The Evolution of My Garage – The Rides Behind “BigKleib34”

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About three years ago while working at a digital publishing company based in Southern California, I received an email from one of my readers who claimed to be interested in writing for the company. After a bit of back and forth, I decided to give him a chance. Starting out as a young greenhorn who was immensely passionate about cars, Jesse Kleiber would later go on to establish BigKlieb34, a YouTube channel featuring some of the most talked-about and shared videos this side of the internet. You’ve more than likely seen his work in the past.

Jesse has since written several articles for GM EFI and while discussing topics for his next story, I’ve assigned him an Op-Ed that would highlight his car history, as almost every car he has owned was a late-model, fuel-injected GM vehicle. Below is his story. -Ed.

I have unofficially diagnosed myself with what’s known as AADD, or to those of you who aren’t in the know, “Automobile Attention Deficit Disorder.” I can’t seem to sit still on one car, especially when it comes to our specialty; fuel-injected General Motors products. At the age of twenty-two I am currently on my to my sixth sports car – about one per year since I’ve gotten my license, which as you probably agree is way more than any “normal person.” That number doesn’t even include the beaters, but where did it all start?

We’l have to flash back to the year 2009, when YouTube was just becoming “a thing.” Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. In one hand, I had the keys to a 2001 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP and in the other, a $99 Sony Cybershot. From there, my reckless imagination invented “BigKleib34,” a giant branding mistake that I had created on YouTube that would later become my proudest accomplishment. With it, my career in automotive journalism was sparked thanks to a chance encounter with GM-EFI owner, Rick Seitz.

At the dawn of my life in the world of the automobile, conception came in the form of the aforementioned supercharged GTP. I picked this gem up at fifteen years of age, six months before I even acquired a license. I didn’t only think that this car was the fastest thing on the road, but like the true moron I was at the time, I tried to show it as well. This included beating down a slew of modular two-valve Mustang GTs and my fair share of other entry-level sports cars I’d just rather not talk about. Six months later, the four door front-wheel drive platform no longer appealed to me as my AADD would entail.

jesse-2About a year later, a 1993 Pontiac Trans Am with half the value and twice the curb appeal of the GTP found its way into my possession. The first-year fourth-gen T/A was acquired as a straight-across trade for my spotless Grand Prix. At seventeen I simply couldn’t resist the shiny red V8-powered sports car as this car took me through my “mid-teenage crisis.” Over the course of ownership, I scrambled to get together every penny that I earned from my job at the local grocery store to swap out the front end with one from a LS1-style, fourth-generation F-body. What was I thinking?

What was once a fairly clean LT1 car had now turned into an absolute wreck, as each and every panel managed to mismatch. My now sanded-down paint screamed, “ricer!” In retrospect, a bit of luck dictated that I tangle with a rather large puddle on my way to the body shop. That particular puddle caused an OptiSpark failure, saving me from the slippery slope of destroying my bank account by bringing back a dying car. It triggered a sudden, “need to sell it and move on” reaction as a result. Before long, the car was sold to another guy who had dreams and an eye for potential as big as I did when I picked the ‘Bird up. He ended up selling it not too long after.

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It was at this point in-between cars that I lived through what seemed to be the longest year of my young teenage life – a motorhead without a sports car. I could dramatize about how much it sucked, but looking back it wasn’t all that bad. That year would be composed of a slew of investments in cars that were bought to be flipped and the humbling experience of driving around my mother’s ever so minivan-esque Chrysler Pacifica. I won’t lie though, I kind of enjoyed it.

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By 2011, I was now eighteen and one of the biggest goals in my young life had been achieved. I was finally able to slide my way into an LS-powered car. Although I was proud of the previous cars that I had owned, I was truly astounded by the feeling of the title now in my hands. Buying a 2005 Pontiac GTO felt like a real accomplishment, as it outperformed most of the vehicles owned by my peers who were freshman in college alongside myself. She was a looker, as well.

jesse-12Don’t get me wrong, my previous chariots were great cars but the GTO was a whole new ballgame. This car was the apple of my eye and I’m sure that it showed – maybe a little bit too much at times! Instead of my several-month stints with my prior flings, this car actually lasted two and a half years. The GTO was in decent shape to start with, but I managed to get it back to looking like it had come from the factory with some OEM odds and ends and a refinishing of the highly-desirable 18-inch stock wheels. I even did my first dabbling in making a car function better with a set of BMR drag bags.

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Image: Brotography PA Photography

I was in love with the GTO until an unfortunate camber issue caused irregular tire wear. When combined with a torrential downpour one evening traction just wasn’t an option, even at a 35 mph crawl. After hydroplaning, the car veered all the way across a three lane highway and was destroyed beyond reasonable repair. Honestly, I found myself lucky be the only one on the highway that night and to walk away without injury. Hopefully someone can take away from this carelessness and observe proper maintenance techniques, they all make a difference! The happening was truly devastating, but it was still onward and upward to something new. I didn’t really have a choice at this point.

The next car in this natural progression took form as a 2004 Cadillac CTS-V. The V1 was perhaps one of the cars that I was most excited about buying but also turned into one of my biggest disappointments. If you’re unfamiliar with the platform, the LS6-powered luxo-cruiser has its fair share of proponents which is mirrored by an equally sizable grouping of people who despise the sight of a V1.

While I don’t necessarily fall into either one of these categories, I stand by my opinion that if you’re using this car for anything outside of a daily driver, you’re most likely going to have a bad time. You will end up spending as much as a second-generation CTS-V when it’s finally up to par to safely compete on the dragstrip – for a car that’s slower than a second-generation CTS-V.

Three months later, I put it up for sale as I refused to replace all the junk residing behind the transmission (two-piece driveshaft, rearend, weak bushings, et al.) that GM decided to put into the car. Why they decided to utilize the same rearend as the base model car is beyond me, but that’s besides the point. The ‘V is now gone and has become nothing more than a memory that I’m now not sure even existed.

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As someone who has owned most LS-powered vehicles within my modest price range, what is left to play with? Apart from a newer F-body, pretty much the last LS-based car in the low $10,000s to get my grubby little fingers on was a Chevrolet Corvette. I had never really been a fan of the wedge shaped car, but the deal I got on the new-to-me 2000 C5 Corvette was too good to pass up. If I hated it I could just turn around and sell it, right? Strangely enough, I fell in love with the way the car felt. Due to the better weight distribution, lower center of gravity and lower curb weight, the car was an entirely different animal than what I was used to.

jesse-8I even managed to snag my first 12-second pass; with a 12.69 stint in the quarter-mile at every bit of 112 mph with just an aftermarket air bridge and a removed axle back. Just like everybody told me, the bang-for-the-buck was unbelievable and the car still had loads of potential at the ready.

As history would dictate this car didn’t last long, either. I know, it’s probably annoying you at this point but bear with me. At this time, my career started to take off and I had a little pocket change to spend. I was going to break my standing reputation of never modifying cars and finally have something that I could use to keep up with my peers. My plans dictated that a nice little cam package and some bolt-ons would wake up the car substantially, but some deer said otherwise while driving home one evening. Before I could even react Bambi and company decided to sprint right out in front of me, thus ending this Corvette-laden fantasy. I hadn’t even grown completely attached the car yet, so there wasn’t really any hard feelings aside from the potential financial burden. That was until I started researching what would be in the driveway next.

A few months later, I’m now twenty-two. It was time to pay a little attention to the car that has been poking at my imagination since the day it came out, another Corvette. This time it was a C6 Z06. To be honest, purchasing the car was a complete accident. After the loss incurred from my prior ‘Vette I decided that it was time to chill out on the fast-car-front for awhile and just hop into an SUV for practical reasons.

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Most people who are in their sane mind wouldn’t finance someone as young as me, after all. However, when I found a bank that was crazy enough to accommodate someone who hasn’t had time to build up much of a credit history, my responsible-vehicle-thoughts lasted about as long as a virgin in a room full of Playboy models. After the most extraneous paperwork process of my life, I was now holding in my hand the keys to a 2006 C6 Z06 with 9,750 miles on the clock.

Outside of replacing faulty exhaust valves, this one would remain stock for the time being… or so I imagined. Even though the issue of bad valve guides (ultimately causing the valves to snap off) is somewhat isolated, I’m not personally a big fan of having a paperweight with car payments that may come as a result of engineering shortcomings. One thing led to another as it always does, and the valve job that would have cost a couple hundred dollars ended up becoming ported heads and an aftermarket cam from Race Proven Motorsports – resulting in just over 580 hp to the rear tires. This brings us up to today as I sit here writing this article. This journey has just begun and we will have to see how long this one lasts.

If you want my opinion as the guy who looks at this stuff all day, every day, and has somehow managed to AADD all the way through such a diverse selection of GM-powered rides, I give you this: buy a Corvette! If you don’t necessarily want to put yourself in the position of nearly having a mortgage in the form of a car payment, insurance, general maintenance and modifications, go for a C5.

If a Corvette isn’t really your style, a GTO is my ideal version of a cruiser with plenty of pep. Alongside the GTP and first generation CTS-V, it isn’t a bad daily driver, either. The Trans Am definitely has a place as well, although I’m not quite sure where to put it.

But what do I know? I’m just a guy who can’t sit still.

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