Saturday, November 15, 2014

Rat Muscle

Unless you have been living under a rock for about the last five years you have no doubt heard about Rat Rods. This trend has taken foothold big time and currently shows no signs of waning in popularity. There is even a magazine dedicated to it called, you guessed it, Rat Rod Magazine.

Admittedly, Rat Rods are cool to look at and each one has it's own level of uniqueness and creativity. They are sort of like rolling art exhibits and the devil is in the details. An off-shoot of the Rat Rod trend is Rat Muscle Cars, or "Rat Muscle". Rat Muscle is a whole different animal, or should I say rodent? Before we get too far into this I should probably clarify the term "Muscle Car". When I was a lot younger, muscle car meant 2 door coupe, big block V-8, preferably a 4-speed transmission, and a aggressive stance to go with it. The current definition, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, defines muscle cars as "any of a group of American-made 2-door sports coupes with powerful engines designed for high-performance driving. "A large V8 engine is fitted in a 2-door, rear wheel drive, family-style mid-size or full-size car designed for four or more passengers." The phrase "A large V8" is where it starts to get ambiguous. Now-a-days, 5.7 litres is considered a large V-8! For the non-metric type, that's 350 cubic inches. Given these parameters, there are a lot more "muscle cars" out there then first thought.  

Before the whole Rat Muscle concept was even thought of, muscle cars basically came in two flavors, restored and unrestored. The latter version usually languished in the garage or restoration shop until it was done. The restored cars were kept in a garage where they were regularly wiped clean with a cotton diaper and only driven to car shows on clear, sunny days. There was also a very small contingency that actually used their muscle car as a daily driver, yours truly included. In my opinion these were the original rat muscle. Cars driven as-is, repaired as required, and maintained meticulously with little or no thought given to exterior appearance. My original '72 Olds Cutlass had patina before patina was cool. The sweet sound of the original, pre-production style Flow Master mufflers would reverberate off of the buildings as I drove through the local University to work. Car alarms would go off in unison whenever I idled through a parking garage. In a sea of Toyota Corollas and Honda Civics, my Olds stood out like a sore thumb. I could have made a small book out of all the notes and cards left on my windshield asking if I wanted to sell my car. All in all, I must say there is almost something therapeutic about driving an old muscle car, especially if you drive it daily.

Rat Muscle is basically a blend of muscle cars, daily drivers, patina'd paint, V-8 powered, 2-door vehicles that are driven on a regular basis. Like their Rat Rod counterpart, each one is unique and showcase the owners creativity. This trend is right up a blue collar workers alley. No more spending mega bucks on a concours restoration or dropping 5 large on a paint job. I can put my hard earned money where it counts - in the drivetrain. As luck would have it I am actually able to take advantage of this hot trend with my current project Yellowjacket.

  Yellowjacket will soon receive a big block (Oldsmobile of course) and a 4-speed. The interior will also be rehabbed to meet the minimal standards for human inhabitants. While I am at it the suspension and brakes will be upgraded as well. As far as the exterior goes, the Corvette yellow paint will be left in all of it's chipped and faded glory, much to the dismay of "purists". I will give the car back it's dignity and reinstall all the missing 442 emblems, after uncovering the bondo'd up holes! Like most folks, my paycheck is already stretched to the limit, so I think "Ratty" Muscle cars are here to stay for awhile.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Book of Guy

 It has come to my attention that some of the newer generation of guys are seriously lacking in the dude department. Now I am not talking about "El Duderino" from The Big Lebowski, but rather the conceptual being of actually being a dude. The wake up call for me was when I overheard some college age guys talking "cars", which turned out to be about Prius' and Leafs! Just when I thought all hope was lost the conversation turned toward the new Mustang. Things were just looking up when suddenly someone asked what a Coyote 5.0 was! Guess what? Nobody had a clue! What's next, a Mesomorph carrying a man purse? Being the all around, go-to guy is so much more involved then just automotive knowledge, it encompasses a whole spectrum of guy stuff that seems to be fading faster then an Earl Scheib paint job. I decided quick action was needed to avert a major shift in the gender classifications, so I created this reference guide to assist my male counterparts that are a bit challenged in this arena. After a lot of soul searching and adult beverages, I came up with seven main areas, but I am sure there is a whole bunch more!

Area 1 - The Garage

Yes, you should have one. You can refer to it as "The Man Cave" if that makes you feel better, but avoid the sports connection as that has now become a hotly contested subject between men and women, blurring the gender lines. Your garage should have a nice selection of tools, not neatly arraigned on peg board but actually in a tool box, preferably a Craftsman, Snap-on, or if you're on a budget, one from Harbor Freight. Screwdrivers, sockets, wrenches, and pliers are a given, but what about some of the less popular stuff? If you think a crows foot is lines on your face, then you might want to pay attention here. Back in the day I would have included really cool stuff like a tach/dwell meter, feeler gauges, and grease guns but there mostly obsolete now. You may not ever need a crows foot, but a selection of off-set wrenches is nice to have around, as well as nut drivers. Another must have is cannibal fingers, although you might get a strange look if you ask for it by that name, so try the technical term - a flexible grabbing tool. A few other essential tool box items are: Allen wrenches, torx bits, snap ring pliers, spark plug gapper (you change your own plugs, right?), brass, nylon, and steel wire brushes, a volt-ohm meter, and a decent tap and die set. There is a boat load more but I think you get the idea.

 What's in your garage? A cool car I hope. If you have to park the family wagon in there so be it, but lets not kill the male vibe completely by stuffing copious amounts of kid's toys, bikes, etc. all around it. The lawn mower is a given unless you're lucky enough to have a shed to keep it in. A pool table will also work in place of a car as long as you actually use it. Contrary to popular belief, the flat surface of it is not for stacking boxes. A fridge is also a good idea. Not only is it great for "storing" your mother-in-law's leftovers that you were were forced to take home but it keeps your adult beverages away from prying eyes and out of the family fridge. Feel free to plaster it with all the left over automotive related stickers that you couldn't fit on your tool box.

This next item has been hotly contested for decades now. What may seem like an innocent piece of left over furniture can actually change the whole vibe of your garage. The item that I'm referring to is none other then the common couch. Yes, I know it's comfortable. Yes, I know it was too good to throw away. Yes, I know you sleep very well on it, especially on lazy, warm afternoons. If you must have a couch, fine, but the dude rules state that you cannot have both a couch and a TV in the garage because this would be too much like a red neck living room. So man up and pick your poison, TV or couch, the choice is yours.

Area 2 - Your Ride

Weather you drive a Pinto or a Prius, you need to know your ride. Not only do you need to know about it, you need to keep it clean. Nothing says "I had to go get a manicure with my girlfriend" more then a dirty vehicle. Do you break out in a cold sweat when it's time to bring your ride in for repair? Does vehicle maintenance mystify you? Quick quiz, see how many of these you can answer right off the top of your head:

 How much air pressure should there be in your car's tires? 
 What viscosity, or weight of oil does your engine require?
 Does your car's engine have a timing belt or timing chain?
 Does your car have 4 wheel disc brakes? If no, what does it have?
 Is your power steering electric or hydraulic? 

So how did you do? If you got more then one wrong you don't know your car from your... well, you get the point. For those who scored favorably and think they are now "the dude", test your automotive knowledge on this next test. Quick quiz number 2, see how many of these you can answer correctly:

True or false - You can mix Dot 3 and Dot 5 brake fluid.
True or false -  Most manufacturers recommend engine oil should be changed every 3000 miles.
True or false -  Power steering fluid and transmission fluid are the same.
True or false - Low tire pressure will cause your tire to wear more in the middle.

A little tougher, huh? How sure are you of your answers? Are you confident enough to make a beer bet? Well, if you answered false for all four questions you are correct. For those that failed I'll take an ice cold PBR...

Area 3 - The BBQ

Guys and meat, two items that are like conjoined twins unless you're a vegan, then it's like an evil step mother. In my humble opinion, the only thing better then meat is barbecued meat. Barbecue has been around since the caveman. Who do you think invented the open pit barbecue? Did you think they were going to eat raw dinosaur? Heck, it was invented out of shear necessity. A lot of folks believe that Jesus Christ was king of the Jews but did you know he was king of the BBQ as well. When Jesus produced all those loaves of bread and fish, do you think his followers ate the fish raw?

Knowing the basics of grilling is a must for all guys. Briquettes or gas, you should be able to cook a big, juicy cheeseburger or that 2 inch thick porterhouse. Sorry, but buying a Carl's Jr charbroiled burger does not count, even if you do work there. What I am looking for is Ron Swanson levels of meat enthusiasm here. Anyone who has seen the comedy Parks and Recreation knows exactly what I am referring to. Are you chicken of chicken or fearful of fish? Mastering the BBQ includes being able to grill chicken and fish without turning them into charcoal or serving it raw. Grilling slower is always better then faster and practice makes perfect, so plan a BBQ often. Remember, none of us learned this overnight, except maybe Ron Swanson.

Area 4 - Sports

Human nature dictates that sports should be included in The Book of Guy, even though I loathe them, so I find myself forced to write about it. There is a very small piece of real estate in my brain that does tolerate sports, as long as those sports are baseball or boxing. Even these cannot hold my attention long, as I would rather be doing other guy stuff. As for all the others, I could give a rat's ass about them. I do realize that the vast majority of guys really like sports, and that's cool as long as that's not the only thing on your man plate. Extra dude points will be awarded to those that can achieve the perfect balance of sports and everything else mentioned here.

Area 5 - Your House

Dripping faucet? Running toilet? Garbage disposer quit working? If your first thought is to call Roto-Rooter, you need to put your man pants on. First of all, think of all that beer money you are going to waste on that service call. Second, do you really want Bubba of Stinky's Rooter attempting to repair your stuff? Guys, this is way easy to learn. I learned by watching my dad but I realize not everyone is that lucky, so do yourself a favor and enroll in a college night course or something so you can do it yourself next time. Before you know it, Home Depot will be your favorite place to shop. Not into going back to school? Try YouTube. You can find instructional videos on just about anything on there, so like me, you can also watch and learn. If you are the type who can pick up on things quickly, a few books on the appropriate subject would be helpful also. 

Area 6 - Hobbies

Every guy needs a hobby. The problem is that there is no clear definition of what constitutes a dude quality hobby. If you're leaning towards video gaming or watching TV, you need to keep reading... I think hobbies are important to keep a guy level headed. They provide a great way to escape the daily routine of life. Listen to your inner dude. What would he say about your hobby? Just off the top of my head, manly hobbies would include: hunting, fishing, trap shooting, stock car racing, dirt bikes, surfing, skiing, boxing, muscle cars, etc, etc. I think you get the idea and by the way, beer drinking is not a hobby.   

Area 7 - Know Your Limits

So you want to be "the dude" or the guy that everyone goes to for advice? That's cool but you need to be man enough to admit when you're in over your head. Just like the beer commercial says: know when to say when. Know your limits and stick to them. Nothing says "I'm a moron" faster then someone who didn't listen to common sense. Also, never be afraid to ask questions. I would rather have someone ask me a bunch of questions about something than not to say anything and then proceed to screw up whatever they were working on just because they were too stubborn to ask for advice. I know we learn from our mistakes but lets not make a hobby out of it... and remember, the dude abides.