Just Bad

To most people Just Bad was the name of my car. I had a car that was my identity for much of my young life. I am not sure it was so much of a car as it was the car. I did not name the car. My good friend Marvin Sellers named the car. The name was appropriate and I kind of embraced it as a life philosophy. The story of Just Bad, is more the story of the boy than it is the story of the car. The two were intertwined and synonymous for many years.

I grew up wanting to have a fast car and totally into muscle cars. I never had any money in my life, and the few times I managed to pull together a dollar or two, I would buy a hot wheel of a muscle car and as I got older I bought models. I used to go to the welding shop where they would occasionally build and work on cars. In my small town it was the closest thing we had to a speed shop. I used to sit in the shop and read old car magazines for hours. Finally, the owner told me I could borrow a magazine and take it home. I would read them and return and exchange them for another one. He had an endless supply of Hot Rod and National Dragster.

As I got close to my fifteenth birthday, I really wanted to find a muscle car. I scouted out every old broken down muscle car I could find and conned my dad into asking about buying them. Unfortunately, most of the cars were not for sale and the rest were way too expensive for my budget. A family friend lived in the Grants Pass / Medford, Oregon area and said he would keep an eye out for a car. That is a much larger area and it has much better weather. On the coast where I lived old cars rusted away to nothing pretty quickly in the salt air.

The call came about a month later, our friend Jimmy had bought the car for me. I had my first muscle car and I had no input in the purchase. The cost was $900 and I only had a little over $500 saved up. My mother found an extra hundred for me and I rolled up change and scrounged for every nickel I could find. I was almost up to $700 and had no prospects for finding anymore money. My father called and told Jimmy I couldn’t afford the car and he had to take it back. I was heart broken.

I went down to the local market and told my story to the owner, Clyde Eller, and he immediately went and got me $200 dollars and told me to pay him back when I could. I ran most of the three miles home. I was bouncing as I told my father I had the money. I was really $11 short, but I wasn’t telling anyone. My father rained on my parade a second time. “How are you going to get over there to get it? How will you get it back?” I had no idea. I just wanted Jimmy to hang on to the car. I took all my rolled change to the bank and everything I had to get a check to mail to Jimmy. The lady at the bank gave me the last $11 dollars to make it $900 even. I had the money. She stopped me and asked if I had the stamp and envelope, of course I didn’t. She set me up and we got it done, the check was in the mail.

I told everyone that would listen that I had bought a car and it was over in Medford at Jimmy Wallace’s house. A couple seniors from my high school were over in Medford and went and saw the car. They told me at school all about it. I was so jealous. Finally, they asked when I was going to go get it. I explained that I had no money and no way to go over there. They laughed and laughed. Those two guys, Mopar Mel and Fat Sam, adopted me that day. They said we would go get it on Saturday. Sam drove us all over to Medford and Mel drove my car home for me. They bought all the gas and really treated me well. We even ate dinner at a JJ North’s buffet.

I started washing and waxing my car in the driveway right where it was parked. I did enough odd jobs to eventually get everyone paid off. I saved money and even got the car registered. I would ride the school bus every day, but that bus went right by where my car was parked. At least 100 kids came by to check out the car. I am not sure the car would have been nearly so famous if I had been old enough to drive it.

I found every good deal that could be had anywhere. I didn’t realize that people were really helping me out and just happy to see the gleam in my eye and the pride I had in my car. I had bought the old nitrous system out of the window down at the welding shop. I bought an old 10 bolt posi rear end from a guy at the parts store. I found an old 8 track player and speakers at the wrecking yard. I found some really corroded aluminum valve covers at the wrecking yard and they were free. Some aluminum mag wheels were $20 and I polished them by hand.

I managed to scrounge together enough money to buy a B&M shift kit. I would drop the transmission out of a car for the very first time in my life. If I had known what was involved, I would have at least put the car in the garage. I pushed that transmission 12 miles to town to the welding shop to get help putting the pieces back together. Don put me back together and gave me and the transmission a ride home. I am ashamed to admit he gave me 10 quarts of transmission fluid and did it all for free.

I finally turned 15 ½ and was old enough to get a permit, I was there at DMV that very day and got the learners permit. I had a permit to drive as long as an adult was with me. My father was quick to point out my car was staying in the driveway until I had insurance. Everyone in Crescent City knew I had the car and everyone wanted to see me driving it. People were calling the house asking if I could work. I was making money from odd jobs all over the place. I had many people helping me out.

Word arrives that a blown motor in a ski boat has left a disabled 455 olds motor at the wrecking yard. I wanted that motor and the intake and carburetor. I had called and priced the motor at $100 for me. I had the money and no way to go get it. I was going to borrow the dolly and push it home like I had taken the transmission to town. Don at the welding shop would not let me push it home. He called the wrecking yard and told them to deliver it to my house. I never did pay for that motor. Thanks Don.

Insurance was a tough one for me and I knew it would take some money. I made the walk and went to the State Farm office in town. I knew the local agent and he spent the time and worked with me. When I explained that I wasn’t old enough to get license yet, he told me to come back with the license. I confirmed the rates with him and told him I would be back. The week before my birthday I went to his office and took my cash to buy six months worth of insurance. I was almost successful. He sent me away for a second time.

The morning of my birthday my mother came to the house and drove me to the DMV to take my test. I got my license that morning and I got a card for proof of insurance. I tried to give mom the money and she told me Stan from State Farm took care of it and as long as I got good grades it was taken care of. I never got the grades I should have. I got by on natural ability and never studied. I managed to keep the required B average and keep my car insurance intact for three years.

I drove the big car to school on my birthday. I was in trouble immediately with the need for gasoline far outweighing my cash reserves. Almost immediately the kids from the school bus came to the rescue. Their parents would buy my gas if I would give them a ride to and from school. I had another angel.

I was taking auto shop and would start bringing my car into the shop to work on it every chance I would get. The instructor helped me perform every repair and tuning that I could think of. The car was getting stronger and stronger. I was ready to put the headers on the car and went to the muffler shop to find out how much an exhaust system would cost. About $500 and I could not afford that much money. I told my instructor there was no way I could afford it. He suggested we talk to the metal shop instructor. They took it on as a class project and the car was there in the metal shop for a week and I had all new hardware and mufflers when I got it back. The big car now rumbled like a big car.

The car was a classic sleeper with old corroded paint and a rather unassuming stance. The car was definitely a muscle car and yet it did not inspire fear in anyone. I would drive a car full of kids to and from school and occasionally take the car to town.

I was driving the car a little bit and I still wanted to keep working on the car. I found a set of heads in the wrecking yard that were a better flowing pair of factory heads. I got the heads for free. I took them to the welding shop and we cleaned them up. Don ported and polished the heads for me. I bought valves, springs and seals and a set of rebuilt heads went onto the motor.

I needed more horsepower and I started saving for some after market pistons and a cam shaft. I had the old blown up motor and the block was still in good shape and just needed to be bored out. I slowly saved the money and sent my parts off to a machine shop in Portland. With the help of my good friend Bill Wood I spent the money to build a big motor.

I put the new motor in and immediately could sense I had a huge powerful motor under the hood. This engine was in the 500 horsepower range. Way too big for a daily driver and definitely not for a 17 year old boy.

At this point the car was the wolf in sheep’s clothing and definitely one of the baddest cars roaming the streets. Marvin went for a ride in the car and dubbed it “Just Bad”. He wanted me to get it painted and make it look really nice. I have seen enough cars that are all show and no go. The car should be fast before you start drawing attention to yourself.

I took the car to the drag strip and drove it in and ran it through on street tires and through the mufflers and the car ran 12.60 without using the nitrous. I drove it to both Eureka and Medford and the car ran similar numbers both days on pump gas. The tracks did not feel the car was very safe. I started the process of adding safety features to the car and making small adjustments to make the car more drivable.

The car would run as fast 11.56 @121 in Sacramento on a cold Wednesday night. That is very fast for a street car running in street trim on pump gas. The car is considerably faster than that with a few tweaks and drag slicks. I have not run the car through a full pass in many years.

I now have a rear end with 4.56:1 gears and the car is just a street race car. The car is in primer and still looks pretty rough. If you ever see the car you will know, that is the car. The car truly looks “Just Bad”.

The car hasn’t prowled the streets for many years and yet every time a message comes in from Crescent City, I know it is somebody asking about the car.

I wish they loved me as much as they love my car.


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