Thursday, November 18, 2010

Poot gets the Boot

Over the last three days here we've received about a foot and a half of snow. The Little TR6 is tucked away tight for now. It's safely away. Other vehicles aren't as safe.

Last week I mentioned that "Poot" my trusty pick-up had developed a rather persistent power steering leak. It's not fatal but it's most definitely a pain in the ass.

Well, the word came down from on high last week. I was telling my wife, Krista, my plan to install a new steering rack from the wreckers when she, turned, looked at me like I had three heads and said, "What are you thinking? We're having a CHILD - you have to get rid of that stupid truck with freakin' 267000kms on it and get something more dependable. You're not fixing that truck again!"

Krista has been cool for a very long time - and I have given her a lot to be uncool about (Belvedere - anyone?) so for her to come down like this is significant. I had to take her seriously.

I hate the word "dependable". It makes me think of the Toyota Camry, minivans and mutual funds -eck.

I definitely live a life that requires a truck. I love the TR6 but it ain't built for Home Depot or the dump.

Later - I was reflecting on the order I was given while sitting on the toilet reviewing last month's Popular Mechanics. As I flipped through I stumbled on ad for a vehicle called the Dodge POWER WAGON. What a beautiful truck! I don't get excited about new vehicles often but this started my heart. The damn thing has a winch tucked in behind the bumper. This is a truck only Tim Taylor could have dreamed up. That's the truck!!

This was the truck - the only truck that could replace good ol`Poot.

I ran it by Krista and she said and I quote:

`` Get whatever the hell you want - as long as it doesn`t come home on a trailer!``

Most people would not find that caveat limiting but most people aren`t me.

I soon found out that with my job now secure and with me able to avoid any debt over my ``lost year of car restoration`` that I could come close to affording this truck if I got the right deal - it was going to be close.

Most people would walk into a dealership and talk to a sales person. The thought of doing that horrifies me to no end. Although I did get my nerve up enough to call the Dodge dealership near our house. Within minutes of being on the phone I had a sales guy trying to get my address so he could come by with a Dodge 2500 so Krista and I can ``check it out``.

Sales guy? At our house? Where we live? That wasn't happening. And besides it starts with someone showing you something different than what you want and you are starting down the road to compromise. Next thing you know - Wham! Camry!

I had to change my approach. I decided to go with what I know.

I wrote emails to six different dealerships telling them exactly what I wanted. I wanted a 2010 Dodge Power Wagon. Not a Dodge 2500 4x4 - a Power Wagon. And I wanted it cheap.

That's when Sales guy Survivor Island began. Out of six I had four participants but only two real contenders. A third chimed in halfheartedly at one point but for the most part it was two.

They'll do anything to not tell you the number. They'll slice it and dice it but they don't want to be pinned to an all-in-and-done number.

I got pretty nasty playing them off each other. And they weren't allowed to phone me - I wanted everything in email - that way I could pin them to what they had said.

In the end two guys were trying to sell me the same truck. I know this 'cause they both sent me the same VIN. It was Silver too - just like the one in the ad from Popular Mechanics. The problem was that they were a bout 5000 dollars over where they needed to be.

My price was unrealistic - and I was told this often - but I could wait.

But I didn't have to.

Finally one of the fellows broke the stalemate and dropped his price by 8,000 dollars. It was like Ali's famous anchor punch. It was all over.

I put a deposit on it today. Krista and I go pick it up next weekend - and I might even have a buyer for Poot.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The List

These last few weeks I’ve had little time to think of the little orange car as work, my MIG course and baby-related stuff are splitting my time equally. Last weekend I found myself wandering around the Hudson’s Bay Company looking a strollers and cribs. This is an area of expertise and is foreign to me and my level of interest is inversely related to the distance I am from an Orange Julius stand.

Although the MIG course started out slow I really enjoyed the last two classes as they seem to be getting closer to processes related to my interest. The teacher let us work with a flux-core setup last night. Flux-core is slick. Although I would be hesitant using it on body panels it seems that it would be perfect for engine mounts or bigger trailers. I have been tricked when it comes to flux-core I thought it was just for those gas-less doorstop machines but that isn’t the case – you can put a lot of heat through flux-core – if it’s setup right.

We’ve determined that my Lincoln Weld-Pac 140 sucks. Apparently everyone except me is a Miller fan. I don’t have a camp but just having that Lincoln puts me on the wrong side of the fence. The teacher mentioned bringing in a “Miller-matic” 140 next week and I mentioned that it was essentially what I had. I was quickly reminded that mine was a Lincoln branded Canadian Tire special. Welders seem worse than Chevy and Ford guys.

Poot – my steadfast truck – has been a pain in the ass as of late. He has developed a leak in both ends of the steering rack. I suspect one has been happening a bit for awhile but now both seals are totally shot and is essentially drains the power-steering system every 2.5 days. I’m pretty sure the neighbors are going to call Environment Canada pretty soon. The TR6 is kicking Poot’s ass in user-friendly repairs.

I called Dodge for a price on new seals, gators and tie-rod ends. I was told that the steering rack – much like the Fisher Price Power Wheels Jeep – was an unserviceable item. I was then informed a new one is 800 dollars. I found a used one for 225 at a wreckers – so this looks like a job for the early part of next week.

This weekend my leaky truck and I are headed to Red Deer for a three day “shop-a-ganza”. Shop of course in the masculine tense – meaning large building. I have a friend helping me to install a basin sink in the TR6 room, a tow truck from “” coming for one of the derelict ’89 Acclaims and I want to get some more junk hauled out so I can move the ’64 New Yorker 2 Door and the ’70 K5 Blazer inside – with the rest of the keepers.

I guess I haven’t gone through the keepers list yet. From the Thirty some cars that were out there at one time we, as a family have decided to keep:

1. 1976 Triumph TR6 – Obviously
2. 1964 Chrysler New Yorker 2 Door – Very rare 2 door push-button Chrysler. No engine - no trans.
3. 1948 Chevy Torpedo back – this was the car my dad had when he was 16 and we found it for his fiftieth birthday – got it running and gave it back to him. Not a car – but the car. Why keep it – why not?
4. 1980 Plymouth Road Runner – Volare really but it was badge only as a Road Runner in 80. Dad and I acquired this car in 1995 after it had been t-boned and restored it as a driver – it sat for the last 8 years and I started pulling it apart just before dad died as a 360/380 (probably 400 now) crate engine candidate.
5. 1988 Monte Carlo SS – Brother Neal’s car – running, re-splashed once but could use some attention.
6. 1977 Chrysler Newport – 2 door hardtop – Runs too nice to junk – not popular enough to sell. It’s in that safe grey area.
7. 1970-71 K5 Blazer – complete but not running - I get a call almost once a week on this unit. My sister wants to hang onto it and all you need in this family to stay is one vote.
8. 1964 Chrysler New Yorker – 4 Door Sedan – Running gear and parts for the 2 Door – the car we drove back from California in the spring of 2008 – dad’s last trip.
9. 1980 Dodge R/T – Parts car for the Runner.
10. 1964 Chrysler – 4 door hard top – another parts car for the 2 door. All we’re missing for that year and model is the wagon.
11. 1964 Dodge 330 – junked after it donates its running gear to the Belvedere project.
12. 1963 Belvedere – we’ve talked about this.
13. 1966 Dodge 3 Ton Grain truck - Runs but doesn’t stop all the time – Nobody loves this but me.

Cars that need to go:

1. 1989 Plymouth Acclaim – Two engines and one front clip – served honorably from 1994 until 2002.
2. 1990 Dodge Spirit - front end damage
3. 1991 Dodge Spirit – rear end damage – seeing the logic here?
4. 1981 Monte Carlo – Neal’s other Monte Carlo – ran fine until Neal did a little Duke boy damage to it.
5. 1984 Toyota Corolla – 500,000KMs logged before a drunken kid hit it front of my house – Neal’s car.
6. 1991 Plymouth Sundance – shell of a car – not even clear to me why we have it. Too many years, too many cars

Looking at this list it seems that there are still a disgusting amount of cars on the acreage. My mother is a saint.

Stay tuned…

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog lately and wondering if it’s still necessary for the advancement of the car. At times it has been really easy to write as it naturally fit into a “work then write” scenario. Obviously that’s been different as of late. I think it’s been very important in keeping me focused but obviously there has to be an evolution as my needs have changed.

I’ve decided to keep writing until the TR6 is done and I go for my first extended drive in it. I'm not sure where to go yet (Edmonton, Summerland, Jasper…) but that will be the end of it – A little chunk of time.

It has been great therapy for me to write about this particular passage in life. Every one of us, if we live long enough, will experience the passing of someone close and we will all deal with it in different ways. This is just my way.

I didn’t realize it until my uncle Jim pointed it out but the Belvedere I acquired is a radio delete car. The 330 I wrecked is also a radio delete car. This means they came from the factory with no radio and a plate over where the radio should have been. I find that fact fascinating.

When I was growing up the big thing to do was to drop a huge stereo system in your car. I was right in the middle of all that and remember the big Kenwood, Alpine and Clarion decals on the back of car windows. Looking back on it now it all seems pretty silly.

I remember one guy who I used to work with at a gas station when I was 15 had an 80’s mustang and he had a speaker in the back of that that took up the entire back seat. Later he bought a Ford Ranger and used it to take the whole stereo thing to an insane level. It wasn’t uncommon to hear about guys building five thousand dollar systems – and this was back in the mid-nineties.

In my nineteen eighty Road Runner I had a Sony ten disc changer and even before that in my ’76 Cadillac Seville I had 300 dollar Kenwood CD player – which was goofy because I bought the car for 350 dollars.

I even was responsible for helping to build a respectable base system into an early ‘80s Mazda B2000 which, in the end, turned out to be more stereo than truck.

My dad was a music guy also and loved more than anything to turn the knob to eleven when a great song came on the radio. A lot of stories centering around cars, expecially the TR6, also center around what was on the stereo. He used to take a lot of pride in saying that when all his friends bought eight track players in the seventies he got a Blaupunkt tape deck. With the perspective I have on that car now I think the placement of the gearshift might have played a factor in that decision over foresight.

My musical education started with my dad and I am very glad for it. I love music – but only great music. For my generation I am a bit of a musical savant for naming the band or singer when almost any song comes on the radio – my wife will attest to the fact that is a really annoying personality trait. When Bruce died, in fact even on the last weekend at the ranch - August 2008, he was quizzing me on country music classics and pretty impressed with himself that he was kicking my ass at it. I’ve filled out in that category a bit since then.

I love cars too, and given that and my rambling about car stereos, dad and music, it seems like a foregone conclusion that the TR6 is going to be kitted out in the latest and greatest. Well, to be honest, it isn’t… it’s been the hardest decision surrounding this car but it really isn’t.

I’ve gone back and forth on this and I may again but I think the TR6 is going to be a radio delete car.

I’m a techie. Obviously that’s a given from the medium I choose to write in to the job I have. Right now I have our home setup so I can listen to my Itunes library in any room in which I have a stereo system (even multiple rooms at the same time) all over our wireless network and I control it all from my IPhone. Yes.. I’m a geek.

I don’t want to turn this into a geeky pissing contest but I am trying to make my case for the fact that a lot of thought and research went into this decision.

Put it this way: Let’s say for argument-sake that this particular TR6 had been rebuilt in 1994. It is most likely that if that had been the case then it would have had a Kenwood CD player mounted in the dash. How dated would that CD player look today? It’s such a timeless looking car I’d hate to tie an irrelevant time period to it.

There is the second argument that has been made to me repeatedly about the vintage-look stereos you can buy now that have modern capabilities (CD, MP3, USB and audio jack). The problem with that is these have the same flaw as aftermarket radios: no built in SAT. You can add Satellite radio to these with a kit that also has to be mounted as none of these units possess the capability to handle the process internally.

I fear losing some of my audience as I go “Glenn Beck” here on content but I will anyway - there is a serious content issue going on here in North America. I have abandoned terrestrial radio and I am about to abandon cable. As soon as there is an internet answer for sports I’m pulling out. As it sits now cable makes up only 35% of my media mix. The other 75% is a combination of the Zune network on XBOX Live, Apple Itunes, my Kindle and satellite radio.

It might not be the same in the US but here in Alberta, Canada we have some pretty horrifying radio stations. In fact I’ve grown so intolerant of radio I am more likely to turn the radio off when I don’t have access to satellite radio or my Itunes. In the same vein that syndicated radio has made prophets out of people with room temperature IQs such Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura it has turn morning shows or “Zoos” into mass market commodities devoid of any intellect or relevancy. I swear every station hires one girl just to laugh in the background at bad jokes. To make matters worse I think at peak hours there’s a 60/40 commercial mix.

There – that’s most of my rant about radio – I stopped short of my rant on Canadian content laws.

We are post-peak for technology related to aftermarket radios. To invest in a standard aftermarket radio now is like buying a VCR around 2002. The technology going into these products – after the introduction of superior goods is sub-par to when these were superior goods. Put simply – when factory radios sucked aftermarket radios were better – now that factory radios don’t suck aftermarket radios aren’t made as well – or as cutting edge. Not to mention they look funny too.

Other options I was considering were a) putting a Sat enabled deck in the glove box or b) installing a sat receiver directly into an amplifier. What nullifies these two options is mounting speakers. From the factory – or whenever the radio was mounted – 4 inch speakers were mounted on each side of the kidney pad on the center console. These pointed right at your ankle and rear speakers were not mounted as the gas tank resides right behind the back panel.

TR6 owners don’t agree on much but they do agree that the acoustics of this system sounds quite terrible. Mounting a second set of speakers would help this but I can’t see myself carving up that interior for speakers – just wouldn’t be right.

Some guys have mounted Mazda Miata seats in their 6’s because they have speakers in the headrest. I’m not sure how this sounds but it’s way too resto-mod for my tastes. Besides Miatas are girly and I suspect their seats are too.

Five years ago I had a gen 2 IPod mounted to the dash of my 2002 VW Jetta and wired through the CD changer port on the back of the factory Monsoon stereo – that was a very slick system. I remember heading to class in the car with the tunes cranked – during that time I was listening to a lot of Skynyrd’s “Mr. Saturday Night Special” and every thing by The Band – and popping my IPod out and continuing to jam on as I headed to class. It was truly beautiful system.

I have a similar system in my truck that works with my IPhone. Since they changed the charging voltage on the IPhone I’ve had to install an inline voltage converter. That was a big runaround with a fellow on Ebay – took a month to get straightened around. The MP3 player in the IPhone responds to my CD changer functions on my factory radio (the VW system worked this way too) but if I’m using my Satellite radio app on my phone and I press the stereo off and back on again for any reason the MP3 player kicks on automatically and it turns off the Satellite radio. And for some reason every once and awhile (3 times over an hour drive) the system will just disconnect and play through the IPhone’s external speaker for a bit.

This is not a great system.

Technology evolves – nothing is static but I think the TR6 should be timeless – more along the lines of Rolex’s Daytona than Timex’s Indiglo. It also should be a simple and positive experience to drive. Modern stereos have little buttons, menus and all types of weird sub-functions. External Sat radios add clutter and require, what used to be called, a cigarette lighter.

If a long trip is in the cards a Sat enabled ghetto-blaster can be set in the back seat but I think for the day-to-day the note of the exhaust is more than good enough.

I'm glad I got this out in the open.

Stay tuned...