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car servicing rant.

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  • #16

    Back in the day, so to speak, I used to be quite interested in "sports cars", just couldn't justify it on my low income, and instead I bought a 65' VW, which was my first new car when I was 19. I did have several friends who had a lot more free money and had a variety of cars, everything from Volvo P1800s, Alpines, AC Bristol Ace (of which the Ford Cobra was derived, Sprites, Midgets, Austin Healey's, Triumph TR2's and 3's, and even a Griffith, if you remember those. Soon after I moved to Painted Post in 1973, I took note of one of my neighbors garages where they had a small car under a blanket. They most always kept the door closed and locked but one day Annie was out there and the door was open. I asked her about the car and low and behold it was a "Tiger". It had belonged to her son, who bought it years before just before he went off to Vietnam. He never got to drive it again and it sat in there since the late 60's. She never wanted to sell it and finally when her daughter married, her new husband got it and towed it away. I never saw it after that.

    Painted Post was sort of an interesting place when it came to cars. Watkins Glen is a bit north of there and seems like many in the village had an interest in cars of all types. One guys in the in the neighborhood had been a POW in Vietnam and when he came home he took much of his back pay he bought himself a Ferrari which he would drive around the area on occasions and show it off in the annual Colonial Days parade.

    Out on a walk one afternoon we met Ms. Potter, a very nice elderly lady who lived alone. I stopped to tell her how much I admired her 1962 Plymoth Belvadere (sp?) wagon. Not so much that it was anything terrific from an enthusiast point of view, but the darn thing looked like it just came out of the showroom. She told us that she did all of her own maintenance and most of the mechanical work on it herself. Then she asked if I'd like to see "her baby". We walked back to the garage and there under a blanket was spit & polished Model T coupe. She said she bought it brand new when she graduated high school and that no mechanic, except herself had ever touched it. The she said rather prideful, "notice the red wheels?" She said that was a bit of a brash thing for a young lady to be driving around back then!"

    Then there was this older chap I met at work. He was a bit of a "collector" and I was invited down to his home in Addison, NY (a few miles south of Painted Post) one Saturday, as he wanted me to photograph several of his rare stamps for a presentation to the Elmira Women's Club. in the attached garage, I noticed this 1920's era touring car that he had. Huge beast with canvas top. I knew he had an old 20's Ford (Model T maybe) that he would occasionally drive to work and I had seen it in the aforementioned parade. He told me he had just recently "found" it, but hadn't done any work on it yet. Then he asked if I'd like to see his other "collection" and we walked across the street to this rather long six-stall garage. Each stall had a different car from the 20's and early 30's. While I can't tell you what they were, they were in absolute mint condition. I remember one which had dark blue enameled paint that looked more like the finish on an antique stove or something. It had a nice depth to it, like porcelain and with perfect light-blue pin striping. It also had etched glass wing windows in the front and "opera glass" oval windows in the back.... just a beautiful machine.

    The he showed me his latest "find", which was a ivory-colored (I think he said Chevrolet). It was really clean looking (and to me around the late 20's). Said he had heard a couple of old timers talking in the barber shop and he went searching. Found it in a collapsed barn, covered in a blanket and tarp and covered with bird droppings. The farm owner said it was his older brothers who "went off to the war". My friend said it had been put up on blocks with the wheels removed and had been rather well "weatherized". He bought it for "next to nothing", brought up a truck and after a lot of work clearing away the barn debris managed to get it home where it now sat in his garage.

    That was around 1974 or 75, IIRC and I'm sure Dewey has passed on by now. Like Ms. Potter and "her baby", I have no idea what happened to any of these old cars. I think Dewey had a daughter but I don't believe Ms. Potter, had any children. Her house is still there, but has had at least two owners since that time.

    In keeping with the topic, both Dewey and Ms. Potter did all their own work and their cars were just special. Of course back in the days when those were built, there wasn't any exotic electronics or stuff hidden away in body who-knows-where!


    Think it Through Before You Do!


    • KenBurris
      KenBurris commented
      Editing a comment
      in the early fifties we had a wooden, gravel floored one car garage in Indianapolis, which my dad didn't use. He rented it to a guy down the alley who stored his wooden wheeled auto in it. It was either an Oakland or an Overland (I was probably 7-8), I think Oakland. He needed his own garage space for his yellow Stutz Bearcat

    • cwsmith
      cwsmith commented
      Editing a comment
      That must have been pretty neat to see on any kind of regular basis.

      I don't know the reason why it was, but when I lived in Painted Post, NY there were a number of people I knew who owned really old cars. Every year we had the "Colonial Days" parade and related festivities and you'd often see these cars brought out on display. I worked for Ingersoll-Rand back then and half a dozen or more of my fellow employees had cars from the 20's and 30's as hobbies and would occasionally drive them around.

      Here in Binghamton, it was pretty rare that you'd know someone with a car of the a period. There is a classic car museum north of here in Norwich, NY, but I confess to never having visited it.

  • #17
    I had a 2012 Forester, which I have since happily parted company with.
    The headlamps appear to be darn near impossible to replace.
    I found out though - that there's a trick. I found the trick by ---------
    get this ------ reading my owner's manual. Imagine that!

    Seriously, though ----- whoever engineered Subaru headlamps was not thinking about replacement.

    The driver side would have been a royal pain to replace. Fortunately, my light was on the passenger side.

    Two words come to mind when I hear "Subaru......" -------- "Never again."

    I still have one subaru in my garage ---- my pressure washer.


    • #18
      I was thinking back to my Mercury Monarch days, and that was no doubt the worst vehicle I ever owned. My very first car was a 56' Mercury Monterrey (sp?) which I had bought from my Dad. It had been the family car and it was worth next to nothing when he bought a newer car, so I gave him $70 for it. It had over 90K miles on it, was rusted around the headlights, leaky transmission and the engine ate oil at about a quart every couple of days. I fixed the rust, got the transmission repaired, new piston rings, and drove the beast for a year before I slammed it into an underpass late one wintery night. But I liked that car, perhaps because it represented freedom and was my first machine.

      That's when I bought the 65' VW, for which I worked three jobs to get. Married in 67 and bought a 68' Plymouth Valiant, slant six, automatic so my new wife could drive it. In 1976 we were doing fairly well and I wanted another Mercury and thus bought the Monarch.... man, that was the worst mistake of my life! That car was a total disaster and was the best possible example of engineering on the cheap! At the time, Ford was using recycled steel and at a gauge thinner than the other automakers. I was at the dealer when it came in on the truck. That was in May and in August I had rust-thru by where the driver's side mirror was attached. In September, I had a hand-size piece of paint blow off the cowling in front of the windshield. The paint job was about as 'orange-peel' as you could get and within three years the gas tank rusted through dumping almost the entire tank in my driveway. I had the underside of the trunk rust through and at seven years there wasn't enough integrity to the body to mount new shocks!

      My first factory job in 1964 was as a mechanical inspector in a local factory and I had a pretty good eye for assembly back then. My VW was perfect, not a single defect could I find, and while my Valiant suffered from some welding flash on the doors and a trunk lid that rattled from missing putty between the sheet metal and braces on the trunk lid it wasn't bad. The 76' Mercury Monarch was like a bad joke, something assembled by a few drunks rushing to get out the door on New Year's Eve or something. My first week I went over that Monarch and found more than thirty defects. Missing rubber plugs in the body, wires that weren't tied or retained in the engine compartment, missing retainer clips on the door panel, slashed trim on the bottom of the doors, driver's seat back was crooked, and the floor mounted dimmer switch jammed by the parking brake cable, etc. etc. etc. By the end of summer I noticed that most of the mounting screws for the grill and front trim were showing rust.

      I lived in Painted Post at the time and on the first nice summer day we took a drive to Binghamton to visit the family and as I shut the car off in the driveway, it dumped probably a good gallon of antifreeze. I had that happen a couple of times and the dealer didn't know what the problem was. That first summer we took a trip up to Canada and it was really hot that day and I popped the A/C on and within minutes the engine light came on and the car died. The cooler for the A/C was mounted directly in front of the engine radiator and surmised that the heat from the A/C overwhelmed the radiator and thus overheated the engine. Once again the dealer had no idea and I asked for a Ford rep to take a look at it.... got nothing from him either and therefore never ever went back to the dealer for anything and started using a local garage for my service.

      At about four years old, the radiator corroded so bad that it disintegrated late one night on the way back from a drive-in movie (they were playing "Taps" with Tiim Hutton). Out on Rt 81 at 1;30 in the morning, a guy and his wife driving an old pick-up truck stopped to help and gave my wife and I a ride back to Painted Post. As we sat in the back with the wind hollowing around us, my wife reached over a gave me a kiss and told me that "you really know how to show a lady a great time!"

      After a few days in the garage the owner called me up and told me why I had been having cooling problems.... He had had a terrible time finding a replacement radiator and finally took mine up to the parts ware house to find a match...my 76' V-8 Merc actually had a 1974 Ford pickup "Six" cylinder radiator. He did get the proper radiator, but had to do a bit of work to get it in there. Likewise a year later I had the power steering pump go out and it took him several days to find a "match' for that too. It was from a Chevy Nova... "Well", he said, " that explains why they had that clunky steel mounting plate in there!".

      In addition to those 'serious problems" the car had an assortment of aggravations. While the car had air conditioning, there was no refrigerant indicator... dealer said that on that "lower-priced" car they didn't see the need. Over the few years I had it, just stupid stuff would happen, like the visor on the drivers side stiffed up so badly that I broke it off one day when I turned into the sun and grabbed it to pull down. The fabric and shrunk so tight that you couldn't move it.. proving stronger than the weld on the mounting plate; got in the car one day to find the review mirror laying on the floor. The padded dash vinyl turned black within two years and the heater stopped working working too. You couldn't keep the darn thing aligned and it ate tires (having three sets in the seven years I had it. As I recall, I barely had 70K on it when I junked it.

      We figured that in 1976 Ford was so grubbing for profits that they had bought up surplus, took shortcuts, and just overall produced their cars as cheaply as possible and still get away with it. The dealerships were worthless too. Charges unreasonable and just rotten work that I had to return to the dealer too many times. On a written complaint to the dealer and to Ford I was told that it wasn't up to them to pay for my service! That was the last Ford product I will every own and have yet to even consider looking at one!

      Last edited by cwsmith; 02-19-2020, 09:45 PM.
      Think it Through Before You Do!


      • #19
        Originally posted by capncarl View Post
        Cwsmith, I always wanted a Sunbeam Tiger! I had several Sunbeam Alpines, which were the donor vehicles for the Tiger. We installed several different V8 s in these cars but were unimpressed by the lack of handling of these cars. Suspension components to make them decent road cars were not available in the late 1960-70s. The Alpine/Tigers had a much larger engine compartment than the Mazda Miata, which they are now stuffing Chevrolet LS engines in daily! Now that’s a combination, a 500hp engine in a 2000lb automobile designed for 104hp! Much smarter engineering on these engines with few self destructive features! but impossible the service in the Miata.
        As I recall, it was back around 1964-66 that the Alpine was somewhat popular, but more so with older drivers in their 30's or so. They didn't handle as well as MG's, Austin Healey's, Mini Cooper's for rally's or track. They were more like for just enthusiast's who wanted a convertible-coupe "sports car" for "motoring" around. I liked the Alpine for it's looks, wider stance, and a bit more modern appeal over the somewhat archaic MG/Healey line. But the latter could certainly handle the curves a lot better.

        A good friend of mine at the time, had an Bristol Ace, which was a delight to drive with it's mostly aluminum construction, monocoque body which looked quite closely like aircraft construction, rather than the typical automobile "sports cars". It was the Bristol Ace that Carroll Shelby modified into the famous Ford Cobra.

        I think we Americans, for the most part, are in love with heavy horsepower. Too often stuffing lightweight cars with massive engines. I love my 95' Miata, not because it's got tremendous HP, but because it's really fun to drive, it's great in the corners and the darn thing knows how to move through the curves rather nicely and gives the feeling that the driver is in complete control as it remains flat and stable. But dumping a bigger engine with tremendous power does little for it, unless of course you like straight out acceleration. Personally I never liked drag racing as it seemed to be more about the mechanic's ability than it did the driver's. But then, I've never attempted to drive a dragster and never was tempted to street drag anything. Putting a big engine in a Miata just seems contrary to the intended design of making it maneuverable; it's got to throw everything off in the way of balance, suspension, etc.

        You sound like you have quite a bit of experience from a mechanical point of view, and I'm afraid I simply don't. In my twenties, I had several friends who were really into such things, including racing (rallies and track). Painted Post is quite close to Watkins Glen with Binghamton slightly less so. Not long after I bought my Miata, a friend of my son offered me a chance to drive the track and he offered to show me "how to really see what my MIata was capable of", but by summer he had taken a transfer to Europe and I lost the opportunity. Too bad I think!

        I don't drive the Miata all that much. I bought it used in 1997 with only 24 K on the odometer and today I've probably added only about 12 K to that. I keep it in the garage, covered with vapor barrier on the floor and at least while I've had it, it has never been driven in the rain or snow. I'll take it out on a few summer days for a jaunt on some of the more twisty country roads that I know and get my 'rush' for the day. I've had a few offers to sell it, but I think I'll just pass it on to my grandson someday.

        Last edited by cwsmith; 02-20-2020, 01:31 PM.
        Think it Through Before You Do!


        • #20
          Cw, the believe that the Miata is the best designed and built automobile I have ever owned. It has never given me any problem, no worn out or broken parts, just the usually oil changes and tires. I purchased it from its original owner, a co-worker, who saw it a a dealership and had to have it. 20 years later I bought it from him with 10,000 miles on the odometer. Always garage kept, I used it for my daily driver and it now has a tad more that 100k miles. Miatas do not handle encounters with deer well though! But, quoting Elizabeth Warren, you are just wrong!, it does have adequate horsepower to motor around the countryside nicely but it is sadly lacking in horsepower to become REALLY FUN to drive. Added Horsepower should effect all of your senses, whereas the 116 HP in a Miata only effects your ears when you mash on the accelerator. Just wait until you get into a Miata that has had some engine and suspension improvements, now around 200 hp, the car accepts this nicely and really gets your heart pumping ... you will say Wow! I believe the nearly 300 hp a j series Honda engine in a Miata would be about all the useful hp it could use and a 500 hp v8 LS Chevrolet would just create tire smoke and speeding tickets.


          • #21

            You are no doubt correct in your "sadly lacking" statement regarding the Miata, or at least that seems to be the contention with most everybody I've heard or read. The 95' Miata has 1.8 liter,128 hp and weighs just less than 2200 lbs. My particular Miata has the "B" accessory package, which probably adds a few more lbs: A/C, stereo cassette, Torsen differential, power everthing and alloy wheels, but still the 5-speed manual. For me it handles just fine and shows it's stuff on those 2-lane country curves. I'm sure it would be a "dog", in any kind of racing though. It simply wasn't designed for that in it's standard form. But, it was designed to be fun to drive and to be relatively easy to maintain.

            Think it Through Before You Do!