atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#423: Miscellanious Miscellany, Mostly Car-related

The Cicada Invasion of 2007 is in full swing.

I've been taking some video, here and there, and the other day I took some video of Mom shaking the pear tree in the back yard. A huge cloud of the things came off the thing when she shook it the first time. Then she shook it again and an even bigger cloud came off. The videotape will show several very quick pans of the back yard--me dancing around like a Nancyboy trying to avoid having any of the things land on me. They look--and are, utterly--harmless when they're just sitting or hanging around; but when one of those things is flying at you, it suddenly appears to be about as big and hostile as a MIG-21. Especially through the eyepiece of a camcorder.

At least I didn't squeal like a schoolgirl. That would really have been bad.

This year seems to be a bumper crop. When I went to work on Wednesday night, the porch was covered with freshly emerged bugs. Friday evening I swept the porch clean of bugs; by the time I left for work, I had to tiptoe through the insects again; there was not a single square foot of porch that didn't have a bug on it, seeking a good place to moult.

And don't tell me I should just let the feet fall where they may. Stepping on one of these things makes an awful mess, and the sound...blech.

* * *

Writing on Methuselah has begun, and I'm umpteen pages into it. I'm thinking that I may just write out the whole story and then post a link to it, so those who wish to read it may do so; I'm finding that it's not really suited to serializing. Singularity wasn't either, really, but it was better-suited to it than Methuselah is.

I'm starting to wonder if the story is really going to be as good as I thought it would be when I first came up with the idea. Oh well; it's going to be a free download, so what the hey.

* * *

At work they were trying to clear out "One Spot", the rack of cheapo merchandise. Most stuff is $1, and the stuff which costs more is $2.50. The early summer stuff went to 75% off. I picked up a few things; one was a "pull and go" truck. It looks like a semi truck but there's no articulation. Anyway, it's a tanker, and what got me (besides the detail part which just came off when I picked it up, just now) is the big decal down the top of the tank. There are three text balloons on it, and they read, "Super Power", "Novel Design", and "Loerlord".

The first two make sense. The third...not so much.

To make things even more interesting, it's got a kind of arrowhead on the hood which looks a lot like the Pontiac arrowhead, except it's red, white, and blue, and has the word "TRUCK" emblazoned across it.

All that quality for $0.25. Hot damn.

* * *

I've been seeing ads for "Air Hogs" helicopters during Spike TV's "Powerblock". "Powerblock" is a set of four car-related programs, "how-to" shows, on which teams of people work on various projects. These shows are what got me interested in the car scene again, mainly because they showed me how easy most of this stuff actually is.

The ads for the RC helicopters put a premium price on them, though. "Only two payments of..." The less-sophisticated of the two can be had for $30 where I work; the more complex one for $60. The latter, in the commercial, totals $80 when both payments are made.

As for the car shows, they're getting a bit stale with me now. I mean, how many times can I watch them do the same thing to different vehicles? "Today we're going to upgrade this [fill in the blank]'s suspension and brakes!" And they almost always do it by throwing $5,000+ worth of parts at it. They never have any trouble with disassembly, either, because they're working on someone's show car or someone's previously completed project car.

Well, hell--if I had access to all the equipment they've got, and could afford to spend all kinds of money on parts, I'd have the coolest Fiero on the planet.

"Muscle Car" is the show with the most interesting content right now. The host of that show is doing some complex and involved projects. "Extreme 4x4" comes in a close second since they frequently do some really interesting things. "Horsepower TV" and "Trucks" tie for last place; they're recycling topics over and over.

I usually turn the thing off when they take a brand-new truck and install a lift kit, brake package, and new wheels and tires. *yawn*. Ditto for installing a supercharger on a new car. Suspension upgrades? Brake upgrades? Been there, done that, several times. It's always a 1960s or 1970s muscle car, it's always front-engine-rear-drive, it's always GM or Ford, and they always throw lots of parts at the thing.

I understand that a changing audience demands that they rehash things. I also understand that most of their audience is interested in classic "Detroit iron". But would it kill them to work on other things once in a while? Instead of just working on $50,000-$100,000-$200,000 show cars, instead of doing high-dollar buildups, why don't they do other things?

I know many people in the Fiero community have sent suggestions to them: "Hey, why don't you put a V8 into a Fiero?" And those suggestions have been ignored. For the cost of one "'69 Camaro gets an air suspension and brake upgrade" show they could build the fastest freaking Fiero on the planet, for Christ's sake, and they'd easily get several shows out of it.

They used to run shows which catered to the "import tuner" crowd, but the major problem with that was twofold: first, those people are usually asleep when "Powerblock" runs, on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Second, the people who do watch "Powerblock" don't like the stop-motion, jump-cut, "extreme" videography that such shows tend to use. The editing of those shows makes them really hard to watch for more than a few minutes--fine if you have the attention span of a goldfish, but lousy if you're actually trying to absorb some information about the cars and working on them.

I wouldn't mind seeing a "tuner" show which was shot and edited like "Horsepower TV", particularly if they worked on anything and everything. And it would be nice if any show would devote some time to some of the interesting things you can do with American front-wheel-drive vehicles.

On the Fiero forum, for example, there is a guy who swapped a Cadillac 4.9-liter V8 into a minivan, and he said it went like a raped brontosaurus. There is a guy whose Turbo Dodge Caravan can beat a Camaro in the 1/4 mile. That's just made of awesome! What about the plethora of engine swaps that guys do on Fieros? Not just V8s but V6s, various 4 cylinder engines, turbos, etc? What about the guy who put a Caddy 4.9 in a Citation? And let's not forget the guys who put GM or Ford engines into MGBs and Miatas. Just do a few episodes about swaps like this and it would make me a lot happier.

No one has anything to do with air-cooled VWs, either.

* * *

This leads me to recall something I was thinking about last night--hot rods.

These days, a "hot rod" is a one-off show car that is rarely driven. Ones built by top-name designers (Like Chip Foose and Boyd Coddington) cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and are completely hand-fabricated. The paint alone costs more than a mass-produced car. You can't drive the thing down the street unless you want to risk damaging a car that costs more than 60% of the people in the US earn in a year. One rock chip and that's it!

But that's not a hot rod, damn it. A hot rod is a car that was built to be driven by the guy who owned it. It was built a piece at a time, as money and parts became available; the owner did what he could, bought what he needed, and bartered whenever possible, because he just didn't have the money to go buy a hot car. That's why he built it in the first place--and it was usually his only car, so it was also his daily driver. He drove it to work, to school, on dates, wherever, and if he raced it and wrecked it, he walked home and started saving for another car.

The "hot rod" circuit these days is a bunch of hothouse flowers consisting of "trailer queen" cars and inflated egos. I have much more sympathy for the "rat rod" crowd, but even that--now--is becoming "sissified wuss" territory. Instead of finding a car and chassis, you can go buy a modern chassis, prefabricated, and then go buy a "look-alike" body with channels already installed, and then go buy this and that and the other part. People actually get parts powder-coated to look like they are covered in rust. I mean, come on, now you're just a frickin' poser, for Christ's sake.

I always hated reading in the VW enthusiast magazines--and other car mags--about how So-and-so "built" his cool "19XX Whatever": "He took it to ABC Custom for the body work, and then DDT Paint shot the [paint and color]. Then he had WTF Upholstery do the interior, and OMG Driveline took care of the engine and tranny...." So-and-so didn't "build" anything! He just found a hulk and threw a lot of money at it, paying other people to build his car. The only thing So-and-so did was act as a general contractor!

This is why I--from the very beginning of work on my 1986 project Fiero--decided I was going to do every possible task myself. I'm not farming out anything that I don't have to, due to lack of tools or expertise. I'm rebuilding the engine myself. The machine work on the engine will have to be done by a machine shop since I lack the ability to magnaflux, cut valves and seats, etc, etc--but I'll do the assembly myself. I rebuilt the alternator myself. I'll fix the rusty frame rails myself. I'm going to repair the cracks in the front fascia myself. I'll fix the rear window seal myself.

Restore interior parts, rebuild suspension, clean clean clean, etc--all me. The only things which I will farm out for certain is transmission work and a four-wheel alignment when all is said and done. I will probably farm out the painting, too, since I lack the tools and facilities for that, but I might just go for the flat-black primer look--which is kind of popular in the hot rod world, ironically.

It may not end up being the world's best-looking car but at least I'll have the satisfaction of knowing I did it.

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