Greetings from Minnesnowta, where CC means ‘cold and more cold’. All the Curbside Classics which aren’t lucky enough to be stored for the winter are now having their mettle tested by the temperatures, and their metal tested by road salt.
Winter hit hard and fast this year. Just two days ago I was out taking Junkyard Outtake photos, with temps in the 40s and brown grass as far as the eye could see. Then yesterday, 12″ of snow fell. And today, the temps plummeted into the single digits. Nobody around here will need to dream of a white Christmas… it’s guaranteed.
With the treacherous weather conditions, my faux Touring Sedan (ever in a state of incomplete-ness on one thing or another) has spent most of the week relaxing on the slab outside the garage, while the 1-ton 4WD Suburban in the background got bumped up to temporary daily driver status. But now that the white stuff was no longer falling, the time had come to get things back to normal.
My trusty Farmall was in the shop for a clutch replacement, so I couldn’t just fire it up and move snow like I normally would. Instead, I called a buddy and hired him to plow the place out. He arrived in his 6-ton plow rig – an ex-military 6×6 with an articulating V-plow – and got to work. (Wish I’d thought to take a picture… it’s quite a machine!)
I asked him to clear the driveway and parking lot first. That would permit me to move all the cars/trucks/vans/trailers/sleds out there, so they wouldn’t be in the way while he plowed in front of the garage and cleared the backlot. A few vehicles complained a bit – one needed a jump; another, a shot of starting fluid. I even had to use the heat gun on the starter of one particularly stubborn car to get it cranking!
When the faux Touring Sedan’s number came up, I put the key in, turned – and it started just like any other day. (For all the love it’s received since arriving here, it seems only fitting for it to show some back!) But there was one difference…
I had always wondered what would appear on the display in below-zero ambient temperatures. Now I know.
Too bad I didn’t arrive with the camera sooner… had I been quicker, you would have been able to see the DIC reading negative numbers on the coolant temp display!
This story reminds me of my childhood growing up in Quebec. We had regular, mammoth snowfalls at regular intervals. Along with the snow was often high winds, freezing rain and ice pellets, coating everything, including power lines, with ice. This would knock out power for days sometimes. In our upscale Montreal suburb, I remember camping out in front of the fireplace for three days and nights because with no power, the oil furnace wouldn’t work. My mom cooked in a big cast iron pot on the hearth. It was good, too!
We had three cars at the time, a 1970 Pontiac Stratochief, a 1970 Toyota Corona and a 1974 Corolla. The Pontiac was nightmare to get going. Without a block heater, no way would that baby start and it often took ether. The Corona would start, but the automatic choke would not open a lot of the time, leading to stalling, black smoke and all kinds of inconvenience. The Corolla was amazing; it would fire up no matter how cold it was. I remember my dad sending me out to start it in -30’F (so he didn’t have to) and I stomped on the gas twice and tried it. The started hardly moved, maybe one quarter speed. It didn’t matter, it caught after two seconds or less, settled into fast idle and was warm in fifteen minutes. Corollas are just so darned easy to use!
Heh… I had a 1974 Ford Maverick that I modified, but the winter before I did the mods, it was never garaged. The winter of 1981(?) we got a bad cold snap, sub zero temps and high winds for a week or more. At the end of that week, I returned from a trip down South and came to retrieve my old Maverick from my parent’s house. It had been sitting out for two weeks in the cold & snow, but I always (to this day!) maintained my batteries well. With a wind chill of -60 degrees F (as reported by the Sohio Winter Weather Reports on the radio!) I really didn’t think the car would even crank.
Much to my surprise, it did! Very slowly at first, but then the old 250 six got wound up enough and lit. I was amazed. I let it run for about 20 mins, but that temp gauge never got above the “C” mark (it rested below it when the car wasn’t running). I was so geeked when it lit, I tapped the dashboard, the plastic pad on top split from the cold and the impact!
The best part was, after 20-30 minutes of high idle I put the car in gear… The trans oil was so cold that it apparently didn’t circulate very well and it shifted incredibly slowly and harshly. A few days later, as the temps got above zero it acted normally again, but for a few days there, I thought it was toast!
When this car still had the six I wasn’t too wild about it, but it definitely would start and run in any weather. No complaints…
Just a note. Wind chill only affects living things.
I was sure cold that evening!
Yeesh, didn’t your pipes freeze?
Aren’t block heaters pretty much standard equipment for cars in Canada?
Surprisingly, they are not with most brands.
Even we’re getting a very unusual dose of winter. It was 15 degrees last night (-9 C), a record. And we’re expecting 1-3 inches of snow tonight and tomorrow. And it might dip back into low teens and single digits after that. The Canadians are sending us their cold air. You can have it back now!
I HOPE we get snow. I swear every friggin’ year in Oregon the news stations go ballistic about the latest Catagory 13 KILLSTORMAGEDDONSNOWATHON and it never happens. I love Eugene snow. No one drives except me, it seems. Makes commuting a breeze. (Not that I have a job, but still.)
Yeah, we are having “California Cold” in SoCal. It got down to 39F here in Orange County. I moved here for the warmth and sunshine… it was warmer in PA yesterday. I want my money back!
I live in west central Minnesota and for the first time have a garage. It’s not heated, but better than nothing!
We had a cold snap last week, it got down to 62.
:- ( …………..
I saw that first picture and all I could think of was Wade Gustafson’s burgundy Ninety-Eight from Fargo. Gee!
I just realized there’s a good chance that at some future date, most people’s knowledge of Oldsmobiles (of any era) will come from Fargo.
Don’t cha know?
There’s my car! There’s my car! Tan Ciera! Tan Ciera!
One of my top ten favourite movies. There are a lot of people in Minnesota who don’t like the movie because it pokes fun at them.
Da Heck ya mean?
You don’t get that Tru-Coat, you know what you get?
No, it’s Burnt Umber.
True, true. At least every few months I end up in a phone call with someone from elsewhere (usually the southeast) who either ends up saying “you sound just like that movie” through their laughter, or asking me to say one of the various catchphrases – you betcha, etc.
Being a German boy who grew up and now does business in a town full of Swedes, I admit that I have groomed my speaking a bit to accommodate the locals’ preferences. But still, it does bug me a bit. (My “accent” really isn’t very thick – I’ve done some radio announcing, etc. over the years and it’s never held me back.)
Probably doesn’t help that I read “How To Talk Minnesotan” for its entertainment value, at around the age of 12, either.
Try working in Fargo. It’s not as bad now as it used to be back after the movie came out. It’s a bit of a sore topic around here that the movie Fargo actually depicts Minnesota, yet Fargo has to put up with the negative stereotypes. Because Fargoans aren’t like that at all. Nope.
Once in a while they they play the movie on the side of the tallest building in town, which also happens to be a Radisson.
They have the same accent in Wisconsin, but I don’t because I grew up in Chicago where they don’t have an accent…
Good grief, my car actually came from North Dakota. Mine and Wade’s could have been lot brothers, don’t ‘cha know.
Probably the worst time I ever had with cold-weather starting was in the ’98 C1500 that I did a COAL on several weeks ago. This was probably 2008 or 2009. I was still at the old office, a drafty little 2000 sqft brick building, downtown nowheresville. It had snowed a foot, with another still coming down, so going home on the unplowed backroads was out of the question.
We had no off-street parking, which was a problem since being parked on the street between midnight and 6 AM in winter was a ticketable offense. But I had an informal agreement with a neighboring company wherein I could use their carport at night in case of emergency, so long as I cleared out by 6 AM. So I parked the truck in the carport and prepared to spend the evening at the office.
Come 5:30 the next morning, I went out and tried to start the truck… cranked, but no fire. The temp was one of the coldest in recent memory, approaching -30°F. I continued trying until the battery was getting dangerously low, but no joy.
Eventually the party who belonged parking in that carport arrived, and I was in his way. I thought I’d had it for sure! But he was a sport about it, and helped me push the truck out onto the street.
Come 9 AM, I had the truck’s battery inside the office, thawed out and trickle charging from the DC power supply on my workbench. That (and the fact that the temperature had risen to a whole -10°) permitted me to FINALLY, BAREY, by the skin of my teeth, get it to start around noon that day.
Later, I realized that I should have driven into the carport nose-first… eight hours of bitter wind blowing directly through my grille was most likely the cause of all my troubles.
Keith, you remind me of one of the banner days in my life – when driving the kids to school in my 89 Cadillac Brougham, we watched the outside temp indicator drop after leaving the garage. That was the day that we too discovered that the Cad would indicate in negative numbers.
I loves me my Mopars, but the GM cars of my experience were always the easiest cold-weather starters and fastest warmer-uppers. My Cadillac would be making good heat in less than a mile on cold mornings.
I recall one particularly cold morning when I was on a college break, maybe 1981. My sister was visiting and her diesel Rabbit got the garage. Outside was a 80 Horizon, a 77 New Yorker and a 71 Scamp slant 6. Probably minus 10, and not one of the Chryslers would start. We had to push the Horizon into the garage to warm up. The Scamp would have, but its battery was getting weak.
I had an 84 Diesel Rabbit. Worst cold-weather car I have ever known. Any longer than four hours at subzero and you’re going nowhere.
Yes, after 1975 GM really had cold starts down. I give credit to the HEI, which gives much higher voltages. I didn’t like the crazy high fast idle, which was impossible to kick down.
Disco, below about 10’C a Rabbit Diesel will not start without a block heater. When I had one in the Rocky Mountains, I simply let it run all night in extremely cold nights.
Almost 60 here in Bostonia today, really helping me get into the holiday spirit. That holiday being Memorial Day.
At one time I owned three of these things-two 98s with FE3 suspensions and one Touring Sedan. Great cold and snow cars. One of the scariest remembrances was heading up Sherman Hill east of Laramie (6° slope, 2000 ft rise) in a raging blizzard. The Touring Sedan made it but it was white knuckle all the way. And though it wasn’t Memorial Day, it was May 17th. Fun stuff in the Rockies.
The roads around here may get messy, but at least they’re mostly flat. Yikes!
My car’s latest “not-quite-done” is converting from FE1 to kinda-FE3, so it can stop handling like a pontoon. Got the swaybars, got the springs, just got the struts… now I gotta put it all in. (Decided not to do the bushings, etc – it’s just my mileage “beater”, after all!)
When I was in college I drove across South Dakota in a blizzard in a 1980 Mustang. I almost literally got blown of the road at one point on an overpass when the wind starting blowing the car sideways on the ice. In another area my passenger had to roll down his window to watch the white line because I couldn’t see anything past the front of the hood. No cell phones of course, although we did have survival gear along.
Sometimes I marvel at the fact that I survived through high school and college. And I worry about what my kids will do.
Since it was late May I didn’t have any winter gear with me. I wasn’t even wearing socks! Just fat, dumb and happy with a full pack of smokes, a sixteen ounce coffee, and a full tank of gas. I couldn’t see squat but was following a tanker that must have chained up. All I could see were his tail lights and every couple of minutes I had to reach outside and snap the windshield wiper to knock the heavy, wet snow off of it. I was on my way to pick up my older son from college in Minnesota. When I told him what I had been through he called BS on me. On our return, when we reached Wyoming ample evidence of the Blizzard of ’01 was still there to behold. Now, the tornados and torrential rain that I drove through in western Nebraska on that same trip is another story. The Touring Sedan took it like a champ. Miss that car.
One of the great things about modern vehicles is that they are easy to start in the cold. Right now I’m reading CC and having a coffee while my 2010 GMC warms up. It’s -25 out, no block heater and it fired up with one twist of the key. These days most OEM block heaters don’t even turn on unless it’s -17 or colder. Now if only they could figure out how to produce instant heat and defrost…..
You can say that again. My employer used to have outlets in the parking lots to plug in block heaters. Heck, my last 4 vehicles haven’t even had block heaters. Though, if I didn’t garage them at night I would.
When I was in college I had a carburated 2.3 Mustang. I didn’t even bother trying to start it when the temp dropped below 0 because 9 times out of 10 it was hopeless. Luckily living on campus I didn’t need it on a daily basis.
I’ve always wondered why they can’t make an electric heater with a dedicated battery to quickly heat the air. Our Grand Caravan takes forever to heat up, especially at idle. But I’d imagine heated seats and steering wheels help a great deal.
I have autostart on my F-150 but I rarely use it. It uses enough gas as it is. Cold builds character!
A friend of mine’s dad had a 12v heater in his car. This is in Minnesota — and they were from Russia! You’d think they would have driven with the windows down!
VW diesels in fact have an auxiliary electric heater as the TDi is so efficient it makes little heat at low speeds.
When I was in the Rockies, I often put a small cube heater in the truck, wired to the light switch. I would turn it on 30 min before I wanted to leave. Made a huge difference.
One of the few times the old A-body Iron Duke Celebrity surprised me was one -50 Fahrenheit day in Defiance OH in the late 90s. I had to move the car for some reason had somewhere I needed to be. I was sure the old non-reliable wouldn’t start but I got in it and started cranking. After a few slow sluggish turns it caught! And started to revolve very slowly, likely the only time I ever heard it idle at less than 1000 RPMs (it had a stupid high idle that no one could ever fix). It took at least 2 min to reach full idle speed and I let it sit there and run for 15 min before I dared to move it.
I was probably lucky it had TBI cause I doubt a malaise era carb-ed vehicle would have run.
My father’s old boss at O’hare Airport gave him his ’67 Biscayne when he got a new car. That old Biscayne was one of the few cars in the parking lot that would start on bitter-cold days, thanks to its worn-out 6-cylinder engine. His car was regularly used to jump-start his co-workers’ cars…and ironically even his Boss’ “new” car.
The ’78 Rabbit Diesel C that replaced the Biscayne was another matter. I remember many endlessly-long, flashers-on, 15-mph-top-speed trips in that deathtrap when the fuel would gel up in cold weather.
I do not miss Illinois.
One of these days I need to do a COAL on the Blue Bus. It was literally a bus, a 16-pax Blue Bird on a Chevy G30 chassis – 350, Qjet, TH400, dualies, white with blue accents (ex-YMCA). It was one of a few that I maintained for a former employer while there. As the oldest of the bunch it didn’t see much routine use, so I sorta “adopted” it for my own purposes as needed. Rode like a little tank in the snow, and since it was already 175K worth of tired, cranking in the winter was easy.
SO many stories with that one, including many stories in the extreme cold (and extreme heat as well). Try as they might, none of the employees or volunteers could manage to kill it – the only thing that could stop it was rust, which was indeed what finally brought about its demise.
Many were the times when I would go out to the lot, fire it up in the sub-zero temps, then use it to jump all the others 🙂
Even the marketing folks took note…
Here it is -42C/F (same thing at this temperature) and we got a couple feet of snow a few days ago. Its actually colder here than the arctic (today, not normally thankfully). The old Volvo has been fired up each time but the heater fan has taken a vacation. D’oh!
Yup – even way south Alberta is cold this week. We usually get 2-3 weeks of -30 weather a year.
Yeah, seems like it’s cold everywhere.
Even for central Sask. where I am, this is bad, more like late Jan. weather.
I’m a Sask expatriate, where exactly are you?
How ’bout those Riders?
I had a 2000 4-Runner that hated the cold. When it dropped to 15-20 below it barely turned over…and a couple times refused to start at all. Also if you were parked on ice you’d have to put it in 4-wheel drive just to get moving because the front end was so stiff.
My current ’06 F-150 has more creaks squeaks and rattles than a Pinto when it’s below 0. And the alternator starts to whine at around 2000 RPM. It starts and drives fine otherwise though.
I spent my college years in extreme northern New York, in the town of Potsdam (I’m a techie, though, not a Statie.) My senior year (83-84) I finally had a vehicle there – a 76 Courier pickup. No block heater, no garage, and it still started every time even at 20 below. Brrrr.
Down here in Orlando, we’re shoveling sunshine.
More salubrious than north Texas!
Well, my 1977 cadillac 425 engine starts right up on the coldest days here in Norway. The temperature is around -20-30 degrees Celsius here when it’s at it coldest.
The engine has 250.000 miles on it, but I have rebuilt the carburator. It get’s warm pretty quick too, but it’s drinks a lot of gas 🙂
Here in Ontario I never had a problem starting a car even on a -20c morning. A few cranks and they always caught right away. GM, Nissan, Mopar – no matter. They always started with no fuss and no block heater.
I wouldn’t try not having a block heater in Sask or Alberta. Battery blanket too.
Plus parking facing away from the wind helps, if you can’t plug in the block heater.
Technology has certainly changed over the decades. Back in the 90s my ’86 Ford Sierra Ghia had a little snowflake on the doors-open display. It was normally off, but it glowed yellow from 0-5 Celsius, and went red for sub-zero. My ’08 Mazda6 had a permanent digital reader beside the odometer, so I’d know exactly what it was whether I wanted to or not. The lowest I ever saw was -7 C 3-4 years ago.
Re cold starts, the only car I had that wouldn’t start was my old and unmissed ’94 Nissan Laurel. It was a diesel with tired glow plugs and a worn out injector pump, and when the temp got below zero out, it would take 5-15 minutes of intermittent cranking to get started. I understood why it had such an enormous battery…