Friday, August 17, 2018

Why can't I be satisfied by a new car? Or at least a "normal" car?


photo source:www.istockphoto.com
So many choices!

Like almost everybody, our consumer actions face the harsh realities of our financial resources. We can only buy the car that we can afford, or at least get financing for!

We can have champagne tastes with a beer budget.

These things sell for over 200,000 dollars! 

I saw a new Bentley Bentayga SUV parked, and driving on the street as I went to the library today. So there are people out there with champagne tastes and a champagne budget! It obviously isn't me.

Why would I prefer an older car instead of a new or late model car? Can't I find something that I can afford that would satisfy me?

Objectively speaking there should be something out there that would fill my needs.

Of course there is. I once bought a new truck and  a new Mustang. Both of these cars have been very useful, and in fact, both vehicles are still in my family's usage.

If logic is not the dominant consideration, than what is?

Why, then it would have to be determinations based upon emotional reasons.


I got to thinking about this Today, while at work, looking out into the employee parking lot. Is it really possible that there aren't any cars out there that I could be happy with?


I've often written about the difference between "normal" automotive consumers and the "real car guy."
Normal people only want cars that provide drama free transportation. If they can find something that they like, that is fun, or can even convey a little status, so much the better.

All of this makes sense of course. Who needs headaches?

For some reason, it seems that I do.

At least I'm not the only one!

What am I looking for?

Not just for regular transportation with a little "t."

I have not been immune to the charms of a "normal" vehicle. They come in very handy for little "t" transportation needs. I recently drove a late model Hyundai Elantra and I have to say that I was quite impressed. This small car was plenty roomy for four adults, had excellent a/c, drove well, seemed well built and even had a pretty big trunk. Not to mention fuel economy in the high thirties. This was the second Hyundai that I've had experience with, I rented a new Sonata when I drove down to L.A. to pick up my XJ6 a few years ago. I was equally impressed by that model. I think that a nice Hyundai Santa Fe SUV could be a very rewarding vehicle to own.

But they don't satisfy the soul.

While a normal car would be very useful, I still want a car that provides me with recreation, not just transportation.

                                              --------------------------------------------------------------


Your choice of car depends on your automotive self image.  If you're going to be an enthusiast, you are going to have a special relationship with your car. After all, you are more educated about cars, you are more involved with them, and more in tune with them.

So if you are this "special" car guy, how can you get excited about driving something like a new Camry?

What can you drive that will mark your "specialness?"

I, like most of us, will never be able to just go out and buy some kind of super cool, fantastic, incredible new car.

I don't have that kind of money and I never will. I will never be able to buy a new Porsche, Ferrari, or Aston Martin. These are seriously cool cars, and they sell plenty of brand new ones to the fortunate guys that have the coin. Even buying a fairly common, high performance car like a Shelby Mustang, Camaro or even a Corvette is not in the picture. Not everyone that buys one of these desirable cars are true enthusiasts, probably most aren't. But almost any of us would buy a cool car if we had the money. But what do you do when you don't have the money?


Stay Golden, Pony Boy.

Do you remember the book "The Outsiders" by S.E. Hinton? This teenage melodrama centers around a classic class struggle. The affluent Socials and the much poorer Greasers. Of course the Socials enjoy all the benefits of their parent's affluence and influence while the Greasers have to struggle with their precarious financial and social positions. Sometimes all the Greasers have to fight back with is their fists.

Hopefully, most of us didn't grow up in such a tumultuous environment, but maybe some of us can remember high school. We can remember that the "rich kids" got to drive the new cars their parents bought them. The blue collar kids got to drive their parent's beat up, old hand me downs or some clapped out beater they managed to buy with the meager earnings from their Summer and Weekend jobs. If you can't compete with a new car, you've got to make your car "cool."

Hot Rods, Kustoms, Lowriders, Street Machines, V Dubs, and JDM Ricers, Rat Rods. Every generation of blue collar kids has given rise to a new genre of customized automobile. Our response has always been, "Your folks can buy you a new car, but they can't buy you a cool car. You've got to build that for yourself."

Well, at least we try to.  Our car is a reflection of who we want to be. It is a showcase of our enthusiasms, our expertise, and our dreams.

If we don't try to build some kind of customized machine, we choose some esoteric old car. Something that the mass consumer would never think of driving. In the last thirty years the grown up "rich kids" have been co-opting our automotive territory, first with classic hot rods and then with classic muscle cars. They've been buying up all the cars we used to play with. It leaves fewer choices for the true gear head. But we can still find something that is "different." We just keep looking for things in that obscure niche.


I remember  when these old GTOs were cheap.
Not anymore.

This line of thinking doesn't make much sense to most people, but as a low buck enthusiast we don't have much of a choice.








Saturday, August 11, 2018

"Real car guys" versus "Tourists."


image source: learnedalongthewayblog

There really is no division.

One of my favorite blog sites, "My Jaguar Experience," recently presented a dichotomy of this nature. The story was the experience of trying to Daily Drive a series three XJ6. The never ending series of little problems finally resulted in a major breakdown that brought the ownership experience to an unhappy end.

The author places a lot of blame on himself, which I feel is pretty unfair and unnecessary.  He is not a hands on enthusiast, and is not the kind of person that will diagnose the problem and perform the repair himself. He has never made any claims to the contrary.

He breaks the enthusiast community down into two camps. The "real car guys" and the "tourists."

The real car guys motto is "We can do it!"



That's the attitude!

The real car guys are those that have quite a bit of mechanical knowledge and experience and will perform much of their cars needed maintenance and repairs. They also possess the necessary tools and equipment. The real guys also have the proper attitude which is something like the following: Any older mechanical device will eventually wear and need repair. This is no big thing. Identify the problem, secure the needed part, and just fix it. When there are no apparent problems, just keep your eye on probable avenues of future failure.

When a problem exceeds their skill or ability then they might just perform part of the repair. Remove the transmission and take just that to a repair specialist, for example. This alone will result in a substantial savings.



"If you're going to be a tourist, be a rich one!"
Thurston Howell III

Tourists on the other hand, are just visiting the territory, you might say. They might mingle with the natives, assume some mannerisms in speech and dress. You would never mistake them for the real thing. So in the automotive hobby they might even be described as posers.


They may have an actual interest and even preference for vintage or classic cars. They can be quite knowledgeable and well versed in the enthusiast lingo.

Usually they are not "hands on" guys. They are usually lacking in the skills or aptitude to turn wrenches on their own machines. Often they will say that they are "all thumbs" or "mechanically challenged" or use some other self deprecating phrase.

I propose that what most of them lack is the real need to work on their own stuff. The tourist usually has more resources available than the grass roots gearhead. They can either easily afford to pay for a shop to handle their repair work, or they choose to save and budget money for the inevitable repairs.

If they are not really affluent then they might have to restrict their hobby to a single vintage car. It becomes the focus of their carefully planned expenditures.

On the other hand, If they are really affluent then they just buy the best examples out there. Low mileage, well preserved or restored vehicles. They are the ones that pay top dollar for the best cars.

Compare that to the typical "real car guy," Sometime refereed to as the "gearhead."  He often acquires a stable of worn and broken down cars with the hope of someday fixing them up. He will often pile way too much on his plate. Oftentimes this gearhead is of the bucks down variety. As a consequence of this, many, if not most, of his projects will never see completion. He might keep several vehicles in service as runners or daily drivers. While a rich guy can boast about how much money his project is costing him, the gearhead will often brag about how much work they are putting into their cars.


The low bucks gear head knows that the only way that he can own and enjoy "interesting" cars is to buy them in a "challenged" state. The kind that are advertised as projects that need a lot of TLC. As if love alone could ever fix anything mechanical.

Having a stable of project vehicles reduces the amount of cash available to spend on any specific car. This will make anyone, even someone of average means, behave somewhat like a bucks down guy. This provides plenty of incentive to do it yourself.

The fact that a Tourist occasionally finds himself over his head in a certain car does not mean that he was a "poser."  Unless you are like old Thurston Howell III where cost is never a consideration, everyone runs into their financial limits. People in both camps have run into that situation.

Most "normal" people have no real interest in buying, maintaining, using or preserving a vintage car. They may murmur about some car from their high school days. Or wax nostalgic about their buddy's '57 Chevy or '65 Mustang when they see one on the street. But their reality is about having a vehicle that takes all the risk and pain out of daily transportation. Who can blame them? We all have "lives" to lead. A brand new car, or at least the newest that they can afford, makes the most sense.

Some of these new car owners are passionate about their newly purchased vehicles. If they bought some type of specialty vehicle like a sports car or 4x4 truck. They can be quite the fan boys. They just might just prefer, and have the means, to trade up to a new model every few years.

The old car car enthusiast is an entirely different matter. For some reason, not only does he have an interest in vintage cars, he even wants to own one! Even worse, he actually wants to drive it, sometimes every day! Most older cars are cheaper than a new model. Most of us low buck enthusiasts depend on massive depreciation to bring desirable cars down to our financial  level.

So is there really a conflict (chasm?) between the Tourist and the real car guy? I don't think so. For one thing, there is actually quite a bit of crossover that takes place between the camps. Many car guys cross over into the Tourist camp when conditions change or improve. Old age and more disposable cash combine to limit the car guys direct involvement in the day to day wrench turning.

On the other hand many Tourists become quite familiar with their cars and will start to stick a hand under the hood once in a awhile. Even if they don't start tearing down motors, they can be adept at minor repairs, like tune ups, belts and hoses. Little things like changing bulbs and chasing down minor electrical gremlins can make it much easier to keep an older car on the road.

Besides, many tourists actually provide the pay check for a lot of real car guys. A lot of real car guys are in business providing services to the tourists. Like the artist/ patron relationship, some of the best and most creative builders and restorers rely on that blank check provided by the wealthy patron. It keeps them in business.

So what do I mean when I use the word poser?

Or as they are sometimes referred to, as "Gold Chainers." A much harsher term of judgement.

I don't mean the guy who just recently developed an interest in older cars. Lot's of guys couldn't afford the money or time for a hobby car when they were in the middle of career and family responsibilities. It has been an interest that they have only been able to indulge as they got older.

And it's not just because the owner is affluent, and can afford to have the work done properly by a shop. Or that they can buy those best examples. I think that every enthusiast would choose to buy the best, if they could afford it.

I would only refer to a person as a poser if they claimed that they performed the work done on a car as something that they did, when they didn't. Or if they didn't bother to learn anything about the car that they had built for them.

The other case is when the focus of the car is not on the car itself, but on the amount of money spent on it. And they make a point of constantly mentioning the cost of things in an obvious attempt to impress the onlooker.

Like many things in life it's not an either /or proposition. The tourist and the real car guy, and even the poser, are in the same camp. They are all interested in vintage cars, as opposed to the greater car consuming culture. They are like two ends of a continuum or just different facets of the same gem stone. We have much more in common then the differences that separate us.

I think that wherever we currently fall on the continuum, we all got involved in old cars just to have a little fun. As long the hobby is still primarily fun, we should enjoy it and cut our fellow enthusiasts, as well as ourselves quite a bit of slack.







Saturday, August 4, 2018

I'll admit that I never measured the back spacing of the original Jaguar wheels. Oops My bad!



As you can see the backspacing is pretty deep.

I measured the original wheel's backspacing at approx. 4 inches.


There are several factors that have to taken into consideration when trying to fit non original wheels. First of all there is the wheel lug pattern, in this case they are identical at 5 on 5 spacing.  The second is the diameter of the rim. Generally you can usually fit a larger wheel than stock. I replaced the original 14 inch. wheels on my '70 Mustang with 15 inch Ford Ranger wheels. In the case of my Mark VII my plan was to change to a 15 inch wheel that accepts a more conventional and easier to source tire size.  Not to mention much. much, cheaper. Since I had an old 15 inch Riviera wheel lying around I tried it on front position. It cleared the brake drum and didn't seem to have any interference with the tie rod ends. The backspacing on this wheel was 3 3/4 inches. I think that this wheel came off of a '77 Riviera. This was disc brake equipped vehicle and I believe that the backspacing is greater with disc brake wheels.

When I was looking for replacement wheels I thought that wheels from a drum brake equipped car would be a better fit. As I posted last week, I figured that a wheel that could fit over the finned Buick drums would fit easily over the Mark's rather large brake drums. I should have measured the Mark wheels before I bought those Wildcat wheels. When I arrived in Cotati I measured the backspacing on the Buick wheels.

The backspacing of the Wildcat wheels was only 3 inches.  I decided that the wheels would probably work okay, especially since they were only going to be used temporarily. I didn't anticipate any problems using them on the front wheels. There was a lot of space surrounding the wheel and it doesn't seem that there were any problems. 

Obviously things were going to be much tighter in the rear, especially with those tight fitting spats. As I was fitting the wheels I discovered that there was some conflict in between the sidewall and the bottom front edge of the wheel opening. This was while I had the car jacked up. I trimmed off the small triangle of metal and when level there was plenty of clearance. That little bit I trimmed off won't effect the fit of the fender skirt. You won't even be able to see it with the skirt in place.


 The tires are spaced out almost an inch from stock.
When the body was jacked up there was a bit of conflict with the sidewall 


What will affect the clearance is the wider track of the wheels. The tire rubs against the inside of the skirt. So I won't be able to run the skirts with these wheels. I wonder if the cut away skirts used on the Mark VIII would clear the tires. Or maybe some "Coombs style" radiused cutaway skirt might be employed.



It didn't take much to restore some clearance.

I think that Ronnie Adams just ran without skirts
 when he won the 1956 Rally de Monte Carlo



Coombs style open wheel arch.
I might try this if I find an extra pair of skirts.



So what is the final result? 

I have a set of tires with good amount of tread left. The tread is almost twice as wide as with the original style tire. The track has been widened by around an inch and a half. The car sits about an inch and a half lower due to the smaller diameter of the tire and wheel. It seems to me as though this could only have a positive effect on the handling. 

I really don't have any impression of the way it would of handled when new. What I was looking for was a set of tires that I could use while I was trying to get the car up and running. That's what I've got.




Modern radials are much better than old bias ply tires.


I've always hated the way those tall side wall, pie crust tires look.



I put the skirt on just for the photo.
I have always had a preference for whitewalls.



Now, I've just got to get this thing running.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Continuing on my last post. A good buy and a little bit of a challenge.


Measuring backspacing just takes a straight piece of wood and a tape measure.

In reality there are a lot of things that I could be doing to move my car's progress along. All my work around the house does take up a lot of time, but I'm still able to carve out a little time for my own projects. Looking for some replacement wheels for the Mark VII was still an unfinished chore.

I measured the backspacing and and hub opening on an old Buick Riviera wheel that I had lying around. This wheel is the subject of my avatar photo. I'm not really sure where or when I acquired this wheel, or which of my Rivieras it used to fit.

The backspacing is 3 3/4 inches. The hub opening is 3 in. The fitted tire is 225 75 R15. (Remember these numbers, they are going to be important later).


I also decided to take a look at my '96 Mustangs seat mounting brackets. The drivers side, left rear mount was broken and the seat would flex to the right when I folded it forward.  This had been going on for awhile, but I kinda chose to ignore it.

I had received the Late Model Restoration catalog and they carried a new replacement. Only 164.00 plus shipping! I had replaced the original non working power mount with one sourced from the local Pick and Pull. I went back to find another.

I arrived and went to scope out the price sheet on the wall. It listed manual seat tracks at 14.95 ea. Now that a price that I can live with.

It's been awhile since I've hit the wrecking yard circuit and I guess that I'm a little rusty. Before I left I found the correct wrench to fit the mounting nuts, 15mm. I put that wrench and a few more fractional inch combo wrenches in my tool bag. For some reason I failed to consider the bolts that would have held the tracks to the seat base. I should have included a series of metric sizes from 10-15 mm.

I arrived at the yard, paid my two bucks and walked to the Ford section. I saw plenty of New Edge Mustangs but no 96's. I took a look at their seat mounting and it had been changed to a stud that went through the floor and was secured from underneath. Wouldn't work.

I proceeded looking through the rows and spied a blue convertible, it was a '96 also. I pulled out my ratcheting,  adjustable angle wrench and went to work, After I got the seat loose I flipped it over and saw the small 10 mm bolts securing the track to the seat base. Of course I didn't bring my 10 mm wrenches or sockets (!) and the smaller fractional inch sizes didn't fit. I tried clamping a vice grip on the bolt head and turning that with an adjustable wrench. No luck, it spun off. I even considered buying the entire seat instead of rushing home and returning with the proper tools.  I didn't want to spend another hour on the process. So what did I do? I just asked another patron if they had a 10 mm wrench. An older gent that I had seen prowling among the 90's Camaros as I entered told me that he probably had a 10 mm socket that I could use. His ratchet set box was crammed with extra tools and he set it on top of the radiator of a convenient Camaro. As I looked through the sockets, one slipped out of the box and fell into the engine compartment. Drat! Here I was asking for a favor, and I had lost one of his sockets! He said not to worry, just find the socket I needed. I did and unbolted the tracks. When I returned to him I remarked that now I'll start looking for that socket. He said no worries, he had found it while I was working on the seat.  I thanked him profusely. I remembered how many times I had loaned tools at the yards. It always counts to pay it forward.

The price for this part was just 14.95 plus tax and fees, a total of 17.00 Now that's more like it.

If I'm going to pull the seat out perhaps I can address the worn area of the driver's seat cushion. The fabric had worn through where the seat width adjustment blade was located. The foam seat padding had eroded and allowed the cloth to contact the metal blade.  The rest of the seat has always looked pretty good.

I think I'll save performing this repair for another time. It will provide some more real content for a future blogpost.


The Craig's List ad read "Lots of wheels and tires!"

Good things come to those that wait. As well as keep a steady watch on Craig's List.

I haven't heard back from the guy in Hollister so I've been on CL seeing what would turn up. I ran a search for Buick wheels. I found a seller "locally" that was selling a set of steelies with an okay set of rollers for only 100.00. I was jazzed as these were pretty much what the guy in Hollister was offering at over 150.00 less.



photo source. hot rod.com
These Buick aluminium brake drums are beautiful, and are often used on hot rod builds,


I know that the '67 Wildcat used 15 in. wheels which fit over those large finned Buick drums. Those finned drums are aluminum in front and cast iron in back. These, along with the eight lug Pontiac brakes are the only really attractive drum brakes incorporated into a 1960's American car.



These aluminum hub, steel rim wheels were used on early 1960s  Pontiacs.
Like the Grand Prix and performance Bonneville models.

Here's a photo of the distinctive steel rim.
Ignore the tiny patio chair stuck to it!

If you are fortunate enough to have one of these cars that sport these special brakes, it is worth preserving the system as it adds a lot of special interest to your vehicle.

The Wildcat wheels where included in the "nearby area" search of the CL listing. I guess Cotati, which is just south of Santa Rosa, could be considered nearby. The seller was a business named "American Classics and Performance." I contacted the seller by E-mail and I was advised that the business was closed on the weekends. That surprised me as I figured that they would be open on Saturday, at least. I phoned them and asked if there would be anybody in the shop after the office was closed for the day. I told them that I could drive up right after work but there was no way that I could make it before 5:00. If I left San Jose just a little after 3:00, I could probably make it before 6:00, maybe just a bit after 5:30. I was told that the owner would be able to stay to 6:00 but to call and let him know where I was at by 5:30. "When did I want to come up?"  Today of course! Jeez, I wasn't going to make the trip tomorrow, on Friday!


A very nice clean and orderly shop.
One that I probably couldn't afford to have work on my cars!

I had Googled directions the night before, gassed up the truck, and was ready to go right after work. I decided to make a tactical bathroom break before hitting the road. I knew where the bathroom was at the office. I didn't want to burn up a lot of time once on the road, trying to find one in a panic! (Preparation is always the key!)

Rush hour traffic in the Bay Area is clearly soul crushing and the potential to be tied up behind a collision or to be the victim of a collision is extremely high. Luckily, I was leaving a bit early and I hoped to avoid the main crush.

The shop was approximately 90 miles away. I would leave San Jose at 3:15 pm. to drive through Fremont, Hayward, Oakland, and the dreaded Emeryville interchange of I 880, and I 580, a well known and feared bottleneck. Then over the San Rafael bridge, through Marin, Novato and through the constricted two lane back up to reach Petaluma. Once past the Petaluma harbor I'd be home free and there in about 15 minutes.

Just for fun (?) I decided to measure my progress in fifteen minute increments.

The first 15 minutes were not too inspiring, I had only gone about six and a half miles when I encountered the back up of a six car collision that was still blocking the middle lane. After I crept past that, at the thirty minute point, I had only covered 17 miles. 

Once past Hayward and the exit to the San Mateo bridge the pace really picked up. I flew through Oakland at 65-70 mph. until  I reached the Emeryville interchange. It was a quarter to five.

After I took the cut off to the San Rafael bridge traffic picked up and I sailed across the bridge and through Marin. Once past Novato The road, US101, chokes down to two lanes. Creep creep,creep. Breathe deep and slow and try to find your happy place! There is no happy place in Bay Area rush hour traffic.

At 5:30 I had almost reached Petaluma Blvd. I waited a few more minutes before I called the office and spoke with Greg, the owner. When I told him that I was passing the harbor he told me that I was almost there! Greg gave me specific directions and I was there by 6:00. I had made it!


These photos are from the website.
 I even saw one of those new replacement muscle car frames in a crate against the wall!



Like I said, a nice shop, with obviously nice customer's cars.
Check out their website for more info.


This was obviously not a Better Beater type of shop. Greg was speaking on the phone with a potential client that wanted him to locate a 1954 Corvette. The client asked if Greg's shop could handle a paint job on the car, if he located it for him. Greg told him that his shop didn't do paint and bodywork but that he had a connection with a paint shop down the street that could handle it. The conversation touched on the expense, and Greg informed him that paint jobs started at around fifteen grand.

Fifteen Grand! That's what I plan on paying for the used  Jaguar XK I might buy in a year or two. Well this is all out of my league, but I was only there to look at those old wheels. We talked about how current prices have outstripped the purchasing power of most everyday enthusiasts but that we, (meaning me)  low buck guys have to find our niche in the hobby. Greg appears to be quite a nice guy who remembers the old days, but knows the reality of having to run a business that can provide a living for himself and his employees. It's a good thing that there are customers that can afford to pay for quality work, but it sure isn't me.

I checked out the wheels which looked pretty good, I even measured the back spacing. ( More on this later.) The price was fair, so I paid it. Besides what was I going to do? Turn around and drive home empty handed because he wouldn't lower the price twenty bucks? I've been a seller for a lot of years and I appreciate when a buyer realizes that the price was set fairly.

Of course if the seller knows that you came a long way for an item he doesn't have much incentive to deal.

I loaded up the wheels and drove to Petaluma where I stopped for dinner. I figured that traffic would die down while I ate. For the most part the trip home was easy, except that I encountered a couple of long stops due to a couple of collisions on I 880 in Hayward. I managed to skirt around the right of one scene. There was another worse event near the San Mateo bridge exit that had traffic in all lanes at a complete stop. I had been warned by a radio newscast and I exited the freeway just before it came to a stop. I used surface streets to make my way through Fremont until I could pick up I 680, and take the freeway the rest of the way home.

I arrived home at 9:15 and had covered a distance of 193 miles. I had invested six hours in the journey and I arrived home feeling a little bit like a hero.

How did the wheels work out? More on that next week.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

I'm looking for some new ( to me) used wheels for my 1951 Jaguar Mark VII.


A set of OEM steel rims from a 1960 Buick.
Even these old things aren't cheap anymore.

The Mark VII came equipped with steel wheels holding 6.70 x16 inch bias ply tube tires. At one time these were very scarce and owners would use whatever comparable truck tire was available and would fit. Now there are some very nice authentic radial tires available that retain the original look. These are pretty pricey and I wonder how performance would compare to a modern low profile radial.

I have priced a replacement bias ply tire from Blockley tires that were priced at 182.50 pounds British. This translates to 239.68 American dollars and doesn't include the price of the inner tube. I would estimate that a set would run well over a thousand dollars! That's not an expense that I can handle right now.


A handsome vintage replacement tire
that is suitable for vintage racing.

I have had a few old cars that I equipped with radials and found that handling was improved. This was on my 1956 Cadillac and on a couple of my mid Sixties Rivieras.

As it turns out the wheel lug pattern of the Mark VII is 5 on 5 inch. This is the same as a Cadillac or large Buick.  A 15 inch wheel from an American car was included with the Mark as a possible spare.

It fit the hub and drum and cleared the steering arms.

The idea is to replace the original wheels with a standard set of rims from a Buick that I found on sale on CL Even though the selection of tire options is somewhat limited, there are still plenty of brand new radial tires that will replace these early rollers.

I have contacted a seller on CL who wants 275.00 for a set with some roller tires on them. He describes them as being from a 1960 Buick Electra.

Thses wheels were designed to work with drum brakes and they will be narrower than a later set used on a post 1965 model. This is important to me because I need to use a tire narrow enough to fit under that large rear skirt.


According to the Standard Catalog of Buick, the 1959 through 1965 big Buick came equipped with either 7.60 or 8.00 x 15 inch tubeless tire. My guess is that both sizes of tire used the same rim size.


Checking the tire size interchange chart, these sizes translate to a modern metric size of 235/70R15.

Now, you are not going to punch this vehicle info into a tire locator table and find the right size tire on a manufacturer's website. Especially of a car of this year and model.



This is Hankook's bread and butter passenger car tire.

I looked first on the Hankook website and found only one series that had comparable 15 inch tires. There were no performance type tires available in that size. There isn't a lot of choice in the fifteen inch sizes. The only things that might fit are the Optimo H724 series.  I would have loved to use the DynaPro HT tires that are used on my truck but was out of luck. I am constantly impressed by the performance of those tires.



Kumho provides this standard sedan tire.

Kuhmo has a reputation as a builder of performance tires, but they also only offered up a single series. The Solus TA1. This series also offered up a few different sizing options. This seems to be a bread and butter tire that can be used on a wide range of vehicles. One suggested vehicle usage was the Lincoln Town Car! I think that if the tire can be used on a heavy, softly sprung, luxury car then it should be okay for the Mark.

I figure that either of these tires had to be head and shoulders above anything that was available in 1951. Even so, I confined my search to "T" rated tires. These are rated at 118 mph. S rating is 112 mph. While the Mark could never achieve these speeds,  the higher rated tire usually delivers better overall traction and handling.

It looks like I will have a few choices in tire replacements.

These Korean tire manufacturer's names carry a bit more prestige, than some of the better known manufacturers. And quite a bit more than those  unknown Chinese based manufacturers.

The wheels that are pictured at the head of the post are offered locally. They include a set of rollers, probably pretty old.

In an attempt at due diligence I contacted a Buick Riviera parts dealer located in Sacramento. They informed me that a bare wheel was priced at 50.00 per wheel. I was trying to get a comparative pricing level on this item.

Well those old roller tires are worth something to me. The existing tires on the Mark are very weathered. It's incredible that they inflated and hold air. I would hesitate to do anything more than roll the car up and down the driveway. Slowly.


Besides the wheel lug pattern the back spacing (wheel off set ) must also be kept in mind. There is a simple inexpensive template that can be easily used to determine the lug pattern.



Redline bolt pattern template.





Another consideration is the wheel backspacing (wheel offset). This is important because of clearance issues with tie rods, suspension arms, and fender clearance. All you need to check this is a ruler and a tape measure. Just lay the ruler or straight edge across the inner flange of the rim and measure down to the hub contact surface.



Wheels with the same width rim can vary greatly in offset. 


One other consideration can be the size of the center hub opening, Obviously, It has to be big enough. Often there is plenty of clearance and it's not a critical measurement. Sometimes the fit of the hub can be essential to locating the wheel on the hub. This is referred to as a "hub centric" wheel design.

The trend now is to keep a car as original as possible and the use of inauthentic wheels can be frowned upon. Anything else could be refereed to as a "resto mod." Updating the wheels and tires is probably the simplest way to improve handling and braking. Those old "muscle and Pony" cars came with terrible under sized bias ply tires. On my 1970 Mustang I upgraded the the narrow 14 inch wheels to a 15 X 7" wheel with radial tires.  A major improvement.

Now I'm waiting for the CL seller to contact me with more info. about the wheels, especially the size of the tires mounted on them. I need the info to make my purchasing decision. Of course he's dragging his feet at getting back to me. Somethings never change.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

1990 Honda Civic SI. A new beginning. Actually the logical development of an earlier decision.


All photos sourced from the net.
Mine was white, but my Brother rushed out and bought himself a red one.
Of course he one upped me as his had A/C.

These little hatchbacks were just so versatile and useful.
Oh did I mention that they were fun to drive?

Part of the SI package were these great Recaro like seats.


The engine was well detailed and had the look of quality construction.

During my youth I had always been interested in Domestic cars. Only Domestic cars. There were a lot of fans of the ubiquitous VW Bug, and there were those of the hardy clan that obsessed over those little sports cars from Olde England.

For me it was always Cadillacs. My automotive fantasies always revolved around those big old American finned beasts. Over time my interests moved up to the newer models. Maximum mojo, just minus the fins.


Then I decided that I wanted to move up to something a bit sportier than a DeVille, so I decided that something a bit smaller might better fit my needs.

That was the beginning of my relationship with the Buick Riviera.

Still, I was adamant when I told my Son "that I would never own a small car!"

I'd tried my hand with a '66 Mustang and found that it was sadly lacking the glamour that I was craving.  It took another thirty five years for me to try them again.

Actually this was all taking place a few years after I gotten married and had moved up north to San Jose. This was a period of time when I didn't have a project car and I had to be satisfied with only having my Harley.

When we first moved back to San Jose we just had one car, we had left my Wife's wrecked old beater behind. That had been my rainy day ride. I had hoped that we would find something better after we had been settled in for a awhile. This plan resulted in an entire rainy season commuting on my Harley wearing a bright orange "Dry Rider" rain suit. I didn't need another year of that!

This time around I wanted to try something different. Maybe something smaller?

So I chose a 1975 Honda Civic CVCC coupe, with a five speed transmission. These were quite popular and were still seen everywhere on the streets. Mine was yellow like this one, but a little bit rougher. But hey, It only cost me 300.00!



Just a mild looking little car.


Under that hinged panel was an almost useful sized trunk.

That coupe led to a nifty little wagon. I even swapped in a new OEM crate motor to replace the original, which had suffered an unusual failure.


Just adding two more doors and a hatchback made for a terrific all around car.
Like all pictures presented here none are of my vehicle. Though this Civic was yellow also.

I've always had a thing for wagons.


These were the perfect answer for a city car.
Much smarter than the car that has carried that name.


I had a lot of experience with Honda motorcycles and my experience with these old Honda Civics was favorable as well. I decided that if these old examples were good, a brand new Civic would be even better.

I was right. I had done my homework. I read all the comparison tests. I'd also considered the Dodge Colt and the Geo Storm. Neither was comparable to the SI Civic. This model came standard with the best performance parts: 100 hp. motor with five speed transmission. Four wheel disc brakes, 14 inch. wheels, stiffer springs with front and rear sway bars. There was a nice cloth sport seat interior with a standard sun roof. All this with that famous Honda Quality.

This was an excellent performance car. It would cruise at 75-85 mph with a top speed of 110 mph. At normal cruising speeds it would return 36 mpg. The highest mileage I recorded at a steady 55 mph was 42 mpg. The five speed transmission was smooth and positive. Civics of this generation were equipped with a sophisticated short/long arm four wheel independent suspension. This was the Golden Age of the Civic platform.

This was also the most versatile of vehicles. I picked up the high school car pool load of four teens. I could fold down the back seats for additional cargo space. I even carried the new doors for my house by moving the passenger seat forward, tilting the seat back as far as possible with the rear seat down.

Perhaps the most outstanding attribute was that it was such a satisfying new car purchase. I felt that I had bought something that was really worth what I paid for it. It wasn't expensive, but it was Quality. That's what Honda meant in those days.

I haven't experienced so much satisfaction again until I bought my new F150.

It might seem a bit odd, that even though I was quite satisfied with the Honda after five or six years I got the hankering for another big old car. The timing seemed right. I had a new Dodge Caravan for the Wife and family. This car was going to be my Anti-Yuppie statement. What could be more offensive to Yuppie sensibilities than a boat tail Riviera? Nothing.

So I got one.

                                                        ----------------------------------------------------



Abandoning Yesteryear for the present day.

It's always something! Part Two, (of a never ending series.)

I was relaxing last Sunday morning after a very hard Saturday cleaning out the yard and loading my truck for a trip to the dump. I had been cutting up the stump and trunk of a fallen tree into 18 " sections that I could more easily lift. That little 14" electric chain saw from Harbor freight performed like a champ! It was still quite an exertion to get it all loaded in the truck. I was looking forward to a relaxing Sunday after taking the load to the dump. But Fate intervened.

I suddenly noticed that the toilet was not flushing properly. Oh no, maybe I just didn't flush it right. So I tried again. Rising water! A very bad sign. Fast forward to checking the outside sewer clean out. We had one installed a couple of years back, when all of our trees attempted to foil the smooth working of our indoor plumbing.

Always the DIYer, I rented a 75 ft. snake from Home Depot and ran it through the pipe. Right at 75 ft. I found some root blockage. But it still wouldn't clear the line. So I rushed back to Home Depot and exchanged the unit for a 100 ft. line. I ran that through several times, with no real improvement. Well, now it was time to call a "professional." I decided to wait until morning. I was about to pay those "emergency response" rates.

My family spent an uncomfortable night. On Monday I called the same company that had installed our clean out at 8 am, leaving a message. For some reason no one called back. We re-called at around 11 am. and reached the technician. He assured us that he could be there in a couple of hours. I beat feet to the dump and made my way quickly back. Just as I was parking, I saw the rooter van pull up.

Long story short, he ran a 75 ft., snake through and couldn't find anything. He then used a hydraulic water blasting bladder that succeeded in cleaning out the line. Success! All this only ran several hundred dollars, which included the two machine rentals. I did learn something from all this. I'm planning on picking up a drain cleaning bladder of my own.

So what does all this have to do with cars? Nothing, except that I only have so much energy available, and this was just another thing that saps my reserve. No wonder that I haven't had the time to work on my projects. So it's no surprise that I haven't touched the Mark VII in months. However, the garage emptying out process continues at a slow but steady pace. Slow but steady wins the race? Where have I heard that before?


photosource: YouTube and Warner Bros.








Sunday, July 8, 2018

Oily Rag. What could be easier?



photo source: oilyrag.com
The ultimate find, a weathered but complete and running Aston Martin DB2.



The concept is simple, preserve the vehicle's current condition, maintain it's originality. Maintain and repair it to keep it in running condition, but do not restore the engine in any cosmetic way.

Just wipe the dust off with an oily rag.

Weathered paint.  Faded, chipped and worn through to primer. Just preserve it. The term is patina, and the concept of preserving the original evidence of constant use has gained a lot of popularity. Now there are what amount to "barn find" classes at fancy shows like Pebble Beach! The term "survivor" car has become pretty common, and I believe this term came into popularity with the Corvette crowd. An original example displaying it's evidence of service became more prestigious than a car that received a full restoration. Was this the actual admiration for originality or just another attempt at one upsmanship?  I mean how many presentable originals are left? Any car can be restored.

They're only original once!


The interior upholstery should not be completely redone, instead it should be patched, restitched, with only the worst panels replaced. Sometimes the upholstery looks really good with little or no wear. Especially the back seat. My '56 Cadillac's rear seat was like that. However when I started actually driving the car I found that the foam cushions crumbled to dust and the aged fabric wore rapidly. I would imagine that reconditioned leather might end up cracking and tearing after steady use.

I agree with this concept except that many times the car has deteriorated in so many areas to a degree that there isn't even enough upholstery to patch.




photo source: Craigslist
                         Patch the upholstery? Where are the floorboards?


Are these horrible things seats? Looks more like a nightmare to me. 


The best oily rag candidates are cars that have been kept in constant service. These cars have received somewhat regular maintenance. They may have had non standard repairs and parts replacements done, with the ultimate intent of keeping the machine running. Think of the famous cars of Cuba.

They also generally have not had a lot of different owners. Many times they were owned for a very long period and are often still owned by the original owner's families. The families often have developed quite strong emotional ties to the vehicle and have been loathe to sell it to just get rid of it.

Surface rust has spread to the point that there isn't any original paint to preserve.


Don't worry that will buff out!

Will this be saved? It's probably too far gone.
 It's not valuable enough to make it viable.

I suggest that you visit the Oily Rag website and read their philosophy. It covers not only cars but other mechanical devices and even houses and architectural items. Preservation not restoration.

The term, "oily rag" was also used at one time as a pejorative slur against a perceived low skilled and low paid mechanic or worker. Much like the American term, "grease monkey." This is a term that I do find offensive, especially when used in a disdainful manner by one of the effete classes.

As a low buck car enthusiast so much depends on finding the right car. The idea is to find a well preserved example. Something that just needs a little work. While we might want a particular model, sometimes we will settle on a particularly well preserved car, even if it is something that we might have considered before.  It might be a four door sedan that was owned by a fussy senior citizen who kept up the maintenance schedule meticulously and well as keeping it parked in the garage when not in use.

I suppose this is why I can be quite finicky and protective of my old cars.  Condition is everything. Preserving and improving on them is paramount. They all inhabit that treacherous territory between high emotional desirability, (at least to me) and low financial value (to everyone else). So I do find my self worrying about "something" happening to them. Just like when my XJS was sideswiped in the employee parking lot at work.

Except for the Mark VII, my current fleet was purchased in pretty presentable condition. A couple were in remarkably good shape. The '96 Mustang and XJ6 had nice interiors and paint jobs. The XJS had a very good body and paint, needing only a convertible top and some work on the seat bottoms. The body and paint on the Explorer is pretty good but the front seats need a little repair. The worst car I've bought in recent times is the Mark VII. The paint is gone in many large panels, replaced by surface rust. The hydraulic systems are frozen. There is even a small rust out in one of the lower sill. Still the car was straight and complete, and it appears that it will able to run again with the current motor. Although it still needs an incredible amount of "fiddling" to be made useful. That's okay, I'm a proud member of the "fiddling economy."



Back to the specific from the general.

The majority of my recent time and efforts have been going into repairing and maintaining my house and yard. This has taken a lot of my free time and effort but progress is being steadily made. These responsibilities are what is referred to  as "life gets in the way" in all those stories about stalled automobile restoration projects. Sometimes being an adult can be a pain.

Efforts to clear out the garage to regain my workplace have been going extremely well. Now it is time to give some real attention to the Mark VII. It's time to get the thing running as well as finish up dismantling and rebuilding the hydraulics.

The good thing is that all this work is more labor intensive instead of money intensive. This will give me a chance to catch my financial breath and rebuild my car account.

Since the garage isn't quite ready, this is a good opportunity to concentrate my efforts on making the Mark mobile. It would be very useful to be able to move it to gain better access to enter and exit the garage.

I've acquired my stable of cars. Now it's time to put up or shut up. No pressure!