Mike Adams

In the summer of 1980, I was looking forward to turning 16 and getting a driver’s license. All of my friends were looking forward to driving but none as much as me. My friends would be driving used Mazdas and Toyotas that got good gas mileage. But my dad bought me a 1970 GTO. He didn’t care that it got nine miles to the gallon. It looked like it was going thirty miles an hour when it was just sitting in the driveway.

Even though that old GTO was fast it had worn hydraulic lifters that were sucking away horsepower and badly wearing down the stock Pontiac cam shaft. Nonetheless, I put the pedal to the floor and burned rubber every chance I got – that is, as long as the Houston Police were nowhere in sight.

One night on Highway Three I began to hear an unfamiliar sound just after I floored the accelerator. I didn’t realize it at the time but I had merely dented the flywheel cover running over something in the road. But the sound it was making – coupled with the fact that it started just after I hit the accelerator – made me think I had spun a bearing on the crank shaft.

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So dad and I went into the garage and pulled out the motor. After it was secure on the engine lift we could see the source of the noise. And we knew we could just pull off the flywheel cover and hammer out the dent to fix the problem. But we also knew it would be so much more fun to rebuild the old motor. My dad must have figured that if I was going to finish at the bottom of my class academically I might as well have the fastest car among the 3300 students at Clear Lake High School.

For weeks, after I got home from school – and my dad got home from work – we toiled away on that engine. First we started with the internal restoration. A Crane Blazer camshaft was the first high-performance extra installed. That went with new rings and bearings, new lifters, and a nice valve job – on 10-to-1 heads with 2.11-inch intake valves.

Then we got to all the really unnecessary aftermarket items. A Holly double pump carburetor sat on a new Edelbrock manifold. Headmond headers ran just below the stock chrome valve covers. We topped it off with a small chrome air filter that allowed people to better see what we had beneath the hood (plus, you could hear it sucking in air from inside the passenger compartment). Finally, there were nice Thrush mufflers to let people know we were coming long before we got there.

Mike Adams

Mike Adams is a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and author of Letters to a Young Progressive: How To Avoid Wasting Your Life Protesting Things You Don't Understand.