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.

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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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.

 

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.

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.