"It started out as a Mustang," Beau Boeckmann began, explaining the Scythe, the latest creation from Galpin Auto Sports.
Actually, you have to go farther back than even the Mustang, back to the beginning of a Southern California car dealership called Galpin Ford. Beau's father, Bert, started working at Galpin in 1953, bought it from the owner in 1963, and soon set about finding ways to offer more than just bone-stock cars straight from the manufacturer. He found quite a few.
If you follow the Galpin historical script, you would say that Galpin Ford was single-handedly responsible for the automotive evolutions that became the custom van, the 4x4 pickup craze and painting and graphic designs on new cars too numerous to name.
Bert Boeckmann hired a young immigrant named Heinz Prechter to install some of Prechter's wacky European sunroofs on Galpin cars to see whether they'd help move the iron. They did. Prechter went on to found American Sunroof and make millions of cars with sunroofs (and no roofs) for carmakers throughout the world. So add the sunroof to trends started at or by Galpin.
Anyone who listens to all the ads on Southern California radio stations knows that Galpin is the No. 1 Ford dealer in the United States, and part of that success is the result of the dealership's constant desire to set itself apart--hence the customization.
In the 1960s and '70s, car customizing done the Galpin way became known as "Galpinizing." Galpin made everything from leopard-print T-Birds to flying Pintos. The Galpinization of Southern California has been going on for almost four decades.
It was into this crazy car-customizing world that Bert's son Beau was born. Beau grew up not only amid these various Galpin projects, but also as an admirer of the work of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth. So much so that, as he worked his way up through the dealership and the means became available to him, Beau purchased (so far) four original Roth cars and "more assorted Roth stuff than I can name."
Beau also founded and runs Galpin Auto Sports, a modern take on the great SoCal custom shops of the '50s and '60s. At its most elemental, the Scythe is meant to demonstrate the capabilities of the crew at GAS to do to your car anything you want them to do. For the last four seasons, GAS has been the home of the MTV show Pimp My Ride. So Boeckmann is living his dream.
Keep all that in mind when you look at the Scythe, or when you see it on the Ford stand at the SEMA show.
"It's the most customized car of all time," Boeckmann said when he showed it to us.
Let's start with the body. It was designed with help from Ed Newton, who worked for Roth in the '60s. Up front is a Roth-like snout flanked by triple headlights and antipedestrian pincers down at shoe level.
Voice control is the theme of the interior of the Scythe.
The doors open electrically, each side sliding out on a single pivot arm that then rotates up. It looks as if it must have been hard to engineer.
"That's why we did it, to demonstrate the talent of our crew," said Boeckmann. "To me, technology is an art form and the engine is an art form. To me, it's an expression of functional art. And who has never dreamed of building their own car?"
Up above there are no B- or C-pillars. Instead, the seat backs arch up to the roof and hold it in place with huge machined aluminum ramparts. The glass wraps around the back like a Galpin fish-tank Pinto (another Galpinized creation from the dealership's archives).
Under--and above--the hood is a massive engine inspired by the twin-turbo Shelby Cobra that Boeckmann saw sell at an auction for $5 million. The Scythe's engine came about after a conversation with GAS engine builder Chris Whitney.
"We wanted the 'Whoa!' factor," Whitney said.
They certainly got it. Those are two helical three-rotor Magnussen superchargers bolted to a custom manifold that routes intake air downward to an intercooler. With methanol fuel and an 11.5:1 compression ratio, the goal of the 5.0-liter V8 is 1,000 hp. They hope it won't blow apart the transmission--a Mustang 5-speed automatic, fitted with beefed up TCI internals and a Shift Kit, as well as a 3,500 rpm stall converter.
"Fire it up, buddy," said one GAS crewman to another. Then, to us, "It sounds like the world's coming to an end."
He fired it up. There was no muffler. The world may have been coming to an end but, like Robert Frost said, it'll be a nice end.
Inside, the Scythe is an electronics showcase built by Pimp My Ride's Mad Mike. It features voice control for everything, from starting the car to reading you back your grocery list.
"I wanted to change how we communicate with our automobiles," said Boeckmann. "I wanted to make something that would be helpful in your daily life, something you could interact with, a virtual personal assistant."
Mad Mike demonstrated it all to us.
"I guess I watched too much Knight Rider as a kid," said Boeckmann.
The difference is, none of those kids who watched Knight Rider got to live out their dreams the way Boeckmann and his happy crew are doing now.
After the Scythe debuts at SEMA, it will appear at other car shows across the country. Then, who knows, maybe Boeckmann will make it his own daily driver. Look out, pedestrians!
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