Friday, February 16, 2018

What's up with Doug Demuro?

Doug is routinely  photographed with his mouth open.

Good old Doug. The dweeby, kind of goofy Every Man.  Not an accomplished driver, mechanic, restorer, or gearhead, Totally non threatening. But smart. Very much smarter than he lets on. And quite a bit richer, too.

Doug was born in Denver Colorado and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta Georgia. After graduation he got a job at Porsche North America's corporate headquarters where he must have been doing a good job. He was promoted as the youngest vehicle allocation manager in the company's history. He quit that job to become a writer and his work has been featured in online publications as Jalopnik, Auto, and The Week. He also written a book, "Plays with Cars."

He is probably beat known for his Internet videos. His You Tube channel received over four million views in 2014.

There are varying estimates of Doug's net worth from around 450,000 to several million dollars. Whatever it is, Don has found a clever way to combine his love of cars with the ability to make a good living. What ever you make Doug, You deserve it!

What car guy hasn't dreamed of owning a Ferrari?

I was first introduced to his videos through his Ferrari ownership series. In this series he answered a lot of questions that a whole lot of car guys have had about Ferrari ownership. I would say that they were too afraid to ask, but actually "Who were you going to ask?" I can't imagine trolling a Concours and trying to buttonhole a Ferrari owner and grill him about everyday driving. But we've still got those questions we want answered! Doug will oblige us, willingly.

For example:

How does a dweeb like him swing a Ferrari. He really doesn't answer that but he reveals that these cars are not as unobtainable as we might think.

Can you really use a car like this for everyday activities? The short answer is "No."

What's it like to go out for a casual drive?

It's not like you would want to park it curbside anywhere, or leave it outside of a Dennys or Motel 6! It's more like you leave your house, drive wherever, then end up back at your house again.

Can you carry anything in the car? That depends.

There is an unforgettable episode where Doug drives to Best Buy and straps a flat screen television to the roof of the Ferrari.

Can you carry anyone in the car? A Baby? If you've watched this episode than you know it's a good thing that he used a doll instead of an actual child.

What are people's reaction to the car on the street?

Pretty positive it seems. Seems like most folks can recognize a Ferrari and are anxious to to take a selfie next to the car, while a few even ask to take a photo of themselves behind the wheel.

Can you meet women with this car?

This is the million dollar question, as I'm sure that many guys hope that buying a flashy, expensive car would make them more interesting and attractive to the opposite sex.

The answers are surprising. Doug said that most women didn't seem to notice or express any interest in the car. (Or him!) But their boyfriends were a different matter. They would swarm around the car at gas stops. It seems as though middle aged men expressed the most attraction. Not exactly the demographic that was hoped for.

Why can't people trust British cars?

The Aston Martin; My Holy Grail. Not just mine, but for a lot of car enthusiasts. The purchase price was only ten grand above a new, optioned up Mustang GT convertible, but most guys myself included, are very fearful that the car would quickly bury them in repair and maintenance costs. But Doug took care of that concern, he bought a bumper to bumper unlimited mileage warranty for it!

Now that's the way to roll, come whatever calamity may, it's covered. Watching his videos you can see that it was used to cover a few problems, especially in the beginning. However the car proved reliable enough to take it on several long trips, even to the Bonneville salt flats. He has even broken down the cost of ownership, now that's full disclosure.

You've got to hand it to him. One article indicated that he has owned twenty seven cars at the time of publication. Wow! You'd have to cycle through those cars at a couple of units a year or more.

Doug has really found a way to own and drive some interesting, desirable cars and he uses them to make his living. I would hope that they are tax deductible as business related expenses.

Now that Doug is very well known, car dealerships and even his fans will offer their own cars for his evaluation.

It's all a countdown to the Doug Score.

Doug provides some reviews of interesting older cars also. One of my favorites was of the Pontiac Aztek, not a vehicle that you would expect. Doug reviews the gadgets and quirks and it is surprising how different manufactures handle different functions. A driving test follows and the episode ends with a "Doug Score." He ranks the vehicles without fear or favor and the results can be surprising.

I have even learned a thing or two from his videos. Doug reviewed the latest model of the Porsche Panamera. This was a car that I never gave much credence to, as I thought that it was a bit of a gimmick. Doug displayed the great beauty and design of the interior design, and most impressively, the ability to seat two six foot tall passengers in the rear seat. Now that was impressive. If I could find that hundred grand I lost in the sofa I might well consider buying one!

I will continue to enjoy Doug's videos but I expect that he will be looking to develop a new format. I think that this idea is playing itself out, I mean, "How many different cars are still out there?" Either way, Doug, Best of luck in the future!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Whitewalls, Wide whitewalls. Roll your own!

A wire Riviera hub cap and newly painted whitewalls.
I wonder how this has held up?

This is a picture of a painted wide whitewall that I made around ten years ago. I have used it as my avatar on different sites.The wheel has been sitting outside face down in the ivy for all those years after I photographed it. What kind of shape is it in? How has the paint held up? Lets take a look.

That guy in the picture must have steady hand.!

There are still paint your own whitewall kits available. I was just checking back on the H.A.M.B. (Hokey Ass Message Board) and some posters recommend this white rubber material while others said that they have used white roofing paint. What I used was recommended in an issue of Roll and Pleats, a British hot rodding magazine, simple white spray primer.

They were still selling these at Grand Auto stores when I worked there in the 1970's.

"Port a walls" are a white rubber disc that you place between the wheel tire bead and the rim. User's experiences have varied, but these have been available since the 1950's.  They are genuine, vintage, hot rodding accessory parts.

There will be those out there who will decry the use of anything but an authentic reproduction whitewall tire. These are the guys that keep Coker tire in business. Nothing wrong with this. I would go this way too, if I had the extra bucks. There's a company named Blockley Tires that can provide some performance radials for my Mark VII. This car shares wheel sizes with the XK140 and 150 and early Astons as well. They are just too much money for me now. Besides where's the fun in just spending money?

I had a set of "ground" whitewall radials made up for my '56 Cadillac. One of Calderon's tire shops ground them down. it's a noisy and quite smelly process but if you start with a raised while letter tire you can end up with a 2'1/2 inch wide whitewall, not too bad. I went back for a second set and I was informed that the Boss didn't want to offer that service anymore, probably because it was so time consuming.

I've read lots of posts on different forums that related unsatisfactory results with that rubber tire paint. I had been a fan of the British custom car little book, Rolls and Pleats. In one article the author shared his experience of painting his own sidewalls with ordinary white spray primer. I decided to give it a try on a spare wheel that I had around. Masking is important so I tried to be as careful as possible.

Several coats later I was quite pleased. The primer covered the base rubber well, and it had a satin finish that didn't look too thick with visible brushstrokes. The photo of this wheel has served as my avatar for years. What happened to the actual wheel? Well I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I left it sitting out for six or seven years in that ivy that is in the background in the photo. How has it fared out there in the wild? I don't know yet. I'm planning to dig it out, clean it off and see. I will document  the results here.

Face down in the ivy for years.
I knocked most of the caked on dirt off for this picture.

This was after some brushing off.

You can see some cracking and color loss near the rim.

This is after the second cleaning with Castrol Super Clean. The hubcap still needs more attention
but the quality of these caps can't be denied.

I'm interested in these DIY tires because my Mark VII needs tires badly and I don't want o buy authentic style repop radials, yet. I've been researching tires and I know that I need a set that has a taller sidewall. A 40 aspect sidewall just isn't going to look right and more importantly won't fit. A 215/70 16 wheel would be the closest equivalent. I don't mind a little shorter tire. Those ancient Atlas  "pie crusts" look pretty ugly to me. I plan on using an SUV rated tire, as a passenger tire of that size isn't intended for an almost four thousand pound car. They will also have a higher load rating and stiffer sidewalls which would hopefully help the handling. I plan on using a tire like this;

I 've had good luck with Futura tires. They are made by Cooper and are priced right.

I would then paint the white sidewalls on, similar to the wheel in my avatar.  One of my Jaguar forum people set up a set of tires like this on his Mark VII. These tires can be purchased for around 65.00 on sale, while a used tire would be fifty bucks, and trying to find four identical tires might be a challenge. I'm not sure if I could run these tubeless on my original rims, I'm thinking not. Something else to consider.

As it turns out this Buick wheel has the same size lug pattern as my '51 Jag, but is a 15 lnch rim.  This particular tire is a 225/70 15 inch radial, similar in size to that SUV tire above. If I switched wheels then I could run tubeless radials. There are concerns with wheel set back, and fitting under the rear spats as well as other clearance issues. Since I've got the wheel available I'm just going to try this one on and see what happens.

Updates as they occur.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

What am I waiting for?

I got the chance to drive my Mustang long enough to chase down the source of the coolant leak, sort of. I finally saw a small drip running down the right rear side of the intake manifold.

Directly under that heater hose clamp I could see coolant pooling around that manifold bolt.

Could the bolt just be loose? Could it be that easy? I didn't think so but I carefully applied a wrench and found that it was tight. My guess is that the heater hose junction boss is probably cracked. That does seem strange as the manifold was just replaced three years or so ago. The engine has not been subjected to overheating. The original manifold lasted for over 150,000 miles but it's been my experience that non OEM  components often don't last as long.

Interestingly enough, I found that one pf the bolts that are holding the alloy crossover/thermostat housing to the plastic manifold body is backed out 1/4 inch or so. Even more interesting is that I saw a similar small bolt lying in the valley under the manifold. Could it be that a bolt has backed out of a similar crossover channel under the rear of the manifold and is now leaking?

Where did that little bolt come from?

In the photo you can see the cross over bolt is backed out. You can see the little bolt lying in the valley.  Interestingly enough (again) there is no coolant seen in the valley. You would think that the amount of coolant leaking out some would pool under there.

I went to the Rock Auto site and checked out the detail photos of the replacement manifold.

The bolt that is backed out is visible on the right front side (in the photo) of the cross over. I wonder if the loose bolt fell out of the hole behind it.

This is the view from the rear. The leak appears to be coming from the area that is at the right rear side (in the photo). There is a blue o ring type of gasket that seals the heater hose boss inlet to the head. If it's loose or cracked there it would definitely leak. Could the cross over connection be leaking and sending a spray of coolant against the underside of the manifold and resulting in it running to the back of he manifold? It seems hopeful, but kind of far fetched. Still, I will check it out first. Always select the easiest possibility first.

My trusty F150 has needed some work as of late. The front brakes have become noisy combined with the "shuddering" feeling that causes the entire truck to shake upon the first light application of the brakes in the morning. This is a pretty good indication of warped brake discs. I had replaced just the brake pads over fifty thousand miles ago. I did cut corners and didn't replace the brake caliper mounting bushings. Those are the metal channels that fit into the spindle, and that the caliper ride on. I didn't remove the brake rotors to have them resurfaced because the rotors are part of the hub carrier and are held on with a non re usable spindle nut. This nut is torqued down to three hundred foot pounds of torque.

I don't have a torque wrench that can handle that high a setting. On top of that, just unloosening the nut might tax my equipment. I could imagine a scenario where my socket wrench slips off, rounding off the nut and introducing a serious level of misery to the equation.

So I just replaced the brake pads. The rotor wasn't scored or discolored, so I just roughed it up with some  sandpaper. This worked out well for many miles and many years. Until the bushings wore to the point that my application of braking resulted a lot of clicking and clacking. Over time the discs warped to the point that it was quite noticeable. There wasn't any scraping of worn disc pads on metal, just the clacking and shuddering.

The alignment of the front end was also getting pretty bad. There was a constant pull to the left that had to be compensated for, which was not only tiring but rough on the tires and suspension. Usually alignment issues will result in the tire developing abnormal wear patterns which will require its replacement. However this didn't happen in my case.

If there is anything that makes your car feel like a tired piece of junk it's lack of smooth brake performance combined with poor alignment and tracking. 

Ah, driving a new car is so smooth. The steering is tight, it tracks like it's on rails and the brakes are as soft and smooth as velvet. My truck wasn't a Subaru, but it had finally lost that lovin' feeling!

Something had to be done. I knew that I wasn't going to be able to do the front brake job properly so I bit the bullet and took it down to my favorite mechanic at First Street Shell. Hui worked his magic and the velvet was back in the brake pedal. Yes, it was kind of expensive, but it is what it is. I'll save some money doing my own work in another area.

Now to do something about the alignment. I took it to my local Wheel Works dealer. They had aligned my '96 Mustang after I replaced the lower control arms, and done a good job.

On the way home from the shop I could detect some improvement, but it was still pulling to the left. Hmm. Was the job done right? Were there some other problems with the front end components? If they had found something wrong I know that they would have informed me, and tried to get me to approve the repair, or at least issued a disclaimer that the alignment couldn't fix the issue. But they hadn't said a thing.

Maybe there was something wrong with the front tires themselves. I had once bought a couple of used front tires for my '96 Mustang and they had been terrible. They darted to the side over roadway imperfections and upon braking. The tire shop (not Calderons!) had been pretty sketchy too. They had damaged the rocker sill area with the sloppy positioning of their floor jacks. I didn't go back. I ended up buying a new set of tires from Wheel Works instead.

I had to figure out if it was tires that were the problem. I needed to switch them around and see if there was any improvement. I was thinking that the tires had taken a "set." My fighting the pull may have caused the cords in the carcass to warp over time. As a result the tire couldn't track straight. I remember that I had rolled that earlier set of used tires mentioned before, when I had them off the car, and they both veered sharply off to one side. I spent the rest of a long weekend mulling it over before I had the opportunity to rotate the wheels on the truck. Just straight from front to back. This did the trick. The truck now tracked straight ahead. Usually the tires are worn on the inside treads from poor alignment and I'll replace the tire before having it aligned. Because these tires hadn't worn out I had kept them where they were. They were now warped and couldn't track straight, even if they wanted to.

It is nice to have my truck drive like it did when it was new. It still needs new tires, but it can wait for a bit.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Tools: That which separates us from our Simian ancestors.

photo source: 2001, A space Odyssey.

Dammit! Why doesn't that wrench fit!

 Sometimes the distance doesn't seem so great!

Last post, I spoke about our empowerment as a car guy. Gaining the necessary knowledge to maintain and repair your old car. Alongside that knowledge, you need the proper tools that will allow to put into practice what you are learning.

Most guys will have some sort of tools lying around. Old guys like me will have quite an assortment that they have acquired over the years. Some were passed on to me by my Father, most were bought over an almost fifty year time span. I still have the first set of Sears combination box wrenches that I bought as a freshman in high school.

Unfortunately my Dad was a very frugal guy and did not like to spend money on quality tools. I'm guessing that some were bought at those cheap tool bins found at most automotive parts stores. When I inherited his tools, I picked through his collection and saved only those that were of acceptable quality or had sentimental value to me. His better tools were probably bought from flea markets as some were Craftsmen, and even Proto tools. I know that he wouldn't have bought these new. I later donated a very heavy tool box full of low quality tools to Goodwill. These can be suitable for a young person starting out in the hobby. Tools are like any other collecting, finding better and more desirable items to replace earlier purchases. I'm not a tool snob, but using poor quality tools can damage critical fasteners and make a difficult job almost impossible.

photo source; SK tools
This is a beauty, a tool that is a delight to hold and use, and can last a lifetime.

Sears branded Craftsmen tools have received a bad rap in recent years but they are a good tool to source through garage sales, swap meets and Craigslist. They are durable and of good quality construction. My first set was the lower line Companion series wrenches. Obviously they were built well enough to stay with me for fifty years!

You can see the end of the tool compartment of this CB160 just under the air cleaner side cover.

It can hold a surprising amount of tools.
Honda's and a few of your additions.

You will need tools that will work with your chosen vehicle. Back in my fledgling Honda motorcycle rider days I was able to put the under seat tool kit to good use. My '65 CB160 came with a tubular compartment that was bolted to the frame under the carburetors. It contained a plastic pouch that held a few reconfigurable, Honda specific tools. There was a half circle shock spring adjusting wrench. A pair of slip jaw pliers, flat and Phillips head screwdriver blades. A spark plug wrench, and a couple of flat open ended wrenches. There was an axle nut box wrench also. One of the more curious additions was a flattened metal tube. This was used as an extension for the axle wrench and as a handle for the screwdriver blades. There was also a little T handle provided to deal with stubborn screws. The screwdriver blades were slipped through a couple of holes in the sparkplug wrench to be used as a T handle to turn the wrench. There was a single feeler gauge blade housed in a little compartment that was fused into the side of the pouch. All the tools that you would need to do the minor servicing and tuning that your bike would require, or to remove the wheels to change a flat tire.

Sorry about the fuzzy image, but as I recall, the quality of the tools was a bit fuzzy also!

Thankfully, almost all Japanese streetbikes of this era came with a good, steady, center stand that came in so handy when working on your bike. I remember that these tool kits were included with bikes up into the mid 1970s, I don't know when they stopped being included. On the other hand, bikes that really needed a tool kit, like my Harleys never came with a factory toolkit.

Since Japanese bikes required metric tools it saved you from having to ask your Old Man to borrow "HIS" tools. These of course, were good old American fractional inch sizes, not those odd "furrin" sized stuff.  Unless of course your Dad was a British car nut, then he probably had an enormous collection of tools at your disposal.

I used that Honda supplied tool kit just as it was intended. Changing spark plugs, adjusting points, keeping the drive chain in proper adjustment, etc. These sets formed the basis of my collection. I still have some of these tools that I have saved from various bikes over the years.

I started adding additional tools as needs required and as funds allowed. The first addition was needed to deal with all of those darned Phillips head screws that held the motor side covers for the clutch, alternator stator, and countershaft sprocket covers on. These screws were very easy to round out the heads, due to the ham handed efforts of an earlier home mechanic.

photo source: the web
The little mill with the heart of a Lion!
You can see those pesky Phillip head screws were used liberally.

A very valuable addition was a tool known as an impact driver. You held it in your hand like an engorged screwdiver whilst striking the end with your Dad's old claw hammer. The impact was altered into into a twisting force that would usually free those overly tightened screws. The hammer blows also helped seat the bit tightly into the screwhead, preventing slippage and sometimes was just the ticket to successfully remove that mangled head screw!

Oh the memories! A tool you loved to hate!

I still have mine, and the little red metal box that it came in. I bought it at Powell's Alameda Honda and it served well over the years. I discovered a neat trick whenever I had to remove those side cover screws that were already showing signs of being chewed up.

First, I would take a half inch ratchet socket extension (borrowed surreptitiously from my Dad!) and would place it squarely on the screw head. Then I would hammer it down until the head was completely flat. This would usually smash down the "peaks."  Then I would hammer the bit, by itself,  into the head, which would restore the proper Phillips configuration.  Then the impact driver was placed into operation. All of this previous hammering would help loosen up the stubborn screw without inflicting any additional damage. As a plus, the screwhead was now "restored" and it could be easily
re-used, saving a broke high school kid the cost of a new screw!

I later learned that Allen socket head screws could be used in place of those dreaded Phillips, for a "detailed" custom look. Replacement sets for "popular" models were available at the dealers. It wasn't until I was out of high school that I learned that you could source these screws individually through your local, large, full service hardware store. Actually large hardware stores weren't even common until the late 70s in my area, at least.

A set of Allen wrenches were the next addition to your tool box. A large adjustable wrench was always useful, and sure beat using that little flattened tube extension handle! A vise grip plier was also something that was extremely handy to use in disassembling those mangled and rusty bolts and screws that came on our old hand me down machines. A couple of decent, dedicated Phillips and flat blade screwdrivers would usually be added about now.

A well made tool is a joy forever!

A sign of your move to serious wrench turner was the purchase of a good set of combination open and closed end wrenches. A set of seven wrenches pretty much gave you a size for every nut and bolt on your motorcycle. And you still had that adjustable wrench, if needed!

But the crowning acquisition was the purchase of your very own set of socket wrenches.

Now you're cooking with gas!

A set of socket wrenches was the beginning of a serious commitment to the hobby. Additional sockets, different size drives, ratchets, extensions, universal joints and adapters. The sky is the limit. There was a serious learning curve in using those ratchets. The initial impulse was to click away merrily until it was apparently good and snug. Then final tightening would be to the customary "two grunts." That would work with the bigger bolts but the little ten millimeter bolt heads would part company with the bolt under that much force. My experiences with drills and bolt extractors is a tragic tale best left for another day! Would a torque wrench be a valuable addition? Of course it would, but I just decided that I could educate my fingers. It actually worked.

Now that you were equipped with an adequate array of hand tools, you needed a nifty toolbox to carry them around in. I'm sure Dad wouldn't miss this old thing!

You've got to earn patina like this!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Empowerment. One of the pillars of your car guy persona.

photo source; pinterest
Kicking it old school. Nothing beats hands on experience.

This is a term that is thrown around a lot on the media. Every group claims the need and the right to be empowered by someone. Society? The government? How about taking hold of the bull by the horns and eking out a bit of empowerment on your own?

If you are are going to be a car hobbyist it will serve you greatly to be able to do some of the work yourself. Rebuilding, repairing and even just maintaining your old car will save you money, and build up your bank of confidence. Car guys take a lot of pride in telling others that they built their car, or that they did most of the work.

You start out with the basics then assume responsibility for the more technical and difficult tasks.

Minor stuff, checking the levels of the oil, coolant, transmission and other underhood fluids. Keeping an eye out on the condition of the drive belts, hoses, battery connections. Being aware of tire pressure and wear patterns. These are things that you can and should do for your daily ride, even if it is a late model, low mileage machine.

If we're talking about your Better Beater, than it pays huge dividends to keep a close eye on it's condition. A well worn machine is likely to be deteriorating at a much faster rate than a new car. Most of it's component parts are deep into the later stages of their service life.

Topping up oil was a common occurrence "back in the day".

A higher mileage engine will likely be using some oil between scheduled changes. Unlike a new car which generally won't need any replenishment between scheduled changes, an older car definitely will. Many times oil mileage will dip into the one thousand to five hundred miles per quart range. My old tired F250 required a quart of oil every fifty miles!

One of the young guys that I work with had been driving a hand me down Dodge Neon that he aquired from his parents. He told me one day that he had noticed the motor clattering and knocking as he drove. I asked him how was it doing on oil. He replied that he hadn't checked it because it wasn't due for an oil change for a couple of more thousand miles. I informed him that an old motor can burn and leak enough oil to run itself dry way before the oil change period arrives. You've got to check the oil level every time that you fill up on gas.

My young friend was amazed to hear that. No one had ever told him this.

Knowledge is power and it is the key to keeping your Better Beater on the road. How can you acquire this knowledge?

I would say to ask your Father or Uncle. Chances are that no matter how successful they are now, and even if they now can afford to keep new cars in their fleets, they had early experience with a beater. They may have called it a jalopy.

These manuals are a great source of tuning and maintenance information
and photos of mechanical components.

Get to know your car. Look at the owner's manual or shop manual. Look under the hood and find out where to check the different fluid levels. Familiarize yourself with the underhood layout. Your old car is definitely going to need constant monitoring if you want to keep it in good shape and as reliable transportation.

Just buy the fluids that you will use. Keep a quart of oil in the trunk,and keep a couple of extra quarts of oil in the garage. A gallon of premixed coolant, a quart of ATF, and some power steering fluid should round out your supplies.

Where are all these fluids going? Some, like oil are being steadily consumed by the motor. Coolant will evaporate over time, especially during hot weather, and can alert you to a leaking headgasket. However a lot of these fluids are probably just oozing out of pipes, hoses, and fittings, covering your drivetrain with that distinctive coating of black greasy grit and ultimately ending up on the driveway surface. A leaking car is like an unhousebroken dog, nobody wants you to park it in their driveway, as your car will mark it's spot!

This could help, at least for a while.

The degree of leakage will determine your response to the problem. A few drops can be overlooked, but a steady flow will have to be addressed immediately. I would venture to guess that it's that messy leaking that makes most of your  family and friends hate old cars.

This is the classic. Does it work? Sometimes, for a while.

Chasing down and fixing leaks is a tough job, and many times there are leaks that may not be financially feasible to fix. Crankshaft seals and automatic transmission front seal leaks are fairly big, (read expensive) jobs that you probably won't want to attempt without a lot of experience and equipment.

Sometimes a guys got to do what a guy's got to do.
Many times the only realistic alternative is the scrapyard.

There are several "miracle fixes in a can" available at the local auto supply store. These will be located right next to the "stop leaks" for the radiator and transmission, "head gasket in a bottle," and the "Motor Honey" to miraculously cut oil consumption and smoking! Who would have thought that you could rebuild your entire drivetrain with nothing but a bag full  of cans and bottles?

Well you can't of course. Some of these products will sort of work, for awhile. The transmission leak stoppers will have ingredients that will soften the rubber seals and gaskets and cause them to swell a bit slowing down leaks, but soft rubber will wear faster so the improvement will not last too long. Radiator stop leak contains stuff that will plug cracks and harden to stop small leaks. However, like platelets in your arteries, this will result in clogged heater cores and other coolant flow problems. Headgasket sealers are like radiator sealers on steroids. Generally they will gunk up and clog other areas besides the headgasket leak, but the alternative is to pull the head and replace the gasket properly. There's no way that your thousand dollar beater will be worth paying a mechanic to do the job. Maybe the sealer will work and you can delay the inevitable until next year.

Delaying the inevitable is an attractive thought. I suppose that it's that desperation and need that would cause such a suspension of belief. I had seen these featured in all those J.C. Whitney catalogs I poured over in my youth. Looking at these realistically, there is no way that they could actually work, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Hope(and desperation!) spring eternal!

Monitoring the fluid levels combined with visual inspections provide you the feedback you need to assess the condition of your vehicle. That's the first pillar of empowerment, awareness and knowledge. The second, is skill, and for that you need tools. You always need tools!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Octane magazine. Fueling the passion of any car lover.

This was the first  issue that captured my attention.

I was just getting involved on the Jaguar forum when I came across a reference to this issue. I did an Internet search and ordered this particular back issue. After reading it I realized that I needed to subscribe to this fantastic periodical.

One of the things that I really enjoy is reading articles about these epic touring rallies. They take place in such exotic locations. There are advertisements for driving adventures that are scheduled in Asia, Europe, and that savage colonized land known as America.

I have a lot of respect for the enthusiast that owns a rare and valuable Classic and will put it to the test. Dirt roads with no amenities available, many times the cars suffer mechanical failures and occasional collision damage. They will be quickly repaired on the side of the road and will continue on, as before.

Current rallies and trials taking place in the UK are covered in the regular columns. Car shows and Concours Event schedules are listed. There are profiles of outstanding drivers, designers, and other significant automotive personalities.

This story was broken  by Octane.

Every Motorhead dreams of the epic barn find. This is the most exciting one ever.

Looking like the sad back row of a forgotten used car lot.

The cost to properly restore these old beaters would be astronomical. Still, most will find sympathetic owners with very deep pockets.

Octane skews towards the British marques.
Aston Martin coverage is not slighted.

If you like Porsches, Ferraris, Jaguars and others you will be rewarded with interesting stories about these classic marques. The photography is just exquisite, the locations and the detail are quite dramatic. In many ways it is like a magazine made from Petrolicious videos.

This pre War Aston Martin is typical of the historic vehicle coverage.

Not every article concerns high end, venerated automobile marques. There are frequent forays into the world of the popular sporting models, such as Triumph, MG and others.

These are still great little sports cars
but the pool of affordable examples are drying up.

If you are going to dream, why not go all the way?

In some ways I feel a bit conflicted about enjoying this magazine so much. It's content and presentation marks it as a real "Rich Guy's" rag.  I know that I am on the outside looking in. It's not a world that I can participate fully in. Still, there is a lot to see. So why do I find it appealing?

I remember when I was younger and I wondered why so many older guys were interested in those fancy foreign jobs instead of good old American Iron. Were they too good for the cars, or were the cars not good enough for them?

Probably a lot of factors were at play.

My own Automotive awareness has been expanded over the years. I'm learning a lot about various European models that are quite appealing and interesting. Sometimes many are even pretty affordable. I have owned several Japanese cars, and there are still quite a few that I still want to acquire.

Older guys have already had a lot of different cars and are still looking for something different and new to them. Even in my own limited experience I have worked my way through quite a list of old iron. Cadillacs, Rivieras, Mustangs, and Datsun Z cars. Even a couple of Honda Civics.

Now that the price of old Muscle and Pony cars has gone through the roof, I wouldn't spend that kind of money on a car of that type, even if I could afford it. There are just so many available cars that can deliver a better driving experience at a more reasonable price. My Son even bought himself his first Porsche, a Boxster. These cars are affordable, readily available, and they deliver the full range of the Porsche driving experience. There are some areas of the car's service history that have to be checked out carefully. There was a recall for complete engine replacement, (thankfully under warranty!), porous crankcase castings and that vulnerable engine/transmission drive shaft bearing. So you have to do your homework. Still, the low prices on these mid engine Boxsters makes buying an earlier front engine model like a 944 seem kind of pointless. Almost.

I would imagine that many of those older guys were looking to check something off of their personal bucket list. I can't hold that against them. Like I have stated so many times before, there are no rules to being a car guy. We can each do it our own way, at our own pace, and at our own expense level. The only requirement is to enjoy the journey.

Fuel Your Passion.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The State of my Auto Union.

No, not that Auto Union. I haven't bought an Audi.....yet.

A beginning of the year update on my fleet of Better Beaters.

1996 Ford Mustang GT convertible.

This could easily still be my only hobby car.
A convertible Mustang checks almost all the boxes.

My "No Drama" machine.

I have had this car for the longest period of time. When it was my only hobby car it could receive all of my time, attention, and money. Now it has to get in line to get a little love. Last year I did quite a bit of work on it, Front suspension, brakes.  I still really like the car, but it is waiting for me to repair that intake manifold leak. Is the manifold cracked?  I replaced it only a few years ago. The original manifold lasted for over fifteen years and well over 150,000 miles. Sometimes the replacement part doesn't even match the life of the OEM part. That was my experience with the fuel filler grommet.

1989 Jaguar XJS convertible.

Sweat equity in progress.

Lots of progress made here. The transmission was replaced and I got the car smogged and registered. It got a new battery and donated the old one to my Mark VII. I even drove it to work a time or two. It ran quite cool even during the last Summer's heatwave. I waxed and polished it and patched up the top. It is still waiting for that suspension rebuild.

1997 Jaguar XJ6L.

Where I found it. I sure do miss driving this car!

In so many ways this is my favorite car. I spent most of my time driving this car until the worn front suspension introduced some very disturbing shimmying into the steering. The CEL has been on for quite awhile which hasn't appeared to affect the running, but it will have to pass a smog check to complete the registration. There are many additional minor repairs needed;  the fuel sending unit, rear trunk lift struts, radiator mounts, one headlamp mount is loose and rattling. I will probably replace the fuel pump while I'm working on the gas tank. Then a new set of tires.

1951 Jaguar Mark VII,

I haven't forgotten about it. The holidays came down hard.

This is a car that was advertised as needing "a full restoration." You've seen the pictures, it does. I still believe that it can be put back on the road as it is, taking care of some vital systems first. I lost a lot of time fussing with those seized brake cylinders which kind of de-tuned my enthusiasm.

1996 Ford Explorer

This car has turned out very well. I am surprised by how much I enjoy driving it.

This little truck has been seeing quite a bit of use. I have been driving this thing quite a bit. I was late to the game, but I now can see why SUVs are so popular. It has been running quite well though like all old cars it has some idiosyncrasies. It stalled once at a signal light when my daughter was driving it and it was  towed home. It hasn't repeated that trick in a couple of months of use. It really needs the speedo lights replaced, half of the instruments are dark at night. I still have those seat belts and emblems that I bought from Pick and Pull sitting in a bag. The seats still have those cheap seat covers on them.

My other "good' cars have had their own problems. The "07 Mustang needs new tires, and some belts and hoses-soon. The F150 needs front brakes, the rotors are warped and it's time for new tires also. It's always something. Which is what you would have to expect when you are managing a fleet of older cars.

Maybe I DO have too many cars.

The Garage.

The great shining hope.

This process of cleaning out the garage is still going on. The backyard shed, although pretty big, is already filling up. The garage still has a lot of stuff in there. Not to mention that we still have a large Public Storage space filled with even more stuff. Where will all this go?

I want to be able to park two of my cars inside the garage when I'm not in the middle of a repair project. That means that I have to keep the floor clear and have a method of moving around some of my tools and equipment. My transmission and floor jacks take up a lot of floorspace, though they will fit under the rear of my cars. I have some metal shelving units that can fit behind the garage door hinge mechanisms. I plan on storing equipment like my grinder, hydraulic press, and drill press on those shelves. I will probably have to forego my workbench and go with a smaller work station cart.

Getting my garage set up to handle my needs is one of the biggest priorities on my Wish List. I need the garage to be available and usable as my shop. I've accepted the fact that I probably won't be moving out to the country and building a big shop, anytime soon. If ever. I will have to do the best I can with a conventional suburban two car garage. Honestly, I know that this can fill the bill. It's just so difficult to keep the garage clear of "stuff". By that of course I mean my Wife and families things. My stuff belongs in the garage!