Titties, Trauma and Manual Transmission

I daydream a lot about driving Mavis.  She looks kick-ass, I look even better.  I feel amazing, windows down, engine gurgling and popping, paint flecks shimmering in the sun.  Sitting at a red I don’t even notice getting checked out because I’m so into my machine.  Then, I put her in gear and coming off the line it happens.  I stall.

Heart beats, hands sweat, try again and…stall.  This time hard, so my head jerks forward then kicks back against the headrest.  It’s ok, I’m cool, shit happens.  One more time and – NOPE!  Mavis lurches forward about a foot before the tires screech to a stop.  If anyone wasn’t already witnessing this wonder behind the wheel, they are now.

I’ve never owned a stick shift, but I can drive one if I had to.  I used to drive an old boyfriend’s Suzuki Sidekick to college in Chicago and I don’t remember having any issues with that other than almost rolling it when someone cut me off on I-90.  I love the Maverick’s three speed transmission and Pop and I are keeping it for sure.  Before we broke her down I drove her and didn’t do too bad.  So, where do these imagined ego-busting scenarios come from?  I’ll tell you exactly where.  Torrance, California, 1988.

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D, Jenni, me and Shelms.

My girls and I are 17 and 18 years old and staying in one bedroom of Jenni’s grandma’s house.  We’re about four blocks from the ocean and it couldn’t be more perfect.  Basically no supervision, spending all day at the beach, cool water, warm air, boys blonde and tan.  Bonus was that Grandma let us use her VW Rabbit that she didn’t drive.  Bummer was that no one had driven it in what looked like 20 years and it was in shit shape.  May have even seen fire at some point as the plastic on the steering wheel was melted off its metal frame.  But we were Midwestern teens in California and we had wheels.  Life was good.

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Our wheels.

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Dirty seats, frayed seat belts, melted steering wheel…perfect.

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Torrance, CA – 1988 – Jenni, me and Bether.

We drove that car to Santa Barbara on a side trip to see Beth’s cousins Chris and Andrew (blond and tan).  We went to parties with belly dancers and hung at the beach.  I remember thinking I could almost pull the California girl thing off but for the time I got whomped upside the head so hard by a wave that it slammed me onto the ocean floor.  I got up, acting all cool while I found my bikini top and trotted back to the beach like I hadn’t just recieved a jet-powered saltwater enema.

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At least we weren’t as bad off as this guy.  At this point, wouldn’t you just forgo the sheet?

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“If we hide our booze in a dirty sock…no one will know we’re drinking, underage, while driving.”

Back in Torrance, to get home from the beach we had to drive up a super steep hill every day.  That one day, that one time, we stalled halfway up and could NOT get this car into gear.  We laughed and laughed as we inched backwards down the hill every time Jenni tried to move that little car filled with our five sweaty, Hawaiian Tropic soaked bodies.  This got even more HIGH-larious when a car full of guys pulled up behind us, honking and teasing.  Our giddy teenaged ‘panicking’ rose to new levels.  “Come ON Jenni!  Oh my God, oh my God, they’re right behind us!  Don’t hit them!!  Tee tee hee, hahaha!!!”

Then a third car rounded the corner at the bottom of the hill going fast and BAM, slammed into the back of the guys car.  Within seconds after impact the girlfriend of the man driving is out of the car, heading up the hill, screaming in Spanish and swearing worse than I do.  She gets the quick gist of what is going down and comes at us, blaming us for the crash.  One of the guys has now moved our car to the side of the road and we’re pouring out of it.  This chic is coked up or something because she is LOSING HER SHIT, pointing at each of us individually while yelling, “Rush me, bitch!”  Her boyfriend is behind her trying to hold her back with his arms wrapped around her waist and her tit keeps popping out of her tube top.  She’d pull it up and the other one would pop out, then both titties.  She was like a wild dog, she didn’t give a crap.

While this is all happening, Shelma is cracking jokes and the other girls are laughing their asses off, but I’m HORRIFIED.  I do not like conflict, I do not like to fight, I’m afraid of this woman and at the same time can’t stop thinking about how dark her nipples were.  Eventually the cops were called, things calmed down, and we were deemed ‘not guilty’.  Then guys invited us to a party.

That, my friends, is where my irrational fear of manual transmissions comes from.  I act tough sometimes, but I’m soft.  The girls went out that night, but no, I did not go to that fucking party.  I was too afraid the crazy titty chic would show up and try to rush me.

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Ah, to be young again.  I could never land this now, although I don’t believe I did then.

Get Your Rear end Up!

Mavis has her rear end up, almost.  It’s so great to be able to start putting parts and pieces back on the car rather than taking them off.  So when I say ‘rear end’ I’m referring to the gas tank, back axles, differential, leaf springs, shocks, drum brakes and parking brake.  We also got the brake lines and gas line connected.  This picture doesn’t really do it justice, but here is the finished product of a shit ton of work.

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First thing up was the gas tank.  Those two long bolts can be shortened, but all that is covered by the back bumper eventually.  We also got the front of the leaf springs up and they lay in waiting for the differential assembly.

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We ended up keeping our original axles, but bought new bearings and had to get those pressed on.  Curt to the rescue!  We went over to his garage where he cut the old ones off (the ONLY way to get them off) and used his 40 ton press to press the new ones on.  He did the first one and let me do the second.  This machine is quite intimidating, you can crush things in it!  On approach, it looked like an industrial guillotine.

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Curt showed me how to place the axle with the new bearing. Here’s how it looks all ready to be pressed.

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Of course, me being who I am, decide I was going to be concerned that with all the pressure, the bearing may go on crooked.  I find things to be worried about, you see.  Here I’ve never done this myself nor seen it done and I’m telling a long-time veteran mechanic not to “put it on crooked”.  So, I deserved this.  Perhaps that’s why Curt wouldn’t accept any money for his work, because giving me shit was more satisfying.

 

Bearings, pressed and ready.

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Back at Woody’s Garage we carried on.  Backing plate on, axles inserted, brake cylinder attached and brake lines in.

 

Pop says, “We’re a fucking machine shop!”  As much as you can call cutting screws shorter and rethreading them ‘machining’ things.  But we did have to come up with a solution to a brake line issue we had.  The main line was still in good shape (the line that brings the brake fluid from the master cylinder in the front of the car back to the axle.)  Where that line splits into two, we had to order.  Miraculously they fit, but for just a few modifications we made with a tube bender.  What didn’t fit were the fittings that connect them to the junction block where they split off.  BUT – the ones that were on the $100 piece of metal (the unusable axle we bought from Mustang Marty Miller) did.  Yes!  One less trip to the parts store!  We cut off just the tip of the ends, replaced the fittings and reflared the tubing.

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To do this, we had to use a special flare tool.  I don’t understand how Pop continues to come up with a tool for EVERYTHING.  We’ll run into a problem or a need for something very specific and his eyes get all big and his mouth says, “ooh” without any sound.  He puts his gorilla finger up in a ‘wait a minute’ sort of way and says, “I have just the thing.”  Then he rummages through the garage and comes back with the perfect tool to get the job done.  I think he’s jacked to be able to use what 60 years of tool gathering gets you.  It is pretty awesome.

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Flare tool, happy to be used.

Next up, getting the differential housing attached to the springs, the back end of the springs up and add shocks.  So here’s a big admission.  I didn’t know that the axle sits on the leaf springs.  I can’t say I knew how it was attached to the car at all.  I can’t even say I pondered this at any point during this project so far.  So when that concept clicked in my mind and I had that Aha! moment, Pop just looked at me and said, “How did you think it connected to the car? Did this not occur to you when we disassemble it?”  Again, I hadn’t really thought about it.  I was like, “What’ev.”

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We used the jack to hold the axle in place while we set it on the springs, secured the axle on the springs with u-bolts then raised the back of them and connected.  Who knew?!

Next, shocks.  One of the parts that must be bought new because they lose their gas and their ability to dampen motion, or in my terms, their ‘puffiness’.  Quick trip to O’Reilly and boom, new shocks.  It’s always exciting to get a new part…here’s me coddling $60 worth of shocks on the way home.

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One of the final steps was getting the brakes assembled. These are the second set of drum brakes I’ve done, as we had to put the Firebird’s back together to get it on its wheels and out of the garage at the very beginning of this project.  Still though, Pop and I had to dodge a couple errant springs.  We have the tool for getting them on, but not off.  So we work together with a screwdriver and pliers and wait to see who’s going to lose an eye.

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Although this all sounds like a lot of work, and it was, we still had time to fart around a bit.  Curt put Lil’ Big Rig up for auction so we went to that and watched him say goodbye to his baby.  We also took the opportunity to get under any 60’s Ford we saw to check out the parking brake system (which we also finished on Mavis.)  So everyone is walking around looking at these beautiful cars and Pop and I are like this most the time…

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Curt got close to what he wanted for Lil’ and it was the star of the show as it’s quite the site.  All chromed up and shiny.  Pop kept saying that someone should buy it to pull their 5th wheel camper with but I think it looks more like something a Country Santa with a cowboy hat would ride down Main Street in a Christmas Parade.  Well, we all felt for Curt as he had a lot of hours and TLC into that truck.  Couldn’t have been easy to see it go…but then he texted Pop a pic of a 1932 Ford Victoria kit he bought the day after.  Curt’s moved on.

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Lil’ Big Rig

Momma, Pop and I also went to a car show in Somerset, KY where I got to meet Tony, the fine gentleman who donated a hood latch to our cause when he and Pop met at the Maverick/Comet gathering last summer.  What a great guy.  He asked me what it was about the Maverick that made me choose it for the project.  When I said that I just loved the shape of it, that it is a beautifully balanced little car, I think he teared up before hugging me.  Tony was at the show with Lemonade, his beautiful, supercharged 302 Mav, which Pop says is a ‘truly dangerous vehicle’ (in a good way.)  Afterward we followed him back to his garage where he literally, has Mavericks STACKED.

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So, great last trip.  Lot’s of work, lot’s of fun and now the holidays hit. Next up on Pop my Ride, Mavis’s front end, disc brakes and more adventures.

Keep on Rockin’ in the Wheel World

Pop and I had to replace one of Mavis’s rocker panels because it was totally rusted out.  This was a BIG deal and new even to Pop, but we both think the results are of rock star quality.  The rocker panel is the length of metal that runs from the back of the front wheel well to the front of the back wheel well just underneath the door.  It’s what you step over to get into any vehicle.  I’ve recently discovered that its name originates from back in the day when they were building horse drawn carriages.  Here’s a fascinating bit of info for ya from “A Practical Treatise on Coach-building” by James W Burgess, published in London in 1881.

“Proportion in carriages applies to both form and colour; as regards form, it regulates the sizes of the various parts so that the whole may harmonise, and dictates the adoption of contrivances for lessening the apparent size of those parts which would otherwise be unseemly. Thus, the total height which is necessary in the body for the comfort of the passengers is too great for the length which it is convenient to give it ; therefore the total height is reduced, and to give sufficient leg room a false bottom is affixed by means of convex rockers, and which, being thrown back and painted black, cease to form a portion of the elevation ; they are, -like a foundation, out of sight, and thus the proportion of the front view (the side is called the front in coach-builder’s parlance) is preserved.”

Well thank God!  I felt my original explanation to friends who were trying very kindly to understand (and stay interested) in my rocker panel story was much more understandable.  I told them to imagine driving their car over a very steep bump in the road.  It would surely get stuck at the top, rocking back and forth with the wheels above the ground on either side.  What it would be rocking on would be…you guessed it, the rocker panels!

Regardless, they do tend to rust out faster than any part of a car or truck and Mavis’s passengers side had seen better days.

Skills required to replace a rocker panel:  Metal cutting, accurate measuring, plug welding, tack welding, grinding, body filler work, sanding, more sanding, patience and a good attitude.  It is really really stressful because neither Pop nor I are psyched about making our first real cut into Mavis’s body and fucking it up isn’t really an option.  There are only so many YouTube videos you can watch before you gotta get in there and make it happen.

I think this part may mark the first fight Pop and I have gotten into during this project.  Ok, not a full out fight, but he was clearly irritated with me.  We were up under the back wheel well where I was showing him the inner patch for the back of the panel I had been working for like, 3 hours on, and felt I had messed up.  So both our heads are crammed into this 2×1 foot space, 2 inches from each others faces and I’m whining about this shitty patch and he’s telling me it’s “just fine” and I’m saying it’s unacceptable and I’m pissed and now he’s getting pissed.  We keep grabbing this patch out of each others hands tryting to show the other how it’s working or not working and dropping it and hitting our heads trying to pick it up and in the stress of this whole fucking thing Pop says, VERY sternly, “God Dammit Janet, stop being such a perfectionist!”  I mean, he’s not happy with me, which hasn’t happened often, or ever, in my adult life.

Years ago I would have immediately felt that stinging feeling in my nose just before the tears come.  Now, I was just so blown away with being called a perfectionist tears were beyond me.  A perfectionist?  I think the only other person who has ever called me that was my best friend Beth of forty years who is a trained psychologist and knows me better than almost anyone.  So really, what does she know?

Fuck.  I may be.  Never thought of myself as a perfectionist, but I do have to admit that there isn’t much space between, “we’re going to do this thing right to the best of our ability” and, “if I can’t do this thing right I have no abilities.”  I’ve been known to never start something because it may not turn out how I envisioned it.  After years of doing this to myself on a creative level, I now decide to rebuild a car?  Not sit and doodle out a sketch, not try some slab work with clay…no, rebuild a whole fucking car.  It was the black and white of it I was attracted to at first.  Either the car starts and runs or it doesn’t.  You’ve either succeeded or failed.  But like anything, there are so many levels of what is acceptable or what is ‘right’.  High-end, high gloss, big money Foos paint jobs or flat black spray paint applied in the hot sun in the backyard.  I’m cool with both for others, why not me?  Pop and I, we are not high end, we are ‘do the best you can do with what you’ve got’ because that is what he, and Momma, taught me.

This is a lesson.  Not one I planned on.  But as I write I’m realizing that I must stay true to my mission…which I didn’t have for this project until now.

Have fun, damn it.  Do your best, learn, be in the moment and enjoy the loving relationship you and Pop deserve to have with the added appreciation of being comforted by Momma with long warm hugs, morning chats and dinners from my childhood.  Love them both back deeply, be grateful and keep on rockin’ the rocker panels!

Here are shots throughout the rocker panel replacement process.  Please enjoy, Pop and I are very proud.

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Pre-surgery. Ensuring we’re working on Mavis’s correct side and the ‘implant’ is ready to go. It will need to be cut to size and drilled for plug welds. Note the very accurate Sharpie lines marking where we will cut the old panel out.

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Cutting out the ‘cancer’ as they call it. Back end.

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Front end.

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Cancer sucks.

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First fitting after the way too stressful first cuts.

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Inside of the panel cleaned up and rust treated.

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The front of the back wheel well area that was so bad we had to cut out most of it out and create patches. Always trying to save as much good metal as possible.

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Replacement panel after we drilled the plug weld holes.

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Woody on the torch!

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Welding in the ‘shitty’ patch, having learned my lesson.

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Plug welds done…not too bad!

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Front pre-fit a little scary.

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Back pre-fit looking good.

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Plug welds ground down and filler applied, dried and sanded.

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Front looking much better.

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This was tough as we needed to keep that horizontal seam but ‘hide’ the vertical one.

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Skim coat is the darker red.  Trying to use as little as possible.

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Front sanded, pre-paint.

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Back sanded, pre-paint.

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Prepped for paint.

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Done!

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Final back. Don’t even try to tell me you can see that vertical seam!!  

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Final front.

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Full on final shot!!

Oh shit!  I forgot to tell you about the outcome of the brake situation and Mustang Marty Miller!  It didn’t end well in terms of the brakes, but Marty’s cool.  Skip to the end of my last post to read about it.

Car Folks

Maverick Mike from the Maverick forum told us about a gathering in Somerset, KY in July.  Fellow Maverick lovers get together and show off their pride and joys or projects in the works and yuk it up about Maverick life.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t go, but Momma and Pop were able to hit it and represent for me and Mavis.  Although I’ve given some of the forum guys a little shit, it’s all in jest because car people really truly care about other car people.  They want to help with advice, share stories and tips and generally support the passion.  The P’s said that all of the folks at the gathering could not have been nicer.

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Maverick Mike with his ’72 Mav which he has driven as fast as 117mph (so far).

 

Car shows and gatherings are also great places to find that ever elusive part you’re looking for.  Pop met a great guy named Tony Rahm.  Tony is known for having a lot of parts stashed away in his wood shop, so Pop mentioned that Mavis had come with pins to hold the hood down but no hood latch.  He gave him his card and asked Tony to let him know if he ever came across one, that we’d buy it.  Later in the day Tony approached Pop with, guess what, an upper hood latch.  Said he had to go by his shop anyway and handed it to him.  Pop took out his wallet asking what he wanted for it and Tony told him to put it away.  He wasn’t going to take any money for it.  That’s just good peeps.

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Pop, Tony and the hood latch.  Tony, you’re a gem, thank you!!

More pics from the Maverick gathering:

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Forum member Frank’s ’73 Grabber is named Patches, due to the fact that he has pieced the body together and has yet to paint the thing.

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Patches was honored with its pic on this years t shirt.  Something I aspire to.

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The closest thing to Mavis.  Four lug wheels, and a 200ci Inline 6.

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Not much has been changed since the factory, but for the custom wheels and color.

I’m here in KY for a couple weeks and we were all over the Cadiz Cruz-In, a local car show the first Saturday of every month.   Pop and I continue to wring our hands over our brake situation and the fact that we absolutely cannot find a larger drum brake for the rear axle than the dinky, unsafe 9” drums (that we threw away…don’t want to talk about it).  Giving up on drums entirely,  we now find ourselves looking for discs for the back.

We finally, FINALLY thought we had found a disc brake kit that would work for Mavis.  All of the dimensions were right but for one.  It’s called the ‘flange offset’ and it’s kicking our asses.  The kit calls for an offset of 2.8 inches, ours is 2.  It makes absolutely no sense why our 8” differential doesn’t have what everyone is saying all of the other 8” back ends have, a 2.8” flange offset, but it doesn’t.  Word on the street is that back in the day, Ford factories would switch up parts depending on what they had laying around.  So discovering that your old Ford has a slightly different part than other Fords of the same year is not uncommon.  (I recently learned the Henry Ford would use wood from shipping crates as the floor boards for his Model-T’s.  Great reuse of materials, but unfortunately doesn’t make him any less of a dick.)

So, circling back to the car show and why all of this is important.  We think one of our only hopes is to find a 7.25” Ford differential as we have come to believe that it will have axles with the 2.8″ flange offset we so desperately need.  (It also needs to have the right length and spline count.)  Now, you can’t just order up a 7.25″ Ford backend, no one makes this shit anymore.  You have to find it, or rather search for it in salvage yards, in barns and overgrown backyards, through car forums, or, in some cases, on a car just about ready to get crushed in a scrap yard.  We heard from our buddy Curt that he had seen a Maverick at the local metal recycle yard, so we hauled ass over there, only to find that it had been crushed only days earlier.

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Pop looking at a pile of scrap crap where an old Mav once sat, perhaps trying to will it back.

There was only one Mustang at the Cadiz car show that night, and we asked the owner straight up if he had or had a line on old Ford rear ends.  He said no, but that his friend “right here” just pulled one out of a Mustang days before.  His friend Marty proceeded to pull out his phone and show us a 4 lug backend.  Said he had no use for it and that it was a…wait for it…7.25″.  Holy crap.

Marty said he’d call us to set up a time we could come get it for $100.  We may have the ultimate solution if everything measures up.  We could have either beautiful, safe disc brakes on Mavis’s original 8” back end, or, we may have a 150 pound piece of scrap metal.  And that’s only IF he calls us.  Our back brake dilemma has come down to one question:

Is Mustang Marty Miller a man of his word?

5 DAYS LATER

Aaaaaaand, yes!  Marty Miller IS a man of his word!  He called and we swung by his place to pick up the back end.  Paid him the $100, exchanged contact info and took a look at his project car, a ’65 Mustang fastback.  (Which means the back of the hood slopes down into the end of the ‘trunk.’)

 

I hate to say it, but once we got it home and pulled everything apart, we found that the offset was exactly the same as ours.  Long story short, it won’t work for the disc brakes we wanted.  But Marty proved again that car folks are good folks and at least we’ve made a new friend out of the deal.

So, we’re going back to basics and shit-canning the rear disc brake idea.  We’ve already found another set of 9″ rear drum brakes through a friend of Pop’s, Mark, another car guy.  I think we are both almost relieved to come to a final decision about the back brakes and move on.

Give Me a Brake

No seriously…I need brakes.  Old Mavis has 4 lug wheels and 9” drum brakes on front and back.  To ensure satisfactory stopping, Pop and I want to trade out the front drums for disc and change the 9″ back drums to 11”.  Just as most people upgrade the inline 6 to a V8, most change out their 4 lug setups to 5 lug.  Again, Pop and I don’t want to do it like most people.  I have great 4 lug wheels and I don’t want to spend a grand changing those out too.  So what’s the problem?  Finding a brake kit to simply change out both the front and the back brakes has proven to be a real bitch.  Pop said to me the other day as we discussed brakes for the umpteenth time, “This stuff is keeping me up at night!”  We’ve both become obsessed with finding a solution.

Let’s talk front discs first.  SSBC has a kit that seems to be exactly what I need.  Made for 4 lug, 6 cylinder cars.  Includes master cylinder, proportioning valve and all hardware needed.  Sounds perfect, but for the fact that they say it’s for 1964-66 Ford Mustangs.  The SSBC guys say that this kit also fits a ’72 Mustang, and if my spindles are the same as a ’72 Mustang, it should work for me.  (If this was true, why the hell wouldn’t they list the ’72 Mustang as well?  And I’m supposed to drop $500 plus based on what an 18 year old pimple faced kid says?) So I chase this little tidbit of a fact down and find I have the same spindles as a ’72 Mustang, but now we’re dealing with the fact that the bearings that come in the kit don’t have the same inner diameter.  So frustrating!!

Back drum brake upgrade to 11” drum brakes. Quick Performance sells a 11” rear drum brake set up.  They offer 3 different flange bolt patterns.  Large bearing, small bearing and new Ford.  $300 for everything.  But they are all 5 lug and don’t fit our axle flanges.  As it stands, we’re gonna have order those and get them machined back into 4 lug.  Our buddy Curt has machine shop connections that may be able to help us out.  We need to find a shop anyway for the engine work we’ll be needing in the future.

The issue is that not only is all this not straightforward and complicated by the fact that we are dealing with a 40 plus year old car, but I’m still trying to learn about brakes in general.  Just when I think I’ve got it down, Pop throws in a new word.  Inner bearings, outer bearings, spindles, backing plates, hubs, rotors, flange ends, tie rod pin size and on and on.  But this is part of the journey…learning, researching, hunting, etc.

Momma and Pop are going to the Maverick/Comet gathering in Summerset, KY in a week.  There should be plenty of folks there Pop can talk to about brakes and see if he can get any more information.  He’ll also take LOTS of pics including any and all green cars (with paint name).  I’m still trying to fine the perfect green to paint Mavis.

I’d like to be able to put the back end together next visit, after we finish the final patch welding and undercoatings.  Other than determining the brake configuration, we’re ready.  The differential got a new pinion seal (old was leaking) and a nice clean up.

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Rust Galore

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Brushed and Buffed

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Painted and Slick

New u-joints are in on the drive shaft.

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And the transmission is right tight and lookin’ alright!  Isn’t she pretty?!

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I’ve also just ordered the rear brake lines.  The ones we pulled off Mavis were crap but the main line is all good.  We got those cleaned up and painted as well.

So it’s July and my 47th birthday is fast approaching.  I started this project last year on my birthday with the hopes that it would take 2 years.  It’s truly looking more and more like I’ll be 50 before I drive this car back to Denver.  When I lamented to Pop about this he said, “But we HAVE been working hard.  Well, you have.  I might have fucked off somewhat.”  At least he’s honest.

Quick side note on potty mouths and the fact that I am one.  Momma used to say, “I have two sons and two daughters. My sons don’t swear but my daughters have mouths like sailors (ignoring the fact that we were the daughters of a truck driver.)  Pop once burned the garlic bread in the broiler when we were kids.  I think before he knew it he yelled it –“FUUUUUCK”!  From then on it was game on, the f-bomb had been unleashed.  At 15 I said ‘motherfucker’ in front of Pop.  Don’t remember the reason, but I’m sure it was warrented.  He very calmly leaned in and said quietly, while looking straight ahead, “Babe.  You can say  mother, and you can say fucker.” Then he shook his head back-and-forth slowly and waggled his finger, “But you can’t say motherfucker.“  There were some limits.  My sister Kristen, I must say, is an excellent curser mostly because it’s unexpected.  She’s a quilter, a former preppy, has exceptional organizational skills and is involved in her non-denominational church, but ‘fucker’ rolls off her tongue as smooth as silk.  I love her.

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Kris and I on my first birthday.  Pre-swearing days, although it looks like I would if I could.

 

Grunt Work

I started in on the worst of the worst jobs I think there is in this whole rehab thing (so far.)  Cleaning the undercarriage.  Pop said, “just knock off all the junk under there” but the reality of that situation was spending 4 days straight under the car on my back chipping, scrapping, un-gooing, wire brushing, etc.  I was facing forty plus years of rust, road gunk and the original undercoating and I HAD to get it down to the metal.   It’s the dirtiest job ever and in the process I’m pretty sure I’ve carpel-tunnelized myself.  Pop calls it ‘grunt work’.

Yes, that was that.  That was this past February and I wasn’t in a good place so laying under a car with nothing but one job to do was exactly what I needed.  No thinking about my business or my personal life.  One job, one goal, no thinking, just physical work.  I wasn’t in a good place emotionally which is common for me during that time of year.  Hence this post two months late but fuck it, some of you have been there.  The first couple months of the year have always tried to beat me down.  I heard that a certain Monday in January is the saddest day of the year.  Holidays over, New Year’s resolutions already in the shitter, weather sucks and the current state of the Nation sucks even harder.  Regardless, I’ve always battled the beast.  In the late 80’s I started on Lithium.  The old man shrink I had at the time used to tell me I was like a ‘fart in a jar’.  He had a very thick accent so I like to think that I heard that wrong.  Anyway, Lithium and alcohol don’t mix very well so that ended that.  My antidepressant doesn’t have to support my lifestyle, but at minimum they should get along.  No?

When Dr. Levy died, his office decided it was a good idea to send all of his notes from my visits to me.  I was 18 when I started to see him in 1989.

6/1/89:  “Feeling crumby intermittently since 1982.  Has been dysphoric episodically since 1987.  Disappointment prone and readily revs up to dissipate distress.”

I was diagnosed with cylothymia (look it up) and moved to a drug called Nardil.

8/14/89:  “Will use Nardil in view of poor response to Lithium.”

Ha!  I continued seeing him through the late 80’s and early 90’s.

11/2/89:  “Romantic entanglements.”

11/10/89:  “Horrific developments.”

12/29/89:  “Blowing hot & cold.”

1/22/90:  “Pathological mood swings.”

4/23/90:  “Mood labile, intense, vehement.”

9/22/90:  “Out of the woodwork.  Quite agitated and dysphoric.”

11/15/90:  “Continues on a “roller-coaster”.

Prozac to the rescue!

12/15/90:  “Mood stable on present dose Prozac.”

All’s well, I don’t need no stickin’ drugs.  I’m cured!

6/1/91:  “General plans evolved.  No medications for now.”

Aaaaaaaand…..crash!

6/21/91:  Hysterical “lack of center” addressed.  Need for Rx determined.

And on and on.  Hey, at least I can say I was a bit fucked up before it was cool to be fucked up.  Years later, exercise, meditation and a Wellbutrin/Lexipro cocktail keep me on track, but it’s always a fight.  There’s a stigma sometimes attached to depression about “just how hard life is” being a first world problem, and yes, the various things that can lead to a major depression can be classified as such.  But depression itself is something on another level.  It’s an uninvited precense that strolls into your head and turns everything to shit.  It makes everything you see and touch sting but somehow numbs you at the same time.  It’s hard to explain, I just sometimes feel absolutely everything while feeling nothing at all.

The day I started (trying) to write this post was what would have been my childhood friend Bridget’s 47th birthday.  Bridge and I became friends probably at about 6 years old and my older sister Kristen and Bridget’s older sister Trish were also friends.  Bridge and I were not good girls in the mid 80’s.  Kris and Trish were totally annoyed by us, but at the same time worried about us.  At 15 we hitchhiked, stole, partied, vandalized, went to the Rocky Horror Picture Show (Dammit Janet, I love you!), drank too much (carrying my personal liter bottle of Wine Coolers around parties was my thang) and generally got ourselves into trouble.  Later in life we didn’t talk as much as I wish we had.  We both battled the beast and I think we reminded each other a too much of our weaknesses or vulnerabilities.  The morning after Bridge killed herself two years ago my sister called me.  She sobbed, “It could have been you.”  I beat the beast, Bridge didn’t.  The perfect storm took her and as horrific as that is, I get it.

I think about Bridget often, mostly when I shave my legs (she’d know why) and I continue to fight the fight.

Grunt work.  It’s the life you live between the highlights.  It’s the day to day.  It’s the getting yourself out of bed in the morning.  It’s the searching for joy and gratitude in the little things.

If you’re feeling me now, know that I understand.  Keep fighting.  I love you.

A Girl and Her Inline 6: I’m Keeping my Baby

The first week of my second trip back to Eddyville has been quite successful.  The back end is out of Mavis, which means the differential with its axle, springs, shocks, gas tank and all the various tubes and pipes that entails.  Still, everything takes longer than you think it’s going to.  Something as simple as pulling the filler neck out of the gas tank through the trunk took over an hour and we had to consult the experts.

Thank God for our new Maverick/Comet forum friends!  Inevitably someone has gone up against the same challenge and has that little tip that does the trick.  Even if the advice is to spray it down with a lubricant, have a couple beers and then bang the shit out if it.  Pop and I did cause a bit of stir when we started asking about souping up our Inline 6, which I’m happy to report we are indeed keeping (no 302 switch out for us).

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A girl and her Inline 6.

I must say though, for a bunch of macho dudes in a male dominant field, these forum guys can bitch fight with the best of them.  So, Crazy Larry from the 302/V8 crowd got into it with gregmaverick of the Inline 6 sanction over advice for Pop and me.

Crazy Larry: A car like that needs a V-8 swap. If you just want to get the car running, keep the 200 completely stock. It’s a complete waste of money trying to soup up a 200 I-6.

gregmaverick:  Sixes are way cool (posts some pics of his ‘killer 6 banger’ as Pop called it.)

Crazy Larry:  Maybe in an alternate universe. The sixes of the Ford Maverick era are no comparison to the sixes of today. They make good boat anchors, but are otherwise a big waste of time & money.

Dang Crazy Larry, you CRAZY!

gregmaverick: Larry, perhaps you have no time or no money…???

Crazy Larry: Whether I do or not is irrelevant. The fact is that spending the same amount of money on a V-8 will yield much greater performance as it would on a I-6 from the 1970s. You can argue all you want but it won’t change physics. At the end of the day, it ends up being a huge waste of time and money to hop up one of those sixes, which is something that most people who are new to these old cars do not need.

Pop and I had been interjecting with questions and such, but at this point, we sort of ‘crept away’ and let these two go at it.

gregmaverick: Gee Larry – we’re up to the challenge. “Laws of Physics”? Which ones?  I’m curious to hear your explanation in terms of Newton, thermodynamics, and bore/stroke ratio.  Perhaps you need to go back to the library and re-do your homework…?

Ooooooo-eeeeee! He did NOT!

Crazy Larry: You’re hilarious. Like I said; put the same amount of money into a V-8 as the Ford I-6 from the ’70s, and the v-8 will stomp all over it (not to mention that it will sound a heck of a lot better too).   And if Newton’s theories, or thermodynamics were on your side in this debate, there never would have been any reason to create the V-8.

gregmaverick: Well Larry, I don’t know what to tell you…except, you still haven’t answered the questions. Perhaps it’s a little too technical for you. We’ll just let it go at that.

And it goes on and on.  The forum admin tells them to ‘give it a break’ but they keep at it.  Rapture chimes in and I adore him.

Rapture: i mean wouldnt they have to upgrade their brakes, rear end, transmission, radiator, and a bunch of other small things to put in a v8? i feel that would eventually put the cost way higher for them. of course they are not going to get the same horsepower as a v8 from the inline but beefing it up for a more fun driver doesnt sound bad to me, doesnt sound like they are throwing away money necessarily. do the upgrades and enjoy, but thats just my opinionated suggestion.

It was like watching an online fight between a Trumpy and, well, everyone else, but much less maddening.  There is no lack of strong opinions in the car world.  On one of our many excursions to Harbor Freight, the ‘Bed, Bath & Beyond’ of the automotive enthusiast, we were tracked like prey by ‘Jeff’ and his V8 hard on.  When I explained our project and Mavis’s cute Inline 6 he immediately turned up his nose.  Out came the pics of his high horse power, Chevy LS crate engine and his Ford insults.  We couldn’t shake this guy, popping up around every corner to tell us what saw blade we should buy and where to get it.  After he explained that he’s been off work with a bad back, I asked him, “So this is what you do?  Hang out in Harbor Freight bugging people?”  I couldn’t help myself, by the time he was telling Pop how to hang paint tarps I was done.

This isn’t Pop’s first rodeo and the Ford Inline 6 is an incredibly strong engine, so as I said, regardless of the arguments, we’re keeping the 6.  I’m not racing this fucking thing (although you never know), but I do want a little zip.  Besides, Pop’s got his 350 V8 we can cause trouble in.  We took the Bird out the day after I got here.  Pop says, “Go tell Ma we’re going hot rodding.”  Warning, I’ve taught myself a little iMovie and I’m working on mastering the cheesy video.

As well as being a stupid good time, this little act was an exercise in differentials and how the rear axle isn’t one big tube going from one wheel to the other.  Each side is it’s own section and they can turn at different speeds.  This explains that when you ‘lay down some rubber,’ one wheel bites while the other burns it up!  How do you think you can take a tight turn and not have the outside tire skip and skid to keep up with the other?  It’s like when iceskaters do their little whip line.  The inside one basically turns in a circle while the outside gal is skating her ass off to keep up.

We made some pretty big purchases this round too.  I’m switching out the 3 leaf for 4 leaf springs.  Seeing that part of the old spring fell off as we removed it, I figured I should.  Needed new u-bolts and shackles for those and pinion seal and u-joints for the differential. We found an original front grill and fender splash guards on eBay that I grabbed and also picked up some smaller fun stuff like window handle knobs and a dome light cover.  All these little things add up so believe me I’m saving everything I can possibly save regardless of the work.  I’ve spent 3 days on the gas tank already.  I really really want to do this thing right, and as you know, I love me some physical labor, so I scraped the outside of the tank of road crap, rust protected it and painted it.  Pop and I cleaned and sealed the tank with a special 5 step process and that’s that.

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Gas tank before: Covered in tar, dirt, old undercoating and shame.

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Gas tank after: Cleaned, sealed, fast-etched (rust protected) and painted.  Proud as a peacock.

I’ve added the tank to the Before and After section of this blog…it’s just the beginning.  I love tracking this kind of stuff.  I’ve also started in with my spreadsheets for listing parts needed, bought, costs, timing, etc.  All told, we’ve figured that this little car project will cost about $10K and take 2 years.  I’ve been told it’s more realistic to double both of those numbers, but I’d like to finish the car before I turn 50!  I personally think that Pop is slow playing this whole thing to savor it, which I get cuz we’re having a blast, regardless of what Crazy Larry thinks.