Sunday, June 16, 2019

Happy Father's Day!

Memories of better days!
I've lost my assistant since he's now almost twenty years older and much busier.

Cars, Dads and Kids.

It's one way that we as Fathers can try to connect with our children. Male or female. It's stereotypical to consider this bond as existing only between Dads and their Sons, but of course it can also exist between Dads and their Daughters.

For my kids there was no bonding over sports. No T Ball, soccer, or softball. I never had an interest in sports and I wasn't going to fake it and spend a lot of time taking my kids to activities that I had absolutely no interest in. I guess that makes me a poor Dad in that area at least, but that's how it is. The kids are all grown up now and they seem to survived okay.

All the following photos from The Happy racing web site.

Octane magazine is a great window into how the other half lives. There are some rallies advertised that are Father and Son (and now daughter) Ferrari owners events. Padre Figlio by HappyFew racing. They are restricted to only one example of each model! The photos in the advertisement shows it to be a pretty swanky affair.

Really that's all well and good. I'm not hating on these lucky guys who happen to be rich. There is absolutely nothing that prohibits us regular guys from doing the same thing. One of Octane's columnists wrote about how a group of his buddies got together to have a "poor mans's run" with their more common classics.

I have a future post featuring a group called Road Adventures. This is a grass root type of low key organization that produces local Northern California day drives and tours. They even produce off road adventures and drives. This sounds like a great way to get out and meet some fellow car enthusiasts.

Get together with a few of your old or collector car owning buddies and plan a two or three day outing with your Sons or Daughters. Pick a back roads route to some interesting sights and places that would have activities kids would enjoy. Let your kid navigate and make some route choices. Camp or stay in a group at a nice little hotel. Pack a few things to have a picnic lunch along the way. Travelling in a small caravan of three to four cars would make it an event to remember.

It may sound trite, but there is a "best by" date on their childhood. Once they get older it will be hard to find the time to spend with them. They will be busy and possibly won't want to hang out with the Old Man anymore.

My Wife and I just recently from my annual trip up to the Oregon Coast. It's a drive that I enjoy and the weather this year was again beautiful. I made the trip in my F150 because my other vehicles weren't quite ready or appropriate. Somehow my truck has become my enthusiasts driving vehicle. I've made the trip in my XJ6 before and it was such fun to drive one of my special cars. Like a lot of car guys I get buried in unfinished projects and end up having to take my daily driver. Still,it doesn't matter what car I drive, what counts is the trip itself.

This year I returned home to a new experience. As I pulled up my street I couldn't see my Explorer, which had been parked at the curb. I hoped that maybe my Daughter had used it for some errand. I noticed some broken glass in the street where I had parked it. As I pulled up in front I saw that it wasn't in the driveway either. I knew instantly that it had been stolen.

Why would someone steal an old worthless car? Well, it wasn't exactly worthless to me. I've found it to be quite useful and I enjoyed driving it. This is the first time that I've ever had a vehicle stolen. I know that lots of you out there have probably been in the same boat. So now I'm a member a club I'd never thought that I would have to join. I'm wondering if it was stolen because it had a fuel injected 5.0 small block Ford V8 in it. Maybe someone decided to use the motor in a project of their own.

Like most of my old cars it was only covered by liability insurance, so the loss is just going to come out of my pocket.

I had been considering selling it in attempt to thin the herd. That decisions been made for me now. Darn, I'd just fixed that leaky thermostat housing!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Gears and Gasoline. YouTube. Lot's of videos here!

I was introduced to this YouTube channel when I stumbled across their Florida to Alaska road trip series of videos. This is the first of the three videos. Honestly, I'm uncontrollably attracted to anyone's story of an epic road trip.

Even Today, a long distance, cross country motor trip can still grab the imagination. Probably because most long distance continental travel is now accomplished by air. It's so much quicker and easier to fly across the country than to drive. You use up less of your precious vacation time and can enjoy more time at your destination. But like with everything there is a price that you pay. You lose the experience of the travel itself. You lose the freedom to stop at and follow your curiosity at places that you encounter. You miss the breathtaking scenery and vistas, but on the other hand you miss hours of driving through flat boring prairie land.

I was also attracted to their earlier videos that covered a range of grass roots automotive enthusiast subjects. Their early videos explore some of the basic questions that surround the car community, such as:

"Why are we interested in Cars in the first place?"

It's a common refrain among the old guys that kids Today aren't into cars.  That might be true. I don't see any kids in my neighborhood fooling around with old Chevy Novas or even old Acura Integras, for that matter. On the other hand there's a small informal cruise in at the local Lucky supermarket parking lot on Saturday night. There are also plenty of slammed, stickered up, noisy, compacts on the local freeways. It could be that the kid's cars go unnoticed by the oldster crowd. They just look like the regular econoboxs and hatchbacks that make up a large part of the traffic around here.

Some us old guys wouldn't recognize anything but a '57 Chevy or an old Camaro. For me, a car is something that you need. But also something that you want. Cars are a means of self expression.

The easy answer to this question is a resounding Yes! Of course you can be into cars on a budget, it's not like most of us have a choice! We've got to do the best we can, with what we have. I've always said that it's a car guy's job to find the most fun he can, at a price that he can afford.

Most of my family know how to drive a stick shift. My oldest daughter and Son still have manual shift cars. I haven't driven one in a while, but I haven't forgotten. Last year as I was driving up the Oregon coast and I was explaining to my Wife how I enjoyed the act of driving itself. Even when driving an auto transmission equipped car. I explained that I enjoyed matching the rpm and power band of the motor to the hilly and curvy terrain. I would apply enough throttle to maintain our speed but not enough to cause a downshift. The narrow, twisty road requires my attention to maintain a smooth line through the curves. I told her that balancing these different inputs was a kind of "dance" with the vehicle and the road. Of course she really got a laugh out of that! My Wife has never enjoyed driving so I know that she could never relate to my explanation. I've always loved driving and riding a motorcycle, and those of you that feel the same way, know what I mean.

I still stand by that description

In this video they address a subject that is familiar to anyone who frequently visits the Internet. Luckily this is not the virulent hate that infests some dark corners of the Web. It addresses the nonchalant derision and dismissive attitude and commentary so prevalent in comment sections.

There are many different types of automotive enthusiasm. Japanese compacts, European sports and compact cars, modern Pony and Muscle cars, classic muscle cars, Lowriders, trucks and 4 X4s, collector cars, and even kit cars.

We all have our own preferences and that's quite understandable. That's what makes the car community so interesting. Most of us will find that their interests will change and develop and even "mature" over the years.

We just have to remember that a enthusiast's car is important to them. Whether it's modified or stock it is a reflection of what they want. It is an expression of who they are. If you feel a need to feel that you are better than someone else, than that is your problem, not theirs. Like our Mother's taught us, "If you don't have anything nice to say than don't say anything at all.

Beater Cars? Who would be promoting Beater cars?  G&G makes a pretty good argument. There is a lot of freedom in driving a beater. Sometimes though, there isn't a lot of satisfaction. Of course if it is a Better Beater than it's a different story!

Just a couple of Bens. It's a great story of a couple of young guys following their passion. The quality of their videos is very high. They are very earnest in their desire to provide a quality site for their fellow enthusiasts. The content is skewed towards the import side of the spectrum, especially Japanese cars, but they have other features, a "getting to know (somebody)" that allows them to introduce other automotive personalities to their audience.

Yes, I am a fan and a subscriber. I even ordered a couple of their decals to put on my car's rear windows!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

More from the Blackhawk Museum.

This Stanley Wanlass sculpture summarizes the conflict of 1950's car enthusiasts;
Show or Go? Many cars had a bit of both!

The museum features a quite a few of these bronze sculptures on display throughout the hall. They are table top sized but very detailed. They all manage to convey a sense of urgency and motion. The artist has enlivened and captured the spirit and vitality in his portrayal of the vehicles and their drivers.

A 1950's Plymouth Dream Car displays a clear Italian influence.
There is a definitively a level of restraint displayed that is uncommon in most 1950's Dream Cars.

Besides Classics and one off Dream  Cars the museum displays some relatively "ordinary" cars. These are cars that were pretty commonly seen in my youth, but were rarely found in such a well preserved state. These have probably been restored to a much higher level than their OEM build quality.

Jaguar E Type

There had been several opportunities for me to buy one of these beauties in the past. I remember a nice convertible that was for sale when I was in Junior College back in 1975. It was parked in a prominent spot in the lot, and I drove and walked past it many times. Who would have been crazy enough to pay 1,000 dollars for a decent runner then? Not me. My interests at the time were motorcycles and old American luxury cars. I was driving a '66 Lincoln sedan. I also had a '70 Honda CB 750 motorcycle. Other opportunities presented themselves over the ensuing twenty five years at higher, but still reasonable and attainable prices. I had not been bitten by the Jaguar bug and there  was always something else that I wanted more. Besides, there would always be plenty of time to buy one in the future!

My Uncle bought one of these Austin Healeys when I was in the eighth grade. I remember being wedged in the backseat when he gave me and my brother a ride up to the UC Berkeley campus. I was pretty impressed. I thought that this sports car thing might be something to get involved with. Cars like this were not exactly common in my East Oakland neighborhood when I was growing up. My Uncle lost his enthusiasm for the Healey when a front wheel came loose and feel off on an early morning drive along the Sacramento River. Knock off wire wheels were not something that he was familiar with.

These cars were once common, driven as old beaters. Like with most old British sports cars they have also increased greatly in price. I like the classic mounting of the driving lights. It makes you miss metal bumpers.

The original an still the best.

It seems that there were once orange and other brightly colored Zs everywhere. I even managed to snag a couple for myself in the not too distant past. Luckily I sold them before they were worth anything, my usual practice! It's good to see the Z get the attention that it deserves. It was a real game changer. It's popularity and acceptance sounded a death knoll for the popular British models. The Z, and the 510 were also the first Japanese cars that earned the respect of the American motoring community.

It's nice to see examples of cars at their best. Sometimes you want to remember these cars as shiny and new, like the first time you saw them. I enjoy seeing survivor cars, not only at shows and museums but parked on the street displaying the patina of actual usage. My favorite website, Curbside Classics, is devoted to showcasing cars like that.

As in most museums, you can spend your time and focus on what you now find interesting. That will definitely change over the years. I have found my appreciation of many other types of cars expanding from what I would have liked when I was younger. You might visit this museum and choose to highlight another selection of cars, that's what keeps it interesting and fun.


From Glamour to Grime!

I have been keeping an eye on the Explorer and I had noticed that there was coolant pooling on the top of the timing case, under the thermostat housing. I knew that the coolant was either coming from a leaking hose or the housing seam. I checked the hose and it was okay. It seems that it was coming from the housing so I decided to remove it and replace the gasket.

As it turned out, there wasn't a gasket in place. The surface had been sealed with an application of RTV silicon sealant. It had deteriorated over time until there was a leak. I went to the local auto parts store and bought the gasket, a new bypass hose, and a new thermostat. If I was going to remove the housing I might as well replace the thermostat. The bypass hose was replaced because I anticipated bending it to point where the old hose would possibly break, or worse, start leaking at a later time. Much easier to do it now. I hadn't experienced any cooling problems, but better to replace these inexpensive parts while I'm in there. I could easily replace the upper hose when it becomes necessary.

I loosened the radiator connection of the upper hose, then disconnected the other end from the housing. I just bent the hose back and it didn't let any water escape from the radiator. I wasn't so lucky at the other end. Still, the loss was minimal.

Good old aluminum casting.
Unlike the plastic parts used on my 2007 Mustang.

There was enough room to work and remove the two bolts holding the housing after I disconnected the hose and removed the small bypass hose.  A small amount of coolant spilled out of the housing spigot and even more when I removed the housing itself. I used a long 1/2 inch box wrench to loosen the bolts initially. There was  limited space available to swing the wrench. A ratchet and an internally ratcheting box wrench really made the rest of the job easier.

These wrenches are worth their weight in gold when space is tight.
This design is now available at discount tool suppliers.

I cleaned up the two bolts by initially using a wire brush and then my die set to chase the threads of the bolts. They were pretty cruddy from rust and previously used sealers. A little extra time spent on this can save lots of problems later.

I keep my roll around work table covered with cardboard.

I just used a Q-tip to clean out the internal threads. (Don't tell my Wife!) The mating surfaces were also carefully cleaned. I applied my favorite sealer, Gasgacinch to the gasket and sealing area. It's good stuff!

You shouldn't wander too close to the racetrack
 with a sticky gasket in your hand!

Like many items sold to old time mechanics, the manufacturer used a picture of a pretty girl to get their interest. The can has't been redesigned- yet.

Yes, I was too lazy to bring out my tap set.

This is the type of basic repair that any hobbyist can do at home. As long as you don't mind getting your hands a little dirty. After buttoning everything up I refilled it with coolant and started the motor and let it heat up to check for leaks. There weren't any. Just to be sure I used the Explorer that week to drive to work. Check this repair off the to do list.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

A visit to the Blackhawk museum in Danville California.

The Behring Museum (the actual name of the museum)
is not your typical car museum.

I had been anticipating attending the British car swap meet in Davis for months, so I was quite disappointed when it was cancelled due to rain. We have been having a lot of heavy rain. This is so uncommon this late in the season but I shouldn't complain. What we're experiencing doesn't compare to the parts of the country that suffers from tornadoes and other furies of nature.

Still I had to satisfy my car lovers fix, so I decided an hour long drive in the rain wasn't too much of a price to pay. The Blackhawk, museum is a quality place, much like the Petersen Museum of Los Angeles. Even though it's much closer, I find that I've visited the Petersen more than the Blackhawk. For many reasons I frequently find myself in southern California. I've been there three times in the last few years, while it's been over fifteen years since I've been to this museum.

The California Auto museum located in Sacramento, is another, almost local destination for the car enthusiast. I've only been there once so far.  

I suppose that I should put together a listing of California car museums then I can plan attending events in the area. 

This museum is a classy place! The floor is black granite. The background and walls are dark, and the cars are well lighted with focused spotlighting. Unfortunately these lights make it hard to take photographs ( at least for someone of my photographic skills!). Featured cars are displayed prominently while some others are clustered a bit close to each other.

The Cord made a quite an impression on me when I first became aware of them. It was so advanced for it's time with front wheel drive and a supercharged engine. And that shape so clean and devoid the excessive ornamentation that was so favored by Detroit.

Speaking of ornamentation, this Mustang suffers from this same affliction. Still it works in this case, no one is looking for subtly here. This is one of the actual star cars from the Gone in 60 Seconds remake starring Nicholas Cage.

This T-Bird the "Italien Coupe," was designed by Vince Gardner. It was displayed at the 1964 World's fair along with the 1965 Mustang. This show car previewed the fastback roofline that was going to debut on the Mustang the following year. It's interesting that the roof is made of fiberglass. I was curious how it was joined to the rest of the steel bodywork. I imagine that it meets the quarter panel under the chrome strip and at the forward opening of the trunk. This would minimize the area that the fiberglass would have to be blended with the steel panels.

This classic luxury car looks so dramatic and impressive in a jewel tone of green. Imagine the kind of person that could own a 1933 Packard Super 8 sedan.

The Hispano Suiza was a stylish auto that influenced the first Cadillac Le Salle. Bill Mitchell, head of design  at Cadillac, was knowledgeable and familiar with contemporary.styling trends.

Here is another car that fired up my imagination as a budding young enthusiast. I grew up a confirmed big car fan. Cadillacs were always my cup of tea. Auburn Boat tail Speedsters were never known as shrinking violets, they were as big and bold as the American Dream. It just so happens that my interest in classic Speedsters has been rekindled as of late. I had hoped that I might find a Stutz Bearcat or Mercer Raceabout in the collection.

This is the car that influenced Bill Mitchell when he
designing the 1971 Buick Riviera.

Here is another expansive Classic that perhaps should have had it's design reined in a bit. It was a private commission so I imagine it satisfied the tastes of the wealthy patron. Constructed by famed coachbuilder Figoni et Falasci.

1947 DelaHaye type 135. Narwhal?

Maybe the middle fin could have been omitted
 but arrows have three feathers.

Now you see where the name narwhale comes in.
I do love the enclosed front wheels.

The front end resembles an angry cartoon character,
 "Hey, Where's the love!"

Here's a home grown creation, tastefully and colorfully done. It's a 1940 Lincoln Zephyr with a chopped top. A hot rodded Kustom with a very high level of finish. Certain modern customs achieve coach built levels of execution.


1948 Bentley sport Tourer.

Here's a post War coachbuilt Bentley from the House of Saoutchik. The placard states that it was one of the few post War commissions completed by the House. I thought that I had taken a few more photos but I must have gotten distracted and not returned.

The reflections are hard to avoid!

This is a 1955 Bentley Sports Saloon. This caught my eye because it is four years newer than the Jaguar in my sideyard. The two cars were similar in purpose and execution but the Bentley was aimed at a more expensive niche. The Jaguar was built to a price, and the Mark VII was often derided as a "Wardour Street Bentley," whatever that means. I can safely surmise that it wasn't meant as a compliment.

A 1938 Bugatti Type 57 coupe. This car was designed by Mr. Bugatti himself. I visited the Bugatti display at the Petersen museum, which was an unbelievable presentation. It's hard to believe that this name lives on as part of the Volkswagen empire.

I enjoy seeing vintage high performance engines displayed as the pieces of art that they are. This Duesenberg motor was displayed in an acrylic box. I suppose this was done to protect it from any light fingered patrons who might want to take home a souvenir. It did make it difficult to take a good photograph. The sign definitely wasn't up to the standards set by the museum.

There's still much more to see. You can see a lot of additional cars in the background of my photographs. These were all very interesting cars worthy of coverage, but I had my own favorites. That's the beauty of a museum, you can concentrate on the areas that you find especially appealing. I'll continue with another installment in a future post.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Vice vs. Versa?

This angle make the Mustang appear to be much larger than the Nissan
 but they are actually pretty close in size.

Today I picked up a rental car for my trip down to Riverside.

A Mothers Day visit to my Mother in law, it would be the Wife and myself and my daughter. The F150 was out. While two can travel in spacious comfort and luxury adding a middle passenger would be quite unpleasant.

Three passengers would be quite cramped and uncomfortable, I know, I've done it. So the truck is out.

Besides my F150 I currently don't have anything that would be appropriate for this trip.

My '96 Mustang GT would easily make the trip, I did a weekend trip to Riverside last year, where I dropped off my Wife, who flew back. I thoroughly enjoyed the drive. Yes, the ride can be rough and there is a little exhaust rumble but I find it fun. It is yards ahead in comfort than any motorcycle I've ever ridden.

My Wife says that she doesn't mind the ride, but my Daughter would be quite cramped in the back seat for a trip of this length. Worst of all, is that the rear seat back is low, with no headrest. The rear seat passenger cannot lean back with their head supported. They really can't lean up against the side of the top. When my kids have fallen asleep in the back seat their head just falls forward and hangs there. A situation that had just gotten worse as the kids grew up.

I would take the Explorer but it also shares the rough ride and rattle can thing. Fortunately I was checking under the hood when I observed coolant pooling on the top of the motor. It appears that it is leaking from the thermostat housing. Not a real bad leak, but a leak nonetheless. I've always advised that you should never take a car on a long trip if you know that there is something wrong with it.
So the Explorer is a no go, at least for this trip. I have used it quite a bit to carry three to four passengers and it's quite useful. It's rated as 19 mpg. highway on the window sticker. Not too impressive. However that's still better than my buddy's newer Chevy Tahoe.

How about my XJ6?

Like I said don't take a car with a problem. I'm still dealing with the leaking rim.

It runs fine, and it even seems that the suspension problem is not as bad as I had thought. There are still some bad thumps in the suspension going over bumps that I'd like to address first.

Could we have taken the 2007 Mustang?  Maybe. However there is still the issue with the backseat.

Back when this was our family car we took many trips to LA, Clearlake and even further in this car. It is cramped back there. The other issue is that there is only one opening side window, the door glass. My Daughter likes to ride with an open window, and the noise and buffeting get to me and my Wife. Especially over a 800 mile trip.

So that left me with the option of renting a car.

It would be nice to rent a new car that gets much better mileage. The best of my fleet only return 25mpg.

At Enterprise we had a choice between a Versa, a Frontier quad cab p/u, or a Dodge minivan.

I chose the Versa.

Panel fit and paint quality are first rate.

Styling is not what I would call attractive
but it is utilitarian.

I really liked the dash lay out and the quality
 and workmanship of assembly was quite good. I found the seats supportive.

The backseat had plenty of legroom. The driver's seat is already adjusted to my liking.
The tall seats give plenty of leg room.

The trunk is large, well shaped, with a pass through.
The opening is much larger than my '96 Mustang

Gone are the days of the puny 13 in. wheels.
The Versa sported 15 in 195 cross section tires on alloy wheels.

It may sound funny, but since I don't have much contact with modern compact cars I am quite impressed with how far they have evolved. I haven't owned a compact car since I sold my Civic back in 1995.

Last Summer I got to drive my Daughter in Law's little Hyundai and I will admit that I was quite impressed. These cars have very good space utilization.

Readers my age might have memories of cramped, under powered VW Bugs, Pintos, Vegas, or early Honda Civics. These cars lacked any luxury or comfort features.

I have previously written about my Civics. I found my '75 coupe and wagon to be quite good little cars. My '90 Civic SI remains one of my favorite cars of all time.

I drove 800 miles in two days, to Riverside and back. What did I discover?

That these compact cars have evolved, quite a bit.

What about power?  one of the most basic complaints of old school compacts. No issue there.

My route included both Pacheco Pass Rd, SR 152 and the infamous Grapevine of Interstate 5. Loaded with three adults plus some luggage the car easily maintained 75mph. the whole length of I 5. There was plenty of power for accelerating uphill and entering freeway on ramps. I even cruised at 80 mph. a few times. It's got 100 hp and I don't doubt it could easily hit 100 mph or more. Punch the throttle and the motor will wind out, banging out shifts. Very impressive.

Oh, to be picky the motor was a little loud under load, especially when it down shifted. The transmission could also be a little rough at low speeds.

How about the ride and handling?

The car turned 30,000 miles over this weekend. The ride was quiet but a bit "pitchy" over rough road. Though nothing shook or started rattling. The brakes were very good. It was not designed to be a road car, but it can do it! The car feels somewhat "busy " at high highway speeds, especially mixing it up among the big rigs and gusting side and head winds. It is sensitive to side winds and accidental inputs to the steering wheel. It took me a while to learn that two hands on the wheel help dampen any over corrections on my part.

The suspension was not intended as a sporting set up but it held the road well, thanks to the large tires.  There was a noticeable amount of body roll when put through a tight turn.

Accommodations; The car is designed to accommodate four adults. The seats are mounted high and legroom front and rear is very good.. The car is quite tall and at 5'10'' I found plenty of headroom. A six footer would be comfortable. The shortcoming is that the interior is rather narrow. There isn't enough space to have an armrest that can be used by both driver and passenger, The rear seat is also lacking a center arm rest. While there are front and rear cupholders, they are not easily accessible. There aren't any cubbyholes in the dash for phones, eyeglasses or such, but there just isn't that much real estate to put those things.

Like most modern cars it is fully equipped with things that used to be optional luxuries: A/C, tinted glass, cruise control, tilt wheel, power windows and locks, trunk release, and a blue tooth connected infotainment system.

Passenger safety items like twin airbags and effective seatbelts and ABS are all part of the package.

Economy? Over the 800 miles the average fuel consumption was 34.8 mpg. I spent 96.00 on fuel for the entire trip! My truck would have returned under 20 mpg. for this trip under similar conditions.

So am I ready to ditch all my old cars for a modern compact vehicle?

While this Nissan served admirably in this situation it did have it's limitations.

So what did I think of the car?

Comparing older cars against new, is something of an apples vs. oranges comparison.

Does my Mustang or any other cars in my fleet really meet the requirements of "vice"?

Some were purchased because they served a purpose,  such as my F150 and later, my Explorer.

The others,well, they filled a desire. Some have actually fulfilled this desire for a long time. Like my Mustang convertible.

One also served as my daily for about a year and a half, My XJ6,

The XJS was bought as wish fulfillment as it really hasn't been used as a real car. It was just a method to allow me to take part in a fantasy. That's what I get for reading Octane magazine.

My poor old Mark VII just inhabits  a strange place in my mind, a hopeful fantasy, but even worse than my XJS.

Perhaps the best conclusion that I can draw is that a new compact car could fulfill most of my everyday needs in a more economical manner. Except that to save money on gas I would have to cough up more than fifteen grand to buy one!