Monthly Archives: May 2013

Respect The (Brown) Van

My growing brood of grease monkeys brings me no shortage of joy (and gray hairs), but they also take up an alarming amount of space.  For example, despite my wife’s 2009 GMC Acadia nominally being a seven passenger vehicle, the addition of three children in car seats meant that the two larger kids were squished in the third row.  Besides being uncomfortable, it was potentially dangerous.  The lovely Mrs. Magicboltbox and I finally decided it was time to fully embrace 30-something parenthood and get a minivan.

Three years ago, we settled on a low-optioned Acadia for various timing and financing reasons, and she never let me forget that it didn’t have a sunroof, a power tailgate, or the chrome trim she preferred.  In exchange for accepting a mommy-mobile, she insisted on the aforementioned sunroof and power liftgate, as well as power sliding doors.  No problem – I wouldn’t mind those options as well.

When shopping for minivans, it quickly becomes apparent that your choices are far more limited than they used to be.  GM and Ford have both discontinued their minvan offerings (replacing them with the Lambda quadruplets and the Explorer/Flex, respectively).  None of the Europeans offer vans in the US (with the exception of the VW Routan, a poorly rebadged Dodge Caravan), so the only options are Toyota’s Sienna (I still want to call it a Previa), the Honda Odyssey, Nissan Quest, and the Chrysler Caravan/Town & Country siblings.  We rather quickly decided on the Odyssey, based on styling, available options, convenience features, and price.  The only real stumbling block was color.

The wife preferred something in a Navy Blue, but the “Celestial Blue” that Honda offers on the Odyssey was deemed too… elderly:


After deciding the “Polished Metal Metallic” took on too many different hues depending on the angle and time of day, I managed to convince my wife that – as the folks at the BCAS already know – brown is in.  Brown is beautiful.  Brown is sexy.  So we got the Smoky Topaz Metallic (brown) with Truffle (brown) interior.

Seen here in its natural habitat

Seen here in its natural habitat

So far, we both agree its the best new car we could have purchased, and I actually don’t mind driving it.  The kids love it, my back loves not having to wrangle the kids into the third row, and most importantly, the lovely Mrs. loves it too.  And it just wouldn’t be as cool if it weren’t brown.


As Seen on Craigslist – 1972 Pontiac Grand Prix

As Seen On TV Logo copy

After a week-long hiatus where I seriously contemplated whether I should be allowed to work on cars (and recovered from a nasty late-spring head cold), we’re back with another local Craigslist find.  Being a Pontiac guy, I’m predisposed to like the redesigned-for-’69 Grand Prix, and while I prefer that car’s quad headlights, this later silver example is still an attractive car.  The era of the “personal coupe” was in full swing by this time and the Grand Prix and Chevy Monte Carlo were GM’s leading entries into that market.  Boasting the longest hood ever produced at that time (literally – contemporary advertisements actually bragged about this esoteric fact), this car was actually athletic and svelte compared to the previous generation.  I don’t see the surface rust that the seller mentions, but at this price you could afford a quality touch-up and still be in good shape.  You might need a spotter to park it, but you’ll still arrive in style.

72 GP

As Seen on Craigslist – 1956 Chevrolet 3100 Pickup

As Seen On TV Logo copy

This gentleman has some sort of business/hobby built around retrofitting Corvette drivetrains and suspensions into old pickup trucks – I’ve probably seen a dozen trucks listed by the same seller in various states of completion.  This one in particular caught my eye because of the Air Force markings on the door.  $3400 seems like a lot for a rusty half-there truck without an engine, but restored trucks of this vintage can go for big bucks and everybody loves Mater, right?  This is way outside of my abilities, but it sure looks like a fun project for the right person.

56 Chevy

Carburetor Rebuild Project – Success, Sort Of

I’ve been burning quite a bit of the old midnight oil transmission fluid lately, even though I haven’t been as good about posting my results.  That might have something to do with my frustration level with the car.

When I last left off, I was ready to put the carburetor back on the car.  I bolted the carb to the manifold, hooked up the fuel line and myriad vacuum connections, and got the keys.  After three cranking attempts, the engine caught and rumbled to life.  I let it idle for a few minutes while I topped off the transmission fluid (more on that in a bit).  While it ran great on high-idle, the engine kept stumbling and stalling as soon as the choke opened.  I wasn’t terribly worried, so I hopped in and headed to the gas station and “blew out the carbon” on the way there a few times.


Seen here in its natural habitat – the gas station.

I put a couple gallons in the tank while trying to decipher why the car still wouldn’t hold an idle.  Actually falling back on my own automotive experience for a change, it occurred to me that the car felt like it had a vacuum leak.  After fueling up (and talking to a few curious folks at the pumps), I poked around under the hood.  Sure enough, I’d missed an unused vacuum port on the back of the carburetor, which was sucking extra air and causing the engine to stall:


I found a spare vacuum cap in my stash, and the car was much happier.  That was about the highlight of the week, as I soon discovered a large puddle of transmission fluid forming under the car.  I stuck a pan under the leak overnight and was greeted by about 2 pints the next morning – I had had a small leak at the end of last year, but over the winter it had turned into a full-on gusher.  I pulled the car back in the garage and dejectedly prepared myself to take a transmission fluid bath yet again.

A few nights later, I managed to get the pan dropped, a new silicone gasket in place, and everything buttoned back up.  After another test drive, pulled back in the garage to the sound of dripping once again.  Poking my head under the car, I now found the fuel pump was leaking gas on the floor.  As you can imagine, I was overjoyed by this development.  While poking around that area (it appears as though my earlier attempt to dislodge the fuel line from the fuel pump managed to crack the weld between the junction block and pump bowl), I also noticed that the transmission was still leaking, albeit much more slowly and from a different location.  It was about this time that I went looking for a match and my insurance agent’s phone number.

I ordered a new fuel pump yesterday and have yet to determine if I will try to fix the tranny leak again myself or throw in the towel and take it to a professional – I’ve about reached my limit of laying on my back with red oil dripping down my armpit.  At least the leak is manageable and the car is drivable, so I might be dollars (and sanity) ahead to farm it out at this point.

As Seen on Craigslist – 1964 Ford Falcon

As Seen On TV Logo copy

It’s finally convertible season around here, and I was hoping that this would be similar to Brad Pitt’s car from Ocean’s Eleven, but this one is a hardtop.  That said, it’s a nice-looking little compact in a great color, and it’s essentially a first-generation Mustang under the skin (more accurately, a first-gen Mustang is a Falcon under the skin).  Ditch the whitewalls and you’d have a fantastic little stoplight racer for the summer.

64 falcon