Sunday, May 9, 2021

 Gone Exploring, Part Two. Mea Culpa.

photo source: turmarion word
Yes, It's all on me. Sorry.

I'm more than willing to accept my part in this fiasco. It would have been better if I had changed out that serpentine belt and pulleys. 

Of course, something else could have happened anyway. But I broke my cardinal rule: never take off on a long trip with a vehicle that you know has problems. I'd heard that belt whispering (!) to me.

I'm a big believer that vehicles telegraph their potential problems and imminent failures. The owner just has to pay attention and take the proper preventive actions.

Like not taking that car so far from home. But I did it anyway, leaving myself open for the wrath of the Road Gods to smite me.  

 Years ago I wrote a post about the trust factor, and how to have it with old cars. It can be a very difficult thing to achieve. 

A new car is a new car. Obviously. All of it's parts and pieces are brand new. They've still got their entire original service life ahead of them. The original buyer enjoys that sense of security and reliability and if something should go wrong, at least they are covered by the warranty. What exactly is the original, trouble free life span of a car?

Opinions vary, but my estimate is between 75-100,000 miles.

Once the miles accrue past a certain point, problems are sure to develop. Things wear out.

Does this mean that owners of older, high mileage cars can never go on a long road trip? First issue is, how long is long? 

The second is...

How far are you willing to walk? ...Cue the rim shot!

The most critical thing is, do you really know what condition your car is in?

I mean really know. 

Later on I'm going to develop a post about documentation. I am notorious for lack of documentation and records keeping. 

Besides records, it's important to become in tune with your machine. As I've said, I really do believe that failing components will give some type of warning. 

Usually a noise, vibration, miss, or leak. Or a failure to perform as it should. 

Sometimes the driver will notice a stumble, hesitation or vibration in the motor, transmission or chassis. 

Or a malfunction, such as the a/c not cooling, the heater not heating, or the power steering pump not providing the needed boost. 

Leaking is a good indication of an impending problem, especially if the component should run out of oil or fluid, leading to disastrous failure.

Back in the Day if an accessory unit like the a/c pump, alternator, or  power steering pump went out, it was possible to isolate the unit and run the V belts to the needed accessory like the water pump.  Now with serpentine belts that's almost impossible. 

There's no excuse for running a tire down to the cord, or for ignoring a leaking radiator, gasket or hose. Who wouldn't notice a corrosion caked battery terminal? 

Somethings will fail without warning, their only indication being their age and mileage.  Fuel pumps and batteries are like that. 

Other things are regular service items. These are items that should be changed at a specified interval to avoid sudden failure. "Whaaaaaaaat? You mean that I should replace something before it breaks? 

photo source:
It's not like you didn't know that there weren't any free rides!

You do have a choice, pay up front or pay later, but know that you will pay! If not immediately in money, then in hassles and aggravation.

If you want the ultimate in reliability then you pay for a brand new car. Everything else is a compromise, to varying degrees. 

It all comes down to the green, how much money do you have available to spend, and how much money are you willing to spend? 

There are some people that never drive an old car, they lease a new one every two to three years. Some might call them the smartest people. Then there are those that buy, but trade it in well before the vehicle reaches 100,000 miles. You might call those the most practical people. Then there are those that buy at the over 100,000 mark, You might call those the people that are forced to live with risk. That leaves those that buy 10, 20, or more years old! Those are usually hands on hobbyists. They claim to know what they getting themselves into. This reminds me a a somewhat cruel joke.

A little boy asks his Mother a question.  "Mom what happens to cars when they get so old, so beat up, and so worn out that they don't run anymore?" The Mother gets a tired expression on her face and answers,"Someone sells them to your Father!"

It's your choice and your chance. 

When I bought my Explorer it was 20 years old with over 230,000 miles on the clock. It started easily and idled smoothly and steadily at 600 rpm. Only a healthy motor does that. It had just passed the smog test, that told me that the motor wasn't blowing clouds of smoke out the pipe. The motor was clean and didn't leak any oil. The a/c worked. There was a thick file of repair and maintenance work orders. The front control arms had been replaced within the last couple of years, the a/c compressor also. The rear brakes had just been done and there was a work order and receipt for a transmission rebuild. It had been done almost 100,000 miles before, but at least it had done! 

A test drive verified that this had been a well cared for vehicle. The front tires were good and they never showed indications of uneven wear even after the five years that I owned it. It tracked and steered straight and steady. The interior was clean with only the front seat bottoms cracked, the body was straight and the paint was almost 70% presentable. A little cleaning, polishing and detailing and it was something that I was proud to be seen in. Even my Wife was not ashamed to be seen in it. 

My Wife has always been cool with my cars, she is one of those people that only judge the pilot on the landing, so if we make it back from a trip without incident, that's her measure of success. She doesn't concern herself about the car, it's my job to deliver a serviceable vehicle for our needs, she has never second guessed my assertion that one of our cars is "good to go." 

It takes work and money to keep a vehicle in reliable shape. Lately it has been my energy and commitment that has been lacking. I've been slacking off. I didn't change the belt and tensioner pulleys even though I had the parts in hand, and the opportunity. I suppose that we could have taken the '07 Mustang or even the '96 for that matter, It just would have been a cramped trip. It might have been an uneventful one though, but then again, maybe not. 

The Explorer did not complete it's mission, while fixable, it just wasn't in the cards. The best option was to sell it to a dismantling company, Pick Your Part. We had to return to Riverside to complete some family business and I brought the pink slip with me and completed the deal. They sent a flat bed to pick it up. 

Since I am one of those people that build a relationship with their vehicles, the parting was bitter sweet. Though the companies tow operator cut me a check for 770.00 right at the curb. That lessened the sting, but didn't completely erase it.

It isn't completely over, it never is. 

Earlier this week we needed the truck to pick up a washing machine. I hadn't driven the truck in several weeks. The last time I looked closely at the battery terminals was when I had used the truck to jump start the XJS last month. They looked a bit encrusted, but the truck had been starting fine. I knew that I had replaced the battery a while back, but it wasn't that long ago. I remember that I was going to lend my truck to my oldest Daughter and her husband to haul their boat back to the delta. I was getting the truck ready and it wouldn't start, the battery was pretty old and wouldn't hold a charge, so I replaced it. That couldn't have been that long ago? Could it? I always keep the battery receipt in the owners manual which I keep in the glove box. Truth be told, it's the only receipt that I really keep track of.

We ended up stopping to get gas first, and wouldn't you know it, the truck wouldn't start! It had started fine several times that morning. I didn't have a single tool with me! I used to keep a little basic tool kit with me in every car. If I had a wrench I could have taken off the battery terminals and cleaned them off, maybe then it would have started. I have jumper cables, but I never carried them in my "New Cars," they were hanging on the wall in the garage. My new cars are now 14 years old and each has around 150,000 miles on them.

What I do have, and have had for many years is, Triple A. We called them and the ETA for the tow was an hour and a half. I thought that maybe I could jump the truck, so I went across the street to the other gas station with a bigger quickie mart, I didn't find any tools for sale there, but found a cheap set of jumper cables. Our youngest daughter was enroute, if the truck was towed we would need a ride home, anyway. 

Triple A had a quicker response with a battery service truck, the tech removed and cleaned terminals and checked the voltage of the battery it was only around seven volts! It's very possible that the dirty terminals prevented the battery from charging properly. I found the battery receipt and was surprised that it was almost four years to the day that I had previously replaced the battery! How time flies.

The truck started with a jump and it's possible that it would charge itself up and be fine, at least for awhile. But how long would it last? Batteries pretty much only last five years at best and they fail suddenly and completely. I figured that I'd get a new battery at my local auto parts store. The tech said that they carried new batteries, but being the cheapskate that I am, I wanted to shop around first. My Wife asked why don't we just  buy the battery right now, he would install it right there. We could be done with it. She wasn't mad at me for the truck's problem, although I think that if I'd kept the terminals clean and checked the battery regularly, we might have avoided the situation that we were currently in. Deferred maintenance slaps me in the face again! 

Of course the battery might have been on it's last legs anyway. I didn't even have any tools with me. We ended up buying the Triple A battery. Was it more expensive than the auto store battery? Yeah a bit, but the  battery that I bought for the '07 Mustang last year was 135.00, four years ago I paid 117.00 for the truck battery. My new battery set me back 175.00 but at least it came with a pro-rated warranty.  

My embarrassment over my deferred maintenance and lack of tools stung worse than the price of the battery.

What kind of car guy am I anyway? 

One who'd better get his act together, and soon.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

 More Mustang miles.

Nothing that I've decided means that I don't still want one.
How's that for some twisted logic?

The  silver lining in the cloud.

We had to rent a car for the trip home, and the lady behind the counter asked about upgrades. She suggested a Cadillac. I asked about Mustangs. They had a few. So we found ourselves in a brand new Mustang GT convertible. My Dream Car!

I was quite familiar with how these late model cars looked, at least on the outside. I'd only sat in a few at dealers' lots. I refer to the 2015 to 2021 Mustangs as the "late models." They all look pretty much the same although there have been some powertrain changes over the years. 

I'd never driven any of them with either of the three available engines.

The earlier 3.7 V6 produced 300 hp. and returned 31 hwy. mpg. It was available with a high performance option that allowed it to exceed 110 mph. Primarily by being equipped with Z rated tires and having the electronic speed limiter recalibrated.

The ECO Boost I-4 produces 310 hp. and 30 hwy. mpg. and is a bit quicker than the V6 which has since been discontinued. These also can be equipped with the performance option, like the earlier V6 models. These are quite quick, I've heard a few with modified exhaust systems that sounded pretty awful to my ears. 

The "Mas Macho" 5.0 Coyote V8 produces 460 blistering hp. Even the all that power, the fuel economy isn't that bad, in the right hands. Rated at 24 mpg. hwy.

When I compare them to my '96 V8 and my '07 V6, they are all much more impressive.

Like all new cars they are complex electronically, with electro luminescent gauges, large screen Navigation, and acres of lighted buttons and controls. 

The design and quality of the materials used in the interior has been steadily improving. They are starting to look and feel like a premium level car. The prices have been rising just as steadily.

The first thing I noticed about the new GT is that it sounded like a really powerful car. It sounded like a beast! The throttle response was immediate, impressive, and dramatic, but it felt easily controllable. 

I had read that these 5.0 models don't get very good real world gas mileage, in fact, I was quite concerned about that. I already knew how fast the car was, but I really wouldn't want to buy a car that only returned 20 mpg. 

It turned out that there wasn't anything to worry about. While I have mellowed out over the years, my smooth driving is rewarded with high fuel economy results.  I was embarking on a 400 mile, one way,  freeway trip. On L.A. urban freeways with moderate traffic, and cruising at approx 70 mph. I achieved an overall mileage of 28.5 mpg. After merging onto I-5 the mileage temporarily exceeded 29.5 mpg. It almost indicated 30 mpg. at one point, driving at 70-75 mph. Once down the mountain into the Valley my overall economy to San Jose was 28.1 mpg. cruising at a steady speed of 76 mph. This speed let me develop an agreeable rhythm. It also included cresting the Pacheco Pass.

This was very impressive fuel mileage, these were the results displayed on the trip computer, it bests my '96 V8, and at least matches my '07 V6.

I had once told my Wife about Shelby 500s and how I thought that they were just too overpowered for my needs. 

Today I mentioned that maybe even the 460 hp standard GT was really more than I needed or... ( get ready!)... wanted.

Both base late models have at least 300 hp and 30 mpg capabilities. Both will hit a minimum of 130 mph. 

Back in the late 1980's the Windsor powered 5.0 GTs would develop around 220 hp and run to 130 mph. The base I-4 was very weak, and it was slow, with a hoped for top speed of maybe 90 mph. The SN94 gave the non GT a V6 which was now adequate, but didn't bestow any glory on the owner. The early 4.6 was rated the same as the last of the house of Windsor, but didn't run like them. Luckily, the 4.6 received steady refinement and power upgrades over the years. 

The new V6 found in the 2005 -2010 models developed 200 hp and with the new five speed tranny matched the acceleration of the 96-98 GT. The 2011 and up V6 was of course even better. It matched the later 2005 and up, 4.6 base GT. 

The cycle has been for the GT to become more and more powerful, then the base models receive upgrades that will make their performance almost equivalent to the earlier GTs. 

Which is a pretty good deal.

I suppose that it could be somewhat blasphemous to declare that the current GT is perhaps overpowered? 

It really comes down to how you want to use and drive your car. It's mostly about bragging rights.

I'm sure that it is pretty competitive in stoplight run offs, and it seems to handle quite well.

But I know that all that high speed capacity will just go unused. At least for me.


I just don't roar from stoplight to stop light. I don't cruise at supersonic speeds on the highway.  I never really did. 

On my trip home from Riverside once I hit I-5, I tried to find the best rhythm for traffic. I don't enjoy slicing and dicing through traffic as much as I used to. Speeding up when I encounter slower vehicles, jockeying through them, then speeding off. Repeating as necessary.

There were a lot of drivers doing that, a lot less skillfully than I used to. There were a few "hold your breath" moments that I witnessed on my trip back.

I used to do that. Without the reckless antics. My average speed on I-5 back then was 85 mph. But now with truck "races" and traffic, it's just too tiring- maybe I am just getting older. My black NorthStar Cadillac Seville STS was a land based missile, and I used it like that for years. 

Now, I prefer cruising down US101 instead. 

The new 5.0 Coyote powered Mustang GT had been my dream car since it debuted. My Wife had encouraged me to rent one for the weekend to see if I really wanted one. I never found the opportunity. I didn't think that it would make any difference on how I felt about it. 

Now that I've driven it on a long run. To be honest, I really don't want one. Oh, If money were not an issue I'd certainly buy one. I've proven that I can get good mileage from it. But I don't see any reason to pay the premium for unusable extra performance.  The six or even the four would be more than adequate.

In fact, as far as I'm concerned my good old GT is still good enough! 

I was telling my Son about my experience and I think that he was surprised and maybe even a little disappointed to hear of my conclusion. I closed my story by telling him, "You know, I'd never drive that new GT any faster than I 'd drive my red one!" 

Now to turn my energies towards getting a suitable family vehicle. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

 Gone Exploring. Part One.

Ford had a creative ad campaign, 
which really hit the target.

The curiosity shouldn't extend to whether or not you'll reach your destination!

I recently had quite an adventure with my Explorer. I really don't blame it for my problems.

It has always run pretty good, no problems like over heating, it doesn't even leak any oil. It did stall out a couple of times, but it never happened while I was driving it.

I've done a few things to maintain and repair it. I bought a couple of rear tires, a blower motor, thermostat housing gasket, front shock absorbers, and battery. I just changed the air filter a couple of months ago. 

I knew that it would make an occasional moaning sound, usually when cold, which I attributed to the serpentine belt. I inspected the belt, didn't see any cracking or chunking so I filed that away in my memory banks,  though I did get around to ordering a new belt and idler pulley set from Rock Auto. It's currently sitting in my garage!

I was going to change them a few months back, I even mentioned that in my earlier post. But I never did. 

The noise never seemed to get any worse and the belt never frayed. So it was easy to put off. I had taken the '07 Mustang on both trips to Fresno for the vaccine. We had a sudden family emergency in Riverside so the three of us were all going to go. 

I thought that we would be more comfortable in the Explorer and figured that it was good to go. So off we went. It was running fine I kept it down to 70 mph. in an attempt to optimize the fuel economy as best as possible. As much as I liked the vehicle, it was never going to be a gas mileage champ. My mileage had always been around 17-18 mpg. on long trips. 

photo source:
This highway cuts through a part of Los Angeles County that few think about.

It was running fine, a/c on, until we were on the Pear Blossom Highway east of the little town of Llano. We stopped at the signal light and I heard a unusual sound from under the hood. I could tell that it was not going to be good. The sound seemed to stop as rpm increased, so I thought that things would be okay. I pulled over and took a quick look under the hood I didn't see anything wrong so I continued on. A couple of miles out of town there was a horrible screeching sound. 

It sounded like a demon had taken up residence under the hood!

The engine continued running, the belt wasn't broken. Could it be that one of the accessory drive units; the alternator, a/c pump, or power steering pump had seized up, and the pulley was no longer spinning? I gingerly felt the top of the alternator and it didn't feel particularly hot. 

Since the a/c, and power steering, had been working fine until then, and the alternator was still charging, I didn't  think that those items had seized up. That leaves the belt tensioner and guide rollers. I'd bet that one of these rollers seized up just like they had been warning me! 

I could test my hypothesis by disconnecting or cutting the belt, and seeing (listening) if that eliminated the noise. I didn't have the tools with me and getting to our destination outweighed any other considerations. 

Currently AAA does not allow the stranded motorists to ride in the tow ruck, due to Covid, so we had to secure our own ride. Luckily our Daughter who is car share savvy and managed to secure an Uber for us. My first. The Explorer and us were on our way to Riverside. We beat it there by a little time. 

Now what to do? 

We didn't have a car, and all the rentals were sold out. I didn't have a car available to run around and look for a  garage to fix it. Besides, I didn't know exactly what was wrong so I couldn't say how much I would be willing to spend. I was very lucky that one of my Brothers in Law was kind enough to lend us his 2018 BMW coupe to drive back and forth from our lodging in Anaheim. More about that later. 

The Explorer wasn't leaking any coolant or oil and it looked quite presentable in my eyes. My BIL's home is in a new subdivision where parking is a little tight and I thought I would have to move the Explorer instead of taking up a space and a half at the curb. He is not a car guy so it wasn't like we were going to break out the tools and take a look-see. I wasn't going to be the first guy to drip oil in his driveway! 

It's been a long time since I was subject to car trouble so far from home, 400 miles! With an old, low value car that I had been intending to sell, just a couple of weeks ago. It's not like this was treasured hobby car, though I'd developed a bit of a relationship with it. 

Family business was the priority and that came first. A couple of days later we needed to leave as my Wife was teaching an art class that had been scheduled for the next day. There wasn't time to hang around Riverside and mull over options. We picked up a rental car and instead of the expected Hyundai something, we optioned our way into a Mustang GT convertible.  

What exactly were my options?

1) Find a local garage to fix the Explorer.

2) Fix it myself down there.

3) Hire a tow to bring the thing back home. 

4) Return with my truck and trailer and bring it home myself.

5) Sell it to a wrecking yard.

6) Donate to a charity.

7) Try to sell it locally on CL.

My reactions in order:

1) Maybe, but I'd need more time down there to run around and investigate. There would also be a spending limit. I have to return immediately and it would take another trip. 

2) No. I can't really fix it there, so it would either have to be towed home or I'd have to return with my truck and a trailer. I would have some anxiety about my truck making it since it also has some deferred maintenance issues.

3) No, AAA is making it harder to stack tows and there is the additional expense of the rental car. I investigated the cost and it was way too high. I'd have to hire a car transport service.

4) Maybe. A rough top of my head guess, would be 150 bucks for gas, 150 for the trailer 300.00 at least. Doable, but it would be a long day. I still have those concerns over the reliability of my truck. Didn't I want to get rid of it anyway? 

5) Maybe, but I had to deal with 800 numbers and I found that I had to physically be there to complete the transaction. 

6) Maybe a better choice. The donation rep told me that I could have an authorized person conduct the transaction, if I sent them the title. 

7) You must be kidding!

I ended up moving the Explorer from the court out to a nearby street. Then I left it there to return home to decide what action to take. I contacted the Pick your Part car buyer and arranged to sell it to them for 770 bucks, tow included. I will have to return with the pink slip, but family business required that anyway, so we are going to return the next week.

Friday, April 16, 2021

 Newsflash! Better Beaters writer is sick and tired of cars! Film at 11!

I don't think that Ron Burgundy would cover this story. 

Is it really true? What does this really mean, and what does it mean for Better Beaters? Inquiring minds want to know! 

No matter what the field is, if you're an enthusiast about anything, you're never supposed to ever admit this. That would be like people giving up playing golf, or gasp, watching football. 

Our enthusiasms are something that we satisfy when we could be spending our time and energies on something else. Maybe something more productive, that we should be spending our energies on! 

These are the things that we've established as our right to engage in, we jealously protect the right to spend our time in these pursuits. 

Sometimes we've even exerted pressure on our personal relationships to allow for enough time and room for these activities to exist.

We've declared that the time spent, the money spent, the energy expended is worth it, even if just for our personal enjoyment. 

This territory was often hard won, and there is no reason to retreat. That is very the definition of the "slippery slope."

Especially if there is a significant other that has always been very skeptical of the benefits of "this enthusiasm" from the beginning. 

Of course whatever the field is, you sometimes might actually feel like dialing things back. Normally though, you just wouldn't make an announcement and call attention to the fact. 

You try to nonchalantly step away for a little while, maybe no one will notice! 

What does this actually mean anyway? 

Our hobbies are activities that we are enthusiastic about. Our interests are ideas that we are enthusiastic about. I do prefer to spend my time thinking about cars and I enjoy thinking about cars. However, it's not the only thing that I am interested in.

These interests are something that can take up a lot of our time.

Because a person only has so many personal resources, sometimes priorities will have to be established. Things have to be prioritized in order to make the most effective use of our resources. 

I've mentioned that I'm in the process of fixing up my house. Rebuilding fences, trimming overgrown trees. Trying to rejuvenate a patchy lawn by overseeding. Painting the house. Helping the Wife with her re-organizing projects. I just finished building a little lean to in the backyard for my lawn mower and lawn equipment out of repurposed fencing materials. Even taking loads of junk to the dump. 

On top of all that I'm having some problems with my house's sewer system. That's causing me a lot of worry and will probably start to cost me a lot of money pretty soon. 

None of this is any news to other homeowners. I know that there are many others out there in the same boat. 

A person only has so many personal resources. They have to make choices. 

A limited amount of energy, enthusiasm, discipline, resourcefulness, or most critically time.

At least once in awhile. 

Even if you are not an enthusiast you still have to deal with cars.

Just like millions of other people. 

Drive them wherever you're going.

Fix them when they need it.

I might not feel too motivated or enthused about working on my cars at the moment. But I'm going to do it anyway. At least the repairs that are really needed. 

I'm not really too keen about all the work that I've got to do around the house. Especially the sewer, but I'm gonna deal with it anyway. 

How is this going to affect the blog? 

There is probably going to be less coverage of repairing my cars and more editorial stuff. As in opinion pieces, reminisces, etc.

I'm treating these like a writing assignment. I'm still working on that book, after all. I'm even trying to write some auto themed short stories. 

There is a certain amount of guilt involved in making this admission.  Starting a blog like this, is like appointing yourself as a high priest of the car hobby. Shouldn't I be expected to set the example? 

I hope that I can continue to produce postings that my readers will still find of value and entertainment. Time will tell.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

 Breaking up is hard to do. 

This picture has nothing to do with the opening of my post.
I just knew that it was eye catching!

I guess that you could say that mulling over my stable of cars, is my Buffalo fat to chew. In other words, you can spend a lot of time doing it, without making any real progress. 

I finally made a move by listing my XJS on the Jaguar forums. I don't imagine that I'll have buyers breaking down my door to get the car. An interesting thing about the listing is that it keeps a running tally of views and replies. I listed it on April 1st. and so far there have been 204 views but zero replies. These are cars that some people like to read about, but don't particularly want to own. I cant say that I blame them. 

It's a 3,500 dollar car that needs another five to seven thousand dollars invested, just to get to a satisfactory level.

As an enthusiast I'm lately kind of finding myself in a weird space. I still like cars and driving.

I'm just kind of getting tired of the dreaming and scheming, and the thoughts of having to work on them.

Just watch it for the car.

I found a post on Pat Ganahl's Rod and Custom site about tracing the route of the California Kid.

The California Kid was not only a movie, it was a car. 

This was an 1973 ABC Movie of the Week, that I watched live on TV. It supposedly starred Martin Sheen, but the actual star was Pete Chapouris' fantastic '34 Ford chopped and flamed coupe. This was one of the cars who's publicity led to increasing re-interest in street rods. 

In my mind that car personifies the essence of a real Hot Rod! 

After readings Pat's post I found the movie available on YouTube so I watched it a couple of days ago.

The car was about forty years old when the movie was made. 

Watching the car being driven down the highway was amazing, it is the perfect marriage of streamlined aggression and enticing beauty. So impressive, especially with the fantastic flame job. Since then, I've always wanted a flame paint job but have never had the right car to put it on. I did put a flamed graphic on the tank of my fatbobbed Honda Shadow. I wish that I had a picture of that bike, with ape hangers, solo seat, leather bags and the factory shotgun pipes, it was the best "Harley" that I ever had! 

 I sure would like to have a car like the Kid, in my garage! 

Interestingly enough, I saw a very nicely flamed black '59 Chevy two door sedan driving down the street in Newark a couple of days ago.

I sure would like to have a car like that  in my garage! 

But would I really? 

Would I really want to actually own it, would I actually ever drive it?

Even if I could afford to buy a car like that, would I think that it would actually be worth the money? 

For that kind of money, there are so many other cars that I could buy instead. Almost every one of them would actually cost a lot less. 

Things in my retirement are not happening quite as I would have hoped them to. 

Surprise, surprise, there's not as much extra money lying around as I thought that there would be! 

I suppose that that's not a surprise to anyone, except me! 

In my older age, I guess the "good enough" mind set has started to take hold. Things just don't impress me as much as they used to.  They just don't seem to be that important. Why do I need anything better? Or newer?

This is an understandable attitude. 

Like my house. It's nice enough, we like the location and the neighborhood. It just needs to be fixed up a little bit.

I don't need a newer, bigger, fancier (more expensive!) place. So why expend any energy dreaming about it? What we've got is plenty good enough.

When it comes to my vehicles, what I've got does the job. Like my truck, and my old Mustang, and my old Explorer. 

These are plenty good enough also. I also actually enjoy each of them.

On my trip to Santa Cruz last week, I passed a guy cruising around Gilroy in a '48 Chevy Lowrider. I had actually met him a couple of years back at the Santa Cruz swap meet. 

I was checking out his car and asked him how long he'd owned it. I was surprised when he told me that he'd only had it around a year. He told me that he had another '48 that had been fixed up really nice and he sold it for a good profit when a buyer made him an offer that he couldn't refuse. So he was starting over with this '48. He was happy and he knew what he wanted. 

I sure wish that I did. 

I could use a newer "family car." Something newer that get's better fuel mileage. I suppose this should take a higher priority over my next Mustang GT,  but both of them can wait for a bit. I don't mind buying a family car provided that it's something that I like. 

I've still got those three Jags which I've kind of lost enthusiasm for. 

I thinking that while I've lost enthusiasm for them, my Wife has has been losing her tolerance for them!

Maybe she's even lost a little of her tolerance for me! 

She didn't say much as I merrily went on my way to acquiring them, but she is starting to lose her patience when she hears me grumbling about them. She has openly wondered why am I messing with them if they aren't making me happy. 

Good question. 

If I don't feel like working on them, she's got lots of other  "suggestions" where I can put my efforts!

I'm starting to see how those other old guys that I see at shows held onto their cars. Once they already had them, they just got tired of thinking about replacing them. Sometimes they sat, while the owner moved on to something else. If they later regained their interest, then maybe the cars would be rebuilt. Sometimes they were kept in running shape. Sometimes they were just ignored. 

If they had started out with a desirable car in this case, they just had to hold onto it.

But the operative word is "desirable." 

Who makes that decision?

I just took my Mustang on another top down, two hundred mile excursion. 

photo source: Brian Butco
Sign identifies the route of the Lincoln Highway at the Summit Garage 
Altamount Calif.

This time I headed east, out towards Mt. Diablo and the Tri Valley area. I followed some back roads as they wound their way through some pretty tony suburban retreats like Blackhawk. I kept going until I reached the remnants of the fabled Lincoln Highway. I went over the Old Altamount Pass Road then down onto Grantline Road. I followed that road all the way into Tracy. 

The only adventure I faced was trying to find an available rest room!

Luckily I found one at a Circle K gas station. On my Son's prior recommendation I bought some of their Krispy Krunch fried chicken and a Mexican Mocha coffee. I sat in the car eating the chicken in the bright warm sun and felt a bit of a connection to that motorcycle riding youth that I once had been. 

On the way back I took a wrong turn on Corral Hollow Rd. enroute to Byron, and ended up making a big circle, ending up in almost the same spot I had started at! I decided on a more direct route and retraced my path on Grantline and the Altamount road. 

It's amazing that the old road is also used as a bypass for highway 580 commuters heading into the Valley from the Bay Area. I passed a long queue of frustrated drivers headed in the opposite direction.

I guess being retired isn't that bad. 

This morning I checked the status of my Jaguar Forum ad for my XJS. 272 views, no replies.

I guess that answers the desirability question.

Friday, April 2, 2021

 Mustang Miles.

This is not an actual photo of the Wife and me!

I've recently put a few miles down on both the Mustangs, the '07 and the '96.

We have been trying to arrange an appointment to get the Covid vaccine. We decided that going all the way to Fresno wasn't such a bad idea.

It was a 300 mile round trip.

Gas prices have been rising, the lowest price that I could find was 3.49 for regular.

My fleet isn't the most fuel efficient bunch, but except for the Explorer, they all get at least 20 real world mpg. 

The best is the '07 V6 Mustang, I've gotten 27 mpg. at my real world cruising speeds of 70-75 mph. 

So it was the choice. 

This was our family car for many years. It has plenty of space, especially for two. On the highway it is powerful and it tracks like it's on rails, a bit better when compared to my '96. It's much the same situation as a comparison between my old Explorer and my newer F150, the Explorer is a bit "busier" on the highway. 

I have to admit that there has been some evolution between the two models. 

I'm not an early adopter, and I don't need all the fancy new gadgets like adaptive cruise control, lane warning systems, automatic braking, even built in Nav. My Wife has her Smartphone queued up if needed! Besides, I already know the way. The only thing things that I really need are cruise control, good a/c, and a stereo "CD" player. I don't need no stinking Bluetooth!

The trip was fine, traffic was light until we were almost all the way home.

My second Mustang trip was just for pleasure. I'd been wanting to take my '96 for a nice ride to see if I still found the car to be fun and satisfactory. My plan was to put the top down and take a route that was primarily comprised of country back roads.

If you've lived in a particular area for a long time like I have, you know that it takes a bit of driving just to get out of the immediate well known area. I've been driving around the greater Bay Area now for fifty years! 

The road that connects the valley town of Gilroy, with the coastal town of Santa Cruz is SR 152. After you leave the US101 you'll pass through the heart of the city, then the narrow suburban belt. The road twists and turns through the woods as it crests the summit of Hecker Pass and Mt. Madonna. The road is a tight, curvy climb up the Eastern slope until crossing the ridge that opens to a beautiful view of the Coastal Valley and the Pacific Ocean.

I had been taking it easy on the way up, pulling over and letting impatient drivers pass by. Once over the crest I picked up the pace and had a great time safely slaloming down the hill.

I had put the top down when I left the house, the first time in many many months. I was depending on the heater to keep it comfortable. It was almost warm enough, but I really should have worn a heavier jacket. When I first became aware of sports cars back in the early 1960's, their drivers never put the tops up. There were snap on tonneau covers for the passenger compartment and heavy "car coats" worn by the drivers. Caps and gloves too.

I've had a couple of real sports cars in the past, my Z cars fit that definition in my eyes. I've never considered my Mustang to be an actual sports car, though as a convertible and as one of the smaller incarnations of the breed, it comes closer to that definition. 

However if the main criteria is whether or not the vehicle is driven for fun, and is fun to drive, then it more than makes the grade. 

After I got to Highway One I compromised by putting up the side windows. It did make a difference, although it was only in the low 60's. That's cold for us spoiled Bay Area dwellers. 

Back in the Day I when I rode my motorcycles, I would nave considered it to be good biking weather.

Once I passed the Santa Cruz Co. fairgrounds I wasn't ready to head back yet,  so I turned onto Castroville road.

Once through Castroville, I took SR156 towards Monterey. This is a high speed freeway for a distance, than it morphs into a two way coastal highway as it nears Monterey. 

I passed through Monterey then continued on to Moss Landing, the home of the big power generating plant. The tall chimneys are visible from a long way off. Then I took Dolan Road east, which becomes highway 68, almost all the way to Salinas. This road passes by the Laguna Seca Raceway. When I reached Speckles road I figured why not? I'd never been through that little town. It was a short detour.

Once I reached Salinas I got onto US 101 for the final stretch home. 

There were longer routes that I had wanted to take, like Carmel Valley Rd. I'll just save those for another time. The Monterey peninsula has a great selection of back roads, many that I've never been on, or maybe only once or twice. 

There are a lot of back road Day trips that I can put together in this area. It is a pleasant challenge to find smaller, less used roads. This reminds me of the days when I'd take off on my Honda 160 and explore. It was happiest on back roads, it wasn't the kind of bike that you would use to drone down the Interstate. 

As expected, it was generally a mellow experience. My Mustang is generally kind of a mellow machine. It just rolls along effortlessly. 

Was it the right tool for the job? Yes. It is very well suited to these types of activities.  

I don't need or want some super hot machine. Just a good sounding, fun to drive convertible. I want the convenience and relaxing nature of an automatic transmission. I'm not planning to race anyone. The car can cruise at any speed that I choose. 

It is actually just what I need and want. 

I got a bit of a kick out of this ad.

Newsflash! Tonight I listed my Jaguar XJS for sale on the Jaguar Forums. I've talked a lot about wanting to move forward, but it mostly has just been talk. I did a lot of soul searching and decided to finally put events into motion. I will make further updates on future blog posts. 

I'm curious to see what the response will be like. 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Pride goes before a fall. 

When you can't go through, you go around.
Just keep moving.

It isn't always pride but sometimes your dream can blind you to reality. Of course rose colored glasses come as standard equipment with that dream. 

Like a lot of people over the years I've dreamed of building a small business.

My family has actually been involved in a couple of small businesses over the years. The fact that none of them are still in existence at the the present time, should have been a clue! Unfortunately, none of these businesses were involved with anything that had my interest. In fact, I had the opportunity to step into one of the businesses and take over it's running, but I declined, as it just wasn't my cup of tea.

I thought that things might have been different if any of these businesses were concerned with an area of my interest, like something to do with cars and motorcycles.

I have read about so many businesses started by enthusiasts in car magazines and even in my Wife's crafting magazines.

Robert Petersen's start of Hot Rod magazine. What a great story, he and his business partner sold the first issue and subscriptions at the local races and car shows. They used the subscription cash to buy themselves dinner! They put in long hours, often sleeping in their little office. 

Mid America Corvette supply was started by a guy that kept his extra Corvette extra parts in a hall closet. Then he would go out to swap meets. Eventually he needed more space and began offering small reproduction parts that he had manufactured. 

Hollywood Hot Rods. This shop was started by a self taught builder. He didn't have a family "in". He didn't even have a Dad at home to show him the way.  His Mom worked two jobs just to keep the family together. As he stated in a Hot Rod magzine interview," if I needed something welded I'd get a book from the library about welding, read it,  then rent a welder." That was the same approach that he took to everything. He went to college and got a business degree in construction management. He saved up and wrote a business plan that secured him a small business loan. The first years were hard. Aren't they always? 

Fire Mountain gems stones. Another home based family business. I read their origin story in their catalog. They bought in bulk and sold in small quantities. The business outgrew their garage and they moved into a real warehouse. 

I used to love watching "The Big Idea" with Donny Deutsch . Entrepreneurs would describe how they started their businesses and the steps they were taking to make it grow. Donny would listen, then give his advice. It was much better than SharkTank, because there wasn't all that make believe in-fighting. 

The usual story is that most small businesses started in the garage, spare bedroom, or even the empty corner of someone's apartment. There are artists, craftspeople, and regular swap meet vendors that spend the time before "swap meet season" to build items, or gather inventory, for the up coming season. They will sell theses items throughout the season then start over again the next year. They are not running these businesses as an ongoing enterprise. 

These can be profitable operations. Build some stuff, sell it directly though an affordable local venue, pocket the profit. That's a good manageable plan that brings in a little extra money, like working some overtime when it's available on your main job. 

Start small, build as you go, keep expenditures down as low as possible. 

Success at these small venues can lead the seller to wonder if they could turn this side hustle into a permanent business.  Could it have the "legs" to be successful? 

A permanent business requires a lot more layers of continuous costs. For supplies, storage, advertising, and perhaps a brick and mortar location. Maybe even the hiring of employees. 

Distribution channels also start out simple and direct,  usually through swap meets, car shows, antique and craft fairs. Internet websites have replaced those tiny classified ads in the back of magazines. 

I'm sure that you've heard of "vanity" book publishing. This where an author, whose book has not been picked up a publisher, pays the cost of publishing and distributing his book, himself. It usually leads to the author having cases of unsold copies of his book in storage, somewhere. 

I started a "vanity" car parts business.

If you've been reading this blog over the years you might remember that I once started a used auto parts business. If you're going to deal in used parts it helps to narrow your focus to only one type vehicle. I decided to specialize in early Datsun Z cars.

I had initially started a website for on line sales. I just never gained any traction with that site. I advertised in a couple of Datsun Magazines. Those ads were quite expensive. After spending a couple thousand dollars on magzine advertising, I didn't see any sales from that source!

 At first I thought that I would have an actual brick and mortar shop where I would meet with customers by appointment. I could use the shop to part out cars and warehouse the parts. Unfortunately, I did not do my due diligence and discovered that the shop could not be operated in the way that I wanted. The location was not zoned for retail sales. It was a really nice little shop. It had an office, storage loft, and even a newly remodeled bathroom. It was also in a good location.

I signed the lease before I looked into all the details. I found that I couldn't open up for retail sales legally, so I decided to become a swap meet sales business instead. I had wanted to avoid doing that. I currently had a real job as well as other obligations. But I had rent to pay, a bunch of old parts to sell, and a somewhat tarnished dream to fulfill.

I found a pretty good swap meet to attend. It was put on by a Datsun 510 guy in the Eagle Rock area of Los Angeles. It attracted hundreds of buyers. I had a lot of stuff to sell. At first things were great. But as I sold out my desirable old inventory my sales grew smaller. I expanded into enthusiast attire; t shirts, hats, and hoodies. This provided me with more opportunities for sales. 

If I had been a "real" business person I would have tried to get out of the lease as soon as I realized that I had made a big mistake. Instead of the smart thing, I just threw good money after bad. There wasn't any way that the math was going to work out, I couldn't even cover the rent.

I held onto the shop for the length of the lease. Just having the shop was an enjoyable if not realistic, experience. 

It was real, and it was fun, but not real fun. I had to move out of this space. 

I thought that I'd move my inventory back into a public storage facility. I found one close enough to home and it was big, 15 x 30 feet. I moved in my storage racks, metal shelving and boxes of parts. I even built a little loft area. I still had a considerable inventory but I wasn't buying any more. I was just trying to sell off what I had. I noticed that several other small business people involved in the construction, landscaping, and janitorial trades, had their businesses located in that storage yard.  There was even a guy that must have had a laundromat or two, as his space was full of washers, dryers and parts. 

I have to give these guys credit for their efforts. Hopefully they hadn't blown their money trying to have a storefront.

I moved to an even smaller storage space.  I stayed there for another year, selling on Craig's List and at the occasional swap meet. 

Finally I moved out of that storage space and brought all my junk home. I lined up all my fenders, doors, hoods, hatches and what ever sheet metal, against the fences in my side and backyards. As time passed I was getting tired of looking at that stuff. My yard looked like a junkyard. Most of my stuff was pretty good, but it needed a little work to make it acceptable. It seemed that nobody wanted to put any work into the parts. When I started off with my initial hoard, I had a lot of really choice parts. Of course those were picked off first. 

I decided that I would scrap the third rate stuff and concentrate on trying sell the remainder. I took an entire truckload to the metal recycler and netted 90.00. Another year went by. 

The vicious culling of the herd continued. I was just going to hold onto the best of what was left. Another truckload to the metal recycler netted me 75.00.

I finally just packed up what was left and put it in my garage and a couple of small sheds. Then I forgot about it for a few years. A couple of times I tried to sell my stash to some guys that I knew were in the swap meet business with no success. 

During that time the value of early Datsun Z cars has skyrocketed. That has lead to the price of their parts also increasing. I had been ready to almost give my stuff away. Last year I started organizing and listing my stuff on Craig's List. I even started shipping my parts! My Wife and Daughter have helped me negotiate the shipping hassle. My expectations are now much more modest and I've had a little success. I've still got a few things that are worth a couple of bucks. After that I'm out.

Would I want to give the business another try? No thanks. 

I'm not trying to discourage anyone from starting a business of their own. A lot of people have been very successful. 

It all come s down to how much dedication and determination do you have.  Are you a business minded person?  I suppose that I wasn't. A little bit of luck doesn't hurt. I liked the "idea" of business more than the reality. 

Time for a reality check.