Hey, lookit, the left rear door is unlocked, I said.
Let’s take it for a test drive!, said Doug.
I just assumed this was part of the famous California car culture, so…sure! In we hopped, engine running. I kicked the gas and it settled down to a smooth idle; stood on the brake pedal and it was high and solid. Beeped the horn (no ignition key meant no turn blinkers, so I wanted to know the horn worked). No excessive play in the steering wheel. I lifted the Park lever and thumbed “D”: clickCHUK. Thumbed “R”: clickCHUK. It was all systems go from where I sat. I clickCHUKked back into Drive and off we went. A few blocks this way, a few blocks that way…hey, this is a terrific car, especially at the low, low ask price of $0.00!
I played some phone tag with the owner, and a day or two later a date was arranged. By that time I already had three people saying “ooh, meee!” for when I would be done with the car in a few weeks’ time.
I picked up the car on my mother’s birthday—a fine way to celebrate, I thought. The tires looked ancient, so I got new ones—four BRKs (the Black Round Kind), $22.50/ea from Discount Tire, non-brand American-made P185/80R13s. A new fan belt took me 90 seconds to install. I also got a new air filter (Fram, but I was not in a mood to quibble) and two new Sylvania halogen sealed beams (ditto) and a set of wiper refills. So my free car was no longer technically free, but it got to San Francisco from Santa Clara without any scary incidents. The temp gauge always read “H”, but I decided that was a shorted sender/wire rather than real overheating, for there were no other signs of overheating at all, and promptly ignored the gauge.
I spent a remarkably short time at the DMV transferring the registration, and had running transport for the duration of my trip. Really, it wasn’t a rolling wreck. It had the optional variable-speed wipers, and they worked at whatever speed I dialled in. The heater/defog worked on both speeds, though the left underdash vent was missing its door. All the (factory-tinted) glass was good, and the power tailgate glass worked. All four door armrests were in lovely condition. The engine ran well; clearly Doug had picked a good one and tuned it skillfully, and the car had a surprising amount of pep. The tailpipe rattled against the floor because it was hung with a nonstock hanger—perhaps also a side effect of the engine swap; a 225’s block deck is an inch higher than that of a 170, so a 170-to-225 swap raises the headpipe closer to the floorpan.
The upholstery was getting ragged, and there was wear evident throughout. It was a warhorse: largely unbent and rust free, but the paint was oxidised, it was missing any driver’s door weatherstrip, needed a new driver’s door lock cylinder and passenger’s seat belt; the engine mounts were okeh but flabby, the exhaust manifold was cracked. Y’know, it was old, sort of in drivable-project condition, considerably better than that ’64 Dart wagon I got (also free…h’mm…) from JoAnne. The car ran and drove well enough, though it did manage to scare the piss out of a friend I picked up from work one day, just because he had no experience with old cars of any kind, let alone worn ones like this. Or maybe it was because of that nonfunctional passenger seat belt.
A good cheap car, I paid $20 for a 65 AP6 Valiant that ran but didnt drive it had a broken uni cross so towed it to a mates place and visited the local rubbish dump and came back with a whole tail shaft and muffler, swapped the tailshaft in and away it went drove ok too for a pile of junk but loud, put the muffler on and ran a pipe out the side by the back wheel and it was all good, Better brakes would have been nice but it sold for $150 bux anyway.
I always wanted a cheap car like this – a cheap beater that drove nicely and where most everything worked. My problem is that I am an improver. The temp gauge should work, so I would spend time and money to fix it. That missing vent door would irritate me, so more time and money. The exhaust knocking. Then I would find an exhaust system that is nearing the end of its life. And same on the brakes, may as well replace them. Gotta buff that paint out. The dented or bent trim items would then stand out, so we go looking for better ones. Ditto with interior pieces, and by now the upholstery would have nagged me into an upholstery shop to make it nice. And so on, and so on, until I get way too much time and money in it and have a really nice car worth nowhere near what I have in it.
And I love the lost ticket story!!
Me too, usually—just read, um, pretty much all of the other COALs involving cars I owned or was practically owner-adjacent to. Repair and upgrade feature creep is one of the telltale symptoms of mad car disease and elevated collectserall.
As for way too much time and money in a car worth nowhere near what’s been spent…well…stay tuned.
Excellent story! You have done a terrific job capturing the essence of an old project-condition, yet operational, car. Of course, driving a car like that is facilitated by just how rock-simple a vehicle such as an old Valiant is. It reminds me of my old Volvo of a similar age…except with the unfortunate addition of an electrical system designed by Nordic sadists.
Huh, lookit there; it does say ‘UNTIED’! I guess it must have been a typo or something. 🤓
An old Volvo you say? Stay tuned, I say.
Nothing beats a no-cost or next-to-no-cost cheapie. Closest I came to a freebie was a ’99 Ranger I picked up from the dealer I was working for back in 2006. 2.5l 4 cylinder automatic. I still have it and it’s surprisingly rust-free despite spending much of its life on Cape Cod. We were a small (sadly now gone in the great recession of 2006) dealer with about 5 techs. I was the only tech certified in automatic transmissions. The truck was brought in on a Saturday, written up “with transmission will not shift”. I was off for the weekend, and it was the first RO given to me on Monday morning. It had about 100k on it, likely in long-distance highway commuting, as it would be pretty difficult to rack up that kind of mileage in 7 years of local driving on the Cape. Sure enough, the check engine light was on, but the only code was for lack of speed sensor input. This is a common failure, caused by a faulty rear axle speed sensor. It causes the speedometer to not work, and the 4R44E won’t shift because as far as the PCM is concerned, the truck isn’t moving. Back at the time, the NGS (Next Generation Star) Tester was still a goto scan tool, and it featured a signal generator. It was simple enough to connect it to the wiring at the rear axle and use it to confirm the wiring, speedometer, and PCM were willing and able and at the same time condemn the sensor. I priced out a sensor with the parts department (probably about $20 if memory serves) and went to the service counter to relay an estimate. Before I could say a word, my manager said don’t worry about the Ranger, they traded it in on a new F 150. I said not a word, and went to the used car manager and asked them how much they wanted for the truck. He told me that I could have it for the trade-in price, 600 bucks. He then commented, it needs a tranny I guess, right? I said I wasn’t sure, I hadn’t gotten into it yet. I paid for it right there on the spot, they already had the title, as the customer brought it in when he picked up his new truck. I went to my insurance agent and got it added to my policy, went back to the dealership and got plates (a convenient feature in Massachusetts). Popped in a new speed sensor on my lunch break, and drove it home that night after work.
Wow, that’s awesome! Brings to mind the one about the factory that ground to a halt, and all the on-site techs couldn’t figure out what was the matter, and it was costing the company enormous amounts of money, screwing up receiving and shipping logistics, so the head of the company called in an outside expert. The expert arrived with a small toolbox, walked directly to a particular station on the line, measured 20 cm up from the bottom of the machine and 17 cm in from the left edge, took a ball-pein hammer from the toolbox and gave the machine a quick rap with it, whereupon everything was fine—normal operation resumed as though nothing had happened. Everyone was happy.
The next week, the company owner received the expert’s bill: $10,000. He rang the guy up and said “Are you nuts? Ten thousand bucks for whacking one machine once?!”
The expert said “No, it’s one dollar for whacking one machine once. It’s nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine dollars for knowing which machine to whack, where, and how hard.”
Yep, there’s a mechanic version of that story, rough running car, mechanic pops open the hood, gives a thingamabob a whack with his hammer. Tells the customer that’ll be $100. Irate customer says what, all you did was hit something with a hammer! Mechanic replies oh the hammer hit was $1. It’s $99 for knowing where to hit.
Oh my god, the link on Wayback! Love the @hotmail. Need some welding goggles for that link though, the yellow is rather harsh!
I tried to warn you…!
That was a happy conclusion for Spirit R/T! Also, good on ya for the honesty in your advertisement!
I actually had fun with the archived captures of Daniel Stern Lighting. I purchased low and high beam 165x100mm Cibié headlamps from you back in (I think) 2002. Those prices seem so low, especially through 2021 eyes!
Unfortunately, I never did get to drive behind these headlamps, as they were stolen (along with a bunch of other stuff) from my house while waiting for me to quit stalling and build the upsized wiring harness needed to power them. Seems a weird thing to steal, but I figured out about ten years later that it was my once best friend and room mate at the time; he also was an automotive lighting nerd. Still the last person I woulda suspected.
I couldn’t spare the moolah for another set at the time, so in went some questionable junk to serve as placeholders for a bit. Almost 20 years later (yep. I still own the vehicle), and I’m back to OEM non-halogen sealed beams, which are mostly-to-almost adequate for driving in the conditions the truck sees now. Mebbe I’ll be able to swing another set of quality headlamps from you in the future, once the novelty of lighting the way with stuff produced in the Reagan era wears off.
Someone stole your brand-new Cibié headlamps?! And the someone was your former best friend?!! Bad craziness!
Yess 😏. It was a bit difficult to type that out, as stating that someone stole your headlamps sounds preposterous on the face of it. They were still boxed up and stored in a closet, along with some other automotive lighting goods, inside and outside micrometers, and a new-in-box Pioneer XM Satellite Radio receiver and antenna… back when they were fairly new on the market and quite expensive. Seems like he just latched on to a bunch of stuff, whether he had a use for it or place to sell it or not.
This “friend” and I knew each other for over ten years, and we hiked, biked, and traveled together, and he was in the National Guard. We went on double dates and adventures with our girlfriends, and all seemed good. It’s a much longer story, but I’ll conclude by saying I have lived and learned a lot since then, and I no longer have any headlamp pilfering friends.
I wrote a brief essay as a quickie class assignment, one day in high school English class when the teacher, a straitlaced, narrow-minded type, wanted us to be quiet for a while so she could do something else. Maybe she was actually reading a comic book. I can’t remember.
I worked “UNTIED Airlines” into it.
After we’d turned them in and she took a brief glance (she obviously didn’t take any more than a brief glance), she started reading them aloud to the class. Getting to mine, she exclaimed “Oh, we have a NEW AIRLINE!” She may have been taken aback because I never misspelled anything (to this day, virtually all misspellings on my phone are fat-finger typos). In any case she was so surprised that she had not noticed that the entire 500 word epic was a parody, and “UNTIED Airlines” the lead-in.
I really enjoy these, Daniel. I hpoe there are many more to come.
Thanks, Mads. I am still losing count when I try to figure out how many are yet to be written!
Nice wagon! I’m almost surprised you didn’t drive it back home.
In my younger days I was tempted to try the lost ticket gambit in the long term parking lot of an airport after a two-week vacation.
It was a neat wagon. I think I’d’ve liked an A-body wagon in really nice condition, but never had one—though now typing this, I’m reminded of the ’62 Lancer 770 wagon, aluminum 225/pushbutton, disc brakes/etc I missed out on.
None of the pics in this piece are of the actual car; I didn’t take any that I recall (if I did, they’re long lost). Drive it home? Naw, I already had the ’65 D’Valiant and the R/T, and it was understood that I would be getting dad’s ’62 Lancer, though mother was the gatekeeper and…well. Stay tuned.
As to the parking con-job (i.e., theft): I’m less impressed with myself about it now than I was then.
I’m presuming those disc brakes came from a later car? When did discs become available from the factory on A-bodies? Kinduva dumb question, but I’m sorely lacking in Mopar knowledge.
Front discs were available on Studebaker cars starting in 1963, but the unassisted four wheel drums on my ’62 Lark are surprisingly good. The V8 cars received one inch larger brakes all the way ’round, vs. 6 cylinder cars.
The discs were a swap. I don’t recall whether they were the ’66ish (late ’65 maybe, depending on production plant) through ’72 4-piston/fixed-caliper items with the 4″ wheel bolt circle, or the ’73-up 1-piston/sliding-caliper ones with the 4½” bolt circle.
Nor do I recall the particulars of the dual rear sway bars (…!) on that car—maybe one was a Hellwig and one was an Addco; I remember Doug describing how they zigged and zagged around and past each other from one side of the car to the other.
It was only one of a great lot of very interesting and highly functional A-bodies Doug has built over many years.
Hi Daniel, wanted to be sure to comment on the Saturday morning that I read your latest.
Your story of the ’63 Valiant Wagon reminds me of the ’63 Belvedere Wagon I BOUGHT. It was in a little worse condition, but it ended up being my main driver for many years.
I always enjoy your tales, and liked your Valiant.
Ah youth, most of my fondest vehicular memories are of either free or cheap beater cars. Que David Bowies’ “Time”.
We’re about the same age and I lost my dad in late ’99 at the age of 57. It’s a hell of a thing.
Quite so. It was my first-ever big loss, too.
I had lost my grandfather a few years before, which was a big deal, but that was the big one. For better or worse, I was a completely different person after that.
It must have been brutal. I loved seeing those pictures of you two together, with such warm body language.
Brutal is an accurate word. Not just in the direct effect, but also the ripples and knock-ons. The complicated psychoemotional ramifications of comparing the parent who died to the one who lived, for example.
The closest analogy I’ve been able to come up with is slogging through a war and losing a limb. I have to tread carefully, for I’ve never been through an actual shooting/bombing/tactical war. Nevertheless, I think it holds water. Endless repetition of no time to absorb one traumatic attack before the next one would come; never knowing in advance when or where or how it would come; propaganda and disinformation and psychological guerilla tactics (mother). And I still have all my limbs and digits, but here again, I think the comparison holds: sure, you learn how to walk again, how to drive a car again, how to negotiate a heavy door while carrying groceries again, how to write a cheque again, but there is always something missing that should be there.
It’s really hard for me to write on these things-my COAL is probably the most I’ve ever opened up in public-but I can say everything you’ve written is correct. At least for me.
My dad died of lung cancer at age 45, a few weeks before my 11th birthday, and my mother was a piece of work, so I can relate. He’d probably gotten cancer from his work as a research chemist. One thing I later came to regret was that I never got to relate to him as one adult to another. He was probably pretty cool on that level.
Being the son of a chemistry Ph.D. probably made me an empiricist and inoculated me against woo-woo belief systems.
That’s one of my biggest regrets, too, is that dad and I were juuuust at the beginnings of forming an adult-to-adult relationship. I think it would’ve been a really good one, too.
(Another regret, a wry one: I never got to have any kind of “jeeziz, dad; I know it’s a big yuk-yuk ha-ha stereotype that men marry their mothers, but seriously, WTF?!” conversation with him)
Urban car survival stuff no one else has any need to know:
Actually convenient three day parking can be had in San Francisco (if you can find a space). Most areas don’t have residential parking permits, but some do. There is once a week street cleaning in most places, different days on each side of the street, so you can park for a week if you get there right after the street cleaning time. In some places like the upper upper Haight where the streets are too twisty there is no street cleaning. However there is a 72 hour limit to parking on the street anywhere. But someone has to notice and call it in, and the Polizei don’t know if it’s really been there that long so a big sticker is put on a window and you get 72 hours from then.
As far as I know all of Washington DC has zoned residential parking permits. Parking beyond two hours isn’t permitted without the permit 7:30 am to 8:30 PM Mon-Fri. If you live there you can get a guest permit with a time limit on it.
In Brooklyn there is twice a week street cleaning in the inner area, and in southern Brooklyn (you can’t call it south Brooklyn because that’s a particular area that isn’t actually located there) for example once a week on each side. In the eastern half of southern Brooklyn there is no street cleaning. And no 72 hour deal.
Why yes, I have lived in all these places without an off street parking space. I’ve left my car next to a park or something in that no-street cleaning part of Brooklyn for almost three weeks.
Actually, I’ve been the ultimate urban survivor with no off street parking and an out of state license plate to boot. I managed to live in SF for one year without getting a parking ticket, and I found the only street that didn’t have street sweeping or required a residential sticker (which wasn’t possible with an out-of-state plate)–it was right across from the UCSF hospital where there was a hostel (night, weekly or monthly) for students and patient families, and the street was ridiculously steep. That’s where I would park my truck when I would leave town for a week. This was 1990-91. It was walking distance to my apt. and next to the N Judah line. Easy.
After a house fire displaced me in 1995, I found the only street in all of Cambridge MA that didn’t require a visitor placard or a resident sticker for overnight parking, just two blocks from my best friend’s place near Harvard Square. It was near the Rindge and Latin School.
I kept an old license plate on the front of my truck, 1961 plate. I lost count of the number of parking tickets written off that plate that I just ignored. It was like an IQ test for meter personnel. I don’t use them anymore because police are trained to aim at the front license plate with radar.
When I needed to visit someone at a hospital in ATL, I discovered that the CVS across the street had free parking, so I would park, go into the back entrance and wonder through and eventually leave via the front street side entrance, and come back in an hour. Hospital parking rates are prohibitive to the penurious.
Land of the Free, so should be the parking.
I was going to say, from living in San Francisco from 1988-98, parking wasn’t a problem for me. I’ll throw out 1988-90, and 1992-1998 as the places I lived had a parking garage. However, I had to park on the street between 1990-92 since I rented a flat with no parking garage. Being in the outer Richmond, 21st between Clement and California, there is only the once a week street cleaning you would have to worry about. This was typical for the avenues in the Outer Richmond and Sunset.
There was an very old fellow who had a large collection of truly junky cars parked on most of the places on that stretch of 21st. He moved them back and forth for the street cleaner but otherwise they sat taking up all the parking. That is a lot of cars but with some persuasion he moved his cars across four different streets afterwards. More work for him while more space for me and others.
Daniel, your COALs are so rich and detailed that they always warrant a 2nd or 3rd reading.
– VW = Valiant Wagon was clever, and fooled me (not that that’s difficult to do).
– So sorry to hear about your dad’s passing. Lost my dad in ’91, and in that case a lot of my grief was related to what might have/could have/should have been, rather than what had been. Such is life.
– How in the world do you stroke a 225? Taller pistons or something? I can’t think of a crankshaft that would have worked. The 260 sounds awesome in any case.
– The ease with which you got the free Valiant going makes me blush; in early ’84 my friend’s ’65 Fury I w/ the 225 had died at a busy intersection. He got it pushed off to the side, and I spent a few hours trying to get it going. I had worked in a tune-up shop, and had then taken electronics in college, so knew some stuff, but was baffled. It was in the winter, and my fingers kept freezing up. Eventually I gave up, and I went back the next day but the car had been towed, and was impounded. We went up to the compound on a milder day, and I was able to clean up the connection to the solenoid, and the car started fine. With the car now running, my friend paid the impound fee to parole the car from automotive jail. Had I had, at that time, your knowledge, I’m sure I could have saved him some grief, a fair bit of money, and a couple of weeks of being carless.
– Your web-ad for the Spirit is awesome! Yes, it’s a bit of a visual shock, but it was well-written and chock-full of the important stuff. Good on you for being such an honest seller. I had to look up what an SBEC was; no doubt the buyer was delighted to have a spare on-hand. It is perhaps too much to hope that Mr and Mrs Buyer see this post, and comment to the effect that 21ish years later they’re still delighted with the Spirit.
– BRK tires – awesome! Canadian Tire used to advertise their house-brand Motomaster tires as Good, Better, and Best (and perhaps Professional, which was better than Best, but perhaps that was only tools). As I remember, the Good tire description read something like “Even at this low, low price, you get …”, to which I would add “… a round black rubber thing!”
– This strange memory just came to me: In 1974 we were visiting my mum’s friends, the McGuinesses, in Tsawwassen, and Mr McGuiness, knowing of my interest in cars, took me with him to have headlights replaced on his newish Gran Torino.
There was an old (to me, pre-’67 body style) Slant-Six Valiant in the shop, that had returned after an unsuccessful rad hose replacement. The shop owner, who spoke with a thick German accent, was quite upset – the Valiant had been the shop’s first comeback in two years or something impressive like that.
The tech had replaced the rad hose, which was really long and ran from the bottom of the engine compartment up to the top. (I didn’t know much about cars yet, but suspect the hose ran from the water pump low on the driver’s side up to the top of the rad, but this is a guess based on a very fuzzy memory of long ago.)
Anyway, the hose ran very close to the fan, which would intermittently nick the hose (but hadn’t, obviously, when the car had been in the shop).
As it turned out, the hose had been installed upside down – there was a subtle bend in the hose that afforded an extra inch or so of clearance when the hose was installed correctly (and took it away and more when the hose was upside down).
– Your parking story is clever; I have this weird thing whereby I can’t do stuff like that, but am in awe of those who do.
Looking forward to next week’s COAL! Glad to hear there is an indefinite supply.
That is the nub of it, exactly.
Weld and regrind the crankshaft to provide a 4.5″ stroke (up from 4.125″), and bore the block to 3.5″ (from stock 3.4″).
Your radiator hose memory is entirely plausible with just one detail off plumb: that hose you have in mind isn’t all that long, about 17 inches, but it does run in a half-loop path from the lower right corner of the radiator to the water pump. It traverses the fan plane, and so yes, installing it backwards stands a good chance of putting it too close to the fan. The upper hose runs from the top-front of the engine to the radiator’s (top) inlet. Your description of the hose as “really long” reminds me of a hammer my grandfather gave my father when I was small. It was enormous! At least three feet long! But when I found it many years later—it had a distinctive colour, label, and other details—it was just barely over a foot long.
I no longer engage in petty fraud like that parkade con. I don’t do grand fraud, either. I do, however, reject the notion that downloading music the record labels refuse to sell constitutes anything remotely like “piracy”.
As to Mr. and Mrs. Buyer—well, just yesterday when I was writing this, it occurred to me to see if they want a couple of spare European-spec parts I’ve still got (new-in-box sideview mirror, taillights). Can’t find a valid email address, but I left a message on their phone machine. No callback yet, and I’m not really expecting one, but neither was I expecting their first call years ago! We’ll see.
Glad you like these stories; writing them is an interesting experience for me, an exercise in reflective self-scrutiny. Overall good, but…complicated.
([(3.5″/2)^2] * pi) * 4.5″ * 6 = 259.77 in^3
Awesome possum! What an excellent and bizarre way to develop the Slant Six to the nth degree.
I presume there was no issue with the modified crankshaft hitting the oil in the sump and frothing it up.
Could wish Chrysler’s R&D on a larger (246 cubic inch) Slant-6 had borne commercial fruit. More about that when I eventually get round to writing the big Slant-6 article that’s on the docket.
Could also run mind-movies about stroking the crank to 4.72″. Then one could truthfully say “It’s got a 273 in it”, apply the relevant decals and emblems, and really mess with people.
I am pretty sure there was no oil-frothing issue with the 260.
C’mon, Daniel, think big! In for a penny, in for a pound! Carpe Diem! Nothing ventured, nothing gained, etc.
Keep the factory bore at 3.4″, increase the stroke to a mere 7.82″, and there’s your 426! (Though would be inaccurate to add the “HEMI” decal.)
Never stop writing Mr. Stern .
Another great story well told .
In the late 1960’s through the mid 1970’s was a great time for free and under $50 vehicles ~ some ran , some didn’t all were educational .
“Necessity is the mother of invention ” – wise words from someone who no doubt managed to get some old nail home, either across town or across America on a dime .
I still have folks asking me “how do you know these things?”, they’re just what I call ‘Farm Fixes’ .
I wonder if I’ll ever stop pouring too much $ into whatever old thing I’m working on ~ at one time all I’d need was $200 more than I was into whatever you were looking at and I’d sell it to you, I lost some really good vehicles that way but it was my bread and butter at the time .
Love the MoPar A bodies, all of them .
Daniel, I suppose it’s part of the joke, but the VW SW were called “Variant “….
Another excellent chapter Daniel. You sure lucked out with the VW, everything I’ve ever been offered cheap or free has been a hopeless mess, and not worth it even at free!
And excellent move on the parking cost. I have reflexive honesty and am a terrible liar, I could have never pulled it off.
I used to be a much better liar; eleven years in the closet will tend to sharpen those skills to diamond-scalpel levels as a matter of survival. I’m long out of practice, and even at the time of the parking event, I didn’t toss the ticket away; I stashed it in my pocket in case my ruse didn’t work or backfired or something.
About the “Untied Airlines”, a group of disgrunted United passengers and employees established a website, http://www.untied.com, in the early 2000s. This was for them to air out their anger, complaints, frustrations, and like publicly. Eventually, United Airlines sued to take the website down.
Not only this. The deaf people had to deal with some ignorant people who mistyped “deaf” as “dead” or “death”. It was really funny how those people reacted when we reminded them how to spell “deaf” correctly.
I wasn’t simultaneously propping up and fending off my mother, whose already-difficult behaviour did not improve with pressure, stress, and grief. I jetted to San Francisco in early July on excuse of a meeting, but actually to get away from her and try to collect my wits in the company of friends before I would resume school in September.
You’re not only one having to deal with family members at the time of severe illness and passing. I had to deal with my mum’s denial and her refusal to sort his affairs while my father was in the ICU for nine weeks. My brother flew in from Colorado and sided with me, confronting her. After the whole matters were resolved, I flew to South America for three months just to get away from my mum and let her stew on her own.
I’m blessed by fortune in my early ’50’s still to have a dad, and ancient though he now is, I am further blessed that his wisdom, his warmth and kindness and humour have only deepened as he speeds towards triple digits (which, if he gets there, will be entirely unlike anything he ever did on the road!) Even now, as an older person myself, I refuse to think about the day soon-ish when he is not there, and cannot imagine the personal catastrophe had it been when I was just 24. Seems to me you’ve made good use of your grief, Mr S, as I reckon you’ve turned out alright, certainly not lacking for insight or honesty, which are the sorts of things that can be really stuffed-up by tragedy.
Dad once spent a whole day of our beach camping holidays 40 years ago under the bum of a $200 Val – about a ’69 model, I think – trying to help out some German backpackers whose exhaust had come off. He eventually got a piece of junky tailpipe I found in a local tip to somehow stay put. They were most grateful, but dad years later admitted he only kept at it all that day out of pride – he’d come along as Mr Helpful, and had got to that point where you think, “I’ve spent so much bloody time now, I’ve GOT to finish it!” Probably quite a few CCers have been in THAT position before, esp when having promised to help out a non-car friend….