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GOING THE DISTANCE
"SOUND JUDGEMENT PART 2"
Photo by Genghis
IT'S ALL ABOUT MARY: Patty wanted me to take her for a ride.
"Take me for a ride. I want to hear what the new car sounds like."
That's what Patty (my ever-lovin' wife) said to me yesterday. She didn't really mean a "new car." What she was referring to, was Mary, my '72 Corvette Stingray, who received new glass pack mufflers recently. Patty wanted to hear how different Mary sounded, with her glass packs. In a previous article, "Sound Judgement," I made mention of Mary gettin' her new glass packs, and what motivated me to have get glass packs for my Vette. I'll tell ya what. Patty may not have been far off the mark, when she referred to Mary as a "new car." The word "transformation" is not too strong a word to describe how different Mary sounds now, and how her sound has changed her essential personality. Transformed? Certainly. More to the point, Mary's glass packs have taken the handcuffs off of Mary's persona. Mary's "true voice" has now been unleashed. Let me put it this way:
The straight-through exhaust has allowed Mary to be herself
This is a difficult concept to convey. You may say to me, "So what? So she has a louder exhaust now. She's still the same car." That might be literally true, but you'd be missing the bigger picture. The bigger picture is, that the way that Mary sounds and acts with her glass packs, is the way that she was supposed to be, when she left the assembly line. If you rode in Mary's cockpit the way she is now, you would have to agree that she sounds so righteous, so right, that you'd agree with me that this is the way that God and Chevrolet meant her to be, when she left the factory in 1972. The sound of a car, is a powerful component of the driving experience. Additional decibels of exhaust note it is said, adds a hundred horsepower in the mind of the driver.
The perception of one's vehicle, whether she's a righteous Harley Shovelhead or Vette, is formed not only by the tactile sensations of the ride, but also by the way the beast in her sounds. Just imagine riding down the highway on a virtually silent Pan or Shovel, instead of the loud, boisterous, blasting machine that you're used to hearing when you're on your bike---and you can appreciate how important and essential the sound of your straight pipes is to the Harley-riding experience. Nobody wants heir Vette or Harley to be a Eunuch of the Highway. Great sound demonstrates the presence of big brass balls.
In short, your Harley would seem neutered if she was such a Silent Gray Fellow. We'll use "fellow" here generically for both genders, as we use "guys" for both sexes in certain instances, because of the significant historical reference. A Silent Gray Fellow lacks balls, simple as that. Similarly, a silent Vette is but a shadow of what she could be: A rompin', stompin', blasting machine. There's no doubt that the sound of a loud and snarly Vette or Harley, is a necessary part of the driving and riding experience, an auditory element that jacks up one's driving and riding pleasure, immeasurably.
Some cars are meant to have a mean rumble at idle, and a loud, bellowing personality when opened up. It's like when a quarterback with a strong arm "has the handcuffs taken off," and is allowed to throw long bombs down the field to his receivers. The exhaust notes of muscle cars like the Vette, are meant to trumpet to one and all, the mean melody that the righteous Small Block Chevy V-8 is capable of. Just remember that it was the power of sound, that brought the walls of Jericho down. The sound of an angry SBC (Small Block Chevy), only has one rival that makes the hairs on people's necks stand up, and that is the sound of a straight piped Harley.
Patty and I recently returned from a trip to New Orleans, but I made plans for Mary's glass packs before the trip. Originally, I was considering Dynomax's Thrush glass packs, but when I called JEGS to order them, I was informed that JEGS didn't have a set of the Thrush mufflers with the corrrect 2 1/2 inch diameter inlet that Mary's exhaust required. The JEGS tech recommended a set of Flowmaster turbo-type mufflers, but I said no thanks---because Mary already had Magnaflow turbos on her---and they were way too quiet and restrictive for me. What I wanted was a true straight-through glass pack design, with plenty of Chevy Thunder. Only straight-through glass packs could give me and Mary, what we wanted. Nothing less would do. The JEGS tech then recommended JEGS' house brand, Flowpack Bullet glass packs, which are ruggedly constructed. I agreed with this, and ordered them.
I had JEGS ship the glass packs to my mechanic, Jerome Vasconcellos, at his Ludlow Garage. I can't say enough about Jerome and his shop when it comes to cars. Jerome is the four-wheeled version of my Harley motor builder, Andrew Rosa. Like Andrew Rosa, Jerome Vasconcellos is an ace mechanic. You're read about Andrew Rosa in my writing for years. Andrew is a legendary east coast Harley wrench and motor builder, and if I say that Jerome is his automotive equivalent, then you know that I'm saying a lot about Jerome's credentials.
In 1999, I was looking for a decent mechanic in Manhattan, who would be knowledgeable enough to work on my Vette. Furthermore, the shop I was searching for, would have to be one of integrity. Do you know how hard it is to find a mechanic in Manhattan, who's honest and knows what he's doing? Very hard. Old Vettes can a mystery to some mechanics. At the time, I was buying a part for Mary at a now-defunct auto parts store called Worth Auto, here in the Lower East Side of NYC. I asked for a recommendtaion and the guy at the counter recommended Jerome. He said, "Jerome's very busy and you have to make an appointment at his shop, but he's the best guy in Manhattan. He has experience with all types of cars." The auto parts guy was right. Jerome himself, has owned Vettes. He currently owns a Corvette C6, a restored '64 Mustang with a hot motor, and is restoring a Model T Ford. Name a car, and Jerome's worked on it.
So, I ordered the glass packs (JEGS' Flowpack Bullet, part number 30291) before Patty and I left for New Orleans, and had 'em shipped to the Ludlow Garage. After Patty and I returned to NYC, luckily, Jerome had an opening in his schedule for Mary right away. He had his crew install the glass packs, and when the mechanic who worked on Mary finished, he said, "Hey Scott, start her up. I think you'll be impressed." I cranked her over, and this great, bellowing roar filled the shop. To say I was pleased and impressed, would be an understatement.
Ask Patty, and she'll tell you that I'm notoriously hard to Christmas shop for. That's because I'm basically non-materialistic. At any given time, there's nothing I really want, unless it's for my Harley or my Chevy. If I have a roof over my head, and food to eat, that's all that really matters to me. Acquisitions, stuff for the apartment, I don't really care about. All I really care about of a material nature, are my bike and my car. This year, Patty lucked out, because I wanted Mary's glass packs, and she got to fulfill her Christmas shopping for me with the mufflers.
When I took Patty out for a ride in the Vette, yesterday, it was a revelation to her. I keep Mary in a commercial garage in the Lower Beast Side of New York City, near my house (again, "house" is used generically by NYCers for home, whether house or apartment. In my our case, it's an apartment). This is a structure with three floors of parking spaces. Mary's parking space is on the second floor. People aren't assigned specific spots, but I found a way around this, to be able to keep the same space for Mary. More on this later. When one enters Mary's garage, which happens to sit underneath the shadows of the Williamsburg Bridge, one is greeted by this sign:
"ABSOLUTELY NO RUNNING OF ENGINES INSIDE GARAGE!""
Understood, and it's not because of the noise problem, a problem which certainly would've been exacerbated by Mary's new straight-through glass packs---but because of the build-up of carbon dioxide inside the garage. The garage people don't really care about noise, anyway. They do garage several Harleys with straight pipes, after all. After passing this sign, Patty and I entered the garage's tiny elevator. This tomb-like elevator, is only five feet long and three feet wide, and two people barely fit in there without hugging. The term "sardine can" comes to mind. After taking a rickety ride to the second floor, Patty and I went to Mary, who was parked in one of the middle rows.
The way the floors of the garage are configured, there are rows of cars against the walls, and two rows of cars in the middle. The cars parked against the walls, are lined up in cars of two parked nose to tail. If your car happens to be parked in a two-car row against the wall, and your car is the one with it's rear end against the wall, then you have to call an attendant to move the car in front of yours, so you can get out. This is a real pain in the ass, because you'd have to go downstairs and give the attendant the assigned number of the obstructing car. Cars in the garage have decals placed on their windshields indicating their assigned numbers.
The middle rows of spaces are the choice spots, because it means that if your car is parked in a middle row, then its egress won't be blocked by another car. You just start 'er up and drive her out. The middle rows consist of two rows of cars, parked in such a way that there is an clear aisle in front of the cars in each row to drive onto, to leave. As I said, I found a way of getting around not having an assigned space, and a way of keeping this parking space, permanently. I keep two orange cones at the back of my Vette, which I cover with Mary's car cover. When I take Mary out, I simply place these orange cones at the front of her space, preventing any cars from taking the space while we're out. It seems that the honor system is alive and well in Mary's garage, because nobody has ever ignored the cones, and taken Mary's space. None of the garage people have ever complained about my "reserving" Mary's space with the cones, either.
When we got to Mary's space, I removed her cover, and Patty stayed near Mary's rear end so that she could move the orange cones into place at the front of the parking space, after I pulled Mary out. I gave Mary's gas pedal a few pumps, shootin' some gas from the accelerator pumps into Mary's Holley quad, which sets the carb on full choke. I turned the key.
Mary's exhaust note hit Patty---who was standing directly in back of Mary's pipes---in the ears like a blast from a double-barreled shotgun. After Patty got into the cockpit, she said, "Wow, that impressive! I din't expect her to be that loud!" Patty added later, "She sounds so much better than before."
Man, Mary sounds awesome! At idle she's got this burbling and aggressive idle. When I open her up, a torrent of righteous Chevy Small Block music rises with a sharp but mellow rasp. Who needs the radio on, when you have this beautiful exhaust to listen to? We did achieve one thing on this ride. We put Mary to the "will-we-get-a-ticket-for-her loud-exhaust?" test, and she passed with flying colors. After we hit the highway, a procession of NYPD patrol cars caught up to us, and surrounded us. There were about ten cop cars heading to some assignment. The lead police car pulled up to the right of us, as another cop car flanked our left, with the rest of the police cars behind us. The cop driving the lead car eyed Mary, then flipped me a smile and thumbs up---before the police procession passed us and proceeded to wherever they were going---and we didn't get a ticket. Outstanding!
The very nature of my Vette has changed with the glass packs. No, let me amend that. Mary's nature hasn't changed. More accurately, Mary's true natured has been revealed by her straight-through glass packs. What you're listening to when a Vette has glass packs, is the real voice of the Chevy V-8. It's the true voice of a righteous SBC, which is still mellow enough---if I'm being judicious with my right foot---not to attract negative constabulary attention. Later.