There was evidently a difference between putting together his own Volvos, which he did, and putting together mine, which he didn’t. He farmed out the bodywork and paint to a buddy of his—they later had one of Darryl’s fallings-out, but before that happened, the guy did a pretty nice job fixing the rust (there was more of it than had been apparent) and painting the car. I specified the same metallic medium green as my dad’s ’62 Dodge, but something got lost in the translation, or maybe the paint code was difficult to read through all the pot smoke; the car wound up somewhat more of a dusty-sage silver-green by comparison. Also, there was some badness when the sunroof didn’t get aligned properly on installation and the roof put a nasty gouge in the paint on top of the sunroof the first time it was cranked open.
After the bodywork, the car came back to Darryl’s, and he put it up on stands outside his shop. One day, Darryl’s son came along, drunk-driving a Ford van, with which he knocked the Volvo off the stands. Perfect trim mangled, sheetmetal dented, paint scratched up. Darryl tried to get me to pursue my insurance company about it, and it’s probably just as well I don’t recall the particulars of that fight, just one of many over a lot of years. All along, Darryl was wringing me for money, which I kept sending (fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me—fool me countless times over ten years, I don’t even know what goes here). Sometimes it was for work said to be ongoing, sometimes it was for work farmed out, sometimes it was for parts. I stopped keeping track, and, probably also for the best, I have still never tried to figure out just how much money I flushed that direction.
My pleas to get the car done never got any traction. He had big plans for the engine, constrained only by my insistence that I would not be buying a costly header and camshaft from Sweden. I had big plans for the engine, too, centred round deleting the dual Zenith carburetors and putting on the fuel injection hardware, powered not with ancient D-Jetronic sensors and brain but with a nifty fuel-and-spark engine management system from SDS.
Bit of a story about that, actually. SDS are a Canadian outfit, and the system I bought was delivered to me in Ontario. I kept hold of it until I had occasion to drive to the States. Had the system right next to me on the seat of my truck, with the receipt on top of the box. Got to the border and the American guard in the booth mumbled his questions into his computer screen; I couldn’t hear him despite having switched off my engine, so I had to ask him to repeat himself. He took this as an attempt to evade his questions, and accused me of trying to sneak commercial merchandise across the border. I told him I wasn’t trying to sneak anything anywhere, and pointed out (again) the receipt for the equipment. He sneered “Oh, sure, I’ll just bet you have a receipt. I’m sure it’s not fake, too”, and sent me inside for inspection with a yellow slip that said “COMM MERCH UNDEC”.
The officer inside said “What is it?”. I said “It’s a fuel injection system for an old Volvo”. Officer said “What’s it going on?”. I said “My 1971 164”. Officer says “So…why were you sent in here?”. I said “I was hoping you could tell me”. Officer rolled his eyes and said “Have a nice night”. I rolled on into Michigan and sent Darryl the system from there.
Not that it mattered; it didn’t get taken out the box, let alone installed. I finally—very tardily—came to my senses and undertook to take back what had always been mine, but only in theory since sometime last century. Enough was (finally, at long last) vastly more than enough, and as I write this now, I’m reminded of having used that phrase earlier in this COAL series, in re dad’s Stinkoln Clown Car. H’mm. Like father/like son, I guess! Hadn’t occurred to me until just now.
One day I hope it’s again turning wheels on its own power. Lovely car, too many project cars gobble money without seeing road again, at least this one stands a good chance. These aren’t really up my alley, but I like the color in the after pictures.
I hope the same. Time will tell!
I like the colour, too, though it photographs a lot greener than it looks live.
Wow, what a read! yet again!
I’ve always liked the Volvo 164 as well. There were a couple in my area growing up, but they were always pretty scarce. What a treat to find one like you did, what with overdrive, a/c, and frog lights… I’ve never seen a 164 in person with proper lamps in place of the blanking plugs. You deleted side marker lights?! Those early Hella ones Volvo used were pretty big and clunky, but the rest of the front and rear lighting on that car doesn’t look at all visible from the side. The side markers they went to in 1973 were a lot cleaner, though pretty plain looking.
Your super haul wrecking yard trip resonates with me, as I did one of those all-you-can-eat style parts runs when I found a Renault 12 wagon like mine in a local wrecking yard in 1995 or 96. Surely a lower class of car than your Volvo, but it was only the second R12 I’d stumbled into in a couple years of looking. Caught it shortly before crusher time, and was quickly unbolting as much as I could… I distinctly remember dragging the gas tank out to my truck with about five gallons of rancid fuel still sloshing around in it (for some reason, the family that owned four of the wrecking yards I frequented didn’t always get around to draining fluids until they were ready to crush out). The fuse bit reminds me of my 1963 Peugeot 404, though the round Ducellier fuses it used were completely unavailable. Looking for them at any parts store drew blank stares; even the foreign parts suppliers gave confused shrugs and couldn’t seem to remember them existing, or if they did, never saw replacements. I finally resorted to using individual strands of copper wire to (hopefully) approximate their original ampacity, as they were of an open design like the “ceramic” European fuses. I’m guessing that later 404’s used the “ceramic” ones, and the Ducellier type appear to be just as forgotten about today; I may see if I can scare up a picture of one later.
The part about your trek to Oñati and subsequently sharing a meal with your Dad are also spectacular. I have been fortunate to have not lost a parent, but have lost all of my grandparents, most of whom I were close to. I didn’t handle it as well with both of my Grandmas, and I still feel like crap about it sometimes.
Your car, even in its unfinished state, looked awesome. Sad to hear life didn’t line up so that you were able to see it through to completion and enjoy it. What a worthless tosser Darryl was. I try my best not to wish ill upon anyone, but for people like him, it might be worth granting an exception. Getting hosed is shitty. Getting hosed by someone who’s supposed to be your friend is triple shitty.
Yeahhhhh, I made that decision to delete the side markers in the throes of the certitude of my 20s: right or wrong, I was quite sure of myself! And one thing I was wrongly sure about was that European car lighting specifications were awesome and flawless and superior, while US specs were poopy and dumb and inferior. Side marker lights and reflectors work; they very effectively prevent certain kinds of crashes. So why aren’t they required outside the US + Canada? Well…gosh…why aren’t side turn signal repeaters required in the US + Canada? Those work, too. I can go on like this, one for one, at great and tiresome length; until recently the American and European/rest-of-world lighting regs contained different but roughly equal deficiencies and failures.
I don’t much like the ’73-up side marker design on these cars, either, but I bet some digging through cattledogs would come up with ones I’d like better. Meh. Those ’71-type items are big and chunky, but very visible and highly functional. Really, I should’ve left them alone and just rewired the front ones to make them flash with the turn signals as well as providing their marker light function. But to my mind at the time, it had to be European-type repeaters; nothing else would do. They look very appropriate on the car, I think.
Your mad dash to save Renault parts from the crusher puts me in mind of the wrecking yard job.
Round Ducellier fuses…h’mmm. I wondered if those were the same type used on the old Marchal relays—plastic, about a centimetre in diameter, threaded into place—but an image search comes up with this what I’ve attached here. Only the French, eh! I shouldn’t mock from ignorance, though; I have no experience with those fuses. Maybe they were better than the dumb “ceramic” ones I already griped about.
I hinted at it in mentioning the body-and-paint guy, but Darryl was one of those who always seemed to have multiple feuds burning. This supplier had screwed him; that body-and-paint guy had screwed him; this customer had tried to screw him, his neighbour was crazy and was trying to screw him, the county was trying to screw him. I imagine he probably tells the story of this 164 differently than I do, if he tells it at all.
As to losing parents and grandparents: I generally am a better and happier grownup than I was a kid. With the exception of gradual physical deterioration—knees pop, spine tries to kill me from time to time, glasses get thicker, etc—older works better than younger for me. The big exception is the accumulating weight and breadth of loss and grief. Even worse is getting accustomed to it. :-\
Yep. Those *are* the fuses I was referencing. It appears that two or three of those pictured are blown. You can see the intact fuse link inside the recessed section of the phenolic material on the third one from the left. My memory is a bit fuzzy on the details, but I think all of mine in were plain brass like the leftmost one… and that one looks pretty tarnished. The other three appear to be tinned? My Peugeot had four of these fuses on the LH kick panel, and the circuits were connected with ring terminals that went over the center post that the fuses slipped over, then fastened down by a thermoset plastic nut. Power was supplied from the outside ring on the fuse. It seemed like a very robust design, and if I had to guess, I betcha they discontinued it due to cost- there’s quite a bit of brass in those for being a sacrificial part.
Just as US regs don’t mandate amber rear turn signals, Europe/R.O.W doesn’t require side markers… and when they do permit them, some countries require both front and rear to be amber, so it can be hard to tell which side is front or rear on a stopped vehicle. Makes little sense, eh? Most of my daily driver vehicles have been GM stuff from the 1970’s-90’s, so all except the ’95 Firebird had the front markers wired to flash with turn signals from the factory. I know side markers usually don’t perform as well optically as a dedicated T.S. repeater, but that is what I’ve stuck with. I did install Euro-type repeaters on the Renault, though.
The way you described the ins and outs of your wrecking yard job, is very much how the Swartzenberger owned yards in Kalispell, MT worked. I don’t believe they had a published price list for anything, though. As I was a familiar sight, they tended to treat me pretty well and prices charged were reasonable. My personal policy was to not bust other stuff up to get the parts I needed, and I didn’t stuff things in my pockets. I usually wasn’t charged for the little stuff (sometimes they’d ask for a buck or three if I had a bunch of odds and ends), though I did endure some ribbing from time to time over my tendencies to collect fairly large quantities of bulbs, fuses (never any of those rocking horse poop Ducelliers, though), circuit breakers, relays, thermal flashers, buzzards, etc. The last two would usually prompt “Waldo”, a perennially grumpy man with glasses that made his eyes look HUGE and a lit cigarette dangling from his maw, to ask me what in the goddamn hell I was planning on doing with that shit. He occasionally provided similar feedback on what kind of car I was seeking parts for. But truth be told, Waldo was actually a pretty decent guy once you got past the persona.
The rules outside the North American regulatory island for side markers are pretty nonsensical. They’re required on vehicles >6m long, optional on all others. If present, they have to be amber front and rear except the rear ones can be red if they are grouped or combined with any other rear lighting function. So US-style red rear side markers are allowed if they’re built into the taillight clusters, or built into a rear retroreflector or rear fog lamp…but they have to be amber if they’re separate self-contained items in the side of the bumper fascia or wheel arch. This is completely stupid; when side markers matter (after dark) it is not possible for an observer at any relevant distance to tell whether the damn thing is separate or integral. The US reg (mandatory on all vehicles, amber front/red rear) is superior on this point. European and Japanese regulators and industry shrug and call side markers a silly American affectation for which no proof of safety benefit exists (which is not true), just like American regulators and industry shrug and call repeaters and real (amber) rear turn signals a silly European affectation for which no proof of safety benefit exists (which is also not true).
Those ring-shaped fuses sound a whole lot more robust than the “ceramic” trinkets. I agree with you, though, they look expensive to make. Really, I think the best automotive fuse design is the ATO blade fuse: colour coded by current rating, available in a very large range of ratings, very corrosion-resistant, compact enough to fit many on a panel and easily carry spares, large enough to easily manipulate even if your hands are bigger than those of a 13-year-old Japanese schoolgirl, unbreakable, etc.
(What in the goddamn hell did Waldo think you were planning on doing with circuit breakers, relays, flashers, buzzards, fuses, and bulbs? Stick them up your bottom…?)
Of course, then we had that passing fad where people in the US would reverse their side markers, so that the reds were up front and ambers on the rear (obviously only doable on vehicles with the exact same lamps front and rear). Seemed a rather gimpy way to rebel against The Man, sorta like wearing your underwear *outside* your pants.
I prefer the ATO/ATC fuses as well. For all the reasons you’ve given, and I’ll add that the large surface area of the blades conduct well, and they’re easy to “read” when they do clear… so you can quickly tell whether you’re dealing with an overload or a dead short.
I occasionally questioned Waldo’s business acumen, as he would occasionally flip me shit at the gate. “A RENAULT?! Why in the hell would you bother working on THAT??!” “I guess you’re right, Waldo. I’ll just go park the car in a lake and won’t need to buy those parts from you.”
Truth is, I probably hit the buzzards and flashers quite a bit harder than the average guy. I’m not really sure about the former… I mean, I occasionally wired one in parallel with an oil pressure or temperature warning light, but I mostly had ’em just to have ’em. As far as the flashers, welp… turn signals are supposed to have a certain sound, and that sound is best produced by the bimetallic bits in a thermal flasher! Trying to get the correct sound, flash rate, and duty cycle takes trial and error… and I’ve been known to still go fishing around under the dashes of older cars. I’m guessing that “tick-DIZZzz!” sound in your grandpa’s 1972 Dart was produced by a Tung-Sol 224 flasher in a light blue plastic can? I think I’ve maybe heard one that sounds like that, but it was probably in someone’s car and not in my personal stash.
I’m very tardy replying to this, but yup, you’re exactly right about the Tung-Sol 224 blue-can flasher, as I documented in my ’73 Dart entry.
Once upon a time, Daniel bought a Volvo…….you couldn’t make this stuff up if ya tried.
One hell of read.
You’re welcome and thank you! Truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction. That’s because fiction has to make sense or it won’t sell.
Oh my, when good cars get entrusted to people who go bad. I have had a couple of experiences where someone worked on something of mine and the time went on and on and on, but fortunately those stories eventually had happy endings.
That sounds like a sweetie of a Volvo, and I hope its current owner gets to experience the benefits of all of your hard work and planning.
On that paint color, I have seen over and over where someone has tried to get modern paint in an old color/formula and it just isn’t right. So many of the components of those old paints is just not available any more. In many cases, someone with a good eye can probably find a more modern color from something else that would be a better match than what you could get by trying to replicate the old one.
It was a sweetie of a Volvo, and has the potential to be that again. I find myself uniquely conflicted about this particular car, for reasons having little to do with this 23-year history: I detest the one and only car I presently have. It’s 14 years old—a youngtimer, as the Germans call them, by the standards of all the other cars I’ve ever owned. It’s dependable, and that’s all the credit I’ll give it. Details eventually in one of these COAL posts.
I like the advanced safety, efficiency, and convenience features offered by modern cars. I’d like to have a dashboard screen showing front/rear/bird’s-eye views; it would make parking a whole lot easier for me. But I don’t want my night vision constantly torpedoed by an always-bright videogame dashboard, I don’t want my car on the internet, I don’t wish to be surveilled by a Driver Monitoring System, I don’t want my comings and goings tracked and monetised, and I have less than zero desire for “infotainment” (»turn, spit, wipe«). I don’t even like or want pushbutton engine start-stop. That’s the way cars are going, though, so I’m conflicted. Some days it’s enough to make me want to drive…
…a ’71 164.
This paint on this car photographs a lot greener than it looks in person. More I think of it, more the ’62 Dodge repaint recipe was adjusted to taste, and I might have forgot that when specifying the paint for the Volvo. Could wish the paint guy and/or I had thought to show me a test chip before spraying the car. But…eh. It looks nice in person, just not quite as green as I had in mind.
You can buy multi-camera, 360deg, birds-eye aftermarket systems very cheaply from China these days… Blind in 1 eye, I’m looking to install one soon.
I’m skittish about aftermarket add-ons these days. The de luxe Bosch(!) front-and-rear Park Pilot system (ultrasonic bee-bee-beep type) I got installed on my current 2007-model car worked for about 18 months and then quit. Bosch said “We don’t support that kit any more” and wouldn’t provide diagnostic or repair information. Money ker-flush.
Also, no-name Chinese aftermarket “safety” add-ons of the lighting variety are uniformly unsafe garbage. Ones involving cameras…ehhhhh…nnnnnone for me, thanks.
Too bad; neat idea.
I agree completely! Which explains why I’m still “looking”.
I have a reverse camera, mirrors and 1 good eye. I manage to miss most things most of the time!
The vast majority of in-car screens now turn to night mode when the headlights are on or it’s dark out, removing the “bright day” aspect of the screen, and most of them can be overridden to display that way all the time. Many of them are also set by whoever drove it last to stay on max brightness for whatever reason when I initially get in them, I often find myself turning the brightness switch/knob/button one degree down past the first “full on” detent that makes the gauges and everything else in the car dial down the daytime brightness when the lights come on (likely how your own car currently is set up, i.e. the normal way). There’s not much night vision going on when staring into the cone of your own headlight beams while driving.
It’s not pure “night vision” (scotopic), you’re right for sure—too many light sources in the visual field for that to be the case. But neither is it “day vision” (photopic). It’s an in-between mode, aptly called mesopic vision. It has some characteristics of scotopic vision, some of photopic, and some of its own.
Spurious light is a real night-driving safety threat that doesn’t get much attention, and one of the reasons is that glare doesn’t work the way common sense suggests. There are two kinds of glare—discomfort and disability glare—but it’s not like up to a certain intensity there’s no glare, then above that it’s discomfort glare, and above that is disability glare. One thing mesopic vision shares with scotopic vision is that each and every light source in the driver’s visual field degrades their visual acuity. Lighted billboards, lighted buildings, massively overlit gas stations, and oncoming headlamps are obvious on that front. The foreground light from our own headlamps is another culprit.
But even the relatively low intensity of old-fashioned instrument panels lit by a small handful of 4-watt incandescent bulbs reduces our ability to see safely, and today it is very common to see night drivers’ faces illuminated by the light from their dashboard. Yes, screens can be dimmed, but many of today’s instrument panels are still much brighter, even at their dim settings—and their light is much bluer, which aggravates the matter.
Your comment suddenly reminded me that I used to like driving at night with my headlights off. This was in rural Iowa in the early 70s, on those sectional roads (gravel and paved) that crisscross the state, And of course, my night vision was at its peak back then. It’s surprising how well we can see at night if there’s no light pollution, like from headlights and such.
Of course the headlights on my 6 volt VW weren’t exactly Flamethrowers anyway.
I used to like hiking in the dead of night too, up in the Rockies. Even if the moon was not out, the stars provided enough light in the very thin dry air at 10,000+ feet. Awesome to see the snowy peaks at night reflecting what little available light there was.
Even though my night vision has of course gotten worse, i still like walk at night a lot without a headlamp or such, preferably when the moon is out. As you know, it takes a good 15 minutes before maximum night vision kicks in.
In various parts of the world, it used to be common—it used to be the law!—that you didn’t use your headlamps in built-up areas at night. Instead you used your front and rear position lights (Americans say “parking and tail lights”). This is where that “city lights” term so beloved and so misunderstood by Euro-fan types comes from. The theory was to preserve everyone’s dark-adaptation. There were some problems with the idea. For one thing, the headlamps in use in those places at those times produced very little glare—very little seeing light, too, but that’s a different conversation. More than that, though, all it took was one dillweed with the switch in the wrong position to spoil it for everyone.
It took many years and a great deal of regulatory effort to get people out of this habit. In the UK the practice of driving on the position lights was so entrenched that they actually mandated a system to cut in the headlamps at a reduced intensity if the position lamps were switched on and the parking brake was released. I probably shouldn’t say too much more about it here; it’s striking me as good fodder for an Automotive History post.
I frequently drive on the “position lights” (we say “sidelights”) but not when it’s proper dark. (unless I’ve been driving since it wasn’t proper dark and I forget)
I’m British and the thing about lights connected to parking brake release is news to me. What year did they do that?
I’ve never knowingly driven a car with that feature.
My Freightliner has a glowing little box on the dash which tells me how many feet I am from the vehicle in front, information which is completely useless to me. Even in nighttime mode I can see the reflection in the driver’s door window, so it has a piece of paper taped over it.
Another part of that system sometimes slams on the brakes when I drive under a bridge on the interstate because it “thinks” I am about to crash – which necessitates using cruise control and having my foot ready to dab the brakes and override it everytime I go under a bridge. (It rarely happens, but you need to be ready)
Oof, yeah, that British English “sidelights” term for the front and rear position lights makes only slightly less of a nuisance (because they sound like side marker lights, which they aren’t) than what are called “parking lights” in the European/international regs—they derive from an obsolete German function that’s not at all the same as what Americans call “parking lights”, which are officially “front position lights”. Wheee!
The lights-connected-to-parking-brake (or to ignition switch) thing was mandatory in the UK briefly, from the late ’80s to the early ’90s. I’ll tell more about it in another post.
The headlights on my 2CV have a small secondary bulb sticking through the reflector about half way between the main bulb and the edge. It is a dim light for city driving. I always called them side lights, but that is probably not correct. The light switch has 2 positions “V” and “R” for Ville and Route (or in English City and Highway). In the highway position you can flip between high and low beam by pushing or pulling on the stalk, but on the city position it flips between the sidelights and low beam the same way.
Yep, you’re describing a setup built for when driving in built-up areas in France, among other countries, was done on the front position/parking/side (depending on what kind of English you speak) lights.
In the 70s I had the good fortune to visit India several times with a good friend whose family lived there. I don’t know what it is like now, but then there was very little light pollution, especially outside the cities. We took a trip in Rajasthan that included a stop in Udaipur. We stayed at the Lake Palace hotel that is in the middle of a small lake. It was originally a palace and I am sure I could not afford it today. It was a full moon and we went up on the roof to take in the view. The moonlight was bright enough to read by. It was totally amazing.
I fear today your experience couldn’t be duplicated because of light pollution and air pollution alike!
What year is your 2CV ? .
I had a 1959 AZ model with suicide doors, centrifugal clutch and the speedometer also ran the wipers…
Nifty little car if a bit too slow for the freeway .
My 2CV is 1983 so it has the 602 engine and front disc brakes, so it’s not bad in traffic, except the freeway. I have owned it for 30 years and it is my DD during the summer for local trips.
About parking brakes and lights, being in Canada my 1998 Subaru Outback Sport had Daytime running lights (DRL). If you put the parking brake on, the lights went out. This seems very similar to the British system described above.
No, DRLs are different to the British system in several key ways. Article eventually.
Nice, Mike ~
Is it a Charlseton ? .
Any chance of inside pictures ? .
I’da been fine if my 2CV AZ cud go 60 MPH but the poor little engine was howling at 50 ~ 55…
I recently had a door repaired on my 1986 RX7. The shop could have purchased the paint. Purchasing a new quart would have added 30% to the estimate. Reds have always been more expensive than other colors.
He was able to retint a late model Hyundai red to a perfect match. Take away? A really good painter can match just about any thing.
Boy, did this bring me back to my early 20s when I was dealing with similar stuff. I don’t think I could have taken care of a hamster, much less a rare-ish vintage Volvo back then myself, so I completely understand what you went through. At least you got through it in one piece and with a Volvo in many pieces.
I have often thought it’s a good job we can’t see the future.
Interesting story. Reminds me of a transmission rebuild gone wrong on a Mitsubishi Eclipse. Dropped it off at a recommended mechanic, who also worked at Chrysler Tech Center as a transmission mechanic. “Sure, I’ll have it done next week” said he with a smile. Six months later, after repeated attempts to contact him, no transmission. The car was stored without the transmission on the side of the driveway and my wife was tired of dodging it. So, I found a boneyard in Toledo who had one that was operable and would deliver it to the house. Not so fast. The used transmission needed the harness for the sensors, which I had left with the old transmission. Talked to some friends at Chrysler who had recommended this guy and they finally got the transmission harness back to me. Gave up on trying to get the old tranny back, but since I hadn’t paid the guy anything, just wrote it off as a life lesson learned.
Ugh. It’s very disagreeable to realise one has been rooked, so that realisation gets put off and put off and put off. This what you describe brings to mind one of the stories I’ll tell when we get to the next instance of my big automotive dreams getting in the way of my seeing reality.
Thank You, Daniel. I have become quite a fan of your writing, since I became aware of Curbside Classics recently. The humanity and love of weird automobiles speaks to something deep inside. The story of dinners at (and from) Onatis touched my heart.
You’re welcome, and thank you, and welcome here!
As always, very well written and full of great insight .
The sad fact is, it’s dead easy to claim to be a mechanic and then cheat others .
A friend of mine lost a 1949 VW Beetle this way, the crook simply sold it out from under him when it was at the shop .
I think that paint color looks pretty good .
Darryl didn’t live up to his responsibilities as a contractor, but I also didn’t live up to mine as a customer. The project wasn’t clearly and firmly defined, on either side. I kept finding and sending Darryl more neat parts, he kept egging me on for more and bigger mechanical upgrades, and none of it was written on any work order or estimate. That’s just not the right way to do it. Even with a scrupulously honest, upstanding, productive contractor, disappointment and acrimony are highly likely that way.
Sold-out-from-under: holy shit! And then come the expensive court cases, and the counteraccusations, and it quickly becomes not worth pursuing. Yuck.
The weird thing about the paint on this 164 is that it consistently photographs a lot greener than it looks in real life.
I too got hosed on a restoration deal : after looking at one shop for over ten years, always full of mostly GM restorations I decided to let him give my 1969 Chevy C/10 shortbed step side 250 i6 / TH350 powered totally original farm truck (bad rust, shiny original Hunter Green Paint) a go ,
We talked about in much detail and I let him know I’m a fussy and picky sonofabitch who wants it MY WAY not what anyone else says, he had lots of magazine articles framed in his office and I was really impressed with the body off restoration of a ’57 Chevy rag top has was neck deep into (it had cut frame damage and worse, he fixed it all to *perfection* ….
In the end I drove my beloved old truck in and had to tow it home, I lost $40,000.00 That’s what I made in my best year working) and still have the half done rig in my driveway, I have no idea whom I can trust to finish it, I’m too old and broken now dammit .
He also stole some unobtanium parts, the *perfect* original painted driver’s side mirror was worth $250whe it vanished, I only got my _7_ factory hubcaps back because I threatened to call the police, other things *POOF* .
That lying sonofabitch .
Some times you have to back away before someone gets hurt and someone else goes back to jail….
This guy who screwed me wasn’t a pot head, doper nor drunk .
The paint work he did is FANTASTIC and when the truck was bare to the frame he discovered it had been in a left front wreck when brandy new, they didn’t pull the frame correctly yet used all factory parts repairing it leading me to think it might have been wrecked before selling as that was common when I was a dealer employee ~ they’d wreck a car / truck and then strip it back to the firewall and call in a specialist with a traveling frame jig, pull it straight and slap all new sheet metal on it and sell it as new….
I was wondering if the green might be because of my monitor .
When I was restoring VW’s in the 1970’s I’d take the painted ash tray off the dashboard, polish and wax it the take it to Thompson’s Lacquer (no, I didn’t use/like Lacquer paints) and have them custom mix a pint, test it and if O.K. then get a full gallon to re spray the rest of the car with .
The _one_time_ I was out when the paint shop called they asked “what’s the green paint for anyway ?” and the stupid shit shop monkey said ‘oh, that’s Nate’s personal 1968 Beetle, that’s the factory color’ .
The car had been resprayed once and as is common, the respray mix had way too much yellow in it (anyone who likes green vehicles knows where this is going) so they mixed up a quart of factory Forest green VW paint and it was noticeably darker (less yellow) that the re spray so I now had a l/f fender and 1/4 panel plus deck lid that didn’t match on my mirror gloss finish old Beetle….
To properly re spray a VW you need to remove all four fenders, all the glass and more… this was supposed to be a freebie spot repair .
I loved those acrylic enamel paints because you could cut, polish, buff and wax them to a mirror finish so easily .
I kept that car for some years, I’d bought it to flip but my ex wife loved it so I went ill in re trimming it and building a low compression 160CC engine, it was a Saxomat (“automatic stickshift”) equipped car and because of how I built the engine it never over heated going up the i5 on the hills in Summer even when fully loaded .
She cried when I finally sold it, one more I shoulda kept .
I keep saying how easy it is for ‘Mechanics’ to be totally dishonest, as a tradesman my self is pisses me off badly .
Anyway, your writing style is terrific .
Thanks, Nate, for the compliments. I have many more stories to tell; I keep losing count when I try to figure out how many more COAL entries I’ve got left. I feel a bit like CC is a kind of virtual confessional—and I’m not even Catholic!
I dig your ashtray technique. Probably best in cars with nonsmoking owners, but I get your point: find a factory-painted part of the car and get it scanned for an exact match. I have seen some really extreme repaint-mixing errors: metallic green that was way, far too blue…bright yellow that was way, far too green…I’m sure it happens in every conceivable direction. The green-way-too-blue was dad’s ’62 Dodge. The restorer was a stand-up guy; he called us in to look at it, agreed that it was wrong, and redid the paintwork. The yellow-way-too-green was not a car I had anything to do with. It was in a magazine writeup, and came with fairytales about how the paint company had tried to save money by consolidating the formula for that particular Chrysler yellow and fire truck yellow-green. Uh…creativity bonus points, I guess, but that’s not how any of this works.
Sucks about your truck. Money lost in bulk quantities…stolen parts…broken promises…spastic mix of top-notch work and no work at all…loss of trust…yeah, sounds too familiar, oof.
I’ve retired from the auto enthusiast web boards I used to spend so much time on, but I drop by from time to time and occasionally answer a question or two. Not long ago someone posted, asking roughly what it should cost to do an “OK restoration” of a particular kind of car. My answer, after telling them the question can’t be answered with a pat dollar figure, was Restoring (rebuilding, building, etc) any car to any given level will cost you more than you planned and budgeted in time, money, and effort, and more than buying a car already in the target condition.
More like thank _YOU_ for sharing the stories so many Tradesmen know but don’t have the writing skills to share….
So many of my stories cannot be told in public forums even if I knew how to replace the ugly words and soften the rough edges….
I began building farm vehicles out of rusted junk in the 1960’s and when I moved to Sunny Southern California I began to pay attention to the used car lot guys tricks to make a decent vehicle out of a $25 hulk….
All one color of original enamel or Earl Schieb’s mystery paint meant I could add serious sizzle to whatever beater I was resurrecting .
I too always tell clients : buy a few years old full restoration that has some nicks and dings in it, pitch a bitch over the imperfections and you’ll usually get it for easily half what the vehicle restoration cost .
The other unvarying advice is : “the most expen$ive car you’ll ever own is a ‘cheap’ Mercedes .
Few listen to me however, they see me roll up in a 400,000 + mile 40+ old car that looks nice, goes faster than is prudent and has cold AC and good radio and think ” man I _gotta_ get me one of these !” .
Having had many vintage vehicle projects dashed on rocks of one sort of another, I can
sympathize. At 47, gardening has produced a near total eclipse of tinkering with old cars,
with a bonus being that it is something that my wife and I both enjoy. Your comments
regarding the actual imagined use of Volvo struck particularly close to home, as those
sort of things put the final nail in the coffin for me.
My lingering interest in vehicular futzing is met by my daily driver, a ’92 Nissan D21 short
cab 4×4. It works because it is not interesting enough for me to want to restore or modify
I’m onside with gardening. Cooking, too, which is about as close as I get to meditation. And it results in meals, so…yahtzee!
It was very hard for me to acknowledge the impracticalities of driving an old car on the regular. It can be done, but it requires an ongoing investment of time, storage, money, and devoted effort that just aren’t compatible with my life any more. I’ll probably write more about this in the final instalments of my COAL series, which won’t be for awhile yet.
A very poignant story, brings back memories of the 1972 Triumph TR6 (motorcycle – I think it was called the Tiger that year) that snapped a con rod on me heading into work one day, and still dragged me home on one cylinder. Figured I’d rebuild it my self, under the tutelage of Chuck, the very meticulous Triumph genius in the Virginia British Motorcycle Club.
Meticulous? Psychotically anal is more like it. Having warned me that we’re building the motor to his standards, or I could just take the parts home with me, he started by sending me back four times to reclean the inside of the cases, because they weren’t up to his standard. The insides.
Then we finally got to the point of setting the main bearings. That took three evenings, as Chuck place, and then removed, said bearings seven times until he finally got them to fit to his liking.
All I wanted was an engine rebuilt to acceptable commercial shop standards and on the road that summer. Having taken four weeks of evenings getting to the point where we finally had the main bearings in, it took me another week to get the crank’s sludge trap cleaned out to Chuck’s liking.
At which point I snapped, grabbed my parts and headed home, and have barely talked to the man in the intervening twelve years. And the Triumph got sold as a basket case with a damn nice paint job to someone who put it together properly.
There is something so frustrating about having a desirable vehicle never get fixed, and never get back on the road again under one’s ownership.
You’re right, there is. Even more frustrating when one (such as myself) takes several long, expensive tries to learn not to create that situation for oneself.
Chuck sounds like he might have been a few large steps over the border between fastidious and sadistic. I can relate, sorta: when I was a teenager I had a thing for making fresh pasta for awhile. Had a hand-cranked pasta machine and everything. My sister wanted to try it out, and I agreed to teach her how. I insisted she mix the dough by hand: make a well in the top of the pile of flour, crack the eggs into it, then carefully incorporate the eggs into the flour, little by little, with a fork. She asked why she couldn’t use the food processor as she’d seen me do, and I gave forth with some bulk wrap about it being important to have the experience blah blah dough texture blah blah et cetera.
Great read as always Daniel. Thank you for sharing this story.
I have heard many stories of stalled restorations happening at many shops, it seems to be a common story in the classic car hobby. Sorry to hear you were put in this situation by a “friend”.
The SS Badger is still running daily and still burning coal. They do not discharge the ash into the lake anymore however. Highly recommended trip for anyone interested in old ships.
Oh, hey, how ’bout that. I thought I remembered reading some years ago they were reworking it to burn gas, but it looks like they’ve modernised the coal burner.
Thank you for the well written story. There are at least a couple life-metaphors here worth contemplating. And the ending…zen-like.
Thanks, Toaster. I’d say the overriding lesson here is those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it! More to come.
Oh yes, those “ceramic” fuses, remember them well from my VW Rabbits and two Volvo 240s.
I’ll have more later about my Volvo experiences.
A quick question: Your use of British English is endlessly fascinating in light of the fact that you grew up and lived your early adulthood in the US https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_and_British_English_spelling_differences). I’m wondering if “storey” as in “12-storey building” falls into this category OR if it’s one of your pet words like “frog lamps” and “cattledog”? No offense intended; I routinely use my own pet words to the exasperation of my spouse!
Canadian English is an interesting mix of American, British, and homegrown usages and spellings. Really, how could I not prefer parkade (Canadian) to parking garage (American)? Or garburator (Canadian) to garbage disposal (American)? Or kilometre and litre (Canadian) to mile and gallon (American)?
I’ll admit there’s a chunk of rebellion against American we’re right and the stupid rest of the world is wrong philosophy in my adoption of other-than-American spellings and usages. I don’t claim to speak or write in pure Canadian English, though; I take bits I like from wherever I find them. Indian English has a word the rest of the Anglosphere needs, for example: prepone—the opposite of postpone. Texan English has one, too—y’all. “Standard” English says stick your nose into my business and stick your nose in my business are equally fine, but keep your nose out of my business is exclusively correct and keep your nose out my business is wrong. Screw that! It’s one of the arbitrary just-so rules that does nothing to advance the interest of comprehensibility. AAVE considers stay out my business perfectly fine, and so do I.
Pet words and phrases, yep, I’ve got those. Frog lamps, cattledogs, and others here and there. And when I’m king of the world, the adjective form of migrate is going to be migratious!
I’m a bit of a geek on this kind of thing (and I’ve mused on it before in other CC comments); long-long ago in another life on another planet I was a linguistics student. This kind of thing makes my socks roll up and down, and I like to imagine my pick-a-mix usage might stymie those experts who can say what block you grew up on by listening to you speak or reading what you write.
Those ceramic/plastic fuses are much more problem-prone than the glass fuses (and later, better blade fuses) favoured by American automakers. That is consistent with other aspects of vehicle electrical system design: the Americans for many years did a much better job than the Europeans at weatherproofing bulb sockets. European-type bulbs had nickel-plated bases to combat corrosion; comparable American-type bulbs had plain brass bases because while American sockets weren’t universally or completely corrosionproof by any stretch, we generally didn’t see sockets and bulb bases exposed to the elements as in numerous European designs. Ask anyone with a Volvo 240 about the taillight bulb socket problems they’re almost certain to have experienced more than plenty of. Now go ask the same question of anyone with…geeze, it doesn’t matter. A K-car. A Caprice. A Crown Victoria. Mostly no such trouble.
I have no idea why European fuses and sockets took as long as they did to catch up to American industry standards of environmental resistance, but perhaps there’s a PhD thesis in there somewhere.
I can see the appeal of the early 164; it spoke to me too.
But yowza, what a sad tale. Not much of a consolation, but you were hardly the only one who had an automotive dream deferred, indefinitely. I’ve heard some other stories along the same general lines, and some ended up worse than yours. Like..no car. Or nothing done on it, but the money’s all spent.
I like to imagine I could do a much better job now I’m something of a grownup. I’d just need Jay Leno levels of wealth, facilities, and hot-and-cold-running staffers to realise my every whim in building a 164 exactly as I think I want it.
Another great read Daniel. One of my fellow engineering students had a 164, and we used to sit in class and talk cars. He was a Volvo guy, I was an AMC guy so it was a natural friendship. Unfortunately he was one of the guys who never came back after first year.
Your sad multi decade ordeal with restoration reminds me of my Triumph TR4 ordeal, except the contractor was ME and I had to be mad at myself for my lack of progress. Maybe if my wife had made gun related threats I’d have gotten more done???
That was another thing: it was hard enough trying to explain and justify this car that I owned but didn’t have and couldn’t drive. Much harder to justify putting (more) money into it!
This is the best story I’ve read here in years. Bravo.
Whoah! Thanks kindly, Richard!
What a great story spun from a random car ad in 1998! A very nice looking car, so unfortunate that your acquaintance promised to get the car done but utterly failed.
It takes a lot of work to get Canadian English right. Beyond the well known colour, labour, harbour there is the spelling of centre vs. center. The typing of a date such as today as 10 July 2021, not 7-10-2021 or 10-7-2021, so there is no confusion as to whether it’s the tenth of July or October 7th.
I learned here that “rooves” (plural for a roof) is Canadian, as compared to ‘roofs”. I don’t think I ever knew about storey vs. story.
English spoken by native India people can be different as well. Once I had people there, who worked for me,. I corrected some grammar they were commonly using. The response I got back was “Thanks for your suggestion.” Huh? I told you what the correct usage was, it was not a “suggestion”. However that was their understanding of how the word was used. I might have settled for “recommendation,” or even better, “correction.”
Great piece Daniel. I hope this 164 makes it to the roadway again soon.
I sign my cheques (sic!) like “10 Jul 21”. Eavestroughs (not gutters), laneways (not alleys), Kraft Dinner (not macaroni and cheese), lay charges (not file charges), in hospital (not in the hospital), return your chairbacks (not seatbacks) and table trays (not tray tables) to their upright and locked position for landing. Grade 9 (not 9th grade), offside (not offbase), university (not college), pencil crayons (not colored or coloured pencils). A two-four (not a case) of beer. Fire hall (not fire station). Humidex. Toque. Homo milk. Hydro. From A to Zed (not A to Zee). Washroom (not restroom or bathroom). Runners (not sneakers). Freezies (not otter pops). Cheezies (not Cheetos, generically). Icing sugar (not powdered or confectioner’s sugar). Scandalised (not scandalized), fertiliser (not fertilizer), centred (not centered), ABM/automatic bank machine (not ATM/automatic teller machine, though American influence has largely flipped this one). Till (not checkstand).
And then there’s Oh, sorry!, which is Canadian for Bless your heart!, which is Southern American for Good for you!, which is Northern American for fuck you. Oh, sorry spoken by a Canadian can also be an expression of regret or apology. It’s highly contextual and tonal, and even though I’ve been here two decades I still don’t always pick it correctly. This is what drives Americans’ mistakenly thinking Canadians are so all-fired polite about everything.
Rooves is not one I’ve heard or seen, and a quick search just now turns up that the dictionaries consider it an archaic and now-nonstandard plural of roof. I’m not finding where it’s a primary usage in Canada, but it could easily be a regional thing, like greasy pronounced “greezy” and constructions like the car needs washed in certain regions of the States. Speaking of regionalisms, I’m not even going to touch Newfoundland’s! I will, however, say I have been known to accidentally on purpose refer to the Toronto Maple Leaves. Oh, sorry!
“Correct usage” is neither universal nor static. Do you recall what the grammatical point was? I can certainly imagine a foreigner’s “correction” of English spoken in India getting a frosty reception, just like Canadians react poorly to Americans going “How much o’ this here play money do you want?”. When we went on a family trip to England in the early 1990s, my mother bitched and moaned about aluminium: “It’s aluminum! They can’t just add an extra i like that!”. She completely knew better than that; she is intelligent and educated and worldly and well-travelled; she just wanted attention, bless her heart.
Homo milk. Wow. That’s even better than nut juice.
“Evestroughs” reminds me of Grampa Simpson referring to turkeys as “walking bird”.
A great many of these Canadianisms are also British English. As a tour guide, “washroom” always amused me. I was careful not to say “toilet” as most of my colleagues did, because that’s what it’s frickin called, but ” washroom” just seemed like Canada saying to the US “Oh, you think you can do euphemisms? Hold my Molson’s!”.
They seem to be switching over from the use of the term “homo” milk, to jsut saying it is 3.5% fat content. More socially correct.
I always thought of a gutter as something down at curbside level, not on a rooof (see what I did there?)
Another term of the art that seems to have been taken out behind the barn and shot: “skim milk”, which at least in the States is now officially known as “low-fat milk”. This puts me in mind of a ridiculous effort by the American –
Prune– Council or whatever they call themselves to rebrand prunes as “dried plums” and (wait for it) prune juice as “dried plum juice”. Because yeah, only grandma and grandpa buy prunes and prune juice, but if y’call ’em dried plums and dried plum juice, why, suddenly teenagers everywhere won’t be able to get enough! Thpth.
(Ford tried this same kind of dumb name game with their –
Five Hundred– Taurus. Because yeah, people weren’t buying it on account of the name and stuff.)
Too funny, Daniel! Interestingly, when I was growing up in the Pittsburgh, PA area, we called it fire hall (not fire station) and at least in our house, it was supper (not dinner) for the evening meal and cellar (not basement).
When I went away to college (ahem, university) in the Philadelphia area, I first heard “greezy” and “gazoline.” Also, the first word I ditched there was “gumband,” which is what we Pittsburghers called a rubber band.
Gumband is fun (“elastic band” or just “elastic” in England). Gazoline! I had a university professor from Far Rockaway, New York who said things like “gaz” (gas) and “expurment” (experiment).
Fascinating, Daniel. Australian English uses many (though not all) of the ‘Canadianisms’ you list. Maybe that’s why I feel I have more in common with Canadians than Americans. ‘Oh sorry’ makes perfect sense to me, and I’d be confused by some of the regional American equivalents you list. The ‘-ves’ plural on roof, hoof and such was what I learnt (not learned) in school, though it seems to be rare these days.
Never stopped to think about sorry, but we use it everywhere. A most common version would be to replace “excuse me”, as in “Sorry, mate, have got the time?”, or “Sorry, can I order the fish steamed instead?”. How thoroughly odd!
Wonder if the Canadians have a version of the “Yes, no [I won’t/it can’t/etc] prefix that we so often employ, often further dimished to “Yeah, nah”? For (sort-of) clarity for North Americans, this phrase is very frequently used in conversation when agreeing with a negative proposition from the other speaker.
I have seen and heard (and might have uttered) “yeah: no” to agree with a negative. Don’t know that it’s as common up here as it might be down there.
As to the many uses of “sorry” Ohhhhh, yes:
I cannot remember the exact situation of the grammar. Possibly dropping pronouns, or language usage when requesting an input from a US colleague.
I recall hearing terms like, “Well that lawn needs mowing”, instead of “I need to mow that lawn.” Having an object expressing need seemed like a British thing to me at first, but I keep hearing it more and more. That car needs washing. That laundry needs folding. It certainly does, but who is going to do it?
I have heard Newfoundlanders say “roofs” (sounds like an “ew’ sound, something like ‘cooks”). Beyond that, their accent can be almost impossible to understand if heavily intonated.
Daniel, you’ve pretty much nailed Canadian English. And yes, our spelling is an amalgam of Brit and American.
And a lot of us are bilingual w.r.t. Imperial and SI units. With the rural Canadian Prairies laid out in (approximately*) one-mile-defined grids, we will never abandon Imperial measurements entirely. (*A Section, comprising 640 acres, is one mile square, but then there’s also a 99′ road allowance between Sections, so over multiple Sections an accurate odometer will rack up 1.609 km for the Section, plus approximately 30 m (0.030 km) for the road allowance, for a total of 1.639 km.)
It took me a few years to adapt. The one holdout is pressure; I’m still a PSI guy – kPa are just not intuitive to me.
And just to confuse things, a lot of us Hosers still think of Imperial gallons (4.55 l) rather than US gallons (3.78 l).
Regarding “credit onion”, I coined that back in the late ’70s. So obviously you stole this from me. But wait … didn’t Newton and Leibniz both invent calculus independently and in parallel? OK, you’re off the hook. ;>)
A parting thought – your Volvo’s face vaguely reminds me of an upscale Toyota from the late ’70s. Cressida? Very un-Volvoish, in any case.
You did have a great pun in one if the others recently too. Can’t remember it now but it was top class too. What an interesting man you are.
Thanks, Richard—I try not to write boringly. I wonder if you might be thinking of the stinker of a pun below the fourth photo in this post.
The one I loved was “Asbestos I could”
Ah! Thanks. I’m sure I can’t be the first one to have done that!
May I say this is the most interesting of your car stories to date? I had no idea there could be so much variation from year to year, or accessories available for them. I’m wondering though, do you know so much about all cars, or just the ones you’ve owned?
164s were never common here in Australia, so you can imagine my surprise when an acquaintance who wasn’t in any way a car nerd bought a used gold 164 as his first car. And not just any 164, but according to the badging a 164TE with the big American bumpers (so I’m guessing ’73-4). Nice big TE lettering, which made me wonder whether it was real, though Al wasn’t the kind of guy to upbadge a car. Besides, in Australia who’d know what a TE was? When I was reading about your carby problem at the start, I thought you should’ve got Al’s car.
He traded it for a new Nissan Skyline back in the late eighties, and died soon after. I’ve seen a nicely modified gold 164TE for sale here, and the guy reckons he’s had it 23 years – I wonder if it’s Al’s old car?
Ah, the TE-for-Top-Executive! Popular pick for government officials in some Communist countries—East Germany, for one, and I think 164TEs might have been among the Volvos North Korea ordered, received, and still hasn’t paid for.
My automotive knowledge is not encyclopædic or evenly distributed. I have unusually deep knowledge of certain kinds of cars and certain broader automotive subjects (lighting…), but on other subjects I know next to nothing (diesel engines…).
A minor correction – it’s eavestrough, not evestrough.
eaves – lower edge of the roof projecting beyond the wall
eve – the evening before a special day
Some great stories once again! Never miss this column.
Ah, but my dear fellow, you were not building the ultimate ultimate 164, as that would be the wagon! Oz has the only “factory” job in existence, built about ’71/’72 here in the Melbourne assembly plant, apparently at the behest of a local executive from half of one kit and half of another. Still exists too, it seems, with an official (and unique) Volvo 165 number underbonnet. Actually, from pics, it really is my favorite 164, as the long-wheelbase front and rather Wolseley-esque grille are better balanced by the bulky wagon rear: the sedan has always seemed to (visually) peter out a bit at the back to me.
Anyway, that malarkey aside, this is terrific writing as per, and a bit of a gripping tale to boot. And as in the best of CC stuff, the distractable reader spends lazy time going down a few burrows, this time pursuing the coal boat across the lake.
Great stuff, sir.
American dealers begged Volvo for 165s, which likely would’ve sold well on this continent. Volvo refused. I have no idea why; it’s not like they had some other model’s sales to protect. I’ve seen pics of that one you describe, and…yes, that really is a car that should’ve been in series production not just for functional reasons but also because as you say, the design works really well.
Thanks for the compliments! I’ll keep going.
I’ve read Daniel’s comment on selective yellow lamps several times.
The photos seem to show that the 8 inch headlamps are fitted with selective yellow bulbs. Not a criticism, merely an observation. I’ve played with selective yellow H-4 bulbs in a couple of cars. Always in something that the bulbs are easily swapable. I gave a couple to a friend years ago. He was pulled over for not having “forward facing white lamps” required by my states laws.
Judging from the number of cars I see with HID conversions, the police aren’t paying a lot of attention to that any more. HID/LED “conversions” are another of Daniel’s touchpoints.
Another superb read. Thank you.