Saturday, December 30, 2017

Four Years, Can you believe it?

photo source: happy new year 2018. com

When I was a kid my two favorite holidays were Christmas, and my Birthday.  Which of makes perfect sense of course, these were the days that I received presents!

My favorite holiday is now New Years Day. Not because I like to party, but because it is the day we get to start over again. It's the freedom of closure. What really separates the days before New Years from the days after? Nothing, except the psychological construct of closure. That was last year, and now this is the beginning of a fresh new year. Maybe we can pretend that whatever occurred last year is now wrapped up in a great big bow. In the past.

I've been producing this blog for four years. I like to think that there has been a steady increase in the quality of the site. The frequency of my posting has increased to a minimum of once a week. Over the years I like to think that the quality of my writing has also improved. I've added more photographs, many taken by myself. Many more have been downloaded from the Internet. I've tried to include the photo sources, but I know I've missed a few. I never tried to claim credit for any photo that didn't come from my own camera.

I started his blog to be the "Everyman" Chronicles. My focus has always been on the low buck, practical, hands on, do it yourself solution to your automotive problems. As someone who still has a bit more time, than money available, it is the only way that I can achieve my goals. I like to refer to myself as a bottom feeder, as I tend to look for the things that are under the radar and therefore cheap.

My Son and I working on my '22 Dodge hot rod.
There have been lot's of Good Times.

I tried to find an organizing principal to display my content. The primary objective was to share my adventure in buying, fixing, and using my automotive fleet. So I have presented a narrative that will describe that journey.  Sometimes this is just tedious and dull. I can recall many posts that were excruciating to write, and probably even worse to read! I also wanted this to be an entertaining site, so I wanted to include the other part of our automotive hobby. The fun part, memories of first cars, our dreams of the cars we wished that we could buy, the trips we would like to take. These are the things that have fired up my enthusiasm, and I hope will connect with you, and inspire your enthusiasm.

I expanded the direction of the blog to cover my automotive memories, musings and ramblings. I've shared my early experiences with cars and motorcycles and the epic motorcycle trips that I took. Luckily I had taken Instamatic photos and had written up a narrative in the photo albums that housed those snapshots. These trips were memorable experiences, but after almost forty years accurate recall of the events is quite a challenge.

I have tried to weave the threads of my memories and  experiences with the current chronicle of my automotive Odyssey. Besides entertaining my readership I want to help inspire and encourage anyone out there that has contemplated the purchase of their "dream" car. It's not out of your reach.

It was a bit of a leap of faith that launched this blog. I wondered if I had a good enough story to tell and if I could communicate it effectively.  I had been reading and following a couple of online forums for a couple of years. I commented and contributed regularly. This gave me my first exposure to online posting.

Curbside Classics is dedicated to documenting vintage cars that are often daily driven and found parked on the street. I've been actively commenting on this site for several years. I have toyed with the idea of contributing a story to this site for quite awhile. In fact, the post, "Color my World" was originally intended to be my first submission. I have enjoyed this site enormously over the years and I would really like to make a contribution.

The Jaguar forum has been essential to my Jaguar journey. I have maintained several threads describing the process of maintaining my three Jaguars. I have three currently active threads; one for my '89 XJS, my '97 XJ6, and my '51 Mark VII. I post frequent updates on my car's condition.

One of my favorite blogs is produced by Rhett Redelings, My Jaguar Experience. This is such a well written site. The quality of this blog has been an inspiration to me, and it inspires me to step up my game.

photo source:
Is anyone listening? Do I have anything worth saying?

The interesting thing about the blogsphere is that there are no requirements to be met before starting one. The site is free, (at least this one is!) there are no expectations as to the quality of the writing or the presentation. There is no requirement to acquire or maintain an audience. No matter how good or especially how bad the blog is, there is no one monitoring it and demanding any level of quality. So in a way there are no consequences for poor performance.

So how am I doing? I regularly check the statistics on total page views, post views, and audience. I find it amazing how someone in Asia or Europe or South America (or even Russia) can find my blog and read it. I know that blogging is old hat for many, and the action is on platforms like Facebook, Twitter or video platforms like YouTube. I guess that lots of people don't like reading anything longer than a sentence or two.

I will admit that at one time I dreamed of being a writer, but I just didn't think that I had a story worth telling. Or that I had the skills to tell it effectively. So I will write about the things that I know, however humble.

I have made a real commitment to producing this blog. I have a huge amount of projects that I need to complete to move my fleet of project and everyday cars forward. Some of this will be a bit boring, but I intend to include some more entertaining material. I hope that this New Year will bring everyone closer to realizing their dreams, or at least getting that old car running. Last Year? Look in the rear view mirror, you are leaving it behind!

Let's see what's up ahead.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays, (Which ever ones you choose!)

Forget those old hay eaters, Old Nick wants a new bunch of horses!

Christmas art from Plan59.
An idealized American scene, but it doesn't look my old neighborhood.

Christmas is here and with it many memories from the past. My own experience never did match all those commercialized images that were depicted in so many different movies, advertisements and old television shows. But none of that really matters. My own childhood was plenty good enough. My parents gave me a secure family life. When it was my turn to be the parent I followed my folks example and did the same for my kids. We did decide to be a bit more elaborate during the Holidays than my family was during my Childhood. Our Christmas celebrations were like everything else in our life, you experience it on your own level. Enjoy what you have and enjoy the process.

I guess that I am entering that crabby old Grinch stage, but I'm sure that it will pass.

This advertisement for the 1956 Cadillac is one of my favorites. I clipped a copy out of a National Geographic magazine when I was a freshman in high school. I discovered that this magazine had the quality advertisements and they were just the right size. I accumulated quite a collection of early Cadillac ads and I held onto them until just recently. I might still have them stashed somewhere. I even had my own 1956 Sedan de Ville just like the one in the picture. However I wasn't wearing a dinner jacket when I showed my Wife the keys!

These still look pretty good to me.

Growing up in the Bay Area I never had to deal with driving in snow. My childhood family activities did not involve  driving up to Lake Tahoe, or other ski locations. We just stayed down on the flatlands. There are plenty of places to drive in California that don't involve tire chains, snow tires and four wheel drive. Still, it does look pretty.

photo source; pinterest

Like most people there are a lot of family things going on during the Holidays and the car stuff will have to take a backseat. Life goes on and we should enjoy the moment. To paraphrase Peter Egan, "There are only so many Holiday Seasons left." Next year will be different.

also from plan59

Sometimes you just don't want the Holidays to end! Happy Holidays to all!

Friday, December 15, 2017

What would we do without internet Enthusist forums?

My favorite site.
I had been well aware of the presence of automotive forums for quite some time. I discovered that there were forums available for just about any vehicle that the hobbyist might own. I remember frequenting the Ford truck enthusiast, the Datsun 510 and Z, and the Mustang forums. I was even on the Antique radio forums.

Jaguar has been my trusty road map on my journey into the land of Jaguar. After I bought my XJS I started looking for a source of info and advice on repairing and maintaining my car.  There was a lot of information available and the tone of the conversation was always that it was quite well possible for the hobbyist owner to successfully work on their own car.

Forum users form an online community and the posters become as well known as your actual friends. I soon became acquainted with several very knowledgeable posters. These people have contributed so much to maintaining a vigorous enthusiast base for their chosen marque. Like any group of people there are often some that are quick to take a negative or pessimistic view of any particular topic. The forum moderators have done a good job in eliminating obvious trolls, but some negativity is just due to some posters just being crabby old men.

For the most part, the general atmosphere is very helpful and supportive. Much like Jaguar Magazine this is a safe space. As we Jaguar folks well know, the general uninformed public is eager to weigh in with their Lucas "Prince of Darkness" type of comments. The weaknesses and failings of the marque are well known and documented by our community. We chose these cars because they are beautiful, distinctive and unique.

What we are looking for is advice and support, not a scolding.

Their is an enormous amount of content in their archives, and taking the time to do a proper search will reward the seeker with plenty of previous posts, stickies and links. Thanks to Youtube there is a lot of video that can not only entertain us but also assist us in our problem solving.

Being one of those crabby old men myself, I have been known to complain about how much trivial content is continuously devoured by my young co workers. I will admit that the presence of these online forums and Youtube have been a tremendous boon to the old car enthusiast. Anyone reading this blog is probably well versed in navigating the cyberworld, but the occasional old guy like me is constantly amazed.

I can't imagine finding other Jaguar enthusiasts in the real world as easily as I do online.

The listings of events will occasionally draw us together for different events. Car shows, swap meets, drives and tours. The Jaguar forum has members all over the world but several are in my own backyard. I met some of these  members on that group drive and lunch event last year. It is nice to put a face to the posts. At that event I got to meet and speak with Rhett Rhedelings, who runs the blog, "My Jaguar Experience." This is a well written and produced site, one that I highly admire.

A nice logo can go a long way.

Jag Lovers makes no excuses for it's affection for the marque. They also have a huge a huge archive of material. They have changed the organization of their site, but all previous content is still accessible. I just visited their site and the renovation is a complete make over. Very attractive, modern and sleek.

One of my favorite things about this forum is that they a site store. Featuring different products emblazoned with their logo. My favorite are these grille badges, as well as key chains and such. Fly your colors!

Very nice. logo design by Hicherazza

The third forum featured here is one that I don't have much experience with. It is well executed but it appears to me to have a more international base. This logo was part of their design contest.

We are very fortunate to have so many resources available. Print magazines are very helpful, and I have quite the stacks of them piled up in my library, but they do not offer the flexibility of access that the online forums provide. They are expensive too. Club newsletters can contain some info, but they usually just chronicle the "who was there" of their local events. Club membership can be quite expensive and time consuming also. The online resources are like a smorgasbord of content, free and available at a mouse click. My thanks go out to everyone that maintains, moderates and contributes to our online community. Your efforts are greatly appreciated.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The elephant in the driveway, and other cautionary tales for children (and adults who should know better).

My Mark VII looks a bit like an elephant from this angle.

Like Rip Van Winkle it continues to sleep, but it's not dead!

If you invite an ailing elephant into your driveway it's going to sit where it damn well pleases, and it isn't going to move until it's good and ready!

Driveway car.

The ultimate blue collar neighborhood front yard fixture. While these can be found in any neighborhood, I once even encountered a legit Ferrari Testarossa in a guy's driveway, most are found in the land where the owner is "gonna fix that up someday." A well known place where hope and wishing form the magical thinking of car repair. It is a place that anxiously invites those stricken pachyderms with the evangelistic fervor of future possible restoration.  Unfortunately these aspirations  often fall short of reality. The elephant dies and the car sits.

photo source:
All makes models and years.

If you drive out in the country you will likely pass many a homestead where a collection of moribund automobiles will be visible from the road. Usually they will be stationed out next to the barn or outbuildings. a herd of rusting old field trucks or dusty cars of any description. Oh, to have the luxury of so much space! With all that extra real estate, the urgency of eventual repair is lost, and the car's situation can settle into the ebb and flow of an agricultural existence.

photo source:
These don't look like they are going anywhere too soon.

Is this such a a bad thing?

Out in the country there won't be much pressure from your neighbors, they've probably got a few field cars of their own. In the city there may be some that dislike seeing a dead car on display. Then there are various city ordinances that can be brought to to bear upon the hopeful owner.

We all know that many automotive projects are by their nature a long term process. First, there is the acquisition phase of just getting the car. This is the fun part. This is followed by the exploration phase of evaluating your purchase and the realization that the thing is a lot worse off than you thought. This can be the sobering and sometimes disappointing stage. The saving phase follows, not saving the car, but saving the money to finance the project. Patience is required. Now the work begins, or doesn't. This can and will morph into the frustration phase. Hopefully the complete procrastination stage won't take over.

Sometimes Life just gets in the way and derails all our careful plans. Family needs, heath issues, job responsibilities increase, and oftentimes interest and enthusiasm just wane.  The elephant sits down and never gets up again.

Is this such a bad thing? Maybe not.

image from the Wizard of Oz.

"For to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive,"  Robert Louis Stevenson

Sometimes just owning the car is enough of a triumph. To possess a car that you have dreamed about and wanted for so long has it's own satisfactions. Walking around it and taking it in from all angles. Sitting behind the wheel, inhaling that peculiar mix of funky old car smells. So particular to each individual car. Gazing over the hood and dreaming of all the roads and highways that you'll see and travel over . If you start making those vroooom vrooom sounds then you may have regressed to your inner six year old child!

Just holding on to the old thing is the next hurdle. If the car can be coaxed into a carport, garage, or fenced in side yard, it will have a better chance of being retained. It might also have a better chance of being ignored. An elephant is a bit easier to ignore when you don't have to look it in the eye when you walk out of the house.

Will you make any money on your "investment" over time? Depends. We might have told our significant other that the old beast was a veritable gold mine waiting to be tapped. In my own experience I've never made a nickel on any old car that I've owned. My usual tactic is to minimize the amount of money that I will lose. I keep my expenditures down through careful shopping for used parts and the copious application of elbow grease. I suppose if the object of your obsession was an old Porsche, Jaguar E type or rare Muscle Car, the possibility of portfolio growth might be more assured.

Be like the sculptor that crafts the form of a delicate angel from a solid block of granite. Chip away a little at a time. In other words keep at it, even one little job at a time.

Like any piece of art, at least you got the opportunity to enjoy just gazing at it and contemplating the possibilities. Also like any artwork, you have to protect and preserve it while it is in your stewardship, until you can pass it on to someone else. (Good luck with that!)

My own elephant is still taking it easy under that cozy blue cover. There hasn't been any progress since I disassembled those front wheel cylinders. Slow progress is being made in getting the garage emptied out, and my two other Jags are still waiting for their suspension work. The '96 Mustang still needs that manifold leak addressed, and the Holidays are upon us. But I'm still thankful for where I'm at, and I'm holding the line, still travelling along that Yellow Brick Road.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Welcome to my world, Jaguar World that is.

I first dropped in to look for info about my XJS.

This magazine has been a treasure trove of information and enthusiasm for me. In this world the Jaguar lover can feel that he is in a "safe space." Forget all the cheap shots that are lobbied at our beloved marque by the writers of those other heathen magazines. Here is Jaguar Love twenty four seven! There is never any need to feel embarrassed or to make any apologies for our fascination with this mechanical jewel of the British isles. One of the things that I really like is that every generation, every model, is treated with respect.

There is a well balanced editorial content, vintage models like the XK120 and XK140 and Mark 2 are celebrated alongside the various classic series of the XJ6, XJS and the XK8. While the iconic E types  get a lot of attention, affordable, later model cars from the '80's, '90s and 2000's are given extensive coverage

Due to reasonable values, there are a great many models that are attainable.

This magazine offers a lot of valuable and sound advice to the budding enthusiast. Buying guides for many different models detail the particular problems that can be common to each model family. Recommendations are made for the best values in each model range, based upon price, desirability and ease of maintenance and repair.

Rust never sleeps.

Technical articles cover areas of extreme importance, such as highlighting areas that are susceptible to rust on a model to model basis. For some reason modern Jaguars are still quite susceptible to the ravages of the tin worm. I do find it kind of strange that Jaguars come from a foggy, rainy island and that the factory hasn't found a way to provide proper corrosion protection.

Every issue is chock full o' goodness.

Another favorite feature are the model to model comparisons. Prior models are compared against their successors based upon aesthetics and performance. Seeing the cars side by side can give you insights into how the newer model was developed and also an appreciation for the earlier design. For example the issue pictured above contrasts the X300 model XJ6 against the X308 XJ8.

The X300 was a resounding success. It's styling was a nod to the series three XJ6, with a more curvaceous form than the preceding XJ40. It also featured a new design for the straight six engine. A totally new and final update for the '95 -'97 model years. This car is highly regarded by Jaguar enthusiasts and it is considered one of the most reliable and easily maintained models.

The X308 XJ8 not only had a new name, it had a new engine, the same V8 motor that was used in the XK8. Because of the huge acceptance of the previous models's design, the exterior styling remains very similar, but the interior was treated to an upgrade that features a new, all wood instrument panel design. The V8 powertrain offered increased performance, but was hobbled by some mechanical problems during the first years of production. Cylinder scoring, cooling issues along with timing chain tensioner failures were not uncommon.

Presenting these facts to potential buyers gives them the information to choose the model that they prefer. Many, like myself, have chosen the X300 because it combined the ultimate incarnation of the legendary Jaguar straight six motor with the sleek classic proportions of the styling that both cars shared. Now that the problem areas are well known and can be addressed, others will choose the more powerful V8 equipped sedan.

Also included in this issue is a feature on a series 2 E type coupe and a manual transmission equipped XJS. Something for everybody!

But wait! That's not all!

The top header proclaims a story of an XKR that has amassed over three hundred, ten thousand miles. This particular car was purchased used by it's current owner with approx. 36,000 miles.  He ran up an additional 160,000 miles, than swapped in a good used engine when the original failed. (That's 196,000 miles on the original motor!) He is also on his third used transmission! This is the owner's daily driver and he uses it in touring all over Europe. I love hearing about Jaguar owners that get a lot of use out of their cars and then keep them on the road with a quick component swap.

The editorial staff understands that a large number of their readership are dedicated Jaguar enthusiasts, but they are not Jaguar affluent. They are not in the financial position  to make the purchase a brand new car, but have to wait for depreciation to allow the car to drop down to their financial level. These cars are cherished objects for their owners. Regardless of the age, desirability, or value of their chosen machine.

Which would you choose?

Jaguar has always produced a range of performance models over the years. Some were meant as pure sports cars but the majority were designed as GT cars. In this field Jaguar excelled. This issue concentrates on these sporty models. An E type buyers guide. Following the E type the introduction of the XJS was controversial. The most luxurious, pure GT model ever offered, it was decried as a misstep, a mistake, and not a true successor to the E type's legend. But those same people forget that the E by this time, was already past it's prime, and new challengers such as the Jensen Interceptor were riding the edge of the new wave. Jaguar responded with the brilliant XJS, twelve cylinders of glory. Finally, years later the XJS has received the appreciation that it was due. How does it compare to it's replacement, the curvaceous E type inspired XK8? Jaguar World reports.

Most general interest auto magazines only cover a specific model while it is in production, and then only the latest iteration. Jaguar World satisfies it's fans by focusing the spot light on past models.

The XK8 is still abargain.

Several issues each year are dedicated to a specific model range, the XK8 above, and the XJ40 below. Current models like the F Pace, F type, and the XF and XE are not ignored. The magazine keeps us fans appraised of upcoming new models.

Even the XJ40 is given the Star treatment.

They dutifully report on the mechanical downsides of Jaguar ownership. However they don't take a gleeful pleasure in doing so.

Turning wrenches is part of the Jaguar experience.

There are plenty of technical articles in the magazine. There is a dedicated segment, "Hands On; Our Jaguars"  that covers the specific vehicles that are owned by their writers and editors. These cars are followed through the year as maintenance and repair work is performed to bring the cars into good order.

Photography is also excellent.

There is plenty of coverage of vintage models, as Classic vehicles make up a large part of the Jaguar mystique.

For the dedicated Jaguar fan, or someone who wants to learn more about these fine vehicles before taking the plunge into ownership, Jaguar World offers information, advice, and encouragement. I've always felt that a magazine's main mission is to build and maintain the excitement of the automotive hobby. And to keep the enthusiasm of it's readers fired up. Jaguar World delivers on all counts.

In further praise of Petrolicious. The articles.

Typical of their beautiful photos.

I was introduced to the video site by my Son, and it has since become a source of tremendous satisfaction. Their videos are fantastic. I filled out a survey that was sent to me by the company in which I rated them highly. There was an inquiry about their articles, which until recently I had not taken the opportunity to explore. Many of the articles are the backstory to the video shoot, but most cover other subjects with excellent links to related stories in their archive. And is it an impressive archive! I have surveyed  60 pages of articles and I don't think that I've reached the end yet. All are well written and of course, beautifully photographed.

The subject matter is heavily Euro- centric and especially heavy on Porsche and Ferrari. Not that I'm complaining! There is a comment section which is used sparingly, but I don't know if Petrolicious wants to start and run a complete forum site. Either way,  I thank them for making all their wonderful content available to me and all other auto enthusiasts.  Read and Enjoy tastefully.

There is just something about a Jaguar.