New Tail Fin Lamp Lens for all 1963 Cadillacs Now Available!

A worn or damaged tail lamp lens can really ruin the appearance of an otherwise excellently restored classic car like the big 1963 Cadillacs. Original General Motors (GM) 1963 tail lamp lenses are not easily restored, and they are not easily replaced either, as new old stock factory parts are simply not available.

That’s why Original Parts Group, Inc. (OPGI) is pleased to announce the availability brand new, exact reproduction tail lamp lenses for all 1963 Cadillac’s. If you’ve got a 1963 Cadillac of any description or any level of restoration, your car will undoubtedly look a lot better with a set of brand new tail lamp lenses. The new lenses are injection-molded on brand new tooling in OEM correct red acrylic and come with factory-accurate horizontal diffuser lines and pre-drilled mounting holes for a perfect-fit installation every time.

The Tail Fin Lamp Lens for 1963 Cadillacs are sold individually under OPGI part # CE11224 for $59.99. The lenses are also sold in pairs under OPGI part # CE11224-PR for $109.99. For more information, visit OPGI.com or contact an OPGI sales representative toll free at 1.800.243.8355.

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Posted in Auto Body Parts, New Products, Tail Lamps

The Pilot Chevelle Story

Back in November at the most recent SEMA Show, we learned something new about Chevelles. It was at the Show that our staff discovered Dave Harter’s ’70 Chevelle SS and learned of its’ history as a General Motors Pilot Car, built for pre-production testing, product development and promotional purposes, and never intended to be sold to the public. Apparently all Pilot Cars were supposed to be crushed when their testing and development lives were over. Pilot Cars were hand-built, non-numbers-matching vehicles and none would have normal build sheets because they were assembled outside of the actual production line.

Although GM built pre-production Pilot Cars across a variety of models and platforms, very few escaped the jaws of the crusher. Records indicate that while there were 49 Pilot Chevelles built for the 1970 model year, perhaps only a dozen made it out of the factory and into the hands of private owners. Of those dozen, it is thought that Dave Harter’s car might be the only restored, registered and rolling 1970 Pilot Chevelle SS still on the road today. How Dave acquired the car and how it came to be restored as-new today is an interesting tale, and one worth sharing.

Dave told us he first spotted his car several years ago in an Auto & RV photo ad magazine published in the Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan area. The ad listed the car as a “1970 Chevelle SS with low VIN number” and said it was located in New Hudson, Michigan. When Dave and his cousin Tony McAfee went to view the car in person, they found a Chevelle that was mostly intact but had been “picked over pretty good” and many parts were missing. The seller stated that he had started to rebuild the car, but abandoned the project due to poor health. Although the cousins could not find a build sheet in the car, they did take note of the unusually low VIN number (136370F100042), and after negotiating a price, Dave brought it home.

Working at home, Dave began disassembly of the car while keeping an eye out for a build sheet. No build sheet was ever found, but Dave did notice that there were mysterious ID Labels in the interior panels that said “PILOT” or “ADVANCED BUILD”.  Next Dave found yellow “PILOT” labels on the trunk (wiring) harness, dome light harness, the fuse block and the firewall. There were also “PILOT” labels on the back side of dash instrument cluster and in the engine bay. By this time Dave realized he had an unusual Chevelle and began researching the codes on the trim tag.

The trim tag codes revealed the car was built in the 3rd week of May (05C) in 1969. It was built with a black vinyl bench seat and the paint code (75 75) indicated Cranberry Red from top to bottom. After contacting the GM Heritage Center for more info, Dave learned that he had something very special. His 1970 Chevelle SS was a rare Pilot Car and this fact dictated a new approach to how he would restore it. As a Pilot Car, Dave decided to retain as much of the original metal as he could and replace only what he had to.  Upon embarking on a complete rotisserie restoration, Dave found that just about every part he removed had a hand written part number on it. The numbers were found throughout the interior, under the hood and even the bright work and window regulators had numbers hand written on them.

Examining the powertrain, Dave found a 396 CE block, with 4 bolt mains, dated Aug 5 1969.  However, the block was incomplete with only the crank, rods and pistons still inside. With more research Dave learned the tach redline indicated the car was an L34 396, not the L78 version, and that the “CE” block was originally a warrantee block or “counter exchange” component.  After locating the correct replacement heads, intake, water pump, carb and distributor (all date correct), Dave enlisted his cousin Tony to rebuild the motor in correct L34 configuration. A rebuilt, code correct TH400 transmission was installed as well.

Dave next enlisted the help of Rick Nelson, owner of Muscle Car Restoration and Design in Pleasant Plains, Illinois to restore the dash, wiring harness and steering column back to factory specs. The dash was a bit unusual as it contained a non-working seat belt light that had no wiring harness to power it. Dave (and GM) speculate that since dash-mounted seat belt lights were first introduced in late 1971, and mandated by the DOT for 1972 builds, the 1970 Pilot Chevelle’s non-functional seat belt light was probably installed for testing purposes only, and not put into actual use.

Although Dave did as much paint and bodywork as he could, he employed Doug Call at T&D Motorsports in Fort Wayne, Indiana to complete the job. Using a small piece of metal that still had factory color on it, T&D used Automotive Art Paints to “match the paint 99% to the original color.” The original frame was restored with new body mount bushings and bolts. The original suspension and brake system were restored. The original bright work was polished and reinstalled and all of the original glass was restored (with exception of the driver’s door glass).

Dave also restored the interior using as many original parts as possible. The original seats were recovered, and the original rear panels and arm rests were retained.  New door panels, carpet, padding and head liner were necessary, and new window cranks and door handles were required as well. The original seat belts dated 1969 were replaced to bring the car up to current DOT safety standards. The SS-style 14×7 wheels are not original to the car, but they are coded and date correct for 1969.

Upon completion of the restoration, Dave set out to find out where his car was originally from and although a few clues led to Ver Hoven Chevrolet in Detroit, Pilot Cars were never supposed to be sold at dealerships at all. Ver Hoven Chevrolet closed back in 1982, and no further information was available as records were not retained when the dealership closed.  Dave Harter is understandably proud of his rare Pilot Chevelle, and says “Being able to get this car back to its original glory and show it at SEMA 2016 was a great experience, and this restoration would not have been possible at all without the help of so many talented and skilled people.”

As found in New Hudson, Michigan…mostly intact but “picked over pretty good” and many parts missing.

The first clue to the rarity of this Chevelle was the ultra-low VIN number.

This Shipping Stub reveals the fact that this was an original Pilot Car.

The “Pilot” designation was evident in many different places inside the car.

Researching the Trim Tag confirmed this car was one of a very few 1970 Chevelle SS Pilot Cars.

The frame and suspension were rebuilt prior to installing a period-correct drivetrain.

The original block was an L34 396 CE  with 4 bolt mains, dated Aug 5 1969. The “CE” designation indicates this was originally a warrantee block or “counter exchange” component.

The rebuilt 396 received a rebuilt, code correct TH400 transmission behind it.

Owner Dave Harter (without headgear) enlisted Doug Call at T&D Motorsports in Fort Wayne, Indiana to handle the paint and body work on the Pilot Chevelle.

Dave Harter and his rare 1970 Chevelle SS Pilot Car. (Photo by Jennifer Andrew)

 

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Posted in Articles, Customer Car Spotlight

Beyond the New Year

2017-predictions

The New Year has arrived and Original Parts Group, Inc. (OPGI) would like to wish all of our customers a Happy New Year! It looks like 2017 will be a very good year for the classic car restoration industry and hobby. The recent proliferation of so many new classic car events, auctions, TV shows, along with rising classic car values, all show that America’s love affair with classic automobiles has not waned.

No one really knows how many unrestored old cars are still out there across the U.S. waiting to be discovered, but given the size of this country, it is probably more than anyone would guess. We firmly believe the classic car industry will continue to grow as new generations enter the game. Even though different demographic groups may enter or leave the classic car restoration hobby, a strong appreciation for the venerable American V-8 powerplant (both classic and modern) is still with us, and the ability to rebuild and restore classic cars has never been easier or more affordable than it is today.

Having stated our optimism, this might also be a good time to look a bit farther forward. It is always fun to hazard a few guesses as to what the future might have in store for the enthusiast community and we have a few predictions to share.

Although interest in vehicles from the ‘20s through the ’40s could decline slightly as the age of car fanatics continues to plunge, we think the demand for quality vintage hot rods will most likely carry on unabated. While prices for vintage hot rods built with radical paint, modern drivetrains and updated suspensions might remain high only as long as the right buyers are found, period-correct cars built with vintage speed parts are becoming much more sought-after, and we feel the values will reflect that going forward. As an aside, the demand for period-correct, prewar vintage motorcycles also appears to be rising right along with the cars.

There is no doubt that the appeal and value of the great cars from the ‘60s and ‘70s is stronger than ever today, and that is unlikely to change tomorrow. However, we do see an increase in the price and demand for ’80’s cars appearing on the horizon. The better cars from ’80’s as well as certain pick-up truck models seem to be enjoying newfound popularity that we feel will continue to grow. Not too surprisingly, a few cars from the ’90’s are also seeing more interest as collectors from younger generations enter the hobby; after all, most enthusiasts seek vehicles that remind them of their youth. Another niche that also appears to be rising in value is that of Japanese cars from the ‘60s through the ’80s. Any time the demand for specific cars begins to outstrip the available supply; the values of those cars will rise accordingly, and as we move toward 2020, it looks like there may be many different cars enjoying new potential.

Speaking of period-correct cars built with vintage speed parts, it appears a sure bet that the recent success of The Race of Gentlemen (TROG) format will likely spawn similar vintage events. Until 2016, The Race of Gentlemen events had been composed of prewar hot rods and vintage bikes engaged in friendly beach-racing competitions held in Wildwood, New Jersey. Last year saw the debut of the first West Coast TROG event (Pismo Beach, California), and despite a weekend of poor weather, the promoters still put on a good overall show, one that we feel could gather some serious steam in coming years. The TROG events have been growing steadily in size, scope, and coverage to the point that we predict there will be different, yet similar events popping up around the country in coming years (and not just on the coasts). The informal TROG “racing” formula provides enthusiasts of different ages a great way to have more fun with their cars (and bikes) instead of just sitting around looking at them on display. Any facet of the classic car experience that helps introduce younger people to the hobby is always a good idea, and TROG certainly falls into that category. However, getting the millennial generation to fully embrace the classic car experience might be a larger challenge. It is probably a bit too soon to ask if we will ever see a “Burning TROG” event attended by thousands of people in the Nevada desert.

Another facet of classic car enthusiasm we are probably going to see a lot more of is the number of classic car restoration and related industry television shows. Thankfully, most of the shows have improved in quality since the first “Pimp My Ride” episodes appeared on the small screen years ago. However, some observers have pointed out that there is very little “reality” in “reality television” and have voiced a desire to see many of the scripted automotive TV shows go away permanently. Unfortunately for those naysayers, reality TV is a very economical formula to put together, and for that reason alone, we believe the automotive TV show genre will continue to multiply. On the plus side, many of the scripted automotive TV shows are actually better than “regular” TV programming, and occasionally, you do get to see some pretty cool cars. Real car guys will obviously want to see more “reality” on the shows, and while there is definitely room for better automotive shows, we suspect there will still be plenty of marginal ones yet to come. Although the market might be close to peak “garage television saturation” right now, we’ll have to wait to see what actually comes next.

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Posted in Articles, Car Shows, Industry News

OPGI Employee Car Spotlight: 1969 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 Convertible

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Once again it is time to take a look at another Original Parts Group, Inc. (OPGI) employee–owned GM classic car seen at OPGI’s Seal Beach, California headquarters. This clean red 1969 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 convertible belongs to OPGI Showroom Representative and Huntington Beach resident, David Salisbury. Working in the front showroom, Dave is well-known to many of our local customers. Although he doesn’t drive his ’69 Olds to work every day, he does drive it often enough that most of our Oldsmobile aficionado customers are familiar with both Dave and his car. The car may also be somewhat familiar to Seal Beach residents too, as it was recently pressed into service hauling several local celebrities around in the annual Seal Beach Christmas Parade.

As with many GM classics, Dave’s 4-4-2 has a bit of family history behind it. This car has been in Dave’s family since it was new, and it has always been treasured and taken care of as it passed from generation to generation. Instead of retelling the story we’ve heard, we’ll let Dave tell you about it in his own words:

“I am the proud third-generation owner of this 1969 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 convertible. The car was built in Fremont, California and has been lucky enough to spend its whole life on the West Coast, as it was originally purchased new by my grandfather in 1969 at an Oldsmobile dealership in Los Angeles. It has a 400 engine, power top, power windows, power disc brakes and factory air conditioning. It even came with a cool vacuum operated trunk release that was an uncommon option in 1969.

After many years of faithful service in its original configuration, my grandfather passed away and my father and I inherited it. My father and I then decided to start replacing some things, and first up was a Stage 4 Interior kit from Original Parts Group. With little issue, everything in the interior kit went in and fit great. Next we turned our attention to the exterior and started replacing things like moldings, bumpers, and other trim items along with most of the brake lights and side markers.

This is obviously a numbers matching car, and we wanted to keep it that way. My dad and I went through the engine back in 1990, and when we tore it down, we found that the block was in such good shape, we did not even have to bore it. We had the crank turned, honed the block, put in some new pistons, added a new cam and buttoned her back up. We rebuilt the transmission a few years later, but the rear end has never been touched and is still going strong. The most recent work we’ve done was to replace all the weatherstripping on the car.

Overall, I’d have to say that I’ve been very blessed to be able to work at a business that has everything I need for my car. However, in some ways all those available parts are a temptation that can also be a curse. I do know that my grandpa is smiling down on me for keeping the car as original as possible, though. I have a lot of fond memories of my grandpa and my dad driving this car. It was the first car I ever drove when I was six-years-old sitting on my dad’s lap. It is also the first car I drove by myself when I was 13. Some people may say that a car is just a car, but for me, this car is a family heirloom and will always be a part of me and my family.”
– David Salisbury

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Posted in Uncategorized

Deluxe 1968-72 El Camino Bed Surround Molding Kit

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Original Parts Group Inc. (OPGI) has announced the availability of new RESTOPARTS® brand Bed Surround Molding Kits for 1968-72 Chevrolet El Caminos. Although GM no longer offers replacements for these highly visible El Camino exterior trim components, Original Parts Group, Inc. has come to the rescue with brand new and complete Bed Surround Molding Kits. Each Deluxe kit is identical to the original GM factory equipment and is manufactured specifically for 1968-72 Chevrolet El Caminos.

These ultra-high quality kits include stainless steel rails and die-cast zinc and chrome-plated corner pieces. Factory-style mounting clips and screws are included to make every installation user friendly. The Deluxe kit also includes both the left and right corner-to-taillight moldings. Chrome-plated and polished to a high luster, the taillight moldings are also available in pairs or individually, separate from the Deluxe Bed Surround Molding Kit.

The complete Deluxe 1968-72 El Camino Bed Surround Molding Kit is sold under OPGI part # BK1029 for $439.99. The Corner Tail Light Moldings are included in the Deluxe kit, but are also available in separate pairs under OPGI part # PZ00205-PR for $50.89. (Visit OPGI.com or contact an OPGI Sales Representative for more details on separate Corner Tail Light Moldings part numbers). For more information, visit OPGI.com or call toll free: 1-800-243-8355.

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Posted in Auto Body Parts, Body Moldings & Trim, New Products

SEMA 2016: Exploring the Show

To say there were a lot of cool GM cars at the 2016 SEMA Show would bit a bit of an understatement. It seemed there were nice GM classics of all descriptions everywhere you turned. Many of them were built using OPGI parts, too. Here’s a look at just a few of the many clean vintage GM cars that stood out at the Show this year.

Hector Cisneros (Owner) and his crew at Bill Dunn One Stop Shop, located in Huntington Beach, completely overhauled this 1964 Pontiac LeMans; from exterior to interior!

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Coker Tire president and COO Wade Kawasaki’s popular 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge was back at the Show a second time after its debut in 2015. The Coker GTO features a complete restoration using OPGI parts – performed by Bodie Stroud Restorations.

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Chris Ayres brought his OPGI-sponsored “Rogue 66” 1966 Chevelle to be part of SEMA’s Featured Vehicle Presentation.
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Reiss Racing in Escondido, California used OPGI parts to build its very clean and very high-powered 1972 Chevelle SS.

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Dave Harter’s ’70 Chevelle SS is one of a rare few GM pilot cars in existence. A “pilot car” is a car assembled by the factory in front of the regular run of production cars. They were designed for pre-production testing and development and were hand-built, non-numbers-matching vehicles. Dave Harter’s Chevelle SS is one of just 49 pilot Chevelles built for the 1970 model year. It is estimated that out of the 49 cars built, Dave’s is one of a scant dozen that were made available to the public after testing. Some have theorized that Dave’s Chevelle could be the only SS Pilot Car left in existence, and that makes it pretty rare!

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Chevrolet Chevrolet Performance built this clean Chevelle featuring an LT376 engine, which is a crate version of the 2017 Camaro’s LT1. The engine is rated at 535 hp and is backed by a Chevrolet Performance 4L75E four-speed automatic transmission.

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The 1965 Buick Riviera in the Automotive Restoration Market Organization (ARMO) booth is powered by a Chevrolet 502 powerplant backed by a Tremec 5-speed transmission. Other notable features include an Art Morrison front clip, Currie Enterprises rear control arms and rear end, and Alloway custom 5-spoke wheels by Billet Specialties.

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Justin Carrillo of Vision Rods and Customs in Visalia, CA built this clean, full-custom 2-Door 1960 Cadillac Convertible displayed at the Ron Francis Wiring booth.

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Many of OPGI’s aftermarket vendors and suppliers were also at the SEMA Show this year and had their own displays. OPGI’s General Manager of Operations, Corey Reuter, was on hand to meet with suppliers in the booth. Below Corey is shown with representatives from Restoration Parts Unlimited Inc. (RPUI) discussing the Trim Parts, PUI and SoffSeal lines carried by OPGI.

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Here is a shot of the pulleys, brackets and serpentine systems on display at the March Performance booth.

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Classic Performance Products (CPP) was also on hand and displayed their “Week to Wicked” 1967 project Chevelle that went from stock to a full-on pro-touring car in just one week.

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Posted in Car Shows, Industry News, Uncategorized

SEMA 2016: OPGI Back at SEMA

 

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Celebrating over 35 years in the business of manufacturing and retailing GM restoration parts and accessories, Original Parts Group, Inc. (OPGI) once again made its presence known at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show held each November in Las Vegas, Nevada.

After several very successful decades as a displaying manufacturer, OPGI marked this year’s attendance with an all-new, upgraded presence for 2016 and beyond. OPGI returned to Las Vegas this year with hundreds of the most popular General Motors restoration parts, including dozens of new entries from OPGI’s RESTOPARTS®  proprietary line of ultra-high quality restoration parts. Specifically engineered to meet the growing demands of the automotive restoration market, the RESTOPARTS entries included numerous high-demand interior and exterior components as well as a selection of emblems, mirrors, door handles and other hard-to-find, factory accurate reproduction parts sought by vintage GM enthusiasts.

As befitting the premier retailer and manufacturer of General Motors restoration parts, OPGI showed up in style at this year’s Show with a distinctive 1,200 square foot, two-story display booth in the Main Hall. The display highlighted both the new products and existing inventory inside OPGI’s ten different Restoration and High-Performance Parts and Accessories catalogs that cover everything needed to restore a classic Chevelle, El Camino, Monte Carlo, GTO, Grand Prix, Cutlass, Skylark, Riviera, Grand National, or Cadillac.

Following a long-standing tradition, OPGI always brings along a couple of newly restored classic GM cars to display at the annual Show. All of OPGI’s display cars are known for their extensive use of OPGI parts and they are always completely restored to the highest degree of original authenticity. This year did not disappoint, and an ultra-clean 1968 Cadillac Coupe De Ville and an immaculate 1970 Chevelle SS shared space in the booth.

While the long, Baroque Gold ’68 Coupe De Ville on display was a straight-up, 100% factory-stock restoration, the ’70 Chevelle departed from that formula with a dose of modern performance, power and handling under the skin through the use of aftermarket performance products and accessories from the OPGI catalog. Dubbed “The Executive,” the Chevelle SS was built as a tribute to a similar Chevelle that OPGI CEO Dave Leonard used to drive years ago. Read more ›

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Posted in Car Shows, Industry News

Traffic, Accidents, and Road Rage

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Although recent statistics show the United States does have some very dangerous and crowded highways, the U.S. is not number one when it comes to the most congested roadways in the world. In fact, the U.S. doesn’t even rank in the top ten places with the worst traffic in the world.

According to the Numbeo research firm, Kenya actually has the worst traffic in the world. Numbeo compiled data from 88 countries in order to come up with a “traffic index” used for ranking the time consumed in traffic due to job commute, estimation of time consumption dissatisfaction, and overall inefficiencies in a traffic system. Given those factors, Kenya ranked the highest on the Numbeo Traffic Index with a score of 317. What were the rest of the top ten countries with the worst traffic? Here’s how they ranked:

Worst Traffic in the World –

  1. Kenya 317
  2. Egypt 293
  3. Bangladesh 280
  4. Bolivia 243
  5. Nigeria 241
  6. Jordan 232
  7. Iran 214
  8. South Africa 208
  9. Philippines 202
  10. Thailand 200

However, as any urban American knows, the U.S. does have its’ fair share of clogged roadways. The traffic navigation firm TomTom recently found that of the list of U.S. cities with the most crowded roads is topped by those not-so-lucky commuters driving in Los Angeles. The top ten list of the most congested roadways in the U.S. shakes out like this:

U.S. Cities with the Worst Traffic –

  1. Los Angeles
  2. San Francisco
  3. Honolulu
  4. New York
  5. Seattle
  6. San Jose
  7. Miami
  8. Chicago
  9. Washington, D.C.
  10. Portland

All that traffic makes for very unhappy drivers, and if they get unhappy enough, their mild discomfort can turn into maximum road rage. More traffic seems to equal more road rage, as a recent  survey concluded that the number-one road rage city in America is Los Angeles. Additional data from the Auto Insurance Center shows that drivers experience the most incidents of road rage during the month of August. As the summer months usually have more cars on the road, July is ranked as the second-most road-ragious month for American drivers, followed by October and March, which tied for third place. Which U.S. cities are afflicted with the most road rage? Here’s the top six:

U.S. Cities with the Most Road Rage –

  1. Los Angeles
  2. New York City
  3. Mount Pleasant, North Carolina
  4. Honolulu, Hawaii
  5. Portland, Oregon
  6. Scottsdale, Arizona

Congested roads full of angry drivers can make driving a dangerous proposition. The danger can easily be seen when looking at the huge numbers of traffic accidents that occur each year in this country. The worst accidents are those that result in fatalities of course, and The U.S. Department of Transportation recently determined that traffic fatalities in the U.S. increased 10.4 percent during the first six months of 2016 compared to the same time period in 2015.

The increase could be the result of lower gas prices and more drivers on the road. However, considering the fact that a recent study found that 61 percent of U.S. drivers use their cell phones while driving, the increase in fatalities is likely due to more distracted driving. Distracted driving is at epidemic proportions in America these days, and it has caused some of our highways to become truly deadly.

Looking at the list of deadliest interstate highways in America (based on fatalities per mile) quickly shows that 132 miles of Interstate 4 in Florida, with 1.41 fatalities per mile in just the past six years, is the most dangerous interstate in the United States. Where are the rest of the most dangerous and deadly highways in the U.S.? Here is the top ten:

Deadliest Interstate Highways in America –

  1. Interstate 4 – from Tampa to Daytona Beach, Florida.
  2. Interstate 45 – between Dallas and Houston, Texas.
  3. Interstate 17 – from Phoenix to Flagstaff, Arizona.
  4. Interstate 30 – from Fort Worth, Texas to Little Rock, Arkansas.
  5. Interstate 95 – from Miami, Florida to Houlton, Maine.
  6. Interstate 19 – from Nogales to Tucson, Arizona.
  7. Interstate 10 – from Santa Monica, California to Jacksonville, Florida.
  8. Interstate 37 – from Corpus Christi to San Antonio, Texas.
  9. Interstate 26 – from Kingsport, Tennessee to Charleston, South Carolina.
  10. Interstate 97 – from Annapolis to Baltimore, Maryland.

While the deadliest interstate highways are also some the busiest and most travelled routes in the country, it is clear that driving, anywhere, is becoming increasingly dangerous. Everyone who drives can take steps to help reduce the number of accidents, road rage incidents and ultimately, the number of fatalities out there on the roads today. So please drive safely and put down that cell phone!

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OPGI Customer Car Spotlight: 1966 Chevelle SS

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In response to the ongoing Customer Car Spotlight series on this blog, Original Parts Group Inc. (OPGI), Customer Mark Bernhardt sent in these great photos and a brief history of his own customer car, a stunning 1966 Chevelle SS. As you can see, the car is a clean interpretation of the pro-touring theme applied to a thoroughly restored ’66 Chevelle. The photos show there are many modifications underneath the skin of this numbers-matching SS car that aren’t immediately apparent at a first glance.

Mark modified his Chevelle from top to bottom starting with rebuilding the original-to-the-car 396 big-block and punching it out to 402 cubic inches. The rest of the drivetrain, as well as the suspension, exhaust system, and the wheel/tire selection all reflect the pro-touring approach, while the paint, body and interior were restored in the more traditional factory-stock way. We’d have to say that it looks like the results of Mark’s 10-year restoration project turned out absolutely perfect. The attention to detail and obvious high quality of his one-man, at-home restoration also proves that you don’t need a giant shop and a huge staff to build the car of your dreams.

Here is the story of Mark’s Chevelle in his own words:

My car is a numbers-matching 1966 Chevelle SS. I bought it in January of 2005 from a guy in Georgia and had it shipped out here to California. I am the third owner; the previous two owners lived right by the original dealership that first sold the car, Welborn Chevrolet in Rome, Georgia. The car had been parked since 1986 and was very badly rusted out.  On the plus side, all the parts were there and all the numbers matched.

This was my first build, and it took me around 10 years from start to finish, but I’m proud I did most of it on my own. With the exception of the paint and body work, I did the complete restoration and rebuild at home in my garage. Due to rust issues, the body prep was extensive and I had American Rod and Auto in Los Banos, California do all of the body work. In fact, the only original sheet metal left now is the passenger fender, passenger door skin and the roof from the top of the sail panels up. All the other metal is new from OPGI.

I am still running the original 396 block, but it has been bored out to 402 cubic inches. Dave’s Performance in Fresno, California did all the machining on the engine. Dave’s a great guy, and as this was my first motor build, he let me come down and watch it get bored out and I got to help put one of the heads back together too. The heads were ported and polished and all new internals installed; roller rockers, hydraulic lifters, big Erson roller cam, Speed Pro pistons and a Billet Specialties Tru Trac serpentine pulley set up to finish it off.

Other modifications include:

Drive train – Muncie M20 wide ratio 4-speed transmission, 12-bolt rear-end out of a ’70 Chevelle. I cut the rear-end down 2-inches on each side, refabricated the shock mounts and rotated the caliper mounts down. I also installed Moser axles and Strange gears (4.32).

Suspension – In front in I used McGaughys upper and lower A-arms as well as 2-inch drop spindles along with QA1 adjustable coil-over shocks. In the rear I used McGaughys 1-inch lowering springs. There are no wheel tubs or frame mods.

Exhaust – The exhaust system is Stahl 2-piece, 1-7/8-inch headers stepped up to 2-inches and followed by a Pypes 3-inch polished stainless X-Change System complete with Pypes HVE10 electric cutouts. The system exits through Violator mufflers.

Wheels- The wheels are by Intro, in front -19×8 with 5½ inches of backspacing. In back – 20×10 with 4-1/4 inches of backspacing.

Tires – Nitto Tires 235/35 R19 in front and 285/30 R20 in back.

Interior – I restored the entire interior as close to stock as possible using better materials. The original bucket seat frames were wrapped in new TMI Sport seat covers and new foam was installed.

Other Notable Mods – Spectre Performance Air intake / Be Cool aluminum radiator & fan / American Autowire complete wiring harness / Classic Performance Show Stopper Hydraulic Brake Assist Kit / Dynamat from the firewall to the trunk, including the doors, roof and quarter panels.

Timeline –

January 2005:  I bought the car and started tearing it down
April 2015:  I fired the engine for the first time
August 2015:  I drove her for the first time!

– Mark Bernhardt

 

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OPGI Customer Car Spotlight: 1969 Buick Riviera

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Original Parts Group Inc. (OPGI), Customer Frank Nagle is the proud owner of this clean 1969 Buick Riviera. This Riviera is obviously another example of the many really nice cars we see here at OPGI’s Seal Beach, California headquarters building. We asked Frank if we could share photos of his car here on the OPGI Blog and he not only said “yes,” but also added that he would write up the history of the car to share with our viewers as well.  Without further delay, here is the story of how this 1969 Buick Riviera came to be restored, written in Frank’s own words:

“I’ve always loved old cars and the idea of restoring an old forsaken bucket of bolts to its original glory, but it had never crossed my mind to venture into such a project myself until a friend asked if I’d be interested in buying the 1969 2-Door Buick Riviera Hardtop he’d recently picked up. It was an impulse buy, to say the least, and I handed over $1,000 and said, what the heck, I’ll give it a try.

It was a piece-of-junk-car I referred to as a “basket case,” meaning you could pretty much carry all its parts in a basket. It hardly resembled its original beauty, but by enlisting help from experts, my new found hobby would, in time, change all that. With a rotting radiator, a non-existent exhaust system, a mess of an engine covered in oil and grease, a completely trashed interior, and a landau top rotted through to a rusted out roof, my work was cut out for me.  It didn’t end there. Needless to say, the air conditioning didn’t work with its decaying hoses, and when I opened the trunk it was completely rusted out with a decomposing 40-year old tire inside that nearly disintegrated before my eyes just by touching it. Still intact, however, next to the heap of decomposed tire was a jack, the original jack, and still in good shape.

I enlisted help from the best to resuscitate this deserving old car. I was fortunate to find people who could do the work or assist me in the restoration.  The owner of Frank’s Radiator and Muffler in Huntington Beach was very instrumental in prefabbing and forming the exhaust pipes. It was the only shop I found in the area that could do this. Frank’s shop replaced the radiator as well.

I had the interior completely redone to match its original contour and color, gold. Air conditioning repair came next. Although A/C wasn’t too common in cars in the ‘60’s, it was an option offered for the Buick Riviera, and this one had it. The dashboard had to be removed to replace the A/C hoses, and when all was said and done, it worked great and still does. That is, it works great for a refurbished 50-year old air conditioning system of its time.

Next, it came time to tackle the engine and I contemplated adding a dress-up kit (chrome valve covers, chrome oil filter top, chrome generator). After consulting with a mechanic, I was presented with two choices: dress it up or bring it back to factory condition, the way Buick made it, with nothing added and nothing different. I chose to go with restoring it back to its original condition. With help from different businesses (including Original Parts Group Inc.) the project continued. OPGI was invaluable helping to locate all the parts needed to get the Buick back to its original state, and I credit a gentleman named Dave Salisbury at OPGI, who really knows old cars, for much good advice. Through him, I learned of a cleaner that helped bring the engine back to its original, pristine condition, free of a lifetime of grease and oil. With Dave’s help I was also able to obtain parts I wasn’t able to find through any other source.

Finally, it came time to put the icing on the cake and complete the paint and body work by getting rid of several body dents and rust spots and refreshing the original gold paint color to bring the beauty back to life.

Now that the car is complete, it sure is nice going out for a spin every now and then on occasional Sunday drives. The 430 cubic-inch engine and 4 barrel carburetor (430-4), help explain why the car only gets 8 miles to the gallon. I figure I can either make a house payment or fill the tank, thus the reason I only go for an occasional spin, maybe 50 miles every month. As far as I know, the Riviera has 144K original miles on it and no evidence of major accidents. All the engine parts match and everything has been restored to  original condition. However, I must admit that you never really completely finish restoring a classic car.  There always seems to be something like a nut or a bolt or some other little item that’s hard to come by and difficult to find, that you are on the hunt for. It’s a never-ending process and a never-ending love at the same time. I’ve had several offers for the car, but it’s a part of me now, like an old family friend.” – Frank Nagle

 

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