Tuesday, November 13, 2007

SEMA part four: the Blastolene Bros' ROCKIN' Odyssey

(above) owner and fabricator Randy Grubb and the Blastolene B702
at SEMA Show, Las Vegas, 2007
(above and below) an eyeopener, for sure, even among eyeopeners

(above) yrs truly (middle), reflected in Blastolene
(above and below) the V-12 GMC engine that beats within the B702



(above) an example of the size truck the V-12 engine powered
(above) the B702's engine was pulled from an airport rescue truck
(above) ready for install: 650 lbs of torque
(above and two below) fabrication by Randy at his Oregon shop


(above and below) the B702 was an unusual centerpiece
at Gordon McCall's annual high-rollin' Monterey Airport event

(above) sittin' pretty at The Quail event which followed
(above and two below) Blastolene's earlier Big Bertha, rockin' around the seacoast


(above) Bertha, powered by a Seagrave fire truck engine
(980 cu. in. OHV V-12, now fed by propane; she takes 25 quarts of oil)
The engine was build to sit running at a fire scene 24 hrs a day,
days on end, when needed.
(above and two below) Bertha, during fabrication


(above) what was Bertha originally, a 1941 Seagrave fire truck similar to this one;
note that the tractor's grill, hood, and cowl were retained.
(above and two below) The Blastolene Special, at Jay Leno's 'garage'


(above and below) The Special made its debut
at the 2002 Goodguys show in Pleasanton, CA

(above and below) The Special, during fabrication.
It started with a M47 Patton Tank V12 engine (1950-1955),
1800 cu. in, all aluminum, air cooled, overhead cam.
The engine alone cost the U.S. gov't $100,000 to produce in 1955.
She takes 17 gallons of oil, 1000 hp w. 1500 ft. lbs of torque


(above) Blastolene Bro. Rodney Rucker's Sneaky Pete,
which completed the 4,600 mile "Great Race" across America
(consuming $8,000 worth of gasoline);
you saw this in my earlier blogs from the Goodguys Pleasanton event
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Once again I came across the Blastolene B702, this time outdoors at the SEMA show in Las Vegas. I introduced myself to owner and fabricator Randy Grubb, and later asked him to e-mail me some information about this very rock & roll sexy thang, which he was kind to do:
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"The inspiration for the car comes from a lifetime of loving cars. My fellow Blastolene Bro. Michael Leeds and I studied, built, and hot rodded cars our whole lives. When we met ten years ago, we had so much in common. Michael is the designer of the three Blastolene cars I've built. The B702 is our 1930's euro-style roadster. We conceived it to be an elegant, refined french-curve car.
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"This one was built in my one-man shop in Oregon. I have 6,000 hours in building this 20 ft. long and 2 in. shy of 8 ft. wide, approx. 4,800 lp car. Yes, the name comes from "B" as in Blastolene and "702" from the GMC V-12's 702 cu. in. The engine came out of an airport rescue truck that was rebuilt by the U.S. gov't in 1981, and has very low hours. I looked for a year to find this motor. It's solid sounding but not loud. It's got a nice V-12 smoothness but growls when you step on it. It made its debut at McCall's, then went to Quail, then Goodguys, and there it was at SEMA, where we met. Now it's gone to the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles before it's auctioned off at Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale, AZ in January."
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As noted at (and paraphrased from) http://www.etrucker.com/apps/news/article.asp?id=43123, "Michael Leeds and Randy Grubb are remembered from one of the classic filmed episodes of the television show Monster Garage. They turned a 158-in. long Peterbilt truck chassis into a two-wheeled motorcycle patterned after the famous choppers Jesse James churns out at his West Coast Choppers shop. However, the two convinced James that a tricycle, or trike, would be more likely to hold the weight of the Cummins engine and still stand upright.
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"Leeds and Grubb are successful artists in their own right, but their first biggest brush with notoriety initially came from a car they built called the Blastolene Special. That car started liife as a weapon of war--the V-12 engine came from a M47 Patton Tank--and was designed to attract the attention of one person, that being Jay Leno, car aficionado, collector, and talk show host.
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""Randy had it in his mind: 'I'm going to sell this car to Jay Leno.'" Leeds remembers. Grubb did just that, after arranging a contact through Leno's chief mechanic. Leno was intrigued by the project and called Leeds' cell phone. The deal was eventually consummated, the car was delivered (note: see photos above), and that led to their appearance on Monster Garage."
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You can read some very insightful writing about the Blastolene experience at http://www.blastolene.com/blastolene_story.htm. Here's one small excerpt (again, paraphrased) about their building the Blastolene Special, using the tank engine referenced above:
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"The following week, I (Michael Leeds) received a phone call, it was Randy, "guess what I got??" came this smug voice over the line, "AN M47 PATTON TANK ENGINE!!" he screamed, talking so fast I could barely understand him. "It's so BITCHIN' you're not going to believe it." Actually, it was two engines procured from an ex-marine military vehicle collector in Coos Bay, OR who shortly after this transaction ran himself over with a half-track. These were extra engines that went to a tank that he'd sold and the new owner didn't want.
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"Shortly thereafter, I was up at Randy's priming the two huge four-barrel carburetors. STAND BACK! The magnetos were out of time and we over-primed the motor. A gut-shaking roar and thirty-foot flames shot up into the cool calm of a Grants Pass twilight. The motor ran beautifully, and neighbors from a mile radius around showed up cringing and holding their ears. Randy stood there with the biggest ear-to-ear shit-eating grin I think I ever saw.
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"We sat around Randy's garage late into the night brainstorming and sketching ideas of what his car might look like (using this great big engine). What we do is FUN, building in massive scale. It's about building hot rods, but out of ten-ton semi-truck parts and such. What we were doing was entering a whole new world, un-charted territory, creating a whole new category of street rods. It was on this night that the Blastolene Brotherhood was born. The idea was of a brotherhood of autonomous individual artists and craftsmen who would encourage each other's creativity. Our projects would embody an essence and spirit of free creative exchange, and help each other along the paths we would take."
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For more in-depth information about the GMC 702 V-12 engine, I commend you to the discussion at http://www.6066gmcguy.org/TwinSix.htm. A sample: "this is the KING of GMC's gasoline engine family, the power-laden 702 "Twin-Six." It makes words like durability, performance, and operating economy take on a whole new meaning. It's true truck horsepower, giving tremendous torque at low r.p.m., and it takes on the biggest jobs with an easy-stroking effort. The V-12 digs into grades and requires far less gear shifting to keep in step." This goes on for many intriguing pages.
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there are some cautionary words to be spoken about this particular powerplant, so Blastolene Bros. . . . beware: "The 702 V-12." noted one of the resident experts, "was a factory-built truck engine, actually built with a lot of V-6 parts. But the block, crankshaft, and camshaft were one-piece V-12 units, exclusive to the V-12, with four V-6 351 heads and exhaust manifolds. It had an odd distributor at the rear of the block with the dual points under a metal cover, and two 6-cylinder distributor heads, rotors, caps to fire all twelve cylinders. The downfall of the 702 V-12 was that loooooooong, spindly crankshaft. Most of these engines died from a broken crankshaft."
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And one trucker completed the story with this reminiscence. "Yeah, I remember lying in bed at night as a kid, hearing the old Wilson Freight trucks leaving their terminal late at night. Wilson had a fleet of trucks with that motor. They had their own unique sound. I kind of miss hearing them."
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But, all is not lost, good sir, just head on down to the Petersen, or Scottsdale in January for Barrett-Jackson, and there she'll be . . . the glorious 702 V-12, merely encased this time in a supremely well done grand illusion of ROCKIN' sensibility, thanks to the Blastolene Boys.

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