(Translate this site)
Thirteen year old Kenneth D. wants to build his own full-blown Shadowfast today, and seeks my feedback on his discussions with his parents-- plus wonders if I have copies of some particular custom Mustang ebay pics some folks thought resembled Shadow.
Hi Kenneth! And thank you for your kind words!
Yes, 1969 Mustangs (especially Mach Ones) will likely cost a pretty penny today-- even if they're in terrible shape.
Shadowfast himself wasn't in too fine a condition when I got him, despite the much closer proximity time-wise to his factory showfloor debut.
I'm surprised a kit car builder somewhere hasn't come up with a modernized package for a 1969 or 1970 Mustang look-alike, which could actually be superior with updated technology under the skin, in some ways (like much better brakes and tires, fuel injection rather than carburetors, electronic ignition rather than point distributors, and built-in superchargers, etc.)
Of course, if you're willing to entertain the notion of building an original 1969 into a supercar, you might also consider looking at it from a kit car angle instead: with the difference being you designing the car from scratch. Using a suitable existing kit car frame, suspension, and drivetrain, and investing most of the custom fabrication work into creating a lookalike fiberglass body and interior to go onto it.
Of course, you wouldn't HAVE to buy fancy kit car innards: you could also just get the innards of a suitable late model sports car with a great reputation for performance and handling from a junk yard, and sculpt your fiberglass body atop that.
One HUGE advantage to these options over refurbing a real 1969 (beyond the initial costs) is the maintenance and further mods costs. I.e., it would be cheaper and easier to get replacement (and performance enhancing) parts for a car model which was lots newer than the 1969.
Just one example: I suspect buying a 1969 Boss 429 front anti-sway bar would be much tougher and more expensive today, than when I was able to order one from Ford decades ago for under $30!
Another benefit to this route would be you could focus most of your efforts in the fiberglass fabrication job, rather than having to cover so many other bases too at the same time, like I did. So you could probably get it completed faster as well.
And lastly, using a much newer car's innards, largely already assembled and tested at a factory, would likely be much safer and require less debugging and troubleshooting than a massive overhaul of an original 1969, too. Heck: just the original electrical wiring harness problems alone could drive you crazy! (as they would have deteriorated tremendously over 30 years, through corrosion, and loss of insulation)
Of course, this would still all be a pretty big investment on your part.
One reason your parents think a conventional version would be better is resale value. Since virtually no one keeps the same car forever-- and a car can be one of the biggest investments you ever make. So it's always nice to have a viable exit strategy for that money up front.
Unfortunately, there's not usually a ready market for 'one-of-a-kinds' like Shadowfast was! Ha, ha. I mean, if you found the right person, sure, you could get a good price. Maybe even a spectacular one. And that might be easier today than in the 1970s, with the internet and ebay. But it's still a matter worth considering in your plans. And you shouldn't count on being able to sell a Shadowfast clone very easily (unless my stories get lots wider known than they are today! Ha, ha)
Plus, always remember no matter how much money and effort you put into a vehicle, it can all be wiped out in an instant, in a wreck. POOF! And the whole thing can be trashed so utterly there's no salvage possible. Thousands of dollars and hundreds of manhours of work can go down the drain in the time it takes to blink your eyes. YOW! I've seen it happen! More than once!
A similar loss can happen if it's stolen. POOF! It's gone. And you might never see or hear of it again.
Your parents might like me to bring up the matter of insurance here. For insurance could help you recoup some money from such a loss. But insurance companies don't particularly like hot rods and supercars being owned by non-rich folks. And they especially don't like heavily customized 'one-of-a-kinds'. So likely the best and most affordable insurance you could get for your own Shadowfast would be only for the street value of whatever original 'normal' car model your build was based upon. Or an amount which would likely be only a fraction of the money you'd probably have to put into your build.
And for insurance purposes, using a mainstream factory-built model chassis of some sort would likely be better than using a kit car model.
When I owned Shadowfast, so far as my insurance company ever knew, he was a plain jane 1969 Mustang Mach One. As I did almost all my own repair and mod work to the car, my insurance mainly was important to me for only the really big problems, like major crashes, which required expertise, equipment, and expensive parts to fix which I personally would have had a hard time coming up with on my own. But another way insurance was important was time-wise. That is, the older I got, the less free time I had to do repair work, and the more badly I needed my car fixed in a hurry (like when I went to college, plus holding down various jobs too at the time). A full-blown professional repair shop can usually do that lots faster than even the most savvy and experienced shade tree mechanic, armed with not much more than a trunk of hand tools.
But such fast work can take big bucks up front. And that's where an insurance company comes in handy.
Having said all that, it could be I'm somewhat behind the times on how car customizers and insurance companies deal with such matters. After all, 30 years is a long time. So maybe the scenario has improved there (but don't count on it! ha, ha)
Again, Kenneth, thanks for the kind words! I still have a few more Shadowfast stories I haven't yet finished to post on the web, so if you check in occasionally, you might see a new one.
The main story list is The Shadowfast supercar driver logs.
I'll look around to see if I have a copy of that ebay Mustang pic anywhere. I'm truthfully not sure if I saved a copy to disk. But if not, there may be an image attached to an old email somewhere that someone sent me-- for it wasn't I who first found the pics. And I received more than one email about them when they were online.
One final word: remember that your car project will likely go farthest and be most successful if you can come up with a plan your parents find reasonable too. My own dad was a tremendous help in building Shadowfast. And I badly needed his help on certain parts of the build. Heck: it's safe to say that I wouldn't have gotten very far at all on Shadow without my dad's help!
On more than one of our adventures, I tore loose one side of Shadow's front air dam. One particular time I did so, I returned to my parents' house and went to bed that night, dreading having to do some major bodywork the following Saturday to the car.
It was late when I got in, so I had no chance to inform my dad of the damage.
But I was amazed to get up that morning to discover my dad had already completely repaired Shadow's front end for me! The main reason he could do such things was he'd helped me design and build the thing from the start.
Supercar correspondence contents
Robert W. has some very nice things to say about my online fiction, although he expresses some frustration that some of the stories have yet to be posted online. Then he goes even further to ask me why they haven't yet been made into feature films. Thank you Robert!
Thanks for your kind words Robert!
As I have several different types of stories online, I can't be sure which type you mean-- but I assume it's either the supercar stories of my youth, or the sci fi Battle for Pearsalls' Grit (as all those seem the most popular).
I only started writing up my supercar tales around 2004 I believe. So that's why the list there isn't yet complete. And why most folks haven't yet heard of them either-- because they simply haven't been available for very long.
I appreciate very much your consternation about no films yet being made of my stories. Thanks again! But even the most popular stories ever written tend to take decades to be turned into film: usually such projects don't even begin until the original authors are long dead. Yikes! Look at Tolkein's Lord of the Rings! Or today's blockbuster films made from comic book stories originally published 30 years ago or longer!
The science fiction stuff such as the Pearsall saga I began a bit earlier-- but is lots harder for me than the supercar stuff, since I can 'cheat' with the supercar tales by simply remembering lots of it. Ha, ha.
I assure you I'm working on getting the rest complete and posted. I'm slowed down though by things like old age and working for a living, like most everyone else. Ha, ha. Namely, I'm often tied up in various e-commerce and maintenance matters relating to my web site, as well as other duties, which greatly restrict my actual writing time (I'm pretty much a one-man operation here). Plus, I've got two different eye ailments which are making it awful hard for me to even see at all (so please excuse any typos here!)
I'm hoping some surgery in the near future will help with my vision, and speed up my work again.
Once again Robert, thank you very much for your encouragement. I can sure use it!
Supercar correspondence contents
Roger C. has written me a couple times; both my responses are included below. Roger told me he too has had adventures with a '69 Mustang, plus a Torino as well. He's currently at work modifying his present 1969 Mustang-- in some ways much more radically than Shadowfast ever was. Having kids to raise delayed such projects for him for years, though. Roger also asks if readers might ever see a resurrection of Shadowfast online.
2 Jun 2007:
I'm glad to hear about your engineering and design qualifications! Because otherwise such radical car mods could pose some safety concerns.
Hmm. I guess maybe with those family concerns added in, you might be closer to my own financial shape than I thought (sorry to hear that! ha, ha)
My own 'driving for pleasure' has been non-existent for many years now. When I owned Shadow himself, I used to especially love to drive during thunderstorms-- at least until I got my fill of that in Texas.
The last time I tried a drive for fun was at least a decade after Shadow was gone-- and somehow I was driving a sleeker looking car-- but still black, and still of the pony genre. At night. On a road I knew very, very well (the same one used for the high speed Halloween run to Del Gata in Too close for comfort).
I was almost killed. AGAIN! Yikes! Ha, ha. After that I sold that car too, and haven't driven anything just for fun since. It kind of sounds sad when I type it out like that. But I truly was only keeping that second car around for sentimental reasons (as it somewhat reminded me of Shadowfast), and didn't have any practical purpose for it whatsoever. I drove it barely often enough to keep the battery charged, and was paying a stiff insurance premium just to let it sit in my yard and slowly decay (as all machines do). It was basically just an extraneous left-over from my unusual job in Boston I describe in my novel The Chance of a Realtime (so yes, there's some real-life elements present even in my science fiction). Ergo, after that fresh brush with death, I let it go (neither the car or I were damaged in the incident: just almost killed and destroyed! Ha, ha).
As for a Shadow 'resurrection'...
Sometimes I wonder what I'd find if I tried to track down what happened to Shadow after I sold him. I fantasize that for some reason he got parked in a protected place in the boondocks shortly after I sold him, and has remained intact ever since, just waiting for me to find him again. But of course just the opposite is far more likely-- that he's been crushed and melted down and recycled into newer metal objects across the landscape. Heck: someone reading this may be driving a car today with some of Shadowfast's original steel molecules mixed into their vehicle somewhere.
I've got a new page called 'A Shadowfast supercar for the 21st century'.
I also weaved the original Shadow into my science fiction novel The Chance of a Realtime just enough so that I could 'resurrect' him as remade with nanotechnology from 2483 AD, in stories to be linked from The Chance Staute fate-storm logs as they're completed.
I even plan to wax 'metaphysical' with Shadow in a story about the afterlife which will be linked from One man's adventures in the great beyond as written. Specifically, he'll have a third and wildly different incarnation there, enabled by various elements from the earlier tales.
At the moment though only the very first of the afterlife tales has been posted. And I still have over a dozen accounts regarding the original car I have yet to complete and post at The Shadowfast supercar driver's logs! Ha, ha.
Recall how I say 'names and dates have been changed' in the accounts? Partly that's because I actually drove Shadow longer than the mere 2-3 years implied in the stories (so the timeframe for the stories has been compressed somewhat, compared to the actual events). That's why and how I accumulated the large number of experiences from which the stories are drawn.
I'm very fuzzy on the numbers now. But I believe Shadow was approaching 200,000 miles near the end of my ownership! With NO engine OR trans overhaul!
June 01, 2007:
Thanks for the kind words, Roger!
I too had experiences with Torinos. One of them is described in Heartbreaker
And although I don't think I reveal the make in the story, my sister's car which must be used to pick us up after Shadow gets dunked and stuck in Slip, sliding away was a Torino, too.
I checked out your page, and one thing which jumped out at me was your plans to move the firewall back(!). Yikes! That's some major surgery with torch and welder! And scary! I have to say that that alone is more ambitious than any single mod I ever did myself to my 1969.
So far as surpassing Shadow in some things-- you DO have the advantage of some 30 years of advances in automotive tech to help there. There's also an amazing selection of hot rodding equipment available today, that's far wider than existed in Shadow's build time, and in many cases lots cheaper too (especially when adjusted for inflation). Us old geezers often had to put together the most race-car-type stuff ourselves from scratch, rather than buying a kit ready for install. Like my roll cage, for example. Plus, you almost definitely have lots more money than I did! Ha, ha.
Supercar correspondence contents
'Name withheld' offered me some compliments on my site. Then reminisced at length about a 1969 Mach 1 his friend possessed. He then discussed how (in his opinion) a stock '69 Mach 1 could never match a modern high performance vehicle, and was and is definitely not race car material. He does admit though that some of his personal experience matches up with what I describe in my stories. Despite what would appear to be a really old and tired and worn out 1969 he and his friend were tooling around in only some "few years ago".
Car engines do get worn out and lose compression, making them ever weaker over time; suspensions also deteriorate in lots of different ways, making for continually worsening handling if not remedied; even in the 1970s I had to do considerable maintenance to maintain high levels of performance with a relatively youthful Shadow. I'd bet that by comparison, the poor Mustang this guy's talking about has been abused and neglected something fierce! Even just letting it sit undriven in a garage for 40 years would hurt it in lots of ways! But nearly 40 years of unmitigated wear and tear would be even more ruinous! To the point that I'm surprised both front wheels hadn't literally fallen off the car he discusses (I've seen it happen on older model vehicles before)!
Basically you could sum up his comments with this quote: "Mach 1 is kewl but not *quite* as kewl as you imagine ".
Below is my response:
Hi 'name withheld'! And thanks for the kind words!
Do I actually write somewhere that only Tennesseans can be insane? If so, I didn't intend to! And in my stories you plainly see me encountering some pretty crazy folks in places far removed from my hometown and state. Ha, ha.
I detail the many modifications made to my own car on-site. So it most definitely was NOT stock through most of the time I owned it.
However, the basic 1969-1970 mustang fastback design DID prove itself a winning race car if suitably modified, in TONS of OFFICIAL races, back in the day. And set lots of performance records too-- perhaps most notably at the hands of Mickey Thompson. Shelby Mustangs (and especially Bosses) from the era still command much respect even today.
My own car incorporated many aspects of both Boss and Shelby designs/components. I ordered the Boss 429 front anti-sway bar new from a Ford dealership in Morristown TN during the build. It cost between $25 and $30 at the time, I believe.
As for keeping up with a modern street racer-- that's not an entirely fair comparison. What with 30 plus years of advancements in automotive tech. Let's see YOU out-run and out-wrestle a 40 year old when you're 70! Ha, ha.
I'm sure lots of today's meanest new cars could beat the original Shadowfast in top end and the quarter-mile. Especially if he couldn't use nitrous. But I believe they'd find it considerably harder to surpass him on a curvy road. Especially if I could still drive him with my original youthful proficiency.
But all that extra top end speed in newer hot rods is usually wasted in modern driving conditions. Because of the awful traffic jams. I've literally spent hours upon hours stuck in PARK on INTERSTATES in America since the early nineties! Everywhere from New England to Texas! So where would the newer, faster cars use their much flaunted higher top ends? Heck: under many circumstances, the original Shadow's great low end and mid-range power would be more important than ever today! As most real street racing would have to take place OFF the interstates anyway, if done near major cities. And even usually off-interstates away from metro areas too-- due to the near-ubiquitous massive modern police presence. So real racing contests of any significant distance today would often have to take place on curvy country roads. Precisely where Shadowfast was king, in the 1970s.
But let's talk top end anyway...
Some things that helped increase a Windsor's top speed slightly from factory stock included better breathing and ignition, like the headers, high rise intake, Holley carb, ram air, and dual point distributor I installed. Larger diameter tires helped too. Greater aerodynamic slipperiness especially helped over the 90-100 mph mark. And having a lighter than normal car means your existing horsepower can move it faster, too (and Shadow was hundreds of pounds lighter than factory stock).
And nitrous can boost a car's top end as well. More than just about anything else but for turbo-chargers or super-charging.
Yes, internal mods of things like cams and lifters, etc., plus special rear end gearing and maybe transmission mods too can also add to top end-- but they can present added reliability and maintenance problems, too. And looking back on things now, I don't think I'd want to give up any of the Windsor/FMX drivetrain's capacity for enduring extraordinary punishment like mine did, for the relatively small boosts those more extreme (and expensive!) changes would have brought me.
Those times I write about blue smoke blasting out from under the hood (and my oil pressure going to zero and engine temperature going through the roof) really happened! Ha, ha! But damn if that motor didn't keep on trucking again later, after a bit of a rest!
My best friend I refer to as Steve online frequently boasted about the four bolt mains on his Boss 351 engine block making for a tougher motor. And race car mechanics preferred them too. But my little two-bolt main Windsor drivetrain outlasted quite a few four-bolt main cars back then-- including my friend Steve's.
Decades later I witnessed an old 1960s truck which had had a second-hand 351 Windsor/FMX drivetrain shoehorned into it in ancient times, start right up again after getting some gas and a fresh battery, after sitting at least ten years unused, and out in the weather, with no special storage preparations or maintenance ever performed on it. The owner just parked it one day and walked away. Maybe a decade or more later, it'd still cranked right up again, ready to drive. At least if the tires hadn't all rotted away during its Rip van Winkle stint.
Yeah, the Windsor/FMX drivetrain seemed remarkable, compared to all the others I ever had personal experience with. I was amazingly lucky that the first car I ever bought was so equipped.
Regarding the Mach 1's suspension...again, Shadow was heavily modified in that area. Boss anti-sway bars, springs, heavier duty and staggered shocks like Shelbys, traction bars, and more. Pretty much outfitted like the Trans Am race cars built for Ford by the Shelby team. I can't recall a single car ever out-handling Shadow in his complete form-- even when being driven by the best natural driving talent I ever personally met: Steve himself. Plenty of contenders had more horsepower than we did: but the best of them never did more than match us on handling.
Of course, I did have problems with his wide tires on winter ice, and hydroplaning at speed during heavy rainstorms on the interstate. (And the ride sure was rough, at all times!) But that's about all the complaints I could list about him, handling-wise. There was plenty of times I did something stupid, but was saved by his superb handling.
Shadow's extra-light weight helped his handling too, compared to a stock Mach 1.
Between my stories and my specialized pages about the car build itself, I fairly thoroughly detail the modification process. Enough that a rich guy like Jay Leno today could simply order a pro builder to duplicate the car from info on my site, from scratch: and it'd work!
(The reason I say a 'rich' guy, is because it'd be really expensive to get many of the original parts required today for a Shadowfast clone).
Modifying a suitable street car into a fire-breathing monster is neither as difficult or expensive as you seem to believe. And it can be done with just about any machine. In my youth I saw guys transform super-slow four-banger VW bugs into drag racers which could blow the doors off standard 454 Camaros at the drag strip.
But of course, lots of plain jane motorcycles themselves could always beat most street cars at the strip, too. The more you reduce weight, the less horsepower you need to be fast.
I personally witnessed rear-wheel-drive cars with so much power at the strip that they broke loose their drive shafts and then pole-vaulted from those shafts getting embedded in the asphalt-- exactly what the Mythbusters on TV recently declared CAN'T happen, just because it didn't occur in their flawed experiments. Obviously, neither they or their associates had ever spent much time at a drag strip! My guess is the Mythbusters don't have the time, money, and expertise to create a car powerful enough to perform such a pole vault: hence, the reason for the lame test they did perform.
I think you over-estimate how much imagination there is in my accounts. The car was real. And the accounts accurate enough that even after changing details like names and dates-- and waiting decades before telling the stories at all-- I often still feel uneasy about making the stories available online.
Even the few witnesses to many of the actual events I'm aware of still surviving today, would likely surprise you with what little they could point to in the accounts as not being based on real events.
And I never actually considered my car to be 'cool' at the time. Neither did most of the people I knew. For it was too radical and different. Even strange and bizarre. All flat-black? No stripes? No chrome? A front end that practically scraped the ground? A roll cage? None of that was considered 'cool-looking' by my crowd in the 1970s. I would never consider the car completed, or good enough performance-wise, the whole time I owned it. So the entire time I was always seeking to improve it.
But along the way it ended up proving itself to me and others, time and time again. Even after we parted ways, I never thought of the car and my time with it as being 'cool'. I didn't fully appreciate how noteworthy that car and era was until many years later, when I decided to document the whole thing on the internet. Partly because of the car-related shows I see on TV these days that I personally consider to be absurd and ridiculous. Never mind the ratty car chase films of past decades.
Holy crap! You're living in China? Last I heard, my best friend's brother was working construction in China! (the guy I call 'Will' in my stories)
Regarding drafting causing overheating...I think I described that in the Daytona 1200, didn't I? Although in that case I believe the drafting's overheating effect wasn't as strong there as the simple overtaxing of the motor itself from sustained high speeds...plus, Shadow had some mods that aided cooling too, in that instance. Very similar to NASCAR race cars of many years. And let's not forget how unusually hot those two summer nights were...
Supercar correspondence contents
Deirdre initially wrote me asking if she could hot-link to an image of Bridget Dufay on my site. In a later email she also had some very kind words for my stories, even going so far as saying she wished someone would write her into such a story someday. Deirdre also wondered how much is fiction and how much is not, in my supercar tales. Such as "all those ladies" (Lindsay, Dana, Bridget, etc.) coming into my life.
There's a couple separate back and forths posted here, with the first at top.
So long as you don't modify the image in any way (including resizing, or using a window that prevents a visitor from seeing the whole thing), it's fine with me for you to use it. Free of charge! Because as it's stamped with my site URL and Bridget's story title, it helps advertise my site whenever others view it in its full-sized entirety.
If you ever read Heartbreaker, you might like Bridget even more! I know men sure do!
And if you HAVE already read Heartbreaker, maybe I've got a nifty surprise for you: Bridget also plays a huge role in a story called My first day in the afterlife.
I hope to eventually have another image for her there. And maybe some more elsewhere, too.
Good luck with your site! I hope it does everything you wish for it!
Thanks again Deirdre! You're very sweet!
I've been thinking of creating a site gallery where visitors could see all my artwork in one place-- and your words are encouraging on that point! Ha, ha
You're also boosting my desire to create more Bridget images. Unfortunately, I always feel I don't do the real women justice with my art (some of you exquisite creatures just defy documenting!).
As for how closely my stories parallel my real life-- many in the know would likely say it's too close. But partly that comes about because it's simply easier to write out your own real life story than to make stuff up. Truly auto-biographical stuff can feel pleasingly nostalgic to create-- and even therapeutic at times. So you naturally tend to favor it where possible. At least in my case.
I have some true science fiction elsewhere on my site like The Battle for Pearsalls' Grit and my novel, which both have been MUCH harder to create than my supercar accounts (it took me six years after part one to write part two of 'Grit'; and my novel (started long before Grit!) still lacks its last few chapters being posted online; ouch!).
Of course, as some of my actions in my supercar days were somewhat in conflict with various laws of the land-- and might still get me in hot water with various folks even today-- I do change names, dates, and more for that reason (plus plain old privacy on the part of me and others involved in the actual events, too).
I do offer readers who are interested a bit more info on the actual events at Notes from the actual owner/driver of the Shadowfast super car. Or at least as much info as I dare! Ha, ha.
As you mention how people might like being in my stories, you may find it interesting that I've gotten email from a woman with the same name as my completely fictional character Liz Pearsall from the Battle for Pearsalls' Grit. She seemed to love her namesake's role online, but for one (very understandable) detail. A detail I'd always planned to reverse in later episodes (since Al and Liz Pearsall are maybe my own favorite wholly fictional characters). I won't spoil your possible reading by divulging that detail here, though. You'll know it when you see it.
I consider my Bridget-related stories as sort of a tribute. There's a couple I haven't yet posted, but offer hints of in the existing afterlife story. One of them is tentatively titled 'The Fearless Heart', and is set in the afterlife as well (Do you recall the small statue Bridget made in Heartbreaker? The title relates to that, among other things).
Bridget is also briefly mentioned in a few other existing stories. Like near the end of Breaking up.
"all those ladies", huh? To me it's always seemed like very few! Especially compared to my real-life, suave lady-killer friend I call 'Steve' in my stories.
When you get your site up and running, I hope you'll let me know its address!
Supercar correspondence contents
Michael wanted to know if I've given any thought to building another Mustang supercar.
In my head I already have built Shadowfast 2.0! Ha, ha. Besides my old hot rod tales with the real Shadowfast, I made sure to include him in my science fiction novel too-- and in a way which allows him to be reincarnated 18 years later via 25th century nanotechnology, into a much meaner machine!
Unfortunately the challenges get greater too...
The journals of Jerry Staute
I'm sort of randomly filling in the blanks there with new stories-- the novel and real Shadow stories are the closest to complete at this time.
As for more down-to-earth projects...
I've done some work on specs for a modern-day version of Shadow which I might construct if I were a teenager today-- a super-capable vehicle using the latest technology in a practical fashion. Basically what I'd build to accomplish the same things as the old days, but with today's tech, and keeping in mind the new constraints of these days (the longer arm of the law, the potentially more sophistocated street opponents, etc.).
I'm unsure when all that will be sufficiently complete to post though.
I'm also putting online the specs of various other personal machine projects from my past, plus stories inspired by real life events corresponding to those.
As for actually building another Mustang per se...I don't know. To me it'd be almost as tempting to try recreating the original Shadowfast (with a few nifty updates), as hot rodding any newer year version. But you never know!
Supercar correspondence contents
In his second message he pointed me to a Mustang selling on ebay which somewhat resembled my old Shadowfast. He also specifically asks me for tips regarding the construction of Shadow's front air dam and fender flares and rear spoiler. He tells me his fastback is not a Mach 1, with the extras that model included.
In his third email he admits he has very little money to devote to the project, and does NOT seek to recreate the original Shadow's various active anti-pursuit gadgets. Plus, his benefactor uncle has learned of his Shadow clone ambitions, and expressed extreme opposition to them, telling him that I basically 'butchered' my car. Vincent then asks what ever happened to the real life Shadow.
There's several separate back and forths posted here, with the earliest shown first.
I had very little money too when I began with my car, around the age of 16. However, as you say, doing all this decades later could prove still more difficult AND more expensive. In my time I could easily scrounge cheap parts from junk yards-- and even order my Boss 429 front anti-sway bar NEW from Ford for around $30(!)
As I describe on-site, I also had considerable help from my dad-- who was able to bring home stuff from work like discarded steam pipes we could then bend and weld into Shadow for a roll cage.
Vincent, so far as using some of my ideas about boosting your car's speed and handling performance, please be my guest! But I can't encourage anyone to go beyond that, and actually install the anti-pursuit gadgets and tricks. Much of that stuff is likely illegal in many places these days. I also can't encourage anyone to drive like I did, either. Especially today-- American highways are way too crowded for such things now. I'm often amazed these days to find myself sitting PARKED on an INTERSTATE even MILES AWAY from any major city-- because of traffic jams. It just blows my mind.
As for the time required to do such a automotive transformation-- that basically will depend on the availability of the necessary tools and materials, and the knowledge and experience of the person doing the work. I was lucky about much of that stuff, as I write about on-site. I not only had my dad for help, but pro racers I could hang out with and ask questions of, plus a growing library of how-to's in magazines like Road and Track and others: stuff like that. But it still took me a couple years at least to complete the transformation, as I talk about in my stories.
Of course, it's also true that I was NOT working on the transformation every week, or even every month. I was just changing some things on occasion here and there, as the idea and/or resources came to me.
On today's cable TV "Overhaulin'" show, a crack team sometimes does stuff comparable to all mine in just one week. But they're experts from the start, and enjoy unlimited money and manpower. Sometimes they appear to have dozens of expert craftsman working on the same car simultaneously for all seven days(!)
(One thing I definitely don't like about that TV show: the head designer's got this thing about always throwing away the side mirrors entirely; if I'd done that with Shadowfast I'd basically have been signing my own death warrant; having fewer mirrors is a horrific safety hazard-- especially for fast driving).
One advantage you'd have over me in all this Vincent, is not having to spend so much time figuring out the overall design and what parts to use: I pretty much list all that on my site. Other advantages would be advances in technology since my time, like GPS (global positioning system), cell phones, low profile run-flat tires for better handling and less danger from blow outs, possibly cheaper add-on equipment like nitrous, etc., and the like.
One more thing to consider is the fact your car would probably be seen as more valuable if you simply restored it to its original specs and quality. I've seen restored 1969 Mach Ones bring in large sums at auctions. Custom-builts like Shadow (or clones of same) don't usually do that unless they're sufficiently famous.
Of course, building a collectible car was the furthest thing from my mind, years ago.
That customized flat black mustang on ebay has caught the eye of lots of Shadowfast fans-- you're not the only one who's told me about it. So yes, I've seen it. I think that project overwhelmed the builder, because it looks like they ran out of steam about half-way through (it's nowhere near impossible to build a supercar on the cheap-- but it's not super-easy, either! ha, ha).
Vincent, 30 years is a LOOOONNNNGGGG time. So my ancient memories could be faulty on some details in one way or another. So all I can tell you is what I BELIEVE I did (there's many things I didn't document very well about the process at the time).
Shadowfast's rear spoiler components were likely the trickiest parts, in some ways. Because Shadow's original rear corner posts were pot metal, which meant they cracked or something when I tried drilling holes with which to pop rivet on the spoiler supplements.
Luckily I was able to locate some rear corner posts made of fiberglass. I guess they came off a Boss 302 or something, because their nature seemed unusual. Besides being easier to work with attaching the steel spoiler parts, they might have been lighter than the pot metal versions too.
To design and build the rear spoiler components I cut out cardboard versions first, and curved and folded them to fit and look like I wanted. Then I straightened them out and used their patterns to cut out metal versions. Then curved and folded the metal versions to fit, pop riveted them on, and I think maybe covered some of the final seams with a bit of bondo to smooth everything out.
For the front fender flares I first cut off the small factory flares, leaving me with bigger holes around the front tires. I then used cardboard to make patterns for the new flares.
The custom front flares were basically just plain wide strips of galvanized steel mounted at a 90 degree angle from the factory fender, inside the gaping hole. About half the width of the strip was inside the fender edge, and half outside. The strip was then welded to the fender, and the seam afterwards either fiberglassed or bondoed or both to smooth out the contours.
The front air dam was basically just a wide strip of galvanized steel which hung down below the front bumper, curved to match the car's contours. I probably included some folded over tabs of some sort around the top edge of the dam through which to drill holes for bolts, and attach to existing spots from the factory in that area.
I think I left about the same ground clearance for the steel air dam as the car's original underbra there had possessed.
But to have a full racing style dam I had to do something about those extra inches. So I cut a wide strip off a discarded rubber conveyor belt from my dad's factory to take care of that. It was stiff enough to cut the air, but flexible enough to give when it often scraped the road or obstacles.
I attached the rubber strip to the bottom of the steel dam with nuts and bolts. I drilled a matching pattern of holes in the bottom of the steel dam and the top of the rubber dam. To all this I added a third metal strip, much narrower than the others. This third strip had matching holes too, and was used to 'clamp' the top of the rubber dam between it (the narrow strip) and the steel dam. The bolts fastened it all together.
The body connections between the front air dam and front fender flares basically included some extra metal for a transition between the parts, as illustrated on pages like Shadowfast super car project concept sketches part four and Shadowfast super car project concept sketches part five.
I hope that helps!
Note that 1970 front corner posts will bolt right onto a 1969 front end. You'll be switching to a dual headlight system from a quad though, so it may be you'll have to do some moderate re-wiring there. This will also give you the front brake cooling scoops like Shadow-- after you remove the factory plug plates.
Note I had to buy an acetylene torch and electric arc welder, pop rivet gun, a 4x8 sheet of galvanized steel, fiberglass, bondo, etc., etc., and learn new skills too, to do all this.
Keep in mind you're likely to get burned and shocked along the way! Ha, ha. So be sure to TAKE ALL NECESSARY SAFETY PRECAUTIONS. The arc welder alone can permanently blind you if you don't use sufficiently dark filters in your welding mask or goggles(!)
There's many who would agree with your uncle! Ha, ha. My friends at the time didn't necessarily agree with my mods either. But if I'd made Shadow a stock show car instead of 'butchering' him, I'd surely be DEAD now! Ha, ha. Not all of us enjoy the peaceful, prosperous, and protected circumstances to be car collectors.
And you might remind your uncle that the Ford company itself and a few folks like Carroll Shelby ALSO 'butchered' Mustangs in similar ways as me, in order to win professional races. Heck, that's how famous STREET Mustangs like the Boss 302 and Shelby Mustangs were BORN!
I have a story about Shadowfast's end called Nowhere to go but up.
I actually did sell him basically as a rolling collection of parts-- he was still driveable, but in need of substantial work. And I'd had my fill of hot rodding by then. Probably used up all my good road war luck, too.
Supercar correspondence contents
There's two separate back and forths posted here, with the first at top.
9-19-06: Nicky first writes me.
Below is my response:
Sorry to hear you've got current enemy concerns. Plus, the car-jacking. YUCK! Living in sprawling Los Angeles does seem to increase your personal risks of exciting times though, compared to many other places! Ha, ha.
Keep in mind that posting info on a web site about your CURRENT ride could be risky: for the more details you give out, the easier it'd be for an enemy to learn them and use them against you(!) In my case all that stuff is from decades ago, so the technical details really wouldn't help my own enemies much.
As for the changes in technology since my day-- yes, in many ways the sky's the limit on car mods today. It'd be much easier and cheaper to attain certain capabilities now than in the 1970s. Heck, just the GPS and cell phone options alone could help tremendously!
But there's also some disadvantages. For instance, install either GPS or a cell phone, and some enemies could use either item to track your movements. And even eavesdrop on your calls to gather further intelligence on you. YIKES!
Also, a 1969 car like Shadow was much simpler for the driver to diagnose and fix if something went wrong, than is the case for the 'black box'-filled autos of 2006. Plus, the older cars seemed more amenable to improvisations done on-the-fly to adapt to new situations. And they seemed able to take much more punishment before becoming undriveable too, than their cousins of today. Car makers have gotten altogether too good at cramming car insides so tight you require experts with expensive equipment to perform even many minor repairs, and much of the maintenance. And the lack of spare space underneath a car and in the engine compartment makes it much tougher to jury rig special workarounds for emergencies, too. Heck, just the other day I looked at somebody's car badly needing new belts on the motor, but you needed the car on a hydraulic rack six feet up in the air to change them (or else physically remove the motor from the car)! Sheesh! If Shadow had been like that, I'd never have survived!
And speaking of roomy hidden spaces in older vehicles: I've seen a factory-standard truck a grown person could safely hide in huddled inside the engine compartment while the thing was ****running****! Ha, ha.
There's also major DIS-advantages for extreme car stunts today: the environment itself. The traffic jams are often unbelievable today, and could easily trap you. I myself have spent HOURS sitting absolutely dead stopped like I was parked, ON INTERSTATE HIGHWAYS in zillions of jams the past five years or so. And many of these jams occured nowhere close to major metro areas! Grrr!
The authorities and media have lots more helicopters these days, some even with nightvision. Almost anyone can easily buy a tracking device to mount undetected on your car. As well as bug your interior to get both audio and video feeds. Since everyone has cell phones, and lots love to report every little thing they see, fast or unusual cars-- or scary events-- get reported ultra-easily and quickly. The tech for car stopping is getting lots better, fast, too. It's already feasible to blast your car's electronic ignition and stop you from another vehicle, if they can simply SEE your car(!)
Soon new cars will actually include technology allowing authorities (or hackers) to remotely stop your car with a simple button press from 1000 miles away if they want. So pursuits will end the very moment they can identify the car and call up its stop code. Yikes!
If my teen age self were just starting out today, with driving goals similar to those I had for Shadowfast, I'd probably go the motorcycle route. A bat-cycle. Maybe several different models, with different capabilities for different missions.
All the cycles would be fast as hell on highways, but also possess much of the robust suspension capacities of trail bikes, so I could go off-road completely and easily jump obstacles to rid myself of four wheeled pursuit. It'd be much easier to lose helicopters and the like too. Make sure you have night vision yourself, and your cycle would need no lights in stealth mode at night. Even if someone used infra-red to track you, it'd be easier to cloak against that too if you had only your body and cycle to hide (compared to a car). It'd be easier to harden a cycle's electronics against ignition killing signals, too.
And that's just the beginning of what could be done with today's tech and a cycle...for instance, a cycle could have small self-piloting flying drones which flew above it for various services-- and be limited function-wise only by your imagination...your own vehicle's air force!
Yeah, a cycle would be the optimum escape vehicle today, for ground travel. Cheaper to set up and maintain than a car version as well. Of course, becoming an expert cyclist might be harder than becoming an expert car driver. And you'd need a really superb driving suit and helmet for physical protection.
If you preferred something bigger than a cycle for today's environment, I'd recommend leaving the ground entirely and taking to the air yourself. But that'd be lots more expensive, and in lots of ways not nearly as practical or flexible as a cycle (based on today's tech).
Well, sorry for talking your ear off Nicky! Ha, ha.
9-22-06: Nicky made some good counter-points on my cycle suggestions. Plus related to me some of his own adventures and wild automotive and other type projects of past years. He also had some comments about the campy car-related TV shows like Nightrider of decades past.
Below is my response:
Wow Nicky! It sounds like you may have gone further in the machine mods route than me! With the watercraft and Corvair! That's pretty rare!
And yeah, theft's always been a problem with many places I lived, too.
Yeah, I know cycles are awful dangerous. That's why I specifically said you'd need a special protective suit. What I had in mind was more than the normal leathers, to include at minimum some of the armor motor cross riders use, maybe beefed up in custom ways.
Such suits would also be recommended for certain unusual aircraft type usage.
Just for normal cycle street driving I'd say adding some weak colored strobes visible from every angle would likely help car drivers see and avoid you in a major way, and hopefully not get you pulled over by cops.
Yes, there'd be little provision for a passenger on the cycle I envision, but maybe for just riding directly behind the driver in a pinch. Cargo concerns could be somewhat more easily addressed. As people worldwide manage to tote surprising amounts of cargo on plain bicycles, I believe I could rig up a practical and expandable system for a cycle if I wanted.
I do like the dump truck cabin idea. The more of the original look you could retain, the easier it'd be to hide in plain sight even inside cities. Various camouflage measures could work in the countryside. The awful gas mileage wouldn't matter that much if you rarely moved. But the maintenance costs would be considerable. And onboard storage space would be pretty limited, in regards to many long term needs and certain contingencies. So you'd probably want to keep multiple remote stationary caches of certain items hid away somewhere.
The commercial inspections and registration and insurance requirements could indeed be onerous, if you couldn't find some loophole like qualifying as a charity or church-related vehicle, maybe? I don't know: that's just a wild guess on my part.
There ARE deep rural areas where just about anything goes vehicle-wise-- but many types of custom-made vehicles great for that might not be suitable for ever taking into actual civilization. A dump truck though might be big enough to store onboard a cycle or scooter (or even bicycle) for errands into town or nearby stores.
I have a brother that drove corvairs for a while. He and I both think they got a bad rap. If they hadn't gotten caught up in the PR war between Nader and GM, the whole history of American cars since might have been lots different.
Yeah, Night Rider was ridiculous in many ways. But when the show first aired on TV it was one of the more interesting ones available (recall there weren't nearly as many entertainment choices back then). So I did watch it then. Instead of studying (I think I was in college).
Sometime later I actually ended up owning a car that looked almost identical to the Night Rider firebird (a 1985 or 1986 model I think(?)). A V-6 I believe. I actually prefered to get a ramshackle $500 V-8 Chevy Suburban SUV type car the company I was working for was selling off, but the guy in charge didn't like me and made sure anyone but me could buy it.
I was trapped 1000 miles from home with no vehicle, trying to save everything I could from that relatively high paying job. But I badly needed a car, and couldn't get to any used car lots. So when another employee told me about the firebird for sale by his brother (and would give me a ride to see it) I ended up buying it on the spot for $4500.
However, I ended up liking the car OK. It gave me remarkably little trouble, during a period I was heavily stressed out otherwise. Mainly some of its idiot lights on the dash would sometimes come on when nothing was wrong (I had GM dealerships check it out). And the glass sun roof panels would leak in the rain, soaking my butt at times when I sat down in it. There was also a seat belt buckle that kept breaking, even after replacement.
About all I can remember doing to it is change one headlight and one tail light bulb (and the seat belt buckle). The car seemed almost like new when I bought it.
I even got most or all my money back out of it when I sold it a couple years later I think(!) To my brother. Who drove the hell out of it for years. Then sold it to another of my brothers. Who did the same. And then sold it to a third brother of mine. Who didn't drive all that much, and mostly traded cars a lot. He finally sold it too. It turned out to be a decent little car for my whole family.
You know, basically that full-powered pit crew thing on TV's Night Rider was much the same as pro race car drivers enjoy. Me, I had to be my own pit crew. I remember once being stranded beside the road in the pouring rain at night, trying to fix something under the hood, out in the boondocks. Yuck! I also had to install a wheel bearing once that required a machine press, but was stranded again, with nothing but what I had in my trailer home to help. I ended up freezing the bearing to knock it into the hub. It took me a few minutes to figure out the freezer angle though. For a still easier fit I could have put the hub into my stove, too. Ha, ha.
Supercar correspondence contents
Nathan also wondered about the truth of the cover up of a massive interstate mess in the story.
Below is my edited response:
Thanks for the kind words Nathan!
I offer up a partial list of the actual events which spawned the stories at Notes from the actual owner/driver of the Shadowfast super car
Unfortunately, there's a lot more truth in the accounts than I'd prefer! Ha, ha. I could seriously get into trouble if I'm not careful. Hence, the changes in many details.
Yes, it's been decades since I drove my supercar. But with some things you have to exercise caution indefinitely.
I'd never have wrote these things up at all if it wasn't for financial pressures associated with advancing age. I noticed hot rodding seeming to make a come back in the media the last few years-- plus realized how long ago my supercar days now were-- and thought 'what the hell'? Try it. Just be careful about details regarding names, dates, and places!
As for details of our current chief executive's young life, it sounds like you haven't delved too deeply there. If you dig around a bit there on your own, I think you'll be surprised-- maybe even shocked.
I know he's sure shocked the hell out of me! Ha, ha.
Yes, it seems like it would take an unimaginable amount of effort and expense to cover up an interstate mess like that described in Nowhere to go but up, so that no news media ever reported it. Plus, clean the whole thing up physically-speaking in mere hours. But hopefully I won't get into trouble for admitting I did see such a thing with my own eyes. After all, lots of other folks besides me had to have seen it too. Of course, I don't know how many returned to the vicinity soon afterwards to behold the amazing efficiency of the clean up.
Somewhere though, there may be retired state highway troopers who recall it as well. And maybe some mention of it in any reports they wrote up afterwards-- buried deep in the file cabinets of some bureaucratic office building. Maybe someday the files will accidentally be unearthed with a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request. But I wouldn't be surprised if that doesn't happen until after you and I are long dead.
Supercar correspondence contents
Below is the relevant portion of my response:
As for what my Mustang was truly like in its prime, the construction specs listed at The Shadowfast super car project are as accurate as my memory and old records allow. The three actual photos on site at The Shadowfast super car project...RARE PHOTOS are true as well. And I provide a partial list of the actual events on which the stories are based at Notes from the actual owner/driver of the Shadowfast super car. ALL these elements could be proven in a court of law, if necessary. That's how true they are.
Furthermore, I believe if you rounded up various top race car and old Mustang experts, plus top stunt drivers and automotive engineers, and had them ALL closely examine my accounts, and then offer their own opinion on the events, they'd find very little to argue with or question there. That's how true-to-life experience they are.
Of course, when you get as old and worn out as I am today, you start finding it difficult to believe yourself that you did (and got away with) some of the things you can recollect from decades past. Quite a few factual details of our youth seem to become ever more implausible to us as we get older and more frail and less capable. That may have something to do with why so many of us older folks ultimately close our minds to new things, and turn hard core conservative in our waning years. From a combination of growing weakness, fear, and uncertainty about it all.
As I told my friend I refer to as Steve in my stories, in 2001, if he ever sees me turn into one of those fearful, unthinking, bible-thumping crazies, it won't truly be me at all: it'll just be the empty shell where I once dwelled.
Supercar correspondence contents
He signed off his comments with "Z28", which made me wonder if his angst stemmed partly from the ancient Mustang versus Camaro debate among hot rodders from my own era. Perhaps he simply didn't like the fact that there's no comparable Camaro tales on the web at present? (That I know of, anyway.)
Below is my response:
As I relate on-site I had plenty of good reasons not to take photos of things in the old days (You ARE aware that such stuff can be used against you, right?). Plus it was downright costly, and I had better uses for the money. And there's MANY aspects of my life I sincerely hope people DO regard simply as fiction! Ha, ha. But I have managed to locate a few photos taken by others along the way. And I'm striving to collect more.
The only photos I know to exist of Shadowfast in supercar configuration at the moment can be seen at The Shadowfast super car project...RARE PHOTOS.
Hope you like them! These may be the only supercar photos of him I'll ever find. I did personally snap one photo of him BEFORE rebuilding him, and kept it for many years, but have so far been unable to locate it.
And of course I've lost much potential evidence due to events happening over the course of decades since. For instance, my best friend (who I call Steve on-site) may well have had several photos of Shadowfast too, but when he graduated college and headed for a job out of state the old Cadillac he had crammed with all his worldly possessions caught fire on the road and he lost everything. His brother (who I call Will) might also have some photos, but last I heard he was working on a construction project in China now (yeah, sounds unbelieveable, but I can't help it; I was amazed myself to learn he was in China). But Will and I may not be on the best of terms now, anyway. So I don't know that he'd cooperate photo-wise.
Keep in mind Alan I also had no idea in the seventies that someday there'd be an internet, and that I might find it worthwhile to be stocking up documentation to use 20 or 30 years later. Who would?!? Heck: back then I was positive I'd be long dead by now! That was long before I began working on my timeline research.
Lastly, it's an unfortunate(?) fact that anyone willing to spend big bucks investigating the accuracy of my pages would find that sure enough I DID own, build, and drive a supercar Mustang, I DID have various adventures in Texas and elsewhere with it, and so on and so forth. There DOES exist a paper trail to much of this, Alan. Motor vehicle registrations, receipts, etc. Although as I plainly say on-site, names and dates, etc., have been changed in my stories.
If you speak with expert mechanics and drivers about my accounts (and include all the technical details provided) they'll likely tell you there's darn few (if any) items there which might bring into question their accuracy and plausibility; that things very well could have happened exactly as I describe. Although I admit I may have made an error here and there due to memory problems-- all that stuff was a long, long time ago, after all. Whenever I realize I might have made such a mistake, I try to rectify it as soon as possible.
Obviously my online science fiction novel is fictional-- of course! But I assure you that even if the FBI and CIA investigated my supercar tales-- including interviewing everyone who ever knew or met me during that period-- their conclusion would have to be that there's much supporting evidence for my supercar and various other accounts on-site. Although of course to many events there were few people around besides myself that witnessed everything which took place. And of those who did, I don't know how many are still living today, and of those survivors I don't know how many would be willing to talk about it. After all, quite a few of those people didn't like me much afterwards! Ha, ha
That's all I can tell you. If you're rich or got connections, just have a few records searches done to satisfy yourself as to the plausibility of my accounts. I believe you'd find yourself pleasantly surprised (maybe even shocked! ha, ha).
And if you asked my friend Steve about my tendency to B.S. people, you'd find I have a zero quotient for that. I did have to bluff my way out of a few situations along the way (some of which are described in the stories)-- but I absolutely despised doing so.
When I write my accounts are inspired by actual events, I mean it.
I could bet you a million dollars Shadowfast truly existed-- and I'd win.
PS: One of my best friends ever owned first a 1967 Camaro (as described in Slip, sliding away, and then a later model. And I had other such buddies as well.
Supercar correspondence contents