Start Your Route 66 Drive at Chicago’s Grant Park

Posted: 11th February 2013 by FiniteState in Uncategorized

When it comes to choosing a self guided tour vacation, a trip along the route of Historic Route 66 is hard to beat.  The Eastern Terminus of U.S Route 66 is in Chicago.  The Western Terminus is in Santa Monica, California at the Pacific coast.  The distance between them is 2448 miles.  Along the way, it traverses eight States of the Union, meandering through towns and cities packed with nostalgic reminders of how life used to be in the United States, before the Interstates changed everything.

Grant Park

Grant Park

There is a monument at Grant Park that serves to mark the Eastern Terminus.  A day at this particular park offers an excellent way for travelers to submerge themselves in Americana, before departing on the great trek west down America´s Main Street.  This would generally be considered the “starting” point of the road, since general migration in the United States was progressing to the west, at the time the road was built.  From 1926 through 1980, this road carried everyone who was seeking fortune on their westward trek.  Families and commerce both traveled along this route to the Great Lakes from out of the Southwest, laden with precious cargo.

Chicago's Grant Park

Chicago’s Grant Park

Grant Park is an important Chicago icon, combining a city park with a suite of museums.  Originally built as part of the 1893 World Exposition held in Chicago that year, the park represents an anchor point of Chicago´s history.  The Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum of Natural History and the Chicago Art Institute are all located at Grant Park.  These beautiful grounds are lushly treed and feature a large number of statues depicting important historical figures.  Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain offers a relaxed gathering point for the local community.  Chicago´s Art Institute houses a museum with galleries and an art school.  The aquarium enjoys close proximity to Lake Michigan and is highly respected in the field.  Likewise, the Field Museum enjoys a reputation as one of the finest natural history museums in the entire world.

John G. Shedd Aquarium, Lake Michigan

John G. Shedd Aquarium, Lake Michigan

Stay the night in one of the many high quality downtown hotels, enjoy Chicago´s famous nightlife, then depart from Grant Park in the morning, following the sun into America´s past.  The address is 337 East Randolph Street on the western shore of Lake Michigan.  There is a sign that reads, “End Historic Route 66” on Jackson Boulevard at Michigan Avenue.  Jackson at this point is strictly one way eastbound, but it does offer the original alignment of Route 66 for those purists who insist on traveling the original route as much as possible.

End of Route 66 on Jackson Avenue, Chicago

End of Route 66 on Jackson Avenue, Chicago

All-American Road Trip

Route 66 leaves Chicago going west on Adams Street beginning at Michigan Avenue.  You can drive around the park beginning on Jackson Boulevard going east to the end sign, north on Michigan Avenue, then west on Adams Street to start your run from the very beginning of the Old Road.

Start of Route 66 on Adams Street in downtown Chicago

Start of Route 66 on Adams Street in downtown Chicago

Not far down Route 66, you will come across Lou Mitchell´s breakfast restaurant.  Lou´s is older than Route 66 itself.  The highway was officially opened on this eastern end in 1926.  Lou Mitchell´s was already in business a full three years beforehand in 1923.  Stop in and have a hearty breakfast as you soak in the period atmosphere to get you in the right mood.  You are likely to run into more than a few old timers that can recall the heyday of Route 66 along this stretch of road.

Lou Mitchell's Diner, Chicago

Lou Mitchell’s Diner, Chicago

The route from there is well marked for most of the rest of Illinois.  As you start to leave Chicago and pass Joliet, the landscape opens up and there are literally dozens of old towns that seem lost in time all along old Route 66.  Much of the road is no longer drivable except in and around these towns.  You are going to need to follow a parallel route on the Interstate that replaced it as you hop from town to town, seeing the United States with a new understanding.

Pink Elephant Antiques in Livingston Illinois

Pink Elephant Antiques in Livingston Illinois

Your start in Grant Park at the very beginning of this iconic highway will mark a defined departure point on your trip down the Mother Road.  Once you finish the trip to Santa Monica, you will have gained a legitimate road veteran´s claim on a legendary run to the coast.  Grant Park and Chicago will provide a treasure trove of great memories to mull over, on your long trip down the ghost highway into American history.

Route 66 near Braidwood, Illinois

Route 66 near Braidwood, Illinois

AMC Gremlin: The Affordable Collector Car

Posted: 9th September 2012 by FiniteState in Uncategorized

In 1970, American Motors Corporation introduced an entirely new automobile to fill the unprecedented demand for a smaller, more affordable and fuel efficient American built car. The company desired a product to compete with cars such as the increasingly popular Toyota Corolla, Datsun 510 and the venerable Volkswagen Beetle.

1970 AMC Gremlin Base Model 2 Seater

This new AMC was dubbed the Gremlin, and it was an instant hit. In its nine year model run from 1970 through 1978 over 670,000 units were produced.  Such a large production run makes good examples fairly easy to find today.  This popularity is also an important factor when finding parts and fellow collectors who can offer advice on repair, maintenance and restoration.  The Gremlin was by far the best selling American compact of the 1970s.  The American compacts competing with the Gremlin in the market were the Ford Pinto, the Chevrolet Vega, the Japanese built Dodge Colt and the English built Plymouth Cricket.

Advantages for today’s budget conscious old car fan include easy affordability, a high degree of parts interchangeability and great fuel mileage.  Another benefit is that AMC designed the car to be easily maintainable by the average backyard mechanic.

Gremlin Generations

1970 Gremlin Four Seater

There are some differences between model years to be aware of.  The 1970 through 1973 model years have different styling on the front fenders and grille area than the 1974-76 and 1977-78 models.  However, this “front clip” may be interchanged as a whole among the various model years.  This makes repair of damaged sheet metal much simpler in cases where these parts cannot be located immediately.

Other differences in styling are evident in the rear quarter panels. There is a particular impression in the sheet metal behind the side windows that takes the form of fake vents. Enthusiasts refer to these fake vents as “gills.”  On the 1970-73 model years these gills were horizontal, while the cars produced from 1974 to 1978 featured vertical gills.

1971 AMC Gremlin X Advertisement

The 1977-78 model years saw more changes to the front clip, with shorter fenders and a different grille treatment.  Also in these last two years the entire rear panel of the body was changed.  The changes come in the form of a larger back window, different tail lights and some trim differences.  These features are shared with the 1979-82 AMC Spirit Sedan and the 1981-82 AMC Eagle Kammback.  Both of these cars heavily resemble the Gremlin.  The primary difference from a styling standpoint is that the rear quarter windows were changed from the Gremlin’s triangular shape to match the profile at the rear of the car.  The Eagle is a four wheel drive car.  This means that only the engine and rear axle are interchangeable with the Gremlin’s drive train.  The front clip sheet metal, windshield and doors on both cars are fully interchangeable with the Gremlin.

1973 AMC Levi's Gremlin X

Gremlin Power

The Gremlin was available with three different engines during its production run. The inline six cylinder was the most common power plant.  The six was available in 232 cubic inch and 258 cubic inch sizes.  From 1972 through 1976, a 304 cubic inch V8 was also offered.  The V8 was dropped for the final two years, but a 150 cubic inch four cylinder was offered in addition to the usual six.  Any of these engines can be interchanged among all models. This means if you happen to find a V8 car that is beyond repair, you can remove the drive train and install it in any model year in the series.  All that is required is to exchange the front cross member of the V8 car with that of the smaller engine.

1974 AMC Gremln X

The transmission offerings were three speed and four speed manual gearboxes as well as a three speed automatic.  Any of these transmissions is easily interchanged among the models and engine types.

Gremlin Community

If you do decide to go with the Gremlin, there are AMC clubs from coast to coast. Fans of the Gremlin are all over the internet on club sites and car community websites.  Generally they are more than happy to offer advice and help find parts.   It’s a good idea to obtain an AMC Technical Service Manual, available from car literature websites and eBay for around 20 to 50 dollars. These manuals are far more comprehensive than the average car repair manual, and were produced by American Motors for use by its dealer network to perform repairs according to factory specifications.

1976 AMC Gremlin

Pricing is quite reasonable on these cars when compared to the more commonly seen muscle and collector cars on the market.  It’s easy to find a drivable or repairable example for under 2000 dollars. Starting at around the 4000 or 5000 dollar mark, you can find cars which have been restored or preserved to appear as new.
1978 AMC Gremlin Sundowner

The AMC Gremlin represents an outstanding value for the budget conscious old car fan. This car has a unique and sporty appearance, good performance and reasonable gas mileage.  The Gremlin is well known for reliable operation, is easily repaired and has good parts availability.  It is more affordable to buy or restore than just about any other American built car from the 1970s.  This is a car worth considering to anyone looking for an inexpensive entry point into the collector car hobby.

1978 AMC Gremlin Sundowner

Is there anyone who’s seen a well-done T-bucket rumbling by, and hasn’t felt their heart skip a beat?

T-bucket Baby!

 Nothing says “hot rodding” like a T-bucket.

It’s evil, wicked, mean and nasty. This little fighter is tiny, yet monstrously muscular at the same time. It oozes a horsepower-fueled attitude that screams “Don’t mess with me buddy, or you’re going down!”

This is the quintessential hot rod. The minimalist style, open engine compartment, exposed pipes; all of this is a thinly veiled threat to the progress of time. The “big ‘n littles”, combined with that drop front axle and classic Model T radiator, are a punch to the face of modern sissified cars, with their Bluetooth and their GPS niceties.

The leather jacket and drooping cigarette of the automotive world. You have to be cool to drive a bucket. Otherwise, you’d incinerate in a puff of smoke as soon as you got in, right? No way are the Gods of Cool going to let a common mortal behind the wheel of one of these babies.

Evil Wicked Mean and Nasty

 But where do you get one?

Sure, they can be bought here and there. But to be legit, you have to build it yourself. Real hotrodders build their own cars. But where do you get the parts to build a genuine lowdown no good T-bucket so some of that cool can rub off on you? How can you give the cookie cutters of the world the flying finger salute, while they drown in envy?

Classic T-bucket hotrod.  Scene from Crusin' 2009 Morro Bay Car Show, Morro Bay, CA 02 May 2009.

Not to worry; the T-bucket is alive and well. The parts are still out there, and not only that plans and instruction manuals are all over the internet. You just have to know where to look. Well, look no further, rodding gods to be. The bucket list is right here. The good news is, building a T-bucket is a project that a mere mortal can afford. Correction: that is freaking awesome news.

Plans for Rodding World Domination

The first thing you need is a plan. Here are some places where you can get the parts and plans that will let you construct that secret weapon from the ground up. I’m going to draft these plans up in 3D CAD software and create a virtual T-bucket that can be plugged into a game or used in a commercial production.

This site has information galore, all of it contained in low-cost books. It also has sister sites associated with it like,, and the crown jewel of the collection,, which covers lawnmower soup-up projects.

Also on this site is the following book:

“How to Build a T-Bucket Roadster for Under $3000” by Chester Greenhalgh

Flathead Fantasy


This sub-20 dollar manual shows a multitude of tips and tricks for actually building your bucket with your own hands, instead of just assembling one from a kit. It’s comprehensive, offering many alternatives to the standard approaches you may have noticed at rod runs.

Crankshaft Coalition

This site has an entire wiki site dedicated to T-bucket plans.

This covers a free set of T-bucket plans.

Crankshaft Coalition Free T-Bucket Plans

  Youngster’s Free T-bucket Plans

This site features a free set of T-bucket plans by Ron Young, just for entering your email into a form.

 California Custom Roadsters

Many people are familiar with this Chino, California shop, but not many seem to know they have a set of plans for your nasty T-bucket on their website. The six chapters can be had for five bucks a set or 20 dollars for the whole batch and start with the basics of the chassis, and build up the project from there. CCR also offers parts and kits to construct your T-bucket like a kit car.


California Custom Roadsters


If you really want the nasty go fast coolness of a T-bucket, no one can stand in your way. Time to break out the torch and wrenches.

Now all you need is a leather jacket…

Welcome to FiniteState

Posted: 24th July 2012 by FiniteState in Uncategorized, Welcome

I just turned 51 about 15 minutes ago. Don’t feel any different.

This blog is just a place to bounce ideas and get a handle on my different projects. So FiniteState is an exercise in gathering my different ideas under one roof, so to speak.

74 Gremlin- Autodesk Alias Automotive

There won’t be one certain type of thing on this blog. I am a writer and an engineer by trade, so I might write about things that interest me, but also plan to post the progress of different things I am fooling around with. I have several web sites, but none dedicated to the design processes, so FiniteState will fill that spot in my web suite. The material generated here can be used across the other websites and from them to here.

design Liberty