Friday, October 22, 2004

The very coolest people on earth look even cooler on a 1978 moped.

This is the perfect example of what to buy. If you are thinking, "Maybe I will start going to garage sales, but what would I buy?" this is an awfully good starting point. Despite low purchase price, many items skyrocket as you fix them up as even the most minor components quickly eclipse your best bargain. But this Puch is a real garage find. Very complete.

Astute readers will note the cleanliness of the carburator. Before I clean up the Puch, I want to be sure I am up and running without issue or concern. Therefore, I have removed the 1/4" of lacquered gasoline from the carburator bowl. I ordered a few parts from, I shit you not, Moped Warehouse. God bless the internet. A new fuel jet, some fuel line, a fuel filter and a new fuel petcock are on their way.

11 reasons why the Puch is so cool:

1. It looks crummy, but it is all surface rust and filth
2. It is all there
3. The color
4. Made in Austria
5. Puch. Sounds like Puke. And it is Puch green.
6. Internal combustion engine
7. The name, Maxi Luxe
8. 2 Stroke!
9. Pedals! If you break down, you can pedal home! Built in contingency plan. Bad ass.
10. Book carrier
11. 150 mpg! Put that in your hybrid pipe and smoke it!

Pages stained with crumpet butter

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about changing my life to a completely different era. Certainly there is precedent for it, as there are any number of people living the lifestyle of a 50's greaser, but I was thinking of a less obvious era. Before I bought the Puch, I thought I would adopt a 1975 Gregg Allman, 1972 Chevy custom van, San Fernando Valley, Hi-Fi, swimming pool contractor lifestyle. Besides aesthetic benefits, the costs would be so low. All avocado blenders and 8-tracks.

Now that I have the Puch, I think I will adopt the 1979 sensitive college student. Occasionally crashing my Puch and throwing myself on the ground crying. Listening to My Aim is True and drinking cheap chianti as fast as I can so I can stick a candle in it to put on my board and concrete block bookshelves. Riding around on my moped and dressing like I was in a Wes Anderson movie.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Ultimate Heavy Metal Parking Lot Barf Bag Party Vehicle

This is the ultimate party vehicle for the Girls Gone Wild set. Blender, BBQ, 2 kegs, ice chests, a sink, PS2 and the 37 inch plasma tv. The only thing it is missing is the porcelian god hanging off the side for throwing up.

Friday, October 15, 2004

The Merits of Contingency

The back of my BUSS FUSES display. Certainly an effective, elegant way to store fuses. When I purchased the display it was half full and for years I was buying fuse boxes to fill it up. Now, I am so rich with fuses, there is a little stack of overflow fuses sitting on the top.

There are some excellent points made on the back of the box, as you are only as good as your emergency plan. I always have a full toolbox, extra spark plug wire or two, duct tape, electrical tape, some lengths of wire and skateboard for worst case scenario. It is also a good idea to keep a macrame beer can hat in the tool box as well, but that is not always possible. I used keep a collapsible bicycle in the trunk of the 54 Chevy. You know, those small wheeled, tall seat posted collapsible bicycles? That was discontinued as the humiliation of a breakdown was usually severe enough that you would not want to add the further insult of looking like an ass on a clown bike.

The Culprit

Admittedly, the Mercedes 190b brakes project has taken longer than anticipated. I finished the left side, front and back, and was nearly complete with the right side when I came across this mysterious component in the front hub.

When you are disassembling a machine, it is easy to fool yourself that you are the first person to tinker with the innermost workings. The deeper you get, the darker the grease, you really start to believe your own bullshit, that you are the ultimate, fearless mechanic exploring some new frontier. And then, you come across something like this. A bearing race, not from the Mercedes 190b, in fact, not from ANY Mercedes, right there where it is not supposed to be. When you catch your breath, you realize they have lost or broken what should have been there and replaced it with this gouged bearing race from a printing press or a hay baler.

Naturally, I admire the ingenuity and appreciate that they were brave enough to drive with this intruder in place, but come on, this is a good solution for when you are broken down in Nebraska and you steal parts off a farmer's tractor to get to the next town with a Mercedes dealer. This is not a permanent solution!

Like cracking open a coconut and finding a pair of nail clippers inside. Or smashing a seashell to find a tiny plastic Santa Claus. It is very distressing.

As usual, Le Pep Hommes seem to be having a great time

When I bought this oil can, it was so caked in oil that I was not sure at first if it was even the Pep Boys. After all, what does the bucking bronco have to do with cars or motor oil?

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Much Maligned Honda Element

New cars are different, new houses are different, new vaccum cleaners are different. They work well, they are hyper-efficient, they gain strength through clever engineering of the cheapest materials, they are extremely technolgically impressive and, when they are working perfectly, you forget they are there. Old cars, especially unrestored project cars, never let you forget you are driving. You are very involved, trying to coax the car into the correct lane as you have drifted across 2 lanes and are threatening the center divider, while sniffing 'is that smoke?', listening to that tic-tic-tic that seems to be getting louder 'is that a loose rocker?', as the heater blasts you on the hottest summer day and you are, at every moment, on every Sunday drive, with your arm across that beautiful red vinyl bench seat, in grave peril.

Extremely rigid exoskeletons, no wasted parts, nothing over-engineered, ergonomically evolved in ways that Darwin would never believe, cars are becoming like natural objects. Everything in common with nature except they don't age well. Soon, we will be driving honeycombs powered by cockroaches.

For all the bad things I say about the Honda Element, inability to carry tremendous quantities of Korean king mink blankets is not among them.

Candy Apple, My Ass

Looks like it is straight from a Tufte book but if you were custom ordering a Mercedes in 1950's, this is how you would select your car color. My 1961 Mercedes 190b was medium blue, though you would never know it now. All the colors go together so well, imagine what a Mercedes Ponton car lot looked like. Like a mountainside, like a waterfall, like a Japanese scroll painting, like a Kurosawa movie. A perfectly camoflaged herd of gazelle could walk through a Mercedes lot and you would be none the wiser. Makes me want to go to Germany immediately even if these Mercedes are not there, even if I have to eat coldcuts for breakfast, even if the black forest carvings do scare me to actual death.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Nobody is having a better time with junk

The guys from Funky Junk Farms collect stuff that is of Smithsonian quality. I don't have anything of Smithsonian quality, an object or collection that defines an event or period in history. Check out the 1936 Travel Coach that they are selling. I can only imagine the heartbreak associated with that sale. Life interrupts.

I love this 1924 Dodge Truck, it reminds me of the brilliant beat rap in Grapes of Wrath when the car dealer is describing the autos the Okies would buy. Talk about changing your life in a dramatic way. My Pick-Up and Van Spotters Guide only goes back to 1945, so I don't know if those giant solid steel wheels were original. Look at the size of them! Blingbling, indeed.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Disastrous Month of April 1895

In case you ever mistakenly think for a moment that you are clever, turn to Oscar Wilde and you will remember what timeless means.

Among the ephemera for sale at the Sotheby's Oscar Wilde auction, is this remarkable auction catalog from Wilde's bankruptcy auction. Not surprisingly, there are only four known catalog copies, as they make no mention of Wilde, were printed in limited quantity and were certainly discarded years ago.

At an estimated 30,000-40,000 pounds, it is an expensive item but it would sure be nice to have aboard the bookmobile. Perhaps a pot-belly stove in the periodical corner and this death bed photo of Oscar Wilde hung in a place of respect. At 3 by 4 inches, it could be hung in a small alcove. A tiny place of great respect. Though it is not in Barlett's or the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, Oscar Wilde is often credited with the final words, 'Either the wallpaper goes or I do.' The death bed photo does nothing to confirm or the deny the wallpaper's merits.

The Sotheby's catalog is informative and heartbreaking, a story very well told - "Nothing could more vividly illustrate the pathos of Wilde's situation during the disastrous month of April 1895..."

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Mystery Microcassette

I realize how suspicious it looks. I wouldn't believe it either, I mean, if I could figure out what I was looking at, I wouldn't believe it. One should always pay particular attention to junkyard custom vans and motorhomes. Beside the fact that you might find some pristine custom van pagoda roofed sofa in the back or a custom built-in with the 2 through 13 B&W, there is a much higher likelihood of finding an old diary or love letters. I'm a snoop and always have been.

This is obviously a plant, but not by me. In the cratered out, destroyed headlamp cavity of a mid-70s custom van I found (and stole) this Sony microcassette. I have tried to be on the up and up and purchase the odd journal or book that I have found in a junk yard car and invariably, they think I am up to something sinister. Now I just steal these little discards.

At last weekends garage sales, I tried to remember that I was looking for a microcassette recorder so I could listen to the tape. Once or twice, after I was back in my car, I would remember that I had been looking for a microcassette, but it is anybody's guess as to whether I actually saw one. Successful garage saling depends on speed and that requires looking at 200o items at a glance to determine if it fits in with anything you are searching for. Sometimes, it takes 3-4 weeks of looking to even remember I am looking for something.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

The $2 Tube Amplifier

Purchased at a church rummage sale, this amplifier was assembled by hand. Not a professional, mind you, but big clumpy cold solder joint amateur assembly. A pair of XLR microphone inputs and one for a phonograph, I picture some sort of dueling MCs over a square dance record. Imagine the sounds that have come through this amplifier.

It is extremely endearing to think about the basement scientist, burning himself as he soldered, putting this contraption together from a kit. Hoping it would be done in time for the big show. Then, sitting in the audience, praying it would continue to work. And I bet it belted it out with those two 6L6 tubes on the right. When it gets all warmed up, it looks magnificent and smells even better - like clapboard houses, worn oriental rugs, oiled furniture and the windows open on a perfect southern California day with the orange blossom smell drifting through. Unfortunately, the sound of this amplifier is nothing but a tease, as you can hear the clear rich perfect tube sound under the most godawful 60hz hum. Volume up, down, it doesn't matter. That hum packs a wallop. It probably needs a total capacitor replacment and, frankly, I don't know if I have the stomach for it. I really want this son of a dip to work and I don't have much of an excuse as it would be about half the burned fingers, half the cold solder joints of the basement scientist before me.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Slide Rule Pickett Fence

It has been suggested that I didn't have 10 slide rulers. As evidenced by my slide rule fence, I clearly have enough to part with 10 slide rules for a mutant taxidermy cow head. Slide rules talk, bullshit walks.

Even my dogs have their own slide rules.