17 June, 2010

Purged From the Car's Skeleton

February sixth was the last time my words managed to find their way into a blog such as this, and I'm sad to say that not a ton has happened up in the garage during that time. It's only been in the last week and a half that I've been able to get back up to that old stone edifice to get my hands dirty again, and I must say that I've been incredibly happy for every minute of it.

I won't go into a ton of details about my year, as that would be for another, more introspective blog entry, but I will say that a few of my friends were abroad, I was taking a few tough classes and I had to study for and take the MCAT. Needless to say, it was an insanely long marathon, especially the latter two of that list. But, thankfully, all that is over for now and I'm finally able to feel completely like myself up in the Garage.

Most of the activity began when the brake lights in my Pontiac came on. The "Trac Off" light as well as the ABS light was on which, according to the seemingly-useless manual, means that the "brakes need to be serviced." Thanks? I hooked up an error reader to the dash, but it said that there weren't any errors to correct. Talking to my dad, we made the decision that the brakes should probably be changed (at least the pads), so without really asking me he went and bought brake pads. I immediately jacked up the car and tore into the brakes, and everything went fairly swimmingly. The right rear rotors were really rusted and pitted, though, so we had them re-ground so they're smooth and shiny again (and we all love shiny things, right?). With everything back in working order, the car is now parked back in our yard by the driveway, although I'm yet to put the fragile and cracked (and cheap) hubcaps back on. Oh, I lost one over the winter, by the way. Went over a pothole on the interstate, and when I arrived at school I found my car looking a bit destitute without a hubcap on the front. Thankfully we've purchased extras in the past, so the next time I came home I was able to put one on.

Whilst up in the garage, though, I didn't just spend time on my car. I climbed to the back of the garage to get my hands on the old Maxwell for the first time in ages. Trust me, that car has invaded my thoughts so many times during the school year. Constantly I imagine what I can do once the weather warms, and I'm always trying to figure out what to do next. The upside to all of that was that I could jump right in when I got a chance to work on it. Never mind the downside of not focusing on schoolwork, etc.

Anyway, I spent quite a bit of time in the past week scrubbing rust off of the frame with a wire brush. Oddly, though, that's much harder than it sounds (or maybe I just get really into it). By the time I'm finished, normally my heart is pounding and I'm covered in sweat and dust from the rotting metal I purged from the car's skeleton. Once it's off, though, I quickly spray over the cleaned area with primer. This is taking a page from my the first Woodsie's book (my grandpa), for when he cared for the Maxwell, he sprayed some random paint on the front end of its frame. That seemed odd at the time, but as I learned decades later when I started to work on the car, that meant that not a bit of rust was growing on it. The way I figure, even if I don't get much done on the car this summer her metal will be sealed beneath the primer waiting for me to get back.

It's great to see the car transforming slowly from a piece of rust to a primed car that actually looks like progress is being made on it. I can't wait to post some pictures! But the car is still a long way from being completely covered, so don't get too eager. Every little piece I do, though, is an important part of her completion. The rear axle is still sitting on the ground, and I'm still having trouble getting the tires off. Removing the lug nut and the little protective plate (a pseudo-washer) should do it, even with the use of a wheel-puller, yet neither wheel budges. It appears that the actual center hub is attached to the brake drum, but that would take some loosening of the brake pads in order to get it off. Who knows, though. I may not even need to take them off, but we'll see. Either way, I'll have to open up the rear end and try to catch all of the grease and lubricant that comes out (I'm praying there won't be any little nuts or bolts that fall out, too. Or gears). That way I can inspect the splines of all the gears and mechanisms in there to make sure that they won't break when we first try to drive the car. My father says that I should just leave it alone because if you grab the driveshaft and turn it one of the wheels turns too. That's true, but the last thing I want is to put the whole pressure of a finished car on those uninspected gears and have something go horribly wrong at speed. Then we'd have a really nice museum piece to permanently store in the back of the garage. I don't know. It'll be a tough decision.

With parts of it primed, though, I decided to take a break from the Maxwell and focus on the soft top bows of the old Corvette. In the "offseason," so to speak, my dad remembered that he had a friend from a long time ago (appropriately called Graybeard") who works on old cars. We talked to him quite a while back and he said he's done soft tops before and would love to do the old Corvette's. First, though, I would need to finish those bows. In order to do that, I made sure that they were well-covered in paint and that we had all of the pieces (we're close). I made sure that I can open and close them well and that I had the design of the top ingrained in my head. I made sure not to paint over some of the screw heads and that all of the old staples (shot into cork to affix the original fabric to the top) were removed. I'm about halfway done with that last job, but I'm getting there. The next step will be to call Graybeard and see what he thinks about a timetable for finishing it.

Aside from the soft top frame, I decided to lift the cover off of the '61 and clean her up just in case there was a car show tonight (there wasn't one). I got the entire driver's side cleaned off and shiny before moving to the other side, but when I did I couldn't believe it. On the front right fender was a giant spot of paint missing. It was probably half an inch by half an inch, and interestingly the primer was gone as well. I can't figure out what caused it, either. I don't see an impact mark that would mean something whacked it, but I highly doubt that, as my dad kind of thinks, that there was a bubble in the paint that finally came out over the winter. I looked on the ground but failed to find the chip, which makes it even more mysterious...That also meant, though, that any hopes of going to a car show with it would be dashed until we can get some touch-up paint on it. The spot is so deep, though, trying to fix it ourselves would look awful. I talked to my parents, and my dad went up and looked at it, and I think we've decided that we'll need to take it across town and get it professionally touched up. This also ruins our chances of going to the Goodguys show, unfortunately. That's alright, though. Our goal has always been to get it up to the show and back, and we accomplished that goal last year (if you were reading the blog then).

The car has done a great job since then, and it's neat that we're finally starting to look at it with the attitude of "What can we do to make it better?" as opposed to "What do we have to do to get it done?" She's coming along, though, and she'll definitely go to some local car shows this summer. It's a little disappointing, though, that such an odd thing (and something so small, at least by measurement) would stop us. Oh well.

I'll leave the neatest part of my experiences in the Garage until next post, though. I was trying to move the new fenders from the front of the garage to behind the Maxwell, but this meant cleaning and moving a few things. In doing so, I not only sorted through car parts, but I found the equivalent of a time capsule buried in the back of the Garage. This capsule ended up taking me back three generations and would give me some more mysteries that only deepen the pathos of that building. Stay tuned for that, plus a really neat find that relates to the Maxwell---something that I had forgotten all about needing!

Either way, though, I'm glad the blog is alive and well again. More soon...

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