Friday, December 31, 2021

 Year End Wrap up.

Celebrate a little!

It's pretty hard for me to believe but I've been producing this blog since 2014, I will be starting my ninth year! I hope that my writing and editing skills have improved over that time. I fell into a pretty steady schedule of a new post every week. Some months have five weeks and so the yearly output varies. 

I don't pretend to think that I'm some kind of automotive Sage, with all the answers. I'm just a regular guy who struggles with getting enough money, motivation and focus to get something done with my old cars. I probably could use to improve my focus, which is actually something that I'll be working on next year.

Things have opened up since the height of the pandemic lock downs and I've gone to a couple of swap meets. I'm still trying to stay careful and safe and I hope that we can all emerge from this eventually, healthy and intact. 

I've seen many auto blogs fade away after a year, due to many problems; loss of time, loss of interest, and maybe the loss of content. I still like to talk, even if it's all one sided, and I still have a stable of cars that give me plenty to write about, especially if I'm actually doing something with them. 

My family has advised me that blogs are old hat, that nobody really wants to read, anything, and that video output is what people want to see. So prepare for some links to my my new series of TikTok videos! 

Of course I'm just kidding, I'm no dancer, my groove thing hasn't had a good shaking in quite a while.  I just want to write a column, like my favorite automotive writer Peter Egan did for many years. 

I'm still involved with several forums where I am a constant commentor. The newest, as I shared a couple of weeks back, is with the Antique Automobile Club of America. I've started a couple of long term threads where I'm sharing some of my projects with my cars, They are kind of like the build threads on the HAMB. However, my cars are too new to discuss on the HAMB so I've found a home on AACA. Of course I will always include the newest and most detailed stuff here. 

I also get to include my memories, musings and ramblings here, those other forums don't have a format to include that. Producing this blog is a big part of my automotive hobby and I get a lot of satisfaction from it.  I don't have many subscribers, but the number of page views has been steadily increasing over the years. I think that there are some folks out there reading my stuff and finding it interesting or amusing enough to come back to. 

Thanks for that. Happy New Year to all.


Friday, December 24, 2021

 More, On more doors.  Part Two.

Something that you might see on CL,
but not parked at your local supermarket.

Expanded edition.

My Son was visiting and I got my chance to have some car related conversations, 

We were showing each other cars that we'd seen for sale on CL or Facebook. 

He showed me a car that he seemed quite intrigued by, it was a '62 Pontiac Ventura four door flat top sedan. He found the grille and especially the tail end treatment to be intriguing and unlike any car he had ever seen before. 

I had to agree that it was a cool car, but it was "only" a four door sedan! 

Those had been consolation prizes for as long as I could remember. Some might have refereed to them as the booby prize!

But to my Son, the fact that it was cool looking vintage car outweighed the number of doors. That made it appealing, along with a much lower price. I could definitely see his point. 

This car had been loved by it's previous owner for a couple of decades.

I shared my interest in a car that I'd followed on CL for some time. It was a '62 Buick LeSabre sedan, nothing special. Except that even this model had some pretty amazing body sculpturing and detailing typical of so many '60s era cars. The roof line itself was quite handsome. It was straight and in good shape with faded original paint. The seller had owned the car for over twenty years. It had been stored in a warehouse for years, except that now the guy who owned the warehouse needed the space, and had increased the rental rates. The seller had to sell and he was trying to find someone who would appreciate the car and maintain and fix it up a bit. It would have killed the seller if his beloved Buick would turn out to be used as a parts car. And it could have, as this Le Sabre had the legendary 401 cube Nailhead engine in it. Which had been rebuilt shortly before being placed into storage. The engine was more desirable and worth more than the whole car. It was the 401 that made this car interesting.  It was almost the equivalent of a Wild Cat model. It had a two barrel carb and came with single exhaust. I followed this car, and thought long and hard about it. Asking price was only 2,800 dollars. The interior was the same plain two bench design shared with most other '60s sedans. Pretty boring, nothing luxurious or special there. I asked myself if could I actually love a car with such a cheap and ugly interior? 

The number of doors I could get over. I'd had two 1950's Cadillac four door hardtops, a '66 Lincoln suicide  door sedan, a '94 Seville STS, and finally my '97 Jaguar XJ6 , which put all my prior car's interiors to shame. 

Ultimately I didn't make a move on it, and I've kind of regretted that. 

My Nailhead itch hasn't gone away, except that now an early Riviera is just too expensive to even consider. So I'm always looking for the proper year Buick.

I stumbled across a car on CL recently that was described as a '64 Wild Cat four door sedan. I'd never seen or heard of that model. Wildcats were the almost top of the line cars, usually hardtop coupes and sedans. Many sedans had bucket seats and consoles which made them even fancier than an Electra. The Wildcat followed the Invicta series, which followed the Century series. The Century was Buick's muscle car. The shorter wheelbase model with the biggest Buick straight 8. The Century was named back in the late 1930's because it could exceed the 100 mph. barrier. Often referred to as "the Banker's Hot Rod." 

The engines were named for their torque ratings; the Wild Cat 445 and the Wild Cat 465, their actual displacements were actually 401 and 425 cid. Buick found a way to one up their competition, just call your engines something that made them seem larger! Being Nailheads, they are hard runners and beautiful motors to gaze upon. 

I initially thought that the CL seller was calling this car a Wild Cat because they saw the name on the air cleaner. I studied the pictures and saw the triple horizontal  vent like chrome pieces on the front fender as well as the bright trim that ran the length of the car above the rocker panels. That looked Wild Cat to me.

Just another tired old Cat lying in the sun.
Worth saving? Asking price on CL 2,000.00

I dug into my reference library and the mystery was solved. In 1962 the Wild Cat was a variant of the Invicta line available only as a coupe or convertible. In '63 the Wild Cat almost completely replaced the Invicta and was now also available as a four door hardtop sedan. The four door sedan and wagon remained as an Invicta. For 1964 the Invicta name was dropped completely and the four door sedan was included in the Wild Cat line up. The distinctive grille, tail lamps, and side trim were adapted to the sedan. It also got the four barrel, twin exhaust, 401 engine as standard. Interior trim was much plainer and buckets and console may have been available, but seldom selected. The Wildcat sedans that I found on the web had an interior which was almost identical to the LeSabre sedans.  It was the big motor that made the Wild Cat, a Wild Cat, and even the least expensive entry shared that feature. I imagine that this appealed to the thrifty buyer that wanted the association with the name, even if they weren't prepared to cough up the dough for the upscale interior. The trajectory of the Wild Cat was replicated with the Centurion model that followed it. 

So this Wild Cat is probably pretty tame inside. 

Though they didn't have to be. Here's a four door hardtop with buckets and console.

As I said, my Son who is now in his early Thirties, is more interested in these cars as an example of a vintage car, then as a sedan. These old more doors are usually in much better shape than available coupes and almost always much more affordable. 

When it comes to Fifties and Sixties cars I am more flexible in accepting a four door hardtop which I think is just as cool as the two door. 

Leaning towards Dope!

Last year I saw a '66 Caprice four door hardtop that was modified as a Lowrider and thought that it looked great. 

The truth is, sedans are much more sturdy than a hardtop. The frames around the windows lead to less problems. The center pillar adds a lot of strength and the cars remain much tighter and rattle free. From a safety standpoint the body is stronger and the center post allows a three point harness to be adapted much easier. 

Four doors always make more sense. Rear seat passengers have more space, and they can enter and exit the car without disturbing the front seat passengers. 

What about looks? Can they look long and sleek, or is short and stubby the best that they can do? 

I think that a lot of late 50s, 60's  and early '70's cars can look pretty good. A 1950 Plymouth, or even a Chevy, not so much! 

But the vintage vibe is there.

Here's another couple of shots of the '61 Pontiac that is featured at the top.

I  love the way the split grille curves inward at the top like a roll top desk. The side sculpturing empathizes the length and ends at the tail with those curved fins. The Wide Trac stance gives it impressive presence. The asking price on CL for this car is 4,000.00.

The interior is typically GM sedan plain, just two benches, but the door trim has a little snap with the emblem, pleat lines and stainless trim. The dashboards of this era were nice and shiny with distinctive gauges and controls. 

The next car is a 1960 Oldsmobile 88 four door hardtop. It a bit rusty but a runner. Check out that amazing flat deck with the rocket /jet shaped rear end. Just think, this was a one year design, totally changed the next year! 

The front end is almost conservative compared to the rear.

Oldsmobile was GM's forward leaning division. They did the development work on their high tech projects; Automatic transmission, OHV V8 engines, and front wheel drive for the fabulous '66 Toronado. They had a reputation similar to Acura in their hey day. 

The front end looks rather tame, compared with the rear. Best of all this is a four door door hardtop! The asking price for this beauty on CL is 2,900.00. 

Here's a shot of a '59 Oldsmobile, this four door hardtop is certainly dramatic, Olds really set themselves apart back then. This seller is asking crazy money, it's been "reduced" to 15,000! No bargain here though it does look rad.

It's hard to believe that a major manufacturer 
would build something like this.

I've saved the best for last. A '61 Oldsmobile 88 four door hardtop in red. 

This car has the hardtop version of the roof line on the Lesabre and Wild Cat. The rear lower "skeg" fin was shared in concept with Cadillac that year. It is featured in the front bumper also.

Look at the curved windshield pillar, all I can say is "Dang!"

Perfect for your entourage.  Or your crew, take your pick. But most likely for your kids. 

Asking price for this Jetson themed bit of Americana? 3,950.00

What about the conventional wisdom that decrees; "Four slams, no clams?"

Four door cars, sedans or hardtops don't command high prices especially in project car condition. However if the owner sinks too much money into it, they will probably never regain most of their investment. Starting with a two door will be more expensive initially, probably over twice as much, but the prospects of getting a good sale price are much better. If a guy does decide to get a sedan, the safest thing is to keep the investment low, no crazy motor work, paint, or interior. Just get it into good running shape and do a few little custom touches. That should be do-able on a restricted budget.

Then just drive and enjoy.

Or, just keep on dreaming of coupes!

Remind me why I sold it!

Have a Merry More Door Christmas!

Friday, December 17, 2021

 I know that it's progress, but isn't kind of annoying that new cars do everything better than old ones?

photo source: Car and Driver.
This is the '23 Cadillac Lyriq 
but you don't have to have anything this fancy.

If we are going to be out, running some errands My Wife will sometimes ask, "Which car are we taking?"

Or, if we lock the house and are walking to the car and I steer her in the direction of the Mustang, she'll ask, "How come we're not taking the Flex? "

Good question. 

In her mind there is no circumstance where she would want to ride in any of our other cars except the newest one. Especially if you are still making payments on it and it is still experiencing a rapid rate of depreciation.

That's a rational conclusion that every non car enthusiast person would make. 

What really hurts is when even "I" make the same choice! 

If we are driving older cars because that's what we can afford, or we're trying to save money for other things, that's one thing, we've all been there. But if we can swing a new or almost new car then that's another thing.

Or more likely for my readers, we have an older car around because it's our hobby car. It might be almost anything, but it's not brand new, it could be ten, twenty, thirty, or more years old. It's an old car that we keep around because we like it, and want to drive it. At least, some of the time.

A lot of mature car guys and younger ones with kids will have a late model SUV or fancy crew cab truck. That makes sense, it can do all the things that the family needs, can carry them on weekend trips and driving vacations. It can even tow the old car on occasion or be used for swap meet and wrecking yard buys. 

And of course, trucks are just cool. 

If you've signed up to pay for something that can cost upwards of thirty, forty, or even fifty grand, then that doesn't always leave a lot of extra cash to spend on the hobby car. Especially if it's still in project car status. 

What does an older car even have to offer besides being "cool" in your perception?

Let's say that you have a fully finished and sorted out older car, it's in better shape than it was when it was new. 

In your Wife's mind there might just be too much drama centered on driving your hobby car.

It's probably parked in the garage under a cover, there will probably be other family cars blocking it in the driveway and getting it out involves a game of automotive musical chairs. 

Then after all that, if you're taking your kids, they have to squeeze into the back seat of some type of swoopy coupe. 

"Why couldn't we just take the Tahoe, or the F150? Or even the minivan?" They will probably ask. 

Then when you arrive at the mall you've got to scope out a safe parking spot, away from all the idiots. They will complain about how far they will have to walk, because you couldn't just drop them off in front of the mall entrance. It takes too long to have them crawl out of the back seat and you didn't want to block the street. 

Now you are going to be worrying that someone is going to put a ding or scratch on your car. You just know that someone will seek it out, and park much too close to it. 

Or even worse, what if someone tries to, or actually steals it?

You can't spend too much time in the mall. You're not going to make an impromptu decision to watch a movie, get back to the car quick! Before it's too late!  

"Can we stop at In and Out burger on the way home?" We both know the answer to that inquiry! You know that you don't want the kids to be eating animal fries in the back seat! 

If your car was so unfortunate to have picked up a scratch you know that you are going to go on and on about it for days. It's going to ruin your entire week. Not to mention your family's! 

Of course bad things can happen to your daily driver, but you usually don't have as much emotional connection with them.

Even if your old car is far from perfect, many of us, myself included, will still fuss over it! 

Many times these cars have a lot of things that don't work, but we're going to get to them eventually! Only one side door can be unlocked with the key, some of the windows don't go down, there's no radio, the fuel gauge doesn't work, ( don't worry, I'll use the odometer, oh, that doesn't work either!) or perhaps the most common and irritating thing for the Wife and family is that there is no working a/c!

Ask my family about the efficacy of a '66 Riviera's flow through ventilation. Or better yet don't ask. They still haven't forgiven me yet. 

It takes a lot of dedication, focus and money to properly finish an old car. The way most of us have to find a way to steal a little extra time, money, and effort away from our daily lives means that a lot of our cars never actually "get finished."  

They may not get finished but they may well be "drive-able" provided that we are willing to overlook a lot of shortcomings. The operative word here is "we." They may be hard to start when cold, you've got to follow the proper procedure. The heater might not be working-yet. We might not really mind the old faded splotchy paint, or the areas of light surface rust, what is now valued as patina. Our better halves may just describe it as an ugly old car that needs a paint job. 

Air conditioning? Just roll the windows down. 

There's a '73 Mustang coupe that I've been watching on CL for almost a year. It hasn't sold so it gets relisted periodically. It has been parked for quite some time in a messy storage yard, but it's complete and straight. It's equipped with a 302 V8, automatic, and possibly with front disc brakes. It's a pre smog test car which I prefer, and it doesn't have a lot of fancy electronics like my XJS. It is pretty much the simple car that I've been searching for. But didn't I have one of those before? Didn't I grow to eventually dislike it? What makes me think that this time would be any different?

I can't think of any way that old '73 Mustang would be any better at being a Mustang, than my '96. It won't be as fast, handle as well, be as safe, be as comfortable, or get the fuel economy of my current twenty five year old GT. Logically, I know that for a fact. But I'm still intrigued.

As enthusiasts we want to place our "wants" ahead of our "needs" however there has to be some reasonable accommodations made for our family's needs. If for no other reason than to just keep the peace.

Modern cars are fast, comfortable, handle and stop great, are safer, and get better gas mileage. A newer car also has lots more of it's original service life still left ahead of it. In other words it doesn't need to be worked on all the time, and it's dependable. 

Newer cars don't need us to spend a lot of time on them. That would leave more time to work on our hobby cars. If we can find one that we like, and suits us, and especially doesn't cost so much that there's no fun money left in the budget, that sounds like a pretty good compromise. Especially if it's something with plenty of room, good a/c, and four doors.

The worst that can happen is that we might find that we prefer to drive our newer car over our old project. If you find yourself in that situation, the best advice that I can give is, "Keep that sentiment to yourself!"

This discussion kind of begs the question, "What's the point then of messing with old cars?"

Stop! Stop right now! Those are the words that can never be spoken out loud!

Friday, December 10, 2021

 Vintage More doors, dope or nope? Part One.

Yes, I've tipped the scales in my direction. Hard to believe that this is a Packard
a shadow of it's former grandeur.

Yeah, I know who Drew Peacock is!

Four slams, no clams. More on this later.

These two Fords were far from sports cars, but snazzy? Yes!

To be completely honest, I'm an old school Boomer and for me, and most of my Generation, there was a definite hierarchy of desirable models. First are convertibles, followed by two door hardtops. Then two door sedans followed by four door hardtops. Bringing up the rear by a large margin are the four door sedans. 

Feel free to disagree, but my experience and observation has proven me correct. 

Four door sedans, that is, four door cars that have full window frames and a center B pillar, have been the red headed step children of the auto hobbyists world for as long as I can remember. 

This body style and construction has been the mainstay of auto manufacturers the world over. It is accepted practice when producing a useful car.

Why is this so?

The sporty models have always been the convertible and the two door hardtop. These were always offered with the bigger engine, fancier trim and upholstery, and usually loaded with more extra price options. They were almost always the most expensive models. 

Someone added a little bling during the restoration,
with whitewalls, skirts and  visor.

The basic model was always the four door sedan. These could be quite austere with almost no chrome, plain one color paint jobs, and with very plain, simple interior trim. These usually eschewed the big motor, a basic in line six would suffice, usually with a column mounted three speed manual transmission. If you were lucky they were equipped with a few basic options, like a heater and an AM radio. 

Cheapskate cars, which can almost be equated to mean, old people's cars.

Grand Pa's car. 

Back when I was growing up, my Grandpa had lived through the Great Depression. Those hard times had left an indelible mark. The most important thing was to save your money, and if you had to spend it, then it was important to get a good value. After that, it was important to take good care of the things you bought. 

My Grandfolk's generation would prefer to save up and to pay cash for their cars. Financing a car was the height of irresponsibility, imagine paying extra money for interest on a loan! Bad enough the Government stuck out their hand to grab some of your cash as sales tax! With cash in your hand you could drive a hard bargain.  You know that your Gramps knew how to drive a hard bargain!

You get the idea that four door sedans were purchased by no nonsense individuals. That also came to include the  family man. 

I'm sure that a lot of young married men resisted the idea at first. Their '40 Ford coupe was a looker, and he and his young bride still liked going out for rides in it. As things progressed however, the couple found that they now had additional passengers going along for the ride. At first the babies were in their Mother's arms and the toddlers were safely corralled in the back seat. But as the kids got bigger and bigger,  there was a lot of fighting among themselves as to who would be exiting the car first. Easier to give each kid a door of their own, The youngest would be stuck in the center. 

They were practical cars, practical being the extreme opposite of glamorous. 

However as we got our driver's licenses, and became new young drivers, just the act of driving was considered glamorous enough. 

Some of us were lucky, as our folks bought fancy new two doors, but most others borrowed the Old Man's four door family sedan. At first we didn't care, just driving anything made us feel cool. 

We could pretend and imagine that we had bought that shiny hardtop for ourselves and bask in it's reflected glory. Driving that stodgy old sedan it was obvious that we were driving our parent's car, and we were quick to point that out to our friends.

Why was I even thinking about more doors? 

I've noticed that there were several builds on the HAMB, and the AACA forums that were concerned with old sedans. 

It appears that the only affordable old cars that are still available are old sedans. It makes sense. These were cars that were often owned by the original owners for decades. They were driven very little or maybe not at all as the owners aged. Many had been well maintained and kept in the garage. That's what the garage was made for, the old folks thought. So lots of these cars were well preserved for years. Even after they were sold off at estate sales, or given to the owner's kids or grand kids, they may have had twenty to thirty years of being preserved prior to this.  Unfortunately some were treated poorly by young drivers and were trashed. Most were probably just driven and passed to another sibling as soon as they could afford a better car of their own choosing. Some were cherished as mementos of beloved relatives.  

Over time more imported cars were showing up on the road. These were smaller and they were available as sedans so that the back seats could be made more useful. Domestic automakers followed suit and began building compact and smaller cars which could also benefit by having a couple of extra doors. Over the course of a couple of generations our kids got used to being driven around in four door Camrys and Honda Accords. Then there was the arrival of SUVs, another type of four door. 

These were coming up fast in the rear view mirror.

Probably the biggest thing to change the attitude was the arrival of the high end imported sports sedan, courtesy of Mercedes, Audi and especially BMW. These were cars that could out perform many of their smaller coupe brethren, and they had the prestige. 

So now there are kids that have grown up not exactly hating the four door sedan. It was just a car, actually it was the majority of the cars out there. Two door versions of the standard models pretty much had disappeared, the coupe business was left for specialty cars like Personal Luxury Cars and Pony cars, and the PLCs been gone for the last twenty years or so. A whole 'nother generation has grown up without our beloved two door hardtops.

Friday, December 3, 2021

 What have I been searching for all these years with cars and motorcycles?

photo from the Web.
I might have had something like this as a child.

Transportation of course, but there was something more. Something that made me a lifetime enthusiast.

I think that it was the idea of freedom of movement. With a car almost anyplace is accessible to you. Years ago I read a book about an adventurer that wanted to drive from the tip of South America all the way to the United States. This was back in the 1920's and this was a Grand Adventure. There were no highways, only wagon and horse tracks. trails only previously traversed by foot. Across the jungle there weren't even those. The book recounts how at some points the car was disassembled and was carried by hand across some rope bridges!

By the time the team had arrived in northern Mexico the roads were well paved and they did not expect any problems once they crossed into the U.S. 

1907 Thomas Flyer
New York to Paris race winner in 1908.
Around the World in 169 days.

It got me to thinking that the highway system in our hemisphere was like a system of rivers, creeks and brooks. The banks of this grand stream starts right at the end of my driveway, and I have the freedom to navigate anywhere in North America and beyond. 

All I have to do is throw my dinghy in the water!

As a grade school kid I don't think that my vision was as grandiose as that, but I had a hunger to go places and see things, especially behind the wheel of my own car. Or in the saddle of my own motorcycle.

My family didn't take a lot of vacations when I was growing up. My parents were more focused on trying to establish a good life for their family.

I wanted go somewhere, everywhere, ...anywhere.

This is the primary interest that I've maintained all my life.

While the car or motorcycle itself was important to me, it was how it was used that made all the difference. Sometimes both areas overlapped and I was able to take some trips on a vehicle that I had a connection with. 

I had more exposure to motorcycles initially. The Honda 50, which could barely drag me around the neighborhood, gave way to the Honda 160 which allowed me to explore the East Bay Area back roads. There had been an article in Cycle magazine that year entitled "Scenes of desolate beauty, a trip up the Coast highway." That article and those pictures fired my imagination and I knew that it would only be a matter of time.  When I got my Honda 305 in Junior year, I was finally able to reach the fabled Coast Highway, California 1 in Sonoma county. I was a still a kid in high school and I wasn't that comfortable yet with going alone too far from home. I remember stopping alongside the highway near the little town of Marshall, under the shade of the big roadside trees and declaring to myself, "The Road belongs to Me!" ( Maybe grandiosity is a part of my personality!) Then I turned around and found my way home. But the die had been cast. 

A year later in my Senior year, I would complete the California 1000 motorcycle rally on my own. 

As a loner, a motorcycle can fill the need, but I had a good buddy that I recruited into the ranks of motorcyclists and we took many memorable long trips together.

Well, it felt like this.

Though I might not like to admit it, cars have also been a distraction as well as a short term goal. 

I have never been a sports fan, someone that follows and watches the fortunes of their favorite team, or teams. Someone that loves to discuss the problems of the current season or the prospects of the coming seasons. Many fans love to immerse themselves in the minutia, recounting changes to team line ups, batting averages and field statistics from player's past seasons. I am always amazed when fans will recount a certain portion of a past season game, identifying the specific year, the specific game, the quarter or inning that the critical play was made by specific players on their team. That always seems incredible to me. Why would they bother cluttering up their mind with all that...stuff? 


My Wife has pointed out that we'll be driving down the freeway and I'll point out a certain car and start babbling about it's history, development, specific changes made during it's production run, and how it fit into emerging trends in automotive preferences and sales. Why would I bother cluttering up my mind with all that ...stuff?

I answered that my interest and love of cars is something that sweetens the bitter taste of life. I just wanted to say something dramatic. Actually my life has been pretty good, better than I had anticipated or hoped for. Maybe it's more accurate to say that it lends a certain flavor and anticipation to the sometimes prosaic meal that is life. Cars are something to think about, dream about, and hope about. I suppose that it is my version of building sand castles in the sky. Something to distract yourself from the daily responsibilities of your life.

Cars are also something that have been a necessity.

I celebrated the 50 year anniversary of having a driver's license last year.  That period spanned my years in high school and college, my young adulthood, my years of marriage and family responsibility. I drove what was best for the family during those years. Minivans may not be exciting in themselves, yet they are exciting when you use them to share experiences with your family, hopefully ones that they will treasure fondly in their memories. The kids are now grown and gone, involved in living their own lives. My marriage I am happy to report is still firing on all cylinders.

For me it always come down to the driving.

Last month my Wife asked if we should go somewhere for my Birthday. I suggested that we go go to the new Academy Award museum in Los Angeles. It's actually just across the street from the Petersen automotive museum. She quickly made plans and we left in three days. An off the cuff driving trip, something that can easily be done when you have a newer car. I've told her that I think that I'm starting to like that trip prep with the car is just getting it washed and filling the gas tank!

I plan to keep at least one late model, low mileage, newer car in the stable. I want to be able to drive off on a long trip at a moments notice. This is going to be a priority for me. I'm not getting any younger and it will always be about the driving, until it can't.

To quote Peter Egan's Wife: "There are only so many Summers left." 

 Todd and Buzz, I shall see you out there!

Friday, November 26, 2021

 Lately I've been finding myself browsing the forums of the AACA.

Their new logo is much snazzier and appealing than their old one. 

That's the Antique Automobile Club of America.

Their old logo; lots of Duryeas cruising the streets.
Would anyone under 85 have any interest with that logo?

In their general forum section a question was posed, "How can a young broke guy get started in the old car hobby?" The guys on the forum were full of helpful suggestions.

The kid didn't have a garage or even covered parking, and no real place to work on his car. 

In this situation it doesn't pay to get in over your head.

In reality that's liable to cost you dearly. 

So it makes sense to get involved with a car and situation that is likely to have a favorable outcome. 

Car Craft had a memorable issue that proclaimed on the cover: Freeway Flyers; Build 'Em!" 

The article highlighted performance bargains in older model lines that were outstanding in their day, and still offered opportunities to enjoy and augment their performance. At attainable prices. We are talking Mustang, Camaro, Firebird, even Corvette! 

They weren't addressing late '60's and early '70's muscle car classics, they were talking about the late '80's and '90's descendants of these cars. some direct descendants like the Pony cars, some familial, like the GM A body intermediates which no longer offered performance variants.

But they are all V8 front engine, rear wheel drive designs. The classic lay out. With...

Attainable prices.! That's the whole thing. 

The authors were also not advocating buying some clapped out, rusted, wrecked car with a beat motor. Instead they recommended good running cars in good overall condition. With good bodywork, paint, interiors, and good running modern mechanicals. Something that you could do a little wrenching on to improve, but still be driving immediately. 

Did you notice how many times I used the word "good"? 

That made a lot of sense.

If the choice is between dream or do, I choose to do.

This is along the advice that I would offer this kid. There would have to be some adjustments since in this case he wants a vintage car, not a performance car. A '90's car doesn't really fill that vintage vibe.

But he has to find an affordable vintage car in running and hopefully presentable condition. Something that will not commit him to an extensive rebuilding project - at least not right away! 

No sense in getting involved with a project car that needs a lot of work, no matter how cheap, or even free! 

The best of intentions cannot compensate for a lack of resources. You can consider this sentence the most concise and important advice that you will ever read.

Every experienced hobbyist knows that in their heart, but we've all violated that old truism.  Sometimes over and over again.

Is it realistic for a young person with few resources available to get started in the vintage car game? 

The idea that a young person might be living with an old unreliable car that needs constant repair and attention isn't too far from what many, if not most, of us experienced  in our youth. I know that I drove old cars that were well along into their service lives and weren't long for this world. 

Yet even then there were guys that bought a specific car that they wanted, and they held onto it for many, many, years. I've mentioned that this turned out to be a winning strategy for some. 

This was back in the early 1970's.  The cars that I was fooling with were late 1950's and early to mid 1960's models.

Cars that were not really that old, some less than twenty years old. Flash forward to Today, and that would be cars from the new Millennia, post 2000! Where did all those years go?

Are cars of this age, vintage cars? Yes and no. While they are quickly approaching the 25 year old standard of collectibility, I don't think that is what that young guy was looking for. 

Here you go, a straight complete mid 50's more door Pontiac.

I would recommend late 1950's or an early 60's car, something simple. A full sized base model Chevy or Ford, with a straight six and maybe a manual transmission. Or a compact, like a Ford Falcon, Plymouth Valiant, or Chevy Nova. A low option car with a lot less to go wrong. There were lots of simple, basic, Dodges, Plymouths, Impalas, Galaxies, and Buicks. You are probably going to have to settle for a more door. Pick up trucks are another great choice. Parts would have to be readily available and affordable. 

Vintage pick ups are simple, and they retain their utility and value.

I was surprised to find that the CCCA forums had several low buck build threads that were posted by young guys. They featured situations like freeing up and starting an engine that hadn't been fired in 10-20 years. With lot's of low buck, greasy hand tactics to get the engine running. The cars were '50's sedans that had been sitting under some type of shelter, or weather protection, so they weren't rusty wrecks. These threads would not have seemed out of place on the HAMB! 

I won't say that everything is impossible, it just takes a lot of commitment and the willingness to do the hard work. It also takes finding the right car. Which is a sizable hurdle in itself. Perhaps the greatest hurdle.

I registered on the forum so that I could contribute comments, and even sent in my money to join the club. What has surprised me has been a pretty open and welcoming attitude by posters on the forums. I kind of expected a bunch of snooty old farts that wouldn't give the time of day to someone with a '60s or '70s car, but I've been pleasantly surprised. What is really interesting is that the forum is set up with a lot of feedback for the commentors. You receive notifications on comments that were included in later responses. They also give you points and awards for participation!

I admit that I find that kind of feedback useful and fun. I shared that I had my own blog and that I was used to talking a lot.  That I did not like leaving simple one sentence responses, or a thumbs up emoji. In reality I enjoy writing and sharing my thoughts. I am happy to start a discussion and find that others enjoy my contributions. That's the only pay off that I receive for the work of producing this blog. 

I hope that everyone had a happy Thanksgiving and I'm very thankful for the people that take a few minutes out of their day to read my ramblings. 

Friday, November 19, 2021

 Rust - again.

This centuries old painting was destroyed
by a well intentioned amateur attempt to restore it. 

The best of intentions can lead to tragic results without the required resources and skill. Just like the tragic tale of this painting from a Spanish church that made international news.

Mitigation versus management, and why you need to accept the need for both.

A car guy's attitude towards rust can tell you a lot about them, and yourself. It's not always a complimentary revelation, in either direction. 

I am a preservationist. By preference. 

Oily rag.

I would love to have an Aston Martin with this level of patina.

This is a reference to certain enthusiasts that make every effort to maintain and preserve the original cosmetic appearance of their car. The body and metal components are merely rubbed with an oily rag to prevent further corrosion. The interior upholstery are stabilized by inserting a layer of support fabric under the worn areas and restitching. The idea is to preserve the vehicle, not to improve it, unless it is absolutely necessary. This was the common practice back in the 1950's before the practice of total restoration became popular.

For some people, auto restoration seems to be a way to completely control at least one aspect of their lives and render it perfect. At least it seems that way to this observer. You can detect a certain zealotry in their forum posts

On the other hand, some people seem to embrace shoddy workmanship and hidden bodges. 

Of course there is a happy medium.

There was a thread on the HAMB where commentors were asked to display the worst things that they have found under the paint of an old car that they have bought. 

What, That doesn't qualify as a skim coat? 

That repair doesn't look that bad.

It only gets worse the deeper you dig.

That rusted out hole was covered up by old license plates
 that were screwed then bondo ed over.

There were stories of inches of bondo and supporting material found under shiny new paint. The supporting material used varied from metal screen, to galvanized flashing, to riveted sheet metal from traffic signs, to wads of newspaper! There might be up to three inches of bondo used to complete curves in the body. 

Of course, over time, the bondo cracked and broke off, taking a huge chunk of the car body with it. Along with the new owners enthusiasm for their purchase!

Cars are merely machines built to be used. They are manufactured, sold, and used for their intended purpose over a long lifespan with a succession of different owners. Until their utility erodes and they are eventually scrapped. 

Manufacturers only engineer a reasonable service life into their products. Obsolescence and decay is a fact of life. Sometimes the product is still viable functionally, but it is no longer "supported" by it's maker. How many computers, tablets, and cell phones have you scrapped in the last 15 years? Did you mourn their passing? 

POR products are the real deal
and will give satisfactory results.

I've mentioned this product before,
it was highly recommended by some people on the H.A.M.B.

The availability of rust encapsulating paint and epoxies have allowed hobbyists to make cosmetic rust repairs that might not be metal replacement correct, are certainly much better than bondo and newspaper. 

There are "no welding" patch panel repair kits that come with flange ing pliers, flush rivets and construction adhesive. I used this system to repair a panel on one of my old Zs.


This kit was available from Eastwood products.
Did you know that aluminium cars are largely constructed with adhesive and rivets?

Bondo will absorb water and the moisture will result in the repaired area rusting further. POR paint adheres to the rusty metal and prevents further interaction between moisture, air and steel. Effectively ending the process. 

Repairs to floorboards or trunk floors that can be described as pinholes and small holes  can be effectively repaired and the areas strengthened by application of steel mesh or fiberglass matte. In reality, most people would be surprised by how thin the sheet metal of the floor was originally. 

On previous projects I've used POR products to repair the lower edge of a front fender as well as the rear wheel arch lip of A Datsun Z. Both repairs were visually satisfactory and they should last for many years. Is there anything wrong with that? Especially if the products are used as the manufacturer intended? 

I once discussed some rust repair on another Z with one of my swap meet customers. The top of the tail light panel where the hatchback striker rests is a common place for surface rust. I recommended that for minor rust, an epoxy repair could be done by the owner. He was adamant that the panel would have to be cut out and a new one welded in. He wanted it to be all steel. When I asked him why he responded that he wanted the repair, "to last forever!" I told him that the owner wasn't going to last forever!

Does it occur to him that modern cars front and rear panels are now constructed of plastic castings and bumper covers?

No one wants to be known as a rip off artist. That is a result from actual misrepresentation and the intention to cheat the buyer. However, why not document  any repairs? It's now it's quite easy to do with digital cameras and home printers. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I plan to document any epoxy repairs so that a new owner can locate them after the car is painted and replace them with metal if they wish. If the epoxies are used in non structural locations in minimum amounts there shouldn't be a problem.

I think that I'm going to put together a photo book on any repairs done to the car. It's never been my intention to misrepresent any work that I've done. I'm not going to try to pass the car off as a rotisserie restoration. Instead it is just going to be what we used to call a "fixed up" old car.

Friday, November 12, 2021

 That don't impress me much!

You're one of those guys that likes to shine his machine

You'll make me take my shoes off before you let me get in

I can't believe that you kiss your car goodnight

Now c'mon, baby, tell me- you must be joking, right?

Oh-oo-oh, you think you're something special

Oh-oo-oh, you think you're something else

Okay, you've got a car.

That don't impress me much!

So sang Shania Twain back in the Nineties. 

She wasn't impressed because some guy had a Ferrari. Ladies are used to having every guy try to impress them, so many of them build up a sensible immunity to that. That's one situation. However, I don't think that anyone is actively trying to impress- me! 

Is being hard to impress, is that just a part of getting older? Is it just that things just don't seem to make that much of an impression anymore? Have I just become jaded?

It does have to do with the breadth of a person's experience.

Where I live, I see a lot of very interesting and cool cars on the highways and streets. Just in the last couple of weeks I've seen a Pantera, an Avanti, and an '80 Trans Am, and a Lexus LC500.

Not to mention a Ford Raptor, several Porsche Taycans, and so many others.

Then there are immaculate Lowriders and muscle cars. 

So many expensive high end production models of Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Cadillac, Land Rover and Lincoln.

Are those cars still supposed to function as a status symbol?

Am I supposed to be impressed by someone's display of wealth?

I've read articles over the years that claim that older people report higher levels of happiness and satisfaction than younger folks.  There are probably a lot of reasons for that, but one factor is that old folks are more accepting of reality. They've made peace with their situation in life. They can be grateful for the good things that they have in their lives, their relationships and achievements. 

Of course it just may be that we old folks just don't give a crap about anything, anymore!

I have long ago accepted the fact that others have a larger income than I do, so they spend it accordingly. They will be able to enjoy a level of material consumption higher than mine. Does that make them a better person than me? No, of course not. All it means is that they can afford more expensive things. 

Living in Silicon Valley there are quite a lot of people that make an awful lot of money working in the high tech industries. 

My Mother taught me that it wasn't polite to discuss how much something cost, bragging about how expensive something was, is a sign of bad taste and poor upbringing.  I used to have a neighbor that used to do that, he even had to have two BMWs, to make his point!

I do not begrudge anyone spending their own money to purchase whatever it is that they want, it is their money after all. 

I have lived in my neighborhood for over thirty years. It's a pretty good assumption that anyone that has moved in since, has a higher income than I do, since the prices have just kept getting higher and higher! 

Sometimes people choose a car to make a statement about their status as an enthusiast.  This is something that I generally approve of. 

These are the guys that drive a restored vintage car, an older sports car or a modified older vehicle. 

You are what you drive, so the old saying goes. Did you ever buy into that line? 

Although the choice of your car can be a big part of your image management. 

Dress for success.  Looking good for the ladies. That's what every guy is trying to convey, thinking that it will help impress members of the opposite sex. We think that our choice of car contributes to that. Well, we all hoped that it was true, at least when when we were younger! We usually learned that it wasn't the case... Exactly.

Although it was never a good idea to look too poor, too slovenly, or too "peculiar."

Actually you drive what you need, can afford, and like. 

When I needed a minivan, I drove a minivan. I remember what The Oak Ridge Boys said! I now need a truck, so I drive a truck.

So as a car guy, what should I be driving? To establish my cred as a car enthusiast?

There's a house that I frequently drive past in town that has a very clean '67 Chevy Impala Lowrider parked in front. If one Lowrider isn't enough, there's an '81 Cadillac and '80's Buick Regal included in the line up also. I like low cars, and have driven a couple that I've lowered, though I wouldn't say that I was ever a real Lowrider.

Should it be something mean and nasty like a souped up 60's or 70's musclecar?  I've mentioned that my older brother drove several Camaros and a Trans Am back in the day. I loved those cars and even got to borrow them on occasion. They were great for the times. Last week I saw a '79 Trans Am in traffic and truthfully wasn't very impressed.

Or should it be just an interesting old car, something quirky and different? I don't mind being thought of as different, but different can easily segue into weird. 

Should it be something mainstream like a '57 Chevy? 

Should it be something that is clearly expensive, either old or new? Though I don't know if I could get my Wife on board with that idea.

Should I just be driving something late model and sensible, like showing up to the West Coast Kustoms show in my Flex? Would that make me look like a poser? 

I gave up on having a classic hot rod years ago. I even tried to build one once. I think that they belong to a period of automotive culture that has had it's time. It's passed me by, at least.

I'm also pretty much done with anything from the '50's '60's and 70's. I've had several cars from that time period.

I like to tell my Wife that one the good things about being an old man is that you don't have to care what you look like. On the other hand, the bad thing about being an old man is that you don't care what you look like! 

I'm now at the age where I have little interest in establishing status through vehicles. The truth is that I never really did. Though I didn't mind driving something that I thought was "appropriate." At least for me.

My factors in consideration of status now are residence, occupation, and accomplishments.

If you live in an exclusive area it's safe to say that you've got enough income to live there.

Occupation can tell a lot about a person. Their education and training. How interesting and challenging their vocation is. 

Finally there are accomplishments. These can range from military service, raising a family, starting a business, charity and community work.

It's best of these facets of a person's life are revealed gradually, not boastfully pronounced.

This entire discussion might seem kind of silly to a lot of people, but my car is important to me, even if I don't kiss it goodnight.

Like most people I've spent my entire life taking care of business, fulfilling the responsibilities that I took on. 

If I can't have something that I like, and that means something to me, than I feel kind of cheated, especially at my age. Like all my work has been... for what?  I guess that sounds kind of superficial, but we've all got our priorities. 

Friday, November 5, 2021

 I found the nuts, but lost my carb parts. 

This is after I sprayed down the moving parts.

I had ordered the part to replace the broken needle/jet seat as well as some rebuild gaskets. Again, I put them somewhere that I was certain that I'd never forget, or I'd recall that clever connection.  NOT!

I'm still looking, but I kept on with my carb inspection process. The initial problem had been that the throttle shaft wouldn't move when I stepped on the pedal. I found that the linkage was bound up, frozen solid actually. I couldn't tell if it was the throttle slides stuck to the bore or if it was the butterfly plate or what. 

I decided to remove the carb assembly so that I could work on it on the bench.

That had been the idea, but it got pushed back further and further. At least I put the carb assembly back in the car.

I didn't want to work on the carbs on my wooden table since I didn't want to be spraying carb cleaner close to the laundry area.

Carts come in very handy.

Instead I brought in a metal roller cart so that I could work right next to the open garage door. I fixed up a a large shallow box that I made sure had a sold bottom panel which I installed and a metal roasting pan that I could contain the carb spray run off. 

Yes, this is only a cardboard box. I sealed up the side holes.
 I don't want to lose any more parts.

The Jag uses two large SU constant velocity carbs, at least that was what Honda called them on the CB450 back in 1965. I'd read a lot about British carburation in the motorcycle mags of the day. Variable venturi, which means that the size of the carb bore changes as a vacuum cylinder slides up and down. It not only regulated the air velocity it also regulates the fuel metering as a needle attached to the slide moves up and down within a jet. 

photo source;
Note the dome shaped structure on the top.

The throttle plate only controls the amount of air entering the venturi, the slide rises and falls based on on the amount of vacuum present in the manifold. Therefore the  driver cannot force too much fuel into the motor by opening the throttle more than is needed at that moment. The carb maintains the setting that produces the greatest amount of vacuum. Savvy drivers used to mount a vacuum gauge inside the car, so that they could monitor the vacuum level and keep it high. They would not over throttle the motor. These were frequently refereed to as economy gauges as maintaining high vacuum provided the best power and fuel efficiency. These carbs do not employ an accelerator pump.

The carbs, unlike most American carbs also do not employ a choke plate to enrich the fuel mixture on cold start up. This also allows a greater and freer flow of air through the venturi. Honda used an actual manual choke plate like their other motorcycles. 

The heart of the starting carburetor is this electro magnet and disc valve.
I tested it and it works.

Some type of enrichment system has to be employed, often there is a built in system that most drivers referred to as the "choke," regardless. Jaguar chose a "starting carburetor" which provides the enrichment. Most American cars up until the 1950's employed a driver controlled choke. This was more reliable and effective, especially with the variety of weather that this country sees. 

Many drivers had trouble operating the choke. If left engaged for too long, the motor would chug along on it's over rich mixture. Trailing behind a cloud of black smoke and eventual fouled plugs. Then the motor would stall.

If the choke was released too soon,  the cold motor would have trouble gaining revs and would often die when pulling away from a stop. Again, a stall. 

Back in the Model T days, the driver was also responsible for retarding the spark to ease starting as well as applying the choke. Then they would advance the spark timing smoothing out the running of the motor. But they couldn't forget about the choke. There was also a hand operated throttle lever on the steering wheel. Factor in the three foot pedals and the Model T pilot was kept pretty busy!

Detroit discovered a method that relieved the driver of any responsibility of ignition timing. The automatic advance distributor uses an internal spring and cam which advances the point cam. That was later combined with a vacuum advance assembly. This system lasted well into the 1970's until ignition points were replaced by magnetic pick ups.  As the 1950's dawned manufactures found a system to automate the operation of the choke, at least for more expensive makes. Step on the accelerator once, then crank the motor. When adjusted properly the system worked pretty well. 

Jaguar designed an automatic system that activated the starting carb when cold. Upon reaching a specified minimum operating temp the system would dis engage.

Most other cars also had carbs with" accelerator pumps." These would shoot a dollop of fuel into the manifold to help transitions from low to high sudden rpm.  This shot of fuel could also help start a cold motor in conjunction with the choke. Or it could hopelessly flood the motor. 

The SU carbs do not feature an accelerator pump, so all fuel has to come from the starting carb. If it malfunctions, and from what I've read this was not uncommon, the motor would be a devil to start. Jaguars and other SU equipped cars gained a reputation as being very hard to start in the winter. Combine a weak ignition with a slow turning six volt starter and the process could become quite maddening. No wonder the cars had such poor resale value. Lucky for me, my car is 12 volts.

Jumper cables, cans of ether starting fluid, and heating the oil in the sump, (only seven quarts!) were often tried as antidotes.

The adoption of fuel injection has had far reaching improvements to the starting and drivability of our cars.

This post has been a lot of elaboration over the process of exchanging a few damaged parts. I'm just going to reorder the parts I've misplaced. I need to get moving again. I need to fire up this engine up.