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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