Ben Wassell’s Street Legal Army Truck

When I said was wanted to be non-denominational, I meant it. Last week’s post was a Ford tractor. Now I give you the massive M931A2 army truck of Hanover’s Ben Wassell.

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Wassell bought this truck in an online auction, then sold the cab to a friend to modify another truck by adding to the size of the cab.

Power comes from an 8.3 liter Cummings that Wassell plans to upgrade to make another 150 hp. The engine is mated to an Allison Automatic.

The 2002 Dodge four-door cab was installed by adding a sub-frame. Once on, the steering had to be modified, along with the wiring. The chassis was 24 volt and the cab was only 12. Controls for 12 and 24 volt set ups exist side by side, along with air controls for the brakes.

After the exhaust and air intakes were modified, Wassell removed the fifth wheel and added the flat bed.

The truck weighs around 20,000 lbs., can haul another 15,000 and, unloaded gets around seven gallons to the mile —I meant miles to the gallon. Silly me! Massive rubber comes from 14.00R20 Goodyear AT-2As.

The trailer is rather cool too. Also bought at online auction, this ammunition trailer weighs 11,000 lbs. and can carry another 22,000 more. Tires are 385/65R22.5 Goodyear G178s. Wassell is planing to make a camper out of the trailer.

This truck is rather interesting and unique. It is not the first time I have seen it around town. This thing gets driven and I can’t wait to see it in motion again.

2008 Suzuki SX4 for Sale

3-29-16 (19).JPGThis 2008 Suzuki SX4 is for sale in Silver Creek, New York. It has a 1.9 liter four cylinder engine with a five speed manual transmission. Only 163,700 miles young, this little car is defiantly fast enough to get a speeding ticket. I know because I drove it myself. While getting 30 to 40 miles a gallon, this car also knows how to hug a corner. It is fun to drive, clean and has no check engine light. The E-brake even works.

If interested call Dolce Automotive at 716-934-3186 and ask for Richard. Asking price is $2,800.

Bill Ploetz’s Ford 8n

If you walked out into a field of corn back in 1969 or ’70, you could find Bill Ploetz cultivating with his future wife riding on the fender. If you stopped to tell him that someday his father’s tractor would be capable of doing 70 miles per hour, you would probably get some strange looks.

But fast forward a few decades and that is just what this Portland, New York, resident did.

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The Ford N-series was produced from 1939 to 1952, and the 8n was one of the most popular tractors before the imported 4×4 tractors hit the market — even if a quick ride around doesn’t spot a few still sitting around.

3-23-16 (4).JPGPower comes from a 1983 Mercury Marque 302. It had 19,000 miles on it but was full of sludge. He cleaned it out and put in a new oil pump and screen. An electronic ignition was added then an electric water pump. Ploetz said the engine made plenty of power for what he wanted to do so he did not modifications.

The old four-cylinder that the 302 replaced was part of the frame. It wasn’t a problem for the horsepower that it made but 220 is too much, so a cradle had to be made. Ploetz said that Ford used the same transmission spline for years, so after the spacer the engine slid right in. The clutch linkage had to be reworked to allow more travel in the throw-out bearing and it needed a special spacer to keep the starter motor from binding.

The throttle had to be reworked for a more progressive profile, as Ploetz said it would jump from 1,000 to 5,000 too quickly.

A broken piece of cast was on the inside of the rear end and it needed to go. Ploetz remembered his dad driving the tractor around while dragging one wheel, and that would not work for what he wants to do. He mated a ’58 rear end to his ’48 front end and that took care of the problem.

I was a commercial tire serviceman up until 2010, and, every once in a while, even I learn something new. Added weight in the tires is not calcium chloride, but beet molasses. Beet juice is heavier and nowhere near as corrosive.

3-23-16 (3)As it sits now, beets and all, it is around 5,500 lbs. that adds up to too much traction in the back and not enough weight in the front. He plans to remove the weights and add beet juice to the front tires so the front will stay down.

For safety he added a seat belt and a roll bar. “On paper this thing will go 70,” Ploetz said. “I went up to about 35 and that’s fast enough for me. It is scary to drive.”

Future improvements include a larger radiator. After four pulls or so the engine gets too hot.  The hood may be reworked to hinge open, then new paint.

Trans Am is Back

TA.pngPlenty of folks have cashed in on public nostalgia for the Camaro’s late, lamented F-body sibling by Firebird-izing and Trans Am-ifying Camaros, often just by replacing the front and rear soft trim with vaguely Pontiac-y styling cues. Tallahassee, Florida-based Trans Am Worldwide has endeavored to take that approach to a higher level, modifying or replacing virtually every panel on the car except the doors.

The examples on display in the concourse area at the NYIAS are all based on the recently departed Camaro, but tooling is underway to replicate this look on the new Alpha platform architecture. In the meantime, cars have been procured to produce a limited run of 77 special black and gold Bandit Editions. Old Bandit himself, Burt Reynolds, is completely on board with the plan and will personally sign each of the 77 copies, which are retailing for between $125,000 and $150,000, depending on options. And if black isn’t your color, Nate Shelton, chairman of Hurst Performance Products, would be happy to sign a Hurst Trans Am edition in another color — if they weren’t already sold out.|1

Wreaked Porsche Selling for Mad Money


Even with all-wheel-drive, the 887-horsepower Porsche 918 Spyder is a lot to handle. Apparently, too much to handle for the former owner of car #830, who wrecked it after putting just 92 miles on the odometer. Now, #830 has turned up at a salvage auction in Long Island, with bidding up to $100,000 at the time of writing.

Normally, a car this destroyed would be declared a total loss and meet its untimely demise at the crusher, but limited-edition hypercars are a bit of a different story. Recall, the Ferrari Enzo that was restored by Ferrari after it was literally ripped in half in a California crash. That car recently sold for $1.76 million.

If you have the money and patience, Porsche will likely be willing to bring this car back to its showroom-fresh state. It might cost you as much, if not more, than buying a working 918, but you’d have a car with a unique history.


Smash on PlayStation Pages

My video documentary on demolition derby racing games on PlayStation 1 and 2 is up and running. They can be found up top in the blue section and are in two separate pages. Not only are there edited clips of game play, but there are also reviews and tips. Come and join me for some car-nage today!

Dick Majka’s 1964 Pro Street Corvette

The weather has gotten better a bit earlier than normal. Mid-March 50 and 60 degree temperatures are just a blessing. Not only does it allow people to finally come out of their houses, but nasty little cars can too. The sun and warm brought this car out of its Fredonia, N.Y. home for me to find as I was driving past Country Fair on Rt. 60. The car was at the pumps getting a shot of hi-test.


Dick Majka found this 1964 Corvette Fastback in Connecticut and for the most part, in the shape it is in. Majka and his son Rick drove 14 hours, did a load and go, then were chased home by a snow storm. The storm caught up to them in Rochester and they had white out conditions all the way to Buffalo, but made it home safe.

DSC_0012The 383 stroker and 350 turbo trans came with the car. Atop the engine sits a Holly 780 cfm carb that makes around 450 hp to turn the new driveshaft and 3.50 gears they put in the Ford nine inch rear axil.

DSC_0016They wanted the stock fuel tank to go back in the car so they remodified the rear frame for it to fit. They found that 31×18.5R15 was the biggest tire they could cram in the rear fender well without it rubbing after the rear suspension was modified.

This car is a cruiser. They have never raced it, so they don’t know how fast it can go. It goes to local shows and cruises like at Point Gratiot in Dunkirk and the Syracuse Street Rod Nationals.

They have a 1963 Split Window Coupe that we will visit as soon as it comes out of the trailer, that does all the racing.


Interview With Car and Driver’s John Phillips


Car and Driver (C/D) contributing writer John Phillips has been around the block a few times, and the test track. After he spent three years at Ohio State, he finished his education at Oxford in England.

Since his time in England, he has had a career that looks to be the envy of upcoming automotive journalists like myself. After working for three years at CAR weekly in Ontario, Canada, he worked for two PR firms and wrote press materials for General Motors and Ford Racing. Before coming to C/D in 1989 he wrote for the California based car-racing tabloid, On Track.

To add to my envy, besides driving $100,000 cars for a living, Phillips has written two books, contributed to Sports Illustrated, Elle, Harper’s, Conde Nast Traveler and several different newspapers.

I will admit that I had not heard of Phillips before I read his article, “The Ultimate Antivenom: The Viper’s Dying, and I Won’t Miss It” on MSN News. And I have never driven, or even rode, in a Viper in my life. I have seen one, I think.

Phillips’ words and style stood out to me. Not only did I learn something about the Viper, I had a good laugh and wanted to know more.

One thing a college student does most often is check out other people’s facts, opinions and numbers. It seems a bit of a mystery to me how reporters in the real world find out facts like production numbers and the end of a series.

“I get industry news on model production from Automotive News, which is a bi-weekly trade publication.” Phillips said in an on-line interview. “In case of the Viper, Chrysler wasn’t releasing production numbers because they had become insignificant and embarrassing. So I called a Chrysler PR guy…and he told me the exact number.”

Numbers are important. According to Road and Track, only 676 Vipers were sold in 2105, and according to Phillips, only 2687 fifth generation units sold in total. This could explain why Fiat Chrysler is not making them anymore, and that the fact-checking that one does in college never ends.

“Getting (a) number right is crucial,” Phillips said, “Because the fact-checkers at the magazine will demand to know where it came from, so they can double check it. Never get your fact-checkers angry. If they lose faith in your credibility, you’re screwed.”

After reading the article, I accused Phillips of being a bit snarky, or having a rudely critical tone. Not that I would blame him, but saying that the Viper was “like using a Louisville Slugger to play ping-pong” after he cooked bacon, eggs and then popcorn on the car is not normal civil behavior. But he rattled off a list of bad experiences that he had around the car, like food poisoning, accidents and being banned from all Mopar machinery, that added to his “bad juju” that surrounded the car.

Phillips said that he screwed up if the column came out that way. He hates to hear journalists whine about getting a free ride in cars they could probably never afford. The column is just a representation of his writing style and he doesn’t think it could change without him grinding to a complete stop, and it is the style C/D has used for the last 60 odd years. There is an implied obligation for first-person columnists to agitate to provoke comments and rebuttals.

Which brings us back to cooking breakfast foods and late night snacks on a modern day muscle car. Often enough, college students are taught to show, not tell. It is a real world example of this theory at work.

“I cooked food over the hood of the Viper because that huge V-10 produced so much heat,” Phillips said. “It was one thing to tell readers how much heat was coming into the cockpit, making it miserable in there, but it was more dramatic to show them how much heat it was. To do that graphically, it seemed fun to cook food atop the car just after a spirited run at the test track.”

According to Phillips, the Viper is an unwieldy monolith with 1960s technology that is just too hot to drive and makes driving a real workout. He also said that other cars in its price range of $90,000, like Corvettes and Audi R8s, could double as daily drivers. The Viper could be used for that, as long as it was being towed there. It all added to the snarky feel of the piece, even if things like food poisoning were not the car’s fault. Having hot exhaust where a woman could burn her leg just for getting in the car, however, is.

“It’s easy to criticize specific cars,” Phillips said. “Anybody can do it. But my point was to call into question Chrysler’s overall notion of the car, which hasn’t changed since the first Viper came off the line. I wanted the reader to know that my peevish criticism of the car specifically wasn’t as much the point as Chrysler’s having lost its way – and its enthusiasm. Because of that, the company is being punished by poor sales, which perhaps they should have seen coming if they kept repeating themselves.”


Works Cited

Lee, Kristin. “13 Great Cars that Nobody Bought in 2015.” Road and Track. 23 Feb. 2016.

MSN News. Web. 7 Mar. 2016

Phillips, John. , “The Ultimate Antivenom: The Viper’s Dying, and I Won’t Miss It.” Car and

Driver. 19 Feb. 2016. MSN News. Web. 7 Mar. 2016

Definition of “snarky.” Web. 7 Mar. 2016.

New Ford F-650, 750

Ford promises its new medium duty pickups, the F-650 and F-750, could do a round-trip drive to the moon when equipped with the second-generation 6.7L Power Stroke V-8. Now, obviously that’s a bit hyperbolic, but the company’s point is this: With a design life of half a million miles, the biggest F-Series diesel should be very durable.


It is defiantly quite the looker, coming with the ability to tow some serious weight. I have no idea what I would do with it, but I want one.