We’ve reached the end of April

As I write this, tomorrow will be the first day of May. You’re probably reading this on the first day of May. We’re still stuck in COVID-19 limited contact rules, but things are looking up. At the top of things, my state of residence, Kentucky, acted aggressively back in March, and it seems to be paying off. Deaths have fallen far below projections, and we’re starting to open stuff back up.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been able to keep working, albeit from home, which has been a huge adjustment. Oddly, I’ve been crazy busy at work and haven’t been able to sneak away as much as I’d like to get car stuff done, but nonetheless, car stuff has been done.

Tire coming apart, oops.

Work on the Probe has actually been pretty thin. The RE-71Rs I corded at NCM in March were replaced by Federal 595RS-RR tires (95% of the performance at half the price), and some new LED lighting has gone in with wiring fixes to get all the lights working. I made a new floor to cover the spare tire well, and I got the last of my planned vinyl. I’ve been putting miles on it, too. It’s done grocery store runs and various other errands. It is a perfectly usable street car. And the test and tune at NCM was invaluable. We learned the front alignment is spot-on for track work. The rear alignment was a bit whacked due to a seized toe adjuster on the left rear that likely contributed to a couple of spins (along with some hamfisted driver, but we’ll blame it on the toe, ok?), but that’s been fixed. I did finally get my vinyl from autocrossmagnets.com with my name and social media tags, so that’s on the car and ready.

But my first Optima Event in Atlanta was rescheduled to July. Big props to FM3 for avoiding a cancellation and scoring the reschedule. With the SCCA releasing guidance already on how to operate events in our new normal, I have a feeling the USCA will likely follow suite, and most amateur automotive events (low crowd load, no fans) will proceed beginning in mid-May or early June. Hopefully.

Grocery Run!

One disappointment is Hot Rod Power Tour. FM3 did manage to reschedule it to August, but my grand plan was a bucket-list week with my father and my daughter taking the Grand National across country. Double hit there. The rescheduled week was after my daughter should be back in school, and my father, while probably the toughest man I know, has some underlying conditions and a compromised immune system, so any crowds are out of the question for him until a vaccine is widely available. It’s just too risky. However, the organizers were very gracious and allowed me to push my registration to 2021, so we’ll try next year.

So what have I been doing? What’s my quarantine project? Mercedes work!

My lovely girlfriend has this 1993 Mercedes Benz 300SL. It’s got a bazillion miles. The odometer stopped working at 137K fifteen years or more ago. We’ve been keeping it running so she could get to work, but it’s a typical 1990s Benz. The important stuff like the driveline work great even with half a million miles on it. The accessories not so much. The top doesn’t work anymore due to a hydraulic leak. It doesn’t lock. But it runs like a champ and still rides great. It even has Powerstop brakes on it!

But it’s a bit of an unknown, so my girl bought another car to commute with right before getting laid off due to the shutdown. Good thing she paid cash.

With the replacement car in hand, attention turned to selling the Benz. Sadly, it didn’t look the part. The clear had started to come off in many places. It was fugly. So my quarantine project became fixing the paint so she could sell it. That turned out to be a larger undertaking than I’d anticipated. The front bumper cover broke into three or four pieces when I removed it. The entire hood was trashed. The trunk was trashed. The rear bumper cover was split in two spots. It was a mess.

Repaired bumper cover

So, as of this writing, I’ve repaired the front bumper cover and painted it. I managed to repair the side mirrors and A-pillars using rattle-can Duplicolor products. But the hood, roof, and trunk lid are just too large to paint with a can, so I’ve bought a Harbor Freight HVLP gun and as soon as the weather cooperates with a couple of warm, low humidity days, I’ll be constructing a paint booth in my garage and finishing the job, hopefully without annoying the neighbors too much by the smell. I’m lucky that I’ve cleared the activity with the neighbor on one side. The house on the other side is under renovation and vacant, and I have a plan to filter the air coming out of the

Refinished A-pillar and mirror

garage and dump it forward into my yard to disperse instead of venting to the alley and pissing off the neighbor behind me. Keep an eye on this space for the finished product.

Oh! And I lost a weekend due to vandalism. I say vandalism, but it was really attempted theft. Some jackass tried to steal Johnny Bravo, my Period Correct Tow Pig. They smashed the rear window, then tried to start it without the key. The ignition lock assembly did as designed and failed in such a way as to completely immobilize the truck, and they fled. But they left a mess. It took all day to drill the old lock cylinder out to where I could remove it and replace it. And it was nearly a week before I could get the rear window replaced an expense of nearly $400. But it’s fixed now, and hopefully the little shits learned their lesson and won’t try to steal it again.

Drilled lock cylinder, this only took four hours.

Once the Mercedes is done, I can pull the Buick out of my Dad’s shop and finally bring it home. While I’m doing Ultimate Street Car events with the Probe, I plan on running the Buick in the DriveAutoX series, with the goal of winning my way into UMI’s King of the Mountain event. Not sure I’ll be able to pull that one off, but I’m going to try. I also hope to take the Buick to the SCCA Solo Nationals in September. Maybe. I don’t plan on running any other SCCA national events this year, though I still have the CAM Challenge at Peru as a maybe. We’ll see how the season pans out.




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