Grinding To A Halt

I continued to drive the car in this condition for a few more years.  There were a few repairs here and there.  The interior and paint began to both deteriorate from usage and exposure to the environment.  I started planning for another “restoration” process.  This time I planned to restore the car to fairly close to stock condition.  I brought the car to a restoration shop known for doing quality work, but they turned me away.  I gave it some more thought and decided to not do a full restoration, but that I would rework the areas I was capable of doing myself and hire a shop to do the bodywork and paint.  I began collecting a few parts here and there when the parts vendors had them on sale.  My next great idea turned out to be my downfall.

I wanted to have the original engine rebuilt and returned to factory stock.  I searched for a local shop to handle the job and found one that had a good reputation and sounded excited about doing the work.  They stopped by my house and picked up the engine.  I spoke with the owner after the engine had been disassembled and I thought I could expect to have the engine back in a few weeks to a month.  That meant it was time for me to get busy.  I had purposely had two engines to minimize my down time.  So I yanked the high performance engine out of the car and contacted a local body shop to strip and repaint the engine compartment.  Once that was done I had the car towed to my parent’s driveway in preparation for installing my newly rebuilt engine.  I stayed in touch with the machine shop and spoke with them at least once per week.  There was always some kind of hold up. Other jobs ahead of me.  Waiting for parts.  As a consolation they permitted me to use their glass bead cabinet to clean up some of my old parts.  This dragged on for, believe it or not, about 5 or 6 years.

When I first contracted to have the engine rebuilt I was dating a woman who really had no interest in cars.  We got engaged to be married, but she requested that I be done with fixing up the car prior to the wedding.  Unfortunately the engine wasn’t completed until long after the wedding date.  So that caused a big problem, effectively halting the project.  So now I had a roller sitting in my parent’s driveway, a collection of parts at my house, and a newly rebuilt engine.  I eventually bargained for some time and money and got the engine installed.  I also installed a bunch of the parts I had been collecting.  This included the metal brake and fuel lines, the braking system, the front suspension, the clutch, and the steering.  So mechanically the car was in pretty good shape.  The bad news was that after sitting outside so long the front cowl and floorboards had rusted through.  Rust was also starting to show on the doors and tail light panel.  A couple of steps forward and one big step back.

I knew I didn’t have the skills to fix the rust, and I didn’t want to trust the work to just any body shop considering all the problems I have had in the past.  What I eventually learned was that the parts shop I had spent so much money at had expanded and now did paint and body work.  I called them up and made an appointment to have my car worked on.  While they were working on the front cowl and floor pans they went over any other rust they found on the body.  They also permitted me to start the engine and break it in while the car was in their shop.  They also fixed a few mechanical issues that they found.  Then it came time for paint.

I don’t know what changed, but all of a sudden the whole situation became adversarial.  I spoke with the owner and he said “You don’t want us to paint your car”.  He repeated this to me several times even though I told him that I did want the car painted.  At that point he threatened to place a mechanic’s lien on the car and take it from me.  When I asked him what the basis was for him taking the car, and that he hadn’t even given me a bill yet and i had paid a sizable deposit, so he couldn’t say I wasn’t going to pay for the work.  He then tried to say it was because I wasn’t communicating with the shop and had just left my car there.  I then pointed out that I had a detailed log of every conversation I had held with him, and that I had called them at least once per week, and usually several times.  At that point he backed off and said they would not paint my car and that they would get it ready for me to take home.

When I came back to pick up the car the entire interior was still disassembled.  All the exterior chrome trim was removed, The car had no bumpers.  The fuel filler neck was inside the trunk with a rag stuffed in it.  The engine air cleaner was missing.  And when I started the car the charging system didn’t work.  When I pointed these issues out I was told that they had prepared the car for paint and there was no point in reassembling the car.  That put me in the position of having to have the car towed back home.  They agreed to make the car drivable.  The next weekend I returned, paid the bill, let them load the car with the boxes of parts they had taken off, and drove away.  When I got home I discovered that several parts were missing, the air cleaner they gave me was not the one on the car when I brought it in, and most of the fasteners for the parts they did return were missing.  The speedometer had stopped working half way home.  It turned out they had removed the instrument cluster and not tightened down the speedometer cable when they replaced it.  I called the shop back the next day and got apologies and was told they would ship me the missing parts.  I never received the parts and the shop eventually went out of business.  Shortly after that my wife and I purchased a new house with a two car garage.  The car was parked in the garage and didn’t see the light of day for the next 15 years.  Hopefully that will change in the near future as I am now retired and have the urge to start working on the old car again.

This and the previous posts were an attempt to sum up 40 years of owning the car.  Obviously a lot of details were left out, either because they weren’t that interesting or I couldn’t remember them.  Most of my old friends no longer have their muscle cars.  I rarely see any of those people anymore either.  We all grew up, started our own separate lives, and grew apart.

I have been planning to start working on the old car once again.  This blog was originally intended to document that process, but I couldn’t resist telling some of the history of this car and remembering some of my friend’s old cars.  I do still have several challenges to getting the car running again.  I live in a neighborhood with covenants that prohibit working on cars.  I’m missing many of the fasteners and a number of the interior parts.  The engine hasn’t been started in 15 years and the gasoline in the fuel tank has turned into some new organic compound with no resemblance to gasoline.  Sitting in the garage has caused the tires to dry rot and go flat.  The exhaust system has rusted through.  And there is some new rust developing.  So I do have my work cut out for me.  I’ll write some new posts as the work progresses.