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“What are you going to do with your time when you retire?”, was a question I heard over, and over, and OVER from my co-workers and friends before I retired, 12 days ago.

What indeed?

So far, there hasn’t been a dull moment.  I literally now do not have time for a job.  The first project was starting a storage building, a 24 x 40 foot pole building with 12 foot eves that we can store our Spartan trailer in.  My pal and fellow retiree Butch Starner, a builder in his working career, is helping.  Actually, I’m the helper, since he’s the one who knows what he’s doing.  I am good at handing him tools and following directions.  We’ve got the poles set and most of the framing done, waiting now on the trusses to be delivered and the snow and cold (which arrived early yesterday).

It’ll be great to get the Spartan in under cover, there’s room for a couple of cars and the lawn equipment, we’ve wanted this for a long time.

Speaking of cars, there’s been a big change in our car collection as well.  Just before I retired, I laid awake at 3 AM and thought, “What do I need the roadster for?”  I got up and put an ad on the H.A.M.B. classifieds, and had a deal on the car by 8 AM.  That one ultimately fell through (a funny story in itself), but one of the guys who was interested came through, and bought the car.

74479442_10214728859951523_6434928828472098816_oWe delivered it to him last weekend, to Lexington Kentucky, and made it our first “retirement trip.”  I had loaded the car in the trailer as soon as the guy bought it, we hitched up the Diamond T and headed south.  We had a great weekend, the guy is super happy with the car, and is building a ‘glass bodied ’34 5 window, so our car has a great home and stablemate.

We did some bourbon tasting, touring Woodford Reserve distillery…

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…we drank some bourbon…73341307_10221380868613816_5245163685650890752_n.jpg

…we did some driving…

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…we did some dining out, which I don’t have a photo of.  You get the idea though.

Knowing that my ’06 Mercury Milan is on it’s last legs, I also was thinking that I was going to have to buy another car.  We’d (well, I) had been shopping for a late ’40’s through late 50’s wagon to replace the recently deceased ’51 Pontiac.  That was getting to frustrating, everything I found was too much money, too far away, too original or didn’t appeal to Kim.

I ended up buying a wrecked (lightly but still totaled) 2019 Dodge Ram 4×4.  It had been rear ended, bending the rear bumper, tailgate, and last foot or so of the frame horns.  Go-Go Auto Parts had a section frame, box, bumper and tailgate for it, and the price was right.  In addition, it has only been driven 5,000 miles and still smells brand new.

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I was hooked.

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Yesterday I pulled the bent bumper and box, sectioned the frame and got the “new” frame section tack welded in.  It’s going fine so far, and I found I can heat the shop with the new pellet stove (another retirement present to myself) enough to paint.  Which is good because all the parts are different colors.

The truck will be a good investment for us.  I paid exactly 1/3 the retail price, which I priced on the Dodge website, so it was affordable.   Back when I was rebuilding wrecks, I figured getting in a current or one year old car for half or retail was good deal.  Since I’d just sold the ’34, I was able to buy it without getting into our “cushion” money or financing it.  We can pull the Spartan comfortably.  It drives great, and with the 400 HP Hemi under the hood, it’s fun and fast.  Stupid fast. I don’t really care for the black wheels, but since it has chrome otherwise anywhere, it does make a statement.  I had a ’94 Ram pickup that I bought new, so it’s a bit nostalgic in that way too.

So, retirement thus far has been a blur of activity.  One of my friends pointed out that I don’t have to get everything done in the first week, a good reminder.  I’m enjoying myself so far, and looking forward to being able to relax sometime in the next 20 or 25 years.

Posted: September 12, 2019 in Buick
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Wrecked.  That about sums up summer here at Cool McCool’s Garage.  Life is like a car crash, you’re rolling along without a care in the world, things are great, and the next thing you know, you’re on the Tilt ‘O Whirl, thinking about throwing up over the side.

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Our ’51 Pontiac wagon was destroyed by an idiot (said idiot seen the upper left corner leaning on his weapon, er truck)  in a moment of inattention (he said he wasn’t on a cell phone, but admitted  he wasn’t looking at the road ahead) who slammed into the car while we were waiting for traffic to clear turning left into my mother in law’s drive on M-43 in Delton.  The impact pushed the car head-on into oncoming traffic.

Losing the car, which we’ve had and loved for the past 12 years, was blow that is only slightly softened by the great service from Hagerty Classic Car Insurance.  Ultimately, we’re thankful  no one was killed, it was after all, just a car.

So, what does one do after that?  For me, it’s been difficult to get going on anything.  I suppose there was a bit of depression involved (my mom passed away July 9th, a week after her 89th birthday, and we’re dealing with the aftermath of that and my elderly father), so it’s been rather hard to feel enthused.  I have the T’bird nearly ready for paint, but the need to replace the car that we use to pull our Spartan trailer with seems more urgent than anther fair-weather cruiser, so I’ve pushed myself into action on the ’63 Riviera that’s been gathering dust in the back of the shop.

That seemed like a better plan than spending the insurance money immediately on a car similar to the Pontiac, with retirement looming, and five other old cars taking up space.

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The car has a 5.3 LS/4L60 combo, the wiring is done, the suspension is done, the gas tank is in, the interior is started, and the simple custom work I did hiding the ugly headlights and removing the front bumper is roughed in.  It should be a great tow vehicle, although my wife Kim is not certain she’s going to like it in front of the trailer (it’s admittedly a completely different style), it should be a very comfortable and competent tow pig.

Plus, TV Tommy Ivo towed with a ’63 Riviera, it was good enough him it ought to be good enough for us.

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A couple of hours had the front clip off, the car reduced to several big piles of parts.  Look at all that wiring!  Yikes.

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The engine hadn’t been cleaned before I  put in, mostly because my drive is gravel overgrown with sod, it’s impossible to roll an engine on a dolly or hanging from the hoist out to degrease and clean, so with having it in the chassis, up on wheels, makes that possible.  A couple cans of “Gunk” degreaser and the power washer (which amazingly started right up), had the engine clean enough for a car the  hood will never be open on.

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A seemingly simple chore I wanted to do after the front sheet metal was off was to align the sagging passenger door.  These cars have incredibly heavy doors, with removable out skins for access to the window motors and regulators, the right hand one dropped at the rear, hanging up on the striker, and the gap wasn’t even.  I thought it’d be easy, thinking it needed to have the hinges adjusted at the cowl, but it turned out someone had broken three of the six bolts holding the hinges to the door (where all the adjustment is), taken a fourth one out, leaving the remaining two only finger tight.  So, the door moved around on the hinge, putting it out of alignment.

I was able to drill all the broken 5/16th bolds out of the hinge plate with the door in place on the  hinges and re-tap them.  It was a bit of a challenge, and they may not be perfectly aligned as the drill couldn’t quite be square because the hinge was in the way, but it’s now adjusted properly, all six bolts are in and torqued down, the door didn’t have to come off, and we’re moving forward.

I’m going to give the wagon’s visor to my pal Jake Moomey, who’s going to lend a hand with running the brake, fuel and A/C lines, which will be a big help, and boost my enthusiasm.  We’d been talking about selling one or more of the cars as we move into retirement, so the way to look at the wagon is that we’ve sold one.  We wouldn’t have sold THAT one, and it isn’t the way we WANTED to sell one, but, that’s the bottom line.

We’re moving forward.

 

At the base of the sunken windshield the resulting gap had me in a quandary. Honestly I was kind of nervous that I wouldn’t able to make these precise pieces, but with new confidence in my sheet metal skills after doing my son’s wagon, I set to it.

I made some fancy cardboard patterns from a handy Amazon shipping box…

Cut some 20 gauge pieces, clamped them to the wood stove, bent the flange…

…and welded them to the existing valance panels.

A skim coat of reinforced filler over the welds is waitto be blocked down and a final coat of light filler will finish the job.

Having that two inch gap filled visually extends the hood, the windshield moved back shortens the cockpit and helps balance out the tonneau cover and deck lid.

I like it.

Ranch Wagon DONE!

Posted: May 6, 2019 in Uncategorized

Back in January, on a day when the ground was snow free and frozen, I decided to pull our son’s ’65 Ford Wagon out of the ShelterLogic tent and into the shop to start the bodywork. I’d be able to leisurely get it ready for paint and ready by mid May.

Good thing I started early.

It’s finally done, although some of the things I thought I’d have time to do, like replace the too long squealing alternator belt didn’t get done.

It looks great, we didn’t paint the roof to safe on material and time, the color match is good. I’m happy to have gotten it done for them, they’ve got a summer of camping fun booked using it.

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I’ve been busy this past month and half working on our son Craig and his wife Kathleen’s ’65 Ford Ranch Wagon.  Craig bought this car a year ago in Detroit, from a Craigslist ad.  It was an unfinished, apparently abandoned project, the 352 supposedly freshened up, ran great but no brakes and typical rust on the bottom edges.  The body had been off and frame repaired, very well done.  They drove the car all summer after having the brakes gone through by our friend Baron, pulling their canned ham camper,  trips to the UP, camping throughout lower Michigan, and evening runs to the A&W.  Mechanically great but definitely needing some bodywork.

56945981706__5bf62540-be6e-4d9d-855b-3f0427f3cb4eI got it in the shop in January, and started working on the body.  It’d been the victim of a “used car lot” type “repair” years ago, plastic about an inch thick that was letting go around the wheels, the dog-legs were gone, and the bottom 4″ of the tailgate were AWOL.  In fact, the left side hinge had torn loose, causing the right side hinge (die-cast) to break from the extra load.  I bought a shrinker/stretcher set from Harbor Freight,  made my own sheet metal brake from scraps of steel I had, and set to work making the dog-legs, lower quarter panels and wheel openings, and bottom of the tailgate.

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I knew how much work it was going to be, the only surprise was the top of the right front fender, which had some blistered paint that turned out to be cancerous.  I’m pretty proud of the repair to that, and the wheel opening flare and dog-leg panels, all complicated compound curves and beads which I was able to make accurately with my limited tools and a sheet of 20 gauge.  From there it was a matter of grinding down what seemed to be miles of weld (which Kim helped with, holding the dolly in back of the weld while I hammer welded the joints.  Thanks Kim!) and then the rather tedious job of filling and then sanding, filling, sanding, filling, and sanding until the panels were perfect.

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I wrapped up the bodywork today.  There’ll be some little spots I’m sure that will need a tiny bit of finessing that we’ll find as we prep for paint, but it looks really, really good.  I’m proud of the job, it was fun expanding my skill set, and very gratifying to do something for Craig and Kathleen.  The deadline for paint is the first part of May, they’ve got reservations for the Tin Can Tourist Spring Rally with us the third weekend of May, and plans for lots of fun this summer with the wagon, which will now look as good as it runs.

I had repaired and lubed the front power window motors a couple of months ago, an easy job, but neither of the rear windows worked. I had hoped it was just the switches, but it was more than that.

Both of the rear motors turned out to be completely seized up. Getting the motors and regulators out was a real challenge, as the regulator should be run up and down to access the screws that connect the arm to the window channel. I eventually got the right one out and replaced the seized motor with one of a pair from some mid ’60’s Cadillac regulators I’d saved for 35 years. I didn’t realize until I’d spent almost an hour unsuccessfully trying to reinstall it that the motors are right and left hand. I’d put the left motor on the right and it wouldn’t go back in.

So, I started over. Once I had the correct side motor on the regulator, it went easier. Aligning the glass was easier than I thought, that part of the job went smoothly.

The drivers side was a piece of cake after the right side. After it was done and aligned, I found the switch on the drivers door didn’t operate the passenger door window. It would lower, but wouldn’t raise, and the switch felt “loose”.

Turned out the points for that switch were literally welded together, the plastic wire housing was melted, and the contacts (little metal pegs that plugged into contact sleeves in the housing) were rusty. I was able to repair that, and after reassembling the switch, all the windows work from the drivers door and their individual switches.

Another big task completed, next up, fuel and brake lines. One thing at a time.

Riviera Custom, Light ‘em up.

Posted: November 28, 2018 in Uncategorized

Wow. I struggled with where and how to mount parking lights and turn signals after I moved the headlights. My first thought was to cut out the blanked out area behind the fins in the lower part of the bezels, but I thought it’d be too difficult to do well.

I was wrong.

I drilled a hole at each end of the blanked area. And sliced it out with a diamond cut off wheel in the grinder. A little touch up of the finish and polish, they’ll look perfect.

After that I made mounting brackets for the rear seat and set the original speaker grill in the armrest.

One step at a time.