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Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Had a good surprise at the mechanic

I wanted to get some basic maintenance taken care of on the Corvette, and was a bit pressed for time, so I took it to AutoFab to have them change all the fluids and have them check it out to see if there was anything that might need repairs besides the A/C. They cleaned some feathers out of the radiator (note to anyone owning a C4 Corvette: The cooling system collects all sorts of junk) and pronounced it to have a clean bill of health. Some of the suspension bushings could use replacing, there's a little delamination on the rear spring, and the power steering rack has a small leak, but it doesn't show any signs of needing urgent repair.

But one thing they found came as a pleasant surprise, even though I didn't realize it until I got home and looked up a few specs. Wayne measured the sway bars with a calipers while it was on the lift, since I was curious about what suspension it had and the option list faded long ago. I found a 30 mm front sway bar and a 22 mm rear one. I'd heard that 30 mm is the largest front sway bar they put on a C4 Corvette, so I did a bit of digging and eventually found VetteNet's suspension guide. Looking up those measurements, I see that I've got the Z51 handling package. I had kind of expected it to have a base suspension - it's got an automatic and quite a few luxury items - so this was a pleasant surprise.


Sunday, August 26, 2007


I know it's a relaxing highway bike, but...

Here's a picture I took recently on I-75 of a Goldwing rider who looks a bit too relaxed. See if you can count the number of things he's doing that the MSF definitely would not recommend.


Thursday, August 23, 2007


A mission statement for the Corvette

I'm a firm believer that a good car project always needs a mission statement. Ok, maybe that may be a bit of a silly and Dilbertesque way to put it, but to make a really good car you've got to have a good sense of what you want it to do, rather than throwing parts at it willy-nilly.

I kind of had a bit of a dilemma with this car. On one hand, it's a bit beat up, faded, worn, and showing signs of its age. A car like that might make a good beater. Except it's a Corvette. Beaters have their advantages - drive a beater, and you're accountable to no one. You can bomb it down gravel roads, change the color with Krylon, get it airborn on railroad tracks, or cut up perfectly original parts with a hacksaw for creative hack-job modifications. But it's just wrong to treat a Corvette like that. At the same time, I'm not sure I want to put thousands of dollars' worth of speed parts into a $3,500 car.

The answer to what sort of buildup this should be came when I decided the radio needs replacing (it won't lock onto the stations correctly, for one thing) and remembered I had a Blaupunkt CD player that I'd picked up for free from my brother in law: See if I can find some cool mods for way less than retail - either free cast-offs, used parts, odd deals I might be able to whistle up from various connections through work (hey, this isn't the Challenge, so I can use that advantage if I want to!). Kind of in keeping with how the car itself was a score I couldn't pass up. I may sometimes have to pay full price - doubtless will for some wear items, repairs, and things that don't make sense to buy used. But I'm going to see if I can make this a supercar fit for Clark Howard.

Besides some creative scrounging, it needs some other key planning elements. So here they are.

1. First and foremost, it's my daily driver. That means everything on it is to be kept in good working order, I'll keep the AC, stereo, and other things that add weight but make traffic more tolerable, and it won't get mods that ruin its practicality.

2. It'll be made for good handling, and frequently autocrossed. Maybe in A/Stock for now, B/Street Prepared for later. I don't plan on pushing it into Street Mod 2 unless I really run across an impossible to pass up deal on an aluminum block.

3. And like I said earlier, scoring good deals may very well turn out to be as important as going fast.



The Focus acts jealous, again

I noted early on that the Focus somehow has a way of acting as if it's jealous. Today it refused to start, as if to say, "Fine! See how you like your new car, with its dead air conditioner and all!"

Ok, so I know it's not jealousy, but it sure seems that way. In truth, the battery had been showing signs of wearing down, and having the car sit for a week was enough to kill it. The fact that the previous owner had put in a battery half the size of the correct one probably didn't help. I put in a new battery and it's now running like normal.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007


On the hottest day of summer

Long time readers of this blog may remember my ill-fated Spitfire project. I drove it home, and two days later, I had smoke pouring out of it. History nearly repeated itself today. In the case of the Spitfire, the electrical system had caught on fire. The case of the Corvette was a little different.

I was driving the Corvette home today, on what the weather forecast said would be the hottest day of the summer so far. I heard a squeaking sound, and the air conditioner suddenly started blowing hot air. Great, I say to myself, I've just had my AC start acting up on the hottest day of the year. Then I start smelling something strange. I wonder - hope - if it's someone grilling dinner. Then smoke starts billowing out from under the hood when I come to a stoplight. I shut down the AC and pull over at the first place where I can safely get off the road. I start to worry that I'll have to call a tow truck.

I pop the hood, andI find traces of smoke lingering around the AC compressor. Clearly a siezed compressor. I feel a bit relieved knowing that I'm back to merely having an AC that's acting up and not a car that's left me stranded. I unplug the AC compressor clutch so it can't turn on, and sweat the rest of the way home.

Looks like the Corvette is going to need a bit more work. I kind of figured there had to be a catch to a bargain. Well, it could have been worse - like several other cheap cars I've owned.


Saturday, August 18, 2007


That used car smell

One thing about buying cheap used cars: They often come with rather strange smells. I've bought nearly odorless cheap cars before, but a strong smell is about as common as not. My Dart had a mildew smell, while the Probe that I entered in the $2004 Challenge had evidently served as a long term cat kennel. The Corvette also fell into the odoriferous category, smelling heavily of tobacco. And for a car that I'm using for a 40 mile commute, that smell had to go.

My first assault on the smell was to empty a can of carpet cleaner into the interior. It made a dent, but didn't really make the smell go away.

So today I called in the heavy artillery - I took it to a detailing shop and had the interior completely steam cleaned and shampooed. It was a bit pricey, but knocked out virtually all of the tobacco smell.


Friday, August 17, 2007


I've just picked up a new daily driver...

I wasn't really looking for a Corvette at all. But when this 1986 Corvette popped up on Craigslist for $3500, I couldn't pass it up. It's in mechanically good shape, with a healthy V8 and an automatic that shifts as smoothly as you would expect for a sports car. It's not perfect, of course - it could use some body work, the interior smells heavily of pipe tobacco, and there are some weird nagging electrical gremlins, squeaks, and rattles.

While the exterior still looks kind of timeless, the interior is very much a period piece, with teal blue upholstery and a digital dash that looks remarkably like the one from Knight Rider. Still, it's a lot of fun to drive, and I can't belive I picked one up for a price like this.


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