It’s been a busy summer, and one of the things that’s been pushed to the back burner is regular car washes. I’m too cheap to take my cars through the automatic wash, and I feel guilty letting them stay dirty because my dad was a habitual (at least once a week) car washer and ingrained the same sense of duty in me. Besides, everyone knows cars run better when they are clean. So the other night after dinner I made like Rose Royce with the hose and bucket and gave the Tempest a much overdue bath. Lucky for me, I had a little help (apologies for the grainy cell-phone picture):
The nice thing about a white car is that it hides water spots. After spending much of the winter and spring under the car, it’s nice to spend a little time making it shine. It’s also interesting to find all the little things that you don’t notice until you’re three inches away from the car scrubbing at a stubborn bug carcass, whether it’s a misaligned bumper or a small aesthetic detail that hadn’t been seen before. Of course, that sort of detailed examination leads me to realize that I need new weatherstripping, the taillight lenses need buffed, the whole car needs clayed and polished, the interior needs detailed, and on and on. But at least it’s shiny.
I know I seem like some sort of Corvair fetishist, but I can’t help but have affection for them – it’s the combination of crazy engineering, unusually bold decision making by GM, and their place in history as the beginnings of consumer advocacy in automobiles. Anyway, this is definitely unique, even for Corvairs – the idea of a wagon where the lower half of the cargo area is consumed by the engine is pretty nuts – and the white top, whitewalls, and wire wheels just push it over the top. Speaking of which, I’m not sure about the wheel and tire choice here, but the color scheme is right, the options are cool (CB radio? Yes, please) and the price is fairly reasonable. It’s not exactly the logical choice for either a driver or a show car, but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?
Or something like that. A lesson that I’ve learned many times is to always check the simplest explanation for a problem before jumping to a worst-case conclusion. I’ve learned it so many times, you’d think I would remember it when it came time to diagnose car issues, but I can’t help but assume the worst. So when the Tempest developed a clunk from the driver’s rear, I immediately ripped everything out of the trunk, tweaked the lower control arms, and tried adjusting the trunk lid. When the noise got worse, I started to think I was going nuts.
My next assumption was that something had fallen into the gap between the trunk floor and the inner fender and was bouncing around. Before I reached for the magnet and started fishing, I crawled under the car one more time and took a serious look around. Was my amateur floorpan repair from last fall coming apart? Was the gas tank about to fall out of the car? Was I going to die a horrible, flaming death when the frame separated from the body while I was going around a corner? I took a deep breath and started back at square one. I decided to go back under the car with it level on the ground, rather than jacked up in the air. Lo and behold, the recently-installed shock absorber on the driver’s side was loose; the upper bolts had backed out, but with the car in the air the weight of the axle made it look like they were tight. I snugged them back up, and the noise disappeared.
In hindsight, it makes much more sense that a part I recently installed would be the culprit, as opposed to something randomly breaking loose after three years of ownership. So once again, I need to remind myself to slow down and think about what I’m doing before I assume the worst. Hopefully, I’ll remember this little lesson the next time – because there’s always a next time when you’re working on old cars.
The 70’s van craze has recently re-entered the car-guy consciousness, at least judging by the number of references to these vehicles on various websites. There was a time where it was perfectly normal and even cool to drive a windowless van with an airbrushed viking on the side, and I guess there is some ironic and hedonistic appeal to that now. I’ll stumble across one every now and again on Craigslist, and this one sort of jumped out at me. I don’t know if it’s the wood-grain refrigerator or the hideous white brickwork that did it, but at the very least the mirrored ceiling guarantees that the new owner will want to disinfect that shag carpeting.
There isn’t much else to say about this van that the pictures won’t tell you – there’s not even a mural on the side – but the last item on the list caught my eye. Why in God’s name would you want a porta pot in a vehicle with this much carpeting? And where is it? None of the photos show anything that looks like a toilet, unless I was mistaken about that wood-grain box being a fridge. Might want to double up on that disinfectant I mentioned earlier.
I don’t want to make light of what may be a very serious situation for this seller, but I wonder what “desperate times” would have caused him to purchase these two cars in the first place. I appreciate the many varied forms of car enthusiasm, but I have to think that Chevette owners hold a unique place in that group. To each their own, but I can’t think of one redeeming quality (a word not often used in the same sentence as “Chevette”) that these cars offer. When they were new they were murderously slow, shoddily built, ugly, and one of the reasons GM lost so much market share to the imports. The prospect of driving one thirty years later is even less appetizing.
Even the most delusional Chevette owner would chuckle at the idea of these cars being “true American classic(s),” but this seller has no qualms about making such a claim. I suppose there would be some comedic value in buying this matching pair of crapboxes, but that laughter would quickly devolve into tears once you realized you dropped $1300 on two examples of a car that was considered a hairshirt form of transportation a generation ago. If you’re looking for some sort of ironic commentary on the state of malaise-era automobiles, I’d recommend a Pinto or an AMC product before this woeful duo.