SPOILERS AHEAD FOR ROADKILL EPISODE 72 YOU’VE BEEN WARNED
If there’s one predictable thing about Roadkill, it’s that it’s never predictable.
Yes, Finn and Frei and Tony and everyone else DO jump in junk cars and expect them to do things they probably shouldn’t, and we DO follow along, believing everything will somehow work out fine. But then Roadkill happens.
The signs should’ve been painted on the walls the moment we thought it was a good idea to drive Stubby Bob nearly four hours north to the Eagle Field drags and do a few wheelies on the track – wait what? No, yes, that sounds like a great idea. Sure, the “just a few details to work out,” at the shop became a full week of wrenching and welding and wiring, but that didn’t stop Tony and Fin from hitting the road (two days late) on schedule. Jump in, gang.
Setting off almost every car alarm in the TEN Studios parking lot was hilarious. Watching Bob stuck in Friday-afternoon-on-the-405 gridlock, freaking out the squares and causing subtle pandemonium was also hilarious. But eventually we broke free of LA’s vice-like traffic grip and we were off – V-drive singing, headers howling, and barely any need for a steering wheel since Bob’s front end sort of just goes where it wants.
The enchantment wore off on the slope towards Magic Mountain, when copious amounts of toxic smoke started pouring out of the cabin – the battery somehow caught on fire. Five highway lanes of last-job-of-the-week tradesmen didn’t care nor move over for us, parked less than a foot away, so we pushed Stubby Bob to the offramp, and got ‘im fixed.
“[Steering] is not that bad after the toe-in adjustment,” Tony comments, “It’s a little less insane now. But not much!” Battery woes aside, the rear-engined, shortened-chassis monstrosity now upgraded to “Robert” was traveling well despite wandering haphazardly across lanes, and we were counting down the hours ’til wheelie-time. “I can’t wait to get the front wheels off the ground so they’re not steering anymore. It’ll actually be safer.”
We made it up the Grapevine, we made it down the Grapevine, and seeing Bob cruising along the flat, open highway was nothing short of rad. I think for a moment we all forgot the name of the show we were filming.
…and then Roadkill struck again. Stubby Bob kicked all the toys out of the cot and coasted to a stop on a narrow shoulder, engine dead. I’ve spent a lot of time on the sides of highways for someone that isn’t a tow-truck driver, so at least I was comfortable with stepping around trash, swatting mosquitoes and watching the sun set out in the middle of nowhere.
With no spark or compression, Finn and Tony suspected a major cam or timing issue – one that couldn’t be fixed on the side of the road. Also, we slightly feared for our lives camped out right there. With a tow truck called to take us to the hotel, we could breathe for a second and attack it in the morning.
Pulling off the timing cover, it was pretty obvious why the engine wasn’t running. Broken teeth, a dangling timing chain, shards of metal all over the place; the timing gear had shorn clean off the end of the camshaft since there was no dowel pin, and the cam bolts had been, erm, finger tight at best. A simple fix, right? Just get any ol’ timing set for a big block Chev, whack it in and let’s go racing at Eagle Field, where they’d already announced we were there.
Well, we weren’t there, and three different sets of timing gears we picked up weren’t going to work on this gen-six Bowtie. We could still make it for a last-hurrah sunset pass if we hurried to get the right parts, which were over an hour’s drive away. But the support vehicle got a flat tire on the way home – which could only be expected from Roadkill at a critical time – so putting Bob back together took place under LED lights, still miles away from now-disappointed fans winding down over at the drag strip.
He fired up, spat out the chicken nuggets and fries we’d laughingly dropped into the headers the night before (a great idea after a few beers, of course) and woke up every guest at the roadside hotel before driving off to Eagle Field Runway to leave the car there overnight.
Everything was going smoothly in the morning, and ‘The General’ Jerry Lee even came over to give his seal of approval for the wheelstanding Bob. ‘General’ Lee is the last original wheelstander still standing from the golden days of drag racing. At 80 years young, he still puts on a two-wheeled, spark-throwing show for spectators in the same Model T truck he had all those decades ago. It’s awesome.
Finn and Bob, lined up on the start NEXT to Lee was awesome but not going anywhere wasn’t so awesome. As Finnegan tried to get it off the line, the input shaft for the V-drive sheared neatly in half, bending the output shaft in the process and rendering the whole hunk of metal useless.
Cue angle grinding, getting covered in diff oil, rolling around in dirt under the car, all the fun stuff. Seemingly hundreds of people offered to help but no one could come through with new parts (it’s not like V-drive bits fall out of cereal boxes like LS stuff) so we retired to the retired hangar at the strip to beat on the V-drive case and try fix what we had. A bit of old fashioned heating, hammering and stick welding tidied everything up pretty well and we were all feeling confident it would hold out for one haymaker pass so Bob could finally do what he was meant to do, where he was meant to do it.
Again, we forget, this is Roadkill. It’s not scripted, and things go wrong. All the time.
It was like deja vu, but this go around there wasn’t time to fix anything, being the last pass of the weekend. The collective sigh from the burnout box all the way through the crowd was clearly audible as Bob was pushed back and leashed up with a tow strap to slink back to the pits. Yeah, we were bummed too.
The sunset light made Stubby Bob look great though, in all his Frankensteinian glory, so at least the end of the weekend wrapped up looking good, while feeling sad. There’s probably a lesson to be learned in there about something, but honestly, who wouldn’t embark on a roadtrip to a decades-old runway to try do wheelstands in a rear-engined F6 truck. It’s a bad idea, and a great idea.
In fact, it’s such a great idea, we went back the next weekend. Sure, the crowds were gone and the previous failures were ringing in our ears, but then…oh then…oh yes. Watch the episode on Motor Trend OnDemand.