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Fantastic, Tom.

Replica drivers everywhere are walking a little taller tonight.

Your car looked and sounded great, and you carried yourself with a plum.

Or, is that 'aplomb'? We're not very good spellers.

Can you shed some light on how this came about? He makes a few references to just spotting your car driving by on the street.

Liked the shot where you're parked in front of two Miuras and your car is the center of attention!


Robert M posted:

Looking good Tom but I would suggest you flip your sway bar over in the front. I could hear it scraping on some of the bumps. You might have to notch the bumper brackets to get it to fit.



The front sway bar does look really low. In one shot in the beginning of the video, it look liked it was going to catch on the ground and do some major damage at high speeds. The video angle could be a little deceiving though...

I took a screen shot so you could see that the sway bar is upside down. The leading edge of the bar should be up so as the bar extends from the spindle are the curve should go up. You will definitely have to notch the brackets to make it fit. I'm surprised that JPS would do that, I thought he was a little more detailed oriented?

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Thanks for the feedback on the front sway bar.  It was never an issue -- literally never scraped once -- until I switched from 16" to 15" wheels.  Now I scrape it everywhere.  I'll definitely take care of it in short order.

I'll circle back with the story behind that mod, as well as the story behind the Jay Leno's Garage production.

Thank you for all your kind words.  I was completely terrified while filming.  :-)

Devin posted:

Nice job Tom. I'm also curious how this came about and how long it took to shoot. Seeing all those driving shots reminded me of the test drives I'd do around JPS on my visits to see progress. 

I too would love to hear the back story on this one. 

Super cool to see you and your bad ass car on Leno's Garage.  The number of comments on the video blew me away.  When you figure out how to fix the sway bar, let me know. I have the same issue. I'm thankful I've never been splashed across the internet for others to see it.

Which brakes did you go with? I'm *really* leaning towards @Kevin's brakes but I need the flush mounted screws like you have on yours. 

Hope all is well with the family,


There was once a time on here, not all that long ago, when everybody was telling us to "just use a stock VW front anti-sway bar......  Mount it upside-down and it'll work great!" Do a quick search and you'll see. 

That is, in fact, what you are running, and it does work great.  Especially if you  have front bumpers, right?

So that was a few years ago, and now we all know that mounting front bars this way ain't cool, mostly because they drop your ground clearance to under 4 inches.  Who knew?   Damned if you do, I guess.  

Notch your bumper mounts, flip your bar and nothing will change in your handling AND you'll gain four inches or so of ground clearance and won't scrape anymore.

Wicked cool video and car, BTW.   Makes me want to wear my Denim shirts more often.

Gordon Nichols posted:


There was once a time on here, not all that long ago, when everybody was telling us to "just use a stock VW front anti-sway bar......  Mount it upside-down and it'll work great!" Do a quick search and you'll see. 

That is, in fact, what you are running, and it does work great.  Especially if you  have front bumpers, right?

So that was a few years ago, and now we all know that mounting front bars this way ain't cool, mostly because they drop your ground clearance to under 4 inches.  Who knew?   Damned if you do, I guess.  

Notch your bumper mounts, flip your bar and nothing will change in your handling AND you'll gain four inches or so of ground clearance and won't scrape anymore.

Wicked cool video and car, BTW.   Makes me want to wear my Denim shirts more often.

Probably because "some time ago" most everyone was putting in mild AC'd motors and Sunday driving these things. Nowadays people are putting in high output AC'd motors, 911's, and some very high output water cooled subies, some with turbos. Then they're driving the snot out of these cars. I think we'd all be wise to get as much ground clearance as we can.

In October, a good friend of mine invited me to come along on a series of tours of private car collections and museums around Los Angeles.  This friend has an incredible collection of exotic Porsches, Ferraris, and various other remarkable vehicles that he has generously shared with me over the years.  In addition to being an unbelievably talented car collector, he’s also a member of the Silver Arrow Society, which is a group of patrons of the Saratoga Auto Museum in upstate New York.  They organize “car guy” trips every year, and, boy, do they know how to do it right!  The weekend was spectacular in every way:  the people, the accommodations, the meals, and of course, the car collections.

One of the most highly anticipated events was a tour of Jay Leno’s garage, which was to be the first event on our second day.  I met the group at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, where they all got on a luxury coach bus.  Of course, my friend and I opted to follow the bus in my Speedster. 

I was super excited to show off my ride to my friend, as he was the first to hear about it when my wife and I spec’d it, but had never actually seen it in person.  Many of the left-coasters on this site had a direct hand in helping me sort through some of the initial issues I had when I took delivery of the car, and like most, if not all of you, I’ve been steadily upgrading my car over the three and a half years I’ve owned it (THE MADNESS!!!).  The last year has been particularly exciting, as I’ve finally gotten the car to where I believe it is at an equilibrium of high performance vs. existing infrastructure.  That is, further upgrades don’t make sense without a new engine or a different chassis, neither of which I plan to pursue.  The last upgrade items on my “list” went on the week before the trip.  Again, I was really excited to finally roll with my buddy.

A quick digression…

@TRP, The second-to-last upgrade made on the car were the 4-piston Wilwood brakes on all four corners.  The kit was from Airkewled.  To be honest, I didn’t notice much of an improvement, as the original upgraded discs were more than capable of locking up my tires.  All I really noticed was the whooshing sound that occurred when hitting the brakes, as the drilled holes in the rotors are rather large, and therefore, very audible.  This might drive some people crazy, but it’s subtle enough that only the driver notices it, and I kinda dig it.

This brings me to the last upgrade I made, literally days before the Leno production.  I originally spec’d the car with 16” steel wheels, which JPS procured as a custom item for me.  Of course, when I did this, I didn’t really understand rolling mass and unsprung weight.  The upgrade entailed my purchase of the Vintage 190 15” alloy wheels from Greg at Vintage Spyders, and shoeing ‘em with brand new Toyo R888R Autocross slicks.  I say “brand new” because they literally had zero reviews on Tire Rack when I bought them.  Ken Block used them in Gymkhana 9, which was released in mid-September, and they have quickly become the preferred tire for Autocross crowd.  The grip, as I said on the YouTube clip, is astounding, and now makes the brake upgrade worthwhile.  With the smaller tires and the alloy wheels, the difference in weight is unbelievable.  I easily saved 20 lbs per corner.  This has resulted in dramatically improved throttle response and acceleration that is conservatively 10% faster, and probably closer to 20% (no joke!).  Best. Mod. Ever.

The reason for this digression is not only to share that bit of intel with you guys, but also to explain that before I switched from 16” to 15” wheels, I never once scraped my front sway bar.  Doesn’t seem logical, but that 1” difference now means that every time I drive it I bottom out!  Thank you, @WOLFGANG and @Robert M and everyone else who commented on that.  I will definitely notch the bumper bracket and flip the sway bar.  I agree with @Will Hesch, there’s no upside to having aircraft carrier arresting gear installed.

OK.  Back to the story…

When we arrived at Jay’s garage, the bus parked on the street in front and two of the members who organized the trip got out and went in to speak with Jay.  My friend and I parked my replica Speedster across the street, and walked as far as the bus.  Not wanting to interrupt, we hovered there for a minute.  But it was drizzling rain and we were standing there like idiots.  Jay waved us up to join the conversation, and expressed interest in my car.  I told him it was a replica Speedster, and the guys all said, “Tell him about the engine!”  I did so, and he immediately invited me to be on a YouTube episode of Jay Leno’s Garage!  My first response was, “Are you serious?”  But I jumped at the chance.  He asked me to remind him at the end of the tour.

By the way, the tour was incredible.  We all knew we would see the collection, but we had no idea that Jay, himself, would lead the tour.  He was very kind, and the depth of his knowledge on each and every one of the 100+ cars and motorcycles in his collection was just amazing.  People were asking very obscure questions such as, who designed such-and-such car, and he knew every answer.  He has a full time staff at the garage, as well as some incredible equipment like water jets and 3D printers.  But the best parts of the tour were when we got him telling the stories behind his cars.

@Sacto Mitch noticed that pair of Miuras behind us in the last shot.  Apparently, Jay bought the yellow one from Dean Martin’s son, Dino.  He didn’t tell us the price, but he did say that at the time of the transaction that car was neglected and basically worthless (!).

Another great story was about his pristine GMC Cyclone pickup truck.  Someone asked him about it, and he called it his “Christmas tree delivery truck.”  Specifically, he and his wife were at a Christmas tree lot in Los Angeles, and although the sign said “free delivery,” they tried to charge him a fee because he lived two blocks outside the free delivery zone.  They wouldn’t budge on this policy, which infuriated Jay.  So he walked across the street to the GMC dealer and purchased the truck on the spot (!).

I can’t overstate how awesome his car collection is, and how gracious he was.  At the end of the tour, we took a few group photos.  I casually hung back, waiting for the crowd to clear, as individuals in our group took selfies with Jay.  Perhaps somewhat meekly, I asked him again if he was serious about featuring my Speedster replica on his show.  He didn’t miss a beat – he was definitely serious.  He whipped out his cell phone, called his producer, and handed the phone to me.  The producer asked about the value of the car for insurance purposes, and which of the available filming dates I’d prefer.  He told me that in the next few days, he’d email a few release forms to sign and a time and the logistical details for my return to the garage.

When the day came, I showed up, nervous and intimidated.  It didn’t help that the gentleman who was also filming that day brought a rare and beautiful Ferrari.  They shot the Ferrari throughout the morning, and I was told to hang around and “make myself at home” until my turn came up after lunch.  Wandering around Jay’s incredible collection, and observing the Ferrari shoot only freaked me out more.

I thought it might help to “break the ice” over lunch.  Do you remember Jay’s story about his GMC Cyclone pickup truck?  Well, when my wife and I first moved to Los Angeles, she was in the Costco shopping for strawberries.  A woman in her vicinity loudly complained to a nearby store manager that my wife was touching all the strawberries.  She accused her of opening up each of the containers to assemble one container of perfect strawberries!  Of course, my wife would never do such a thing, and was horrified.  Rather than fight with some crazy lady in the Costco, she bought all the strawberries.  ALL the strawberries.  In a COSTCO

Anyway, I relayed this story to Jay and said, “Don’t you get it?  It’s the same story as your acquisition of the GMC Cyclone!!”  Jay seemed vaguely amused, but did not laugh.  He said, “Yeah, I guess so.  On a different scale.”

Well, that was all the other car owner (and his more-than-a-little-bit slimy car broker) needed to hear to decide I wasn’t worth their time.  When I made friendly conversation with them, they picked up their phones, stared deeply into the screens, and walked away while I was mid-sentence.  Not cool.

None of this helped to put me at ease before my shoot began.

I wandered over to the producer, who is a really approachable, affable, pleasant guy.  He assured me that I was over-thinking it, and that the show is all about the cars.  He mentioned that they get all kinds of people on the show, and that most of them are friendly, genuine, and down-to-earth, and some – not so much.  At this point, I was so frazzled that I asked him if there was a chance that Jay would send me home once he realized what he was about to film.  He assured me that there was no chance of that, and that Jay was genuinely interested in my Suby Speedster replica.  I figured I’d better go calm down, so I walked into the section of the garage where they were setting up to film our first segment, the “walk around.”

When I got there, one of the crew was busy setting up the lighting and camera equipment.  He was really fascinated by the car, and was obviously dancing around asking how much I paid for it.  When I told him, his enthusiasm increased exponentially.  He wanted to know everything about it.  This was the best possible conversation, as I unwittingly rehearsed my walk around as I explained how the car was built, which upgrades I’d made, how difficult it is to buy well if you don’t do your research, and so on.

That’s not to say I wasn’t still feeling totally unprepared, but it did settle me down a bit.  Thank goodness for that, because I was in full bug-out mode when the cameras started rolling.  The entirety of the preparation for the show was, “Stand over there.  When Jay introduces you, walk up, shake his hand, and start the walk around.”  The only question I had time to ask was whether I should look at the camera or at the car.  They told me to I should never look at the camera, and to just try to have a normal conversation.  Thanks for the extensive prep.  Thanks a lot.

Jay was a real pro throughout our shoot.  He has a very natural way of knowing when to let his guest talk, and when to pick back up.  I never really felt settled down, but he made it as easy on me as he could have.  The entire segment was done in one take.  @Devin, I’d guess that they edited out about one third of our conversation, but my sense of time was admittedly very skewed.  I’m no doctor, but I’m pretty sure I was at least blacked out and possibly even legally dead for about 75% of that time.

After the “walk around,” where he interviewed me about my car, we filmed the driving segment, which was tremendous fun, and over the approximately 60-minute drive, allowed us to talk and laugh and have some real and interesting conversation.  We talked about our favorite driving roads in the area, and how amazing it is that everyone in LA only complains about the traffic when you can access these truly world class drives relatively easily.  We discussed our wives, and he gave me a few tips on how to cultivate a 35+ year marriage (“Don’t screw around!”).  My favorite discussions were about our next automotive endeavors, as I have some very specific ideas for my next project car, and he’s got a handful of builds / rebuilds going on at all times.  He gave me some good advice, and by the end of our drive, I was really enjoying myself.

After we returned, the crew took the “glamour shots” of my car, parked and professionally lit in Jay’s garage near his Bugatti collection.  The first thing I asked them was, on a scale of 1 to a&&hole, how did I do?  They were pleased with the amount of free flowing conversation Jay and I had, and were confident that they had plenty of usable audio for the production.

I spent the next hour or so joking around with the crew, on a bit of an adrenaline high now that the on-camera parts were finished.  They were a good group, and seemed to genuinely enjoy their work.  The producer who tried to calm me down after lunch was really interested in the car, and I promised to send him some detail on the best way to buy one (I’m looking at you, @Troy Sloan and @Alan Merklin!).

When they were finished, I said thank you and good bye to all the guys I’d met, and motored through Jay’s beautiful collection one last time.  As I drove off into the sunset, Jay waved and said, “Come back any time!”

What an incredible day!

I drove home pondering what a lucky guy I am.  I called my friend who brought me on the tour to let him know that we completed the shoot, and to ask him to keep it quiet in case I came off as a total moron.  And then, panic set in… 

I spent the next few weeks replaying all the vague, incomprehensible, or just plain blatantly false things I blurted out over the course of the filming, and began to worry about how all of this was going to turn out.  For example, at the end of our segment, when Jay signed off, you might have caught that he said mine was the “best replica he’d ever seen.”  I was so thrilled and floored by that comment, I didn’t have the presence of mind to say “thank you.”  Or that during our walk around, I said “Wilwood four caliper brakes.”  Oops.  I promise you, there were many more such gaffs that never made it into the final cut.

Although I’ll never watch that thing and NOT notice all my stammers, mispronunciations, or less than concise answers to his questions, I’m pretty happy with the final product.  I sent it to my parents, and WOW is my mother proud.  She is about as excited as can be!

I’m really happy to read all of your ‘attaboys and comments about us replica guys getting some “well deserved and long overdue recognition” and the like, and I’m really excited to share this brief moment in the spotlight with you guys.  There is no way that my car would be nearly the polished gem it’s become were it not for the collective wisdom of this group.  I apologize if I represented our hobby in a somewhat oafish and unrefined manner, but I did the best I could do on short notice.  @Theron, Jay and I had a two or three good conversations about the Speedster Owners Club, but they were, sadly, edited out.

What a story, huh?  Since then, I joined the Saratoga Auto Museum’s Silver Arrow Society, cuz I don’t want to miss their next trip!  Now that I know the drill, I’m also plotting my triumphant return to Jay’s garage.  Hmmm.  Might have to build a new car first…


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  • mceclip0: Tom Murtaugh and his Suby Speedster replica on Jay Leno's Garage
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