Saturday, February 18, 2017

The latest stage of human evolution, homo sapiens non erectus.

photo source: blog,

I was having a pretty relaxing morning wasting time, perusing CraigsList. I've discovered the "project car" listings. Hundreds of sad, incomplete, forgotten or abandoned cars that were probably bought with high hopes. Either the buyer was going to fix up their "dream" car, or maybe find a cheap classic, fix it and flip it for a quick buck. Hah! Easier said than done! Lots of these cars are offered up for sale stripped and partially disassembled, Minor rust damage is a lot more minor when it's described by the seller. "Ran when parked", no explanation needed there. This is not to say that there aren't some very good deals to be found listed there.

There can be a lot of satisfaction in just "owning" the car that you've dreamed about. Going out to the garage with a beverage in your hand, squatting down and checking out the car from various visual angles. You can even sit inside, grip the wheel and daydream, as long as the interior is not too disgusting. Maybe you know deep down inside that the chances that this car will ever roll under it's own power are pretty slim. but having it there gives you a point to focus your fantasies around. Besides now you are a (insert favorite dream car here) owner and have an excuse to talk your buddies ears off with your plans. Put that decal in the rear window of your truck! You can read up about the car and become an armchair expert on the marque. You can go to shows and rub elbows with the guys that are displaying their cars, and let them know that you are part of the fraternity.

I've spent a lot of time looking at the listings to see if I can stumble across a car, maybe one that I really haven't thought of for awhile, or never really considered, that can fire up my imagination and desire. What would I like to buy and fix up? I guess that I could look at finished cars listed for sale, instead of the sorrowful hulks listed as project cars, but the high prices commanded by these cars just kind of puts a damper on my fantasies. My rational mind will put the kibosh on those dreams before they even start getting rev'ed up.

Actually Peter Egan was discussing his friend's California winery

You might ask, "Don't you have a bunch of old cars at your house that you should be messing with right now?" That is correct, and I have been making some progress. To steal a line from one of Peter Egan's columns "Es dolce far niente" which he translated from the Italian as "It is sweet to do nothing,"  It's easier to exercise my fingers on the keyboard, than to get my hands dirty in the garage. Sometimes you do need a a little break. Besides it's raining, and cold, and my back kind of hurts. If I ask myself to prioritize, then I know that I've got to finish up the '96 Mustang first, The control arms are in. The package containing the tie rod ends and steering rack boots arrived a couple of weeks ago. I was going to swap the XJS and the '96 Mustang's spots in the garage yesterday. But I dragged my feet and now it's raining. Actually, something important did come up.

 "Somebody" decided that they needed the rear license plate on my truck more than I did. So now I had to spend time on the phone, reporting the theft to the police. I didn't want them showing up at my house, thinking that I had robbed a liquor store, or something even worse! The thief wasn't just looking for the year sticker, which was going to expire next month. They wanted the whole license plate, for their own nefarious reasons. So now I'm safe, my old plate is in the system as stolen. Now I just had to drive down to AAA and get a new set of plates. Luckily, it  only set me back twenty bucks and some time. That's life, and it could have been worse, they could have decided to steal the whole truck!

I think that there will be a break in the weather and I can make the swap a little later this afternoon. Time to get a little dirty. It is sweet to do nothing, but you shouldn't make a habit of it.


 Back about four posts ago I described the process of being buried alive by your project cars. Wouldn't you know it, the sand and gravel has started sliding down the cliff. I started up the XJS to move it out of the garage and the motor started up fine and settled into a smooth idle. I put it into gear and nothing. Darn! I knew the tranny felt looser than ever when I parked it a last month, but now it's given up the ghost it seems. My driveway slopes down to the garage and I didn't relish the idea of trying to push two tons of fine British steel up the slope and maneuver it into parking position by myself. My '96 Mustang has been sitting at the curb meanwhile, and even though I would like to sell it, I guess it can sit there awhile longer. My Wife said that the car gods have spoken; it has been decreed that the transmission in the XJS will have to be done first! She does seem to have a bit of a crush on that XJS, and I know that she would like to see what it feels like to ride in it. I fired up the XJ6 and the squealing belt noise didn't even present itself. I will have to try tightening up the belts a bit and check/mark the vibration damper to verify if it is failing. It took a jump, but the Mustang started up just fine. It is filthy, covered with those annoying little leaves that drop from all those trees on my street, but there are other more troubling concerns.

There has been some very stormy weather and trees in the neighborhood have been losing limbs and a few have fallen over. It was terribly windy this morning. I have been concerned that a limb might fall on one of my cars. Most of them are too old and not worth enough to carry full coverage insurance on. Besides even if they were fully insured they are worth so little that almost any damage would result in them being "totalled" by the insurance company anyway. I was hoping to finish the Mustang and maybe take it to a consignment lot to sell. Hopefully it will not end up with a branch through the top! Or worse, something could happen to my XJ6, hopefully not, I love that car!

I looked out through bedroom window into the backyard and thought that it was odd that some huge bushes had grown up unnoticed until now. Where did they come from? I went outside and could see that one of my trees had fallen over but luckily wasn't tall enough to hit the house. Good thing. Tomorrow I'm off to Harbor Freight (with a coupon!) to pick up some equipment to use for the transmission job. I've also got a good excuse to look for a chain saw! Life goes on.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Harley Davidson number three: 1981 FLHS, kind of a disappointment.

I had wanted a Big Twin for a very long time. Even though I had bought a new Sportster Cafe Racer at one time, and could have afforded a Big Twin at the time. I still thought that a Sportster was a better fit for my type of riding.

The thing was that Sportsters just didn't get the respect that Big Twins did. "Half a Harley" was a common derisive comment.

There are some some real differences between the two disregarding the higher price of the FLH. Physically the FLH is larger, with a longer wheel base. The rider seating position is lower with the legs extended forward.  Their is more space for a passenger, and there is the option of footboards instead of pegs for the rider. Since the FLH was designed as a touring bike it is better suited to long range riding. It already comes with a larger fuel tank, bigger and wider seat, better fenders, and an option of using the factory windshield, bags, tour pack and other equipment. All of this equipment was designed specifically for the bike and fits well, looks good and is nice and sturdy.

A completely outfitted Big Twin is refereed to as a "full dresser" as in all accessories included. During the 60's and the 70's, the hey day of the homebuilt chopper, these bikes were derided as "garbage wagons", ridden by "AMA" types (American Motorcycle Association members, otherwise known as straights). These were relegated the rear of the column on a chopper run. Riding an old dresser meant that you just bought the bike and hadn't gotten around to stripping it down yet. There were always a few guys that actually liked riding on a dresser, even then.

This bike was over twenty years old by the early 1950s as this design preceded the knucklehead. I believe that this is a twin cam with grafted knuckle top end. These twin cams were considered to be superior performers. These old tuners were very ingenious.

Back after the War, guys were stripping down their bikes, mostly to make them lighter and faster. These were known as "Bob Jobs." The bike pictured above is actually a two wheeled hot rod. These old pre war bikes were cheap and they could be tuned to out run a brand new bike. Styling wasn't the main idea behind the modifications, performance was.

Initially, the front end might be exchanged for an XA model springer, this was a two inch longer front fork which had been used on a War era shaft driven opposed twin HD that had been designed for desert combat use. This would raise the boards up a bit, allowing the rider to lean the bike over a little more to take the corners faster. The 21'' front wheel was lighter and it also added a bit of lift also. This was all done before the era of the extended front end began in the 60's. 

When the British twins arrived in the Fifties, Harley realized that they needed a competitive bike and the Sportster was born. Still, new bikes are expensive and there were still plenty of older bikes around to modify. As the chopper craze developed styles were mixed and the classic fat bob chopper combined performance with styling.

A very nice Panhead Fatbob. Style is a major component.

Of course Harley Davidson was not blind to what was happening and realized that there was a market for ready made bobbers. This was the result.

1970 FX Kick start only. Sportster drum brake up front

The original Superglide FX led to a long series of "precustomized" bikes which was a gold mine for Harley Davidson. The key feature was the smaller 3.5 gallon "fat tank" with the speedo mounted in between the tank halves. This was used for a few years then HD decided to go with a modified Sprint tank with the speedo moved up to the bars. Later HD decided to cover all bases with two versions of the FX.

By this time these bikes had electric starters and dual disc brakes up front.

Harley Davidson had a way of making a few small changes to a model then declaring it was "all new." 

The introduction of the HD Lowrider, copyrighted name, showed HD the direction that their riding market was going. Instead of customizing and personalizing a bike yourself, you could buy a trick bike direct from the dealer, with a full factory warranty. This was HD's first bike to feature an extended front end, three inches. Just like an XA springer! This trend eventually led to shops that offered full custom choppers. A trend immortalized by the sit com, "American Chopper."

Now old HD knew that hey had to draw the line somewhere and it was well before they offered bikes like these. Though I would take Billy's Panhead in a second, now that, was a classic chopper.

photo from the movie, if you have to ask which movie, you are an incredible lightweight!

Harley did decide to roll out a pretty convincing Fatbob of their own, the Wide Glide. The name coming from the wide FLH style forks that cradled the classic narrow 21 inch. wheel. The bike also featured the five gallon "fat" FLH tank. It was a well designed machine, except for one little problem. Old Timey 'Bobs hung some folding footpegs from the footboard mounts just ahead of the brake and shifter pedals. Look at the peg set up on the two Easyrider bikes above. The rider had to raise his foot off the peg and move it quite a distance to activate the controls. I guess this wouldn't fly with the DOT for a production bike so Harley came up with a forward footpeg control set up used with the Wide Glide, and later adapted to the Electra Glide Sport. They were about six inches higher and a couple of inches closer  than the classic set up. It always felt awkward and uncomfortable to me. I also thought that it made the rider's posture look kind of goofy. I would have been happy to switch to the FLH footboard set up. However this was before there was a lot of repop parts available. I priced it out using OEM stuff  and it was over 600 bucks, too much for me at the time.

The early bikes were 80 inch Shovelheads
The 80 inch (1,340cc.) motor was a torquer, and it did have great roll on acceleration in fourth gear. Unfortunately it was also a shaker. The factory had set the balance to work with the 55 mph. speed limit. From 50 to 60 mph. it was smoother than my 1,000cc. Sportster. At sustained speeds from 65-75 mph. it had incredible vibration that blurred the speedo and mirrors and worse, caused my butt to itch like crazy! Riding it for a long period at 70 mph, was worse than uncomfortable, it was painful. My Sporty was much smoother at an indicated 70 mph. I only took a couple of longer trips on the FLHS, which was a poor comparison to the years of touring on my old Sporty.

So I finally got the Big Twin I wanted for so long. It really wasn't that well suited to my riding style. Cornering clearance was lacking and it was easy to ground the primary case on hard bumpy turns. The first time I did that it was quite a surprise and I almost lost it. I resented having to restrain my enthusiasm while riding my FLHS. A couple of years later I ended up selling the bike to scrape together enough money to make a down payment on a house. But I kept my Sportster.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Five affordable hobby cars I've always wanted to own.

photo source:production cars .com.
The first generation Acura Legend coupe impressed me when it was  introduced. It was the first high level offering from a Japanese company.  The first Gen in many ways just seems like a bigger Accord, but the styling was sharper and more aggressive, with those fender blister flares, (very Audi Quatro like) and that beautiful airy greenhouse. These were powered by Honda's first V6 engine and while they were not viewed as true high performance machines, they were viewed as smooth, capable road machines. A manual transmission was available and was chosen by many buyers. Therefore it is still possible to find one listed for sale in the classifieds. The automatic transmission was not the car's strongest feature.

photo source:
The car's design appeals to me because of it's simplicity, clean detailing, and good taste. The interior is very Honda like, but that is not really a bad thing. Leather upholstery was available, but it's durability was very poor and most survivors look like someone kept their pet badger inside. The cloth interior isn't as plush, but it can hold up well.

While the build quality was good there were some long term reliability issues. Blown headgaskets are a common malady, and now that these cars are worth so little, many have been scrapped rather than repaired. I delved deep into this subject on various Acura forums and the consensus was that a malfunction of the crankcase breather system combined with a blocked EGR system and a ECM that could not compensate for these variables resulted in elevated combustion pressures due to detonation. Boom! The gasket could blow within seconds. The automatic transmission has a reputation of being rather fragile, but many cars have already had their's rebuilt, or ended up in the boneyard.

The second Gen is more athletic, with a burly Nissan Skyline kind of vibe. Performance and luxury were both increased. These cars are really quite plush inside. There were several performance levels available, both five and six speed manual transmissions were offered. I really believe that this is the car to get. Especially the type 2 six speed cars. I think the styling has held up, and the car has a powerful image to go along with the great name. These cars seem to have improved reliability over the first gen, but let's face it, these are getting to be old cars.

photo source:auto
I feel that stance and proportions are just right. I like the body colored metal panel around the tail lamps and the lack of chrome. LEGEND spelled out as individual letters is an awesome touch. again the leather upholstery is probably  on it's last legs. These cars are just the right size, able to transport up to four occupants and their luggage. 

photo source:pinterest

If I loved these cars so much, how come I haven't bought one? That's a good question, one I will revisit at the end of the post.

Toyota Supra second generation. The first generation of this car was more of a Japanese Monte Carlo. This car really hit it's stride, and in my opinion subsequent designs have never equaled this design. The design is a busy, kind of a squared off 70's look with a lot of Japanese market appeal fussiness, still for me the proportions are just right, and it's big enough to be a real four seat car, add in the hatchback and you've got a great useful classic.

Performance wise these never delivered on the promise of the DOHC design. Power output was pretty comparable to the contemporary Datsun 280 ZX. Like the 280 ZX the interior design reflects that 80's fussy Japanese futuristic (Godzilla?) vibe. The suspension was designed more for comfort than handling, as the trailing arm suspension was lifted from the Cressida sedan. The car is probably better suited as a GT, since the rear seat can handle a couple of passengers and a fair amount of luggage.

photo source:
I think these look better in a monochromatic respray as it blends bumpers, fender flares and hatch back into a more cohesive visual whole. These cars were never big sellers and they are not that common on the internet sales sites.

photo source: pinterest
Edsel Ford was a man of refinement and good taste. When he had his coachworks put together a customized version of a Lincoln Zephyr coupe, he created a car that caused a sensation among his Palm Beach Florida vacation community. This car started the movement to the luxury personal coupe. The long hood, short deck "Continental" design template influenced car design for the next forty years.

photo source:
As usual subsequent redesigns lost the elegant simplicity of the original design, with more added chrome and chunkier detailing. The design ended but was revisited with the sensational Mark II of the early 1950's. That particular car was a serious loss leader. There was never a way for Ford to recoup even their building expenses in  the sales price of that car. These early cars were never mass produced, and they could only add to the prestige of the Corporation, not the bottom line.

It was take a marketing genius like Lee Iaccoca to turn the high end personal car into a profit center for the Ford Company. The Mark III aka "The Chairman of the Board's Mustang", and like it, it was a sales success and set the tone for the rest of the lineage that followed.

The chrome grille, hidden headlights, and especially that simulated Continental spare tire, were strong classical cues. This car started the whole Brougham Era.  The Mark III was a modern classic in my eyes and I was sure that they would definitely be a hotly collectible and valued car, but it hasn't yet at this point.

Again the redesign got bigger and heavier. Since the Mark IV shared it's body with new enlarged Thunderbird, tooling costs were shared between them. This allowed for a higher profits that came from the increased production and sales. Now there was not a pretense of sportiness left with the T Bird. The Mark IV was a huge sales success.

The Mark V was a chiseled masterwork, especially in Bill Blass designer regalia. By this time the massive, opulent design was wearing out it's welcome. It was impossible to translate this baroque design language into a satisfyingly styled smaller automobile.

The downsized Mark VI was a disappointment. The effect was akin to dressing a sixth grader in a tuxedo, definitely not something to aspire to!

The Mark VII was a fresh new take on the personal coupe. It stopped lifting it's styling cues from the carriage trade and moved into the direction of the Autobahn. While it's styling does echo that of the new aero Thunderbird that debuted a couple of years earlier, the styling work was actually done before the release of the Thunderbird. The fuel injected Windsor gave pretty good performance, especially in the LSC, Luxury Sport Coupe. This model shared the high performance motor of the Mustang GT, although the increased weight of the Lincoln meant that the smaller Ford would be quicker. This would be taken care of by the time the Mark VIII debuted with the DOHC 32 valve version of the new 4.6 liter V8.

While this might look like a slightly bigger Thunderbird I find the overall effect is much more substantial and impressive. I will also admit that I still like the vestigial spare tire hump.

Mercedes Benz turbo diesel sedan. I have always been impressed by the Mercedes mystique. These products of the Seventies were at the pinnacle of their success and appeal. These cars hearken back to the day when the affluent buyer would buy a car for life. Buy one of these cars, or the gas powered 450 SEL, and that was it. Like the fine old Packard, or Pierce Arrow it was something that was maintained and treasured, and cherished for the rest of the owner's life. It became an heirloom, a part of the family. It made a statement about the success of the family, that didn't need to be restated every year, how gauche! Remember the Issotta Franchini in Sunset Boulevard?

Just the thing to drive out to your country home. photo source :pinterest

The 450 SEL was a fine car, a ground breaking design that eclipsed the future offerings from the American prestige makes, but the fuel economy was very poor, around twelve miles a gallon, and at the contemporary price of fuel, seemed awfully wasteful. The solution was to add the recently developed five cylinder diesel motor that had just had a turbo charger added, that was the wonder word of the Eighties. It actually delivered on the promise, performance was adequate, and fuel economy was greatly increased. I remember reading a magazine road test that reported that fuel economy could exceed 25 mpgs on the freeway (while driving at the mandated 55 mph speed limit, of course)

This was the more common setting for these cars. photo source:peach
That was impressive economy for the times, but by the time these had depreciated into my reach of affordability other cars offering much better performance with equal economy were available. My '94 Cadillac Seville STS would deliver that mileage as well as a top speed of 145 mph! Still I find myself attracted to these sedans. Actually any of the S class models of this period would be worth preserving.

The Porsche 944 was car that could deliver the fuel economy of a VW Rabbit with the handling and acceleration you would expect from a Porsche. This was delivered at a higher level with the later four valve and turbo charged engines. Four seats and a hatchback is a formula for a useful and practical hobby car. The 924 was a weak start, but there was steady improvement and development that resulted in the 944. The new motor and bodywork made for a car that needed no apologies. In fact, the 924S, which came equipped with the 944 motor makes for a pretty good sleeper.

Now, That, is one smooth car! photo source;pinterest

The flush front fascia is best shown in this shot. It makes the car look much more modern.
 photo source; elite auto report com.

While the Turbo has a smoother look, the standard model is pretty appealing. These cars have depreciated to the bottom of the curve and I would guess that they will start to go up soon. My biggest complaint is the ergonomics. The very low position of the steering wheel causes it to rub against my legs. There were changes made to the steering wheel as the model developed but it was still closer than I liked. It gave me the impression that I was too big for the car. Parts are probably more expensive than run of the mill Mustang and Camaro  parts, but as I have learned with my Jaguars, there are more affordable alternatives available.

Back in the day when the 924 was introduced and old 911s were a dime a dozen, I thought that this was going to be the way to Porsche's future. At this time I thought that the 911 was old hat, just a souped up VW bug that had surely reached the end of it's evolutionary time line. Now old 911s have increased in value, way out of my reach.

So, why didn't I buy these cars when I had the opportunity in the past? They were depreciating down to, or even below, my economic level. As in many things timing is everything.  At certain times I was able to buy  a brand new or late model car and I was tied up with added responsibilities and didn't have the time to fuss with an older car.

The Acura Legend was so appealing, but the problems with the motor and transmission put me off. Also at that time I was in the position to buy a much more expensive car and use it as the family car. So I made the move to a three year old Seville STS. I kept that car for ten years.

The Toyota Supra was an early Eighties model and at the time I was a Datsun Z fan. The Supra really didn't have a performance advantage over the Z and since I had a 2+2 model I already had a backseat for the kids. The Z also had a stronger enthusiast following. A few years later I decided to go with the '92 300ZX which was a much better performer than the early Supra. (Not a slight to the Supra, which by now, was of course much older).

photo source: bring a trailer .com.

It was much the same with the Mercedes. By the time I intersected with them I was looking for something different. My Seville was a terrific performer and while it might not have been better than a contemporary S class, it was heads and shoulders above the late 70s Mercedes Benz models.

The Porsche 944? Well no matter how impressive it was didn't really seem any better than that old 280Z of mine. And my legs haven't gotten any skinnier! 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

What ever happened to the spirit of adventure?

All photos from the National Old Trails Road Gallery

Oh why did they get to have all the fun?
It took a hardy and adventurous bunch to venture away from towns and the immediate settled areas, Once west of the Mississippi River the condition and even existence of passable roads could not be taken for granted. In many places the road only consisted of two tire tracks in the prairie extending out into the horizon. 

I had seen this book advertised in an old car magazine from the Fifties. It was in an ad featuring the various titles published by Floyd Clymer. Clymer was an early auto historian and his series of "Motoring Scrapbooks"  documented the many hundreds of machines and manufacturers at the turn of the Twentieth Century. The Scrapbooks were primarily just copies of period advertising and are a pleasure to read. I remember seeing a notation at the bottom of the advertisement that advised that "this is not a racing book".

This is a fictional novel that describes the events that transpire in a small Upstate New York village when the first motorcars are brought into this town. Their is a conflict between the owner of the livery business, as well as the common citizens that don't like the noisy machines that frighten their horses. This will develop and becomes a political showdown between the budding motoring class, who would like an "improved" highway cut off that will bring the motoring tourist into their town, and the existing Gentry and power brokers. It is a well written story, entertaining, with interesting characters. It puts a human face on a historical process. 

Ancient? Most of the vehicles were only 30-40 years old.

I keep my eyes open when at Antique Fairs and in Antique stores. I found this copy in a store in Clovis when I was there a couple of months ago. I managed to find a copy of one of Cylmer's Motoring Scrapbooks at a few weeks ago in the Santa Cruz flea market. I guess you could be a spoilsport and say that I could find these on E Bay. Probably, but usually I wasn't even thinking about the book until I saw it for sale. The fun is in the hunt and discovery. 

This next book is one of my favorites. American Road. It chronicles the Army Cross Country Motor Train of 1919. After WWI it becomes apparent that it might be militarily useful to have a through highway that would connect the two coasts. Luckily there was already plans under way to determine the best cross country route, this was to be named the Lincoln Highway. The Lincoln Highway Association attempted to gain the cooperation of communities across the country that were willing to support the building of improved highways in their counties.  It was initially started by major automakers, especially Henry Joy of Packard and tire manufacturers like Harvey Firestone. Henry Ford would have no part of it. He felt that such a massive undertaken should be financed by the Federal government and State and County agencies. It becomes a sanctioned federal government project when the Army decides to send out the land expedition. Interestingly enough a newly commissioned young lieutenant colonel named Dwight D. Eisenhower is assigned to the project. It seems that Ike developed a real interest in the transportation needs of the Country. After his exposure to the Autobahn in WWII he came home and championed the building of our Interstate Highway System. 

This book is very interesting and describes in detail how arduous the passage was. There are some incredible photos in the book. Conditions were pretty much the same as those in the pictures at the top of the page. This was after WWI and while there were many cities that were already quite modern with paved streets, electricity, telegraph, running water and sanitary sewers. The rural areas were another matter. There was a network of roads that connected the cities on each coast, but interior cities were primarily connected by the railroads. Very few people would try to drive from coast to coast. This was an era when most people did not venture very far from their birthplace. Everything you needed was close at hand, work, family, school and church. The graveyard too.

When Henry Ford envisioned the uses of his Model T, he felt that it would help Farmers and people living in small towns to stay in touch with friends and relatives. He also thought it would primarily used for pleasure touring. He probably never thought that cars would be used for daily commutes of over a hundred miles! Of course he probably never thought that their would ever be a network of cross country roads in his lifetime.

This book, Get a horse, was written in the early 1950s and it is a general history of the Auto Age in America. What is remarkable is that there were still lots of people around that remembered the early days. Most people's Grand Parents and even Parents had a first hand experience with the arrival of the horseless carriage. During the half Century chronicled in the book, the automobile evolved from horseless carriage pictured on the cover to the "Shoebox" Ford and revolutionary 1949 OHV Cadillac V8.

There is a great photo section that showcases the first Packard, named "Old Pacific"  that crossed the country in 1903. One of the first cars to do this. 

Is the spirit of adventure dead? I don't think so. Even though the cars of today are amazing comfortable, safe, and reliable and the roadways are generally smooth as glass, we all look forward to a road trip. My Son just returned from a two week, cross country trip. I've managed to put 10,000 miles on my XJ6 since I bought it in March. I shared some of my roadtrips in an earlier post. I've got lots of plans for more trips in the year to come. 

Back in the days when I did most of my long range trips on motorcycles, I really felt like an adventurer. On a motorcycle you have to brave the Elements "mano a mano". You are intimately involved in the experience. It's not like the only effort you have is setting the cruise control on your Lincoln. You have to battle the road to gain every mile. Motorcycle touring helps connect you to the pioneering spirit of the last Century. At least you feel that way. 

Back in the day I was younger also. I was covering new ground, a combination of discovery and freedom. Motorcycle touring was an accessible challenge and it provided a real sense of achievement. In fact all of my early road trips were by motorcycle. I took three very significant trips.

The first was through the Pacific Northwest. 

The second was around the western states.

The third was my most epic. A four week solo trip around the Country. 

These were great adventures. These were all accomplished before I graduated from college. I've got a lot more years on my odometer but I still find myself anticipating another over the road journey.

One trip that I'm dreaming about is a possible trip up the West Coast in a Model T. Will it ever happen? 
Time will tell.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Buried Alive! A chilling scene from an old horror film, an even more chilling feeling when it concerns your garage and driveway.


Sometimes it happens suddenly, like an avalanche. Sometimes it happens slowly, like sand and gravel pouring down slowly and steadily. It starts to cover your feet and ankles, but you are not too concerned. You can still lift your feet out of the increasing torrent. Then you are distracted for a moment and find that the gravel has risen to above your knees. Now you're starting to get a little concerned. All of the sudden the cliff collapses and you are quickly buried up past your head and you raise a hand in a vain attempt to stop the flow or summon help.

How did this happen, why were you poking around in those gullies and valleys  anyways? Looking for bargains of course! Sometimes it's not just enough to pick the low hanging fruit, sometimes you want to scoop up the fruit that has already fallen to the ground. 

So  you find something at a great deal that you can't pass on and snap it up. Sure, you already got several old junkers lying around that could use some work, but you can't turn down a good deal right? Gotta buy it before some one else snaps it up! 

When you are dealing with sub 1,000.00 cars you find that there are not really that much competition bidding for these vehicles. Unless it's a Mustang fastback w/title for under a grand! While these low level cars are easy to buy, selling some of your earlier project cars is another matter. Now you are on the other side of the fence, where you want to sell the car more than most folks want to buy it. Sure doesn't seem that way when the shoe is on the other foot. ( By the way, this is how you are able to negotiate a screaming deal. If the seller doesn't wince at your offer, than you left too much money on the table!)

So you buy the car anyway. Eventually you can sell one of your cars. But now you got another car sitting around taking up space, costing you money. Insurance, registration, maintenance and repair. And maybe even ticking off your neighbors. Not a good thing. So the sand starts filling in around your feet.

Always room for one more! photo source:

But you don't really notice, your auto enthusiasm is now focused on your new toy. So you either don't notice, or you push it out of your mind. Then LIFE intervenes. We don't live in a social vacuum, especially those of us with spouses and children. They've got their claims to our attention, time and money. That's not always a bad thing, our lives should always be more than about ourselves or cars, or any other hobby. Unless you are or want to be a hermit. So you don't really notice when the sand starts rising above your ankles.

Then something happens to one of your daily drivers. It needs tires, or a battery, or a starter, or brakes, a radiator,  hoses, belts, etc, etc. Spread this out over several cars and the stream of sand starts increasing. Something big like a transmission or engine failure that can sideline a vehicle and just might cause one of your cars to become driveway or curbside still life. Perhaps one of your current project cars is already languishing in front of your house. Hey, are those boulders starting to roll down the hill?

Then another of your drivers needs something, something that will take it out of your driving rotation. So now you are forced to take action and tear into it. So a couple of your cars are sidelined and you start to worry that if another of your cars goes down, then you are going to start being in real trouble! When THAT happens, the side of the cliff gives way, and despite your best efforts the hillside has crumbled and you are way under the dirt and debris.

I kind of find myself in a similar hazardous position. I already have one non runner, my XJS. I had a surplus vehicle that I had fully intended to sell. my '96 Mustang. That car is now in the garage undergoing a very frustrating and tiring repair. My XJ6 was a favorite driver, and I made it a point to drive it as much as possible. Good thing. I wanted to be a Jaguar driver, not a Jaguar tender. I knew that it was going to need some suspension bushing work, as it had been pulling to left a bit as I drove it. Several  weeks ago I parked it with the front wheel pointing away from the curb and noticed that the inside edge of the left front tire was almost worn to the cords! UH OH! So I swapped the spare tire on and put the car on my squawk list. So it is also on the "drive it as little as possible" list. Well I've always got my F150, right? Well after the bad gas fiasco it was doing fine. Until I parked it and noticed that the inside edge of the left front tire was looking pretty worn, also. I knew that I should have rotated the tires last year! So this is also on the reduced driving list until I can rotate the tires. If it would just stop raining for a few days! It has become apparent to me that I've got to step up my game, and fast. That Mustang has got to get out of the garage, and quick. I've started feeling the unmistakable tremors. The water in the glass is starting to shake like in that unforgettable scene in Jurassic Park. Something very unpleasant is coming.

So now I am tip- toeing around in the lowlands, very carefully, not making too much noise, and glancing warily up at the cliff edge. I've seen the starting small rivers of sand and gravel beginning to run down the hillside and I'm stepping around the falling debris. I've got to get ahead of this, but It's hard to work quickly with your fingers crossed!