Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Progress at last…

Despite some killer temps and humidity I managed to make some decent progress on the truck bed over the weekend…

Before I get into that though, I was reminded on Friday of the fellow that owned the Dodge dealership in Oneida, NY I worked in after closing the shop. His name was Frank Ryan.

Frank was in his 60’s at the time I’m pretty sure. He was at work everyday though, as was his sister Josephine. Many of the sales reps were also at or near retirement, and had been at the car game for a long time.

Frank was one of the ‘cleanest’ car dealers I’d ever been around. He didn’t take shortcuts, and he tried very hard to sell cars that would bring people back to his place when they wanted another. His vision was more ‘down the road’ than, ‘here and now’.

I remember this one car, it was only a year or two old, a mid-late seventies Duster/Demon I think, but it was the worst color/interior combination I think I’d ever seen, lime green exterior, with a red (I think, or it was some equally clashing color) interior.

We were outside the dealership as we were closing up one evening, and I mentioned that I would never have taken the car in trade, and that I thought he’d never sell it.

His response is something I remember to this day. “Billy, there’s a butt for every seat; all I have to do is find the right one.”

At the time I remember thinking he’d have better luck finding the right person for the car if he painted it a different color, or took it to a big city, instead of trying to sell it in that little town. Funny thing though, the car was sold in less than 2 weeks. He was right; I did the final delivery prep on the car, and was there when the customer picked it up.

He was raving about the car and color, and how he’d been looking for one specifically that color for a long time.

You see Frank understood something about human nature. That beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, that despite ‘our’ thoughts about the car and its color combinations, there was someone out there who would see it as beautiful. The challenge then, was to put aside personal preferences, and allow that person to find the car. The better job the dealership did of ‘exposing’ the car to potential buyers, the higher the likelihood a buyer would be found.

So what he did, rather than hiding the car on the back of the lot, was put it in the front row. He also placed it in the newspaper, and encouraged the sales people to show it to anyone looking for a car in that size/price range. His efforts resulted in the car being sold in about two weeks, at retail and a profit, instead of it being taken to an auction and sold, most likely, at a loss.

I’ve thought about that conversation many times over the years, and how appropriate Frank’s attitude was, not only to that specific car, but to life in general. So often we allow our personal likes, and dislikes, to color our view of the world. Then, once we’ve ‘tinted’ the world we wonder why everyone doesn’t see, what we see. Why they “just don’t get it” like we do.

I think, most times, we’d be much better off if we just let things be what they are, like Frank did with that car. Don’t attempt to change them, but instead just let them be, highlight their uniqueness and let things work out, however they eventually work themselves out.

Obviously this doesn’t apply to criminal behaviors, or other such decisions folks make that cause harm to others, but more to life in general. I’ve lived in communities (not for very long mind you) where if your grass got above a certain height, the ‘community’ would have it mowed, and send you a bill. Others where the paint you intended to put on your house had to be ‘approved’ before you could change the existing color.

I also lived in another ‘historic district’ where energy efficient windows were ‘not allowed’ as they weren’t available when the home was originally built.

I think about the amount of time, money, and energy folks there were expending to ‘make sure’ all of the neighbor’s homes looked as ‘period correct’ as possible. To what end?

These are simplistic examples of the much larger ‘group think’ mentality we all are often prone to. Some one’s too pretty, not pretty enough, doesn’t wear the right clothes, behave in the right manner, drive the right car or have the right kind of job/career.

If Frank had thought that way, that old car would probably have never been sold; if I was thinking like that I’d certainly not be putting all the work into restoring this old truck. I think, that sometimes we just have to do what we feel is the right thing to do, regardless of what anyone else might think. Paint your house purple or white, turn your yard into a ‘forever wild’ area or landscape it to the n-th degree, drive a Hummer or an old beater to work, whatever it is that makes you feel good about the life you’re living.

Anyway… back to the more important subject of the truck!!

I mentioned in the last post that I’ve come to believe the undercoating is a very evil substance when it comes time to remove it. While it certainly serves a very useful purpose as both a sound deadener and rust preventative, it’s one of the most difficult substances to remove I’ve ever had to deal with.

Forget sandblasting it. First, you really aren’t supposed to use sand for sandblasting any more. Something about free silica and lung problems (it would have been nice it they’d mentioned that 30 years ago!), so today, we use ‘media’… Glass beads, garnet and aluminum are the ‘media’ locally available to me. A fifty pound container of garnet is about $20, and while 50#’s will strip a fender, it won’t do a quarter of an inner fender when removing rust proofing.

Then there’s paint strippers, which kind of work, but often take three or more applications to completely remove the old material and result in a gooey, toxic slime that has to be scrapped off and disposed of.

Sanding devices, like various grinding wheels, sandpaper, wire wheels etc, all work to some degree, but very quickly warm the material and that clogs the ‘grit’, so basically you wind up doing more of a “pushing it around” process than actual removal, and have to change the wheels fairly quickly.

So what works? A healthy application of elbow grease, applied to a good selection of scrapers of varying widths and degrees of stiffness and, patience. Removing the majority of the undercoating from the two rear fender wells took the better part of an entire day, at least 9 hours. To finish the job I’ll need to ‘wash’ the remnants off with some petrochemical product, I just have not settled in on one yet.

The obvious question is, why go through all of this on the areas that don’t appear to be rusted? The not so obvious answer is that it’s very likely that there’s rust being concealed by the undercoating. Most vehicles, in the late 70’s, in the Carolinas, were not ‘rust proofed’ at the factory. It was most often a ‘Dealer applied’ or aftermarket process. Sometimes, undercoating is sprayed on by the owner in an attempt to halt, or slow down a visible rust problem (or worse yet, to cover one up).

So, given the extent I’m going to with everything else on this truck, making sure, where ever I can that I’m finding and repairing ALL the rusted components seems a logical decision to me.

I can tell you though, that in the afternoon heat and humidity, I was really questioning my sanity!

Probably the best thing that happened was finding the existing rust on those wheel wells. In order to form and weld in the patch panels, and avoid a fire, it was necessary to remove at least a portion of the undercoat, so removing it all seemed the right thing to do.

So far it’s proven a good decision. I found a lot of ‘hidden’ rust that, if left untreated, would certainly have been showing up in the paint job by this time next year. A scenario I’m hoping to avoid!!

So, now that the fenders are nearly completely stripped, of course, I discovered today that there’s a ‘strip shop’ in town!! So, I requested a quote on stripping the bed itself, and dipping these fender wells too. I could have done this “research” before I’d sweated through the weekend, but if I’d done that I would not have experienced first hand all of the effort involved in manual undercoating removal!! For me, sometimes I have to reach the limit of my patience before I actually look for a better, more effective solution.

Once I know what these folks charge, and if it’s reasonable enough, I may dip the cab as well!! It will mean a lot more of the truck (like all the dash gauges, wiring, controls, vents, etc.) will have to come apart, be bagged up, tagged and stored in such a way that I’ll be able to somehow find them again… but, I think overall it would sure make for a much nicer final product!!

So, for the moment, the project is on hold. One, it’s just far too hot out there right now. It’s about 97F today and the dew points are in the upper 70’s, ‘Tropical’ is when the dew point is over 70, this morning the weather guy was saying our dew point was 75, and he’s never seen one above 77... Pretty hot and steamy out there. Two, if I can send out the bed floor for stripping that will save me another full weekend, the cab probably two full weekends, so I’m waiting to hear what they say.

Thanks again for stopping by… I’ll try to get some pics of the weekend work up by tomorrow.


Beth said...

It's hot here also, Bill. I love when you write about upstate NY. That's my neck of the woods. =)

I do love historic districts though and cringe when I see energy efficient windows on period homes.

Jordi said...

very good blog...

Bill said...

Knitter - I'll be writing a lot about Upstate NY soon as I'll be spending a week on Onieda Lake shortly! I spent 40+ years of my life there... it's a great place!

I love older homes too... but, you know there are all sorts of authentic appearing retrofit windows for older homes... If you can't tell from 30 feet, how much harm can it really do though?

yomismo - Thank you... I stopped by yours, unfortunately the only language I read well is english. :(

I hope you'll be back

jenbeauty said...

Just truly impressed the progess that you are making. Takes loads of dedication but in the end it must feel wonderful just looking at your accomplishment.

I like the Frank story. I think about those same things weekly. We could afford a bigger home in a different neighborhood. However, that would entail my working more, less vacations and no going and doing small fun things with the kids. Who do I need to impress? Is my family going to love me any less? Well maybe a few but in the long run it is what is best for us and our future. We will have the house paid off when my daughter graduates high school. To me that is huge and is what matters, not the bigger home.

Beth said...

Bill, I think it's the historical aspect of the home. When I tour an older home or when I lived in them, even the windows were journeys into the past. You have to expect the drafts in these homes. It's why they're old. lol It's just my opinion though. I just don't like new windows or vinyl siding on older homes. It's tacky to me.

I hope you enjoy your time in NY. I really love the state!

Bill said...

Jen - my feelings exactly!! I think it's important to determine what's important to us, and work for those things we feel are important... I mean, otherwise, what's the point of it all?

Knitter - I'm with you on the vinyl siding, I don't even like it on new homes... but again, it's a personal matter in my eyes... which is the main reason we didn't buy the home we liked in the historic distrct... too many rules, and none of the people making the rules were even around 'back in the day'...

Upstate NY has a lot to offer, unfortunately for me, career opportunities wasn't one of them. I think the reason I settled into NC was the fact the 'terrain' is similar, there was more work, and, winters are far milder, but we still get a little snow, and 4 distinct seasons.

Firehawk said...


More misery has been brought about by trying to "correct" other people and their behaviors than just about anything else. Any relationship is doomed to failure if one person is trying to fix the other one. With the taste issue, the old say, "One man's trash is another man's treasure," really applies. It's okay if one person loves pink and red and purple all together. If it makes 'em happy, how bad can it be?

Hearing you talk about rust/undercoat stripping reminds me again of the work I have to do on my old truck. It's been scorching here, too. Triple digits all this week. It was 104 at 5:30 the other day. Weird weather. All spring, it was playing "Seattle", and now it's deciding to be "Vegas". The heat's certainly made me lazy. I shirked cutting the lawn yesterday to sit in front of a fan and read a Spenser novel. Sounds like you're a lot more motivated than I was.

No_Newz said...

Although I already have a picture of everything right inside of my head, I can't wait to see the photos!
It's really too bad Frank never opened a clinic on how to be a REAL car salesman. Sounds like Frank is a diamond in the rough.
Lois Lane

Joy said...

I very much enjoyed reading this Bill. And of course it is in all of our hearts to hope that our words and comments through life will help another to realize things that perhaps could not have before. "The challenge then, was to put aside personal preferences, and allow that person to find the car."
I think that ideal can be applied to a lot of things that would help people gain some patience they really need.
Thanks Bill :)

Stranger Ken said...

Hi Bill. I'm sorry to have been neglecting your progress lately. No excuses, really, except the twin demands of life and poetry! As for your auto renovation, it takes my breath away to think of all the work and time you must be putting in. Mind you, writing a sonnet can be that hard, too! Ask Firehawk! Take care!

Bill said...

Firehawk - What is it with us humans, and wanting desperatly to be 'individuals', and yet, wanting everyone to be like us? It's strange to me, yet, I have to admit, as I grow older, some of the young folks look 'strange' to me... the first time I felt that, I realized for the first tiem what my parents had to have been feeling.

As for the motivation, I don't know what gets me out there sweating, other than the need to complete the picture that's in my head. (I certainly procrastinate enough at other times)

Lois - One more day for the photos... we had a pretty bad storm blow through tonight and I'm a bit off schedule. As for Frank, he was definitely 'one of a kind', and man he loved the car business.

Joy - Thanks for stopping by, and for your comments... I like knowing my words have made someone think, even if only for a moment! :)

Ken - No need, I know you've been busy too, as evidenced by your posts lately. I'm glad to see you though, I always enjoy your input.

Spirit Of Owl said...

I've been flattened by heat - and that's here in the UK! Amazing. But the hayfever and asthma (sniff poor me!) have been absolutely terrible.

You're a trooper as ever working through these conditions. I wasn't entirely clear, did you use a powered sanding tool, or just paper and tackle? I mean, whoa. Surely there's a point where it becomes plain old masochism! LOL

I have to say I'd be astonished if I was told that I couldn't do what I wanted with my own home. A lot of those sorts of things are in the deeds when you buy, though, aren't they? Anyway, if there are so many restrictions on a home, don't buy it. Sorry GK, but I wouldn't want to live in 17th Century conditions just because the neighbours and tourists thought it looked better!!!