Thursday, April 14, 2016

Repair and Restoration of Classic Chevy Tri-Fives The Quick Fix :(

The Quick Fix and the Games

Some of Us Play 

With in Our Classic Car Hobby

  -Alan Arnell

Life as well as the classic car hobby is a whole lot-a-choices and compromises.  Just think of what you could to that 1955 Chevy Belair if you did not have to waste all that money on such things as food, living and rent.  Of course, all of these necessary.  Bills must come first or should!  It even gets worse when you chose to have a family.  Ugg!  After that is all said and done most of us have either little money and no time or time and no money.

There is another sad truth of this life, like me, in my retirement.  I have the time and no money honey.  I think back when I had the money, I was pulling down a 50 hour work week. However, I learned quickly in life you need to work with your mind for a living and not with your brawn.  Yet, I enjoyed turning wrenches on my old 1957 Chevy-150 during that time. Getting to go to the garage to work on a project had a calming effect on my personal and professional life.  Still, so little time.

No money, no time or both, have had a bad influence on my old 2-door sedan. That terrible little gremlin in my case is the “Quick Fix”.  Sometimes, it is just a temporary fix to just get the car driveable for the next car event.  And I never get around to go back and fix it right.   Now more than ever it is, because I do not want to spend the money on car parts.  What is sad, to me, is that many of these quick fixes become the fix for the problem.  Always a recipe for disaster, but sometimes a necessary evil.

In 2016 you can not be on the car groups of FaceBook, Google+, Twitter etc. without some professional showing pictures of a hack job some guy made on a car that the fabricator is now doing a frame off restoration.  And, really they are correct.  My old Pappy use’st to say, “A job worth doin’ is worth doin’ right, dammet!”  And, other crap like that we have all been told and guilty of saying ourselves.

But, are they totally correct?  Are those old proverbs, maybe a little hypocritical?  If the world were only black and white.  The average “Joe” car guy has to live in the grayness of the world. The professional car restorer? Well, I would currently expect for him or her to do a repair correctly and for permanence, even for an old jalopy, not alone for a 1000 point car.  I curse the half ass professionals out there in the world.  You should get what you pay for, right!  If that were only the case.  But, every mechanic I have had the honer to know did not drive 1000 point show car to work or to the grocery store.

Those mechanic friends of mine usually drove some wreck of a car they found on the cheap and slapped back together for temporary transportation, until they flipped the car for more cash than they paid for it.  For example, I have a close friend.  His son wanted a RC car. The family went to the hobby store to buy the RC car, radio controler and what not.  His son was extremely happy in the back seat on the way home.  However, my friend on the drive home remarked to his wife, “Honey, today we spent more money for that RC car than I did on this car we are driving home.”

Let us not forget the roadside repair.  I have used jumper cables for ignition wires and vice grips pliers to just get home and avoid a tow truck bill.  If you drive a classic car this will happen.  Even when most classic cars were brand new they were not reliable as cars are today.  Every guy worth is salt back in the day carried an emergency set of tools and spare parts.  My friend Don claimed he would like to take a spare engine with him on long trips for his VW Bus if he could.

One emergency fix story that come to mind was several years ago when I was driving home in my ‘57 Chevy at the wee hours of the early morning.  I turned left on a green arrow to drive under an 8 lane overpass, when much to my surprise it seemed my car exploded with a bright flash of light under the hood and sparks flew out from under the car.  In the tunnel of the overpass with the car windows down it sounded like a bomb went off in the engine bay. I was so startled, that I tried to jam on the brakes and missed hitting the clutch.  For a few seconds, I panicked and thought I had no brakes.

Luckily, the the engine died and the dead engine’s compression and road friction slowed the car down allowing me to discover that I was pumping the clutch pedal instead of the brake pedal.   I limped down the road and pulled off into a parking lot.  

Totally dark outside, I only had the glow of my flip open cell phone’s number pads for light to see what had happened.  I quickly noticed, that the car’s power wire from the battery to the starter had fallen on an exhaust header, melting the insulation of the wire, shorting out the wire.  The short was so bad that the positive-lead battery-cable lug exploded and melted.

For a fix to get home, I took some bailing wire from my emergency kit to hold the positive cable off the header, making sure the metal wire was not touching the bare exposed wire on the positive cable.  The lug was ruined to the point it would not go back on the positive post of the battery.  Wanting to have a closed starting circuit, I vice gripped the positive cable to the positive post of my battery.  The car started up and I drove home.  I also drove the next day to a car event 55 miles away with my quick fix still in place.  You do what you have to do.

Two years later when driving the ‘57 home from a car show at the Texas State Fair, I found a fellow Dallas Area Classic Chevy club member stranded on the side of the road with his 1955 Chevy Bel Air. I stopped to render aid.  We found that the negative ground-flat cable from the car’s battery shorted out and completed melted.  The club mate was amazed when I said, “Don’t call a tow truck.  I can make an emergency repair to get you home today.  

He had no tools, so I went into my bag of tricks to retrieve my jumper cables.  I put the black jumper cable’s alligator clip on the negative side of the battery and the other end on an bolt on the alternator bracket.  I was afraid that the alligator cable clip would fall off the bolt.  To insure the  alligator clip stayed on the bolt for the drive home, I again enlisted the aid of my more than useful vice grips to hold the alligator clip in place.  He made it home with no further problems.  

I would not recommend to keep this temporary fix and who would?  However, the emergency fix will work and may work for a long time.

I tell people that I like to do things old school.  I explain, that back in the day hot rodders would make their own parts or use salvage yard parts that may or may not be designed for the car the car the part is being installed upon.  There was no Summit or Danchuck to buy car parts from back in the gool old-bad days.

I just saw a show on TV a few days ago about board racing.  In the 1920’s promoters made race oval race tracks that were from ⅙ to a ½ mile in length from wood planks.  Some of the tracks were made in a circle.  The tracks had up to 60 percent banking in the corners.  Today’s NASCAR tracks with the steepest banking only go up to 33 percent banking.  The board track cars and motorcycles were able to go flat out and never lift the accelerator while driving around the track.  

Scary, but the motorcycles they raced had no breaks and the throttle were wired full bore.  To stop the bikes the racers had an engine kill switch, used the engine’s compression and dragged their feet to stop.  And, the bikes would go over 100 mile per hour!  Those guys were crazy and so many of them got killed most cities banned the tracks.

I told you that story to tell you this one.  The TV show had an original board track race car from the 1920’s.  The guys that had built the car put it in together in one weekend at an auto salvage yard with parts taken off of the wrecked cars at hand.  It was a hodge podge of an affair that looked like a midget race car.  This car was an example of “make and break do”.  They took an model T front-straight axle, cut out the middle of the axle to narrow its width.  You think Indy car or NASCAR inspectors would let you drive a car with a cut down front axle welded back together and then race at speeds at over 100 miles per hour?  I think notI

I’m saying you can do these things and get away with them, but do you really want to quick fix or slap something together.  No of course you don’t.  But still, if you don’t have the funds, time, facilities or the tools to make a 1000 point repair and want to keep that classic car running you have to find a happy medium.  

I like to do all my own work on my car and mostly have to out of necessity. My excuse is that I like to be old school.  Unless I win the lottery my car is not going under the professional restorer’s wrench anyway.  I keep driving the ‘57, because I love to and I don’t want or need another hobby car. I fix what is wrong at the moment to get to the next show or event to then just move onto more pressing problems.  I have had and have been restoring my ‘57 for 16 years.  The old girl is far from being restored.  Sadly, I’m having to fix things I have restored 10 years ago.  Maybe there is a quick fix for that problem.

Me Myself and I Classic Auto Repair & Restoration

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