Published on August 16, 2013 By Big Fat Daddy In Misc


As far back as there have been hot rods, some guys have been more interested in performance than appearance.  Instead of dropping a fortune on chrome, reversed wheels or multi-layered paint jobs with flames or scallops or pinstripes or chopped tops and channelled bodies or rake jobs or slam jobs, they plopped down their hard-earned cash on cams and multi-carburetors or fuel injection and headers and glass-packs.   Of course, the ultimate goal would be to have both performance AND appearance, but the performance-oriented guys created (and revelled in) a breed of street rod we called "Sleepers".  The ultimate sleeper would be some rusted, beat-up, unpopular sedan with a monster motor under the hood.  Unsuspecting light-to-light tire smokers would laugh at the sleepers sitting next to them at a light, and then gape in utter amazement as the rat-trap left them in a cloud of tire smoke when the light changed.

In high school, I rode with a guy a couple of times  who had a typical sleeper-type car...a '51 Chevy coupe with a hood and doors that were a different color than the rest of the car, steel rims with mis-matched tires (and hardly any tread), brakes that squealed and a body that rattled constantly.  But under the hood was a huge Buick engine with a blower and fuel injection and lots of other tricky things.  It had a three-speed transmission with over-drive and it would top out in the neighborhood of 140 mph...and it would get there in a darn big hurry.  The tires and brakes were dicey, though, so I declined any further cruises with him after he demonstrated (on the second or third occasion I rode with him) how fast it would go.  It shuddered and lofted (air flow under the car would actually start lifting the front end off the ground) and it felt very unstable.  I heard that after I went to Germany, my friend  was demonstrating the top speed of thecar when it wiggled right off the road and rolled over a couple dozen times.  No one died but the old Chevy...it was done "demonstrating".

Another friend  had a VW bug convertible that had a Porsche 911 engine in it.  That was a big shocker.  And then there was a guy who tried to get a small-block chevy mounted in the back seat of a beetle but to my knowledge he never worked the bugs out (heeheehee).

Many of the sleeper crowd would find an engine they were very happy with and move it from one car to another.  Honestly, I think that sleepers are really in keeping with the spirit of the early street rods, putting a bigger motor in a cheap car...and that was the spirit of the muscle car in the first place.

Told you all that so I could tell you this:

It was in March or April of 1967.  I was on my way back to Fort Huachuca after a long weekend pass in San Diego.  About fifty miles west of Yuma is a little town called Holtville,  where  I stopped for gas and a burger.  I noticed a '62 or '63 Chevelle  cruising up and down the main street.  It was a mess;  more rust than paint - ugly car.  When I pulled out of the drive-in on the road again for Yuma, I found the Chevelle in my rear-view mirror;    he tailed me right out of town.   He moved into the left lane and At this point I felt it was my duty to teach ugly Chevelles not to  mess with beautiful little GTOs.  I spooled the Goat up a bit, to make him work harder.  I heard, as I expected I would, a downshift and the Chevelle started roaring.  I shifted down, kicking the Goat in the carbs and off we went.  Well, off HE went.  I was relegated to the role of spectator in a display of power andacceleration that you do not often see on the streets.  A couple of miles down the road, he was sitting on the hood of his Chevelle by the side of the road.  I pulled up behind him and got out.  I thought he might have had a breakdown (I was hoping, actually) but instead he was just waiting on me to show up so we could talk cars for a bit.

He had a Corvette 427 engine and lots of speed equipment I would never be able to afford.  He was very friendly and complimented my Goat and then  grinned at me.  Yeah, he was gloating a bit....that 16-year-old smarty-pants had thumped me good.

Nowdays it's hard to know if it's real or if it's memorex...so many rice-burners running around with exhausts the size of a Diesel truck's and sounding like a bee in a beer can.  Some of them are barely able to pull their own weight and some of them are pulling four-hundred-horsepower out of a four-cylinder engine and going from 0 to 60 in less time than it takes to write about it.  Detroit is now making cars that are as fast if not faster than the muscle cars of the sixties and seventies, and some of them are real fire-breathing, meat-eating, pavement-pounders who take off so hard it affects the earth's rotation.  Whenever I take the Goat out for a spin, I get lots of attention from lots of go-fasters...and sometimes, well....let's just say that those who have been schooled have a new respect for the "old school".  So maybe Song Saturday will have to have something to do with cars...

A couple of prime examples;  not the size of the back tires on the Nova...a tip off.

on Aug 24, 2013

Was just over at Holtville yesterday watching a 9th grade football scrimmage.  But I guess that 16 year old is a grandfather now and lecturing his kids on doing what he did!  Did not see any sleepers.

on Aug 25, 2013

Nowdays the sleepers are Japanese and they sound like a bee in a beer can...