Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Boys Don't Cry

Its been a rough coupla weeks. The car is still immobile and I have been going through a break-up. The now ex BF was away on a trip, the very trip we broke up over. The details are long, sad and personal so I won't get into that here but needless to say I've have found myself suddenly operating solo in areas of the heart and auto repair. :-(

I put in a frustrating yet ultimately triumphant day's work on the wagon last Saturday (at least this story will have a happy ending). My Dad had a few clients scheduled for both Saturday & Sunday and could not be my wrenching partner. We had previously gotten the engine all put back together and what tasks remained were to re-assemble the rest of the stuff under the hood we had to take apart for the head removal. I aslo had my radiator rebuilt & flushed so that needed to be re-installed too.

I started with the new thermostat, remembering to put the copper pellet towards the engine & gooped the gasket only to put the housing on upside down. When I saw the connect for the radiator hose pointing down to the ground I said, "Hey, that aint right!" I flipped it and screwed it down proper. Then on to the fan assembly, I flipped to the pages in my trusty Mopar factory manual, which is totally covered in grease by now. I put it all in order and screwed in the bolts. After I admired my work, I gave it a spin only to hear "clank!"

It was hitting my formerly non existent crank case pully bolt. Apparently Fred told us all cars should have one of these and I not knowing any better was surprised that my car was lacking one. Turns out that Jeff says slant 6s' actually DON'T have crank case pully bolts but I found that out the day AFTER Fred had installed one for us. Jeff said since it was in there it was fine to leave it, so long as it wasn't in the way of anything. Dammit. I set off to remove the damn thing but it wouldn't let me get a turn on it without turning the damn engine (like a crank shaft pully bolt is supposed to do). I was sitting in the car ruminating on what to do. I was scared to forcefully prevent the engine from turning while wrenching the bolt the opposite way. I didn't want to bend any internal components. I had just rebuilt the top end of the motor there was no way I wanted to do the bottom end! I was alone, and undereducated on this issue. I decided I needed to call Fred. He put it in there, he would HAVE to be able to get it out right???

Getting a hold of Fred wasn't easy. The only person I knew who had his number was the xBF. I swallowed my pride and text messaged him. The chances of a speedy reply were slim since one, we had just broken up and two, he was in New Zealand. I tried every other person who I thought may know someone who knew Fred but I wasn't getting any response. I was feeling like an emotional & mechanical failure when I decided to call my BFF Robin. At the very least Robin could help me feel better and he may have some advice on the car too. I called him & told him the whole sorry tale and by this point I was pretty pitiful. He gave me his patented tough love, "Stop being a fucking baby! You can do this." were his exact words. God Bless him, he was right. I was being a big baby and feeling sorry for myself. I thanked him for the pep talk and went back down to the car.

I used my head, first I needed to get the car off the jack stand. One of my wheels was removed due to a serious flat, I filled the also flat spare with air, stuck it on the car and lowered it. Then I put the car in gear & chocked the wheels. I busted out the torque wrench that when we bought it I thought I would barely use. I set the tolerance & gave that bolt a good turn. Nuthin. I tried again, and yet again. Nada. I was crestfallen but I HAD to get that damn bolt out. I crouched down and leaned my head on the front of the car. With frustration of the bolt and my currently depleted emotional state I was.....about...to....cry. The thought of me shedding tears while wrenching on my car was a pitiful one. I took a deep breath and told myself "Just don't cry about it dammit!"

I stood up, picked up the torque wrench and raised the tolerance to 160 foot pounds. I put it on the fucking bolt and gave it a turn and just like that, it broke free. I reached in with my hands & loosened it after that. Once the bolt was out, I thanked every one. I thanked the car for holding still, the bolt for turning, the heavens for the fortitude bestowed upon me.

The whole thing went smoothly after that. I got the fan on, the radiator back in. The hoses hooked up, the engine block water channels re-filled. I had done it, on my own and best of all, I didn't cry. If you have ever seen the movie A League Of Their Own, you will know the quote "There's no crying in baseball!" Well, there's no crying in auto repair either, dammit.

Boy's don't cry, and really tough girls don't either. So there.

P.S. If you wanna get an idea of how I feel, watch this music video:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I love Lucy!

Ok, so we left off with Ol' Blue heading towards retirement and the thought of a classic wagon waiting in the wings. Like I said, I wasn't really wanting to replace Blue but had been scanning local Craigslists for "vintage wagons". Mostly I was pulling up 50's Chevys that were priced astronomically high. I wanted something that could be a daily driver & you know, cheap. I was just toying with the idea until I stumbled upon a Dart wagon in Highland Park, near downtown LA the very same town where my best friend & evil scientist/mechanical genius, Robin lives. This car embodied everything I could ever want in an old vehicle. Firstly, it was running (lol!), it was a wagon, it was a dart wagon, it was a 1963 Dart wagon. Wait, 1963?? That's the same year as Blue! Basically, this is the exact same car as blue except it was a manual 3 on the tree transmission and had the slant 6 270 engine, and of course the amazing wrap around bubble windows in back. *drool*

I had to have this car but wait, I can't have two Dodge Darts can I? Ultimately I had to decide that no, I could not own both Darts. I had a heart to heart with Blue and told him the bad news. I put Blue up on Craigslist and the very next day he was sold to a cool dude out of Santa Paula who had always wanted a Dart. I know the feeling! It did take some extra deal making with the BF to bring the new Dart home but it wasn't long before I was driving her up the 101 towards her new home in Ventura. Now, onto the pics of Lucky Lucy, my '63 Dart wagon:

The resemblance to Blue is uncanny aint it?

So Sweet!

Lotsa room for junk in the trunk

Toothless grin, no bumper...eek!

Mister Mikey & the good, aka intact tail light

Dodge LVR

Well, I figured it was about time to post some pics of the wagon. I have been so waylaid by the blown head gasket and all the resulting repairs I have not sat down long enough to pull them off the camera. But before I post the wagon, I want to show & tell a little about my 1st owned Dart, 'Ol Blue. I was trying to tell the stories of my Dart obsession in chronological order so sit tight & soon you will know the whole history of my decline into Dodge lover madness.

Lets see, it was at least two years after the whole Beulah experience. I had already fallen in love with Darts and had been scoping them out ever since Beulah had slipped through my grasp. I wasn't really looking to buy one, but I was noticing them more. One evening I was driving to my dad's house in his green mini van that he had graciously let me borrow since I had ehem, blown up my Ford Escort Wagon (that I had actually purchased from C4C, the same lot Beulah once resided in). I was on my usual route when lo and behold, I pass a Dodge Dart in a parking lot for sale. I pulled over and checked it out, it was only $600! Right then and there I decided it was to be mine! I jotted down the number and continued to my Dad's place. When I told him about it he remembered Beulah, and how badly I wanted that one. I called the seller & set up a test drive for the next day. My dad agreed to go along.

Instantly I was in love with that car. It was a 1963 4 door 170 slant six with push button auto transmission. It was done up in a ghetto facsimile of a surf woodie. The owner, Lance had "decorated" it with bamboo and primer-ed it a cheap blue color. It was a jalopy for sure but it was too late, I had to have it. After the short test-drive I shook hands on it. I asked my dad what he thought about the car. He said it didn't matter because I had already made up my mind to get it. I paid Lance and I drove it to work that day, happy as a lark. Sadly, the car wasn't as happy. Lance had worked some voodoo on it and it once the car was signed over to me went ka-put. Little did I know how bad it was.

It sat in the driveway for a month or so until I miraculously met up with Jeff Chong & the boys at Sutton Engineering. They took me and my Dodge under their wings and hooked me up. It took many weeks and many dollars to get the monster up to code but when he was done it was a real tiger. I drove it every day for almost 2 years. It never looked much better than the day I brought it home, but it drove like a champ. Eventually the current boyfriend convinced me to take up driving his 90's Ford Ranger on a daily basis. I think he was jealous of Ol' Blue (I had known & loved that car longer than than him). I drove the Ranger with the intent of letting Blue rest while I fixed him cosmetically. I only got as far as primer-ing it flat black. Once Blue was no longer blue, I usually called him the Old Man. Once my occupation of the Ranger expired, I was back in the Dodge but things we different. He was really leaking exhaust and I kept getting migraines from driving it.

I secretly (Blue didn't know, neither did the BF) began looking for an old wagon that would be tough enough to tow my '63 camper trailer. It was more of a whim than anything because I knew nothing could replace that space in my heart that Blue held....until that is, I met Lucy.

Before I talk about Lucy, lets give Blue his day in the sun:

Sunny days

Side view sans Lance's bamboo

Blue up on the lift, me under it at Sutton

Up next: I love Lucy!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Daddy's Girl

My Dad & I put in a really good day's work on the Dart this last Sunday. Here is an email he sent out with the details!

Mechanical Progress

It was with some trepidation that I went over to my daughter Amber's
this afternoon to resume wrenching on her 1963 Dodge Dart 270 station wagon.

This was in no small part due to the fact that last Sunday we had failed
to align & install the intake and exhaust manifolds with attached
carburetor to the resurfaced cylinder head that we re-installed on her
225 cubic inch slant six engine block.

Our success, today, was largely due to the research Amber had done
online and email advice that she had secured from her friend and MOPAR
expert, Jeff Chong, in Los Angeles. She printed out the resulting
diagrams, text and photos and we had another go at it. The trick was in
not trying to align all the threaded studs in the head with the holes in
the manifolds at the same time. We left out the outboard fasteners on
the exhaust manifold and saved them for last. The nuts and washers on
the top of the manifolds were easy to get started and finger tighten.
Those underneath the manifolds were a real challenge. Fortunately,
Amber bought a couple of magnetic pickup tools the last time we were at
Harbor Freight and they proved to be just the tools to get the washers
on the threaded studs and start the nuts. After we got everything
finger tight, we tackled the outboard washers and bolts on the exhaust
manifold. We drove wedges between the exhaust and intake ports and made
the holes line up. We finger tightened the last two bolts and brought
out the torque wrench to achieve the ten foot pounds specification on
all 14 fasteners.

I am impressed with our success. So is Amber. We fought the good fight
and won this battle. There is still a good bit of work to be done but
we had been at it for a solid three hours, the sun had slid down the sky
and it was getting cool, so we got cleaned up and went out for Mexican
food, Amber's treat.

We'll try to do the radiator and the alternator next weekend, I
suppose. Hopefully, the weather will be as good to us shade tree
mechanics then as it was, today.

Hope you all had a nice weekend, too.


I love my dad SO MUCH! He is so wonderful helping me with this. He doesn't seem to mind that his daughter is crazy for loving this old car. Well, he did own a '60 Valiant and a '69 Dart back in the day. I guess crazy runs in the family!

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Beat Goes On...

Many moons have passed since I first started my head gasket replacement job on Lucy, the wagon. Yesterday my pops & I were coming down the home stretch. We had gotten the head back on w/ new gasket, rocker arm shaft & push rods in place and then torqued it all down to spec. The sun was getting low in the sky and our energy was getting low too but we really wanted to get the exhaust manifolds back on as well. We ran into a memory lapse. Even though I bagged all of the nuts & bolts as they came off and kept them separated, there was bit of confusion. The machine shop guy told me I should replace the bent studs on the head. I had John helping me one day and asked him to remove the old studs so we could get new ones. After he was done, we had more holes than old studs & I couldn't remember how many were there to begin with! We ordered a box of studs, more than enough to fill all the holes and I kindof forgot about it. When my pops & I were trying to mount the manifold we had difficulty aligning it. Suddenly it dawned on me, maybe some of those studs aren't supposed to be there!

We were too tired to continue and I ended up doing some searching on the inter-web for some better pics than my manual has. I came up with this gem of an article:


I think we can do it!

Now I also found this:

This abomination just gave me a stomach ache.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Here is the 1st page to the as of now unfinished comic I started (several years ago) to tell the tale of me and my first love with a Dodge Dart. I have taken some cartoony liberties with the story. In real life, my dad and I both went to C 4 C that day. I would love to finish this episode, color and all and then move on to the other Darts in my life. Also, this page features Bettie, my VW Cabriolet (and one helluva little car). I loved her too. Enjoy this 1st installment:


I'm still "working" on the wagon. I have yet to find a machine shop due to my lack of looking for one. I guess I've been too lazy or too tired from riding the bike all day. Must...not..lose...momentum...ugh.

Monday, October 27, 2008

In Hard Times and in Good....

Oh boy, well a lot has happened since my last euphoric post 2 weeks ago. My old girl has hit a major road block. Two Saturdays ago, I blew a head gasket heading up the Conejo Grade from Ventura to Los Angeles. I was headed to the twice yearly Mopar auto show and swap in Van Nuys CA. The actual event snuck up on me and when my friend and mechanical sensai Jeff emailed
that it was going down, I decided I HAD to go. Not only had I not seen Jeff, Mondo & Ed (The three dudes that really get the credit for resurrecting my first Dodge, Ol' Blue) in over a year, the Fall Fling is THE Mopar hook-up in So-Cal. I knew that there I could pick up nearly every part I am lacking on this new wagon. Also I could oggle the amazing cars in the show and have a sense of pride that indeed, this year I had brought my own bad-ass Mopar.

But Alas, none of that was to happen. Instead I spent the entire Saturday trying to get the car back to home base after an unexpected overheat that resulted in a blown head gasket. The Conejo Grade is a big steep incline that cuts through the mountains like a gateway to or from Ventura County. I have never owned a car that has effortlessly gone up this hill. In fact, my tow truck driver from that fateful Saturday said "If there is a weekness in a car, that hill will find it". I sure found that out the hard way. Half way up the grade the car was losing speed like mad, I shifted into second (its a 3 speed) and made the last bit of the hill going about 25, it was awful. The whole time I was eyeing my heat gauge. Sure enough by the time I hit the top I was near the "danger zone".

I exited in Agoura Hills, not really the most friendly town for jalopy breakdowns. I got plenty of scorn from the Mercedes, BMW and Hummer owners while I had the hood popped up and steaming in front of the water pump at a local gas station. I called Jeff and he diagnosed it as a blown head gasket over the phone. The car was still drivable so I limped to a Jiffy Lube to get some sort of flush to rid my engine of all the radiator fluid it took on. They patched me up enough to head back to Ventura. I had a stop in Thousand Oaks to replace the upper radiator hose which had expanded to twice its size during the over heat. From there I went down the grade and caught traffic in Camarillo, where I exited the 101 and discovered a completely flat passenger-side front tire. After that I called it quits for the day and phoned AAA.

I got towed home and as soon as the car was deposited in the driveway my spirits sank. I knew this was a big deal. For modern cars with aluminum engines, a blown head gasket is often a death sentence. My hope against hope was that I caught the overheat before it got too bad and minimal damage had occurred. The Dodge has the infamous slant six motor, which is of course cast iron. It can take a lot of abuse before it is a lost cause. That knowledge was my only hope. Now all I had to do was build up the courage to take apart my own engine!

My dad and I delved into the process this last weekend. We tore down the engine to remove the head. We had to take apart alot of stuff to get to that stage. We bagged and numbered everything. When we pulled the head and spied the head gasket, we as amature mechanics thought that it looked fine. When you hear the word blown to describe something you imagine smithereens. In actuality it was a very subtle pattern of unusual wear on the gasket, the head and the block. I had to have a seasoned mechanic, Fred point out the not-so-obvious to me. Now the next step is to have the head resurfaced at a machine shop. There are a lot of other projects that popped out of this Pandora's box like a radiator rebuild & thermostat replacement to name a few.

I feel a little better about the situation now that we have gotten an idea of what needs to be done to put Lucy (Oh yeah, that's her name!) back on the road. I have to locate a good/affordable machine shop and once that's done, we can start reassembling the engine. The sooner we can get that done the better because the longer we wait the less we will remember about how we took it apart! Till Lucy is running again, I'm on the Schwinn. I ride to work and back all week, about a mile and a half one way. My boss asked me why don't I ride a moped instead (we have 4)? I told her that seeing as how all my modes of transportation are vintage including my 70's Schwinn, I figured the bike is least likely to break down on the way to work! I don't really mind pedaling to work either, I am getting some killer exercise and not spending a dime on gas. Which is good because every penny is being absorbed by the Dart!

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Dart beginings...

Yay! I got my Dart wagon back from the carburetor shop. Boy did they do a great job! They rebuilt the carb and it is now so clean when I first laid eyes on it, I thought they replaced it all together. The also had to tap out and re-thread an old bolt holding in the choke housing to the engine block. They then replaced the whole apparatus on that one. They put in a new in line fuel filter and some new gas lines leading to and from the filter. They lastly replaced a dodgy (no pun intended) wire heading to my coil. They did one fine job with the tune up and now the wagon is much more road worthy and has been starting right up each time. She's purring like a giant kitten. I will be driving her to and from work and hope no new problems will manifest. I have my eye on some new tires too, just waiting for my next pay check!

Now enough about the new-old car, lets give credit to the past Darts in my life. The whole love affair started when I found a late 60's model Dart in a Cars for Causes auto yard. It was several years ago and way before I had even an inkling of mechanical knowledge. Immediately I was head over heals. It was a 4 door sedan, probably a '68 or so, all red, inside & out. Immaculate condition. The only hitch, it wouldn't start. That didn't keep her from telling me her name though, it was Beulah. She was a big girl. Big and beautiful. My Dad was with me on the lot. We were looking for mopeds not cars. He saw Beulah and loved it too. He told me he had owned a Dart and a Valiant when he was a younger man. He loved those cars. He was all for me to buy it. (My dad is unusually pro crazy mechanical projects come to find out) the boyfriend I had at the time was not so enamored. He told me I would be bringing home an $800 paper weight.

That's right, $800! Oh, how I wanted her. I went back each weekend for about a month, to visit with Beulah and I quickly befriended a dude who worked there. He assured me that these old cars had very little that could go wrong on them. That most likely it was a small problem that kept it from running. As enticing as that was, I had no idea how to work on it and had zero dollars for endless mechanics. Then, finally the disapproving boyfriend went out of town. I had made up my mind to bite the bullet and buy Beulah. If I was to have an $800 paper weight at least it would be a beutiful one! As soon as my day off rolled around, I drove out to C4C. I ran into the yard, cash in hand looking for my Dart. I'm here Beulah, where are you??? I hurried over to her spot in the yard and all I saw was an empty parking space and some old oil stains. What? Where was she?? I looked desperately around the yard, maybe they moved her to the back--nothing! I found the dude who worked there...

"Where's my Dart?", I pleaded.

"Some one bought it yesterday" he said, "they connected some wires and it started right up. They drove it away."

My brain realed, they DROVE it away???? All I could do was stare at her empty parking space. I looked up to the heavens, "BEULLLLLAAAHHHHH!" She was gone.

I do not have any photos of this car. All I know is that she was beautiful and she was the one that got away. It was a valuable lesson though, the universe will provide for you when the time is right. Beulah wasn't meant to be mine, but she was meant to plant the seed in my mind. Over the years weeds grew in my brain and I knew that ONE day, I was meant to have a Dart. It would happen, but not until the stars had aligned.

The only record of Buelah I have is a few pages of a comic that I had started. I will dig those out and post them here. Long live Beulah, I know you are out there somewhere, in good hands.

xoxox, Amber

Coming Soon: The Mighty Blue

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Pushing Forward

Right on schedule, my old Dart has had a break down. There must be some sort of magic in these cars that give you a taste of the open road just long enough to keep you hooked. I had just taken her into shop class and replaced the points & condenser Tuesday night. Yesterday I drove to work, to lunch and right when I left work.....vahhhhhroooommm...sputter...llllvvvmmm....plbbbt. Stopped. In the middle of the street.

I was only about 30 feet from work, barely away from my parking lot. I tried to start her but no dice. Its this carburetor problem that we were aware of --I think--I hope. Luckily, John my heroic BF was right around the corner he had stopped into the shop to bring me my swim suit ( I had water aerobics after work). I called him, Turn around! I'm dead in the water! I pushed her outta the path of direct smashing by oncoming traffic. John pulled up behind me and turned on his hazards, something I lack in the old car. I don't think they had thought of that yet in 1963. Either that or hazards were an option along with such things as seat belts & back up lights. We rolled her into a parking lot and went through the routine of amateurs trying to figure out what was wrong. After nothing brought her back to life, we rolled her down to a shop called "My Mechanic". Surprisingly they were open after 5pm so I went in and discussed my problem with the owner of the shop. Never before have I met such an unsympathetic mechanic. He was nice enough but reminded me that carburetors are a dead technology (no pun intended) and that he grew up in the "fuel injection age". Then he and his off-roading cronies deftly ignored John & I while we gave her a few more tries at starting. Never did he once cast an eye over at the immobile A-body parked cockeyed in front of his shop.

We called our pal, Fred a genuine mobile mechanic. He is such an awesome dude and so down-to-earth he makes any mechanical hopeful feel like they actually have hope. He gave us some suggestions and sympathetically told us that he doesn't really work on carbs either. Earlier in the week re recommended a couple of ways to skirt around our carb problem, just to keep her on the road till we could take it to a shop. Now that those magic tricks stopped working, we needed professional help. There is only one carburetor shop in all of Ventura and luckily it was only a few miles away. We called AAA and arranged a tow. Then we called Pacific Carburetors to check out their business hours. It was now 6:00 and I was certain I would be getting the answering machine. I dialed out and when the machine finished its canned response I began to leave a message. Hi, my name is Amber and I have a 63 Dodge Dart that we are towing.... Right then a human voice is on the line...Hello? Oh, sure I'm still at the shop. We are closed but I'm still here bring it on in. Wow.

We had the tow driver deliver her to Pacific Carburetors. My car looked relieved to be up on the flatbed, getting a free ride. I told her not to get used to it. The guy at PC was there alright, sitting at his desk waiting for us. He received us with the utmost kindness, not perturbed that we had brought a last minute problem to his door. We chatted a bit about the car and about how I'm taking a beginning automotive class. What a cool guy. No wonder Fred recommended him! John and I left the keys with him and looked around the automotive center we were in. Tires, Body work, Upholstery. We considered just leaving the car here for a month and having her tricked out all in one stop. That would cost thousands though so we trained our eye on the tire shop. I do need new tires. We went into their shop, which was also surprisingly still open. We talked to the guy in there, also surprisingly nice. Turns out he and the PC guy are working on each others cars that night. He told us he would find some tires for me. Sweet.

John and I then jumped in his trusty Ford Ranger and went out to dinner to celebrate my car breaking down. Well not really, but we were hungry. Maybe we were celebrating the good guys out there. The ones willing to greet you with a warm handshake, a kind word and welcome you in, even if it is after hours.

Coming soon: the diagnosis!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My Girl

***Note: This Blog submission also appears on my Octopus Moustache blog***

I'm in love--in love with a car. As it turns out, its not just one car either, it is more like a type of car. In a world of automotive cliches there are Ford people, Chevy people, VW people, and among the ongoing list you have your Mopar people. I am officially in the latter category. I am a Mopar girl. Mopar encompasses Dodge, Chrysler and Plymouth makes and models. The word itself derives from Motor Parts. Hence, Mopar. I'm not really sure how it happened, not just my preference for Mopar but the whole darn thing. How did I become a junior gear head?

If I were a dude it would be a bit less befuddling. Dudes have a built in love of cars. I'm not a dude though, I'm a 29 year old female who has just within the last 5 years discovered the art of turning a wrench. I can pin point it back to the mopeds. My dad scored a free Vespa Piaggo that launched a whole stable full of the little buggars. When he dragged the first one home it was He and my two brothers who tooled on it till it sputtered to life. I remember them all in the backyard messing around until the sun went down. Where was I? I'm pretty sure I was doing my hair (a mohawk at least). I guess I had other things on the mind. When I rode that first bike though, everything changed. The work they had put into it resulted in something fun--that you could ride up and down the street at a raucous 30 mph. It wasn't until I got my own moped that I realized it takes almost more work than fun to operate them. Soon I was the one in the backyard cleaning a carb till the sun set on my back. I met a lot of awesome people, all gear heads in some way or another within the moped community. I realized that there were lots of people keeping these things alive. Suddenly I was doing it too. We could all swap advice & tricks I was actually learning how to do stuff on my own. It felt great! Soon my one bike became 3 and 4 and I was officially a junior gear head.

The cross over to automobiles was a huge leap. At first it was way more than I could handle on my own. I had run off and impulsively bought a '63 Dodge Dart for $600. The car itself had an allure I somehow could not deny. It ran well enough on the test drive but as soon as it was in my name, it collapsed in the driveway. There it sat for a couple of months. I was making calls to friends from the moped community seeking advice and finally my bestie, Robin told me to tow it to LA where he would help me get it up and runnin' again. We did some "hacker" type stuff, Robin's version of Mac Gyver meets Mad Max. I was sent on my way back to Ventura and had a pretty awful break down. I made it to Burbank where the car was stranded. I called my friend Jeff who graciously towed it to his friend's auto shop. There I met the coolest most on-the-level bunch of Mopar guys. They knew and loved the Dodge Dart in and out. Jeff is the type of auto genius that can tell you a part number from memory. Amazing. Those guys took the helm and each weekend for two months I went to City of Industry and we wrenched on that old beater. By the time it was finished I essentially had a new car in an old body. They christened it with a beautiful blue engine paint job to match the name of the car, Ol' Blue.

I drove Blue back to Ventura and settled into the ownership of a 45 year old vehicle. Once dialed in Blue's trusty 170 Slant Six never let me down. There were some minor problems but nothing I couldn't fix my self once I knew what was wrong. I even survived a rear end collision in that car but that's another story entirely. It took a lickin' and kept on tickin'. I drove it nearly every day for three years. I was smitten and the deal was sealed that I was a Mopar fan.

In those three years I finally realized that my friends & family aren't always going to be on hand to help me out, so this semester I signed up for an automotive class at the college. Its a good thing I enrolled when I did because just this last week I purchased a "new" old car. I had almost-inadvertently, mostly-on-purpose discovered another cool classic car that I was dying to have. I had to make some deals with the powers that be to get the new car. I sold my Ol' Blue who ran as good as ever but was looking worse for the wear to a fellow who had always wanted a Dart. The next day I went to LA to pick up my dream car.

It is, get this...a 1963 Dodge Dart! Starting to notice a trend?? The real deal breaker is that in addition to being in better shape than Blue, it is a station wagon. Yup. The coolest in my opinion of all the models. Now even though she's nicer looking, I am basically starting over with the mechanical aspect and this time I'm on my own. I have of course already had mechanical problems. I replaced the water pump and some hoses on day one of ownership and then had a bout with it not starting which turned out to be a carb issue. The good news is, we can take our cars into class! Tonight we replaced the points in the distributor together. The look on everyone's faces when I pulled my throaty slant 6 into the bay was priceless. Every guy in there (I'm the only girl) wanted to know what make and model it was. Most of 'em had never seen a 3 on the tree before and some had never even seen a carburetor! They were all amazed by the spacious engine compartment, by the accessibility of all the parts and her smooth 60's styling. Yup, me and my girl wowed those dudes.

Its all starting to sink in now. The fact that I have committed myself to keeping this beast alive and that in return it is committed to getting me around town in style. In the history of cars there is no other motor as famed for reliability than the slant six. Nor is there any other car with the bulletproof reputation of the Dodge Dart and I know that together we are going places.