Courtney Barber
November 2, 2016
Photos By: Amie Williams

After getting back from Alaska I had 45 days to get the car ready for the biggest show of the year, SEMA 2016. At the time that sounded like a lot, but as each day passed I realized how short it really was. Throw in Hurricane Matthew and it felt like the time got cut in half!

The first thing to do was remove the motor and get it shipped back to Ford for inspection. You may remember the 347ci circle track crate engine Ford provided for Project Road Warrior. They thought my car would be a great test to prove the streetability of the engine. As if the 25,000 miles done on the Hot Rod Power Tour, Rally North America, SEMA 2015, and the Goodguys Tour wasn't enough, I think our giant circle of North America proved that the circle track engine is perfectly capable of handling any street conditions thrown at it and provides the get up and go when you land at a stoplight next to a Chevy.

Ford was to have the engine back in time for installation and the drive to Las Vegas for SEMA, plus a little surprise I had planned. While the engine was out I still had plenty to do replacing the upper and lower control arms and brakes. You may be wondering why considering they were just a little over a year old. Well, I drive the hell out of my car and I think it's best to stay ahead of anything I can. One hundred miles of the Denali Highway in Alaska, which is a dirt road filled with giant rocks and potholes, certainly had to speed up the aging process a bit, and I still can't believe we made it down the "Highway" without anything breaking. It says a lot about Scott Drake and NPD's parts that they can handle me.

As I made plans and lists of stuff I wanted to get done before the show, Hurricane Matthew decided to throw a wrench in the works and started making its way towards the East Coast. I live on Folly Beach, SC and the car was still immobile at Stono Body Works in Charleston, SC as we rode out the hurricane. I wasn't willing to leave my car behind so I prepared my place for the possibility of an ocean visit and put the car up on the lift in case of flooding and crossed my fingers. It’s amazing how insignificant the rock chips I had been worried about fixing became as the threat of a natural disaster approached my front door. Luckily Matthew passed without any catastrophic damage—the shop had a few inches of water and my home remained dry thanks to the timing of low tide. But that fancy thing that makes life easier was gone and we were without power for six days—a giant pain in the butt. The first few days were okay because everyone was grateful for could have happened but didn’t, and by day three the list of stuff still left to do to the car kept living in my head, and I was eager to get back to work preparing it for the trip to SEMA.

Luckily, life returned to normal right around the time the engine came back from Ford. While my time for painting the car and fixing the rock chips from our journey to Alaska had disappeared, I was not going to sacrifice my next project—it was time from the engine to look the way I wanted it to. In Project Road Warrior’s previous life, before the 347 stroker, I had a 351 Windsor that I had painted magenta, and every time I popped the hood it made me smile. When the 347 showed up at the shop, Dave Mahan of Stono Body Works vetoed my paint idea. The aluminum heads and intake were gorgeous as is and he suggested we just do the block. I agreed because I've never had anything that fancy in my life and it seemed like a smart idea. But black looked great but by the time it was in the car and all hooked up it lost its "Bam!" factor. When I found out I had to take the motor back out I knew it would not go back into my car without the Bam factor.

The engine passed inspection with flying colors and arrived back at the shop on the 18th of October, exactly a week before we planned to start the 2,300-mile journey to Las Vegas for the show. Many might think I was crazy for wasting a day and a half that I didn't have on painting my motor pink and I'd say they are probably right, but that's what makes life fun, right? And wow did it turn out amazing, the BASF paint was the perfect shade of Magenta and now I have my bam back!

After the paint dried I got my butt to work on getting the engine back in and ready to fire up. Luckily nothing had changed so it was a simple process of hooking up everything I had disconnected weeks before. I kept waiting for something to pop up to slow down the process but it went smooth like butter and I found myself driving the car to the alignment shop the next Monday to get things straight and put on a new pair of shoes. The Comp 2 BFG tires on the car survived our Alaska trip but Scott Drake provided a new set of rims for the show so new tires seemed logical. I have yet to kill a set of their tires and I can usually break anything!

The next day I had just enough time to pack and get the car stickered up before it was time to hit the road on Wednesday. The first 600 miles of the journey went smooth but as we pulled off the highway to find a hotel on Wednesday night, I could tell something wasn't right. The steering was stiff and on the first hard right I had to use some muscle to get the car to turn. Ironically last year on the way to SEMA I busted a power steering line and it was a total case of deja vu. I slid under the car to see if I could find the leak and what I saw scared me. The rack itself was leaking and I couldn't find a line that felt wet. Luckily Goolsby Customs was right around the corner in Birmingham, Alabama and I made plans to head there in the morning and tried my best to think positive as I tossed and turned through the night.

We showed up at the shop at 8:00 am the next morning and once the car was on the lift, they determined that a seal on the rack had expired. Thoughts of failure ran through my head as I started calculating shipping times while the guys at Goolsby went into motion. They found some magical part numbers and had an identical rack at the shop within the hour and us back on the road before noon. I cannot thank them enough for saving our SEMA 2016.

After our speed bump we had some time to make up, and on Friday we racked up 900 miles before stopping and leaving the final 500 for the next day. We arrived in Vegas on Saturday at 2:00 pm with plenty of time get the car clean before check in the following morning.

Sunday we arrived at the convention center and got a spot in line right behind the Bigfoot monster truck. When nobody was looking, I managed to climb into Bigfoot and got my butt in the drivers seat. I'd like to take that thing down the Denali Highway! After a short wait we cruised into the convention center and claimed our spot right next to the center track where the car cannot be missed by anyone walking the outside portion of the SEMA Show. Although I do think I have plenty of tire debris in my future. After the final detail we headed back to the hotel and enjoyed a beer, mission accomplished!

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