November 4, 2010
How to Build a Killer Street Machine, by Jefferson Bryant. Click image to enlarge
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Reviewed by Russell Purcell
The Motorbooks Workshop series of titles continues to expand with the release of Jefferson Bryant’s latest effort, How to Build a Killer Street Machine. Bryant’s goal was to give the reader the specialized knowledge required to help guide them through the planning and execution stages of a car build from bumper to bumper. Major topics include the modification or upgrading of all the major mechanical components, as well as discussion of basic body work and interior restoration.
The book begins with an introduction to the various classifications of street machines: Hot Rods, Street Rods, Customs, Low Riders, and Muscle Cars. Readers new to the hobby will appreciate that the author includes a detailed discussion of the differentiation between the Pro-Street and Pro-Touring classifications, which are probably the most popular street machine types at the moment.
One piece of key advice stuck out immediately. The author suggests buying either a base model or a car in rough shape if creation of a street machine is the project plan as it would be inappropriate to modify a near perfect, numbers matching muscle car due to its increased scarcity and value. Hopefully most readers will adhere to this advice and help preserve the few unmolested cars that are still out there.
The author stresses the importance of devising a plan of attack for your project, and points out that many builds fail when the builder strays from his/her plan. It is vital that you take into account your budget (of both time and money) and skill level when putting your plan to paper.
Another excellent tip will require that you add a camera to your toolbox and that you keep it handy during the build process. Lots of reference photos should be taken before and during the build process as they will assist you during the planning stage, as well as document the current condition of the car (trouble areas) and its original components (as well as their placement or orientation on the vehicle).
It is also suggested that it may be worth getting an artist to sketch out your design to help you visualize the end product, or to provide a simple line rendering upon which you can try several design options for side-by-side comparison.
One thing that is often over-looked by first-time builders and veterans alike is the need for specialized insurance for collector or specialty cars. Without it you will probably have major issues with the valuation of your prized automobile should anything happen that would require you to make a claim. A brief section has been dedicated to this issue and will no doubt save you a great deal of time when it comes time to researching the matter for your own specific needs.
Most muscle cars were equipped with pretty potent engines from the factory, so rebuilding the stock engine is an option worth considering as it can save you a great deal of money. The Big Three, as well as some aftermarket companies like Edelbrock, produce crate engines that are a great shortcut as they can give an old car a new lease on life in short order. An engine swap is also an option, but special care is required to ensure that the other components of the drivetrain are robust enough to handle the transplant’s power, and that there is sufficient room for things to properly function. Motor mounts, oil pans, and the installation of fuel injection are also examined in detail in the engine section.
The choice of what type of transmission to employ is one of the most important decisions you will have to make during your build. Most stock units have been designed to deliver smooth shifts between each gear, but performance mavens will no doubt desire quick action and durability. Bryant spends a significant amount of ink explaining the differences between two and three-speed offerings common to the cars produced by General Motors, Ford and Chrysler during the latter half of the 20th Century, as well as the various components that make up a transmission. A similar look at manual transmissions completes this section and proved an informative read.
Similar attention is paid to the major components of the drivetrain, with brief explanations of how a driveshaft works, as well as the differences between the most popular performance rear ends.
In his chapter dedicated to the chassis, Bryant does an excellent job of explaining the many differences of the various frame and suspension types available, making it easy for the reader to determine what would work best for their own build application. Similar space has been dedicated to the discussion of braking systems and components.
The final section of this easy-to-read tome includes a look at the steps required to restore the car’s bodywork and interior, as well as the selection of wheels and tires. This latter section includes handy reference tables outlining the suggested factory fitments for various muscle cars, as well as a helpful guide that allows you to decipher the terminology used when discussing wheels and wheel fitment. A tire speed rating guide is also included to ensure that you select the rubber best suited for the performance of your car.
Experienced builders may find this book rather basic as the content is largely general knowledge for them, but new participants in the hobby will appreciate the wealth and quality of the information contained between the covers.
Title: How to Build a Killer Street Machine
Author: Jefferson Bryant
Retail price: CAN$27.50