Friday, August 31, 2012

Take Caution In Where You Take Your Classic Car or Muscle Car

by Andrea L. Algar
Motorheads Performance

I recently came across a story written by a man who owned a Daytona Blue 1963 Corvette Coupe with all matching numbers. The all-original classic sport car had an immaculate dark blue interior where only the carpet had ever been replaced. The 327 engine was said to produce a rhythmic loping that not only brought a smile to your face, but got you day dreaming of having this beauty parked in your own garage. Then disaster strikes and you're snapped out of your dream and into his nightmare!

The owner of this beautiful piece of American history took his prized car to what he called a small "backwoods" show that a friend and he decided to go to in the spur of the moment. As owner Jacob Morgan, of Bakersfield, CA described, "The event was an annual but rather unofficial gathering of classic car buffs and I was thrilled to bring my car down. Unfortunately, the part of Florida that the event was being held was extremely dry due to drought. About three or four hours after arriving, a man who owned a red GTO (I could not tell you the year because frankly I did not care afterward) decided to start up his ride for the spectators. It was just one backfire but it was enough to start the dry grass ablaze--and guess where my Corvette was parked?

Nearly thirty classic cars were consumed by the blaze started by that backfiring GTO and my Corvette was one of them. Of course I had the car properly insured but they just aren't making 1963 Corvettes any longer and the only one I could find that was similar cost $10,000 more than my policy’s payoff. I guess if there is a moral to my sad tale, it is to avoid backwoods car shows at all costs because they are unregulated, disorganized, and very dangerous to classic cars like my beloved 1963 Corvette Coupe."

This may not be your traditional way of losing your prized classic car, muscle car, street rod, antique car, vintage truck or other collectible old vehicle, but it does drive home the point that we need to exercise care in even the most innocent surroundings like a car show! Freak accidents like Mr. Morgan experienced can and do account for many losses to enthusiasts - not just theft or vandalism.

Sadly though, theft isn't a rare thing and the methods are becoming more bizarre. Guy Algar and I have had pieces stolen off one of our own vehicles that we were towing back to our shop while we stopped for a quick bite to eat! We've had a good number of hubcaps taken over the years. And, we actually had the brake lights ripped off of our car hauler while we were in a parts store one day picking up parts for a customer! We've had one customer tell us the story where he had taken his wife out to dinner and had carefully parked his 1969 Corvette at a local restaurant, under a big bright light, and in what appeared to be a "safe" area, only to come out 45 minutes to an hour later to find all his emblems and trim taken right off the car! Thieves have been known to take the entire car hauler (with the classic sitting on top) right off the tow vehicle's hitch ball and transfer the hauler to their own tow vehicle when people are on the road, at a car show, or some other type of event. These are bold moves by people who do not fear the consequences.

Other thefts that have been reported around the country have included:

  • Tom of New Mexico reported the theft of two of his collector cars to Hemmings. Tom owns about half a dozen collector cars altogether, and to store them all, he rented out a storage unit. Unfortunately, when he went to check on them recently, for the first time in about six months, he found that two were missing - a 1957 two-door Chevrolet Belair and a 1967 Mercury Cougar GT. 
  • There was also a report of a man from Jefferson City, Missouri, who actually recovered his own stolen car, a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro that had been stolen 16 years before, after seeing it in a Google search! 
  • In a Los Angeles suburb, a woman came home to a garage empty of her prized 1957 Chevy Bel-Air which had been valued at more than $150,000. The beautiful convertible had been featured in several magazines and TV shows and won dozens of awards at car shows around the country. A neighbor's surveillance camera caught the actions of the thieves and revealed that the Bel-Air was pushed down the street by a pickup truck which had pulled into her driveway just minutes after she had left. The thieves likely loaded it onto an awaiting trailer. It's thought that the thieves spotting the car at one of the car shows, followed it home afterwards, then waited for the opportunity to steal it.
  • A Seattle collector was the victim of a targeted "smash-and grab" from the warehouse where he kept his cars. The thieves apparently ransacked the building and drove off with a 396/425 four-speed 1965 Corvette Stingray; and a 20,000-mile 396/four-speed 1970 Chevelle SS.
  • A 1959 Chevrolet Impala was stolen during a Cruise Night. The owner got good news-bad news when the police tracked down because while they did recover the classic car, he had put in a claim for the theft with his insurance policy after the theft many months before, so the car went to the insurance company rather than being returned to him. Apparently detectives recovered the Impala from a chop shop nearly eight months after it was stolen, repainted and modified.
  • Hemmings News also reported of a reader whose 1970 Ford Maverick was stolen from his home in Missouri. The car was found and returned, but the investigation apparently revealed that the thief had been watching the owner for 2 years, with the intention of stealing it and using it to race with. Chilling thing to find out. 
  • A 1979 Buick Electra 225 Limited Edition was stolen out of a grocery store parking lot in suburban Detroit with the thief escaping with an urn inside the trunk that contained the remains of the owner's stepfather!
  • After saving for over 40 years, a man from Virginia bought the car of his dreams, a 1962 Dodge Lancer. Buying his dream car, he began his restoration project, which was about 60 percent complete when he relocated to Texas. Without a garage to keep it in after his move, he stored it in a 24-foot enclosed trailer along with a 1971 Dodge Colt he planned to turn into a race car, and kept the trailer parked at a storage lot. At the end of July, the trailer and everything in it disappeared. 
The last story actually has a happy ending because it was recovered due to alert shop owners being suspicious of person wanting to unload a Lancer for only $1,500 including the many boxes of parts. After some research, the owner was reunited with his car. Guy and I have been approached on numerous occasions by people wanting to sell their vehicles. Some have hardship stories and the callers are willing to unload the car for a real bargain. We've always walked from these offers, primarily because we're not in the business of buying and selling cars (we're not dealers or re-sellers), but also because we're cautious of a "too-good-to-be-true" price. One call in particular did make us very suspicious, as the woman caller insisted that the sale had to be completed by Monday (she called our shop over the weekend) and the price was extremely low for a rather rare model Mustang. Alert shop owners can be instrumental in aiding in the recovery of stolen classic cars.

But not all stories have a happy ending like this. Classic cars, muscle cars and antiques can make their way to chop shops, end up damaged and abandoned, and even being re-sold on Internet sites such as eBay and Craigslist!

Just yesterday, I reported on a 1954 Chevy Pickup truck which was stolen from a woman's driveway in Oklahoma City. (Ironically this article was already written and scheduled for release today when the news hit. I've added her case because, unfortunately, it emphasizes how common thefts have become.) She wisely reached out to the Hemmings community of enthusiasts for help. has a huge following, referred to as "Hemmings Nation", and appealing for help to a community of enthusiasts like this can be instrumental in helping to give vital information to police and authorities who can help track and recover a stolen classic car. We applaud the work that Hemmings does.

And, the methods that thieves are using, as you can see, are as varied as the types of vehicles! Even seemingly innocent little car shows and gatherings are places you need to exercise a little caution and care. As I reported in a July article, carjackings involving classic cars are even becoming more commonplace.

Surprisingly, in some cases, the Internet has been helpful in aiding in the recovery of classic cars and muscle cars. There have been numerous stories, much like the Camaro owner above, and a man who found his 1949 Ford through a listing on Craigslist (the two men responsible were arrested and charged with disassembling a vehicle after the owner positively identified it as his) where owners have been able to locate their cars in Internet searches.

In addition to the quick-strip thefts, thieves usually always alter, remove or forge VIN numbers, which make identification of the car or truck more difficult. Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN's) are serial numbers for vehicles that are used to differentiate similar makes and models. Much like social security numbers, every vehicle has a different VIN. VIN plates are usually located on the dashboard on newer cars, but are often found in the door jams of older models. VIN plates can be switched with another vehicle for a fast cover up.

The point here is to be aware of your surroundings, including where you park your car. Don't take it for granted that just because you're at an event with fellow enthusiasts that something bad can't happen. Take preventive action by securing your old car or truck. Guy Algar suggests, "Don't forget to take precautions even at home. You may feel safe parking your ride in 'the safety' of your two car garage, but remember, even if you don't have windows where people can peer in and spot your valued car, thieves can also follow you home from work, a cruise, or even the grocery store and plan a theft after surveilling your home and learning your schedule. If you have a ride that catches people's attention, remember that it can also catch the wrong attention!" In upcoming articles we'll be taking a look at theft prevention, theft protection and security systems for your ride.
Classic Car News - Classic car theft at Goodguys Show
Classic Car News - Local Carjacking Should Heighten Awareness For Classic Car Owners
eBay Guides -
STOLEN Truck Alert: 1954 Chevy 3100 Pickup Truck From Oklahoma City

Hemmings - Hemmings Daily - Hemmings' Official Blog 
Classic Car News - Purchasing Classic Car Insurance - Why You Don't Want To Procrastinate

Guy and I realize that the safety of your classic car or muscle car is extremely important to most owners. Everyone wants to protect their ride with methods that work, and that won't bust the bank. Guy Algar was an Installation Technician for LoJack at one point in his career, and served as a troubleshooter for difficult installations. A complete list of links for Theft Prevention and Theft Protection will appear in my upcoming article. Have a story you'd like to share? Leave a comment and we may publish your story! - Andrea L. Algar

Andrea L. Algar is co-owner of a classic car performance and restoration design shop in Leesville, Texas. Motorheads Performance specializes in repairs, maintenance, performance upgrades and restorative work on cars and trucks from the 1920’s through 1970’s. Her husband Guy L. Algar is a Mechanical Engineer with over 25 years experience. He holds 5 ASE Certifications from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and has been working on old cars and trucks for over 37 years. Together they share their passion for old cars and trucks with other enthusiasts from around the country.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Stolen Truck ALERT! - 1954 Chevy 3100 Pickup from Oklahoma City

by Andrea L. Algar
Motorheads Performance

A woman from Oklahoma City contacted authorities about her 1954 Chevy 3100 pickup truck which was apparently stolen right out of her driveway while she was out of town July 10, 2012. We need your help!

Photo Credit:
Jan Kunze wisely contacted to see if the classic car enthusiasts that follow events through Hemmings Daily, the site's daily newsletter, could help her recover her truck. They have a huge following they refer to as "Hemmings Nation", and this group can be extremely helpful in getting the word out to people who can give crucial information to authorities.

Have you spotted this vehicle?  

We'd like to help Jan get her stolen pickup back. Jan reports that the pickup went missing from her own driveway on NW 38th Street. She came home from her trip after a friend noticed the truck was not parked where it should be. A vent window latch was the only thing left in that place.


stolentruck_02_750stolentruck_04_750Anybody with information contact the Oklahoma City Police Department at

Taking Responsibility For Our Work - A Followup Story to "What's Wrong With These People?"

by Andrea L. Algar
Motorheads Performance

Something happened recently that made Guy and I pause, take a closer look, and then have a long discussion. Recently, a returning customer had come to us for some A/C work on his Chevy Chevelle after having some interior work done at the body shop where his paint was being done. We proceeded with our A/C work and, as sometimes happens, we began discovering some unsettling short-cuts which were taken by the body shop which had performed the interior work.

We documented our findings and reported them back to the customer, as we always do when we find things our customers should be aware of. The customer asked us to speak with the owner of the body shop on his behalf, and a call was made. The shop owner first would not even acknowledge that the work was poor, denied it happened there, then ended up blaming one of his staff for the poor workmanship. It left us surprised and quiet taken aback.

Has society changed so much that many people are no longer able to take responsibility for their actions? Is government "roboticizing" us so much that we're becoming co-dependent, and allowing some to feel entitled to give shoddy service and expect a "free pass" to let it slide without consequence? Or is it geared more to the individual who simply cannot admit to making a mistake? I'm not sure, but what I do know is that we all have's just part of life. 

A Shop's Responsibility to its Customers

Guy and I have always lived by the belief that if you make a mistake, you own up to it, figure out how to correct it, and take steps to make it right as soon as is reasonably possible. As a business owner, it is your responsibility. You are responsible for the actions of your employees. You are responsible for training them, guiding them, supervising them, and checking things over when they are done. If you don’t, you are still responsible for their actions or non-actions, as it is your business, and your name on the line.  It was surprising to see that a fellow business owner wouldn’t or couldn’t see the value of this, and instead was content to blame his various employees.

Responsibility can take us beyond a mistake that may happen in the shop. For instance, we could easily order an incorrect part which therefore caused a delay in the job, or we could be responsible if an employee represents something incorrectly as fact to a customer, or we might even be responsible if information about a change order was not appropriately conveyed to those affected. And, sometimes the responsibility is cloaked in a much more allusive form such as a business policy, a certification, or a training.

The incident with our customer's body shop caused us to discuss a situation we recently dealt with. A gentleman complained that we had misrepresented information on our website. I was shocked, because I believed the information I had put on the site was factual. But, knowing I had a responsibility to accurately portray ourselves and our business, I reviewed our entire site, which is quite large.

Upon closer look at the three things complained about, I saw that although this man made incorrect statements about the Corvette Fever Magazine reader awards we had received several years in a row (Corvette Fever is still in existence on the Internet and the physical magazine was combined with Vette magazine into a single publication as a cost savings measure by the publisher), two of our other affiliations had errors with the words used. Yes, we are an Eckler’s Dealer, but not a “certified” dealer, as had been written. The other error was the listing of a reseller program we had been members of through the parts supplier J.C. Whitney.  Not known to us, the InstallPRO program had been discontinued some time before, but we were never notified of it, as the company’s agent acknowledged in an e-mail to us.

I could have blamed others. I had hired my daughter who was home on break from college, to do some updates to many of our website pages including our affiliations, car show & event listings, classified ads, and other pages that were sorely overdue for updates, but ultimately it was my fault for not reviewing the work closely enough. I should have seen the error, but it got past me. I could have argued that J.C. Whitney never informed us that they were discontinuing the InstallPRO program, but where would that have gotten me? What did I do? Admit it, decide what to do, and take action!

Sure, it’s hard to maintain up-to-date information in today's fast-pace, ever-changing world, especially a large website. However, that is no excuse. I immediately took the misworded information and removed it from our website. After taking these steps, I then responded to the complaintant stating that we value when erroneous information is brought to our attention so that we can correct it, thanking him because I was grateful to be able to correct it. I pride myself on a quality website that accurately portrays our message.

Did I feel stupid for making a mistake? Certainly. But I also wanted immediately to make it right. I feel as a business owner, I want my customers to know exactly what to expect from us, and how they’ll be treated. I appreciate our customers, and want to do right by them. It’s a philosophy that is very important to Guy and I. At the same time, we wish others had an easier time accepting responsibility and delivering what is needed to do their job right.

Although not every shop feels the same way, Guy Algar and I have made the deliberate choice to stay a small shop and to do the work ourselves rather than pass off work on employees. We like that we stay involved with each and every job from start to finish. Customers are able to talk directly to the people who actually do the planning and work on their vehicle and we work actively with each of our customers to ensure that they receive the results they want. And Guy has a valid point when he states, "I don't have time to babysit someone else." Having been a Business Manager for many years prior to starting our business, I had multi-member staffs and I know it can be a full time job just keeping things running smoothly with your employees." Car shops are no exception.

While in some articles I've spent time pointing out some of the bad things that can happen when you take your car to a shop for repairs and/or restoration work, there are some very good things happening out there. There are actually shops out there that care greatly about their customers, and take great pride in the quality of work they deliver. Even then, sometimes things happen that are out of their control. As a shop owner, we're often at the mercy of those vendors and subcontractors who we deal with. Incorrect part shipments, billing errors, back orders, delays in shipping, subcontractors getting behind schedule or having quality issues. All these things can come back to you in a negative way.

Ultimately, a shop owner must accept the responsibility of making it right. On one unusual repair we did several years ago, we had initially saved the man over $100 in shipping fees by picking up the fenders ourselves and charging him a small $35 pickup fee to cover the 1-1/2 hour round trip and cost of gas for our truck. What he didn't see was the time spent on our return trip to exchange the fenders because of damage discovered when we opened them up back at the shop - the 2 hours of opening boxes at the vendor's warehouse until we found a pair without excessive damage!

We find that when things like this happen, we become even more determined to give our very best. It's difficult when you make a mistake, but we know that it's far better to address the mistake immediately, take appropriate action, and learn from it! In the eight years we've been in business we've been very fortunate. I'd like to believe that there are also other businesses out there who have the ability to take responsibility and act professionally, even when mistakes are made.

But responsibility is a two-way street, even in the world of classic car or muscle car repairs and restorations! Just as where freedom of speech comes with responsibilities for what you say (i.e. dealing with the consequences of words spoken out of anger for example), freedom of owning a gun comes with the responsibilies of self-control and good judgement (i.e. using it for the intended purpose of self-defense and not one where you are an aggressor against someone), simply being a member of society has its own responsibilities (i.e. to behave in a moral or ethical manner so that it benefits society as a whole). The act of being a customer has its own share of responsibilities.

A Customer's Responsibility

We all know the basic set of responsibilities that come with being a customer anywhere, with any type of business. We know that we should present our request for service in a clear, truthful fashion for instance. We have a responsibility to ask questions that are important to us, as the shop owner cannot read our minds and know what type of information we personally need. We need to ask the price of services, and we need to be prepared to pay for the services when they have been finished. We need to act appropriate while at the shop owner's establishment, and we need to act appropriately if we have disagreements.

So, what can you, as a customer, do if you feel mistakes are being made or if you're just not so happy about the way things are going? It's always helpful to the shop owner to have questions brought up in a timely way, when we still have a chance to resolve issues to your satisfaction. Don't wait until the job is finished to bring up concerns over pricing, quality or anything else that isn't sitting right for you. In the case of the customer who asked us to intervene on his behalf, it was needed because the other shop owner was denying the problems altogether, and there were problems! We were able to help get the issues resolved for our customer. But getting this type of help isn't always possible for you, the customer. Usually, you're left to fend for yourself, and it can be awkward and difficult. Communication is usually the "make it or break it" of a project going without a hitch.

Probably the worst thing is to get confrontational at the start. Remember, you may have been thinking about this for a long time, stewing over your frustrations and rehashing what to do in your own mind. But, it's probably the first time that the shop owner or the technician is being made aware of it!

Talk with the technician or person you're most accustomed in dealing with, and bring up your concern, the problem, or whatever the issue is in a non-accusing manner. If it's a question of price, ask if you can sit down and review where the cost of the project is going, or that the cost of the parts seems to be pushing you over budget and you'd like to review where you are with things. If it's questions of quality or workmanship, you might ask if you can schedule a time to review the work to date, then ask your questions or state your concerns in this meeting where you can point things out and show why you're asking.

Most shops have multiple projects going on at the same time. They may have one tech who does the prep work, another who performs the fabrications, one who does installation, repairs and welding, and yet another for the painting. There are many things to coordinate, and many things that can get a project behind schedule. Openly discussing your wishes and your concerns helps the shop try their best to meet your goals, and it also gives them the opportunity to keep you informed as the job goes along. It's a partnership, and as with all partnerships, good communication is essential.

The Business Ethics Blog - Responsibility For Consumer Error

This article is based on my observations as a businesswoman, both in and out of the automotive industry for, well let's just say over 25 years! My husband Guy Algar and I made a commitment when we started our venture that we wanted to do things differently. We wanted to provide the best in customer satisfaction and help our customers enjoy their rides by involving them in the experience. Everyone who starts a business has challenges and difficulties, and it's definitely an eye-opening learning experience! We try hard to establish good relationships right from the start so that there is good communication and good policies in place to deal with the most typical situations that come up. But the one thing we don't take lightly is our responsibility to our customers, and our desire to do the very best job possible for them. A heart-felt "thank you" to all of our current and past customers, each and every one who have taught us something along the way! I hope this article inspires others as well. - Andrea

Andrea L. Algar is co-owner of a classic car performance and restoration design shop in Leesville, Texas. Motorheads Performance specializes in repairs, maintenance, performance upgrades and restorative work on cars and trucks from the 1920’s through 1970’s. Her husband Guy L. Algar is a Mechanical Engineer with over 25 years experience. He holds 5 ASE Certifications from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and has been working on old cars and trucks for over 37 years. Together they share their passion for old cars and trucks with other enthusiasts from around the country.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Schools Are Open - Proceed With Care!

by Andrea L. Algar
Motorheads Performance

Yes, schools here in South Central Texas have started back up again. As classic car and muscle car drivers, we not only have to take extra care in watching out for children walking to school, but also for the school buses.

I'm on the road a lot, and when making an early morning run, I frequently run smack into a school bus along its route. In our rural location, the buses are well equipped with flashing strobe lights, and I know the rules of the road well enough to know that I must stop every time that the red flashing lights are put on because the bus is either picking up or dropping off a child at their home or the neighborhood bus stop. But, not everyone on the road follows the rules, and I'm always amazed when I see someone blast around the bus when it's making its stop, or become impatient at the long wait and try to sneak around! This is not only dangerous to the kids boarding the bus, but to other drivers, as no one is expecting to look out for someone passing the bus, especially the bus driver.

But, children and buses are not the only thing we as classic car drivers need to worry about. Yes, there is always the increased traffic that seems to come out of nowhere once school begins, but the hidden dangers are in the increased number of young drivers who are old enough to drive themselves back and forth from school, but who statistically are not the best drivers!

If you live near or drive in an area with a high school, you need to be especially aware and cautious. New drivers are notoriously unaware of the dangers of driving and tend to take risks that we adults would not. Applying makeup, talking on the phone, texting, taking eyes off the road to locate something in a bag on the floor, chatting it up with friends, girl-watching or boy-oggling are all events that happen on a daily basis with teenage drivers. Many are not fully aware or believing in the dangers of distracted driving.

So, although we cannot stop these actions or events from happening, we can at least step up our awareness and be extra careful while on the road. Safe driving.

Andrea L. Algar is co-owner of a classic car performance and restoration design shop in Leesville, Texas. Motorheads Performance specializes in repairs, maintenance, performance upgrades and restorative work on cars and trucks from the 1920’s through 1970’s. Her husband Guy L. Algar is a Mechanical Engineer with over 25 years experience. He holds 5 ASE Certifications from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and has been working on old cars and trucks for over 37 years. Together they share their passion for old cars and trucks with other enthusiasts from around the country.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tribute to Neil Armstrong

by Andrea L. Algar
Motorheads Performance

I just couldn't miss the opportunity to pay tribute to someone who remains so prominent in my memories as a young girl.

I've read survey after survey asking the most memorable historical events in people's lives, and I can't think of any that didn't include some variation of "man walking on the moon". It's one of those events where you remember the exact thing you were doing when the marvelous invention called television broadcast man's first walk on the moon. You remembered where you were, who you were with, and many details that are etched into your memory. Very few events can do that.

Neil Armstrong
Photo Credit:
But beyond that, it's amazing to think of the amazing contribution of selflessness that Neil Armstrong showed as he united a nation in it's moment of glory. The words he used, "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind", allowed people for a time, to forget color, age, sex and the other differences that more often than not discriminate and segregate us as people. He never held out the accomplishment as something that "he" did, it was always what "we" as a people did, and it was all done without any notion of "political correctness" that permeates everything we see and hear nowadays.

Even beyond that, I believe that Neil Armstrong's accomplishments helped to propel an entire generation into inventiveness and ingenuity. Where going to the moon for years was looked upon as a pipe dream, it had become a reality. So, for the dreamers who had ideas, they found courage to make those dreams a reality. The things we have learned from NASA's space program, and the products and inventions that have come as a direct result of the program are too numerous to mention, and I don't want to dilute the purpose of this tribute. I believe that you'll probably find that there are inventions and improvements within the automotive industry that were influenced by and/or made possible from man's journey to the moon.

It's a very sad time in the loss of  Neil Armstrong. I will not forget his spirit and his contributions to us all.

Andrea L. Algar is co-owner of a classic car performance and restoration design shop in Leesville, Texas. Motorheads Performance specializes in repairs, maintenance, performance upgrades and restorative work on cars and trucks from the 1920’s through 1970’s. Her husband Guy L. Algar is a Mechanical Engineer with over 25 years experience. He holds 5 ASE Certifications from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and has been working on old cars and trucks for over 37 years. Together they share their passion for old cars and trucks with other enthusiasts from around the country.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Year Of Manufacture License Plates for Classic Cars, Muscle Cars, or Antique Vehicles

By Rod Hemmick
Special Contributing Author
for Motorheads Performance

For many people, part of the pride of ownership of a Classic or Antique vehicle or Street Rod is being able to display license plates on their vehicle that are not the “standard current issue” type that you find on every other car on the road.

Being able to have a special license plate that identifies your vehicle as a “Classic” or “Antique” vehicle is a nice way to show the pride that you take in your vintage vehicle. Many states, including Texas even allow the use of license plates to be registered on your vehicle that are the same year as your vehicle. This is commonly referred to as a Year of Manufacture (or YOM) license plate. For example, if you own a 1932 vehicle, you can register actual 1932 license plates on your vehicle. For many, this is the “ultimate” license plate to display on their vehicle which can be a finishing touch to the authenticity of your special ride.

Since each State has different laws regarding what type of license plates can be issued to Antique and Classic vehicles, there is no one single set of rules on how to get specialty (including YOM) license plates for your vehicle. Furthermore, it is always best to check with the proper authorities in your state as the final authority on these laws.

We continue this series of articles with the laws governing the issuance of Antique or Classic license plates for the State of Texas. In future articles, we will be covering these same laws as they apply to classic car license plates, truck license plates, and plates in other states, as requested by our readers. It is important to keep in mind that this group of articles will be applying to the laws for the State of Texas only and should not be considered as a guideline for requirements for other states. (Editor's Note: As part of this series on old license plates, Guy Algar and I have compiled a list of resources for every state in the country, along with other valuable and helpful links and resources. We hope you join us!)

In the State of Texas, your vehicle must be at least 25 years old in order to qualify for special license plates and can be registered as a “Classic” or “Antique” vehicle, depending on your plans for driving your vehicle on public roads. The types of vehicles that qualify are passenger cars, trucks and motorcycles, and you can even register a vintage travel trailer with “Classic” plates.

In this article we will begin by explaining the requirements for registering your vehicle as either a “Classic” or “Antique” vehicle. This will include how to get YOM license plates registered on your vehicle as well. To clarify, Year of Manufacture license plates are not a third category but rather you can opt to use YOM license plates under both the “Classic” and “Antique” registrations instead of using the currently issued Classic or Antique specialty plates. Links to Texas Department of Transportation website for forms and additional information are listed below.

Antique Vehicle Registration – A passenger car, truck or motorcycle that is 25 or more years old and is used exclusively for exhibition, club activities, parades, and other functions of public interest. The vehicle will in no case be used for regular transportation and will not carry advertising. A vehicle in route to and from a location for routine maintenance is allowed.

Applicants that have license plates, which are the same year as the vehicle may use those plates in lieu of Antique License Plates issued by the county. If the application is mailed, the applicant MUST have the license plates examined at their local County Tax Office before submitting the application. The license plates must be Texas license plates, the same year as the year model of the antique vehicle, be in good readable condition, and have the correct color scheme. A current valid inspection sticker is not required on your vehicle if it is registered as an Antique vehicle. Antique license plates are issued for five year periods. If your application is approved, you will receive a set of Antique License plates or a tab to attach to your YOM plates.

Classic Vehicle Registration - A passenger car, truck, motorcycle or travel trailer that is 25 or more years old may be registered as a Classic Vehicle. Vehicles must be fully registered like any other vehicle, which includes having an annual safety inspection done on the vehicle and displaying a current inspection sticker. Vehicles registered as Classic Vehicles may operate on any roadway just as a normal modern vehicle and may carry advertising. The same rules apply for YOM license plates for Classic Vehicle registration as described under the Antique Vehicle registration section. Classic Vehicle plates must be renewed every year the same as standard license plates.

YOM - Year of Manufacture license plates – May be used in lieu of Antique or Classic plates and must be in good readable original condition or restored and must be the original color scheme and be the same year as vehicle.

Original 1936 license plate in good readable condition:

License plate professionally restored in correct color scheme as original:

The following link for the Texas Department of Transportation has information on special license plates for vintage vehicles. There is a separate “Antique and Classic” link on this page for each type of registration (i.e.: Classic Auto, Classic Motorcycle, etc.). Costs for each type of plate are listed as well as a link to download the necessary form for registration as well as address information for each County if you plan to mail in your registration paperwork. A fax number and instructions are also listed.

Under the links for Classic Auto, Classic Truck, Classic Motorcycle and Classic Travel Trailer, there is an option to order a personalized plate and even a search box to determine if your desired personalization is available. If ordering by mail, there is a section to include the standard fee and also the fee for a personalized plate.
Forms for these plates may also be downloaded from the following Texas Department of Transportation link. Click on the “Antique and Classic Vehicles” link at the top of this page:
If you have a specific question or problem you can reach the Texas Department of Transportation’s “Specialty License Plates” office at 512-374-5010. Be sure to get the name of the person that you spoke with, especially if they were helpful and/or knowledgeable about the registration process.

In summary, the basic guidelines for registering your vintage vehicle with “Classic” “Antique” or “Year of Manufacture” license plates are as follows:

1. Vehicle must be at least 25 years old.
2. If you are registering “Year of Manufacture” license plates, they must be the same year as the vehicle being registered and must be authentic license plates that were made by the State. (Reproduction license plates are not allowed).
3. Passenger car and truck license plates were issued in pairs for all years except 1945 and 1946 when only a single license plate was issued. This means that if you are registering a vehicle with “Year of Manufacture” license plates, you must have BOTH plates (unless the vehicle is a 1945 of 1946 vintage vehicle).
4. The license plates must be in good readable condition and they can be restored if they are not in good enough condition. The license plates can have some holes in them and/or some rusted areas, but the readability of the plates cannot be compromised by these holes or rusted areas.
5. The license plates must be the same color scheme as they were when originally issued.
6. If you are registering your vehicle as a “Classic Vehicle” for daily use, the vehicle must carry a current safety inspection sticker and proof of insurance is required.

If you are planning on using original “Year of Manufacture” license plates for your vehicle and you do not have your plates yet, here are some guidelines to consider when looking for a suitable set of plates:

1. The “straighter the better” – plates that are badly dented or bent can be more difficult and costly to restore and generally will not look as good when restored as a nice “straight” pair of plates.
2. Avoid plates with serious rust damage if possible – Light surface rust is fine, but plates that are rusted to the point of being brittle or have parts missing due to rust damage (i.e.: one corner rusted off) can be a real challenge and very costly to restore. Also if the State feels that this rust damage can compromise the plate’s readability, they will not register the plates. Plates with “saw toothed” rust damage along the edges of plate are hard to repair and can cause problems when restored.
3. Extra holes in a plate are okay as long as they do not compromise the plate’s readability. These can be left alone or repaired during restoration.
4. If the plates need to be restored you can do them yourself (if you are up to the challenge) or you can have a professional restoration service do the plates for you.

If you elect to have your plates professionally restored it can be well worth the cost as a nicely restored pair of license plates can be the finishing touch to a nicely restored vehicle. A poorly done or very “amateur” set of restored plates, while they may be able to pass the State’s registration requirements, may not look so good and can even detract from the looks of a nicely restored vehicle.
About our Contributing Author:
Rod Hemmick has been providing professional restorations of YOM license plates for over 18 years. Rod has been member of the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association (ALPCA) since 1981, and has even been used as a reference by the State of Texas in one of their publications on the History of Texas License Plates. Guy Algar and I have been using Rod as an expert resource for the restoration work we do at Motorheads Performance, and he's always been able to come through with the best of information and help for our customers. Rod's knowledge is extensive, and the quality of his restoration work is truly outstanding. For historical information on Texas License plates, contact Rod at

Editor’s Note:
We hope you have enjoyed the first installment of articles on classic car license plates. Our next article will appear next week. If you've missed any of my previous articles, here are links for your convenience:

The History of Texas License Plates - Part II
The History of Texas License Plates - Part I
Finding Old License Plates
Old License Plates Are Poised To Draw Top Dollar At Upcoming Auction

Please feel free to contact me via e-mail if you have a particular question that you'd like answered.

We've discussed finding old license plates in a previous article, but sometimes you may find it necessary or more desireable to have an old plate restored, whether for sentimental value, the uniqueness of the plate, or some other reason. If you're looking for someone to restore old plates for you, I can tell you that we've used Rod for our license plate needs. He is very knowledgeable about the types and colors of Texas license plates, and what is needed in order to have them accepted by the Department of Transportation for use. The costs to restore plates correctly is an investment just like the restoration process for your classic car or truck. Just keep that in mind when you contact a professional who does this type of restoration work. It's not cheap, but I've come to learn that much time and effort goes into the process so please consider that before questioning a craftsman with why it costs so much!  - Andrea L. Algar, Editor

Friday, August 24, 2012

Future Of Cars May Be Incredible, But Will They Be As Fun To Drive?

by Andrea L. Algar
Motorheads Performance

Trends come and go.....and with the automobile, we've sure seen many trends over the years. As most classic car or muscle car enthusiasts will tell you, they own their car because of the enjoyment they get from it. Can we get the same feeling with today's cars?

A recent article on entitled, "5 Future Car Technologies That Truly Have a Chance" talked about cars of the future and what is possibly in store for us. According to the article, cars that communicate with each other while on the road, self-driving cars, "reality" dashboards that go far beyond GPS, airbags that can actually help slow or stop a car before impact, body panels that actually store power like a battery are all things that may soon be realities for us. There's a lot of data out there that backs up these claims.

According to the article, "BMW is also researching the use of augmented reality for automotive technicians. They produced a video where a BMW technician uses AR glasses to look at an engine, identify what parts need to be replaced and then shows step-by-step instructions on how to fix it." While this type of technology may be impressive, and in fact very helpful for future cars, it probably won't be very helpful with the pre-1980 cars and trucks.

Classic car enthusiasts will also no doubt bring up the inevitable question on whether these new cars will afford the "thrill" of driving. If self-driving cars become the norm, it could bring out a whole new generation of enthusiasts who want to cling to the past and experience the joys of driving. Or, it could bring about a set of government regulations which severely limit or perhaps even outlaw people-driven vehicles altogether! An outcome I would certainly hate to see.

Rocket Car 3D Rendering
© Frank Ramspott
 Yes, for some enthusiasts it's all about the rush from speed and/or performance. The thrill of driving fast is a pure adrenaline rush. Most of us have pushed the limit a time or two. Some have gone overboard with the "need for speed" and have done some pretty stupid things. Many of you might remember hearing a story many years ago about a guy who found or somehow got his hands on a JATO (Jet-Assisted Take Off) Rocket. Some accounts say that the rocket had been dumped during a military training exercise. The man owned an old 1967 Impala and got the "brilliant" idea to put this jet engine onto his car.

So, undoubtedly laced with great excitement, he takes the car out for a test drive on some Arizona roadway, opens her up, and hopefully enjoyed the brief ride. The story, as recounted on Wikipedia, goes like this:
"The facts, as best could be determined, are that the operator of the 1967 Impala hit JATO ignition at a distance of approximately 3.0 miles from the crash site. This was established by the prominent scorched and melted asphalt at that location. The JATO, if operating properly, would have reached maximum thrust within five seconds, causing the Chevy to reach speeds well in excess of 350 MPH, continuing at full power for an additional 20-25 seconds. The driver, soon to be pilot, most likely would have experienced G-forces usually reserved for dog-fighting F-14 jocks under full afterburners, basically causing him to become insignificant for the remainder of the event. However, the automobile remained on the straight highway for about 2.5 miles (15-20 seconds) before the driver applied and completely melted the brakes, blowing the tires and leaving thick rubber marks on the road surface, then becoming airborne for an additional 1.4 miles and impacting the cliff face at a height of 125 feet, leaving a blackened crater 3 feet deep in the rock.
Most of the driver's remains were not recoverable; however, small fragments of bone, teeth and hair were extracted from the crater, and fingernail and bone shards were removed from a piece of debris believed to be a portion of the steering wheel."  -  Source: Wikipedia entry & circulated e-mails
So much for this poor guy's "need for speed". As entertaining as this story is, and whether or not the story is true (and many claim that it is not), it certainly shows that it IS an idea in people's minds!

At the Diner
1950's Style Fun
 But, not everyone gets excited about racing a car, and you don't have to in order to get excitement from a car. There are MANY ways of enjoying old cars and trucks. For some, they get enjoyment simply from the physical beauty of a vehicle. Thankfully, everyone's tastes are different and we have a wide variety of cars to prove it. Many collectors feel a great attraction to a particular car, or type of cars, but actually don't drive them. Others love the tranquility that a long drive can bring. Just pushing the pedal and taking a long cruise, with or without the music on, just enjoying the scenery or the freedom from life's stresses.

Some like the social aspect that being a car enthusiast brings, and attends shows or is a car club member. Others are tinkerers, and get an enjoyment from caring for their car. You'll find them in their driveways each weekend meticulously washing and detailing their cars, even if they are not dirty! You'll hear of some who just love the knowledge. They're like walking encyclopedias about the history of cars, the different manufacturers, makes and models of cars, as well as all of the idiosyncrasies and unique stories about them. For them, this is the enjoyment, and they may not ever step foot in or around a classic car! For others, it's the thrill of the "chase"...enthusiasts who get the thrill from finding and purchasing old treasured cars. You might find them at the small or large auctions, or "picking" cars from salvage yards or private sellers. Some are "shade tree" mechanics who enjoy slowly bringing a project to life. Many can work on a single project for a dozen years or more with not the least bit of stress over needing to finish.

Whatever "type" of car enthusiast you are, it's doubtful that future cars will possess as much magic and excitement as vehicles did in the automobile's first 100 years. In the early years of the automobile, it captured and mesmerized an entire generation who were captivated by the marvel of the horseless carriage. In the 1920's and 1930's, it was a social status symbol. As wealth in America grew, the automobile became a way of substantiating or even of flaunting your success. In the 1950's, the automobile was the center of most social activities outside the home. Family drive vacations, drive-in theatres, drive-in restaurants, etc. When the gas crisis hit in the late 1970's, much of the "magic" disappeared, which is why I believe the classic cars and muscle cars are so popular. The car designs changed drastically and very quickly, with little time for people to adjust. We went from large powerful cars to "tin buckets" that were neither appealing to look at or to drive. The wimpy horsepower was barely enough to get us through our commute, and certainly did not offer any incentives for long trips, hanging out to talk about what we had under the hood, challenge a rival at a stop light, or other enjoyments on the road.

And it seems like we've never truly gotten that back. Even though cars have increased again in size since SUV's entered the scene, and there have been some advances with the reintroduction of power (the new Camaro, Challenger, Charger and Mustang's for example), people just don't get out and enjoy them in the same way. We look at our cars as a necessary evil. We rely on them to get us to and from our jobs, take us shopping, drop off the kids to school, athletics or play, and we all dread the upkeep and costs of repair. It's no wonder why the enthusiasts cling so hard to the past. It surely was a "better time" for motorheads!

Which brings me to another issue. Back in the Old West, everyone (not just cowboys) depended upon their horses not only as the major mode of transportation, but their livelihood as well. I hope you'll read my next opinion article entitled, "They shoot car thieves don't they?"

Author's Note: The comments here are just my opinion. Others my share my opinion, and others may think it's a joke. But, I hope it's fuel for thought and perhaps a few chuckles as well. And, if you're an enthusiast who is debating whether you want to invest in a classic car or muscle car, I hope it inspires you to think over how much enjoyment you might get from it versus how much money you might make on it. For those who do make the leap, this itself can be priceless.

REFERENCES: - "Do Driverless Cars Offer Safer and More Efficient Transportation?" - "How Google's Self-Driving Car Works"
Frank Ramspott - Artistic credits for "Rocket Car" 3D Rendering purchased through - "Ford showcasing vehicle-to-vehicle communication for crash avoidance..." "5 Future Car Technologies That Truly Have a ChanceChristopher Neiger
Motorheads Performance - Car Clubs in South Central Texas - "Leave the Driving to the Car, and Reap Benefits in Safety and Mobility"
Old Classic Car - Motoring Memories Project
Hot Roddin' Texas Style - "Are Trucks The New Hot Classic?"
The Telegraph - "External airbag slows car in a crash"
Tom Strongman's Classic Car Stories - "Tomorrow's Volvo Car: Body Panels Serve as the Car's Battery" - JATO Rocket Car 

Andrea L. Algar is co-owner of a classic car performance and restoration design shop in Leesville, Texas. Motorheads Performance specializes in repairs, maintenance, performance upgrades and restorative work on cars and trucks from the 1920’s through 1970’s. Her husband Guy L. Algar is a Mechanical Engineer with over 25 years experience. He holds 5 ASE Certifications from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and has been working on old cars and trucks for over 37 years. Together they share their passion for old cars and trucks with other enthusiasts from around the country.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What's Wrong With These People?

by Andrea L. Algar
Motorheads Performance

That's the question Guy Algar blurted out in total frustration! Disbelief and aggravation sure were evident as Guy dug deeper and deeper into the 1969 Dodge Charger's previous engine and transmission installation. His inspection continued to reveal incomplete and shoddy work. "What happened to people taking pride in doing things right?," Guy mutters.

"All these people watch a few episodes of Chip Foose's 'Overhaulin,' Boyd Coddington's 'American Hot Rod', or something as insane as 'Pimp My Ride' and think they can make a million dollars fixing up other people's old cars," exclaimed Guy. "They throw up a sign they're in business and just wait to see what sucker comes in. Who knows what type of training and experience this person has working on cars, much less a classic muscle car like this Charger. They get the customer all excited about being able to get the latest and greatest fad they've seen done on TV, and for the customer the nightmare ride begins."

Guy states, "I haven't seen a matching bolt on the engine yet! There are just two bolts holding the Fairbanks (racing) engine on. The bolt holes for the 3 header bolts go right into the water jets and three are cross-threaded because they were put in crooked." But, that's not all that would be found. The brand new heads were wrenched down with three 3/8 wrench heads, while the rest were all 7/16. All but two were cross-threaded, and one was never put in at all! "Mopar usually has studs put in because they go into the water jets," says Guy. "Anyone accustomed to working with Mopar knows this. It's obvious that the guy who worked on this car knows little, if anything about a Mopar car from this time. He really made a mess with the car."

Exasperated, Guy continues, "I'm sick and tired of seeing work done so poorly, and so incorrect. As a trained and experienced mechanical engineer, we're taught to work with exact specifications, and there are always reasons for this. There is a reason that a 3/8" bolt was chosen over a 7/16" bolt for instance. This is what the designers of the engine labored over so that the entire engine worked exactly as required. You just can't go swapping out one size bolt for another, using a bracket for one make/model car in a different one, or putting engine gasket goop where it doesn't belong."

One thing is for certain, the men and women who learned old school mechanics are a dying breed. There are fewer and fewer out there who truly know what is correct, who have the experience, and still fewer who have the desire to do it right. This has become evident when you explore NASCAR's reasons for allowing EFI on their cars. Not many know that the precipitating reason for this was because NASCAR was having growing difficulty finding mechanics who knew anything about carburetors! We'll go into this in more detail in an upcoming article on the changes in NASCAR, but its mentioned to drive home (pun intended) the point that fewer and fewer mechanics with old school knowledge are out there still working on cars.

The mechanical engineers who designed these cars didn't "guess" at what would work, and they didn't "assume" something would hold together. They designed these cars not for the individual piece, but for how the sum of all the carefully engineered pieces would fit together to produce the horsepower, torque and performance that was being requested. Instant gratification has replaced common sense and know-how. A set of fancy headers is put in without thinking through the performance consequences, or even proper fit.

And, some great old cars are being ruined by people who just maybe shouldn't hold a wrench. We had one customer who had an all-original 1962 Corvette whose carburetor was failing. He had been to a number of shops who all told him that the the parts to fix his Carter ABF carburetor were no longer available and that he would have to replace it with a different carb. Our customer didn't want to replace the original carb and was firm on keeping the Carter! Guy, who has been working with carburetors for over 40 years, found the necessary parts, cleaned, rebuilt and installed the Carter. Knowing what to look for, what was necessary to fix the problems, where to obtain the correct parts, and how to tune the carburetor was essential for this project, and it made a huge difference to the owner, who is grateful he was able to keep his gorgeous classic Corvette all original.

"This is a case where todays mechanics simply don't know carburetors," Guy explains. "You can't blame the schools. Why would they teach technologies that for the most part do not exist today? But it certainly can be an issue for a classic car owner. You can't replace the hands-on experience of working with these older cars." Each manufacturer configured their engines and accessories differently and you need to now the five "w's" and the one "h"  (remember grade school) in order to do the job right. Who, as in which manufacturer, What as in what part, Where as in proper part location; When to replace vs fix; Why as in the part purpose; and most importantly the How to do the job right!

Knowledge is key. What is the correct procedure in making the repair, installation or upgrade, etc. What is the correct part and where do I find it? Which bolts are hand-turned and which should be torqued (and to what specific spec). The old school mechanics knew how to tune by ear, and many could diagnose most problems just by listening to the engine. "Technicians today read a computer to tell them where to look for the problem, and they usually don't know how to diagnose or repair a classic car. But I think worse than that are the 'hacks' who don't do things correctly, either because of haste, lack of proper parts, tools or equipment, or simply because they don't know," exclaims Guy. "I see far too many projects come into my shop where someone has butchered a transmission tunnel, put the wrong clips or bolts in, torqued a bolt that should have been wrenched by hand, or used quick-fix techniques that don't last and/or create bigger problems down the road. I've even had some come in where I was amazed that my customer didn't die on the way to see me because some part was barely hanging on from a poor installation or was sold with serious defects. As a classic car owner myself, I feel for my customers because I wouldn't want it to happen to my car."

Some "trend setters" modify old cars or trucks to the extent that they'll never be able to be returned to anything close to original again, or who take perfectly pristine cars and chop them up into images they've drawn up in their fantasies. Don't let a shop, or a starry-eyed TV star wanna-be talk you into doing things to your car or truck that doesn't sit right with you. Remember, fads come and go. Once the fad has passed, your car won't have the same value. Wait until you read the story I've got coming up next week on what happened to one guys ride!

Guy challenges owners to stick to your guns when it comes to ensuring that your ride gets done the way you want. Fads aside, if you're trying to restore your vehicle to original factory specs, keep your car original, or restored original with some modification or performance work, take the time to make sure that the people working on your car really have the knowledge necessary to complete the job correctly. Don't end up having to hear that the person who worked on your prized purchase was "a hack"!

Andrea L. Algar is co-owner of a classic car performance and restoration design shop in Leesville, Texas. Motorheads Performance specializes in repairs, maintenance, performance upgrades and restorative work on cars and trucks from the 1920’s through 1970’s. Her husband Guy L. Algar is a Mechanical Engineer with over 25 years experience. He holds 5 ASE Certifications from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and has been working on old cars and trucks for over 37 years. Together they share their passion for old cars and trucks with other enthusiasts from around the country.