Cruise back to the 70’s in a Fireball PHATBOY…

OK, time for a time-travel episode folks. Let’s press the proverbial button and swing back to the 70’s for a jiff where everything was cool in a sort of very uncool sort of way — bell bottoms, super ugly haircuts and wacko cars.

Wait, I take that back about the cars. Not the haircuts. And although the cars were strange, there was nothing stranger than the AMC Pacer. It was ugly on a whole new level that made it the coolest car ever. 

So, today’s Ride is dedicated to all those — this means you — who suffered and survived the 70’s and managed to come out and into the 21st century unscathed. 

And if we happened to still have a Pacer in our garage, what would we do with it? Well, there’s the obvious things like a fish tank, cherry tomato garden and recliner-lounge with foot massager, but I’m pretty sure most of you have done that already.

Which is why I want to challenge your brains in coming up with the Best Pacer Idea Ever contest. 

My idea? Well, it’s the PhatBoy of course. Chubba Hubba, this flame throwin’ concept, features a variety of cool options. The tail pipe doubles as a zucchini slicer and the dish wheels come off for pizza delivery; four at a time, baby! 

Yea, I know what you’re thinking. This is weird. How can you be delivering pizzas and be this cool? What? That wasn’t what you were thinking? Moving on.

I like to play around with ideas and fish out of water concepts. Like, if you mixed “Jurassic Park” and “Breaking Bad” you’d get dinosaurs doing drugs, or something like that. Whatever.

But the point is, if you really had a Pacer, what would you do? Back on target, Fireball!

Oh, and by the way, PhatBoy actually has a definition. It’s “behaving badly while still being cool.” I’m not really sure that makes any sense at all, but Webster was a smart guy and I for one believe him, even though he’s dead now and really doesn’t care.

So get your phat on and drive your cool car like the stud or studette that you are. Be the phat.

What’s it like to drive a 1940 FORD WOODIE WAGON? Smooth…

I’ve been in this town for more than 30 years, so when a name pops up like Andy Cohen, you know that cool cars are within reach. 

And knowing that Andy loves cars like I do, it was an easy fit when he said that his 1940 Woodie Wagon should be today’s ride.

Welcome to the world of Andy Cohen – a longtime Malibuite, lover of all things on four wheels and a driven desire to spread Autolove across the globe via his cool business, Beverly Hills Motoring Accessories (www.beverlyhillsmotoring.com). 

BHMA is an online, high-end auto accessory business helping people who love cars make their rides even better – but that’s not where Andy stops. 

He’s dedicated his life to creating ways for car guys and girls to share what they love via his car shows.

If you’ve been to Andy’s car show, you know that the rides are the celebs. But every now and then, complete unknowns like a guy named Jay Leno (who?) shows up with cheapy old cars (you gotta have a mix, right?). But beyond the show, Andy can be spotted cruising through the Bu in his 1940 Ford Deluxe Woodie Wagon. A near stock version, sans the drive-train components and a few minor changes ;-). But let me tell you… this Woodie hauls ass and here’s why…

Last week, Andy invited me up to his Pad for a spin in his ‘family’ wagon. We shot an episode of my Vlog and here’s how it went.

As we jumped into the Woodie and headed back south, Andy brought me up to speed, literally. 

“This Station Wagon has a ‘63 Corvette 327 Motor,” he grinned evilly, and his grin even got wider when he mentioned the independent front suspension, power four-wheel disc brakes, power rack and pinion steering, hidden air conditioning and all original wood. Then he floored it and we were gone. 

“I’ve had it since 1971 and traded it for some old Ford parts. It goes with the Malibu surf vibe, and since surfing got popular in the 50’s, Woodies got popular in Malibu in the 50’s too.”

So what’s the best part of the car? 

“It drives like my Maserati Quattroporte,” he said.

Well that seems to be a stretch, but having scooted around town in that Woodie Wagon, I can attest to it’s awesomeness. Andy went on to tell me that the car has been in the family forever and he actually brought all of his kids home from the hospital in it. But now, he strictly uses it for weekends in the Bu, Car Shows and daily trips in the sun. But then came a cool story.

“I used this car for a delivery vehicle when I started my Beverly Hills Motoring Accessories business in 1976,” he said. “Now, a few hundred thousand miles later and a new ground-up rebuild, I still use it as a promotional vehicle for the same business which I now do with my 19-year-old son Kevin.” 

So, he’s had the car for 45 years minus a short decade of letting someone else “borrow” it (watch Vlog #212 for that story).

And it’s right here folks where cars become the glue for love. To be able to work with your kids in a business that you love and driving what you love is what this is all about. 

Andy is certainly grateful for being a Malibuite. But it’s more than just being grateful. He realizes that gratitude is actually what causes all these wonderful things to happen. I feel blessed to have him and so many friends that both inspire and charge me with positive energy. And Andy’s energy regarding cars and this town is certainly infectious. Not to mention that his favorite movie car is Jimmy Bond’s DB5.

I want to give Andy a big thanks for taking me for a spin. I have a feeling there’s more driving coming.

What’s it like to drive a 1980 MERCEDES UNIMOG 406? Bitchin…’

What’s it like to drive a 1980 MERCEDES UNIMOG 406? Bitchin…’

Every now and then at Malibu Cars & Coffee, this unbelievable truck would show up and leave jaws dropped. But to say it was a rugged off-roader would be an understatement, and you’d also expect that it would be driven by a beer guzzling, pot-bellied, semi-driving, chew spitting kind of guy. Well, you’d be so wrong.

Ari Soffer’s 1980 Mercedes Unimog 406 is what any off-road enthusiast would dream of having. And, of course, living in Malibu, we have one. So, I reached out to Ari and said “I need to see this beast up close and feel what it can do.” 

Ari is a long time Malibuite and manages that by being an incredible Jewelry and leather designer at www.sofferaristore.com. His standards are very high and when he snagged this Unimog, it had the potential that he wanted. 

“I’ve owned it for three or so years and bought it on Ebay with 1,600 original miles,” Ari said. “It came from a guy in Chicago who bought it from the Mercedes dealer there and was never titled because it was used as a snowplow on the dealer lot and was never driven on the street. After they were done, it sat for a while until they decided to sell it at auction. It’s technically a tractor.

We removed the snowplow which weighed 3,500 pounds and recycled the metal in Chicago. The truck arrived here in Malibu on a car carrier and I had it titled as a pick-up truck. Spent the next two years restoring and rebuilding it into what I have now.” 

And it’s as military spec as it gets, with 125 horsepower, 5.7 liter military diesel inline 6 with a “hot rod tune.”  Ari advanced the timing and turned the diesel pump up which brought the power from its stock agriculture tuned 75 horsepower up to 125horsepower. Night and day difference.

He then raised the rev limiter from 2200 rpm to 3100 rpm. This, along with the taller tires, brought the top speed up from 45mph to 58mph. The entire truck has been gone over with a new leather interior and a custom Ipe wood bed on an aluminum frame. 

There’s a custom spare tire carrier, crane mounts for a little military grade crane and hand made parts all over the truck.  

“Blood sweat and tears went into this truck,” he said.

“It’s the most unique and cool looking truck anybody has ever seen,” Ari said. “It’s also the most fun to drive, more than my Turbo Porsche. It’s slow, but the 4 wheel drive and air locking diffs let it climb straight up anything in front of it.

I had always seen them in the mountains in Europe and loved them and they have an almost cult like status. I wanted to take my then-girlfriend to dinner in it.”    

Ari runs to pick up pallets of chicken feed as well as hay and alfalfa bales for his goats and horses. It’s also used for moving his motorcycles to and from the mechanic and any heavy lifting. He built a crane attachment point on the back so it can lift 900 pounds straight up and swing it over and onto the bed. 

“We took the truck to the Rowher Truck Trail near Santa Clarita.” Ari’s said of his best story with the truck. “Along the way, there were other trucks being pulled out from being stuck — small caravans of off-roaders helping pull others out, all heading up parts of the trail that I couldn’t understand why they were unable to navigate without getting stuck.

And we are just idling by them at a steady fast crawl so easily. When we got home at the end of the day, I looked up Rowher Flats in a trail book I had at home. Apparently this trail is rated as an ‘Expert Rated Trail.’ Extremely steep and rutted; a long and relentless climb up one side of a mountain and down the other.

The Unimog barely flexed its muscles getting over the trail. The truck drove up and over this trail barely above idle. It’s so impressive, it turned an extremely difficult trail into a Sunday drive.”   

Ari’s favorite thing about driving in Malibu is all the dirt roads and little hidden areas of off-roading that nobody but a handful of people know about. For me, that would be worth searching for. 

And if he got his hands on a favorite movie car? 

“The Bandit from ‘Smokey and the Bandit,’” he said. “But if you are speaking about trucks, which would be more appropriate for the interview, then we should never forget the 1982 Ford Bronco named Pepe. The Little Mule from ‘Romancing The Stone.’” 

Ah, yes. I’m familiar with that as the writer of that movie actually owned my house before me. That script was written in the office were I’m currently writing this.

What’s it like to drive a 1969 AUSTIN FX4 LONDON CAB? Cool, that’s what…

It boggles the mind when you realize how similar and how different people are. Similar in that we all want the same thing, but we go about it in infinitely different ways. One example is that we all want cars to get around in — most of us — but our tastes are as diverse as you can imagine. 

The other week, I was at my show Wheels and Waves, admiring the cool rides like the muscle cars, exotics and customs. And as much as I appreciate them, it’s always nice to see something unique. And what was it that caught my wandering eyes? 

John DeRoy’s 1969 — maybe 1970 — Austin FX4 London taxi. Yes, a taxi. And a green Taxi, at that. So the question popped into my pea brain, “Why would someone want to collect a London cab?” Now, they are very cool, but that’s a given. So are Ferraris. But John’s kills it.

“As a kid, I went with my family on a European vacation,” John said. “In London, I went nuts over these and when we got home, I badgered my parents to get one. But they nuked that idea pretty quick…” 

“Fast forward several decades to 2012, my wife and I took our 10 year old twin daughters to Europe. We were riding around in London and Edinburgh in the newer version of the taxi, and all of a sudden I was 12 years old again. So when we got back I started poking around and found that I could have my fantasy — aka, mid-life crisis — at considerably less than the cost of a Porsche — and finally bought this 3,500-pound hunk of steel.” 

Ah, this must be AutoTherapy.

In the past, John was a business analyst — “number cruncher” — for a large biotech/pharmaceutical company, but became a licensed marriage and family therapist while attempting to become a social entrepreneur. 

“I realized I wanted to help people parent better, deepen and improve their relationships with their kids, and impart those kids with the kind of emotional intelligence needed to thrive in today’s world.” Part of that is taking them for a ride in a cool car, I always say. Nothing that wind in your face and your tongue hanging out won’t solve. Wait, OK, that’s about my dog, but kid’s love cars too.

But John has had this gem only about a year and bought it from a guy in St. Louis, who ironically had purchased it a few years earlier from a guy in California. Nearly all the mods were done by the two of them. Wait, mods on a taxi? Let’s get into this. 

RHD, 4-cylinder diesel BMC engine, automatic Borg-Warner 3-speed transmission, drum brakes, Lucas (“Prince of Darkness”) wiring, 15’ L x 5.75’ H x 5.75” W. But it’s been modified and now has a Chevy Blazer V6 Vortec with the accompanying automatic transmission, Edelbrock manifold and Holley 4160 4-barrel carb, Proform 67080 distributor, new plugs and wires, Carter GP4594 electric fuel pump, Lokar throttle cable, new radiator, rear end gears of 4.00 to replace the 5.00 ones, rebuilt front end, top-of-the-line radial tires, seat belts, dual exhausts and some “mellow” mufflers. Power brakes and an extra cooling fan sits in front of the condenser. 

John drives around town 3-4 days a week and has the time of my life. “It never fails to get a lot of smiles, waves, thumbs-up and great conversation with total strangers. And I love taking it to car shows and letting people climb in and sit in the back. I say, ‘Touch — have fun — but please be gentle.’”

“I used to drive it to my last job which was on a big corporate campus. To get into the parking structure, you’d have to swipe your badge by a reader for the gate to open. But the reader is on the left side. I solved that by buying a 4’ long grabber, and all I need to do is lean over and shove the end of the grabber with my badge out the window and up against the reader.”

My final question to John was in regards to dark or milk chocolate. He had this to say, “Ah — another trick question. Average dark is like a Ford; good dark is like a Porsche; great dark is like a Maserati or a Lamborghini. Milk is like a Yugo.” 

That would be a pretty awesome answer if I didn’t love milk chocolate so much. And with that notch coming down one, the car is still too cool to ignore. 

What’s it like to drive a 1949 OLDSMOBILE ROCKET HOT ROD? Ask my buddy Chuck…

Over the last decade, I’ve had the pleasure of calling Chuck Schauwecker a friend. A man dedicated to putting smiles on the faces of thousands through his love for cars. 

Or maybe, his love for just one specifically: “RODriguez.”

The year was 2005 when Chuck bought this stunning 1930 Ford Model A Tudor Sedan Kustom directly from Builder Junichi Shimodaira in Nagoya, Japan – phenomenal Japanese builder with a truly unique vision for design and fabrication.

Yes, Japan. 

Retired from a McDonald Douglas Aircraft stint since January of 1995 – the day he turned 55 and after 32 years of service – Chuck celebrated by snagging this one-of-a-kind Hot Rod with a 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 303 Motor. 

It was around 2007 when I met Chuck and we formed an alliance for the love of this car. Over the next decade, his baby won just about every show across the Western Seaboard. First Place, Best of Show, from corner Car Shows to Concours Hoyty Toyty’s.

There just was no one out there that could beat him. So much so that he had to set aside a room in his house for all the trophies.

 “She’s a true work of art,” Chuck said. “The only one like it in the entire world.” 

And although Chuck uses it for Car Shows and Charity events solely, I’ve had the pleasure of having it at several Major Auto Shows and personally seen the faces of those that get the smile disease.

 “When I bring her to an event,” he said, “and watch all the different people look a her for the first time and see them smile. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small child or an elderly person, it just seems to make them happy and they come up to me, shake my hand and thank me for bringing her to the show.” 

Awesome. The entire point of having a cool car, wrapped up in one single run-on sentence.

RODriguez is simply the coolest built Hot Rod on the planet, and now it’s emblazoned in the Malibu Surfside News for all of you to enjoy. Or, just Google it and you’ll see that Chuck’s got himself a shiney-goldenbrass masterpiece. And as you look at the photos, you’ll see the smile millionaires all around it.

Recently, I had Chuck visit us at our Wheels and Waves Show and although there were many truly outstanding cars, RODriguez’s own attractive powers kicked in right off the bat. If Hot Rods ever reach a million bucks, this one will be the first.

And what does Chuck love about driving in Malibu? The ocean and beautiful homes, or course. Don’t we all? But for car people like he, I… and you… the tryptic to that statement is a cool car in the garage. 

Hot Rod, Muscle Car, Exotic, Rat Rod, Tuner or whatever. It completes me.

What’s it like to drive a 1957 LOTUS ELEVEN? Low, very low

When I first saw John’s apple green ‘57 Lotus Eleven at a car show, I was instantly transported back to the 60’s. Visions of what was on Channel 52 here in Los Angeles flooded my pea-brain in waves of delicious green apple pie. Make sense? No? Well, who cares; this car is awesome.

Met John in the parking lot of the Cross Creek shopping center where we scooted at 6 inches above the ground out towards Pepperdine. I thought we’d take a quick run, but soon forgot about shooting photos altogether and just had to figure out how to wipe the silly grin off my face. We were in the Mach 5, only much cooler. In fact, I’m pretty sure this car was racing against the Mach 5 in every episode with Speed Racer and was always around when Speed crashed somewhere. 

I searched intently for the Oil Slick or Ejector Seat buttons. I wanted to scrape the paint to see if it was made of gold. I wanted to find a hidden panel with a GPS drone inside. But no luck. 

All I found was that this car was full race spec, 5.5 inches wider and 4 inches longer than the original Eleven and less than 40 inches high. It weighed 1800 pounds with a near 50/50 weight ratio. Dyno tested at 120-horsepower at the rear wheels and 180 feet per pound of torque. And the only one ever built in this configuration. It’s got too many mods to list, so let’s just say “Woo Hoo” instead.

John found this little beast in Portland Oregon in 2011.

“Many years back, I came across a picture of a Lotus Eleven and immediately fell in love with the aerodynamic shape,” John said. “After doing some research, I learned how rare and expensive these cars were. They are almost exclusively raced, owing at least partially to their very light but fragile frames. Several years later I came across a Westfield — a British company which makes a replica using an MG Midget or Austin Healey Sprite as a donor car — but ended up not buying it as the price was too high.” 

Jump forward a few more years and an disassembled kit showed up on Ebay. 

“I was outbid. It seemed like it wasn’t meant to be. I subsequently owned several classic cars including a 1972 Austin Mini, a 1962 MGA coupe, a 1950 Cadillac, and a 1931 Ford Model A coupe. I still periodically looked for a Westfield Eleven but they were rarely for sale.” 

Then it happened.

“One day in 2011, a Lotus Eleven tribute popped up on Ebay in Portland, Oregon that was not a Westfield kit. This unique car was listed less than 24 hours earlier, and I immediately emailed the seller who quickly replied back.

He wasn’t sure of the history of the car but had put in an incredible amount of time and money to make it a very fast, high-performance car.  It still needed finishing and quite a bit of work but the price was right.”

Here’s where it gets good. 

“During the purchase of the car, I flew up to Oregon to inspect it in person. The seller offered to pick me up at the airport, I assumed in his ‘daily driver.’ But as I exited out of the terminal, there was the brightest green car I’d ever seen, along with a man leaning casually on the hood and dressed in full period racing gear. The car was also surrounded by a boatload of camera-clicking gawkers.

We hopped into the car, only to feel the passenger seat wobbling beneath me; it was perched precariously on a wood block. He started up the engine, which was so loud the kids surrounding us jumped and squealed.

He proceeded to tear down the highway and then up mountainous roads, all the while tipping his head back wildly and laughing wholeheartedly as I reached for anything to hold on to — no seatbelts and the seat was now shifting back and forth with each curve. When ‘Tony Stewart’ finally parked the car at his house, I was sold.” 

The rest is history.

What does John love about driving his Lotus in Malibu? The scenic coastline, beautiful weather and of course the great driving roads. And there couldn’t possibly be a better car to experience them in.

Part of the joy of writing these pieces is getting to experience someone else’s joy. Sure I’d rather be driving, but the next best thing in a car like this as a passenger is watching the bugs hit my teeth and glasses. Deee…lish! And since John didn’t seem to have a name for this little rocket, I’m officially dubbing it “The Green Meany.”

SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY!