About Trevor Freeman

Trevor is a real gearhead who loves everything from classic American muscle cars to high-performance exotics. When he's not reading about cars or taking photos at a car show, he's probably out cruising around. He is currently working on restoring a 1980 Chevrolet Monza hatchback.

1988 Dodge Caravan SRT-4 Engine Swap

Though it may be hard to imagine a time when minivans were ever considered cool, that was certainly the case in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In the era before SUVs and Crossovers, minivans were the hottest thing on the market. Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca and his friend Hal Sperlich had imagined a vehicle that would hold seven passengers, have removable seats for extra cargo space, and get better gas mileage than a full-size van. Their dream became a reality in 1983, and the new Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Horizon minivans sold like hotcakes with sales topping 200,000 units in the first year alone. For the next 25 years, no one sold more minivans in America than Chrysler.

But somewhere along the way, minivans became uncool. The SUV boom of the 2000s and the Crossover Craze yielded vehicles that offered much of the same functionality without the “soccer mom” stigma of a sliding door.

At a recent car show in Scottsdale, I saw a first-generation Dodge Caravan that really caught my eye. For starters, this was a car show that featured primarily European exotic and high-end supercars such as Ferraris and Lamborghinis. A 1988 Caravan with peeling paint definitely didn’t fit in with this crowd.

But as you might have guessed, this is no ordinary Caravan. This one has seen the original 2.5L 4-cylinder engine swapped out with a much more modern 2.4L turbocharged 4-cylinder from a 2004 Dodge SRT-4. Whereas the original engine made 100 horsepower, the new one puts out 230 horsepower in stock trim – but this one’s not stock.

With an AGP Zeta dual ball-bearing turbocharger, an air-to-water intercooler, upgraded fuel injectors, a MegaSquirt fuel management system, and a 3.5″ exhaust with Magnaflow muffler, this beast is putting down 305 horsepower and 365 lb-ft of torque at the wheels! Wow!

A spec sheet on the vehicle says it has run 12.6 in the quarter mile @ 111 mph on E85, 25 lbs of boost, and slicks. With a fast reaction time, that puts it on par with a base model C6 Corvette – for a lot less dough. It’s also been converted to 4-wheel disc brakes, with the front brakes and suspension from a 1995 Grand Caravan and the rear disc brakes from a 1993 Dodge Daytona R/T.

Part of why I love this van is because it pulls off the “sleeper” look quite well. The peeling paint and OEM-style wheels do not give any indication that this vehicle is actually quite fast, and the “Turbo” and “SRT” badges may be dismissed as purely ironic – until the turbo spools up and it blows your doors off.

The other reason why I love this van is that a long time ago, our family had a blue 1994 Caravan which I remember fondly. This was the era before dual sliding doors, power liftgates, and fold-flat seating. These old vans are super primitive by today’s standards, but the boxy design reminds me of my childhood.

I didn’t get to talk to the owner, but if you are reading this Mr. Caravan Owner, congrats on the awesome build.

1977 Toyota Celica 2JZ Engine Swap

Cars and the engines that power them come in a wide variety of styles and configurations. The more I read and learn about cars, the more I believe that there is something magic about inline-6 engines.

Many of the automotive greats have used the straight six engine, from the Jaguar E-Type to the Hudson Hornet to numerous BMW, Mercedes, and Jeep models. In general, inline sixes are known for being well-balanced with a smooth, even delivery of power. Though not high revving, they are reliable “workhorse” engines that can have a surprisingly long service life.

Toyota had been producing inline 6 engines as early as 1955, but they really hit a home run with the introduction of the 2JZ family of engines, which were produced from 1991 to 1998 in the US (and through 2002 in Japan).

This was the engine that powered the Lexus SC300, the first and second-gen GS 300, and an even more powerful variant went into the A80 Toyota Supra. Today, the 2JZ engine has a cult-like following. It is renowned among import car fans for its heavy-duty internals and its huge potential for tuning. This is probably what motivated Arizona resident John Garza to swap a 2JZ-GE engine into his 1977 Toyota Celica coupe.

I had seen this car in early 2017 at the Future Classics car show in Scottsdale, and crossed paths with it again at Cars and Coffee. The car has been featured in the October 2016 issue of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car magazine, and gets a LOT of attention at local car meets and events.

This 1977 is a close match to Mr. Garza’s first car, another ’77 Celica that he drove in high school. The Toyota Celica was recognized as Motor Trend’s Import Car of the Year in 1976.

Under the hood, John has swapped in a 2JZ-GE mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox from a 2004 Lexus IS300. It’s an incredibly clean swap, and truly looks as if the engine came that way from the factory. However, getting it all to work was anything but easy.

A page of build photos shows how John had to make some serious modifications to the crossmember and to the oil pan in order for everything to fit. The car borrows parts from the Toyota family, including the rear axle from a 1981 Supra and the steering box from a Corolla. Heavy modifications were also done to the car’s suspension in order to accommodate larger wheels and brakes.

Rounding out the build is a wood and brown leather custom interior with all of the ambiance and warmth of a 1970s smoking lounge. It looks wonderfully comfortable, and is a welcome change from the typical Sparco seats and MOMO steering wheels that adorn most import builds.

The combination of a classic car with modern performance and reliability is truly a win-win situation. We wish John many happy miles with his awesome car and hope to see it at more shows and events in the future!

2016 Ford Shelby GT-H Mustang

2016-ford-shelby-hertz-gth-mustang-frontWhen you hear the words “rental car,” what comes to mind? Perhaps a gutless econobox with a hard plastic interior that you rented at the airport in some other city? Well folks, this is no ordinary rental car. It’s a 2016 Shelby GT-H, and it’s a fresh take on an old idea: a race car that you can rent for a day. Continue reading

2017 Arizona Concours d’Elegance

2017-az-concours-01 For one glorious week in January, thousands of car enthusiasts and aficionados make a pilgrimage to the Arizona desert to take part in a ritual that has come to be known as “Arizona Car Week.” In the 3rd week of January, thousands of collector cars and millions of dollars change hands at a half-dozen different auctions including Barrett-Jackson, Russo and Steele, RM Sotheby’s, Gooding & Co., Bonham’s, and Silver Auctions. While I love the excitement of the auction circuit, one of my favorite events of Arizona Car Week is not an auction at all. It’s the Arizona Concours d’Elegance, which has become sort of a kickoff event to Car Week. Continue reading

Barrett-Jackson 2017: Auction Photos

Barrett-Jackson returned to Scottsdale, Arizona for their 46th annual Collector Car Auction event, which was held from January 14-22, 2017. They sold a record number of cars, and raised nearly $2.2 million dollars for charity. In case you missed it, here are some photos that should give you a sense of what it was like to be there.

scottsdale-2017-01Approximately 320,000 people passed through this entrance during the eight day event. Continue reading

Barrett-Jackson 2017: Setting Records, Making Memories

corvette-cerv-engineering

This 1960 Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle sold for $1.3 million at Barrett-Jackson’s 2017 Scottsdale auction.

For 46 years, the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction in Scottsdale has been the cornerstone event of what has grown into “Arizona Car Week.” I have been attending the Scottsdale auction for over 10 years now, and have covered the event on this site for 5 of those years. Usually, I recap the auction by writing about a couple of unique cars that caught my eye, or industry trends like Micro Cars, hot rods, and celebrity car sales. This year, I want to do something different and share some thoughts about the January 2017 auction.

Setting Records
barrett-jackson-sold-stickerThe Scottsdale 2017 auction was a record-breaker for Barrett-Jackson and for the collector car community. Consignments were way up this year, indicating that confidence in the market is on the rise.

The auction normally features 1,400-1,500 collector cars, and 2017 saw a jump to 1,719 vehicles on the docket! In fact, they actually started the auction a day early on Monday, January 16th, just to get through them all!

Here are a couple of highlights from the Scottsdale auction:

  • Over 320,000 people attended the 8-day event
  • Total auction sales (including memorabilia) were approximately $102 million
  • Cars in the auction had a 99.5% sell-through rate
  • The Charlie Thomas Collection featured 146 vehicles and yielded more than $1.7 million in sales
  • There were 8 Charity Auction cars, which raised a total of $2.28 million dollars for charities ranging from Military Veterans to Children’s Hospitals
  • The top charity car was Steven Tyler’s 2012 Hennessey Venom GT Spyder supercar which sold for $800,000, of which 100% of the proceeds went to Janie’s Fund, a program that provides support for abused and neglected girls
  • More than 36 hours of live auction coverage aired on Velocity TV and Discovery

You might think that after 46 years, the car auction business would be a humdrum event, but that’s not the case at all. Compared to other car auctions, Barrett-Jackson has the largest catalog of cars, the largest audience, and nearly half a century of experience, and they know how to generate excitement unlike anyone else. I think that is reflected by the record-breaking numbers in this year’s auction.

Making Memories
One of the hallmarks of the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction is that there’s so much to do. While the cars are the main focus, there were vendor exhibits, Dodge Thrill Rides, celebrity appearances, a Polo match, a BMX exhibition, and plenty of food options to create a full day’s entertainment each day of the event.

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While all of these are great, my favorite part of the auction is walking around under the tents outside and looking at the different cars that have been consigned for sale. While I am out there, I see lots of other people doing the same thing. The love of cars is an interest that brings people together, regardless of age, income, or other factors.

Barrett-Jackson is not in the business of selling cars – they are selling dreams.

There are groups of friends both young and old walking around checking out the cars. I see best friends reminiscing about the cars they had in high school and the mischief they got into. Barrett-Jackson is not in the business of selling cars – they are selling dreams. Dreams of the car they always wanted, or the one they used to have that got away.

I see young kids whose eyes light up when they see a Plymouth Prowler or a gigantic supercharger sticking up out of the hood of a muscle car. This is the event to see all things weird and wonderful of the automotive world, from the Amphicar to a Ferrari Testarossa. You don’t need to know a single thing about cars to see something that stirs your soul, and Barrett-Jackson is the place where that happens. These kids are the collector car owners of the future. What they see at these events may start them down a path that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Whether you want to see record-breaking auctions or create lasting memories with friends and family, Barrett-Jackson is the place to be. It is the excitement and the memories that keep me coming back, year after year. You can find out more about upcoming auction events by visiting www.barrett-jackson.com.

1990 Buick Reatta Coupe

1990-buick-reatta-profileIf you saw my last post about the Chrysler TC by Maserati, you know the background leading up to the highly competitive luxury coupe market of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Today, we’re going to take a look at Buick’s short-lived attempt at cracking into this market segment.

The Reatta was a two-seat coupe that went on sale in 1988. Like the Chrysler TC, it was intended to be a top-of-the-line model, available at a premium price. Though the Reatta is in the same vehicle segment as the TC, Buick’s approach was completely different from Chrysler’s. Continue reading

Arizona Concours d’Elegance 2017 Preview

arizona-concours-awardsAre you getting excited? The Arizona Concours d’Elegance is just three weeks away! The annual event, now in its fourth year, will be held at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa in Phoenix on Sunday, January 15th, 2017. Whether you have attended before or are considering it for the first time, we’re going to give you a preview of what you can expect to see at the 2017 show.

Although this event takes place during Arizona Car Week (alongside Barrett-Jackson, Russo and Steele, and other collector car auctions), the Arizona Concours is NOT an auction event. The 90 automobiles on display are not for sale, but rather are entered in a judged competition. Class winners will receive awards, ribbons, and the distinction of being judged “Best in Class.” Continue reading