Thursday, December 24, 2009

Twas The Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the garage
Not a engine was running, not even a Dodge.
The valves were adjusted by the owner with care,
In hopes that internal combustion soon would be there.

The teenagers were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of street racing danced in their heads.
And mamma in her Starchief, and I with my tool chest,
Had just settled our cars for a long winter’s rest.

When out on the driveway there arose a bunch of valve clatter,
I sprang from the garage to see what was the matter.
Away to the roll-up I flew like a flash,
Bolting through the door in one quick dash.

The moon discs were reflected the new-fallen snow,
And gave the lustre of an Earl Scheib paint job to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a hot rod sleigh, with an eight cylinder John Deere.

With an old Nascar driver, so quick and steady,
I knew in a moment it must be Richard Petty.
More rapid than stock cars his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Jimmie! Now, Tony! Now, Jeff and Robby!
On, Clint! On, Casey! On, David and Bobby!
To the top of the race track! To the top of pit wall!
Now drag away! Drag away! Drag race away all!"

Just like the adrenalin rush you get when the green flag drops,
Lest you meet with an obstacle, after the clutch pedal pops.
So up to the top of the track the coursers they flew,
To make way for the sleigh full of parts, and Petty too.

And then with a back fire, I heard in the street,
The cackle and lope of a camshaft beat.
As I was about to go to bed, and was turning around,
Down the driveway Richard Petty came with a bound.

He was dressed in a fire suit, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with rubber and soot.
A bundle of car parts he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a racer, just back from the track.

His eyes covered with sunglasses, his smile how merry!
His mustache so signature, his ride always cherry!
And then when he spoke in his usual southern drawl,
His voice commanded attention, from one and from all.

The crop of a feather he had tight in his hat,
Never to be removed, not even when he sat.
He had a lean face and stood proud and tall,
With more guts then most and true grit most of all!

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the shelves, and then turned with a jerk.
Laying his finger aside of his nose,
Suddenly there appeared a new tool box from Lowes!

He sprang to his sleigh, and to his race team gave a thumbs up,
Away they all raced, like drivers competing for the Sprint cup.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

An original poem by Frank the Crank
©2009 Amberlight Garage

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wine Me, Dine Me, 1969 Me

OK, I know what you're thinking so get your mind out of the gutter. This blog is G rated and it's all about what I consider to be one of the greatest years in the muscle car era - 1969. To start things off and also make me feel sorry for myself, here are some '69 models that I use to own at one time or another:

1969 Chevelle Malibu (3 total)

1969 Chevelle SS 396, 4-spd

1969 GTO w/400, 4-spd

1969 Firebird Convertible w/400

1969 Grand Prix model SJ w/428

1969 Mustang Grande w/390

1969 Camaro (2 total)

I wish I would have had the hindsight to keep at least one of these, but that's the way the valve spring bounces. You know what they say, if we only knew then what we know now. Well, at least I can write about them. Let's take a trip back to 1969 and see what was offered.

1969 was a banner year for automakers. Believe it or not, only the AMC Ambassador and one model of Cadillac came standard with air-conditioning, even though it was ordered by the majority of buyers that year. This was also the year for major safety developments. Ford designed it's chassis so that its front would crumble at a controlled rate in an accident, protecting the occupants prior to the so-called "second collision". We now refer to this as crumple zones.
GM's safety contribution was guard rails that were imbedded in the sides of their full-size cars which were designed to deflect penetration by another car. Other less known facts from '69: Chevrolet offered an optional headlight washing system along with rear window defrosters on several makes, Pontiac offered the first radio antenna to be embedded in the front windshield, and several nameplates could be ordered with factory electric sunroofs, albeit at a substantial cost.

Here are some highlights of what was "new" for 1969 mid-size and sport coupes as compared to their previous year models:

1969 Falcon - Smaller fender lights, more spartan interior, and addition of a front disc brake system option. Top engine offered: 302 cid (210 hp)

1969 Nova - A pair of transmissions including the Torque-Drive, simulated fender scoops, instrument cluster, ignition lock, and no more Chevy II moniker. Top engine offered: 350 cid (300 hp)

1969 Rambler - No more convertible, "suspended" accelerator pedal, cable throttle linkage, and no more hard rubber batteries, as the transparent polypropylene battery case makes its debut. A Hurst option was also offered in mid-69, complete with big block power, 4-speed and ram-air induction. A plethora of performance options were available under "Group 19". Top engine offered: 390 cid (315 hp)

1969 Valiant - Full width grill, front disc brake option on all models, single tail lights, and door lock relocation. Top engine offered: 318 cid (230 hp)

1969 Belvedere - A convertible option, longer wagons, 2-way tailgate, a special ram-air package for the Hemi and 440, a "mod-top", 15 inch styled steel wheels, and a redesigned front end. Top engine offered: 426 cid Hemi (425 hp)

1969 Chevelle - Precision molded plastic grill, wider bumpers, ventilation for rocker panels, and power door locks. Top engine offered: 396 cid (350 hp)

1969 Coronet - Driver controlled ram-air, 318 cubic inch V-8, bucket seats that could be adjusted 160 different ways, and automatic speed control; AKA cruise control. Top engine offered: 426 cid Hemi (425 hp)

1969 Fairlane - Long stroke 6 cylinder, vinyl roof, "Cobra" performance package, two styles of wheels, trunk mounted battery, and "comfort weave" interior. Top engine offered: 427 cid (390 hp)

1969 Montego - A new grill, second generation emission control, dual action tailgate on station wagon, torque box on each wheel, 60 pounds of insulation and a locking differential. Top engine offered: 427 cid (390 hp)

1969 Cutlass - Turbo hydra-matic 350 transmission, 4-speed option and 2-way tailgate for station wagons, grills specific to each series, and no exhaust manifold heat valve. Top engine offered: 400 cid (360 hp)

1969 Rebel - New plastic grill, larger tail and back-up light package, "command air" ventilation system, redesigned instrument panel, and America's only overdrive. Top engine offered: 343 cid (280 hp)

1969 Special - Three grills for Special, Skylark and GS, 4-way power seats, GS 350 performance package, no vent windows, and a pedestrian warning light system. Top engine offered: 400 cid (340 hp)

1969 Tempest - A "wider track", new bumper, tail light and grill design, full instrumentation with hood mounted tach, functional ram-air scoops, special "Judge" option, ram-air IV engine available, and Hurst linkage no longer offered. Top engine offered: 400 cid (366 hp)

1969 AMX - Aluminized dual exhaust system, wide oval tires, larger 8000 rpm tachometer, 140 mph speedometer, and 4-speed transmission standard. Top engine offered: 390 cid (315 hp)

1969 Barracuda - Numerous changes in the grill, hood, and rear deck design, rectangular running lights, "Formula S" and "Cuda 340" performance packages, and a yellow flower print vinyl top option. Top engine offered: 383 cid (330 hp)

1969 Camaro - A little longer and wider then previous Camaros, new front grill design, 4-wheel disc brake option, torque drive semi-automatic transmission, engine block heater, rally wheels, simulated rear brake scoops, "endura" front bumper used on RS option, and an all new instrument panel. Top engine offered: 396 cid (350 hp)

1969 Charger - A "non-tunnel" fastback model called the "500" with a Hemi engine, 6-cylinder engine option, wood paneled dash and round gauges, electric sun roof, and a full choice of axle ratios. Top engine offered: 426 cid Hemi (425 hp)

1969 Corvette - Blacked out grilles, restyled tail lights, 4-wheel disc brakes standard, only production engine built that exceeds 1 hp per cubic inch, and a factory installed burglar alarm. Top engine offered: 427 cid (435 hp)

1969 Cougar - All new sheet metal, new grill, larger trunk and gas tank, fail-safe headlight covers, a convertible option, and a special scooped hood with hood pins when you ordered the ram-air option. Top engine offered: 428 cid (335 hp)

1969 Firebird - Redesigned front end, simulated air exhausts on front fenders, new instrument panel, full ignition locking system, "Sprint" option with an SOHC 6-cylinder engine, first year for "Trans Am" option, and a rubberized "endura" front bumper with a chrome center section. Top engine offered: 400 cid (340 hp)

1969 Javelin - Trans-Am inspired suspension, cable throttle linkage, Hurst transmission linkage, bigger V-8 available, and factory speed equipment available at the dealerships. Top engine offered: 390 cid (315 hp)

1969 Mustang - All new exterior sheet metal, dual headlights, ventless side glass, "Mach I" and "Grande" options offered, 3 inch wider interior, trunk mounted battery option, and new "traction-Lok" differential available. Top engine offered: 428 cid (335 hp)

That about wraps up my trip down memory lane. I know I left out the full size cars but I thought my list was pretty extensive as-is. Besides, I didn't want to bore you to death. Next up, you can look forward to my latest article titled "1979 - The last year of non-computerized cars" Just kidding, it's actually called "Front wheel drive performance machines of the 80's - Why you can't do a Rockford in a Citation"!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

If We Only Knew Then What We Know Now

Wouldn't it be cool to go back to High School knowing what you know now? Kind of like Michael J Fox did in Back To The Future. Street racing? I would have taken it to the tracks. (back then there were plenty) Auto shop? I would have paid more attention to my teacher, Mr. Love. Sports? I would have actually played some to remedy my dislike for them today. Cruising on Saturday night? I would have stayed out later and had more fun. Friends? I would have made more, lot's more. Heck, anyone got a Delorean they want to sell?

Sad to say I have only stayed in contact with a few friends that I knew when I was in High School. Ironically, most of them did not even go to my High School. One of my best friends was a fellow gear head like myself, and also a Pontiac lover. I have owned almost every make of car but my favorite by far has always been Pontiac. Many, many years ago my dad owned a '58 Starchief and I have a picture floating around somewhere of me sitting on the rear quarter when I was about 7 years old. Right after the picture was taken I actually remember breaking off the antenna! Boy was my dad mad!

In my youth, my life was void of Pontiacs until my friend Duane showed me his dad's '67 GTO. It had been stored in his Grandfather's garage for upteen years just waiting for when he turned 16. Can you imagine giving a 1967 Pontiac GTO, 400 V-8 with a 4-speed to a 16 year old? Yea right, ain't gonna happen today. We lived in a different world back then and things were just different. (they were, weren't they?) If my memory serves me right, I don't think the original motor lasted very long after Duane took possession of it. I'm sure it was old and wore out and had nothing to do with the fact the the driver was 16 years old. Really... honest... it could happen. Anyways, the motor needed rebuilding and we needed the experience, so out came the motor.

Back then rebuilding motors did not seem like that big of a deal. I remember putting every paycheck into my motors. You know what? They would get done real quick. Maybe it was the fact that we didn't have any real bills so most of our money could go right into our projects. When Duane's motor was done I was there to help install it. Putting in a new motor always brought everyone together. The more hands the merrier, especially if you were dealing with headers.

Believe it or not, that's me circa 1980 standing on the fender of my friend's GTO! Oops, I don't think any of us would do that today.

Live and learn. These cars were almost a dime a dozen back then. We use to see literally dozens of them in the local junkyards. Imagine running across junked GTOs, engines intact, some still sporting their tri-powers! Yes, we removed quite a few tri-powers from junk yard cars. You don't even want to know about the '69 Judge that got turned into a dirt track car, or the '69 GTO that I scrapped out just because I got tired of seeing it in the yard... My '67 factory 400, 4-speed Firebird that I traded for a Plymouth... My '68 GTO 400, 4-speed car that I sold to a friend on payments... all the tri-powers... Ram Air motors... 421 Super Duty factory cast iron headers... excuse me, I think I'm going to be sick.

We finally got the motor all in and hooked up. Awww, there is nothing like your first rebuilt motor. Believe it or not, my friend still has this GTO.

Although my first car was nothing to brag about, my second car was the one I wish I still had. I went from a 4 cylinder Triumph motor to a small block Chevy. The first time I mashed the pedal down on that 307 V-8 I was hooked. Talk about a cream puff, the car only had 28k original miles on it when I bought it. I literally bought it from a little old lady, only she wasn't from Pasadena, she was from down the street. I remember it still had the original spark plug wires, cap and rotor. This car was so grandma stock it was sick. After years of extracting as much horse power as possible from the 307, I decided to put a big block and a Muncie 4-speed in it. The engine of choice was a .030 over 396, better known as a 402. This was one wicked sounding big block. I'll never forget the night I got it running. In my haste to make it to the local cruise spot, I left the hood off and just bolted the mufflers directly to the headers. Man was this thing loud! I had also managed to tuck P305/50/15 BFG Radial T/A's under the rear on special offset Weld Racing wheels. These were the largest radial tire made at the time and it made the car look like it was mini-tubbed. I don't know what got more attention, the engine or the rear tires.
As I pulled into the Gemco parking lot it seemed like everybody standing around turned to look at my car. (in reality it was probably only around ten) I had 90/10 shocks on the front and Moroso springs so all I had to do was goose the throttle a few times. With the big tires and all that available torque, it didn't take much for the front end to lift. No air but it sure looked good. I'll never forget the song that was playing on the stereo either. It was Loverboy's Working For The Weekend. Funny how we can relate songs to certain times in our lives.

Other cars that I wish I still had and could kick myself in the ass for selling include:
1970 Plymouth Road Runner, 440 with a 727 torque flight.
1969 Camaro, factory Hugger Orange with hockey stripes, 350 with a TH350.
1970 Camaro SS396 Pro Street
1969 Chevelle SS396 with a 4-speed.
1968 Chevy II Nova SS 350 with a 4-speed
1967 Chevelle L-79 car, 327 with a 4-speed
1967 Chevelle 396 with a powerglide.
1969 GTO, 400 with a TH400 and his and hers shifter.
1968 GTO, 400 with a 4-speed.
1969 Firebird convertible
1969 Firebird, SOHC 6 cyl, 4 bbl carb with a 4-speed
1968 Firebird, 400 with a TH400 automatic
1967 Firebird, 400 with a 4-speed
1967 Mustang, 390 with a 4-speed and a 9 inch rearend with a detroit locker.
1964 Sprint, 289 V-8
1957 Chevy Belair hardtop, 327 with a 4-speed.
1955 Chevy Belair post, 396 with a Hooker conversion kit and a Muncie 4-speed.

Gosh, I never realized how many it was until I saw them all listed, and this doesn't even include all the variants of these cars that I owned. The last count was well over the hundred mark. Now I really am going to be sick. It's just like the title says: If we only knew then what we know now.

Here is my friend's car today. Still intact and recently running again with a fresh motor. Time has not been to kind on the exterior but the Pontiac is still wearing it's original paint. Duane suggested we recreate the original photo of us putting the motor in. I told him that I didn't want to crush his fender!

The car is safely tucked away from the damaging rays of the sun, rain, and prying eyes in a private hanger. Like all projects, time and money will determine when it's completed. As far as selling it, forget it. If it one thing we have learned it is the value of these muscle cars, and perhaps even more the value of our memories in them, which just might be priceless.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hell Freezes Over!

No, this is not a blog about the Eagles album from 1994. Nor is it about Van Halen reuniting with front man Sammy Hagar or GM changing it's mind about axing Pontiac. It is about the fact that my '72 Cutlass, Number 1, actually made it into a magazine! No, it was not Classic Car Trader either!

Here is the photo the magazine used, complete with their official moniker.
Grab the August issue of Popular Hot Rodding and check it out. I bought like a hundred copies. Just kidding, I only bought fifty. You know, that reminds me of the movie Splash when Freddie Bauer (John Candy) buys a zillion copies of Penthouse because his letter got printed in it. Real movie buffs will connect the hammer in the above photo with Splash also. Remember when Allen Bauer (Tom Hanks) is in the motor boat with Fat Jack (Al Chesney)? The engine dies suddenly and Hank's character starts to panic. Fat Jack tells him "Don't worry, I'm a mechanic, I can fix anything" and picks up this hammer and starts beating the crap out of the engine. I laughed so hard the first time I saw that I think I missed the next five minutes of the movie!

So what's next with Number 1? Progress is slow not only because of the lack of funds, but also because it is my daily driver. Any work has to be completed over the weekend. Add in a "honey do" list, other vehicle maintenance, home repairs, yard work, eating and sleeping, and... I think you get the idea. Shoot, I'm still trying to put on the ram air hood I bought for it over 2 years ago! I did manage to put the old grills back in. It had been so long I was trying to remember why I removed them in the first place. Then I remembered that I took them out to install a custom transmission oil cooler. (look closely, it's a refrigerator condenser coil) Talk about lazy, I never put them back in. I guess it took seeing the car in a magazine without the grills to get me to reinstall them. Considering most of the plastic mounting tabs were broke off, this was no easy task. I had to get really high tech and use zip ties. I owe Number 1 some body work, so I think that has to be next on the agenda. Now if only hell will freeze over again...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Ode to Jean Jennings

I am a veracious reader. I love almost anything automotive related, including repair manuals! Ok, maybe that's a stretch, but I do enjoy a good wiring diagram now and then. Just like most gear heads, I have my favorite mags, which for the purpose of this article will remain nameless. Suffice to say they are both popular and hot, and if that's not giving away the farm your beyond help and probably never won a game of Clue either. Also like most folks, I enjoy a good read, especially if its in a magazine. In the sea of never ending publications, there is one that stands out among it's peers. The magazine I'm talking about is none other then Automobile.

I'm not like most readers because I also read the masthead just to keep up to date on things (Gavin what's-his-name from across-the-pond never even made it on there, did he?), and I immediately chuck the blow-in cards, but I do think Automobile Magazine is quite possibly the worlds most perfect automotive publication. That's right, The World. Before you go spraying milk through your nose, let me explain why by pointing out the highlights

First and foremost, Jean Jennings column, Vile Gossip, is in the back of the magazine, which is perfect because that is how I read magazines - back to front. Jean is the President and Editor-in-Chief, but should also have titles like Czar, Her Majesty the Queen, Industry Leader Emeritus, and Fortune Teller. Hell, let's make her President and CEO of Chrysler also. She owns a Fiat, doesn't she? Next up is Dave Kinney and his always excellent column, Auctions. One word: Awesome! I figure that I'll never be able to attend a car auction so this is the next best thing. I did watch an auction live on cable once, and to me it was the automotive equivalent of the Playboy Channel; all perfect bodies, lots of bright colors and lights, and it left me wanting more. And just like Playboy, it's not good for the marriage either.

After I'm through salivating on the auction pages, Collectible Classic usually clears my head by making me feel sorry for myself. This is a common occurrence for someone like me who has owned over 100 automobiles. (I knew I shouldn't have sold that AMC Pacer!) The ever entertaining Ezra Dyer is next, with Dyer Consequences. I just love reading his articles. It was through them that I discovered that he does not have a garage. To me this is the equivalent of masculinity genocide. This must be remedied immediately. I will be the first to contribute to the Ezra Dyer Garage Fund. Who else is with me?

When you're flying high, why come down? Up next is Noise, Vibration & Harshness, or NVH. What more can be said about New York Bureau Chief Jamie Kitman? NVH is Jamie Kitman. I love his noise, the vibration it causes, and the harshness that always follows. Readers response columns exist because of writers like him. The final highlight is By Design, by Robert Cumberford. Mr. Cumberford reminds me of my Grandfather, who was a master wood worker. Instead of wood, Cumberford uses steel, by way of paper and pencil. (or computer, pick your poison) Like my Grandfather would look at a piece of furniture and evaluate it, so does Cumberford with an automobile. Plain and simple, they are master craftsmen who are masters in their field, all of them.

So why all the fuss over Automobile Magazine? Am I a paid blogger? (no) A part-time contributing writer? (I wish) Jean Jennings west coast cyber stalker? (the jury's still out on that one) LOL JK, for all you texting fanatics. Honestly, if you really feel strongly about something, you should write about it. You should also inform the person in charge, because they don't always see or hear what us little guys, or gals, have to say. And with that I think I have said enough.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

How to Polish a Turd

Here is one of my latest adventures that I felt compelled to share with all the CC Garage readers. This all started sometime in the middle of the night. I was board and browsing online, which is usually a bad combination. I finally end up on a "Popular" car magazines web site. As I'm perusing through it's forums, I run across a contest that their having. This was just not any contest either. This magazine was looking for the best project car, and the winner will end up on the front cover of their mag. A frickin project car on the front cover? Holy crap! An idea was beginning to form in my head, and given how crowded things are up there, that's not an easy task.

There was just one small problem. The post was like four months old and the contest deadline was... yeah, you guessed it, three days away! Could it be done? Could I photograph my old Cutlass, Number 1, burn it's images on a disc, print some photos, and then get the whole package mailed in time? Boy did I smell a challenge, or maybe that was just the aftermath of my dinner. Time was a wasting and I had a bunch of work to do, but my gut feeling was that they didn't want a real project car; they wanted a pretend one. Right now some readers might be wondering what the heck a "pretend project" car is...

Let me tell you my version.

Once upon a time, I entered a '67 Pontiac I had in a car show, in the "project" category. It was a legit project car, but still looked half-way decent. A certain Chevelle was also entered in the same category, and I remember thinking there must have been a mistake because the car had a bitchin paint job, killer rims, and a custom interior, just like 99% of all the other cars there. I was wondering how in the world this car could be considered a "project". Then, as I watched the driver after he had parked, I discovered exactly how.

The Chevelle's driver must have known that he didn't stand a snowballs chance in hell in any of the other categories, so he decided to enter in one where he was sure to win. I watched as he carefully removed the driver and passenger door panels and hid them in the trunk. With the door panels missing, the Chevelle was now considered a "project car". I couldn't believe it! Talk about puttin the fix in, this guy totally stacked the deck in his favor. Well it worked, and he ended up winning the project car category. I guess some people will do anything to get a trophy.

I'm going with the theory that the magazine is looking for a real project car, and I am going to give it my best shot, no pun intended. To make things a little more interesting, the magazine also wanted pictures of your garage, or your car in front of the garage. Now that gave me an idea...

Skip back to paragraph one. Yup, that's the idea I'm talking about. I figured just about everyone was going to send in individual photos, so I decided on a combination photo. This is one that would include almost everything in one shot. Basically, I had to create my own photo shoot featuring none other then Number 1 as the star! Man, did I have my work cut out for me. In case you haven't noticed, Number 1 isn't exactly photogenic. Special effects anyone?
Here is Number 1 in all it's glory.
As of this writing the jury is still out on who won the contest. Let's just say I'm not going to hold my breath. Now I'm the one who doesn't stand a snowballs chance in hell...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Have You Driven a Ford... Lately?

That tag line was one of the most popular that Ford Motor Company ever had. Not that I'm ever going to meet Mark Fields, but if I did I would tell him it's time to bring that slogan back. The timing is perfect for it, as are the current models. Have you seen the new Ford Taurus? How about the Mustang? Ok, so maybe you've seen them, but have you driven one? What are you waiting for, Chrysler to go bankrupt? Besides the "driven" slogan, I would also resurrect "Ford Has a Better Idea", complete with the light bulb that turns on. But instead the the old incandescent bulb, I would replace it with a compact flourscent so that it fits in the current green scene.

Check out this bad-ass Ford Taurus. Anyone wanna drive to the grocery store?

Now I have owned quite a few Fords over the years, but I'm not exactly a fanatic. The first V-8 car I ever drove just happened to be a '66 Mustang, and my first legit muscle car was a red '67 Mustang fastback, 390 with a top loader 4-speed and 9 inch rearend equipped with a Detroit Locker. My oldest vehicle was a '39 Ford pickup that I had inherited from my dad. He gave it to me on my 25th birthday and like an idiot I sold it a few years later. I also had a '64 Falcon Sprint that I bought from my Uncle. It was equipped with a 260 V-8, 2-speed auto, bucket seats and a factory tach. Throughout the years there were various Ford trucks and Mustangs, and I even had a Torino for awhile. Currently my stable is void of a Ford, but I hope to remedy that soon.

The new Ford Flex really caught my eye, it is one bitchin station wagon. Sorry, I don't consider it a crossover, FUV (family utility vehicle), or sport utility. If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it's usually a duck, or in this case a station wagon. My only complaint about the Flex is that Ford didn't name it Fairlane. I had heard that was one of the names they were considering, and given how square the vehicle is, it makes perfect sense. They could have also done a retro Fairlane look like they did with the Mustang. A two door Flex, how cool would that be?

So I will be looking for a new car in the near future, and it looks like it might be a Ford. Yes, a 2010 Camaro would be cool, but it looks to me like GM is going to have to declare bankruptcy. If I am laying out my hard earned cash for a new car I want to make sure the company that built it is going to be around for awhile, and not broken up into a million different entities. Also, I don't think the deal with Fiat and Chrysler is going to fly either, as there's really nothing in it for Fiat other then a failing dealer network to distribute their cars. Déjà vu anyone?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Of Garages and Men

The best laid plans of garages and men often go awry. No, this is not some wierd adaptation of a John Steinbeck novel, but rather a personal prospective of what I call "garage nirvana". Buddha described nirvana as "the highest happiness" as well as "the perfect peace of the state of mind that is free from craving, anger and other afflictive states". I guess that about sums up the feeling I get when I stare into a treasure trove filled garage for the first time. I don't know about you, but I find garages full of automobilia pretty fascinating. Lets take a deeper look at this garage fixation that I have.

The way I see it, garages come in three flavors:

1) The Empty Garage.
This is the garage that is always kept spotless. It's plain, flat white walls stand out like beacons in the night. There has never been a vehicle behind it's doors. The polished cement floors have never seen a drop of anything petroleum based. It's vacant space will usually be home to a spare refrigerator and may even temporarly house a folding, portable game table, but mostly it remains empty. The empty garage is not to be confused with one that has been carpeted and has a TV, couch and games in it, for this is no longer considered a garage, it's a redneck living room.

2) The Faux Garage.
This is the garage that from all external appearances appears like a normal garage. Upon closer inspection, it is discovered that it's really a museum in disguise. The floor will usually be checkered tile or epoxy with a speckled pattern. The inside is cleaner then most hospitals and there is enough lighting to perform surgery. It's considerable interior acreage will be occupied by either a late model Corvette and/or an over restored muscle car that was an impulse purchase at a Barrett-Jackson auction. For all intensive purposes, the vehicles never move, hence the polished oil drip pans resting below them. A tool box may be present but it will be brand new, polished to a shine, and full of tools that will never be used.

3) The Used Garage.
This is the garage that is thoroughly used, both in storage capacity and utility. The owner will know every square inch of it, and there may even be pathways cut through all of it's "storage". There may or may not be room for a vehicle, depending on the owners needs or the quality of paint on said vehicle. It will house lots of cool parts and even cooler memories. Most items will be shelved and labeled. Rodents will fear entering this labyrinth for the simple reason that they might be categorizied and put away. You may even feel more at home in this garage then in your room. Some have even chosen to install a commode just to avoid having to use the one in the house. There will usually be an old refrigerator covered in vintage performance stickers strictly used for soda or beer. The used garage is not to be confused with one that is chuck loaded full of junk, for this is no longer considered a garage, it is simply a storage facility for a pack rat or an oversized trash dumpster owned by a hoarder.

The used garage is my favorite because it is the one that says the most about the owner. It is also the one that is the most fascinating. I remember growing up and venturing out in my dad's garage. The casual observer would have just seen a garage full of useless stuff, but I knew better. As I got to know that garage better and better, I discovered all the treasures that it held. Whatever I needed at the time, it seemed that I could find it in there. Nut? Bolt? Porcelain insulator? It was in there. I found everything from flat head parts to radio tubes. It was this very garage that served as my impetus for selling on eBay.

My Uncles garage was actually his auto body shop and outbuildings that I use to wander through. I spent a few summers there learning how to do body work. Back then it seemed like every week I would buy another car and almost everyone of them needed some form of body repair. He always told me he didn't like working on relative's cars, but he would always show me what to do and how to do it. I'll never forget all the stuff he had crammed in that shop of his. These are some of the items I remember:

A very early GM crate motor - 283 with factory dual quads, literally in a crate.

A GMC blower - I think it was a 6-71 on a vintage intake manifold.

A complete '40 Ford Coupe - It was stuffed in an outbuilding and was supposed to be the recipient of the 283 crate motor.

A NOS '57 Chevy front clip - This was completely assembled with chrome and everything.

A late 60's Barracuda - A complete car stuffed in one of the corners of the shop. I remember it was black with flames. The story was he was holding it for a guy who was in prison...

A really old Ford tow truck (which my cousin managed to get), various hood ornaments hanging around, and tons of other cool stuff.

Garages full of cool stuff is nothing new, but few folks have ventured into this foray of the automobile world. I thought it would be a great idea to do a series of articles on garages and all the neat stuff that some of them contain. I can just imagine how much history is stashed away in some folk's garages. So far I haven't been able to find any site or publications dedicated to the humble garage, so I guess I'll just have to settle for blogging about it here. If there are any fellow garage lovers out there I hope that this article has peaked your "garagosity" or maybe provided a little "garage nirvana" for you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

If You Build It, They Will Come

Ok, so I'm not Kevin Costner and this ain't no Field of Dreams, but I guess you could call it my garage of dreams. Yes, I built a new garage. You see, I was sort of getting "evicted" from my old three car garage. The eviction was being served by teenagers, and exercise equipment, and cats, and... well, I think you get the picture. Technically I guess you could say I have a five car garage, but right now I can't even get one car in either of them, as I am still in the process of "moving".

All of this was done pre-recession, when I had abundant side jobs. I'm just now getting around to writing about it, now that all the side jobs are gone... along with all the money! What's that old saying? Oh yeah, "when you have the money, you don't have the time, and when you have the time, you don't have the money!" So I had the money but not the time, so I had someone build me a garage. That's a stretch for me, Mr. "Do It Yourself", but I satisified my inner Tim Taylor by doing the electrical, lights and interior walls. Can you say Tool Time?

Here is the basic frame work being erected.


Now they are starting on the roof. When you do this job you cannot be afraid of heights.


With the roof almost finished, it was time to start on the sides.


Now it is starting to resemble a garage.



Getting closer now. I can almost see a car parked in there.



Just about finished. All that is left is the garage door.

Voila! Instant Garage. Now I just have to finish the wiring, lights, and interior! Fun, fun, fun!

Stay tuned as I tackle the interior and try and squeeze all my stuff into it. From the looks of things I think I am going to have to thin out some of my junk. Hey, I gotta have room for my beer signs and my Keep On Truckin poster!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wax on... Wax Off

I now have a new appreciation for what the Karate Kid's Daniel LaRusso went through when Mr. Miyagi was teaching him the clockwise/counter-clockwise hand motions, which he referred to as "Wax on, wax off". Was the paint really that bad on Number 1? Aye Danielson.

Let's face it, Number 1's paint is 36 years old! The original factory paint has seen better days. I am not a big fan of primered cars, unless the final paint job is close behind. While the Olds might actually look better in primer, I wanted to see what I could do with the original paint. A lot has to be said for OEM paint with patina.

Here is what the original paint looked like after being neglected for years. Any more rust and the car would look orange!

This is a nice "before and after" shot after a lot of color sanding.

I ended up wet sanding the entire car. It really cleaned up the old paint. If I were to buff the paint out it would still have an amazing shine, but I was satisfied with it just being one color.

I cleaned up the original hood on Number 1 even though I have a fiberglass ram air one for it. It will probably be awhile before I bolt on the ram air hood and I wanted the car to look as good as possible. That may be a little difficult to achieve because I have also started to remove all the chrome and emblems. I am going to slowly start the body work on Number 1. Remember, I said slowly. It doesn't need anything too major, at least as far as I can see... Stay tuned to see if I have opened up Pandora's box.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

It Lives! Olds Cutlass Raised From the Dead

So I got my '72 Cutlass, Number 1, running great after quite a bit of work. Funny thing about cars that sit for long periods of time - they tend to fall apart. This is the case with Number one's interior, the front seat to be exact. After pulling off my custom seat covers (T-shirts) the seat looked as though a gang of squirrels had rumbled on it.

See, what did I tell you. Amazingly, the back seat only has one tear in it. Maybe my squirrel theory is not that far off...

This is beyond covering with a seat cover so I had to come up with a temporary solution. The seat frame is in excellent condition as well as the springs, plus it is a split bench with the not-so-common fold down armrest in the middle, so I definitely want to keep it for the car. While I can't afford to get it re-covered right now, it can't stay in the car either. I came up with the idea of putting in some bucket seats on a temporary basis, but got sticker shock when I started pricing '72 era bucket seats. The prices were outragous! What the heck, are the seat frames made of gold or something? I was almost set to buy a pair of those racing type seats you see in all the imports (yea, I know) when I came across a deal too good to pass up.

I found a set of bucket seats advertised on craigslist for a paltry $40 dollars. The ad said they were out of a Mazda RX7 and in very good condition. Hmmm, sounded like it might be worth a look. When I got there I discovered they were non-electric, leather covered, and felt good to sit in. Sold! Even though these came with the tracks, the Japanese must assemble their cars vertically, because the bolt holes in the tracks were all facing horizontal. I'll show them! That's what good old American angle iron is made for, even though the piece I used was probably made in China.
This is what I had to do to bolt the Mazda seats
in. Yeah, I know their burgandy, but they are also temporary. They bolted right to the original holes with my custom angle brackets, if you can believe that!

Here is the burgandy bun rester all bolted in. One down, one more to go. These seats should fill in nicely until the original split bench seat is ready to re-install.
After my bargin basement seats are installed and years of dust vacuumed up, the interior should be driver quality. Up next, it will be time to address the exterior. I'm not a big fan of primer, and I love patina, so stay tuned to see what I come up with to make Number 1 look a little more presentable and less like a rusting oil tanker.