It’s a good thing Ernest Plasencia has understanding neighbors. When the Liberty Hill resident opens his garage, rolls out his classic 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 and fires up the engine, the air is immediately filled with the force of 605 cubic inches as the monster big block cranks out 1,000 horsepower along with all the sound and fury one would expect from a car designed to burn the rubber off its oversized rear tires while flying down a quarter-mile long strip of asphalt in the blink of an eye.
Plasencia is the proprietor of Desperado Rods and Classics, a business he runs out of the garage of his home – one that also contains a brand-new Corvette Z51 he recently purchased.
With the two cars from vastly different eras sitting next to one another, a profound juxtaposition is created that shows just how far automobile design has come over the past half-century.
The fact that a Ford and a Chevrolet can peacefully coexist under the same roof is a testament to Plasencia’s passion for high-speed rides of all makes and models.
“I’m not a Ford guy or a Chevy guy or any of that,” said Plasencia. “There are some guys who have one or the other and won’t even look at the other, but that’s not me.”
Plasencia originally hails from Saratoga Springs, New York, which was where the seeds for what would eventually become a hobby-turned-profession were planted. He got his first car in 1990 – a ‘78 Firebird.
One rather fateful night, Plasencia decided to go for a drive in the upstate Empire State countryside, feeling pretty good about the hot rod he had at his disposal – until he happened upon one even hotter, he said.
“I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw a pair of round headlights about five cars behind me and I could hear something really cool,” said Plasencia. “It was a two-lane road and eventually the guy pulled up right next to me in a ‘67 Camaro before he took off and absolutely smoked me. Finally, we came up to a traffic light in town and he pulled up again and asked me if I wanted to race. I was like ‘No way! After what just happened?!’”
However, the experience left an indelible impression on him as he sat there after having been outclassed by the rival car. “Right then and there, I decided I wanted my car to go faster,” he said. “Which was when the light went on and the bug bit me.”
Plasencia moved to Houston in 2001, pursuing a career in information technology, then lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, before returning to Texas, where he and his family eventually settled in Liberty Hill. Now, the two-car garage of his rural residence is akin to a muscle car shrine whose walls are adorned with various posters and neon signs that profess Plasencia’s love for all things automotive, which also includes an enormous toolbox, a flat-screen television mounted on the wall and a leather sofa and mini-fridge for when he takes a break from wrenching.
But, his pride and joy is the Mustang, a black beast named Jezebel, which Plasencia bought for $26,000 before transforming it into the muscle machine it is today – including the menacing paint scheme, although it looked quite different upon purchase, he said.
“When I bought the car, it was Kawasaki green,” said Plasencia, of the Kermit-the-Frog shade that had previously covered the vehicle. However, it was about far more than aesthetics when it came time to convert the car into a drag racer, complete with an engine that protrudes through the hood and of course, the gigantic racing slicks on the car’s rear wheels.
Plasencia does all the work himself and said a great deal of satisfaction comes from seeing the fruits of his labor in the form of what amounts to a completely different vehicle from the one he purchased.
“There’s a huge sense of gratification when you make changes and the car performs well,” he said. “It’s a real feeling of satisfaction and pride when you build something and it goes fast.”
Sense of Style
As opposed to hot rods designed for speed, there are other classic cars that are made for luxury and style, and the 1967 Lincoln Continental owned by Liberty Hill resident James McGuire is certainly one such ride.
The fire-engine red vehicle provides a blast from the past from a time when luxury automobiles were the length of aircraft carriers and the gasoline that fueled them cost pennies on the dollar compared to today’s rates.
In fact, the car is so lengthy McGuire made sure when he was shopping for a home, there was one amenity he simply had to have, he said. “I needed a five-car garage that was 25 feet deep,” said McGuire, who is the chief strategy officer of a technology company.
Along with the Lincoln, McGuire also owns a Mercedes, a Porsche and a bright yellow Hummer. “I always joke that’s my apocalypse car,” he said, of the imposing, military-style vehicle that is outfitted with everything necessary to traverse even the most rugged terrain, including a snorkel that extends to just above the top of the windshield to enable river crossings and an enormous steel cage that extends up and over the hood to protect against any wayward creatures that might run afoul of the road.
But, it’s the luxurious, Continental that is the crown jewel of his collection – a vehicle he has invested $175,000 in to bring it to its present glory, with most of the work being done in Riverside, California, a process that took five years to complete.
Perhaps the most endearing feature of the car is a hydraulic system that can lower the frame of the vehicle nearly to ground level in classic low-rider fashion, in addition to what are known as “suicide doors,” as both back doors open in the opposite direction of the front ones.
Inside the garage where he stores the Continental are several shelves of die-cast model cars, including scaled-down versions of some he’s owned over the years – a tribute of sorts to the days of his youth growing up in Paris, Texas.
Eventually, he finally landed his first ride of the grown-up variety, a 1970 Mercury Cyclone GT, which would be the first of many he would own over the years.
“I’ve loved cars ever since I was a little boy playing with Matchbox cars,” said McGuire.
Most people may know Chance Pogue from his football exploits as an offensive lineman for the Liberty Hill Panthers, but the senior who is set to graduate this year and attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point is just as adept with a wrench in his hands as he is at blocking opponents on the gridiron.
In fact, Pogue has restored a 1966 Ford Mustang back to its original pristine condition and is now taking it to the next level by constantly adding improvements.
Pogue said he’s always been interested in cars and takes great pride in doing all of the work himself before getting behind the wheel.
“There’s just something about working on something yourself and then having the ability to enjoy the finished product,” he said. “Although it’s never in the condition I want it to be.”
The silver Mustang has a 289 cubic-inch engine under the hood and a five-speed manual transmission Pogue installed, along with many other features he’s had the pleasure of adding over the course of the three years since he and father Randy bought the vehicle for $11,000.
Pogue said the car is now a far cry from what it was when he first bought it.
“When I first got the car, it was in non-driving condition,” he said. “It spent the first six months up on a jack.” But, it wasn’t long before the car slowly began to resemble the fabulous machine it was upon first rolling off the assembly line over 50 years ago.
“We had it back in perfectly-good working condition in about a year,” said Pogue. “There was just so much tinkering that needed to be done.” Things like the suspension and a new rear end needed replacing with the goal for the car to keep its old-school, classic appeal while driving and handling more like one of its descendants. However, that’s not always an easy task when dealing with the technology of yesteryear, he said.
“When you’re dealing with a 50-year-old car, that’s a lot of very old parts,” said Pogue.
In addition, the lack of computer chips and all the high-tech gadgets that go into cars these days is absent – although Pogue said that doesn’t bother him one bit – in fact, he actually embraces the fact he doesn’t have to deal with modern-day machinations when working on his ride.
“It’s a blessing as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “With the new cars, there are more things that go here and there, but all this one needs is a spark, gas and air to run.”
One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is the fact sometimes it can prove quite difficult to access certain areas of the vehicle.
“I was trying to replace the bezels on both sides of the car right in front of the rear wheel wells,” said Pogue. “I had to reach in behind a small space to get to them in order to loosen five nuts using only two fingers – it took an hour-and-a-half for each side and I had cuts all up and down my arms.”
All that being said, the pleasure Pogue’s car provides him far outweighs any potential pain along the way.
“It’s something that’s really unexplainable,” he said. “When you build something with your hands and it comes out right.”