It was the first week of June and, after many long hours of work, theKeisler Maximum Overdrive '65 Corvette was ready for the Hot Rod PowerTour. Of course, like any project, we were down to the wire and neededmore time to finish a few things. The car ran well and the A/C wasblowing cold, which was a good thing since we were going into theheartland in the summer.
Late into the project, we were informed the Keisler-engineered Tremecfive-speed overdrive transmission installed previously would be swappedwith the original Muncie four-speed. The idea was to record fuel mileageon the first half of the Power Tour with the old unit, then reinstallthe Tremec for the final half. We had to install the body and interior,and finish the cold-air hood and intake plenum for the GMPP Ram-Jetelectronic-fuel-injected engine in record time.
We hoped to leave with a mini- caravan for Arlington, Texas, on Thursdaymorning, but were still assembling the interior and wrapping up the A/Cinstallation Wednesday afternoon. We wouldn't be ready for a Thursdaydeparture, and Friday would be a stretch.
At times, it seemed the easy way would be to cut corners and get on theroad. But each segment of a major project takes considerable time, andrushing through usually bites you in the end. Spending the time up frontmakes the trip more enjoyable and prevents downtime chasing parts andtools.
Sometime after dinner Thursday night, we realized an all-night sprintwas necessary in order to leave Friday at anytime. My wife, Hope, anddaughters, Stacy and Stephanie, stayed with me into the wee hours. Myson-in-law, Steve, worked on the brakes and underside while the rest ofus finished the interior chores.
We set up the car with the Keisler-modified Tremec five-speed overdrivetransmission; we had the speedo certified earlier. Now we had to replacethe transmission with the Muncie four-speed for speedo certification.The five-speed Tremec was removed around 2 a.m. Friday. As thefour-speed and pieces were readied for installation, we realized wedidn't have the correct clutch disc.
Our only option was to wait until 8 a.m. for a clutch disc and makepreparations for a speedy transmission installation. Hope kept up thepace, smoothing the cold-air-intake plenum box while I finished theinterior. She stayed with me until the sun came up, and worked hard onthe cold-air intake. As we watched the sun come through the open garagebay door, we realized we would make it to the Power Tour.
We found the correct clutch disc, and within a short while, thetransmission was in and the '65 was ready for a ride to the speedo shopfor certification. I quickly realized I should have no problem stayingawake on the run to Texas because of the roar from the factory sidepipes at 75 mph and 4,000 rpm. Spike, a friend who was part of thecaravan, stayed behind for moral support and any help he could provide.He loaded the car while I got ready for the trip. We headed out at 3p.m. At that point, the car had been driven approximately 30 miles sincethe total transformation.
Spike jumped in my '90 Corvette convertible and we headed towardTallahassee, Florida. We made it west of Pensacola on Friday night. Theroar from the '65 side pipes was deafening, and fatigue won.
The next morning, we checked the fluids and were on our way by 7 a.m. Tovary engine speed during engine break-in, we ran between 2,500 and 4,000rpm.
We decided a jog north on some secondary roads would break the monotony.We found an Ultimate Carwash and Quick lube facility in Hattiesburg,Mississippi, for an early oil change on the fresh engine.
The manager, Louis, let us go into the pit to look for leaks or anythingthat needed attention. We found a slight oil leak at the valve-coverpush-in breather grommets. The power-steering fluid was also leakingslightly from the fill cap.
Louis and the guys at the facility helped us find some tight grommetsand a seal for the power-steering reservoir. After 650 miles, there wereonly a few minor concerns and within an hour we were on the road again.
We hoped to be there by sundown Saturday, but that was wishful thinking.First, the rains came on I-20 in east Texas, then a jackknifed18-wheeler caused more delay. The '65 windshield seal was leakingmassive amounts of water in the car. While we waited for the 18-wheelerto be moved off the Interstate, the floorboards and carpet were gettingsoaked.
Once we were underway, we had to find a rest stop and bail the water.Ironically, we had just put all the missing plugs in the floorboardsbefore the new carpet went in. No wonder the plugs were removed.
We made it into Arlington a little after midnight on Sunday, and were upat 7 a.m. for the first leg of the Power Tour. For this kind of driving,the GMPP Ram-Jet crate engine was impressive, but the four-speed Munciewas pure agony. After we left Mississippi, we were traveling steadily at75-80 mph and 4,000 rpm. At first my ears became bloody from theconstant roar, followed by a trance-like state from the noise.
Constantly stopping and paying for fuel was another aggravation. The '90Corvette convertible was getting almost double the fuel mileage. The '65averaged 16 mpg with most of the miles driven on the Interstate. Iabsolutely loved the '65 in city driving and hated every minute ofInterstate driving with the car set up like it was.
We gladly handed the keys to Shafi Keisler knowing the car would bedriven each leg of the first half of the Power Tour with the four-speedin place. Almost immediately, Shafi called and said the throttle wasn'tworking. The cable end had broken off the cable at the throttle body.
A fellow HRPT participant had a wire terminal that could be crimped ontothe cable for a temporary repair. Shafi was back on the way enjoying thefirst leg with his '65 coupe. During each leg, the car was driven andfuel mileage was calculated. The first half netted 15.5 average milesper gallon.
The Keisler-modified five-speed Tremec overdrive transmission wasinstalled at the Gateway International Raceway facility in St. Louis forthe final half of the fuel mileage run. The installation took about fivehours in difficult conditions, but we had the advantage of prior Tremecfive-speed installations, which moved things along. The job wasn't toodifficult with the correct tools and equipment.
What a spectacular difference! The engine speed was down to 2,400 rpm at80 mph and the driveline sound level was low enough to have aconversation with a passenger. Now we could run with the Interstatecrowd without constantly redlining our engine. Best of all, the fuelmileage was averaging 26 mpg.
We had a great time driving the '65 on our return. We brought the coupeup to Interstate speed, slipped the overdrive transmission into Fifthgear, and let it roll. We could hear the radio, but could hear the windnoise leaks as well. We brought the car back to Sanford, Florida, toreseal all the windows and water leaks.
We logged 4,500 miles from Sanford to Arlington to Green Bay, Wisconsin,and back to Sanford. The GMPP Ram-Jet crate engine, Keisler modifiedfive-speed Tremec overdrive transmission, Vintage Air Frontrunneraccessory drive kit, and Vintage Air A/C installation kit made the '65drive and feel like a late-model Corvette.