Project Vendetta: The Problematic Car Video That Almost Never Was

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What classifies as an ‘interesting’ car video can mean so many things, and sometimes it boils down to your personal taste. So I’m not going to tell you what to like when it comes to car videos, that’s not the point of this piece. This is about my personal experience as the subject of a video with my car. If you’ve been following along with Project Vendetta, you can probably already sense there’s trouble ahead. My car has a reputation for not behaving, which would make sense if she wasn’t so well-built, but she waits for the right time to break the last of the stock parts left, so here we go…

While I’ve gone into a pretty extensive backstory on Project Vendetta on here, here’s the quick background on it. I bought it when I was 17. After many years of drag racing every weekend trying to fine tune a bolt-on only build, after some records, I made a sharp turn with everything and decided to get a very aggressive cam. After the cam came a high stall torque converter that I hated. Then came heads and few other things on top of the very stout bolt-on platform. Once the automatic transmission broke, I made the decision to call it a day with drag racing.

This is a little off topic from the video, but I feel the need to explain why I stopped going to the drag strip. The decision has always bothered a few people since it seemed like I was all in, until I just wasn’t. See, around this time, people were swapping LS engines into everything under the sun, and they still are, but this is around the time that it began. Once that began, I lost sight of my micro-record on the bolt-on list, and no other was quite as satisfying. It went from trying to squeeze everything out of the stock internal engine, to kind of falling in line with the typical LS heads/cam thing. It was fast, it was running well, I was driving well, but finding tiny little tenths of a second no longer mattered as much when I stopped craving that bolt-on glory. In addition to that, I ruined my car’s streetability with the high stall converter, which is silly when you have an 11-second car.

After a few years of undoing a lot of the things I didn’t like, I have found myself with a really nice street car. It was over the summer of 2016 when I decided it was time to come up with a new goal, I wanted to modernize my car, mainly with the interior, and make it a car capable of autocross and road racing.

Then I get the phone call that I was going to be the subject of a gearheads video for work, and panic struck. I was in the middle of rebuilding the transmission, and installing the clutch when this came about, but schedules had to be made, and videographers wanted to get their paycheck too. So the grueling task of wrapping up six months worth of work began.

Somehow, the magic trick happened, and it was ready in two months with the new transmission, new lowering springs, shocks, and a variety of other suspension components. It also got new wheels, and some pretty extensive detail work that included wet sanding on fairly new paint.

The day of the shoot arrives, and my car has never looked so good. I felt pretty good myself too, although I’m not the type who is comfortable in front of the camera, as an Editor, I’m used to coming up with ideas and staying behind the scenes.

However, my car and hair looking great that day was about the only thing right. The day was exceptionally hot and sunny for being very early spring in Georgia. This posed two problems, the intense sun was not great for a car as dark as mine, and the pavement was pretty hot. Why does that matter? Because the opening shot was supposed to be of me doing a smoky burnout to flex that American muscle car power.

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The only thing that flexed was the rearend, and my stock 10-bolt picked this exact moment to eat it. I was totally devastated and embarrassed. The video crew, as polite as they were, was pretty unhappy, and I had plenty of time to reflect on this as I waited a few hours for the tow truck to arrive. The fun thing about having a lowered truck is that not many drivers will even bother with you, so I had one option on this Sunday afternoon, and he was a few jobs out.

After I finally got her back home, I tried not to think of the thousands of dollars I had spent to rush the finalization of the project phase it was in. But that did leave me with few options for the rearend. After consulting with a few experts on differentials and gearing, I figured out how to build a good unit for cheap, well for an affordable price.

At this point, everyone involved in the project is chomping at the bit. They want to know when it’s going to be done and when we can film. Of course, I’m not rushing the break-in period, even though I felt pressure to get it in front of the camera. The break-in took a few weeks, but it was ready to go.

The team setup, and we were ready to go, with my nerves at an all-time high. This project just seemed doomed from the start, so I was waiting on something awful to happen. I could barely even focus during my dialog and misquoted so many things about the build, even though I’ve spent a large portion of my life talking about her.

That aside, things turned out beautifully. The sky even had the coolest overcast look to it that compliments the dark blue paint of my beloved Formula. In case you missed it, here’s the final product. Again, my dialog was useless as I forgot everything about my racing timeline, something I’ve addressed in a different article under this project column.

A lot has happened since the video, and I’ve got a pretty tremendous project in the works that will totally change the looks of the Formula, hopefully, to be completed this summer. Look for my update on what’s changed since fixing the rearend, how she did on the autocross track at the F-Body Nationals, and what’s in store for the build.

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