Tag: Mike Austin

If you know the name Chilson, then you know this 1975 AMC Pacer X is special – Mike Austin @Hemmings

If you know the name Chilson, then you know this 1975 AMC Pacer X is special – Mike Austin @Hemmings


AMC made around 280,000 copies of the Pacer, of which some smaller fraction survive today. The number of clean, unrestored examples of the wide, small car is an even smaller fraction. Of that subset, a connection to Chilson Motors makes this 1975 AMC Pacer X up for bids on Hemmings Auctions a rare offering. Those already in the AMC fold know the Chilson name well. Gordy Chilson kept the AMC flame alive by hosting an annual gathering at his family’s dealerships (which once included an AMC franchise) near the Pennsylvania/New York state line. Suffice it to say, when an AMC from the Chilson collection comes up for sale, it’s probably one of the good ones. From the auction listing:

This original 1975 AMC Pacer is doubly historic for fans of the United States’ last independent automaker, American Motors Corporation. First, this is one of more than 90,000 examples of the audacious, widebody Pacer compact built in the model’s initial production year. Next, the car is reported to have been custom ordered by Gordy Chilson, of Chilson AMC in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, the site of a well-known AMC gatherings. The Pacer, with the desirable X trim package, is said to have been a display inside the Chilson showroom since the original owner traded it for a new AMC Eagle in 1987. A fully optioned car, including air conditioning, cruise control, and an 8-track audio system, this Pacer is part of the Chilson AMC collection, with an odometer reading of 26,811 that the seller believes is accurate.

This Pacer’s interior, including carpeting, is described as being entirely original, the materials presenting as being in excellent, undamaged condition. The padded dashboard also presents as being in excellent condition, with no missing trim or small controls. The seller reports that all instrumentation is functional, including the original 8-track audio system. The heating and air conditioning system are believed to be in good working order although the a/c system may need to be charged before use. The cargo area presents as being undamaged and strongly clean.

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LS Fest West Celebrates the Chevy LS Small-block V-8 – Mike Austin @Hemmings


Has there ever been more universal engine solution than the Chevrolet LS V-8? It’s compact, it makes a lot of power even in stock tune, it’s reliable, and General Motors made a number of different variations in vast quantities. LS-based power has become such a default engine swap choice that it almost seems like cheating. There is a reason for its popularity, though, or even many reasons. Primarily: the Chevy Small block can fit in almost any engine bay. From junkyard finds to brand-new, emissions-certified plug-and-play crate engines from the GM Performance Parts engines, there’s one for every budget. And there are plenty of tune-up parts.

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America’s Most Beautiful Roadster and Al Slonaker Memorial Award Winners at the 2022 Grand National Roadster Show – Mike Austin @Hemmings


Back in full force after the cancellation of the 2021 event, the Grand National Roadster Show returned to the Pomona Fairplex with more than 1,000 cars on display this weekend. Only one of those cars would take home the show’s biggest prize, and one of the most coveted awards in the custom world, America’s Most Beautiful Roadster. This year’s winner is a 1934 Chevrolet Roadster owned by Jeff Breault and built by Devlin Rod & Customs. A two-year build, the car features an LS engine under the hood–dressed up in vintage style to hide its modern machinery–and an interior by Downey’s Auto Upohlstery.

The Al Slonaker Memorial Award went to this 1932 Ford Coupe built by Hollywood Hot Rods for Paul Gauntt. Photo courtesy of Grand National Roadster Show.

Equally important in terms of prestige (and the same $12,500 in prize money from ARP Bolts), is the Al Slonaker Memorial Award, named after the show’s founder. That prize went to a 1932 Ford Coupe owned by Paul Gauntt and built by Hollywood Hot Rods. Under the hood of the Ford is not a flathead, nor a small-block, but a custom 331 Cadillac engine.

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Happy New Year! Our 10 Most Popular Stories of 2021 – Mike Austin @Hemmings


Well, that’s a wrap on 2021. As far as years go, this was certainly one of them. Kidding aside, we’re glad you came along for the ride with us here at Hemmings. Throughout the year we brought you plenty of stories, and we’ve already picked our favorites. To that we have one more list for you before the calendar turns: Our 10 most-read stories on Hemmings.com ranked by total visitors. We’re already hard at work to make next year even better, and we’re looking forward to continuing the journey with you.

1. Why do people – including seasoned mechanics – still insist on putting a block of wood under a car battery?

The science is settled, but apparently there are still plenty of people looking for an explanation as to why you should or shouldn’t rest a car battery on concrete. Among the 224 comments on this article are some legitimate reasons for using wood blocks, but preventing battery discharge is not one of them.

2. GM’s 6.6 Duramax diesel V-8 put Ford’s 7.3 Powerstroke and Dodge’s 5.9 Cummins on notice

Looking to replicate the success of the Powerstroke story, HMN Editor Mike McNessor followed up with a similar breakdown of the engine that put GM diesels back in the torque war.

3. Once Owned By Smokey Yunick, This Chevrolet Small-Block Intake Manifold May Be The Last Remnant Of A Canceled High-Performance Camaro

Chevrolet went a long way to building the 360-horsepower L-70 V-8 for the 1967 Camaro, but scrapped the engine at the last minute. Some of the intakes for that engine, as the tale goes, went to Smokey Yunick for testing. As for how one ended up in the wild, well, you have to click on the story to get the whole tale.

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A Road Racing-Inspired Mid-Engine Corvair? Yes, Please – Mike Austin @Hemmings


The annual SEMA Show encapsulates so many things we love about the car hobby. Heritage, innovation, and craftsmanship are all on display. Take Lonnie Gilbertson’s RareVair, which is headed to this year’s festivities in Las Vegas. It’s a 1965 Chevrolet Corvair Corsa, with a mid-mounted small-block LS, painted to match a unique piece of Chevy road-racing history.

A mid-engine Corvair is not a new idea, of course. Kelmark and Crown made kits, and there are no doubt countless DIY efforts. Gilbertson’s personal introduction to the Corvair happened when his brother bought a Corsa in the 1970s. “That’s when I kind of first became aware of what Corvairs were and I’ve always liked that body style,” he says. “So progress up to now, I was looking around for another project to build, and I thought I’m going to go for a Corvair.”

The inspiration for the car began with the Yenko Stinger. “With the style of that body, it just fit for the sports racer feel about it,” Gilbertson says. Combine that with a 1972 De Tomaso Pantera his shop restored a few years ago and, Gilbertson says, “I’ve always had a thing in the back of my mind about how a mid-engine V-8 car is just a lot of fun to drive. So that combined with the Yenko Stinger and my need for speed, I just thought, I gotta do this.

“After finding a suitable donor car, Gilbertson sourced an LS3 V-8 from a 2009 Corvette. For the gearbox, he went to the 930-generation Porsche 911 Turbo, given its reputation for strength and the fact that the earlier four-speeds have one of the shortest bellhousings. With the gears mounted behind the engine, that means more legroom. “I’m not a small guy,” says Gilbertson, “so I wanted passenger comfort

.”He went to Kennedy Engineered Products to mate the transaxle to the small-block. As for the engine, it had about 30,000 miles on it and looked new inside, so Gilbertson didn’t feel the need to change too much. A Comp Cams camshaft (and associated valvetrain parts) and a Holley Sniper intake are the only changes from stock. Still, he estimates it makes about 500 horsepower at the wheels. Not bad for a car that weighs only about 2800 pounds

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How Many Parts-Store Trips Does a Project Take? Road to Improvement Tries to Find Out – Mike Austin @Hemmings


We’re nearing the finale of Road to Improvement season one, and the Big Green 1981 Suburban is currently live on Hemmings Auctions in a no-reserve charity sale to benefit SEMA Cares. If there’s a theme to this arc of our road-trip/build story, it’s pushing limits—in this case, both for the Suburban’s powertrain upgrades and our hosts’ sanity. Check it out in the video above or on our YouTube page (and don’t forget to subscribe, please).

Which brings us to the headline question and upgrading Big Green with new heads, a camshaft, and associated parts. It’s the most involved change to the Road to Improvement Suburban yet. Swapping cylinder heads is far less plug and play than upgrading something like the vehicle’s electronic fuel injection, which we did in an earlier episode. Heads need to be matched to the camshaft timing, the intake and exhaust, and even the desired character of the engine. With that in mind, Mike Musto consulted Tim Torrecarion from Air Flow Research and settled on a setup with plenty of low- and midrange grunt, with the appropriate valve timing courtesy of a Comp Cams camshaft.

It turns out that was the easy step. Installing new heads was an entirely different story. Even in the best scenario, this kind of upgrade involves removing a significant number of engine parts. With a 40-year-old vehicle like Big Green, you’re bound to deal with some stubborn, rust-encrusted pieces that have been in place since Day One, several of which you might as well replace while you’re in there

Thus, you’re left to make multiple trips to the auto-parts store for engine accessories, bolts, clamps, and all the other things that come up in a project of this scope. As co-host Elana Scherr puts it, you’ll want to know where the closest store is, plus your backup store, and a third, and probably a fourth pick as well, just in case. Mike visits all of them and, well, we’ve all been in his shoes, so it’s okay to have laugh at his expense

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Once ridiculed, the Lincoln Blackwood predicted the luxo-truck future – Mike Austin @Hemmings


Lincoln’s first attempt at a luxury pickup didn’t go so well. The Blackwood was basically a cross between the Lincoln Navigator and Ford F-150, sporting fancy trim in the cargo bed with a power tonneau cover. The 2002 production version was a follow up to a warm reception for the 1999 concept, but things cooled off considerably on dealer lots. Parent company Ford planned to build 10,000 of them, but only a few more than 3,330 actually sold. There was no 2003 model in the U.S. market.

It’s hard to say exactly why the Blackwood flopped. In 2002, at least in terms of marketing, trucks and SUVs still had to pretend they could do truck and SUV stuff (regardless of whether or not the owners used them that way). Maybe nobody really wanted a giant trunk instead of a cargo bed. Maybe the rear-wheel-drive-only configuration wasn’t in keeping with the give-me-everything idea of a luxury truck. Or maybe Lincoln buyers who wanted lots of interior space and a giant trunk were already happy with the Town Car.

Whatever the case, the Blackwood was unintentionally rare and now, nearly 20 years later when luxury trucks are part of the standard lineup, could be considered an idea before its time. And yeah, we’ll go out on a limb and say the Blackwood is now cool. This one, up for bids on Hemmings Auctions, has been both enjoyed and preserved well. From the auction listing:

The selling dealer says it was taken on trade, but he became so enamored with it that he drove it for the next three years, racking up 13,000 “trouble-free” miles on the distinctive and rare Lincoln truck. It’s one of only 3,356 produced and the seller notes it “runs and drives like new.”

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From Ford’s 1964 World’s Fair pavilion to vintage racing, the UK’s National Motor Museum has hours of video fun – Mike Austin @Hemmings


Being based in the UK, the footage tends towards European interests, such as rally racing and Ford’s consumer offerings there. Like this footage from the East African Safari Rally of 1969.

But there’s a whole lot of American Ford available too, from the 1969 Indanapolis 500 to NASCARDrag Racing, and even the 1967 US Grand Prix. A highlight, however, is a promotional real for Ford’s 1964/65 World’s Fair pavilion and the Magic Skyway ride, that takes passengers on a trip “through time and space, to the threshold of tomorrow” via Ford convertibles running on a conveyor belt

The National Motor Musuem add a new video to the Ford Heritage Channel every month. As is stands there’s so much great stuff in there that we might have to revisit a few of these videos on an individual basis. Enjoy!

Ford Thunderbird field guide: Know your ‘Bird nicknames – Mike Austin @Hemmings


Ford’s Thunderbird spans 11 generations and several thematic and mechanical variations. Keeping them straight, though, isn’t that hard because the collective Thunderbird enthusiast community has given each one a nickname. Yes, it’s part of the general habit we all have of delving into jargon, which acts as a conversational shorthand (which is good) but also makes it harder for newbies to understand what the heck everyone is talking about (which is bad).
Classic Bird (aka Early Bird, Little Bird, Baby Bird): 1955-’57
Thunderbird nicknames, however, are much easier than many other codewords, like the endless alphanumerics of BMW and Mercedes-Benz model generations. If, like me, you’re relatively uninformed on the full history of Ford’s personal-luxury legend, these appellations give context clues as to what each one generally looks like and what era it hails from. And with that easy entry point, you can then dive deeper into the details. So let’s take a quick tour of all 11 Thunderbird names and how they got that way.

Keeping your car interior clean during Coronavirus (and in general) – Mike Austin @Hemmings


With the COVID-19 pandemic, personal hygiene is more important than ever, and that extends to our vehicles. Of course it’s a good idea to keep a car sanitary in general, but it’s even more important if you’re buying or selling a car. Because our classifieds and our auctions site are one of the main reasons people come to Hemmings, we want to offer some guidelines for keeping cars clean and helping prevent the spread of disease.
Before we begin, however, we can’t stress one message enough: Don’t put yourself or others at risk. If that means putting off buying or selling a car for while, just wait. As we’ve mentioned, Hemmings is taking every precaution while we keep our business running, and we want you to be safe, too. If you do go ahead with a purchase or sale, take extra precautions. And remember, it’s not just a matter of protecting yourself from infection, but protecting others in the event you yourself are sick.