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Motor Age Garage: Recovery efforts

Oh, the work we put in to resuscitate, repair and resurrect a vehicle.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - 07:00
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My dad used to take me to his shop when I was a small boy, and so I kind of cut my working teeth on wrenches. And because just about everybody in our area knew my dad or knew of him, my connection to him meant that I never had a problem finding a job as a mechanic. Buying and fixing derelict vehicles was a way of life for us, and as I got older, I found myself noticing vehicles in our community that were sitting fallow without much wrong with them.

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I was 19 years old when I asked a man named Oscar, why that 1964 Chevy pickup he once drove was sitting out next to a pile of tin with a flat tire – at the time, that truck was only 12 years old. Compare the age of that vehicle to a 2002 model today.

You don’t have to drive very far in this part of the country to find vehicles rotting away. Who knows why they parked this very nice Camry, but it hasn’t moved in at least two years.

“It was running when I parked it there a couple of years ago,” he told me. “It just needs that left front tire aired up and I think a battery would get it going.”

I knew that truck because I had driven it when it was newer, and I always loved those mid-’60s Chevy pickups.  So I bought it from him on the spot for $150, and it was very easy to get it running again.

Five years later when I was working in Texas, I took a few vacation days and made a trip back to Southeast Alabama. As I visited my friends, I dropped by to see Oscar’s son Danny, who also was one of my best buddies, and I noticed that his cloud blue 1973 LTD was sitting not 200 yards from where that 1964 Chevy truck had been parked, all covered with pecan tree smut. He had purchased that car when it looked brand new and was only a couple of years old, but that had been years ago.

This was causing the Malibu’s intermittent no-crank – replacing the battery did nothing to solve the real problem – we replaced this cable with a new one and the cop drove away with a big smile.

“What’s up with the LTD?” I asked. I wasn’t surprised at his reply.

“Well, it was running when I parked it,” he began. It was déjà vu all over again. Well, that one needed a tune-up and a battery, and while I didn’t buy the car, I did volunteer to get it running so he could sell it to somebody besides the junk man – and it ran really well.

No vehicle is immune from this kind of neglect. Not too far from where I’m sitting as I type these words, there sits a Toyota Camry of the 2002-2006 body style generation that is parked and wasting away for some reason, and a few days ago I saw a Mercedes of about the same vintage that has obviously been sitting fallow for months.

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