Thursday, March 30, 2023

 GoodGuys All American Get Together.

Last Saturday I thought that I would celebrate the window of clear sunny weather to attend this show. The last event that I attended was well before Covid.

Inflation has been pretty brutal, I thought that the parking fee was high before, at 10.00, but now it's 15.00! However, the car show actually starts in the parking area, as there are often very interesting cars parked there. Many times they are just as good, or better than the ones inside. 

For example, I saw a very nice bright blue, hot rodded, 38 Pontiac coupe, a bright yellow Model A hot rod, and lots of '60's and '70's muscle cars.

There were a lot of late model performance cars there besides my '06 Mustang. A couple of Chargers and  Challengers. I saw a Cadillac CTS V series parked next to an ATS coupe, both lowered and tricked out with bigger wheels, and with additional spoilers. 

A Lamborghini Urus SUV was parked there also. This is the fourth one I've seen in the last few months. That's a quarter of a million dollar car!

Admission to the event was 25.00 each for spectators. Ouch!

So what do you get for your money? In many ways not very much. In fact, the last time I attended with my Son, I refused to pay the admission of 20 bucks and just turned around and left! I said just forget the ten bucks for parking, we're outta here! It just didn't seem worth it.

If you never look you'll never find it.

Vendors and more vendors.

The swap meet area was pretty large and well stocked. Lots of vendors were selling shirts, stickers, and die cast model cars, but to be honest, that was exactly what I was looking for! I found a die cast model of my '05 Navigator on line, but it was currently out of stock, probably never to be stocked again! So I checked out every vendor. There were the usual vendors selling new repro parts, all types of old parts, and restoration supplies, as well as tools 

There were engine parts from '50's and '60's cars, wheels, body, and trim pieces. The last time I was here I found a heater/defroster/fan control panel that I needed for my '70 Mustang. 

This photo is from the GG website. 
I'll always pick the Mustang!

Run whatcha brung.

There was the autocross course, which was a relatively recent addition to these GG events. I'm sure that it was run just for general time, not with competitive classes like with the SCCA, Sports Car Club of America. There were some surprises, some really nice cars went through the course. Several mid to late '60's Corvettes, a couple of early Fox Mustangs, a couple of '70's F bodies, a '60's Ranchero, a mid 70's Chevy pick up, and even a Tesla! The biggest surprise was when someone took their mid '70's Suburban 4x4 through the course. The guy was really cookin', never hit a cone, and didn't spin out. We all applauded when he finished his run. Pretty impressive! I didn't see anyone spin out while I was watching. The course was pretty wide, but back with the SCCA there were frequent spin outs. 

I think that an autocross course is a good place to compete with other drivers. Driving over the same course provides a good comparison of driver skill.  Playing grab ass on the freeway doesn't prove anything, it's just stupid and dangerous. The driver with the most powerful car and worst judgement will always have the advantage. While on the autocross course, driver skill and the car set up makes the difference. Speeds are also relatively low, probably not more than fifty, so the chance of stopping before you hit a jersey wall is pretty good. 

One of the problems with running with the SCCA was that it was divided into competitive classes. The stock class didn't allow any modifications. Common mods like aftermarket wheels or exhaust put you into a much more competitive class. Of course if you were just competing for fun, or to see how well you could do, it probably didn't matter. Serious competitors would scrutinize the classes to see which cars would have a better chance of winning, or at least have fewer competitors. I once competed in class all by myself as the only class entry, and was determined to be the winner of my class! I still have the sticker!

There were inside displays; an indoor car show, more vendors and a model car show. I didn't bother to check out any of these venues.  

There was a car corral, where everybody thought that their old car was made of gold, instead of rusty metal. 

I saw a few cars that interested me. A '58 Cadillac Sedan De Ville. It was green inside and out. It reminded me of my '57 Cadillac back in 1979. At least in it's condition. It was a complete, straight, original survivor. Just like my '57. The asking price for this car was 20,000 dollars. A popular asking price, it seems.

A '73 Cadillac limousine. This car was just interesting to look at, I wouldn't actually consider actually buying something like this. The price was then irrelevant.

A '68 Mustang V8 coupe. A nice clean green car. This was kind of like what I had wanted to build with my '70. At least this one had a V8. I didn't bother looking at the price.

A '36 Ford truck. The truck looked pretty good, finished to a driver level, but the seller was asking 20,000 dollars also. Maybe these guys would be willing to deal, maybe not.

What really caught my eye was a stock '64 Buick Riviera. It was originally white. It had been resprayed some time in the past and some areas were buffed off for patina. It was very straight, complete and clean. The interior only had a couple of split seams. There was only a bit of rust bulge visible on the lower left corner of the rear window. There was a bit of light rust around the edge of almost every chrome piece. The owner was a nice guy in his late thirties of early forties, he told me that he had bought it in So Cal. Overall, it wasn't a bad car, I could see myself owning it and bringing it back up to snuff,

Except for the price! 16,000 dollars. That was his asking price. I could buy a restored car from an ROA member for twice that price. To me, this was a five to six thousand dollar car. If it ran well and had better paint it might inch up closer to seven or eight grand, maybe. But not from me. Of course I didn't badger him about the price, but we did have a nice chat about the car. 

I know that lot's of guys bring their cars for sale hoping to flip them for a big profit. I've brought three cars to these shows just trying to sell them. My '56 Cadillac Sedan de Ville, my '66 Riviera, and my '22 Dodge lakes roadster project, Man, I couldn't give that Dodge away! And I really tried! None of them sold, and I wasted two days with the Dodge.

Of course one of the attractions were the "participant's" cars, parked around the fairgrounds. Many of the participant's cars were also wearing for sale signs. The owners might not really be looking to sell their cars, But if somebody wanted to pay their price...

A couple caught my eye. One was a '29 Model A roadster that was immaculate and show ready. It was built by Vern Tardel, who is well known in the period correct, traditional Ford Hot Rod community. It was beautifully done. The flathead engine had  finned Edelbrock heads, multiple carbs and a five speed transmission. The detailing and paint were flawless, just like the chrome and the nice smelling leather upholstery. Price? 59,000 dollars. Yeah, that is a lot, but this is a car that you'd never have to make excuses for, and it's already done. You couldn't build a car like this unless you had several years to spend on the project, plus a lot of know how, and maybe even more money! And best of all, for us old guys, was that you could enjoy it Today. Before you kick the bucket! That may sound a bit cruel, but it's really an important  consideration. A guy could own that car, cross it off their bucket list, and sell it a few years down the road if they chose. It wouldn't have gotten many miles added, and it might have even gone up in value. 59K, that's the price of a new Lincoln Aviator. Sure it's expensive, but it's not unattainable like that Urus. 

Another car that caught my eye, was a Cadillac XLR convertible, red with a tan interior. The XLR is a    Cadillac /Corvette hybrid, with Art and Science body styling. These were quite expensive when new, but this one was going for 20K or OBO. This was a nice, clean, and shiny car. Since the mechanical bits are shared with the Corvette, parts and service shouldn't be a problem. And it has a folding hard top convertible roof. None of that darn complicated, Jaguar 12 cylinder or troublesome Nikasil alloy V8 timing chain nonsense. 

And don't forget the food. I'd been craving a corn dog for a very long time, but I couldn't find any for sale close to my house. The one that I bought was 10.00, but very good. Especially when slathered with  mustard. Of course I thought that it was kind of expensive, but eating at an event is always expensive. 

So did I draw any conclusions after my afternoon at GoodGuys? 

I suppose the main question that I kept asking myself is if I even belong at an event like this... anymore. 

I do have an affinity for old cars and I can relate to them. It's just that the hobby has morphed into something that is almost unrecognizable to  (cheap) old guys like me. It used to be about having fun with inexpensive old cars. Now it's become the fetish-ization of certain models from certain eras. Pre War Fords were once cheap, they were plentiful, they were the available canvas that poor car guys worked with, to fashion something that they could build and own, and could be proud of.

Then the torch got passed to '50's cars, then '60's cars, then muscle cars. Some guys moved on, some guys held on. A lot depends on when you got started in the hobby.

Maybe it was always that way. There are the diehards that want to promote and hold on to the old days, and the old ways. Then there are those that move forward to new platforms. Newer platforms that are more available, cheaper and even better. 

Most of the hobby's icons have become prohibitively expensive, and require a real depth of commitment to play in that field. You really have to know what will make you happy in the long run.

I once wrote that everyone can, and should, participate in the automotive hobby on their own terms. The guys with the late model Mustangs, Camaros, Challengers and Chargers. They're chasing the late models, just like we did in the past.  Just like the late model Corvette fans. Corvettes of every year have always been part of the hobby. Those two guys with the late model Cadillacs in the parking lot. The guys that I met in the fairgrounds, with the slammed CT6 and supercharged Chrysler 300. The guy that ran his Tesla through the autocross. They're doing their own thing, nothing wrong with that. In fact, everything is exactly right with that.

There isn't anybody out there telling me what my participation in the car hobby should look like. I've had my history with plenty of old cars, I had my fling with Hondas and Datsuns. I gave the Jaguar thing a shot, now I'm turning my interest in the "Vintage Lite" direction. That's been my choice to make, I could have held onto any one of my old cars. I could have chosen to concentrate my efforts and resources on having just one desirable vintage car. 

But I didn't, and chances are likely that I probably won't.

Friday, March 24, 2023

 Hero to Zero? Really?

Yeah, sure.

Further thoughts on this topic. Just one old man's rant!

What had once been considered to be pretty great, should it now be considered to be mediocre, or even worse?

Don't we expect and welcome improvement? 

You have to be sure to apply the appropriate standards of judgement.

One of which is utility.

Can the item in question still satisfactorily perform the function for which it was manufactured and intended? 

I have a large collection of old car magazines, but there is almost unlimited material available on the internet. I also have the benefit of living through the last fifty years, witnessing the change as an enthusiast. As Pee Wee Herman said so eloquently in his movie, at the end when he's in the drive in theater with his girlfriend. He was watching a movie that was made of his adventure. His girl scolds him for not paying attention to the movie, and Pee Wee replies; "I don't have to watch the movie, I lived it!"

There are advantages of actually having been there as the events unfold. 

Of particular interest are those issues that carried tests of a newly released model. They were usually filled with enthusiastic descriptions by the road testers. I remember when the Fox Bodied Mustang replaced the Pinto based Mustang II. Initially there was a lot of excitement.

When the SN97 replaced the Fox series, the reviewers found the car to be more refined in handling, ride and interior appointments. The quality of the plastic panels was praised, especially in comparison to the contemporary Camaro. Ford maintained the same design for eleven years so it became familiar to testers and other similarly priced cars had improved the levels of their interiors. 

Steady improvement by the competition and development over time leads to higher expectations.  Adoption of new technologies leads to substantial improvements. The fitting of catalytic converters in 1975 lead to much better driveability, economy and most importantly, reduced emissions. This provided an improvement during the last days of carburetor equipped engines. 

Incorporation of electronic fuel injection and engine management systems resulted in an incredible acceleration of the development of the ICE engine that we are experiencing Today.

The reality of it is, except for the "Malaise Era" of the mid 70's through the mid 1980's, newer cars have been steadily improving every year. In performance, safety, economy, and convenience.  Many contemporary mass market cars like Hondas and Toyotas when equipped with V6 engines will quite quite handily out perform cherished performance models of the 1960's. 

So where does his leave lovers and owners of classic models? 

Unless they are committed to preforming extensive upgrades and modifications to their cars, they will find that they compare poorly to modern iron. The important thing is not to get sucked into that mindset. Mark Twain summed it up nicely.

Almost all higher spec and performance cars from the recent past will perform more than satisfactorily during normal driving, whether on the street or highway. They can cruise at contemporary freeway speeds and keep up and even exceed traffic conditions. There is no need to hug the right lane at a whimpy 55 mph, though you often see cars from the late 1950's and early 60's doing just that. I once passed a beautifully restored late '60's Muscle Car trundling along in the right hand lane at 55 mph.  What's up with that?

My '77 Datsun 280Z was my daily in the late 1990's. It was capable of cruising at 100 mph. with good handling and stopping power. My '92 300ZX was, and still is, as capable as any modern car. 

I have owned and daily driven many older cars, and this was in the 1970's and later decades. I dove my '64 Cadillac in the mid 70's and I drove it like a modern car. My '70 Coupe de Ville was a great performer that I drove to LA and out to Fresno. Even my '57 was driven as my daily from 1976 to 1980. I drove it on the freeway all the time, back and forth to work, school, and anywhere else. I drove it out to Stockton for a college field trip. My '71 and '66 Rivieras were both driven in the same manner.

My last foray into the old car world was in the 2010 era, my '70 Mustang coupe with the 250 six and automatic. It was capable of a 70 mph cruising speed,with a top speed of almost 100 mph. I drove it down US101 to Santa Maria for the West Coast Kustoms show and I maintained 70 mph. up the Cuesta Grade on the way home. 

The major penalty will be in low fuel economy, these old cars didn't get very good gas mileage then, and they won't now!

The other real issue is poor braking, with those cars not equipped with disc brakes, Lower priced cars often had small drum brakes. The higher priced car usually had satisfactory stopping power even with drums some of the less expensive models were not so well equipped. 

Please, no tailgating! 

AACA member Bloo drove his '39 Pontiac from Oregon to Wisconsin.

Another AACA memeber routinely road trips his beautiful '38 Buick.
I just love this photo.

There was a wonderful thread on the AACA forum that concerned a member driving his '39 Pontiac sedan from Oregon the Wisconsin. The member shared his trip on back roads, through small towns, and country highways. On the trip he dealt with the limitations of the car, the low cruising speed, (53 mph. exactly!) poor headlamps, wipers and low fuel economy. He even experienced running off the road trying to avoid hitting a deer! 

This was a pre war car and it was designed and driven in a pre freeway America. This doesn't mean that it can't be driven today, you just have to keep it's limitations in mind.

By the mid 1950's cars were capable of current freeway speeds, speeds that were higher than the capabilities of the tires, brakes and handling, but that didn't stop drivers from speeding down the highway!

What has gotten my ire up lately (again!) is reading various road tests of the Lincoln Navigator. The improved 2002 model had a new, high quality, dual cockpit style dash, along with new seats, and door  panels. The chassis received an independent rear suspension system that improved the ride, handling, and interior seating arrangements. All suitably upscale. In 2005 the exterior received some freshening up with a new front fascia, and the body cladding had been simplified, resulting in a more luxurious, upscale look. The engine was also changed in '05 to a three valve design similar to the one used in the Expedition, but it was improved with the addition of 10 ft. lbs. of torque, it also weighed less, and the transmission was now upgraded to a six speed unit. 

This was all reported by the testers who praised the Nav for it's surprising nimble handling, improved braking, and higher skid pad numbers. The utility and comfort of the vehicle was noted in comparison to it's competitors. While the acceleration lagged behind the 6.0 Escalade, the fuel economy was slightly better. 

While looking at road tests of the first twin turbo V6 models, there was a lot of bashing of the last V8 models. Some of the numbers that were quoted were inaccurate, and were lower than what had been posted in earlier road tests. The figures were similar to the older initial, pre 2002 Navs. 

Now they were saying that these older V8 Navs were pretty poor all around, in comparison to the new turbo cars. Sure the news models are improved, but the previous models were more than satisfactory at the time. One comparison between the '14 and '15 models said that the car was basically as good as it always was, now it just had a bit more oomph.

Of course the road testers usually aren't putting their hard earned dollars down on these cars, they get to drive them for free.

I should know better. Magazine testers in the enthusiast press always color their comments to favor the new models. My '96 Mustang especially, was derided for years after it's introduction, though it was praised initially. Likewise with my '06 Mustang. ( It only has 300 hp!)

How can I stand the embarrassment of driving that car?

Friday, March 17, 2023

 I'm currently finding myself in kind of a funk, thinking about cars in general.

Too much thought, and not enough action!
Rodan's famous sculpture.

I know, I know, that's what I get for thinking!

But this time it's due to a somewhat different situation.

I now find myself with newer cars that fulfill the functions that I had once wanted to fill with more vintage vehicles. 

The best points of a '65 Riviera,

combined with a '70 Mach One. Satisfied by one vehicle,
 my '06 Mustang GT.

The '06 Mustang fulfills my desire for a personal luxury car like an early Riviera. It's retro styling also satisfies my desire for a vintage model like a classic Mustang. It also satisfies my desire to have a high performance sporty car. It does all this while being new enough, with low enough mileage, that should hopefully keep it trouble free for many years. 

Cadillac, always a road car.
 I've always loved these big fat beasts.

My '05 Navigator fulfills my desire for a special car, similar to my Jaguar XJ6. I wanted a car with a really nice interior. It also fulfills my desire for a big, '50's type, American luxury car. The Navigator is definitely large and in charge, and it has even lower mileage than my Mustang.

Both are in good original condition, and only need a little fussing with, to improve their condition. That's  what I was looking for, something that I could drive, and dote on, maintain, and improve. 

So now I have pretty much what I wanted, so what's to be dissatisfied about? Nothing. Maybe that's the problem! As a car guy I'm always restless, on the hunt, looking for the next thing. 

I subscribe to a Canadian website entitled, My Star Collector Car. The latest post was about the editor's need to downsize his project car herd. The need for this, besides his Wife's subtle hints, (which never gained much traction with him!) was that he had reached the conclusion that he was never going to get started on most of these projects. Normally, we will kid ourselves about this, and push that fact out of our mind. Until something happens, in this case, he was going to lose most of his car storage. This situation had to be addressed and he started to sell off his collection.

I went through a similar personal Epiphany last year. I realized that I wasn't going to get motivated enough to finish up the XJS let alone the '51 Jag, so I got rid of them all including the XJ6. 

At least I got to really experience the XJ6, I really drove that car all over during the time that I owned it. So I got to experience the Jaguar mystique. I even drove it on a Summer vacation up to Washington state. Ultimately I was trying to simplify my life and move forward. 

All of my newer hobby cars are now from the new Millennium, and I would imagine that any other cars that might follow might be even newer. I've even toyed with the idea of buying a brand new 2024 Mustang! That would definitely carry me through to the end. Does this mean that I'll never have a really old car again? Maybe. What's wrong with just enjoying what I've got? I've got a newer family car as well as my truck. I think that I've got all the bases covered. 

The fact that a car is lower in mileage isn't a guarantee that it won't have any problems, both of these cars are over fifteen years old. But they won't be worn out for a very long time. I just don't put down that daily mileage, though we do take a lot of weekend road trips. 

Honestly, I'm very proud of both my '06 Mustang and my Navigator, and look forward to enjoying them in the years to come. I'm also proud of my '96 Mustang, though things are a bit problematic on that front, at the moment.

I know that I sound like a broken record, but I'm not getting any younger. I should just maximize my enjoyment of my cars by driving them as much as I can. 

I suppose that the question could be asked, "Exactly what do I want any car for?"

I'm not planning on displaying it at events or shows, or in joining an active car club. 

First of all, and most important, is to drive them and to go places in them.

Second, is to dote and fuss with them to keep them looking and running sharp. 

Can't I do that with the cars that I've got? 

Why not skip directly over to the enjoyment phase of the hobby? No need for refurbishing, rebuilding, or restoring some old car.

Am I allowed to do that?

Why do I want to make things more complicated than they have to be? 

I suppose that I don't want to just come out and say that I'm satisfied with what I've got, at least not out loud! Then "people" might ask, "Why keep looking on CraigsList, or reading car magazines, or going to car events? You're not looking for something else, are you?"

No, But...

Sometimes it seems that I lose sight of what the ultimate goal is, just having fun with cars. I've made some strides in that direction. I should try to avoid backsliding.


Back in October of 2020 I wrote a post suggesting that perhaps newer cars are better for an older car guy. 

The "older" in that statement refers to the age of the car guy, not the car. At the time I wrote that, I wasn't quite that convinced, Now I'm seeing the wisdom behind that position. 

There are still a few newer cars that I'm curious about. I've never had a four wheel, or all wheel drive vehicle. I'm into kind of a Lincoln thing right now, perhaps a mid size cross over model, like an MKX or Nautilus, with all wheel drive. Even though Lincoln cars are no longer in production, they are still fairly new. My Dad had a '63, and '69 Lincoln Continental, I had a '66 sedan. I'm not going to run out and spend 30K plus to buy one of these old '60's models, but the MKS sedan has a nice interior, and is fuel efficient to boot. All Lincoln models are depreciating down to an attainable level, and they can be found with low mileage. Even the latest Continental will be accessible in a few more years. This car has been growing on me over the last year.

Perhaps I'd like to try a Corvette before I cash in my chips. Maybe something like a C5 or newer. I've never had a Corvette, and as a '60's kid, I've always sort of wanted one. How about a Cadillac XLR?

You might have noticed that I haven't mentioned any European cars. Yeah, I'm not going down that rabbit hole again. I think that I can live without a Mercedes or another Jag. 

As I've written, I think that the idea of having a bunch of old cars has lost it's appeal. Besides the storage situation, I'm finding myself with less opportunities, or even excuses, to drive my cars. When I was still working I could drive a different car to work each week, to keep them in use. Now, they can  end up sitting for a long time. I hadn't wanted to take out my '06 Mustang due to all the rain we've been having, I didn't want to get it dirty. That has gone on for months!

I've been thinking that I will eventually get down to just two hobby cars, which regardless of age, will definitely not be project cars. If I were to buy another old car, it would have to be in pretty good shape. I think I learned my lesson with the '51 Jag. I also don't have to think that each of my choices needs to be considered a "lifetime car," I should just buy them and enjoy them, until I don't. 

My current "lifetime car,"  the '96 Mustang, has passed it's smog test. I put nearly 400 miles on it during the process, running it through a rain storm, on the last day, which I had been trying to avoid. It's since been washed and shined as is sitting under it's cover safe in my garage. 

The status quo has been restored.


Friday, March 10, 2023

 No, I haven't forgotten about my '96 Mustang.

image source: seekpng.
What to do, that is the question.

I'm still trying to figure out what to do about it.

The smog test shop has a free retest within 90 days.

I'm a bit puzzled by what happened. Especially since there weren't any codes displayed. 

Today I thought that I'd put some miles down to warm it up and then go back for the retest. I put 40 miles on it. I spoke to the same tech, who had more time to talk to me. He looked at the previous tests as I explained that the car had previously passed by fair margins. He said that something had to have happened to the engine as it was the hydrocarbons that had increased. When I asked about the cats, he said in his experience, that the numbers didn't seem to indicate a failure of the catalytic converters

I know that compression is a bit low in cylinder #1 but I have been hoping that it wouldn't make a critical difference. 

After I had checked the plugs , wires, and compression, ( 4/11/22, @ 216,270 miles) the smog check was performed on 4/20/22 @  216,278 miles. The car passed with good margins.

So it has already passed fine with the low compression in the #1 cylinder.

I told the tech that I put some fresh gas in and added some Techron, I'd put a couple of hundred miles on it since then. He said to burn completely through the whole tank of treated gas, then add some premium gas. He added that in his experience, that every time someone adds some type of additive, the sniffer will pick it up and immediately fail the test. He said that if I wanted, he would run it through again today. I told him that I would take his advice, and run through the treated gas and add some fresh premium. I'd give that a try first, since the retest is free, and another test would be 80.00. 

Mileage was 217,513 for the test that failed. Today I was at 217,750  miles, so I've run quite a bit of treated gas through the engine. It was also about 50 miles ago that I pulled and cleaned the MAF sensor.

Yes, I told him that my old Explorer had passed the smog tests twice during the time that I had it. It had over 265,000 miles, but maybe it had the top end freshened up before I got it. 

Of course, my old Explorer doesn't matter, or have anything to do with my current predicament. But the desperate grasp at straws, looking for a parallel.

I had considered that my '96 had a lot of miles, and I had previously thought that I didn't want to get involved in any engine work or rebuilding. That's why I was looking for a newer Mustang with less mileage. I was hoping that the '96 would continue to pass smog until I could sell it. Or as I continued to hold onto it. I think that I would rather replace the engine with either a good used engine or a re manufactured long block. 

I just went to a site for re manufactured engines, Powertrain Products, and a long block motor would be approx. 3,500 bucks. That's a bit of money. A transmission would be approx. 2,300 bucks. 

Now we're starting to talk some real money, but that would get me a car with a virtually new power train. 

The alternative would be to find a good low mileage used engine, or a wrecked car with a good engine and transmission.  That transplant would be a lot more work. 

Should I go either of those routes, or should I just cut my losses?

It all comes down to whether or not the car can pass the re test. If it passes, I'll have a couple of years to save up some money or to find the right deal.


Update! Good News, Today my Mustang passed it's retest! The passing margins are even better than the test that I passed in April of '22.

It's been almost a month since my car failed the smog test in January.

After the failure, the shop gave me 90 days to come back for a free re test. As I had posted, the car hadn't done many miles since the last test was done in April '22. To prepare for the re test, I put in half a tank of fresh gas, added a half can of Techron additive, and started to burn up the old and new treated gas. After I ran the level down, I pulled and cleaned the MAF sensor, added another half tank of gas, added the rest of the Techron, and drove some more.

I went by the shop armed with my past tests to discuss the matter with the tech. I asked about the possibility of bad cats. He explained that the results weren't consistent with a catalytic converter failure in his experience. He asked if I wanted to try the retest and I told him that I still had quite a bit of treated gas left in the tank. He advised me that the additive would be detected by the machine and would result in an instant failure.His advice was to burn all the treated gas, then run some good premium gas through the car, then come back.

Yesterday I drove the car until the fuel level was quite low and added four gallons of Chevron premium. Then I drove it for 70 miles, and added another four gallons of Chevron premium this morning and drove the car for an additional 40 miles. Total mileage since the failed test was 374 miles. Unfortunately, the shop was backed up and I would have to wait over two hours for the re test.

It was worth the wait, it passed and the margins were even better than last year!

At 15 mph. HC is allowed 50 ppm max, mine was measured at 22 ppm.

At 25 mph. HC is allowed 34 ppm max, mine was measured at 7 ppm.

I really feel that I dodged a bullet, but I should not have been so lackadaisical in my approach to the original test. Lessons learned?

Don't let the car sit for four months with only a small quantity of cheap gas in the tank and then go directly to the test station. I should have started daily driving the car at least a month before the test was due. Filling it with fresh gas, and maybe a gas additive. Run the tank full of treated gas completely through the system. Cleaning the MAF sensor is easy and could help.

Then I would start running it on better gas, and maybe run a half a tank of premium through the tank and keep some premium in it for the test. I would also be sure to run the car for at least 30-40 miles before I arrive at the test station.

It appears that my original premise, that the car should be able to pass subsequent smog tests in the future should still hold true. I will be adding very little annual mileage and the passing margins are still pretty good. 

At least that's the hope!

My '96 retains it's place in my heart, and in my driveway!


As I was leaving, I told the tech, "This gives me 90 days to sell it, or almost two more years to drive it!"

It is very nice to have options

Friday, March 3, 2023

 I took my Navigator on it's first weekend trip.

It's a nice drive through the Sonoma valley.

It wasn't that far, only about 280 miles for the round trip.

Iv'e put over 1,000 miles on the Navigator since purchase, it's still running really well. I really like it. It's very comfortable, the high intensity headlamps are really appreciated during night driving. My Wife packs up tons of crafts projects to work on during our stay. Everything went into the cargo area without compromising rearward vision. It's nice not having to cram things into the vehicle.

I have to admit that fuel economy has dropped since I stopped feather footing it off the line. I let the Nav run at 70 mph. and jumped on it a few times when accelerating onto the highway. 

It was pretty much what I expected, very comfortable, plenty of room to pack all of our luggage. It was what I would have anticipated in a luxury SUV. I didn't find it hard to manage or park, I've  got a lot of experience driving an even longer vehicle, my truck. 

It's interesting to contrast the experience with driving the Flex. The Flex is just a smidgen smaller than the Nav, but it's much lower. Since the Flex is eight years newer, it has some features that the older Nav lacks. Built in Navigation with a rear view camera, and push button start. The Flex is well equipped, it's a real luxury vehicle in it's own right. With a nicely designed interior with comfortable leather seats, power everything, as well as a panoramic sun roof. The V6 engine has plenty of power and while it's FWD, and the handling feels different than the RWD Nav, it also rides smoothly and handles well. The CUV platform weighs less and with the smaller engine fuel economy is consistently 4-6 mpg. better than the Nav. The Navigator is better suited to towing, even better than my F150, though heavy towing isn't something that is regularly on my agenda.

When I was looking for a replacement for my old Explorer, my first choice would have been an Expedition. I'd looked at a few and I liked them. At this particular time we didn't have a late model family car, just the truck, and I thought that the Expedition would have been a bit "too much" for daily use. I wanted to choose something my Wife would be comfortable driving and got better gas mileage. I had looked at the Flex back when it was introduced, but we weren't in a car buying position at that time. I considered a later model used Explorer, but the somewhat bloated styling didn't grab me. I had also considered the Lincoln version of the Flex, the MKT. The styling was a bit "challenging" but it had a very nice interior. These were pretty rare when they were new, and are even rarer now. I couldn't find one with low mileage, most were well over 100K, and I wasn't going there with a family car. That made a Flex the best choice. Funny how a couple of years later I ended up getting a Navigator anyway, and my Wife seems to like it, and says that she would be willing to drive it!

While I really like the '"custom car" like styling of the Flex, the Navigator is just a more impressive and expensive looking vehicle. Which makes sense. I bought the Navigator just to satisfy my fancy. I wanted something that would remind me of an early Fifties Cadillac, and it fulfills that mission. I get a lot of satisfaction driving it. 

Kind of how I feel with my Navigator.

If I had bought a Fifties car, I know that I wouldn't be using it for a family getaway, and it would be restricted to local driving. I'm going to avoid the whole "project car" thing for a while. 


I knew exactly what it was when I saw the head sticking out of my tire!

A few weeks later We took the Navigator on another weekend trip, this time it was over 400 miles combined.  We went down to Pismo Beach, the weather outlook was for rain, but we didn't run into much on the way down. However on the way back, we really got socked with a gully washer! 

What was really interesting on the trip down was the layer of snow that was covering the tops of the mountains that surround the Salinas Valley. This is the first time that I've ever seen that! The Grapevine was completely closed for an entire day, this has been an extreme cold snap.

The trip was uneventful except for the last day. We had gotten some fish and chips at Brad's and decided to eat in the car while looking at the ocean. We were parked in a lot near the pier. I had gotten out to throw the trash into a nearby trash can. As I was reentering the car, I noticed " something" stuck to the tire. It wasn't stuck to the tire, it was screw that was stuck in the tire!

I hadn't seen a low pressure warning light on the dash. I was extremely hesitant to take the screw out, no telling how long the screw was, it could have been a long screw that punctured the casing, or it could be a short sheet metal screw that didn't penetrate past the tread. There's no way to be certain, and I wasn't going to remove it unless I was already somewhere that could fix the tire, if needed. 

I knew that the car had a spare, but I hadn't checked it very closely and was unsure of it's condition. ( My Bad!) Back in the old days every corner gas station could fix a flat, or even sell you a new tire, but nowadays all most stations can sell you is a Red Bull and a bag of hot Cheetos!

I knew that the Shell station just off of US101 in Arroyo Grande had a sign that read, "mechanic on duty." I figured that I'd go there and see if they could handle the repair. It turns out that they don't do any tire repairs, (then, what do they do?) but they informed me that there were a couple of tire places a short distance away, on the other side of the freeway. 

I thought that fixing it with a plug would be the best idea, I found an America's Tire Store that was busy, and told me that I'd have to wait at least a couple of hours. They suggested the oil changing place right next door. The guys at the oil changers were nice and helpful, and would have fixed it, except that they told me that the tires were six years old, and they couldn't repair a tire that old. That was their corporate policy. 

I remember when the tire age thing became an issue, the recommendation was to replace tires once they were older than ten years! I'd actually had an issue with one of my truck tires which picked up a screw. It wasn't the age of the tire, it was the location of the puncture. It was too close to the sidewall, eliminating the possibility of fixing it. The technician showed me a copy of their corporate policy, so I had to figure something else out. That wouldn't help me out now.

My Wife got on her phone searching for a corner garage that would do the repair. She found one only a couple of miles from where we started from in Pismo Beach. So back we went. 

The garage looked exactly like all the old corner gas stations of my youth, but they had taken the pumps out and now were strictly a mechanic's shop. There were a number of older cars that were parked awaiting service, or were partially disassembled, in the middle of a repair program. The pavement around the service bay opening had been stained with a coating of old grease, which gave off a familiar smell.The mechanic informed me that he could patch the leak with a plug, but that since the owner wasn't around, it would have to be paid in cash, 30.00. A Yelp review had related that the repair they had done cost them 20.00, but... whatever. I was far from home.

I smiled and told the guy, who was probably in his mid Forties, "Yeah, I used to work in a gas station, too." We made some small talk while he inspected the tire, it didn't appear to be leaking, but after he sprayed some soapy water on the spot and wiggled the screw head a bit, there was some indication of leakage. 

He pulled the screw out and it turned out to be a half inch long, long enough to cause a leak. Darn it, I was hoping it might have been just a 1/4 of an inch, and had just penetrated the tread. He quickly inserted the plug, and the tire lost very little air. It only took a few pounds to bring it back up to spec. After checking the area with soapy water, he proclaimed the repair good. "Let's just call it twenty bucks" he said. I thanked him and quickly paid him, glad to be back on our way. 

I had performed many tire repairs with plugs, and the puncture was very small, so I was confident that it would not be a problem.

No problems at all on the way home, despite the heavy rain storm we drove through. 

Flat tires are now a pretty uncommon experience. My last experience was also with a screw, which occurred over ten years ago. But they can occur at any time, and they can throw your holiday travel plans into a ruckus if you don't have any idea on how to deal with them. 

My Wife and her friends were coming back from the Sacramento area when the driver saw the low tire pressure icon light up on the dash. At first she didn't know what the symbol meant. After a brief discussion among themselves they figured that out. They were approaching the Benicia bridge and felt that it would be better to stop, before possibly having a flat while on the span. They stopped on a narrow pull out and called Triple A. 

The Triple A operator asked them a couple of questions, which they had a bit of a problem answering. besides asking if the car had a spare tire, they needed to know if it was front, rear, or all wheel drive. That resulted in another discussion, before they settled on front wheel drive. This is important when considering what type of tow truck to send, conventional or car carrier. They were in a bit of a bad spot, so the CHP showed up and stood by until Triple A arrived and changed the tire and they were on their way. 

I'm not relating this story to make fun of this car full of ladies, but it points out that you have to have a plan in the event that this happens. First of all, it is important to check the condition of the spare, jack, and tire changing tools, especially after you buy a used car. In many cases the spare tire is there, but the jack and lug wrench have gone missing. I'll admit that I haven't done my due diligence with the Navigator. 

Second, once you notice the low pressure warning, you should slow down to 55 mph. then exit the freeway immediately and find a safe place to park. Gas station, shopping center, fast food place, etc. You can get out and inspect the tires, looking to see if one is obviously low on air. Then change the tire yourself. Or just call Triple A and have them come out, let them assess the situation, and change the tire. 

If you are on the way back home, and don't have too far to go, you can just continue the trip with the spare. Many cars don't have full size spares, so there are speed restrictions imposed on their use. The tiny "donut" spares are thankfully, not commonly used with most cars anymore, but even the larger sized compact spares will have speed restrictions. This can add to your travel time. If your car didn't come with a spare, (surprisingly, many don't!) they will just have a can of tire sealant/inflate-ant in the trunk. Maybe this will work, maybe not. Generally, the car will end up being towed to a nearby tire store, where a replacement tire can be secured. If you are very lucky, your car may have a full size spare, but you should know in advance. 

Back in the good old days I was a poor kid with mismatched tires on my cars, some bought new, some used, some even recaps. Now I generally replace a complete set of tires at a time, bought from a national chain with road  hazard protection. If the tire is not repairable you have to find a dealer that handles that tire line to get a warranty settlement. Or you might just find a tire shop that can do the repair. In any case, a good credit card will be your friend and can lessen the pain.

While a flat tire can be inconvenient while traveling in a car, it doesn't compare to how much hassle a flat tire can be on a motorcycle! I know, I've had a few.

Friday, February 24, 2023

 A car guys nightmare. Part Two. 

This is what it looked like from the outside.

I knew that I would need a new set of hinges. I found the kit for 180.00 at Home Depot. The springs were extra, available separately, at under 30.00. Like everything else prices have gone up steadily over the years but it had been at least twenty years since I replaced the hinges.  

Based upon my experience, I knew that it was safe to work on the hinges with the door in the closed position. It can't fall forward through the opening because it is taller than the opening. As long as one hinge is still intact and the power opener is attached, it is unlikely to fall back inside. But it could twist and fall back a bit. Damaging the door and power opening unit.

The problem was that I needed some working room. Luckily my garage has extra depth to allow access to the utilities and a path to the side door. All I had to do was to clear some of the stuff that was in front of my parked cars and move them forward a couple of feet. 

I wheeled my two roll away tool boxes out the side door. Then I moved some of the smaller items and stuff outside. I had more space in front of my blue Mustang so I moved it up more. Then I moved the table back and moved the red Mustang forward. Now I had plenty of access to the bad hinge. I decided to wait until I was finished fixing the hinge before I assessed the damage to the red Mustang. There was nothing that I could do about it anyway, and I didn't need the distraction. 

It looks like there is more room than there actually was.

The first order of business was to brace the door in position. I ran a long tie down strap from the opposite hinge to a hook that I had screwed into the wall. I also found an adjustable load brace bar that I had bought from Harbor Freight years ago. I adjusted it to brace the top of the door to the upright on one of my metal storage shelves. Then I undid the nuts that held the springs to the lower retainer and removed the springs. I used my Makita impact driver to undo the door rail. Then I carefully removed the door hinge plate itself. 

As I stated earlier, the driveway is uneven in front of the door, so I took pains to measure everything so that both sides would be even. When I installed the last set of new hinges I used different mounting holes so the lag bolts would attach to fresh wood at a new spot. This took a bit of time and I had to put a spacer under the door to get things aligned. 

Now that the hinge was attached, the immediate danger of the door falling back was eliminated. The next task was to attach the springs. 

The last time I replaced the hinges was at least twenty years ago, and I was a younger man. The door has to be completely open and propped up with a couple of 2x4s. I recall lifting it up by myself and propping it up. I guess that mojo is gone. Just couldn't do it, and I didn't want to ask my Wife to help, no sense in both of us hurting our backs.

So using my brain and my backside, I braced myself against the door and pushed back using my legs. The door swung open a few feet and I propped the 2x2 against it at an angle to hold it in position. Then I went outside via the side door and lifted it some more and again wedged the 2x2 in place. 

A note of extreme caution here. Never, ever, walk under a broken or sagging garage door! If the door were to fall on you, it could very well fall on your head and break your neck! It has happened before! 

I still needed to get the door completely up. I got my small trolley floor jack and in conjunction with that adjustable Harbor Freight cargo bar jacked it up incrementally. I would jack it up, support it with the 2x2, extend the cargo bar, jack it up some more, and re prop it up. It took some blocks under the 2x2 near the end but I finally had it open completely.

I propped it open securely using the 2x2 and the floor jack under the cargo bar. I did not walk underneath, I went around the outside. 

Now I had to attach the springs to the bottom mount. They needed to be stretched a bit to reach the mount. Equipped now with less mojo but more weight, I grabbed the spring and lunged downward, stretching the spring and swung the end towards the mount. It took several attempts but at last, the springs were attached. Now to adjust them by tightening down the nuts which would pull the mount down. 

Again Harbor Freight comes to the rescue. Instead of using an open or closed wrench to turn them a quarter turn at a time I had an opportunity to use my new pass through socket set. These are sockets and a ratcheting wrench with a hole in the middle, allowing you to turn nuts that are on a long bolt or stud. Very convenient! 

The springs have to be adjusted until the door is easy to operate by hand. The springs are stretched in the closed resting position, they help pull the door up and then a cam tightens them as the door swings over center and holds it open. It's an ingenious system. I never had a power door lift until I moved into this house. But if you can't lift the door easily manually, then don't expect the opener to do it either.

I had it opening okay, it might still need a little adjustment. The door stays open a bit, but at least it looks even from the outside. 

I went to check it out this morning and found that I had failed to sufficiently tighten down one of the hinge plate mounting screws and noticed how the plate was now out of line. I tried to loosen the mounting screws a bit and encourage it to move back into alignment with a crow bar. That didn't work. I realized that I needed to unload the hinge assembly by removing the springs! What followed was a replay of yesterday, except that I was able to raise the door to a completely open position by myself.  But I wasn't able to hold it up by grabbing the 2x2 I had used previously, without a helper. So I went back to using a jack and doing it bit by bit.

I realigned the hinge plate then re-tightened it, adding another lag bolt. This time I adjusted the spring tension much tighter, on both sides. Then I spent an hour re adjusting the movement of the door opener. It is really easy to manually raise the door, and the opener seems to be working okay for now. 

Another crisis averted, or at least delayed. It cost me a bit under two bills for the parts. My labor of course was free. If I'd called a garage door guy out, I bet the call would have been at least that much. Then I'd have to pay for the parts. He probably would have pressured me to replace the door by refusing to do the repair. Sure, I'd like a new sectional door, and a new driveway for that matter. I checked out the prices at Home Depot and those sectional doors started at a grand, plus installation. Plus removal and disposal of the old door and opener. I can still do that myself. 

There's nothing wrong with a one piece garage door, as long as the hardware and the door are in good shape. I can add some different trim pieces, paint it and give it a new look.

The driveway is another matter. The offending section of concrete can be ground down or it could be cut out and patched. I'd rather go with the lower priced alternative, as replacement of the entire driveway is a consideration already. 

My Wife and I have decided that this is going to be our retirement home. We aren't planning to move, so we are slowly adding improvements and repairs until our house is just what we want. We have lived here for 36 years so it does need some work. I'm just relieved to get it back on the holding pattern.

I saved the best news of all for last. The door didn't actually fall onto my '96 Mustang, so it didn't sustain any damage. That's at least one thing that I'm thankful for!

Friday, February 17, 2023

 A car guys nightmare!  Part One.

This picture is from a Home Depot ad.

The garage door hinge broke while both of my cars were in the garage!

I've had one of the springs break before, this was before the springs had all the safety retention devices. The broken end shot off somewhere, it took me a while to find it, luckily the car wasn't inside at the time! It took a while to find the broken off end, which fortunately didn't do any damage.

The springs now have internal retaining devices, as well as retainers on the ends that connect to the hinge arms. I became aware that the spring was broken when the door wouldn't open. I've replaced several springs and a set of hinges over the years. Springs retain lots of stored energy, that's their thing. Old, wooden one piece garage doors are very, very, heavy, There is a lot of potential for severe injury working on these systems. They have to be treated with respect and a high level of caution and awareness. 

If you cruise around the less affluent parts of town you might notice a lot of old one piece garage doors that are hanging crooked when open, or they are bowed and sagging in the middle. Of course the ones that are really bad just remain closed all the time! Most of my neighbors have upgraded to the sectional roll up type of door. I haven't, so I guess that I'm the less affluent guy, living in the now more affluent neighborhood!

My garage door is the original plywood unit.  The driveway concrete is sectional and has buckled a bit right at the opening, so the door can't close completely. It closes, but the door hangs up a bit on the raised area of concrete and sticks when it opens. The door opens with a bit of a twisting motion. 

A couple of nights ago I backed my truck into the driveway to unload my Wife's newest antique cabinet find. I climbed into the bed to undo all the straps and moving blankets that I'd used for the move. It had been misting and I found the truck tailgate a bit slippery. As I stepped off, I grabbed the edge of the open door as a hand hold, and I let it support some of my weight as I jumped down. I heard an unusual metallic "pop" as I hit the ground. 

I thought that maybe something had fallen off a shelf, or maybe worse, that a spring had broken, but I didn't immediately see anything. My first concern was to get the cabinet, which was quite large, out of the truck and safely into the house before it started to rain. 

After I had that taken care of, I tried to close the garage door from the inside. The door lurched crookedly then stopped and reversed direction. Of course I tried a couple of times with the same result. Then I went to check for a broken spring. 

It gradually dawned on me that one of the hinge arms, the long one that the springs attach to, had broken off of the rail that bolts to the door. The big stud that was staked on the rail had broken free. It was standing straight up free, but with the end in contact with the surface of the door, and still holding it up!

Note that the long upper arm has the springs attached at one end The other end is attached to the door rail and it pivots on the hinge plate. This is the arm that provides the leverage force for the door to open. The lower arm acts as a guide in a parallelogram fashion, to move the door out into the proper position. It doesn't support the very much of the weight.

Here's the reason for the pop! You can see the rail broke
 and allowed the stud to pull free.

Not only did that chunk break off, 
look at that crack!

When the door is completely open, the door is parallel to the floor, more or less. The long arm is pointing straight up. Now I found it pointing straight up with the end in direct contact with the door surface. The door is also of course, directly over my two Mustangs!

It was already late, 9:00 pm. but I had to deal with this right away. I went out back to the backyard, to my lumber stash, looking in the dark for an 8 ft 2x4. I could only find a 6 ft. 2x2, but that would have to do. I wedged it just forward of the hinge pivot point, so that would support the open end of the door. I needed the end of the long arm to move to allow the door to swing down. I forced the loose end of the arm to the side to clear the door. My plan was to release the "traveler" of the power door opener, pull hard, and allow the door to swing down, supported by the intact hinge, hoping that it would pivot on the top of the 2x2. The traveler is the device that travels up and down on the motorized track. It snaps into a connection that attaches to the arm that connects to the garage door and provides the mechanical muscle to move the door. Everything was set, at least in my mind. The door should pivot off the 2x2 and swing closed.

Didn't happen!

As soon as I pulled on the door I realized my mistake. The lower arm couldn't support the weight of the door. The door swung out, then fell a couple of feet. It looked as though it was resting on the back of the roof and deck lid of my '96 Mustang!

Oh Jeez! What do I do now? I was too traumatized to take a picture of this situation.

The only course of action was to push on the top of the door from the inside, while I tried to pull it down. I was squeezed between the two cars with very little room, but I got it straightened out. It was down more or less, and I wasn't worried about someone breaking into my garage by lifting the door. Though I did engage the traveler back into position.

Then I went inside the house, had a late dinner and coffee, watched some TV, and tried to forget about it until tomorrow. 

I decided not to try to check for damage to my Mustang. I might sleep better not knowing!

I'll finish the job in the next post. Of course I didn't wait to finish the actual repair, which I completed the next day. I'm just splitting the reporting. 

As everyone knows by now, it's always one thing or another!