The Cars of Queens: Part I - BIG MUSCLE

Uploaded by drive on 14.06.2012

MIKE MUSTO: So we've just flown 3,000 miles, back to my
old neighborhood of Astoria, New York.
You see, for me, this is where the whole
muscle car thing started.
Back amongst the cracked concrete, the barbed wire, the
graffiti, and the padlocked garages, lurked some of
baddest muscle cars you're ever likely to see.
Now most people would never even think of bringing their
cars into this neighborhood, much less into New York City.
But for guys like me, for my buddies that you're going to
meet later on, this is home.
This is where these cars were built, and this is where these
cars roam the street on a daily basis.

Cars like this one.
It's a 1967 Buick GS 400.
We're going to show you a 1966 Chevelle SS convertible, a car
that's unbelievable.
A 1969 Dodge Charger that's been modernized within an inch
of it's life.
The thing is unreal.
And this car, which is one you've seen before.

This is the 1968 Coronet R/T, that you saw on our Muscle
Haulers episode.
This thing is badass.
We were going to test it in Monticello, but
it rained that day.
So what better place to showcase it than back in its
hometown of Astoria?
So stay tuned, we're going to bring you great two-part
episode of Big Muscle.
And, I don't know, sit back and enjoy.
MIKE MUSTO: All right, so we're currently driving
through Astoria Park, right by the Triborough Bridge, in
Queens, New York, in my friend, John's, '68 Coronet
R/T. Now John's had this car for about nine years.
In fact, the first time I saw it, it was basically a shell
with paint on it.
John did everything to this car in the backyard of his
folks' house, here in Astoria, New York.
I remember going over to his house.
One day he'd be working on the brakes, another day he'd be
working on the wiring, another day he'd be
working on the interior.
Just because you live in an urban environment doesn't mean
you can't build, use, and enjoy your dream car, which is
exactly what John has been doing for all these years.
I mean, this is an absolutely beautiful, beautiful car.
And John's gone through great pains, and great lengths, to
make sure it stays that way.
But he's also updated a lot of things.
Suspension has been updated with new shocks.
It's got two-door upper and lower control arms.
The motor, the cooling system, has been redone, so it can sit
idling in New York City traffic.
Steering has been updated with a Firm Feel box, which makes
it a little stiffer.
He's also fitted it with a large aftermarket tach and
some auxiliary gauges as well, so we can see exactly what's
going on at any given moment.
The car has been braced with sub-frame connectors.
He's got a nice Hotchkis sway bar in the front.
And it's an all-around good, good package.
He's also done some great touches on the inside.
The color combination in this car, with the silver, with the
red interior, the red tail stripe, everything just pops,
and it's fantastic.
In fact, I told him.
I said, if I ever build another car, I said, it's
going to be silver with a red interior.
Because the combination to me, is one of
the best in the business.
Now for power, this thing has got a 440 in it.
It's 30 over.
Now, a lot of people say, I want a Hemi, I want a Hemi.
But the fact of the matter is, the 440 is one of the best
engines out there.
You've got to remember, they put it in everything.
The other thing about the 440 is that
they're torque monsters.
From the factory, they're 375 horsepower, and I think
they're 475 pound-feet of torque, if I'm not mistaken.
He's also got an intake, headers,
mild cam in the thing.
So it's not stock, but it's not so radical that you can't
drive it on the street everyday if you wanted to.
Now, the car has plenty of grunt.
I mean, you jump on this thing--
--and it goes.
This thing is no slash.
We're probably pushing about 550 horsepower on this thing,
and you could feel it when you jump on the throttle.
The nice thing about driving a big B-Body like this is, with
the extended wheelbase, these cars are very tractable.
Yes, you can get the back end out at just about any time you
want, but with that extra length, it's very, very
In my opinion, a Chrysler B-Body is one of the best cars
if you want to drift.
You can have so much fun with these things.
MIKE MUSTO: One other thing that has to be mentioned about
this car is, John has updated the
transmission with a TK0600.
It's a great unit, a 5-speed unit.
And for around here, the gearing is great.
He's running 323 gears, with a really tall first gear, which
means that even though the clutch is somewhat heavy, you
can tool around town with no problem whatsoever.
The way the car is tuned, it doesn't buck at all, and it
doesn't do anything that you wouldn't expect.
Really, really enjoyable car to drive.
Even around a neighborhood like Astoria.
Plus, once you get it on the open road, you've got a great
overdrive in which to just [BLEEP]
hammer, jump on, and explore the limits.
You could cruise this car at 85, 90 all day long and it's
never going to blink an eye.
It's one of the best things about it.

Listen, at the end of the day, these cars are made for one
purpose-- to be driven.
The other thing is, it doesn't matter what
your environment is.
One of the reasons we came back to Queens, New York, was
to show everybody that it doesn't matter where you live.
Where there's a will, there's a way.
And that's what we've all found.
There's also the fact that, we're all buddies.
So anything we ever needed was a phone call away.
John, can you help me with this?
Harry, can you help me with this?
George, can you get this?
There's never a "no" on the other end of the phone.
It's where are you, what do you need, and
how can I help you?
That's the beauty of having a muscle car.
Everybody's in it together.
So, do I miss it?
Do I miss rolling on these streets?
I actually really do.
Being here, very bittersweet.
Hanging out with my buddies, best thing ever.
Going home, I'm going to enjoy it.
The only thing I really have to do now, is convince
everybody to move out west.
I do that and I'll feel like a real rock star.
MIKE MUSTO: So now that the Coronet R/T is back in
hibernation, you can see that we're driving something with a
really nice blue interior.
So Nido, do me a favor.
Give us a good cutaway shot.
Show everybody else what we're driving in right now.
MIKE MUSTO: This is the 1966 Chevy Chevelle Super Sport SS.
Unbelievable car, drop top, and one hell of a way to get
around my old neighborhood of Astoria, Queens.
It's powered by a 555 cubic-inch Big-Block with dart
heads, makes somewhere in the neighborhood of about 600
horsepower or so.
And that's conservative.
So we're told.
The car has torque for days.
Roll into it, [REVVING]
and the thing just accelerates like crazy.
It's unbelievable.
But it's not violent.
It's really linear in the way it moves.
Transmission-wise, it's a TK0600
5-speed, which is fantastic.
I think it's 355 gears in the bag.
We could cruise around all day, first and second gear
around the neighborhood.
But then once you get on the highway, 3,000 RPM in
overdrive, it's about 80, 85 miles an hour.
It's not bad.
It really makes highway cruising nice.
As far as suspension goes, he's got QA 1 adjustable
shocks up front, with some Hotchkis bits and
pieces here and there.
And the car is nice.
The ride is not firm by any means.
It's still a little soft and undulating over the bumps.
But like I said, you can adjust those shocks if you
want, to stiffen everything up.
The brakes on the car are bare brakes, with two-piece rotors.
They're manual though, so it does take a fair amount of
pressure on the pedal to get this thing to stop.
That's not a bad thing, it just gives you a lot of feel.
Some people like manual brakes, some people hate 'em.
Me, I'm more of a power brake guy.
But that doesn't mean these don't work.
In fact they work quite well in this situation.
From an interior standpoint, the car is really
done very, very well.
Everything from the seats, to the center console with the
clock, to the door panels, is stock.
And it looks so.
George took a lot of time in making sure this
car was done right.
He's had the car for about 15 years or so, and over, I
guess, the last 10 or so years, that's when he started
to restore it.
Every now and then, and every year he does a little bit here
and a little bit there, to culminate what we have.
Which is one helluva great neighborhood cruiser.
Now, on the highway how does it perform?
Pretty good.
Around the neighborhood it's really hard to explore its
entire potential, because we can only go so far, and we're
only rolling in second and third gear most of the time.
Now as far as the clutch, it's a heavy clutch, I'm not going
to lie to you.
And it engages very, very low to the floor.
So it takes a good maybe 5 to 10 minutes to get used to it.
The transitions for shifting from first to second to third
are nice and smooth.
Not a lot of drama here.
Really nice car altogether.
So wheels on the car are American Racing Torq
Thrust-Ds, Rapid 275 series Toyo tires.
The tires, they're pretty hard, I'll be honest with you.
So when you accelerate, the back end
breaks loose like crazy.
Honestly, with all the torque that this motor makes, you
could probably put 335s on the back, and it'll still break
them loose.
So that's something you got to be aware of when you're
jumping on the throttle.
The other thing you have to be aware of in this car is the
lack of safety features.
Now again, even though he's updated the brakes and the
suspension, this car only came with lap belts.
So what that means is, that if we stop short or we get
rear-ended, or we rear-end somebody else, guess what,
we're getting impaled on this steering wheel, and there's
not a damn thing we can do about it.
Plus, on these safety belts, you actually have a tensioner,
which keeps the belt tight against your midsection.
Believe it or not, that was an option in 1966.
That wasn't standard.
It's almost like Chevrolet wanted to kill
you back in the day.
The nice part about a car like this, is it's
a well-sorted cruiser.
Would I want to hit a race track with it?
I don't think so.
Just because, again, lack of safety features, no roll
cage, and so on.
But driving around the neighborhood, showing off,
doing a burnout here and there, car's fantastic.
Really fabulous machine.
So we've been driving around Astoria for
most of the day now.
I'll be honest with you, its been fantastic.
I got to come home, hang out with some of the best friends
that I've ever had.
And in the same token, they've given me the cars that they've
loved, and built, and wrenched on for so long.
Been a really, really fabulous day.
And the other thing is, I've been able to give them back
something else.
They're going to wind up with a really cool video of some
cars that they never thought would be on camera.
Pretty cool in my opinion.
MIKE MUSTO: So we spent the afternoon back in my old
neighborhood of Astoria, New York.
We drove around in a '66 Chevelle, and a '68 Coronet
R/T. And it's been an absolutely outstanding day.
But I want to introduce you to the owners.
George, come on in.
This is George.
GEORGE TRIANTAFILLOU: How you doin', Mike?
Good to see you, as always.
So, give me the quick 30-second
synopsis of the Chevelle.
Why Chevelle, why did you build it the way
you did, and so on?
GEORGE TRIANTAFILLOU: Well, the Chevelle, I love the looks
of the Chevelle.
The reason I built it like this is, because when I was
15, 16 years old-- when I first bought
my first '66 Chevelle--
I was driving down the street, I thought I was the coolest
guy in town.
I pulled a turn and lost control,
the car had no brakes.
I wound up on the sidewalk, taking down the parking meter.
Now from that day on, I knew I had to build a '66 Chevelle
that could handle, brake, and take it on
the highway and cruise.
MICHAEL MUSTO: And the car is outstanding.
Like I said, we drove it all day and it's been fantastic.
Obviously the other one is a '68 Coronet R/T.
John, come on in.
JOHN TSONTOS: Mike, what's going on?
MICHAEL MUSTO: This is John.
Now John and I originally met because he's a Mopar guy, and
so am I. Now when I first met him, he had the GTX.
Blonde-green, '70 GTX, with the gull wings, 17-inch
cragars, beautiful, beautiful car.
But now he's got the Coronet.
So 30-second rundown.
Why a Coronet, why did you build it like this, and so on?
JOHN TSONTOS: Well, my first car, like you said, was a '70,
and it was a joint venture between me and my dad.
But as time went on, I wanted to start getting into more
like the suspension and the brakes.
He really wasn't having it.
So I bought this with the intent of making it handle,
stop like a new car, with an overdrive transmission,
This was basically the end result.
My love for Mopar comes from my best friend, who taught me
how to drive when I was 16 years old on
a '70 Charger 500.
That always stays with me for the rest of my life.
So that's the whole story basically, in a nutshell.
MICHAEL MUSTO: All right, so now let me ask both of you
guys a big Are they for sale, or would you
ever get rid of them?
GEORGE TRIANTAFILLOU: It's not for sale, but you never know.
JOHN TSONTOS: Everything's for sale for the right price.
GEORGE TRIANTAFILLOU: For the right price, I'd sell it.
But the next day I'll have something else in the garage,
and I'll be back at the drawing board, pulling my
hair, whatever's left of it.
MICHAEL MUSTO: There's not much left of it.
Searching for parts on eBay, and then
starting all from scratch.
But I don't know, I would have to really think about it, if I
want to sell it or not.
MICHAEL MUSTO: Well guys, I can't thank you enough for
letting us use the cars.
It's been an outstanding day.
George, awesome being back home in the old neighborhood.
John, same thing.
JOHN TSONTOS: Mike, always a pleasure, man.

MICHAEL MUSTO: OK, so we just had a great day cruising
around my old neighborhood of Astoria, Queens.
But as we said, this is a two-part episode.
So stay tuned next week, when we bring you two other cars.
That 1967 Buick GS 400, and that
gorgeous 1969 Dodge Charger.
Both cars are packing a lot of stuff, and secrets that you
can't even imagine.
So stay tuned for more Big Muscle, next week on Drive.
MICHAEL MUSTO: Oh, what're you doing?
Here we're back in Queens, New York.
I'm on, a frigging bowl of rigatoni.
I'm going to get a gyro, then we'll go home, I'm going to
punch your mom in the mouth.

Hey ho, Mr. Softie.
That's what they used to call you, no?

Did you see that?
Guy almost blew himself up on the side of the road.
with an air conditioner.
MALE SPEAKER: What happened?
He just did what?
MICHAEL MUSTO: He was playing with an air conditioner, just
as we drove by.
The thing popped, it blew blue crap all over him.