An appearances thing

May 17th, 2010
Glen Looper with my RENU repaired gas tank

Glenn Looper with the Corvette gas tank

What do you do when the best looking thing from your car is your fuel tank?  That is my temporary problem.  I picked up my “RENU”ed tank from Looper Servicenter in Rockville, MD – http://www.loopersc.com/ – on Friday and it is embarrassingly fine looking.  All of the rust holes have been repaired, the inside and outside has been AL oxide blasted, and all has been coated with “RENU” formulated polyvinyl coatings and lifetime guaranteed.  Working with the owner, Glenn Looper was a great and informative experience.  He possesses many years of automotive repair experience and was full of great tips and links to other resources.  Glen also takes the time to make sure you fully understand the repair process, and he keeps you informed throughout the process, so you can make do or not do decisions along the way.  He even took the time to video tape the leak test so I could appreciate how many holes I actually had in the tank.  He takes in work from all over the country and has lots of experience with classic cars.  Bring a fat wallet, but expect to get a first class job.

Readers of my previous blog entries know that I have been obsessing about “originality”.  This seems to be a Corvette owner thing, fostered by obsessive attention to “numbers matching” and all sorts of other unhealthy for your driving “bones” attitudes.  The deeper I climb into the Corvette rehab the more apparent it becomes that I can have either a driver or a show car, with no middle ground.  I believe that committing to the RENU repair on the gas tank was enough to get me past the ambiguity and commit me to the driver path; so good news there.

The other thing that the “clean enough to swill beer from” tank does is increase my incentive to get on with the clean up and repair.  The rest of the car can definitely look this good.  The fuel lines are currently soaking with carburetor cleaner.  Next I will blow them out and then replace all of the flexible lines and the fuel pump.  Even though the car has not run since I rebuilt the carburetor, I think I will pull it apart and replace all of the gaskets and diaphragms, just to ensure that all of the degradable parts in the fuel system are brand new.  Check out below to appreciate the kind of gunk that collects in old fuel lines.

Fuel line gunk

Fuel line gunk

FROM THE FRYING PAN INTO THE FIRE

May 13th, 2010

Is there a Survivor in there?

I have been congratulating myself for resisting the temptation to “over restore” the Corvette, and rather to make it a real “driver”.  I do not want to end up with a “garage queen”, too nice and too costly to drive and not friendly enough to sleep with.  As I have been getting into making the car roadworthy, I have also reminded myself that it is pretty original, given that I bought the car new.  So I know exactly how few things have been changed out in my 40 plus years of ownership.  Enter the “Survivor” concept.

Survivor is a category of classic car ownership that defines a car that is nearly completely unchanged from the day of delivery: original driveline, paint, interior, etc.  Sounds pretty simple and my car is pretty original.  So I had begun to think, why not try to maintain that survivor status as I get the car back on the road.  Both NCRS  http://www.ncrs.org/ (National Corvette Restorers Society) and Bloomington Gold http://www.bloomingtongold.com/ (the premier Corvette show and judging organization) have “Survivor” categories.  (Bloomington Gold has a copyright on the term and claims to have invented the category).

My last blog entry talked about the build sheet I found on the gas tank, and that prompted some research.  And that’s where I nearly jumped from the frying pan of over restoration into the fire of change nothing “Survivor” status.  Along with other research, I had an illuminating and scary email conversation with Dave Burroughs, the Bloomington Gold Survivor guru.  The bottom line Survivor repair/restoration philosophy is “don’t do anything!”; although somehow the car needs to be returned to running condition.  Do no painting, remove no torn decals or build sheets, replace no parts, don’t even wire brush the rust.  Yikes, another “garage queen”, but one that looks and drives like a car that hasn’t been touched in 40 years; because that is exactly what it would be.

So, here I am, suspended somewhere between the frying pan and the fire.  But what the heck, that is exactly where I want to be.  If I want to mount new, softer shock absorbers, or a lifetime stainless steel exhaust, or clean and paint the engine compartment,  or mount tires that provide decent traction, I’m going to do it.  This driver is for getting my “Yeee Ha” on!

Provenance

May 10th, 2010
Vehicle build sheet

Vehicle build sheet

I discovered a fortunate historical footnote when I dropped the gas tank on the Vette.  A copy of the original build sheet was attached to the top side of the tank.  I felt a bit like an archaeologist breaking open an old Egyptain wine vessel and discovering an ancient papyrus.  GM used some darn good glue to attach the sheet to the tank; all my efforts to remove the sheet without destroying it were unsuccessful and I’m guessing the Smithsonian would laugh me out of the building if I took the tank to them and asked them to remove it.  Well, at least I have some clear pictures of the sheet, and the data certainly corresponds to equipment on the car.

Replacement of the entire fuel line is not going to happen.  GM cleverly routed a large part of the line inside of the boxed frame rail.  Great for off road excursions, but impossible to replace, short of a “body off” restoration.  Fortunately that line is in very good shape.  So, only the flexible lines and the fuel pump will be getting replaced.

Two questions for knowledgable readers:  Does anyone know of a trustworthy, within driving distance, cleaner/restorer of fuel tanks?  And can anyone recommend a powerful solvent that works well for cleaning “in place” fuel lines?

Toxic Waste

May 6th, 2010
Gas Tank with the fabled ADAnderson stamp

Gas Tank with the fabled ADAnderson stamp

Thanks for all of those reminders folks.  I really have worked on the Vette, but have not stopped to blog.

A special thanks to Marty T.  He not only reminded me, he also showed up to share my beer and take away any excuse not to be in the garage working on the Vette.

The good news appears to be that the tank may be salvageable.  After dropping the spare tire and carrier, my first view of the bottom of the tank  revealed that its pretty clean; the ADAnderson logo (proving an original item) was even visible.  The inside of the tank is a different matter.  The inside of the gas cap had a strange white growth, reminiscent of something one might find in that plastic container at the back of a bachelor’s refrigerator.  And the syrupy liquid I extracted from the tank neither smelled or looked like gasoline.  Don’t think I’ll subject it to the flame test though.

Once I get the tank out I will need to decide whether to have it cleaned, or whether I will replace it.  It’s nice to have an option.  Got me thinking though about the rest of the fuel system, and given what I see in the tank, it might be smart to replace all of the lines.  The great thing about old Vettes is that all of this stuff is available.  Hope I don’t want to change my mind after I see the prices!

Finally; remember my raves about Never-Seez?  It definitely proved it’s worth on the exhaust system.  I had assembled it probably 20 years ago using Never-Seez and all of the bolts came off like they were brand new.  No hack saw needed.  I did saw thru one of the exhaust pipes to ease removal around the suspension and reminded myself how easy life has become with portable tools like a reciprocating saw.  Sure beats the old hand held hack saw.

Check out this original equipment spare.  Never touched the road.  And it was still fully inflated.

Check out this original equipment spare. Never touched the road. And it was still fully inflated.

How is Harbor Freight like Merle Norman?

April 3rd, 2010
Keeping the 67Vette thread going.  This may be the last image you see with the hood in place for a while.

Keeping the 67Vette thread going. This may be the last image you see with the hood in place for a while.

I was helping my son pack out of his apartment the other day and I had a gender specific epiphany.  Harbor Freight is to men what Merle Norman may be to women.  I’ll leave the “may be” in there until I get some confirmation from an opposite gender expert.

At any rate, son tasked me to box a cabinet he called his Harbor Freight collection.  For you neophytes, Harbor Freight is a candy store for Gearheads.  If there was ever a tool manufactured, Harbor Freight has it in at least three sizes.  Need some lubricant?  Choose from 20 brands and 50 types.  HF started out as strictly a mail order catalog, but in the last 5-10 years they have been opening retail stores in Gearhead neighborhoods.  Walking thru HF is pure entertainment and inspiration.  The shelves, racks, and floor displays stimulate project ideas as abundantly as Toyota has generated consumer lawsuits.  I have never walked thru this store without finding at least one “future useful” item.

So it was unsurprising that as I was packing son’s stuff, I could picture his thought process when walking down the isles of HF.  Each item represented a “had to have”, a project in waiting, or a project surely to appear in the near future.  The cabinet was filled with clamps, wireties, abrasives, mechanics and chemical gloves, gear pullers, parts trays, etc.  I could imagine my own thought process as I spotted these items on the shelf and knew instantly that son shared the same genes.

What about Merle Norman?  Living with a former Merle Norman store owner and member of the opposite gender, I have some vague sense of a similar thought process of a person browsing the stock in a MN.  Spot the special shade of lipstick?  Surely will have an outfit it will match in the future.  Only have 3 sizes of make up application brushes?  Six would be better.  New skin lubricant?  I may not need it now, but after a summer in the sun, who knows.  Yep, MN is a candy store for Fashionheads!

In appreciation of Never-Seez – 67Vette continued

March 26th, 2010
Chaz's garage space

Chaz's garage space

Never-Seez is the third pillar of the mechanics Trinity.  A Bigger Hammer (Father), Duct Tape (Son), and Never-Seez (Holy Ghost).  The bigger hammer breaks what’s stuck, duct tape fixes what’s broke, and Never-Seez (a waterproof, non-hardening, rust inhibiting lubricant) insures you never do that again.

Car manufacturers would never use Never-Seez.  It would raise the cost of a new car and reduce the cost of repairs – a no brainier for them.  But for those of us who like to work on our own cars, we would never reassemble a repair without the liberal use of Never-Seez on every fastener we lay a wrench to.  Have you ever tried to change your own flat tire and discovered that even when you stand on the lug wrench it won’t come loose?  Yep, no Never-Seez.  OK, you don’t like to fool with your own car.  Have you ever assembled your kid’s swing set and then had to use a hacksaw to disassemble it when they left for college?  Yep, no Never-Seez.

There have been books written about bigger hammers and duct tape, but not to my knowledge about Never-Seez.  Well ok, maybe you have never browsed that section of Amazon.com, but trust me this is a significant gap.  Remind me of this thought when the Vette is finished, but meanwhile don’t tell Henry Petroski – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Petroski .

So where does this thought train take us with the Corvette?

My first step in starting the Corvette is to make sure it will turn over.  Since it hasn’t run in more than 10 years, it’s likely that the pistons may be a bit frozen in place.  So, I am treating the engine with another automotive wonder drug,WD40.  I plan on a liberal soaking of the cylinder walls with WD40, while I attend to other items in the fuel and ignition system.  Yesterday I removed the spark plugs for the WD40 treatment.  Now I know you have all been waiting for this, but NO SKINNED KNUCKLES!  Never-Seez certainly did the job on those spark plugs.  Bigger Hammer, Duct Tape, Never-Seez, Amen.

No engine compartment is ugly, but this comes close.  But cosmetics are later

No engine compartment is ugly, but this comes close. But cosmetics come later

An original Corvette anticipating return to action

March 23rd, 2010
Chaz's 1967 Stingray

Chaz's 1967 Stingray

Today is a very good day in my world of cars.  After many years of procrastination and several months of glacial preparation, I have laid the first wrench on the Corvette.  In time (estimates later, but reality is when rubber hits the road) 67Vette will be mixing it up with all of those homogenized, drive-by-wire, cell texting, modern day cars. Ah, the pleasure of being involved with the car rather than the peripherals. Meanwhile, I plan to get reacquainted with an old friend, one bolt at a time.

My Corvette is a 1967, convertible, 427 ci., 390 hp., 4 speed.  I can’t recall any options except, perhaps for the AM/FM radio (rarely used as the more satisfying exhaust note is just a throttle mash away).  I purchased it new in the fall of 1966 and have accumulated about 120K miles (the odometer failed long ago and I only was able to keep track of the miles by my “frequent” gas purchase records).

As far as provenance, I have been the soul owner.  It’s been run hard.  It’s very quick to 100, but the short rear end limits top speed (a good thing since the front end begins fly at about 120.  No surprise that Corvette’s sprouted front end spoilers with the next model change).  It was autocrossed and rallied extensively, and has run fast on Sebring, Watkins Glen, Cumberland Airport, and Marlboro raceways (not in sanctioned races, just autocrosses or “bandit” runs after the officials had departed).  Early on, late summer Sunday night returns from the beach were supremely entertaining.  It was also used for everyday transportation for many years; some residents on Gorman Road, in Howard County, MD may remember my morning bonzai runs on the way to work.  One could hit triple digits by catching the last corner before the bridge over I95 just right.  Yeee ha.  Now that was a workday stress reliever!

The Vette is not a virgin.  I have previously completely rebuilt the engine and the brakes.  I have experimented with various ignition, tire, suspension, exhaust, and fuel delivery setups.  The original parts that are not on the car are preserved, but I have no intention of getting anal about a “numbers matching” garage queen.  The memories of driving are just too vivid and fun to do a restoration and then not drive it. I pretty much completely know this set of wheels from the inside and the outside, so I think this process will be like turning the pages of a favorite long lost diary.

Stay tuned for updates.

Yeeh ha!

For those of you who are first time visitors, you can read about the origin of this blog if you click into the October 2008 Archives at the right of this page.

The Hudson of Coincidence, a Doug Adams experience

May 16th, 2009

My current photographic project —  http://chazimages.com/current-projects.php — is putting more meat on the bones of my Automotive Art Forms  http://chazimages.com/sculpture.php.  These classic cars are beautiful to look at, but they also all have interesting and unique histories.  That entails more research on new entries and sharing of that history along with the images.

 

So, just the other day, I was working in the garage when one of the neighborhood walkers stopped to chat.  I knew he was a kindred spirit when he identified as a Corvette Stingray the shrouded shape in the shadows of my garage.  He further validated his credentials when he listed some of his former rides (my favorite, a Fiat 500!)  My current neighborhood has not seemed as “car aware” as my last.  Cars here seem to be more like appliances or status symbols; where as, back in the old neighborhood a lot of the Saturday afternoon socializing revolved around cars and garages.   But now, a ray of hope!  I  don’t know if I will ever find a garage buddy to share beers and wrenches again (unless Peter Egan moves into the neighborhood), but at least I know there is “car talk” to be had.

 

Ray (the neighbor walker) was full of information about local car shows and other interesting automotive resources.  And most remarkably and coincidentally, he is the source of the “Hudson of Coincidence”.  He sent me a link to a You Tube automotive subculture http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FB6apYb5mJI&feature=email , “TheOriginalWheelsTV.  Chuck Derer, the producer, has recorded interviews with numerous car fans and made them available on You Tube.  They are at least as interesting as those by Jay Leno on Jay Leno’s Garage, but without the annoying lead in commercials.

 

The “Hudson of Coincidence” occurred when I viewed the You Tube clip on the Hudson Italia.  What an interesting, unique, and rare car.  And it so happens that I was at the time struggling with an image from an AACA (Antique Automobile Club of America) show of a couple of years ago.

Wouldn’t yah know it, it’s a Hudson Italia.  True to the You Tube clip, it’s in the original, and only factory color, Cream.  This is a very rare car; only 26 were built, and only 5 are known to exist today.  Luck would have it that I now have seen 2 of the 5.  There you have it; a lucky conversation, a fellow enthusiast, a cool new link, progress on my Automotive Art Form histories.

Rental cars don’t always suck

May 3rd, 2009

Warren Brown is an enthusiast with the unenviable job of writing about cars to an audience of mostly non-enthusiasts – Washington Post readers.  This is a newspaper whose only automotive sports coverage is the occasional NASCAR fisticuff.  Today Warren wrote about bottom feeder rental cars  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/01/AR2009050101603.html .  That got me thinking about my own experience with rental cars.

 

My favorite recollection is of the 1986 timeframe, when I was torn between buying a BMW 3 series and a Merkur.  BMW, back then as now, was considered the pinnacle of sports sedans.  I wanted one badly, but I had also read good things about the Merkur.  Sir Jackie Stewart had helped with the suspension tuning, and a friend had one he loved.  I discovered that Merkurs were available from a rental company, so I rented one for the weekend.  I took off to Pennsylvania and couldn’t stop driving!  The rental was on a fixed mile basis and I ended up with a big mileage penalty, but I also ended up buying the Merkur.  I loved that car, put 170K miles and 18 years on it, and only gave it up for a modern Mini.  Oh yeah, and with sales desperation discounts, I saved nearly $15K over a BMW.

 

Countering that experience was an early Hyundai my wife and I rented in Boston.  This car was so bad that we returned it to Logan Airport, driving thru terrible traffic in both directions, to exchange it for something acceptable.  And, in spite of recent great press for the brand, I still maintain a resistance against ever buying one.

 

Swinging back to the positive side, my son and I rented an early Chevy Malibu in Portland, OR a few years ago.  This was before the automotive press had discovered it.  We had a ball hammering it on the way out to the Oregon coast and then inland to Mt. St. Helens.  This was one of the few times I can remember crying Uncle! as a passenger.  But then I never have been a fan of steep drop offs.  Both of us concluded that this was a really nice, inexpensive, sporty sedan with plenty of pep (we had one with a 6 cylinder engine).

 

I also recollect a friend and I, each in our own rental Ford Fiestas, hanging it all out on Mulholland Drive, in LA.  Back then Mulholland had long stretches of dirt and we both felt like FIA World Rally drivers.  That was a car you could abuse terribly and it would still come back for more.

 

And, finally, who could forget the original “Rent-a-racer”, the Hertz GT350.  See my March 2009 blog entry on Marlboro Raceway.

 

So, Warren, bottom feeders may be the bane of today, but rental fleets of the past offered up some really great rides.

Garage Envy — the best of times?

April 15th, 2009

Even in these difficult economic times it’s hard to look at the current crop of automotive magazines and not conclude that it may be the best of times for an enthusiast with Garage Envy.

The big auctions have done well so far this year, the autoshows have produced a reasonable outpouring of technically interesting new cars, and the car magazines are giving plenty more pages to desirable collector cars.  Autoweek has “Escape Roads” and the “Market”. Automobile has “Upshift”,  Road and Track has “Peter Egan” (a classic himself),  Vintage Motorsport has  “Racing Across the Block”, and of course Hemmings Motor News is cover to cover (more than 500 pages) classics.

 

There are plenty of classic cars surfacing these days.  But then again maybe that is a sign of the difficult times, with the owners in need of cash more than a dream ride.  However you look at it, there is currently plenty out there to look at and develop Envy for.  Problem is, some of them are actually beginning to look affordable.  Quick, put a lock on my bank account!

 

While your unfulfilled lust is threatening your bank account you should look at http://chazimages.com/sculpture.php if you want to satisify it without spending your next mortgage payment.