There are a lot of “Will it Run??!?!”-style videos on YouTube these days, which all follow the same basic format: a guy (they are usually guys) drives or flies somewhere to find a long-abandoned car in a field or barn, spends 3/4 of the video trying to get it running and driving with a minimal set of tools, and then spends the last 1/4 driving it halfway across America to get home. They are hugely popular for reasons I can completely understand: they involve older cars, the host explains what they’re doing, there are usually one or more catastrophic things wrong with the car they must address, and there’s always something that breaks on the way home. I love these videos because I like old cars, I appreciate learning how to fix things, and I love road trips. I would love nothing more than to do this for a living—but I’m not a good enough mechanic yet. Much of what I’ve learned from these videos has come in handy as I’ve gotten the Chrysler and the Travelall running, fixed the brakes, and worked my way through the other systems.
Anyway, there are a lot of these out there now, and I like some more than others. As with podcasts, it’s all about the host; some people are insufferable and rub me the wrong way, and others I enjoy spending time following. I just found a new one with a guy who split a major revival into two parts: a get-it-fixed half and a get-home-but-visit-interesting-places half. The car in question is a beautiful rusty 1960 Impala, abandoned for years, and he manages to keep it running across the country as he checks out some really interesting landmarks. Subscribed.
When I was a kid I watched all the James Bond movies and dreamed of building my own secret lairs inside a volcano or under a mountain or floating out at sea, where I could dock my yachts and helicopters and do Rich People Things. I’d build them out of LEGO or blocks and spend days designing them and building stories around how I’d defend them and where I’d put the helipad.
Poking around on a new military history site the other day, I followed a rabbit hole that led me to a site documenting the transfer of US surplus warplanes to foreign countries after WWII. In the late ’40’s the US gave some amphibious scout bombers to Uruguay, who based them on an island fortress outside Montevideo. It’s an island big enough to host a spacious hangar, outdoor apron, and seaplane ramp, some barracks housing, and not much else. Looking at the pictures and some YouTube video tours of the abandoned facility, all I can think of is that this would make a stellar Evil Lair or secret mission base. If I had stupid Jimmy Buffet money I’d see if Uruguay would sell it to me, then fix it up and base my amphibious planes there. One thing is for sure: I’d put new glass in those giant hangar doors and skylights and have the most AMAZING living room anybody ever sat in.
I’ve been playing The Division 2 for quite a long time now, and it got stale months ago but I haven’t seen any new games that I’ve been interested in trying—until now. Bethesda, the developers behind Fallout 4, are about to release a new game called Starfield, which is a space-based explorer/shooter/dogfighting game that sounds amazing by all accounts. I tried another well reviewed space-based game a while back called No Man’s Sky, which wound up being very repetitive after about ten hours or so, so I’m hopeful this one has the detail and storytelling I enjoyed in the Fallout series. It’s out next week, and I do believe I’ll give it a shot.
Slowdive, a shoegaze band from Back In The Day, broke up after releasing a clasic album in the mid 90’s and reformed themselves about ten years ago. They’ve just released some singles off a forthcoming album, called Everything Is Alive, and I really dig a couple of them. They’re both similar to and different that what came before—alife has all the sonic chemistry that drew me to the band.
And I really like the groove of a tune called the slab, which sounds nothing like their previous work.
Jen and I were talking about something completely unrelated a couple of days ago and she pointed out the sobering fact that we’ve now been in this house for 20 years. We bought it at the middle point of the housing boom that led to the 2008 collapse, and paid a premium for the location (and, frankly, too much for the house). I have my issues with it—probably more than I’ve mentioned here, but we’ve put a ton of blood and sweat equity into this place, and have made it our home.
Since last week I’ve had most of Van Halen’s Fair Warning stuck in my head. In high school during marching band trips, one of the drumline captains had a mixtape of the best VH songs that he’d play en route to competitions, and Dirty Movies! was a standout. Having fallen down the rabbit hole, I found an isolated guitar track which showcases how technical and complex Eddie’s songwriting was—the secret ingredient that stood him far above his peers at the time, beyond the complex solos. Now I’ve got One Foot Out The Door stuck on repeat.
Having spent seven full days on a serious sheet metal project, here are my takeaways:
You can never have too many angle grinders. I’ve got three, and I ran a cutoff, grinding, and wire wheel primarily. If I had to do it over again, I’d have a fourth with a flap disc. The brand is unimportant; two of mine are the cheapest Harbor Freight models sold, and that’s what I’ll buy for the fourth. A splitter block for the extension cord is also key. Making sure the grinding wheel isn’t dull saves a ton of time.
Conversely, Harbor Freight sells a long pneumatic 3″ cutoff wheel which I found to be absolutely useless. It wasn’t strong enough to cut through anything and spent most of the time in the box. However their 2″ pneumatic orbital sander came in super-handy for tight areas.
My Eastwood 140 MIG was absolutely outstanding. It’s an inverter type so it’s easy to carry and move around, and the controls were dialed in perfectly. I’d bought an extra spool of wire but found I didn’t need it, which was a shock given how much wire I was using to fill things. I would recommend this welder to anyone.
My garage is small, uneven, and filled with stuff, so I worked out in the driveway for the majority of the project. I have a plastic folding table which became my workbench, and with an assortment of clamps and cardboard it worked out perfectly.
Having a fridge out in the garage was also key. Cold drinks throughout the day were essential for keeping cool and hydrated.
If I’d had more time, I would have taken the entire dashboard and heating unit out of the truck. I did try to remove the heater, but wound up spilling coolant all over the fucking place, and I still couldn’t figure out how it was supposed to come out, which put me behind schedule. So I re-connected it all and worked around it. It can be done, but I wish I could have done it better.
I don’t have a planishing hammer or beanbags (proper metal-beating tools) but I made do with an old Plomb hammer, a rubber mallet, a deadblow hammer, and Dad’s old green vise. I also screwed a Harbor Freight metal brake I got at a yard sale to the floor of the garage and used that for the larger bends, once I sourced a fat piece of aluminum bar for the backing plate. With those simple tools I was able to bend all of the metal exactly how I needed to. I’m going to have to figure something out for when I need to bend metal to replace the floorboards, as they’re wider than the 32″ brake, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Patience is key. I got carried away with my tack welds when I burned in the main vent sections, and they warped. I slowed down when I did the outer cowl repairs, and had better results. When I do repairs to the outer sheet metal I’m going to have to force myself to slow way down and take my time. This will be especially true when I put the cowl back on—I’m going to have to walk back and forth from one side to the other until it’s all done.
I’ve hung the front fenders on the truck with a single bolt for the last several months, and it makes things much, much easier to pull them off when I’ve got to get close to the engine. I have no idea when they’ll go back on semi-permanently (both of them will be replaced when I can source better ones) but for now they’ll remain temporarily tacked in place until I’m ready to button everything up for a while.
After all of this, I’m not afraid of sheet metal repairs at all—unless they involve compound curves I can’t replicate. There’s a section of rust behind the driver’s rear wheel that I can’t wait to dig into once the cowl is complete. But I would love to fool around with an english wheel and a bender…
I desperately want a larger garage, with a cement floor and a long, well lit workbench.
This project was exhausting. I was gifted with the most reasonable weather I could have hoped for—averaging 80˚ and sunny, with a constant breeze blowing through the yard. If this had been a normal August in Maryland, I’d only be halfway done and in the hospital with heat exhaustion. Even so, I came inside each evening and pretty much collapsed; my watch tells me I averaged about 4 miles of walking and ~8,000 steps a day. I would start immediately after walking Hazel and work until it got too dark to see. Big huge thanks to Jen and Finn for giving me the space to focus on this exclusively.
This was the most fun I’ve had on a project in a long, long time, and I’m very satisfied with how it turned out.
Here’s a narrated video I put together of the work I did on the truck from the time I pulled the windshield out to Sunday evening. This was fun; I learned some new tricks in Final Cut Pro and practiced camera placement.
I’ve been away from my computer for most of this week; as mentioned elsewhere I’ve been outside until dark every day putting serious restoration time in on the Travelall. I’m always plugged in to podcasts when I’m working outside, but by Monday morning I was current with all of my subscriptions. Luckily, I’d checked a bunch of books out of the library when we went to Puerto Rico and put them on my iPad for the plane ride and poolside. I checked out the audiobook of Stiletto, by Daniel O’Malley, which is the follow-up to The Rook, a book I thoroughly enjoyed on a couple of train rides to DC back in 2014. I’m enjoying it so far, even though the author has doubled down on his world building at the cost of pacing. He wrote a third book last year that I’m going to check out next.
While we were waiting in the TSA screening line in Puerto Rico, I noticed a sign that mentioned fliers could use a digital ID on their phone in place of a physical card, and remembered that Apple was offering this service through the Wallet app. I’d tried to set it up months ago but got stuck in a loop, so I made a note to set it up when we returned home.
The process was pretty simple; you shoot a photo of the front and back of your ID and send it through their system for verification, and a few days later get an email that notifies you of approval. Apparently you can bring the ID up and tap it on a smart device to verify your identity. I’d imagine the number of these smart devices is small, but my guess is that this is another look into the future.
On a somewhat related subject, I used my Apple Card to pay for all of the charges for the trip and this new laptop, and through the cash back feature of that account, I’m seeing the balance in my savings account there slowly creep upwards. I’m going to experiment with adding some additional cash into that savings account, as it’s the highest yield account I have (fuck off, Bank of America) and see how things go.
Here’s an interesting thought exercise. 1,600 banned books were analyzed for similarities to see what they all have in common, by author and genre. The results aren’t all that shocking (unfortunately their presentation here is garbage, but this second link has a more direct analysis) but I was surprised to see that Pennsylvania is right behind Texas in the amount of books that have been banned. This data is now 3 months old, so I wonder where we stand now and how much things have changed gotten worse since then.
I just became aware of this part of the Internet Archive: the Great 78 project is an effort to digitize old shellac records that are long out of print. And, of course, a bunch of record labels have decided to file a copyright lawsuit for damages on recordings they most likely don’t even oversee, against profits they haven’t collected, for recordings they haven’t digitized. I’m not a lawyer so I have no idea if this argument holds water, but fuck those guys.
Meanwhile, I love me some big band and early jazz; I’m going to be collecting some new music from here for sure.
I found this video link a week or so after the 80th anniversary of the Tidal Wave mission over Ploesti, Romania, during World War 2. Somebody did a pretty decent job of visualizing the raid with animation and 3D modeling, although there are several historical inaccuracies I saw immediately; the B-24’s in that theater were too early to have belly turrets, for example. I’ve often thought this would be an amazing opportunity for a movie or video game, but my fear is that it would get turned into garbage like the Midway movie from a couple of years ago.
From the Guardian: 15 Ways to Get Back to Sleep. I’ve been waking up randomly at 3AM with various anxieties floating around my head for the last six months or so, and I think I need to internalize some of this advice.