Monday, January 4, 2010

CPotD #22 (Six is My Lucky Number)

Sorry for the poor quality, but I hastily snapped this picture with my camera phone to share with my buddy, Bill. Today CPotD shows the newest addition to the fleet, and I’m calling it PartsCar. PartsCar was a Christmas present from Loriann (my lovely wife) and is the same car that was the subject of CPotD #13.

Every Corvair acquisition comes with its story, and PartsCar is no different. Soon after I posted CPotD #13, I mentioned to Loriann that it would make a nice Christmas present. After a couple days deliberation, she consented and I made plans with the seller to retrieve the car early January. A few days later, I received an e-mail asking me how soon I could come and get the car. Things had popped up at his end, and he was hoping to have the car gone by that weekend. My heart dropped since I didn’t have the Suburban to pull it home, nor was I going to be around to make the drive to Delaware. I immediately called the seller and asked if the following Wednesday would be okay, and he agreed. Yay, the deal’s still on!!!

The next hurdle was tires. PartsCar was not coming with roadworthy tires, so I needed to put together a set of four late model rims (5 lug) with safe tires. Tire number one came from Glinda’s trunk – her spare hadn’t seen the light of day since new, so even though it’s at least five years old, it looks new with no cracks. Tires number two and three were nearly new, but were currently mounted on Lucy’s early model (4 lug) wheels, so I needed to get them swapped onto Glinda wheels. That left just tire number four and one day. Easy, right? NOT! None of the tire stores in the area had a 185/80R13 tire in stock. The best I got was a, “we can have the tire first thing in the morning and ready to go by 9 AM.” I was on a relatively tight schedule for Wednesday, but that would work, so I loaded up three Glinda wheels and the two Lucy wheels into the Suburban and dropped all off at Merchant’s Tires around three in the afternoon. The first words I spoke to the guy behind the counter were, “You WILL have these ready by 9 AM tomorrow, right?” After he assured me it would not be a problem, I filled out the paperwork explaining the swapping I also needed done. After unloading all the wheels, my parting statement was, “You said this WILL all be done by 9 AM tomorrow.”

Wednesday dawned sunny but brisk, and while my dad and I loaded the back of the Suburban with tools, tow-bar, tow rope, rags, etc., etc., I kept thinking I should call Merchant’s. I finally did around 8:15. I was stunned to be told the tires wouldn’t be ready until mid-day. It had been a long time since I’d yelled into the phone, but I began to yell then. The manager at the other end of the line insisted there was nothing written on the paperwork about a 9 AM completion. More yelling, and he promised to have it all finished in an hour. Okay, I could deal with that - only thirty minutes overdue. I gave the seller a call to let him know I was running late, and fortunately he could accommodate. Right before we headed out the door forty-five minutes later, I called to confirm and was given some cock-and-bull story about a tire mounter working too many jobs, and mine will be a little late. I decided to drive over there anyway and see if my presence would hurry them along. As I walked in the door, the manager I had been talking with greeted me, apologized for the inconvenience, and then told me the tire was not even there. “The truck is two minutes away,” he told me. I was NOT happy, but what could I do? Dad and I loaded the empty Lucy wheels into the Suburban, and then loitered in the showroom for a few more minutes watching the parking lot for a truck, and seeing nothing. Finally, the manager reappeared and confessed that his driver was lost in Glen Burnie Now Glen Burnie is at least thirty minutes away. At that point I told the guy to forget it - I just wanted my tires and wheels back. He and his crew helped me to load the Suburban, and he told me no charge for the mounting and balancing of the two swapped tires.

It was now after ten, and I only had three good tires on late model wheels. We rushed home, and I selected the best Glinda tire left and pulled the best tire/wheel off Betty and we took off. Since I expected to be towing PartsCar when darkness fell, I needed to make a quick stop at Harbor Freight to buy a towing light kit with magnetic bases. A coupon and ten dollars got me just what I needed. As we crossed over into Delaware, it was after noon and we decided, after talking with the seller, to visit MacDonald’s before continuing our adventure.

Sandwich sated and filled with fries; we hit the road again and soon after arrived at our destination. PartsCar was waiting for us and looked just as advertised, so I handed over the asking price and then enjoyed a nice hour or so chatting with Mason as the three of us worked to mount the wheels, hitch up PartsCar, and route the towing lights. Before driving off, I filled the differential with 90 weight gear oil and made sure the transmission was in neutral. A few miles down the road, I re-checked the towbar and all looked good.

An hour later put us just east of the Bay Bridge when PartsCar started swerving back and forth. I slowed down and pulled over to check things out and immediately saw smoke coming from the right front wheel area. I’d been driving over sixty most of the way, so I decided to drop the speed down and stop more often. We made it across the bridge without incident and I pulled over soon after only to find more smoke. Thinking it was a bearing, I pulled out my Blackberry to look for a place to get some grease so I could repack the bearing before completing the trip. Not finding a parts store nearby, we decided to head for the nearest exit and find a gas station. We pulled in to an Exxon with a lube place in the back. I walked in asked for a coffee cup of grease. “I don’t know how to sell you that,” was the response the counter guy gave me. After fifteen minutes of waiting and discussing (including being told just greasing the bearing wouldn’t work and then being asked what kind of car it was as if Corvairs may need a different, exotic wheel bearing grease), I was finally able to buy a ten dollar cylinder of grease.

It was dark now, so with Dad aiming the flashlight, I tried to remove the hub from the spindle. With the nut off, the bearing looked fine, but the hub wouldn’t budge. It's the brakes not the bearings. Good. I cut the rubber brake line to relieve the pressure, but shoes wouldn’t release. With hammer and chisel I forcibly removed the two retaining pins and finally convinced the brakes to relinquish their hold on the hub. With all the brake hardware removed and the hub bearings filled with grease, we reassembled hub to spindle, mounted the tire, dropped the jack, and uneventfully completed our journey home.

Okay, it wasn’t uneventful. About thirty minutes from home, as we’re sitting in traffic on I-97, my cellphone rings. It’s Loriann and she’s not happy. She had to go fetch one of our daughters from a Girl Scout event and she had to drive Lucy. Well, Lucy had stalled and would not restart. She’d cranked it a few times, and now the battery was dead too. Dad and I got home, unhitched PartsCar, put the tow bar back in the Suburban and I headed to northern Baltimore to rescue my wife and daughters. I got there, hooked up the jumper cables, and she started right up. Vapor lock and an old battery conspired to strand them.

Back home again, Mikhaila, Dad, and I maneuvered PartsCar up the driveway and into its current parking spot. It was at that point, Mikhaila shared with me she wanted a four-door early model like the white one we used to have. Interesting. We'll see if she feels the same way in a couple years.

Another aside is since we live next door to the current mayor of Baltimore, we have a city police cruiser parked in front of our house 24/7. As we were unhitching PartsCar from towbar, a change in shift was taking place. One of the officers, a younger guy, asked me good-naturedly if I really needed another Corvair. I have talked with some of the cops about my old cars, but I was still taken aback by his question. I explained I needed a third late model coupe to balance the three early coupes. He chuckled and didn't hassle me about abandoning an obviously non-operable vehicle on the street.

When first I posted about this car, my intention was to strip the four-speed parts before dragging it to the Corvair Ranch. After getting it home, however, it looks like PartsCar will also donate its bucket seats to Betty and its sheetmetal to patch some of Glinda’s rusted out places.

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