Friday, February 17, 2012

Paint? Pained?

Time to spin another yarn round this old man, gather round for this one is where life gets very interesting. Pictures shall be added at a later date, when I get around to it...

The last time the saga of Robert was left, the exhaust manifold gasket had been repaired. All was good in the world of Robert, he ran pretty well and was a joy to drive.

Like all good things though, this one ended spectacularly. Driving home from University one day, Robert developed a mild cough. A splutter. And then a full blown asthmatic grinding, wheezing rattle that shook his very bones and felt for the world like the engine was trying to throw itself out of the car.

Nursing it very gently back home, it was taken into the secret lab where it would be rapidly stripped of all non essential components, as well as some rather critical ones, to discover the issue.

It could be heard, easily, that all was not well. It was running on perhaps 2 and a half cylinders. It was blowing smoke. There was a nasty acid smell. The old man had definitely had some kind of seziure. Getting the head off was the most major surgery I had ever done on a car up to this point, and the idea of what lay beneath was terrifying, and enticing at the same time.

Cracking the head revealed... A blown head gasket. Nothing too horrible to fix, thankfully. A replacement was ordered, the head was faced by a place that, genuinely, gives the best head jobs in town. Replacement parts for various bits were ordered and shipped quickly, and very soon the repair was ready to commence.

Everything went back together by the book. Amazingly, there were no major problems. No, wait, I lie. After everything was back together, there was a monumental coolant leak from the front of the engine. A rubber o-ring had perished, and lucky me, it was a special one that required an original replacement part. The nearest ford dealer was twelve kilometers away. There was no car to drive there.

I didn't care.

I got on my bike and rode there, fast as the wind, to retrieve the missing part of Robert's heart.

And once he was on the road again, he was as happy as the day he rolled off the showroom floor.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Time to start blogging proper.

So I was working on The Car today, just a little paint job I've been meaning to do for ages but haven't gotten around to. Bit the bullet and got onto it finally.
 First up, a quick bit of masking and covering. I know, I know, not nearly enough covering. I'll get the mist off the rear window tomorrow with some kero.

On the plus side, it came up pretty damn good! See bottom pic for results.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

On Robert.

Let's talk history. I mean, the history of the hot hatch, to be precise. It's been going on a long time, and the war between the sedan lovers and the hatch desirers shows no signs of abating. One fusilade after another, every barrage of cars fired from the manufacturers becomes sleeker, faster, stronger, and greener.

What about a little trip down memory lane? Let's go to a little car known as Robert. He's a good little car, sturdy, reliable - well, almost; and most importantly, a hatch. He is a KB laser, from 1983. The second generation of the light, fast japanese designed, australian built country tourers.

The Laser came in three variants: Go Comfortable, Go Fast, and Go Very Fast - with the last one being limited to a production run of just 500, turbocharged and with every bit of fat liposuctioned clear out of the already almost skeletal frame, it was a menace on the rally and track circuit.

Sharing some design constants with its bigger overseas brother, the Ford Escort, the little Laser had strong lines, and a shape that set the design language for hatchbacks for nearly a decade.

A single carb, 1.3 or 1.5 litre, four banger engine were available as stock options, or for a different approach, twin carbs on the sport version. A mighty 80 horsepower pushing around less than 1 ton of car made for a quick and nippy driving experience, and at any speed you could have a great time.

So how has all of that translated for Robert across 28 years? Well... not very well I'm afraid. Poor Robert, when I took ownership, had many, many foibles. He wheezed, he spluttered, he drinks oil like it's going out of fashion and trying to get him going in the morning is harder than getting Jeremy to avoid making fun of Hammond for a single episode. He has rust, the steering wheel is perpetually tilted slightly to the left, two of his wheels are polished, one is peeling and the other has taken a trip to Tasmania; His roof rack mounts have faded, peeled and cracked, the stereo is probably worth more than the car twice over, and worst of all, there is an odd smell, like a cat has just gone to the toilet in the cabin, whenever it rains.

He has cost me well over his worth in repairs, and every few months he tries to die on me, only to be jolted back into the world of the mechanically living by the power of a few simple tools and elbow grease. The head gasket blew one day while driving home, and he limped home under the power of only two cylinders, and he was immediately dissected on the back lawn and brought back to life. The transmission died while he was visiting Melbourne, only to be repaired within a few days.

And you know what? It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter an ounce. Robert is still, to this day, a ridiculously fun car to drive. You can beat him up and he still calls for more, you can tear up a twisty deserted road doing 20 and feel like you are doing 200, and when he is sick, he can be mended with nothing more than a piece of fishing line and a tin can.

He is the happiest old man in the world, a geriatric, amnesic, athsmatic old wheezing runner still trying to push that last step over the finish line, and a kindly old grandpa who will take you into his wing and tell you a story while giving you the lollies that you aren't supposed to have - and most important, over all of that, he has acres and acres of personality, bubbling over every day you drive.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Intermission 1: A cruise!

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of Father and myself, Robert is running on full steam - but you don't know that yet, as far as you are concerned the poor man is still on my driveway being repaired!

However, this weekend just past has seen another assemblage of completely disparate people into a group of mad, tiny-car driving lunatics with an unhealthy obsession for cars named for light emitting devices.

Well, there's no accounting for taste, is there?

On this event, the meetup location was to be originally at a mall, however that was soon changed due to rapidly spiking attendance numbers - twenty, if all people involved were telling the truth (they weren't).

So, an early morning, looking at a grey haze of sky and a bleak cold wind blowing from the west. Not exactly auspicious conditions to take several front wheel drive cars for a spirited run around the hills, to be sure. In fact, you would be hard pressed to say that it was good conditions at all, for anything, except perhaps getting very cold and wet.

And speaking of wet, the first arrival after myself and Robert was the organiser of this little expedition, in his slightly younger and more powerful TX3. Get off my lawn!

Being that he'd not cleaned it for a week or so, first things first, into the shower! Of course, it would all be for naught seeing as it was continuing to be doom and gloom in the sky, and I could even see the first pricklings of rain in the distance... headed towards us?

By the time the little tx3 was washed and drip drying in the carpark, nobody else had rocked up.

By which I mean, not a damn soul had actually decided to stick to the arranged meeting time.

*cue transition music and a fade-to-black* -A very long time later-

People started to arrive, and promptly decided that cleaning cars was a priority. Thankfully, I had cleaned mine the night before and it hadn't even rained a drop, for which I was rather grateful.

D'awww, who's a gorgeous little 28 year old laser? No, wait, manly thoughts, manly thoughts. Must have horsepower and loud noises! (You'll find out about that later)

Some hooligans (fellow laser owners) were standing around my car at this point and being that out of the twenty people attending, some twenty-five had decided to not turn up, we decided to call it quits and get moving, before anyone else decided to not turn up.

A short drive, a detour and a u-turn due to roadworks, with an increasingly heavy sky, this was not looking promising... not at all. The rain would cause the roads to be slick, and the slick roads would cause death and pain and destruction to everything within a five kilometer radius of any car that went anywhere near the speed limit, and then we would all be killed and sent to gaol! This would not do.

As we passed the outer limits of suburbia, we began to climb. As we climbed, my world transformed, the gods cried out 'This Shall Not Pass!' and the clouds parted to reveal the most glorious clear blue sky, filled with nothing but cool, dry air and the most staggering views. Suddenly, the day had turned from doom and gloom to bright and hopeful, and with a sudden cry from the engine of pure joy, the cruise began in earnest.

For hours we climbed, dipped and swooped, chasing each others' tails through the curvaceous Adelaide hills, from Chain of Ponds clear through the spine of the ranges, with nothing but brilliant sky, the fierce roar of the four pot engines blaring, all in their different tunes, with their varied ranges, assembled to create a wonderful symphony of horsepower.

It is truly a reminder of how beautiful this country is, and the wide range of views afforded by only a short jaunt out from a busy city, even one as small and quiet as Adelaide, are nothing short of amazing. Steep climbs, bracketed on one side by sharp, torn rubble and blind entry driveways, roads so narrow that you can smell the fear on the oncoming driver's breath as they pass your window at sixty or eighty, and then you blast out of the tight bits and onto long, rolling straights and sedate, high speed curves, with views only really afforded to the lucky few who live in this marvellous land.

One moment that caught my breath in my throat, and tried to capture, was the awe of going through the autumnal falls, still coloured vibrant reds, oranges and yellows, even this far into winter, and seeing the leaves swirl around the cars as we revved our way through the small towns, the cars eager to be unleashed again at the higher limits.

 When we reached our destination and had some lunch, we moved our cars to a carpark at a peak on the hills, nought more than gravel and mud. And while the cars ticked themselves cool, we were able to chatter and enjoy the company of like minded individuals. Because while we are, in our own ways, completely different, we are united by our passion for our vehicles.

Even though some may never name their cars, and even though some may never understand the passion that goes on under the surface, one thing that all car enthusiasts can agree on is this; The car is the place to go, when you are sad, when you are angry, when you are elated. Your car, be it a twenty eight year old laser or a brand new supercar, will never judge you, and will always support you, if you will support it.

Thank you, Robert. Thank you, for everything.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Death by sleep

We now return you to your infrequently scheduled programming.

Once the father figure finished prodding the bottom end of the engine bay, it was discovered that the exhaust manifold gasket was, for lack of a better word, missing. This is only a very small issue, as it merely prevents exhaust gases from leaking around the edge of the manifold join and into the engine bay, where they are free to enter the front vents for the cabin air intake.

Where one could, hypothetically speaking, pass out from oxygen deprivation due to fume inhalation.

So, having spent many an hour in the company of Robert and his toxic secretions, it was decided that something should be done about that, post haste! So, a manual was purchased for the repairing of the engine, and time was set aside on a cloudy weekend for performing the operation.

At this stage, very little was known about how to dismantle an atomic bomb - erm... Wrong story. At this point in time, i knew nothing about disassembling bits of engines, and even less about how to properly drain fluids! Well, my incompetence caused a degree of incontinence on Robert's part, which left me with egg on my face and coolant on my leg.

Still, it was all good, and after a time i got into the swing of things, pulling bits out of the engine from the bottom up, and discovering the joys of being completely unable to reach a bolt with every extension on a ratchet...

Now, at the time i could not have predicted how much work would eventually get done on poor Robert to make him survive until the next catastrophic failure, but there was one thing i did know... The mechanic that had serviced my Sterling Steed prior to my ownership clearly was a direct descendant of lesser-evolved primates. There were 3 bolts missing from the exhaust manifold, as well as a nut, and a stud. The whole thing was being held on by 2 nuts and a bolt! Well, that at least explained why Robert had sounded a little like a truck driving along the road... with it's exhaust brake on...

Robert's heart was becoming more exposed, and in keeping with practical surgery the world over, a record was taken of the frightful state of the broken parts, and the engine bay. As follows, going clockwise from the top left working inwards: Brake booster cylinder and fluid bottle; carburettor (minus air filter); coolant overflow chamber; vacuum system cylinder, battery, radiator, one of two EGR system pipes (the silver tube), exhaust manifold, engine proper (rocker cover visible only), fuel pump, distributor. Perhaps at some point i may make a labelled diagram of all elements in the engine bay... references are good!

And then, just when we had fixed the gasket... a shocking discovery!
Needless to say, all the spark plug leads were replaced immediately. Funnily enough, running on 3 cylinders probably hadn't been doing the head gasket much good...

Still, once he was all mended, and we had put his parts back together as well as drained the oil and given him a much needed service, Robert felt very happy again... although, there was still much work to be done! But for now, that is all, as this chapter ends with another inspection by the Father Figure...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A little history lesson!

Greetings, wilkommen, etc etc etc.

Meet Robert:

This, is what I tend to do to Robert:

This is a continuing chronicle of the tales of Robert.

But any tale needs a beginning, and dropping you, dear viewer, right in the middle of this tale would be most remiss of me! Thus, I shall spin you a tale of mechanical pain and glory!

It began with a Corolla called Robbie, and a Laser called Bert. Robbie was my first car, and the first car to be killed by pure negligence. That tale is past now though, and not one to dwell on. The second, and far more significant tale, is that of Bert.

Bert was The Girl's car. She had been using him for many years, and he had developed a bit of a terrible chest infection, and had a very throaty cough. However, he had done her well and served as loyal a steed as possible, until he was replaced by Moira... a very shiny Red Barina, with the personality and guts to match, and importantly, air conditioning!

Thus poor Bert was put out to pasture. An old man, he was merely going to reside in a yard until he suffered a terminal case of rust:

Or was wrecked for being in the way. Thankfully, his connection was stronger than it seemed and he was held on to for sentimental reasons.

As it happened, I had only gotten my L's 12 months prior to Robbie's tragic demise at the hands of the outbound freeway, the colossal hill murdering his engine and leaving him dripping fluids on the side of the road, never to be started again. In the time on my L's, I had driven Bert a little, and had been given an initiation in the strange world of the manual choke... and cars with drag racing gearing for first gear!

The Girl, love of my life, took it upon Herself to teach me how to drive, which is how I ended up spending time in the geriatric old Bert. He didn't take to me at first, all cramped and uncomfortable, I could never fit properly and he didn't want to go smoothy for me, all stop start and grumbles, but he did get me some hours.

Sadly, once I had my P plates, Bert was once again put out to pasture, living a quiet life while I trundled around in Robbie, blissfully unaware that the engine cutouts at speed, and the oil light flashing intermittently, were only symptoms of a much deeper problem.

On the night Robbie died, I had been following She Who Must Be Awesome up the freeway, and enjoying myself, when Bert reached out from the top of the hill and declared that He Must Live Again.

Thusly, Robbie was killed, and I was picked up in the stylish Moira. Many a tear was shed that night, for my first charge, though he may have been a little slow and senile, was still my first car.

But upon that grave, rose Bert, like a phoenix from the ashes. He was gifted to me, and with a little rename to indicate the start of his new life, as well as the history involved, Robert was born unto my driveway. With a little prodding of levers and switches, a fit was found, like a glove, and Robert accepted my presence.

Robert stayed with me initially at a place away from my parents, where I was staying and being cared for, and He did treat me well, even though he did cough and splutter, he got me around. However once I moved *back* to my parents... well. Some inspection by the Father Figure was required, of course:

Robert was parked in the driveway and immediately dissected, for his illness was grave and dire. This illness will be the topic of my next post, so stay tuned, I'll be back soon!