Mile Post 370

Mile Post 370
Mile Post 370

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Future Repairs, Preventative Maintenance and Modifications for The GEZROKET

I'm blessed with the GEZROKET, the 1996 Oldsmobile 98 Regency Elite II sedan that I bought from the estate of Mrs. E. Blaney.  I'm not rich monetarily, so this car isn't just a leisure hobby that I can take out and "play with" when the urge occurs.  Nope, this car is a Daily Driver.  Besides, what is the point of having a "museum piece" and never driving it?  If a car is new, the seals in the Engine, Transmission, Wheel Bearings, Air Conditioning, Master (brake) Cylinder, Wheel Cylinders, Rack & Pinion Steering Unit, Power Steering Pump and Power Brake Booster (not to mention the GM DexCool debacle, where the intake manifold gaskets fail, allowing coolant to cross pollute the lubricating oil), the seals will eventually leak.  The oils, fluids and grease keep the seals lubricated and swolen.  On a car with mileage, the seals are worn (some to near the point of leaking), so letting it sit is a recipe to create multiple fluid leaks under a car.  Things on a car eventually wear out or to the point of needing to be replaced.  That's no big deal.  Such is the life of a Daily Driver.

So here are the Repairs, Preventative Maintenance and Modifications that I'll be doing to the car:
  • Replace the coolant level and coolant temperature switches.  Repair and Preventative Maintenance.  While the Coolant Temperature Switch is still functioning, after replacing the coolant outlet tubes on the intake manifold (that run the "bypass coolant" into the heater core) and refilling the radiator with DexCool coolant, I started getting a "Low Coolant" message on the Message Center of the car.  Checking the Coolant Expansion Tank and the Radiator tanks, the coolant was at the factory preset level. plugged my U-Scan Bluetooth Receiver into the ALDL (Assembly Line Data Link - a port where the computer data for the Powertrain Control Module, Anti-Lock Brakes and Air Bag Safety System can be accessed from the CAN Bus, the Controller Area Network, the computer network in your car), turned the Bluetooth on and selected the Bluetooth U-Scan Receiver and opened the Application (Program) on my smart phone.  Selecting my car and the "Live Data" option, I could look at the data the PCM was receiving from the Coolant Temperature Sensor.  On a 95 degree (Fahrenheit) afternoon, cruising at a steady state 35 mph, the coolant showed a rock steady 189-190 degree (Fahrenheit) reading, proving that the flow of coolant to the sensor is steady and constant.  So I can only assume that the Coolant Level Sensor has failed.  I'll replace the Coolant Temperature Sensor at the same time, as I'll have to replace some coolant and the "bonnie scot" within me reminds me to be frugal and a Good Steward of my money, by adding new coolant only once.
  • Repair the torn Leather on the Driver's Seat and Door Panel.  Cosmetic Repair.  There's a company the school system uses to repair seats on their buses, Creative Colors International.  It's a mobile operation,.  The local operation is run out of a Chrysler Mini-van.  The work doesn't look bad.  The  color is very close.  They do both Leather and Vinyl Repair.  The technician gave me a quote of $150 to repair, redye and restore/recondition the seats and the driver's door panel.  He's also recommended "Perone Aerospace Leather Conditioner," which is approved by Boeing for their leather pilot's seating.  I'm going to "pull the trigger" on this sometime in November.  
  • Replace the damaged driver's side heated, electro-chromatic mirror with a standard heated mirror.  Repair.  R. Blaney, the son of the late owner of the GEZROKET, had already picked up another power, heated mirror, without the Electro-Chromatic Dimming Feature, to install on the car, before his Mom died.  He generously gave me the mirror, when I purchased the car from his mother's estate.  All I have to do is to open the door panel, unhook the electronics to the power mirror, remove the old mirror, replace the mirror and plug in the power harness for the mirror motors and heat, test the mirror for operation and reinstall the door panel.
  • Have the Ignition Keylock serviced.  Preventative Maintenance, assuming I get to it before it fails.  The car is now 20 model years old and my keys are numerous, causing excessive torque on the lower teeth of the lock mechanism of the Saginaw steering column.  The mass of the keys tends to be too great, where the keylock will fail over time.  This will need to be done by a locksmith.
  • Upgrade the factory headlights with a Daniel Stern Light kit that includes a new wiring harness, and relays to get maximum electrical power to upgraded lights in new factory lenses (which will increase the light by about 80%).  Upgrade Modification.  Daniel Stern offers custom made wiring harnesses or will sell you the materials and instructions to let you build it your self.  I'm O.K. on working with electricity, just not 100% confident in my ability.  However, a friend, who is a Mechanical Engineer and very confident in his Electrical Abilities has convinced me to give it a go (I hope that He'll double check my work, before I decide to plug the harness into the current lighting harness).  So purchasing the kit and building the Lighting Harness is going to happen in the near future. 
  • Replace the seal on the sun roof (as the rubber is original, cracked and tearing) and repair the headliner (to repair water damage, due to the failing sunroof seal and previously stopped up sunroof drain).  Repair and Restoration.  I have to find someone who can replace the Sunroof seal, adjust the Sunroof and repair the headliner (the guys who I wanted at a well known local Upholstery shop claim they're too old and just F___around the shop - to which I claimed that I too, was becoming and old F___er and I wanted older guys who knew what they were doing to repair/restore the car - without success)
  • Replace/Repair the Exhaust.  Preventative Maintenance.  The Exhaust system seems to be hanging down just slightly under the car, to a point where it's noticeable when looking at the car from the rear.  However, when I've the car up on ramps to change the oil, everything looks O.K..  So, it's time to have the exhaust system reworked.  I want something that will reduce the exhaust back pressure.  An upgraded (larger diameter) but quiet exhaust system will relieve the back pressure will allow the engine to make better torque and get better fuel economy.  However, I need to find a balance here that will give the car a "slight exhaust note," without making the car obnoxiously loud and miserable to take a long trip in it.
  • Install light window tint on the side windows (and maybe the rear window) to help to protect the Leather Interior and better allow me to see the digital instrumentation during times of high glare.  Upgrade Modification.
  • Then I'll assess whether it's worth the time and money to purchase and install an aftermarket Rear Anti-Sway Bar. ADDCO makes an aftermarket 7/8" rear anti-sway bar.  Upgrade Modification.
  • Sound System Upgrade Modification.  My current radio is a Stock GM head unit with AM-FM-Stereo-CD and Cassette Tape.  It is the forerunner to what would later be called Concert Stereo Sound.  It's a great system and the sound doesn't distort when played at high volume.  I may upgrade it in the future with a new Double DIN car audio head unit with AM-FM, Stereo, HD Radio, CD, USB INPUT, as I would like to try HD Radio.  However, with steering wheel audio controls, this might become a project that I don't want to do.  
  • Finally, I'd like some more power for this large car.  Upgrade Modification. The logical choice is a Supercharged GM 3800 Series II V-6 and 4T-65-E HD Transaxle, as other large GM "C-Bodies" (Buick Park Avenue Ultra) cars used this drive train combination.  It should be a simple swap, grab the engine, transaxle, wiring harness, radiator, and PCM from a donor (wrecked) car and install it.  However, I would like to have the LS-4 V-8 engine that was available in the "W-Body" cars (Chevrolet Impala SS, Monte Carlo SS Buick Lucerne Special Super, and Pontiac Gran Prix GXP).  The LS-4 V-8 engine was never available for the big C-Body.  The only V-8 that was available in this chassis was the Cadillac North Star.  Complex and troublesome on the earlier Cadillac Sedan deVille's (the same floor pan as my Olds 98), it wasn't noted to be that reliable.  But before Cadillac developed the NorthStar in the late 1980s, their engine in the malaise period of the early 80s Recession was a 4.1 Liter Pushrod V-8 with "Digital Fuel Injection."  If I remember correctly (I was working at NAPA at the time) this was a throttle body injection unit (that may be the same unit as the 2 Barrel TBI on the 4.3 V-6.  My late neighbor Bertha (Aunt Bert) P. had one of these and traded it for a new North Star equipped Sedan deVille.)  As I stated earlier, the Sedan deVille has the same floor pan as my Olds 98.  While there NEVER was a LS-4 V-8 engine in a GM "C-body" Front Wheel Drive sedan, the NorthStar is a completely different animal in how it mounts to the cradle.  One of my other neighbors has one of these cars, just around the corner (license plate removed), so I think I'll go take a look see at the engine/transaxle/cradle to see how it looks, taking lots of measurements and pictures, with the intent of comparing the 4.1 Digital Fuel Injection V-8's mounts to that of the LS-4.  If it looks right (or at least similar), I might buy the car for scrap, take the cradle (and the TBI unit and wiring for another project!) and then scrap the rest of the car for cash.  I'm keeping my options open and that LS-4 V-8 dream alive (it is lighter than the normally aspirated Series II 3800 V-6 and should get equivalent highway cruise economy when the Active Fuel Management cuts 4 cylinders off! and being lighter, it should promote better handling for this large car.)

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A Former Fleet Manager on Jalopnik's, Andrew P. Collins' rant aboutPickup Trucks that are over 8500 lbs. Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

Yesterday in Jalopnik, Andrew P. Colins acted as if he was reviewing the new Ford Super Duty Pickups (and touched on the Super Duty Cab and Chassis), but instead, chose to loose his mind and went on a rant about Trucks over 8500 lbs. GVWR and the need for the government to publish fuel economy standards for these vehicles.  The rant was brought about over the new 48 gallon fuel tank that is available on Ford's Super Duty trucks and what the approximate range of the truck is.  With these numbers, you can "back into" the fuel economy.

While Mr. Collins has the luxury of being a Journalist, I 've been a Fleet Manager for a larger utility company, specifying things like Tare Weight, Gross Vehicle Weight Ratings, and Gross COMBINATION Weight Ratings for Class 1 - 7 trucks that keep energy moving to its end users.

Before I could get the Operations Department what they needed in a truck (choosing a utility body to hold tools and supplies), the Safety Department the features on vehicles that will protect drivers from being injured, and protect others around these vehicles from being injured due to collision (e.g. back-up alarms, sensors, and cameras), I have to take into consideration other things such as:
  • The maximum payload for the vehicle, 
  • The worst conditions the vehicle will see as far as gradient, road surface and payload are concerned
  • Will the vehicle have to go off road?
  • Will it have to tow a trailer and equipment in addition to its usual payload?
These are the basic requirements to know about a vehicle chassis and its intended use.
  • Will the driver be required to have a Medical Card/What laws the driver must follow (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards or Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act), 
  • Will/can an individual driver pass a DOT Physical? 
  • Will his/her 2 year DOT Physical Card be shortened by non-Insulin Controlled Diabetes Mellitus, Sleep Apanea, Hypertension or Heart Disease?, 
  • Will the driver be disqualified from driving a Commercial Motor Veicle (with a GVWR of 10,0001 lbs or greater) because of Insulin Dependant Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes?   
(The reader will note that most of these "diseases" are associated with workers of older age and  have the ability to disqualify the expert technicians, who have the most experience and are (in theory) the best people that a company has in the field.)
These are regulatory requirements relating to the GVWR and Tare Weight of the Vehicle, related to driver qualifications and driver safety.  After this, you can design the upfit of the vehicle, in order to make it the mobile tool box the driver/technician needs to allow productive work.

And working at a utility, the company that employed me was considered (by the Federal Government) to be an energy producer, requiring us to purchase and use the alternative fuel for a required percentage of Alternative Fueled Vehicles (even though we only TRANSPORTED the energy to the consumer - this rule is about as silly as calling the railroads or trucking companies Energy Producers and forcing them to use alternative fuels to run their trains or trucks).  These regulations bring their own set of problems whether the vehicles are fueled with Propane Compressed Natural Gas, Liquified Natural Gas or Batteries, as each system has to have it's own real estate and lessen the payload on the truck, each has it's own special needs in order to produce power to move the vehicle.  Natural Gas Vehicles need to have Heated High Pressure Regulators to keep the regulator orifice from freezing, constricting the orifice and leaning out the mixture to the point of misfire, which destroys the Catalytic Converters of the vehicle, as well as a 3-year inspection of their high pressure fuel tanks.  Propane Powered Vehicles need to have heated fuel rails to prevent the injectors from freezing, when the Liquid Propane Gas is injected into the intake manifold.  Battery powered vehicles pose their own problems with extreme weight and heat generated during the charging and discharging of the batteries.

I ALWAYS specified the largest fuel tank(s) available for any of my company's trucks, as the less time that a driver/technician is filling a vehicle with fuel (including the trip to the filling station), the more time he's working.  So let's discount the rant about the size of the Fuel Tank.

The sweet spot for heavier pickup trucks is where Ford has been since about 2008, with their 3/4 ton truck at 10,000 lbs. GVWR (GM followed along at 9600 lbs and Dodge/RAM followed back at 9200 lbs.).  Above this weight, any drivers would have to get and keep a DOT Medical Card as governed by the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act.  This was followed in 2013 by a new FMVSS regulations on vehicle TARE WEIGHT from 8000 7840 lbs.), as Ford's competitions secondary completed vehicles (where a utility body is commonly added) were sometimes overloaded by their new owners, past the point of where their brakes and suspension could keep up with the loaded vehicle and were involved in wrecks.

So, just how does Mr. Collins want to measure the fuel economy of this type of vehicle?  Does he intend to be the sole arbiter for the individual needs of a buyer or for a company?

The job for which the vehicle is purchased must be the sole determining factor for the purchase of a truck. It's a business decision, whether it's a "home business" of pulling horses or a race car around, or an incorporated business that allows an inspector to cruise the right of way on his company's energy delivery system.

Different Utility bodies have different aerodynamic characteristics, leading to more drag and poorer fuel economy.  Likewise, different trailers suffer with the same issue.  So a one aspect will not fit all in evaluating Fuel Economy (or setting standards) for these vehicles.

Environmental regulatory issues also lead to the poor fuel economy of pickup trucks.  As engines are now tuned to produce fewer oxides of nitrogen, which is thought to be a primary contributor to acid rain, engines are no longer allowed to "lug" or pull very hard at low rpms. This lugging allows better fuel economy, but produces the oxides of nitrogen.  So the engines' power bands are moved upwards, using more fuel to create less of one type of pollution.  As a result, a 3/4 ton pickup, that's bed has been replaced by a 96" utility service body, feels sluggish and underpowered off of the line in normal acceleration, despite new transmissions with 8 forward gears.  It feels much like an older heavier Muscle Car that someone has swapped a higher performance camshaft into, with a "soggy," sluggish acceleration until the vehicle "gets up on the cam (in the rpm range in which the camshaft operates with maximum performance -which is beyond the cruising rpms).  This is explained at the 1:15 second mark, and dramatically illustrated by this The Fast Lane Truck video, over the whole video as the truck and trailer pulls the "Ike Gauntlet" through the Eisenhower Tunnel in Colorado.  The RAM's 6.4 Hemi makes more Horse Power and Torque than the Chevrolet, but the Silverado beats the RAM with the same load (could it possibly be the gearing in the transmission?).  Additionally, the Ethanol laced gasoline that we are required by law to use, contains fewer BTUs and requires more fuel to make the same power as "pure gasoline."

To mitigate this issue, Ford has now gone to their 3.5 Liter Eco-Boost, Twin Turbocharged, Direct Injected, Twin Independent Cam Timing System in their pickup trucks (and are expanding into their Explorer EL and Navigator SUVs), but overall, the real world Fuel Economy between the 3.5 Liter Eco-Boost V-6 and their older Single Overhead Cam V-8s shows little difference, if any.  Performance is equivalent to marginally better with the Eco-Boost V-6.

I suspect, as GAWKER owns JALOPNIK, that it's left leaning viewpoints about (radical, forced) environmentalism, our hydrocarbon consumption and our carbon footprint are making it through the editorial process, telling us what we can/should drive as good stewards of the environment. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Project GEZROKET - "You have papers?" - A Story About Excellence in Customer Service.

When you purchase a car, there are many papers to sign, in order to transfer legal ownership from the seller to the buyer.  It was also this way with GEZROKET, however when the owner of a car lets the tag expire, there is another fly in the ointment.  In the state in which I reside, the car must be inspected and the taxes can be paid BEFORE a license plate can be assigned.

Normally, this shouldn't be a problem, but there are lots of people buying and selling cars and most don't know or understand the law.  This is compounded by a seemingly complex process that most people don't know anything about.  A car is, after all, a major purchase and most of us aren't blessed with enough money to purchase cars every year,or even every third year.  Additionally, the license plate renewal offices in my current state are privately owned, limiting the "talent pool" of employees by salary the employers are willing to pay.  It's boring, mind numbing work for the employees, because most of their customers don't know/understand the process and it easily frustrates them.  Finally, as Obamacare has been compared to a cross between going to the doctor and going to the DMV, you understand that EVERYONE has a poor opinion about what is going to happen when you go in to get the paperwork transferred, conferring ownership for that new car.  It might be dreaded even more than going to the dentist.

It does not necessarily have to be a bad experience, but it's exceptionally bad in my small town, where the clerks were more interested in going home at 5:00 PM, rather than helping a customer, who'd been in line before 4:30 PMBut, in the county seat about 10 miles up the road, it turned out to be A WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE.  I met "Ms. Brittany," a 20-something year old young lady who was the trifecta of talent, being 1) professional, 2) knowledgeable, and 3) very efficient.  She was EXCELLENT in the performance of her job and we spent less time on the transaction than we did in the fast moving line (with talent like this, the individual DMV Contractors in my state could change the DMV experience in to a positive one, but this girl should easily be able to get a higher paying customer service job, with any major business in the US)When we got to her kiosk, we presented her with the bill of sale, the receipt of the cashiers check (with which I paid for the car) and the notarized title, transferring the title to me.  In looking at the information that was given to her and on her PC, she saw that the registration had lapsed.  This required me to get the car inspected before a license plate could bee issued to me. So we had to:
  1. Pay for the property taxes on the vehicle (based on the valuation by the state - NO ONE EVER CHEATS THE TAX MAN OUT OF HIS DUE MONEY).
  2. We had to pay for a 10-Day Temporary (paper) Tag and 
  3. We had to pay for the Title Transfer Fee 
Now there is a small wrinkle or two here.  First, I would have to get the car inspected.  As it's a first year OBD-II (On Board Diagnosis, v.2) car (1996), it would need the Emissions and Safety Inspection required by the Federal Government for vehicles in the Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area (for air pollution, under the Environmental Protection Agency) my state.  Next year, having past 20 years of age, the car will no longer require an Emissions Inspection (or a waiver, when the cost to repair the vehicle exceeds a certain amount).  Secondly, as I alluded to in an earlier post, due to a neighbor accidentally backing into the car, with the amount of the repair to the grille, hood and headlights, exceeding the insurance company value of the car, the car was declared to be a total loss.  Mrs. Blaney purchased the car back from the Insurance Company as a Salvaged Vehicle, to have it repaired.  I went in to this transaction knowing that he car had a Salvage Title.

We left the DMV at the county seat with a 10-Day tag, happy at the extraordinary customer service and easily got the car inspected (my Actron U-Scan had shown no MIL Codes in the PCM and the car ran well).  

Returning to the same DMV within the 10-day expiration period for the paper tag, with a passed Emissions and Safety Inspection (and an over all clean bill of health for the GEZROKET-"Per Jeff Davis, "You didn't get hurt on the purchase.  The car is a little 'damp' under it on both the oil and transmission pans.  It's about what I expected, with the car having sat unused for the 6 months before you got it.  Watch the fluids for a few weeks and you'll know if it's leaking anything."), all we had to do was pay for a permanent tag.  I got a standard issue state tag (not a vanity tag...yet).

Special (although late - I was back later, on business, and did ask her name to give credit unbeknownst to her) Kudos to "Ms. Brittany," who has shown that a trip to the DMV doesn't require a Fifth of your favorite Spirits after it's over with.  Her Manager will sorely miss her one day, when she's recruited to another higher paying position at another company.

GEZROKET UPDATE #1: Tires and Wheels

As I'm starting a new job this week, I found out that I'd have to go out of town, for some training, a week earlier than I'd previously been told.  The old Discount Tire house brand radial tires on the GEZROKET, my Oldsmobile 98 Regency Elite II sedan, were starting to weather check and crack.  The current tires were installed in May 2014 and had less than 6,000 miles on them.  However the date check on them was March 2012, so they had been in Discount Tire's warehouse for 26 months before Mrs. Blaney had purchased them.  So, it was prudent to change them.  NOW.

I had to make a decision:  Either replace the P-205/70-R-15 tires and use the factory Motor Wheel 15" X 6" mags or upgrade to something slightly larger.    I could replace these with P-205/70-R15 Michelin Defenders which had tall sidewalls and tended to wallow in turn in or step up to the optional "+1" size of 16" x 7" wheels with P-215/60-R16 Michelin Defender radial tires.

With Susan's blessings, I added a used set of factory 16" x 7" wheels from a 1996 Cadillac Sedan de Ville and P-215/60-R16-95T Michelin Defender Tires, to the GEZROKETThe wheels had been on my long time neighbor's 1996 Sedan de Ville, but after her death, her son purchased a different set of wheels for the car that he'd inherited her car, upon her death.  Two of the wheels have damaged/discolored clear coating that will need to be removed (sanded off) and re-coated.

 With the addition of these wheels, it takes on a slightly different look.  

The Caddy wheels and Michelin Tires are actually .15" smaller in diameter and about .6" wider, but the tire side walls are shorter, giving a little bit stiffer ride, and much better turn in.  The ride is still on the soft side, but it no longer floats down the highway.  My wife noticed this within the first 3 miles of her riding in it, with the new tires and wheels.  Despite tire width of only (just under) 8.5," the fit of the tires in the rear wheel wells is quite tight.  Fortunately, they do not rub, either with passengers in the rear or during quick cornering.   

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Project Geezer Rocket: Naming the Project and the "Mission Statement"

OK, so many of you are probably wondering about the name "Geezer Rocket," for the 1996 Oldsmobile 98 Regency Elite Sedan that I picked up just over a month ago.  Those of you who know me well, understand my sick sense of humor.
  1. So to start, it's not nor will it ever be a Rocket  It's a big heavy sedan with a Fuel Injected Buick 3800 Series II V-6 and a 4T-60E trans-axle, with overall gearing that is so high as to get the best possible fuel economy in the Interstate, if it is driving over flat ground.  You couldn't make this car fast, if you stuffed an Displacement-on-Demand 5.3 L, LS V-8 transversely in the engine bay with the matching transmission and gearing.  It would take nothing short of a Rocket, affixed to the car and fired upon acceleration, to get this car up to speed quickly
  2. Oldsmobile's symbol since just after the end of World War II has been Rocket, referencing their "Rocket V-8" engine.  Now the only V-8 that the Oldsmobile Division built in 1996 was the 4.0 Litre, DOHC Aurora V-8.  Built with the same architecture as the larger Cadillac Northstar V-8, it was a revver, not a torquer.  
  3. In fact, during these last confusing years, the 88 and 98 Models got the Rocket Emblems, even though they did not get a V-8 or an engine that was made by their division.  The Intermediate sized Aurora was available with it's Namesake Pent-Roof, 4-Valve per cylinder V-8, the Alero, and other smaller cars with the DOHC Pent-Roof V-6 and even the Pent-Roof Quad-4 got the Aurora Emblem, with a stylized Rocket that leaps up like an "A" from the larger "O."
  4. Most people that would purchase a car such as this would be better off financially than those that didn't, but usually not well off enough to purchase a Cadillac.  Younger buyers would purchase either the Aurora, a Cadillac Seville, or maybe even one of the Blower Buicks (Park Avenue or Regal), or a Pontiac Bonneville or Gran Prix, depending on their financial status or need.  I picture the market for this car as being in the mid to late 50s family man, successful in business, with children that were teeagers or grown and aged parents (Surprise, that's me!  A Geezer.).  Unfortunately, Oldsmobile was really too far gone to save the division against internal foes such as Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, Saturn and Cadillac, let alone Chrysler (whose LH and LHS cars were on a hot streak), Ford (Crown Victoria, Mercury Marquis and Maurader and the Lincoln Town Car,) The Japanese Imports, European Imports, and the Korean Imports.
I name each of my Project Cars, however there is a parameter for the name:  I must (if I so choose) be able to put the name on a Vanity Plate.  In the state in which I live vanity plates can have up to 8 characters.  So the Geezer Rocket (or in 8 Characters for a vanity plate GEZROKET) is a joke that my wife can live with (she thought the SOGHETTO - "So Ghetto" was a bit much).

Now for the Mission Statement

As I've alluded, this is a VERY NICE car.  It's almost too nice for a working class guy, like myself.  While it is nice enough for me to drive my family to church or any other social event (it would make a very decent wedding car), it's far too nice to drive to what amounts to a dirt road construction site, on a daily basis, which is where I'm working as a Fleet Maintenance Clerk.

In fact, strangely enough, it's a collector car of sorts.  Not one that I would have chosen, but one that I found, realized what its value is and want to preserve.

So the Mission Bullet Points are as follows:
  • I will be a Good Steward of this beautiful car, maintaining it for the years to come.
  • I will be a Curator of the car for its next owner that will love it as much in the future, as I do now.
  • I will make tasteful upgrades that are in keeping with the styling of the car (including both de-badging the Oldsmobile Alero rear spoiler that Mrs. Blaney had installed on the car).
  • I will add things that increase the handling of the car without compromising its nice ride.
  • I will add things that increase the car's performance without hurting its drivability.

Project Geezer Rocket

My daughter turned 18 in May, 2016 and  graduated high school a couple of weeks later.  She will soon start her Engineering Degree at the local Community College.  She needed a car and the Toyota Camry I was driving is the right size for her.  

That left me needing a car.  While my brain has been saying Miata (which, according to some, is the automotive answer for every question) my wallet said to get something that was priced "frugally."

I'm not a GM fan (I'm a MOPAR man).  GM gave up on cars at the end of the 1960s, when car insurance started to sky-rocket, exhaust emissions and fuel economy became important and the Muscle Car era was ending.  However, I've learned to appreciate many things about them.  
  1.  First on that list was that because so many GM cars were built, most mechanics understand how to work on them.  This becomes important in maintaining the car or repairing it is a small town, say like in "Resume Speed, Iowa."  
  2. Also, while many of the cars GM built in the 1970s - today, were poorly built or had engineering that wasn't "proven" (think about the Aluminum blocked Chevrolet Vega and badge engineered Pontiac Astre twin), some GM ideas are pure genius (e.g. the GM Displacement on Demand version of the LS engine is a direct descendant of the Cadillac V-8-6-4 debacle.  It was the right idea, but the technology available at the time didn't allow it to be successful.).  
  3. Second on that list is the amount of GM dealerships and therefore parts support that is available for their cars.  
  4. Finally, even though GM had fallen into making "purely pedestrian vehicles," designed to get people from point A to point B (without style, panache or enthusiasm - just the way the nanny state would want it).  If these vehicles were maintained at the minimum factory requirements, they would run damn near forever (witness my 1989 Buick Century sedan with GM Tech-4, 2.5 liter TBI engine and THM-125 transmission, that has about 290,000 miles on the original drivetrain (with at least 150,000 miles of commuting into the major city of which I'm on the fringes, of 30 mile commutes each way, 5 days a week, every other week.  Simply changing the oil at the latest, every 7500 miles and transmission fluid once a year, not letting the engine over heat, not letting it spark knock and not over revving it and it's still got the same drivetrain with which it was built.  Yes, it's had the flex plate replaced (a job that cost more than the value of the car), the timing gear set replaced before my Father-in-Law gave the car to my wife, and the high gear clutch pack is and has been worn past the point of needing to be replaced since we got the car. But by not abusing it (and I tell my 19 year old son who is currently driving the car, 'If you drive it like it's on its last legs, you'll be surprised just how much further it will go!') and driving it in a normal manner, compensating for things that are worn out ('let the transmission complete the 2-3 shift, count 1, 2 and get back into the throttle.'), it will last a lot longer than you expect."  GM CARS CAN BE ANVIL RELIABLE IF MAINTAINED.

The one nice thing about being the "young people" when you move into a neighborhood (27 years ago, this August) of people who were my current age (55), is that when they die off, they leave their children well maintained old "luxury type" cars, that they don't want.  Take this example; a 1996 Oldsmobile 98 Regency Elite.  

It's as big as a Lincoln Town Car (Panther Body) or a Cadillac Sedan deVille, and powered by a 3800 Gen II V-6, with 4T60E transmission.  Optional luxuries are a Sunroof, Leather Interior, Cruise Control, Premium Sound with steering wheel controls, Power windows, seats (with 2 driver memory settings), Locks, Trunk Closure (motor) and Trunk Release, Fuel Door release, Automatic, Dual Climate Control (also with steering wheel controls), Factory 15" x 6" Alloy Rims, Automatic Headlights "Tokyo by Night" (no slur Intended - that was a quote about 80s Chrysler Digital Dashes from an old Car & Driver) Digital Dash with Information Center and a Trunk that would hold more than a few bodies - or all of the luggage 6 people would need on a vacation and still have plenty of room for many cases of beer.  

Granted, most of that stuff comes standard on newer cars now (my wife's 2001 Buick Century "Estate Car - are you noticing a pattern here?" - has most of them, but lacks basic noise insulation and feels "cheap" because of it) , but these were all optional luxury items 20 years ago.  

Formerly owned by Mrs. E. Blaney, whose husband worked for GM, it was special ordered as an Employee Car.  I have the special order sheet, window sticker and many other documents that tell of the car's life.  Well maintained by her mechanic son (who works at the local DOT maintenance shed), it has new struts (rear air leveling struts were replaced by conventional struts), decent tires (Discount Tire store brand P-205/70-R15s that were purchased in May of 2014 and had only 3000 miles on them), replaced intake gasket (due to the GM Dex-Cool intake gasket coolant leak), brakes and transmission fluid were changed 30K miles ago.  

The only down side to owning the car is that it has a "Salvage Title," due to an accident where a neighbor, from across the street backed into it.  While I can only find small damage on the leading edge of the driver's side of the hood, due to the cost of headlight lenses, the grill and a paint job.  C'est la vie!

Normally, I'd never be drawn to a car like this, but it's in too good shape to abuse with a daily commute into a "top 20 city (population)" in America.  However the salvage title makes the car less attractive to a collector, so I'll be its curator and love it; at least for the time being.

And yes, that's a wing from an Olds Toronado Trefo that she  had installed on the trunk.  With 146,388 miles on the odometer, it was  bargain.  I paid $1500 for it.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Message to "Friends" Who've Chosen to Be Different and Now FeelUncomfortable

I write this post in response to some of my "friends," who feel the need to preach to everyone around them that they are bigots and need to think twice about how they treat them and others like them.  Their perceived bigotry could be racial, gender, sexual orientation, religion or even economic based.  That doesn't matter.  What does matter is the unforgiving spirit that is present within their hearts against the people who are around them. 

It amuses me to consider the irony of the situation, where you both feel walled-off and segregated from the main group and then accuse and attack others, which further segregates you from that main group.  

There is a story in the New Testament, where Peter was frustrated by a brother who had sinned against him.  He asked Jesus how many times he needed to forgive his brother.  The Hebrew custom was to forgive your brother 7 times, where after that 7th time, if your brother sinned against you again, you no longer needed to forgive him.  Jesus told Peter to forgive his brother 70 times 7, which was considered an unreachable number.  Another way of looking at this is that if our absolution from sin is as far as the east is from the west, that it is as if the sin never happened.  I say this to you as well as to myself:  Forgiveness is something with which we ALL struggle.  It's tough, but let it go.

When I look at you, I see a child of GOD's creation, with the same needs as I have.  We have the same flaws.  And in a perfect we are polite and serve each other.  

I would hope that you'd want me to remember you for who you are (or as the late Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. said, the content of your character) rather than your skin color, your economic status, your choices in sexual partners, etc..  But apparently, because you bring it up so often, you've been so badly hurt by others that forgiveness isn't possible.  You must remember each offense and keep bringing it up.  Retribution is apparently far more important than reconciliation.  Your actions say that the external is judged to be of more value than the internal.  Your retrograde feelings of pay back and hatred are more important than the sublime love of our fellow man.  Sympathy Is looked upon as derision and hatred is all that can be reflected. 

Or to put it mildly, I can't see the real you, because all you want to show me is your race, gender, national origin, sexual preference/orientation, religion, or paycheck/house/car.  Your constant reminders to me (and everyone else around us) of with which group you've decided identify, just tell me of how separated from the rest of us you would like to keep yourselves, despite your desperate protests to me.  The caste system is alive and well in America and you're helping to keep it going.