David Freiburger and Steve Dulcich have a similar problem to most car enthusiasts: not enough time to work on their project cars. But where the average weekend warrior’s time is consumed by work, family, and chores, the Roadkill Garage crew just has too many project cars! That’s why they’re going to tackle three at once: Clevo Commando, Crusher Impala, and Caddy Gremi.
In an effort to wrap up as many cars as they can before the end of this season of Roadkill Garage, Freiburger and Dulcich are going to wrench hard for five days straight to get these three project cars sorted and ready to rock—or as close to it as they can. Clevo needs driveshafts, but first the Dana 60 rear-end needs to go in so they can measure for them. The Crusher Impala was improperly stored at the MotorTrend outdoor storage lot and the motor might be totally ganked. Caddy Gremi is eating pushrods in its new Cadillac 500 engine, and Freiburger and Dulcich need to figure out why.
Clevo Commando Axle Swap
If you haven’t seen the Clevo Commando before, Freiburger’s plan is to build a dune-blasting 4×4, built around the tires, that can also run 10s on the motor at the asphalt dragstrip—sounds easy, right? Starting with a 1972 Jeepster Commando, Freiburger and Dulcich have already dropped in a fully built 406ci stroked Ford Cleveland engine making 650 hp—that’s where the Clevo part of the name comes from—mated that to a GearStar Turbo 400 trans and an Atlas transfer case, both built to handle the prodigious torque from that beefy Cleveland. They’ve already trimmed the fenders and fit Jeep TJ flares to accommodate not only the 33-inch mud bogger tires for off-road shenanigans, but also the biggest set of drag slicks Freiburger has ever owned: 33-inch Hoosiers.
The stock Dana 27 front and Dana 44 rear axles are now the week point in the drive line, and Freiburger has already rectified the front situation with a Dana 44. For the rear, the Dana 60 with limited slip, 4.10 gears and disc brakes from Dulcich’s Jeepster Commando—sorry, Dulcich—is getting bolted in and now Freiburger can measure for driveshafts and custom Calvert Racing CalTracs traction bars. While the boys are waiting for the new parts to come in, a proper rollcage (not made of galvanized water pipe this time) is going to be fabbed up off camera. Boom! One down, two to go!
Salvaging the Blown Big-Block in the Crusher Impala
Steve Dulcich’s yard is filled with project cars, and when he and Freiburger “store” a car there, they know they can expect it to get rained on and in and have a furry friend or two move into the engine bay or interior. That’s not the case with the Crusher Impala. Freiburger absolutely loves this thing. Originally built to give Marty and Moog from Mighty Car Mods the ultimate in absurd American car experience, the 489ci blown big-block Chevy made 700 of the most tire vaporizing horsepower the team has ever seen. But that might all be gone. At MotorTrend’s outdoor project-car storage lot, the Crusher Impala didn’t get a tarp over that glorious engine and now it might be filled with rainwater and totally ruined. Freiburger swears it wasn’t his fault this time!
As David and Steve tear into it, their findings are not hopeful. The twin Holley four-barrels are a little corroded, but the 8-71 Weiand blower seems to have been spared. The intake manifold has corrosion and mold in the runners—not a good sign. The reluctor wheel on the distributor is 100 percent rust and the valves are rusted, too—things aren’t looking good. The oil pan and filter are full of the worst milkshake ever, oil mixed with water, and—the worst part—the engine is totally seized. Freiburger has never been so devastated.
Once the heads come off, the truth is revealed—water and rust in the cylinders. Freiburger is almost positive the block is garbage, but Dulcich is hopeful. A quick hone shows the pitting in the cylinders isn’t as bad as it appears to be and the journals on the crankshaft are rust free as well. There might be some hope, but only the machine shop can determine if the block can be saved. Will the Crusher Impala live to melt tires again?
Why Is the Caddy Gremi Eating Pushrods?
The 1974 AMC Gremlin that Freiburger picked up at the Roadkill $3K Hooptie Challenge is a beast. The combination of 500ci Cadillac V8, Turbo 400 transmission and GM 12-bolt rear end make this little monster fast and totally fun to drive. The burnouts for distance rival the Crusher Impala and 455 Buick-powered Chevelle. But Freiburger rod knocked it having too much fun their first time around. When he and Dulcich dropped in a freshly rebuilt Cadillac 500, it worked just fine at Dulcich’s house, but by the time they got it to the Zip-Tie drags something went wrong and Caddy Gremi was only running 6 cylinders.
Upon inspection, one pushrod was mushroomed, and another was completely missing. Pulling the intake revealed the real problem—something Freiburger and Dulcich have never seen—two lifters broke apart. Luckily all the pieces were found in the lifter valley and a new set of lifters built for a Chevy small/big block Dulcich had lying around fit nearly perfectly. A quick adjustment on the rocker lash to compensate for the difference in plunger size on the new lifters and the Caddy Gremi is nearly ready to hit to hit the ‘strip again. But first, the gas tank needs to be patched where a careless tow-truck driver pierced it with an axle hook.
A quick test drive reveals the carburetor could use a bit of tuning. Thankfully, the boys were still walking distance from Dulcich’s house when the Caddy Gremi stalled at the side of the road. While Dulcich hoofs it back to the garage to get the rebuild kit, Freiburger tears into the carb to find the issue. The primary squirter was too big and the boosters are pouring fuel into the carb. As Dulcich pulls the primary float bowl to check if the needle is seating properly, it falls into the bowl completely (they’re not supposed to do that) so in goes a smaller primary squirter, new needles and seats, and the floats are adjusted to reduce the amount of fuel in the bowls. Now the Caddy Gremi is mint and running like a top once more and burnouts for distance can be resumed!
Don’t miss a second of the action and stayed tuned to the MotorTrend App to find out if the project car blowout pays off! Will Clevo Commando make it to Pismo and Famoso Raceway’s new dirt dragstrip this year? Is the Crusher Impala down for the count?