Sticks and Stones My Break My Bones But they Also Can Fix My Chevy

I've posted a couple serious and deeply personal posts lately so I'm going to balance it back out with goofy car stories. This one is actually a "humble brag" post about my mechanical ability and ability to work a situation that isn't necessarily going my way.

In 1992 while driving in my neighborhood, I passed a car with a for sale sign in it and it immediately drilled into my psyche. It was a gunmetal grey 1962 Chevrolet Biscayne 2-Door Post. The "post" referred to the B-billar of the car. Oddly, to me a the time, it was also known as a "sedan" even though it was a two door.


Like this but grey
It had huge front and back bench seats and the seats were sprung, not of foam like modern cars are. The body was straight and it was a 283 V8 with a 3-speed and automatic overdrive, essentially making it a 6-speed. A great drag car!

The $1600 asking price was within reach - if I sold my 1968 Chevrolet 3/4-ton truck. I didn't need a truck, I'm not even sure why I ever bought it. 

I sold it.


Like this but grey.
The Biscayne I purchased the next day was just a joy. It was a 2-owner car, I was the third. The previous owner had installed cruise control, delay wipers, water injection and a 2nd oil filter under the hood. It purred like a kitten. It had the original hub caps on 14" bias-ply tires.

This is my 2nd favorite car I've ever owned. It never broke and I daily drove it for years to work and all over the Northwest.

Well, honestly, one day it broke. I had driven a good friend over to his not unattractive girlfriends home on the other side of the city. We listened to Queensrÿche: "Empire" on the CD player and 7 speaker system I had installed myself - and damn it was great!

The "breakdown" happened, appropriately for a Chevrolet, only after it delivered me to my destination. The clutch pedal went dead - to the floor - and for a few minutes my heart sank to the same place.

I had often bragged that I could fix a Chevrolet with sticks and rocks if necessary. I never had a wish to try it, it was bravado, but this day, this day I swear my only options were sticks and rocks.

I diagnosed the problem while my friend was in his girlfriends house doing who knows what. I found that the clutch pivot spring that mounts from the engine block to the fame, about 8 inches long, had broken the weld at the frame. This essential part was what let the spring "rock" when you engaged the clutch. No weld, no brace, no engaging the clutch.

As I eyed this problem, two factors immediately came to light. 1. I had not brought my tool box. 2. I did not know how to weld and even if I did, I'd need to fabricate a new part. The cherry on top of the shit sundae being that I was not a CNC operator.

The last thing I noticed was that forward of where the weld broke on the frame was the top of the suspension shock absorber. This was a stout mounting and here was where my mind went to work. Eyeballing the distance between where the broken weld was and this literal stud

Without even thinking of my past boasts about sticks and rocks, I began looking for... sticks and rocks. What I finally came up with was a nice piece of granite, a nicely dried 3"x½" stick of maple and the wonder of compressibility, a nice piece of bark off a giant Douglas Fir.

These three simple, natural items placed in the right order allowed the spring of the clutch to press into them. I hopped in the car and gave the clutch a press. I kid you not, it felt exactly as it did when everything was factory. Good pressure, the pedal returned to its normal height off the floor... groovy!

When my friend came out to check on me I had given it who knows how many pumps to see if anything was moving about under the hood - nope! In fact, the bark had already worn in a nice groove for it to rock in. I wasn't exactly 100% sure this would get us home but I had, as Astronauts say, "a high degree of confidence". I didn't ask how his girlfriend was.

My confidence was well placed. We got in the "Biscuit" as many of my friend called the Biscayne (they must not have been familiar with the bay but I'm a geography nut) and we sailed her home. Nary a hitch as Jet City Woman played on the CD player, an odd mix of 1962 and digital audio rolling through King County in style. Men in bland Honda Accords looked at me with our windows down, all smiles and I could read their minds: I wish I had never sold that car.

The most impressive part of my humble brag is that I drove my car like that for a good six or more months before finding someone who could take on the job of fabricating and welding in a new bracket at the great price of $50!

So if you wonder why the only tattoo I have is "1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2" and I bleed Chevy Orange, this is one of the many reasons. I've had many things let me down or not work as advertised or had small prayers not answered but Chevrolet has never stranded me, whether a 30 year old one with hundreds of thousands of miles on the odometer or a modern 2008 or 2013 model.

I still have those sticks and rocks packed away somewhere. So I implore you:

See the U.S.A. in your Jet-Smooth Chevrolet.

The Dual Fart Can - Inept Driver Conundrum

I'd like to start this out with some bonafides and because my life is an open book, share a story or two. I will then explain my exasperation at completely incomprehensible loudness of the slowest vehicles on the streets, peoples inept driving skills and offer some solutions. Most of them will be legal.

Yeah, I may sound like an old curmudgeon and my street racing days are waaaaaay behind me. My fast cars all sold for an "adult" modern sedan that is not exactly slow, but definitely not fast. 

My first car was a 350 cubic inch V8 (that's 5.7L to you, kid), 4BBL carb, dual exhaust, M-22 4-speed Camaro Rally Sport. I bought it before I had even learned to drive a stick - I taught myself. The clutch was non-hydraulic assist like cars today - just a big ass heavy spring that probably was more work out than I see most people do when they're working out their legs. 
With a 3.55:1 rear diff the car had a perfect mix of launch and legs. Redline in 1st was 60MPH - and the Hurst T-handle shifter made the 2nd - 3rd shift a fast, pleasant "snap" and into the wiggle of power coming back on in a blink.

I have no idea why my mom let me buy this car for my first car but bless her soul because this car is what led to my understanding of how the internal combustion engine worked - from start to finish. 

So yeah, in high school I worked 40 hours a week for an "honest" job but after midnight was when I made most of my cash. The job was merely a cover for my avocation of a little tomfoolery while rock music blared out the windows and the CB used to find where the action was that night.

Now, onto my curmudgeonly post. Please, suffer along with me  aswe go down the list of modern lack of disregard for neighbors and fellow citizens ears and peace and quiet.

1. The Fart Box car. These cars are, when you hear them, cars whose bark is not only merely worse than their bite, they are toothless except to act as should be noise citations. Legal solutions are to just hope they fix their car. Options are to share your stash of potatoes with them and cram one up their tail pipe any and every time you have the chance. We need to get proactive on this.

2. The Fart Box + Bad Driver car. These vehicles are much the same as above except the person "driving" the car has no idea how a powertrain works and either doesn't care about the longevity of their engines or purposefully drives their Annoyance in a manner that at all times allows it to make the most useless noise it can at all times. 

I must go in depth on the second one. If you have a fast car, even if it is loud, it should leave ear shot quickly. If you can still clearly hear a car as it shifts from 2nd - 3rd and until that redline, you know that most tow trucks could pull the car faster on their hooks than the car can move itself. Regardless, the cherry on top of the shit sundae for these Car and Drivers are that when they hit 45 and are redlined in 3rd, for some reason they do not upshift. Not even one gear! 
  • This is bad for your engine.
  • This is bad for gas mileage.
  • This is bad if you drive a car like this and run into the wrong guy at the wrong time.
Motorcycle drivers, particularly Harley Davidson riders (whom I consider newbs or just don't understand the point of driving a Harley) lately seem to have a strain of this ignorance/disregard or lack of couth. 

No matter if you are four wheels or two, when you drive a manual and are not in peril or racing for money or pride, we can hear you anyway. Trust us, you drive a Noise Generator and WE HEAR YOU. There is no reason to drive at redline for 30 seconds or rap out your car when you turn a corner onto a short/residential street.

Here is how, if you happen to be in this group of drivers or riders, to drive with some decorum and class:
  • Short Shifting. You probably have never heard of this, or just don't understand that low RPM driving is cool. Short Shifting is merely shifting up a gear without redlining your ride. Yes, you have 6 or 8k RPM but you needn't use them all when motoring. Instead, simply shift up a gear at 2-3k, and when you reach the speed limit upshift to  just short of under-revving your engine. 
Doing this primarily raises your driving IQ and the admiration of neighbors and fellow motorists as it shows you actually do have control and knowledge of your vehicle.  It also allows your engine (which even if you drive a cheap, base model Fart Box) such things as it starting the next time you want to drive it. Also, not blowing up as you drive it, more cash at hand and road rage avoidance, that is what Metal is for.

Now, kids, don't be offended by what I'm writing here. I get it. I was raised by a single mother and learned all of this (much more quickly than you have apparently, but I did) bit by bit. I love that you love cars. I love that you don't mind risking a ticket or wrapping your car around a tree at 2AM! Just do it at the outskirts of town and pass it on to the next generation so if you're fortunate enough to not kill yourself and live past this part of your life, you may have a fairly quiet sleep after midnight.

I am here, as always, as your Zen master if you have questions on how to win street drag races and street racing etiquette. Please feel free to post questions or comments below or, if you really do need help or have questions because you are losing at the drags for either psychological reasons, your car is slower or for any reason - you can always email me directly. I can help you sort this out and with just a few tips can have you giving faster cars hell.

Thanks for reading and NEVER let them look under your hood.