That battery cable incident with the Jetta wasn’t the only time I gave my sister a car-related assist, and neither was the four-wheel-dolly tow of that same car from Illinois to Colorado. There’s another of those stories about the ’80 Stinkoln Town Car. I was a few years younger—hence behind her in school—and one day when she was 15 and I was 12 she came home with homework from her driver’s-ed class: have your parent (it probably said “father”) show you around a car and complete a worksheet with questions about things like oil and transmission dipsticks and radiator caps, batteries and windshield washer fluid tanks, tire pressure valves and gauges. Dad and mother looked at each other, looked at me, and I picked up the worksheet and said “Come with me”. At that time—and still now—it brought this scene to mind:
• • •
It’s amazing what you find in old cars. There hadn’t been any noteworthy treasures in the Lancer, which hadn’t been driven enough to accumulate any before we got it, and all the treasures in D’Valiant were deliberately loaded in from the seller’s garage, so I wasn’t really attuned to this effect until I worked at the wrecking yard, where the damnedest things turned up in turned-in cars. But y’buy enough old cars, sooner and later y’gonna find interesting artefacts. Or more like Dartefacts, such as the Horsepower Chicken (as the Slant-6 board brigade called it) in my ’71 Dart. I don’t remember what happened to that chicken, but it wasn’t the only Dartefact. My 1973 Dart came with a Blessed Virgin Mary atop the dashboard. There’s a song about this, and it’s been recorded many times; here’s the relevant part of the original:
I didn’t need or wish to be watched over by Mary while driving the Dart, and instead she became integral to some of Bill’s work as a photographic artist. She appears in photos № 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7 of this collection; here’s a sample:
We have an altar in our home, a glass-covered cupboard with meaningful things. Neither of us is Catholic or otherwise Christian, but that Mary touched my Dart and his art, and so there she is. Also a 1962 Lancer windshield wiper or headlight switch knob, and a 1963-’64 Dart-Valiant-Barracuda park lever knob, amongst other things:
There are other relevant remnants, relics, and mementos sprinkled about, as well. I’ve always liked the ’60-’61 (+’62, at least in some countries) flying-saucer hubcap. Don’t think I ever owned a car with ’em, though maybe that ’61 Valiant had them. I bought and sold at least one set of them over my time in the hobby. Some years back I found one made into a clock:
A bittersweet finale, and one hopes that you will continue to write and post here, as your articles have been a gleaming point in what has been, to say the least, an interesting time.
The best writing is always about more than its’ ostensible primary subject, and on that score you have excelled. Thank you.
Thanks kindly, Jon, and have no fear; I’ve got plenty of CC post topics stacked up and waiting their turn!
Strange things found in old cars, I can’t recall. Maybe unlike Daniel, I have not had enough old cars pass through here. But strange things in rental cars, yes. I used to rent cars several times a year.
Cheap rental car companies often did not clean out the glove box. Think about that next time you leave something behind and call up to see if it was found. (Hint: “NO.) One time in a Slant Six 1978 LeBaron in SoCal I found a women’s panty girdle in the glove box. Whether it was there after a nocturnal tryst or after its wearer decided, “My Girdle Is Killing Me,” and took it off inside the car, I don’t know. But from then on, I always checked the glove box before leaving the rental lot. At least my wife didn’t find it.
Yee! That sounds like it could’ve been from the pages of a George Hayduke book.
No, we’re grateful to YOU, Sir.
Be sure, you can indeed write. Believe that.
And in a very sincere way, thank you for your work.
Here’s to your future wellbeing, Daniel Stern.
Oh, I know I can write, it’s that until doing this COAL series I haven’t considered myself a writer, as such. Be assured my future wellbeing will include numerous CC posts.
I have enjoyed the entire series Daniel and I look forward to reading more of your writing which is genuine and distinctive.
»hat tip« I’ll certainly keep on writing!
On the other side of the fence, this has been one of my best weekend go-to’s for the better part of a year now, and I’m still somehow surprised that it’s already dun told out… though you still do have an assignment coming due on yellow headlamps *laughing*!
It’s been an enlightening experience for me. Though a lot of our interests overlap, I had never paused to consider that the Slant-6 is a desirable thing- I now am able to opine that it is. This is also reminding me that I need to finish piecing together my own COAL proposal… probably a one of one sorta thing, as I’ve only purchased two cars in this century, and still own both. My last vehicle sale took place in 1995, so I don’t get around much.
Also digging Bill’s work with Mother Mary, and since I am still fairly reliant on 50 year old technology for my safety, thinking about protecting my own interests with a genuine Plastic Jesús on my dashboard. Looking forward to your future contributions!
Edit: I just realized that I made my final car sale in 2000, to make way for my current (and probably last) daily driver.
Yuuuuup, that yellow-headlamps post is near the top of the list. There’s almost more mythunderstanding to hack through than there’s underbrush and overgrowth at Paul’s new property!
The COALs you have written have been quite interesting and informative. Thank you for your efforts!! :):) DFO
BTW, WHAT is a COAL?
Cars Of A Lifetime
Wish we could hear more from you sometime soon.
Interesting that RLPlaut gives such applause, because in my view only his series comes close to Daniel’s.
Take a bow both!
My top three – RLPlaut, Daniel Stern, and LtDan. And of course, Paul.
Where is the good lieutenant these days?
»doffs cap, bows« A high compliment from you, RLP!
Thanks for the history and revelations on cars and coping with an irrational parent. That was bizarre and painful to read. But…That party trick with the block was great. And a good result with the passing on of the manuals and factory info.
I put a cdi distributor on my 225 and had to cut a 2×1 hole in the wheel well for clearance. For us with rhd the exhausts were flamboyant extractors unhindered by the steering box.
I plan to submit an article soon. Thanks for the inspiration. And looking forward to your future posts on life and cars.
You’re welcome and thanks—I look forward to seeing your article, Paul.
This has been a Class A series and I am sorry that it has come to an end. And I love the way it ended, with little bits and pieces of this and that, all of it just as fun and interesting as the rest.
I sympathize with your emotions on the literature. I have way too much of that sort of thing in my basement, accumulated over the last 40 years. I had always figured it would become a rare treasure, but then with so much of what is in it available online these days, well, yeah. There comes a time to let go of it all.
I am left with mixed feelings about your Accord door panel solution. I admire unconventional and crude-but-effective fixes, but I will confess to a bit of a phobia about soft things stuck to interior surfaces of cars that were not put there from the start. But then we all become that old guy who likes things how he likes ’em, so good for you for finding a solution.
Thankya! The end of the series is strange for me, too; I feel a little like the dog that finally caught the chased car: Ummmm…now what?
The literature was feeding my compulsive web board posting. Someone asks a question—or, heaven forfend, posts a wrong answer (don’t forget to hover your mouse over the cartoon for the 2nd caption)—I’ve got the apposite material in my rare-literature library, so of course I have to go paw through the pages and post the answer; lather-rinse-repeat.
The wrist rests are certainly crude, but passably effective. The upper one will surely come off, as will the adhesive below it with some chipping-away, but the lower one would surely peel the bogus leather off the factory “armrest”.
Ive enjoyed your home and car exploits equally, thanks for your wonderful writings. This series has been an absolute treat on a Saturday, but I will reread it at some point because, and I’m sure I’m not the only one, some of the detail went right over my head. I’ll need time to absorb it, drink it in, because this is required reading for a dreamer like me who vaguely plans to have an old car some day, to remember it’s a difficult and time consuming process.
I’ll be posting a sort of “episode guide” this Saturday, for E-Z one-stop shopping. 🙂
I haven’t been able to comment on every post (who could?), but rest assured that I have devoured and enjoyed every one. Thanks for sharing.
Jon said it well above…good writing involves more than just the subject at hand. Your having woven in so many other related items has certainly provided a more vivid and textured picture of you and your life during ownership of the subject vehicle.
Thanks for having done all of this as it is not an easy (in several regards) undertaking.
When I started this project I had no idea what it would wind up looking (sounding, smelling, feeling…) like. It’s been an exercise, in all kinds of ways I wouldn’t’ve predicted, and I’m better for having done it.
I too echo all of the comments above; I loved your COAL series and looked forward to reading it each Saturday morning.
If you ever run across another aluminum slant 6 block, it would make a excellent coffee table if it fits in with your decor.
I’ve seen it done! The coffee table, I mean.
Your description of your mother’s treatment of you certainly constitutes child abuse. Psychological maltreatment would be the more precise term-use of knowledge about the mental states and emotions of children, fear as well as shame and guilt, in order to control them. It usually results in anxious, law-abiding but timid adults who are very risk aversive. You have clearly risen above your upbringing, and I salute you, sir.
My brief experience with the Slant Six was in a Dart owned by a girlfriend in Massachusetts. True to form, it ran well before I attempted to tune it up, and it ran well after. I was too young at the time to understand the value of such a durable design.
Your grandma reference reminds me of our childhood neighbor, Grannie Rowe, who owned a white 1963 Ford Fairlane two door sedan that she would only drive the four miles back and forth to her daughter’s farm. Grannie was less than five feet in height, so she would also visually navigate in the space between the steering wheel and dashboard. It was always fun, when our city cousins came to visit, to see their eyes grow wide as they gazed upon an apparently driverless Ford Fairlane coming up the road, only to be greeted by Grannie’s cheerful wave as she passed by. She was everyone’s Grannie.
Yes, my mother was psychoemotionally abusive, and that shit leaves scars. I wish it had been otherwise. I also wish my father, for all his many very fine attributes, had done something—anything—rather than just tuning out the ugliness happening right under his nose, but his own childhood was blighted in ways that left him without much of any working emotional literacy.
“Durable design” is a tough subject to pin down. The Slant-Six was unusually durable, to be sure, as were some of the vehicles it was installed in. Today’s cars last a lot longer and need much less scheduled and unscheduled fiddlefutzing-around with. I have my doubts about tomorrow’s cars, though; the industry is in love with the idea of cars as rolling smartphones: you get whatever features and configurations the maker allows you to access for a monthly fee, and the car’s operating system will be periodically updated without regard to what you want. The quiet part is that when the maker decides your car is no longer supported, it stops mattering that you want to keep using it, or how much mechanical life it still has left in it.
Condolences on your Mother, I can commiserate but fortunately for me, mine is the exact opposite, I know I’m biased but she’s the least vindictive person I’ve ever met…not that she hasn’t hurt me, but when she did, I’m sure it wasn’t intentional…she doesn’t have it in her, I’ve never met anyone like her, she might hurt a fly, but if she does, it’s because she didn’t see it.
My main intent though is to comment on your 2nd paragraph which to me is spot on. I like cars but have never worked in the field; have worked with computers for close to 50 years, but have noticed a trend that seems regressive to me, where despite paying for an item you seem to be more of a renter than an owner. Way back when (before consent decree around 1983) you rented your phone and paid for service, not hardware (you didn’t own anything)…similarly even farther back computers were a service, not really hardware per se, you pay for capability (amount of storage space, RAM, number of cores) but more as a user, rather than outright ownership. To me, it seems like things are going this way in general since most things are driven by downloadable firmware, which used to be more of an elective process, which has moved to a “push” process instead…which means it isn’t voluntary and not on the “owners” terms but more on the “suppliers” terms. If you have faith that they are (as Donald Fagan would say) have “compassion and vision” or like my mother, don’t have ulterior motives, then that might be OK, but color me skeptical. Even if their intent is honorable, the inevitable pressure of release schedules often limits the amount of testing that is done; and since testing is expensive the norm is to limit the generations of different hardware that are supported with a release such that older levels are frequently demoted to being “unsupported” which leaves users in a grey area, often with no more updates, which is really problematic. I guess it kind of always has happened; you might no longer be able to get parts to rebuild a carburator for instance, I think my issue has more to do with what options you might have when it happens…can you get another one that fits (in the same form factor) or more desperate, can you or someone else make one? In the case of firmware you might be able to do something but you are clearly on your own, which seems to put you into a “never, never” land…certainly premature obsolescence is possible (my definition is that something that previously functioned will no longer function, but the schedule of that non-functioning is NOT on your schedule, but that of the producer). Who is really making that decision? Do you trust that it is going to be in your interest?
So…are you really “buying” a car that you can choose how long you want to own it (say 50 years?)…or are you really “renting” it, even if you pay the full purchase price up front? How long is it supported? What happens if the company goes out of business (and there’s some problem that affects continued functioning of what you purchased? I’m in COMPLETE agreement with your last paragraph, but wonder about the gap in expectation between the customer (you) and the producer. Do you get to choose how long you can own a car (even if you love it, will you be able to continue to use it?…or will some situation render it obsolete (before you intend to sell/trade) or make you have to dispose of it? Maybe we’re all back to renting (though we don’t think of it that way) even after paying for our vehicle in full.
Great closing piece, love the weigh your writing seems to ricochet, keeps me on my toes while reading.
Thanks, Rich! I’ll endeavour to carry on.
Thank you, Daniel. I found that reading your series was very cathartic for me, and I hope it was for you as well.
It was. I didn’t expect that, not even a little bit, but here we are.
Very well done, Daniel, very well done (all of it). You should be proud of yourself and this work.
Thanks, Jim! I’m really happy with how this turned out.
Wonderful series. I too hate blue lights, especially blue LEDs, in dashboards. They seem to screw up my night vision worse than the normal orangish white. I had an Accord that had blue plastic sheaves covering the small dash incandescent bulbs. I removed them.
That’s not just in your mind—compared to light with lesser blue content, light with greater blue content causes significantly more discomfort glare; situationally more disability glare, and other kinds of eyestrain. This applies whether we’re talking about dashboard lights or headlamps or whatever other kind of light source in our visual field.
I was trying to decide whether to add a more personal comment or not. I feel like a simple thank you is not enough. I was the only child of a mechanic so did I end up interested in cars? Obsessed is more like it. I also grew up in a dysfunctional household and the endless cars ( 50+ on the road, several more that didn’t make it that far ) plus bookcases of automobile literature became my escape.
I developed health problems several years ago with forced both early retirement and moving from my own home to an apartment. This meant the end of playing with cars and getting rid of my book collection. ( I have room for a bed or bookshelves, let me think )
There was always a touch of bitterness and a few feeble attempts at keeping it going.
I’m not sure why but reading your stories has after many years has let me have peace with where my automotive life ended up. I’m feeling like it was fun, I have a lot of cool memories and its okay to let it go. This is definitely new to me.
So thank you Daniel Stern, both for the entertainment and giving both closure and peace to a fellow CCer.
I’m glad my perspective gave you an assist!
Daniel, thank you so much for your tales, they made every weekend something special.
I admire your devotion to the Slant Six. It’s a great motor and every one I have driven was very nice, even the later ones felt peppy.
‘Preciate it! (And yes, we still gotta go CC-spotting one of these days; y’never believe what I saw parked on Commercial Drive the other day—watch for a post about it soon).
I do sometimes pine for that alternate timeline where Chrysler went ahead with the 246-cube Slant-6…and the fast-burn aluminum head…and the turbodiesel…and a Magnum setup, etc, though I’d’ve settled for their not having just starved and strangled the poor thing to death.
BTW.. The cars included 7 slant six Valiants so a lot of the slant six stories I could definitely relate to and probably add a few of my own such as the 66 purchased from my high school music teacher for the grand old sum of $14 but that is for another day.
Thanks again Daniel.
A fourteen-dollar Valiant has got to have produced at least one terrific story. I hope you’re planning on sharing it/them!
I was first exposed to D.S. back at TTAC, where he did some work behind the scenes as well as a few submissions. And I kept running into his name on articles at Allpar and slantsix.org. It was obvious that he had exceptional abilities in the field of lighting and Chyrsler A-Bodies with slant sixes. I started encouraging to contribute to CC very early on, as I was sure there was more to him than a technical guru in his fields of primary interest.
Personal biography as it’s intertwined with our passion for cars and such has always been my primary interest here (and at ttac). We’re a lot more than a walking bunch of facts and figures. There’s nothing better than a good story, well told.
Daniel finally told his first one here back in 2016, and it was a winner: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/blog/junkyard/junk-yard-tales/
It was a preview of what I knew would make a superb COAL. It’s taken a few more years, but it was well worth the wait. Thank you Daniel; I appreciate all the Saturday mornings when I was always eager to read your next chapter. I’m going to miss them, but I do look forward to more from you.
As to seeing yourself as a “writer”, I could see that quite clearly back in 2016 with that junkyard post, and suspected it was there well before then. Yes, you most certainly are a “writer”; of a very high caliber at that. My hat’s off to you!
I very much liked the part about sending the service manuals off to someone who could appreciate and continue to use them without any thought of compensation. And, then, later, when the guy was in a better financial situation, sending a check for what he felt was a fair price.
In today’s world of greed and mistrust, it’s the kind of anecdote that brings hope to the idea that civility is not dead.
I too found that a really cool thing to do and was glad to hear of the recipient’s appreciation!
I just realized: we need a new COAL writer for Saturdays. Big shoes to step into, but that’s ok too.
Great stuff, Daniel. Don’t stop.
The warehouse has been emptied of Mopar literature and parts, Daniel has swept up the last of the COAL dust and taken a last look back before turning out the lights.
Thanks kindly, Doug. I think this final post was the hardest one to write!
Thanks, very entertaining at times and difficult to read in places too. Would make a great auto-biography as a book IMHO.
Thanks, Rod. I’ve thought about that from time to time, but the phone in my head keeps ringing, and the voice on the other end of the line hollers “Who the hell’s gonna buy that book?!”.
Daniel, thanks for an outstanding COAL series. I haven’t commented on all of your posts, but I read each and everyone, even if I took me a few days afterwards to get to it. While our automotive ownership history differs quite a bit, there was so much that I can relate to in your stories. They really hit home for me. Like Paul said above, the mixture of your autobiographical story intertwined with your vehicles are the best reads. And again, your series was truly exceptional. Thank you.
You’re welcome and thank you!
Thank you for making my Saturdays that much more enjoyable.
Well done series Daniel – thank you for sharing your wit, wisdom and humor!
Bravo on a great body of writing, amazing that it took 40 installments! I haven’t forgotten your email and do intend to respond with more than a few cursory paragraphs.
I’m looking forward to future posts from you on CC.
Dan, the quality of your writing has never been in doubt. You did indeed inherit the story telling gene from your father! I have enjoyed your COAL series immensely and look forward to more posts and stories from you. As Paul says, this site is so fascinating because it interweaves the personal with stories of these machines that so intrigue us.
So, a big “thank you” for your talent and commitment!
Exceptional COAL series! Read every single post. Always the perfect balance of emotion and technical details. Thank you for taking the time to share your stories with us!
Thank you Daniel, and keep writing! Really enjoyed your COAL series.
Thanks so much for your dedication to writing the lengthy but informative and fascinating articles! Some of them are very candid, especially the mother’s mental health and the deaths of your father and friend. I learnt so much about the Slant Six engines and lot of workarounds in repairing them! I am sorry to see that this series has come to the end. I certainly hope you will find the time to finish the long-awaiting article on French selective yellow headlamps.
I have the same issue with light sensitivity at night and the bright reflections. That’s why I prefer ECE headlamps on the approaching vehicles because they are much less “painful” than the US headlamps, especially in the rural areas. I dislike those LED traffic lamps in the US since their intensity aren’t always dialled down at night. I used the Tamiya X-27 clear red paint to paint the white parts in the gauges and bulbs in my Buick Skylard and Chevrolet Celebrity. That gave them the soft red glow at night.
About the brochures and engineering reports, it would be nice to have them scanned and digitalised for the public archives such as Internet Archives and Z-Lib. Never mind the “copyright issues”. Over the time, we are facing with more and more of materials being transferred to the paywall archives, and more and more libraries are discarding the older books and magazines. Not to mention them being disappeared forever and much difficult to locate. The Wayback Machine and Google Books don’t always have everything archived.
Of course it’d’ve been nice to scan all the literature. It also would have cost an unaffordable fortune in money and/or time, so I sadly had to take leave of that idea.
The lesser glare from ECE low beams is mostly a function of the (much) lower aim angle specified in Europe. US headlamps aimed that far down are about the same, glarewise, and give comparably inadequate seeing distance for normal road speeds.
But don’t fret, that article about yellow headlamps is coming, and there’ll be several other articles about headlamps and vehicle regs, too.
A belated thanks, Daniel, for this informative, often provocative, and always entertaining COAL series, written with style, grace, and good humor.
There are so many nuggets and little stories intertwined throughout the series that will stick with me…too many to count. From today’s wrap-up installment, I am especially enjoying the image of the FedEx employee dealing with the engine block. I can relate, as I am a veteran shipper of large and bulky things to distant relatives and have had to deal with sometimes less-than-helpful instructions and sullen clerks.
Thanks again for a superlative read! Best of luck in all future endeavors.
Thanks for the ride. Having unburdened yourself of both history and artifacts, enjoy your freedom between obsessions.
Daniel, thank you for this series. I enjoyed every minute of it and am glad to hear you will be continuing to write – you are really good at it. Thank you again.
Hey ! we’re still waiting to hear about the special gear reduction starter….
Don’t fret, Nate; I’ve got a –
Cool beans Mr. Stern .
Previsous comments have pretty well covered our appreciation. All I can add is Tango Yankee Victor Mike.
Can’t add much to all the other comments, but thanks for wonderful stories about cars and life, with lots of educational content about (mostly) non-V8 Mopars, and of course lighting. I watched your Driving Vision video … you are a great speaker as well as writer. Cheers!
Thanks kindly! 🙂
Man, how did I miss this last week?? Thanks for today’s index as it was what took me to this wrap up post.
I want to echo what you say in your last few sentences about the feedback that the CC readership offers. I too have made much of my livelihood writing reams of reports for technical audiences – I like to say that I’ve produced on average 2 or 3 PhD dissertations per year for the past 30 years, although still have no actual PhD to show for it — but virtually none of that provides the engaged feedback and stream of consciousness connections that comes from the readers here at Curbside Classic. It’s addictive.
So I’ll just add to the applause for your work Daniel, and am quite sure that we’re going to see much more of it.
Two or three PhD dissertations a year but without the degree? All together now in chorus: “Hi, Jeff!” Sigh. Such is the life of a technical writer. Horsewhipping myself over technical reports has rather lost its lustre over the decades. I’ll be sitting there reworking and re-re-reworking a sentence until it’s just right (is one reason why I’m up at 3AM on deadline) and eventually I have to just get it through my greasy skull that most or all of those who read it aren’t going to notice my efforts because they’re just not tuned in on that wavelength, so just get the damn thing done and filed, and save the literary finesse for somewhere it matters. Occasionally I manage to sneak in a zinger—in a corporate profile some years ago I said that the subject lighting company prefer to establish ongoing relationships with customers, rather than just doing one-light stands. I heard through the grapevine that the CEO noticed and got a chuckle out of it.
But yeah, this what we do here at CC is a lot balmier, enough so that there’s no contradiction or irony to my writing about car stuff (here) as a reprieve from writing about car stuff (for work). Don’t worry; there’s much more to come!