Saturday, January 28, 2017

What ever happened to the spirit of adventure?

All photos from the National Old Trails Road Gallery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first was through the Pacific Northwest. 

The second was around the western states.

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

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

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

Saturday, January 21, 2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

Always room for one more! photo source:

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Game of Groans.

Raise your weapons high! photo source:

Who would have thought that finding the right spring compressor would be such a problem?

The Haynes repair manuals all proclaim proudly on the cover that each each volume is "based upon a complete teardown" Really?

Replacing the  lower control arms is pretty straight forward.  the most important thing is to keep in mind that you are dealing with some potentially dangerous forces, vehicle weight and that sinister, unseen force, compressed spring energy.  Like an evil genie in a bottle you want to keep it corked up until you are in a position to exert some modicum of control.  Unleashed unchecked it will wreak havoc on your health. Believe it.

The photo in the manual suggests using any of the commonly available inner spring compressor. I found one just like that at the local O'Reillys auto store. I paid the deposit and eagerly carried it home.

Sometimes car repair is just a numbers game. And sometimes the numbers are just stacked against you! The inner jaw is two inches wide, an inch thick and an inch and a quarter tall. The hole in the lower arm is just 1 1/4 inches. There is no way that you can insert through the hole with the hooks pointing up. Too wide.


You can try to put it in sideways with one hook pointing up and one down. except- there isn't enough room to raise the lower hook into position to grasp the coil. Maybe you can slide it horizontally between the upper coils, kind of like the supplied lower plate. I tried. I got the hook through but there didn't appear to be a way to get the center part through, even while prying between the coils with a pickle fork. I guess that an outside compressor might be called for.

I had a real nice set that was designed to compress the upper springs on a McPherson strut. Did you know that McPherson was a real guy? I believe that he was an engineer for Ford Motor Company working on a compact car for the European market in the late 1950s. Anyhow, these were too big to fit in the space between the spring pocket on the body and the top of the control arm. There is only about ten inches of space.

The cheap outside compressors from Harbor Freight have one very bulky double hook end and one single hook end. The threaded shaft is also twelve inches long and they cannot avoid the interference with the arm when positioned.


What do you do when you can't find what you need? What else, turn to the internet.

photo source: harbor freight

Yesterday after work I figured that I would make the rounds to see what was available locally. First stop Sears. Sears has fallen on hard times lately but they still carry a selection of good quality tools. The only had the McPherson strut type that I already had. I found a salesperson who used a computer to show me a selection of compressors that they never carry in stock. But, they would be glad to order them for me. I may be an Internet troglodyte but even I know how to order stuff on my own.


Next stop was Advance Auto parts. They also had the McPherson strut type tool but were out of the outside type compressors. A couple of burly fellows came in behind me carrying a dirty and rusty coil spring. I advised them that the store was out and that Sears didn't have one in stock either. They looked disappointed, but I told them that I was going to Pep Boys down the street next. I asked them if they had checked the Harbor Freight Tool store near the freeway. No, but we all agreed that their compressors were pretty crappy, but probably better than nothing. As I left the parking lot I was expecting to see them at the Pep Boys but I guess that they decided to give HF another try.

Pep Boys had both types of compressors available, but the outside types didn't seem like any improvement on the HF model. I was hoping to find the Eastwood style but was disappointed. Since it was on my way I decided to visit the O'Reilly store again. I told the counter person that I was going to bring the rented compressor back since it would not work.


It is possible to remove the springs without compressing the springs at all. First remove the brake caliper, support it, remove the rotor be sure to remove the ABS sender and protect the wire.Then  you unbolt the tie rod, loosen the ball joint nut and place a floor jack under the control arm, do not have the jack supporting any weight at this time, just raise it to within and inch of so below the arm. I would tie the spring to the steering knuckle to prevent the spring from escaping and causing any injury or damage. Then bang the side of the knuckle with the ball joint nut backed off, The ball joint should pop out of it's tapered seat but stop at the nut. Then raise the jack to support the arm, remove the ball joint nut and carefully, meaning SLOWLY, lower the jack. the spring will extend as the arm is lowered, releasing it's stored energy. At least that's how it's supposed to happen.

I once bought a used control arm at a wrecking yard because I thought that I couldn't afford a new ball joint. The yard man went around shaking the wheel hubs looking for a decent specimen. The cars were all supported by welded up rim stands. He found a car that already had the brake drums and tie rod end removed. He told me to stand back, while he removed the ball joint nut then banged on the knuckle with a large hammer. Suddenly the ball joint popped loose, the arm swung violently down,  and the spring shot straight down creating an explosion  of dust! This is not a recommended method!

The threaded shaft is too long, but that can be fixed.

I used the old control arm to locate the spring in the spring pocket and properly position the  compressors.

I decided that I could shorten the threaded shafts on the old Harbor Freight spring compressors that I had. I was able to place them in position and compress the spring. I figured that I didn't have to completely compress the springs, just relieve some of the pressure. I loosened up the ball joint nut be kept it flush with the ball joint stud. My plan was  to remove the pivot bolts and lower the arm with the jack and release the spring. Not a bad idea but I thought that I had better disconnect the ABS sender first. There was only one problem, the sender was held on by a type of bolt that I had never seen before. It looked like the end of a TORX screw bit. like this *. (but much bigger of course)


Now I had to buy a special socket to remove the bolt. Of course it was too late to go to the auto parts store to buy it since it was Sunday. Tomorrow I had to go to work, and tonight all my momentum was spent. This whole project was beginning to turn into a real bummer. The cut down compressor idea didn't work out exactly as planned.


I ended up using the cut down tool to remove the right spring. Then I bought the U-bolt tool to re-compress the spring for installation. It turned out that I had to compress the spring as best as possible for removal. Then I had to release the spring and re-compress it enough to get into place. Then I would put the floor jack under the arm. release the spring again, raise the arm arm higher to install the ball joint stud, attach the nut and tighten it. It sounds like a lot of repetitive work, and it was was.

It's easy to feel your enthusiasm draining away. Then your resolve starts to fade. Then of course "other matters" start to take precedence. It becomes very easy to see how so many cars become partially disassembled forgotten projects.

I found that starting a big repair project in the middle of the Holiday Season was not as good an idea as I had thought. Even if you have some extra days off, there is a lot of work to be done in preparation. Then you have family and guests over and your Wife would turn a dim eye to your choice of slipping away to the garage, to turn wrenches when you should be helping her and visiting with the family.

Photo source:

Still sometimes there  are jobs that have to be done. Today I decided that I had to spend a few hours in the garage or I was never going to get it done. I made some real progress. It wasn't really fun but I did get a real sense of accomplishment. I bought another spring compressor that seems to be working out, but I had to fiddle with another small compressor inside the coil to get the bottom of the spring to stay seated in the lower spring pocket. This lengthy discussion has probably gotten pretty boring, I know that I'm kind of tired of the whole mess.

Messy, Messy, Messy And this ain't the worst of it!

In some ways it seems kind of ridiculous that this job is taking so much time. My Wife has started hinting that maybe, maybe, I should have taken the car to my trusted mechanic. Perhaps, but I'm guessing that this would have probably cost over 500.00. (The two arms cost me over two hundred dollars alone.) I'm going to sell this car after I get it fixed. It's not like I can recover the costs of this repair in the sale. If I didn't do the work myself I might have just sent this car to the scrapyard.

photo source: OTC

Now, this is the tool that the job calls for. It wouldn't have eliminated all the crawling around, jacking and lying on my back unbolting a bunch of greasy, dirty parts. But, when I got to the part where I had to compress the spring for removal, (and later re-installation) I could have accomplished the task much easier, saving me hours of fiddling, fussing, modifying and shopping for alternative tools. The tool costs around 175.00 plus tax and shipping of course. For a couple of hundred bucks I could have ordered the tool on line (I never saw one for sale anywhere, and I looked at a bunch of stores) and it would have arrived within a couple of days, if not over night. 

So why didn't I just buy the damn tool? Because I was committed to the cheapest price fix. Like I said, I'm planning on selling the darn car as soon as it's roadworthy again and I didn't want to spend any more money than I had to. I will get the job done, but I did have to buy that other compressor and it cost me 55.00, so I had to shell out more money than I anticipated or wanted too. Penny wise and Pound foolish? Even a cheapskate like me puts some value on their time. 

Can you spell "short sighted"?

POSTSCRIPT: January 17,2017

In order to remove the front pivot bolt of the lower control arm I had to loosen the nuts holding on the steering rack. The right side had plenty of room to move but the same couldn't be said of the left side. Then I realized that the rack was attached to the steering column on this side! Not much movement. I was able to rotate the old arm and point the bolt down and remove it.When I installed the new arm the rubber pivot bushings were just too tight to allow any rotation. In frustration I drove the bolts into place and the flat washer portion of the bolt tore the rack boot. I tried to parch this with some silicon seal but it appears that these boots seal some oil that flows into them from the mechanism. I had noticed that there was an oil line that went through the end of each boot ahead of the clamp. I will do some more checking but I'll bet it's coming from the tear. On my old Datsun 280Z the boots only protected the u-joints at the end of the rack, they were to keep dirt out, not oil in. So I guess I will be replacing them. Hopefully they will be available individually, and not only with a new replacement rack.

I also noticed that the right side tie rod end boot was torn. I didn't want to replace the tie rod end so I bought one of those "universal "boot replacements. While I was removing the old torn boot I noticed that the edges were sealed into the body of the tie rod end. This is much superior to the old loose fitment, but means that the universal part really won't seal correctly. These "lifetime" rated components are well engineered and built but as the manual states, any observable wear (freeplay) should result in replacement. My car has over 200,000 miles so if these are the originals than I would say that they definitely had a long productive life.

On the positive side I rotated the tires on my truck today. I should probably do it every 5,000 miles or every year. I also started up my XJ6 yesterday without any problem, just a little squealing from the new belts, I hope they are just loose. I hadn't driven it in over two weeks, and it was terribly filthy (I have some very messy trees in front of my house) so a very thorough driveway wash made it look as good as ever. Wow, do I eally miss driving that car. I'm going to drive it to work while I investigate what the suspension needs. My Mustang needed a jump to start, as it's been sitting for almost a month. Restarted okay Today though.

So now I find myself with more work than I had anticipated. There's a Country song that advised (among other life's lessons) "Sell your old truck while it's still running!" Darn good advice.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Harley Davidson number two, 1977 Harley Davidson XLCR.

At least in the looks department, it was a home run.

After riding a somewhat unwieldy chopper around for a couple of years. I realized that I was looking for a higher level of performance than I was getting from my modified bike. While it was quite stable and smooth riding on the highway, the braking still left much to be desired, and the range on that little gas tank was laughable. While on my trip to Canada I could only count on a maximum  of 60 miles. At one point there was a minimum run of 75 miles without any towns at all!. I had to scrounge up a couple of used antifreeze containers as spare gas cans to make the distance. So I was always looking for a bigger tank. There wasn't a lot to choose from. 


The K model and the original  Sportster of 1957 had a pretty nice large tank. I don't know what the capacity was, but I would guess around 4 gallons. I don't know what ever happened to those tanks, but I looked high and low for one, but could never find one. It's funny, but since Sportsters were so popular as choppers many original parts were discarded and are now quite rare. They were even rare back in the late 70s. I tried hard to find a handlebar mounted Speedo/Tach  instrument panel. I finally had to piece one together from a Superglide set up.

The second touring tank for the Sportster came out in the mid Sixties. This was nicknamed the "Turtle Tank", not a complement. It did hold four gallons but was low and wide and not exactly attractive. You can see how the seat is perched rather awkwardly floating above the tank and frame. Not exactly sleek. In the Seventies Harley would do away with all these more practical designs and every Sportster came with the classic Sportster  XLCH tank and a contoured "Cobra " type seat. Practicality be damned! At least they looked good.

Over time I did acquire some of the parts like those of the old blue 1965 XLH pictured above: The headlamp/ handle bar  enclosure, front  and rear fenders, crash bar, and seat. I did manage to incorporate some of these parts into the later rebuilding of my XLCR.

Just as I was planning to come up with my own design for my super Sportster,  little did I know that old Willy G. had his own design ready for production. The XLCR seemed like it was exactly what I was looking for, just look at the specs; a triangulated frame, alloy wheels with triple disc brakes, Siamese dual exhaust, with rear set controls, a long, XR750 styled tank and seat combination. 

The only discordant note is that exhaust pipe that curves along the primary side, it kind of looks like it was stuck on as an afterthought, but how else could you run that second pipe? The 1965 XLH featured a set of long mufflers connected at the end of the head pipes. It was probably quiet but a bit restrictive. Back in the day a set of staggered dual short pipes let the engine breathe but they were always going to be a tad loud. Harley tried to cope with that problem by tying the two head pipes together with a cross over pipe. This would allow the exhaust to flow through both of the small mufflers. This was only effective for a short time. The next plan was to utilize a two into one collector header.  This was actually a much better alternative. This was not only quieter but smoothed out the torque curve. This was used for '77 and '78. I kind of liked the look of the Siamese duals from the carb side. These pipes were the best flowing stock exhaust that were ever used on the Sportster, and this was probably the most powerful of the old Iron head 1,000cc motors. The factory claimed a quarter mile e.t. of 12.77 seconds. Surprisingly this was the same e.t. that Kawasaki claimed for the original 500cc. H-1. I remember reading the road test of this bike in Cycle World magazine and they almost managed to make it into the twelves, but it was close. Later models went back to a staggered duals system. but they were punishingly restrictive, and were ruinous to performance.

My first and only brand new motorcycle.

I thought that Harley was never going to incorporate these chassis improvements into the mainline Sportster so I thought that I would make my own version. I rode the bike stock for around a year, making some small changes. I used a set of Lowrider model set back handlebar risers, I bought the two up seat and pegs when they became available. I found that the stock XLCR just wasn't that good a motorcycle. For one thing, it was pretty uncomfortable. There was a huge steel/ rubber rear tank mount that was easy to feel through the seat cushion. The rear set controls and the drag bars were okay, but it wasn't easy to carry anything on the bike. We didn't wear backpacks in those days. The handling wasn't anything outstanding either, nor was the straight line performance. It just didn't deliver on the looks.

My plan was to modify the rear of the bike to use a traditional style rear fender and mounting system. The XR style tank was replaced by a custom "King Sportster" 3 1/2 gallon tank. For all my efforts, my modified XLCR ended up looking alot like a standard 1979 Sportster. The footpeg and control lever set up though, was just what I needed to convert my bike. I even used the stock '79 XLS seat.

To be honest, I never saw this coming.

Even so, the bike was now well suited to my needs and desires. I rode it everywhere, all the time. It was comfortable, the larger tank increased the range, I added a sissy bar and slung a set of pony express style leather bags across the rear fender and I was ready to go. And I did.

The seating position was very comfortable. The bike was compact and easy to use around town. It was very stable out on the open highway and it handled well up in the mountains. The motor was smoothest at 70 mph. which made it suitable for long trips. The bike was very reliable and I never had a qualm on setting out on any journey, even at the moment's notice. I added an external oil cooler, oil filter set up and highway pegs. I had a set of HD "compact hard saddle bags" and a "compact windshield" up front. Overall, this was a great set up for the "solo" tourist. I never did  take a passenger with me for a long ride during this time. The bike would have been lacking in long term passenger comfort. There's not a lot of room on a Sportster! There was one trip where my newly wed Wife and I rode up to Mendocino from my parent's home in the Bay Area. My Wife was a good sport even though we did get caught in the rain. We had a good time.

I kept this bike for over twenty years. Over that period I put at least 80,000 miles on it. I did a top end rebuild once at around 15,000 miles and a full rebuild at around 40,000 miles. I modified the bike from this configuration into a copy of the '57 Sportster pictured at the top of the post. I even went after the Euro look, with an attempt to emulate the BMW RS. I used drag bars, a Rifle fairing, Genuine Krauser side cases, (can't call those saddlebags),chrome '79 chrome Siamese pipes, a '79 "ham can" air cleaner housing, and a '79 "fat seat" . It was painted a very tasteful charcoal grey with black pinstripes.  I may have some pictures of these different set ups stashed somewhere around the house. I will post some pictures if I ever find them.

I even held onto this bike when I finally bought my first Big Twin, my 1981 FLH Sport. This Sportster was the bike that I took my month long trip around the USA on.

On the road, More about this later.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

"Sometimes a Man just has know his limitations."

There are a lot of great quotes in this movie. Fans will remember them all, but I found this one to be especially appropriate at my stage of life.

Jerry Brown following Clint Eastwood? Was he responsible for another of my favorite quotes? "We are entering an era of reduced expectations".

The need to manage the old car hobby can  be the result of a lot of factors; money, time, space, money, health and money. Did I mention money? In our youth most of us enjoyed good health and vitality, and most of our limitations came from the lack of time and money. There wasn't anything that we couldn't accomplish as long as we were willing to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Now after rolling up our sleeves we may find that our back is starting to hurt, our hips ache, and our arms and shoulders are feeling awfully sore. Hmmmm, now there is an another factor added to the equation; our physical health. Can we still do the DIY physical  labor that we need to invest to accomplish our goals?

Like the other forms of " human capital" the amount is always limited. Sometimes we have more time available, but without money we can't afford the parts or processes we need to do the job. Other times we might have extra space available, and we might find ourselves amassing a collection of forlorn project cars that we will probably never get around to finishing. Or even starting. As we get older we might be able to squeeze some extra cash loose, and of course this is the greatest lubricant to progress in the hobby car field. It's even better than STP! That extra money will allow us to buy a car in better shape, order all the parts we need at one time, pay others to do the work that we have no interest or desire to do, rent garage space, and generally make up for any other area of expertise that we are lacking in.

There is a lot of physical movement involved in this hobby of ours. Bending, crouching, kneeling , reaching. pulling, pushing, crawling, carrying, just to name a few. All this movement takes it's toll on our backs, shoulders, hips knees and elbows.

Dude! Put on some pants,  that's a sure way to get hurt in the garage!

Even the great Leonardo realized that all this stretching and such was going to take it's toll on our "mortal coil" ( a Di Vinci reference followed by a Shakespearean reference, hows that for high brow?")

Conservation gets a lot of press these days, conserving our Nation's resources is a good and vital thing, conserving our own personal resources is even more important since it has such a great and direct impact on our lives.

I told some of the young guys that I work with, that you know you are getting old when every movement is punctuated by a grunt, groan, or sigh.

All of this is just a way to lead up to to the fact that I started experiencing quite a bit of pain to my right hip a few days ago. I had been doing a lot of loading and unloading of my pick up truck bed. Lots of trips to the public storage space. My truck is not that tall, but getting into the bed requires me to raise one knee up onto the open tailgate and then to scramble and hoist myself up whilst pivoting on my bent right knee. This causes quite a bit of rotation and force being applied to that old hip. Now I've been doing this kind of thing for years, lots of years. I used to have to swing my arms around in circular motions a lot, as part of my job, directing vehicles around. I started getting pain to my rotater cuffs, even worse I could detect a faint ratcheting "sound" while I moved the shoulder joint. To preserve and protect the cartilage I've got left, I started doing the "T Rex"  thing with my arms. This entails restricting my arm's movement to the area directly in front of my body. Just watch how the dinosaur does it in "Toy Story."

This hip pain is the newest addition to my cacophony of  aches and pains. It joins my lower back, knees, upper back, and that weird joint in my left ring finger in a symphony of suffering, or at least nagging discomfort.

Boy did I laugh when I first saw that "man step." I'm not laughing now.

I had given myself what I thought was at the time an arbitrary cut off point for quitting my messing around with cars. "Ten more years, that ought to be enough!"  Well now I'm wondering if I will even make it to the end of that ten years.

While I don't envision myself being involved in extremely heavy labor in my DIY future . I do have some pretty  heavy duty jobs lined up, right now.

First, I've got to replace those lower control arms on my '96 Mustang, That means jacking up the car, crawling around underneath, compressing and removing the springs, and breaking loose the tie rod ends and ball joints.

Second, I've got to replace the rubber bushings in the control arms of my XJ6. This looked like it was also going to involve jacking up the car, crawling around underneath, compressing and removing the springs, and breaking loose the tie rod ends and ball joints.

Third, I've  got to remove and replace the transmission in my XJS. This will involve jacking up the car, crawling around underneath, removing exhaust pipes, linkages, oil lines and more. All while supporting the motor with a support sling and maneuvering  the transmission jack underneath while trying to avoid a reinactment of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, except this time with ATF instead of crude petroleum.

I see an immediate future involving a lot of crawling around on the floor.

Am I up to it? Well I better be. I've dug myself into a bit of a hole with this old car fleet. The Mustang must be repaired before it can be sold. The XJ6 must be repaired before it can be comfortably driven. The XJS must be repaired so that I can drive it enough to form some kind of relationship with it.

I could not have all these cars unless I had been willing to put in the work needed to keep them up. There's no way I could afford to take them all to a mechanic to have all the repair and maintenance done. I will have to be careful not to hurt myself getting all these tasks done. There is no way to avoid being quite sore the day after.

Of course it would be easier if I had less cars in the first place.  I may have to cull the herd soon. Still it is important to conserve my strength and physical ability over the long haul.

photo source:
Like the Old Gent in the picture, you can stand still or keep on walking, but the hands on that clock will keep right on moving.

Happy New Year! Best Wishes for 2017!  Let's keep on moving and see it we can stay ahead of the movement of that Cosmic timepiece.