The return of the Bat Rod
Special to The Union
The story of Bat Rod begins back in 1975 when I bought a 1973 Pontiac Trans Am. It was green, which was not my favorite color for a car.
It had a crease in the door, so when I had it repaired, I had the car repainted. My wife, Kelly, said the car looked like the Batmobile, so I painted it black and added the Batman logo on the rear and on the hood.
I also got personalized plates that said BATROD (spaces were not allowed then).
Time passed and so, alas, did my ownership of the Trans Am. However, I kept the plates. Over the years I moved them from car to car, eventually leaving them on my ’56 T-Bird, which didn’t look like a Bat Rod.
Flash forward to 1998 when I purchased a ’72 Corvette LT-1. It was primered and needed work, but I loved the way it looked.
Having the hottest engine for that year, a solid-lifter 350 CID and a Muncie four-speed trans, didn’t hurt. Three more pluses were power steering and brakes, as well as factory air conditioning (one of about 260 air-conditioned LT-1’s ever made).
After running the number code, I found that it had originally been painted Ontario Orange. I even liked green more than orange.
Since the ’Vette had already been modified with headers, side pipes and off-set training arms to handle its wider tires, I did not go with the stock color.
After briefly toying with the idea of painting it candy apple red and calling it the Wild Cherry, I decided that it was time for the Bat Rod to return.
Many of the car’s parts were in boxes, unsorted and unlabeled, including the vacuum-operated pop-up headlights and windshield wiper door, all of the interior and the rusty chrome parts.
It was like building a 3-D jigsaw puzzle. While doing the restoration, I changed to an aluminum radiator to prevent overheating, swapped the hand-crank windows for power ones and added an AM/FM/CD.
I had it painted black with silver flames with the Batman logo on the back and on the hood. The BATROD plate became BAT ROD. Finally, in 2006, the Bat Rod was again on the road. The car was a blast to drive and a real attention-getter. I have driven it a lot.
I have gone with fellow Roamin Angels on numerous road trips, including to Del Mar in SoCal, a National Parks tour that included the Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion and to Puyallup, Wash.
There have been, however, a few potholes in the road of the Bat Rod’s life. One was the paint started bubbling, perhaps because of some moisture trapped in the fiberglass.
The entire car had to be sanded down and repainted, including redoing the logos and flames. I opted for the “true flame” look that time, using blues and silvers.
The stereo developed a problem that stumped the professionals. One told me that he thought the Joker was behind it. Eventually I found that dust in the distributor cap was the culprit rather than a super villain.
To gain a little better gas mileage than the 12 MPG I was getting on the highway, I dropped in a Tremac 5-speed with overdrive. I can now get 18 mpg on the highway.
Then, on the 3,000-mile National Parks tour, the Bat Rod’s engine lost a couple of oil rings.
It was spewing oil out of the left side pipe, both burnt and unburnt, so badly that cars around me were giving me a wide berth. We made it back, climbing Donner Pass from Nevada with a horrendous mess.
Lanny from Lanmark Auto pulled the engine for a rebuild and reinstalled it without even a scratch on the paint, but he swore he would never work on a cramped-quartered ’Vette again. Always looking to improve, I went with aluminum heads, roller rockers and cam and an HEI ignition in the rebuild. The Bat Rod now runs like a bat out of … heck.
There are always tweaks here or there to do to a classic. Hopefully, there will be no major changes or repairs to the Bat Rod. Unlike the Batman series, I’m planning on making this the only Bat Rod sequel.
For more about Ron Cherry, go to http://www.rlcherry.com. For more information about the Roamin Angels Car Club, go to http://www.roaminangels.com, call 432-8449, write to Roamin Angels, PO Box 1616, Grass Valley, CA 95945, or just stop by IHOP on Taylorville Road Fridays at 6:30 a.m.
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