|(click image for story or picture)
A 1971 vehicle would certainly qualify as a classic, if not an
antique. But not all vehicles of age qualify for this distinction.
They're just plain "old." My van qualifies for the last category. No
matter what I do to it, it would still just be an old van, not even
listed in an insurance company's blue book. I see it as treasure, they
see it as junk. Here's a few things I did to my treasure to make it, in
my mind, a luxury vehicle.
Click the image and it will take you to the van.
Here is indeed a true classic. What you're looking at is a 1964 Dodge
Dart, GT, 4 on the floor, slant 6, hard top convertible. This is a car
that's truly a pleasure to drive. The picture you're looking at is
after I restored it. No, I didn't make a mistake, this is after I restored the car... 20 years after.
had been sitting under a tree for three years because it was given a
ticket for smoking, and the owner didn't have the money (or the
desire) to fix it. I spent 9 months taking every nut and bolt off the
car and either replaced it or painted it blue of black. Even
under the car was treated this way.
I made a
booboo with my efforts to prepare the parts for reassembly. I marked
the ends of everything I took off with masking tape, indicating where it
goes and which end goes up. My error was that masking tape never
comes off after a long time, and the ink I used was not water proof.
After the winter all I had was pieces of car with no markings and dried glue I
had to sand off to prepare for painting.
shell of a once fine automobile you see in the picture was
finished to the "nth" degree when I was finished with it. I made a new
headliner for it, and I even took the gauges apart and painted the dial
of the gauges. Since the body of the car was a unibody there were areas
I couldn't reach with paint, in those places I poured Rustolium after
washing out the area as best as possible, or I fogged the area with
spray paint, hoping for the best. All weatherstripping and rubber
bumpers were replaced if needs be.
|| Although it looks bad here, you can get some idea of its appearance when it was first restored.
Unlike the rest of the car, I didn't remove the block. I
tore down the engine as it sat in the engine compartment, and I used a
ridge reamer and a hone on the cylinders, I didn't rebore the
cylinders. Then I installed standard rings, hoping for the best. The
"best" turned out to be 20 years of service from that engine, with full
compression in all the cylinders, with one beginning to show low show
low compression at the end of the car's run.
|| Since I used the car for my art
business, it not intending to be a show piece kept in storage
somewhere, I had to take out the back seat and make it into a carpeted
bed for use in carrying my art and display stands. I also had to build
racks for the car with this purpose in mind. This I'm sure had a lot to
do with the body rusting as it did, the racks wearing on the paint.
While speaking of paint, you may have noticed the
abundance of rust-colored paint, especially on the roof and the trunk
of the car. This is Rustolium, that even though over many years (mostly
of inactivity, it not being insured during that time), and no
protective paint over the primer, the rusted area were halted from
rusting any farther, and the paint held out all that time. A great
product for us of the poorer set.
The Dart before the racks were installed. The storage bin is
where I did my framing and stored my framing material. It was my
office, and later under new ownership, it became my home. I was living
in my car parked across the street from the storage business when the
lady who managed it asked me if I'd like to park on the premises, her
being single and alone, thereby giving her some sense of protection.
Also she offered to give me free rent on my storage space if I would
occasionally clean out the empty bins and clear out the bins that were
vacated This was an especially good arrangement for me.
More on this aspect of my life (this section turning into an autobiography so it seems) in the Art Display section.
This, believe it or not, is the "before" of my next restoration job.
period of about a year I was on what they called Welfare. Welfare in
this case not merely the doling out of money for doing nothing, at
least mot for single men. I worked for the state for a few hours a week
at minimum wage for the money alloted me, which was just enough to
allow me to live on the streets without starving to death. What I made
on my own, I reported, and my "welfare" was reduced accordingly. One
man on welfare along with me was a trained engineer, of which there was
an overabundance at the time. He was "over qualified" for any
other job, therefore unable to work. I find this interesting since I've
never been seen to be over qualified for anything, even sweeping
me working in the office the days I worked, right along side the social
workers (rather than watching or cleaning the parking lot and such, as
they had the overqualified engineer doing). This, my working in the
office, was a no-no since only the social workers hired by the state
were allowed to see the personal records of the clients.
interesting to those who take the time to observe it as it passes. I
began to sell my art work and framing to the social workers I worked
with. Over time I was selling so many prints, framing pictures, and
acquiring commissions (two of which can be seen in my art department)
that I was reporting so much income that I didn't need to draw welfare,
and that income coming from the social workers. One day an edict
"happened" to come down from the head office that there would be no
more selling of art on the premises. No names were mentioned, just a
blanket order. How interesting.
back to the subject of restoring cars. One of the workers knew I had
restored a car and asked me if I would restore his, and he would
furnish me a place to live (my living on the streets at that time). I
accepted. The problem was that he had no room, living in a small
apartment that at one time had been a corner grocery store. But he had
a root cellar that was accessed through a large trap door in the
bathroom. I revamped this dirty, windowless, underground pit into a
bedroom, using plastic to cover all the dirt walls, and lumber to build
me a bed, and old thrown-out carpet for a floor (on top of the plastic
everywhere). The trap door had to remain shut so my "landlord" could
have access to his bathroom. If the trap door was to ever become
blocked, I would be trapped in a windowless, airless tomb. It's a good
thing I don't have claustrophobia along with all my other phobias.
see in the picture above is what I had to work with. The car had
remained in that condition for many years, just being stored away, not
really expecting to be made into anything usable, much like my Dart had
After giving the Ranchero (Falcon) a though cleaning, I pulled it into
the garage and began to work on it. In these pictures you can see what
it was turning into.
Like with the Dart, everything was painted. It mattered not if the part
was seen, it was treated the same as if it was to be the
highlighted part of an exquisitely displayed automobile. This is just
my nature. I'm not a perfectionist, otherwise I would be driven crazy
trying to do what I'm incapable of. But I do have high standards, in
some areas of my life too high to attain to. But when it comes to such
projects as these described in this Handyman's section, I can feel
satisfied that I've reached the goal I set out for. Maybe that's why I
like the crafts, my goal is within my reach.
About the time I was nearing completion
of what you see in these pictures, my landlord contracted throat
cancer. I then ceased to be a mechanic and became more of a caregiver
without recompense. I would take him to the hospital, some 25 miles
from where we lived and wait for him to finish his checkups or
whatever, and run errands and the like. Once I came home and found him
head first in the tub where he had fallen some two hours before.
Luckily there was no water in the tub at that time. This went on for
several months, and then he died.
He had a brother who
lived nearby who owned 5 Mercedes dealerships. John would talk a lot
about his big brother that he was so proud of, but I never saw nor
heard of him otherwise, even when John was next to dying. Then when
John died, the brother showed up and took me to dinner. He raved about
how he appreciated all I had done for his brother (that he
should have been doing), then proceeded to sell the car I had spent so
much time and effort on to a junk dealer for $200 dollars without even
offering to sell it to me.
How does that saying go again "Words are cheap"?
sometimes wonder what happens to the things I fix up, then they depart
my hands. As for the Dart, I sold it to a friend who fixed it up, not
as a classic, but as a usable automobile. He's enjoying it now (or was
last I heard) and that means a lot to me. I have neither the funds to
fix it, nor the room to keep it, nor for that matter the money to
insure it. I was offered twice the amount I sold it for, and that would
have been giving it away. But I'd rather the vehicle go to someone who
will use it and appreciate it than to make money from it and it go to
pot. I have no doubt but the friend who gave me my van felt the same
way, and I suspect he's glad I respect the gift and do all I can to add
to its value. It was his concern for me living out of my car that
caused him to consider my having the van, and it's been a lifesaver for
me in more ways than one.