Project Car Hell, Graverobber Edition: 1970 Cougar or 1972 Torino?

Yesterday, we saw the Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail '72 Hell Project competition go to the '72 Volvo 1800ES by a Nixon-over-McGovern-style landslide, with 73% of the vote favoring the Volvo over the '72 Cougar. Today we're going to punish reward Graverobber for his run of incredible PCH tirades (such as this one, this one, or- my personal favorite- this one) by making him work harder for a PCH Tipster T-shirt than anyone else ever has. The deal I made with him: he chooses the cars, he writes the tirade for the cars, I include the tirade in the post... and everyone wins! Well, except for those who grumble about seeing Mercury Cougars in two consecutive Choose Your Eternity challenges, that is, but we'll pay that price.


Perhaps the second-gen Mercury Cougar took such a beating from the Volvo in yesterday's matchup because most folks much prefer the styling of the first-gen 1967-70 models. If so, today's cat might have a better chance, because it's a 1970 model (go here if the ad disappears), though it does have a semi-hot-rodded Windsor 302 in place of the (arguably) superior 351 Cleveland. Wait a second- does this car have a five-speed and a posi 9" Ford rear with a price tag of just 1,200 bucks? How can that be? Well, for starters, it's missing "grill, tail lights, int, dash, ect," and we're pretty sure those JC Whitney leaf spring shackles are there to shore up hopelessly saggy rear springs.

It's pretty tough to fit a 429 or 460 in a Cougar- sure, Ford managed to do it, but the parts you'll need to make it happen in your garage aren't exactly clogging up the junkyards these days. An early-70s Torino or Montego, on the other hand, is no sweat when it comes to big-block fun, as their Malaise-bloated commodious lines needed were ideally suited for big-block power. And what have we here? A '72 Ford Torino GT (go here if the ad disappears) in nice, not-so-rusty condition for a mere $3,600. It's got a factory tach, bench seat, and a 429 engine that "did run when it was pulled from the car several years ago" in place of the now-long-gone original 351W. You also get a "C7" automatic, which might be a rare Ford prototype unit. Come on, how hard could it be? OK, cast your vote, then read Graverobber's addition to the PCH Tirade™ Canon!

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Graverobber PCH Tirade™


Okay, this is tough. You go with the Cougar and, while you'll end up with a running high performance muscle car, the Cougar has always been the Mustang's crazy aunt, and all your pony car buddies will smile and offer pleasantries, but you will feel their derision underneath every time.

No, the car for you is the Torino. You've been eyeing them in the papers and online for years, and now is the time to pull the trigger. Why are you so keen on a Torino? Because you are obsessed with The Road Warrior and are looking to emulate Mad Max and drive around in his black Interceptor, telling people G'day and drinking Foster's. But you're not just obsessed, you spend almost every waking moment thinking about Mel Gibson in his tattered leathers, snaking along lonely back roads and desert highways seeking vengeance on wrongdoers. This is why you've moved your family to the high desert of the American southwest, as it's the most Aussie-like place you feel you can live. Since you live in the States, and can't easily import an Australian XB GT Ford Falcon Coupe, a Torino will have to do.

So you head out to Mesa and talk the seller down to $2500. Packing everything up in your trailer you head home, dreaming of eight side pipes, roof wing and a Concorde nose for the car. Getting home, the first thing you do is have it painted black. Not just black however, but the black of the soul of a rouge aussie biker. You drop in a proper 351 and add a Weiand blower that you also found on craigslist. A hole punched through the hood clears the gaping maw of the Scott injector hat. Pulling out the back window, you add massive fuel tanks to feed this beast, and as the coup de grâce you hand-fashion the Concorde nose out of fiberglass and aluminum mesh. You're tribute is nearly complete, and it is a thing of ominous beauty!

One thing that you don't take into consideration is the enormous thirst for high-octane fuel of the blown motor. It's so bad that you're on a first name basis with the guy that runs the only gas station in the desert who sells 100-proof racing gas. You take 55-gallon drums to the station to fill so you won't have to rely on the vagaries of his distributor to keep that thirsty v8 fed.

It's on one of these trips for fuel and supplies (Slim Jims and Cactus Cooler 6-packs) that things start to go wrong. While standing in the back of your pickup, filling a drum with racing gas, you notice a rough, black-painted motorcycle parked near the station entrance. Sitting on the back is an effete-looking young dude with flowing blond hair and a dog collar. Inside the gas station the bike's pilot is having an animated discussion with FiFi, the owner. You guess that FiFi is telling him that you've bought the last of the 100 octane - as the pump clicks off and you thread the cap back on the drum - and the guy doesn't like that. He comes storming out of the station, and you can see that he's wearing some sort of leather chaps/loincloth combo, and sports a rather lurid mix of a mohawk and eyeliner that makes him appear to be a refugee from a Judas Priest groupie brigade. He runs toward you and leaps on top of the near-by pumps. Youoooo! he fairly hisses, pointing at you as though to mark you. You took the gas! You take it, we kill you! Kill you! Kill! Kill! You can run, but you can't hide! Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! And with that he jumps to his bike, starting it, throwing it into gear and peeling out of the station in one fell swoop. You stand there dazed, staring at the black stripe left on the apron. After a minute, you regain your composure and head for home.

While driving through town, you notice more graffiti than you remember. And a lot of stores are closed and boarded up. Down a few blocks and you see there are overturned cars and flaming barrels of trash. Things have really gotten bad while you were working on the Torino and you mutter to yourself - should have voted for Obama I guess. Getting home you are greeted by your wife who is frantic and crying. What's the matter? you ask, brushing back a lock of her curly brown hair from her forehead. Oy she says, your gander's dead.You look at her in horror. Not your gander. Not the beloved pet of your youth. You kept him in the backyard, in the pond, and have had him for most of your life. Now you run back there, your wife running behind you screaming No! Don't look, it's too 'orrible! You find him next to the pond, burned beyond recognition. Holding your hand to his throat you check for a pulse. Not finding one, you try another spot. His neck is really long so this takes a while, but you eventually convince yourself that he is dead. Standing up you look away from the body not willing to accept that your treasured fowl is no more. He lived a good lifeyour wife offers, trying to comfort you. You turn away- That... THING... is NOT my goose! you shout at her, pointing at the still-smoking corpse. Still reeling from the day's events, you eat him for dinner, but the pain lingers and despite his crisp skin and moist, succulent meat, you can't fully enjoy the meal. You go out to the garage and slide under the back of the Torino. There you check on the machete secreted next to the factory tank, and flip the switch on the booby trap. Then you hit the hay early and suffer a fitful night of sleep.
In the early morning, you are jarred awake by what sounds like a squadron of F18s outside of your house. You run to the front window, your wife - cradling your son right on your tail. Out the window, you can't believe your eyes- the house is surrounded by junker cars, most of which have some sort of projectile weapon crudely mounted on top, behind these circle an endless number of dunebuggies and motorcycles, each piloted by the most heinous, dirty, evil-looking scum of the earth imaginable.

At the center of the melee is an enormous, dual-engine, six-tired monstrosity of a truck, and atop that is a man that looks like a pale incarnation of Arnold Schwarzenegger, wearing a hockey mask and a pleather speedo. A small man wearing some sort of raccoon runs up and shouts Greetings from the Humungous. The Lord Humungous. The warrior of the wasteland. The ayatollah of rockin' rollah!

You can't believe this is happening, and think back to your college philosophy professor who told you that karma was a very real phenomenon and that you should be careful about what you wished for, as it may come to pass, but not in the manner you wanted. Humungous stands and addresses the house through a megaphone: There has been too much violence, too much pain. We want the gas. Give it to us and you shall live. Just walk away and there will be an end to the horror. Just walk away.

Overhead you hear the sound of angry bees and look up to see an autogyro passing in the sky. Making eye contact with the lanky pilot, he shakes his head as if to say You're on your own and flies off over the horizon.

Geez, you think to your self, I'm in some pretty deep diggery doo. What'll we do? your wife shouts as the baby cries in her arms. How'll we get out of here?! You think for a moment, and then you hit upon a plan. Get the baby seat you tell her, and take it to the garage. You run into the bedroom and open a box that has been at the very back of your closet. From it you pull a pair of leather pants and a jacket. It's a struggle to fit into them, as you're a middle-aged American male and have been fattened up by corporate America intent on one day turning you into Soylent Green, but somehow you fit. Running to the garage you hear a scratching at the back door. You grab a tire iron and throw open the door, ready to wage violence upon whoever is there. Instead of a foe, a dog runs into the house. He's a mottled brown and tan and is wearing a red bandanna around his neck. You recognize him at once as a dingo and shout come on boy, let's go! He jumps into the Torino, turns and faces out the passenger side window and begins to bark ferociously.
You slide under the back of the car and flip off the booby trap. Pulling yourself up you meet your wife's eye from the window. Oy! She says, and spells "Crazy about you" in sign language to you. Since you never learned sign, you look at her quizzically and then leap into the driver's seat of the ebony interceptor, it's lowered nose pointed eastward at the garage door and towards the rising sun. You hope your wife understands the plan. You hope that the circling hoard take the bait. Hope is all you have.

Giving the dingo's head a shake, you turn the key and the big motor leaps to life. The eight side pipes flame with un-burned fuel, and the blower whines like a dentist's drill. You throw it in gear and punch it. Instantaneously you are thrown back in your seat, and into daylight as the car blows through the aluminum door and onto the driveway. You have a fairly clear shot, as most of the freak show has parked on the front lawn, likely due to their mostly being from Fontana.

You dodge a dunebuggy, catching one of its wheels and sending it flipping into a ditch ejecting the driver who's head is removed by the roll bar as he is violently thrown out. Shooting across the lawn, you snag the corner of a tent in the encampment, pulling it off of two grungy fornicating freaks. They shake their fists at you and the woman manages to pop off a couple of .38 rounds in your direction, all the while as they continue to be attached at the hip, humping furiously. The dingo barks at them and provides his own "lipstick salute."

Over the curb and on the road you look in the rearview to see the hoard turning to pursue you. Behind them, you see your wife, in her yellow van heading in the opposite direction, and no one following her. Your plan is working.

Hitting the highway you open her up. This is the first chance you've really had to enjoy the car and you marvel at the power and the noise uttering forth from beneath the hood.

The maddening hoard is right on your tail, led by the biker with the mohawk and his Andy Gibb look-alike friend. You floor it, but his bike is fast too and he maneuvers up next to your right-rear wheel. He has some sort of cross-bow on his wrist, and he's trying to shoot barbs into the tire. Watching in the side-view, you time his attack and at the right moment tap the brakes. He fires the arrows, which miss the tire, but lodge in the gunwall of the car. The silver shafts penetrate the interior, and the dingo bites and growls at them. Looking in the mirror, you realize that they were on cables, and the biker is now attached by them to your car! Pulling up the red lever next to the shifter, you engage the nitrous, and gain a few hundred horsepower. The bike can't keep up and both the rider and his compatriot are pulled from their mount and dragged under the massive crush of your rear tire. You feel the car lurch as you run over them, you hear metal crush, bone snap and flesh rend from tendon as they're turned into crow food. Looking back after the carnage you see two of your pursuers swerve to avoid the tangle of bike and rider and slam into the abutments on either side of the road sending their occupants into the Joshua trees and certain demise.

You think you're out of the woods by now, flying down the valley floor at 150 miles per hour, the dingo with his head hanging out the window looks like caricature as the wind whips his jowls into an unearthly smile.

Suddenly you're thrown forward and the car swerves from side to side. It's all you can do to regain control and you've lost a lot of speed. You check the mirror and there, right on your tail, is Humungous in the twin-engined nightmare. Two of his minions are crawling forward on it, swinging chains each with a mace on the end. One swings his and catches the lip of the trunk opening, and pulls it tight. You gas it and yank him off of the front of the monstrosity and onto the rough macadam. His hand is wrapped around the chain as he's dragged behind you, bouncing violently. He first loses his pants, which flap up and into the face of the second minion still riding the grill of your pursuer. Flipping on his back to save his manhood from being scraped off, he looses both buttcheeks to the road, and eventually is pulled under Humungous and to his death. He is replaced on the front of the truck by another who is armed with a cross bow, which is now aimed at your head. The dingo barks out the back window at him, and you remember your "secret weapon". You flip open the glove box and pull out a sawed off double-barrel shotgun. Holding it back over your shoulder, you're nearly deafened by the explosions, and the dingo ducks down and returns to barking after the shot. In the rearview you see the minion with the crossbow standing on the front bumper of the following truck looking down at where his stomach used to be. It has been replaced by your shotgun blast with a hole the size of a grapefruit and he falls forward where he is caught by the front tire. Somehow unable to un-snag the corpse, he spins around and around causing the vehicle to bounce and to slow and fall off pace. Overhead, the gyrocopter reappears and drops Molotov cocktails onto Humungous, who fires a .357 at him in retaliation. The gyro-man loses control and falls to the desert floor.

This is your chance you realize. There's enough space between you and humungous, and the following hoards as you pull to the right, scraping the shoulder and describing an arc across the two-lane. Humungous, too far behind to attack, can only follow. You head back down the desert road, returning in the direction from which you just came. Hitting the nitrous again the wheels squeal to gain grip as you are thrown back in your seat from the monstrous acceleration. Humungous, thinking he has you trapped and not wanting to loose the chase does the same and leaps forward spilling minions backwards and leaving a trail of smoke.

Sailing down the road at 170 you face wall to wall freak-mobiles baring down on you. Behind you, their leader is gaining on you as well, the gap closing by the second. You pass the wreckage of the biker and look over at your companion. The dingo, panting in the passenger seat, looks at you and, as though he can read your mind, dives to the floorboard and braces against the firewall. You put on your seatbelt.

You return your attention to the task at hand and bury the go pedal in the black carpet, giving it all she's got. The distance between you and the hoard is closing. That between you and Humungous is even closer- 100 feet, 75, 50... At the very last possible instant, you throw the wheel sideways, the tires scream for grip and you rocket off of the road and into weeds. Hitting the soft sand you dig-in and flip end over end over end. Your head feels like you've had too many Mojitos and then was put in a blender, and you taste dirt and copper in your mouth.

Your amazing maneuver is so unexpected it leaves Humungous momentarily dazed, and that is enough. LOOK OUT screams the minions on the hood as they barrel down on the closing hoard. Humungous' eyes literally pop out of his mask as the truck slams head-on into the racing collection of road flotsam. A fireball erupts from the macadam and the conflagration envelopes them completely. Flaming body parts are strewn across the road, soon to be fodder for coyotes.

You awake to the dingo licking your face, and your initial thought is good dog but then you realize that he was licking the blood off your face and had you stayed passed out much longer he might have eaten your face off. Go on! you tell him, and extract yourself from the wreak. Surveying the damage you see that it's not as bad as you had expected, and the car might even be drivable once back on its wheels. Walking to the back, you hold your hand under the stream pouring from the overturned fuel drum. Sand. Many miles away your wife and son would have the fuel, hidden in the van, driven to safety. They would be able to barter it for food and shelter in this crazy new world. They would be alright. They would travel far beyond the reach of men on machines and you will never see them again, you will live only in their memories. You have been reborn on this road today. Not just a mid-level pencil-pusher. No longer a waspy guy with a beer gut. No more just a Jalopnik commenter, you are now, and forever will be known as...The Road Warrior.