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The bothers of invention

The evolution of Shadow's gadgetry

1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 supercar

This page last updated on or about 3-21-11
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BACK to Me and my Shadow supercar

[Caution: This page is meant for entertainment and historical documentation purposes only.]

If you'd prefer to see all of Shadowfast's technical details in ebook form, Dark Horse: The Official Shadowfast Supercar Technical Reference is now available for any Amazon Kindle or Kindle app.

Shadowfast the real life supercar possessed some similarities to fantasy vehicles like the Batmobile of the comics and the Bond cars of feature films.

Only Shadow's tricks (where implemented) really worked.

But how does a Tennessee hill billy high school student with zero knowledge of cars and precious little money actually get the notions for such devices, much less want to acquire or build them? Well, elsewhere on-site I relate how my auto expertise was ramped up fast by my associates and surroundings. And how my general ideas for Shadow's design were influenced.

Here I offer up more specifics as to the whys and wherefores regarding the origins of several elements of Shadow's special onboard gadgets and equipment.

Roll cage Purpose: Extra safety margin in crashes/accidents, etc. (used in Nowhere to go but up, Deep in the throat of Texas and Over the edge).

For a while early on I spent so much time at race tracks and in race car building garages that maybe every third car I closely examined had a roll cage or roll bar in it.

My best friend and his brother both rolled their cars over in accidents. The brother more than once. I personally witnessed cars at the drag strip flip or roll over. Several times I witnessed others' cars sitting on their tops off the road, sometimes with their wheels still spinning. Even where the occupants weren't hurt, it seemed like an awfully embaressing scene to be a part of. I had class mates who died in high speed crashes-- maybe because of no roll bar. I also thought Shadow and I were going to flip over a time or two. All this occurred before I ever installed my own roll cage.

Above can be seen Shadowfast's original two tow ropes as described in several accounts on-site. I gave them to my dad after selling the car. They continue to be used for various purposes on occasion even now, decades after they once made up a vital part of Shadowfast's battle gear.

Tow ropes, come-alongs, and tire chains Purpose: increased mobility options under harsh or unusual conditions, etc.(used in Deep in the throat of Texas and Over the edge).

Not much below having your car sitting on its roof for humiliation value seemed being stranded somewhere in public and having to call for help and wait for same. With spectators. You could add financial injury to such insult if you had to also pay a wrecker to free you from your predicament.

Long before I transformed Shadow into a supercar, I was driving my sister and myself to high school through some suburbs. There'd been a lot of rain the night before, and a good-sized pond had formed at an intersection we regularly used. No problem, right? I tried easing my way through it only to discover it much deeper than expected. My engine fan threw the water up over my motor (it had no shroud at that time) and Shadow quit in the middle of the giant puddle. This was just blocks from school, and others learned from my mistake and took other routes that day. I had to call a wrecker and pay what I considered an enormous fee to be moved just maybe a couple dozen feet in distance, to where Shadow could dry out for later restarting.

I would not suffer such an indignity again. Heck, if I remember correctly the fee I paid that tow truck driver could have easily bought me the come-along, tow ropes, and tire chains all three combined that I later equipped my car with(!) Grrr.

I would later replace Shadow's factory distributor with an Accel dual point which was more water resistant, as well as build a custom shroud for the fan to limit such water flinging possibilities.

I also on occasion had need to move non-running cars from place to place. I considered the rates of towing services exorbitant. But if you had no tow rope you had to push vehicles directly with your own front end. Yikes! Pony cars like Mustangs definitely didn't have front ends designed for pushing cars!

I witnessed the need for tire chains during various vehicle runs in the woods and muddy fields. Also during winter. Once Shadow and I were sitting in traffic in a curve of a road with a very slight angle towards one side, and while dead stopped my rear end would slowly slide down the icy incline, forcing me to spin the wheels to get the car back to where it belonged. Which was in a waiting line to slowly try getting up a much steeper hill ahead. Etc. So I soon bought the best emergency tire chains I could find. Emergencies rather than full sets, as my need for them was rare, and full sets considered overkill-- as well as excessive in weight for the possible benefits realized.

Traction bars Purpose: Better traction in both acceleration and braking, more reliable maneuverability, etc.(used in Deep in the throat of Texas, Over the edge, What goes around..., and Nowhere to go but up).

I had to make a fast stop in front of witnesses one day, directly before the hot rod shop where Steve and I and others hung out. I experienced terrible rear wheel hop in the incident, and was embaressed by it. Not only did it look bad, but it made my braking less effective too!

So I consulted with the hot rod shop owner and bought the traction bars. Shadow never wheel-hopped again.

Tire poppers and crash bars. Purpose: Blow out the tires and/or immediately stop pursuers via damage to tires, wheels, suspensions, etc.(used in Deep in the throat of Texas, Over the edge, What goes around..., and Nowhere to go but up).

There was a significant number of reasons for me to want devices to stop vehicles behind me in their tracks. Quite a few of them consisted of various crazies or incompetents whom I went to high school with and encountered on the road on a regular basis, both during that period and after. One example: a girl who'd ram anyone's car with her own for a fee of $50 (how she kept her car on the road and running I have no idea). Second example: guys who liked side-swiping or rear-ending others' cars for fun. Those guys you either disabled their car, ran away, or got out and fought on the spot. Maybe with knives or guns involved. More than once I stopped to fight and my attacker himself ran off, leaving me very unsatisfied. Third example: guys or girls who simply rear-ended or side-swiped people by accident when they got excited or distracted. My next door neighbor and fellow high school student side-swiped maybe a dozen different cars at once when her pet poodle jumped in her lap. A guy I worked with was tailing me one night and popped his clutch behind me while I was waiting at a stop sign to pull out. That was due to over-excitement on his part, as he thought I was going to peel out there and he wanted to do the same right behind me. He rammed his Maverick into Shadow's tail. Shadow didn't show enough damage to get worked up over, but the Maverick's whole front end practically fell off. It was hilarious-- after I realized Shadow was relatively unscathed.

Some people like the Maverick owner above would simply follow you around endlessly if you let them. Sure, they were easy to leave behind at speed. But they'd just find you again if you were out cruising the well known hot spots on a weekend.

One nice thing about tire poppers and crash bars was that in many cases when you used them the victim wouldn't suspect they were anything more than a weird road hazard they ran over. At least at night. If they didn't actually see them drop from the rear of your car. As deployment worked best with some tail wagging, your jiggling tail lights would actually look like you were trying to avoid something in the road yourself during release.

As to the conceptual design of the bars and poppers themselves, the experiences of myself and others with plain old normal road hazards and debris helped define the basics, while trial and error experimentation and growing knowledge of auto tires and suspensions in general refined them.

In one real life incident adverse circumstances resulted in a complete, relatively large socket set being loosed into the highway traffic behind us in a robust airborne manner (someone else was with me in my car at the time). Though this was wholly unintentional on my part, it did provide me with a vivid view of what such hazards did to traffic flow in their wake.

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Hidden super-bright strobe lights in the rear of the car. Purpose: Temporarily blind pursuers at night (used in Deep in the throat of Texas, Over the edge, and What goes around...).

This one was really police-inspired. I preferred the notion of using only the lights on the cops rather than the tire poppers or crash bars. For I figured that there had to be some instance somewhere where the cops actually helped somebody. Even if I'd never personally witnessed such a thing up to that time (I did see folks stranded with car problems etc., for whom the police would do absolutely nothing). And regularly heard of horror stories about our local breed, from sources like the police chief's son himself(!)

Although strobes are fairly benign in themselves (compared to items like tire poppers and crash bars), any use would still require extensive care. For instance, blinding a pursuer in the middle of a curve would almost certainly wreck them, maybe killing somebody. So limiting their use to straight-aways would seem best if at all possible. Making use of them before overall speeds get too high seems best as well-- for victims tend to slam on their brakes when struck blind; a recipe for disaster at high speeds, especially for the untrained.

You'd also want to have a clear highway available with strobe use. That is, no innocent bystanders or other traffic around to possibly get involved in what the strobes unleashed.

I witnessed strobe lights being used in a variety of circumstances in my early days, from parties to haunted houses to outdoor events, noting the intense brightness of some the bulbs used. Then I also learned of a law banning strong white lights like headlights from the tail end of vehicles. And another forcing everyone to maintain a clearly visible license plate on the rear of their car.

One last factor was that Shadow's normal factory backup lights weren't working when I originally bought the car. So I had to perform significant work on them anyway. I also noticed the backup lights on most everybody's car around me were so pitifully weak they weren't worth much for lighting the way behind-- especially in emergencies or at significant speeds. And lastly, Shadow's factory backup lights were housed in these little chrome bezels under the rear bumper that just seemed to beg for some modification...

Stealth running lights mode. Purpose: Black out all lighting on a car except the headlights to make it more difficult for pursuers to follow at night. (used in Over the edge).

This one was inspired both by the cops and various civilian crazies mentioned before. Used in combination with the strobes at night there was almost no chance your pursuers could continue to bother you. Add in brute acceleration, braking, and cornering capabilities such as Shadow possessed, and even highly trained officers in their own hot rodded law cars had little chance to keep up either.

Note the visual difference in broad daylight between an all-blacked out Shadowfast on the left and the more conventional Mustang on the right. Now imagine the difference in the dark. In the photo above Shadow's flexible lower air dam has been removed because of frequenting narrow college campus streets with high curbed concrete islands in-between them at the time.

Stealth paint, body, interior mods. This is basically a passive version of the stealth lighting mode mentioned before, and was instituted for similar reasons to that. (used in Over the edge).

Hidden compartments. OK, this'll sound pretty darn adolescent of me-- but I was adolescent at the time! Ha, ha.

We had drive-in theaters in our home town in my high school days. And sometimes some of us would sneak in hidden in a car trunk or whatever, rather than paying.

There was also the possibility of needing good hiding places for cash, tools, weapons, or other items at times. From both plain thieves and police officers who considered their badge also a license to steal (you can surely find plentiful historical info on police corruption in my home county for that era). Cash, guns, and tools were the top theft targets.

Siren. Purpose: Same as for law enforcement and emergency vehicles: to clear the way ahead for unencumbered high speed runs (used in Deep in the throat of Texas, Over the edge, What goes around..., and Nowhere to go but up). Sirens can also be used for distractions or surprise-- although on mine there was a brief delay before it got fully wound up to ear-splitting volume.

Elsewhere on site I mention how I first acquired my siren as part of an anti-theft system, but never got around to installing anything beyond the siren itself.

Custom starting procedure and unusual battery location and kill switches. Battery theft from autos was a big problem in my impoverished home town during much of my lifetime. Even pretty well protected places like my parents' home and neighboring houses were not entirely immune. My own family lost at least a couple batteries I believe. But I never lost a battery from Shadowfast this way. Maybe partly because of its unusual location in the car. After a while I began using tiny padlocks in my hood pins too (to prevent engine tampering; Shadow's battery didn't reside under the hood after his supercar transformation). Dad eventually began using heavy chains and padlocks under his truck hoods, as well as fancy alarm systems. (used in Deep in the throat of Texas).

Highly optimized portable pit stop and spare parts shop. Gosh, but any serious hot rodder had no choice but to carry plenty of tools and spare parts with them on runs! Hot rods are by their nature pretty experimental and temperamental beasts. So driving them without taking along tools and parts is pretty foolish. Plus, being poor I had no choice but to make my own repairs wherever possible: I simply couldn't afford for others to do it. (used in Deep in the throat of Texas, Over the edge, and What goes around...).

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Firearms, ammo, and the knowledge and practice necessary to use them was very nearly an official requirement of all adult males in my hometown when I was growing up. (used in Over the edge and What goes around...).

There's some of my own early experience with firearms like shotguns and rifles (age twelve through sixteen I think) which if related here many people probably would deem irresponsible and even unbelievable on the part of the adults involved. But all those particular adults of that era are now long dead, and beyond chastising.

In my hometown virtually any full-grown male would sooner or later get some firearms experience or else. Heck, in some cases kids of age ten or younger had overpowering reasons to use guns in self-defense in those days, and in that region.

I didn't receive any formal firearms training until US Army ROTC in college. But I also undertook training from various reference books on my own, much as I did with my expert driving techniques. And I periodically did target practice with the weapons-- although the significant cost of ammunition and the annoyance of cleaning maintenance made me try to maximize the cost-effectiveness of each and every session. 8-7-05 UPDATE: I forgot about some target practice with 22 caliber rifles I received at a week or two long 4-H summer camp around maybe age 12 or so(?). I'm not sure now how indepth or careful that particular instruction was though. END UPDATE.

A hunting session every now and then helped too. But mostly to emphasize the dangers of firearms in young and/or inexperienced hands.

Above is a scan of my ROTC completion certificate. I've blacked out certain info here that I consider privacy sensitive.

I'm pretty sure these are the two original US military surplus ammo boxes carried in Shadowfast. I say pretty sure rather than certain because I've owned quite a few of these babies. The larger box usually contained Shadow's main ammo supply, for dipping into after the three handfuls total available for both pistol and long gun in my shotgun stock sleeve and scramble vest were already spent.

There were some well-publicized shoot outs and massacres in my home region during my youth. As well as others far less well-known. In my younger days it wasn't uncommon for me to have nightmares-- inspired by actual events as well as second hand accounts-- about being shot to death after my guns jammed on me, or I ran out of ammunition. So I tried to choose ultra reliable designs for my personal weapons, such as an old-fashioned double-action revolver over the semi-automatic, and the double slide pump shotgun over the single slide (the singles jam or get stuck easier). My choice of calibers and gun barrel length also tried to balance the inaccuracy caused by excessive recoil with the slug size required to do the job. Hence, 38 Special snub pose pistol and short barreled 12 gauge utilizing slugs and scatter shot.

I also tried to make sure to carry more ammo with me than I might ever need in a real shoot out, plus contingency items like flares and a survival vest to increase my options for both battle and escape.

This led to my keeping maybe 100 rounds of shotgun ammo and 100 rounds of pistol ammo in a military ammo box onboard Shadow when trouble was expected, as well as much smaller but easier to access stores in my survival vest.

High-powered handheld spotlight. This one was inspired by the automobile windshield corner post spotlights of the police in my youth. I even considered installing a built-in like that on Shadow, but dismissed it for reasons like its conspicuous nature, aerodynamic drag, extra cost, and limited usefulness compared to a handheld. (used in Over the edge).

180 degree rear view mirror. (used in Deep in the throat of Texas, Over the edge, What goes around..., and Nowhere to go but up, and ). Wide-angle rear view mirrors are extremely useful driving tools. And the riskier driving you plan to do, the worse you need them. Alternatively, the safer driving you wish to be, the more you need them as well. For wide-angle mirrors help across the spectrum.

I saw my first massive wide-angle in a race car being built for a major track. After I'd used it for a while I found it proved itself to be perhaps one of the most valuable pieces of equipment in the car. Such a mirror makes it much harder for anyone to stalk you or trap you on the road. It also makes it much easier and faster for you to detect potentially bad things coming your way from either the rear or side. And makes switching lanes on the interstate much safer. Of course in most cars a simple turn of the head for a verification look is still recommended as well, even with the presence of a wide angle mirror.

Smoke bombs, stink bombs, firecrackers, flares, etc. can prove to be very useful distractions or screens in certain circumstances. I had personal experience with such things even before high school, as well as during.

Expertly chosen hiking and camping gear was a natural gradual evolution for me, as being poor me and my friends often utilized the free camp sites in our area for recreational purposes.

The less prepared you are in camping and hiking of course, the more you suffer. So over time I improved my own personal camping/hiking repertoire dramatically. And eventually realized the utility of such gear to general supercar treks as well. (used in Over the edge).

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Above can be seen the original military scramble vest I used with Shadowfast, before I found the need to replace it with something better.

Above can be seen the original hunter's vest with which I replaced the military vest among Shadowfast gear.

Hunting or survival vest. (used in Over the edge, What goes around..., and Nowhere to go but up). I did a considerable amount of hiking and camping in my youth. I also found the need to frequently carry a considerable amount of gear on my person-- especially when I was traveling with others. For something like my pocket tool kit could and did quite often make the difference between us (me and pals) being stranded or not. Recall this was in the days before cell phones, and we often frequented wilderness and near-wilderness areas. And my little crowd often experienced car troubles of various sorts. Hence, my drift towards a multi-pocketed vest over time, as my contingency equipment collection grew.

After a while I found the vest a handy automotive storage item too, when draped backwards over my passenger seat. Plus an easily grabbed ultra-emergency kit if I was forced from my car under bad circumstances.

If you'd prefer to see all of Shadowfast's technical details in ebook form, Dark Horse: The Official Shadowfast Supercar Technical Reference is now available for any Amazon Kindle or Kindle app.

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Copyright © 2004-2011 by J.R. Mooneyham. All rights reserved.