Monday, April 21, 2014

1983 Cadillac Coupe DeVille - Grandpa Needs a Heart Transplant

Cadillac's 1980 reboot of the deVille brought elan to the lines of the car that were missing at best and clunky at worst when the car debuted as part of GM's massive 1977 downsizing.

The changes were subtle yet significant and made for an overall much more pleasant looking premium automobile. The car also appears to be larger than before. Not a bad thing considering the era and the mentality of Cadillac buyers at the time.

The interiors were also brought up several notches too. Fit and trim markedly better and the quality of the leather upholstery improved as well.

While certainly not to Mercedes Benz or BMW levels, at least what was offered was an improvement over what was offered previously. That was not always the case with General Motors offerings from this era. If you've ever replaced something with the same item and felt it not quite as good as it was, that was GM in the '70's.

The 1982-84 deVille do have an Achilles heel thought and it's this infamous HT4100 (HT for high tech - kid you not) V-8 with Digital Fuel Injection. I test drove an '82 DeVille years ago and found it utterly unresponsive to even the hardest stabs of the gas pedal. What's more, in a car weighing as much as this car does, the lack of power makes you drive differently. While its said that driving a slow car fast is more fun than driving a fast car slow, its debatable that you could even get to a point where you could say you're moving fast in this thing. Upside, very respectable gas mileage. About 22 mpg. Congrats, GM. You made a big car that actually got decent mileage. Too bad that came at the expense of all driving pleasure.

It's a shame because these are very nice cars and this low mileage beauty in particular, for sale in sunny California, is in especially clean shape. Asking price, if you're interested, $10,000. All the money in the world for a thirty one year old car of any ilk let alone, "A Best of All It's a Cadillac", Cadillac.

Five grand, perhaps six and we have a sleeping beauty. Take it to a good shade tree mechanic and spend the difference giving Grandpa here a heart transplant. Let's do it right with a snorting Chevy 350 and an aggressive set of gears and turn this gem into a real Cadillac.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Miranda Lambert - Three On A Tree

God knows that shifting gears ain’t what it used to be
I learned to drive that 55 just like a queen, three on a tree

"Three On A Tree" refers to a 3-speed column shifter.

My 17 year old son asked me what Miranda Lambert is referring to when she sings about a "three on a tree" in her new song, "Automatic". I laughed at the irony of his question knowing well that his not knowing what it means is part of what makes "Automatic" so memorable. 

 The column mounted three speed began appearing in America in the late 1930s and became common during the 1940s and 1950s. Balky, bulky and clumsy compared to floor mounted transmission shifters, "three on a tree" added much needed interior space to vehicles and allowed for someone to sit in the middle of the front seat without being unencumbered by the gear shifter. 

Nostalgia is nothing new and everyone's nostalgia is personal to them and them alone. Shared nostalgic moments can only be shared to a point since people experience the same things differently.

There was no "automatic" available on Chevrolet's 1955 pickup, only three and four speed manual transmissions. That fact serendipitous to the song or brilliant writing? We'll probably never know for sure.  

One person can have wonderful memories while another has a completely different view of the same occurrence. Same is true in traumatic situations where some are all but unscathed whiles others, sadly, have a difficult time dealing with the psychological consequences. 

Chevrolet didn't offer an automatic transmission on their pickup truck line until 1960.

Waxing nostsalgic about shifting a brutally crude device like a "three on a tree", especially in a 1955 Chevrolet pickup, more than likely for the protagonist in "Automatic" has more to do with the memories it conjures up than the actual shifting. Then again, everyone's nostalgia is personal to them and them alone.

It all just seemed so good the way we had it
Back before everything became, automatic  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

1971 Cadillac Eldorado - Better With Age

It's the rare automobile that actually improved as their original design was updated. GM famous for updating great looking cars and turning them into plastic surgery nightmares. The all new for 1971 Cadillac Eldorado a prime example of a car that actually did get better looking as it passed through its design life cycles.
Introduced to much fanfare in 1967, the front wheel drive Cadillac Eldorado was arguably the most beautiful Cadillac of the decade and one of their all time greatest designs. What got lost in the drop dead gorgeous sheet metal was that marvelous front wheel drive engineering. Did people even care that this car was front wheel drive?

The 1971 reboot trashed most if not all of that 1967 styling mojo. The '67 Eldorado was the car of the Rat Pack; the 1971 looked like the car of the Fat Pack. It may have been nothing more than the fender skirts and the six inch longer wheelbase but the '71 looks like put on a thousand pounds. Truth be known the convertible was marginally heavier than a '67 hardtop and the car's overall length was but .6 of a inch larger than the car it replaced.

Something happened, though on the way to the funeral parlor. Granny lost her fender skirts, her pointless, non functioning rear brake cooling vents and she gained some girth with the huge safety bumpers but somehow the old lady suddenly had some real charm. This 1976 was the same car underneath as the 1971, save for some soul robbing emissions plumbing, but think about which one you'd rather have?



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

1976 Cadillac Eldorado - Call me Ishmael

Much like the Herman Melville classic, the 1976 Cadillac Eldorado was big, long and difficult to handle.
In Herman Melville's 1851 classic, "Moby Dick", Ishmael, the narrator, announces his intent to ship aboard a whaling vessel. He has made several voyages as a sailor but none as a whaler. He travels to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he stays in a whalers’ inn. Since the inn is rather full, he has to share a bed with a harpooner from the South Pacific named Queequeg. At first repulsed by Queequeg’s strange habits and shocking appearance (Queequeg is covered with tattoos), Ishmael eventually comes to appreciate the man’s generosity and kind spirit, and the two decide to seek work on a whaling vessel together.

Cadillac built an Eldorado between 1953 and 2002.
They take a ferry to Nantucket, the traditional capital of the whaling industry. There they secure berths on the Pequod, a savage-looking ship adorned with the bones and teeth of sperm whales. Peleg and Bildad, the Pequod’s Quaker owners, drive a hard bargain in terms of salary. They also mention the ship’s mysterious captain, Ahab, who is still recovering from losing his leg in an encounter with a sperm whale on his last voyage.

The 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertible was the last GM factory built Eldorado convertible. When GM reintroduced an Eldorado convertible for the 1984 model year, it was an Eldorado modified by American Sunroof Corporation (ASC).
The Pequod leaves Nantucket on a cold Christmas Day with a crew made up of men from many different countries and races. Soon the ship is in warmer waters, and Ahab makes his first appearance on deck, balancing gingerly on his false leg, which is made from a sperm whale’s jaw. He announces his desire to pursue and kill Moby Dick, the legendary great white whale who took his leg, because he sees this whale as the embodiment of evil.
 The 1976 Cadillac Eldorado was the last Eldorado to use a 500 cubic inch V-8 engine. A Cadillac exclusive, it was downsized to 425 cubic inches for 1977 and 368 for 1980. The 368 was the engine the infamous V-6-4 was based on.
Ahab nails a gold doubloon to the mast and declares that it will be the prize for the first man to sight the whale. As the Pequod sails toward the southern tip of Africa, whales are sighted and unsuccessfully hunted. During the hunt, a group of men, none of whom anyone on the ship’s crew has seen before on the voyage, emerges from the hold. The men’s leader is an exotic-looking man named Fedallah. These men constitute Ahab’s private harpoon crew, smuggled aboard in defiance of Bildad and Peleg. Ahab hopes that their skills and Fedallah’s prophetic abilities will help him in his hunt for Moby Dick.
No drive shaft tunnel or hump meant that this vintage of Eldorado had a flat floor.
The Pequod rounds Africa and enters the Indian Ocean. A few whales are successfully caught and processed for their oil. From time to time, the ship encounters other whaling vessels. Ahab always demands information about Moby Dick from their captains. One of the ships, the Jeroboam, carries Gabriel, a crazed prophet who predicts doom for anyone who threatens Moby Dick. His predictions seem to carry some weight, as those aboard his ship who have hunted the whale have met disaster. While trying to drain the oil from the head of a captured sperm whale, Tashtego, one of the Pequod’s harpooners, falls into the whale’s voluminous head, which then rips free of the ship and begins to sink. Queequeg saves Tashtego by diving into the ocean and cutting into the slowly sinking head.
The first Cadillac Eldorado made its debut in 1953.

During another whale hunt, Pip, the Pequod’s cabin boy, jumps from a whaleboat and is left behind in the middle of the ocean. He goes insane as the result of the experience and becomes a crazy but prophetic jester for the ship. Soon after, the Pequod meets the Samuel Enderby, a whaling ship whose skipper, Captain Boomer, has lost an arm in an encounter with Moby Dick. The two captains discuss the whale; Boomer, happy simply to have survived his encounter, cannot understand Ahab’s lust for vengeance. Not long after, Queequeg falls ill and has the ship’s carpenter make him a coffin in anticipation of his death. He recovers, however, and the coffin eventually becomes the Pequod’s replacement life buoy.
To this day, Cadillac styles their rear tail lamps with a proverbial tip of the hat to the tail fin.  
Ahab orders a harpoon forged in the expectation that he will soon encounter Moby Dick. He baptizes the harpoon with the blood of the Pequod’s three harpooners. The Pequod kills several more whales. Issuing a prophecy about Ahab’s death, Fedallah declares that Ahab will first see two hearses, the second of which will be made only from American wood, and that he will be killed by hemp rope. Ahab interprets these words to mean that he will not die at sea, where there are no hearses and no hangings. A typhoon hits the Pequod, illuminating it with electrical fire. Ahab takes this occurrence as a sign of imminent confrontation and success, but Starbuck, the ship’s first mate, takes it as a bad omen and considers killing Ahab to end the mad quest. After the storm ends, one of the sailors falls from the ship’s masthead and drowns—a grim foreshadowing of what lies ahead.
The Cadillac Eldorado shared it's front wheel drive mechanicals, dubbed, "Unitized Power Package" or "U.P.P", with the Oldsmobile Toronado. It was comprised of a longitudinally mounted engine with the transmission located behind the engine just like rear wheel drive cars. Torque output was diverted to the front using a transfer case. 
Ahab’s fervent desire to find and destroy Moby Dick continues to intensify, and the mad Pip is now
his constant companion. The Pequod approaches the equator, where Ahab expects to find the great whale. The ship encounters two more whaling ships, the Rachel and the Delight, both of which have recently had fatal encounters with the whale. Ahab finally sights Moby Dick. The harpoon boats are launched, and Moby Dick attacks Ahab’s harpoon boat, destroying it. The next day, Moby Dick is sighted again, and the boats are lowered once more. The whale is harpooned, but Moby Dick again attacks Ahab’s boat. Fedallah, trapped in the harpoon line, is dragged overboard to his death. Starbuck must maneuver the Pequod between Ahab and the angry whale.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Parenting - Getting "The Call"

Got the call yesterday afternoon that we knew was coming but never expected. Our oldest son had been in an accident. Thankfully, it was relatively minor.
He was driving his girlfriend home after the track meet at the high school and he reached into a zip lock bag of pretzels the two of them were sharing. Literally, in the blink of an eye, he took his eye off the road, missed a turned and plowed head on into a mailbox. The mailbox post snapped in two sending the mail box flying but not before it bent over onto the car denting the hood. The front bumper cover was deeply scratched and a fog lamp was broken too.
It could have been so much worse. Had the mailbox not have been securely attached to the post the mail box itself could've gone through the windshield if it had broken free of the post. The fact the mailbox ended up as far away from the car as it did tells me he was going faster than he claimed he was going. Perhaps, just maybe, his speed played in his favor this time. The physics of what happens in an accident being the difference between nothing really happening, serious injury or worse.
He was rock solid on the phone with me when he called to tell me about what had happened. He has this unique ability, that he certainly didn't get from me, where he's able to defer reaction or emotion; he didn't break down in front of his girlfriend. He was remarkably calm, cool and collected. No sooner, though, than the second he got home that he turned into a pile of goo. He was trembling and he told his mother and I that he was "scared" because he didn't know how the homeowner was going to react about the mailbox. What? Yes. He also left the scene without notifying the homeowner that he had blasted his mailbox to smithereens.
On the way back to the scene the poor kid was a mess. I haven't seen him this upset in a very long time, if ever. It's at moments like this we parents must move into triage mode and at the very least, not make things worse. Difficult to do seeing how we're emotionally charged at the moment as well. The last thing he needed to get at that moment was a brutal scolding seeing he was already tearing himself up over what had happened. What more was I going to do to make him feel bad about what had happened? My job was to make him feel better.
He needed to calm down and that's what I helped him do. He's 17 and has never had anything like this happen to him before. I told him that accidents happen to all of us, we all make mistakes and that he needed to suck it up and calm down, to stop overreacting. As much as he can defer emotion, he can overreact like the best of us when the emotions do finally erupt. He kept ruminating about what ifs and what nots and I told him to stop. If anything, it could've been so much worse. Now, don't get me wrong, I was not happy about what had happened. He was careless and made a mistake but what he hopefully takes away from this incident was that he was careless and made a mistake. Not that his father eviscerated him.
He was nervous about what he was going to say to the homeowner once we got back to the scene. I reassured him that even at his ripe old age of 17, there are still things that his father should and would do for him. I would speak to the homeowner and handle it. Fortunately for someone who had left the scene of an accident, literally a hit and run, the homeowner was not home. We put the broken mailbox post by the front door of the house with an apologetic note on it asking the homeowner to call me.
On the way back to our house he had calmed down and I had him laughing when I told him stories of antics that I had gotten myself into when I was his age. He made plans with his girlfriend to come over for dinner and a movie at our house. When it was all said and done, save for the damage to the car, you'd never know anything happened out of ordinary yesterday. As it should be.
Oh, and if you're wondering, yes. He's going to have to get a job to pay for the repairs.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Frieze Shutters - Back to the Drawing Board.

Congratulations to my beloved, pugnacious, over confident younger son who scored his driving permit last weekend. No sooner did he get his permit that he nearly killed himself and his mother whilst out "driving" in nothing less than my precious ride. Thankfully, nothing serious happened but his confidence was battered a bit when he found himself driving on the wrong side of the road with traffic bearing down on him and his mother. All this happening in less than two shakes of a lamb's tale.

Same kind of experience I had last weekend when, armed with a hefty birthday gift card from the mother in law, I finally bought a scroll saw. The only thing stopping me from making painfully exquisite wall art and furniture was my imagination. Oh, so I thought.
To review, I want to make Yankee Stadium Frieze Shutters for our man cave. The shutters, they're actually panels, themselves came out pretty good. I finally finished them to such a point that I could test them for fit and their light blocking effectiveness. They leak a little light but I think that an easy fix with a little Styrofoam or other dense material, perhaps cloth, that will blot out any light getting through. This photo actually makes them look less effective than they are. You have to have seen how much light blasts through these windows during the day to see how much darker, cozier and movie theater like the space is now with the shutters/panels in place. Save for some trimming on the one on the left and paint touch ups, these are good to go. Now, we fabricate the Frieze. To the Bat Poles. Yeah.
To start, I took the above image of the 1976 - 2008 Yankee Stadium Frieze and blew it up on my son's computer monitor. At 5 1/2 X 11, it would be of ample size although I would've liked it to be a tad larger. The stock I bought is roughly 5 1/2 X 11 so I was stuck with that size. Swimming in a sea of blue, it would look great. And it would, if I was confident I can do it. The scroll and its demons had somewhat different plants.
Making a template out of copy paper? Not a good idea. Even packing paper is a better material for a template than this stuff. It's way too flimsy. I guess my success with the Jets logo using packing paper as a template gave me a false sense of confidence that I could do this using just plain old paper. Fail.

Second problem was transferring the itty, bitty outline of the Frieze onto the stock. Even though it's just paper, packing paper, which, again, I used to make the Jets logo, is much heavier than regular paper and lends itself to stenciling much better.

I also plan on making the Frieze larger than 5 1/2 X 11. I learned quickly that it's way too small for a first time scroll sawer like myself. Scroller?  Once again, my ambition is greater than my ability. Back to the drawing board.