Saturday, September 13, 2008

Day of the Dead - Deadly Resurrection

Sounds like a low budget horror flick, doesn't it? In reality, it is a real B-movie that was made in the 90's. Do you know what is really scary? I was actually in the movie! My first and only acting gig. My old Chevelle was also in the movie. I think it actually did a better job of acting then me! While that movie was total fiction, I recently discovered that getting a derelict old car road worthy is a lot like resurrecting the dead, it's impossible.

I decided to take on the impossible and put my '72 Cutlass, Number 1, back on the road. Now keep in mind that Number 1 has been out of commission for at least three years. I use to start it up every other week, but that lasted as long as a bucket of KFC chicken. So I decided to do a visual inspection to assess the mess that Number 1 had become. Both front tires were now flat and most of the trans fluid had leaked out. The engine hadn't been started in at least a year, and it seemed to be leaking from anything that contained fluid. The front rotors were rusted badly and were wafer thin, it needed new front tires, the trans needed to be serviced, engine oil had to be changed, front end lubed, gas tank hoses replaced, carburetor rebuilt, possible tune up, wiper blades, and let's not forget washing years of dirt and grime away. I was afraid to even look in the interior, suffice to say it needed help before I parked the car...

First things first, I had to see if the engine would still run, as this would give me some kind of indication of how bad things were. I decided to charge the battery and then see if old Number 1 would start up. Of course I did the basic fluids check to make sure I didn't damage the engine. To my utter amazement the engine fired right up. All I did was prime the carb with some gas! A true testament to the durability of Oldsmobile engines and synthetic oil. Hard to believe? I caught the whole thing on video. Check it out:

video

Pardon the camera shake, I'm kind of new at this. Come to think of it, it kind of reminds me of the horror flick I was in! Now that I know that Number 1 still runs pretty good, it's time to dig in. Gee, I can't wait...


Here it is all raised up and ready for me to start working. Hey, I don't have a lift yet so I use what works. Besides, I have to be able to get all of my girth under this beast.



I figured I would start from the bottom up, so I started with the front brakes, then did the trans. After that I replaced the fuel tank hoses, changed the oil and lubed the front end. To wrap up the underside, I did a complete visual inspection just in case I missed something. All I needed now was a couple of front tires so I could lower Number 1 back down
Ok, the new tires are mounted and Number 1 is back down to earth. Now it's time to dive in under the hood. The carb needs to be rebuilt, spark plugs changed, and I need to inspect the cap, rotor and wires.




When I was removing the carb I remembered that the passenger side valve cover had been leaking before I parked the car, and that leak had gotten considerably worse. I had done the drivers side a few years before so it was nice and dry. Oh well, I'll just add it to the list of repairs!







After removing brackets heavy enough to be on a Sherman Tank, I was able to get to the valve cover to remove it. Your looking at a valve train with over 300 thousand miles on it! The benefits of running synthetic oil are clearly visible.





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When I was done rebuilding the carb (the subject of a future blog) and replacing the valve cover gasket, it was time to replace the spark plugs and then fire her up. Now we know that it ran before I started all this work, so it should run great now, right?




Wrong! I couldn't get the engine to idle. It kept hunting for an idle and running rough. This picture is after I had remounted the carb after removing it to double check the float level and check for vacuum leaks. My experience told me it was a vacuum leak because the trans was not shifting correctly. Plus, I replaced the vacuum modulator when I serviced the trans so that ruled it out. After checking a few things with my vacuum pump, I discovered the leak in the distributor vacuum advance. One more thing that now needs to be replaced!

I am beginning to sense a pattern here, a parts replacing pattern! As I write this Number 1 is running good and is streetable. It may not look the best right now but I will be addressing that very soon. Next up is installing some bucket seats and cleaning up the interior. Stay tuned as Number 1 begins it's slow transformation from side yard fodder to a clean looking street machine.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Too Much Corn Bread is Bad For You

Note to self: Never buy a three-in-the-tree equipped vehicle again! Yes, you guessed it, I got burnt out shifting that beast of a trans in my International. Add to that a 35+ year old leaf spring equipped suspension and you have one heck of a miserable ride. These trucks are not made for comfort, they are made to work!

So I put it up for sale, not quite sure if there would be much interest in the old corn binder. To my suprise, it didn't stay for sale that long. Now someone else can have all that fun shifting that trans! I understand that the truck will be spending it's twilight years south of the border, in Mexico. If you happen to be down there and see it, say "Hola" for me. Now I'm off to buy mas cervesa!

Can you guess what time it is?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Corn Binder or Corn Bread?


Well, I sold good ol' Number 2, my latest Cutlass project. It was a great car and an excellent project, but I could see myself spending way too much money on it. In case you haven't realized it yet, I get bored with vehicles real quick. I feel good about the sale, not because I made a nice chunk of change, but because it went to a true Oldsmobile enthusiast. Maybe I'll see it someday at a car show...




Being flush with cash I was now on the hunt for another vehicle. (my favorite thing to do!) I decided that I needed a truck, pre-smog, and in the "dare-to-be-different" catagory. After a lot of surfing (the Net, not the ocean), I found my next ride.







Behold my Grandpa Green International 1100c pickup truck, fresh from the farm!



Most folks perceive Internationals as farm vehicles. Heck, there as comfortable as a hay wagon and as good as Grandma's corn bread. This truck was so stock I'm suprised the salesman wasn't in a casket in the bed! It even had the line card. For those who don't know, a line card to an International is like a build sheet to a Chevy. Back in the day you could literally build these when you ordered them, option by option. This corn binder was ordered with the 304 V-8, 3 spd heavy-duty trans, custom appearance group (side moulding), deluxe hub caps (I'd hate to see the non-deluxe), A/C (big spender here), push button AM radio, heavy-duty heater (the heater core was the size of a small child), and full length vinyl flooring... It also listed things like the rearend gear ratio, paint, seat material, gas tank size, etc, etc.





Here is the stump pulling 304 V-8. Yes, International engines really are that big.







So now I have myself a pickup truck. This will be my daily driver for awhile. Let's see how long it is before I get sick and tired of the three-in-the-tree shifter. You can't argue with the fact that it is unique looking, definitely a classic. You see, I just got held-up at gun point... oops, I mean, I went to the gas station to fill up and on the way home I got two "thumbs up". Ok, maybe one was a middle finger, but who's counting anyways? Well, off on another adventure...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Just Don't Feed Them After Midnight

Yes, I'm talking about Gremlins, but not the type from Steven Spielburg. The type I'm referring to are electrical gremlins. In some ways these are worse then the fictional ones. Given a choice, most folks would rather deal with the little furry creatures then an electrical problem on their car. My brown Cutlass, Number 2, suffered from it's share of electrical gremlins when I bought it. As regular readers of this blog know, Number 2 was a victim of it's previous owner, Jerry Rig. Ol' Jerry had his cousin, Mickey Mouse, help him on quite a few "repairs" on poor Number 2, and it was painfully obvious.

The electrical gremlin that Number 2 suffered from was no rear taillights. Nothing major, right? At least the brake lights worked on one side! This senario actually got me pointed in the right direction. I knew I had some power back there, so the first item on the agenda was a visual inspection of the wiring harness. I was looking for breaks in the wires, loose connections, cut wires, etc. This is what I found when I opened the trunk...





Loose wires are always a bad sign, and this scene was no exception.







Upon closer inspection of the wires in the trunk, I discovered this connection. A pretty heavy duty connector, but why was it wrapped in electrical tape??






I decided to do some testing to see if the taped connector was preventing power from getting to the tail lights. Although the test light lit up on quite a few terminals, on some it would go on and off just by me moving the connector.






Further down the line I was not able to detect any power, so I knew I had narrowed it down to the taped connector. Time to open Pandora's box.













This is what I found when I unwrapped the tape. The connector was not plugged all the way together. Hmmm, I wonder if that would cause any problems?







It turns out that it did cause some problems, a no taillights problem to be exact. What I couldn't understand was why it was apart in the first place, as the clip was still good on it. Oh wait, I forgot who use to own the car...




Of course I just couldn't plug it back together. It needed to be cleaned. Notice the dark color to the terminals, as well as some corrosion on them. This acts like an insulator and impedes the electrical connection.







After a good cleaning with a small round file, I was ready to plug it back together, only this time correctly!







With the connector securely snapped together, it was time to check all the lights again. Volia! We now have tail lights, and brake lights, and turn signals, and most important - safety! Of course I also replaced all the bulbs and cleaned the lenses, so I won't bore you with details of that, but I will tell you about another gremlin of a smaller variety.


While I was inspecting the connector, I noticed a pair of wires going into it seemed loose. It needed to come out to be checked. While this may seem like an impossible task to some, the right tools made this job rather easy. After removing the terminal, I did discover a loose crimp, so I soldered the wires to the terminal instead of trying to re-crimp it.



This is the wonder tool that was worth every penny I paid for it.






The connector pops right out. Hey, it looks like I actually know what I'm doing! Notice how the factory put two wires in the one terminal. These terminals can barely handle one wire, let alone two.


In case your wondering, I did get rid of the snap tight trailer plug connectors. I just thought they added that extra special touch of Mickey Mouse to the pictures. I can't wait to see what other "special" suprises I can find on Number 2. Until then, at least I have chased off the gremlins for now.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Fuel additives - do they really make a difference?

Do gas additives work? A lot of folks are asking this very question now-a-days. Read on to see what I have discovered...
In California, the current price of gas is over the four dollar mark and rising almost daily. Few people, if any, are thinking about fuel additives. Folks are having a hard enough time just paying for a gallon of gas, let alone spending more for an additive. Now that a bottle of gasoline additive is about the same price as a gallon of gas, one would speculate that more would sell. After all, I still see zillions of portly SUVs racing around, gulping down barrels of OPEC's finest. The owners of these thirsty machines obviously don't have a problem with the price of gas, right?

Before I sold my Sucks Unbelievable Volumes of gas (my Suburban), I would at least drive slowly, to try and conserve as much fuel as possible. Of course, this was as useful as putting lipstick on a pig, because all I would get was angry looks and blaring horns every where I went. Welcome to Southern California! Even though my Sub (literally) went through tons of gas, it was one of the most reliable vehicles I had ever owned. I never had a fuel system problem with it, even with over 250,000 miles on it! From the first tank of gas to the last, I had always used an additive as needed. For fuel injected vehicles, I was sold on the benefits. Benefits? What benefits? Let me explain...

Many years ago I was an Assistant Parts Manager at a Jaguar / Saab Dealership. As some folks know, both Jaguar and Saab switched to fuel injection years before the domestic car companies, putting them at the forefront of this "new" technology. One of the more common problems on the early injected cars was clogged injectors. A Jaguar technical guru claimed it was because of the different "blends" of gasoline being used. While this was probably true at the time, the injector design might have had something to do with it also. The result was a technical bulletin from Jaguar that instructed that a bottle of Chevron Techron fuel additive be installed at every service. We got the stuff in by the truck loads, and religiously poured a bottle in every tank of every Jaguar that was being serviced. I can tell you first hand that it made a big difference. The benefits were clear: engines were running smoother, performance increased, in some cases mileage increased , and most important to us, customers had fewer complaints. There was such a marked improvement that we started using the additive in the Saabs as well. I worked at that dealership for over five years and saw what a difference adding a simple bottle of fuel additive can make.

There are different types of fuel additives available, so which one is right for you? Most of them contain the same ingredients, but the exact ingredients seem to be a trade secret. Some labels referenced a "CAS" number. CAS stands for Chemical Abstracts Service. This appears to be a service that costs money to look anything up, so I was not successful in finding out the chemical makeup. But every bottle that I did look at contained "petroleum distillates". Just what the heck are petroleum distillates anyways? It sounds like oil that comes in a Sparklets bottle! Defining petroleum distillates is about the same as trying to define liquids, because they can be many different things. Petroleum distillates are liquids, but so is water. They both fall into the general category of liquids – yet they are both different. Most folks are mystified by the name “petroleum distillates”, but that is exactly what they are – products made from crude oil that have been distilled in a refinery and then usually processed even further and then purified in some mystical ritual. Because most people mistakenly believe that all petroleum distillates must be similar, they find it hard to believe that there are so many different types, many of which have completely opposite characteristics and uses. So where does all this leave us, the unassuming consumer? Because petroleum distillates is such a broad term, each brand could potentially have a different "liquid" in it. I believe the majority of the fuel additives are formulated the same, but who can say for sure with single listed ingredients like "petroleum distillates". There are a few exceptions, like Shell, who also lists "Amines" in their additive, and Techron, who, along with the generic petroleum distillates, lists "Stoddard Solvent" and "Proprietary Additive", which is a technical term for a trade secret. Good luck finding out what that is.

While I was shopping for fuel additives, I ran across a product called "Gas Mileage Improver" marketed by Gumout. As expected, the shelf was almost empty. Seems everyone these days wants to stretch their mileage, and at $4.00 a gallon for gas, who can blame them? Gumout's fuel additive contains "Hydrocarbon Solvents". These solvents could literally be anything from Benzene to Xylene. My research tells me it is probably Xylene, as some data has shown that Xylene combined with Acetone will increase gas mileage. Of course, there is an ongoing debate about Acetone as a fuel additive. Years of research and documentation has shown that Acetone causes fuel to burn better and more completely. Acetone, Xylene and other methyl-carrying hydrocarbons are among the slowest burning chemicals known. They also carry high octane properties. They survive the heat of combustion for a very long time although they vaporize quite readily. By their fierce vibrations, they break apart the massive fuel fragments that surround them. Thus they encourage great vaporization, which is the key to great mileage. The purpose of adding Xylene is to protect the Acetone and let it do its job of vaporizing the fuel and helping fuel to combust completely.

As you have probably guessed, I have done a lot of research into fuel additives, especially Acetone. There is a lot more to be said, but Acetone as a fuel additive is an article by itself. Purchasing additives is definitely a personal choice, but it looks to me like the worst a bottle of fuel additive can do is keep your injectors clean. If you have ever priced an injector and the labor to install it, you already know how much money you are going to save. Think of it as cheap insurance for your fuel system. I don't know about you, but I could use that extra money to fill up my gas tank!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Smells Like an Old Fart

Remember, don't judge a book by it's cover, or in this case, a blog by it's title. I happen to be an Old Fart. Let me be more specific - I belong to the Old Farts Racing Team. You don't actually have to be an "old fart" to join, you just gotta like bench racing, drag racing, old cars, cruising, barbecue, or any combination of them.


I guess if I'm an Old Fart I could call my blogs farticles, or fartlogs, or ... oh nevermind, but that does get me thinking. I once heard a fart is a backwards sneeze. (Be sure to cover your "mouth", you don't want to spread that cold!) Ever smell one of those diesels converted to run on deep fryer oil? Smells like french fries. I wonder if you used bean oil if it would smell like farts? Add a back fire or two and you would have a mechanical recreation of flatus (farting).



Think farts aren't powerful? Check this out: Intestinal gas is made up of oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, and methane. Holy crap! Feed me some beans and plop my ass on the intake manifold! More interesting info: The foul smell usually is caused by small traces of gases such as hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, and methane. All people pass gas, some folks more than others. It is normal to pass gas from 6 to 20 times per day. (!) Jeez, we are our own bio-fuel plant. Let's bottle some of that crap! No pun intended...



I'll never forget the first time I heard the term "old fart". I went to see the movie Hooper, starring Burt Reynolds and Jan Michael Vincent. There is this scene where Jan Michael is sitting on a picnic table with this huge pyramid of beer cans behind him. This old sheriff comes rambling up to him and asks him if he drank all that beer by himself. Some words are exchanged and Jan Michael ends up saying to the sheriff "You old fart". I about rolled out of my seat in laughter.








Yet another movie where they trashed a Trans Am. I believe it was a '77? I was a sucker for all those movies, including Smokey and the Bandit. How many Trans Ams got trashed in that movie? Too many, that's for sure.










Who can forget Buford T. Justice?








I have gotten way off the subject. Time to return to smellville, fartland, the cheese factory, eggtropolis, sulfer city, toot town, Red Butte Utah, brown town USA, flapping cheeks farm, and last but not least, the thunder from down under! Now I know that Old Farts is a funny name for a race team, but it definitely gets attention. Besides, they help put on cool shows like Show and Go. (see below) Speaking of Show and Go, it was GREAT this year. For those of you that didn't go, you should check it out next year. I took quite a few photos at the event and will be posting some soon. Stay tuned...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

It's Almost Show and Go Time

I know, your asking, "What the heck is show and go?" Well, my fellow blogsters and readers of all things automobilish, Show and Go is the annual car show held in my home town. That's right, a big ol' car show, complete with open header cruising, show & shine, poker walk, live bands, carnie type food, and that cool announcer that everybody knows as the longtime voice of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

You guessed it, none other then Bruce Flanders himself. If you think Bruce is in anyway related to Ned Flanders then you need to check the torque on your lugnuts!




          Although there is a strange resemblance




Wow, have I accidentally discovered Ned Flander's secret identity? Another first from Frank's Classic Car Garage! By the way, here's the flyer for our famous car show. Ok, soon to be famous.

I'm bringing Number 2, and if you think that's the smelly brown stuff, then you need to check your dipstick! Technically, you might be right though. The car is brown and it is smelly. Just read the older blogs, they will explain everything. I better go polish the turd now! If I start early enough it may just look presentable. Remember, I said may...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Where Were You In '62?

Suddenly, it's the sixties... well, that's what I thought when I took the following photo. It reminded me of a cruise scene from Hollywood Knights or American Graffiti.




Check out this cool '55 "altered"




This is Kenny Asche's famous flamin' Camaro. You really have to see this car in person. It's one of the best flame throwing cars I have seen. If you look closely in the photo you can see the flames.


These are just a few of my photos that I thought you might enjoy. Stay tuned for more, both of cars and other "interesting" subjects... For those who want tips and tricks on digital photography or just want to learn how to take better pictures, Click Here!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Time for a Butt Kickin'

Found this quote today on Mark Knowles hub page:

"Google won't search for Chuck Norris... because it knows you don't find Chuck Norris, he finds you."


Well, I like to give credit where credit is due, so I did some research (like I always do) and found a little trail of sorts. Seems Mark's page probably got if from the SEO Blog, by Jim Hedger , who in turn got it from Google PR-czar David Krane at http://www.kraneland.com/ .


Whew! Anyways, here is what you do:

Step 1: Visit http://www.google.com/

Step 2: Input these search terms: find chuck norris

Step 3: Click "I'm feeling lucky"

Then check out the results!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

How to Mickey Mouse Something

No, I'm not going to tell you how to jerry-rig something, or Mickey it, or many other expressions that folks use to exemplify the meaning of cutting corners. One of my old bosses always use to say the name Rube Goldberg, as in "boy, you Rube Goldberged that!".

Soon after I bought my '71 Cutlass, which I refer to as "Number 2", I realized that it was a shade tree mechanic's car - meaning that there was a whole lot of Mickey Mouse going on. Number 2 suffered from many small problems, which on the surface made it look like it was falling apart. When I started digging in, it became apparent that most of the problems were self-inflicted. Number 2 had become a victim of it's previous owner, whose name must have been Jerry Rig!


Here is an example of just one of the "high tech" fixes that I found on Number 2. Yes, that's a broom stick handle shoved in the end of the hose!



The rear view mirror was also broke, or so I thought. The mirror was pointing towards the floor and had a wad of duct tape wrapped around it, along with a length of copper electrical wire to "hold it up". I really wish I would have taken a picture of it, it was classic! It was so convincing that I really thought it was broke so I started to look for a replacement.


I managed to find a mirror on eBay and put in a bid, hoping for the best. Well, fate has a way of dropping hints, and after I lost the auction due to a last second bid sniper, I decided to remove the mirror to inspect it. After I peeled back the layers of sticky duct tape, I discovered something very interesting. The special screw that tightens the mirror to the arm was missing, and had been replaced with a wood screw. Unable to tighten the wood screw completely, the previous owner fashioned a hook out of some copper wire and then applied a generous layer of grey duct tape. Needless to say, the "fix" didn't work, so the mirror just hung there looking like some kind of Frankenstein dangling from the roof.


After a thorough cleaning I realized that all the mirror needed was the correct screw to properly tighten it up. I dug for hours through all my trim screws and my perseverance paid off. I actually found the proper screw for the mirror! Once I put it in, the mirror worked flawlessly. A definite eye opener for me, as I should not have judged a book by it's cover, so to speak. It could have been worse. I could have got in a bidding war and paid too much for a mirror that I really didn't need, so I consider myself lucky.


While were on the subject of being Mickey Mouse, there is one place that it's actually normal and accepted every day. Where you ask? Disneyland of course! While I have been to Disneyland quite a few times, I have never actually been to Disney World, which I hear is even better. I am planning on going soon, so of course I did some research. Just like my cars, I want to save as much money as possible. Most folks around here would probably go to the Auto Club to book their vacation or call a travel agent. Now I don't know about you, but I want to get the most for my money, especially while I'm on vacation. During my research, I ran across this publication:
Click Here!
Do yourself a favor and check it out. It could save you a bundle. See you in Fantasy Land!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Pain in the Gas

I don't now about you but I am sick and tired of getting gouged at the pump. I put gas in my car today and paid $3.69 a gallon! Gas has been going up about 3 cents every other day. Why don't they just jack it up to four dollars so the price will stay the same for awhile. Why is it that the price goes up instantly but takes so long to long to come down? The oil companies know that there is nothing we can do about it, and that we will continue to buy their gas no matter what the price.


I wish there was an affordable electric car that I could buy. One of the least expensive out there is the GEM vehicles which are distributed through Chrysler. I would buy one of these but they are a total piece of crap. I drive one at work everyday and they are constantly breaking down. My employer has one of the largest fleet of GEMs around so I have seen first hand how bad these vehicles are. The batteries constantly need to be replaced (due to the rough ride), the frames crack (their aluminum), the wheel cylinders leak almost as soon as you replace them, the battery charger has gone out twice, and the main electrical plug outlet (where you plug in the cord) burns up! Let's not forget the clear coat problems and the random cracks that the body has at most of the mounting points. I know that GEM stands for Global Electrical Motorcars but they really should have named it TURD.


Hybrids are another story. Toyota held the crown for top mileage for quite a while until BMW recently unveiled a 5 series that beat it. The BMW 520d with a 2.0-liter diesel engine and regenerative braking posted an impressive 41.9 mpg - about 0.9 mpg better than a full hybrid Prius. Not a huge difference but keep in mind that the BMW is about 500 lbs heavier. Plus, which would you rather drive, a BMW or a Toyota? BMW also built a V-12 concept car that ran on hydrogen. Imagine filling your tank with the water hose! Sound too far fetched? Check out these sites I found for converting your car to run on water:
Click Here!

and here's another one:
Click Here!


I checked out both sites and it looks like the conversion is in addition to gas, so your car is like a hybrid of sorts. It got me curious and made me want to convert one of my older cars, but it sounds a little too good to be true. I will be doing some investigating on this and will post my results when I have them.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Parts is Parts

All parts are the same, right? If you believe this then I have a some beach front property in Arizona to sell you. I sold auto parts for over 15 years so I have seen my share of parts. I'm not talking Autozone either. Back in the day there were professional parts stores, where the guys that sold parts were seasoned professionals. The counterman that I know is a salesman, parts identifier, problem solver, diagnostic technician, machinist, inventory control person, and a mechanic's right hand man, all in one.


I worked during what I consider was the "hay day" of the parts era. The most popular muscle cars of the sixties were just 15 years old, so the majority of the parts sold were for cars with name plates such as: Chevelle, Camaro, Corvette, Mustang, Cuda, Charger, Challenger, 442, and GTO. And who could forget the British invasion - Triumph Spitfires, MG Midgets, Austin Healeys, and Jaguars. I pushed parts for more cars then I can remember. It was at the parts store that I also bought and sold most of my cars.


Finding them was the easy part. The typical scenario would involve a customer coming in with a huge parts list for their car. After seeing what it would cost to fix their ride, and factoring in all the labor involved, the prospect of selling it seemed more appealing. I bought some sweet rides across that parts counter, like a '69 Hugger Orange Camaro, a '69 Chevelle SS, numerous '57 Chevys, and more then a few El Caminos. Yes, I was heavy into Chevys, but I wasn't very brand loyal when it came to getting a deal.


Getting back to the subject of parts, the store usually carried two "levels" of parts, good and better. We usually referred to them as cheap and expensive. The cheap parts were generic, usually imported, and budget priced. The expensive parts were name brand, heavy duty, and priced accordingly. The saying use to be, You Get What You Pay For, but that's not necessarily true today. Let me explain. On a recent trip to a "chain type" parts store, I found quite the opposite to be true. I needed upper ball joints for my '71 Cutlass. This store had them in stock and was one of the least expensive. They offered two choices. One ball joint was a generic brand, 90 day warranty, and cost $9.99 each. The other ball joint was their name brand, life time warranty, and cost $19.99 each. With such a big difference in price you would expect a major difference in the parts. That turned out to be true - sort of.


The expensive ball joint ended up being made in China, had a rough cast body, and the rubber boot was thin and held in place with wire ties. The attaching bolts didn't even have any grade marks on them. It reminded me of an import ball joint, like you would find on a Toyota. The less expensive ball joint was made in Japan, had a machined cast body, OEM style thick rubber boot and clamp, and the hardware had grade 8 markings. This was clearly the superior part, both in looks, quality, and price. It may not have had a lifetime warranty, but at this point it looked as though I was just purchasing an insurance policy with the expensive part.
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Another example is the W-30 hood that I bought for my '72 Cutlass. I searched far and wide for a functional ram air hood, and discovered that no company made one on the West coast. I had no choice but to ship one in from the East coast, so that meant that I had to choose carefully. The factory W-30 Ram Air hoods were very unique. They were steel on the bottom and fiberglass on the top. I actually found an NOS GM W-30 hood on eBay but the bidding was already over two thousand dollars on the second day, a little rich for my blood. I also found a company that reproduces the OEM ram air hood using your old steel hood as a "core". The price was around $800 dollars and I should have ordered it, but I didn't. I decided to save a few dollars (I'm on a budget, remember?) and order a hood from a large and reputable fiberglass company. I shouldn't have anything to worry about, right? Wrong.
Behold the wonderful W-30 hood that I paid $500 dollars too much for...
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I lined the edges of the scoops with tape so you can see what the problem was with the hood.
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The really sad part was when I called the manager of the fiberglass company to tell him about the problem. Guess what? He said he already knew about it! "So you have been selling these without telling people about the defect?" I asked. He told me flatly he didn't consider it a defect and that all fiberglass hoods had "imperfections". I told him that if I had known about this so called imperfection before hand, I never would have bought the hood. Needless to say all of my complaining did no good, and the hood is now collecting dust in the corner of my garage. Anybody know a good fiberglass guy?
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So that's the way the parts business goes. Sometimes you get what you pay for, other times you get more then you bargained for. The bottom line is that when ever possible, look before you buy. On an eBay purchase, I would say ask for more pictures or at least ask a lot of questions. I personally have bought a crap load of parts off of eBay and 99% of my purchases have been more then satisfactory. A little due diligence when buying parts will go a long way towards getting the most for your money, and saving you from storing defective parts in your garage.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Opportunity Rang But I Took a Message

My main purpose of creating this blog page was to put on "paper" what has been floating around in my head since like forever. I love cars, new and old, but mostly old. I love photography, digital SLR is my game. I also enjoy working on classic cars, so the blending of all three seemed natural. What if I could get a job that paid me to do all of that? What if I could do my favorite things for a living? Most of us dream of this scenario, right? I was possibly an interview away from this happening, and I made a choice...


Let me back track a little. I was pounding away at my blogs and I really wanted to get some feed back, a professional opinion if possible, on my writing style, etc. I decided to email the Editor of a major automotive publication asking for his opinion. I know, a really long shot, right? At the most I was hoping for a return email from him, asking me if I was serious or chastising me mercilessly. I did not get any emails. What I got was a phone call. A phone call that could have changed my life. No, it was not a job offer but rather an opportunity to interview for a Technical Editor position. Holy crap! Me, a Technical Editor? My ultimate dream, no doubt, with the possible exception of winning the lottery. The Editor told me to think about it and call him back. In my mind I am doing the comparisons, but how do you compare your dream job to reality?


Reality to me is my family, my house, my pets, and my cars, pretty much in that order. If I were to do a pie chart, my cars would be the smallest piece of the pie. It's not like I want it that way, that's just reality. Reality is also bills - lots of bills - so this must take precedence over all things, including dreams. In this case the dream did not pay enough. Sure, there were tons of perks, but perks don't pay bills. Perks get you a bitchin' looking ride, but at what cost? Don't get me wrong, the job pays well, but I just happen to make more. The situation looks even bleaker when you factor in commute times and fuel costs. I was looking at an additional 4 hours a day just in travel. That's 80 hours a month, or 960 hours per year! (6 months!!) How bad do I want this?


With all that said, I still want this dream job. I just can't do it full time at the moment. What I would really like is to be freelance, or a Contributing Editor, or something along those lines that I can do part time so I can really get the feel for it. My work does need some polishing, so I will continue to polish it here, with you as my critics. I will land a gig someday soon, just you wait and see. Meanwhile, I get to keep blogging, so enjoy!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Fish Stories

We all hear the stories of the big fish that got away. "It was a 75 pound Bluegill, I swear!" Yea, right, and I caught a Sword fish with 12 pound test. The same holds true in the automotive world. Much like the fishing world, there are tons of stories about the "one that got away". In my case it was a 1970 GTO Judge. Even though I only looked at this car twice, I will never forget it.


If I remember correctly, I was around 18 years old. Me and my friend Ken were headed over to a buddy's house and I had made a wrong turn going there. We both saw it at the same time and I pulled over quicker then you can say "Bobs your Uncle". Sitting in over grown grass next to a driveway was a '70 Judge, white with blue side stripes. Dusty and neglected, it was apparent that it had been there for a long time. I got close enough to see it had a hood tach and then immediately made a B-line for the front door of the house. It didn't even matter to me if it had an engine, it was a Judge! I had to find out if the owner wanted to sell it. To my extreme disappointment, I discovered that she didn't want to sell, but she did agreed to let us check it out.


The Judge was all original. Talking to the owner revealed that she had bought the car new and drove it everyday to work. She had to park it many years ago because of a water leak, and just never got it repaired. The Judge was equipped with the Ram Air 400 engine and a 3-speed manual trans. I remember lifting the hood and the first thing I saw was the foam seal on the Ram Air lid. Below the air cleaner I spotted dusty, chrome valve covers and what looked like a factory aluminum intake manifold. The car was still wearing it's original Pontiac Rally wheels shod with cracked, flattened tires. The reason the owner did not want to sell was because her son had shown some interest in it. I had already made up my mind to check back with her on a monthly basis, just in case things changed.


I drove back by about a month later and talked to her again. Still the same answer but I did get to look over the car again. This time I wrote down the block numbers, head casting numbers, and trim tag info. I couldn't catch the owner at home again after that, but I would drive by and see the car still sitting there, month after month. There was a period of time where I didn't go by for quite a while. When I finally was able to drive over there, the car was gone! I figured it had been moved into the garage or brought to a repair shop, but I really didn't find out what happened for quite a while. Several months had passed and I was in the area so I decided to drive by what had become known as the "Judge house". The owner was outside watering so I decided to stop and ask her what happened to the car. I thought for sure she was going to tell me that her son was getting it fixed up, or it was buried in the garage, or something like that. To my utter suprise, she informed me that her son had changed his mind and wanted a newer car. She was unable to find the number that I had left her so she called the local wrecking yard, who ended up giving her $800 dollars for the car! I felt sick to my stomach...

This was one that definitely got away. It was all my fault though. I should have stayed in better contact. Just like in fishing, if the lure is still out there, your going to get another bite. My other bite was in the form of a 1968 GTO, which I managed to reel in, but that's another story.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Seek and Ye Shall Find

For a lot of folks, especially those on the East coast, finding a suitable project car seems like a daunting task. If your like me, your bank account looks like the Sahara Desert - dry and empty. When you do happen to save up enough money to buy that project car, you want to get the most for your money. The beast in the East pretty much destroyed all the older classics out there, many of them succumbing to rust and rot, so classic cars back east usually command a premium price. For us folks on the left coast, older iron is easier to come by. Although the herd is thinning, deals can still be found. With a little bit of due diligence and preservation, you can find a deal. Here are some recent, real life examples:

1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme 2 door hardtop
Rebuilt 350 motor and trans, PST suspension, Mondello headers, Edelbrock intake and cam. Options included: Power steering, power disc brakes, power seat, tilt column, and power windows. Car was still wearing it's original paint but did have some damage on one quarter panel. Interior was original, complete, and in good condition. Owner was asking $5000 or best offer!


1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass S 2 door hardtop
400 engine with bolt-on performance goodies, factory Saginaw 4-speed, body was in primer but looked straight. Interior had bucket seats and was complete but worn. Owner was asking $4000 or best offer!


1975 Pontiac Lemans Sport 2 door hardtop w/68k original miles
400 engine and trans, 12 bolt limited slip rear end, front and rear sway bars, factory dual exhaust. Options included: Power steering, power disc brakes, A/C (working), floor shifter w/center console, and factory guage cluster w/tach. Interior had bucket seats, was original, complete, and in very good condition. Owner was asking $2500 or best offer!!


1968 Chevy II Nova 2 door coupe
307 engine mostly original, factory Saginaw 3-speed on the floor, body looked good and paint job was recent. Interior was complete but thrashed. Power steering was the only option. Car had manual drum brakes and was still wearing it's original hub caps. Owner was asking $4500 or best offer!


1979 Chevy Camaro Z/28

Rebuilt 350 engine w/aftermarket cam, intake, and carb. Body was in excellent condition, as was the paint. Interior original, complete, and in decent shape. New rims and tires. Would not pass CA smog in current condition. Owner was asking $3500 or best offer!


1974 Buick Apollo 2 door

350 engine and trans, needs minor work to get running. New exhaust, rims and tires. Paint and interior original but both need some work, as well as the body. Car appeared to be an aborted teenage project. Owner was asking $3000.


1965 Chevy El Camino

283 engine mostly original, factory 4-speed, 12 bolt posi rearend. New exhaust and some engine dress up items. Interior was original but needed to be redone. Factory bucket seats and console. Aftermarket wheels and tires. Needed paint and body work, minimal rust. Owner was asking $4300 firm. What a deal!


1967 Ford Ranchero

289 w/factory Autolite 4bbl, C-4 automatic, heavy duty rearend, dual exhaust, tow hitch. Options included: Power steering, power disc brakes, and factory A/C (not working). Interior was original, complete, and in decent shape. Body was in excellent condition, paint looked to be original and complete, and all chrome was in decent shape. Owner was asking $3500 or best offer!!



Most of these I actually looked at, so I know they were the real deal. The bottom line is that deals are out there, you just have to really look. With the exception of the '74 Buick, I probably would buy every one of these cars if I could afford it. If you manage to find a sweet deal, let me know. Best of luck with your next classic car purchase and remember: Seek and ye shall find!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

You Can Tune A Carb But You Can't Tune A Fish

Ok, so the album was "tune a piano" but the comparision is still the same. If REO Speedwagon were not muscians but rather mechanics, my title would have probably prevailed. One of the many problems that Number 2 had was it's ability to start easily. Most folks would probably assume it needed plugs or wires, or possibly a timing adjustment. In listening to the prior owners description of the problem - very hard to start, rough idle until it warms up, black smoke (sometimes) - I quickly deduced the culprit was the carburetor. More specifically, the choke. Before I started to make any choke adjustments, I made sure the engine was cold, just like it would be when you would start it in the morning. It also helped that it was a cold day when I started my adjustments.


This is what I saw when I pulled off the air cleaner. The choke was completely closed. It was a wonder the car could start at all! Let's check the choke thermostat to see what kind of shape it is in.









Oldsmobile used an exhaust heated thermostat and this one looked like it had seen better days. Don't always judge a book by it's cover...











Removing the thermostat revealed that it was still in pretty good shape. Adjusting it properly would prove weather the bi-metal spring was still working.








With the t-stat back in place, adjust it lightly until the choke plate just closes on a standard pencil.












Here is a close-up of my "pencil gauge". Notice how high tech it is.











Now that the choke was adjusted properly and the t-stat cover retaining screws tight, it was time to start the engine. There are two idle adjustments to worry about. One is the fast idle adjustment. This is the the idle speed that the engine runs at when the choke is set.




 Here is the fast idle screw. With the choke set and the engine running, I adjusted it to the manufacture's specification.









Once the engine was warmed up and the choke was completely open, I adjusted the main idle screw to the manufacture's specification. The choke opening all the way was a good sign as it told me that the bi-metal spring was working properly.






Now that all the idles are good I wanted to take it one step further and adjust the air/fuel screws. There are a few different ways to adjust these. Most manuals will tell you to hook up a vacuum guage and adjust the screw until you achieve the highest and steadiest vacuum.






Even though I have a vacuum guage, I have been doing this long enough that I do it my own way. While adjusting each screw, I will listen to the engine idle and watch the engine. Watching the engine is crucial, because I can see when it starts to run rough, and I know to reverse the direction of the screw a little.






Another item worth noting is that before I dug in with the adjustments, I made sure there were no vacuum leaks, cracked vacuum hoses, etc. I also checked the carburetor mounting bolts to make sure they were tight. You will notice in one picture my professional vacuum line plug - the air cleaner stud! Hey, I use what works. For those who are wondering why I am bothering with a two barrel, I have two words for you: Gas Mileage. Nuff said!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Real American Idol

While I was watching this year's Daytona 500 I couldn't help but wish someone would take the Toyotas out. I don't want to sound mean, but I really did not want to see a Toyota anywhere near the winners circle. In my opinion, for a Foreign car manufacture to win one of NASCAR's most coveted races is akin to Americans of European descent taking up Sumo wrestling. Shouldn't happen, ain't gonna happen. The good ol' boys need to step it up. Besides, Toyota wins enough in the truck series, that should be enough to keep their ego in check. Sure, I'm all about being fair and equal rights and all that stuff, but there is a difference between racing to race and racing to win. Take the following for example: Kyle Petty races to race, whereas Jimmy Johnson races to win. A big difference in my book. The Toyotas should just concede and race to race. Naturally we should still be fair and let the "Camrys" out on the track to do some "rubbin". That would make for good target practice for the other drivers. Lets just say I was glad to see Dodge do a 1-2 finish and Toyota finish third.




Here is a picture of Toyota's new 358-cubic inch, iron-block, carbureted V-8 race engine that will be used in NASCAR Craftsman Truck racing next year. About the only thing stock on this engine is the power steering pump. (photo courtesy of TRD)









Now compare it with GM's First Purpose-Built Small-Block V-8 NASCAR Racing Engine, the Chevrolet R07 . Is it just me or do they look similiar? I understand the Toyota engine was designed and built in the U.S. but the block is cast in Japan. Boy, nothing like building on a weak foundation! Although I also heard that because of huge 4th quarter loses at GM, their engine block will be cast in Mexico... just kidding, but you never know! (photo courtesy of race2win.net)


Let's face it, NASCAR is viewed as an American sport, but it is open to all competitors. We all
have our favorite drivers and teams. For as long as I can remember I have been a fan of Richard Petty. I use to watch him race at the now defunct Riverside International Raceway. My favorite spot was against the fence in the middle of the "esses". As a kid who couldn't afford a tele-photo lens, that spot made for some really good photos. Opinions will differ, but I have always loved the "NASCAR look". Those old cars with huge steelies on all four corners looked awesome. My dream was to take a '73 or '74 Monte Carlo and totally NASCAR it out: Adjustable suspension, sheet metal covers for headlights, painted 10 inch wide steelies, roll cage, exhaust pipes coming out by the passenger side door, the whole nine yards. Can you say: "Boogity Boogity Boogity!"?


I think I'll go watch Days of Thunder now. Better yet, I got a special NASCAR history DVD set for Christmas! Talk about vintage race cars. This DVD is chuck loaded with ideas for creating your very own "repliNascar" for the street. Remember, you read that word here first: RepliNascar. Maybe I'll trade mark it. Now I have to start searching for that Monte Carlo...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Gas Leak From Hell

One of the most dangerous and smelly things to have wrong with your car is a gas leak. When I picked up Number 2, I knew it had a gas leak. What I didn't know was just how serious the leak was. I was pretty sure the rubber hoses going to the tank had never been changed, so right after I got the car home, I put it up on jack stands and dug in.


I swear that these Oldsmobiles were designed for fuel injection. There are no less then 4 hoses going to the tank, one of which is 3/8 inch, and there are 3 more above the rearend going to the vent system. I have often thought of getting an intake manifold off of a '78 - '79 Cadillac Seville, which was factory fuel injected, to use on a 350 Olds. The Sevilles used Oldsmobile 350s that were port injected, not throttle body! I use to see crap loads of them out at Pick-a-Part, just waiting to be cannibalized. Now I believe most of them are owned by an individual who lives out by Little Rock, CA. Yes, California, not Arkansas. There must be 200 Sevilles in this person's yard. I will try and get a picture of this bizarre collection soon.



Here is what the hoses looked like after I got them off. Notice what fine shape they are in(!), and to think the previous owner drove the car like this.... scary! If you have ever seen where these hoses are located, you know it is kind of tight up there. One trick to get the hoses off is to slice each end (the direction of the hose, not across) so that the hose pulls off easily. Use the old hose as a template to cut the new one, this way you won't end up with a hose that is too long or too short.



After all the hoses were replaced I test drove the car and everything seem fine. I could still smell a little gas but it had been pouring down the tank since Nixon was President so I figured it needed to dry out. One of the problems that the previous owner had was fuel starvation at higher speeds. They thought it was a fuel pump or clogged filter, but I just knew it was the cracked fuel lines, right? The outlet hose was cracked so bad it had to be sucking tons of air. The next day when I drove it to work I noticed it was still starving for fuel, and the gas smell was just as strong. To make matters worse, after I parked the car I looked under it and saw part of the tank was still wet! Not as bad, but still there. What the heck?? A loose clamp maybe? No, I double checked them. Hole in the tank? No, it only leaks when it's running. Broken/cracked tube coming from the sender? I hope not! Shoot, am I going to have to pull the tank? Time to put it back on jack stands and do another visual inspection. After a lot of looking and a few choice words, I finally found the source, thanks in part to the gas stain that I spotted above the gas tank.



Here is what I found. This hole was on the back side of the fuel line facing inwards. The metal fuel line had been rubbing probably since Jesus was a child and was about half way through the line. I actually felt it with my fingers before I could see it. I ended up cutting out the bad section and putting in a small piece of rubber fuel line. Guess what? Problem solved! No more gas leaks, no more smell, and no more fuel starvation problem.










Here is what it looked like after all was said and done. You can see the section I had to splice on the left. I also left as much of the metal line as possible because of the exhaust pipe being close by. The dark area on the exhaust pipe is were the fuel had been leaking on it. I think I'll go buy a lottery ticket because I must be lucky!



So now all is safe (relatively speaking) and I don't have to worry about the car suddenly bursting into flames. As was the case here, you never know what you will find when it comes to gas leaks. When checking or repairing your classic car for fuel leaks, always be careful, double check your work, and remember to keep a fire extinguisher close by just in case. I guess I better start gearing up for the next project. Stay tuned for more fun stuff.

Time for a Reality Check - Assessing Your Cars Needs

Now that I have Number 2 permanently situated in my stable o' cars, it was time to take a step back and really look at it with un-biased eyes. This is a good idea to do with any project, especially one that you are going to use as a daily driver. What I do is create a check list of items that the car needs in order of importance. Usually there will be two columns, mandatory and optional. Don't worry if you don't know how to use Excel on your computer. I know how to use it but prefer not to! Nothing on my classic cars will be computerized, not even the check list! (this statement may be rescinded at any time) Here is the list that I came up with for Number 2:


Mandatory - Brake master cylinder; Rubber gas lines going to tank; Upper bushings and ball joints; Rear springs and Shocks; Rear quarter widow guide rollers; Heater core and valve; Oil change; Valve cover gaskets; Timing cover seal; Carb adjustment and/or tune-up; Drivers side door lock; Re-seal back glass; and finally a new windshield. Another mandatory item is that my wife never sees this list...


Optional - Rims and Tires; Dual exhaust; Stereo that you can hear; Recharge A/C and cross my fingers; Paint job; and probably an Interior.


Before you go out and go gung-ho on your parts list, I have some tips that might save you a few duckets. Next to my columns I usually leave enough room for 3 to 4 additional columns. In these columns I write the names of my local parts stores, like NAPA, Kragen, Autozone, etc. I then sit down and call each one to check the prices and availability on the parts that I need. Availability is important because no matter how cheap that part is, if it is not available it doesn't do you any good. Sometimes the price difference between each store is substantial. Let me give you an example from my parts list. I needed a master cylinder and wanted to buy a new one, so I called around and here is what I was quoted:


Carquest - $60.78

Autovalue - $48.25

NAPA - $37.99

Autozone - $29.97 w/lifetime warranty


Naturally I went with the Autozone part, not only because of the price but because it was the only one that offered a lifetime warranty. There is a $30 dollar price difference between the highest and the lowest. I don't know about you but that could buy me either a steak dinner, a lot of beer, or some more parts! I think I'll buy some beer...






I already did a couple of things so I could drive the car safely, like the master cylinder, so I won't bore you with the details. As I do the other items I will post them on here, with pictures, so you can follow along or maybe look at my articles for reference. You never know when something is going to break and sometimes it's kind of handy to see how it is done, so stay tuned for more stuff from Frank's Classic Car Garage.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Trend of the moment

Trends in cars are just like trends in fashion - they change constantly but some how remain the same. How, you ask? Remember those large Elton Johnish sunglasses that the girls use to wear in High School? They came back around again. I have even seen a sudden outcropping of Izod shirts. You just were not cool in school unless you had that little alligator on your shirt. Anyone remember the flipped up collar shirt? Don't look now but I have seen evidence of it coming back. Yikes!

The latest trend in classic cars seems to be Patina. What is Patina you ask? In this case it refers to the condition of the outside of the car, mainly the paint.




Here is my example of patina.




This has even affected some of the major car auctions that happen across the United States. Last October, at the RM Vintage Motor Cars Auction in Hershey PA, a 1911 Oldsmobile Limited 7-passenger Touring Car sold for $1,650,000. That's right, 1.65 MILLION! Now sure, this is kind of a rare car, but paying out that kind of dough you would expect a museum piece. This car was the exact opposite. It looked like it was dragged out of a swamp! It looked worse then the car on the Beverly Hill Billies. Original, rotted tires, waisted paint, rust, etc. This thing was a total P.O.S. Ironically, a big part of the incredible value of this car was the fact that it had never been restored. The trend seems to be moving toward buyers paying more for untouched examples, sort of like buyers of fine art do.

If patina is in, then I'm about to save a crap load of money on painting my original project car, my 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. It still wears it's original coat of factory paint. I think it's Marygold Yellow or something like that, but I call it piss yellow. My latest project is a brown 1971 Olds (see my "Tale of a modern car deal" post), so I refer to the cars as Number 1 and Number 2.
Patina comes in two different flavors, original and fake. The current rat rod trend has spawned a lot of "patina wanna-bees" - cars that didn't have patina to begin with so it was added by the owner. This is done via clever air brushing, purposing letting metal rust, and using old, weathered parts. The real McCoys are the ones that have original patina. I can see the ads now... "NOS Patina" or "OEM Patina".

True barn finds or time capsule cars are very hard to find now-a-days, even though you see a ton of ads on eBay and the like purporting to be a "true barn find". Like patina, these "finds" are also faked, right down to photographing the car in a so-called barn along with blown on dust, props, and letting the air out of the tires. Searching for barn finds to a collector is akin to panning for gold to a prospector. We both hope to find that rare "nugget".
Number 2 car was not a barn find, but rather a desert find. Desert cars are in a whole different category by themselves. Think of them as barn finds out in the open. From what I could gather, Number 2 was a high desert car all of it's life. That means not a lot of rain, lots of sun to dry things out, and wind to blow things out. The main difference that I have found between high desert cars and "low" desert cars is how bad their dried out. The lower desert gets a lot more heat and higher temperatures that tend to rot rubber and crystalize plastic parts. The high desert gets colder, stays cooler longer year round, and usually does not get quite as hot as the lower desert areas. Plus there is the wind factor. Windy conditions are good for drying out cars so moisture can't build up. Most desert cars are known for being rust free, and except for a few small exceptions, this one is too. I can hear the East coast people crying already. I'm curious if you could even find an original '71 intact on the East coast. I'm talking a daily driver, like mine, that has been driven on almost a daily basis it's entire life. No, I'm not a right-coast hater either. In fact, I have many cousins that live back East, Pennsylvania to be exact. Some day I'll make it back to St. Marys, Johnsonburg, or Wilcox... driving my rust-free Oldsmobile!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Tale of a modern day car deal

If you're like me, you have probably seen classic car prices sky rocket over the past 5 years or more. I have watched in disbelief as the prices on a lot of my favorite cars continue to go skyward. When I was growing up they use to say "convertible" was a thousand dollar word. Heck, try ten thousand now-a-days, no matter what the condition.


I can vividly remember buying my second car - a 1969 Chevelle Malibu - for $300 from a neighbor that lived down my street. When I finally got up the nerve to go ask my elderly neighbor if she wanted to sell it, she told me that the Mail Man had been asking her about it and she was thinking of selling it to him! I gave her puppy dog eyes and told her that I really needed a car to get to school. She told me he had offered $500 dollars and then asked what I would pay. I was honest, I told her all I had was $300 dollars but I had a part-time job and could make payments to her. To my suprise, she said she would take $300 dollars, as long as I promised to take good care of the car. Boy, would I ever! What can you get for $300 dollars you ask? How about an all original '69 Malibu with 28,000 original miles on it! It was Grandma tan, black interior, dog dish hub caps, 307 with a power glide. I remember it still had the original spark plug wires on it! This was my high school car. It saw many engines, including a wicked 396. I also converted it to a 4-speed. Ahh, the memories...


I must warn you, I have owned a bunch of cars. Just over 100 I believe. I could tell you a million stories about the ones that I should have kept. I think we all have at least one story like that. If only I had that car today...Does that phrase sound familiar?  Some of my "good" ones include:

1967 Ford Mustang Fastback, 390, top loader, 9 inch locker, manual disc brakes.

1955 Chevy 210 2 door post, 396 w/ hooker conversion kit, 4-speed trans.

1957 Chevy Belair 2 door hardtop, 327 tri-power, 4-speed trans.

1969 Chevy Chevelle SS 396, 4-speed, 12 bolt posi.

1967 Pontiac Firebird 400, 4-speed, posi w/ factory traction bars, radio and heater delete - basically ordered from the factory stripped for racing.

1968 Pontiac GTO, 400, 4-speed, red w/ red interior.

1969 Pontiac Firebird Sprint, OHC 6 cyl HO w/ 4 bbl carb, 4-speed, posi.

1969 Pontiac Firebird convertible, 350 HO, auto, A/C, power disc brakes.

1970 Pontiac Trans Am, 396 engine swap, automatic, 12 bolt posi.

and many more...
I guess I should get to the subject of this story. We have all heard on the news lately about how the economy is going south, business is slow, spending is down, house prices are tanking, etc. Alas, there are some positives about the national economy taking a dump. One is that classic cars prices - like stocks - tend to go down, way down in some cases. I watch car prices. Call it a hobby or just a sick obsession, but I am checking prices at least 3 times a week. So now I'm watching the prices fall on many of the cars that I would love to have, with only one small problem - I don't have any money! That's right, no money, as in zero, nada, zilch, zippo, nothing. I think you get the idea. So how can I take advantage of all these killer deals that abound? You have to get creative, that's all. Let me tell you how...

You see, I had this gi-normus SUV that gulped down gallons of Opec's finest every day. It was my daily driver that use to be the family vehicle. (now you know how I rate in the family, I get the left overs) I guess it wasn't that bad. Take a look and you decide...

So I'm stuck driving this rolling brick and wondering to myself how am I going to get some money to take advantage of this depressed muscle car market. The funny thing was, I already knew the answer. I had done it before. So if I had done it before, history dictates that I should be able to do it again, right? What was it you ask? The original way of getting what you want - trade for it. Yeah, trade, barter, swap, call it what you want, but it works. You see, I did it not to long ago by responding to an ad that I saw in Auto Trader that said: "for sale or trade". My daily driver at the time was a 535i BMW that I barely fit into. The car was fast, got good mileage, looked sharp, but it just didn't fit me. Do you want to know what I did? I traded it straight across for a 1961 Ford F-100 Pickup.

This was my Beemer.....





and this is the truck I traded it for....


Before you go saying how I got ripped off, you have to know the details. I felt like I was in a coffin when I was in the BMW, and I don't know what the heck I was thinking when I bought it. Maybe it was the fact that it was a 5 speed stick, or had the M-5 six cylinder in it. The car hauled ass, but it just wasn't me. For the peanut counters out there, the BMW booked for around $4500 and I ended up selling the Ford for $5800, so you do the math.


The first thing I do is start searching my favorite automotive web sites for folks who are interested in trading. Searching is kind of a loose term for me because I am always on the web anyways, watching prices and looking for deals that I can't afford. All I really did was modify my search parameters to find the ads with the keyword "trade" in it. I looked at a few duds before I found one that I wanted to trade for, like the 1967 Corvair Monza that I looked at. It had rust so bad in the cowl area that I swear the car was bowing between the front fenders and the doors. With todays gas prices it was kind of tough to find someone who actually wanted a gas-guzzling SUV, so my choices were kind of slim. I just knew there was someone out there. The Corvair guy would have traded for a Yugo as long as it didn't have any rust. I actually did find someone who was looking for a SUV. Do you want to know what I finally ended up trading for? I thought I would stick with something I already knew plenty about and had lots of spares. (Read: save money on parts) I managed to find a trade for a 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass "S" 2-door hard top.

Here is the grandma fresh Oldsmo-bubble that I got. Maybe the word "fresh" is being a little generous. Ok, a lot generous. The best thing about it is that it has almost zero rust. The rear quarters are cherry, as is the trunk floor, floor pans, and most of the body. There are some signs of rust at the bottom of the front fenders, and a little bit on one side of the vinyl top, but that's about it. Compared to that Corvair I looked at, this thing is in conquers condition. It has a V-8, 2bbl carb, automatic, A/C, power steering, power disc brakes, and of all things a remote trunk release. Go figure. So this is my new project, my daily driver, my subject for this blog. As I work on it to bring it back to it's former glory, you will be able to follow along. Watch and learn by my mistakes as I plod along with various projects on this beast. Even if your into Buicks, Chevelles or GTOs, a lot of the repairs will be similiar because all of them are on GM's "A" body platform. Check back often to see what's going on in Franks Classic Car Garage.