Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Corvette Emblem Is Finished

It's done and I'm disappointed in the way it came out. I appreciate you thinking differently, if indeed you are and I run the risk of sounding falsely modest when I say I thought it was going to come out better. Instead of looking authentic, like something General Motors would sell, it looks like what it is. A well intentioned but ultimately half baked facsimile.
It's not for a lack of trying either. Actually, I may have tried too hard. Here's the actual emblem I projected onto my office's projector screen. My tracing was not what it should have; that process lends itself to a lot of work after the fact. With an image as "flowing" as this emblem, I had to make some tough choices; go with the flow or make something that was, honestly, easier for me to make.
In the end, my emblem is closer to what the emblem looks like on the 1977-1979 C3 steering wheel as opposed to the emblems on the nose or gas door.

Not sure I'm going to be doing any crafts for a while now, sadly. I have to turn my attention to our slowly collapsing deck and ongoing problems with my car's anti lock brake and traction control systems.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Aston Martin Rapide - If James Bond Was A Family Man

It's not everyday this two door loving man finds a four door sedan that grabs his attention. Yesterday was one of those days and this 2012 Aston Martin Rapide, pronounced "Rah-peed" was one of those cars. I found it not in a lot of exotic, high performance cars in Southern California but, oddly enough, in the parking lot of a Giant Eagle supermarket near my home on Cleveland's "West Side". That "2012" sticker on the upper right of the windshield, or "wind screen", as they call them on that side of the pond, a tell tale that this silver bullet is for sale. A brief local check on confirmed that notion.
That search informed me this car is for sale with an asking price of just under $144,000. That means it's depreciated nearly $80,000 in just two years. With a drop like that, this car should be called a "Rapide Depreciation". I sure hope it was leased; anyone who purchases a car costing this much that depreciates like that has me wondering how they got themselves in the position to purchase a car costing this much in the first place. If you've ever wondered how those who've made millions suddenly go bankrupt, here's an example of how and why. Lottery winners, professional athletes and shopping carts, beware. 
With my Sunday donuts and bagels in hand, I was first taken back by that I couldn't tell what this thing was. Was it one of those new high end electric cars like a Fisker? Tasker? Tesla? Electrolux? Sorry, I'm not up on those cars. I'm clueless on hybrids or "eco-assists" too. Gee whiz, imagine spending the better part of a quarter of a million dollars on a car and then no one knows what you have. You wouldn't be the first person to think that the front end of this car looks like the front end of a Ford Fusion.
I love this picture because of juxtaposition. See that little red Camaro in the background? That's my beloved, "Old '96er". Up against the Rapide, it illustrates frugal yet fun purchasing vs. whatever you would call the purchase or lease of a Rapide. I guess if you have the money why not. But spending that much on this thing? What is a Rapide anyway? Well, a Rapide is a high performance "sports saloon" made by British luxury marque, Aston Martin. Introduced in 2010, the Rapide is powered by a 550 horsepower, 6 liter, 48 valve, double overhead cam V-12. 0-60 takes just 4.7 seconds. Pretty quick. However, there are faster cars out there for much, much less money. 
Those cars also aren't Aston Martins.
This car is chock full of little design elements that are really interesting. Take the door handles for instance. I guess this handle pops out when the driver gets near it with the key fob in tow or hits a button? What happens if the battery goes dead? I didn't touch it knowing that the person driving it (extended test drive, perhaps) could come out of the Giant Eagle and hit me with their English Muffins if they saw me tinkering with it.
This aircraft inspired interior is also out of this world. Isn't it funny how car design emulates aircraft? When was the last time you saw the cockpit of an airplane and it reminded you of a car? Hint: never.
I can only imagine how these beautiful discs and calipers stop this porky, 4400 pound dream machine. Hint: very well.

I wish I was a James Bond fan so I could drop in clever isms from the movies while describing this car. After all, Mr. Shaken, Not Stirred is a Aston Martin fan although not of the four door variety. If he had a family, then maybe he'd drive this.

The bottom line is this car will shake and stir your bank account and have you reaching for a Martini or two (or ten) when you come down off the high that comes from reckless spending. This is just a car after all albeit, a gorgeous one. One that I wouldn't mind tooling around in for an afternoon or two then return the keys or key fob. I'd return with a full tank of gas from Giant Eagle too because that's just the kind of guy I am.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

1975 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Convertible - Family Sized

The very notion of a family sized convertible always seemed contrived to me. Afterall, convertibles are vehicles of passion, fashion statements if you will. Combining said passion and fashion with family in one package may have seemed like genius on paper but in reality, it was akin to a sporty, high performance mini van, or classy diner. One or the other design ethos is going to over power the other. Sorry, you can't have it all.

There's something special about a convertible. Most romantic automobiles over the years have been convertibles and these 1971-1975 GM "B body" convertibles where no exception. No exception either to the rule that like most if not nearly all convertibles, the romantic notion of one far exceeding what they were like in reality.

The GM "B" body convertible isn't easy to like but it is hard not to love. For starters, it's not a very good convertible. The wind gusting up and over that huge hood and windshield creating an F5  vortex that sucks anything and everything out of the car that isn't properly lashed down. That's why most of the time when you'd see one of these the top would be up. Even with the top up, these jiggly tin cans, sans a major part of their body structure, left much to be desired. Hard top and fixed roof versions of these cars get derided too for their loose structure. So if you start with something shakey, imagine it without a roof. My driving impression of these cars has always been, "was this thing in an accident at some point?"
The added structuring and buttressing in an attempt to make up for the lack of a roof also added significant weight to the car. Weight that the little Chevrolet 350 2 barrel, making all of 145 horsepower for 1975, had to yank around. Acceleration was "deliberate". Fuel economy, never good in the lightest versions of these cars, was, not surprisingly, atrocious.   

This car does handle surprisingly well given its size. Certainly not sporty but in a straight line on smooth roads the experience from here was pleasant. The brakes were excellent considering the times and rear drums as well. However, when it got twisty or when roads got full of pot and chuck holes, things got decidedly worse.

Then again, these cars were not performance cars. They were all about leisurely grand touring. Leisurely grand touring the whole family could enjoy. Really? Sorry, but I can't imagine too many families dropping the top on their family sized convertible that often. Once in a blue moon? Perhaps but families like their privacy and junior's Etch-A-Sketch becoming air borne with the top down would get old. Fast. Top up and this car is a noisey, jiggling mess would have Mom and Dad scratching their collective heads as to why they're paying a premium for the car in the first place.

GM stopped production of the B body convertible after 1975 claiming safety concerns. Not to mention weak sales. With the advent of ventilation systems and air conditioning, convertibles became all but unnecessary except to those who just had to have one. These cars made better weekend and Sunday drivers than they ever did as daily drivers. One of the reasons that prices for pristine examples, like this one, command the prices they do today. This triple white beauty sold at auction for just under $21,000. Figure considerably more for a retail transaction. Rarely loved for what they were when new, these big "family sized" convertibles have found new life today.

Drop the top, let's go. Oh, and don't forget the gas card. We'll need that.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Corvette Emblem Update

Sometimes I get so into a project that I actually forget to catalog what I'm doing for this blog. It's not like I do projects to blog about, mind you. There should be more documentation here but I feel sometimes that I will jinx myself and ruin the project by taking too many pictures.

This project has gone reasonably well although I see only problems with this so far and not, ultimately, how nice it is. Should I have worked harder to make the flags wave? Should I have done more research on blades to get ones that don't flex as much? Again, I'm not a carpenter and a "half empty" kind of person when it comes to my handy work. I'm sure, once it's done, it will be spectacular. I'm off to a good start.
Once more, I find the actual planning of these projects to be a lot more fun than actually doing them. The tedium of the cutting, in particular, I find quite boring. When I'm bored I make mistakes. When I make mistakes I get frustrated and projects either don't get completed or end up being started over. No such bad luck this time. This project is small enough where I can see it's end almost from the moment I started.

After I transferred the image to the board and spent a couple of hours reworking the image to something that I knew I could cut out, I drilled pilot holes where the checkers for the flag will be. I then began the fairly painstaking (boring) process of cutting out the 15 checkers with my trusty, $29 hand held jig saw.  
My 15 year was most impressed with the checkered flag cut out. "How did you DO that?" he asked emphatically. He didn't take me up on my offer to join me out in the garage for instruction. That's our Corvette, the inspiration for this whole thing standing majestically in the background of this shot giving it's oily nod of approval of my work to this point.
My previous projects where cut from 3/4 inch plywood. This is cut from white pine boards that are soft, cut easy and what's more, my jig saw blade, the very narrow, slim kind, moves around very easily in. I can't imagine doing this kind of jig saw carving using a harder wood. Still, I'm a little frustrated with the flex of my jigsaw blade. I can't have it both ways it seems; a blade that I can move around like a razor blade inside the wood while giving me smooth, straight cuts. This project is way to big for the scroll saw.
My original plan was to cut the top and bottom of the emblem at the same time. Of course, when I cut out the top, I forgot to reattach the bottom board so I ended up cutting them separately. The advantage to cutting them together was that the top and bottom would have the same cuts. Not so sure the blade would have flexed the way that I would've wanted nor do I think it was long enough. In any event, I did an outline of the top onto the bottom board. It's 90 percent there. Some additional shaving and sanding and it will be pretty good to go.
My wife went through my phone and came across these pictures and she was quite impressed with my handy work. Can't say that I'm not as well. I love that I've found a new hobby at this point in my life. A hobby that's fun, leaves me with something tangible and is quite cheap. Unlike golf or the inspiration for this particular project, our 1977 Corvette.
Much to be done. I plan on painting this upper part all chrome. Hopefully I can find a glossy rattle can silver or chrome. This way it will look like metal when it's all done. The back will have to be hand painted; the checkered flag of course being a bit tedious to do but doable. The Chevrolet logo and fleur de lei, that go on the left, will be cut with my scroll saw.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

1967 Plymouth Barracuda - Farrah Fawcett and Joe Namath

One thing I can tell you for certain is that the things we held near and dear when we were young remain near and dear to us as we get older. For me, that would mean that Joe Namath can do no wrong, Farrah Fawcett is the most beautiful woman the world has ever known and the 1967 Plymouth Barracuda is  the coolest car ever.
I was bitten by a Barracuda when I was 8 or 9. My parents had a friend who had one of these stripped out rumbling beauties. It was the rare car that lived up to its impossibly cool name. And then some.
Did Ford crib Chrysler or the other way around? The 1967 Mustang looks a lot like the 1967 Barracuda. I'll give the nod to Chrysler for the design and call Ford a bunch of copy cats. After all, Plymouth, a long since defunct division of Chrysler, had come out with the original Barracuda before Ford introduced the Mustang back in 1964. Albeit it was only by two weeks but for those keeping score at home, Plymouth was first. Ford, being so much bigger than little Chrysler, had the marketing wherewithal that Chrysler never had to pull off one of the greatest marketing success stories in advertising history. Contemporary comparisons between the Mustang and Barracuda gave the nod to the Barracuda as the superior "sporty" car. Wouldn't be the first time that the better team didn't win the championship.  
It's been said that Chrysler didn't know what to do with Barracuda when it came out in 1964. With it's fold down flat rear seat, was it a utility car that was sporty or sporty car that could be used as a hauler? Did Ford really know what they were doing with the Mustang? Winning cures all ills and doesn't force hard questions to be asked. Lose and everything is wrong. Poor little Barracuda didn't have a chance.
The Barracuda started life in 1964 as little more than a trim package for the Valiant. Unlike the Mustang that while used Falcon running gear with a unique body. Updated for 1967, the Barracuda still shared much of his running gear and structure with the Valiant but it had a unique body. What a body that was too. Something a little nipper raised in the wilderness of the concrete and asphalt jungle of Nassau County still dreams of to this day. While I'm a bit more partial to the notchback models, these fastbacks fit the bill quite nicely too.


My parents doctor friend had work done to it at the legendary Baldwin Motion. Big cam? Carb? Headers? I just remember it being very loud. Obnoxious. Thrilling but at the same time a little over the top. My mother never went near it. Who knows what this thing really has aside from that being a 273. That's a big intake so I have to imagine this thing has some poke despite being backed by a torque flite. 1967 was the last year for that 273, 1968 bringing the much larger 318 as the V-8 upgrade from the standard slant six. Incidentally, 1967 was also the first year that a big block was offered on the Barracuda. The 383 was available on a limited number of "Formula S" models. Those cars, while significantly pokier than little 273 powered 'Cudas, could not have power steering because the pump and plumbing couldn't fit in the engine room.

Funny that after all these years this car still turns my head the way that it does. Also funny that after all these years I've never thought of even trying to find one for purchase. Ones in pristine condition, like this one, far north of my budget and I've grown tired of purchasing junkie old cars in my "price range". Perhaps its best that I don't ever get one instead holding onto the dream of what it must be like to have one. Much like what it would be like to even know Farrah Fawcett or hang with Joe Namath.


Monday, May 12, 2014

C3 Corvette Emblem Project

My next wood working project for the man cave will be a woodified version of our 1977 Corvette's emblem. No small feat, I might add, given my primitive abilities and humble, albeit much improved of late, collection of wood working tools.

It all starts with a template. Just like I had done with my Jets logo project, I projected an image of a "C3" Corvette logo onto packing paper I had attached to the conference room movie screen at the office. A steady hand while tracing the image gave me a good working outline.

Two hours of straightening, redrawing and general massaging of the image resulted in my deciding that this project should become a reasonable facsimile of a C3 logo as opposed to the actual logo. Again, my wood working skills are modest at best and while I appreciate you thinking better of my work than I do, I know there's only so much I can do. I know what I can and most importantly what I can't do. I promptly straightened out any soft curves from the template to make this "easier" on myself.

I cut my stock to size, twice, for the upper part of the emblem and the lower or back of it. My C3 Corvette emblem "facsimile" will at the very least have terrific three dimension. Then I cut the much refined template out of the packing paper and transferred it to the top board.

I will screw the boards together so that when I cut this with my jig saw the top and bottom of the logo will be the same. The tough part will be transferring the checkered flag to the top board and then cutting the fifteen, count 'em, fifteen boxes for the checkered flag. I will cut the flag out with my jig saw first before I cut the actual logos out. This will give me more of a base to work from and will minimize flex in blade. I plan to all or most of the cutting this coming weekend. No sense in rushing things.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Kids Today Don't Care About Cars

Rob Sass of Haggerty Insurance, a leading insurer of antique and collectible automobiles, was interviewed in a recent issue of Car and Driver about the current state of the collector car "hobby".  He mentioned that it was strong and particularly strong in regards to certain European makes and models but he cautioned that if current trends continue, the collector car hobby and marketplace could be in trouble.

That current trend is that the generations after the generation that "founded" the collector car hobby, "The Baby Boomers", the so called "Generations X and Y", have significantly less interest in cars than Boomers. What's worse, the generation after Generation Y, now known as "Millennials", a generation that is, apparently, almost as large as the Boomers, has almost no interest in cars above and beyond the practical application of driving. Even that is questionable because when you're wired in as much as these kids are, why would you need to actually go anywhere? This means that as Boomers get older there's going to be no one interested in their cars. No interest will drive the values of their cars down. Not that real car people buy cars as investments in the first place but it is nice to know that you're not literally endlessly burning cash with your hobby.

With regards to the Millenials, the reasons for their ambivalence are varied but the biggest single reason is, again, how "wired in" they are. For instance our 17 and 15 year old need just pick up their phones and text their friends, either individually or in the dreadful "group chat" and they are as much if not more engaged with their friends than as if they were together. They have little need for transportation other than to get to and from school and hopefully, sooner than later, to part time jobs and back home.

Our 17 year old says he's "into cars" but I know him well enough to know that if it wasn't for his father's interest in automobiles, he wouldn't be able to tell a Camaro from an Accord. I asked him if any of his friends are into cars and he told me, flatly, "no".

I got a great deal on an old Camaro last fall and while our 17 year old thinks its cool, he's told me that he prefers our Chevy Tahoe. He likes the room, comfort, size, power and driving position of the Tahoe over the Camaro. Hrmph. Apples to grapefruit vehicle wise but his point was interesting; he'd forgo the stylish, sporty Camaro for the comfort and practicality of the Tahoe.

Cars and trucks today are more fabulous than ever and you don't need the new Corvette to have a vehicle that can perform at extremely high levels. Even the most plebian of today's mini vans has enough power and handling prowess to do respectable quarter mile times and zip through the slalom with aplomb. What's more, there's no sacrifice or compromise with today's cars. Even with my Old '96er (Camaro) there's sacrifice. Hard to get into, cramped interior, fairly punishing ride, clumsy driving position. It's a car you really gotta love because it does its darndest to make you hate it.

The general greatness of today's cars underscores another problem. Cars are so good today and reliable too, that they've become little more than soulless appliances. Like a good dishwasher or stove, it does what it's designed to do very well but leaves you with little to no emotional foot print. Because they're so good they've, metaphorically, ceased to exist.

Friday, May 2, 2014

New York Yankees Man Cave Shutters - Finally Done!

I've come to realize that my wood working skills, much like marriage, is a never ending series of compromises. Either compromises or rationalizations. Which ever floats my personal boat at the time I complete a project. For certain, I don't like to admit that I couldn't do something that I originally thought I could but in the interest of actually finishing this project, that had as much practical application as decorative, I moved on from my original design to something else the moment that I realized that I had bitten off way more than I could possibly chew. Or in this case, cut with my newly purchased scroll saw.
To review, the issue with our man cave was these glass block windows. They let in a ton of light during the day and that means a simulated cinematic experience in my man cave is not all that it could be. 
Those windows face north so I can only imagine what it would be like if they faced east or west. In any event, the solution, was shutters or some sort of sun blocking barrier. The boys had been using pillows to block out the sun; effective but it looked horrible. Something had to be done.  

Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you, "The Scroll Saw". Quite possibly the most fiendishly addictive tool ever created. I say "fiendishly" because at first you think you're going to become a woodworking zenmaster and work with it 24/7/365 because it's so easy and fun. Yeah. And then reality hits and you find yourself wanting to throw it across the garage. Good thing it's fairly heavy.
My plan was to make life like, miniature wooden  facsimiles of the 1976 Yankee Stadium Frieze and attach them to the shutters. Actually, my original, original plans called for the both shutters to be like the Frieze but I though better of that plan. Suffice to say, I quickly realized how difficult "The Scroll Saw" is to work with. Those that have mastered it are true masters. This ain't easy, y'all.
I broke my first blade cutting the emblem on the right. Freaked me out. I thought a gun went off. Man, that was loud. After consulting with my scroll saw rabbi, I got back on the horse and got back at it. Several attempts later I got to the emblem on the left. Photos don't do it justice just how much better the one on the left looks compared to the one on the right.  
The Yanks old fashioned good start to the 2014 season makes this even nicer. I plan on adding some fill material to the back and top of the shutters to completely darken the Cave. I'm pretty happy with the way they came out.  
My next Scoll Saw project will be a Texas Longhorns logo. Stay tuned!