Intro to the Editor: The Scamp
Welcome to Speed Talk. 2016 is here and we’re stepping it up here at Speed Society ...
Welcome to Speed Talk. 2016 is here and we’re stepping it up here at Speed Society with our section dedicated to the latest and greatest cars along with reflections on the cars of the past.
My name is Kaleb Kelley, Editor-in-Chief of Speed Society. I am 22 years old and obsessed with speed. I write, take photos and play with cars on a daily basis. Growing up playing with hot wheels, I always told my parents that I was going to design cars or write for a car magazine. Turns out I can’t draw and am as visually creative as Donald Trump is subtle, so here I am.
Let me tell you a bit of how I started out. I grew up in the cornfields of Illinois in the small town of Danville. My first car was a custom-faded red, A.K.A. pink, 1998 Isuzu Amigo with a 4-cylinder and 5-speed manual. I loved that car, but felt the need for more. I had the urge to be a patriot, so I bought a front-engine V8, rear-wheel drive four-door; a 2002 Lincoln LS. With a tiny 3.9L V8, it was peppy, but not fast. After high school, I moved down to Sherman, Texas to go to college at Southeastern Oklahoma State and live with my dad. He is one of the biggest car nuts I know and with his constantly changing stable of high-performance rides, the itch for my own began.
April 7th of 2013, I started an Instagram page called @ClassicsDaily and filled it with pictures of classic cars and hot rods. I was developing a love for them as I went to shows with my dad and drove his various cars. The page grew slowly starting out, but took off. Today, it has over one million followers and growing. This experience introduced me into the automotive world and I was able to capitalize on many opportunities through it. I have to thank one person specifically for motivating me to not stop at running an Instagram page alone. Jim McIlvaine of OPTIMA Batteries has pushed me since we first talked. He encouraged me not to put all of my eggs in one basket. He introduced me to the guys at BangShift.com and I quickly developed a relationship with them. I also got a DSLR and started delving into car photography. Today I shoot with a Canon 6D with two of my favorite lenses; a Canon 24-105mm f/4L and 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II. I have to thank Anthony Ross Tyler for giving me advice as I learned how a camera worked and how to improve my pictures.
In fall of 2013, I purchased my 1973 Plymouth Scamp. It was a mostly original 225 slant-six, 3-speed auto car in Spinnaker White with bright blue interior. The former owner had taken the leaning tower of power and hopped it up a bit. With a custom-ground Racer Brown cam, an Offenhauser intake and a Holley 4-barrel, this was no slouch. The slant-six had plenty of torque and with the 2.76 gears, it was pretty fun on the highway. After a month of daily-driving and wearing it out, I blew two rings in the engine because I got it hot one night coming home from the gym. It was pitch black and I couldn’t tell that anything was wrong until a car pulled behind me their lights lit up the smoke trail I was leaving.
After a few months trying to decide what to do, my dad and I came up with a plan; build it. This started a sequence of events filled with the phrase, “While we’re doing this, why don’t we…” It went from a simple 340 small-block swap to a complete rebuild with a full repaint. Family friends of ours owned a local body shop that was slow on work, so we took it to them. It took 9 months to take the car down to the metal, replace ONE quarter panel and the rear filler panel by the back window, then repaint the car. When we first got it back, some parts of it wasn’t up to par, so we had them reshoot it. They got it done and then we took the car home and starting working on it. We later realized that different components of the car don’t match and after the first bill, I’m not taking it back in.
My inspiration behind the car was linked to the growing trend they call “ProTouring.” It has roots in the early years of the SCCA Trans Am series with a modern twist. Events such as Optima’s Search for the Ultimate Street Car series continued to build my interest. When given the opportunity to do what I wanted with the car, I took that direction. We quickly got to work installing Hotchkis’ full Total Vehicle System with new control arms, steering rods, tie rods, sway bars and leaf springs. Thankfully, no major fabrication was required, but it was still a learning process for me getting it finished. My dad knew what he was doing, but enjoyed watching me try to figure things out myself a few times. When finished, we installed the Wilwood Disc Brakes with 11” rotors and 4-piston calipers all around. While doing the suspension work, we also installed the new trans cross member for the 727 and the 8 ¾ rear end out of a ’69 Dart.
The goal was to take the car on the 2015 Hot Rod Power Tour and we were quickly running out of time. This is when we called out good friend Steve Campbell to see if he could get the motor in for us as I was finishing up classes. The engine is a ’71 340 small-block that we took out of one my dad’s cars when he swapped in a big block. It had been rebuilt and has a beefy camshaft, but isn’t too crazy. Steve got the engine and transmission with our friend Shelby Holderfield getting the Holley Performance Terminator EFI throttle-body fuel-injection working. As they were finishing it up, my custom Boze Forged 17” ProTouring wheels showed up. They’re finished in Anthracite and Matte Clear with polished lips. Because of the tiny wheel wells in my Scamp, I can only fit 7” wide in the front and 8” in the rear. This car was meant to be a fun driver, so that’s alright with me. We immediately got an alignment, slapped some Black Widow mufflers on and got it driving. The car hit the road for the first time just a couple of days before we left for the Hot Rod Power Tour.
For those of you who don’t know, the Power Tour is a 1,500-mile trip across the country with hot rods and muscle cars of all types. The trip started in Madison, Wisconsin and ended in Baton Rouge Louisiana. Since we live north of Dallas, Texas, this was a journey just getting there. The 1,000-mile trip began with all of our friends going with us gathering at Watson’s Drive-in in Denison, TX to kick it off. We didn’t make it 100 miles before the Scamp broke down. The pulley on the power steering comp had started to come loose and flung the belt. This same belt also connects the water pump to the crank pulley, so I yanked it over to the side quickly. A few friends stopped and helped fix the pulley issue for now and my dad took off in his Hellcat Charger to the closest auto parts store…20 miles away. Of course the couple of belts he brought just in case weren’t the right size, so he went back for more. We eventually get her running and high-tailed it down the road. We stopped in Joplin, Missouri at Miles Performance to get some help. Locals told us that these were the Mopar guys around and we needed a new power steering pump since that pulley wasn’t going to last much longer.
After they helped us out, we were on our way until a series of intense thunderstorms in Kansas City halted our late-night trip. The rest of the trip went exactly like this and I broke down nearly every day. On the trip from Memphis to Birmingham, my car broke down and ended up on a trailer. Alternator failed and a friend behind us offered to throw it on a trailer. After taking it to a shop in Birmingham, we got it fixed and I headed to the venue super late. I pulled straight to Holley’s booth to get some advice on my EFI from their techs. Then I walked around for a bit and as the show closed, I spotted Elana Scherr, Staff Editor at Hot Rod Magazine, looking at my car with Larry Chen. Larry is one of the reasons I started taking pictures of cars. I love his style and his use of natural lighting. He is the Editor-at-Large at the SpeedHunters and one of my favorite photographers in the business.
I walked up to them like a nervous kid and introduced myself. I told them that I saw them looking at my Scamp and Larry’s eyes instantly peaked. “That’s yours? That thing is badass!” My knees buckled a little and I thanked him for the compliment. A few seconds later, they asked me if I was down to take some pictures of the car and Larry jumped in the car. We met with Brian Scotto and some guys from Hoonigan who they were also taking photos of. Larry took a few rolling shots out my car and then we staged my car. I think I was shaking a little as Elana asked me about car. Was my car really being shot for Hot Rod Magazine by Larry Chen? Yes. Yes, it was.
The photos didn’t make the magazine, but here they are for your viewing pleasure. Since then, I’ve talked with Larry a few times and he is a great dude. Super humble and extremely talented. While the crew at SpeedHunters specializes in some of the greats of the Japanese niche, you may find us slightly domestic biased. I’m a Mopar guy all the way, but I appreciate every build and the heart people put into their cars. A lot of people have become keyboard warriors to the max as they spend all of their time and effort critiquing others and their cars. This isn’t our style at Speed Society. We can appreciate all forms of the car culture, except for ricers.
Whether you drive a stanced Nissan or a street/strip Camaro, Speed Society is for you. This year, we will continue to post the baddest videos on the internet, but also bring you some more in depth content about the car culture. I have to thank the Speed Society team for bringing me on and welcoming me so readily. These are some of the coolest people in the business and I’m blessed to get a chance to work here. Stay tuned to Speed Talk for everything from car meet coverage to full on feature articles.
Thanks Larry Chen for the photos! – Check him out on Instagram @larry_chen_foto