Saturday, May 25, 2019

A visit to the Blackhawk museum in Danville California.

The Behring Museum (the actual name of the museum)
is not your typical car museum.

I had been anticipating attending the British car swap meet in Davis for months, so I was quite disappointed when it was cancelled due to rain. We have been having a lot of heavy rain. This is so uncommon this late in the season but I shouldn't complain. What we're experiencing doesn't compare to the parts of the country that suffers from tornadoes and other furies of nature.

Still I had to satisfy my car lovers fix, so I decided an hour long drive in the rain wasn't too much of a price to pay. The Blackhawk, museum is a quality place, much like the Petersen Museum of Los Angeles. Even though it's much closer, I find that I've visited the Petersen more than the Blackhawk. For many reasons I frequently find myself in southern California. I've been there three times in the last few years, while it's been over fifteen years since I've been to this museum.

The California Auto museum located in Sacramento, is another, almost local destination for the car enthusiast. I've only been there once so far.  

I suppose that I should put together a listing of California car museums then I can plan attending events in the area. 

This museum is a classy place! The floor is black granite. The background and walls are dark, and the cars are well lighted with focused spotlighting. Unfortunately these lights make it hard to take photographs ( at least for someone of my photographic skills!). Featured cars are displayed prominently while some others are clustered a bit close to each other.

The Cord made a quite an impression on me when I first became aware of them. It was so advanced for it's time with front wheel drive and a supercharged engine. And that shape so clean and devoid the excessive ornamentation that was so favored by Detroit.

Speaking of ornamentation, this Mustang suffers from this same affliction. Still it works in this case, no one is looking for subtly here. This is one of the actual star cars from the Gone in 60 Seconds remake starring Nicholas Cage.

This T-Bird the "Italien Coupe," was designed by Vince Gardner. It was displayed at the 1964 World's fair along with the 1965 Mustang. This show car previewed the fastback roofline that was going to debut on the Mustang the following year. It's interesting that the roof is made of fiberglass. I was curious how it was joined to the rest of the steel bodywork. I imagine that it meets the quarter panel under the chrome strip and at the forward opening of the trunk. This would minimize the area that the fiberglass would have to be blended with the steel panels.

This classic luxury car looks so dramatic and impressive in a jewel tone of green. Imagine the kind of person that could own a 1933 Packard Super 8 sedan.

The Hispano Suiza was a stylish auto that influenced the first Cadillac Le Salle. Bill Mitchell, head of design  at Cadillac, was knowledgeable and familiar with contemporary.styling trends.

Here is another car that fired up my imagination as a budding young enthusiast. I grew up a confirmed big car fan. Cadillacs were always my cup of tea. Auburn Boat tail Speedsters were never known as shrinking violets, they were as big and bold as the American Dream. It just so happens that my interest in classic Speedsters has been rekindled as of late. I had hoped that I might find a Stutz Bearcat or Mercer Raceabout in the collection.

This is the car that influenced Bill Mitchell when he
designing the 1971 Buick Riviera.

Here is another expansive Classic that perhaps should have had it's design reined in a bit. It was a private commission so I imagine it satisfied the tastes of the wealthy patron. Constructed by famed coachbuilder Figoni et Falasci.

1947 DelaHaye type 135. Narwhal?

Maybe the middle fin could have been omitted
 but arrows have three feathers.

Now you see where the name narwhale comes in.
I do love the enclosed front wheels.

The front end resembles an angry cartoon character,
 "Hey, Where's the love!"

Here's a home grown creation, tastefully and colorfully done. It's a 1940 Lincoln Zephyr with a chopped top. A hot rodded Kustom with a very high level of finish. Certain modern customs achieve coach built levels of execution.


1948 Bentley sport Tourer.

Here's a post War coachbuilt Bentley from the House of Saoutchik. The placard states that it was one of the few post War commissions completed by the House. I thought that I had taken a few more photos but I must have gotten distracted and not returned.

The reflections are hard to avoid!

This is a 1955 Bentley Sports Saloon. This caught my eye because it is four years newer than the Jaguar in my sideyard. The two cars were similar in purpose and execution but the Bentley was aimed at a more expensive niche. The Jaguar was built to a price, and the Mark VII was often derided as a "Wardour Street Bentley," whatever that means. I can safely surmise that it wasn't meant as a compliment.

A 1938 Bugatti Type 57 coupe. This car was designed by Mr. Bugatti himself. I visited the Bugatti display at the Petersen museum, which was an unbelievable presentation. It's hard to believe that this name lives on as part of the Volkswagen empire.

I enjoy seeing vintage high performance engines displayed as the pieces of art that they are. This Duesenberg motor was displayed in an acrylic box. I suppose this was done to protect it from any light fingered patrons who might want to take home a souvenir. It did make it difficult to take a good photograph. The sign definitely wasn't up to the standards set by the museum.

There's still much more to see. You can see a lot of additional cars in the background of my photographs. These were all very interesting cars worthy of coverage, but I had my own favorites. That's the beauty of a museum, you can concentrate on the areas that you find especially appealing. I'll continue with another installment in a future post.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Vice vs. Versa?

This angle make the Mustang appear to be much larger than the Nissan
 but they are actually pretty close in size.

Today I picked up a rental car for my trip down to Riverside.

A Mothers Day visit to my Mother in law, it would be the Wife and myself and my daughter. The F150 was out. While two can travel in spacious comfort and luxury adding a middle passenger would be quite unpleasant.

Three passengers would be quite cramped and uncomfortable, I know, I've done it. So the truck is out.

Besides my F150 I currently don't have anything that would be appropriate for this trip.

My '96 Mustang GT would easily make the trip, I did a weekend trip to Riverside last year, where I dropped off my Wife, who flew back. I thoroughly enjoyed the drive. Yes, the ride can be rough and there is a little exhaust rumble but I find it fun. It is yards ahead in comfort than any motorcycle I've ever ridden.

My Wife says that she doesn't mind the ride, but my Daughter would be quite cramped in the back seat for a trip of this length. Worst of all, is that the rear seat back is low, with no headrest. The rear seat passenger cannot lean back with their head supported. They really can't lean up against the side of the top. When my kids have fallen asleep in the back seat their head just falls forward and hangs there. A situation that had just gotten worse as the kids grew up.

I would take the Explorer but it also shares the rough ride and rattle can thing. Fortunately I was checking under the hood when I observed coolant pooling on the top of the motor. It appears that it is leaking from the thermostat housing. Not a real bad leak, but a leak nonetheless. I've always advised that you should never take a car on a long trip if you know that there is something wrong with it.
So the Explorer is a no go, at least for this trip. I have used it quite a bit to carry three to four passengers and it's quite useful. It's rated as 19 mpg. highway on the window sticker. Not too impressive. However that's still better than my buddy's newer Chevy Tahoe.

How about my XJ6?

Like I said don't take a car with a problem. I'm still dealing with the leaking rim.

It runs fine, and it even seems that the suspension problem is not as bad as I had thought. There are still some bad thumps in the suspension going over bumps that I'd like to address first.

Could we have taken the 2007 Mustang?  Maybe. However there is still the issue with the backseat.

Back when this was our family car we took many trips to LA, Clearlake and even further in this car. It is cramped back there. The other issue is that there is only one opening side window, the door glass. My Daughter likes to ride with an open window, and the noise and buffeting get to me and my Wife. Especially over a 800 mile trip.

So that left me with the option of renting a car.

It would be nice to rent a new car that gets much better mileage. The best of my fleet only return 25mpg.

At Enterprise we had a choice between a Versa, a Frontier quad cab p/u, or a Dodge minivan.

I chose the Versa.

Panel fit and paint quality are first rate.

Styling is not what I would call attractive
but it is utilitarian.

I really liked the dash lay out and the quality
 and workmanship of assembly was quite good. I found the seats supportive.

The backseat had plenty of legroom. The driver's seat is already adjusted to my liking.
The tall seats give plenty of leg room.

The trunk is large, well shaped, with a pass through.
The opening is much larger than my '96 Mustang

Gone are the days of the puny 13 in. wheels.
The Versa sported 15 in 195 cross section tires on alloy wheels.

It may sound funny, but since I don't have much contact with modern compact cars I am quite impressed with how far they have evolved. I haven't owned a compact car since I sold my Civic back in 1995.

Last Summer I got to drive my Daughter in Law's little Hyundai and I will admit that I was quite impressed. These cars have very good space utilization.

Readers my age might have memories of cramped, under powered VW Bugs, Pintos, Vegas, or early Honda Civics. These cars lacked any luxury or comfort features.

I have previously written about my Civics. I found my '75 coupe and wagon to be quite good little cars. My '90 Civic SI remains one of my favorite cars of all time.

I drove 800 miles in two days, to Riverside and back. What did I discover?

That these compact cars have evolved, quite a bit.

What about power?  one of the most basic complaints of old school compacts. No issue there.

My route included both Pacheco Pass Rd, SR 152 and the infamous Grapevine of Interstate 5. Loaded with three adults plus some luggage the car easily maintained 75mph. the whole length of I 5. There was plenty of power for accelerating uphill and entering freeway on ramps. I even cruised at 80 mph. a few times. It's got 100 hp and I don't doubt it could easily hit 100 mph or more. Punch the throttle and the motor will wind out, banging out shifts. Very impressive.

Oh, to be picky the motor was a little loud under load, especially when it down shifted. The transmission could also be a little rough at low speeds.

How about the ride and handling?

The car turned 30,000 miles over this weekend. The ride was quiet but a bit "pitchy" over rough road. Though nothing shook or started rattling. The brakes were very good. It was not designed to be a road car, but it can do it! The car feels somewhat "busy " at high highway speeds, especially mixing it up among the big rigs and gusting side and head winds. It is sensitive to side winds and accidental inputs to the steering wheel. It took me a while to learn that two hands on the wheel help dampen any over corrections on my part.

The suspension was not intended as a sporting set up but it held the road well, thanks to the large tires.  There was a noticeable amount of body roll when put through a tight turn.

Accommodations; The car is designed to accommodate four adults. The seats are mounted high and legroom front and rear is very good.. The car is quite tall and at 5'10'' I found plenty of headroom. A six footer would be comfortable. The shortcoming is that the interior is rather narrow. There isn't enough space to have an armrest that can be used by both driver and passenger, The rear seat is also lacking a center arm rest. While there are front and rear cupholders, they are not easily accessible. There aren't any cubbyholes in the dash for phones, eyeglasses or such, but there just isn't that much real estate to put those things.

Like most modern cars it is fully equipped with things that used to be optional luxuries: A/C, tinted glass, cruise control, tilt wheel, power windows and locks, trunk release, and a blue tooth connected infotainment system.

Passenger safety items like twin airbags and effective seatbelts and ABS are all part of the package.

Economy? Over the 800 miles the average fuel consumption was 34.8 mpg. I spent 96.00 on fuel for the entire trip! My truck would have returned under 20 mpg. for this trip under similar conditions.

So am I ready to ditch all my old cars for a modern compact vehicle?

While this Nissan served admirably in this situation it did have it's limitations.

So what did I think of the car?

Comparing older cars against new, is something of an apples vs. oranges comparison.

Does my Mustang or any other cars in my fleet really meet the requirements of "vice"?

Some were purchased because they served a purpose,  such as my F150 and later, my Explorer.

The others,well, they filled a desire. Some have actually fulfilled this desire for a long time. Like my Mustang convertible.

One also served as my daily for about a year and a half, My XJ6,

The XJS was bought as wish fulfillment as it really hasn't been used as a real car. It was just a method to allow me to take part in a fantasy. That's what I get for reading Octane magazine.

My poor old Mark VII just inhabits  a strange place in my mind, a hopeful fantasy, but even worse than my XJS.

Perhaps the best conclusion that I can draw is that a new compact car could fulfill most of my everyday needs in a more economical manner. Except that to save money on gas I would have to cough up more than fifteen grand to buy one!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

How to improve the lighting on my 1996 SN95 Mustang.

I'll bet you can see pretty good with these!

Without it looking bogus!

The SN95 Mustang's headlights are not all that bad, until you compare them to a more modern car. Like a 2007 Mustang or my 2007 F 150. Then they end up a bit lacking.

Especially if they are yellowed and hazy and poorly aimed.

I bought my car with smoked headlamp assemblies and blue colored bulbs.

They looked kind of sinister, but boy did they reduce the candlepower output!

The first time I drove them in the dark was returning home from my Brother's house, a fifty mile trip. I couldn't believe how hard it was to see. I used the high beams as much as possible and even lit the fog lamps. It was a pretty scary and nerve wracking trip.

One option is to replace the standard headlamp bulb with a higher output bulb. The higher the output the shorter the bulb's life. It states that on the package.

This is the easiest option and if you use DOT approved bulbs you shouldn't have any problems.

These PIAA replacement bulbs look like they would do the job.

Of course it would be a good idea to be sure the lens are clear and the lights are properly aimed.

The real thing , not the movie version.

Last year I read Brock Yates' book about the Cannonball Sea to Shining Sea open road race.  Running across the open highways and back roads of America at night, far from a well lit freeway. Extra lights were called for, especially at the high speeds the participants were travelling at.

Here are some of the original participants
waiting for the starting time.

I have made many night time runs down my favorite California highway, US101 between the Bay Area and Los Angeles.  This route is comprised of several types of highways. Full limited access Freeway, uncontrolled access country highway, and some very curvy elevation change roadways. Most of it is unlighted and you depend entirely on your car's head lamps.

There is supposed to be some wildlife that presents a hazard and there is that famous sign warning of a bear crossing. I'm skeptical about that, I think that the highway dept put that sign there to wake up sleepy drivers before they reached the twistiest coastal sections. I know that it caught my attention the first time I saw that!

Better pay attention!

I've made the night trip in my 2007 Mustang  but most were in my  in my 07 F150. Both of these vehicles have pretty good lights. The Mustang even came equipped with grille mounted driving lamps. The lights on both of these vehicles are adequate for most any conditions.

However if the stock lamps don't cut the mustard there are some other alternatives.

Besides the stock headlamps, California law allows a few other options. Fog lights, Auxiliary driving lights and passing lamps.

Each type of additional lamp has legal requirements for mounting aiming and limitations for it's use.

Fog lamps are common equipment on many modern cars, They are mounted low in the bumper. My Mustang came equipped with these lights. Most aftermarket lamps have yellow or amber lens.

CVC. section 24402(a) regulates these additional lamps.

Yates's own  Challenger sported a set of auxiliary lights.
I would bet that they were driving lamps.

Two auxiliary driving lamps can be mounted to the front end. They must be mounted no lower than 16 in. or higher than 42 in. They are to supplement the high beams and are not to be lit with the low beams.

OEM driving lights are usually mounted in the grill, accessory lamps are usually mounted to the top surface of the bumper. Driving lamps usually have clear or fluted lens.

I've always thought that traditional lamps like this
 added a Continental touch.

Passing lamps are usually seen on old fashioned, Harley Davidson Electra Glide motorcycles, as they are mounted on both sides of the headlamp.

On my Electra Glide the passing lamps
were activated by a toggle switch on the headlamp housing!

The statute states that two passing lamps may be mounted to the front. They are not to be mounted less than 24 in. nor higher than 42 in. Passing lamps supplement the lower beam and may also be lighted with the upper beam.

Back in the day of chrome steel bumpers it was quite common to drill holes or use clamps to mount these lights. Cars have been equipped with plastic skinned bumpers for years, how can you mount additional lamps? Especially without looking bogus.

I think I'll start out with the high output bulbs.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Now to do something about those shock absorber mounts.

Not much left here.
You might imagine that it made a bit of noise.

During the '80s and 90's Jaguar used a different material for it's insulating bushings. Instead of plain black rubber, they used what appears to be a special foam rubber. I imagine that it was more resilient or perhaps had a measure of inherent self damping. Certainly it wasn't particularly long lasting.

That red dust is all that remains of the upper bushing.

The bottom bushings held up a bit better.

Jaguars are full of rubber bushed and isolated assemblies. As they wear or "perish" all sorts of components start to wobble, wiggle, and rub up against each other. This is announced to the driver by mysterious noises and sloppy steering and tracking, Some are quite easy to replace, others well, maybe not. Not easy equates to expensive.

The problem is not helped by Jaguars famous high level of depreciation.

Suspension rebuilding is a labor intensive operation. Either you do it yourself, or you pay the price. Many times the cost of having a shop do the work might rival the price you paid for the car!

Is it worth it? I don't know, it all depends.

Replacing these shock bushings was pretty easy. I had them on hand since I ordered them off of RockAuto. I didn't even have to remove the wheels. I removed the top nuts then I jacked up the car. I turned the wheels to the extreme right or left, then pushed down and held the shaft down while I extricated the worn bushings. These are gas filled shocks and they put up a bit of a fight! Were my fingers tired!

I'm still having problems with that leaking alloy wheel. I gave it a treatment of Slime. This slowed down the leak quite a bit. It will hold enough pressure for a few days. This would be an incredible pain in the neck if I didn't have my own air compressor! I need to source a replacement wheel, soon!

I contacted Jaguar Heaven in Stockton Ca. They advised me that a set of four dimpled alloys would run me 525.00 plus tax, of course.

I've seen several XJ6 and XJ8 models in the local Pick and Pull yards and I might find a wheel there for closer to fifty bucks. It's worth a chance. I've just got to find the time to check the yards out.

Some of my other fixes have been holding up pretty well.

I really appreciate the mirror staying put while I'm driving but I discovered this morning that the glass was missing from the mirror! A quick survey found it sitting under the front edge of the driver's seat. I've never had much luck with using double sided tape to hold things together. For some reason it always seems to melt and fall apart from the heat. I've read where body kit parts are held on with this stuff but I would never trust it. I'm going to use some of the adhesive that my Wife and Daughter use to glue  their jewelry and craft projects together. It's called E6000. It is quite strong and water resistant and it doesn't have such a strong odor. I had considered using RTV silicon sealer, which would probably work, but would leave that horrible smell behind. My Jag may be old, but I can still detect the odor of the Connolly leather interior, a pleasing and satisfying fragrance.

This could have quite a few applications in fixing our cars interior trim

The "sacrificial" tires seem to be holding up pretty well. It's been 300 miles since I replaced the left front tire. I did purchase a replacement for the right front, but the existing tire wasn't down to the cord yet, so I decided to hold off on mounting it for awhile. The tire will be ground down in it's own time, so far that's another 300 miles down the road! As I mentioned previously, the darting and poor stability looks like it was related more to the tread separation that the left front tire suffered. I remember that it was pulling to one side quite noticeably. I'm wondering if this pulling to one side is what caused the right side tire to wear prematurely. Now it's been tracking straight down the road quite nicely, but there are still some clunks and squeaks. The car feels secure rolling down the road and I've really enjoyed driving it.

Of course there are always some kind of problem with any old Jaguar, especially with the CEL and other warning lights. Mine is no different. The CEL returned after passing the smog test. I reset it, but it returned a while later. The car has continued to run well and smoothly, but once last week the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree.

The rainy season seems to have passed, so I hand washed my XJ and it looks fabulous, clean and shiny. I unwrapped my new car cover and in unison with my car duster will try to maintain my car as clean as possible.  I will modestly admit that Jaguar built a gorgeous car, the least I can do is keep it clean.

I will do what I can but I need to get the next two years of use out of the car.

This is the crux of owning an old hobby car. You can fret, fuss and freak over every problem but that sucks all of the fun out of the experience. Do the best you can, but drive the thing.