I am sitting outdoors writing today, fully enjoying the California weather. The sky is blue with a slight breeze and the temperature is about 75 degrees. It really doesn't get any better than this.
I went back to Pennsylvania to see my mother at Easter and it was really cold, about 30 degrees. On Easter Sunday I went to church and it snowed on the way. Then I traveled to New York City where it was also cold — with the addition of wind. Times Square, I have to admit, is pretty neat with all the lights and plasma television screens. But it was crowded and pedestrians were moving faster than the vehicles.
They were doing some high-end car videos in Times Square featuring the only competition to the Rolls-Royce: the Maybach. I don't really know much about Maybach automobiles except they are extremely expensive. In the Big Apple, the camera crews were filming trendy people getting in and out of the Maybach in very stylish clothing.
Talking about stylish clothing, what makes people dress for a summer day on a cold California morning? At the Pomona Swap Meet last Sunday many stylin' men and women were out. Wearing tank tops, flip flops, shorts and t-shirts they had to be cold. Or maybe they were from Pennsylvania or New York. I wore a t-shirt, a sweater, a windbreaker jacket, jeans, and an extra-heavy pair of socks and I was chilly. Then it started to rain and that reminded me of my first car shows in Pennsylvania. Being a car guy from back East, I thought I would tell you what the car guys do on the "right coast."
But first, here is what has been going on with the '62 Plymouth Golden Commando. The restoration is going pretty well about a year behind schedule and 20% over budget. This is a much better report than the 1963 Belvedere I did three years ago that was over 200% over budget.
Plymouths are a bit more challenging to estimate the budget. The car does have the aqua blue colored 413 single 4-barrel period correct engine that runs well. The car is painted and all the rear chrome and badges are on. The torqflite push-button (typewriter) shift is working with the kick-down. For whatever reason, when you slam the gas pedal to the floor and it gets into first the back tires get loose. I kind of like that feature but there are only a few areas I feel good about cutting it loose.
I have begun to do all the details and you know how that goes: "the Devil is in the details." Just aligning the doors and putting the window glass in was trouble. One Saturday, I spent 12 hours and accomplished nothing toward putting one door back together. This is a big deal as the '62 Plymouth is not a complex vehicle and I have service and assembly manuals that should have helped.
Taking the glass out, two doors and two quarter-windows, wasn't much trouble two years ago. Two years later, even with everything marked and bagged, with pictures and notes and crude drawings, the process went very slowly.
The worst part, however, was the alignment of the quarter window to the main door window. The problem was that the window channel as well as the main door rubber were replaced with new rubber (made in Thailand). These pieces were close to looking original and are certainly better than the original pieces that were over 30 years old. But they weren't perfect. This caused a huge time drain on the project and a couple of "If I put the car cover on it, it may fix itself" delays.
I finally broke down and concluded that I was stuck and called in my buddies, Ron and Ted. Ron is more of a theory guy and Ted is a "let's take it all apart and see how it works" guy. Both agreed that on a two-door hardtop the most important alignment was the "fixed" glass alignment. In my case, that meant the quarter glass or back seat glass.
With both in agreement, a day was spent on the rear window quarter glass. And it worked just like the book said it would. The door glass on the driver's door ended up being a very simple adjustment. The passenger side glass went quite smoothly for both the door and the quarter glass.
All in all, I have invested at least 40 hours in perfecting my technique of adjusting door glass in old cars. Now, if you're doing a restoration and want to make the glass fit right, I am your man. My specialty is Plymouth two-door hardtops of the '60's. I will wait for your calls.
Now, let's move back to the winter wonderland of the East Coast. As luck would have it, I had a layover in Philadelphia on the Easter trip. There was freezing rain going on and I decided to camp as close to the airport as I could. All the big name motels are located in a town called Easington three miles away from the terminals including my favorites: Motel 6, Easy 8, Budget, and Day's Inn. They are all designed for the budget traveler like me.
Easington is also famous for Philly cheesesteaks. Many a president or dignitary who has come to Philadelphia has enjoyed a Philly cheesesteak from Easington.
I also know that Easington is the home of the the 1964 GTO known as the Moss GTO. I decided to see if anyone knew old Moss. He would be about 62 to 65 years old now. But where to look?
The bars are the place to look. In a small town like Easington, whether you're looking for old cars or people, there is no better place to look than a local bar.
Talking to the locals, I discovered the car culture on the East Coast hasn't changed much. In the winter, you get a building and five or six guys keep their cars there, like a clubhouse. The buildings are usually rented dirt cheap and the car guys take care of the property. The property owner doesn't worry about drugs, gangs, or bums moving into a vacant building.
We had a barn to work in during the winter back when I was in high school. The barn we had was pretty good and cheap. We would help the farmer and he would let us use the equipment in the building attached to the barn. When you opened up the headers, it really got the cows to mooing.
The only bad feature of our winter workshop was the wind. If the wind was blowing just right the smell of cow crap filled the workshop. This was not a big deal as most of us were pretty crappy mechanics ourselves.
At the bar, I learned that there were three known club garages in the area, mostly run by older guys (50+) with some pretty interesting cars. This garage world has really caught on, according to the locals, and some car clubs have 20 cars inside their building plus a detailer living in the garage.
And what about old Moss? He married and moved to Florida. He was like me, another Pennsylvania native who saw the light.
Originally published in the June/July 2007 Automotive
Copyright 2007 by KAL Publications Inc.
Covering the California auto parts aftermarket since 1928.