Friday, May 27, 2022

 This shelf holds my Hot Rod inspiration.

On the top shelf is a classic example of a custom Forty Ford coupe. Flamed with the front end in the weeds. These were cars that were built both as Hot Rods and as sleek customs. Either way, they are an icon.The second shelf holds a model replica of John Milner's American Graffiti coupe. A bit raw boned but authentic. The car and movie had a huge impact on the rebirth of Street Rodding. Both the movie and the car are true American Classics.  The third shelf holds my favorite, a '34 Ford three window, high boy coupe. It's kind of a modern take on a classic design. I love the light blue color which accentuates the coupe's sleek lines. The rake, and the wide whitewall tires are perfect in my eyes. If I could ever have a real Hot Rod, I would love it to be a '34 like this one.

Here's close up shot of the coupe on my desk. As scale models I can afford to buy and maintain this trio. They don't take up very much room on my bookcase! As real cars, trying to acquire even one is realistically out of my reach. So what should I do, forget about them? 

I've written that you have to find a way to scratch your particular itch. Find out what you want, and try to find something that speaks to you. I really liked the look and feel of my slammed '66 Buick Riviera. It had a long, low, sleek design. This is the kind of car that really suits me. I guess that I could just go out and buy another one. They have gone up in price quite a bit, and I clearly remember the 9 mpg. daily fuel consumption. Not the most practical choice for a daily driver.

I really like and have enjoyed my '96 Mustang GT. It's fun to drive and sounds good. It is just a little too small to pull off the slammed cruiser look that I love so much. 

I thought that I might get something like a Cadillac DTS and lower it and add some custom wheels. I'd keep my Mustang and add the Cadillac. I'd have to get rid of something, like the XJ6, just to keep the stable the same size.  I would probably hold onto the XJS.

 There aren't any more new Rivieras, Thunderbirds, Cougars, or Mark IVs being made today. This genre of car has become extinct. The personal luxury car field has been filled by the new Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger. I just started driving the '07 Mustang again. I had driven the '07 Mustang a lot, since it was a family car, well over 100,000 miles. When I bought it I thought that it was a great looking car. Nothing has changed my impression since.  In fact, I think that the original iteration of the S197, from 2005-2009 is the best looking of this model run. The heritage Mustang cues are well done. Later designs added an interesting variation of front end restyles with a somewhat unfortunately restyled rear end sculpturing. 

The performance from the base 200 hp. V6 teamed with the five speed automatic box is quite good, as is the mileage. Of course I wanted a V8 GT model at the time, but I don't think that my choice put me in a penalty box. 

This car seems bigger than it is when I drive it, much wider and longer than my SN95. Driving it like I love it, I have re-discovered the things that I liked about it. I also found that it channels some of that Riviera swag, I'll bet that this thing would look great slammed a little. Maybe I could build one of these into my cherished cruiser. 

Why not? 

I think that I'd start out with a GT convertible. 

photo source: american

I think that the straight upper body line, combined with the squared off ends gives it a longer look. The short rear deck with the end of the roof terminating at the rear edge of the rear wheels looks very sporty. The front overhang is minimal, and the front axle line is a healthy distance in front of the cowl. This gives the car really nice proportions. And it really looks good lowered with a rake.

I would like something like these wheels.
The intent is to get away from the Torque Thrust/ Bullitt wheels.

I would like a wheel with a flatter face. Although I think that the Torque Thrust wheels are a classic I'd like to get away from the spokes. An "aero" type wheel like those used on 80's Pontiac Trans Ams, or the wheel used on my '97 XJ6 would be nice, but they are all a little too small. Classic chrome "baby moon" wheels are still available new, they could be considered. I also like the base steel wheels used on my F150. They are 17 inch with a flat, non recessed face. They have a compatible wheel lug spacing. Maybe they would work.

Maybe I could run some classic Moon Disc wheel covers like I used on my Riviera. 

Now I'm leaving the best for last, Maybe I should consider running wide whitewalls!  My plan is to roll my own three inch white side walls. I've done that in the past, it was quite successful. It would be a good topic to share the process in the blog. 

I think that this car would scratch my cruiser itch in a way that my '96 just can't. I wouldn't even need to buy that Cadillac anymore. I won't need it. I often wonder if the time for a customized car is past, at least for me. In my old age I do have a bit more appreciation for good taste and restraint. I don't really want a car that looks like some crazy kid's car and that my better half would be embarrassed to ride or be seen in. 

I've always wanted a car with flames on it, I wonder if there is some way to work that into the design tastefully?

I guess that time will tell.

You don't actually think that I've actually given up on all my crazy ideas, do you?

I have actually given a lot of thought of moving up to a '13 or '14 model. The '07s that I've seen usually have too many miles on them. The '14 is the last of the retro styled Mustangs, which I consider a classic look. These cars are still available with 50,000 miles or less mileage. I'm definitely not looking for another project car. 

What I decide to buy will be dependent on the particular car that I can find. Anything from '15 and up will obviously be newer with less mileage. It's not that I don't like the newer cars, but I plan on holding onto the car for a very long time. 

In many ways the 2005-2009 models look like a real Classic, and better looking than the last iterations. At least to my eyes. These cars really make me remember the '69 and '70 Mach One models. If I could have a classic Mustang it would be one of those.  I remember back in early 1970's that our across the street neighbor's son had a red '69. That was the only car that could turn my attention away from an old Cadillac!

Even the coupe was a real good looker!

There's a lot of heritage in the S197.

I was very happy with the design.

I was motivated several years ago to buy a '70 Mustang coupe. That was the car that resulted in the launch of my blog. Besides the work needed to get it back in good running shape, I had it painted and did some customizing on it. I thought that it came out pretty good, but it still needed a lot of quality detail and redoing. Plus I would have to do something about that straight six. It didn't seem like it was worth it in the end. Buying a newer car would be much simpler, perform much better, and I could enjoy it right away.

The only problem is that the 2005-2009 cars are getting to be quite old. That means that finding one with acceptably low mileage would be a challenge. 

But not impossible.

Friday, May 20, 2022

 My Daughter took her Mustang 120 miles away, how to deal with that? Part One.

I know that a lot of parents deal with this problem, as their kids go away and sometimes stay away after college. 

I was the one that was in charge of keeping an eye on it, even with it in the driveway I wasn't always completely on top of everything. I almost never drove the car and she was frequently gone with it. 

So what can I do now that they are no longer here?

My daughter is not car savvy or even car sensitive. This isn't a put down, most people that aren't enthusiasts or a hobbyist usually aren't. My Wife leaves it all up to me, so far I have a pretty good record. 

The first hurdle is to find a good repair shop in your neighborhood. This is in itself a major hurdle.

Truthfully, modern cars need very little until a major repair is called for. She called me and told me that her car was making strange noises. I drove up there, armed with all kinds of tools, but truthfully her apartment parking lot wasn't somewhere I would have been comfortable with working on her car. The first thing I did after checking fluids and belts was to take it on a test drive. 

Being unfamiliar with her new neighborhood I kept my eyes open while test driving the Mustang, I covered fifty miles. I found a Meineke service center on Harbor Blvd about ten miles from her place but very close to the freeway. The shop was neat and clean and the employees looked squared away. 

The first thing I had them do was to check for the air leakage in the right rear tire. They found and removed a nail in the center of the tread, Further inspection revealed a somewhat loose ball joint on the right front, where the wheel frequently hits the curb when parking. 

Besides the sometimes whinny differential I didn't notice anything really out of the usual. 

The car is 15 years old with 165 k on it. Things are bound to start going bad.  This visit was over six months ago

I had done quite a bit of preventive maintenance, being preemptive before she left.

Oil change, rear end lube change, all coolant, and heater hoses were replaced, thermostat and housing, radiator cap, spark plugs, and air filter.

Serpentine belt tensioner and idler pulley.

Transmission fluid and filter change, rear brake pads, and a pre-emptive fuel pump replacement. (expensive!)

If I recall correctly all this work added up to a couple thousand dollars and change.

Just a couple of days ago I got a late night text asking if I could go with her to the shop because she had some concerns and wanted to take the car in. 

The next morning I drove up.

I did a cursory check under the hood and didn't notice anything wrong, then I took it on a test drive. I didn't feel that it was any different than it felt before. She drives very little up there. 

The same Meineke shop that fixed the tire performed a complete diagnostic check. The cost was 175 dollars. It also included a test drive. It was quite thorough with plenty of photos. This inspection record will go in the service file. 

The tech informed us that the overdrive light on the dash had begun to flash during the test drive. (After some research I found that this flashing warning corresponds to a flashing CEL. It's an indication that there's a problem!)   They recovered a transmission code of PO735, which indicates a problem with engagement of fifth gear/OD.

The shop prepared an estimate for a transmission as well as a differential rebuild. The total cost for their recommended repairs came in at just under 9,000.00!

Therein lies the dilemma of old cars, the Mustang is not worth 9,000 dollars. But it of course worth something. Besides the maintenance that I mentioned above, the car still has good tires and a recent battery in it. Overall it's still in pretty good cosmetic shape, in and out. However a little love and attention could go a long way in preserving the car.

Like any vehicle that has received major repairs over time, the real value is the utility the owner can receive from it. The cost of the repairs can only be realized over time, it's important that the owner keep and use the car for several more years. It's called amortization.

I discussed all this with my Daughter, I told her that people often spend quite a bit of money fixing up their old car then decide that they don't really want it anymore. I told her how people often fix big things like engines, transmissions, and suspension, and then sell it anyway, because they just don't "trust" the car anymore. Sometimes it's only after new tires and brakes, which can easily run up to 1,000 dollars. It's quite common for owners fill the tank with gas before they visit the car dealer and make an impulse buy.

While it's human nature, it's not a smart financial move. 9,000 bucks is a lot of money, and while I saw some things that were added in to fluff up the cost, almost a grand worth, it was still a major repair. The shop was not going to build the tranny in house, they would remove it and send it to an associated transmission shop. This means that they would pay a wholesale price for the job, and charge me retail, with the shop's profit factored in, and their profit added on top of that. Maybe that's why it would cost 4,800.00.

Yeah I know, everyone's gotta eat!

They told me that they would rebuild the differential in house. 

My Daughter was adamant that she wants to keep the Mustang, which is fine. My '96 is nine years older, my '70 was 37 years older, Mustangs of any age make good keepers! 

The trick is to find a more affordable alternative.  I'm pretty sure that she doesn't have an extra nine grand lying around, neither in fact, do I. But my Wife and I decided that we will help her out in this case. She does need her car, and after this, I think that she will take the whole car ownership situation more seriously.

On the drive home I was mulling over the possible solutions and continued thinking about the situation the rest of the day.

A day later we got a call telling us that the Mustang had given up the ghost as she was backing it out of a parking spot. Luckily it happened at her apartment parking lot.

The day after we had the car inspected I had spent the next day speaking with a couple of transmission shops in San Jose. 

I spoke to a mechanic I know, and have used before, who would R&R the transmission with a rebuilt unit for 600.00. He told that all I had to do was have the rebuilt unit delivered to his shop and he would handle the rest. This is one option.

I spoke with another transmission shop that would do a guaranteed rebuild in house. Of course when I asked, they would never give me the worst case scenario price. Just tell me what it would cost for a full rebuild! They know how much that will cost, I guess that they don't want to scare a customer away, they want the car in the shop on the lift, and the owner committed to the repair. They must teach them that tactic in transmission repair school! I told him what the Sacramento shop gave me as a written estimate. I had told him that I had driven up to Sac to help my daughter get this estimate. I might have been trying to elicit a little empathy for my situation. Then I asked him about installing a re manufactured unit. He told me that he could do that, but he did make some persuasive arguments for letting him do the rebuild in house, instead. 

His best argument was that he would stand behind the repair and if it needed correction, he would handle whatever it needed, even the extra removal and repair. If he merely installed a unit for me, he could not cover any additional labor for a correction. He would have to charge me extra for that. And for storage. My car would be taking up valuable room in his shop.  These were all sensible and practical points. 

While the rebuilding companies I had been investigating all offered multiple year warranties on their units,  the sticking point is always the labor. Who will provide the labor to repair or replace the troubled tranny? This is something that has to be seriously considered. I suppose if they had "authorized" installers they might treat it like an "in house" repair with a complete guarantee. When I replaced the transmission in my XJS with a used unit, I was taking a chance. I was taking the word of the shop that sold it to me that it was good, but really how can anyone guarantee a used mechanism?  That was for a hobby car that even now spends almost all it's time in the garage. If the transmission proved to be bad, that car would have been sitting for a lot longer!  For a car that I depended on for daily transportation I would have probably have chosen another option, provided that I could have afforded it. 

I know that there are a lot of people that have to take those chances, swapping in junkyard transmissions and hoping for the best.

Later that afternoon I was surprised to receive a phone call from the shop, where the owner was willing to discuss the actual prices of his work. He told me that a complete rebuild would be 3,600.00 and the R&R would be 600.00. I asked to clarify, "so the total would be 4,200?" and he said no, the 3,600 price included the total labor. That number did sound good to me!

Now I just had to get the Mustang down to San Jose.

I considered hooking up a trailer to my truck and retrieving the Mustang myself. Then my Wife reminded me that we had a 200 mile tow available through Triple A.

The next day we got the call from our daughter that the Mustang had died. 

I called the shop and made an appointment for the next opening. The best I could do was over a week away.

Mu daughter will have the car towed to our house, and then we'll have it towed to the shop when it's available.

I'll use some of the time with the car at the house to take a look at the non functioning power seat motor. I find it incredible how expensive those seat motor units are. 

Now I'm just waiting for the Mustang to show up at our house. 

Thursday, May 12, 2022

 Saying Good bye, or good riddance.

Well, at least it's out of my life.

Why I hate selling a car. There are many reasons. 

"If it were only that easy!"

When someone suggests that I should sell one of my cars, that's what comes to mind, if it was only that easy.

That's why you shouldn't complain about your car situation with civilians. They don't really understand how you feel about your collection. 

They will say that any used car is worth a lot of money. Well, at least that's what they heard on TV. That really only applies to later model cars in good running shape. That doesn't apply to the kinds of cars that I own.

Exactly how much demand is there for any of my cars? 

I mean if I don't want them, why should anyone else? That's not a question that I like asking myself!

I could always sell them to a wrecking yard, I had to do that with my Explorer. It might be a good idea to get an estimate first. This will put a bottom line number on the selling price.

My Wife tells me that I should be prepared to get very little for them, but to keep in mind that what I really need and want is more space, not money. I could donate them to charity for that matter, if it came to that. But even the small amount of money I could get through sales would be a bigger benefit than the even smaller tax deduction. Besides I hate that "rock group" KarZ for KidZ commercial! 

Sorry, but I find this irritating.

If I do sell them, would I ever buy any more cars that would be comparable to what I've sold? Perhaps.

Although I think that I might get a whole 'nother type of car. Something newer that I could drive for a bit then trade off. Eventually putting me in the same situation! 

If I were to sell my Mustang, I am very likely to buy a newer model. That is one of my priorities. I might hold off on selling this one until I'm certain that my newer replacement is already on the way. I might even be able to trade it in to the dealer as part of the down payment. 

If I sold the old "51 Jag, would I buy another old car? Maybe, but it would definitely be something that is much easier and cheaper to get parts for. Something American. Maybe a Riviera?  I did just re join the Riviera Owners Association. There was a reason for that!

If I sold the XJS, would I buy another English GT car? Probably not. (So long, dreams of an Aston Martin!) Besides, I have always thought of the Mustang as the "Everyman's Aston" at least in function, if not prestige. So I'm going to have the GT thing covered. 

If I sold the XJ6 would I buy another luxury European car? Or any luxury sedan for that matter? Probably not. My Flex can handle any task that I might need. From everything that I've read BMW, Mercedes, and Audi all suffer from the same reliability concerns.

Selling everything would all probably be for the well and good, I'd be turning a corner in my automotive hobbyist life. There wouldn't be any going back.

I like to reference Peter Egan's column, "The Great Garage Massacre."  It details how he cleans house, or at least his garage, in order to make a new start. I think that I need to do this.

I was thinking this morning how I used to have two family cars, one for me and one for my Wife to drive. Well, I also had a motorcycle. For the most part the bike was my hobby vehicle.

Then I picked up my first hobby car. For a long time I was restricted to just one car.

I got to thinking about that because I happened to find a big collection of work orders and receipts from back in 2010-2014 from the '96 Mustang.I totaled them up and they added up to 1,700 dollars. I have spent at least twice that much since then. I had made a commitment to fix whatever the car needed. That's why I ended up with a good car. 

Delusions of grandeur have clouded my judgement and I started accumulating additional cars. I call this the "Jay Leno syndrome." Or is it a delusion? Unfortunately, I'm at a real disadvantage, as I  don't  have his resources to deal with them. 

I posted on the AACA forum that I was planning to get rid of three cars. I said that my plan is to buy a late model Mustang GT. I don't know how that will be received. I know that a lot of members feel that restoration is almost a spiritual thing. 

I have mentioned frequently that I would never pay new car prices for any old car. I know that some are rare and valuable but never the less, that just doesn't work for me. 

Cars are often offered for sale with extra parts. These are replacement parts that the seller had purchased with the intention of installing, but never did. A lot of times they are just included in the sales price, to sweeten the deal. I recently saw an old car offered on a site that included new weatherstripping. 

Why didn't the seller install them before offering the car for sale? Maybe because once the car is offered up for sale the seller wants to cut all ties with it. That's it! He is done with it! I know that feeling, I'm not going to spend any more money or put any more effort into it. If the new owner wants to install the part, let him have at it, once he's paid me my money! 

I have a new set of trunk support struts, a fuel level sender, a replacement seat belt assembly, and a bunch of new suspension bushings for my XJ6. If I'm selling it I'm certainly not going to replace the suspension parts, but there really isn't a reason that I can't at least install the seat belt and the trunk struts. 

When I first went to see my XJ6 I found that the seatbelt latch was broken, the seller said that he would fix that before I picked it up. I thought that he would replace the latch with another Jag item. Instead he used a different latch from a car he had around. The original latch blade wouldn't work with that, so he cut the replacement blade and fitted it to the original seatbelt. That fix worked in that it looks like the seat belt is properly in place, but it isn't. Under duress the latch blade will separate from belt rendering it ineffective. I really didn't notice it until I was ready to drive away. I had to return to L.A. to pick up the car so I din't make a big deal out of it. I was sure that I could find another replacement belt assembly later, which I did. 

Besides, the car has air bags, I wasn't concerned about it, Besides I had ridden motorcycles for over thirty years and there aren't any seat belts on those! 

When the trunk struts gave out I started carrying a length of aluminum tubing to prop it open. A piece of two by four wouldn't do, this is a Jaguar after all! Yes this works but it is an inelegant solution. Besides, I already have the proper replacement units. I just haven't gotten around to it. 

It might make difference in how easily I will be able to sell the car, it certainly wouldn't hurt anything, and I'm going to include them with the car anyway. 

Maybe I should just get around to it. 

I guess that it's been decided. 

Friday, May 6, 2022

 Spoiler alert. Part Two.

The Saleen S351 Speedster is an iconic model of the SN95 Mustang, best remembered for the rear seat cowling that give a two seater vibe, very reminiscent of the Thunderbird Sports Roadster of the 1960's. There was a body kit that replaced the front and rear bumpers and modified the side skirts. The Saleen vehicles were not modified standard models, they were built by their manufacturer as a production model. They are not Mustangs with a body kit. Technically, they are not even actually Mustangs, as Saleen is considered an independent manufacturer. Though their body mods components were copied and produced by aftermarket manufacturers and sold as accessories. 

It's not my intention to build a fake Saleen, I just want to improve the looks of my car. The biggest improvement in my eyes is the rear wing. As I've said before, I always felt that both ends of the standard car looked a little weak. I added the Mach One style chin spoiler to improve the front end. The wing extends the rear of the decklid back another three inches, it has a bolder profile that in my eyes extends the upper fender line into a more pronounced wedge shape. I don't know if my wing is an actual Saleen unit or a repop, I haven't seen many for sale, new or used. 

I've even thought about the rear seat faring but I think that it is just too contrived. I don't like to add fake stuff to my cars. Even if Steve Saleen did.  The aftermarket fairings are two piece which can be stored in the trunk, which is more convenient. If I were to find a used one on Craigslist though...

Overall I think that my car has received it's allotment of modifications.  The wheels have been changed to the optional 17 inch 1999-2000 wheels. I prefer the silver painted stock finish over the chrome repro Cobra wheels that were on the car when I bought it. The front spoiler and wing give it a bit more distinction and identify the car as mine. I would like to lower the car, I know that it would look better, but the ride is rough enough as it is. 

Mechanically the engine is completely stock, I didn't want any cold air kits or headers. The only changes are the FlowMaster  cat back mufflers. These sound just right, they are not too loud and don't drone on the freeway. I like the mellow roar and the straight chrome tail pipes, but I wouldn't have changed the original mufflers. 

The problem is to know when to stop. The car could use a new paint job and I've considered it. This is the first old car that I made a commitment to keeping up, and I've been quite pleased with the results. But it is getting to be quite old with quite high mileage. This is what really depresses the value but there isn't anything that I can do about that. Even if I installed a remanufactured engine and transmission, a collector is always looking for a low mileage, original  car. Of course I could just keep it, and that's my plan at the moment.

At least for a while.

It's interesting that when these cars were introduced I had absolutely no interest in them. A lot of my younger co workers had bought Fox bodied Mustang GTs and then traded for the newer SN95 models. I had been driving a Honda Civic SI and then moved to three year old Cadillac Seville STS NorthStar sedan. My future plans were going to include Mercedes and BMW, certainly not any kind of Ford! 

Like a lot of fans that grew up with the traditional Mustang, I felt that these newer cars did not have any real relationship to the Mustang's classic era of the 1960's. The Fox bodied cars were a deliberate break from the past and the vaguely retro Mustang II. I was originally looking for an early 90's GT convertible. I liked the boxy lines, the blunt front end, the cheese grater tail lights, and the aero body kit look of the flares and spoilers. I just couldn't find a good one in my price range, so I took a closer look at the SN95.

During my investigation I found that the newer model had received a lot of structural and engineering improvements. The body and front cross member was stronger. All GTs  had five lug wheels and four wheel disc brakes, with optional ABS. They also came with twin air bags, an important safety improvement. There were a lot of areas of the body and detailing that appealed to me. I liked the air extractor vents in the hood and found the twin cove, cockpit style dash to be quite attractive. I also could see echos of the original Mustang in the proportions of the hood and deck, and the coves and scoops of the quarter panels, as well as the triple lens tail lamps. 

I have had a bit of prior experience with the 4.6 V8. While it was not a powerhouse, it is a modern design, and is well presented under the hood. It just looks nice and neat with the alternator centered in the middle, with the ignition wires running in a neat loom over it. It also had that nice Mustang on the throttle body! 

I will admit that over time the car has really grown on me. It has enough performance to satisfy me. It is plenty quick, handles well, is comfortable for long trips, and even gets pretty good gas mileage. I am now quite a fan of these Mustangs.

Compared to the next series, the S197, I'd say that these cars hold their own. There were again real improvements  made to the chassis and engine of the newer model. The car is bigger inside, and out, which can be seen as a plus or a minus. Since I've also driven and been involved with a 2007 model longer than I have my '96, I've come to some conclusions. I'd say that the SN95s are an evolution of the original Mustang's vision without resorting to a retro design like the newer model. However, I do like the looks of the 2005-2007 models and a fastback Mustang is now within the reach of more enthusiasts.

There are fans of every year and model of Mustang. That's the way it should be.