Friday, November 27, 2009

Brownie gets new pipes!!

July, 2009

After returning home from the Reno/Fernley race and loosing yet ANOTHER section of completely rotten and rusted out exhaust system on Brownie, "The World's Greatest Crappy Old RV" (tm) I decided enough was enough, really this time. Knowing I was finally going to get a good exhaust, I set about deciding what I wanted to do with the old beast.

I've never been a fan of the "rocks-in-a-coffee-can" sound of Flowmasters. They are out of place on anything short of an all out race car. I always thought it was mostly a classic case of everybody likes them, because everybody ELSE likes them. In rare circumstances they can sound decent both inside and outside the car, but that's the exception not the rule. They usually sound like valves barfing out the vehicles ass. Maybe I'm getting older, but I have peculiar tastes and prefer the vintage sounds. The exhaust note is like music, why ruin it with a soulless fad?

My first thought was a nice set of duals with Smitty's or Cherry-Bomb Glasspacks, but the real inspiration came from the unlikely source of my Stepfather who suggested Brownie "would look bitchin in a set of lake pipes."

Huh... Yeah, he sure would.

This set the way-too-creative hamster in my noggin whirling away, and I had a flash in my mind's eye of the mid 1970's van craze.

"AHA!" I nearly screamed at my "why-the-hell-are-you-screaming-and-interrupting-Survivor-spouse".

"What this time?" she said as she paused her TV show on the DVR and gave me the usual one eyebrow raised look.

"I know what I'm gonna do with Brownie!" I explained proudly.

"Sell him?" came the dry reply.

"No no, I have to fix something on him first. No seriously, I'm gonna turn him into a '70s Shaggin Waggin! Ha-ha-ha! What do you think?"

"I'd have to see it first." she said back with no hint of emotion.

Arg. I forget, she was but a glint in her parent's eyes in the whirlwind of polyester that was the 70's, whereas I still have the entire debacle burned into my mind's eye.

The '70s were actually pretty cool right up until John Travolta screwed it all up with that funny dance. Side pipes, feathered hair, slotted mags and spaced out fantasy murals all fell hand in hand with wide lapels, bell bottoms and trucker convoys on the CB radio.

EVERYONE had a CB handle, and The Starland Vocal Band was gonna grab some Afternoon Delight.. Those were the good old days...

But the little lady wanted more reassurance than just my enthusiasm and promises that "everything would be fine".

"Oh sure, easy. I'll just go dig up some photos off the interwebs and show you what I'm talking about, be right back."

And so I spent the rest of the night, and then the next few weeks trying to find photos of the old van craze. Searching revealed nothing. I was stunned to find that photos and mentions of the entire movement have all been erased off the face of the earth, as the first victim of the infamous sex-wax Disco revolt of the early 80's.

Huh. I must be the only person on the face of the earth who secretly thought the van craze was cool. I always wanted a van, and got slightly more than I bargained for with "Brownie". Turns out there are exactly 2 websites in the world dedicated to the old cruisin vans. And they both lack photos, which was the same problem I was having.

Well dammit.

Then I remembered the old "Truckin" magazines I used to read and a couple clicks later I was back on Evilbay, thus breaking an unspoken truce between myself and miss-don't-spend-anymore-damn-money-on-evilbay-spouse.

I found a couple issues in a lot from the mid '70s ending in a few hours and placed my bid. Lo and behold I won! Again. Sigh. I buy the weirdest crap.

While there, I also found and bought several brochures and catalogs for Swing Machine vans by Rodco and Sportsmobile from several years. It was funny to see the progression of style.
I also picked up a dozen Easy Riders from 1976 full of ads for tube tops, iron-ons, leather wallets, automatic BB guns and smoking accessories. The best part was and is still the kick ass artwork by David Mann.

I also ended up with a 12" disco ball! yeay! All I need is some more shag carpet to match the shag carpet already on the walls. Throw in some velvet and velour, and I finally have a use for all my 12 volt mood lighting and rope lights! Brownie, Club 51 - mobile edition.

When my Truckin Magazines showed up I was pretty excited to see back into the past, but I stopped in my tracks when I pulled out the May '77 issue. It was as if I was staring into the face of the devil himself.

My wife said I was as pale as if I saw a ghost...

When I was in elementary school I had recurring nightmares as a result of a bitter divorce and several other changes in the family tree. At the same time evil stepfather came on to the scene, whom I was deathly afraid of.

These two issues combined to create great stress, and triggered odd results such as nightmares and sleepwalking trying to escape "bad people".

As a backdrop, everyone in the family drove Ford trucks at the time - Broncos, Econoline vans, F-series pickups and Couriers, and Evil Stepfather had a Bronco that was bright orange.

My nightmare involved "Bad men" attacking our family, led by Evil Stepfather crashing through the house walls in an army of Ford vehicles with identical paint jobs - orange with yellow and black stripes- and trying to kill us by running us all over. They were followed by uncles on silver dirt bikes, a plane and a helicopter.

F@#$%^ Terrifying.

The nightmares eventually subsided, but this one is one of 3 or 4 vivid bad dreams I have never forgotten.

So imagine my shock when I pulled this magazine out of the package. There is now no doubt where the images in my dream came from, but first seeing this was like being transported through time in some sort of evil space warp. (Click me --->)

Other than the midnight-scream inducing visual on this front cover the rest of the magazines were full of neat old advertisements just like I remembered. How to customize vans by Barris, old CB radios, the movie SuperVan etc. Refreshed with the flavors of how it was done way back when, I had a clear picture of Brownie's future as a loooove machine.

I spent weeks looking for just the right side-pipes, but nothing was quite right, until...
BAMM! A vintage set of unused pipes from an show van showed up on Evilbay! Perfect. Click-click-click and they were on the way.

Arg! But when they arrived and I saw the inlet pipes were TINY dinky little things which would never let the mighty 440 breathe. Damn. So back to square 1.

Compounding the issue was the extra width of the camper and the propane tank on the passenger side so normal straight pipes just wouldn't work. I thought of having custom 6" chrome pipes done up by the speed shop or a big-rig company, but decided that would have to be a project for the future once more important things had been taken care of.

I ended up having dual 2 1/2" exhaust with 32" Glasspacks and side exits in front of the tires welded up by none other than Babe's Muffler at their new location.

Dang. Those things sound GOOOOOD.

I have more ideas and visions for brownie. But first I have to get the race car ready for the next race, then get brownie road worthy and winter ready. The generator is not working, the fuel lines all leak, I have half a dozen cans of "Stop leaking damnit" for the roof, I need to rebuild the camper door which was destroyed by vandals and rotted out, a new generator door, bad TV antenna, starter wire gremlins, exhaust manifold, etc etc...

Ok, the Shaggin Waggon can wait, but I DID put the disco ball inside. Oh yeah... now we're talking...


Previous: Fernley, we finished!

From the Beginning of this Mess: The Hook... (Part 1)


  1. Pete, i'm waiting for the Thunderhill write-up! /taps foot

  2. Pete, send me an email. I have your laptimes compiled

    matt . updenkelder (at) gmail . com

  3. Fernley Lemons was canceled but now there is with a real 24 hour race from noon saturday til noon sunday at Streets of Willow Jan 30th

  4. Registration is open on the new website. I would like to invite your team to the USEDCAR RACE at Nelson Ledges. This April 23-25, 2010.