This is something I wrote a while back that answers this question...at length! I'm quite sure you'll get extremely bored with it long before you reach the end of it, but it was fun for me to write! I wrote this list out about three years ago, but it's still pretty correct. Enjoy (or not!).
Every gearhead car nut has a list of some sort. The List – the cars that he or she would own “if only.” Usually, “if only” has to do with money. Most of us will never own all, or even some, of the cars on our list, because we generally seem to want some pretty pricey stuff. I may never own everything on my list, but I have begun to realize that things don’t generally happen unless they are motivated by a plan. They may not happen as a direct result of acting on that plan, but the occurrence generally has something to do with the plan in some way. For that reason, I feel it’s important for me to make my List. Even if most of it never comes true, there is a greater chance that some portion of my dreams will be fulfilled if I have these ideas written down.
Having said all that, it has occurred to me that it’s been an extremely long time since I’ve written a List, probably because I figured it wasn’t worth it, and I figured I’d never own them anyway, so what’s the point? Well, there’s some point to it. In my opinion, the universe seems to help us out when we make it obvious that we’re prepared for one particular thing or another.
So, here’s The List, or What I’m Prepared to Own. Some I think I would like to keep or try to hang on to, while I’d just need one summer or one year with them to enjoy fully. These things are not in a very particular order, although the GTOs are definitely hot ones for me.
1969 GTO Judge – I’ve wanted a Goat since high school. I have yet to own one. My brother owns one, a ’66. I want a black ’69 Judge with a four speed and a white interior. I’ve seen one in a book and I think they look amazing. I want to cruise down the road at night, flip up the hidden headlights, and shift into fourth gear while listening to some good music. This experience would be extremely close to heaven on earth for me.
1968 Golden Sabre GTO – Knaefel Pontiac made a dozen of these. I’ve seen a picture of one of them. It was white with gold rocker moldings and gold Hurst mags. I believe they also came with Ram Air V engines swapped in at the dealership. For Pontiac guys, this car is like owning a factory Hemi lightweight car. They’re very exotic and very fast. I have no idea how you would go about finding one. They’re like Shelby Cobras in that nearly all of the existing ones are accounted for by Pontiac enthusiasts. I think there’s a missing one out on the east coast somewhere.
1968 Royal 428 GTO - Royal Pontiac made just a few of these in '68. They'd just get in a 400 car and then swap in a warmed up 428 in place of the original. There was a car magazine that did a review on one of these cars immediately after it had been assembled. I wish I could recall the magazine. I think the car was red with black hood accents on the scoops. I've always liked the idea of a small(er) Pontiac with the big car's 428 in it. It just says, "Let's go shut 'em down."
Milt Schornack’s Royal-prepped 1969 Ram Air V GTO – This is the gold car, not the Crystal Turqoise and white car. I first found out about this car from Milt’s personal web site. I subsequently saw it on eBay about a year after that – perhaps in ’03 or ’04. It did not sell. I don’t think most folks had a clue as to what they were seeing. I love the paint scheme, and it still has the original mags on it from when it was first built. The look just screams sixties, and with the RAV mill I’m sure it screams down the road too. It’s a piece of speed history as well as a piece of Pontiac history. It was the last car Schornack put together involving Royal, if I’m recalling correctly. I think it was the second to last car that he put together in cooperation with Pontiac. He did have a ’70 Goat that he drag raced, but the ‘69 car was a street car. He kept it after the engine developed what I believe was a wrist pin problem and restored it years later. I would love to have this car. I think if I had this car I might not ever care if I had any of the other cars. It would flat trounce a Judge, mighty as they may be, and I really dig the human element that is present in this car. It was carefully put together by a select group of individuals with a specific goal in mind. I admire that sort of history, and appreciate all the care that has been put into this vehicle from its inception to the present. What an awesome machine.
Below is a '69 GTO (which looked very similar save for some minor grille changes and not having vent wings in the windows) that looks a lot like what the '69 Ram Air V car would have looked like. I found this photo on an Ebay ad. The car wasn't a real Ram Air V car from the factory, but it had Ram Air V cylinder heads on it. It's just pretty damn awesome looking.
1965 GTO – Naturally, I’d want a four speed car along with Tri-Power, perhaps in maroon or dark blue. I absolutely love the interior on these cars as well. I may be wrong, but I think the bucket seats on these were a one-year-only design. I dig it.
1970 GTO Judge – This one is a little more typical in paint scheme, but it’s not because I’m in love with Orbit Orange, rather, it’s because I like its presence in Two Lane Blacktop. I’d take the Judge emblems off and use Keystones as in the movie car. It would be a plain ol’ heavy street machine, simple as that.
Gasser-style ’55 Chevy – any speed freak who has watched Two Lane Blacktop wants something like this, even if it’s just for a week. Flip front end, radiused rear wheel openings, mags, hot motor, four speed, no front bumper - the whole nine yards. I don’t necessarily want an exact copy of the movie car, but I want something that evokes that same feeling of simple, uncompromised, all-business power and acceleration. I might like it in white or black. Sometimes my brain gets all twisted and I think it would look good in heavy raspberry flake or gold flake with Cragar SS mags. I suppose that comes from watching all those great Gasser Wars videos from the Jackson Brothers. If you haven’t seen those vids, go pick ‘em up. They’re the most fun you can have legally.
Below is a gasser-type '55 Chevy. It's not exactly the way I'd do mine (I'd not have mine jacked up at all four corners, I'd instead cut out the back fenders for tire clearance and just have it nosed up in the front for some attitude), but it's still kickass, and a fair representation of what these cars kind of turned into when they were street cars. They called them "street freaks," 'cause they looked pretty freaky. A more race-oriented car wouldn't be jacked up so high at every corner. The spun aluminum gas tank in the grille, the colored plexiglass windows, and the white exhaust headers poking out of the front fender well - that stuff is all right on the money for the heyday of this style of hot rodding:
1969 Mach I – Full-tilt. I’d want the Detroit Locker with steep gears, 428 CJ with shaker scoop (‘natch), four speed, yadda, yadda, yadda. I wanted a Mach I for a while in high school, although back then I liked the ’70 better. These days I prefer the dual headlights of the ’69 model. I have no idea what color I’d like, although I’m not a huge fan of red cars. Perhaps green. These cars, shod with some serious rubber and those fabulous factory Magnum 500s just look too tough. The fastback styling and the bulge in the beltline over the rear tire make them look super-hot.
1968 Coronet R/T – Don’t ask me where I came up with this idea – wait, I just remembered. This one is a real recent addition to The List, perhaps only a year old. I was looking up random Hemi stuff on the web. I came across a web site a guy had built concerning a car he and his brother had owned. It was a black ’68 R/T with the red stripe around the back. I saw a picture of that great taillight setup and thought, “Man, that’s one of the most sinister-looking machines Chrysler ever put together.” I’m not even sure what all power options you could get on one of these, but I’d go for a 440 for sure, a Hemi if it was available for that year. Who doesn’t want a Hemi?!
1973 Motion Nova - I want the one 427-powered ’73 Nova that Motion Performance put together (or maybe it was Nickey, I’m forgetting). I read a period article about this car. It was a review that some magazine did on it. They built it for some guy who I believe lived in or around the mid-northeast, like somewhere in Michigan perhaps. I guess they guy had it for several years and enjoyed the hell out of it. The dealer said that two or three years later the man got divorced and his wife brought the car back and demanded that the engine be swapped for a stock 350, because she was getting the car and didn’t want to drive such a hairy beast. Why she wouldn’t just sell it is beyond me. It’s possible she did it out of revenge on her ex-husband, because she knew it would bother him. At any rate, the engine was swapped out. The car is currently MIA. I owned a ’73 Nova Custom in high school. I have a small soft spot for them. Performance was on its way out in ’73, and the Motion/Nickey car was probably one of the very few that was ever fitted with a big block from the dealership. I always thought it would be nice to outfit this year Nova with some real heat, since many people malign it for its funky grille and heavy front and rear bumpers.
Below are a trio of Novas - and NONE of them are '73s! That's because lots of people don't like the '73 grille, which was big and heavy-looking. That's fine. I can't really argue, but these are basically the same car with a little different grille and bumper. Plus, these here are done up the way I'd do mine, just like a badass-looking street car:
Nash-powered street rod – My dad is a Nash guy. He owns a ’53 Statesman and used to have a ’61 Metropolitan. A couple of years ago he sent me some email that was bouncing around on his Nash list. A guy was cleaning out his garage and had a finned aluminum Edmunds dual carb intake for a Nash straight six. Dad sent me a link to the pictures. The carbs and much of the linkage were there, although the head had portions of several fins broken off of it. Quite naturally, I freaked out over it and asked pop to find out if it was for sale. The short of the story is that the head is now mine. At some point I want to build up a late 20s or early 30s street rod with this head as its crowning piece of speed equipment. I’m used to the sound of a V8, so the idea of an unmuffled flathead straight six has got me pretty cranked. I believe I’d like to run shorty exhaust pipes right out the side and only baffle them if absolutely necessary. I don’t want to run a hood either, as the head/intake is far too cool to cover up. On this engine it is also interesting to note that Nash never had an intake manifold. Rather, the carbs bolted directly to the head. Fun old speed stuff!
30s coupe with Nailhead – I saw a picture in a book recently. The book is titled, simply, Hot Rods. It focuses on cars through the 40s with a heavy emphasis on Fords. There’s a photo in it of a kid driving what I recall as a black primered ’32 with a ’33 grille. The fenders and hood are off and you can see the Nailhead. It’s got copper steel wheels with rings and caps. Something about the look of that car has really stuck with me, and the allure of the Nailhead, with its instantly recognizable horizontal valve covers, is hard to resist. It’s a very late 50s or early 60s-style ride. I would like it with traditional roll and pleat interior with some sort of instrument panel transplanted from a differet 30s or 40s car. I really dig old dashes and gauge setups. They look like antique radios, and every one is unique. There were designed with far more style than function in those days, and you would find all sorts of different arrangements of gauges. For me that is part of the inherent charm of an old car. I understand that many people like the look or preferred reliability of digital instruments, but I want to feel like I’m sitting behind a Philco as I cruise around in the late evening.
A righteous late 20s/early 30s sedan – I’m not 21 anymore. I hope to have a family at some point, and if I have a sedan for a hot rod, then I can pile the wife and kids in it and we can all run around together. Of course, I would like to make it shag-nasty and ultra-hot, but if it’s going to put on some real miles and I need to be concerned about reliability, I may have this one with some sort of traditional mill up front. Perhaps I’d go for a small Ford, however, if only to stay away from the “been done” vibe of an SBC. I don’t know how picky I am on that point, however, so perhaps it would end up with a 283 or a 327. I think I’d like it in white, with cut-down fenders in back and no fenders up front. I saw a photo of a sedan like this in Rod & Custom some years ago. I still have the vision in my head.
Hot Rodded Panel Truck – I just think they’re cool as hell. I’ve always had this ridiculous idea that I could tool around the Midwest doing gigs in a hot rodded panel truck. This is pretty unrealistic, in part because it’s a complete lottery as to what kind of parking arrangements are available at gigs, and it could be that I’d be forced to park an extremely fine machine in a very hostile environment. Here’s such an example: I was once parked right in front of the bar in a rather upscale neighborhood. It was the second night of gigging from Chicago to Michigan, we finished very late, and then had an 8-hour drive home. I was so tired that I didn’t realize there was a business card stuck under the windshield wiper. I was almost at my house before the slip of paper registered in my brain. I got out at a stoplight and pulled it loose. It was from a police officer. It said a bicyclist had run into my crappy minivan and that I could call the number on the card if I cared to make a claim or lodge a complaint or whatever. It was only then that I noticed that the antenna was bent and that there was a 6-inch diagonal dent in the right front fender. Fortunately, the van was pretty beat already, so I just laughed it off. If it were a ’52 Chevy with a nice paint job, however, I would have been at least a little bit upset. At any rate, I’d still like to have a panel truck to cruise around. It wouldn’t have to be built to the hilt, just have a nice exhaust note and decent enough power. I would definitely drive it to gigs when I knew there would be sufficient parking and/or security for it. This is one List car that came sorta/kinda close to being a reality. A few years ago I found a ’53 Chevy wagon in Texas into which a Chevy V6 had been swapped. I spoke with the owner about it. It seemed like I could really make this car a daily driver. One of the great folks from chevelles.com lived near the car and offered to check it out for me and take some pics. Well, it turned out that the car was rougher than the photos had led me to believe. From the new photos it appeared that I’d seen previous pics that had to be a few years old at the least. The paint was pretty flat-looking, and I saw some pics of rust that definitely had me concerned. I finally emailed the owner and told him it was too much of a project for me. A year later I saw it on eBay, and the seller was still using the same pictures yet again. I watched the auction and it did not sell. I didn’t follow it after that initial auction. Who knows what became of it.
1968 Mustang fastback – Green with Torque Thrust mags. Who doesn’t want the Steve McQueen machine??
1970 Challenger – These things are wide and low, and they look killer with a set of meaty rear tires. I’d take mine with a 440, thanks.
1970 AAR ‘Cuda – They’re bitchin’. There’s nothing subtle about one of these cars. I love the whole idea that they were created for the sole purpose of homologating the machine for road racing. Fantastic! Chrysler said, “Yeah, we want to race. So, you guys buy these wacky, drool-inspiring machines with side exit exhaust and three carburetors. Then we’re going to win some races.” Bring it to me!
1971 ‘Cuda – Gimme the Hemi, dude. Everyone wants a Hemi. I’d take a 440 too, if I could get a six barrel setup on it. I love the grille on the ’71. It looks like it’s getting ready to snort up the road and spit it out.
Early 30s coupe with Hemi – While we’re on the subject, I want another Hemi car, but this one would be a trad street rod with something like a 354 between the narrow frame rails. I’ve seen a video of one a guy put together. He goes driving it around on the street with the header plugs opened up. It sounds like sheer maniacal madness, and that’s something I can get behind. I’d want pie crust tires out back with whitewalls. Probably no fenders. Definitely multiple carbs – six deuces if I could make them work, eight if I could make THEM work. I think I’d go for kidney bean Halibrands or perhaps some other funky mag, like a Radir. If I had the Radirs, though, I think I’d just want them up front with maybe a steel wheel out back so it looks kind of hang-dog street-raunchy. Black? Black or gray primer? Gloss black? Copper? Oooooh…flat copper…maybe, maybe yeah.
Something with a blower – Wow, how specific is that? But this one I could at least combine with one of the others. Maybe I’d put the blower on the Nailhead coupe. All I know is, I want to know what it feels like to put my foot into the iron lung of a supercharger. When I was in high school I was at a car show and I overheard an older fella talking to another guy about the new engine setup in his street rod. He said, “It’s like having another four gears on top. I’ll never own another car without a blower.” Yeah, man. Right on. That conversation snippet is over twenty years old, and I’ve never forgotten it. You hear something like that and you think, “Holy crap. That’s somethin’ there. I wanna know what that’s all about!”
Willys gasser – I’m not too picky on this one, but I really like the funkiness of the ’38 or ’39 front end. I know that lots of those were converted to the look of the ’40 or ’41 just because ‘glass front ends were put on these cars for racing, and no one made ‘38/’39 ‘glass noses, so there ya go. However, I’d be perfectly happy to have the steel front, as it’d just be a street rod for me. I could go with either a coupe or a sedan. Maybe this would be the car to get the blower. It’d be nice to have a Hemi in one of these, like a 392 with multiple carbs. I’d want mags of the period on it, say Cragar SS, Torque Thrust, Halibrands, chrome steel slots, maybe even aluminum slots, but something that fits with the era in which these cars dominated the strips across America.
Below is a shot I took at Indianapolis Raceway Park. It's a Willys doing its warm up burnout and smokin' 'em but good! You can't get the best idea of what the whole car looks like from this profile shot, but this is an excellent representation of what these cars are all about: going balls-out crazy fast and looking good doing it. THIS is what folks think of when they think of kickass Willys gassers. This would have been at the top of the heap back when these things were slugging it out at drag strips across the country in the mid-60s:
Late 60s Cougar – I don’t really know why, but having one of these for a while would be cool. I don’t necessarily need an Eliminator or anything like that, just a decent driver. I’d want duals and a nice set of Mag 5s or maybe some sort of 60s/70s aftermarket wheel. I like the look of the 427 scoops, so it’d be nice if the car had one of those on it. I’m not too particular on the color, although I wouldn’t pick red. I don’t even care if it’s a 4spd. This car would just be for casual driving fun. I dig the general styling, and the sequential turn signals are just too cool.
Nash Metropolitan – I drove dad’s a couple of times. In fact, when dad sold it to a couple in Florida, he had to have me drive it to a supermarket parking lot off of the highway where the car hauler was waiting to pick it up. I was the last one in my family to drive it. They’re such tiny little things, such an oddball in the history of automobiles. It was a big stab at what was then a niche market – the economy car. They seat two very comfortably; even though it looks like you’d never fit a human bigger than five feet tall into one. The look is all innocent fun. I think I might even like this car as a convertible. It seems like the perfect little pocket car to pull out of the garage on a sunny summer day and bop around town. The engine is so tiny the rear has gears in it that are literally along the lines of 5.13:1 or thereabouts. They aren’t even very expensive. Maybe I will own one some day, if only for a year or two.
I think there are many more cars that could go on The List, but I’m gonna stop there for now. Periodically I may have to update this, but it’s certainly a good start. What’s on your list? C’mon, you know you have one.
I should add, at the end of all this silliness, that I do have a pretty fun car right now, or my brother and I do jointly:
It may not be my dream car, but, damn, is it fun!