COAL: 1971 Volvo 164 • Dreams Deferred Indefinitely

On 15 October 1999 it was 48°F (9°C) and sunny, and I went scouting at a Denver-area wrecking yard I think was out near the airport. It was called Pick-‘N’-Pull or Pick-A-Part or Pull-‘N’-Save or maybe Pick-‘L’-Jar; something like that. Didn’t have my tools with me, just thought I’d see what I’d find. And find I certainly did: a very complete early 164. My car’s serial number was 50496; the one in the yard was 40596. I reckoned it had to mean something—specifically, that I was fated (fated, I tells ya!) to get back there the next day and go on a feeding frenzy for parts. Who am I to argue with fate? Besides, the next day was “Everything you can carry for $29” day at that yard—Ohboyohboyohboy!

The next day was 33°F (0.5°C) and snowing steadily: perfect hunting weather, eh! I emptied some of the bigger junk out my car and started it up (I like manual chokes), slung in the green backpack with tools, brushed off the snow, turned on the backglass defogger, and headed for I-225. Once on the highway, I hit the overdrive switch. Because everything was still cold, it engaged immediately…and promptly disengaged about 30 seconds later, and the O/D indicator light went off. Huh?

I glanced down and since I hadn’t yet put the dash back together after fixing the air conditioner duct, the fuse –box– board was exposed so I could see the fuse for the overdrive had blown. Oh, neato, am I gonna get to chase short circuits in the snow? That’s my favourite. Just before arriving at the yard, I noticed the backglass defog switch light was also dark. Say what? How’d that happen? It was an off-low-high switch without an automatic or timed cutoff. Then suddenly the light went on about the light going off; it occurred to me the defog and O/D were on the same circuit. The blown fuse was an 8-amp item I’d put in; I made a note to check the yard 164 and see what it had in that spot. These were those poorly-designed pointy-ended European fuses—often called “ceramic” fuses, but for many years now usually made of thermoplastic, which aggravates the design defects. Buss used to make much better glass fuses to fit, with corrosionproof ends, but eventually the MBA disease spread to that company and some dillweed who considered product expertise beneath their station in life—it’s all just product—cancelled those and sourced cruddy plastic ones from the Trinketstan. Whee!

Anyhow. I arrived at the yard around 11:30 and figured I’d have to hurry fast, for I knew I wouldn’t have too much time before my paws quit working from the cold. I quickly came to wish I’d thought about my feet; I’d left my boots at home.

I paid the $1 admission, signed the waiver of liability, made a beeline for the 164, and went on my feeding frenzy. All four excellent door cards, both correct sideview mirrors, licence plate lamp, fixture, bezel and gasket assembly (now available as a repro; back then very difficult to find in good condition), both taillamp assemblies, one front retractable shoulder belt assembly, complete instrument cluster, left and right front seat reclining mechanisms, nearly perfect front and rear bumpers with nearly perfect rubber inserts, windshield washer pump, pocket full o’ fuses—this car, not equipped with overdrive, had a 16A fuse in the defog-O/D slot, aha. Front end trim, left and right side trim, trunk trim, nameplates, no-frog-lamp blankoff plates, and a fine pile of miscellaneous bits and bobs. Pair of carburetors, air cleaner housing. Most of this stuff fell into the in-case-if-I-might-need-it-someday category.

There was no way I could comply with the $29-day rule—you had to carry everything in one go—so I just loaded it all into a yard-supplied wheelbarrow and headed in. The guy took pity on me (maybe as a frequent flier at that yard) and handed me a yellow coupon, so the total with tax was $32.89. Supplied wheelbarrows, wide paved pathways, cars up in the air on gravel, hand soap and hot water in clean, working washrooms, safe food and drink available…this is what the good yards were like before LKQ bought them all up and ruined them.

Drove home—O/D and defog working again with a 16A fuse installed—and arrived home cold and wet and had to unload the trunk immediately, for it hadn’t closed completely over those bumpers. Also, there was stuff in there that needed to dry out; paper grocery bags aren’t optimal for lugging yard parts on wet days. “Home” was my folks’ house, so the parts had to be hidden, and those that wouldn’t hide had to be put away so as to provide plausible deniability (What? No, those have been there for…gosh, three years? Four?). And I considered it a fine day’s productive entertainment.

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