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 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 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 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.


  1. Oh man! I laughed so hard at the email from Krista. You have exceptional photoshop skills, my friend. Good to see the car is coming along. Keep this blog going, it cracks me up and makes my otherwise boring lunch hours go by much, much quicker.

  2. Thanks for the plug Angus. And thanks for an entertaining blog without the unvarnished details about the Penticton trips in the TR6.What happens in the Okanagan should stay in the Okanagan...even 30 years later.