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Monday, September 03, 2007

A working class dog in a rich man's house

(Or - Parts is parts. . .if you can find them)

Allow me to preface this post with a bit of personal history; I was always one of those "car guys". From the age of about 14 up until I hit my early 30's, I was always "tinkering" under the hood or perusing J.C.Whitney catalogs for the latest "cool as shit thing that I absolutely did NOT need but had to have" for my current transport or the one in the garage that I was "gonna finish restoring someday".

Sometime during the mid 90's this all changed. It was sudden, yet under my radar. Example? In 1992 I tore down the big-block 400 from my '67 Catalina ragtop and attempted to rebuild it (10.5-1 compression and 340 hp from the factory, bubba!) - By 1995, I was paying for oil changes. I'm still not sure what happened, although I know I used the excuse that "I can't even find the dipstick under the hood of these new cars" excuse. I think I just got lazy or busy with a career, lost my mechanical passions, or could afford to pay somebody to for things for me.

Up until a few short years ago, I still had my Cat in my garage at home as well as my Mom's '64 Sedan DeVille, and a a "spare for parts" for both in storage. The '67 Executive was sitting in Mom's back yard up in Warsaw, and the '64 Caddy was in a rented garage in the same block where my buddy Robert, of Left of Centrist, resides. My Mom died in 2001, after a life-long battle with various cancers, and I just didn't seem to care so much about the car stored at her place or the her old Caddy in my garage and it's "parts zombie".

My priorities had changed from "car guy" to "family guy" and I was overcome with a huge sense of "GET RID OF ALL OF YOUR SHIT AND MAKE A NEW START" syndrome. So I let go of all my cars, with the exception of my Cat. She was a ride that my Mom always referred to as "MY car", as we had bought her on Mom's birthday back in 1982. "Where are you going in MY car" she would always jokingly ask me.

Okay. . .I've been seriously digressing here! I still have my old ragtop, in storage, and I seldom even think about her. . .poor old girl. My original point of this post was to highlight just how difficult it is for one to do repair your own vehicle out here in "God's country", AKA Aboite. The lack of auto parts stores here in the "land of the have and have more" was not missed by me, yet it didn't really sink in until I found myself in need of parts just recently. With the exception of ONE Hire's Auto Parts store that's barely within the township, there are NO options for DIY'ers who live out here!

See, we know that alot of the chain outfits are out to milk us for as much as they can get, and have learned to look for alternatives. Just last year my wife needed brake service for her Montana; the local Midas outfit quoted her at over $500! Tires Express, another local outfit, went through the Midas estimate line for line and showed what was REALLY needed vs what Midas wanted to hose us for. They repaired her van for under $200.

Now, while I give these dudes credit for that encounter, they quoted us $325 to repair her rear brakes two weeks ago. I consulted my friend, Mark (brother of co-blog-author Stan) who is an ASE-certified mechanic, and he quoted me at $200 or less. I trust Mark, and would gladly pay him for his professional repairs (have done so in the past), but he was called out of town for a family emergency. So, faced with that news, I decided to put on my mechanic's hat once more, and replace the rear brake shoes and wheel cylinders on my wife's vehicle.

I spent less than $40, the repairs were successful, and apparently I still have a clue as to how to maintain a vehicle. Now. . .can Auto-Zone or one of the other national auto-parts suppliers establish shop out here so I can make my own repairs w/o driving to Waynedale?


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Blogger Mary Ellen said...

You sound just like my older brother who LOVES cars and that's all he ever talked about. Much to my mother's dismay, he taught me my first word, "car". My mom was hoping for mommy or daddy to be my first words.

title="comment permalink">September 04, 2007 11:16 AM  
Blogger TomCat said...

John, I used to be that way. During the 1960s and 1970s I did all my own repairs on my MGs and 1948 Willis cab-over pickup. I even rebuilt the Holly 4 bbl. carb with no parts leftover. Then I got out of it for the same reasons, and today, when I look at an engine, I say, "HUH?'

Congrats on your awards!

title="comment permalink">September 04, 2007 1:13 PM  
Blogger John Good said...

Mary Ellen - It's been a LONG time since I had grease under the fingernails. . .it was kinda fun.

Tom - You're a better man than me on the carbs then! My Carter AFB definitely had parts left over after I rebuilt it and it was suddenly a full-time four barrel! The local "experts" were unable to fix it right afterwards. . .

title="comment permalink">September 04, 2007 7:48 PM  
Blogger Kvatch said...

I decided to put on my mechanic's hat once more, and replace the rear brake shoes and wheel cylinders on my wife's vehicle.

Dude! You are am 'man among men'! I have nothing but admiration for the mechanically inclined. Sadly, I'm on the other end-o-the-spectrum...more at home in my kitchen than within reach of my toolbox.

Can I bring my car to you? Well, if I lived in the Midwest and...you know...owned a car. ;-)

title="comment permalink">September 04, 2007 8:34 PM  
Blogger John Good said...

Kvatch - We're actually on the same wave length! I initially attempted to remove the brakes with a nylon spatula (In case the shoes were Teflon-coated). . .but then I remembered it was a car and took off my oven mitt (those drums were HOT!) and grabbed a screwdriver ( I was THIRSTY!). . .

Seriously, I'm far more at home in the kitchen these days myself. I guess I retained that much in my So.Cal. born blood. =)

title="comment permalink">September 04, 2007 8:55 PM  
Blogger Parson said...

Didn't I come watch you put brakes on a car a number of years ago? When you lived in the little house.

title="comment permalink">September 04, 2007 10:04 PM  
Blogger John Good said...

Parson - I don't know if you came or not, I mean, I'm good, but. . .LOL

I don't recall, man.

title="comment permalink">September 04, 2007 10:07 PM  

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