Archive for the ‘Woody Wagon’ Category

…or so says Neil Young.  Kim has been asking me to fix the (tiny) rust blisters on the ’51 Pontiac wagons fenders for a couple seasons, since she got a Celebrity Choice pick at Autorama in Detroit with it last month, I figured I’d better get it done.

Of course, it was way worse than it looked at the surface.  Here’s how I fixed it:

So, I made some new fender skirts while I was at it…

And the doors were rusty too…

Now it’s ready for primer and paint.

Our fall vacation in Northern Michigan has been found to have been totally rigged!  From start to finish, from Tahquamenon Falls to wineries and restaurants around Traverse  City, it was nothing but sleeping in, great fall colors, great food, great wine, and great friends.  We slept in, ate bacon and eggs, drank champagne with smoked whitefish pate and apple pie with dinner.  Not one whit given for responsibilities of work, the election, or bills to pay.

And it was good.

While the snow fell on my ’51 Pontiac, moved outdoors so as not to get it completely trashed by grinding dust and dirt, I got the windshield trough DONE, the rear bumpers completely welded, and got started grinding the miles of welds down on the rest of the body changes.

It’s tedious, but it’s got to be done.

I also stood back and admired the car’s new lines, and I have to say I REALLY like it. I think the profile is much improved, everything flows nicely and the new work compliments the tonneau cover. It’s going to be great.

Now, more grinding…

3/4 right rear.

3/4 right rear.

Tonneau cover flows into trunk lid.

Tonneau cover flows into trunk lid.

Windshield trough done.

Windshield trough done.

Reshaping the dash pads.

Reshaping the dash pads.

Wagon out in the cold.

Wagon out in the cold.

Another day of progress here at Cool McCool’s Garage. I got the right side quarter done, and the skirt almost done. Only have to put a lip on the bottom edge. I used barrel bolts from the hardware store as mounting clips, very simple, clean, and secure.

Now, a couple of days off and next week I’ll get the other side done. It should go faster, now that I’ve done the right side.

It’s exciting to pull these touches (the Caddy headlights and sculpted rear fenders), It me a fresh outlook on the car. Rather than being an old project that I feel I have to get finished, it’s now something new and interesting.

Barrel bolt for a latch.

Barrel bolt for a latch.

Skirt mounted, inner fender done.

Skirt mounted, inner fender done.

New profile.

New profile.

Garage full of coolness.

Garage full of coolness.

Today was beautiful here in the southwest corner of the Mitten.  Bright sun, brilliant fall colors, cool temps.   Kim and I took advantage of day and the peak of color in this part of the state, and took a drive in the wagon after getting some fall chores done.  We drove about an hour and half on back roads, never getting more than  about 15 miles from home.  It was absolutely beautiful, and didn’t even get the car dusty!  After getting home, a snifter of “Dragons Milk”, and a little quality time with Milo and Ari.

Why not come along with us, for a little back roads bit of Pure Michigan?

Somewhere in the vast, uncharted wilderness near Orangeville.

Somewhere in the vast, uncharted wilderness near Orangeville.

And, the car stays clean!

And, the car stays clean!

Little wagon in the Big Woods

Little wagon in the Big Woods

"Do you know where this road comes out?"

“Do you know where this road comes out?”

Golden Hickory

Golden Hickory

A little lov'n from the pets!

A little lov’n from the pets!

Here’s how we roll, with the Cool McCool’s Garage Mobile World Headquarters.  On our recent trip to the Smokies and Blue Ridge Parkway, a late start on Thursday afternoon (somebody has to work around here!), meant we couldn’t drive to Ashville NC in one day.  So, we planned a stop around Dayton Ohio as a good afternoons drive.  I’d looked up a couple of Wal-Mart stores on line, called and asked if it was OK to park overnight in their lots. 

Yes indeed it was, so we made it here, and set up “camp”.  I did feel a little wierd setting in a lawn chair outside the trailer with a Gin and Tonic, so we stayed inside for the evening.   I’m not a big fan of shopping at Wally World, but they do have a nice camp store, and the campground is level and well-lit.  It wasn’t too busy, we slept pretty well, and got a good start on the rest of the drive the next morning.  Sadly, I couldn’t find a light pole with a power outlet at the base, so we couldn’t toast our bagels for breakfast, but I did buy orange juice and couple other things I’d forgotten to get. 

Leaving the next morning, the car ran AWFUL.  Missing, stumbling, bucking and coughing,  I thought we must be out of gas.  There was a gas station just about half a mile down the road, we limped and filled up, which turned out to not be the problem, as it only took 8 gallons.  By then, it was running a little better, so we set out.  All day long, it would occasionally stumble and miss, I wondered if it had been some bad gas we got, or maybe a bad injector, plug wire or spark plug.  It ran fine at wide open throttle, where it spent a LOT of time, hauling the trailer up steep grades as we got into the mountains, so it was a perplexing issue, but we were rolling, so I figured we were OK.  We were able to keep up with semi’s, big diesel dually’s pulling giant 5th wheels and traffic in general going up steep grades with passing lanes, so it wasn’t bad, but it was a little worrisome, hundreds of miles from home.

We got to our  campground just outside of Ashville early in the afternoon, despite a monumental 2 hour-long traffic jam about 30 miles out, which turned out to have been a terrible accident, leaving a semi tractor and trailer wadded up into the side of a mountain, burned to the ground.  Pretty grisly, we were glad we weren’t there when it happened.

“Mama Gerties Hideaway” however, turned out to be beautiful, and despite the steep grade (the address, “Uphill Road” should have been a clue), was great.  We ended up staying two more days, and doing day trips from there.  The place was right up the side of a mountain, 30 sites, with another 20 under construction even further up the hill.  We almost got stuck pulling the trailer onto our site, I stopped just as the car got onto the gravel, but we made it.  The hill was so steep that standing about 20 feet down from the camper, one could see the entire underside, as if it were up on a lift, and the camper next to us looked down onto the roof.  The sites are terraced up the mountain, hence the flat rock retaining walls between sites.  

The next morning we went to the Biltmore Estate, a spectacle of conspicuous consumption if ever there was one.  It’s hard to wrap ones head around the idea that the place was built as a summer retreat for one wealthy guy, and that the estate included almost 70,000 acres.  The grounds immediately around the mansion (castle?), thousands of acres, were landscaped by the guy who designed central park.  To the credit of the owner, he did much for the area, not only as an employer, but as far as re-foresting the clear-cut hillsides around, reclaiming over-worked and depleted farm land, and many charitable works.  Still, it was staggeringly extravagant

The grounds were amazingly pretty, the dam at right was built on a small stream, after extensive excavation, with ponds and water features upstream.  The scale of the project, which included its own rail spur, a village for workers and employees to live, was hard to imagine.  But, it made a visit for us.  Thank-you, Mr. Vanderbilt!

That afternoon, still worried about the car not running right, and prospect of a week of mountain driving ahead, I found an Advance Auto store near the campground, and spent $150 on plugs, wires, a new fuel filter, and some other stuff. Back at the campground, I discovered that there is no way to get to the little 4.8L LS engines coils, plug wires, plugs, or injectors.  The 331 Hemi valve covers I used to hide all that technology are neat, but the left one can’t come off without first removing the master cylinder and power brake booster.  That wasn’t going to happen that far away from home with the few tools I’d brought, nor was the fuel filter going to come off easily.  Scratching my head, and for want of anything else to do, I pulled off the upper portion of the engine cover, which hides the intake manifold and its wiring, and discovered the fuel evap recovery system solenoid at the front of the intake was unplugged. I plugged it’s wiring harness back in and…BINGO!  The car stopped missing, stumbling and hesitating.  I must have disturbed this while looking for a vacuum source for the new heater and A/C unit before we left, causing the problem.  I kept the parts I’d bought, figuring that now that we’re home, I can take some time and replace all this stuff, and figure a way to access things in an emergency on the road.

Aside from the reservation at the campground from Hell, and subsequent car trouble upon leaving (which, I believe now to be an act of the Lord of Darkness, or at least some devilish influence by one of his Imps), the rest of the trip was spectacular, and happily, uneventful.  I’ll say right now that one of the highlights of the trip was the visit to Chateau Morrisette, on the Blue Ridge Parkway, followed closely by the Friday night show at the Rex Theater in Galax.  Driving the Blue Ridge is spectacular, and while we had some foggy mornings, the trip overall was fantastic.  Rather than bore you with more details, I’ll let some of the pictures speak for themselves.   Enjoy.




































So, there you have it.  11 days, just shy of 3,000 miles, a couple minor problems, lots of wine, and even more fun, another Cool McCool’s vacation is in the books.  The fun’s not over yet, there’s a trip to Las Vegas coming right up, the garage is cleaned up, there’s money in the Hot Rod Fund again, and we’re about to tackle the ’48 Diamond T, and put a new interior in the ’48 Pontiac convert.  We won’t say what that’ll be, but “Blackwatch” should be a hint. Stay tuned!


Kim said she didn’t feel comfortable pulling the trailer on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and even though we were only on it for two miles, and only to get to our campground, her fears were not unfounded.

We both thought we smelled the distinctive almond-like aroma of anti-freeze a couple of times on the drive from Asheville this morning, but no visible leaks, and it wasn’t hot. We got off our exit at Fancy Gap, VA, and followed the directions a short distance to the “Fancy Gap Campground”. (Note to you, faithfull reader, DO NOT let me pick a place to stay on the road).

From the road, the place, high on a windy ridge, looked deserted, a large “For Sale” sign on the building should have been an obvious clue, but I went to the office.

I was greeted by a girl who looked like she may have been the sister of the banjo playing boy from Deliverance. She stared blankly at me when I said I’d called to make a reservation, and was clearly confused trying to figure out how many nights Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday would be. After several minutes at a calendar counting, and re-counting, she was then lost trying to figure how much 3 times $31.50 would be.

“$94.50”, I said, which drew a suspicious glare.

Several more minutes struggling with a calculator, she said, “That’ll be $94.50 for three nights.”

Agreeing, but hesitant, I signed the credit card slip, and we drove up over the ridge to the campground, where we were met with what looked like an abandoned old Winnebago, partially covered with a tattered blue poly tarp. It was partially sunken into the red clay, and surrounded by piles of junk.

On down a few sites was a rusty, grey primered mid 80’s Dodge van, which also looked like a permanent fixture. Or a meth lab.

We both agreed we were creeped out enough to not want to stay there, and I went back up to the “office”, which was also the kennel for a snarling pit bull (“Doan’chew worry, she won’t bite”, Deliverance girl assured me), to unwind the deal and refund my credit card.

“Ah cain’t do that, ah don’t know how, and the owner ain’t here ’till Satu-day”, said Deliverance girl.

By that time, I figured it was worth $94.50 NOT to have to stay ther and we headed back up the Parkway to find a KOA listed as close-by.

We got less than mile, and the car made an odd high pitched whistle, and began to miss badly. We were headed up a rather steep grade, and before I could say, “This can’t be good.”, we came to a halt.

It seemed to idle fine, but wouldn’t pull itself, and the anti-freeze smell was back in a big way. I shut it off, and it restsrted,and still idled OK, so I figured it couldn’t terminal.

When I opened the hood, the problem was immediately evident. The lower radiator hose had been rubbing on the lower control arm, and had a tiny hole in it. The engine had gotten hot enough, briefly, to confuse whatever sensors deal with heat, and it quit.

As I was rummaging around my emergency kit and tools for something to temporarily patch the hose, a good Samaritan, “Dave”‘ a newly retired surgical perfusion tech (the guy who runs the heart lung machines for your cardiac surgeries), and a devout gear-head and hot-rodder, stopped to see if we needed help.

Did we ever! I had a roll of what was purported to be radiator hose repair tape, which we wrapped the injured hose with, and he started to lead us to a garage where we hoped to replace the hose. We got about 4 miles when the tape (predictably) let go and we once again lost all the coolant.

I pulled off in front a distressed looking mobile-home, and a rustic looking gent came out to see what was the trouble.

As I was telling him, he turned and said, “I got a floor jack and tools, let’s got that hose off!”

He returned with the same, I jacked the car up and pulled the hose.

With directions to an “Advance Auto” store just a few miles up the road, my new best friend “Dave” and I set out, leaving Kim and Ari with the rustic looking guy with tools, the car propped up on cement blocks. He very graciously drove me 8 miles to the nearest “Advanced Auto” store, where I bought a new flex hose and some coolant.

Half an hour later, we were back, Kim, Ari and the car were still there, and I got the new, better fitting, hose installed, the radiator filled with more coolant, and we were good to go.

With many thanks to both the fellows who helped us, and a few bucks for the guy with jack, we were off.

The KOA turns out to be a gem, I will no longer claim they are all by the freeway, next to a railroad yard, and under the flight path of a major airport. We got their LAST site, went to Galax for some great pit style bar-b-que and a beer, and are looking forward to a great day tommorow!

Here at Cool McCool’s Garage, we’re always trying to keep things current, and stay “fresh”. That’s why from time to time, we like to do some “on site” reporting.

Today, we are coming to you from Swannanoa NC, at “Mama Gertie’s Hideaway” campground, so startlingly steep we need ropes to keep from sliding down the hill. It’s a beautiful site though, and now that we’re getting used to the incline, we’ve decided to stay a couple more days. It certainly is nicer than the Wall-mart parking lot we stayed in the first night on the road.

Our staff, accustomed to “flatland” driving, has had a little trouble acclimating, but has done well, considering the fog and rain complicating matters. Yesterday’s wait on the Blue Ridge Parkway for a wrecker to winch the wadded up remains of a rented Toyota up a cliff, crumpled luggage stacked up beside the road as the wreckage was recovered caused only a few moments of distress, and we pressed on in the fog.

Our mobile office and support vehicle, the ’51 Tin Woody, developed a disconcerting miss, that had the entire team here worried(although we didn’t slow down), that turned out to be an unplugged vacuume port sensor, disturbed no doubt during the recent addition of the heat/defrost/air conditioner. Happily, the hundreds of Dollars worth of parts bought to throw at the problem can be returned to Advance Auto. What, me, worried?
Tomorrow, more white knuckle driving and waterfall viewing is on the schedule, so stay tuned.. .




DSC02091 (1024x768)You, faithful reader, may have noticed that it’s been awhile since there’s been an update here at “Cool McCool’s Garage”, and you’re right.  It HAS been awhile, almost a month.  There’s been lots of activity here, lot’s of new stuff, some of the old is gone, and there’s been some well deserved R & R.   We’re feeling a little guilty about not keeping up, so we’ll try to catch up with  a little recap of the past few weeks activities…

The second weekend of August found the staff of “Cool McCool’s Garage” at the third “Relix Riot” at the Gilmore Car Museum right in our own back yard.  In addition to seeing all our friends, some of the coolest traditional hot rods and customs in the mid-west, we were surprized and thrilled to have the ’51 Pontiac Tin Woody chosen as “Coolest Surf Wagon”.  It’s not a “judged” show, the awards are chosen by the guys in the Relix car club on the basis of what they think is cool.  That they picked our work-horse wagon, hauling the Spartan, really means a lot.  Plus, a totally cool vintage board, complete with shark-bit marks, was the trophy, a great addition to the shop wall!  It really means a lot, thanks guys.

Here’s a little snap-shot of some of the other great cars there this year…

The weather was perfect, the cars are first-rate.  There’s huge competition for attendance at the show, as the Woodward Cruise is the same weekend, but to have the chance to hang with our friends from the Relix, camping on the grounds, seeing over 300 seriously cool hot rods at the Gilmore sure beats being stuck in traffic on Woodward, paying $50 to park, don’t you think?

From the Riot, we went directly to the state park at Gun Lake for two weeks.  This was a “working” vacation, as we, the staff here at “Cool McCool’s” had to all go back and forth to our day jobs.  That didn’t mean we didn’t have a great time.  Being there mid-week meant that we had 3 or 4 days of an almost deserted campground before it started to fill up for the Holiday (Labor Day) weekend crowd.  We did some “chill’n and grill’n”, enjoyed cocktail hour daily (sometimes starting at noon or before!).   We had the Chris Craft out, had some great moonlight rides, did some skiing and wake-surfing, and just idling around the lake-shore.  We were also treated to the company of our  friends Kirk and Donnell of “Crafty B” fame, joining us in there newly polished Airstream Land Yacht.  It was two weeks of fun, family and friends, and left little time for keeping up the web-site.

Here are some pics of the two-week stay.  We’re sure you’ll see why we had no time, or inclination, to set down at the keyboard!

So, this gets us up to Labor Day, and the need to get back to the real world.  We’ve been working hard having fun, and in fact just spent this past weekend camping at the Fort Custer State Park in Augusta.  The Spartan is unpacked, and awaiting a thorough clean up before we head over to Milford for the Tin Can Tourist Fall Meet at Milford in two weeks.  Meanwhile, the Nats North is next weekend in Kalamazoo, and there’s big news about the Cool McCool’s Garage stable of cars to report, but we’ll save that for another days news.

Meanwhile, the shop watch-dog Ari, is on duty, and there’s work to be done.  Stay tuned!

What happens your wife gets her own trailer, a woody wagon, a fridge full of wine and cocktail fix’ns?  She takes her sister and goes camping without you, that’s what!

Kim and her sister Julie are headed out to South Haven to spend the weekend camping with their friend Cheryl, who stays the summer in an RV park there.  Kim packed up the Tini-Home last night, and she and Julie left after Kim got home from work today.  I spent the morning trying to get the gas gauge in the wagon to work, without success, but I did manage to not make anything else not work, and got the dash back together. 

The car got washed, the brake controller on the trailer was adjusted so the brakes don’t lock up and slide the tires (it was tricky to the controller set properly), and the girls are off to the shores of Lake Michigan.  I’m sure they’ll be the hit of the campground.  I told Kim to sell the trailer if anyone wants it badly enough, but I don’t think she’d part with it!

Here they go!