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The Goddess Gets a Chariot

What to Do When Your Wife Doesn't Understand Your Passion for Muscle

Bernadette Foti Apr 16, 2004

I am a goddess. Well, at least that's what my husband's friends say. On a scale from one to ten, I'm about an eight. Okay, a seven, but that's not why I'm a goddess. I am a goddess for the gifts I bestow: major power tools for the shop, polished wheels for the Vette, and 60 laps in a NASCAR. I married a gearhead, so when I need a gift, I just look at the latest project and accessorize it.

Now maybe you're thinking: "What's that guy got on his wife?" Or, you could be asking: "What kind of toys can he possibly have?" Well, the guy I married is Tony Foti, the owner/driver of the LAPD race car. Since we've been together, he's had four different black and white racecars. He likes toys, fast toys.

Now when my husband announced our engagement to his friends, everyone told him I would "make" him sell his toys. They asked him if he was ready to give up racing, because surely the woman who was raised perusing museums and art galleries just wouldn't "get it." Well, I tow the racecar to the starting line. I clean the car for display, and I work on the PR for the racing program. I love horsepower.

So you ask, how can you make your wife "get it?" Well, I'll tell you. Before I met Tony, I drove a F_ _ _. (You know, that other car manufacturer.) One day, Tony was in a pinch and needed some driving help. He asked me to drive his '92 Quasar Blue Vette home for him while he towed the racecar home from a weekend car show. I was intimidated. The car was brand new and gorgeous, and I hadn't pulled any gears in years. However, he really needed the help and I didn't want to be considered a sissy, so I took the keys. Oh, what a rush! The horsepower was intoxicating. An automobile was no longer just a means of transportation. A few years later when Tony and I got married, I ordered a wedding present for myself. I needed a new family car--you know, a four-door sedan. So, I ordered a '96 Impala SS.

Guys, if I've heard it once, I've heard it a dozen times. "My wife doesn't understand the horsepower thing." Whenever I hear this I always ask: "What does your wife drive?" Hey, when you tell me she drives a minivan, I understand why she doesn't get it. If she doesn't drive muscle, if she can't put her foot in it, if her ride doesn't scoot, she's not gonna get it. If she drives a slug and only gets to be a passenger in the ride that you've have spent the last 3 years tweaking, there is no reason on earth that she should appreciate your passion. Let her get behind the wheel--just as it happened to you, it will happen to her. Let her play with it. Take her out cruisin' and let her drive. Let her feel the wheel behind that dangerous Mouse or that nasty Rat. Be nice and share. You may put a smile on her face.

Since marriage is a two-way street, to show his appreciation for my support, Tony decided to give me a card for our anniversary. The sentiment was lovely. The pink slip to the '69 Camaro that was inside the card was the icing on the cake. Now, it is his turn to help me accessorize. The first thing to do was get it to the body shop. I took it to our friend and sponsor, John Landon, from John's Custom Paint and Body in Chatsworth, California. While stripping the car down to the metal, John shot several varieties of red for me to choose from. I decided to go with the '69 factory color, Garnet Red. While he was blocking and color sanding my chariot, I turned to our good friends at Classic Industries for restoration help. In the past, I had always thumbed through gardening catalogues in pursuit of the perfect garden, now I found myself thumbing through the Classic Industries catalogue. Unbelievable!

While looking good is nice, performing well is even better. For direction under the hood, I turned to Mark McPhail for Bow-Tie genius. I wanted muscle with a kick. His advice was to drop a ZZ4 engine under the hood backed by a T-56 transmission.

To make the powertrain transition, we called upon the creative efforts of Nels at Billet Works in Santa Clarita, California. Nels is a fabricator extraordinaire and no idea is too much for his talent. Not only did he prepare the car for the new transmission, he installed a factory Chevrolet late-model hydraulic clutch system to prepare us for the Centerforce dual friction clutch we installed. He also fitted the car with a 10-bolt 3.73 Posi rearend stud to stud, installed the Flowmaster system, and installed the front power disc brakes conversion kit from Stainless Steel Brakes Company. This car stops on a dime!

With the modifications made for the tranny, the original driveshaft was longer than we needed. We took the driveshaft to Wenco in Van Nuys, California, to have it resized and rebalanced to accommodate the longer T-56 transmission.

To make my Mouse roar like a lion, I wanted a Holley 750 dual-pump carburetor and thermal-coated headers from Hooker. The thermal coating adds a touch of class to the chrome valve covers and the chrome pulleys. I picked the brains of the boys at Mr. Gasket Group for advice on getting spark to the engine. They suggested the Hyfire VI ignition box, the Unilite distributor and of course Mallory plug wires. While there, I was sold on the Hurst billet plus shift linkage to finish the retro look.

For that look of panache, I decided on white interior covering which was installed by VIP Upholstery in Tarzana, California, and Cragar aluminum wheels. Personally, I think it is important to look as good as you sound and my chariot sounds great!

So, I have this very cool car. I built it with a little help from my honey and my friends, but I built it. It's mine. I have the pink. I have the keys. When I want to feel sassy, I have the horsepower. Now I really get it!

So, when my husband says he wants to tweak the racecar this weekend or work on his '69 502 Chevelle project car, it's not a problem. I just smile and wave good-bye as I cruise down the PCH.


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