Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 2, 2003

couple share their hobby

By Don McCraine The Natchez Democrat

Hot rods are more than just a hobby for some people. For Marc Wallace and his wife Amie, vintage muscle cars are a family affair.

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Marc took an early interest in cars, learning from his father, Wally.

&uot;He taught me everything I know,&uot; said Marc, whose latest project, a 1969 Pontiac Firebird convertible, sits in a backyard shop that he and his dad built on Elm Street in Vidalia about 10 years ago.

&uot;I’ve probably had four or five different cars. I own a ’54 Chevy two-door hardtop, and we’ve had jeeps and trucks, but this is my favorite,&uot; said Marc, who works week-long shifts offshore for Exxon Mobil.

&uot;I spend a lot of time working on cars when I’m in, but my wife enjoys riding in them,&uot; he said.

Marc’s love for power cars is perfectly understandable to Amie, who drives a sporty black Trans-Am herself. And her father, Jackie Goodman, is an avid hot rod fan, too.

&uot;He owns a ’66 Chevy II and a 1946 Willis Jeep,&uot; Amie said.

Though Jackie does not actively race anymore, Marc extended a friendly challenge to his father-in-law.

&uot;He’ll come out of retirement to run against this one.

He will get his butt kicked,&uot; Marc joked.

But recently, the 30-year-old father of two had a spark of adventure with his prized Firebird that was no joke.

To add a little extra horsepower, Marc installed a nitrous kit under the carburetor.

While testing the engine with some friends at TNT’s in Natchez three weeks ago, Marc hit the nitrous switch and got more than he expected.

&uot;I had the timing set too fast, and the car backfired and caught fire.

It melted the carburetor, dropped a valve in the engine and burned the hood&045;messed it up pretty bad,&uot; said Marc.

Fortunately, a friend reacted quickly with a fire extinguisher to prevent any further damage.

But the incident just added to Marc’s plans for the Firebird. &uot;I wanted to put a new motor in it anyway,&uot; he said.

Marc replaced the Pontiac engine with a Chevy 350, swapped the transmission and rear end, and now has plans for a new paint job.

Some bodywork will be necessary, and the hood will have to be replaced first.

&uot;I could get an original hood for it, but the blower won’t fit,&uot; he said. &uot;So I ordered a fiberglass Crowl induction hood off the internet.&uot;

Marc plans to repaint the car a mid-seventies Corvette yellow.