Tuesday, October 26, 2010


There is some big news a-brewing in Angy world – and that’s saying a lot as in the last year I’ve made some milestones and had some dreams come true. I would list those here but it would be redundant as everything is outlined in this blog. My life has never been as well documented as it has over the last 16 months. If you are going to abandon your career and chase a car, I recommend documenting it as it makes it all seem more substantial.

Also, every time I look at the car my year feels substantial - I love that car – it rebuilt me. It’s a beautiful car but it really isn’t the car. My Six Pack friends are going to hate this but it could have been any car. My dad and I spent 2 years and possibly 2000 dollars in the mid-nineties rebuilding a John Deere AMT. Don’t get me wrong I love the TR6 but I don’t love your TR6. I like your TR6 but I don’t love it. I love my dad.

John Deere AMT 600

And speaking of dads… I’m going be one in May. I guess this is my great coming out. Put it this way: Key West (where Krista and I spent our honeymoon – forgot to finish that story) is a very romantic place. Krista and I have known for a while but we were playing it pretty close to the chest until about two weeks ago. Today we went to our second ultrasound – my first. It was a pretty earth moving experience.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this blog is about fathers and sons. Regardless what I have as a child (boy/girl) I’m in that transaction. When this car gets painted and finished in the spring is the same time I will have my first child. That is not on purpose but it is a little bit poetic.

This past weekend I spent my Saturday pushing and pulling that Dodge 330 into place in the shop so I can pull the motor. It was a tough day as it included making space via a trip to the dump and a lot of manhandling of a very large mid-size car – all by myself.

Large and unruly mid-size car in the midst of being manhandled

My Sunday was a lot more fun. I lined up a very nice trailer from a close friend of Krista’s family. He had bought it to haul a mid-sixties Ranchero home from Idaho a couple years back – overkill?.. maybe. What really impressed me was that it had trailer brakes that worked – that’s new – first time I had to setup the brakes in my truck.

I had the trailer so I could pick up the ’63 Belvedere – pushbutton automatic. Since last week my situation with that car changed as I sweetened the deal by trading for a spare engine hoist that I no longer needed instead of the 140 bucks cash. I hate cash – it’s so impersonal.

I met up JJ, the kid that sold me the car, at about ten thirty in the morning on Sunday. I had brought with me a the ¾ inch Snap-On socket set, my breaker bar and floor jack for getting the tires off and four tires from the 330 for replacement. JJ had informed me, the weekend before, that the tires didn’t hold air and all had big gashes in them.

The front driver’s side tire came pretty easy but I broke one stud – to be expected on a car that has been sitting since ’76. But when I went to remove the rear driver’s side next I ran into real problems. I broke three studs in a row out of a possible five. It was then I decided to get some WD-40 going on all the remaining studs.

On the remaining two wheels I was batting about 50% when it came to saving studs. It’s interesting to point out that, for a while (not sure how long), Chrysler had the threads on the driver’s side of their cars tighten from right to left instead of left to right as is the norm – ’63 and ’64 where two of those years.

When I went back to the driver’s rear wheel I broke one of the two remaining studs. I decided not to risk the last one as it would make loading the car significantly harder if we couldn’t mount a wheel on there. Instead I had JJ fetch his dad’s compressor to try and see if the tire would hold air long enough to load it. Not only did it hold – it was holding better than the tires that I brought. JJ might not have tried that hard to fill the tires when he first moved the car to bring it to his acreage – this theory was backed up by the size of his father’s compressor. It was portable but just barely.

The car rolled freely with her three new(er) skins and one original tire. I didn’t even have to knock any of the drum brakes loose as sometimes is required in these situations.

The first plan was to try to pull the car on with a sling attached to a quad-bike with JJ on the quad and his little brother Lucas at the wheel of the Belvedere and me guiding everything.

After a noble attempt it appeared the quad bike didn’t have the power so we huddled up and made a new plan that put Lucas at the wheel as, at twelve, he was the lightest by quite a large margin compared to me and JJ (JJ is a monster for 15), and had me and JJ pushing. I had to give Lucas a quick orientation on how to stop a car, that had no brakes, by shoving the lever for “Park” down on the push- button panel before we got down to business. We did have a couple of speed bumps, as Lucas, protested his role in this plan a couple of times before take off. I stayed out of it but JJ was adamant that Lucas would do fine – and to not make a scene Lucas obliged his brother. Their father had stopped by at one point and I had introduced myself but other than that brief visit we were quite on our own so I wasn’t comfortable with asking Lucas to do anything that made him uncomfortable – I let JJ do that.

The truck and trailer were on an agreeable incline towards the car so I was quite sure this was doable. When everyone was ready we started pushing the thirty feet to the trailer. Lucas, much like Luke Skywalker, was clutch at the moment of truth and lined up the ramps like he’d been doing this for years. We made it about three quarters onto the trailer when the car came to a skidding stop. Both JJ and I crumpled into the back of the car. It was clear that Lucas had thrown the car into park at the point where all he could see was sky. JJ and I both shouted to him to take it out of park but I was rather scared the car was going to start coming back as soon as he did – but JJ and I were able to overcome the inertia of the car and pushed it the rest of the way with no problem.

After we got it on and loaded I took a look at JJ’s ’65 Ford Truck that his dad had just brought home the night before as JJ had now fulfilled his responsibility by offloading the car to me. I must say I had a great time palling around with JJ and Lucas – talking about cars, dads and school. They asked me stuff about where I grew up and were interested in my dad, the TR6 and what I wanted to do with this car. We made good-hearted fun of each other and laughed all day. I even gave them advise on school and cars –more cars than – school. The only thing I told them about school was go to university for a while, if you can swing it, because it’s the most girls you’ll see in one place in your entire life. They thought that was good advice.

I know, boy or girl, days like that are a few years off for me and Jr. but knowing that I have a kid on the way made the day with those two a little more special. I wish they would have got to meet Bruce – he was good around kids like that – they would have liked him a lot.

JJ and Lucas: Car loaders Extraordinaires

It’s redundant to say it was a bit lonesome on the drive out and back – but it was. It was the perfect Brucey day: A drive, an old car and a problem to solve.

Stay tuned…

PS: Jim and Jer of mystarcollectorcar.com fame did a feature on this car here: http://www.mystarcollectorcar.com/2-features/editorials/926-the-old-car-sickness-how-one-man-overcame-the-impossible.html

'63 Plymouth Belvedere

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Sickness – taking care of unfinished business

To really understand this blog you have to first understand the disease that lived inside my dad and still lives inside me. And no it’s not the cancer.

Yes its cars, but not because of cars but for the love of putting something together. It really is a hyper-developed imagination combined with love of solving problems. Some of our ventures were in unison and some in tandem but all were shared and what brought us together.

Back in 1998 the ’64 Dodge 330 four door sedan was in tandem. I had purchased it for 300 bucks off a close friend of my uncles’. This friend liked the car but it had left him sour after the local college had botched rebuilding the slant six motor.

I liked it because it was a push-button automatic and radio delete. I needed a winter car and this seemed like the right car.

Within a few days I had the motor out. It was easy enough as there is enough room under the hood to host a barn dance.

I was at this point that dad started to get interested and somehow he go the local hot rod shop rebuild the motor – to stock. We do most things to stock. It must be the only slant six had ever rebuilt. I doubt there are many slants that have been treated to a rebuild. My guess they are more commonly dropped into lakes used for tethering boats near shore.

To make a long story short about a week after I re-installed the motor I got t-boned right in front of the driver’s side door. The car had less than 50 clicks since the rebuild.

The accident was my fault and dad did me a big favour by buying off the dude that I had pulled in front of with a crisp 700 dollars in cash. I remember this because the $1100 bill for the rebuild with “+ $700 for accident” sat on the bulletin board in the rear entry way my parent’s house for – at least – the next six years.

Since then the 330 has sat with a rebuilt slant six in it. Once dad and I looked at a front clip that was disassembled and in the back of a van in a field out west of Calgary. But it was sketchy deal, the price was wrong and it was uncertain if our frame could be straightened.

We always kept our eyes open for something interesting to drop that motor into but nothing came along.

Last week during lunch I was paging through Kijiji.com (Craig’s List for Canada) and I found a ’63 Plymouth Belvedere 4 door sedan push-button auto. Turns out this car had been sitting since the mid-seventies and the slant six was stuck. My curiosity was peaked.

I got a hold of the owner via email and after a few exchanges two things were clear: a) I was dealing with a minor and b) the $500 dollars it was listed for (down from $1000) still had some room to move. I knew this because the owner related that he had gotten it for free and that his parents wanted it off the property before they would let him buy a truck.

I found out later that my grandfather owned the same model of car but with the big block 318 back in the early sixties. Dad would have been very interested in this car. He’d be my first choice to take with me on a trip to go see this machine – and, I know, I would be his. My last choice would have been my wife, Krista – as she views vehicles with the same passion that I view our toaster - but as it was on the way back from a weekend at the ranch I had no choice. There was a good 20 minute rant after we stopped to see the car.

The car is in rough shape – but not gone. After looking closely at it – it was clear that it was in un-molested rough shape. Most cars I see of this vintage have been pieced out for Wedge cars or taken apart and then neglected but this one was just parked. Parked in the early ‘70s but still just parked. She still had her yellow plates, insurance and registration and someone had even pulled the keys. The alternator is still there as is the starter.

Mice have claimed the seat but I have a seat. The trunk is a mystery as, like I said, we have no keys.

It seems that at one point a tree had fell on the roof but it’s repairable. There is rust in the two places I suspected rust: on the fenders behind the front wheels and on the back panel. Like I said a little rough but all there.

I looked at it as the completion of getting that motor into something that would run and drive again. Looking pretty? – maybe later – but it will run. A rebuilt motor is a terrible thing to waste. It is also something cheap to keep my mind busy while I wait for the TR6 to get painted.

So after a little negotiation we settled on $140 for the grocery getter. I’m fetching it this weekend.

It’s really not my fault I get it from my father.

Stay tuned…

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Fence

I started riding the bike to work again since the weather has warmed up but for those weeks in September we had rain, frost or a combination there of I was riding the train into downtown. There is one stop on the train about half way there where from the railcar I can see a fence that I helped build this time last year. That was at the same time I pulled the motor on dad’s car.

I make sure I look at that fence every time I go by as it’s there to remind me to stay focused. I did not enjoy most of the steps that got me to this point but to be here, a year later, married to the women I love, in a great job that gets more interesting every day and, most certainly the least of which, to have the car this far along is unbelievable.

Not much has happened in the last couple of weeks I but hope to get a modest order off to Len on Monday or Tuesday.

Stay tuned…

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Better than Saint Paddy's

One of my last bastions of freedom is that late at night (after Krista goes to sleep) I go out to the backyard and pee off the deck. I used to invite the dog but there were too many close calls with where he pees from the ground and I pee from the deck (to make it look like he did it). He’s brown and therefore very hard to see in the dark. I get this fairly unfortunate trait from my father who was an unashamed deck and parking lot pee-er. Some days it’s the highlight of my day.

The car venture is my other freedom – being neither fish nor fowl in this married/adult stage of my life I know that I am getting away with bloody-blue-murder by attempting (and succeeding) at such a venture. None of Krista’s friends’ husbands are doing such things and I know, or know now, that conformity is important in these social circles. We husbands are just the larges pet in the household and no one wants the pet that leaves grease on the fixtures. I am very lucky each day I get away with this.

I was 16 the last time I was this deep into a car. The upside to being sixteen is that you have a lot of free time compared to now; although it doesn’t seem that way at the time. Being that I was somewhat of a late-bloomer socially, lived disgustingly far from town and had parents who started cocktail hour at 4pm I had even more time than the average teen.

The downside of being sixteen is that you have hardly any money or experience. I was lucky my dad was into cars and, for the most part, knew what he was talking about.

This TR6 project is going a lot better than my Road Runner did back in 1996. I know the fundamentals now and that it’s important to build out. Again, I have learned a lot but there are still things that I will do differently on my next venture – which might be the Road Runner again. My next project will be a media-blast/rotisserie project. Seeing what went into this one (and more importantly Krista seeing) it may be a while before that happens. But after this I’m going to want to step it up. I start my 30 hours of MIG at SAIT in two weeks and hope to get TIG under my belt in February so the skillset to tackle such a project is realistically within my scope.

But for now we still have a lot to go on this project – FOCUS!!

First and foremost on my mind is paint. I have gone back and forth on the paint issue for some time now. I’ve been getting some pressure to use one guy but the thought of using him has left me feeling uneasy. As much as I like him and know his worked I couldn’t buy into using him on this. I couldn’t sell it to me.

Since meeting Tony back in the spring and seeing the level of work he does I really wanted him on the job. What I like most is that Tony is a car guy. He’s currently doing a very tasteful resto-mod of a ’70 Blazer for himself, when he can – and unlike most guys – he’s making progress.

I’ve been over to his shop on three different occasions and every time I’ve been there we’ve had, at least, an hour conversations about cars he’s working on and their related stories. There are a lot of father and son stories in the naked bodyshop.

To that end I found myself in Tony’s shop last Saturday. I brought Bryan of best man and KC trip fame. I also brought a case of beer. I think Tony knew he was in for the hard sell when I came heavy.

We jawed for twenty minutes or so before I put it to him again that I wanted him to paint dad’s car. Again he said no – too busy.

We started to talk timelines and I let him know that it could happen as late as March as far as I was concerned. I have a windshield to pull and other tasks to keep me busy until then. I’m perfectly happy to have the car back in its little den for a bit as my cheque writing hand could use a couple months to recover from the summer.

Then Tony started to talk money – he wanted to see if I was full of crap. This has been a running theme throughout this project. For my sake those of you who are full of crap stop talking to mechanics and venders about the cars you’re “restoring”. It’s been an uphill battle all the way. Now that I’ve both signed some big cheques and been at the business end of a MIG I’m starting to finally get some respect. I threw out a ballpark figure and Tony switched gears and thought seriously for a moment.

“… and this car has never been re-painted before?”

“Nope… Never” – I showed him some pics on the camera again.

“I need her for two weeks,” he said as he walked over and wrote my name on the whiteboard in a box designated “March “.

Stay tuned….