Moving on from place to place. Drifters in search of "something." A theme that is old as our country, a nation of pioneers, it has always resonated throughout our history. Think of Charles Kuralt on the road, Then came Bronson, and even American Pickers. Horace Greeley said "Go West young man." A new place, a new opportunity, a new life. The fulfillment of an old dream.

Stopping and becoming embroiled in a local situation. They get involved and they help resolve the issue, and then they move on. The idea presented in the series is that Buzz and Todd are dissatisfied with their old life and are travelling looking for someplace where they can put down roots and build a new life. To travel hopefully can be better than to actually arrive.

The idea of the show was often much better than the actual content. The drama among the characters was the obvious emphasis, and the story lines became a bit preachy as the series progressed. Buzz and Todd just inserted themselves into other people's business. Often times it appeared that the other characters would have just as happy to have been left alone. It can be annoying when outsiders appear on the scene and think they have all the right answers.

It seems that I spent my entire childhood waiting for something to happen. I wasn't satisfied sitting at home when things were going on out there, somewhere. I wanted to get out, and at least be out there to see it, experience it, and possibly even influence it. The problem was that I was only ten years old at the time and I had some growing up to do!

Which was what I was waiting for all along. Like most kids in my generation I was waiting to turn sixteen so that I could get my driver's license. That was going to be my passport to independence, freedom and the possibility of adventure. Everything that was promised to me on television. The American romance of the open road seems to have lost it's luster for the current younger generation. They can't wait to have an autonomous self driving car, so can passively sit there playing with their phone, just like when their Mama was driving them everywhere in her Camry.

The last American heroes?

Buzz and Todd would have vigorously rejected that proposition. In the movie "The Right Stuff" test pilot Chuck Yeager told the scientists and developers of the space craft that there had to be flight controls for the Astronauts to use. The Astronauts were pilots, not cargo. They wanted the ability to exercise direct control over their spacecraft, and their destiny. They would not settle for anything less.

Nor would I.

This show was one of the influences that made me want to travel through the country and experience the different areas that I had read about but never seen. I would have loved the idea of doing that traveling in a new Corvette, but I managed to enjoy my journeys using a series of motorcycles. The reality may not have made for the compelling drama of Route 66, but the best thing is that I actually managed to do it.

I think I'll cue up that theme music one more time.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Time for the Mustang to get a little love. There's been a little too many of my memories, musings, and ramblings. Not enough work being done. Not enough progress reports.

Just call it the "Plastic Fantastic."

My car hobby doesn't exist in a vacuum, sometimes Life has more immediate concerns for me to deal with. I even managed to get quite sick. I thought it was just a cold and that I would power through it. That's what I usually try to do. It didn't work this time, I ended up with a walking pneumonia. Luckily I did go to the doctor for treatment, but the delay caused my illness to continue for at least another week.

At least the weather is now cooperating. There was a period of warm dry weather at the beginning of the year but I didn't take advantage of it. Then we got some needed rain. It sure did come down a couple of weeks ago. I'm going to have to take advantage of the current mild weather and work on my car in the driveway, since my garage is still unavailable.

I got out the shop manual to review the repair procedure. I've done this job once before, but a refresher couldn't hurt. Nothing too taxing. The hardest thing was jacking up the car to drain the coolant and remove the lower radiator hose. There's quite a bit of fiddling with hose, electrical, and fuel connections but I will just label everything as I go.

As I like to say, sometimes you just have to do the work.

The shop manual states that the EGR tube has to be removed from the exhaust manifold prior to removing the intake manifold. I remember that I only had to remove the actual EGR valve last time, so that I only had to go under the car to unhook the lower radiator hose and drain the radiator. What a mess! Couldn't they include a drain tap? The EGR tube left enough clearance to remove and replace the manifold, just like I remembered.

This is the  underside of the heater hose boss,
where I expected to find a crack.

After I removed the manifold I flipped it over and expected to see a visible crack somewhere under the heater hose boss, but was disappointed. I also checked the heater hose connection to the solid pipe next to the firewall, with no success. A leak here could have dripped or sprayed onto the rear of the manifold.

I removed that blue gasket and looked carefully to see if I could find a crack or damage under the gasket. This area was in much better shape than the front coolant ports.

I could not find any cracks in the heater hose boss.

I decided to do an internet search to see if anyone had reported a similar situation. I didn't want to replace the manifold without diagnosing the actual failure.

Those three bolts were all loose. One was backed out 1/4 inch.

Besides the loose bolts you can see the deformation and there is a crack that extends into the crossover tube gasket. Both sides were damaged. I'm wondering if the leaking coolant ran along the edge of the manifold and collected around that heater hose boss.

At the top, see that hint of blue gasket? That's the cross tube gasket underneath.

You can clearly see a crack.

While I was at it, I decided to replace many of the components that had been on the car for a long time. Shortly after I bought the car the rear heater hose blew and I lost the majority of the coolant. Those hoses crumbled as I removed them and I guess they were the original parts. These were also the same upper and lower hoses that came with the car. So I decided to replace both radiator hoses, both heater hoses, and the valley hose. The serpentine belt will get the heave ho also.

I remember that on the Mercedes straight six there is a short hose that fits between the head and the engine block. This hose cannot be replaced without removing the head. There was a section of high lighted, bold print that stated this in the shop manual. It stated that the hose should always be replaced whenever the head is removed.This impressed me so much that I try to replace things that are only accessible while I'm in there.

It seems that there is a quality issue with replacement manifolds. The popular Dorman replacement suffers from rapid deterioration and deformation resulting in coolant leaks. The replacements feature an alloy coolant cross tube that contains the thermostat housing that is an improvement, but the coolant intake ports deform and crack from the inside, causing leakage. The four bolts that attach the alloy tube to the manifold have been found to be loose on several examples, my current example included, and they cannot be tightened without removing the manifold. These replacements seem to last anywhere from three to five years, at least mine did.

It seems that the quality issue is much like the replacement gas tank filler neck grommet. I replaced the leaking unit on my car with a cheap 2.50 replacement from Late Model Restorations.  It only lasted for  a year and a half, resulting in an embarrassing and hazardous leak while on a family trip to the Gold Country. I replaced that grommet with an OEM Ford part that cost me 16.00. The difference in quality was noticeable.

An OEM Ford Racing improved performance manifold sells for 265.00 from Summit. It will probably be worth it to choose this replacement in hopes of it having a longer service life.  When I was at the Ford dealer I checked with the counter guy and thought that I heard a price of seven hundred dollars. I might want to recheck that number!

I have to admit that my disappointment in accepting that the manifold had failed so soon after replacement, made me drag my feet in starting the repair. I got five years of service out of the replacement, not bad, but the original lasted around twenty years. I consider that a pretty reasonable service life. I managed to drag my feet for around five months.

Perhaps I could have made a wiser choice than that no name brand unit from Rock Auto. It was around 170.00 Not too bad, but how long will it last?  Since I already have it on hand, I'm going ahead with the operation. I can't remember exactly when I did the previous replacement but I'm pretty sure that it was before I started this blog. Which would be over four years ago. I'll guesstimate around five years.

All ready to receive the new manifold

I cleaned all the mating surfaces, chased all the threads, and cleaned up the bolts by running them through a tap. I switched the injectors over to the manifold using new o-rings. So every thing is ready to go back together at the end of the second day. I don't approach the job like a professional mechanic, lots of times I start late and end early.  I had to replace the lower radiator hose and that required me to jack up the car and crawl underneath. The connection to the block was held on by one of those OEM spring clamps. These can be a real pain to remove as I usually use a large channel lock pliers to squeeze it. Sometimes access for the pliers is pretty limited. I ended up cutting the majority of the hose off to give me more room. I just used the usual jubilee clamp so that I could have an option on it's drive screw placement.

If you are planning on having your car judged at a Concours
then plan on using these.

This is just a common replacement hose clamp.
I saw that it was referred to as a "jubilee" clamp on some British source.
Calling it that is just one of those irritating affectations that Brit car owner's often do.

I fired it up and it started, sounding rough and backfiring. I didn't see any fuel leaks in the lines. I rechecked all the vacuum hoses and din't find anything wrong. So I checked the plug wires, maybe I mixed one up. On the passenger side I counted back from the front and only counted to three! I looked and saw that the rear plug didn't even have a lead on it! How could that be? I looked at the coil  and saw that the wire to the second plug was still stuffed in the space around the coil. I rearranged the wires and the problem was solved. Or so I thought.

After sorting out the wiring I fired it up again and it sounded fine. I was looking for any leaks and sure enough the passenger side manifold temp sender was leaking a bit. A couple of turns with a large adjustable wrench cured that. Then I noticed that it's twin on the driver's side was leaking a bit also. I was lazy. I clumsily applied the same wrench and broke the head of the unit! This time I found that a 3/4 inch deep socket would do an excellent job removing what was left. A quick trip to the store and twenty dollars later I was back in business. This replacement was black, unlike the earlier grey unit. The passenger side was green, The parts guy said that now they are now all black. He really didn't sound too sure about that. The new sender already had Teflon tape applied to it's threads. I carefully installed it with the deep socket and all was well. I had also spent an hour or so earlier cleaning the motor and engine compartment. There is something leaking that I will have to track down.

The green one on the right is for the temperature gauge.
Original parts # F68Z-10884-AA

The grey one on the left is for the ECM.
Original parts #F5AZ-12A648-AB superseded by new #3F1Z12A648-A

So what does the black one do? Will it work?
I replaced it with the OEM part. This black one is Standard #TX61.
I'll do a little more research. When you change more than one thing at a time
 it's hard to determine what caused the problem.

Ooops! I don't think that the sender is the same. I took the car for a test drive and it was running poorly and the check engine light came on. I came back home and parked it, then got on the net to investigate. First I wanted to see if both senders had the same parts number. This was a little hard to decipher as they weren't listed that clearly. Then I checked some of the forums and it was clarified a bit. The green sender on the right is for the temperature gauge, the grey one on the left is for the ECM system, so obviously they cannot be the same unit. The original parts numbers were supplied. I also learned that the newer PI performance enhanced 4.6 motor uses a single temp sender. I went down to the Ford dealer to see if I could get the genuine replacement part. The parts counterman had a little difficulty figuring out which part I was looking for, initially he said that he would have to order it. I supplied him with the original and updated parts number and he discovered that it was actually in stock. I told him that since it's a '96 I don't really think that it is that old, but again he was probably in grammar school back then! The OEM part set me back 31.00 dollars which I gladly paid.

Since I was there I took the opportunity to check out a new Mustang GT coupe. The black one on display was very nice. I could easily notice the upgraded interior compared to our '07, and ours is a Pony with leather seats, this one was cloth. As much as I liked it, I just couldn't see myself paying the 40,000 list price. I've been pricing used  '15's which are around half that much. I've definitely become a cheap old guy.

I installed the sender, topped up the coolant, and found that it was still running poorly, with an obvious miss. The check engine light came on again so I drove down to Winchester auto parts where I had been shopping. The parts guy used a code reader to determine that the problem was in cylinder number four, which was the cylinder that I initially forgot to hook up the plug wire to. I rechecked the plug wire routing and firing order. I remember last time that I replaced the manifold I had left some coolant in the plug holes and that had caused a misfire. I hadn't seen any coolant in that bore, but maybe I missed it. I blew some compressed air in the hole than I pulled the plug. The electrodes were dry, but the insulator was wet with an oily residue. I cleaned  off the plug, and ran a rag inside the plug boot and down into the spark plug hole. The inside of the boot was wet and dirty so I'm guessing I was getting flash over and a miss.

I buttoned everything back up and now I was golden, just like Pony Boy.

This just goes to show you that nothing is ever that simple.

I finished up the job in the afternoon of the fifth day. It's beginning to sound like the Creation story in the Bible!

New intake manifold, injector o-rings (of course). Replacement of upper and lower radiator hoses, rear heater hoses and valley hose, thermostat, one ECM temp sender and coolant. New serpentine belt. All of this only cost me around three hundred dollars in parts and my own free labor. This will keep the Mustang as a reliable, usable car, which is the whole point of this exercise.

Crossing my fingers for another five years.

I haven't found the receipt for the last manifold installation so I'm not really sure when it was done.
I think that it was before I started blogging. This time I scratched the date, 4/2/18, on the coolant cross over tube. That will remind me.

Mileage at the time of repair is 203,730. Remember back when a car with this kind of mileage was just a hiccup away from the junkyard? I fully expect that this motor will last me well past 250,00 miles. Probably all the way to 300,000. Isn't progress wonderful?

This time I will note the date and mileage on the receipts and staple and save them.

I have really missed driving this car and now that Spring is here it's time to lower the top and enjoy the weather. The car is in great shape, since this repair just adds to the earlier front suspension rebuild and the tires were replaced only fifteen hundred miles ago. I am aware that unfortunately the market value of the car is approaching the bottom of the value curve.

The market value doesn't really reflect the actual value of the car to me. It's a Mustang GT convertible!

A sporty, well optioned, air conditioned, V8 powered, fun to drive sporty car. It really checks all the  boxes as a hobby car. And it is practical and reliable. I have also made a long term commitment and investment to maintaining it, occasional foot dragging aside.

That is why I have decided to hold onto it for so long. While it is not rare, or exotic, or even "special" it is a good little car. If most of my meager car hobby funds evaporated overnight I would still have a car that satisfies me as an enthusiast. And isn't that what this whole thing is about?

Friday, March 30, 2018

Super Cars, What do they tell us about ourselves? (Besides reminding us how poor we are?)

2,998,000.00 Base price for this Bugatti Chiron.
I'll take two!

This Rorschach test blot serves much the same function of that Bugatti pictured above.

The Rorschach test requires us to project our thoughts about an ambiguous ink blot that can reveal deep insights into our psychological functioning. It can help reveal what is important to us. The things that motivate, frighten, and disturb us. We can see what we want to see, which is the whole basis of projection.

The Bugatti is more than just an ambiguous mass, but as an enthusiast I will project my feelings about the car, and it becomes a reflection on me. I have certain preconceived ideas about the Bugatti, the people who own and drive them, and their motivations for doing so. They may, or may not be valid, but my feelings and beliefs are probably quite firmly held. Practically speaking the Bugatti has no real relevance to my everyday life. Just like that ink blot!

At the top of the heap there will always be the favored few. The most talented, the most attractive, the most favored and the most exclusive. These entities move about in a rarefied air. They have their own reality quite distinct from mine and I would guess most of the rest of us.

They are like the Celestial bodies that travel in their own orbits far above the teeming masses below.

These objects display the ultimate: in performance, beauty, cost, and exclusivity. Ownership of one of these vehicles confers this same status to the owner. At least the status of considerable wealth.

The Zonda by Horacio Pagani.
The story behind the man and the car is very compelling.

While the levels of achievement are extremely high and the difference from the proletarian machines is quite substantial, the actual differences can end up being almost irrelevant. The speed that these vehicles can achieve far surpasses any needs rational or irrational. Realistically the opportunity to fully exploit this level of performance rarely exists.

Gotta slip in a picture of an Aston Martin whenever possible.

In Roman times the populace believed that superior beings were inhabiting the heights of Olympus and there they were involved in the intrigues of the Gods. The peasant tilling in the fields below had little connection to the clestial goings on.

As I wrote once before, there are a few different reactions that we can have towards these cars.

One reaction is fascination, awe, and envy. This is the natural response. They are definitely interesting. The story behind the car's development, and in the case of the Pagani, the man, are quite inspirational. These cars are the top strata of the automotive hierarchy. We can be forgiven for wanting to possess such a creation and we can dream about it as a "lottery winning" fantasy.

The other is a blase dismissal. They are irrelevant. They are vehicles that serve no purpose as practical automobiles. They are just the toys of the rich and vacuous.

They can be a hated symbol of the excesses of the rich and a rallying point for the Masses' culture war. An instrument of the "Ugly American" although extreme wealth has never been restricted to just this country.

The crass display of wealth goes back a long way in America.
This image is from the book "The Insolent Chariots" by John Keats.

By their nature these car were never designed to be enjoyed by the masses, and many times they have just been used as a shameless display of wealth.

But what is really new about that?

In the past, the elite lived in palaces and castles. Huge estates with an army of servants. All of this was way above the experience of the mere commoner. Luckily, the history of Democracy in our country has made it possible for many more to enjoy a higher standard of living, and the opportunity to benefit from their labor.

There are many that are focused on the upcoming wedding of the Royals. They are fascinated by the preparations and the goings on. They might say that the occasion will add excitement and the spice of romance to their lives. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as they don't end up detesting the ordinary circumstances of their own life.

As a car enthusiast I do enjoy and appreciate the degree of engineering and performance that these cars display. They can showcase up to the minute engineering that may eventually trickle down to more mainstream models.

Are they rich guys toys? Certainly.  As the Rich have gotten richer so have their toys. I don't mind that they used to buy these high priced trinkets, but I do wish that they hadn't started going around buying up so many desirable old cars!

Oh well. Let the stars shine. Look at the Aurora Borealis, watch that comet crossing the sky. We can all enjoy the view, after all it's free.

Magnificence without any cost.

Nothing about these super cars should dilute the interest and affecction that we have for the cars that we can experience and own in our real world.

The existence of the Bugatti shouldn't affect our interest in a 2015 Mustang GT or a 1954 Ford Mainline coupe, or a '66 VW Beetle.

If it does, then maybe we weren't the car guys we thought we were.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Replicas, kit cars and tributes, Oh My!

Is it real or is it Memorex?
( notice that it is parked next to a VW bug)

Do you think that this Lazer will fool anyone into thinking that it's legit? Is imitation the greatest form of flattery?

I have to admit that I've always been a little curious about kit cars and the people that choose to build and drive them.

I've gone to the big Northern California kit car show a couple of times. There were certain themes that were very apparent.

I suppose that the first thing is to define some of these terms, which I will do to the best of my understanding.

Replica. I suppose that any car that is not authentic is a replica of something else. This term really doesn't make any assessment on the quality of engineering or construction. There is a manufacturer that is building a classic Bugatti type 35 roadster that is faithful to the original specifications. It is meant to be an exact copy of the original. There is a video on Jay Leno's garage that covers this amazing car. This is not so much a replica as a re-creation.

photo source: Forbes magazine.
Remember this picture.

Then there are the Jaguar SS100 and C Type replicas built by Suffolk Sports Cars. These are built on a reproduction frame that appears to be period correct but the mechanical components are generally supplied by later Jaguar XJ6 models. Still they are all Jaguar, well built, and miles ahead of cheaper versions.

photo source: performance
This is the C type.

Kit Car. These are usually thought of something that can be assembled at home by a hobbyist. The builder will usually have to source their own drive train components, but the heavy lifting of the engineering has been done by the manufacturer. Over the years some kits were more complete and easier to assemble than others. Back in the 1950s kit cars usually consisted of a fiberglass body with blueprints on building or modifying your own frame. "Kit car" has assumed a pejorative tone from some car enthusiasts. Is a fiberglass bodied, newly manufactured chassis, Chevy powered, 1932 Ford roadster a kit car? How about a Street Beast?

Tribute/Clone. These are usually replicas that are based upon the OEM manufacturers equipment levels that separated different models built on the same basic platform.  Usually performance models from more pedestrian examples. The difference between a muscle car, and a secretary special. The difference between a regular Chevelle and a Super Sport 396 was in the performance and appearance equipment. A run of the mill Pontiac Tempest was differentiated from a GTO in much the same manner. These different models usually carried specific VIN number identifiers. Believe it or not, there were actually early Mustang Fastbacks equipped with a straight six and three speed transmission!

Coachbuilt or bespoke construction. This is a throwback to the great coach building tradition of the past, where craftsmen clothed the chassis of a vehicle that was purchased by a wealthy patron. This is generally considered the highest quality level of construction. However sometimes even the Masters can fall short of the results of a high line production manufacturer such as Mercedes Benz. Specialty builders such as Pininfarina, Ghia and Touring built many one- off show cars for Detroit manufacturers.

Built for Raymond Loewy by Carrozzeria Boana based upon an XK140.
Not every design was an improvement.

photo source:
One of several cars that Ghia built for Virgil Exner in the 1950's.

These different manufacturers naturally featured a different level of engineering. Usually based upon market price point.

Probably the most well known kit car chassis is a VW floorpan wrapped in a fiberglass body

One of the most prolific and popular donor platforms has been the humble Volks Wagen beetle. Since the floor pan is easily separated from the body and maintains it's own structural integrity, it was fairly simple matter to design a fiberglass body of different specification. I've seen pictures of very basic VW off road vehicles that consisted of nothing but the plain floor pan.These floor pans can be lengthened or shortened to suit. Almost any body design imaginable has been mated to this platform.

These bodies have been built to resemble late Thirties Mercedes, Jaguars, Bugattis, MGs, Model As. Porsche 356 Speedsters and just about anything else you could imagine.

The torsion bar tube axle is clearly displayed.
How does it look compared to the Pursang Type 35?

Flip open that boat tail and this is what you'll find.

The Gazelle is one of the best known pre war Mercedes replicas.

This is the Jaguar SS100 replica.

This is the MG TD replica.

How come all VW based kits look almost the same? The manufacturer has to work within the limitations of the chassis, so naturally the proportions are going to suffer. Kind of like "Hot Wheels" cars. Ever notice how all the cars are about the same size with the same wheelbase?

But not all the cars look the same. Who can forget the enormously popular Dune Buggy?

The most beloved VW kit is the classic dune buggy.
This itself was actually a copy of the Myer's Manx.

And of course the spiritual cousin of the humble Beetle, the Porsche Speedster. There are some very well engineered replica kits out there. In my opinion they are very attractive and desirable. And they are about the only way an enthusiast of average means can ever afford to experience one. Have you priced any 356 lately? Or would you rather just have a very trick Karman Ghia?

I'll admit that I would love to have one of these beauties.

Quite a desirable machine in it's own right.
I'd take one of these.

Nothing I have written is intended to denigrate the use of the VW platform or the people that choose to build and drive cars of this type. There are surprising levels of performance that can be extracted from this design. If anything, the VW has lead to he democratization of the kit car industry,

Another very popular donor car platform is the Pontiac Fiero. The Fiero was blessed by having a composite body attached to a steel supporting framework. This allows a high degree of customization. Plus it is mid-engined, which gives it a little exotic car cred. This is especially beloved by those building a replica of a Ferrari. Usually the chassis has to be stretched to better match the proportions of the real thing, but not always. Sometimes a Cadillac North Star V8 will find itself in the engine bay.

Usually the proportions suffer a bit in the translation.

Some seem to hit just the right note.

Most of these Ferrari  replicas go the whole route in trying to make the transformation. Authentic looking badges, steering wheels and sometimes even entire interior restyling. The more you spend the more successful the ruse, just like everything in life.

Companies like Factory Five Racing and Super Performance can deliver a replica kit that is simply breathtaking, just be prepared to pay the bill.

This is the Factory Five Shelby Daytona coupe. Not many originals were made.
I've actually seen one of these on the street.

Can you blame anyone for wanting one of these?

These examples of the Daytona coupe and Cobra are completely engineered replicas. There are also  kits that are similar to Hamburger Helper; one kit, one wrecked Mustang GT, equals one Shelby Cobra!

Kind of like these Datsun 240Z based Ferrari 250 GTO coupes.

One of the most beautiful and desirable cars ever.

This upgraded interior was done in good taste.
It clearly is more luxurious appearing than the original Z. 

I've seen several very well done examples of this transformation and a couple of poorly finished ones also. In reality I'm sure that that the Datsun makes a more comfortable, practical, and useful car. But what should the driver tell inquisitive onlookers?

Or would you rather just drive this?

Add on kits to convert 90's T birds to a shoebox Ford? Maybe some questions are better left unanswered.

Interesting is one way to describe it.

I haven't even touched upon the kit car that started this whole genre, the ubiquitous T Bucket.              T Buckets were based upon a cut down touring car which was called a "Lakes Roadster." These were legitimate early hot rods. Every type of available chassis and body was used in this design, generally whatever was available and cheap. As time went on the availability of authentic bodies declined and aftermarket fiberglass bodies appeared on the market. By the time the 1970's rolled in these cars were routinely built from totally inauthentic components, in other words there wasn't any early Ford in them. Not to say that they didn't evolve. The example below features a swept back windshield and steering column. It still retains the cut down pick up bed as well as the "big and littles."

A modern example of the breed.

photo source: pinterest
This is what they used to look like.

So what is the verdict? Should there even be a verdict? And "who" should be the one to stand in judgement?

Should we write off owners of these cars as posers? That seems a a little harsh. A lot of these cars that are replicated were either built in very limited numbers, or like the Daytona coupe never built as a street car. Well engineered high priced vehicles like the Pursang Bugatti, the C type, The Daytona coupe and Super Performance Cobra are real sports cars. They were built to perform to a high level. They could easily be clothed in non replica coachwork and still be admired. The fact that they look like something that we might aspire to is just a bonus.

Replicas like the Datsun Z, Fiero, and the Mustang GT based Cobras exist on a slightly lower level. Their platforms can be enhanced to provide more than adequate levels of performance. These were legitimate performance cars in their own right. The Fiero gets a bad rap because so many builders build the cheaper replicas that just don't have convincing proportions. Spend enough money though, and you will impress.

VW based kits are a bit more problematic. Except for the Porsche 356, none of these looks enough like the original to fool anyone. They are usually smaller than the originals and you can't disguise the sound of the little flat four motor. The detailing of the bumpers, lights, and the use of wire spoke hub caps in lieu of real wire wheels detracts from their appearance. However I don't think that the drivers of these cars are really trying to fool anyone, they are just looking for a little fun.

I've often wondered if the builders should use authentic looking badges and name plates. Take the Datsun/Ferrari for example. I think that these cars look pretty good, but should they include the prancing horse? Would a Datsun badge be more honest, or would it just look kind of silly and out of place? A builder like Factory Five or SuperPerformance has their own logo that carries some prestige. Perhaps an additional badge that proclaims "Tribute" by Datsun or "Homage" by Pontiac would be appropriate.

Some of the cars that these kits are based upon are unavailable due to their rarity, cost or both. Would someone just be satisfied and happier driving a nicely maintained Karmann Ghia, Pontiac Fiero, Datsun Z or even Mustang GT? At least you wouldn't have to explain anything to anyone.

I think that these owners just wants to experience a little of the glory that belongs to the original. There may be those that want to fool others that they have the real thing, but there are plenty of experts around eager to call them out!

But why should anyone want to do that? Hobby cars are for fun. Show the driver some appreciation for their effort to bring some variety to the mix of traffic. They obviously care enough about cars to want to drive something that is distinctive, just like most enthusiasts.

In my old age I no longer take myself so seriously and I think that I could enjoy driving a car like the one pictured below, crazy as it is.

Move over, you've got a bearcat on your bumper.
I'll guess that it was built by a civic group as a parade car.

On the other hand, maintaining a little sense of shame might still be a good thing!