It’s a common situation. Many project cars reach a point in the build when you have to make a choice: keep building it as a driver or step it up and build it as a high-level show car.
Joe Horisk never had to make that choice. His most recent car was always meant to be a driver and was always meant to be a contender for the most prestigious show car award around—the Ridler Award. We know that Joe accomplished the second goal. When his custom 1961 Impala wagon appeared at the 2016 Detroit Autorama, it had everybody talking—including the judges, who selected Joe’s now-famous Double Bubble as a Pirelli Great 8 winner and Ridler finalist.
If there’s such a thing as a 1961 Impala guy, it’s Joe. His first new car (long gone) was a 350hp 348-powered 1961 with a four-speed (the biggest and fastest fullsized Chevy at the time). Fifty years later, he built a white 1961 bubbletop muscled up with a 600-horse Merlin 540ci big-block. That car won a Street Shaker award from STREET RODDER (read about it athotrod.com/articles/1212sr-1961-chevy-impala).
The plan for the latest Impala was a little different and a little more ambitious. In Joe’s words, “It all started with me wanting to create what I thought a 1961 Impala concept car might look like after the demise of the two-door Nomad.” Part of the inspiration was the phantom 1955 Chrysler wagon built by J.F. Launier a few years ago (hotrod.com/articles/0810rc-1955-chrysler-two-door-wagon).
Joe started the project the way a Detroit designer would—with artwork. He got together with designer/illustrator Eric Brockmeyer. He said that Brockmeyer understood his ideas and the first rendering was spot on. Over the following eight years, there would be many more ideas and drawings, with Brockmeyer contributing to practically every inch of the car’s design.
A friend in Arizona had the Impala Joe needed to turn the concept into a car. The Double Bubble project started with Larry Stewart at One Off Rod & Custom Inc. in Middletown, Delaware (now under different ownership). The build continued with Jesse Greening at Greening Auto Company (builders of several Great 8 finalists and two Ridler-winning cars).
The original strategy for creating the roof involved extending the top with an additional top from a 1961 Pontiac bubbletop. “I cut the top off of the Pontiac and set it on the back of my Chevy, to create a double bubble,” Joe explains. The idea made sense, but it didn’t work as planned. Eventually, the entire roof was fabricated by hand. Countless modifications went into creating the one-of-a-kind top. The ribs are a nod to the Tri-Five Chevy Nomad. The top got a 3-inch (or so) chop, with the uncut windshield laid back and tucked into the cowl area. AM Hot Rod Glass provided the glass. The rear glass was installed into a handmade hatch. All glass is flush-mounted to provide a contemporary detail. All pillars were made by hand, and the window garnish moldings were modified to match the custom pillars.
The extensive mods continue through the rest of the body. Lengthened front sheetmetal, shaved door handles, CNC-formed billet side trim, and modified fender flares contribute to the lower profile changes. The hidden wipers and cowl hood are more nods to later GM styling; Brockmeyer and Joe designed the steel hood’s power lift system.
The front was cleaned up by replacing the factory bumper with a custom-fabbed Camaro-style bumper “as if that was something the GM designers had come up with in the early ’60s, a few years before actually putting it on a production car,” Greening explains. Custom driving lights were mounted below the bumper. The rear bumper and taillights were created to complement to looks of the front of the car.
Greening Auto Company had experience with CAD technology, CNC machining, and 3-D printing, and put that to good use creating several components on the Impala, such as the machined mirrors, and the headlights and taillights that feature machined bezels and 3-D printed lenses. Lighting is an intentional theme on the Impala. Lights are incorporated into the reworked fender spears, also created with 3-D metal printing.
Even the rear license plate is worth noting. Double Bubble is registered in Joe’s home state of Delaware where the DMV authorizes vehicle owners to use original or replica antique porcelain plates. Lucky for Joe, “61 409” was available.
The 18- and 20-inch wheels were custom built for a ’60s look with contemporary dimensions. Dave Wagner at Schott Wheels provided these plus-sized replicas of the 14-inch wheel covers worn by stock 1961 Impala bubbletops. Even the tires are custom. Diamond Back Classics modified Goodyear Eagles, working with a rubber lab to create the 3/8-inch sidewall stripes, color matched to the side molding paint, and the interior upholstery.
Double Bubble is set on a full Art Morrison Enterprises frame. Mirrors underneath the wagon at the Detroit Autorama revealed radiused corners and boxed ’rails with added sheetmetal to dress things up—“Detroit stuff,” as Greening calls it. The beefy CNC-machined custom triangulated four-link setup locates the 3.50-geared Ford 9-inch equipped with a Detroit locker and spinning Strange axles. The front A-arms are also CNC-machined—and beefy. RideTech ShockWaves at all points provide a great ride, and a Mustang rack and Flaming River steering column keep the car on course. Slowing down is no problem with front and rear Wilwood brakes, featuring six-piston calipers gripping 14-inch rotors.
The engine compartment is cleaner than the inside of a bubble thanks to a design by Brockmeyer and Joe, and a lot of sheetmetal fabrication by Greening Auto Company. The 1963 Chevy 409 went to Carma Performance in Nashville where Erin Carpenter stretched the displacement to 473 ci, running an Eagle crank and 10.5:1 pistons. The engine is fed by a custom EFI setup with nostalgic injector stacks on a one-off manifold. Edelbrock cylinder heads are topped by stock valve covers; the DB emblems are a recurring theme throughout Double Bubble (more “Detroit stuff”). The headers and exhaust are custom pieces, with Flowmaster mufflers. A PerTronix ignition fires things up. Cooling is accomplished by a Be Cool radiator and Cooling Components fan. Backing up the 409 is a five-speed Tremec with a McLeod clutch. The engine was painted with a satin clear over the basecoat to contrast with the shine of the exterior paint.
The wagon’s stunning white finish was accomplished by Jacob Eden and Ben Giuliano who were shooting for Greening Auto Company at the time along with Jeff Greening. Jesse and Joe knew that putting white paint on the big car—especially one built for Ridler competition—was a bold choice. The secret to success, Greening told us, was in finding the right white. The wagon was too big for a soft yellow-toned white. The cooler tone they selected, using Glasurit paint products, sharpens the lines, and highlights the shape of the body. Even under the unflattering lights of Cobo Hall in Detroit, Double Bubble looked incredible.
That tan color from the exterior trim carries over into the interior. Paul Atkins in Hanceville, Alabama, stretched tan leather over the 1961 Cadillac Eldorado seats, trimmed with chromed aluminum. The front buckets and rear bench feature a waterfall design on the back. The door panels were finished the same way, and lighting was incorporated into the custom armrests. The dash was hand-fabricated to be an updated interpretation of a 1961-1962 Chevy dash, and covered in brown leather. Sixties-style ribbed inserts, built from chromed stainless steel create a theme that extends from the gauge panel and glovebox door to the steering wheel, shifter plate, and custom pedals. The look continues on the faces of the Classic Instruments gauges, and on the shifter top built by Motorhead Jewelry. A Vintage Air A/C system provides cool air through custom vents. The rear deck is covered with leather covered steel strips and chromed bands over a solid piece of carpet. You won’t find any bent or crushed carpet tufts because Atkins used a shaving razor to cut the carpet pile beneath the bands.
Everyone who saw Double Bubble at its Detroit debut knows that Joe accomplished his second goal: to build a bona fide contender for the Ridler Award. Everyone who saw it in Louisville, Columbus, Syracuse, and Pigeon Forge knows it too. So what about the first goal—you remember, to build a driver? Joe hasn’t forgotten. The next time you see Double Bubble, it will be on the street.
Article courtesy of Hot Rod Network, written by Tim Bernsau.
When we gear heads stroll up to an open engine bay we generally take what we see a face value. Technically savvy people generally take stock of what their senses tell them and pass judgement, rarely do engine bays have the aptitude to cleverly pull the wool over our eyes.
Let’s be honest, across car culture, judging a book by it’s cover is the first way we size up the competition. Looks are half the battle. The car hobby falls somewhere in a fantasy realm, where anything beyond utility is a luxury and we all fall into the trap like moths to a flame.
When we came across images of Chris Webb’s flat head engines we were aghast, the spell worked on us too. For these engines are not as they appear, instead some handy craftsmanship and devious packaging brings retro looks to modern power.
“Originally I wanted to put a V12 in my 1936 Mack Truck, so I started looking around trying to find one but they’re really hard to come by. I saw an article where Chip Foose put a Lincoln V12 in a ’32 Ford, and I thought that’s really cool. So I started trying to find a V12, number one you can’t find them – I wanted an old flat head, number two they only make around 100 horsepower, they overheat, they run crappy and so I thought, I’ll just make one,” began Chris Webb of Webb Flat Heads.
“I love the old flat head V8s so I thought maybe I could make a small block Chevy look like one. I did a proper shroud, the water pumps are tied into where the sbc water pump used to be and it’s sort of like a cocoon that goes over the engine. To the untrained eye it looks like a flat head. You’ve got the functionality of a small block chevy but the look of a flat head.”
So in a roll reversal of the adage ‘judging a book by its cover,’ Webb has taken the wrapper off something old and obsolete to hide something modern and practical. Call it what you will, a trick, gimmick, or other put down, but we think it’s pretty cool, after all we fell for it.
As Webb got further into describing the conception of his kits, the story became more endearing and intriguing. For most hot roders, aesthetics and the culture of the car outweigh race-spec performance.
“I did all the molds myself, I went on the internet, I talked to the casting guys and when I first went to talk to them they were secretive and poo-pood me. I did one head and took it to them, then another, then a manifold etc. I took me three years of my spare time to perfect it,” Webb explained.
The means to teach himself mold making and casting principles was a long road, but Webb persevered. He had a vision for his own custom rides, and found a shared interest in the hot rod community.
We originally discovered Webb at SEMA in 2015, getting there was no small feat as Webb relayed. “I signed up for SEMA and the rush was on, we took my Mack Truck with the V8, and the MG with the V12. They held us at the border for 42 hours so we missed the first day and a half.” Since then he has been expanding on his design, including a V16 to the V8 and V12.
“Both the V12 and the V16 just use a 350, the same small block. Probably 90 percent of hot rods have these small block Chevys in them, they’re wonderful engines, 75 million sbc engines were made, only 25 million flat head V8s were made. If you’ve got a ’32 Ford with a small block Chevy engine, at least you can make it look like it’s got a flat head,” he described.
“We had the v12 in the MG and everybody loved it, but I always wanted to do a V16. We have a show up here in Victoria called Deuce Days, it’s the largest gathering of ’32 Fords in the world. We rushed to get the V16 ready for Deuce Days, and at the show you couldn’t even see the car, it was ten deep in people.”
The actual architecture of Webb Flatty kits is a little more involved than you would think, they are not as simple as a shell. Cooling is integrated, along with routing ignition and induction systems.
“In the case of the V8 it’s essentially a shroud that goes over top, it’s seven pieces. The front is cast aluminum, you pull the sbc water pump off and you add the two water pumps from a ’49 Ford and they’re tied into the existing water jackets. I use an Edelbrock manifold, and then I have another manifold that goes on top of it, so it’s almost like a one-inch spacer, and then the three Stomberg carburetors go on top of that. You have to hide the spark plugs so I have these cast iron panels and custom-made spark plugs that are hidden behind. A set of aluminum flat head heads cover the top of the valve covers. I have a distributorless ignition system that’s tied into coil packs under the dash,” Webb explained.
We asked Webb what’s in store for the future of his kits, and he answered simply; “SoCal Speedshop had a look at it at SEMA and said; we’ll take every engine you’ve got! My wife and I are getting close to retirement, and we don’t want to go into the business of manufacturing engines, in the mean time I’m fine tuning things and having fun with it.”
Hopefully someone out there sees the same intrigue and value Webb has cultivated with his Flatty kits and decides to carry on his production. For now we think he has a very interesting venture, that will gain attention, whether they know or not what they are looking at is not what it seems.
Article courtesy of Rod Authority, written by Trevor Anderson.
Lincoln’s Mark III was born of necessity to do battle in the lucrative personal luxury market against the Buick Riviera, Oldsmobile Toronado, Cadillac Eldorado and even Ford’s own Thunderbird.
Reviewers of the day, however, weren’t impressed:
“What FoMoCo did was take an already overdone car–the Thunderbird–and overdo it some more,” wrote Bill Kirkpatrick in the March 1968 issue of Popular Mechanics. “The Mark III boils down to a fatter, heavier and more plush T-bird.”
It’s true that the Mark III and the Thunderbird were brothers beneath the skin, and the Mark III rode on the four-door Thunderbird’s underpinnings. But to today’s eye, the Mark III looks more like a modern classic, thanks to its upright Rolls-Royce inspired grille and the spare tire hump in the trunklid that harks back to Continentals of yore.
Inside, the Mark III gets the edge over the Thunderbird too, with its square-ish gauge pods, wood veneer trim and, of course, its signature Cartier clock.
The pods are spread out across the dash in a backdrop of oak, rosewood or walnut (by 1970), and the instruments are tilted 13 degrees from vertical to make them easier to read. By late in the 1968 production run, red needles were used on the fuel, oil pressure, coolant and alternator gauges, as well as on the face of the Cartier clock. The fashionable timepiece, mounted prominently to the right of the speedometer in the center of the cluster, was hailed by Lincoln as the “first 5-jewel electronic chronometer in an American motorcar.”
“Transistors actuate the gear movement by continuous pulsations to achieve twice the accuracy of ordinary car clocks,” Lincoln’s copywriters expounded. “The Cartier chronometer is virtually silent because there is no rewind spring to ‘click’ every minute or so.”
Honestly, we’re not sure what that all means, but we do like the Roman numerals on the face, as well as the touches of gold and brushed metal. The Mark III’s Cartier clock, as well as the wood paneling that surrounds it, looks every bit as fashionable today as it did in 1970.
Even a less-than-thrilled Popular Mechanics, circa 1968, offered a back-handed compliment about the Mark III’s insides:
“Interior styling features a theme perhaps best described as being a cross between a jet cockpit, a stately home of England and Las Vegas moderne. There’s something for everybody, particularly the button-happy. Power this and power that abound throughout.”
While the critics crowed, the buying public gave the Mark III a thumbs up. A total of 79,831 were built, so there’s an ample supply available today, usually at reasonable prices.
Not many of the Cartier clocks are still ticking from the factory, but replacements, repair parts and upgraded quartz innards are available.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Mike McNessor.