Tuesday, April 28, 2015

1983 Oldsmobile 98 coupe - I Don't Know Why I Love You (But I Do)

A slate grey, 32 year old, two ton, 148 horsepower Oldsmobile. Sigh. As The Frogman used to sing, I don't know why I love you but I do.
Love is a many splendor thing and its especially true with a rolling bomb like this thing. This car does everything wrong. Too big, too slow, too thirsty, too soft. What's not to love? Gee whiz, it's even a tough to get in and out of coupe; as much as I love the rakish windshield and the lines of those huge doors, from a practical stand point, I have to wonder how many hips got broken tripping over the front shoulder belts getting in and out of these.
They're not even comfortable. These cloth interiors look nice and their fabric gribby but that gribbiness acts more like adhesive tape to your Levi's; you get stuck in the first position your ass hits and you it always feels as though grand dad's toupee is stuck under you.
This is a 98 so it has power seat to help push you north so you can see over that very tall dashboard. As the springs go south as these get older, you need that boost. Drive the very similar 88 of this vintage or even a 98 without the power seat and you'll feel as though you're always reaching up to the steering wheel and struggling to see the hood ornament at the end of a very long hood.
Old even when new, the 1983 Oldsmobile 98 was more like a throwback car to a decade or more prior when a big Oldsmobile meant you had made it but you didn't want to be too flashy with your status symbol. Didn't matter much; by '83, "Yuppies" were already making their presence felt by opting for even more expensive BMWs and Mercedes Benz'. The only people driving these underpowered land yachts were return customers or big, old fart car loving fans like me.
I perhaps see it for what it could or should be. There's nothing about this car a LT-1 or LS-1 swap couldn't cure. That would also mean the transmission, drive shaft and differential would have to be replaced as well and that gets very expensive. Do it right, and that will run you a cool 10 grand. She's for sale in scenic Geneva, Ohio for $5,500. This could get expensive. Quickly.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Donkey In The Well

When I think about how difficult my childhood was I temper those feelings of anger and resentment with the belief that my experiences when I was younger helped make me who I am today. Seeing how my life turned out so far I wouldn't have it any other way either. My childhood not unlike the story of the "Donkey In The Well".

One day a farmer’s donkey fell down into a well. He cried for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do.

Finally, the farmer decided that since the donkey was old and the well needed to be covered up anyway it just wasn’t worth it to retrieve him. He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him seal it up. With the donkey at the bottom of the well.

They all grabbed shovels and began to dump dirt into the well. At first, the donkey didn’t realized what was happening & cried horribly. Then, to everyone’s amazement he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw.

With each shovel ­of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off & take a step up. As the farmer’s neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of him he would shake it off and step up.

Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

1999 Chevrolet Malibu - I Really Don't Care

To me, success in life is measured on how free you are to live the life you want to lead. I'm happy to say I've been quite successful.

For example, I want to drive my Monte Carlo (background) were I felt I had to drive that Malibu.

In the summer of 1999, the lease was coming up on the too good to be true, $250 a month 1996 Nissan Maxima we had. Our options in that $250 a month lease universe were very limited, actually, they boiled down to next to nothing; next to nothing being a Chevrolet Malibu. Driving the Malibu after three blissful years with that Maxima was a recipe for clinical depression. Perhaps that was the biggest problem; by comparison the Malibu was horrible but it was all about what it was compared to. Compared to a 1980 Malibu our '99 was a Mercedes W124. Moving down being one of several downsides to leasing.

However, against the far superior 1996 Maxima, our Malibu might as well have been a Model T. And an early version of the Model T at that.

Seeing this sad little car in the parking lot of my office, it makes me wonder what ever happened to our Malibu we ditched early to get into a car we really wanted, a 2002 Ford Taurus. I know. Sounds ridiculous but that Taurus was a BMW compared to the Malibu. It would be interesting to be able to type the VIN number of a car you used to have into a search engine and be able to tell whatever happened to them.
Then, like leafing through my high school year book waxing nostalgic about "the old days" and  wondering whatever happened to what's their name, I realize that I ultimately don't care.


Monday, April 13, 2015

The Master Cylinder - I Know It Was You, Fredo

One of the great things about Godfather II, which I've always believed to be the superior of the first two Godfather films, is that there's so much room for interpretation. For instance, I  believe that Michael Corleone had to have had a feeling all along that it was Fredo who tried to have him killed. When he confirmed it, it made for one of the most memorable scenes in one of the most memorable movies of the 1970's if not of all time.
Back in November when the rear brakes failed on our 1977 Corvette, I had a feeling it was the master cylinder that had gone bad. I filled up the empty rear reservoir but it quickly bled out  because of a cracked brake line. Although I remained skeptical of the master cylinder's viability given the amount of fozzilized brake fluid around the booster, with the rear cross over line cracked and the rear lines in general being in atrocious shape, I put thoughts of a bad master cylinder in the back of my mind. Way. Back.
After literally months of work to replace every rear brake part on our car, with the exception of the left rear caliper, I am proud to say that the brakes work beautifully. Best is I saved thousands of dollars doing the work myself.
My only issue now is that after a drive, there's a large glob of fresh brake fluid on the ground under the car right below were the proportioning valve is along with my freshly installed front to rear brake line. Thing is, the proportioning valve and new line is not leaking but the master cylinder is down a little after every drive. This picture, for illustrative purposes, is of the proportioning valve with the old front to rear brake line still attached.
Frustrated and heartbroken at the same time, late this past Sunday afternoon I laid down under our car for a good half hour or so attempting to track were that brake fluid was coming from.  
You'd be surprised how difficult a process that is but sure as sh!t, there it was. A small, almost innocuous drip coming down from the steering column which is directly underneath the, yes, you guessed, leaking master cylinder.
I know it was you, master cylinder. You broke my heart.

Friday, April 10, 2015

1941 Buick Roadmaster - The Good Old Days Weren't Always Good

My late father had a 1941 Roadmaster before he married my mother but I don't recall if he said it was a two or four door; I never saw a picture of it. Indulge me as I make believe it was a two door and a fixed roof two door like this delightful '41. These handsome cars always looking better than their rag top brethren.
After he returned from the war he lived in a small apartment on Manhattan's lower east side near what was at the time a coal fired Con Ed powerpant.  He used mass transit to get to and from work in midtown and while he had little use for a car he had one anyway; my father was always one to appear more well off than he actually was and a G.I. with a car was seen as somewhat successful and well off. He ruined the finish on it by sweeping the dust from the power plant's smoke stacks off it each time he went to use it. The fine shards in the dust being a most destructive abrasive. With the finish gone, surface rust ran rampant and that was the end of "The Roadmaster". One can only imagine the damage done to the lungs of people living in the area of the plant. My father suffered from emphysema in his later years but he always blamed his smoking for bringing that on. Still, you have to wonder.
He said it was just as well the Roadmaster rusted out. It's inline eight was in need of a pricey "valve and ring job" despite the car having less than 50,000 on it. These days, as a result of better metal alloys for engine parts and vastly improved motor oils, "valve and ring jobs", which are, in essence an engine rebuild, are almost unheard of.
My father complained about how thin the sheet metal was for the fenders and doors on his Roadmaster. Just leaning up against a door or sitting on a fender could not only scratch the finish, it could leave a dent.
The car was a difficult car to drive because it had lacked power steering and brakes and had a clumsy, column mounted three speed manual transmission. Can you blame him for taking the subway to work?
Before the advent of power steering, brakes, air conditioning and automatic transmissions, driving certainly seemed like an exhausting chore. Despite the gorgeous sheet metal and handsome interior, my father's Roadmaster is just another example of the good old days not being as good as we remembered. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Little Red Corvette Brake Project - Thank God Almighty, Finished At Last!

Four. Months. That's how long it took me to replace every rear brake part, with the exception of the left rear caliper, on Rockn77.

The fun began late last summer when I noticed this Rorschach test on my driveway. That' power steering fluid that, luckily, washes off concrete.
I had originally planned to not store Rockn77 this past winter and instead use the funds that I would use on storage to replace this busted up dashboard pad. It's a big job that would require me to disassemble the entire lower dash board. The leaking power steering cylinder would take precedence, of course but I figured that as soon as I got that done I'd dive into the dash board project. While I had everything apart I also planned on redoing the tachometer, speedometer, dash lights and stereo.
You make plans the Corvette laughs. Last Thanksgiving weekend, I backed her out of the garage and when the posi-traction rear end hit an ice patch, with the front still in the dry garage, I noticed that the rear tires were still spinning despite all the pressure I could muster on the brake pedal. Rockn77 had no rear brakes!
At first I thought it was a bad master cylinder but the problem was much worse; it was a cracked brake line. This line right there, what's called the "cross over line" that carries brake fluid from the left side of the car over to the right side, was cracked. You can't see the crack in this picture but there's a sizable crack in the line right by that plug.

The removal and replacement of the cross over line was fairly straight forward. Biggest problem was getting the old line off the brass block right there. Corvettes are what are called "catalog cars"; you can get literally anything you need from after market parts distributors and that helps out greatly. I also sprung for new hoses and new trailing arm lines.  
I didn't count on having to replace the right rear caliper. I broke the insider bleeder off of this when I attempted to bleed the system the first time I thought I was near completion of the project. Getting this blob of iron off took two weekends of prying, plodding, screaming, yelling and praying. Eventually I got it off.
The biggest hassle was when I broke the front to rear brake line. This necessitated my removal of entire brake line from the proportioning valve back here to the left rear of the car.
This was an incredibly difficult process start to finish that took me the better part of three weekends to complete. There were many times during this process that I honestly believed I was not going to get it done. The thought of towing Rockn77 to a shop to finish the project made me nauseas. I soldiered on.

I have to hand it to myself and my perseverance for I certainly did get it done. Now, while at this point the front to rear line leaks a bit at the proportioning valve, I'm confident all it needs is more torque on it. Hopefully.
After that's done it's off to the power steering cylinder and then I'm done for the season. With strong brakes and a solid power steering rack, Mrs. C and I plan on taking some nice long drives this summer in Rockn77. Thank God Almighty, Finished At Last!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

2016 Lincoln Continental

The "Lincoln Motor Company", a division of Ford, unveiled their new Continental sedan this week at the New York Auto Show.  
If you believe the hype, you could say that the Lincoln Continental was once one the great pillars of American luxury cars.
I've always thought there a certain elan to the name, Lincoln Continental but found the cars to be less than deserving of such a fantastic name. Even the original 1940 model, the one that Frank Lloyd Wright called "the most beautiful car of all time", was all style over substance.
If there was one Continental perhaps deserving of the accolades that Lincoln Continentals of the past are getting right now it would be the splendid 1956-1957 Continental Mark II's. However, to be historically correct, these cars were not marketed as Lincolns but rather as "Continentals"; Continental for those two brief model years being a separate division from Lincoln. Ford dropped the Continental division following the 1957 model year but the Continental name lived on. 
Living to die another day being festooned to land yachts like this 1958 monster from the green lagoon. This is actually a 1958 Lincoln Capri and while it the entry level Lincoln of its vintage, it's all but indistinguishable curbside from the more prestigious Lincoln Premiere and top drawer Lincoln Continental of 1958-1960 fame.

The 1961-1969 "Kennendy Death Car" Continentals are perhaps the most famous all the Continentals for several reasons; the least of which being that JFK lost his life in this actual Continental. It's on morbid display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

After it was repaired and a permanent steel and bullet proof top was added in 1964, it was used through the Carter administration. Bet your suicide doors there were some rather unusual conversations in this car after November 22, 1963.  
It's been argued that Lincoln has perpetually chased Cadillac styling wise, save for the '61-'69's and this 1970 Continental is evidence of that. The lack of unqiue styling details made this Continental much less distinctive if not even more Cadillac than ever before. Ironies of ironies, it happens to be my favorite Continental. That's because I find them to be a different take on a Cadillacs more than anything else. I also like Imperials of this vintage as well. Buicks, Olds and Chevies too. I like big cars and I can not lie. So there.

So, what to make of this car? Well, the monochromatic blue-over-blue Continental Concept show car is said to look killer in person. To me it looks like an Dearbornized version of an Audi A8.

The front bucket seats are 30 way adjustable and the front passenger seat slides up into a chauffeur position to accommodate the reclining rear passenger seat.
The seat covers are leather and Alacantara (whatever that is), the headliner is satin and the carpeting is of wool. There's a swiveling iPad holder that pops out of a rear console and there's a champagne chiller on board as well.   

For the money, this car is estimated to sticker at or near $100,000, the 2016 Lincoln Continental is going to be in is some very rarified company. Until I read otherwise, I have to have no doubt that this car will perform at the levels of other $100,000 automobiles. However, if you had the means to afford an automobile this expenisive, would you really buy a Lincoln no matter how fantastic a car it is?