Posts Tagged With: mechanics


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Jim and I spent an hour with Ethan, my mechanic yesterday. While there, I saw a nifty, new car, unlike anything you’ve seen before.

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I’ve seen this beauty around town now and then, but not close enough to talk to the owner.

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It is a 1947 DeSoto on a Corvett Chassis. The original DeSoto was a four door, now reduced to a two door. Pretty classy. How do you like those bumper gears?

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I probably should have asked him his name, but he was quite willing to show it off. He told me the color, Candy Apple Red, was patented by a friend of his. They both lived in Hayward at the time. The color was all the rage then, and he still  loves it.  His steering wheel is a gear, his tachometer on the dash is a piece from an old Model T. Everything is chromed, leathered and beautiful inside and out.

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I suspect we’d all do it if it wasn’t so darned expensive. But, I’m glad someone does these things and makes it fun for all of us.

What hasn’t been fun, is to have a power strip mal-functioning and it took most of the morning to figure out why my battery went dead and then was only intermittently recharging. I told Jim a person needs an electronics mechanic at home to keep things running.

As they say, all’s well that ends well.


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I have a tree hanging dead in another tree. Six trees with heavy over-story hanging above my roof, upstairs deck and guest-house. My tree guy called and said he couldn’t make it on Thursday. Aha! A free day. I quickly decided to attend a meeting in the Bay Area, roughly 120 miles away. So down to the service station I go to have my tires checked.

Ray, from Nash’s Chevron in Angels Camp, drew two circles around spots on my tire where the steel is showing through.  “I wouldn’t drive this car to the Bay Area”,  he told me. Shoot! Couldn’t get new tires to match until Friday. I return home. Oh, well, I can take the truck to the Bay.  I don’t drive it very much. I struggled to open the hood, it is old and tight. Yikes!  I found chewed acorn debris inside the engine- not a good sign.   Couldn’t get the lid off to check the coolant. Left front tire practically flat. Checked my tag, yipes!  I’m over-do for service. Luckily Ethan at Nash’s can get me in at 4:00.

I slowly drive to Pinacle therapy with my soft tire, late for my appointment and apologizing. I hate it when I’m late, I’m frazzled. But, Theresa Locke is the greatest. She get’s to know you and your habits, and can define intricate muscle movements. Its about caring and time and evaluating. I can’t say enough good things about  Theresa. I have such confidence in her as does everyone who meets her.

And her staff is terrific, too. Dulcie, Lea and Jessie, allowed me to take their picture. Lea hammed it up and gave me some good advice. You know how guys go to the barbershop and discuss the game or their car problems with the barber?  Well, Lea gave me some good advice as I told her my woes. “People on the prairies, where they have problems with prairie dogs, leave their hoods open and the rodents won’t chew up wires and stuff on the engine.”  What a team, and good advice.

This is what Lea really looks like.

Back to Nash’s. Jeff has the station on a new computer system and he gets me entered into it. Nash has been taking care of my vehicles  for 30 years.   It is nice to have someone you trust to do good work and always take care of your needs.

The good news is the tire is fine. It  just needed air from sitting too long.  Bad news is the oil pan plug has been replaced so many times with a bigger and bigger plug to prevent leaks, it is going to need replacement next time. And, “I wouldn’t drive this car to the Bay Area with that plug. Better test it on a short trip,”  Ethan told me.  He drove it around town about five miles. It was dry and without a leak.  I promised I’d watch the gage and pull over if necessary.

I’m a bit red-faced. This is the rat’s nest Ethan found sitting on top of my air conditioning filter. Red faced also because my truck was so dirty. It sits under trees with leaves and twigs and bird droppings and rats…arrgh!  Ethan told me, you just put a bar of Irish Spring in your engine well and the rats won’t bother it again. Even better advice.

The full service car wash in Angels Camp had just closed.  I settled for the car wash in Murphys where you have to get out in the heat and vacuum the inside yourself and wipe down everything.  Some days are like that!

I went home and couldn’t wait to get in the door and swill down a nice cool brew. I shuddered at how dirty and neglected I’d let my trusty truck get. It needs some tender loving care instead of being owned by a beer swilling, neglectful derelict.

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The Unser Racing Museum is a wonderful treat for anyone interested in engines,  fast cars, high-speed thrills and marvelous  race cars of every kind.  The excitement jumps out at you. I’m not a race fan, yet  I  found it to be a  fabulous experience. The museum is not the history of racing, but the history of a family of racers, the Unsers.

You know rather quickly from looking at and hearing about these cars, it takes a lot of money to develop a body and engine  that can compete in the Indianapolis 500. A lot of money. The Unsers did not start out rich. Swiss immigrants, Louie Unser was a butcher but he had a knack for tinkering with engines. Mechanics was what he loved. They settled near Pikes Peak in Colorado and his sons Louis, Joe and Jerry began building race cars and tried to get a car up to the top of Pikes Peak.   Joe was always promising himself he was going to build a car that would make it to the top. The road at the time was dirt. And, he did.

Jerry Unser Sr. inherited his father’s knack for mechanics and opened up a garage in Albuquerque because it was on Route 66, where he knew he could make money.  His kids, his brother’s kids, they were all into racing. at a young age. When they qualified for a race, they competed against each other, or each others records more than the other racers in the game.  Jerry Sr. was constantly putting race cars together from parts he’d acquire. He’d modify and customize them for speed and endurance. When the Indianapolis 500 speedway opened up, big money began funding development of the expensive race cars that are on the track today.

This car was one of the last of the front engine racers. Now all race cars have engines in the back. This one never won a race. And, in racing, it is all about winning because winning brings in the big money. The Unsers, were big winners.

Al Unser pictured with his son, Al Jr. got his big break through a fluke. He was hanging around the track, basically fired when someone got pulled from the race and they needed a driver. He got the shot and won the Indy for the first time. His son, Little Al, like most of the Unsers, started out on go-karts and raced as long as they could keep up their grades. He’d bring his son to the track and they’d refuse to let him in because he was too young. He’d have to prove that Little Al was on the racing ticket to get him through the gates.

The four brothers, Al, Bobby, Louis and Jerry Jr. were successful competitors in racing circles. Jerry died in a fiery crash in his second attempt at the Indy 500.  Now, their kids are racing.

Another Jeri Unser has put herself at risk on the track. Not the first female, but one of the few women in the field.

And 800 pound car you can pull around with one hand, so perfectly balanced and easy to handle. The floor in the museum, by the way, is made of ground up tires.

I couldn’t help but notice the difference in tires, and they make a big difference in the race. The rubber is as thin as a credit card. The driver wants those tires to heat up to about 200 degrees to make them sticky so they grip the road. It seems to me it would also slow them down, but, what do I know?  Our docent was knowledgeable and told us many stories about the cars development and racing experiences. This was very much a family museum.

This pace car was driven by five different drivers that each won their race in it. It was like a mystery. No one could figure out why this car always won races.

Could it have been the tires?

I won’t pretend to know anything about mechanics, but I found it fascinating. These “spokes” or maybe they are shocks, resemble airplane wheels. Some cars have fins which is designed to keep the car from sliding sideways.

I saw only one rear-view mirror on a race car, mounted so close to the tire it didn’t look like it belonged there.

One section of the museum has a small collection of old cars like this Phaeton, and a room full of trophys. These trophies and qualifying rings, shirts, racing uniforms et al.  Another salute to the generations of Unsers who raced to the top and the big money.

Jerry Unser Jr.  once hit this wall and during the Indy 500 remodel, they gave a section of the old wall to the Museum. It is called the Milliion Dollar wall.  I enjoyed the  fabulous story and a fabulous museum.

On the way home we stopped at the Chauma River brewery for cool one. I like dark stouts and porters and when I go to a microbrewery, I like to hoist one  to Ken and Laurie.

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