The Land Rover Writer

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lucked Out

My personal "garage" has extraordinary ventilation, limited ceiling height and plenty of stretch out room. It's a bit cold [or hot, depending on season] but if the sun's out, lots of light. That's because it's a classic, open air "shade tree" garage.

In Maine open air maintenance work can get uncomfortable this time of year. So when the linemen who work for FIEC, our local electric co-op, I jumped at the chance to get my cars up to snuff mechanically. First up was my 1966 Corvair Monza Coupe with the 110 hp/4 speed drivetrain.

I had bought tune-up parts at Clark's Corvairs when the Bay State club held its wonderful Rally there back in September but had unwisely left them sitting in the Clark's bag since then. The car had soldiered on nicely this winter, but I knew it was time for the minor tune-up.

So I enjoyed the warmth of a heated, concrete floored building, with drop lights, a huge floor jack, jack stands, and at the end of the workday, several linemen, fishermen, a plumber, a carpenter and two dogs to watch me, give advice, and comment on my numerous shortcomings. All but one were younger, by decades, than me. Did I mention there were "beverages" cooling in the snowbank just outside the door?

The Monza drew many compliments. Everyone thought it had great style, despite its scabrous paint job. I had a nice conversation with the plumber about engine [the P.O. had once offered him the chance to drive the car at a time when it had no brakes - he still shudders at the ride]. We agreed that it was very clever.

I agreed to let one man and his wife, who had never been in a Corvair, take the car one afternoon this spring or summer to enjoy a warm weather drive in it.

So I swapped out the points, rotor and condenser. The Clark's distributor cap on the car was the brass contact model; the one I purchased at Clark's had the aluminum contacts. Since the brass one looked perfect, I left it in place and put the new one in the trunk. When I went to restart the car, it would not, so I checked my point gap again - too wide. Once adjusted correctly it started up right away and purred.

Swapping plugs always gives you a chance to examine the engine's condition. I had last changed them in November 2007. The mayo in the air cleaner made it clear that the car's oil [changed in November] had condensation in it; I'm just not going far enough each time I drive the car. Plug #1 was wet and a bit gunked up, the others on the right bank were a bit wet but without evidence of much oil. The left bank plugs were all just brown and worn out. So I was relieved that all seemed well enough for the 123,000 mile engine that shows no evidence of being apart since new.

Last was a grease job on the front end. As I took out my pistol grip grease gun, a roar of derision rose and the line crew foreman handed me their battery operated grease gun, one that uses a small electric motor to pump the grease. If I had a lot of greasing to do, it would be slick to use; as it was, a few seconds with the electric gun filled everything just fine.

So the Monza runs great, will certainly start that much better, gained new appreciation from locals, provided me with a satisfying few hours, and the heat of a waste-oil furnace as well as the heat of satirical ridicule.

What a great way to pass a late afternoon.

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