Friday, December 17, 2010

Twas The Night Before Christmas

Here is a poem that I made up last year on Christmas eve. I thought it was good enough to warrant a repost. Enjoy and happy holidays!

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 reflecting 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!"

©2009 Amberlight Garage

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Here are three cool videos that I ran across the other day. Enjoy!

First up is an engine firing sequence on a restored B-29 Superfortress. This might give you goose bumps...

Next up is a "Digger Cam"  view of a SP 4449 steam train at speed...

Finally, life is truly a highway...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Give Me a Brake

To me, the only thing worse then not owning a classic car is owning one and not being able to drive it. That's right where I am with my '62 Merc. Oh sure, technically it runs and drives, if you don't mind a leaking freeze plug, vacuum leaks, and practically being thrown through the windshield when you step on the brakes. Leaking water and vacuum I can handle, but the brakes is where I draw the line. You might say stopping is very high on my priority list and when it comes to a cars braking system, I am almost obsessive compulsive. One near death experience when you're 16 will do that to you. Heck, that probably explains why my first ASE certification was in brakes.

The previous owner of the Merc warned me that the brakes were a bit "touchy". Gee, you think? I don't think touchy is the right word here, I'd say they are more like "grabby to the point of ripping the seat belt anchors out of the floor and projecting you through the front windshield." Yeah, that's it. He also opined that the proportioning valve was the source of the problem. Yes, I could agree with that synopsis if it weren't for one minor item: the Merc's braking system doesn't have a proportioning valve! It's not that the valve is missing or anything, it's just that four wheel drum brake systems didn't use them, especially with single reservoir master cylinders. My suspicions were with the front brake shoes. I had a feeling that the shoes were installed backwards, with the smaller primary shoe facing towards the rear. This would cause the front brakes to bind or lock up with just the slightest braking pressure. Theories and suspicions are great until you have to prove them, and now I have to perform some manual labor to prove mine.

Here is the Merc Cruiser in dry dock awaiting a retrofit.

 What I thought was going to be an easy job is turning out to be a major project. It seems as though I have opened Pandora's Box. Gee, what a suprise.  I knew I was in for trouble when I discovered that the front brake drums are swedged or pressed onto the hubs, thereby making their easy removal impossible. It looks like I am forced to pull the entire hub and drum assembly in order to inspect the brake shoes. Things quickly went from bad to worse when I noticed the Merc still wearing it's original 48 year old FoMoCo drums.

Here is the front drum and hub assembly finally removed.

No suprise here, all the brake hardware looked original and wasted. It appeared as though the only thing stopping this car was dumb luck. Just as I suspected, the primary shoe was installed backwards.

Your looking at the drivers side of the Merc Cruiser.


Check out the grooves in this drum. This drum is junk and totally unsafe.

This is a prime example of a "shade tree" mechanic brake job. It's pretty darn scary to see what some people will do just to save a few bucks. A visual inspection revealed that the only item replaced was the brake shoes, and they were installed backwards! Every other item was just plain wore out, from the bearings and leaking grease seal to the rusty return springs and hold down hardware. Even the teeth on the auto adjuster gear was wore out to the point that it no longer worked. What's even scarier is remembering how the big Merc got to the Amberlight, by driving it on the freeway at 65+ MPH!

So what's next for the Merc Cruiser? A total overhaul of the entire brake system is obviously required, along with converting it to a dual reservoir master cylinder. And this car is just screaming for a disc brake conversion, but that's easier said then done. Stay tuned as I weigh the cost of replacing all the parts on the drum brake system versus converting the Merc to disc brakes. I know it sounds like a no-brainer but when you don't have a mainstream car, parts can get kind of expensive, and I'm on a budget. Hey, give me a brake!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Now That's Cool

WARNING: There is gratuitous use of "quotation marks" throughout this blog. You have been "warned"!

I work at a major University and every year I see a new crop of kids who start to forge their way through 4 years of education. Each year brings either a new trend, fad, fancy new gadget, or cause. To say I've seen it all would be an understatement. As far as words go, there is always a new catch phrase or trendy word. I noticed just the other day when I overheard some freshmen talking that one particular word has seemed to stand the test of time. The word in question that they were using so copious was Cool.

That's when I started to think about just how long I had been hearing this particular word. I realized that Cool has been with me awhile. Reflecting back, I remembered using it as far back as grade shool with phrases such as "Mr McCall is cool", "cool bike", and "that's a really cool TV show". As I got older, it was "cool car", "that cops pretty cool", and "man, that's cool!" When I became a parent, Cool was still there with stuff like "cool it!", "smoking is not cool" and "a tattoo will not make you look cool".

Cool has been represented in many forms, such as a cartoon character, Joe Cool; a music group, Cool and the Gang (ok, they used a "K" but it meant the same thing); a song, Cool the Engines by Boston; a movie, Cool Hand Luke; a dessert topping, Cool Whip and even drinks, Kool Aid (again with the "K") and Wine Coolers. My research revealed that Cool has been around since at least the 1930s, when it was used to describe a Musician's "Cool Jazz", as a difference to "Hot Jazz", which was then in vogue. Some credit Jazz Musician Lester Young for popularizing the term in Jazz circles with his style of "Smooth Jazz". It became everyday use after the 2nd World War when the Cool Jazz movement happened.

Cool has survived various spelling mutinies as well, such as kool and kewl, but in the end it always means the same thing... sort of. You see, Cool is one of those multiple meaning words. Cool can take on the same meaning as relaxed, stylish, or even excellent. So what does the foreseeable future hold for Cool? Nobody knows for sure, but whatever iteration is used it's bound to be "cool". If history is any indication, Cool will continue to be used by all generations. Now that's Cool!

Friday, September 3, 2010

That 70's Car Show

It might seem hard to believe, but I see signs of a major 70's icon coming back, and it's not a TV rerun. At first it was just rumors, then grumblings here and there, next a few words were written about it in a major car magazine (half serious and half joking), and finally a report that the trend was is full swing in Japan and spreading rapidly. What is this object I speak of? Well, brace yourself, because it's none other then the Van. That's right folks, the classic 70's shaggin' wagon is making a comeback, and I think I am starting to see what could be a major trend taking foothold. A little bit of research on craigslist confirmed some of my suspicions. Late 60's to mid 70's short wheel base vans seem to be selling like hotcakes, most of them within a few days of being posted. Either people are looking for storage containers to put in their yards or they are buying them to fix up.

Here is a prime candidate I found recently. It was dirt cheap too. Check out the U.S. Indy mags...

Of all the vehicles that I have bought over the years, I have never owned a van. It's not that I didn't like them, it's more like they just disappeared. Besides, I was much to involved with muscle cars to pay much attention to vans. I do recall during the van craze that a lot of the fully customized vans had names on their sides. My cousins was no exception and I clearly remember it. His van was a Blue Ford Econoline that he named "Hotel California". I think it made it into a few magazines back in the day, as it was pretty trick. For the uninformed, clueless or anyone born after 1979, I have rounded up some classic examples of the types of vans that you would have seen in the 70's...

 Here you have your classic Dodge van. Note the tinted plexi-glass "port hole" windows. These were all the rage during the van scene, that and "tear drop" windows. You may also notice the mural, CB antenna, side pipes and stamped steel mags, which I use to refer to as "sheet metal mags". For some reason Dodge seemed to be the van of choice for many. This must have been a true traveling van, hence the luggage rack, roof ladder, and trailer hitch.

Up next is the iconic mid-70's Chevy van, my personal favorite. This one is sporting a bitchin' burgandy paint job and is complete with a mini slider window, extra wide Cragar SS mags, and fog lights. Although it could really use a flare kit and maybe some side pipes!

Finally we have the fabulous Ford van, along with it's proud owner and his girlfriend. How do I know this? I don't, it's just a wild guess.. I think. This example has it all: Two tone paint with custom graphics; extra wide sheet metal mags; raised white letter tires; fog lights (they're there, trust me); chrome side pipes; tinted port hole window; CB antenna, and radiused rear wheel openings. Extra bonus points were awarded for the 70's belt buckle, matching T-shirts, and cut-off shorts!

Even the dealerships were into the van craze, check out this inventory!

Man, now I'm really jonesing for a van. Imagine the looks you would get driving one of these down the street. Hey, disbelief is considered a look, unless it's followed by upchucking, then it doesn't count. The only problem with me getting a van would be that by the time I got it on the road, hybrids will be considered classics! Maybe I'll stick to the reruns...

 Ok, I like never do updates unless something FUBAR happens or I am simply blown away. Well, put this in the latter catagory and be prepared to be blown away. The burgandy mid-70's Chevy van pictured above, the one I called "my personal favorite", has been totally fixed up and has now become my all time favorite. It had come to my attention that a certain van blog referenced the Amberlight Garage and of course this post. That's when I spied photos of this heavy Chevy all tricked out. Feast your eyes on this beauty...
For more pictures and info on this bitchin' machine check out the owners blog at

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Crazy 'bout a Mercury

So I figured it was about time that I posted a picture of my latest project, a 1962 Mercury Monterey Custom. This was one of the top-of-the-line models that Mercury produced that year. In fact, the only other model above this one was the ultra rare S-55. My Monterey is equipped with the 330 horse 390 big block with a Merc-o-matic transmission. Other options include factory air conditioning, power steering, and power brakes. The Monterey needs a few things, like a tune-up, and I need to look at the brakes, but overall it is in pretty good shape. The '59 Caddy taillights don't look too bad either.

Behold Das Boot

This is the largest 2 door car that I have ever owned. You could literally lay four adults side by side in the trunk! Moonshine anyone? For all you Mercury lovers out there here is a video that I ran across. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Selling the Kitchen Sink

This recession that the U.S. is currently in is kicking my ass. To make matters worse all signs are pointing towards a "double dip". That's right folks, prepare for round two. Due to an on-going pay cut at work and continuing increases in insurance, food, gas, etc, I'm selling everything that's not bolted down, cars included. Sadly my '52 Olds, "The Super", went on the chopping block. My newest ride, a '62 Mercury Monterey, is being spared that same fate for the time being. This is mostly because of my continued selling success on eBay, but also due to the fact that I purposely disabled it to keep myself from selling it easily. Before The Super drove off into the sunset, I did manage to polish it up pretty good. But don't just take my word for it, check out the following pictures for yourself.

Your looking at about 2 days of wet sanding and compound buffing.

After the buffing I washed The Super again and then let it dry overnight. The final day was spent machine waxing the entire car and then detailing it out.
On the day I took these photos I drove The Super around town and boy did it ever attract attention! People really seemed to notice this beautiful old car, that or they thought I just stole it! Now that the exterior was all detailed out and the interior refreshed, I felt the time was right to sell it and decided to list it on craigslist. Although this is a great advertising venue, you sure do get some interesting characters calling you, along with the usual B.S. As it turned out, the first person who actually managed to show up to look at The Super bought it on the spot. Apparently nobody told the buyer that we are in a recession... Hey, it looks like I can keep the kitchen sink for awhile longer!

Monday, May 31, 2010

A Case of the Shingles

Not too long ago I picked up a new project, a '52 Olds Super 88, which I dubbed "The Super". A lot of work as progressed on The Super, and also a lot of revelations. I can easily say The Super is living up to it's name, namely super rusty! When I first looked it over, the car appeared relatively rust free. It had an east coast undercoating job and the front fenders, door hinge pockets, quarter panels and trunk were mint. Even the spare tire holder was cherry. With a car that rust free, how could I go wrong? Let me tell you how wrong I was...

Soon after I repaired the water pump I decided to replace the carpet and spruce up the interior. No big deal, right? Wrong. I'll spare you the details of wrenching out the coffin-like seats, and get straight to the carpet. The carpet was filthy, way beyond cleaning, and looked as though a small contingency of barn yard animals had slept on it.

The first sign that something wasn't quite right was when I removed the seat belt  brackets and saw these rusty footprints.

Hey look, old school tar floor insulation. At least that's what it looks like...



Then I pulled it up... This is what the previous owner used for floor insulation - roofing shingles! The roofing material worked well, at holding in moisture. Every bit of water that ran under the carpet got trapped under this barrier and stayed there, creating ideal conditions for rust. What was probably put down for protection actually ended up increasing the rate at which the floor pans were rusting!

Behold the petri dish of moisture and rust formally known as floor boards. This looks worse then it actually is... really.

After lots of scraping, cleaning and prep work, I applied a nice thick coat of Por 15. The floor pans had minimal holes, it was mostly heavy surface rust. After the prep the pans still felt stiff and strong. Heck, I figured if they could hold my weight they were strong enough. Once the Por 15 was dry, the floor pans looked great. Rust? What rust?          


With the new carpet in place the interior is already looking 100 percent better.

Here it is all back together and looking pretty sharp.


To completely remove an interior and put it back in is quite an experience. One that I hope not to repeat anytime soon!
Now that the inside was complete, it was time for me to tackle the outside, namely the paint. After a close inspection, it looks like the car was only repainted once, a long, long time ago. Was it lacquer? Was it enamel? Who knows? Stay tuned as I attempt to color sand and buff The Super's paint. This ought to be interesting...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Adding Another Horse to the Stable

The Amberlight Garage is getting full! I went ahead and picked up another ride. The following video might give you a hint as to what it is. Notice the ample use of seatbelts!

Here is a classic radio ad that is actually the year of the vehicle I have. Where were you in '62? Snap on your AM radio and lets go back to a much simpler time...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Rare Look: Chrysler's Turbo Encabulator

Ok fellow gear heads, here is today's lesson in automotive technology. Surely you remember the following video from your high school auto shop class. There was even a section on this in my ASE certification test!

Word on the street is that Fiat will be incorporating this shelved technology in a future Chrysler model to show case the merged companies combined technological efforts. Along with the launch of this new vehicle the company will also announce their new name, which is purported to be FIYSLER. Stay tuned for more details.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Foghat, War and The Super

Who remembers the song "Slow Ride" by Foghat? When I was growing up it was my neighbor's favorite song. He even had custom license plates that read "SLO RYD" on his lowered '73 Monte Carlo. Another car related song I remember is "Low Rider" by War. Almost everyone knows this song now because of the George Lopez Show. Who else but this comedian would use this classic as the shows theme song? Odelay Esse!

So now that you know a little something about slow and low riders, you're probably wondering what the heck brought this subject up. When I said in my earlier post that I was shifting gears, I wasn't exactly talking about a manual trans, I was referring to my brain, and right now my brain feels like a 4 speed Hydromatic. You see, my latest project had to be low and slow, chopped and channeled, louvered and raked, shaved and frenched, and ooze coolness where ever it went. I'm talking total custom, lead sled, cruiser, bomb, rat rod, rock-a-billy, James Dean, and Hirohata Merc all wrapped up in one car. What kind of car could possibly meet all of that criteria? How about a 1952 Oldsmobile Super 88 four door with a 303 cubic inch Rocket V-8 and a Hydromatic transmission?
In a word, no, but it has the potential to be all that... maybe. At least I think so. That, or I've completely lost my marbles and should be reprimanded to the proper authorities. Hey, don't put me in a straight jacket and padded room yet. You haven't checked out my new ride. Welcome to the left turn in the road...

Behold the mighty behemoth know as a Super 88

What I love most about this Olds is the acres of chrome that adorn it's front end. Once polished, you pretty much need welders helmet to look at it. I better start buying stock in Meguiars, as it looks like it will take a case just to do the front. The car has a lot of features that really surprised me. First off, it's a factory 4 barrel V-8 with a Hydromatic transmission and power steering. I was fully expecting a hydraulic ram for the power unit but was shocked to see a recirculating ball power steering box. Who knew they were so high tech in 1952? Other factory oddities include front and rear sway bars, interior hood release lever, hood and trunk lights, 15 inch wheels on a truck bolt pattern, open drive shaft, and a Autronic Eye headlight dimming system. It also has an in-dash tube radio that is the size of a small suitcase and a optional clock that looks like something that should be on a nightstand. 

Now that the Super 88 is resting comfortably in the Amberlight Garage, all that I have to do now is work on it! So much for buying turn-key cars. First up is a water pump replacement and then a complete assessment to determine the car's needs versus my wants. I also registered it for the yearly car show in my town called Show & Go. For those who have never heard of Show & Go, you can read more about this terrific car show here. That doesn't leave me a whole lot of time to get this sled cruise ready, so I better get crankin. There is nothing like a new project to get the old automotive juices flowing again and to use as an excuse to come up with a new project name. After a large dinner of pot beans, ham hocks and a couple of beers I decided on calling it The Super, just because it looks like the type of car that that goofy clay cartoon character played by Eddie Murphy would drive! The fact that "super" is part of the car's name is purely coincidental... I think.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Shifting Gears

I have come to a cross roads in my life and change is in the air, that or I'm just going through an early mid-life crisis. Nothing mechanical stays the same with me, although I recently shattered all personal records by managing to keep my '72 Cutlass for over 10 years. That's huge for me. It's like the equivalent of Charlie Sheen being married for 3 years. The Cutlass, recently dubbed "Project H2Olds", was in need of a major overhaul. My daily driver for many of those 10 years, it had seen better days. I was in the early stages of planning the restoration, trying to decide what direction to go with my Olds, when just like that, a solution presented itself. Before you could throw a rod through the side of a block I was heading in a new direction.

Money talks, B.S. walks. That's a phrase I have heard many times. It especially applies to cars, where a lot of folks just like to B.S. In the past I have had numerous offers on my Cutlass, usually in the form of a business card or note left on the windshield. A few times I had actually contacted the person and decided to call their bluff. It always ended up being B.S. In person inquires where the bozo actually follows you is a little more rare, and a little daunting. Nothing like scaring off a potential buyer by greeting them with a Walking Tall stick. Hey, it's either that or do my best Billy Jack impersonation!

By now you are probably wondering what this new direction is. It's sort of a two part direction, like a fork in the road. I'll tell you about the left turn later, because right now I'm going to reveal what the "right" turn was. The new direction I was heading in was... the bank! That's right, I sold my '72 Cutlass. Project H2Olds is now in the hands of a happy new owner. Truth be told, I am feeling the effects of this bad economy just like everyone else, so when someone thrusts five large in your face you tend to make up your mind real quick. So much for the B.S.

As the '72 drives off into the sunset I am already contemplating what to buy next. Most of the money is already spoken for but I will have a little left over to fund my next project, which was found on that left turn that I mentioned earlier. Stay tuned to see what a little money and a lot of B.S. can buy.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Garage Mahal

Most of us guys, and a few select gals, like garages, right? It's like our own private Idaho, a place with no dress code, no polished tile, a comfy chair or couch, and maybe even a TV. If you're real lucky it will be equipped with a kegerator and a commode. My blogs home, The Amberlight Garage, is a real garage, and a darn nice one at that. But it pales in comparison to the following garages, if you can even call them that. Feast your eyes on these "garage mahals"...

Yes, a full kitchen in the garage!

No, this is not a dining room. The Ferraris and Maserati just need their personal space.

Definitely a case of Corvette fever.

Five car garage anyone?

Making the most of a small space. Need a lift?

Strange, I don't see a tool box...


I'll take the GT40, you can have the rest.

Is this a garage or a library?

If you guessed a garage you would be right. I wonder if these cars even have fluids in them?

Either there is a water leak in this garage or that floor is really that shiny.

When the back of the house looks like this who needs to go in the front?

What's with the horse bust and elephant figurine?

Ok, now this is a little more modest.

Reminds me of Cameron's dads garage in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Either this garage has really high ceilings or it is 3 stories... T-H-R-E-E stories!!

A bar in the garage. What will they think of next? DUI anyone?

This owner must like storage facilities or they live in a really bad neighborhood.

Decisions, decisions, decisions...

Are these garages or villas?

I wonder if they sell these pavers at Lowes?

You just knew it was going to end sooner or later. I think I'll go buy a lottery ticket now...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Project H2Olds

For years I wanted a drag race or street/strip type of car, but there are just no more decent 1/4 mile race tracks around in Southern California anymore. There is one local track... but it is a dump and is so overcrowded you are lucky to get 2 or 3 runs in MAX if you are patient and wait at least 8 hours! The legendary Pomona Raceway only has 3 major events per year, other then that the track remains unused, unless you can cough up enough money to rent the track. Given the limited amount of events held there, decreased attendance and sky rocketing insurance premiums, this venue is pushing up daiseys and I wouldn't be suprised to see it bulldozed in a few years just like OCIR. LACR (Palmdale) closed it's doors in '07 and Drag City in Banning never materialized, much to the disappointment of investors and race fans alike. If you like shortened tracks there is one lone Southern California 1/8 mile race track located in Irwindale. Toyota Drag Strip at Irwindale, billed as "the fastest 1/8 mile dragstrip in the country", is open to all types of racing and street legal vehicles. You are allowed to run approved racing slicks but no "dragster type vehicles" are allowed.

The number of motorsport activities that a person can do with their car around So Cal is pretty limited. Basically, the way I see it there are 3 choices: Drag Race, Drifting, or Autocross. Anything else, like dirt track or paved oval, requires a dedicated race car and an even more dedicated racing budget. Adams Motorsports Park in Riverside features weekly drifting competitions and Willow Springs out in Rosemond also has club sanctioned drifting events. That's all great if you like drifting but I've never seen very many muscle cars at these events, as it seems to be geared toward the imports. I want to be able to have a car that not only looks good but can perform as well, and a venue to bring it to that caters to that type of "show and go".

Good Guys Rod and Custom Association have been putting on car shows for years but recently have started to feature autocross events at their shows that really draw in the Pro-Touring cars. They have a couple of events in So Cal at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and the Orange County Fairgrounds and seem to be adding more venues every year. These guys have their act together and know how to put on an event. I checked out a few of the autocross events and they are pretty cool. The Pro-Touring cars remind me of what I use to refer to back in High School as the "NASCAR look". Big, huge meats on all four corners and slightly lowered. Of course now-a-days everything is high tech with four piston calipers, drilled and slotted rotors, tubular control arms and four link rear suspensions.

I was thinking it would be cool to put either a truck-arm type suspension on the rear of my Olds or an independent rear, aka Corvette, along with an updated front suspension and huge binders on all four wheels. What I can't decide is the wheels. The trend is huge rim sizes, like 20" rear and 18" front, or just 17's all the way around. I never really liked the look of those big ass rims. To me they make the car look like a life-sized Hot Wheels or something. I am leaning towards 15" rims - 10" wide rear and 8" wide front, with huge rubber. Wide-5 rims would look sweet but I don't think they are DOT legal. I have a 403 that would make for a decent powerplant and either a 5-speed manual trans or a overdrive automatic. If I go automatic I was thinking of a TH400 with a Gear Vendors over/under drive, basically a 6-speed automatic. I didn't want to start on my Olds without a plan, but I never knew planning would be so hard!

That being said, my project needed a name, so I came up with "Project H2Olds". The plans are not final yet, but I'm thinking of a twist on a Hurst theme, hence the "H2", that and the car is a '72 model. With the project name decided and plans under way, all I need to do now is come up with some money! Hey, at least I got it in the garage...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Giving Up The Ghost

I have come to the sad conclusion that my '72 Cutlass, Number 1, will not run forever. So what if the engine has over 360 thousand original miles? I have heard stories of Olds-mo-bubble engines living to half a million miles or more. I guess it's more the body and interior that is giving out then the actual engine, as it does still run pretty good. Although I have noticed a deep knock down in her bowels when she first fires up in the morning, but it only lasts a second. Still not a trace of smoke and she only uses about a half quart of oil every 4 thousand miles or so, but all the tell-tail signs are there. More oil leaks - check. More squeaks and rattles - check. More random problems - check. Getting uglier by the day - check. Basically Number 1 is giving up the ghost, throwing in the towel, cashing in her chips, heading out to pasture... I think you get what I'm trying to say.

Of course all of this just did not happen at once, it has been building up over the last couple of decades or so, and has been steadily getting worse. I guess my plan of using an original 37 year old car as a daily driver is coming to an end. I have been down this path before, as I tried to retire Number 1 about 3 years ago. Back then I had plenty of cars to drive so I stopped using the Cutlass as my daily driver and just let it sit. Big mistake. It rotted outside for about two years when all of a sudden I found myself out of cars, cash, and a daily driver. You can find the story of Number 1's resurrection here. There is even a video I made of me firing it up after sitting all that time.

This go around I have a plan. First, I had to find a new daily driver. This was no easy task as my budget to buy another car was almost non-existent. I also wanted to find something that got half way decent gas mileage because we all know that the slightest hiccup in our world (like a hurricane, stock market slump or swine flu) will cause the price of gas to go through the roof again. I can't afford a new vehicle and really don't care for any of the cookie cutter cars (Honda, Toyota, etc), I just can't see myself in them. So I found myself gravitating toward older makes, only the prices of any decent older ride was still out of my league. Although I am a big fan of the carburetor era, I love the reliability of fuel injected vehicles. I really like the late '80s to early '90s GM trucks because they are easy to work on, fuel injected, and last for hundreds of thousands of miles. I also discovered that they are dirt cheap, which is the category where my budget is located.

So what did this finite category lead me to? I found a super clean, single family owned '87 GMC S-15. It is equipped with the "4Tech" fuel injected four cylinder engine and a 4-speed trans. Great gas mileage? Yes. Stump-pulling torque? No. Nice, clean daily driver? Yes. Turns heads wherever it goes? No, unless I filled the bed with bikini clad women in an effort to re-create that famous 80's poster "Haulin' Ass"! As for the rest of the plan that includes my Cutlass, as usual, I don't have a plan. I really like the look of the pro-touring cars, but I also like street/strip cars. Do I build a track car or a drag car? Drifting or drag racing? Ovals or quarter miles? Maybe I should just do a concours level restoration, complete with assembly line chalk marks. Yea right, how much fun would that be to drive? I know, how about a retro NASCAR look, complete with 10 inch wide steelies on all four corners and flared fenders? A low rider with tru spokes and hydraulics? A sled with satin paint, white walls, and an air ride system that can lay the car on it's frame? Decisions, decisions, decisions! I did manage to actually put Number 1 in my garage, and I even disconnected the battery! Damn, I must be getting serious...