AFTERMATH - THE STORY OF THE HELLCAT
It's a lesson all should heed,
Try, try, try again;
If at first you don't succeed,
Try, try, try again;
Then your courage will appear,
If you only persevere,
You will conquer, never fear,
Try, try, try again.
- Children's song lyrics
I thought I was done with this crap.
After all the work, hassle, and questionable triumph that was Marv the Impaler, I had serious reservations about ever trying something like that again. Finding a working vehicle, slaving over it, and trailering it down to Atlanta really is a pain in the ass. Not to mention that I didn't even get to do what I wanted to the first time around, which was ride in the back and give my Humungus speech. Also, much of the money put into one of these projects is simply spent and can't be recouped. So I wasn't planning on doing it again.
About halfway through the summer of 2007, I learned of the Motor City Comic Con, and that Doug (a man famous in Mad Max circles) would have his replica Interceptor there. I was excited about this; seeing a real Interceptor! I shared some of my enthusiasim with some friends. Lexus in particular was excited, too.
She asked if I would be having my own vehicle there, and I told her no, the reason being that it would be too hard to find a suitable vehicle and modify it in the two weeks there were before the Comic Con.
I should have known better with Lexus. She told a friend of hers about this, and he in turn offered up his Camaro. Lexus told me about what she had done, and I told the guy, "If you let me use your car, I'm going to basically destroy it and then just dump it back onto your hands." Somehow, he was ok with that. Game on.
So I looked up some info on the car in question. It was a 1992 Camaro RS, red with a V6. Not my ideal vehicle, but it was free, so hey. I got some pictures of a '92 Camaro and started planning my modifications.
With Marv I had made a speargun for his main weapon. This time around I decided to go with a flamethrower.
Before I get into that, the decision to make a flamethrower directly led to the design for the vehicle's artwork, and the vehicle's name itself. I wanted some kind of flaming artwork for the sides and/or hood; to go along with the flamethrower that would be in the back. But what kind of firey drawing could I have there?
A flaming skull was too common, and besides, a vehicle from The Road Warrior already had a flaming skull. Simple flames on the sides seemed too cliche. I struck on the idea of a flaming cat. So was born the name of this vehicle; The Hellcat.
When I was in the Marines, we had some custom T-shirts made up for my platoon. I was in a CAAT platoon, Combined Anti Armor Team. The T-shirts had a tribal-type cat design on them. It was this cat that would be the basis for the Hellcat's artwork.
CAAT platoon cat
Lexus does some drawing, and I asked her to use that design as a start for the Hellcat's side artwork. She had a 5x2 space
to work with, and she agreed to come up with an outline very quickly.
In the meantime, she met up with me to see the Camaro and help me get it back to my garage. It was parked behind an industrial building, and as I turned the corner I saw it. The entire right side door was smashed from a collision, along with numerous other dents and scrapes. My initial thought was 'This car is perfect!'
The passenger side dent
The tires were mostly flat (from sitting too long) and there was a ton of junk in the back, but it definitely looked mean
enough to be a Mad Max vehicle. With two air compressors running we soon got the tires back in shape and somewhat
surprisingly the Camaro started right up. Lexus followed me home, driving the Camaro back to my garage.
I had decided on taking off the hatchback and somehow mounting the flamethrower there. I also had vague plans to get a 55 gallon drum for the flamethrower fuel and mount that on the back. I thought that two huge exhaust pipes coming straight up out of the back would be cool, as well as a rollbar. I had a corrogated steel step from a fire truck that would make a good front bumper. Lastly I needed some sheet metal or steel for the side and hood armor. I figured that was enough to keep me busy in the two weeks I had to do it all.
I had a friend who worked in a sheet metal shop, and he agreed to supply me with some surplus sheet metal. I drove the Camaro there the next day, and we measured, cut, and bent some sheet metal to fit over the hood. He also gave me some very cool (and very shiney) diamond plate. I only had enough to cover one door, but I had an idea about how to make that work.
For the flamethrower mount, I knew it had to be strong. I wanted to cut out a hole above the rear axle and (hopefully) bolt it right to a crossmember. As there was no key for the hatchback I had to break the lock and force it open. Then I just took off the struts and unscrewed the window. I set the hatch aside and went to see about getting down to the frame. But, as soon as I cut up the carpet back there, I saw the gas tank was in the way. Scratch that plan.
Unfortunately, I also accidentaly cut some of the wires leading to/from the gas tank. I didn't know if they were wires for the fuel guage or power lines for the fuel pump. All the motorheads are going to yell at me, but my solution was to use wire nuts to put the wires back together. Problem solved, though half-assed.
Throughout all of this, I would start up the Camaro daily. I wanted to be sure that my modifications were not disabling the car, as well as keeping the battery charged. I soon learned that the battery would die after a couple of days of sitting there. Also, one of the rear tires had a leak that would flatten the tire in about a week, so I kept a air compressor ready to go for that.
So now, where to mount my flamethrower base? Looking in the rear, I saw the mounts for the seatbelts. Very sturdy, those mounts. I took off the seatbelts and what was left were two heavy duty bolts. I modified my flamethrower base to fit and bolted it down. It worked flawlessly.
Speaking of the flamethrower base, I just cut, bolted, and welded three pieces of sign post metal into two almost parallel bars, like a narrow triangle. In the center I bolted the vertical pipe that the flamethrower would swivel on. I cut a hole on each end for the seatbelt mounts, and I was done.
For the flamethrower itself, I mounted a piece of PVC pipe on a swivel made from a steering wheel shaft with a U-Joint. I bolted a propane torch to the end to ignite my "fuel". On the swivel I bolted a small keg painted silver. This would supposedly hold the compressed air to shoot the fuel. On the rear would go a large drum that I had yet to find. I wound hose around everything to make it look realistic, and that was pretty much it for the flamethrower.
The flamethrower and its mount
I also used some PVC pipe for a rollbar on the top of the car. I cut/smashed/drilled large holes on either side of the roof
and pounded the pipe in. I put my old Humungus megaphones on the rollbar.
Lastly I used some large diameter PVC pipe for the (fake) rear exhaust pipes. I thought they looked very cool, jutting straight up like a tractor trailer's pipes. I painted them grey with black for the exhaust soot.
A friend told me of a big plastic drum sitting by some railroad tracks. One Sunday I drove out in my truck and picked it up. I made up a frame to hold it to the car and strapped it on.
Flamethrower, rollbar, exhaust pipes, and fuel tank in place, yet to be painted.
I took out the four front headlights, and I made a simple frame to hold the fire truck step to the front of the car.
I screwed the sheet metal armor to the hood, and bolted the four headlights on top of that.
I also put two smaller pieces of sheet metal on each front quarter panel, so when the hood closes it looks like one big
piece of armor.
The hood armor and bumper ready to go on
The hood armor with headlights on
Lastly was the side diamond plate. A simple matter to put it on the driver's side door with sheet metal screws. Then Lexus
came by to paint on her Hellcat design. She had made a life size outline of it on paper, and we cut it out and taped it to
the diamond plate. I spray painted it black and removed the paper. Then Lexus hand painted in the details and the
Lexus painting away. Yes, she kept her brushes in her hair!
Flames for the kitty
Finished Hellcat design
I originally spray painted the same design on the very smashed-in passenger side door. But I got a better idea: make it
look as if the passenger side armor had been smashed away, which would incidentaly take the design with it. I got some
right angle pieces of metal and bolted them there to show where the armor had been. It all ended up looking very
Before I used turpentine to rub off the second design
A few minor details were added; some arrows "shot" into the car and a few more dents and scrapes added. I also painted
everything that needed it, including spray painting the wheels black.
Flamethrower with Lexus assist
With that, the Hellcat (version 1.0) was finished. Just in time, too. Lexus finished painting it up two days before the
With all of the modifications, I didn't feel quite comfortable driving the Hellcat to the 'Con. I rented a trailer for cheap (got a pretty good firefighter discount) and towed it out there. Also, by trailering it there I could drive my truck home and back there again; the 'Con lasted three days.
So I got the Hellcat there early the day of the 'Con. I hooked up with the director and he showed me where to park it. The following images are of us setting up and enjoying the Comic Con.
HUMVEE Driver in his MFP leathers
HUMVEE Driver behind the wheel
A fun moment with Lexus
Humungus and Road Warrior Lexus
So the Comic Con started up, with the Hellcat being featured on their website (though at the bottom) To think that it was
just another beater car two weeks ago! For the first day it was parked by itself, as Doug's Interceptor wasn't there yet.
The Hellcat got more than its fair share of strange looks. Whenever I happened to be near it, I would explain to people
that it was a vehicle INSPIRED by the Mad Max movies. Nevertheless, it was overheard from two people that "That car was in
The Road Warrior."
The second day of the Con, Doug's Interceptor showed up. I went outside in my Mad Max 2 leathers as he brought it in on a trailer. What a sight to see, that mean black car rolling of that trailer and growling its way inside. That was the first time I met Doug and Bronze21; both regulars on the madmaxmovies message board, and both great guys as well. Doug's family came along, and I had the pleasure of meeting Anne and Aaron, Doug's own Warrior Woman and Feral Kid. We had a great time talking Mad Max, vehicle info, and cons in general.
The arrival of the Interceptor
Helping Doug get set up
The MFP lives
"MFP to HUMVEE Driver..."
Ready to go
As the con wound down and everyone began packing up, I wondered how I was going to get the Hellcat home. I didn't want to
rent another trailer, and I wasn't very comfortable with the questionable legality involved with driving it back. But I
said screw it, I'm driving it home. I gave Lexus the keys to my truck and off we went. I asked her to follow me to lessen
the chance of any cops seeing the Hellcat's license plate, or just seeing the Hellcat at all.
I did, however, take the flamethrower, fuel drum, and some of the armor off and threw it in the back of my truck. Then I was off, getting the stares and looks I expected to get. The Hellcat's windows wouldn't roll up, and with the rear hatch off it was very windy and cold. I'm satisfied to say my Abbyshot MFP leather jacket kept me quite warm. I got on I-696, and as hard as it was for me, I stayed under the speed limit. I saw a black car pulling up next to me... it was KITT, from the Comic Con! The driver gave me a big thumbs up and sped off. I had to laugh.
Once on the four lane surface road, I got even more looks and people actually taking pictures of the Hellcat. I can just imagine the stories they'd be telling about the car they saw out there, and the nut driving it. I also got my share of "Cool car, man!" and "Dude, that's awesome!" It was a very good time.
But, as I was almost home, the Hellcat began running very rough, almost stalling. What now? I managed to get it home and in my garage. The car had been sitting for so long I thought the gas went bad and that was causing the sputtering. (I did put some high octane in it when I brought it home the first time) So I thought the problem might be the fuel filter. The next few days were spent changing the fuel filter and the spark plugs. None of that helped. After much cursing and frustration, I figured out it was the ignition coil. I got that changed and it was all good.
So the Hellcat was banished to my garage, and my truck had to sit outside for a few months. I took care to start it up every day so the battery wouldn't die. I removed the megaphones from the roll bar and moved the headlights there. Other than that, the Hellcat sat, waiting for DragonCon.
I had contacted a friend about borrowing a trailer for the trip. I was leaving Wednesday night, and I told him I needed the trailer by Monday afternoon. No problem, he said. Yeah, right. Monday came and went with no call. In my infinite wisdom, I didn't even have his phone number. Something had to be done.
The year before I had borrowed my friend Dan's trailer. I didn't want to bother him again, but I had no choice. So Tuesday morning I gave Dan a call. He said sure, but there were a few problems. The trailer was way up north with an engine sitting on it. The lift to take the engine off was in downtown Detroit. He had no truck to transport the lift, so I'd have to drive downtown, help him get the lift into my truck, drive all the way up north, help him get the engine off, and then the trailer would be free for me to use. I said, no problem. I was glad to help, not to mention that I called him out of the blue one morning with this request. So, long story short, I spent the day driving all over and I finally had a trailer to use. Oh, that night my first 'friend' called, saying that I could come get his trailer now. Too late, buddy. And that was that.
So the night before we were leaving, I trailered the Hellcat to Road Kill's house to help him with some last minute costume modifications. Last year Road Kill, Clutch, and I all drove down in my truck. I drove all the way, and they took turns sitting in the center seat. It wasn't very comfortable for them, and so this year Clutch had borrowed a Bronco for the trip. After helping Road Kill with his costumes I hooked up the trailer to the Bronco and drove home.
The next night I headed back and we loaded up the Bronco. Neither Clutch nor Road Kill had ever driven a vehicle with a trailer before, and a 12 hour, 750 mile trip wasn't exactly the best opportunity to learn. So I would be doing most of the driving. No problem there; I love driving. But every 3-4 hours I'd want to take a catnap, and so one of my companions would take over. I'm glad to say they did fine.
We got the usual stares and funny looks, especially when stopped at gas stations. Our cover story was that the Hellcat was going in a demolition derby. Explaining DragonCon to strangers seemed like too much of a hassle. The Bronco seemed to be at its limit for towing, but it performed adequately. Twelve long hours later, we pulled into downtown Atlanta.
We unloaded at our hotel, and Road Kill tried sweet talking the concierge into letting us park the Hellcat for free right in front of the hotel as a 'showcar'. It didn't work. The Hellcat stayed on the trailer until the morning of the parade. We arrived on Thursday, and each day I would walk the three blocks to start up the Hellcat. Just being cautious about the battery dieing. The rest of the time was spent enjoying the 'Con. I met up with Ken, who had a great marauder outfit. He carried my crossbow.
Ken's marauder costume
The other new recruits for this year were:
Amazon; a tall, athletic, black woman who looked as much like a warrior as any of us. She picked out my hand crossbow, but she stated that she always prefers bigger weapons.
Amazon's warrior pose
Black Molly; A friend of Road Kill's. She actually skipped out on meeting one of her favorite authors to walk with us.
Yes, the big bad HUMVEE Driver was touched by what she did.
Dark Youkai. I just happened to get into an elevator she was in, and I complimented her on her corset. Next thing, she
wanted to walk with us. Or ride, as it were. She stood in the back, manning the flamethrower. She brought her friend...
Spike. That's not his name, but that's what I'm going to call him. He brought a lot of energy to the parade. He carried
my trailer hitch sword, 'Watch For Pedestrians' road sign shield, AND my meat hook with chain.
And those returning from last year:
And Clutch, who drove the Hellcat
Regretfully, Mistress V couldn't make it this year. She would have loved what we did, and she was very missed.
Saturday morning I got up early and went down to where I had the Hellcat. I crossed my fingers as I sat in the driver's seat, but no need for luck. She started right up. I drove her to where the parade would start, parked, and headed back to my room. The Road Crew: 2007 soon began filtering in. I helped everyone pick out a costume and got them ready to go. Then we all walked down to the starting point.
We posed for pictures, and soon the parade began and off we went.
I felt a little better about leading my troops from out
front, rather than the cab of a pickup. I proudly strode down the center of the street. On my right weere Blue
Thrasher and Amazon. They seemed to be having fun by occasionally clanking together their metal breast armor. Spyder was
on to my left, and the next row back was Road Kill and Black Molly. Then the Hellcat with Clutch and Dark Youkai. Flanking
the Hellcat were Ken and Spike. We had the usual fun of taunting the crowd (and taunting the other parade walkers before
we got started) Clutch would occasionally shift the Hellcat into Neutral and rev the engine. That stupid little V6
didn't sound BAD, but it didn't exactly sound GOOD either. Hell, it was fun. At one point the parade stalled for some
reason, and we were left standing there for a few minutes. Out came the poses. I figured I should do something other than
just stand there. I walked to the Hellcat and raised my axe high. I smashed the pointed end of the axe down into the
hood as hard as I could, getting it stuck there. That got quite the cheer from the crowd. I tried pulling the axe out, but
it was in there good. No problem; I had dealt with stuck axes many times. I smiled at the laughs from the crowd, then I
laughed myself as I violently wrenched it free. Another round of cheers. But, I could do better than that. I stepped back
and bashed the windshield a few times with the butt of the axe. Still, we weren't moving yet! Another idea popped into my
head. I stepped up onto the hood of the Hellcat. I set my feet, and called to Clutch to take it slow. I held my axe up
high to applause and cheers. It was truly a great moment, and it seemed to largely make up for last year's fuck ups.
At the 1:05 mark. Lucky that we just happened to stop then.
With me on the hood we got even more cheers. I watched my minions strut about and the reactions of the crowd. I had to
smile and laugh to myself. Once again, my armor, weapons, and gear were actually being used! I have to say I felt
All too soon we reached the end of the parade route. Clutch would have to drive back to the trailer by himself, and the
rest of us headed up to the room to get changed. Although, I don't call him 'Clutch' in a teasing sort of way anymore. He
really did accelerate, brake, and turn smoothly when I was standing on the hood. It would have been very easy to brake too
hard or something and send me sprawling, or at least make me lose my footing. Not Clutch. He did a great job.
So did 2007's parade cancel out the mistakes of 2006? I'm not sure I can truly answer that question. I'll just have to leave things as I did after last year - it was enough.
It was enough.