When it came to motorcycles, Hunter S. Thompson once wrote, “Faster, faster until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.”
That quote embodies the quintessential desire for power and speed. Nowhere is this more evident than in people’s fascination with classic and modern muscle cars. There is something almost primal about sitting in a vehicle that harnesses enormous horsepower to launch you down the road at blinding speed.
The car world tends to attract mechanically minded people who understand the ins and outs of their four-wheeled rocket sleds. The firearms industry has its own collection of dedicated gearheads who keep everything from restored Mustangs to modern powerhouses.
I recently visited with several prominent industry folks and learned what they drove and why. So sit back, put it in park, roll down the windows and enjoy the car show.
Muscle Cars: Bill Wilson
Bill Wilson is one of the most recognizable figures in the gun industry today thanks to Wilson Combat. He has been a major player in the industry since 1977. His reputation has been built on exceptionally well-designed and machined 1911s. He now has a wider line that includes AR-platform rifles and shotguns, yet the commitment to precision remains.
It’s no surprise that he loves well-designed and powerful cars. In fact, he has owned various powerful cars ranging from a 1968 Mustang and 1970 custom Camaro to a 2014 Ferrari 458 Italia. The list of cars in between is also extensive.
Fast-forward to today, and Bill’s everyday driver is the 707-horsepower 2016 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. He jokes and says it’s a “pretty stealthy 205-mile-per-hour car.”
Its 6.2-liter V8 engine is designed and tuned to make it one of the most powerful production cars. If you’re in eastern Texas and see a gray blur blow past you on the highway, there’s a good chance it’s Bill taking care of business.
Muscle Cars: Paul Buffoni
Paul Buffoni, the president of Bravo Company Manufacturing (BCM), has had a fascination with motorcycles and cars ever since he was a child.
“I started riding when I was about 10 years old and raced motocross on CR80s, 125s and 250s,” he said. “I was always working on them, and it developed my mechanical skills from an early age. My first Harley was an FLH Basket Case.”
Later, he worked at the Harley-Davidson headquarters before starting BCM. But even the culture at BCM reflects Paul’s love for things that go fast. Other companies have gyms or vending machine areas, but BCM has a bay that allows employees to work on their bikes and cars.
One of Paul’s prize rides is a military-inspired Harley-Davidson WLA 1951 Panhead reproduction. He is also the proud owner of a unique car—the 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1—which you might recognize from the “John Wick” movies. With its V8 engine, the Mach 1 was one of the most successful models of 1969, and Paul’s is just as beautiful as Wick’s.
Another tidbit: In 1969, well-known endurance driver Mickey Thompson pushed a Mach 1 to see what it could really do. During a 24-hour course, the car set 295 speed and endurance records across 500 miles. In other words, Paul’s ’69 is a prize.
Muscle Cars: Frank DeSomma
Few people in the firearms industry are as technically minded as Frank DeSomma of Patriot Ordnance Factory (POF-USA). That should come as no surprise, because before launching his firearms company in 2002, Frank spent more than 28 years in the aerospace industry as a manufacturing process engineer. That extensive background has helped POF-USA become a major player in the firearms industry.
Frank’s genetic hardwiring applies to his interest in vehicles, and one has become his mainstay and calling card: A restored, modified 1957 Chevy 502 truck. Like many builds, it started out fairly rough but took shape quickly.
The truck has fuel injection and a General Motors 4L80-E transmission wrapped into a beautifully painted blue 4×4. Throw in some Fuel wheels and Toyo tires and the ’57 classic is a powerhouse capable of going just about anywhere. Fans of POF-USA recognize the truck at events all across Arizona, and it has become a bit of a showpiece for Frank and his company.
Muscle Cars: Michael Sigouin
Michael Sigouin, the chief architect and mastermind behind the well-known firearms coating company Blowndeadline, works in a relatively small facility in suburban Detroit. In a previous life, Michael was an automotive interior engineer.
“I’ve always been a Mustang fan,” he said. “Before we did Cerakote, I was an automotive interior engineer. We designed and patterned interior parts like door panels, dashboards, consoles and things of that nature.”
When the downturn hit the “Big Three” in Detroit, Michael began to explore other avenues. He looked into firearms coatings, and the rest is history.
Michael’s current Mustang is a modern muscle car with a long lineage: A 2011 Shelby GT500 housing a whopping 926 horsepower. It’s built with a 2.9-liter Whipple supercharger and Crower Stage III blower cams. The car is custom-wrapped by One Soul Graphics and has enough carbon fiber to qualify as a spacecraft.
Michael enthusiastically shared details on the car, but I kept coming back to the fact that it mastered my two primary muscle car criteria: it’s fast and looks damn good.
Muscle Cars: Kort Nielson
Kort Nielson, the director of marketing for Christensen Arms, has been into cars as long as he can remember.
“My dad has a 1967 Mustang, so naturally my first car was a 1968 Mustang that I bought when I was 14,” he said. “I tore it all apart and learned how to put it back together. I restored it and drove it through high school.”
His current Mustang was purchased when he was 15, originally as a parts car for his ’68, but he restored it and never looked back. Since then, he has restored and sold several other vintage Mustangs and is currently building a ’67 Mustang T/A racecar for the Carrera Panamericana, a 2,000-mile vintage tarmac rally across Mexico.
His silver ’67 Mustang has a fully built 289 with a vintage Paxton supercharger mated to a T5 five-speed transmission. He has done all the work himself, including the paint, bodywork and upholstery, and he even built the engine, transmission and differential. He has also designed and built several other components for the car, including rollerized front strut bushings, integrated power steering, brushed aluminum door panels and center console, and rear disc-brake brackets. Many people are motorheads, but Kort might be the king.
Muscle Cars: Les Baer
In sister publication Concealed Carry Handguns, we asked Les Baer, the man behind Les Baer Custom, about his two great passions: guns and cars.
Here’s what he had to say: “I started building guns in the early 1980s, when I was still drag racing on weekends. We always took a bunch of catalogs for the guys there. You’d be surprised how many car guys are gun guys! So many people who are involved with muscle cars are also into guns … and If I could only keep just one car from my extensive collection … Ford built a special Mustang in 1969 and 1970 called the Boss 429. If someone were to limit my car collection to one car, it would have to be one of these. I have 10 of them! I don’t think there’s anyone in the country with more than that.”
This article is from the fall 2018 issue of Ballistic Magazine. Grab your copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com.