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Hib Halverson's Big Block From Hell Series

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Hib Halverson's Big Block From Hell Series

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Part 15 ... The Big-Block from Hell, On the Road Again, This Time a Short Trip up the Coast of California.

by Hib Halverson

At this writing, in June of 1995, we're in the middle of what is a pretty decent summer, but fall is just around the corner and that starts us thinking about winter. We cringe! Last February, VETTE'S home office reeled from one of the hardest winters in a generation. If they weren't being blasted with freezing rain or buried under countless feet of snow; they were just getting their butts plain old frozen by months of record low temperatures.

While the staff in New Jersey got cold-thrashed, the Big Block from Hell “Project Group” was “forced” to winter in California, slaving over their car–tough job, but somebody had to do it. Since we spent that time redoing the car's fuel system (see BBfH 14)

we felt the car needed another road trip to validate the new modifications. Also, we wanted one last chance to show our project car to some of its constituency.

St. Valentine's Day weekend seems to be when Corvette clubs in California schedule their first out-of-town “runs” of the year. By then, what “winter” there is seems already giving way to spring and people are ready to get on the road. As we did on Part 11 for the Pomona Valley Corvette Association's expedition to Calico Ghost Town and the Corvette Club of Arizona's Dog Day Afternoon barbecue;we decided to join a club on one of their events. In this case, it was 800 miles with the Corvette Club, Santa Barbara.

Though “CCSB” draws most of its members from in and around its namesake in California; it has members living as far away as the Los Angeles area, 125 miles to the east. At this writing, membership stands at 70. The event that draws CCSB's largest attendance is an annual overnighter to Cambria, California on Valentine's Day weekend.

The trip to Cambria began with my significant other, the Fairest Sandra the Red, and I loading the BBfH full of Nikons and overnight bags. As usual, even with the car's luggage rack installed, space was at a premium. The order was: travel light!

We met the CCSB caravan early on Saturday morning in Goleta, just north of Santa Barbara. From there, we took US101 to San Luis Obispo. Then, the group jumped onto to California's famous State Highway One and continued north through Moro Bay, Cayucos and Harmony, a small town made famous to car enthusiasts in some unique Saturn ads and to tourists for a winery, crafts shops and antique stores. From Harmony, it was a short final leg to our destination.

Cambria is an artists' colony and tourist center notable for well-preserved, turn-of-the-century homes along with art galleries and crafts stores. Upon arrival, the Corvette Club, Santa Barbara split-up. The majority checked into the “Fireside Inn by the Sea” and spent the rest of the day doing nothing in particular. A smaller group, led by CCSB member, Fred Smith who drives a late model, Z06, six-speed, continued north at a brisk pace, to Big Sur.

We joined the Big Sur side-trip as we expected the driving would be more aggressive, both because Highway One between Cambria and Big Sur is the best of one of California's best roads and because Smith's group likes to really enjoy their Corvettes. Of course, the “official” excuse was we had to test our new Holley carburetor and needed a fast run on a twisty road to do it. The 60 mile trip mixed lots of curves, wicked transitions and some great straights that let us test both BBfH's cornering (pretty good considering we never did the suspension) its acceleration (easily the quickest thing on the road!). The “official” answer? The Holley works. The car's performance in the twisties, particularly the engine's behavior exiting turns, was much improved over the dual, Edelbrock four-barrels we took off in BBfH 14.

Actually, our little side trip ended a bit south of Big Sur with a late lunch at “Nepenthe”. Perched on a cliff, 800 feet above the ocean, this restaurant with a funny name is one of the Central Coast's more famous eateries. It offers an eclectic menu along with inside and outside dining. While the food, at first, seemed exorbitantly priced; the view from Nepenthe's deck was well worth ten bucks for a hamburger and lemonade!

If the quick trip to Nepenthe wasn't enough; we did it again on the ride back to Cambria, but in the opposite direction–you see, when testing a carburetor's fuel handling; it's most important to try each curve in both directions. Again, the new Holley proved a wise change.

A month later, we tested the new Holley a third time in an even more aggressive driving environment with an extremely hard run over the Angeles Crest Highway in the mountains northeast of L.A. The run with CCSB was certainly sporting, but as we were still in a caravan and there was other traffic, there was never any driving at the limit. Up the Crest, there was plenty of that. The Fuel Curve Engineering modified 850 performed very well. All previous problems with flooding in turns were eliminated with the carburetor change.

Upon our return to the Fireside Inn in Cambria, we convened the usual “gearheads meeting” out in the parking lot. We had the the Big-Block from Hell's hood up but the 850 didn't get nearly the reception as the old dual-quads–such is life when you trade pretty for practical. In the Holley's defense, we should point out that even Fred Smith was complimentary saying, “That's the only ‘old car' that's ever been able to say with me in the tight turns.” We'd have never heard that if we were still running the dual-quads. We have to tell ya, ah, Fred–we were holding back.

The big attraction for CCSB's techheads was the car's '94 ZR-1 wheels and tires and their big question was, “How'd ya get those on there?” We told them about the wheel adapters sold by Vette Brakes and Products. After more car talk and a few more cold beers; it was time for dinner.

A Corvette Club, Santa Barbara tradition is dining at the “Moonstone Bar and Grille”, a short walk south of the Fireside. The specialties were seafood and steak, good service and a casual atmosphere. After dinner, the club tested the “Bar” part of the Moonstone, then adjourned to the Fireside's recreation room for CCSB's famous “Pictionary Tournament”. Unfortunately, Pictionary is not the BBfH Project Group's strong point–we can write and we can wrench; but we sure as hell can't draw.

Sunday morning was a relaxing, sleep-in, no-planner. The Fireside Inn supplied a free, continental breakfast, then some CCSBers went to shop in Cambria while others explored and photographed the exquisite beauty that is Moonstone Beach. The name “Moonstone” comes from the pretty, jade-like pebbles that make up the beach itself.

Sunday lunch is another Corvette Club, Santa Barbara tradition–a club-sponsored cook-out at Leffingwell's Landing, an ocean-front, State Park a little north of the Fireside Inn. The menu was barbecued tri-tip steak, pot-luck side dishes and cold drinks.

Sunday afternoon, the group split again for the drive home with a few members staying over to Monday, others taking an easy, direct return via SR1/US101 and the rest or us, led once again by Fred Smith, taking an aggressive drive down Highway One all the way to the quaint town of Los Alamos. The order of the day there was a cold drink at one of the town's cowboy bars followed by browsing of Los Alamos' many antique stores.

CCSB's Valentine's Day run to Cambria was a lot of fun and some excellent driving. Vette Magazine would like to thank all of the good folks in the Corvette Club, Santa Barbara for their great hospitality.

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