COAL Dust • The Rest of the Stories + Afterword

After I sold the Lancer, I still had a mountain of literature. I couldn’t keep it; we were emptying out the house before the bulldozers would come for it, and downsizing pretty substantially. We would have to rent a storage locker, and I was determined to make it as small and temporary as could be. I took lots of pictures of the terrific collection of parts, service, sales, and promotional literature for ’60-’87ish Chrysler products from all over the world; these I’m showing here are only a tiny fraction of the collection had taken me decades to amass, and most of this stuff was very scarce. I’d already offloaded the easier-to-get stuff at a local car book store, and now I had the special-interest items remaining. I listed logical groups of items at low prices, and put a much lower price on the whole collection, maybe almost enough to cover shipping, and posted ads on the boards.

What happened? What do you think happened? I got dillweeds sending me PMs and emails along the lines of if I buy this one thing you have listed at $3 and this other thing you have listed at $2, can I get a quantity discount and have them both for $2.50 with free shipping? Oh, sorry, no. You can’t.

I wasn’t expecting to be paid back for years of free service as an all-hours go-to guy for Slant-6 and A-body questions on the boards, but c’mon. By and by, I got a PM from a guy on the Slant-6 board who said he’d happily buy the whole collection, but he’d just moved, his previous house hadn’t sold yet, and he had not three spare dimes. He understood the time pressure I was under with my own house and all, and he realised this meant it just wasn’t going to work, but he wanted to thank me anyhow. I thanked him for his message, got his address, and summarily sent him the entire collection. Numerous 16 × 12 × 12-inch (40 × 30 × 30 cm) sturdy boxes, plus some bigger boxes for items that wouldn’t fit the smaller ones. Once they were on their way, I messaged him to let him know what I’d done. I was very clear about the terms: This is not a debt. You don’t owe me anything, and I mean it. If you decide to send me something for this material, I’ll be happy to receive it. If not, that’s fine, too; I’ll be happy the collection wound up with you instead of in the recycle bin. He was overwhelmed when he got the message, and overjoyed when the boxes landed. Some months later when his house sold, he sent me more than I’d listed the collection for, and was still nervous it wasn’t enough.

It was hard to de-accession all this what I’d so doggedly pursued and collected for so many years. This collection wasn’t just nifty in its own right—part numbers for right-hand-drive Lancers badged as Valiants sold in far-flung countries, Japanese-market Chrysler brochures, just all kinds of goodies—it represented an enormous investment of time, effort, and persistence. But as soon as that guy’s PM came in, I had zero qualm sending him the whole mountain, and I really wouldn’t’ve minded if he’d not sent a cent.

Much harder was the starter on the Lancer, as I mentioned last week. I’d been numerous years’ worth of patient and persistent in finding and getting a very unusual starter motor, one that managed to push not only my gear-reduction-starter-sound button but also my Valiant-variants-from-away button at the same time. Once the deal was made with the Lancer buyer, I had a forceful urge to swap that starter off and keep it. I bought a new old stock (not “remanufactured”, I mean new) regular Chrysler gear-reduction starter, intending to swap it on and keep the unusual one, but just after it arrived I saw the opportunity for a lesson-within-a-lesson on letting go. I itched to go swap that starter. It’d’ve taken 20 minutes or so, doubling the usual time to account for the extreme cold and boxed-in location of the car. The cravings were vicious, and I made myself sit on my hands about it and say “No!” right out loud. The unusual starter stayed on the car, the NOS Chrysler starter went in the big crate of parts, and both went to Australia.

I’ll tell the story of this unusual starter, but not now.

It felt very strange to put such forceful punctuation on my longtime career as the primary go-to guy on the Slant-6 board (over 25,000 posts; still to this day № 1 by a margin of over 10,000 posts). Same with the A-body board (over 6,000 posts). Sometimes by email, too, and occasionally by letter or phone. I’d tried many times in the past to quit the boards, and failed—I was addicted good and hard; I really liked sleuthing out what was the matter with someone’s car and how to fix it, applying my experience, expertise, library, and explanatory skills to help people who needed it. I had a reputation for being right most of the time, and that had multiple sharp edges. People liked getting quick, correct, helpful answers to their questions, whether it was a ten-paragraph explanation of how best to do whatever it was they’d asked, or a quick two-line link to where I’d answered similar questions in the past. There were jokes that I must actually be a computer of some kind. But there were also resentments; nobody likes a knowitall, and that’s how some people saw me. I wasn’t some kind of infallible oracle or anything, just when I didn’t know the answer I either kept quiet or said “I don’t know”. And I did have a tendency, every nigh and then, to squawk when someone would give bad advice. Not the ones who didn’t know, and not the ones whose advice just differed from that I might give but was more or less sound; I mean the ones who phrased their random assumptions, their way-off-in-the-weeds guesses, and nonsense they swore their brother in law remembered hearing from his mechanic’s barber as though they were gospel truth. Geeze, dude, the guy’s trying to fix his car, and you’re not helping. So over the years there was some occasional headbutting amongst buttheads.

Once the last car and the literature had gone, and the parts, it was a lot easier to quit the boards.
Not quite like throwing a switch, but I tapered down over about two weeks’ time until I was all the way done. It was time to leave some air and space for other voices. There were Slant-Six engines running well before I came along, and there’ll probably still be a few after I’m dead and gone. No ill will to anyone in particular, all best wishes to everyone in general and my buddies-I-only-interact-with-over-there, it’s been fun. Retired! I duck back into the boards every once in awhile to see what people are talking about, mostly so I can go “H’m. Not my circus; not my monkeys” and log back out without saying a word. Occasionally I’ll get pinged that someone’s mentioned me or sent me a PM, and I try to help out as best I can, but beyond a certain point, with a pretty low threshold…ask on the board; I’m retired.

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