18 May, 2011

To get close to it, to touch its cold, grimy skin

Ah the sweet smells of summer. The wind, the sun, the grass getting greener everyday. Having been enclosed in the snowglobe that was my university all year, I've been trying to engross myself in as many summer activities as I can as fast as I can.

It's not that I don't enjoy summer to its fullest, it's just that there have been years where it takes me a while to feel summery, and that's quite sad. That's also what I've been trying to combat for the past few days, and I'm happy to report that all has been going well.

I graduated from college on Saturday with my degree in Neuroscience, which is probably deserving of a blog entry in itself. I could go on and on about my travails at university, but for now I'll focus on more pressing (and seasonal) issues. This blog may be a bit random, I'll warn you.

In two and a half weeks I'll be getting my car, and I'm pretty excited about that. My current car in the meantime has been very good to me, so I'm currently feeling a bit guilty. She's been a great car overall, and I know I'll be sad to part with her. The TT is a thrilling prospect, though, and I must say that I've had quite a few visions over the past four weeks of me driving it in various locations---me in the TT going to the store, me in the TT cruising to the capitol to visit friends, me in the TT with the windows down listening to the oldies on a warm Saturday night with its windows down. The Czech man from whom I'm buying it has emailed a couple of times to let me know how the car is doing, much like a homesick mother calling to check on her child. He assures me that the car is fine, and now that his time is limited with it, he's really come to appreciate it. I know exactly what he means, honestly.

On my first two weekdays of break, as I said, I've tried to do as many summery things as I could. Both days I've gone up to The Garage to work. The first day was spent mainly cleaning so that I could get to working on the cars, but that was fun in itself. The longest task of the day, perhaps, was fiddling with the radio to get my oldies station back. I used to listen to the oldies station from our capitol, but I have since abandoned it. When I was a kid they used to play '50s and '60s music generously, and it was quite highbrow when they'd spin one from the early '70s. Nowadays they have designated periods of time every day for tunes from the 1970s and now sprinkle in as many songs from the '60s as they now play from the '80s. It's not that I don't like that music, it's the principle of the thing that gets me. As a result, I've abandoned them and am now a follower of Scott Shannon on the local True Oldies Channel affiliate. I love the mix of the songs that have always echoed through the Garage as well as the local commercials sprinkled in. It's that combination that never fails to make me feel nostalgic; its predictability is a comfort to mark the passing of time (I know when on the hour their commercial breaks fall as well as some bumper music they use before the Voice Track rolls over).

Once I played with the finnicky radio and found the TOC, I got to work sweeping, putting tools away, moving things, cleaning windows, and clearing out a workspace behind the Maxwell. When all of this was said and done, I was finally able to tackle all of the projects that used to run through my head late at night while fervently typing out papers.

My first project was to pull the soft top bows out from the side of the work bench and try to put them together. We had found the small bow that stretches across the frame directly above the car's occupants' heads, and I needed to hook it on. Without C clips, though, I won't be able to, which is fine because we're still working on that metal bracket we had to make that hooks behind the seats in the car. Without that, we won't be able to hook the frame to the car in the first place. I also noticed that it got chipped pretty hard sometime over the winter, so that would require some touch-up work.

After that, I headed back to do some work on the back of the Maxwell. My plan is still to work from back to front on the mechanics of it, so I'm continuing the process of sorting out the rear differential. As it is I'm still a bit nervous at opening it up, so in the meantime I've tilted it rearward and am inspecting the outside parts. I've loosened every bolt on the outside of the case (but haven't taken them off), and I've also found the drain plug for the fluid in the diff. Because it's tilted, no fluid came out, but sometime I'll tilt it forward and collect it (initial drops that got on my fingers seem to indicate that it's just oil inside, but I'm not sure). Today I figured out how to disconnect the driveshaft from the rear axle, which involves taking off little metal rings that are held on with screws. These allow the huge bolts that go into the pivoting mechanism (I'm bad with names of parts on these cars as of right now) on the driveshaft to come out. These will have to be greased before I put them back in. Before then I'll take the entire driveshaft out, run it under the wire brush, prime it, and set it back under the car. I still need the U-bolts that hook the T-shaped front of the driveshaft to the transmission, but I may be able to make those if I can't find them.

After getting the driveshaft off, I'll probably scoot the axle out from under the car (the tires are still attached, as my attempts to get them off failed for some reason) and attack it with degreaser. I'd rather do that than scratch it off with a screwdriver since when I used the latter method I started seeing some swaths of blue paint amidst the gunk. I'm hoping that if I clean it off with degreaser I can save some of the paint (not likely). This is valuable because it tells me that even the axle was blue instead of a heavy-duty black underbody. All of this is helpful.

After I attack it with degreaser I'd like to split the axle and inspect the gears, clean them and put the proper lubrication inside. I've cleaned all of the greasing points (the little metal spring caps that lift to allow you to put lubricant on the diff), so that won't be a problem. The next step after that will be priming the rest of the frame and leaf springs on the rear end before reaffixing the axle to the car. To do this I'll have to get or make more of the U-bolts that hold the two together (since a couple of the 100-year-old ones snapped when removing them for the first time in a century). I'll hook the driveshaft back up, and the rear end will be in good shape. Then I'll move to the transmission, knowing that I'll have to return and do the rear brakes eventually.

So that was a good bit of accomplishments on the old car the past couple of days. I feel like I'll be able to make actual progress in the coming weeks, and that's a fantastic feeling.

I also recently joined a Model T forum, asking the people on there how I might go about getting our 1913 running. They were very generous in their responses and gave me a very good list of things to check, plus some places nearby to get parts if I need them (which I will).

Today I spent some time uncovering the T and dusting it off in order to take some pictures (which I'll post soon), and it was pretty interesting to get close to it, to touch its cold, grimy skin and uncover the shine that was buried beneath. I've never really been close to that car except for when I was a small child and was entranced by the thought of climbing into it as if it were a mysterious cave and wondrous, dilapidated time machine all at once. Donning a painting mask and the oldest clothes I had, I was allowed to climb into it and sit behind the wheel for a few moments, even though I had no notion of what the car meant as a classic automobile or as a future project. I haven't climbed inside since then, although today I opened the right side doors (the left side is against the wall) and lifted the engine cover. I also cranked the engine over a couple of times, which thankfully spun freely. It invigorated me thinking that someday I'll turn that crank and the four cylinder engine that powers my own Tin Lizzie will fire to life for the first time in half a century.

Come tomorrow morning I'll be back up in the garage, my scratched and bloodied arms set to delve further into the numerous projects I have. I'll have more updates tomorrow (hopefully in blog form) and also some pictures of my updates on the Maxwell and Model T. Until then, thanks for reading!

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