Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The important thing to remember now is not to panic

It was Friday, November 25th, 2005. It’s hard to believe that’s almost five years ago now. At this time I was attending the University of Lethbridge in southern Alberta – three years before I met my fiancĂ© Krista. This particular morning I woke up on the floor of my bedroom around eleven-thirty in the morning.

The night before there had been a party that a club in which I was a VP had thrown. I had been in attendance but there was very little I could remember. Things that were coming back to me were coming in spurts and were accompanied by jolts of shame and regret.

I crawled from my floor onto my bed and felt very, very sick and sorry for myself. I clutched one comforter tightly in my arms the other was in a ball on the floor and, although I couldn’t see it, I knew from one of my remorse-filled flashbacks it contained a fair amount of vomit.

This morning was the culmination of two weeks of wild and drunken behaviour. There had been fist fights, property damage, missed classes and ill-advised hook-ups. I was living on booze, Red Bull and dinner buns.

I slept the rest of the day away. I didn’t leave my room other than to shove the tainted comforter into the washing machine with half a bottle of laundry soap.

The next morning I got up early, had a much needed shower and left for Red Deer – home. I needed to get out of town for the balance of the weekend. It’s about a three and a half hour drive to Red Deer from Lethbridge.

When I arrived at the acreage I found my dad out in the yard installing a metal gate on the horse pasture. For years we had a standard barbwire drop gate. It turned out this metal one was on sale at Peavey Mart. I suspect because it had a kink in one of the cross bracings.

I spent the rest of the day helping dad with his project and relating the story of the previous two weeks.

I have a lot of great people in my life but I will never again have someone like my dad. He had the ability to both be critical and understanding at the same time. He enjoyed this particular conversation and took great pleasure in calling me an idiot repeatedly. I needed to hear that.

My father had the ability to be objective about any subject without being cold. There always had to be a foundation of an intelligent argument. From there we could have tangents but one had to acknowledge the situation stripped of emotion.

On this cold November day we had this type of conversation and worked through many of my current issues such as: women, school, alcohol and my responsibilities. That was only one of a million conversations we had over our time together. I really wish he was here today. Although he'd be really pissed I have been mucking around with his car.

I am way outside my comfort zone on this unemployment issue. I'm operating in a place I have never been before and it is getting hairy. I'll repeat for emphases, I have never been in a situation like this before. I have always been employed and employed at will. The kicker is that the one person I want to ask for advice and to whine to – is my dad and he is no longer here. I’m feeling mighty lonely.

The job market remains crappy here in Calgary and to make it worse next week university and college students join the party.

I have a lead on something that might be my salvation but it might be awhile before it kicks off and I have no idea what it involves or pays. But it’s my best prospect of the last two months - very sad.

I don’t have awhile. I don’t even have a little while. What I do have is an unfinished orange roadster and an upcoming wedding. I am a human stress ball. The only person more stressed then me is Krista and the car isn’t even on her radar -she's staring down the barrel of possibly marrying an unemployed guy. I think she might have left me before now if she didn’t need me to walk the dog.

But I push on in all the little ways I can. This week I received touch-up paint for the engine bay area. I ordered it off the internet. It’s from a company called AutomotiveTouchUp. I spray a little and it looks like a perfect match. I guess we’ll soon find out.

My streaked has ended with my appointed to get fitted for my wedding jacket here in Calgary this past weekend. It was a much needed break but makes me feel very apprehensive about my timeline. I hope to get to the car this weekend. I also hope the Lebaron and Toyota sell and the career thing gets resolved finally. Let’s move on to some new and exciting problems – these ones are getting old.

Stay tuned…

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sorry No Pictures

This might seem pretty strange for those not lucky enough to be in Alberta but after last week’s snowstorm, which claimed my Oakley prescription spectacles, this week I drove back down up to Red Deer in the Lebaron with the top down in 17 degree Celsius sunshine (62 degrees Fahrenheit).

Today the temperature in Calgary the temperature hit 20 degrees Celsius (68 F) and, among the imagination-free BMWs and Acuras, I caught, out of the corner of my eye, a red TR6 with the top down speeding down the off ramp from Nose Hill drive onto Crowchild Trail in the Northwest of Calgary. The sight was inspiring.

You’ll have to take my word for it that I worked on the car this weekend as I forgot the SD card for the camera back in Calgary.

Friday I spent putting together the top and bottom A-arms. I reassembled the painted struts and installed the various bushings. Seems pretty boring stuff but it was all to avoid wirebrushing the inter-driver’s side wheel well.

I’ve really hit a wall when it comes to the wheel well. I spent most of my weekend doing everything I could do to work around it. I painted and mounted a large crossbeam piece at the front of the car I can only adequately describe as a “bulkhead”. I know that is not what it is but it’s late and I’m not going to squint at the TRF catalogue to try and figure it out.

What I do know is the front sway bar attaches to this bulkhead piece. Installing the sway bar is very satisfying process. I had all new hardware and bushings so it was great fun and surprisingly made a huge difference on how the front of the car looked – completion-wise. I kept putting the radiator into its spot in the engine bay to see how it looked after I installed the sway bar and bulkhead. That was fun – and looked cool.

I would have gotten more done but my Saturday was interrupted by various guests. A pair of older fellows showed up early on to take a look at the Lebaron (hence why I brought it back from Calgary). I liked these guys and we spoke for more than a couple of hours. We played with the idea of trading a quad bike for the Lebaron but in the end I decided against it as I have no interest in or knowledge about quads and the selling there of.

That might not have queered the deal as this old boy seems to still have Lebaron fever. He has me holding the car for a week (for a fee) and we will relook it next weekend.

After lunch Bryan of best man and KC trip fame showed up and we discussed a business idea I have been contemplating as my employment situation continues. Another friend, Dylan, showed up and as he, like Bryan, is related to the industry I’m considering a business in, I picked his brain over a few beers.

By the time Dylan and Bryan had left and I had down something like five beers and ambition had left me. I did my best to burn steaks for me and mom and promptly fell asleep on the couch at 8pm. I woke up at midnight with a headache. I hate to admit it but this is a pretty accurate impression of my dad.

Sunday I did my best to make up of my social Saturday and got the steering rack cleaned up and painted that and some frame painting done in the engine bay made up my Sunday.

Today, Monday my Steering bushing kit showed up from Art Lipp. Thank you Art. Given that and the fact that I have all the steering parts painted up I might have the steering mechanics together very soon.

I might not get to work on the car this weekend as I am being fitted for my wedding jacket on Saturday. That’s a shame given my six weekend streak.

Hope this post finds you all well and…

…stay tuned.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Shoes and Drums

I came up to Red Deer Thursday night backed by a spring storm. I beat the worst of it. Shortly after I made it to Red Deer they closed Highway 2. By eight PM there were more than seventy cars in accidents, stranded or a combination there of.

When I reached the acreage the shop doors had been blown open by the storm. I ran to shut them but in my haste I neglected the wind and my glasses were blown from my face, hit a pole and broke into two pieces. I spent the next 40 minutes crawling around with my mom to find the missing lens to no avail.

I was now blind. Significantly near-sighted and having astigmatism I was quite useless. I taped my glasses back together and replaced the missing lens with a piece of paper I blacked out with a marker pen. This rig worked well enough to watch television but it was good for little else.

Friday morning I was able to get a hold of my optometrist’s office. My last prescription was from 2003 so the receptionist was resistant to giving me a sample pair of contact lenses as the prescription was quite out dated. I countered with the fact that was going to be heading back to Calgary and the prescription I was using up until yesterday would be better than squinting and honking. My sister brought home the contact lenses on her lunch break.

By twelve-thirty I was back to working on the car. If I had to pick a theme for the weekend it would be “dust in my eye”. Without the protective properties of my glasses I wasn’t able to keep anything out of my eyes. My safety glasses are tinted and are annoying to use indoors.

Beyond the time-consuming experience related of the lesser of my two handicaps, I was slow to want to start on theTR6 this weekend. I really liked how the car looked with the front tires on the ground and most of the right-side back together. I had to push myself to get to work pulling the fenders off the driver’s side. It seemed like going back into treacherous and well-travelled ground.

I started with the rear fender for no reason as other than the trunk was open and most of the bolts heads were exposed. The good thing about working on this side of the car is that it’s faster as I now know how everything comes apart. The bad thing is that it’s a little bit boring as I’ve done it already.

Like any long-term relationship there are unmemorable moments that are more mindless and laborious than anything else. I am in one of those moments. If I could compare fixing this car to shampooing my hair I would be at the “Repeat” stage.

By late Friday afternoon I had both fenders off and by Friday evening I had the front suspension removed. Inspection of both fenders proved I was right in saying they were in good shape. The front and rear wheel wells looked remarkably similar to the other side – similar but better.

I have yet to cut out the rocker but inspecting it from the outside it looks like I won’t have weld in a filler piece as I did on the other side.

As I worked I took full advantage of my new workbench and already have it quite cluttered. I find it hard to imagine how I worked without it. It’s especially nice to have the vice in the shop now as it came in handy to pop bushings out of the front control arms.

Saturday I cleaned the front suspension parts with both the drill/wire wheel and the bench grinder /wire wheel setup. I can’t express enough how handy a sandblast cabinet would be but I slug on with my various wire heads.

I also was careful enough to again use the notorious grinder and wire head to remove the undercoating from the front inter wheel well. All I have left are the areas that have been historically too treacherous to tread with the grinder.

I painted most of the lower and upper control arm parts Saturday afternoon. Next weekend I will be able to reassemble most of those parts.

After spending most of Saturday on the front left suspension and wheel well I got really bored of working on something that I had been through in such detail weeks earlier. The process felt quite repetitive so I decided to break my day up with cleaning the areas of the chassis that had I had yet to paint with POR15.

Again, about an ice cream pail load of dirt fell off this car. I got most of it in my eyes. I removed the front-to-back brake line and both the fuel line and the fuel return line.

I felt good with what I had got done and rewarded myself by watching the final day of The Masters with Brother Neal and his family back in Calgary. I drove the Lebaron up to expose it to a bigger market just to get a call from someone back in Red Deer who is really interested. Looks like I’m taking it back down. Selling cars is sooo much fun.

Today (Monday) my rear drums and my rear fender mounting kits where on the front step when I went to walk the mutt – Thank you Drakes. If the Lebaron sells there is a Drakes order that needs to go in next week. That order will include all the six u-joints, new mounting hardware for the diff and other such things. Also I need to get the beefed up hubs from Good Parts.

Also my birthday present from Krista came in today. She ordered me a pair of Piloti driving shoes. I picked them up today at a custom tuner in the south of Calgary. It looked to be a place to go and get a turbo installed in a car that has no business having a turbo. As I’ve mentioned before I have one leg and use a prosthetic leg (below the knee) being that I can’t tip my foot to push in a clutch standard shifts are sometimes a bit tricky. I figured the shoes would give me a bit of an advantage. Until I drove the Red KC TR6 it wasn’t clear that I would even be able to drive these cars.

In the other news, the job huts continues and I’m getting to the point that I might look into supersized miniskirts and standing out on the corner down the block. Although I’m not sure I want to meet crowd that is interested in large men with one leg.

Stay tuned…

Monday, April 5, 2010

Still Running on Empty

The first line I wrote in my first post, now almost 10 months ago, was a line from the Jackson Browne song “Running on Empty”. I started with that line because my father really identified with the tune. Both Jackson and my dad were born in ’48 and the song center’s around age, growth and the related struggles.

But, much like both Mr. Browne and my father, I am running on empty. I am about 17 innings into a game that should have been called on account of rain in the 4th. As you’ll see from this week, I continue to limp along with a little help from my friends… on empty.

Last week started with Krista and her family making their annual pilgrimage to Phoenix and me singing Glenn Campbell songs as she left. Because I can’t stand being alone for none too long, the first night alone I invited some friends over for burgs.

I guess I may have laid my plight on a little thick because the next day my friend Kerbi emailed to inform me that her and her Husband Derek wanted me to sell his Toyota Corolla and put the money towards the TR6 project. They just bought a VW Golf off her parents to match their other VW Golf. Her parent`s bought a new VW Golf - they really like VW Golfs.

I agreed if they would take half. They wouldn’t and so I have to mention them here as gold standard contributors to the TR6 project (a title I just invented). Now all I have to do is sell the car. I have it listed on Kijiji for 500 dollars as it is a 1991 wagon with 180,000 miles on it. It needs an out-of-province inspection to be insured here – which is a drawback. Derek was in the US army and apparently he drove this battle cruiser to almost every state in the union.

I’ve had some interest and thought it might go today but it has not yet.

In related news I have mom’s 1995 Le Baron Convertible on Kijiji also. It was decided in the fall that having two convertibles on the acreage would be silly. Therefore the Le Baron got voted off the island. We decided to wait for spring to list it. As I proved in December with the sale of the red TR6: Convertibles sell better in the spring. The money from this sale will go into the TR6 project also.

As most of you know, or found out as result of being victimized in a prank, Thursday was April Fool’s Day. I decided to show Krista my Photoshop skills and told her I had dropped one of the hanging bikes in the garage on the windshield of her RAV4, had smashed the windshield and knocked off the driver’s side mirror.

Email to Krista April 1st at 12:02 AM:


Ruffin and I went out to Kerbi and Derek’s to meet with a dude about derek’s car and Ruffin got some time in with the lads.

I have to tell you something before you get home… I was trying to take your Cruiser down to play with it and there was an accident. It fell on your RAV4 and it wrecked your windshield and driver’s side mirror. I am really, really sorry but I already have an appointment to have the windshield fixed on Monday. I found a replacement mirror – the only problem is that it is blue.

I have included a picture so you won’t be surprised when you come home. Please don’t be mad. I am very, very sorry.

I love you,


Krista’s Response April 1st at 10:35 AM:

Thanks for your note. I will only say something about this today and then I am not talking about it anymore...I am super confused about what you wrote. My bike hangs on the passenger side of my RAV and yet somehow you wrecked the driver side? How did that happen and why didn't you move my car? Is any of the paint damaged anywhere else on the rav? if it did that much damage to the windshield and mirror it must have done some to the other paint.

I left you the keys to my car so you could do whatever you want. I am trying not to be mad and I appreciate that you have booked an appointment for the windshield. Can we not buy a red mirror? I would rather spend more money and have it back to normal before anyone sees it...you always act like I am such a pain for being careful and worrying and wanting things to be done a certain way and this is partly why- I hate when stuff happens like this that could have been avoided and it makes me crazy when stuff gets wrecked.

I am glad you told me and I am certain you will fix it. Please try and get a red mirror or tell me how we will get the blue one to be red ASAP. I usually would appreciate a picture but in this case it makes the whole thing seem much worse...I am getting all of this out now so I can hopefully get over it and not mention it again...there were two other bikes in the garage that would have been fine to play with that are nowhere near my car- play with them....as your dad used to say, "stay away from my stuff".

I assume you are going to red deer today for your leg appointment so drive safely, take good care or yourself and ruffin and write me later. I am glad you were honest with me.
I am reminding myself that I love you,
Love me

I think what bothers me most about Krista’s response is the emphasis on the blue mirror. I think she should have been more concerned that the both the dog and I were safe. I let her off the hook right after I got this email.

As was stated in Krista’s fiery email, I was headed to Red Deer on Thursday for an appointment with my prosthesis tech (I have one leg). After my appointment I headed to CAPS Auto Paint and Body Supplies to get my paint code to the desk guy. He needed this so I could get a rattle can ordered for spraying under the master cylinder in the engine bay.

After playing phone tag with this cat for a month to no avail I wanted to get this resolved. He took a quick look at his computer and, as jumpy as a strung out crackhead, told me that paint code 84 (Topaz) wasn’t a Triumph TR6 color. In about the nicest way I know how I told him it was as I have done a quite a bit of research on this subject. He insisted it wasn’t and without offering any other solution gave me the “sorry I can’t help you and don’t really care” look. This marked the last time Angus Stuart Bruce Sutherland ever walked into CAPS Red Deer. I imagine if I had a body shop on account they would have tried a little harder.

Restoration seems to be dirty word with both body shops and their suppliers. My next stop was First Choice Autobody. They had just done a very good job on my mother’s new 4-Runner after it had an encounter with a deer last month. I had the TR6 right rear fender with me and, as I am not interested in buying another 600 dollar fender, I wanted to see if someone could fix the small rust holes in the leading edge for less than 600 dollars – way less.

I explained my plight, wishes, hope and prayers to the two girls at the desk and received only strange looks and the question “when was the car in an accident?”

One of the owners heard this dialog and took pity on me. He followed me out to the parking lot and took a look at my fender. As he looked I took the opportunity to explain how I had taken this project on a year ago, I have invested a significant amount of money and expected to invest more, that I’m unemployed and top of everything else I have one leg (I will use the one leg thing until it grows back).

After my song and dance I was told that it wouldn’t be cost-efficient to have them fix it but there is a guy he knows. I was given a card with the name “Tony Kind – Body Shop and Restoration Service” on it. Great name “Tony” – invokes strength: Tony Soprano, Tony the Tiger... and “Kind” – what more can you say about that.

I phoned Tony from the parking lot. Tony understood, cared and asked me to come out to his shop and show him the fender.

Tony’s shop was on an acreage south west of Red Deer. Tony met me out front. Tony is a big friendly guy and I instantly liked him. I went into detail about my story, blog and dad. We talked about mutual body men we know. We basically check each other out to see if either one of us was full of crap.

After a long look and some questions Tony said he could repair the fender for 250 dollars. Then, without any pumping, he said he could do it for 200 dollars. I love Krista but I was really starting to warm up to Tony.

He invited me into his shop and inside he was doing some finishing work on a ’69 Beaumont convertible and filling the other slot was a ’72 Jimmy which looked beautiful as the sills were showing the complicated “C-Plus” paint that was going to cover the rest of the vehicle.

Filling most of the shop was the most beautiful item I have recently seen and was holding my attention like public nudity. It was a downdraft paint booth. After seeing this I was ready to make-out with Tony. We touched on Tony painting the car but both decided that was a conversation for a later date. I didn’t want Tony to think I’m a slut. He can molest my fender but… let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Beaming from my meeting with Tony I headed to Air Liquide to finally invest in an Argon cylinder. It was now time to master my MIG – or at least stop being afraid of it.

One hundred and sixty dollars bought me a rather small cylinder but I was now in the game. When I arrived back at the acreage I installed my gas on my MIG. Then went out to the car yard and scavenged a damaged hood from a 1992 Plymouth Acclaim. I removed the glued-on hood support frame and cut out a 2ft by 2ft swatch from the hood. I then cut that piece and half. I then spent the next 5hrs practicing my plug and bead welding with different wire speeds and techniques.

By about mid-evening I was ready to attempt working on the car. The car was more difficult as it was vertical and all my welds so far had been horizontal.

My first task was to graft in a new piece for the end of the floorplate which the front end-cap and rocker panel weld to. I had to cut a piece to fit and drill a couple of holes to allow for draining – as the original did. So yes – The TR6 has a small piece of a 1992 Plymouth Acclaim grafted onto it. It seems right to me as they are both defunct brands.

That wasn`t the easiest process and it was made more difficult by the world`s crappiest welding helmet. I thought it turned out all right and made better by the fact it will be hidden by the rocker.

Speaking of the rocker I went on to plug weld it into place. My success rate was running about a sixty percent on my plugs penetrating the first time. There was a lot of grinding and re-drilling. It took a long time (about 5 hours). I will do more grinding and I am really benefiting from the doorsill trim fitting over the top seam.

I got this far and it was just Thursday evening of the long weekend.

Good Friday was my 31st birthday. I spent the first part of my day grinding my plug welds. I truly believe in the saying that the difference between a good welder and a poor one is the amount of grinding that needs to be done. I did a lot of grinding on Friday.

After I tired of grinding I sealed the exposed parts of the sill ends with POR-15. Being that a brush has to die every time I use this stuff I applied the rest of the small can to underneath the car where I stopped last weekend.

The next task was to install the fender baffle and rubber seal. That`s as far as I got as my brother Lachlan and uncles, Jim and Jerry, of www.mystarcollectorcar.com fame stopped by and I spent the rest of the afternoon chatting.

Jim and Jerry had some great stories about having the TR6 out to Summerland, British Columbia in the late seventies. Between their stories and how I know my dad drives I am now not surprised the car didn't make it passed '81

I spent the rest of the day celebrating the none-descript-birthday that is 31. Dad always thought that birthdays that didn`t end in five or zero were only celebrated by and I quote ``fat chicks and idiots``. I`m not saying I subscribe to that but it sticks with me.

After dinner Bryan, of the KC trip fame and the best man at my soon-to-be wedding, stopped by with a birthday bottle of rye and he, Lachlan and I apparently felt obligated to make it disappear. That didn`t break up until 3AM.

Saturday, hungover (which is turning into a theme), I spent the day installing the front passenger fender and door. The day was made better with the Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach droning along in the background.

I was very surprised with both the door installation process and fender gaps. Having historically worked on American products, these British cars go together very slick. Don`t get me wrong – the fit is horrifying but it`s horrifying from the factory. I was glad to have the driver`s side to compare.

After I had the fender on I couldn’t resist the urge to install the wheel and lower the front of the car back on the grown. It looked great and was solid as a rock. I retired with that and my mother took me to dinner as my birthday present.

Sunday – bolstered by my weekend of success – I decided to build a much-needed work bench as counter space has been limited. I used left over wood from crating the engine and walling off the utility area. It turned out great. I just need one small piece of board to finish off the lower shelf. I even have a space for my MIG.

Now to review (and I only say this because I’m still unemployed – not to be confused with useless).

This past week:

1. I welded a rocker panel onto a car and fixed a rusted area
2. I photoshopped a picture to the extent that it horrified my fiancé
3. I designed and built a highly functional work bench
4. I investigated and staffed a much needed bodyman position

I only point this out as these are only a few of my employable talents.

It was a very good week for the small car and I hope things keep rolling along…

Stay tuned….

PS: My brother Neal and his wife Michelle had their daughter on Monday April 6th at 9:23 AM. She was 8.2lbs at birth and they named her Kessie Anna Sutherland. She is beautiful. The Sutherlands roll on.