The musings of a cantankerous over the hill greasemonkey who, though already old, is rather old for his age. I'll bust greasy knuckles out in the garage or argue politics with anyone who will stand for it....

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I Still remember that Rumblin' sound....

One of the simple joys of life for the dirty fingernail crowd is the first sound of a freshly rebuilt motor coming to life. You spend considerable time and money trying to make something of a tired old lump. After finishing the work, the fear of the unknown is palpable. It can be cut with a knife. You recognize the real possibility that despite the time and money invested to freshen up and enhance the motor it is just as likely to sputter and hammer as it throws one of the new rods that you have yet to finish paying for.
When a fresh build does start, I think it is probably about as close to the triumph of childbirth that a guy can come.
Steve Earle's tune, Copperhead Road has a line that makes me think of that process every time I hear it. It is probably a throwaway song all in all, but this verse makes the hair stand up on my neck every time I hear it.

"Now daddy ran the whiskey in a big block Dodge
Bought it at an auction at the Mason's Lodge
Johnson County Sheriff painted on the side
Just shot a coat of primer then he looked inside
Well him and my uncle tore that engine down
I still remember that rumblin' sound

If you have ever had the privilege of being involved in a big block rebuild, you know what "I still remember that rumblin' sound" means. After all the anticipation, if you actually get it to fire there is a sound and a feeling that is almost impossible to duplicate any other way. There is a subsonic rumble that tears at your gut like a bass amp in a 70's Foghat concert. The acrid wind from the fan carries the smell of fresh curing engine paint and an oil film that blows up as you listen for those clatters you hope not to hear as everything finds its seat.
As things settle into a rhythmic cadence, you reach for that room temperature half empty beer with the greasy thumbprint on the label and smile as you revel in the triumph that the fresh engine brings. The oil leak from the rear main or valve cover that you haven't seen yet will spike your blood pressure later, but right now, all that matters is that the motor that was an anemic stinky puking old weezer a few weeks ago is now idling with a staccato authority that induces a euphoria that few things in life will ever duplicate for those of us inclined to this pastime.
The Government will sell you a car if all you want is a new one. If you want to feel inclined to do a fist pump and feel like you were put on this earth to do something besides take oxygen that could have just as easily been used to keep something cool running, take a summer sometime and freshen up an old V8 and fire it up now and again when the world is getting you down.

Ain't nothin' like it, son....

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Girding the Next Generation to continue the fight

So we march on into the teeth of an educational establishment, a large contingent of government types and a compliant media to spread the gospel of compression exceeding 9:1, leaky rope style rear main seals, 100 octane fuel and manual transmissions content to top out at 1:1 insted of .75:1.
This is our fight. To help those left to represent us in the future to understand that computer chips, hybrid motors and airbags are a something to be tolerated, not something to asprire to.
We need to let them experience why our generation and those before us yearned for the open road.
You can't pack enough Car Czars in a Prius to make it cool. It can only be a wimpering, pitiful substitute for what inspired us to come to this point.
Don't pass on the opportunity to show someone a little younger than you why full size sedans and motorcycles with (GASP!) carburetors are something to be adored, not the raw materials for the overseas manufacturing of cool, shiny pedal powered vendors' carts to peddle a vegan menu lunch to an expanded legion of EPA employees in a city far away....

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Where it all started...

In 1974 I was just a normal gawky nerd kid who played in the Junior high band, got good grades and delivered my newspapers every afternoon after school. Yeah.. that's right. I was the kid people were standing in line to beat up for no particular reason. I was just the perfect target. Along with the normal things 13 year old kids think about, I had an unhealthy obsession with old cars. I would dream of owning and doing a ground up restoration on an old Ford... preferably a Model A.

That summer, while I was away at band camp (I know... now you're thinking about beating me up too....) my folks, who were very tolerant of my geek nature, schemed a surprise for me. When I returned home from camp, I found in the garage a ratted out 1930 Model A pickup. I was absolutely beside myself with joy over this thing. I am sure the only person happier that day than me was the wife of the guy that sold that rattletrap to my Dad for a song and got it out of HER garage.

This was to be a Father/son project, but due to my obsession with the car, I had the old rig stripped to the bare frame before my Dad knew what hit him. You see, I was already sure I knew what to do. Prior to getting the 'A' I spent much of my spare time reading restoration guides and shop manuals. I swear I knew what was behind every inspection cover and in every corner of that machine before I ever touched it.

We got the chassis back together and running good that next summer. I would start that thing up and back it up and down our driveway dreaming of the day I get to drive it out on the open road. I recall a few visits from the local police scolding me to keep it in the yard. While I didn't have the guts to venture too far, I was often out in the road in front of our house. They never bothered me too bad... I think I just had a geriatric neighbor or two that were convinced I was up to no good and the cops felt obliged to at least be seen talking to me.

I wish I had saved more pictures of the car, but while a number were taken,there are only a few to be found anymore. Someday when my kids are cleaning out my attic for the estate sale they may find a few more.

That old Ford was the start of a lifelong obsession with internal combustion. Cars, 4x4s, motorcycles, snowmobiles, boat motors, you name it. I could care less. If it would get me greasy and smelling like stale gas, I was up for it. I'm 48 now and it has only gotten worse...

My Kingdom for a little Motivation...

Back in the fall of 2007, I begged, borrowed, stole, horsetraded and all but sold my soul to acquire something that in many peoples' estimation is in the top five contention for the Holy Grail of motorcycles... a postwar girder front Indian Chief. It had been taken meticulously to the point of final tin work, paint and final assembly by my good friend Terry at Terry's Customs in Latham, IL. He was ready to make some room and I was ready to ride an Indian. I sold my 71 FLH, a 70 Moto Guzzi Ambassador, a 69 Triumph hardtail project, a Velorex 562 as well as a garage full of other stuff to have a crack at the Chief.
Once I got it home, I got right after making plans to finish the restoration. That next summer, I got all of the tin tweaked and painted. Jason in Arlington did a beautiful job laying down the color. I chose to go with Black. I toyed with lots of other options. I thought red, but you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a red chief. I seriously considered the seafoam blue option but I just couldn't pull the trigger on that. Once the tin was back from the paint shop, I knew I did the right thing.
After the sheetmetal (less tanks) was reinstalled, the project just kinda floundered. A busy summer combined with several weeks away for continuing ed for work and too many other projects kept me away from the bike.

While all of this has been going on, I bought and traded off a rigid sporty project, a Triumph Speed triple, a Guzzi Ambo with a sidehack and another 71 Ambassador (which I wisely hung onto).
I have a bad habit of volunteering with little or no prodding from friends and neighbors to tackle their old car and motorcycle fix-it projects, effectively keeping me from my own stuff. This summer that project has been a petrified 78 Honda twinstar that needs everything that my neighbor's kid wants to use to commute to school. How can you say no to a kid that wants to have his own bike to ride?
I'm hoping that by getting this story up to read to myself, it will give me the motivation to say, "Man, if that bike were in MY garage, I would so have that S.O.B. on the road!" Hopefully, now that the goose seems ready to take to Davenport for the AMCA meet on Labor Day, I can concentrate on the chief and get the silly thing on the road before fall settles in too hard!