Monthly Archives: April 2020


Roads We Remember

Sun showed its face last Thursday. I felt like a prisoner awakening to discover the door to my cell unlocked. Staring at a window of opportunity with sunlight pouring through, I would not let it go to waste. I desperately needed to be somewhere else. Storm King Highway resides in my personal pantheon of nearby roads that no matter how many times I drive there, it feels like I am “somewhere else.”

Storm King Highway

Clinging to the craggy eastern face of New York’s Storm King Mountain, Storm King Highway delivers majestic views of the southernmost fjord in the Northern hemisphere better known as the Hudson Valley.

Tee up your favorite driving music because even the roads leading to Storm King Highway will put a smile on your windblown face. From the south, you cruise up the Palisades Interstate Parkway. Heading east from Rt. 17 in Rockland County takes you through the serpentine roadways of the densely forested Harriman State Park.

Whatever your point of departure for Storm King Highway all roads lead to Route 9W. Heading north from the Bear Mountain Circle, one experiences a palpable sense of not only traveling through towns but traveling back through time. Old structures from the early days of motoring mingle with landmarks recalling the early days of the nation.

Just north of the circle stands Fort Montgomery which witnessed fierce fighting during the Revolutionary War. Further up the road one encounters the plateau overlooking the Hudson River that served as General George Washington’s headquarters and later would become home for the most famous Military Academy in the world, West Point.

Leaving 9W for Route 218 North in Highlands Falls, Storm King Mountain looms above to the west. The section of Route 218 between Lee Rd. in the town of Highlands to the South and Cornwall-On-Hudson to the North demarks the section of breathtaking two-lane that merited Storm King Highway’s inclusion in the National Historic Register of Places.

Envision a short version of “Tail of the Dragon” with spectacular views from high above the Hudson River. This smoothly paved, narrow two line squeezes on a man-made ledge flush against a towering wall of stone to the west and a shear 420 Ft. dive to the Hudson River to the East.

Be aware that you may not be the only motoring enthusiast attracted by the allure of Storm King Highway’s charms that day. Don’t meander over the double yellow. Best to assume someone around the next bend will be whipping a juiced M3 coupe or WRX to within an inch of your life.

Located at the peak of the highway’s elevation, a small pullover big enough for three cars is worth the stop. It offers spectacular vistas.

If your intent is to run the Storm King Highway back and forth, consider taking a half time break by visiting Cornwall-On-Hudson at the northern terminus. Offering plenty of small town charm, a cup of coffee and a table outside can be had at Chez Ana. For more hearty fare Painter’s Tavern and Pepettini will not disappoint. Another mile will bring you into the heart of Cornwall with its many shops, attractions and restaurants.

For kayakers or those who always wanted to kayak but never did, Cornwall-On-Hudson is home to Mountain Valley Guides. They offer a full calendar of guided kayaking experiences for seasoned paddlers and newcomers alike.

Close enough for anyone in the metropolitan area to visit for an afternoon escape, Storm King Highway is eminently capable of transporting you to that wonderful destination “someplace else” no matter how many times you go.



By |2020-04-30T01:22:49+00:00April 29th, 2020|7 Comments

Cars We Love & Who We Are #2

As the lockdown grinds on, Elaine and I have begun enjoying dinner with friends by ZOOM light. With our laptop propped on the opposite side of the table, we share dinner and conversation with good friends. Not only does seeing friends lift one’s spirits but it has provided needed motivation for me to abandon the Unabomber look.

In “Like children we love” I share an unexpected classic car experience.

How have you continued to enjoy you Classic Vehicle passion during the New Normal?

Like children we love

Having launched Drivin’ News, I decided to take a brief staycation at a favorite destination, my garage. Birthing the blog consumed a significant amount of time. Occurring as it did during the Covid-19 lockdown it served as a time gobbling blessing. However, being time consuming it had kept me away from my garage. No longer.

Decked out in suitably scruffy garage attire, I entered my detached 2-bay to the fanfare of my garage door clacking up its track. Flicking on the lights, a comforting familiarity embraced me. Battery tenders glowed green, the ‘61 Corvette, purchased in 1967, sat in peaceful repose in the left bay. The ’53 Jaguar XK120 to its right radiated a timeless beauty. Between the two lay a ragged shard of broken plywood amidst a sprinkling of wood fragments.

Broken plywood? After a frozen moment absorbing the incongruity of its presence on the garage floor, my eyes flashed everywhere in pursuit of clues.

My gaze quickly fixed on a massive branch and the gaping hole it had created in the ceiling of my garage. Wood dust and splinters lay all about as a reminder of the violence done to my roof. Retreating to the exterior of my garage, I climbed a stone wall to assess the damage from above. Around eight to 10 inches in diameter and an easy seven feet to eight feet long, this maple missile had snapped and plunged a good thirty feet before breaching my garage roof. Like a giant uncarved totem it stood straight and proud as if providing a mast for my garage.

Amazingly, despite its considerable destructive potential, other than my roof, damage was minimal. Actually the lack of damage astounded me.

Plunging with the force of Thor’s hammer, Mother Nature’s bullet nosed missile, after splintering the roof, wedged against a husky 2” x 6” cross member. Wearing a crown of tarpaper and wood spikes it came to rest inches from a treasured “HOT RODS TO HELL” movie poster and a few feet above my Corvette’s original hardtop.

Job one demanded relocating both cars to safer shelter. However, like children we love, classic cars do not always cooperate as we would prefer.

First out of the garage came the Corvette which had a healthy deep throated rumble when put away for the winter. It fired up without hesitation. However, apparently, the engine gremlins had visited my freshly rebuilt small block during winter hibernation. Any engine speed around 2700 rpms or above produced an ugly chorus of intense backfiring. I chose to grandma the mile or so to my alternate shelter. Engine issues would be addressed but the garage would come first.

With car cover removed and battery tender detached, a turn of the Jaguar’s key rewarded me with the crisp ticking of a healthy electric fuel pump. With ticking stopped, a quick push of the starter would set the sleek black cat in motion. Pushing the starter button was followed by…silence. The only sound breaking the silence were little birds chirping in the yard.  It felt like sitting in a Connolly leather and Wilton carpet trimmed boat anchor.

With the two 6-volt batteries well charged and the solenoid functional, it appeared the engine gremlins had visited the Jaguar starter. With all electrical systems functional, I sought to rock the car in first gear to free the starter. Not enough time. The Jaguar would stay put as the tree service would be arriving shortly. Cushioning blankets would be draped to protect the 120’s voluptuous curves.

As I walked out in anticipation of the tree service’s arrival, it dawned on me that the cars we love are not unlike the children we love. Only so much can be expected. In their honest failures they remain the subject of our affection never deserving of our anger.



By |2020-04-23T13:27:37+00:00April 23rd, 2020|9 Comments


In these uncertain times society as a whole faces life altering demands imposed by social distancing and imposed isolation.

That said, look on the bright side, as car people we have been well prepared for this solitary experience by the endless hours we have spent in our garage alone or with the same loyal friend or family member by our side.


Mustang Madness Revisited

Rich Varjan has accepted this unfortunate situation as an opportunity to sequester himself and his son Christopher in their garage with the 1969 Mustang that Varjan bought and raced in 1973. Last driven in the late 1970s, Varjan’s Mustang has suffered decades of neglect followed by spotty efforts over the last 15 years to bring it back to life. Now with few competing distractions, it appears the Mustang’s time has come.

Varjan a gregarious and genial bull of a man has been a “car guy” since his teen years growing up in Oradell, NJ. Today he operates European Exchange, a highly respected transmission repair and rebuilding business in Hackensack, NJ.

By the early 2000s Varjan’s Mustang sat literally as a sad shell of its once high performance self. Little remained of critical support structures. For “Collectible automobiles” class members it was the epitome of the “Buy It Or Bury It” question. In Varjan’s mind the choice was clear, scrap it or start from scratch with a tube chassis. As Varjan says, “Anyone in his right mind would have scrapped it. Still that Mustang meant so much to me, I decided to rebuild it.”

Varjan envisioned the resurrected Mustang returning to life in full out Pro-Street trim. While street legal, a Pro-Street car’s signature high performance engine and NHRA roll cage clearly screams track racing. His Mustang would not disappoint.

Stroked to 393 cu. in. with 13.5 to 1 compression, the Mustang’s original 351 cu in Windsor has been totally rebuilt. Dyno tested at over 600 horsepower, the stroked Windsor quietly sulked in a corner of the garage as it impatiently waited to be mated to the custom race tuned tube chassis Varjan had fabricated in the mid-2000s.

Having the awesome power delivered though a 6-speed Richmond transmission and 4.56 gears consummates a marriage made for quarter mile heaven. To get that power to the pavement, eighteen inch Budnik forged wheels wear Mickey Thompson Sportsman tires with the rears delivering plenty of bite courtesy of 18-inch tread width.

Much work still remains as Varjan attends to every detail with a jeweler’s eye and an artist’s hand. Surfaces that the public will never see benefit from focused attention. The bell housing enjoys a proper prepping prior to powder coating. The engine bay benefits from a routing plan with precision worthy of a Presidential motorcade.

While sparse, the interior shows well with premium seating and custom carpeted surfaces.

Sometimes luck does play a role. Earlier this year settling on the proper blue for the Mustang’s exterior consumed countless hours, numerous chips and frustrating tests. Then on a parts run to an Audi dealer, Varjan, upon entering the showroom, came face to face with a new Audi TT RS resplendent in the exact blue he wanted. Getting the Audi’s PPG paint code from the dealer concluded the color search.

In practicing the necessary precautions demanded of us all, Rich Varjan used the Covid-19 lockdown to bring his long stalled Mustang project up to speed.

Have you self quarantined with your collectible vehicle? Now that you have the time you always wished for to work on your car, what have you done?


By |2020-04-15T20:57:00+00:00April 10th, 2020|26 Comments