Busted knuckles, gearhead misadventures, or call it backyard follies, if you will. These stories continue to roll in ever since I shared my personal experiences in the January editorial. I appreciate knowing that many of you are willing to share your own adventures. As long as they keep coming in, we'll continue to print them! Besides, if we put you in print, this is the perfect opportunity to get the coveted CHP license plate and stickers.
I really enjoyed your "Knuckle Busters'' column in the recent issue (Shop Talk, Jan. '09). I am a recent subscriber and love the mag and all the tech articles. I can relate to some of the painful yet hilarious things that can and do happen to us gearheads and have experienced many of these injuries with the appropriate abuse from my buddies. I would like to relate one such incident in hopes that all who read will get a chuckle and maybe a little nostalgic prompt about their own misadventures.
I was 15 and had just been allowed by my dad to buy my first car, a '56 two-door 210 Chevy. I was granted permission even though I didn't have a real license yet because the car was up on blocks with no engine or transmission. My father recognized the benefit here, as I would learn about cars while I was trying to piece together this beautiful classic. I spent over six months mowing lawns, bartering, and scrounging for usable parts to make this into a running machine. The car had been parked beside the house in full view of the street and all my friends, male and female, were able to take note of the progress.
Two of my best friends and I finally got it cranked one day and were starting the fine-tuning process when three girls showed up in their daddy's car. All three of us guys were pumped up and trying to impress the young ladies with our astute knowledge and capabilities. With the engine running I decide to really impress the girls by pointing out all the components of the modern day engine...hoping I could remember all the different pieces. I proceeded to point them out with the girls huddled around me (I reveled in that part): the battery, carburetor, valve covers, and so on. I must have been overpowered by the smell of perfume because things went bad very fast when I pointed out the water pump and stuck my fingers into the unguarded fan! The engine and my immediate howl of pain were drowned out by the roar of laughter from my two "buddies" and the giggles of the girls. The color of my face matched the blood from the cuts on my fingers, but the hurt was to my pride. The school session ended quickly and the three girls drove away in daddy's car giggling as they went.
I eventually forgave my buddies for their insensitivity but they NEVER let me forget what a great teacher I was. That was 45 years ago, and I remember it like it happened yesterday. I still think about it and chuckle at myself. I hope you got a laugh out of this also.
Not the dumbest thing I have ever done, but it still makes me laugh 31 years later. When I was 16, I had a '73 Cutlass that had some valve guide issues and liked to foul plugs. One day I was trying to find which plug was fouled and had a problem. It had snowed and had begun melting and I was standing in a pile of slush while bending over the fender holding a brace with my left hand and pulling wires with my right while the engine was running. Somehow I grabbed the boot, and I guess my hand was wet or the tip was exposed through the boot, and I was shocked. Not just once but repeatedly, and I could not let go of the wire. It kept my hand pulsing rapidly to where I couldn't physically let go. It didn't hurt terribly, but again, I was just standing there and while my mind said to release, it wouldn't happen. Fortunately, it wasn't long before the engine died and I could let go. I was laughing then and am today. Even funnier is that I recall having to eat with my left hand for several days.
Stop, Drop & Roll
We use to have a guy stop by the shop only when he was looking to get something fixed for free. He went to school with one of the guys, so we tolerated him stopping by for freebies. On this day we told him it would be a few minutes before we would get to his starting problems, so he thought he would get a start on the job. This was 20-plus years ago, so I do not remember if he was connecting a charger or tester to his battery when the battery exploded. Instant panic set in after the battery acid sprayed all over his face. And before we could even get to him, he was already running out the door screaming at the top of his lungs and dove head-first into what he thought was a foot of snow drift, which was actually our scrap iron pile. We were all in panic mode until we got him back in the shop and realized the acid did not go into his eyes and his only injury was a 3-inch cut on his forehead from the sailor dive into the scrap pile.
He never came back to the shop, but we did read in the local paper that this guy was peeping in windows and the woman identified him by a 3- to 4-inch scare on his forehead. I swear on the health of my big-block Corvette that this is a true story.
Berlin Heights, OH
My first time changing plugs and wires, my dad told me to try, and if I had a problem he would help. I went outside and snatched those plug wires off faster than Ron Capps can hit the 60-foot mark. Changed the plugs. So far so good. Time for the wires. Guess I'll see what the instructions have to say. Hmm, don't cross the wires. OK, I'll try not to.
After much frustration I eventually headed into the house. I tell my dad, "There's no freakin' way. It can't be done. It's impossible." You can't run eight plug wires from the plugs to the distributer cap and not cross them.
He says he needs to see what I'm talking about, so we went outside. I have eight wires attached to eight plugs. I tell him in order to run these wires all to the same cap, they have to cross each other somewhere along the way. "You knucklehead," he says. "It means don't put them on the wrong terminal."
"How do I know which terminal they go on?"
He responded with, "Try doing one at a time."
Wow, Dad is a genius! We got the wires straightened out and I learned 1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2.
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Shoot! That wasn't my exact word, but it did begin with the letter S. Yup, that's exactly what I said to myself along with some other expletives right after Henry D walked into my office and told me I was to shoot the next car feature. To be completely honest, I'm a bit scared to complete a full car shoot by myself. Luckily though, it is with fellow racers, and the guys who run the car are good friends of mine. I am sure the whole gang will be there peering over my shoulder telling me that what I am doing is wrong--just to give me a hard time. However, the pressure is still on and I can't let these guys down. Nor can I let Henry down. I would hate to see my first car feature become a complete flop and a washout. Yes, this one is all on me. I'm going to do my best to combine all the little things I've learned and tried to absorb from the masterful Henry D when it comes to camera settings, angles, and the magical Golden Hour, which produces the perfect amount of light (soft shadows) just before the sun sets. I guess I'll know for sure how much I have been able to retain when the photo shoot day comes 'round later this week.
At first you may think how hard could it be to photograph a car? Well, take my advice, there's a tad more to it than meets the eye--literally. Just point and shoot, right? Wrong. Think of Feng Shui but instead of moving furniture around the house, I'll be moving the car in certain angles, either to create a more dramatic shot or to accent a feature that should stand out more. Additionally, everything--and I mean everything--shows up on camera, even the guy you didn't see in the background making a silly face. I've got to have my eagle eyes on to catch any faults that may show up in the final shots. Anyway, I think I've got a good idea on how I want to spin the photographs. I may even go all-out and attempt to capture a burnout shot. We'll see. Wish me luck.
Leno's No. 0001 ZR 1 Corvette
Yes, we are all well aware of Jay Leno's overflowing collection of cars. But did you know that he is the proud owner of a ZR 1 Corvette? And did you know he has VIN 0001? That's right. Not only does Jay Leno have a ZR 1 Corvette, but he has the very first one off the production line. Here's the link to his new toy and the video where he explains its qualities and drives it for you:www.jaylenosgarage.com/video/video_player.shtml?vid=867761
Ready Prepped Camaro
GM Performance Parts will offer an all-white Camaro package in the first quarter of 2009. The basic assembled package will include front fenders, hood, roof, doors, rear quarters, and a trunk lid. It also includes the complete floorpans and chassis rails for $7,000. Dr. Jamie Meyer, product marketing manager of GMPP, says, "Drag racers, for example, won't have to worry about swapping out for a solid axles--they can just bolt one up and go." Racers will add the powetrain, fuel system, suspensions, and interior components, then go racing. Become eligible with the online application at gmperformanceparts.com. First come, first serve.
Feeling the gas prices in your area? I think we speak for all when we say yes. GM's on your side though, because if you are in the market for one of the General's new vehicles and are also looking for some good gas mileage, look no further than GM Inside News (gminsidenews.com). There you will find a quick reference guide for gas mileage on all GM makes and models. They list engine size, city/highway mileage stats, and more.
Spankin' New Site
Our friends over at El Camino Central (elcaminocentral.com) have got a new website and a fresh look. Though they are still working out some of the bugs and tweaking the system a bit, it came out looking great. Everything works smoothly. Plus it's easy on the eyes. According to the site, it took days to get the old site converted to the new one. The address is the same.