Sunday, July 31, 2016

Abandon hope all who would enter here!
photo source:
Space, the final frontier.  Or most likely space can be the first obstacle. Such as in, "Where can I park my car to work on it?

A while back there was an editorial in Hot Rod magazine that specified a number, maybe 240 square feet, which they defined as the square footage of a single car garage. They went on to say how many hot rods in the past had been built in a single car garage, or car port, side yard, and even a parking space. Well I will grant that many were built in that single car garage, though I din/t know about that parking space. I would guess that lots of cars have been repaired sitting in somebody's driveway. In the old days many more had even been painted out in the driveway. My Dad did that once, with acceptable results.

We work on our cars where we can. Where we have to. Probably the worst place would be in the street in front of our house or apartment. Of course it's one thing to fix an immediate problem, parts replacement or routine maintenance out in the driveway. It's another thing to strip a paint job, pull an engine, or bang out some dents. Who would try to complete a full restoration job while the car sits in the driveway? Well, maybe I should be somewhat embarrassed to admit it but I have.

Let's see oil changes, brake jobs, starter replacements, radiator replacements, fender and hood replacement, wheel rotations and much more. I pulled the motors of a couple of my Rivieras in the driveway. I did some paint prep on my '66 Ford truck and '70 Mustang out in front of the house. And this wasn't done all that long ago. A few posts back you saw pictures of me crawling around under my XJS.

The driveway is that transitional space, although not private, it is on private property. (Dammit! This is my house!) The work is fully on view to your neighbors, who you hope are okay with you rebuilding that old clunker out front. They've gotten used to seeing it sitting in your driveway for long enough, right? I know that they probably would prefer that you did the work in your garage, I'll bet that you would too, if there was ever any room in there for your car. This whole thing is a test of how tolerant your neighbors are. If you are lucky they will just ignore what is going on. So I try to be a good neighbor. I don't make a lot of noise or leave a big mess with spilled oil and car parts piled up alongside my project. I make it a point to take the car off the jackstands at the end of the day and keep the car under a cover when I'm not working on it. In a blue collar neighborhood a lot of guys work on their own cars and you might even have somebody offer help or advice. It's hard for them to complain when they've got a dead car or two sitting in the driveway or alongside the garage. Live and let live.

 Middle class neighborhoods can be a different thing. They have this real concern about driving down property values. And what they call visual blight. Sometimes there are municipal codes that govern just what kind of work you can do to your car at home. These can be pretty Draconian, I know that those in my town are.  You are not allowed to perform maintenance or repair in your driveway that renders your car inoperable for more than twenty four hours. You are prohibited from rebuilding motors even out of sight in your garage. You are absolutely prohibited from painting your car anywhere at or around your residence. I spoke to a kid at the local chain auto store and he told me that his buddy will paint his car in the garage , at night. And you know that once the code enforcement people take a bite out of your ass they will be hanging around  like vultures, circling around waiting to take another mouthful. I remember when I had three Rivieras, two in the drive way and one out front at the curb. That wasn't illegal but I was lucky that I never experienced a problem at the time. As a homeowner I can see the validity to these rules. I don't want someone starting up and running a car rebuilding business next door to me. I also don't want a dirty unkempt front yard with abandoned cars and junk sitting in the driveway, mine or anybody else's. So it is eminently in your best interest to keep on good terms with your neighbors.

If you are lucky enough to have any garage, that's great. If you are lucky enough to have an empty garage you are really blessed. It seems that once you stop parking your cars in the garage it becomes some type of multiple dimension vacuum that sucks every piece of junk that's cluttering up your house into it's packed confines. If you are married with a family then you aware of the constant struggle to keep the garage free of "stuff". Kid's bicycles and toys take up a lot of room, not to mention falling over and scratching your car. All those odd pieces of furniture that are not good enough to use in the house but are too good to throw away end up there. Unused exercise equipment is packed away along with your good intentions. It doesn't take much before you cannot fit even one car in the garage. You  not only need the car to fit  but enough space to work around it. So you leave the car out side and a river of junk continues to fill up the remaining space with the sediment of your household.

What to do? It isn't easy to just throw things away, all this stuff has a claim on it from someone in your family. Most problematic when it belongs to your wife. Perhaps you can sort through the stuff and determine what can go and what will stay. If the weather is good you can move a lot of the stuff into the backyard and gain enough room to do some work on your car. You could rent a storage space for a month or two if you have some specific repairs to complete. Storage spaces can be black holes of expenditure. Out of sight "IS" out of mind. It is surprising how convenient it is to just leave that junk in there and to pay the bill. You won't be the only one. You would be surprised what kind of useless crap people keep paying storage fees on.  And you have just joined that club! While running my parts business I kept my Datsun parts in a 10'x30' storage space for an entire year. I set it up with shelving ,storage racks, and even cobbled up a storage loft. Actually quite a few guys had their businesses based out of those storage spaces. They had their tools and equipment arranged much like I did. There were also storage spaces that just had a pile of junk piled up in the middle. This was during the "last" recession and with all the residential foreclosures and spaces were filling up with furniture and appliances. I really only need my garage to swap out the tranny and do some work to the suspension bushings . My wife has even offered to pay for a couple of months of storage so I can move forward with my project. While I appreciate that and may even take her up on her offer I would rather approach the problem head on and cull threw the detritus.

My great dream is always moving somewhere with enough space to build a dedicated shop. It would be great to have a place that does not have to house my family cars. I am sure that I would then start to collect all kinds of cast off vehicles and parts once I have a space to store them. On the other hand it doesn't look like this could happen in the near future. A better plan is to scale down my efforts to a couple of cars and use the space available to me. I should concentrate my efforts on just one or two projects. I still have to keep the family cars up and running. Really how many cars does a guy need? This brings up a future posting topic, TMDC (Too Many Damn Cars!).

I need to replace the transmission in my XJS. I do not want to do it in the driveway. For one thing I don't think it is really too safe to jack up the car high enough to lower and remove the trans from under the car while on a sloping driveway. I had experienced some slipping problems during my last adventure under the car. I would hate to have the car slip off a jackstand during the operation. I had removed the tranny from my '56 Caddy in my garage and it took an additional four or five inches of blocks under my tallest jackstands to get the car high enough.

It was probably in the same issue of Hot Rod magazine that featured the story of a guy in Pennsylvania  that bought a house out in the boonies that didn't have a garage. There was a dirt side yard and the owner erected a heavy duty tent next to the house and ran a heavy duty extension cord from the house for power and light. He used this tent for several years and built a few cars out there. Later he built a small two car garage and shop to house his hobby. I was very energized by that story. I decided that I wasn't going to wait to have what I wanted. I needed to get started, right now. Luckily I have a ten foot wide side yard off my garage, behind a fence and gate. I could use this space to keep a car off my driveway and out of the street.  I could use one of those temporary garage tents or later build a solid patio cover. That's a plan for the future. I'm cleaning out the side yard right now and starting in on the garage. Darn it, There's quite a bit of work to get done before I even start on the tranny swap. Onward and upward.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

It takes a village to raise a blog!

I am very excited to premiere my new Better Beaters logo. I had sketched out some ideas on paper, but it took the technical skills of my Daughter to make my vision a reality. Then she added the logo and byline to the top of my blog page. I like the idea of a logo, as it  gives my site a distinct identity. I plan on using my logo on business cards and making decals to go on my car's rear window.

Another symbol of my identity is the spoked wheel that makes up my avatar. I have used this image for many years to identify myself while posting on other sites. I can take more credit for this. This is the combination of a 1977 Buick Riviera 15' wire  spoked hubcap on an extra steel wheel  from my 1967 Riviera. The wide whitewall was created by masking and spraying white primer on the tire sidewall. I got this idea from the British custom car magazine "Rolls and Pleats". White primer really sticks and stays amazingly white. I had used the technique of having narrow whitewalls "buffed" which required a lot of grinding and clouds of rubber dust. You are also limited in the width of the whitewall. No limitations with primer! I posed the wheel in the overgrown ivy in my backyard and snapped the photo.

My web name of Rivguy is pretty self explanatory. I was really into Rivieras. When I developed an interest in Mustangs I chose the label of "Stang Daddy '54", some things are better left in the past!

My daughter also developed one of the logos that I used with my previous used parts enterprise; DelgaSpeed. She turned my ideas into reality. A ghost image of a Datsun 240Z is overlaid the by the company name script.

While I am thanking my wonderful helpers the most credit should go to my wife. She has guided and directed me through this digital wilderness and I depend on her to straighten out the daily problems that I run into. I thank her for her time and patience.

I also want to thank my son and his girlfriend for giving me a new camera on Father's day. I have needed one since I accidentally ruined the camera that my wife had given me. I look forward to adding my own photographic content in the future.

I enjoy the opportunity to share my ideas and musings with anyone that drops in. I hope to improve the quality and content in the months to come.

The urban farm truck.

A farm truck is an old beat up but running and useful pick up or flat bed seen parked alongside the barn. Or standing alone in a field. Nobody is too concerned about how clean it is, or how shabby the interior is, or the few dents and scratches it has. Much of the time it displays the real patina of constant use, which gives it a quiet dignity. It is still called upon to do the dirty rough tasks that the modern farmer would rather not subject his shiny new King Ranch F250 to. These were basic trucks without the frills but they did the job, oftentimes carrying a heavier load then they were designed for.

Most DIY car guys will have some kind of  truck. Sometimes it is old and plain like the farm truck. Other times its one of these modern super deluxe jobs. Sometimes the truck is fancier and better engineered than the enthusiast's hobby car. Trucks have come a long way. Honestly you don't give up anything but fuel economy to a modern sedan, and not even by that much. A modern truck or SUV can do it all and that is why they are so many driver's choice. It's a vehicle that can do it all. I like trucks, but I like cars more. I had managed to reach the age of fifty years without owning my own truck.

Like many guys I really didn't need a truck because I knew a guy who had one, and he was glad to lend it to me.  My Dad. He was mostly a station wagon kind of guy while I and my brothers were growing up. Made a lot of sense, he needed that backseat for us kids and he managed to carry about anything he needed to in the back or on the open tailgate. He did buy an old '62 Suburban once. That truck was really clean and nice but it was really just a bigger station wagon. My Dad had a brief dalliance with a '59 El Camino which he found was unsuitable for his needs.

 In 1975 my Dad bought his last new vehicle and his first truck. It was a short bed stepside  Chevy.  Black with a red interior. Pretty sharp, it even had A/C. I drove that truck a lot in the 70's especially since I was often between cars. I was into motorcycles primarily, so at times it came in very handy.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I followed the mini van route instead of the truck route. Take the seats out and you can carry almost anything inside, unless of course the load is dirty or greasy. I knew my wife wouldn't appreciate the inside of our van being a mess. After having many kinds of old cars, for some reason I decided that I wanted an old truck. I had started reading Classic Truck magazine and I guess that had an influence.

I don't know why I gravitated to the Ford camp. This was strange because my whole family had always been employed by General Motors. I ended up with a 1966 Ford F250 Camper Special. It was orange and white, kind of like a U Haul truck. Because it had been a U Haul service truck for several years! The seller had worked for U Haul and purchased the truck from them. He mounted a cab over camper and kept it for thirty five years. It was equipped with manual steering and power brakes. A 352/auto had been replaced by a later 360 cid V8. It had a Weiand aluminum intake manifold, tubular headers, electronic ignition, and a Holley carb. It's kind of ironic that the only vehicle that I ever owned that had  aftermarket "speed" equipment was that old truck. I thought that it was good looking, fairly comfortable truck. The owner was honest with me, he told me it needed a new motor. By this he meant that it was quite worn out. No kidding. The first time the oil pressure light came on  I checked the oil level and found nothing registering on the dipstick! I added four quarts of oil.  I later found that the motor was using a quart of oil every fifty miles. Hard to believe but it wasn't laying out a constant smoke screen. Oil pressure was quite low when hot. The light would flicker a bit. I started using 60 weight racing oil instead of 10w-40w. I put in a new oil pump and saw only a minor improvement. There wasn't any lifter clatter and thankfully no rod knock. My best guess was that the cam shaft bearings were probably worn, in combination with the rings and valve guides. I think that the top end had been freshened up at least once without going through the cam bearings and lower end. A full rebuild was in order or a motor replacement.- Eventually.  Luckily the truck was smog exempt.

Cruising speed was a steady 60 mph. on the freeway. I would stay in the slow lane and let traffic pass me by. I named it my "urban farm truck". I drove the truck a fair amount, but just when I needed to haul stuff. I had the truck painted and I thought that it looked quire presentable. I did a lot of work to the truck. I even found a replacement 352 motor up in Santa Rosa. It was a 250 mile round trip. I used five quarts of oil that day. Still the trip was made without incident. I held onto that motor until I sold that truck. I offered it as a package deal to one of my co workers. I gave him a real good deal.

I started a used Datsun parts business and I needed to make lots of trips to the Los Angeles area for swap meets. I was going to do a lot of driving. I needed a good reliable vehicle. That's when I bought my 2007 Ford F150. I didn't have any pictures of my '66  but I just found had a copy of the Craigs List post.Yeah, I didn't get 3,500 dollars for it either.