COAL: 1962 Dodge Lancer, Part IV • A Stop

While I was at it, I’d ordered another repro part from the same outfit in Oz. The speaker grille in my car was in excellent condition—probably the best of its kind I’d ever seen—but most of the time, this component is found in these cars in poor shape since it’s up at the top of the dash in the sun. The new speaker grill arrived painted (…why?) light grey:

The shape, size and form were all spot-on perfect. The material was different, though; the new grille was made of a much harder plastic than the original—probably good for durability (feltlike it might have been a phenolic material, such as distributor caps are made from), but worried me from an installation standpoint: this grille must flex in order to be installed into the dash.

I painted the new grille at the same time as I did the armrests. Here’s a photo of the painting in progress:

This was really a challenge, to get good even paint coverage in the grille’s slots without creating sags, drips or runs on the outer surfaces. I used thin coats applied from a different angle each time, and it came out well in the end:

Then came time for the big test: Would the new grille match the original, and would it fit and install properly? Well, yes and no. Yes it matched, no it didn’t quite fit and install properly. Because it was made of much harder plastic, the upper tabs lacked the flex needed. I hooked the upper tabs into their dashboard slots and carefully swung the lower edge of the new grille down, and heard a »crrack« from one of the upper tabs. It didn’t break off completely, but it broke enough. It looked to me as if this harder plastic would work fine, but the mould needed to be modified to provide more clearance on the upper tabs so the grille could swing all the way down and the lower snaps could engage their dashboard holes without putting the top tabs under such stress that they break. Here’s the new speaker grille (almost!) installed:

And here’s my original speaker grille reinstalled; it remained in the car for good:

Fun projects, mostly because they turned out well, but it was never as much fun as it had been when I was in high school and university. And I only ever got a few days with the car, separated by long stretches far away. By 2016 or ’17 it had dawned that it was time for me to reconcile with reality: the car had been stored since 2002 at the top of Michigan’s lower peninsula, driven in parades and suchlike, but I’d driven it a grand total of maybe forty miles in almost 15 years’ time; all it was doing was taking up space and money while slowly demonstrating entropy. And I was managing to remember dad without driving it. And even if I were to magic it out to the west, then what? Drive it? Not! My ’91 Spirit got vandalised twice and hit once within a year, and it was hard enough getting that relatively-recent car fixed.

And even if I could have put some kind of magic force field around it, a 1962 car is fine for parades and shows but is not safely roadworthy for any kind of regular use on today’s roads. I’d professionally spent so much time so close to so much traffic-safety (or unsafety) data that I just couldn’t drive a car without any safety engineering in it any more. Maybe if I were still single, but I wasn’t; there are just way too many ways to get severely dead in such a car, or hurt grievously enough that death might’ve been preferable. And even without that, a minor traffic incident would mean major hassle and expense for repairs and parts.

This wasn’t 1992 any more; the car wasn’t 30 years old any more; I didn’t live in the suburbs any more, and I wasn’t 16 any more. And Bill would not fit comfortably in that car; there’s nowhere for him to put his legs and knees. So it was time to find the next loving home for this car.

It would be a major adjustment, and the end of an era: Slant Six Dan without a Slant-6 car. The car really did deserve better than mostly-slumber, and I just couldn’t see it fitting into my life as it had shaped up. Time; effort, and money I had in the past put into tinkering with old cars and curating parts, and pleasure I had got from it, I was—at a much better rate of return—putting into and getting from my marriage, which was (and is) the hardest and best work I’ve ever done.

And another thing: now I had what felt like a more balanced, more complete perspective on my past, this car reminded me of a deeply injurious, freakin’ awful life I barely managed to survive and escape, and didn’t want to go back to, or be reminded of. At the time, the car had provided some minimal shelter and respite from mother’s toxicity, but that need was obsolete.

So someone with the level of enthusiasm I used to have ought to take it on, I decided. All in all I knew it made complete sense, and no matter how I did the maths it was the answer I kept coming up with, but the little kid inside me still kicked and screamed: Noooooooooooooo!!!!, so it was a hard struggle all the way.

A long struggle, too. All I had to do was attract the right person’s attention, right? Even with the internet, it was going to be a hell of a tall task to find who wanted a nicely-upgraded ’62 Lancer 4-door enough to pay worthy money for it. If one wants a quick and easy sale, one sells a beige Camry.

I placed ads in all the usual places: Hemmings, Cars & Parts, Craigslist, et cetera. I didn’t advertise on the Slant-6 and A-body forums, because…well…I don’t want to slag those communities, but over thirty years I saw again and again that they tend to have a hard time with the price of a high-end car. Y’know, it’s perpetually 1982 and a Slant-6 A-body is perpetually worth between very little and not much.

None of my ads gained any traction. I renewed them periodically for a year or two, but all I got was the occasional scammer or fast-buck artist. I sent pics and details to a website that specialises in facilitating the sale of exceptional old cars; their snotty reaction was roughly LOLnope haw-haw-haw 4-door haw-haw-haw good luck ROFLOL. So waiting for the right buyer to come along was not proving effective, and I’d need to take a more active tack. I guess it could properly be called a direct-marketing campaign; just as I’d lobbied hard for the car’s purchase, so too I would have to lobby hard for its sale.

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