Cancer, COVID, and Quarantine Green

Thirty-three years ago Pop had the upper lobe of his right lung removed, which included a cancerous tumor. When he checked into the hospital the day of the surgery they asked if he wanted a smoking room.  That’s messed up, but it was 1988, I was 18 and like Pop, also smoked.  Driving out of the parking lot after visiting him post-op, I dramatically threw a half-smoked pack of Newports (yuck) out the window, tears in my eyes…“Never again!!” In all honesty, it took me a bit more time being an idiot before completely kicking the habit.

Fast forward to 2020 and dang, they find a spot on Pop’s left lung, this time in the lower lobe.  We hoped for the best, but as my sister Kristen reported, the ‘nodule’ was being an asshole, and was again, cancerous.  Pop had surgery to remove the lobe, which he got through like a fucking champ, as well as some preventative chemo.  The day after he got home from surgery, he told me on the phone, “I feel great!  I could chop wood!”  Now, the old man was on pain meds and later would say he could barely walk, but I loved his enthusiasm. Momma’s been amazing, taking things as they come and as usual, being optimistic and so, so strong.

So with that, and this pandemic thing we have going on, visits to Kentucky to see the P’s and work on Mavis have basically ceased for the past year. During this time, I’ve have had waaaaaaaaay too much time to think about the color I’ve chosen to paint Mavis.  This is chapping Pop’s ass because I have already picked the color, purchased it, and painted the wheels with it, but I don’t think I like it. Yes, I spent $320 on the paint, but like every car restoration project out there, the budget was blown long ago. I figure, regardless of all the glorious things Mavis will have under her hood, the exterior paint color is the first thing I’ll see.  I should love it, right?

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I went through a ridiculous amount of different shades of green.
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I finally settled on Medium Green Glow Poly (W2784)

Ford Medium Green Glow / #53692f Hex Color Code

#53692f Paint Chip

Problem is, between choosing the color and actually painting my wheels with it, there was quite a long break. I didn’t even realize the color I actually got was not the right green when I painted the wheels. This was after painstakingly sanding and prepping each one (thanks Kristen and Griff!) We even had the tires put on, we were so darn pleased with ourselves. Then came my dramatic realization that it was NOT the green I originally picked and I’m pissed at myself that I didn’t compare it to the original paint chip. It’s not the right green, and it’s also too yellow for my liking. Like, I don’t think I can just ‘live with it’.

Now Pop has been trying to convince me for the past year that the green is “just fine!” He even painted the trunk deck with it to show me how great it is. I’m not convinced, and I know I’m just exacerbating an already tense paint stand off between us. But I don’t know, Pop, I’m feeling a whole different color all together. Screw the green, I think I’m going cream! (I’m picturing him rolling his eyes as I type.)

Here’s the good news. My man Mike and I will be headed to KY in a month and the thought of actually hugging both my parents fills me with total joy. (We are all vaccinated!!) I’ll make the final call on the color, we’ll do some serious sanding and body work and hopefully get a start on the final paint job. Can’t wait!

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It’s green, but is it the right green?

Get Your Motor Runnin’

She’s alive.  Yes, Mavis’s engine is in and has successfully turned over.  Honestly, the whole thing scared the CRAP out of me.  First off, after connecting the electrical and gas lines, and actually putting gas in the car, things started feeling dangerous.  The possibility of electrocutions and explosions became a reality and I couldn’t remember if Pop said amps burn you but voltage can kill you, or the other way around.  It’s one thing to talk about souping up a little I6, another to have a great time building it, but once you connect everything to real power…holy crap!

Couple KY visits ago, we installed all of the engine’s accoutrements, as I like to call them.  Accessories such as the water pump, thermostat, starter, fly wheel, clutch disc, pressure plate and bell housing.  Then, headers and transmission, which turned the engine into a 5 foot long beast we needed to get into Mavis’s little body.

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Transmission on.

Unless we were missing something, there is no way to remove the front upper radiator support bar in the engine compartment.  So, to properly install the engine, we really needed an engine hoist with an adjustable bar to allow us to tilt the engine in order to ‘insert’ the transmission through the engine compartment, move the whole kit and kaboodle back and in, lift the trans nose before it scraps the ground and settle the 400 pound engine and transmission assembly snuggly into place.  We didn’t have that special hoist, but because we are geniuses we figured we could make this work without.  It was just a matter of hoisting the engine in a way that allowed for the correct tilt and then pushing the car forward as we carefully lowered the engine in.

I was NOT looking forward to this procedure, as it’s nerve-wracking to see your newly built engine dangling from chains secured with a few temporary bolts…let alone at a jaunty angle.  As I enjoyed my coffee on the porch the morning of ‘insertion day’, Pop heads out the door saying, “I’m going out to experiment with some fulcrum points.”

“Don’t fucking drop my engine old man…or hurt yourself!”

But he was half way to the garage, determined, with plan in place.  I stayed right were I was and finished my coffee.  Once Pop felt confident in his fulcrums, we lifted the whole thing up and in.

The whole process took about 10 minutes and consisted of me under the car a good amount moving the jack into the right position, guiding the transmission’s tail onto it and then raising it as the engine moved down and into the compartment.  I will admit that once this was all done, we ended up lifting it back out order to ‘manipulate’ the shock tower so that the headers were not touching it.  This consisted of first banging the hell out of the shock tower and then heating the whole thing up and prying the hot headers away from the wall.  Come to find out that the whole engine was shifted to the right about 1/2 inch due to the fact that we installed the motor mounts opposite.  Who knew there was a designated right and a left?  (Apparently, not us.)  Plenty of clearance now!

Next up, connecting the gas line from the tank all the way to the carburetor where it is mixed with the other vital ingredient, air, and turned into energy to keep the motor running.  We had the main line in, but needed to bisect it for a fuel filter.  We installed a new gas hose to get it from underneath the car and up into the engine compartment (Pop and I LOVE rubber grommets, look how clean it is.)

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Feeding gas line to engine.

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Gas line and carb.

Now, to test that the gas is flowin’ correctly and we don’t have any leaks from the tank.

We celebrate even the small successes, as one should.  A final connection to the carb and some tweaking to convert it from an automatic choke to a manual one and we are done with that job!

Next up, electrical.  We were trying to save as much as we could because the electrical system in even a ‘Simple Man’s Machine’ is really complicated.  We had labelled the wires carefully when taking everything apart, so all I had to do was clean them up, replace any really bad parts, re-tape and reroute them to their various locations.  No problem, right?  WRONG!  It totally sucked.  Look at this mess!

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Wiring…Janet’s job.

Ok, so I kind of loved it.  I made them all so pretty and even ended up wrapping parts of the wiring in looms to made them super neat.  Squeeee!

We had some trial and error around figuring out what went where when it came to the solenoid and voltage regulator.  The first time the fan came on inside the car was incredibly exciting, celebratory even, as it blew 50 year old pine needles in my face.  So with gas and electric connected, there was but one thing left to do…start her. 🙂

The engine turned over first try, which was just amazing.  I don’t know why I didn’t think it would, but you build this thing from engine block up and can’t imagine it’s going to just…start.  Pop never doubted it.  So exciting.  We’ve since worked on the timing and have a little more work to do to get her idling right, but this was just HUGE!

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Seat Cover Jim’s

Trying to pick the seat upholstery for Mavis is like choosing one outfit to wear every day for the rest of your life.  Dramatic, I know, but unless you’re Steve Jobs or don’t give a shit, that would suck.  Currently, Mavis is donning the equivalent of a wallflower’s dress that’s been dragged through the dirt.

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I liked the idea of finding the fabric first, then basing the car color on that.  I knew that I was leaning towards green, so after seeing this phenomenal fabric in a ’75 Maverick, I was determined to find it.

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My dream fabric!  The original from 1975.

You can see how Ford was going for that Western feel with the Native American blanket like fabric and of course, naming the car ‘Maverick’, like the wild beast that it is.  In fact, this ad from 1970 really drives this vibe home.

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But then there’s this…a bit confusing, but good to know that this car will get me to and from my dive trips to the lake…with a little more jazz.

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There’s an auto upholstery shop in Denver that had book after book of amazing Ford fabrics throughout the ’70’s.  I think I spent about 2 hours pouring over swatches in their back room.  There was a possibility of ordering some of these vintage fabrics!

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I looked at fuzzy stuff…too itchy:

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Knitted vinyl anyone?  Without AC in the car, this option seemed a bit ‘sweaty’ if you get my drift:

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I even found Mavis’s original sad sad fabric, #2123 below:

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Then I found it…the original fabric from the ’75 Mav I fell in love with, swatch number 512.

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The owner of the shop boasted the whole time about his connections and how he had a line on vintage fabrics.  When I showed him this he said, “Yeah, but not that one.”  Anyway, if he had been able to get his hands on it, it would have run me about $300 a yard.  I’d determined I needed about 5 yards, so this was a no-go, but it was already a no-go because I couldn’t fucking find it.  At this point, I’d fallen for the green stripe look, so I carried on, searching for another green striped fabric in my price range.

Over a year ago, in Kentucky, Pop and I had found a third generation upholstery operation called, appropriately, Seat Cover Jim’s.  Now Jim is a good guy, as was his father Jim and I can only assume the same for his grandfather, Jim.  I liked their sign, it leaves nothing to the imagination.

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When we first met Jim, he thought that maybe grandpa had a stash of that amazing ’75 fabric tucked away in his warehouse.  Now Jim could not be a nicer guy, but he is the epitome of the concept that everything goes a little slower down south.  Momma and Pop call it, “Kentucky Time.”  I think I waited an agonizing 4 months before he actually walked over to the warehouse to look for the fabric, only to tell me he didn’t have it.   But can you blame him?  Look at the thing!

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But Seat Cover Jim did come through for me in the long run.  He found a beautiful, affordable, green striped upholstery fabric that I really liked.  He ordered it, I waited over a year, then my seats were done!  I’m giving Jim a hard time, but the reality is that I’m not close to being done with the car and the seats are really the last thing I’ll install.  He probably could have dragged it out another year or so.  But, without further ado….the seats.  Aren’t they pretty!!??

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Seat Cover Jim III did a beautiful job and has been nothing but kind throughout the whole project.  Thank you, Seat Cover Jim, for being a part of Mavis’ rebirth.  And if anyone is on “Kentucky Time”, it’s me, as July was the start of the 4th year since I first felt the tickle of Mavis in my para menopausal womb.  But, things are speeding up! As of this writing, Mavis has received her rockin’ 6- banger and we’re hoping to start her up next visit!  Yes, you heard me right.  Stay tuned and much love!

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Me with Jim, son of Jim, son of Jim.

Momma – Putting it Back Together

I come from a family who likes to put shit together.  We’re tinkerers and fixers.  Jack and Jill’s of all trades but masters of none. Our group text strings usually involve pictures of someone’s weekend project, lots of thumbs up and many questions about the particulars.

The last PMR, ‘Pop – Putting it Back Together’ was graciously written by the man himself as the engine stuff really blows his skirt up.  But this one is from me and it’s called, ‘Momma – Putting it Back Together, because without her, Pop My Ride wouldn’t be.  This woman can put (and keep) things together too, namely; herself, our family and many times over, me.

Paula and Woody were high school sweethearts until Pop went away to the army.  They broke up and continued to grow up following their own paths.  But, Pop continued to write her at college from his post in Germany, obviously wanting to stay on her mind. It was on a spring break night home when friends got together on a Lake Michigan beach, building a fire and hanging out.  Pop was back and also there.  She says that when she looked at him in the light of the fire, she just knew…he was the one she wanted.  To this day, that is one of the reasons she likes fires so much.  She says it reminds her of that night and her crystal clear realization that she loved Pop deeply.

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With Pop’s first truck.  He had painted on the front, very small, ‘Paula’s Problem’.

But the years following were not always easy.  Pop was on the road a lot and could be gone weeks at a time.  In those days there was no way to easily keep in touch and the phone calls could be as random as the pay checks.  By the age of 30, Momma had brought four babies into the world and was doing all she could to love and support them, mostly by herself and with little means.  She was smart and scrappy and I attribute my frugality and the respect I have for my physical belongings to her.  Pop hauled furniture for most of his career and she would sell the used moving boxes out of the garage for extra cash.  We always had a big glass of milk at dinner, even if it was powdered, and sometimes more like cloudy water as she tried to stretch it.  As an adult, I still get a little tingle of excitement when I see a pop can on the ground.  We used to collect them and throw them in a big box in the garage to recycle for a couple bucks.

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Tired but happy.  This is while Pop was working for United Van Lines.  Momma will sometimes say even today, “I miss my babies.”  We were so loved.

She found a way to get us a membership to a neighborhood swimming pool, but it cost $200. She told me she spent the last of what was in the savings account to join.  That pool was a Godsend during the hot summers as we had no air conditioning and she had four young kids to deal with all day.  She was young and fun and would play in the water with all of us.  I loved to cling to her back like a little sucker fish while she swam deep down.  I remember the feel of her strong shoulders under my hands as I tried not to slip off.  We used to laugh about her thick, curly red hair that the water would roll off like a duck!  She still loves the water and at 76, leads the water aerobics class at the local pool.  I’ll go with her when I visit and love bouncing around the pool with all the old gals.  They love when she teaches because, “Paula really gives us a good workout!”

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Momma with Grandma and all of us.  She could carry all four of us at a time (not the norm, but for fun).  One on her back, one on the front and holding the two smallest in both arms.  She was and still is a fierce Momma Bear, check out those arms!

Momma rejected her Catholic upbringing as a young woman and adopted instead a spirituality that she has found great strength in.  I have memories of her teaching me the Serenity Prayer as she sat on the side of the bed while I struggled through many bouts of depression, something she has battled herself.  She has always appreciated the beauty and wonder of nature and is most at peace in it.  We camped a lot as a young family, always hiking, fishing and playing in the forest.  (Pop used to tell us kids we were Pagans…not totally accurate.)

Momma’s a feminist, always on the right side of woman’s rights, and taught me my worth as a woman by example.  As a northern woman living in a southern state as well as being involved in the male dominated world of trucking, she has more than once had to assert herself as someone to be listened to.  She has supported other women in need for years now through organizations she’s involved in.  She will be your most loyal friend and stand strong with you but also knows the value of a good cry and has an unbelievable amount of empathy.

This past Mother’s Day I called my mom, needing her love and support desperately.  Here it was to be her day, a celebration of her, and I just sobbed into the phone, trying to will her physical body through the line so she could hold me.  Although I’m almost 49 years old, and these types of calls to her have become less and less over the years, I still need her.  I still call and start with, “I’m OK, but…” and burst into tears.  This time there was no, “I’m OK,” just pain so bad I wanted to disappear.

She listened, she didn’t judge, she didn’t match my level of intensity with her own fears but instead was a steady, calming force for me.  She was what she’s always been; there for me, solid and strong.  She reminded me of my own strength and to take care of myself first and foremost.  She reminded me to breath and take it one day at a time…one hour at a time if that was all I could manage.

This woman is a force.  She knows how to put shit back together.  She’s dealt with a lot of crap, seen some tough times and came out the other side with her integrity intact.  I love you Momma.  Thank you for being who you are; honest and real.  Your ability to be vulnerable is the very essence of what strength truly is, having the courage to open your heart and dare to love deeply.

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IMG_9599Hey, hey Paula, I want to marry you
Hey, hey Paula, no one else will ever do
I’ve waited so long for school to be through
Paula, I can’t wait no more for you
My love, my love

 

 

 

Pop – Putting it Back Together

Hi folks, it’s Pop here.  Janet did an excellent job explaining basically the what’s and why’s of rebuilding her little 200ci six banger.  More air, more fuel, bigger spark, bigger explosion and more power.  Carl’s Machine Shop was fantastic, and now we have to assemble the parts.  This indeed trips my trigger and I will explain the procedure much to the boredom of some of you.  But, perhaps we can convert a few into budding “gearheads”.

We’ll begin with the bare engine block which was cleaned up, magna fluxed (a process to detect cracks…it passed), over bored 60 thousands of an inch (this is the maximum and was necessary because of scoring in cylinder #4, the result of a broken ring), and new freeze plugs installed.

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The crankshaft went in first with .010” over bearing inserts.  This requires clearance checks using plastigauge.  Plastigauge is thin plastic thread which when compressed, spreads out and its width is then measured to determine clearance.  The top bearing shells are placed in the block, then the crankshaft, then strips of plastigauge across the bearing journals, then the bottom bearings and caps.  The bearing caps are then torqued to specs.  The caps are then removed and the width of the plastigauge measured.  I won’t further torture you with the measurements acceptable throughout the assembly procedure except to say, “everything checked out”.  (Janet: “Except to say we had to do math…math sucks.”)  The crank is then removed and turned over 180 degrees and the process repeated, assuring a straight bore and shaft.  Everything checking in specs, the bearing surfaces are lubricated, assembled and torqued to specs.  One final step, the crankshaft is then moved forward and backward to check end play.

The camshaft (which opens and closes the valves) was original and installed by Carl’s with new bearings, as this requires special tools.  (Janet: “Some of the only tools Pop apparently does NOT have in his garage. It’s just a matter of time.”)

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Next, the pistons with new rings (which snap into piston grooves, hold compression and control oil on the cylinder walls), three rings per piston.  Before the rings are installed in the piston grooves they must be placed in the proper cylinder bore and the gap between the ends measured.  Too close a gap and the ring will break when it expands with heat, spelling disaster.  (Janet: “Apparently I got my dramatic nature from my father.”)

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Each piston is fitted to numbered connecting rods then placed in the proper cylinder and attached to the crankshaft, plastigauged, lubed and torqued to specs.  With the installation of a new oil pump, the “bottom end” is now complete.

 

New timing chain (which goes on gears at the front end of the crankshaft and camshaft) is installed and the front cover and oil pan installed.  We’re now ready for our new and improved cylinder head.

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One final and most important measurement is needed, valve clearance.  We now have oversized valves and increased openings with our new 1.6 to 1 rocker arms.  Heaven forbid the valves hit the pistons at top dead center!  That would again lead to disaster.  (Janet: “Need I say more?”)

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With #1 piston at the top dead center, we fill the space between the block surface and the piston with clay (in our case, Playdough).  We also filled #6, then install the head gasket and head.  The head bolts are torqued, the valve train assembled and adjusted and the engine turned over 720 degrees or two revolutions of the crankshaft (one revolution of the camshaft).  With fingers crossed, we disassemble the valve train, remove the head and measure the distance from the bottom of the valve indentations to the piston surface.  Yes!  We have clearance!

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The top end is now reassembled and the oil pump driven by an electric drill (the bottom of the distributor shaft will do this).  Checking for oil flow from the rocker arms aaaaaaaand – success!

 

Finally, valve cover on and new Ford blue paint job.

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During Janet’s next visit we’ll install our Autolite two barrel carburetor with automatic choke onto the beautiful adaptor plate on the intake manifold.  Add our new 50,000 volt ignition and big exhaust headers and we’re ready to kick some ass.

 

(Janet:  “Pop and I have very different ways of showing overwhelming excitement.”)

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Carl’s Automotive Machine Shop

Carl’s Machine Shop opened in 1988 in Calvert City, KY.  It’s a small garage with an adjoining office that cranks out some big stuff.  Carl’s daughter, Carla, runs the shop with her husband Michael as the lead machinist.  The combined knowledge between the two of them is unbelievable.

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Carla and Micheal of Carl’s Automotive

Pop and I were literally talking about who to bring Mavis’s straight 6 to for some machining when we passed Carl’s.  Pulling in I was already nervous about how “Carl” would react to being asked about souping up a little 200.  “We only work on V8’s.” “No specialty jobs.” “Why would you waste time and money trying to build that thing up?”  Michael was working on a opposed 6 cylinder engine when we approached through the open garage door.  We explained our situation and what we were attempting to do and he lit up.  “I just finished a 3 carb set up on a 200 for a guy last week.” Hot damn. Michael was our man!

The real engine work is what really blows Pop’s skirt up.  He’ll let me clean bolt threads and wet sand all day, but when it comes to the mechanical shit, I’ve gotten my share of love shoves.

Love Shove: When Pop wants you to move, so he can basically take over what you are trying to do, he will use his body to ever so gently move you out of the way while his attention remains on what you are doing.  Next thing you know, he is now working on what you were working on and you’re not quite sure how it happened.

I (sort of) gave Pop free reign on the decision making around the engine and its performance.  First thing he did was purchase The Ford Falcon 6 Cylinder Performance Handbook by brothers David and Dennis Schjeldahl.  It contains about every thing humanly possible to do to get more power out of our little 200.

Then he and Michael co-conspired on how to spend as much of my money as possible.  Kidding, but really, they came up with a plan to punch up the power.  Here’s the skinny:

The weakest aspect of the little Ford 200 6 cylinder is the integral intake manifold.  In other words, the manifold is a part of the engine head casting.  Besides being set up only for a small, one barrel carburetor, castings can be rough, limiting, and obstruct a smooth air/fuel mixture.  To cure this problem, we had Michael install a two barrel carburetor adapter plate, increasing air intake from roughly 110 cfm’s to 240 cfm’s.  So now we can cram 240 cubic feet of air/fuel mixture per minute into the combustion chamber, doubling what we had before.  More air, more gas, more power!

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An example of Michael’s top notch machine work.

To get this increased mixture to the cylinders, we had Michael install oversized stainless steel valves with new stock springs and .060 shims.  According to old turbo 200ci Mustang racers, this should be good for 6000rpm without valve float.  (Valve float: When the valves do not follow the cam or ‘float’, they can actually run into the piston tops.)  This is more than enough, as I told Pop we’ll redline at 5K at the most.  He looked at me with a grin and said, “maybe.”

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We also had Michael add a 3 angle cut on the valves.

He ported the head, enlarging the intake and exhaust passages.  Michael also installed an exhaust port divider on the Siamese number 3 and 4 ports, which stops possible exhaust induction back into the engine at the exhaust port, making the outflow of the exhaust smoother.  There’s arguments for and against doing this.  Some say it adds 5 or so more horsepower, some say it doesn’t do a damn thing.  We’re betting on the horse power.

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Beautiful!

To finish the top end, we’re dumping the exhaust into oversized, stainless steel headers (BIG exhaust pipes).  These will be revealed at a later date.

On the bottom end, or the block, he bored the cylinders .060 of an inch over which cleans up any old scores and imperfections and will give us another few cubic inches. We installed flat-topped pistons, which will raise our compression ratio, adding more torque and power.  We turned the crankshaft .010 under on the rod and main bearing journals, again, cleaning up any imperfections or misalignment.  Our little inline 200ci 6 cylinder has 7 main bearings, making her virtually indestructible.  A 350ci GM V8, for example, has 5 main bearings.

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We’ll be running the stock camshaft, great low-end torque, with hydraulic lifters and adjustable 1.6 to 1 ratio rocker arms.  Stock rocker arms are 1.5 to 1 ratio.  1.6 gives us approximately .034in increased valve opening.

Soon to come, electronic ignition for the big spark we need and a Autolite/Holly 2V carburetor (also known as a 2 barrel).

Pop says, “We’re hoping to pull 200 horse power out of this little girl.” The stock rating was 91.  Dear Lord, what have I gotten myself into?

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Carl’s Automotive Machine Shop

To close, I must extend a very big thank you to Michael, Carla and the team at Carl’s Automotive.  Once we got the engine home for the build out, Michael continued to be available to us for questions and advice.  Check out his Instagram account where he pulls in a couple thousand viewers by posting videos of machining crankshafts.  Good guy, good family, good peeps.

 

Is it Done Yet?

I don’t know that everyone who knows I’m rebuilding a car with my Pop realizes that I’m actually rebuilding a whole car.  Taking Mavis totally apart, cleaning, fixing or replacing every piece and reassembling her to be a greater version of her former self.  Yes, Mavis is taking some time.  My 48th birthday this past July marks two years since I came up with this wack-job of an idea.  But I’m ok with that.  In fact, here is a pic of me in my car, just enjoying the process, thinking about the damn good time I’ve had so far and how amazing the finished product will be.

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Patience is a virtue.

Actually, a lot has happened in the last two visits down to good ol’ Eddyville, KY.  Best way to describe the progress would be to say that once we put the tires back on Mavis, she’s rolling.  Now, she has no engine or seats to speak of, but she has her back end up, front end together, brakes, steering and suspension.  Mavis and I could literally be pushed down a hill and I could steer us to safety and stop, sans injury.  This, in my book, is progress.

First things first, we (I) finished the scraping and sanding of the engine compartment.  With our previous welding reinforcements and patching we were ready for paint which was VERY EXCITING as it was my first time using the spray gun that Pop has spent months teaching himself.  A coat of Rustoleum, a couple coats of glossy black and we’re set to go.  We’re a good team, as Pop takes the ‘easy to reach’ areas and I lay on my back to get in the nooks and crannies.

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As you may recall, the brake situation stumped me and Pop for quite some time.  Went with the 9 inch drums in the back and took a chance ordering a disk brake kit for the front.  We knew going in that we had a spindle issue, that being that the 4 lug kit we wanted would only fit on ’65 Mustang spindles.  NOWHERE is there a front disk brake kit for a ’72 Maverick that we could find.  It was all about the bearings, inner and outer, not being the correct size for the spindles we currently had on Mavis.  We found a shop that at first we thought could machine down our spindles to meet the needs of this disc brake kit, but when that proved to be impossible we bit the bullet and ordered the ’65 Mustang spindles off eBay for $75 a piece.  Everything we read said they should work.  These things showed up while I was back in Denver and Pop said that they were the wimpiest looking set of spindles compared to the Mav’s.  But he also said that he’d never heard of old Mustang wheels just ‘breaking off the car’ and we’d probably be ok.

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Wimpy spindles…we can only hope we’ll be ok.

By being smaller, the spindles allowed the steering wheel to turn way too far to the left and the right, resulting in the soon-to-be installed tires rubbing on the soon-to-be installed fenders and that wouldn’t do.  So, as we tend to do, Pop and I came up with an ingenious little adaptation by adding an extra piece of metal rod to the stop on the spindle arm.

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Gosh, hope it holds.

We shaved down both sides of the two rods to a flat surface and had our buddy Curt weld the shit out of it.  It’s not pretty, but it will do the job.

Before installing the brakes we had to get the suspension in place.  This part of the project was a test of both of our coping skills.  Attempting to squeeze a massive metal coil down enough to fit in a small compartment and then releasing the insane amount of pressure on that coil so that it sits correctly in that compartment without crushing your finger off is quite the challenge.  No fingers were lost, but I do seem to remember at one point the car shifting on its stands, me leaning against it to keep it upright while screaming, “Pop! Put her down!!!!!”  Not one of our better moments, nor decisions, but the good news is we got the fucker in…both sides.

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Brakes went in pretty easily, as Pop had already done one side to ensure that they would actually work with our dinky spindles.  Because we went with drums in the back and discs in the front, we did need to install a proportioning valve to ensure the pressure to the back and front brakes was correct.  Pop and I installed the master cylinder (came new with our disc brakes,) connected the lines, put the discs on, bled the system and voila, we got brakes!

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Golf tees to stop the flow ’til we’re fully connected.

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We found the smallest can possible to catch brake fluid in.

Next up, wheels refinished and on, then tires.  See?  We’ll be rolling down a hill in no time!

I’ll leave you with yet another of my video creations.  On a visit to Curt’s, we were dazzled with a display of his new toy.  Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Bitchin’ Camaro

Beth was the proud president of the Asshole Driver’s Club, but it wasn’t because she was an asshole, she really wasn’t.  She just didn’t pay attention as well as some when behind the wheel.  She paid attention to everything else; you, the conversation, the music, the journey, the destination.  She was the one who turned at the last second, sans signal.  Crossed three lanes of traffic to exit.  Swerved from one lane into the other while fully turning around to laugh with someone in the back seat.  Driving with Beth was a harrowing, sometimes terrifying experience.

In high school, Beth drove her step-dad Bob’s old light blue Camaro.  I had known that car from my youth.  When we were kids, Bob and Kate in the front seat and Beth and I in the back, some teenager in a Jeep tagged us hard from behind at a red light.  The kid came up to the driver’s side window to tell Mr. Cieslak that he had hit him.  Bob responded the only way one could in such a situation.  He said, “no shit.”

By the time the Camaro was passed down to Beth, it had been given the title of Bitchin’ Camaro (thank you, Dead Milkmen) and had seen better days.  Still, we would park it across two spaces in the high school lot out of respect for its history and because we thought it was hilarious.  Once, when I was (not supposed to be) driving it, Beth was in the passenger seat with her feet up, flat against the windshield.  I took a left into the 7/11 and pop!, the windshield cracked from side to side.  Then there is the epic story of Beth somehow hooking her front fender over someone’s back fender in a movie theater parking lot.  It took about 5 of the high school jocks to lift the entire front end of the Camaro to free it.  I don’t remember the details, but I would bet anything Beth left a note, because she truly wasn’t an asshole.

She was a sweet heart.  She was hilarious, and brilliant and loving and my best friend since 1977.  Beth passed away earlier this year and I still can’t wrap my head around it.  I’ve been down to work on Mavis twice since she died but writing about that before acknowledging her death didn’t feel right.  She and my girls, Michele, Lisa and Darice, were the first I told about my Mavis mission and they were yelling ‘yes’ even before I finished explaining the idea.  Beth would write or call me after each blog post, telling me how hard she laughed, or cried, always telling me how proud she was that I was tackling this crazy feat.  The last time I heard her voice was on the phone while she sat in her basement digging up old pictures of us for my last post, Titties, Trauma and Transmission.  Another of the long list of memories we created over our 40-year friendship.

Driving to work at the end of this past January I was overcome with a feeling of dread deep in my heart.  The tears came so fast, blurring the road and forcing me to turn back home.  I made it into the house and weak kneed, supporting myself against the kitchen counter, I sobbed.  I said out loud to no one, “something’s not right.”  And it wasn’t.  Beth would die that night.

So, I’ve been struggling and don’t know if, or when, that will ever end.  But I do know that Beth would want me to continue this journey.  Bringing Mavis back to life, accomplishing something new, sharing time with people I love.  We’ve always been a bit cosmically connected.  She’ll know, she’ll watch as I reach my goal.  Then I’ll take a long ride, play ABBA real loud and try not to drive like an asshole.  Love you Bether.

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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 the 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.

Mavis, Deconstructed

Holy smokes it’s been weeks since I’ve been home and I haven’t told you about week two of the Kentucky maiden voyage!  With the Firebird finally running and out of the garage, Mavis was now the center of attention.  Yes…Mavis.  Makes me think of a wise old lady, African American, steady, proud, and cool as shit.  Cross her and she will KICK YOUR ASS.  “Sleeper” is a term for a car that looks unassuming, isn’t overly showy or flashy but can pack a punch in the power department.  Mavis is going to be a sleeper, classy and quiet, but ready to tear it up if need be.

But, we need to break Mavis down before building her back up.  The goal of the week was to get the engine and transmission removed.  To do that, you need to disconnect anything attached to them and take off anything that would impede their removal.

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Me and the old man in our workspace.  Mavis, now in the spotlight.

We started with the fender, headlights and grill.  I found that there is no such thing as “just unscrew that bolt” in these old cars.  The bolt has been bolted for 40 something years, rusted, perhaps bent and can be a bitch to get off.  I find this to be a great challenge.  We spray it down with our trusty Kroil, let it sit for a bit and then go at it.  Sometimes it’s brute strength that’s needed,  sometimes it’s finding the right tool or angle to finesse it off.

As we removed parts, Pop would explain them to me;  what they did and how they worked.  Everything was saved regardless of needing to be replaced or not.  We’d make notes of what we needed to either buy, repair or find in a junk yard.  Parts were stored in labeled containers according to what they were.  For example, headlights, their rims, bowls and wires were in a box, and all engine bolts, screws, washers and nuts were put in an old coffee can.  Wires were labeled with a sticker and note so we knew what the hell they were connected to and larger parts (hood, front fender, bumper) were propped up along the garage wall.

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The parts cart including transmission, valve cover and fly wheel.  We used to use this cart to roll the garbage to the bottom of the driveway when I was a kid. I told you, the P’s get rid of NOTHING.

Pop and I work well together because we tend to work alike.  We stay organized, work slowly and thoroughly and keep the workspace clean as we go.  It’s funny to watch him and see where I get some of my quirks.  When there were too many tools out and he’d step on one or one of us would catch a foot on the air hose and trip, we’d both seem to do a little freak out thing.  You feel a little clausto and disorganized and have to ‘tidy up’ before moving onto the next task.  It’s something about the state of your surroundings directly affecting your ability to deal.

We worked in this way for a couple days, removing every wire, tube and pipe attached to the engine.  While Pop was at breakfast with friends one morning I felt the need to get a jump on things.  Momma was in the garage with me and we had been poking around, seeing what we could clean or whatever.  I got a bit bold, decided it would be a good idea to remove the radiator and went about the business of draining it.  Momma sat in a chair, one leg crossed over the other, bouncing her foot like she does, and watched.  I undid the top hose and was surprised as to how much antifreeze came out.  Luckily I had already thought to put a bucket underneath to catch it.  Feeling confident, I proceeded to loosen the bottom hose, which started a slow drip.  Sat back with Momma to wait, but soon became impatient and decided to pull the entire hose off.  HOLY SHIT!  Neon green fluid spewed from the thing like projectile vomit!  The power of it knocked the bucket over and flooded onto the floor.  I’m screaming, “Oh my God!!!” trying to get the hose back on which only intensified the spray.  It was flowing like a firehose! I finally get to the bucket just as the last of the antifreeze empties out with a belch and it’s over as quickly as it started.  Momma’s still sitting in her chair and she says quietly, “wow.”  Clean up involved mops and the garden hose and when Pop got home I told him about my faux pas.  That’s when he showed me the petcock at the bottom of the radiator, a small valve conveniently located to drain the antifreeze.  (Yes, it’s called a petcock.  Awesome.)

Eventually it was time to remove the engine and transmission.  Pop and I cut the exhaust off all together as it was junk.  That was interesting…Pop on his back under the car with a sawsall bouncing around on the pipe, inches from his face.  We were, though, wearing safety glasses.  We supported the rear of the engine, then disconnected and removed the transmission.  Removed the bolts from the front motor mounts and lifted the engine out with the chain fall.  We are fucking pros!

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Pulley systems make you feel strong.

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Success!

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The inline 6, chained up and out.

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Mavis, now just a cold, empty shell of herself.

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We sprayed the engine compartment down with degreaser and gave her a rinse.  God how I love a power washer!

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And this is how I left her (after we pulled the wheels off).  On stands for the duration, engine extracted, ready for her make over.

Although we did get a lot of work done, I was able to spend a little fun time with the P’s.  I went with Momma to her water aerobics class a couple times.  Me and 20 plus ladies from about 60 to 80 years old moving some serious water, chatting it up.  I saw neighbors Danny and Vicki, who were so thoughtful and brought me a Life magazine that had a 1972 Maverick ad in it.

The three of us attended a surprisingly religious bluegrass concert at the Kentucky Opry House.  Apparently the word ‘gospel’ in the program title didn’t tip us off.  We went with it, had a great time and Pop kept saying, “I don’t know, I just keep smiling.”  We met Pop’s friend Jimmy there who is 89 and peppy as ever.  It’s not often you get a chance to talk with someone who starts a conversation by saying, “When I was in the Philippines during World War II.”

Pop has some stories himself and I thought I had heard them all, but during my visit things would spark a memory and he would share.  While laying under Mavis, draining transmission fluid, he told me about the old gas station he worked at as a kid.

“We moved from Rogers Park (Chicago) to Wilmette when I was 12 and I always hung around the gas station a block away.  It was called Lee’s Shell and I just showed up and started doing stuff.  The place was full service so I’d check oil, wash windows, whatever.  I wasn’t in high school yet and I don’t even know if I was paid.  Eventually I worked part-time for a little money and stayed until they sold the place when I was 17.

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Pop at 12

I was there by myself one day, I was 13 or 14.  A guy brought his car in for an oil change so I put it on the lift, drained the oil and put 5 quarts back in.  I collected his money and he left.  Turns out I hadn’t drained his oil, but mistakenly had drained his transmission fluid instead.  The guy calls later from across town with a burnt up transmission.  I was devastated…I cried…it was terrible!  Must have been a couple hundred bucks that came out of my pay to rebuild the guy’s transmission.  I remember I had to take some money out of my savings.  Very young mistake.  Lee probably would have let me get away without paying for it, but I insisted.  I was in tears.

Lee was a heavy set, rough guy.  He was nice enough to me.  Gad, the people that hung around that place.  Willy T was a Chicago Outlaw who worked there.  He was real thin, rode his Harley.  He was a full time bad dude.  Two other guys hung out there, motorcycle guys, two characters.  They had a Cushman, big motor scooter, that they had put a Harley Davidson engine in.  It was like an 80MPH Cushman!  I remember one night they were drinking and had to go to the hospital because they had crashed into each other.  They were all alcoholics.

They were all nice to me though.  They’d give me beer and let me smoke cigarettes.  I would be with Lee and on some occasions we’d go get parts or whatever, I’d tag along.  Sometimes he would go to collect bills from the housewives.  He would go into the house and I’d wait.  Sometimes he took a long time to collect the bill.”

Yes, I’m learning a lot about rebuilding cars, but I’m learning even more about Pop.

Wax On Wax Off

Pop’s got a lot of old gear head buddies which is a great thing because not only do we have a line on parts, information, where to get our upholstery done or engine bored, but we have access to skill sets that are invaluable.  Pop’s friend Curt is a fellow bad ass and an excellent mechanic who knows how to paint cars.

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Curt in his garage.

For the first four days in Kentucky we helped Curt strip, sand, prime and paint his wife’s car.  Yes, I had driven almost 1,500 miles to work on my car and painting a car is usually the last thing you do when rebuilding, but you have to grab these opportunities to learn when you can.  Besides, it was cool to meet a friend of Pop’s and Curt is a great guy who shares my affinity for the f-bomb.  Smaller in stature but strong, Curt has a slow, thick drawl and peppers his speech with sayings that crack me up.  “Well, shit the bed Fred,” was one of my favorites but it was even funnier when I thought he was saying, “Well, shit the bedspread.”  I’ll be adapting that one for myself.  Neither Pop nor Curt can hear that well and with paint masks on, compressors popping off and fans blowing, there was a lot of “WHAT?!” going on.  Curt would yell something unintelligible while spraying and Pop and I would just look at each other and shrug.

But we understood enough to learn a great deal about painting a car.  Curt’s wife Lori is a mail carrier and in these smaller towns you use your personal car to deliver.  Her white Dodge ‘Casper’ was a good car whose exterior had seen better days and Curt was taking the week to focus on the project.  The first step was to scrape any loose paint off the car which pleased me greatly.  I LOVE stuff like this.  Remove paint and stain from an old piece of furniture?  No problem.  Help you strip wallpaper?  Don’t mind if I do.  Detail clean something with a toothbrush?  Yes please.

Scrape, wet sand, tape and prime.  According to Curt I am an excellent taper, which is a good thing because after you prime, you pull the tape, wet sand again and re-tape the whole thing for the base coat.  We put on two base coats, which is the color coat, then two top coats which is the gloss.

I say ‘we’, but Curt did the spraying.  He let me try a little bit on the primer and apparently I wasn’t aggressive enough.  I think I put more paint in the air than on the car.  Pop and I are planning on painting both his Firebird and the Mav eventually.  I’m going to help him set up a paint booth in his garage and he’s already done a little spraying on his wheels.  I just can’t imagine spending weeks sanding and smoothing the car and then fucking it up within two minutes of painting it.  These are things to worry about down the road though.  I told Pop we’ll just practice on his car.

Curt’s garage was filled with all sorts of toys, current and of yesteryears.  The most recent pride and joy was Lil’ Big Rig.  Lil’ Big Rig (and it must be pronounced as such) was a 1992 Dodge D250 chassis with a ’96 model Peterbuilt cab and a ’98 Dodge dually bed.

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Curt also rebuilt a 1950 FLH 1200 Harley Davidson pan shovel with a 1950 model front end and he thinks the frame was 1960 something.

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Most exciting to me though, behind the garage, in a shed the American Pickers would consider a sweet, sweet honey hole, Curt had an 1967 BSA.   Brother Mathew, I have found your motorbike.  We just need to get Curt to sell it to us and we’ll fix it up.  Done!

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Toys aside, Pop and I were good students and learned a great deal.  Curt ended up with a painted car and I ended up with a new friend.  Lori was thrilled and Curt was obviously proud to have been able to do this for his little lady.

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Curt and Lori with Casper, refreshed.

So, onward to the Mav, right?  Wrong.  Back at the P’s the Bird was still taking up space in the garage, up on stands with no back brakes or wheels.  Pop had worked hard, but there were still more things to do to be able to move it. I’m jonesing to work on the Mav and here I’m sanding, polishing, scraping and observing instead!

 

I’m like, you gotta be karate kidding me.  These two old farts have been giving me the ol’ wax on wax off treatment!  But, here’s what I also did in the remaining days of that first week.  I learned how to put a gas tank on (then take it back off and put it back on), put together drum brakes, pull apart those same drum brakes and then put them together correctly, bleed brake lines and diagnose brake issues which led to replacing a master cylinder.  I can now jack an entire car up and get it on stands, take wheels off and put them on and put a car on rollers to move around a garage.  I learned a lot of the tools needed to be able to grab a 3/8 inch drive ratchet with a 6 inch extension and 1/2 inch socket when asked and how to use an impact wrench.  So when we did get the Bird on the ground and started (first try) after 6 years on stands, I was feeling pretty darn good and more than excited to get started on the Mav in week two.

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Pop’s garage.  Firebird on stands, Mav waiting patiently.

I’d Drive all Night

I made it to Kentucky with the Mav!  The drive to Mat’s in Cary, IL was wonderful.  Took me two days with a great visit with friends in Lincoln, NE in between.  Man do I love a road trip.  I’d be six hours in and realize I only had about two more hours to go and be bummed.  I was having a blast, cruising along listening to my tunes, passing the farrow fields dotted with rolls of hay, the autumn landscape a melding of rusts, browns and yellows.  I had been missing those quintasentially midwest views.

My brother Mat was waiting in his driveway and had pulled my car out of the garage where he’d been storing it for me.  I anticipated seeing the Mav for the first time in real life I guess how you’d feel meeting your on-line date for the first time. (Never been on those sites.  Mike and I met the old fashioned way…in a bar.)  I had seen pictures, a little video, and chosen her out of many.  I looked at her picture every day and showed her to friends, falling for her a little bit more every time I did.  But would she really be ‘all that’ when I first laid eyes on her?

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“I’d drive all niiiiiii-iiiiiiii-iiiiiiii-ght!”

Yes, she was all that and more…she was perfect.  Truly, she was too cute.  Just as small as I had wanted, body in good shape, all the insignia and trim there….a solid, good looking car.  This is the first time I’ve had the desire to name a car or call her a ‘she’.  I’ve never really understood that before now.  My first thought was Madge, but Mat said that sounded too much like vag, which would definitely be appropriate.  I’m still thinking about it.  My sister Kristen liked Midge which isn’t bad.  We shall see.  Suggestions accepted.

I haven’t driven a stick shift since my 20’s.  The Mav is a 3 speed with the shifter on the steering column which I definitely hadn’t driven before.  We took her around the block a couple times and I got the hang of it pretty quick.  Put her in third rather than first and stalled here and there, but didn’t do too bad overall.  Mat helped me get a trailer rented and the Mav up on it.  Being relatively new to the manual shifting thing, I didn’t want to drive the damn thing up and through the cab of Mike’s truck.  I took a couple turns around the block with my ‘operation’, as Pop would call it, to ensure all was well and ready to roll in the morning.  (For my less electronically experienced readers, below is a video.  If you are reading this from your email, you’ll have to click on it and it will bring you to the blog site where you can see it.  You know who you are.)

Got it down to Kentucky with no major catastrophes.  I did pull into a Steak ‘n Shake and run the trailer over a curb which made a horrible, loud scraping noise.  A group of teens sitting out front turned and stared so I just circled the parking lot all nonchalant, pulled back out and continued onto Cracker Barrel.  (Not a lot of options in central Illinois, but my salad was surprisingly good.)  I could run at about 65 mph without issue and constantly checked the rearview and side mirrors to ensure the car hadn’t somehow fallen off the trailer and rolled into a ditch.

Stopped in Bloomington-Normal, IL to spend the night with Kristen, my brother-in-law Doug and niece Bailey.   Here’s a still shot of the operation out front of their house.  It’s long, but no longer than the camper Mike and I pull.  I’m comfortable driving that but prefer not to back up.

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I took some smaller back roads the final leg down to the P’s.  Passed through Anytown, USA over and over again, each with their own McD’s and Dollar Store, but still with that small town character that I love.  Made it to Eddyville, KY in time for dinner, again, with no major issues.  I did though knock some of the rocks lining the driveway into the drainage ditch coming in which Pop immediately directed me to fix before my feet even hit the ground.  “Hey, put my rocks back!”  Not there five minutes and he’s got me hauling rocks out of a ditch.  Perhaps a bit of foreshadowing?  Regardless, I was there, I had made it, and I was psyched to get started.

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The Mav in front of the P’s, its home for however long this project takes.  Not a bad place to hang out.

The Greasy Thumb

In this time between purchasing the Mav and picking it up, I’m just trying to soak in as much knowledge as possible about cars.  Mainly, how the hell they work.  I’ve always been semi-comfortable with cars in that I can change a tire, add/check oil, window washer fluid, etc.  I had a car that would flood all the time and Pop showed me how to prop the choke open to get it started and I carried a wooden spoon in the car for that very reason.  But if I was going to rebuild a car with Pop, I had to show up with at least some sense of the workings of an automobile.

So, I did what everyone does these days when they want to learn about something…I went to the used book store.  Right, I know…the web has been great for searching, research, for forums and pics, but I wanted some old school, hold in my hands, period relevant literature.  What I ended up finding in West Side Books in Denver could not have been better.  It’s like this book was placed there just for me, buried amongst the other books on the 8 foot high shelves in a small section of the store marked ‘Automotive’.

Behold, my car bible: The Greasy Thumb Automechanics Manual for Woman, written by Barb Wyatt and illustrated by Julie Zolot.

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It was printed in 1976, four years after my Mav was built, and focuses on American cars.  The book is written, illustrated, and printed by women for women.  The book screams ‘home grown,’ from its shaky illustrations and dark photos to the typewriter font and the fact that it was printed on an “old, sometimes working, sometimes not working, small (Multilith 1250) press.”  It is spiral bound and it is perfect.

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I love this book for so many reasons.  It’s not trying to be something it’s not.  It’s just a straight up, “here’s how it works,” “here’s what has worked for me” type book.  I mean, if Barb doesn’t know something, she doesn’t know something…deal with it.

“That isn’t much of an explanation, but I don’t want to get into explaining in more detail how to do it, mainly because I haven’t done it enough to be of much help to you.”

She’ll tell you what’s what.

“A lot of the knowledge in the owners’ manual is superfluous bullshit, but there is some knowledge there that you need to know.”

And SO supportive!

“Try not to get too discouraged – just remember that the next time you do a brake job on your car you’ll know how to go about getting things back together and it won’t be as much of a hassle.”

“Everyone breaks off a bolt at least once if not more often (probably a lot more often), so don’t let it bum you out too much.”

She even included a helpful pre-Excel spreadsheet laying out a maintenance schedule.  (Perhaps in 1976 you could have made a ‘ditto’ off of this!)

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Barb and her gals have done me a massive solid by creating this book, in so many ways.  With the possibility in this coming election of putting a hateful, pussy grabbing, misogynistic fucker in the white house, we ladies really need to look out for each other…and our pussies!

Shame we still feel this way 40 years after Barb laid down these words of wisdom:

“The other reason I wrote this book is that I wanted to pass on the knowledge that I have about cars to other women in a way that would be useful and helpful to them.  I feel that women teaching other women what they know is real important to our present and future survival in this world as women separate themselves from men.”

I love that, ‘present and future survival’.  And these women dealt with even more crap than we deal with now.  These chicks were PISSED!

“A source of frustration and discouragement in working on cars, at least for me, has been men.  It’s real difficult to contend with the machoness of many men mechanics while trying to get some assistance with or knowledge about your car.  One thing I have found out from experience is though men may act like they know everything about cars, a lot of times they don’t — and you may know just as much or more.”

“Actually even if you never work on your car, it still would be helpful to have an understanding of how your car works and what things are, so you will be less likely to be ripped off by some smooth talking mechanic who sees you and his eyes light up, ‘Ah, a woman – I’ll be able to sell her anything.’ ”

“I wanted to put something in this manual about buying parts, because parts stores can be a real hassle and are places where women are generally treated like shit (not that this is anything new).”

“It is like they don’t even hear me – all they see is that I am a woman.”

They had a right to be pissed, and we still have a right to be pissed.  There is still inequality in pay for doing the same job.  Our right to decide what to do with our own bodies is still being challenged.  Women in business still have to speak louder and learn how to not be interrupted without coming across as being a bitch, or the opposite, too emotional and sensitive.  For the first time ever a woman is running for the presidency, and I saw a sign that said, ‘Hillary’s a Cunt, Vote Trump.’  Explain that one to your daughters.

While reading The Greasy Thumb I felt a camaraderie with these women.  I felt empowered and part of something special.  After one particularly good ‘man rant’ in the intro, they delivered their dedication.  I wasn’t overly surprised.

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Well, I dedicate Pop my Ride to Barb and Julie, and to all my sisters out there; gay, straight, trans and everything in between.  It’s a small, simple thing I’m doing, fixing up an old car with Pop, but since I started I’ve felt an incredible sense of strength, independence and excitement.  I tell everyone, but I especially love telling other woman.  Their eyes light up and they get this big smile and their face that reads somewhere between surprise and envy. (The good kind, the “living vicariously through your experience and you better take me out cruising” kind.)  I’m picking up the Mav from Chicago this week and I leave more inspired than ever.  Rock on!!!

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Root for the Underdog

Holy crap we found it.  Found the car that will take up all of my free time and a lot of mind space for quite possibly the entire year to come.  I can’t believe it’s happened this fast and also can’t believe that neither Pop nor I found it.  My brother Mathew did.

Momma and Pop were visiting Mat last month and I was on the phone with them all discussing the Plymouth Duster we had decided to pass up.  It felt like I needed to nail down the type of car I really wanted and intensify the search based on that.  When Pop asked which car I was really feeling serious about, the one that really got me excited about the project, I had to admit that I truly dug the Ford Maverick.

The Maverick is a smaller car, has a beautiful little shape to it and was one of the very first cars that caught my eye when I started looking.  Now, I say I had to ‘admit’ that the Maverick was the one because the Maverick has gotten shit over the years for not being, I don’t know, cool enough.  People write that it is a cheap car, a poser, a pseudo muscle car, etc.  Five years after the Mustang came out, which was based on the Falcon’s platform, Ford introduced the Maverick, which also shared the Falcon’s engine and running gear.  It was not only more affordable than the Mustang, but was also meant to be Ford’s competitor to the crazy popular Volkswagen Beetle and other foreign cars that were getting bought up.  At the time, the 6 cylinder 200 and 250 engines had more than enough power for a subcompact ‘economy’ car and they marketed the thing as ‘The Simple Machine’.  Mavericks made before 1973 didn’t even have a glove compartment as that was apparently an added expense for an unnecessary luxury.

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Ford Maverick, “The Simple Machine.”  I’ve read articles where it’s been referred to as “The Simple Machine for the Simpleton,” which I think is just rude!

The Grabber trim package was introduced later in 1970 and with its 302 V8, exterior graphics and spoiler, was definitely vying for the attention of the muscle car crowd.  But still, there are those that won’t give this little underdog any respect…and that’s another reason why I love it.  I’ve always rooted for the underdog.

So when Mat drove home from visiting with the P’s that night and caught a glimpse of what looked like a Maverick on the side of the road for sale, he couldn’t believe it.  Not an hour after telling him that I wanted a Mav, he found a Mav.  He texted, “Totally hooked a u-turn on Rt. 14…I was like, holy shit, a Maverick!”  He pointed his brights on her and sent me what would be the first peek at my baby.

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The next morning the P’s took it for a test-drive in the rain.  Momma Face Timed with me which was hilarious.  God I wish I had video.  Pop’s driving, it’s loud, raining hard and Momma is about as steady with the camera as an old drunk.  As she discovers things (she’s as excited as we are) she’s yelling over the noise, “Jan!  The windshield wipers work!  Ooooh!  Look at this, there’s a shelf where the glovebox would be!!  The interior is decent.  Can you see this??  We couldn’t figure out the seatbelts!! Can you hear me?  Where do I have this thing pointed?!!!”  This is when I tell her about the option to turn the camera lens around rather than the camera itself.  “Oh, I had no idea!  Woody!!  Be careful!  How far are you planning to go?  Can you see?!?  I can’t believe this rain!!”  I love that woman.

The 1972 Maverick has a 200 cu. in. engine with an inline 6.  This means that it is a 6 cylinder and they line up in a row, rather than 3 on both sides of the engine tilting outward (hence the V in a V6 or V8.)  It’s got a manual transmission with ‘3 on the tree’ which means the gear shift is on the steering column.  It’s currently silver, but based on the VIN it came out of the factory a bright yellow. Pop and I negotiated with the seller and I ended up buying it for $3,500.

I am so unbelievably excited!  Although I feel like a mother whose newborn has been whisked away before having a chance to hold it.  I look at the pics every day and I’ve had a couple video ‘visits’.  Here’s a general overview from Pop:

The Mav is currently parked in Mat’s garage in Cary, IL.  The plan is to drive Mike’s truck out there mid October, trailer the car and haul her down to KY where I’ll spend a few weeks.  I’m really really looking forward to seeing my Mat.  He is one of the kindest people I know and a great brother, father and friend.  He’s empathetic and emotional, loving and caring.  Mat has followed in Pop’s footsteps and drives a truck for a living.  He works his fucking ass off and still seems to find time to help anyone in need.  But I’ll tell you, in recent years, Mat has been given the shit end of the stick more often than not.  He has been tested past the point where many would have given up.  He is a single parent, trying to raise an incredibly troubled son while his other son lives miles away.

So to Mathew I say…You are a fighter.  You continue to get up every morning and face the long work days and weekend overtime as well as the ongoing, physically and mentally exhausting, heartbreakingly sad battle at home.  I am very proud of you.  Thank you for finding this little car for me.  I truly believe it was a sign that it was you who found it.  You are now a permanent part of this journey with me (especially because you’ve already committed to helping us with brakes.)

I promise you little brother, the underdog will have its day.  I love you and I’ll see you soon.

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One of my favorite pics.  Mathew with Hudson…always taking care.