Classic car collector Lefty Randall could drive a different car every day of the week, so how does he choose?
In an ironic twist, Darrin “Lefty” Randall is very solidly right-handed, with little ambidextrous skill to match the nickname given to him by his father at a very early age. His dad was an avid baseball fan who figured he could preemptively bestow upon baby Darrin an illustrious career as a southpaw pitcher simply by donning the appropriate nickname, but alas, those plans never materialized.
Lefty is a righty and never attempted a career in professional sports, but what he did do is become a successful in the business of hauling trash. That may not sound as glamorous as being a major league pitcher, but it’s no less noble work. He started his trash hauling company more than 40 years ago in the Chatsworth and Canoga Park areas of Los Angeles. At first, he did everything from drive the trucks, to maintaining them, running the office, and maintaining the books. Over the years, the company evolved to providing trash bin rentals to construction sites, and it has grown about 40 employees and serving a much larger area near Simi Valley, California. Lefty’s two sons, Tyler and Garrett, work for their dad, too, with Tyler managing the business and Garrett running the yard as Operations Manager.
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A dirty secret that most college recruiters won’t tell you is that many dirty jobs pay really well, and Lefty’s trash-hauling business has provided a good life for him and his family. Among other things, it’s allowed him to build a nice classic car collection. It started with a 1972 Pantera he purchased in 1977 and has grown to a nice selection of about 25 cars, all from the muscle car era. What we like about these cars is that they are all drivers. Lefty is quick to point out that he doesn’t want, nor can he afford, two dozen Concours d’Elegance restorations that rarely see time on the road. Instead, he looks for cars with their original drivetrain and paint. He is partial to manual transmissions, and nearly everything he owns has a clutch pedal. His son, Garrett, describes all the cars as “driver quality,” and there’s nothing wrong with that. Lefty insists cars should be driven, and all of them are running and ready to go.
Lefty is also generous with his cars. He tossed us the keys to six cars of our choosing and encouraged us to drive them on a loop around his neighborhood. Just like Lefty, who could drive a different car almost every day for a month, how could we pick just a few to drive in during a relatively short photo shoot? It’s a tough job, but that’s why we get paid the mediocre bucks here. So, in no particular order, here are our favorite cars from Lefty’s collection.
1960 Chevrolet Corvette
This C2 was purchased a year ago from the specialty car auction website Bring A Trailer. The seller was the car’s second owner, and it had been restored in the mid- ’90s, so it needed a minimal amount of work after Lefty took possession to add to his classic car collection. The original fuel-injected 283 engine and Muncie four-speed transmission are in place, and the shifter was as smooth as silk. I loved the enthusiastic power delivery of this modest mouse and with the top down, the symphony playing from the exhaust tips was music to my ears. The chassis was solid in a way I didn’t expect a 61-year-old, leaf-spring car would feel like.
1966 Plymouth Satellite
Lefty bought this Hemi Satellite from the car’s original owner in 2012. He always wanted a Hemi car but couldn’t afford any of the more-desirable Road Runners and Chargers he had his eyes on. Lefty’s son Garrett thought outside of the box and found this Satellite for sale in New York. The owner had replaced the Hemi with a 383, but wisely kept the 426 Elephant engine safe and under wraps. The car needed new interior pieces and was missing several external trim bits when Lefty bought it, but the original paint was brought back to live after a color sanding and buffing session. Driving this four-speed Hemi car was a sublime experience. There was plenty of body roll in this big sedan, but that only added to its charm. The Hemi had a distinctive lope at idle and pulled strong through the midrange. With skinny steel wheels, dog dish hubcaps, and a buttoned-down exterior, this car is the hands-down sleeper of Lefty’s classic car collection.
1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28
With so many fakes and clones on the market, Lefty was right to be wary of the authenticity of a ’69 Z/28 he saw in an Auto Trader ad, so he hired Auto Appraisal Group Inc. which send a rep to Dallas, Texas to do some forensic analysis. The car checked out as a real Z/28, and the DZ302 engine is original to the car as well. 1969 Camaros were Garrett’s favorite cars as a kid, so that was likely an influencing factor for Lefty when bought this car in 2010. It’s almost a clich for a car collector to have a ’69 Camaro in the stable, and that’s why we love the fact that this one isn’t a primary color; it looks striking in its Burgundy Maroon exterior color. It has a wonderful, choppy idle and the driving experience lives up to the hype.
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Garrett was quick to admit the engine doesn’t have much grunt at low-rpm, but that’s just the nature of this solid-lifter, high-compression 302. It needs a few extra revs to get moving off the line, but the power pours on as the revs climb. The 302 sounds otherworldly at 7,000 rpm, and the close-ratio four-speed is an willing partner, with just enough of an rpm drop between shifts to keep the engine up in its power band. What I wouldn’t give for a few laps around Laguna Seca in this car!
E.R.A. Shelby Cobra Replica
If Lefty’s Hemi Satellite is the mild-mannered performer in his collection, this Era Replica Automobiles (E.R.A.) 427 Roadster is the goon in the zoot suit waiting for the order to slip on some brass knuckles and punch you in the gut. Nothing personal, it’s just business. The Shelby Cobra is one of the most beautiful cars ever made, and E.R.A. 427s are among the closest reproductions of the original Shelby Cobra you can find. Cobras are also an exercise in paradox: the exterior a curvaceous, alluring veneer over a tightly-coiled serpent waiting to strike. Like most E.R.A. replicas, it has a 428 cubic inch FE engine backed by a Tremec TKO600 five-speed transmission that’s operated with the authentic, forward-leaning shifter handle.
This Era Replica Automobiles 427 Roadster is the goon in the zoot suit waiting for the order to slip on some brass knuckles and punch you in the gut. Nothing personal, it’s just business.
The 428 has a smaller bore and longer stroke for better street manners than the high-strung 427s in the Mk III Cobras, but even still, this engine is raucous and rough around the edges. It bucks and stomps the ground at low speed, then pins you to the seat the second you feed it some throttle. The bottom-hinged pedals lend to the authentic feel of this car and those sidepipes fill the periphery with sound and fury. This is a car I’d love to drive on Angeles Crest Highway with its long sweeping turns and close-in mountain sides for maximum amplification of the exhaust note. In that setting, you could hear this car from a mile away.
1972 DeTomaso Pantera
Designed by Ghia, the DeTomaso is also a beautiful car in ways much different than the Cobra. Lean and lithe, the Pantera combines the exotic beauty of Italy’s exotics with the familiar ring of an American V8. Of all his collection, Lefty has owned this car the longest, purchasing it from a friend in 1977. For a year, it was his only car, and he drove it everywhere, but he soon became concerned about putting too many miles on it and bought a 1973 Porsche 911 to drive while the Pantera got a break. There were times Lefty considered selling the car for a variety of reasons, like needing money to buy a house. Garrett has steadfastly lobbied for his father to keep the car every time that happens, because the car was a fixture of his childhood. “It’s what got me into cars,” he says. From the driver’s seat, the Pantera offers a unique experience as the hood disappears from view through the windshield. Being mid-engined, you really feel the lack of weight on the front suspension, and it’s an unexpected pleasure to hear the engine sounds emanating from a place just inches behind your shoulder. It feels that much more of an intimate driving experience inside the small cockpit. The pedal box is tiny and I had to be careful not to push the brake pedal when trying to actuate the clutch, but that’s all stuff you’d get used to in time. The shifter is a joy to use, and the 351 Cleveland pulls with authority.
1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS
There is a lot to like about Lefty’s 1970 Chevelle SS, aside from the fact that it’s a ’70 Chevelle, of course. I really like the Forest Green paint with white stripes. It’s got a split bench seat and a four-speed manual transmission without a console. The functional Cowl Induction hood is fun to watch as the air inlet opens and closes, plus it’s a big block car with big block amounts of torque to send you down the road in ease. The 10.25:1 compression 396 engine is rated at just 350 hp, but it feels like it’s making more than that. Lefty has wanted a Chevelle since high school, and finally had the chance to buy this nice example two years ago. The previous owner had removed the original 396 to install a 502 instead. After he bought it, JGC Customs refurbished the classic car, putting the original engine back in place and fixing several other issues. It starts and runs like new, and both Lefty and Garrett love this car for its easy power delivery and comfortable ride.
Can you pick just one from this classic car collection?
How could you pick one car in a group this varied? To add to the challenge, Lefty also has a ’70 Super Bee, ’67 Camaro, ’72 Corvette, and a ’73 Pantera in the process of being restored. They are all cool cars that thrill the senses in different ways and to different degrees. Want to eat up highway miles? Lefty and Garrett agree the ’70 Chevelle is the right car for the job. Want to wake up the neighbors and scare some kids (and maybe yourself), slip the E.R.A Cobra on for size. Having to pick just one is a very difficult choice. Lefty prefers driving the white 1966 Corvette seen in his garage in the lead image. It’s just a nice driver with a 327 small block and a four-speed, but he loves driving it. Garrett hesitates to choose but says the ’69 Z/28 is probably his favorite out of the collection. He’s also got a very nice 1970 Corvette he uses for autocrossing and track days. It’s so nice, we photographed it about four years ago at Holley’s LS Fest West.
As for myself, what would I choose from Lefty’s classic car collection? Tough choice! After much thought, I admit to being partial to the yellow 1970 Z/28, also seen in the lead image, but that we didn’t have time to photograph. The LT1 350 offers a little more useable torque over the ’69’s 302 engine, and I’ve developed a fondness for the early second-generation Camaros. Make mine Tuxedo Black or Forest Green with a four-speed, and I’m all in.
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