Sunday, June 20, 2021

 The Long Drive. the challenge of the true driver.


photo source: Eight Oaks Inc.
There was a time in the 70's when it seemed like everybody wanted to be a long haul trucker. 

"Ten Four Good Buddy, I've got my ears on!" 

Most of us are not long haul truckers, we don't make our living spending the entire day in the driver's seat.

Short haul truckers, even bus drivers also put a lot of miles down everyday.

There are many people that have long commutes, fifty to seventy five miles each way, in heavy commute traffic.

I'm not referencing those types of drivers, I'm referring to the tourist, the vacation driving motorist. 

Even with the popularity and low prices of some air routes, driving still remains one of the best ways to take a vacation, or at least transport a family to their destination. 

Air fares can be cheap, they reduce or eliminate the need  for overnight layovers at motels. They usually reduce the travel time to one day, or less. That saves precious vacation days for the actual event itself. Time off from work is probably the hardest thing to obtain at a certain point in one's life.

There are some destinations that can only be practically reached by air travel. You can't drive to Hawaii or Europe, though you could take a boat, at the cost of even more time and money.

For blue collar and lower middle class people of my generation, trans oceanic voyages, or extended air trips were not the norm. To be truthful, any extended trips were out of the ordinary for my family, most of the time.

Most people of my generation have quite vivid, if not actually pleasant, memories of family vacations accompanied by long periods cooped up in a car.

I've done my best to maintain that tradition. 

As a young man I took extensive motorcycling journeys all around North America. I've documented some of those trips in this blog. These remain some of the highlights of my lifetime. 

Once I was married and had a family, motorcycling was not going to be an option for me. So I drove.

To be truthful, I love driving, always have, and still do. Luckily most of my family's trips have been done in later model cars with the luxury of air conditioning. They aren't the only ones that have gotten spoiled. 

Though one time I drove up to Klamath Falls Oregon for the Riviera Owner's Association convention in my '66 Riviera. The one without working a/c. The one with "flow through ventilation." 

My family won't ever forget that trip! 


How long should single day's drive be? Is there a point of diminishing returns? There are only twenty four hours in a day. Extended hours are not always a good idea.

I suppose that my high points were the two California 1,000 motorcycle rallies that I took part in. One thousand miles in a day is a pretty high standard. With mileage like that, it's the process of attaining it, more than the trip itself that is important.

Travel by car was the most economical if not best, way to transport a family of four or more members to the vacation destination. Besides, car travel allows for sightseeing opportunities. 

I frequently drive down to Southern California, depending on the specific location, it is a 350-400 mile one way trip. 

Trips to Lake Tahoe or Clear Lake are between 200-250 miles, one way. 

I don't consider those to be long hauls.

In my youth, my motorcycle touring primarily consisted of a long day in the saddle, noting points of interest as we passed them by, without ever stopping to check them out. "Marathoning," my buddy Rick and I used to call it. Our intent was to cover as much territory as possible in a day, usually around 500 miles. It was always best to start early.

Travelling with my young family, my intent was to reach our destination for the night, with as little drama as possible. Kids get awful crabby when they're tired. Their endurance isn't that long.

This blog entry was initiated because I've just returned from our annual trip to the Oregon coast. It's seven hundred miles from our home. Usually my Wife and I plan a layover in Medford Oregon. It's about six hours to Medford and another four hours from Medford to the coast. There several antique and craft stores that my Wife and I (?) like to visit in the Medford and Eugene areas. It helps break up the trip, and we'll often stop in other locations that catch our eye. Most of the drive is straight freeway, but even I-5 north of Redding becomes a curving mountain highway. The final leg to the coast is over some two lane curving roadways. 

I find it to be an enjoyable, if somewhat long drive.

Due to Covid restrictions, our favorite motel in Medford wouldn't have their breakfast buffet available, just like last Summer. I did miss those waffles, last year they only offered a yogurt, breakfast bar,  and an apple! Quite a come down! We did the layover last year, but missed out on the antiques stores. 

This year my Son and his fiance asked if they could ride up with us, and they would rent a car for their return trip, since they couldn't stay the entire time. The idea was advanced, why not just drive up in one day? My son drove up and back in a single sitting, last year. Years ago I had driven back from Portland after the "Datsun Driving Canby fun," event, ( I was a vendor) in a single sitting. I was at least ten years younger back then. 

"Let's give it a shot. " I agreed. It's at least ten hours of straight driving, add in some time for gas and bathroom stops and it's pretty close to a twelve hour trip. I did have my Son along to share some of the driving. And in all truth I trust his driving completely. We used to drive down to the L.A. area for swap meets, returning late at night. You know you trust someone when you can sleep while they drive. 

On a recent trip to Riverside there were five of us in the car, and I let my Son drive from Newhall to Anaheim. My Wife and I traded places into the third row seat. That was quite a shock for me. 

First of all, I'm used to doing all the driving on my trips. My Wife does all the navigating. I haven't been a passenger in any seat for many, many, years. Then to be seated in the third row seat! My claustrophobia kicked in a bit, but at least the Flex has plenty of big windows, though legroom was scant back there. It's bit disconcerting to feel the car making turns, kind of a weird, pivoting feel. I had to talk myself down on a couple of occasions. 

Was I relaxed when we arrived in Anaheim? Well, at least I had the opportunity to rest my eyes for a bit. They do get a bit tired after a long day's drive. 

This time I would be in the back seat of the Flex, a very spacious and comfortable place to sit. Plenty of leg room, with a center arm rest and big windows. After we gassed up and ate dinner, in Springfield, (inside a restaurant! finally!) we switched seats. It was only going to be a couple of hours. 

It was then that I realized that there were other issues besides the seating arrangement in play. 

I do like being in control, I like looking out through the windshield. I did feel a bit diminished sitting in the back seat. Though I managed to sleep for an hour on that leg of the trip. 

Originally, my Wife had booked a layover in Redding for the trip back, which we would be making alone.  But Redding is only four hours from home. Would it be worth making a stop so close to home? It's not like there was anything that we wanted to do in Redding. I had a couple of days to make up my mind before my Wife had to cancel the booking. 

I decided that I would do the drive straight through. I planned for a twelve hour day on the road, as long as we didn't leave too late we could reach familiar freeways before it got too dark. I don't like driving on country highways in the dark. When I was younger I could easily see beyond the illumination of the head lamps, now it's not so easy. It takes a lot more concentration. 

The early part of the drive took us into unfamiliar territory as we decided to drive south, past Newport.  A  nice drive which became a cliff hugging, two lane highway for a stretch before we reached the town of Florence. From Florence we turned east on a very nice two lane road that paralleled a river. This road took up directly into Springfield, where my Wife wanted to stop in a favorite antique store to check out some furniture. From there it was back onto Interstate 5 which is our usual route. We were rained on most of the morning and it only stopped as we reached the California border.

The Flex handled the mountain driving just fine. It has plenty of power, great brakes, and if I am smooth with the inputs I can speed through the curves a comfortable margin over the speed limits. It's not a sports sedan and curves are best taken "thoughtfully." The smooth ride comes from a soft suspension which is how most big cars used to be sprung in the old days. You've just got to treat it with respect, and everything will be fine.

Our last gas stop was fifty miles north of Sacramento in the town of Arbuckle. Besides gas, cleaning the windshield was a priority as well as a cup of Extra Mile cappachino. That stuff is good but sweet, I only drink it on road trips. It started getting dark from there on 505, which runs through the middle of nowhere, skirting Sacramento. It got pretty dark, but the Flex has pretty good lights. Once we reached w/b I-80 it was all good, and well lit familiar freeway. My eyes held out okay. though they were pretty tired by the end of the day. 

We pulled into the driveway at 10:45 pm. over twelve hours after we had left Depot Bay that morning at 9:30 am, 700 miles up the road. During our drive, we had been discussing the value of the layover. Driving in a long, single day places more stress on me, as I feel that I've got to keep going constantly, because you never know if a potential delay or problem is waiting for you up ahead. It might have been nice to have made some impromptu stops at things that caught our eye along the way. I didn't want to spare the time. We did run into some road construction delays while in the mountains. There was no real reason that we had to make the trip in a single sitting. The pressure came from not wanting to drive long periods in the dark. As retired people we don't have to ration our vacation days, and the additional cost of a hotel stay isn't a real financial issue. As I have written before, the definition of luxury is having more than you need. I found that scheduling a layover gave us a luxurious travel experience, much more relaxing and fun.

It was nice to know that I could still pull a day long drive, though I realized it's not something that I really need, or want to do. The days of "marathoning" are long past!

All that being said, last night I arrived home from a another trip from the Riverside area. We decided to drive back on my favorite route, US101, I always find this drive enjoyable, and this time was not an exception. We stopped in Pismo Beach for dinner at Brad's. We arrived home at 12:30 am, but I felt really good and it was a return trip of over 450 miles. I guess I still got it , and I'm going to enjoy the drives as long as I can.


Thursday, June 10, 2021

 Dear Diary; Today I took my XJ6 in for a smog test.


photo source: powercontrol.co.uk
It's good to keep a record.

It passed! 

No one was more surprised than I was. The CEL ( Check Engine Light ) had been on for some time, and I had scanned it for codes. I looked around and discovered a vacuum hose to the MAS had become disconnected. Perhaps when I was changing out the radiator? It couldn't be that easy, could it? I reconnected it, then I had driven the car around for awhile. I found that the CEL went out on it's own. I scanned it again and didn't find any codes. Could the car now be successfully smogged, or would it trip a code on the way to the test station? 

I didn't know. I had been planning on selling the car cheap, no smog test provided. The buyer was going to get a deal on a beautiful car, if they bought it they could spend their time, energy and funds to mess with it. 

When the CEL went out, I thought that I would take a chance on smog testing it. At first, I thought that it would just make it easier to sell the car. The next owner would have the two years of use. 


photosource:casefurniture.com
My waiting room is not this fancy.

I drove the twelve miles to the station with my fingers crossed and knocked on the wooden dash several times for good luck while on the way down. Whatever was going to happen, was going to happen. I gave the tech the keys and just sat out in the parking lot in my Covid Waiting room. That's what I call the folding chair that I take along with me. I don't want to sit cooped up in a building and when I bring my own chair with me, I've always got a good place to wait! 

When the tech informed that it had passed smog, I was quite happy. Ecstatic would be too strong a word, but not by much. I thought that I had run out of time to mess with the car, and I hadn't want to drive it around and work on it while it was unregistered. I just had too many other things to do.

Now I had a second chance, and I decided that I ain't gonna sell this thing now!

I've written that I'm kind sick with looking at cars, and I just bought that Flex.

While I have already driven it on several long trips, just under three thousand miles total, in fact. While It's a great road tripper, I can't ever imagine myself just taking it out for a spin, just because I enjoy driving it.

Not like my Mustang. With the Flex, the journey is what counts, not the driving experience. In many ways it's like my old Town and Country. I liked it, but I didn't love it.

On the other hand with the XJ6, I actually love driving that car. Just the act of driving it is satisfying. I hadn't wanted to give that up, but I just had too many other things going on.

Now I have the option of holding onto it, at least for a couple more years.

I took it home and gave it a good washing and general cleaning. I took it out to drain all the water out and to dry it off. Just as I was on my way home, the CEL came on again. 

With Jaguars, it's never that simple! 

                                            --------------------------------------------------------------------

I had some free time so I finished organizing any old work orders and receipts that I had for my vehicles. I never really thought that it was too important to keep all the oil change work orders, they didn't reveal anything about the mechanical state of the car. Besides the current reminder label was pasted on the windshield.  

Smog test readouts reveal a lot more about the condition of the motor. If you compare the emissions readings over the years, you would probably notice an increase in these readings, due to mechanical wear. The cylinders and valves wear, and the breakdown of their sealing properties will increase the amount of blow by at the cylinder walls and the the erosion of the valve seats will also result in a reduction of compression pressure. These will result in increased readings of CO2 and hydrocarbons. The acceptable margins for testing can be quite lenient, and even high mileage motors like my Mustang's 4.6 and the Explorer's 5.0 V8s (both with over 200,000 miles) can still pass with a lot of leeway. But this is a measurement that the owner can keep and eye on. It will also give an indication of the condition of the emission equipment like the catalytic converter, air pump, and oxygen sensors. These can be be a good indicator of potential impending trouble.

After I got the paperwork separated, organized, and in chronological order, I then transferred it to my newly adopted, service, maintenance, and repair logs. This will allow me to quickly access the dates of repairs and parts replacements. Now it will be easy for me to know when things had been done. Just how many miles are on those brakes, battery, hoses, fuel pump, or spark plugs. I can note unusual conditions that I should be keeping an eye on. There was no way that I could keep this info straight in my mind, I've just got too many cars for that. I anticipate that this will be a tremendous aid in keeping on top of my fleet's condition. 

I think that I have been putting too much energy in looking for replacement vehicles. It's been kind of a distraction from what I need to be doing, though we often welcome distractions. My other projects with the house are somewhat longer term projects, progress will be slow but steady. As long as I keep working at them. I think that I'll just try to display a little more discipline and keep my nose to the grindstone. It turns slowly but it keeps moving.


image source: dreamstime.com

                          

Okay Diary, That's enough for now.


Saturday, June 5, 2021

What do you think about electric cars?


The Ford Mustang Mach E.
not really a Mustang.



Things are going to change whether we like it or not.

Can a traditional car enthusiast develop an emotional attachment to an electric car?


Porsche did a pretty compelling job with the Taycan.


When it comes to outright performance, electric cars can be developed to deliver outstanding performance.

There is no question about that.

Maybe part of the problem for enthusiasts, is that we feel that part of our freedom is being taken away from us. 

The freedom of the open road is one of the freedoms that we cherish as Americans.

Why would we think of things in that way? 

With an IC car we can just get in and drive and drive and drive, stopping only for quick gas and bathroom breaks. You can go clear across the continent in short order.

Electrics will take more time and planning, there are a lot more gas stations than charging stations out there. Each stop to charge will take more time than a quick gas stop. 

For most normal people cars are just a necessary means of transportation, either they drive themselves, or they are driven by a ride sharing service. Or they take public transportation. 

Besides that, they are ready to trade in their vehicles after a few years use. Unlike enthusiasts, who want to keep certain of their cars for years, maybe even forever.

New cars will always appear and older models will fade from the scene. They don't make new '57 Chevies, '59 Cadillacs, or '65 Mustangs anymore. They are gone but not forgotten. If you happen to have one you can still drive it, anywhere you want.

A lot of it comes down to the question of range. The cheaper EVs such as the Nissan Leaf have pretty short ranges between recharges. Expensive EVs like Teslas have much longer ranges. 

Enthusiastic use can really cut down the range substantially, the same happens with ICE's but it's not so drastic. I recall Matt Farah's review of the Porsche Taycan. 

My own experience with a Kawasaki Mach Three motorcycle was similar, the usual 20 mpg could plummet to single digits when the throttle was cranked open for a significant period.

However in actual real world use that kind of performance is seldom sustained or required. 

Gas cars have there limitations too. Most of us don't live in a gas station, so we don't refuel our cars at home. If the stations are closed for whatever reason,  or we don't have any money, we can't drive anywhere either.

I think that a lot of resistance from old time car guys is that we are worried that our current hobby cars might be banned from everyday use. The prospect that our old muscle car, '50's Classic, or vintage sports car might be prohibited from use on the highway is very troubling. It's the old slippery slope argument. 

Effectively it's already happened. High gas prices and matching high fuel consumption have relegated our older vehicles to occasional use. Emissions testing has made it harder to own and use "recent model" ( 25-30 year old) vehicles as they are sometimes difficult to maintain and pass the tests. oftentimes with only minor maladies that do not unduly affect their actual emissions output. 

I don't foresee a time when all ICE vehicles will be banned, at least not for the foreseeable future. 

For one thing, their are vast fleets of vehicles owned by delivery and service providers. Sure there are big companies that will make a quick switchover and crow about it. But consider the average small business owner /operator, your gardener, contractor,  or handyman. They will be challenged to make a rapid switch.

It seems that EVs are getting better every day. While Tesla has been the standard bearer for a long time, other manufacturers are stepping up their game. Ford for one. I don't like the Tesla image, it's too much like the BMW image, at least in my eyes. Smug is not a good look for me. I could see myself owning a Mach E if it comes down to it. But Ford's new truck has gotten my attention.

I am  intrigued by the new electric F150. How good is it?

Ford has a detailed website that answers all your questions. I have to give Ford credit for building an electric vehicle that many Americans will actually want, and really be able to use. The price is not too bad either. It starts at 40,000 dollars and a mid range XLT model will probably run you into the mid 50's. It appears that all models are crew cabs. The dual motor design delivers 4x4 utility. The "Frunk" allows cargo to be stowed without the need for a tonneau cover on the bed. All of these features reduce the cost for additional options and equipment.  The base 230 mile range is acceptable for most uses, the extended 300 mile range can make the vehicle usable for road trips, it depends on how much time will be spent on charging. If you run out of charge it can be towed like any other vehicle, to a charging station. Besides, it seems as though the best idea is to keep it constantly topped up. 



photo source: Ford Lightening site.
It sure looks like a real F150.



Would I be satisfied with an electric vehicle?
I don't see myself as an early adopter, but does it really make much difference? 
If I can take fairly long trips with it, then I could adjust. I might be forced to make more stops, something that I'm beginning to appreciate. The older that I get, the less that I enjoy just "powering through." It might take a little more planning, but nothing that I couldn't handle.

I suppose as long as I still feel that I'll have the freedom to travel, in the manner that I've become accustomed to, it would be okay. I suppose that it's the only thing that matters to me, the method of propulsion is really not that important.

Not to be morbid, but I've only got "so many Summers" left, what matters to me is making the most of them. I was telling my Son that I was beginning to like the idea of a new car, trip prep consists of just washing the car. That's pretty simple and non stressful. For me, it's kind of a weird idea that I should just find a away to take it easy to enjoy life. I've even let my Son help out with the driving on our latest couple of trips. That took a little bit of readjustment. I guess that's just part of getting older, you've got to give up on the idea of being "hands on" with everything. 




Friday, May 28, 2021

 You're either going to fix that thing... 


photo source: mercurynews.com
Sometimes you just gotta get it done wherever you can.


Or you're not!

'Cause that thing definitely is not going to fix itself!

That is the simple reality of the situation.

I've been operating under the belief that I was going to be capable and willing to do whatever work would be needed to keep my cars in good shape.

This all came back to me as I've been looking at buying a late model, lightly used, family car. 

The idea was to find a low mileage car so that I would get a reprieve from any deferred maintenance and repair. 

Cars are expensive, that point came home to me pretty clearly. Now, I've got a three year old car with only 30,000 miles. It's got plenty of mileage left in it's first, original parts, life span. That's pretty low mileage. I was checking out a 2014 Mustang that had over 100,000 additional miles on it. That's the equivalent of ten years or more, of additional wear. Not to say that I wouldn't buy a car with that kind of mileage, but it was still over 11,000 dollars! I guess that's the reason that I buy the older, high mileage cars.

Pay the price, or do the work. Or pay someone else to do the work.

There is no other way.

You can manage the situation by limiting the number of cars that you own. That is probably the best course of action.

Regular services, inspections and maintenance can help prevent unexpected problems on the road.

After our sour experience, I told my Wife that I was going to start an accelerated program to catch up on deferred maintenance on the '07 vehicles, They are both at approx 150-160 thousand miles. While I bought both new, and I know how they have been treated, I can't say that they've received the best organized or systemic care. 

Even if I compare them with my '96 Mustang.

Both '07s are still on their original belts, hoses, transmission fluid, and filters.

Things like tires, brakes, and batteries have been replaced. Well, I forgot that my truck's battery was already four years old, it failed on me somewhat unexpectedly last month.

They are both due for full fluid changes as well as any other work that each specifically need.

My '96 Mustang was bought with approx. 155K on the clock, it's now reading 215K. Though it is older, many repairs and replacements have been done over the years that I've owned it. Approx 60 thousand miles over 10 years, though I've been remiss in saving all the receipts and work orders, I can still reel off the repairs done in the approx order. 

Heater and radiator hoses, including the hose that runs under the intake manifold. Thermostat and new coolant.

Idle air control valve,

A/C hose replacement and system recharge.

Transmission fluid and filter and due to leaks, rear transmission gaskets and seals, all done at once after the pan gasket replacement didn't cure the leaking. 

I've replaced two intake manifolds, the original, one from LMR, Late Model Restoration, and now with one from Rock Auto. With the second manifold I also replaced all the hoses, the thermostat, temperature sender, coolant, and serpentine belt.

Two gas tank filler grommets. One short lived one from LMR and the next, OEM Ford. 

Fuel pump.

Brakes, front and rear including rotors.

Front lower control arms. 

Coolant tank cap.

Recently I replaced the air filter, fuel filter, spark plugs (second time) ignition wires, and coil packs. 

Tires, wheels, a couple of batteries, a convertible top, and a cd player.

I need to keep track of my work, maintenance and repairs. I need to keep a record of inspections.

Most oil changing places aren't staffed by real mechanics. They don't look for things that they can't easily perform. The thermostat housing on my '07 Mustang was seeping coolant and looked like a piece of grey, extra crispy chicken, but it was never brought to my attention by the lube guys. 

The owner's manuals and shop manuals have a maintenance schedule that we can follow. I'm going to have to become more organized and thorough.

The basics have to be kept up, that's the only way to have a reliable car and avoid problems on the highway. 

This is going to take a commitment in time and money, and I'll phase it in.  I'm going to start a log book for each car and a folder to keep receipts. 

My '96 has been a pretty good example of a car that I've kept ahead of. It has only left me stranded twice. Once after I first got it and the heater hoses sprung a leak, and then when the fuel pump gave out unexpectedly.

Maybe the 150k mark is a good time to change the fuel pump out pre-emptively? 

I've got a respite for now, with my Flex. 

                                                           -----------------------------------------------

I started digging around in my desk and found some old files that I had started. There was a surprising amount of work orders and receipts for my '96 Mustang, but there was a lot of paper for my other cars also. Then I went out to each car and looked through the glove box and center consoles and I retrieved a huge pile of paper. Tire warranty/ receipt packages, smog test result sheets, registration, and numerous oil change receipts. I hadn't been one to save those until just a few years ago. I have always  kept the battery receipts in the owners manual folder. 


A bit fuzzy, but these are the files that I had started earlier.
 I still need to add a couple.


Then I added the stack of papers that I had retrieved from each of my vehicles. I still need to dig through these. 




That was quite the mess. A lot of the papers are older, registration report of deposit of fees. I'm pretty careful now to always pay the reg fees on time. Even if I still need to get the car smogged I won't incur any penalties. 





My newest idea is to keep a log book on each vehicle. It will be a chronological and mileage record of maintenance, repairs and services. I'll keep this in each vehicle, work orders, receipts and other papers will be kept in my desk files. I'll keep the first few pages blank, where I'll note the battery replacement date. This way I can easily keep an eye on it's age. It's the most likely component to fail suddenly, so it's good to have a heads up. 


I discovered some interesting things. I found the work order for the front brake job on the F150, so now I know when that was done. I found the receipt for the replacement of the fuel pump in the '96 Mustang, it was just under the 200,000 mile mark, good to know. The battery in that same Mustang is almost three years old. Good to know.


I've been flying by the seat of my pants for way too long! I've let myself get into the dark about the actual condition of my fleet. And that's what it is, a fleet. There's no way that I can keep all this info available and straight in my mind without records. It will be a bit of work to get everything in order, than it will be easy to just make updates.

Then I'll have to follow a scheduled maintenance plan and document the results. For example, I'll clean the battery terminals and take and record the resting voltage of the battery and the charging voltage with the motor running. 

I've usually been pretty good at checking under the hood for fluid levels, I need to do that at specified intervals even when I'm not on a long trip. Just like checking the air pressure in the tires, not forgetting the spare. 

During the Pandemic mileage accumulation has been pretty low and it's been spread over several vehicles. I'm also retired though my commute was pretty short. 

My three Jags will also be on the same regimen, even though the XJS and the XJ6 haven't really been in the driving rotation.

What am I going to do about those Jags?



Saturday, May 22, 2021

 Breaking up is hard to do. Part two of a continuing series. 




Laugh if you will, but I already miss that thing! 

I broke up with one vehicle by having it break down on me. That was easy, if not painless.

Once that car was going to be replaced I bought something newer that would fill my needs. 

It was direct replacement for my Explorer and it also would replace my XJ6, if it was up and in the rotation. It fulfills the role of a comfortable, spacious four door sedan as well as a cargo hauler. 

I shared that acquisition in my last post.

Most of my vehicles have some utility for me. 

The truck retains it's carrying capacity and sense of purpose.

The Mustang retains it's utility and sense of fun. 

But what am I going to do with those three Jags? 

The easy answer is to say, just sell them. If it was only that easy! You can only sell something when there is a buyer out there that wants it!

By buying a newer car (Ford) with only 30k on the clock, an extended warranty and a prepaid service plan, I've reduced a lot of let's say, lots of angst with at least one vehicle. 

That leaves two 14 year old Fords that I bought new, even with 150k on them it should be a a short matter of time to get caught up on deferred maintenance, 

Even my 25 year old Ford has received a bunch of non organized maintenance over the years. 

None of my Fords, even the Explorer, have ever been drama queens. 

I can't say that about my Jags.

It's kind of funny, because I really wanted each of my Jags when I acquired it. None were purchased off a nearby car lot, with just a short drive home. Acquiring each took a bit of effort.

The XJS was purchased down in Southern California, near the Pomona Fairplex. It took two trips to buy that car. The first one to check it out,  The second with my truck and rented trailer, to bring it home. 

The XJ6 was bought in Los Angeles, I had gone to see went to see another XJR, which turned out to have serious brake system problems, so I had to pass on that one. I couldn't understand how the seller couldn't have fixed it before I got there, or at least let me know about it, as I had advised him that I was coming the following week, and verified that I was enroute on the day I left.  I was disappointed, and in our room that evening, I was  combing CL and found my XJ6 that very night. After checking it out and leaving a deposit we made a second trip with a rental car to pick it up. Driving that XJ6 home was a fantastic experience.

I had to arrange for a tow recovery of the Mark VII out of a guy's backyard in Sunnyvale, where it had sat for years.

Is there anyone out there who would go through the same trouble to buy one of my Jags? It isn't even a question of money, I know that we could easily come to an agreeable price. It's interest! Is there anyone out there even interested in my cars? 

I've had my XJS listed in the Jaguar forum for over a month. Wouldn't there be an enthusiast on the forum just itching to buy a car like mine? 

It doesn't look like it. Not even one inquiry! 

I haven't listed my XJ6 or the Mark VII yet. I'm too busy with other matters, but I'll put them on the forum in a few weeks,

I don't want to put them on CL and deal with the flakes, yet, but I'll have to at least give that listing a try. 

I thought that I might cut down on my physic heartburn by limiting myself to just one Jag. It doesn't even matter which one, just one of them. 

Unlike my collection of Fords, two of my Jags haven't really been drivers, one of those doesn't even run, so I have no real affinity built up with them.

Except for the XJ6.  I drove that car home from LA, then drove it everywhere, everyday for over a year.

The XJS hasn't really ever been a driver. The Mark has always been just been a hopeful dream.  

I came across a guy on LA CL this evening that is looking for an XJS, with certain preferences. I contacted him and told him about my car, maybe I'll hear back from him. I'm not asking very much for my car, so even with what it needs, the car could be finished up pretty inexpensively. Maybe he'll be the guy, even if he isn't, it was nice to have someone actually interested in an XJS. 

It is kind of frightening to an enthusiast that the only way to easily dispose of an unwanted or unneeded vehicle might be to scrap it. The wrecking yard will come and take it and even pay you something for it.

Last year we replaced our 62 inch Hitachi rear projection TV, with a new wall mounted plasma unit. The  TV still worked fine, it was even high def! It was our second big screen, the first which had been seen as a special treat for the family. The Hitachi was quite an improvement over our earlier 45 inch Magnavox unit. But nobody wants an old big screen, the plasmas are now so cheap, especially in the smaller sizes, and those big boxy sets just scream old! We couldn't even donate it to the Salvation Army, we had to arrange a large item  pick up for the trash company to take it away.

Believe me, it kind of hurt. I'm a poor kid at heart. My family's first color TV was from the very late 1950's, that had a cabinet the size of a refrigerator, and a screen the size of a dinner plate! My Dad got it cheap because it had a a problem in the high voltage circuit, which he knew how to fix, and did. We used that thing for the next ten years.

My '96 Mustang is both old and high mileage. Though it is in pretty good shape. I saw a couple of similar  98 Mustangs with incredibly low mileage, one had 53 thousand miles and the seller was asking 9,400.00 for it. The other had 55 thousand miles and was incredibly well preserved, the seller was asking 18,500.00 for it. Probably way to high no that one, but they'd probably take less.  They were asking for a pretty penny, but if you wanted one as a collectible, that would be the way to go. What could I get for mine? Probably not very much, maybe a couple of grand, Not many people want to buy a car with over 200,000 miles.

I shudder to think that it would languish on CL until I might scrap it in disgust.

Maybe you remember that silly IKEA ad where an old lamp is replaced and set at the curb and gets soaked in a rain storm.  Watching that commercial always made me feel kind of sad. Then that weird guy comes on and ridicules us for feeling bad for the lamp. "It's just a thing it doesn't have any feelings." Sure, that's true, but anything not human or animal is just a thing. It is what we imbue in an object that gives it significance. 



Our childhood home is just a big wooden crate that we used to live in. Over the years it could be run down and ruined, burned, or it could be torn down and something else built in it's place. Or it could be preserved and cherished by the new owners, does it make any difference? Which would you prefer?

I don't know, maybe it should, or maybe it shouldn't. It's these attachments that our give lives it's added depth and meaning. Favorite things. I think that life would be kind of dull without them.



Friday, May 14, 2021

 I still love the long roofs!


The Parklane provided the glamour to go against the Chevy Nomad.


This is my favorite wagon advertisement picture.
It captures the idea of family fun.



The Flex carries some of that early day vibe
in a modern package.



I grew up riding in and driving my Dad's wagons.

Since I decided that I really didn't need or want, a new Mustang GT convertible, I felt that the money would be better spent on something that my Wife and I could really use and enjoy. We still have the "new" 2007 Mustang and F150, but both now have over 150,000 miles. My incident with my somewhat casual approach to maintenance led to a painful experience with my beloved Explorer. I have since vowed to catch up on all deferred maintenance and to adhere to a strict inspection program, from now on. 

Our two best cars are a little past their prime, but are still in fairly reasonable shape. They can both be brought to their best states.

The truck has always been fine for just my Wife and myself, but even an occasional third passenger makes things quite uncomfortable.

With both Mustangs things can be a bit crowded with a back seat passenger, although the somewhat larger '07 was used as a family car when the kids were smaller, they ain't smaller anymore!

My Wife likes to entertain herself working on little projects while we drive.

She likes to have a little room around her, as well as being able to reach behind her into the rear seat area to gain access to her crafting supplies. A backseat passenger behind her in either Mustang results in a cramped environment, too cramped to craft. 

We also wanted a vehicle that could occasionally hold our kids and their partners while on a vacation trip.  Or just a trip to go out and have a meal together. 

I didn't have any interest in getting a sedan, while the four doors would be useful, they are limited in their capacity. I also didn't want a small SUV, I wanted the flexibility of a larger SUV or even a minivan (?!).

Well, maybe not another minivan.  

I also wanted to find a vehicle that could return better gas mileage than my old Explorer or my F150. 

That excluded most full sized, truck based SUVs, such as Tahoes, Expeditions, Dodge Durangos  and the like. 

There is a trade off between capacity and economy. You can't have both, trade offs need to be made. The luxury of having a little more always exacts a cost. 

Last year we rented a new Dodge Grand Caravan for our family trip to the Oregon coast. It was very comfortable, held all our gear, and returned satisfactory fuel economy in the low to mid twenties. I know those numbers are nothing to get excited about, but they are higher than other large SUVs and even midsize models such as the old Explorer. 

Minivans are very spacious and configurable, especially with the "stow and go" type systems. Usually all three rows of seats are quite comfortable. Three row SUVs can vary quite a bit in regards to their third row spaciousness. 


This is a 2021 GMC Yukon Denali XL.
To quote from an old Cadillac ad, it is "For those whose choice is unrestricted."
This is how you roll, when you can pay the toll!

The pictured Denali is the more demure brother of the Cadillac Escalade, it's two feet longer than a Flex! Like the Ford Expedition, it is one of the the biggest three row SUVs.

Besides that, there are questions of true all season or off roading capabilities. Most of these vehicles are available with at least AWD capabilities, the larger SUVs with real 4WD drive. While few owners take their large, expensive SUVs on actual off road trails, they are usually appreciated in snow and inclement weather conditions. Light duty AWD systems are appreciated by many.

My needs are more limited, weather conditions in my area are usually mild, and my preferences of travel is outside of snowy seasons. FWD is the default base system with most car based CUVs, It is usually adequate in light snow. 

I was looking for the lightest and simplest system of the engine and drivetrain. FWD would suffice and I did not want the added complexity of turbocharging. 

I had even considered an '08 through 2010 Explorer. I prefer the truck like style and personality of these SUVs, but not their fuel economy. It also would be very difficult to locate a low mileage example of an 11  year old vehicle.

We also did not want to buy another older, high mileage vehicle, my Wife was quite clear about that. That's all that I've been buying for years. They are much cheaper than newer cars, but their trouble free early life has long been passed. 

We had been driving my BIL's 2018 BMW 2 series coupe. It was going to returned after the three year lease and had accumulated 33,000 miles. It felt and still even smelled like a new car. A feeling that I hadn't experienced since 2007, when we bought our last new vehicles. My Wife told me that if we were going to  buy another used car, it would have to be a low mileage example. That was an offer that I had no intention of refusing!

I knew that she was right, we needed a car that was still in the bloom of youth, and could deliver the kind of carefree driving we have been missing.

This is not to say that a newer car can't break down, my truck seized the a/c compressor and had to be towed home from Santa Maria. Of course it was just out of warranty. 

The incident with my Explorer took place at a very bad time.

There were some additional complications. Due to Covid, we were not allowed to ride with the tow driver. We had to make our own arrangements to travel the remaining fifty miles to our destination. 

Rental cars are at a premium, and there were none available for the next couple of days. This has been a real change from what we had been used to, and the prices were much higher! 

The personal circumstances were also different in this situation, as this trip was being made to deal with a family emergency. This meant that I couldn't just focus on my car situation, it had to be handled delicately.

By Saturday we were able to secure a rental car from the Ontario airport. It would be a one day rental that would have to be returned the next morning. 

I had a six hour drive ahead of me to look forward to. Luckily we secured a car that made the trip more enjoyable.

I still had to return to Riverside to deal with the disposal of the Explorer. We still had some family business to deal with, so we would be returning the next week. 

We thought that it might be better to buy a newer car now, since the rental picture did not look so rosy. I had been checking on CL for possible candidates.


The Fairlane show car was very close to the production Flex,
but those nifty suicide doors wouldn't make it!

I had been attracted to the Flex since it debuted. It's an interesting design that blends elements of a truck, a van, and an old school Ford station wagon. I'd gone to see them in 2008 and was impressed by the design. The styling was clearly retro, it was based on the Fairlane show car. Retro was in at the time, Ford had another earlier show car named the Ford Forty Nine, which reflected some of the styling design of the post war '49 Ford "shoebox."


You can see some of the influence that this car had
on the front styling of the Flex.


The smooth, straight body side design also clearly influenced
the Flex.

The Ford two seat Thunderbird was also a retro design that was also put into production. Even the hugely popular 2005 Mustang was clearly a retro design, though it was quite well received. I even bought one! 

On one of my forays to Wheels and Deals I had encountered a Lincoln MK T. I have been impressed by the interiors of the new Lincoln models, but they are well out of my price range. So I started to look at earlier models to see when the transition to higher quality interior designs occurred. I found that it started with the adoption of the MK nomenclature, so I took look inside the MK T. 

I was impressed with the interior design, but the MK T had been poorly received and not many were sold, much less than the Flex, which wasn't a hot seller either. It was difficult to find an example equipped the way that I preferred, with the base V6, the second row bench, the right colors and low mileage. It seems that the only market that readily accepted the Lincoln was the livery trade.  I had seen some used examples that were offered for sale that had attained some astronomical mileages. 


I would have loved to have found a white one.

While styling is a personal thing, and I liked the "space age," baleen whale look, I have to admit that I find the Flex more attractive. If I could have found the right MK T, I would have bought it, just for the interior!

To make a long story short, my Wife and I went to check out a couple of Flexs (Flexi?) at the local Ford dealer. We found a 2017  CPO with 30,000 miles, base V6 FWD, and a leather interior. Notable features were the Nav system ( yes, I've become spoiled ) and the Sky View multi panel moon roof. Ingot silver with a Shadow black roof, grille bar, and hatch panel. The clincher were the glossy black 20 inch. rollers!

We've already taken one trip to Southern California and I can see that this Flex will be a vehicle that we can enjoy for years. 



Here's picture of our actual car, in my mind the Flex is a car, not a cross over or SUV. The addition of the Flex is shaking up the order in my garage. Expect to see some changes.


Sunday, May 9, 2021

 Gone Exploring, Part Two. Mea Culpa.


photo source: turmarion word press.com
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: memegenerator.net
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.