December 4, 2022

The CAM Journal – Wipeout!

Hello CAM heads! For this month’s article, I have decided to talk about something that we as auto enthusiasts often do not like to talk about…car crashes! Sure it is what most people tune into NASCAR races to see, but in the end, it means the one thing. To us as car lovers, a car is going to be damaged. We at CAM are all about modifying, so this goes directly against our mission statement.

We all have been in auto accidents, so I will just hit the bizarre, crazy, off the wall ones. I know you are thinking, “How many Bizarre, crazy, off the wall crashes could Johnny have been in?” Well, since you ask, I will say this….Many! I was NOT driving for most of them so it is more of me just being a witness to the madness so to speak.

It was early 1990. I had just moved home from college and found that most of the people I had hung out with in High School were married, or gone off at school still so I had to find some new people to hang out with. While I was in college, I met a guy who was into first gen Camaros and late sixties Chevelles. He had a 396 engine built and had spent A LOT of money on it. This was a good 600 horse power engine and whatever it ended up going into would be a force to be reckoned with. He had sold the engine to a kid who lived about 45 minutes from my parents so I figured when I got home I would swing by and check out what it was going into and how it was coming along.

We will call this kid who bought the motor Billy Bob. When I arrived at B.B.’s house, the first thing I saw was the unmistakable profile of a 1968 Camaro. My mind raced to my own 1968 Camaro and I may have even said out loud, “Excellent choice”. It was primer grey with little to no interior, but nestled nice and cozy into the front sub frame was that naughty big block. It literally was the nicest thing on the whole car….it was almost the ONLY thing on that whole car.

B.B. lived way out west, close to the Great Salt Lake. A place where Corn fields are plentiful and houses are not common. He asked if I would like to go on a shakedown run to see how it felt. Had I known then, what I know now, I never would have stepped foot in that car. At the time I was so excited to feel the power that I had heard that this engine had for so long, I just could not refuse.

B.B. fired up the massive rat motor and let it settle into a nice strong lumpy idle. He moved the Hurst shifter on the M22 rock crusher solidly into first gear and eased off the clutch pedal. As the Centerforce clutch began to grip, the stripped shell of a car burst to life. With 4.56 gears in the back end, the car was brisk to reach redline in all gears. With not much in the way of sway bars or shocks, the car was a little floaty around 60 mph. The narrow back country road was lined on both sides by corn fields, and after about two minutes we decided to turn around and head back to his house. As he pointed the nose of the Camaro back toward his house, he noted the engine was finally up to operating temp and decided to aggressively run through the four gears and see what the mill could do. I am not sure how fast we were going when B.B. shifted into third gear, but I remember the loud bang that proceeded the gear change. From there everything was a loud, confusing, blur. I remember a strong smell of burning rubber, screeching tires and corn EVERYWHERE.

Apparently what had happened was upon the second to third gear change, the torque of the built 396 broke the right rear spring mount and sent the leaf spring up into the trunk of the Camaro. That started a chain reaction which saw the car veer off the road to the right, slide sideways into the adjacent corn field, break my seat frame and send me and my seat into the back seat/trunk area. Dazed and confused went to a whole new level. I got my bearings, pulled myself out of the trunk, moved a lot of corn remains and climbed out of the car to survey the damage.

When the spring mount broke it allowed the rear end to move just enough to wedge the big rear tires into the quarter panel effectively stopping the tires instantly. It also put the driveline on enough of a bind that it popped the u-joint and sent the driveline packing.

It was about a twenty minute walk back to his house and I got in my car and left. I never talked to B.B. again. I had a couple of bumps and bruises but other than that I was in pretty good shape and will NEVER forget my wild ride into the corn fields in a radical 1968 Camaro.


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A true car nut with a passion for all things auto. Ford OE parts guy, closet racer, and hopeless auto dreamer. Always have wheels in my heads turning for the next auto project.

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