Saturday, February 16, 2019

POR-15; is this a dirty word?

Rusty metal has always been the bane of the automotive restorer. Especially the amateur home restorer. It has always required special equipment and techniques to address it. Either cut it out and replace the metal or patch it with "some kind" of material. Over the years fiberglass, bondo and chicken wire, and finally epoxy putties and coatings have become available. There was a thread on the HAMB where guys that had bought cars that were painted and looked to be in decent shape found inches of bondo slathered over tin foil, chicken wire, and even balled up newspapers! When the new owners decided to fix the cracking paint or to make some additional modifications they found that their cars fenders, doors, and rocker panels were just a mass of plastic filler.


Chip away at cracked Bondo at your own peril.

It is easy to condemn the people that repaired these cars in such a shoddy manner, but the reality is that the repairs were performed when these cars were virtually worthless, and nobody thought that they would be around twenty or thirty years later. The idea was to get a few more years of service out of them.

Large areas of surface rust must be dealt with effectively or the new coats of paint won't stick properly and the rust will continue and bubble up to the surface.

My Mark VII has large areas of surface rust and a couple of areas of rust through that must be dealt with. There is a process where the entire car body can be dipped in a tank of chemicals that will dissolve away all paint, filler, and rust, leaving clean metal that can be repaired. This would be the preferred choice if money was no object, and a complete restoration of a vehicle was going to be pursued.

photo source: metal dipping .com
This would a pleasure to work on, clean bare metal!

The entire car would have to be stripped to a shell and transported to a facility for the process. There are only a limited number of facilities located in the U.S. Would I spend this kind of money on a 900.00 Mark VII? Of course not.

But of course I have a plan. And it's a cheapskate approved plan!

I intend to sand off the surface rust on the roof hood and decklid with an electric palm sander that I bought at Harbor Freight Tools, I even bought the one year replacement service plan. I recall a poster on the HAMB who said that he he had burned out two of these sanding down his car, with a free replacement on both!

Just what the Dr. ordered.

Then I will use the whole POR 15 system. The cleaner /degreaser followed by their Metal Prep. This way the products should work well together. Then I will apply a coat of POR rust encapsulating paint, followed by some high build primer. This process will stop further corrosion and protect the metal until I can get the car painted.

This is a high quality, metal infused body filler. I intend to use this as well as POR 15 epoxy putty. Regular old Bondo will soak up moisture like a sponge creating an ample opportunity to create an unseen rusty mess.

If the paint was only worn through to the primer in some areas and had small patches of surface rust I might consider retaining the "patina" though this just too much of a good thing!

Surface rust covers the top of the hood.

The car is now in my yard, but it doesn't look any better.

I initially started writing this post almost a year ago, well before I moved the  car into the sideyard. This winter of 2019 has been a real gully washer. Today there was torrential scattered rain and even a hailstorm. Luckily hail in the Bay Area is "rice crispy" sized, not walnut sized. It's entertaining but won't cause any damage to cars that are parked outside. I am glad that the State has received enough rain to technically end the drought, but it is messy and cuts down on working on the cars in the driveway.

Time to focus on my other projects. The Mark will have to wait it's turn.

I'm very happy that my XJS is sitting safe, snug, and dry in the garage. I still have to order the replacement suspension arm bushings before I can get to work. Since I have a copy of the factory repair manual I'll study up on the procedure before I will jack up the car and take a look underneath.

The time for talking is over. Time to crawl around on the garage floor.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Thinking about getting a "Forever Car?"

If I found this, Would I would keep it forever!
Probably not.

If there one thing that I have learned from all this smog test hassle is that certain cars will be difficult to carry forth into the future.

Is an older, pre smog car really the answer?

Yes, they are usually much simpler of design. Carburetor instead of fuel injection. Simple hydraulic disc or drum brakes. No added complexity from an ABS system.

They are also sometimes lacking in modern creature comforts like A/C, cruise control, power windows, seats, etc.

Even more importantly they are grievously lacking in safety features. You can add a good set of three point safety belts, but collapsible steering columns, air bags or even engineered crumple zones are not on the agenda. This is an area that warrants a more complete discussion at another time.

Is the idea of an everyday classic driver a realistic dream? Should it be?

Sometimes holding onto an old car can turn into a joke. Back in my old neighborhood, there was a very old man named Mr. Marshal. Mr. Marshal drove a 1949 Chevrolet sedan, which he  had purchased new.  Let's do the math. He was driving this car in 1975, so at the time it was only 26 years old. The paint was faded and dulled to a matte gray color. The interior looked like an explosion in a cotton mill. As plumes of stuffing erupted through the worn upholstery. There were dents and scrapes along the entire right side of the car.  The white tire sidewalls were completely mangled from his parking strategy. Just run the wheels into the curb, then it'll be close enough. It came equipped with what he described as his "own version" of an automatic transmission.  He just left it in second gear and slipped the clutch like crazy to get started. Since he only drove around the neighborhood, he didn't have a need to shift into third. I imagine that he went through quite a few clutches.

Not exactly the kind of image that I want to project.

Still, a simpler, less complicated vehicle might be easier to maintain. But would you want to?

Some parts will be come harder to source as the years progress.

Especially for a car that was never meant to be a mass market model.

My Jaguars fall into that category. Not all of them, but primarily the Mark VII.

Some parts are already kind of pricey and hard to source.

Of course some things can be replaced by modern components.

I learned from my smog doctor that modern universal replacement catalytic converters could be legally used on my XJS.

Good news.

Last week I explained how Burt Monroe kept his '21 Indian motorcycle competitive by fabricating new parts out of available materials.

Pre War Hot Rods are now primarily built out of reproduction parts. Or so many components have been replaced over the years that there are almost nothing original left. Kind of like Grandpa's old axe. Two new handles and a new head. It only resembles the original.

I thank this site for making these ads available.

I love this ad because it displays the relationship between the owner and his car. You can see the pride that he takes in his possession.  "This is My car! Oldsmobile ran a whole series of ads that were in this same vein.

I hate to admit it, but I wanted this car back.

I once bought a vintage car that was simple to fix, enjoyed widespread popularity, had enormous fan support and even more, crucial manufacturing support. Every single part could be easily replaced with a replacement or reproduction part. It was good looking, just the right size and easily customized. In fact, I actually did do some customizing. There was also a lot of room for development and improvement. It didn't get really great fuel economy but I've had cars with worse.

So why didn't I keep this car? Believe it or not, that photo came from the Craigslist ad where the buyer of my Mustang was trying to resell it a year or so later.

It turns out that it wasn't that interesting a car. In it's current state it could not hope to compete with my '97 Mustang GT. It was slow, the brakes were terrible and it didn't even get acceptable gas mileage. Even with a six! Even performing a resto mod couldn't make it comparable to a modern car. Even if I could afford it. For some reason I didn't want to be known as the old guy with the slow old Mustang.

Which is of course kind of silly. Of course it couldn't compete with a modern car, it was a 40+ year old vehicle at the time. However, I had some history with that car. I had done some custom work to it. I was really tempted to buy it back, especially since the asking price was 500.00 less than I sold it for!

But I didn't.

It wasn't really a bad car, but it wasn't really a good example of the breed. I'm sure that you have often read that it is always better and maybe even ultimately cheaper to start out with a better car. Especially if the price difference is relatively small. 

I've read that and I even believe it.  it's just that I'm a cheapskate and I want too much.

I bought my Mustang for 1,200 bucks and invested another 3,500 to 4,000 dollars into it. I could have started with a better car, but I would have to have saved up the money beforehand. I spent the money in smaller increments that I could more easily afford. This is the trap that the low buck DIY car guy can fall into, sometimes over and over again.

And I had too many other project cars in my current stable.  If you want to start a collection of cars, then buy them as they become available. Then the best course is to start work on only one car at a time. When that one is finished then you can start on the others. Just park the other cars out by the barn, or in the shed, garage or whatever you have available. Then you'll be just like those old farmers and tell anyone interested in your cars that they're not for sale. "Because I'm gonna fix them up one day." Maybe they were telling the truth!

My Wife hears me endlessly talking about different cars but she knows better. I will never have a forever car. There are cars that I might own for a long period of time. It's not that I have a problem with holding onto a car as long as it is still useful. Ten years or a bit more is not unusual.

It's just that there isn't a car that can satisfy me for the long term. It doesn't have anything to do with the cars themselves. It's not them- it's me!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Lessons learned from the movies.

Come for the movie.

This movie chronicles the carer of New Zealander Burt Munro. It is a factually inspired film that tells the story of his trip to the Bonneville salt flats of Utah to run his heavily modified 1920 Indian motorcycle. The movie has been out for quite a while but I had never seen it, I didn't know initially that it was about a motorcycle. I thought it might be about the legendary Native American football player, Jim Thorpe.

It is refreshing for a motorcycle enthusiast to see any aspect of the motorcycling spectrum given the celluloid treatment in a respectful manner. I grew up in the "Wild Angels" biker flick era. These were fun for a teenager, but thankfully (hopefully?) not very realistic.

Burt  is a persistent, penny wise old fellow whose ingenuity and intelligence has permitted him to modify his Indian to a point that there just isn't a suitable venue for a top end run in the Southlands. As an accomplished racer he has heard about the Bonneville Speed Trials and he finally gets the idea to take a trip to America.

Stay for the book.

This book was given to me by my Brother. Since I had already seen the movie  I put off reading it for quite awhile. As everyone will usually say, "the book is better than the movie." There is so much more detail about Burt's life and activities contained in the book.

Burt was a rabid competitor participating in motorcycle racing events in all types of venues. Oh, did he take more than his share of hard knocks and crashes. Not only was he headstrong, it appears that he actually had a pretty strong head!

Being stubborn he wouldn't take no for an answer, either from other people or even his mechanical sidekick.

I found the detailed descriptions of how Burt would fashion scrap raw materials such as tractor axles and cast iron water pipe into components that extended the life and potency of his motorcycle. He used many basic hand tools and a worn out and discarded old lathe.

Burt set his last speed record at the age of 71 years. Wow! It was 136 mph. set at Enteri Beach. Earlier at Bonneville he reached a maximum speed of over 190 mph. Unfortunately he wasn't able to complete the required second return run to secure the record.

Courage? Check. Tenacity? Check. Stubbornness? Check.

Not to say that his life was perfect or exemplary. He was not as attentive as a husband and father as he could have been. This resulted in his Wife's leaving him, taking along the children,. However this did free up a lot of extra time to work on the motorcycle! Everything comes with a cost.

Poignancy: Evoking a keen sense of sadness or regret.

At my age I am now a real sucker for this. It is a feeling that is easily felt. At this point of life I have quite a long period that I can look back on, and reflect on the events of my Life. I also have more empathy than I ever did in the past. Combine both of these qualities with a Rocky movie and things are bound to get a bit maudlin.

My favorite of the series.

What can you say about Rocky? If you are a fan then you will probably get the feel good vibe that 's been present in most every movie of the series.

I suppose that this episode hits a lot closer to my heart because Rocky is about my age, right around 60 years.

The drama arises when the widowed ex fighter feels a yearning to complete and connect to some inner need. The need is to fight, of course. Nothing too big. Just some small local events, just for the challenge. It seems that the current heavy weight champ, Mason Dixon has enjoyed such success that many think that it was because he had it too easy, with sub par competition. He is not respected as one who had to battle his way to the top. Then a computer simulated match between Rocky and the champ ends with him losing by decision. This really angers Mason who feels that he just can't get any respect.

His promoters come up with the idea that an exhibition match between the two would generate some good buzz for the Champ, who would carry him along to the end. No real harm done.

Of course this is a Rocky movie, so the old champ has a slightly different idea!

Boxing aside, the appeal of this story for me is the dilemma of the older fighter. In his life he has enjoyed success, as well as failure. Due to circumstances of his health, his license to compete was pulled by the boxing commission. He cannot partake in the activity that defined his life for so many years. He's trying to reconnect with a lost part of himself. What is he supposed to do, now?

Of course his appeal is denied.  As our hero rises and turns to leave the room. He delivers a heartfelt and stirring response.

                                                  Video from the movie via YouTube.

The subplot of the movie is his strained relationship with his adult son, and it is quite touching. His Son feels that he can't be truly himself, or be as successful as he should be, because his Father casts too big a shadow.

                                                Video from the movie, via YouTube

Even as a Father we have a life of our own. Despite the responsibilities of Fatherhood we want to live our own lives and find fulfillment in achieving the accomplishments of our own choosing. Come on Son! Man up and give the old Man a break!

I read a viewer review of this movie that stated that the aim of a Rocky movie was to make men cry. They are pretty successful at this!

What does all this have to do with old cars? A valid question.

Maybe everything. Maybe nothing.

Well, I am not a racer, and I am certainly not a fighter. I'm just a guy that wants to own a few interesting old cars (and maybe another motorcycle!) and drive them to interesting places.

This hobby can be a headache and I find myself surrounded by half finished projects. Sometimes I do feel a little foolish about spending so much time and effort on something that no one else cares about. But that's okay, I'm not doing it for anyone's approval. It's not like I have people around me that are negative about my interests. My Wife has been very supportive and realistically I don't care much about what anyone else thinks.

I remember an interview with Sylvester Stallone that appeared in the Harley Davidson in house magazine, "The Enthusiast" after the release of Rocky III. Stallone says that his movies connect with the audience because they all have some type of challenge to overcome in their life, "even if it's just cutting the lawn."

Old Burt demonstrates how tenacity and ingenuity can accomplish a difficult task even when tethered by a distinct lack of finances. We just have to put in the effort. Stallone's character, Rocky Balboa illustrates that we have to preserve the heart of our passions. "It ain't over 'till it's over!"

Okay Rhett, I guess I got a little existential there myself!

Monday, January 28, 2019

New Year, New priorities. Tidying Up?

Marie Kondo may be right. It's easy to collect and hold onto things for the wrong reasons. Uncluttering and simplifying our environments CAN pay dividends in tranquility. I could do with a big dose of tranquility!

Now that the Holidays are over it's time to get a move on.

At the end of last year I was dealing with getting my old cars through the Star smog test requirement.

They all passed and now I can lay that worry to rest, at least for awhile.

I've been fussing over these cars for quite awhile.

It's time to start moving these things forward. I'm getting to the point that it's make or break time.

Dealing with these cars one at a time. I'll start with the cars that are parked in the street.

2007 Ford F150. There are not any real problems with the truck. It could use a plastic tailgate molding and a cowl vent panel.  The truck will need regular maintenance items like belts, spark plugs, hoses, and fluid changes. I still enjoy driving it and it's still quite useful. I don't like loading it from the rear tailgate, there's a lot of stretching and reaching that can be tiring. I kind of like the idea of an SUV with a rear hatch.

Still, I don't see any reason why I would want to get rid of it. I don't think that replacing it with a newer big SUV would be a good idea.

'96 Explorer. I've recently replaced the heater blower and both of the rear tires. The "ghost in the machine" still haunts me at times, but it appears to be getting better. The smog check for this vehicle will be coming up next month.  I find this thing to be quite useful and very handy. Will I hold onto it? I don't know that this truck will be still be useful to my Daughter, so that will factor in.

'96 Mustang. I've done quite a bit to it last year and I've been driving it quite a lot in the last week. It seems that it has developed a messy oil leak. The car still runs very well. There are little things that I should attend to, but I've kind of let them slip. I shouldn't forget that I made a commitment to keep up on the maintenance on this car. That's what has kept it so reliable. I've thought that I might go for a newer model, like a 2013. But why? My '96 has over 208,000 miles and it's still runs great. I wouldn't be surprised if it could do well over 250,000 miles. I'm always going to have other cars to drive. Fifty thousand miles taken at 5 to 10K miles a year could stretch out to over 5 to 10 years. I probably don't need another Mustang.

Now, for the cars parked in my driveway.

2007 Mustang. The suspension seems to be okay but it still needs that steering rack replaced. It's also do for regular maintenance like belts, hoses and fluid changes.

My 97 XJ6. I replaced the battery last year before I smogged it. It still runs well. There is still an issue with the CEL (of course!) I think that the problem is related to the fuel level sending unit. Sometimes after I fill up it stays stuck on the empty position. I've planned to replace this and the fuel pump. I can replace the trunk lift struts at the same time.

The big issue is still the front suspension bushings. If I don't do this work, then I'm not going to do anything else. If I don't do anything else I'm just going to get rid of the car. That sounds harsh but it's the truth. I don't want to have this car in only partial use mode.

I could keep this car for a long time, if it was in perfect shape. As far as I'm concerned this car just satisfies all the requirements of a collector car for me.  I don't feel the need to find a "better" car. I've just got to buckle down, spend what's necessary and do the work.

Inside my garage sits my XJS. Warm, dry, and safe. I drove it a week or so ago. There are a lot of little problems and one real big one. The front suspension. If I don't fix that I don't fix anything. Like the XJ6 I might just get rid of this car as well. While I like the "thought" of this car I can't say that I've formed a real bond with it, at least not yet. However, I know that this is the car that I should hold on to. If I sell it I'm certain that I will regret it in the future.

That just leaves the elephant in the side yard, my 1951 Jaguar Mark VII.  I had to put this car "on ice" last year, because it had just taken up too much of my time. I'm about ready to order one of those universal aftermarket master cylinders and see what I can with it. I'll try to keep some progress going with this project. I'm still interested in the car, and it will provide me with copious content for this blog.

Of course it would be much smarter and productive to thin out my stable. I could obviously make more progress with fewer cars to fuss with. Marie may be right, but I find it irritating when she tells one of her clients to let some of their cherished items go. Sometimes just having these things is satisfaction enough.

Speaking only for myself, thinking about my cars still brings me joy.

At least for now.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Hey! I could do this as a business! Part Two of a series.

A little business can seem like a good idea.

It seemed like a perfectly good idea at the time. The time was the beginning of 2007.

There had been a history of business ownership in my family dating back to the early 1960's. My Father had to take several weeks off from work due to a foot surgery. I was in the second grade and I remember that my Dad couldn't walk very far on his recuperating foot. He put this downtime to good use by  taking a mail order class on electronics repair. Electronics at that time meant vacuum tube powered radios and televisions. Part of the class was the task of assembling a multi meter that he would need in evaluating and repairing circuitry. Then he assembled a tube tester as well as some other equipment. I distinctly remember the smell of melting solder as my Dad used his new soldering gun to wire the devices. After my Dad developed some confidence he started an after work, garage based business. Our garage was a single car garage, deep enough that there was the laundry facilities against the far wall along with a door leading to the back patio. There was a short stairway and entry into the kitchen along one side.

He built a partial partition wall and a deep shelf that he could use as his work table, as well as allowing our 1959 Impala's hood to fit underneath. How could he advertise his business? He could have placed an ad in the classified section of the local newspaper. But how could you be sure that your potential customers could find it?

My Dad solved that by buying two 8'x4' sheets of plywood. He painted them white and carefully laid out his business name, offered services and phone number using stencils and pencil. He then brush painted the letters black.

He attached one to the gable side of the house and another to the north facing front porch.

Our house was located next to a very popular drive in hamburger restaurant. Patrons entering or exiting the parking lot had a clear view of the signs. These must have worked as he received a steady stream of customers for the several years that he ran the business. My Dad was very careful about expenses when starting and running his business. He worked out our garage and he used our new station wagon to carry his equipment and ferry sick T.V.s to his little shop.

My Mom didn't want to be left out of all this business enterprise. She had always wanted to run her own grocery store. My folks looked around until they found a satisfactory location that also included attached living quarters. It was only the business itself that was for sale, the building was to be rented. My Mom gave the business a try for a year before she decided that they should find a complete business with residence for sale. My folks found a cozy little neighborhood store in a nice established neighborhood. Our family moved into the attached residence and my Mom ran the business for over ten years. A small neighborhood store was not a glamorous business or a great moneymaker, but it was steady. They also saved on the cost of food and shelter for the family. The profits from the store's sales paid the mortgage. Again, my folks were very careful about how they invested their money, they weren't about to go off half cocked. If only I had learned from them.

Back to 2007.

I had read an article in Hot Rod magazine that related that some car clubs and even individuals, in Texas were renting industrial shop space. This type of  real estate was supposed to be pretty affordable at this time, car clubs and even individuals were renting this shop space for their own personal use. The space could be used as a service shop and car storage for their members. Kind of a "garage away from home."

What car lover has never dreamed of having their own shop? Especially located away from home so that there was privacy with freedom from distractions. Wouldn't it be great to have a place to work on and store your cars? It sure sounded good to me.

What if I could run my little car parts business out of this shop, maybe it could pay for itself. Even better, maybe it could show some kind of profit!

Last post I mentioned that I had started buying used Datsun parts with the idea of reselling them. I looked on Craig's List and bought up hoards of Datsun parts. I visited wrecking yards purchasing parts that I knew that I could make a buck on.

I was specializing in the first generation Datsun Z car. I felt that I had become pretty knowledgeable about this model. Sellers also had lots of 510 parts available, so I bought those too.

I bought body parts, sheetmetal: doors, decklids, hoods hatches, and fenders. Interior parts like door panels, arm rests, window cranks. Even widow glass, seat belts, seats dash gauges and parts.

I was keeping all these parts in a public storage space.

At first I thought that I would use these parts to refurbish Zs that I would buy and resell.

Now I needed to find a shop that I could work out of and store my parts. This was going to be the fun part. It was.

After looking around the area I found a great place. A 1,200 square foot shop, with a little office and even a recently remolded bathroom. Could I make enough to pay the rent?

I bought a '72 Z from a tow company with the intention of sprucing it up and reselling it, of course at a favorable price.

I has chosen this car because it was not subject to the smog test requirements. However it had not been registered for several years. Maybe it was out of the system? Have you ever read those Craig's List ads where the seller claims that all the fees that haven't been paid for several years, were no longer pending because the car was "out of the system?"

Don't believe that malarkey! The DMV always has a way to extract their pound of flesh. If a vehicle has been out of the system, then the fees for the last three years, plus penalties, will be collected. In my case, the Z wasn't out of the system. It was just three years past due in registration. There had also been two non completed transfers in the system and I had to pay those transfer fees, plus also those for my own transfer. I paid almost half of what I paid for the car to the DMV to complete the transfer to my ownership!

The economies of "car flipping" are a tenuous thing. You've got to make your money on the buying side. Especially when you discover that there aren't eager buyers lined up.

I fixed the body, filling dents and repairing some rusted areas. I had it painted a nice Viper Blue at a local Earl Schieb shop. It actually looked pretty good.

Unfortunately It didn't sell for anywhere near the price I had hoped. There just didn't seem to be the demand for early Z cars that I had anticipated. It appears that it wasn't the Z's time, yet.

So the refurbishing idea sort of died out. Instead I started buying cars to part out. This providing me with a wealth of parts of all kinds. My inventory of parts really grew.

I had been keeping all these parts in a public storage space until I rented my shop. Unfortunately I didn't do my due diligence before signing the lease. I just jumped in feet first. I should be embarrassed to reveal what happened next, as it demonstrates a total lack of planning. I guess that I'm not really a businessman.

The shop was great, but I found that it wasn't zoned for retail sales. There were already a couple of auto repair shops and an electrical component rebuilder located in the complex. So I naively assumed that it was all good to go. As it turned out, only the first storefront was zoned for retail sales. I had not contacted the city zoning office beforehand to confirm that the location was appropriate for my usage. I was told that I would have to petition the planning commission to obtain a waiver. I would have to put together some kind of documentation. I had no idea what to do. I should have contacted some type of professional consultant but I didn't think that I could spare the money. Worse, I didn't want to call attention to my business if it wasn't going to be operating legitimately.

So I thought that I would conduct my business online. I placed series of several ads in the ZONC ( Z Owners of Northern California) club newsletter and in Nissan Sport, a Datsun enthusiast magazine and waited for the dam to break.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Datsun Z car. The car that I tried to build my Dream on. Part One of a series.

The squared off roof line
 is a dead giveaway of a 2+2.

Not my car, but a twin.

In all honesty I had never liked these cars when they were new. And I had never liked the owners. They were even less liked by the automotive media as the cars aged. For some reason they were always thought of as posers or even worse as low level drug dealers. A lot of them were "gold chainers" using this as a low buck substitute for a Vette. I could never see a reason for all the hate.

My Son saw one of these things in a parking lot back in the early 1990's when he was just a few years old. He became fascinated by the Z. It wasn't my kind of car, ( yet!)  but I was happy to see him displaying the beginnings of an interest in cars, any car.

He became fanatical about these things. Pointing them out whenever he saw one in traffic. I renewed my vow that I would never own a small car.

But of course that wasn't true. Hadn't I bought a couple of old Honda Civics?

I kept to my course. With big Cadillacs. At least for a few more years. Though I was ready for a change.

So I moved down to a "smaller" model of luxury car, the Buick Riviera. I guess that smaller is a relative term.

 I bought a couple of old Honda Civics. One was a coupe and the other a clean little wagon. The wagon I must admit was quite useful. Hmmm, maybe these things aren't so bad.

Then I bought my first brand new, small car.  A 1990 Civic SI hatchback. It was pretty much just a practical sports car. This was an imminently usable car. It could comfortably seat a full load of passengers. I was driving my Daughter's high school car pool, carrying a full five passenger load a few days a week. I found that by folding the rear seats, and laying the front passenger seat back, I could carry fairly long objects in the car. When I replaced all the doors in my house with panel doors I transported all of them home from the supplier in the Civic. It did take two trips however.

So I decided to look into the Z thing. Back in the day when I had my first real job out of college several of my co workers drove first gen Zs.  All were young, single. active guys. This seemed to be the real owner demographic.

So now it my turn to look for a classic Z. These cars were now over twenty years old. Auto Trader magazine to the rescue. They were at the age where use, abuse, and neglect had become the norm. Still, there had to be a good one out there at the right price, somewhere.

I happened to find a very good example at the local Salvation Army donated car lot. I was cruising by and saw the front end sticking out of a line of cars. I made it a point to go back and check it out as soon as possible. I sure hoped that it wouldn't be sold before I got a chance to take a look at it. There was not going to be much chance of that.

It was a super clean, local, one owner car. But it was a 2 + 2! Oh man, who would ever want a 2 +2?

The 2+2 has never been the focus of the fan base. It had a roof line that was too long, it had those tiny back seats. This example was completely original, with a perfect interior and good paint. Original wheels and hubcaps. It even was equipped with factory A/C. But the best was yet to come!

This one came with the optional five speed! The 2+2 actually would fill my needs exactly.  I actually liked the longer, somewhat squared off roof. The seats were small but I managed to squeeze myself back there once! They would be perfect for my kids. In fact it was pretty much perfect for everything.

Prices for anything other than an early 240Z were quite low at the time. Subsequent 260Z models were not as highly valued. The 280Z was even less esteemed, as it had much larger energy absorbing bumpers and fussier tail lights. But it's saving grace was the fuel injected engine. At least for the coupes. The 2+2 s, not so much. So this car was going to be cheap. I paid 1,100.00 for it, but without a smog check, that was going to be my responsibility. It passed with flying colors.

Of course once I bought the car I delved into all the history and lore that surrounded the marque. I like to be well educated about my car's back story.

The Z was a different breed from the typical old Mustang or Riviera.  It was technically much more developed in it's specifications. The fuel injected straight six OHC engine was a strong, well proven runner. The five speed transmission gave good flexibility of ratios along with a higher cruising top gear. It had rack and pinion steering, front discs brakes with aluminium drums out back. Even better, out back it had independent rear suspension. The small folding rear seats were just right for the kids and they allowed me to get much more practical use out of the car.

I joined a Z oriented online forum which showed me how large the current fan base was for this car.  I also discovered that the Datsun 510 had an even greater following.

This car will always be special to me because I taught my Son how to drive in it. He loved the car and especially the manual transmission. He was a quick learner. We spent many happy hours together driving on all the local back roads that I was familiar with.

One day my Son and I were looking for parts in a local help yourself wrecking yard. We found a 280ZX with a whale tale type spoiler and a front bumper skin with a built in front air dam. The idea occurred to us that even if we couldn't use these particular parts on our car, we could sell them on CL and make some money. So we bought them together as partners.

280Z tail lights did not prove to as good
 a seller as the earlier models.

Window regulators sold pretty well.

These small wheel center caps
were hard to come by.

What would we do without Craig's List. I don't know how they make their money, but I'm glad that they offer us this free marketplace. At first I needed my Daughter's help to list my inventory and handle the e-mail responses. Eventually I learned how to photograph and construct my posts. I got to be pretty good at it.

After experiencing some initial success I decided to up my game. I started looking for people selling their cache of old Datsun parts. Pretty soon I wasn't content to just buy parts, and I started buying whole cars to part out.

Gold is where you find it.

One thing that I learned from this was how to buy cars at a low price. When you have cash in your pocket, just make a low offer! And walk away if they don't accept the offer. I picked up a couple of cars at a really good price. One was even free!

This whole enterprise lead me to buying several more cars and even launching a little parts business. More on this to come.

I guess this could have been called my "side hustle."

Who knew that there was an entrepreneur hiding somewhere somewhere inside of me?

Friday, January 4, 2019

Magnus Walker. Magnus Walker?

He initially looks pretty intimidating.

You know, The Urban Outlaw. The Porsche guy. Actually so much more.

Love him, or hate him, he is someone with a very interesting story to tell. There are real life lessons to be learned here.

Oh My God! Am I becoming a Fan Boi? No, but I'm attracted to success stories where the protagonist didn't follow the conventional path. And then there's that car connection.

Well, love him, or hate him, the man knows how to self promote.

His story is so typically American. Even if he isn't. An abbreviated biography follows.

Magnus grew up in a working class town in England, by his own admission, not much of a scholar. He attends a car show in London with his Father, where he becomes enthralled with the Porsche automobile and the idea of someday working for Porsche. He wrote a letter to the company, and surprisingly, they send a back a reply, "contact us when you get older." He drops out of school at 15, but returns later to take a sports management degree.

This leads to an opportunity to come to America and work in a summer camp for disadvantaged urban youth near Detroit. After the Summer is over he jumps on a bus to LA.

He arrives here in L.A. alone, nearly broke, and gets rousted by the cops for sleeping in the park. His life could have gone in several different directions. But his saving grace was that he knew how to sew. He bought some ten dollar, clearance store jeans and altered them to fit snugly.

Magnus is enjoying exploring L.A. and ends up on Melrose Blvd. Which is home to many trendy shops.

An Ex Pat Brit shop owner, Taime Downe, likes his jeans. He asks Magnus were he got them. Thinking fast on his feet, Magnus replies "England." The next question is if he wants to sell them and how much. Magnus names his price of 30.00, and then shop owner says that he'll take a dozen. Magnus returns to the store, buys a dozen, alters them, and delivers them to the shop. A light goes on in his head and he realizes that there is money to be made in the clothing business.

The shop owner also happens to be a member of the band, Faster Pussycat. This is Magnus' introduction and entry into the L.A. rock scene. It also provides him with a direction to pursue his marketing interests.

He hits up thrift stores, and garage sales buying cool old clothes. Leather and denim jackets, jeans and other items that he can alter.

This leads to him selling his clothes at a stall on Venice Beach. Venice Beach is a popular destination for American and European tourists. His used clothing business becomes quite successful. At one point he is selling two thousand dollars worth of inventory every weekend. He is making connections with music celebrities that are looking for unique items for their wardrobe. He starts making clothing of his own designs out of unusual fabrics. Like those used for auto upholstery. Eventually he becomes a supplier to the Hot Topic store chain. Magnus has to contract with outside manufacturers to provide him with the volume of clothing that he needs. He even secures a contract with Disneyland to provide them with the five pointed Jester hats that used to be so popular.

Magnus learns from these experiences and launches his own line of clothing. Serious Clothing. This line is embraced by many Hollywood and music celebrities. Financial success soon follows.

Magnus has the need for a location to house his clothing business's production and shipping. He also needs a place to live of course. After buying his first Porsche, he finds he needs a place to store and work on his car. Instead of renting and paying someone else's mortgage he and his Wife take a huge gamble. They decide to buy an abandoned warehouse in the downtown industrial district. This was twenty years ago,  before all the recent gentrification.

They build their residence in the loft. They use some of the building to house their business. It also provides a workspace and storage for their cars. Several of his musician friends visit and decide that his warehouse would be great location for their music video shoots, and a new business enterprise is born.

Check out these photos of his warehouse/residence/ workspace. Nice!

All photos are from an internet article.

I'll let the man himself explain the path that he undertook. Video source is YouTube.

Here's a video of his TED Talk, entitled, "Go with your gut feelings."

In this video he discusses his business and automotive interests.

Oh, here's the original video that started it all.

More power to you Magnus!

It takes many factors to become a success: Inspiration, focus, imagination, hard work, opportunity and last but not least, good luck. While I, and most of us, will never become a financially successful, iconic, pop culture figure, we can still try to live Life on our own terms. That's why we mess around with these old cars in the first place!