Monthly Archives: October 2021

Manifold Destiny

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So my dad informed me ruefully that my intake manifold is shot. This is some thing no woman of a certain age wants to hear, particularly from her father.

“See this corrosion here? It’s not going to get a good seal to the carburetor.”

Me too, intake manifold. Me too.

Anyway, this resulted in a frantic search for a new one which as it happened would take at least a week to get from any online source as no local parts outfit could even order one in for me. Damn supply chain issues. Is there nothing that Covid cannot mess up?

Finally somebody that I spoke to at one of the parts houses recommended that I call the imaginatively named Old Car Parts over in Portland, a place I’d been driving past for my entire life and always wondered about but never had occasion to visit before. I called them and the gruff voice that answered took down what I was looking for and my name and phone number. There was no indication in the seven words he spoke to me whether or not I would get a call back or what time frame I might expect one in. I didn’t hear back.

The next day we decided to just go down there since we weren’t having any luck anywhere else.

Friends, it was like stepping into the Ollivander’s of crusty old car parts. This place is jammed so full of bits and pieces of every antique car you can think of that it boggles the mind. Like, to the point of no return.

The fellow that was there turned out to be the guy I’d spoken to. I told him that we had called the day before but we didn’t hear back so we decided to just come on down. “Yeah, we’re not always great at calling people back,” he said. “There’s only a couple of us that are here most days and sometimes it’s only me and it can be a little bit much.” I told him I didn’t take it personally and he laughed.

We then embarked upon a mission to find the parts we came for. This took us through the store to the back, stopping along the way to check a couple of racks of manifolds and related parts. We had no luck finding what we were looking for so we returned to the front of the store and he made a phone call.

He then sent us to the owners house about 20 minutes away. “He’s pretty sure he’s got a couple of those hanging around over there,” he told us. My interest was definitely piqued by this time. There is literally almost nothing I enjoy more than poking around in piles of junk. I cannot explain it but there it is.

You guys. It was everything I could have imagined, and more.

We found the place tucked into a dead end gravel road up on a hill, a gated compound of modest design festooned with one or two tastefully decaying old cars parked out front. We parked tentatively to the side and wandered back to where we could see a couple of old duffers shooting the breeze in the back of the house. This turned out to be Joe, the owner, and a customer-turned-friend whose name I didn’t catch. Joe was expecting us and pretty soon we were off to ramble the property seeking our parts.

We started by exploring the shop building which was every bit as packed and jumbled as the store had been. No luck there.

Eventually we wandered outside where we found the manifold I needed rusting in a pile of brambles. Along the way we also found an air cleaner and a technical manual from 1965. My car came with the most ridiculous tiny air cleaner about the size of a can of deviled ham and I really wanted to return it to the type the car came with, which is bigger than a dinner plate and has a long snout off to one side. Dad spotted the manual on a shelf somewhere and wanted it for the various specs contained therein. I happily bought them all for less than a hundred dollars.

Joe turned out to be the most delightful guy. He’s 82 and opened the Old Car Parts store fifty years ago. He loves old cars and everything to do with them, and he’s living the best life doing what he loves. It was just a magical experience to meet him and see his shop.

As we packed up to go Joe offered to show us his pride and joy, a 1938 convertible Chevrolet that he’d tried for years to find. He told us he’d had a few leads on one over the years but it had never worked out, and when this one finally came along he was so excited his hands were shaking as he talked to the owner on the phone. The upholstery is original and the car has only been painted once since it was new. It has a rumble seat!

He also has a 1959 Pontiac Bonneville in original sunrise coral hiding in the shop. I would have purchased it on the spot if I could, it was that beautiful.

The green 1951 Chevy shown here was taken in as part of a trade and he said he doesn’t intend to keep it.

Miscellaneous shop and property pictures. His nest, a wall of hubcaps, etc.

Jolene, pt. 2

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So on a recent Friday I went and picked up an engine hoist and transmission jack from a rental outfit using my dad’s pickup. It’s a massive diesel rig with rear duals and an honest to God hydraulic lift in the bed, which impressed the heck out of the rental dudes who loaded the stuff onto it. I hopped out of the truck (well, it was more of a semi controlled fall, as the truck is very tall and I’m somewhat not springy) and found them regarding the back of the truck.

“You want me to put the lift down?” I asked.

“Uh, that’d be real good,” they replied, never taking their eyes from the truck. I’m pretty sure I saw the glint of saliva in the corner of one their mouths.

The lift came down, smooth as butter, and they each got that satisfied look, like they wanted to light a cigarette. I broke the reverie by holding out ratchet straps to them asking if they could secure the hoist and jack. I’m complete garbage with tie downs. They never work right for me and they’d work even less tight in front of these guys. They obliged and as they worked they commented that it looked like someone was getting ready to do some work on a vehicle.

“We’re pulling the engine out of my ‘65 Chevrolet,” I told them. Between that and the cool truck-bed lift I had now amassed a modicum of credibility amongst the tool rental guy crowd, exactly the kind of demographic a middle aged lesbian strives to impress.

I drove away with my rented machinery, reveling in the glory of it all on a fine sunny Friday in September.

Jolene, pt. 1

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So I’m probably the luckiest person in the world. Except when I’m not, but that’s a story for another time.

A little over a week ago my dad and brother came over and we spent a carefree five days removing the engine and transmission from my 1965 Chevrolet Bel Air, Jolene.

Jolene ran when I bought her, although not super well. She brought me home safely from where I found her in Olympia, over an hour away, but I couldn’t tell you how fast I drove because over about 45 miles an hour the speedometer needle bounced around. It was a bit of a job staying in the lines, her steering was that sloppy. I stopped for gas early on because of course the gas gauge didn’t worth either. But I was ridiculously happy.

Once home I sent her for a little sleep away at the mechanics where she behaved tolerably well, aside from the way one of her ball joints fell completely apart when they put her up on the lift. Her steering was considerably improved after the subsequent front end job.

She sat in the driveway and then in my garage for the past two years, waiting for me to have time and money to start the process of restoration. Then last spring I had some difficulty with the Subaru (the Impreza with the crappy brake design, a pox forever upon its name) and we needed a more powerful vehicle to tow the trailer anyway. We traded in both of our cars on the Juggernaut and bought my little Mazda back from our friend’s son as a little around-town car to tide me over until Jolene could be brought back to life, Jolene who had spent last winter emptying her cast iron bowels onto my garage floor.

I ordered an engine from a company in Spokane where my dad lives, and because they didn’t have it done on time it then spent a few months in the garage of one of my dad’s friends, waiting for the weather to calm down and not actively try to kill us. My dad is reasonably hale and hearty but he’s of a Certain Age and I’d like to not contribute directly to his actual expiration by asking him to wrench on my old car in some kind of crazy swamp heat out there.

Finally the stars aligned and we had a fairly mild weekend mostly free of other obligations, and so it began.