davidd (davidd) wrote,
davidd
davidd

Car-nage

Okay, so like, I was all “waxing nostalgic” yesterday while I was posting a bunch of pictures of cars I used to own on Flickr.com.

What a load of rubbish!

Okay, some… well, all, of the cars were cool in one way or another. Mostly by being HEARSES and stuff, not to mention having TAIL FINS!

ALL CARS should have TAIL FINS, by the way.

Would it be cool to still have most of ‘em? Sure it would. But here’s the reality of it: my PT Cruiser starts when I turn the key, stops when I step on the brakes, has comfortable (heated reclining leather bucket) seats, the windows roll up and down, the roof doesn’t leak, and it fits in normal-sized parking spaces. I can’t say the same for most of my previous vehicles.

Where shall I begin? It doesn’t matter. How about leaks? What kind of leaks do you want to know about, water leaks, exhaust leaks, oil leaks, transmission fluid leaks? By some stroke of luck I largely avoided leaky tires. Dunno how that happened.

Water leaks through creaky roofline seams and around rotting window gaskets are a pain. After my first attempt at patching holes rusted through the floorboards of the Oldsmobile – we were talking Fred Flintstone size holes in the floor, almost big enough to use your Doc Martens as friction brakes – I found out the next time it rained why the floor had rusted out. After a rain shower, the car had a built-in wading pool.

I replaced the window and door gaskets several times, and they never stayed put. I must have broken the windows half a dozen times by closing the door too hard; since they weren’t held in properly by the gaskets and channels, they’d rattle and break. Actually, I only broke the window once, then learned my lesson not to slam the door with the window rolled down. But, having lots of kinda dumb friends…. I eventually took the car to a glass shop to have the windows and the window tracks and the gaskets “professionally replaced.” Guess what? THE VERY NEXT TIME some bozo (not me) closed the door with the window rolled down… CRACK!

How ‘bout the time the rear axle fell out? The wheel bearing gave out and the axle just slipped right out of the rear housing. The tire caught on the inside of the fender and shredded pretty good, and nearly caught fire.

Even better was the time the driveline of the ’73 Cadillac ambulance shattered while heading up a mountain somewhere outside of Susanville, California. You DON’T want to hear a repair shop guy in some out of the way part of Nowheresville say to you, “whoa, I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

Then there was the night all the belts slipped off the pulleys on the Olds. Three times. Or the time, heading down I-5 from Portland when the fan pulley on the Pontiac shattered at freeway speed. Another one of those, “whoa, I’ve never seen anything like that before” moments.

The Pontiac also had an “eccentric” starter motor that occasionally, depending on how well one was dressed, required a tap… okay, a WHACK… with a hammer to get it un-stuck, which of course necessitated crawling completely underneath the car.

Let’s see, as I recall, the transmission completely failed on the ’61 Cadillac as I was headed to work one day. One moment I’m cruising along, next moment I’m coasting, with no connection between engine and drive train. The transmission on the Pontiac failed as well, and that on the ’73 Cadillac was fading fast when I sold it.

The clutch went out on the VW. I drove it around for about two weeks with no clutch, until I could afford the parts. Special order parts, of course, because it was an early 1961 model as opposed to a late 1961 model. I got pretty good at synchronized shifting. I don’t remember what I did to get it started from a full stop. The gearbox was so sloppy you didn’t really need the clutch anyway, and it was necessary to hold the stick into the fourth gear to keep it there. Amother memorable VW experience was cresting the pass through the Coast Range with the interior of the car filling up with smoke through the heater vents. If only it had generated heat like that in the winter time!

I suppose there’s something to be said for all the mechanical experience I picked up along the way, since I’ve never considered myself particularly mechanically inclined. Turns out I’m better at that kind of stuff than most people who profess their professionalism. Well, okay, better than many back yard mechanics, anyway.

I’ve replaced clutches, transmissions, torque converters, ball joints (you don’t wanna have to do that), more starter motors than I can count, more alternators and generators than I want to count, too many batteries, too many light bulbs, way too many wheel bearings… I so hate replacing wheel bearings… brake shoes and brake cylinders… I hate brake cylinders and master cylinders more than I hate wheel bearings.

And the really, really awful thing is… my fab funeral fleet fell far short of what one might expect in terms of “babe magnetism.” Alas, my days of spectrally styled conveyance fell just before the explosive popularity of the “goth” look, with its oh-so-delightful subset, Elegant Gothic Lolita!

How those dark-eyed, dark-tressed, dark-dressed beauties might swoon if… ah, I can only wistfully fantasize, were the Oldsmobile still my primary mode of transportation. But back when I had those fine cars, pre-EGL, pre-cosplay (have you ever walked into a restaurant dressed like a Ghostbuster? The pizza parlor was cool with it, but other places…), well, it was just considered kinda weird. Too weird to be, you know, cool.

Did I mention water pumps? I think I replaced the water pump on every car I owned. Except the VW, ‘cuz it didn’t have a water pump.

Do I really miss having all those old cars? Yeah, once in a while I miss aspects of it. But if I seriously think about it, I have to remember that I really don’t like working on cars. Some people do. I don’t. I’m pretty good at it, as it turns out, by necessity rather than choice.

I couldn’t work on a newer car, however. Pretty much anything past the mid-1970’s starts getting into electronic components, and the pieces are wedged in so tight it requires major disassembly to perform a comparatively minor repair. If I were to have a “hobby car" again, it’d have to be pre-1970.

But I don’t think I really want another old car. Last summer I ran into a guy in Haleiwa driving a lovely 1962 Cadillac-Eureka window-style funeral coach. Well, lovely enough, but starting to show its age. We ended up talking hearses and stuff – “Hey, nice, a Eureka, must be a ’62.” “Yeah, it is. You have an eye for these things, huh?” “Ah, I used to have a ’61 Superior…. blah blah blah” – and even though our conversation veered into the “I-can’t-really-afford-it-but-I-don’t-really-wanna-give-it-up” territory, I did NOT ask him if he’d actually consider selling it, nor did I request a phone number or email address or even a name. Such a test of will power.

Whenever I see the ’59 Cadillac displayed in the Honolulu Hard Rock Café I sooooo miss my old cars. Briefly. Then I order some nachos and a chocolate malt, and I think about the time the radiator gave out heading up from Klamath Falls (toward Chiloquin, as it should happen) and I feel better.
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