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Hemmings Motor News has been around since 1954. We're proud of our heritage, but we're also more than the Hemmings full of classifieds that your father subscribed to. Aside from new editorial content every month in Hemmings, we have three monthly magazines: Hemmings Muscle Machines, Hemmings Classic Car and Hemmings Sports and Exotic Car.

While our editors traverse the country to find the best content for those magazines, we find other oddities related to the old-car hobby that we really had no place for - until now. With this blog, we're giving you a behind-the-scenes look at what we see and what we do during the course of putting out some of the finest automotive magazines you'll ever read.

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Open Diff: How Did Your Childhood Speed Dreams Influence You as a Gearhead?

Posted November 09, 2022 5:00 AM by dstrohl
Pathfinder Tags: car culture

The world was much larger as a kid. There were more endless days, limitless expanses and untested ideas to explore. Some of us just decided to do so on wheels at an early age.

This week came with a couple of reminders about how some of our earliest rides can influence the gearheads that we'd become. First off, Matt Litwin's column about growing up on those plastic-tired Big Wheels and the donuts that ensued should be relatable to any child of the Seventies or Eighties who discovered the joys of spinning out on even the most tractable of surfaces and the advantages of a low center of gravity. We had a few readers chime in with their memories of Big Wheel mayhem, perhaps none as endearing as Kevin's:

I had a big wheel too. It was great. It had an adjustable seat. When I ran out of room on it, we tossed the seat and had our butt barely hanging on the back edge. Ran it as fast it could over ramps. I rode it until the steering wollered out then dad shimmed it in with a piece of metal pipe and I was off to the races again. I rode it until it broke in half. Dad said "That's about it. I think you are getting too big for it. Let's go to K-Mart and get you a bike." I hugged him in the checkout line for that bike. A public display or affection. Boy I sure had some good times with dad. Even putting a junk big wheel back together with a piece of metal pipe.

Second, the Crosley Automobile Club's pick for the Crosley of the month, included at the top of this article, is a homebuilt cut-down barnyard stormer that Mike Powell shared. According to his description, it was built by his father in the mid-Fifties using a narrowed and sectioned Crosley CC body, narrowed axles, a Wisconsin engine and a Crosley transmission. Mike's father taught him how to shift on the little kart, and it remains in his family today for successive generations to learn how to drive.

Both are a good reminder that many of us don't just emerge as fully formed gearheads right when we turn 16 and get that driver's license. The enthusiasm for cars comes earlier than that, through toys and karts and the yearning to get behind the wheel of anything that rolls and steers to conquer those wide-open spaces. And in doing so, we set the mold for the gearheads that we would become.

Tell us what your childhood inspiration was. Was it a homebuilt speedster like Mike's or an off-the-shelf fun machine like Matt's? And what lessons did it impart to you?

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Re: Open Diff: How Did Your Childhood Speed Dreams Influence You as a Gearhead?

11/10/2022 3:25 AM

My inspiration was a soapbox machine with a rope for the steering attached to the tee bar that held the front wheels.

Slapped an old Villiers engine on it with a pulley on the shaft and another larger one on the back axle.

The whole thing rode on mower wheels, turning freely on 1/2" rod for the front wheels and one rear wheel bolted to the pulley turning on shaft other wheel free to rotate on axle.

Brake was a block of hardwood contacting the periphery of the driven wheel. What could go wrong?

Well the front wheels hit a rut, the steering rope broke so only R turns avail and as the motor ran at a fixed speed which suddenly seemed to go ballistic it was a case of hang in there.

Brake was applied until the tyre shredded and whole veer pickle headed for a sudden drop off. Prudence dictated that one must leave by the dejector seat and aim for the long grass. The whole vehicle turned into a projectile and then firewood.

How did this affect me, well I bought a 1968 (GM) Holden Monaro new and worked the motor over as soon as I had my license. but I made sure the brakes and steering always worked.

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Re: Open Diff: How Did Your Childhood Speed Dreams Influence You as a Gearhead?

11/10/2022 11:05 PM

1968 mustang fastback I built in 1977 with a 351 Cleveland 4 speed limited slip posi blue white stripe. Went out on my virgin run sitting on a milk crate . Went through the gears hit 3rd rears locked , sending the car sideways tires probably turning 100mph .
Went off the road crashed into stone wall smashed the left side , momentum pushed it to the opposite side smashed the front.Totaled I thought at the time I probably could have fixed it but I was so defeated I junked it.

I’ve always wanted another one now I’m 63 anyone have one in their barn or garage any condition for sale,cash??

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Re: Open Diff: How Did Your Childhood Speed Dreams Influence You as a Gearhead?

11/11/2022 5:05 AM
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Re: Open Diff: How Did Your Childhood Speed Dreams Influence You as a Gearhead?

11/11/2022 9:20 AM

Had the same red mustang convertible 289 auto 60/40 seat black interior. One of my best cars ever. Drove it till the doors started popping open on big bumps, had something to do with getting airborne and slamming down. If I knew what I know now!!nice car

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Re: Open Diff: How Did Your Childhood Speed Dreams Influence You as a Gearhead?

11/13/2022 10:30 AM

I’ve always wanted another one now I’m 63 anyone have one in their barn or garage any condition for sale,cash??

I dunno, I've heard you're kind of hard on them...

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Re: Open Diff: How Did Your Childhood Speed Dreams Influence You as a Gearhead?

11/13/2022 12:40 PM

I think I learned a lot in 45 years. I was fortunate I crashed immediately otherwise I’m afraid I probably would have done it with 4 friends in the car actually going 100 mph into a tree . We lived very dangerous in those days when drunk driving was not a big deal. Thankfully I figured it out before I hurt or killed someone . I quit drinking in 1990 which probably saved my life… and a few more cars.

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