Catching Up

So I have a lot of catching up to do. But here’s a quick look at some of the Progress that I’ve made. I haven’t written in a while, but there is no good reason why other than I have had other stuff on my mind. One of my challenges is to remain consistent with this blog, and consistent for me is every once in a while taking an unexplainable hiatus from the blog.

But not from the car.

I’ve been working pretty hard on the car. My main goal was to get the car started. This was a seed planted by my friend Chris, and it started with me rebuilding the carburetor.

Carb was pretty lacquered up with varnish

I was a little nervous about this until I actually started to do it. I am putting together a separate page for the blog that details the rebuild – an idea I had when I started a blog entry that was a step-by-step, blow-by-blow account of how I rebuilt the carb.

In short, first I removed the carb. The carburetor was stained with old gas – giving it the bronze patina indicative of its age and illustrative of the time it has sat, idle in the garage. I actually thought for a moment that the carb was supposed to be that color.

I brought the carb home to my place and took a couple of weekends to rebuild it. I got a carburetor rebuild kit from CJ Pony Parts (which I see has been reduced in price since I purchased it, goddammit!), I found myself a Gunk brand carburetor dip, disassembled the carb, soaked the parts for days in the dip.

I reassembled the carb, and said my prayers. I brought it back to the car with a plan – but first I needed to get rid of the old gas in the car. That took some doin – but ultimately, I was able to drain the gas tank (they actually have drainplugs – as I recall, GMs don’t). Two trips to my ex-brother-in-law’s used car lot with the stinky, varnish-like gas and the deed was done.

My goal, again, was to get the car started – and after some challenges dealing with getting a fuel filter for the carb, I hooked her up, got the firing order from one of the old books that my cousin had with the car, dropped a fuel line from the fuel pump into a gas can with a gallon of fresh gas.

And then? Well, see for yourself.

With my friend Gary’s help, the car sang for the first time in perhaps a decade. That was what I needed. It was music to my ears – the inspiration to continue the journey. The car was speaking to me and I called my wife and started the car for her, my parents and started the car for them, my cousin, Mary, and even though it was her voicemail, I started the car for her, too. After calling and starting the car for my friend Irwin, I called my buddy Ed, and started the car for him. He had doubts as to whether or not I rebuilt the carb correctly.

What’s the next step? Well, I wanted to drive the car, of course. I didn’t. Actually, I couldn’t. No valve covers, so it would have blown oil out everywhere. No brakes, so I would not have been able to stop. No gas in the actual gas tank, so I would not have gotten far anyway. Just hearing the engine run was going to have to be enough, and you know what? It was.

Next, I spent the rest of yesterday and today prepping the engine for removal. Have a look before:

Back Before It All

And After:

And Now After - Almost Ready for Extraction

Now – how am I gonna get that engine out???

Home – I’m gonna sleep!

I have arrived home safe and sound and My Uncle’s Mustang is now at it’s Restoration Headquarters. Today has been a long ride – but it was AWESOME for more reasons than one – but I am not going to write about it tonight. I am exhausted, and I’ll write about it tomorrow.

I will say that I stopped at my Cousin’s this morning in Virginia beach, my parent’s in Little Egg Harbor, NJ, my house to pick up my wife in Keyport, NJ, my uncle Jimmy’s and Aunt Laura’s not far from my house to show him the car and then back down to south central NJ (Toms River) to drop the car off at its temporary digs. All is well.

Restoration Headquarters

The Longest Day so far….

Today the plan was to go out for breakfast, pick up the U-HAUL, get the come-along to get the Mustang on the trailer, load the Mustang, pack the truck, say “hi-and-bye” to my cousins and get on the road – all by dinner time so I can make it over the FL/GA border for bed. I knew it was going to be a long day with all of the stuff that had to be done, and when I woke up in the morning, I wasn’t even sure if I was gonna be able to drive the U-HAUL without making a complete idiot of myself.

So here is how it all went down:

1) Go out for breakfast – CHECK! Nice! The day started out pretty well, right? During breakfast, one of the guys at the U-HAUL place apparently didn’t take his chill pill this morning and was calling me prodding to know when I was gonna get over to pick the damn thing up. Hence, we got up from the table at Bob Evans, the “home of homestyle,” (I’m not endorsing them – but we got some pretty nice service at the one in Cape Coral) and took the next step.

2). Pick up the U-HAUL – CHECK!!

This thing didn’t have cruise control, auto windows, nor auto locks. All would have been nice to have but at least it has air conditioning. I even had an easy time driving it back to Mary and Doug’s house. I practiced backing up and forward for a bit, after which we sat around and Mary called my cousin Lea to come over so I could see her. She called back and said she was going to bring her daughters with her. COOL – that meant that step four was gonna go down – but first,

3). Get the come along – No problems here – we had our choice between a 1-ton and 2-ton and we got the 1-ton. Things were going great – all falling into place – my spirits were high, and we made our way home.

4). Load the Mustang – It was getting later though, and we were a bit hungry. We got home and Mary had whipped up a wonderful lunch spread for us and the anticipated visit from Lea et-al. We sat a bit to wait for her and then Doug grabbed up his lunch and went outside to wait for them. When Lea arrived, and I saw her, it was like we just saw each other yesterday. She hasn’t changed a bit – but her daughters have grown into young ladies! I was kinda sad that I was only gonna be able to have lunch with them and then book, but at least I got to see them.

Now, back to loading the Mustang. Lea’s daughters brought their boyfriends, and that was great because they might be able to help with the grunt work a bit.

All good. All falling into place, but then Doug said something to the effect that the Mustang wasn’t moving anywhere. HUH??? “What do you mean?” I asked, and he informed me that the car was in neutral, the parking brake was released, but the car was frozen in place. I thought right away that the brakes were locked.

SHIT, I lamented to myself – this is not good. What if it isn’t the brakes? What if the tranny is locked? Or worse, the rear???


Doug and I got to work. I smacked the rims near the hubs with a small sledge hammer to try to loosen them up – nope.

I hammered the backing plates behind the wheels to try to loosen the brakes – nope nope.

This was a pickle – and we got the jack out from the trunk, loosened all of the lugs, jacked the right rear, pulled the wheel and worked to get the drum off. The drum was frozen solid, and even though that was actually the best case scenario, I started thinking:

“What are we going to do for brakes when we roll it out of the garage?”

“Will the parking brake be inoperable from me sledge-hammering along with Doug prying the drum off with a crowbar?”

“What the f__k am I getting myself into, should I just leave it here and go home?”

After about 20 minutes, we finally got the right rear drum off, which tore up the shoes and nearly blasted the wheel cylinder. We tore the retainer springs right off with the drums, but the good news was the axle spun freely. Things were looking up, and I was laughing at myself and the committee in my head that had me running away in a panic. Leave and go home – LOL??

I used a screwdriver to adjust the brakes on the other three wheels down (loosen them up), but not before nearly losing the car off the jack. I need to remember to be careful and take all sorts of extra precautions!

With all of the wheels loose, the car was ready to be rolled out. I checked the parking brake, and guess what? That still worked! So we were going to be able to stop it when we rolled it out of the garage, but we were going to need some brute force to roll it up onto the trailer. It was getting late, and I was a sweaty mess by this time, but we (with Emily behind the wheel) carefully rolled the Mustang out of the garage:

At the bottom of the driveway!

We got the car into sunlight for the first time in nearly 12 years! With the car in the sun, I took some other pics:

The car was ready – and my cousin Nicky showed up just in time. She had her son with her (her youngest had shown up with Lea and her daughters). All of a sudden there was 3 generations of cousins in the mix. Nicky looked great. She was all grown up! But she had the same personality that I remembered – loving and strong. She was also here to help but the first thing she did was sit in the passenger side of the Mustang as it sat in the bright Florida sun. All of us have stories of Uncle Pete (Gramps to Nicky and Lea) and the Mustang, and Nicky shared one of hers where Uncle Pete picked her up from school or something and got the car practically airborne over a pothole in the middle of the road.

BACK TO LOADING THE MUSTANG – which had become the focal point for everyone now. All of us except for Nicky’s youngest son, who was on the couch napping, was outside now. The trailer was set and with the boyfriends’, Nicky’s Doug’s and my help, and Emily behind the wheel, we rolled the car onto it’s chariot:

And there it is. On the trailer and ready for the long drive home. I was a bit tired by now, and also a tad dirty, but it felt good.

5). Pack the truck – It was a long day. The time sped by, and by now I knew I was staying the night, and I was actually relieved. I was gonna spend some time with my cousins, my “cousins once removed” and my second cousins. All good. Packing the truck would wait until tomorrow.

6). Say “hi-and-bye” to my cousins – did I really think this was how I would do it? After over 10 years just say “Hi, good to see you” and then “Bye, see you later?” Not happing – not even possible. I was in my glory. I reflected on when Lea and I were kids – we’re the same age, and over the years we seem to always catch up somehow – no matter how long it’s been. I knew I wanted to see her when I was here and I was cherishing it. Nicky – jeez – I remember when she was a baby. Now she has grown into a woman and has two beautiful babies of her own! I loved watching her mother her kids – with the compassion and the confidence that quickly eased them when they fussed. Lea’s kids Emily and Mary – Teenagers. I couldn’t help but wonder if the next time I saw them I would be seeing them as mothers themselves! I hoped that it wouldn’t be 10 years until the next encounter.

It was always Uncle Pete or my Dad that brought us together somehow – Dad bringing us to see them, Uncle Pete drawing us to Florida as kids with promises of pools and beaches…. I never complained about being around my cousins. We’re family, and today, on what seemed to be the longest day of my journey so far, we were together once again, this time because of the Mustang, and in some sense, also because of Uncle Pete.

7). Lucky seven – get on the road – all by dinner time so I can make it over the FL/GA border for bed. It’s nearly 3 am, and I am going to bed now – right here in Florida in my cousin’s house  – where I belong for at least one more night. The FL/GA border will be there tomorrow waiting for me, I am sure.

Nicky's oldest son Nicholas - My Uncle Pete's Great Grandson in the Mustang

Dusty, but WOW – the Mustang Unveiled

My Uncle’s Mustang breathes. Yesterday, Doug Sr. emailed me and let me know that the “Mustang is cleaned out and all stuff is off of it!”  I immediately emailed him back and asked him to send pics if possible.

We had been concerned that the tires sitting flat for years would not hold air we started talking about cheapo tires to put on the car just to get it on the trailer for the trip up to Jersey. It was reasonable to think that we would have to do this and Doug even WD40’d the wheel studs to ensure they wouldn’t be too difficult to remove. Today, however, another thing just “fell into place.” Doug emailed me “Great news…..ALL 4 tires inflated and appear to be holding air at least so far.”

That was AWESOME news. I don’t need the tires to be perfect. I just need them to hold air for an hour or so while we roll the car up onto the trailer in Florida and then again when I roll the car off the trailer in New Jersey.

The tire news was not the news of the day, though. Doug sent pictures!

I opened the email and the first picture was of a dusty old engine but it nearly brought tears of joy to my eyes when I saw it:

Dusty but beautiful! Click to see a larger picture!

I knew Uncle Pete took care of this car. The engine is dusty, but look closely – newer fuel pump next to the newer oil filter, new master cylinder which could also mean new brakes, radiator hoses, tune up parts (cap and wires) along with replaced shocks. Some of this stuff was probably done right before he passed away 12 years ago unless Aunt Lotte had it done afterwards. I wouldn’t be surprised if the air conditioning ran cold too – That air compressor for the air conditioner looks newer too – at least the clutch is.

The next pics were:

Look at the INTERIOR!!! The TIRES!!! They are holding air! Be sure to click on each one to see them in greater detail!

I couldn’t contain myself. I had to show the pics to a few people and I was at work, and the closest person in proximity was the Director of Sales so was the first one I showed. I felt sorry for him – he was about to get on the phone and didn’t look too pleased that I was summoning him to my desk, but even the deadpan-even-keeled Director of Sales was impressed with the condition. I showed the Chief of Technology, and he was way impressed – and clearly understood the magnitude of what he was looking at.

Then I emailed the pics to my Dad but as of a few minutes ago when I called to see if he’d got them, he hadn’t looked at them. I think he’ll get a kick out of them – the sheepskin cover on the drivers seat, the pony embossing on the “pony edition seats” and the luxury wood accents…. Yeah, he will.

My wife was very eager to see the pics and when she did tonight even she was able to comprehend the great condition the car was in, and based on my reaction, she told me she was excited for me.

Truth be told, I am not sure if anyone will ever be as excited about this as I am – about how everything so far is just falling right into place – from the car still being in Florida right down to the tires holding air. I am feeling a great deal of joy right now – a child-like excitement that has become all too unfamiliar, and it feels good – it feels right. Just one week till I am sitting in the car. I can’t wait to show it off, brag about it, about my Uncle, about everything.

Car Rotisserie

I talked to two guys this weekend about a Car Rotisserie – and if I was able to fit it into the garage I am going to be working in, I would definitely get it from them. I wanted to do a Rotisserie restoration but there is just not enough room in the garage.

Car Rotisserie from Accessible Systems

I feel like I need to give these guys a plug though – and I am still likely going to buy the car dollies for ease of movement within the garage. Joel and Gabriel are the folks I spoke to – and Joel is the one who was just a wealth of knowledge with regards to putting the Mustang on the rotisserie. The company is Accessible Systems and their website is located in Johnson City, TN.

The Project: My Uncle’s Mustang

Today I spoke to my cousin Mary and her husband Doug. First – it was great to speak to them. I can’t remember the last time I did – and it was nice to just talk and catch up on a few things. My Aunt Lottie passed away a few years back and the house was left to Mary and Doug. They live there now, and the Mustang still sits in the garage in the same place that it was perhaps since Aunt Lottie passed. The car belongs to Doug Jr. who lives up in Rhode Island. He has intended to bring it up there and restore it himself, but for the last 12 or so years, it has been sitting in the dry garage in Cape Coral, FL. To my delight, Doug and Mary described its current condition a bit – it doesn’t run, the tires are completely flat, and it’s currently used as a “work bench” in the garage…. I am smiling as I type all of this because it warms my heart to know that it is exactly where it should be – in the hands of the family.  I am trying to get pictures from them 🙂

So I put the proposal out there – that is, let me come down there and pick up the Mustang and bring it up to New Jersey so I can restore it here.

I could barely contain my excitement when she and Doug seemed more than open – actually quite willing – to let me do this. There is one tenet that I mentioned – I am adamant about doing this and then returning the finished car to either them or Doug Jr. It was always Uncle Pete’s hope and intent to leave the car to Doug, and that is where it should go in the end.

I pray for this to be a journey. I may know what to expect as far as the physical resto of the Mustang is concerned – and I have no illusions of getting any spiritual or emotional revelations from this project – but I have three main hopes – that this project will remove me from the mucky swill that I mentioned in my previous post, that I can see the project through to the end, and that I will grow from the experience.

So – where it stands now is that either Mary or Doug Jr. will call me within a fortnight, and when they do, I will post what happens. You might ask what happens if Doug Jr. wants to do this himself or if he just says no? I asked the same question, and we’ll cross that bridge when it comes. Let’s just hope that he says yes.

The Idea: Pete, Danny and the Pony

There are many influential people in my life – Family, friends, musicians, authors, poets. The greatest influence is my father, Danny – his values, beliefs, sports teams, his creative lust, etc. – I follow my Dad in nearly every respect. My Dad will tell you I take after his brother, Pete. That could be why I feel an affinity toward my Uncle and consider him an influence, also. I didn’t know Uncle Pete well like other influences, but he remains, even 11 years after his death, one of the most influential people in my life.

So I got the idea for this blog not too long ago. I have been sitting in a creative swill for as long as I can remember now, looking to being creative in work and with my house among other things to pull myself out of the muck. Work? Well – I had hope there, but that didn’t do it. Big surprise, huh? The house? I love my house. I have owned it alone and with my wife for almost 13 years now. I have remodeled it, and enjoyed doing it for the most part – but it wasn’t until after I bought a plastic scale model of a ’66 Mustang Fastback that I thought of something that really grabbed me.

My interest in Mustangs began with my Uncle Pete’s sky blue Pony Edition model and continued with my Uncle Jimmy’s from what I can remember of his. When my sister Christy bought a beautiful white convertible GT in 1994, I had to have one myself – and I did by 1996. A red convertible GT – a car I love, and one that I still proudly own.

So I often asked my Dad, “what ever happened to Uncle Pete’s Mustang?” He never really knew and didn’t want to ask for some reason. My cousin Mary’s son and Uncle Pete’s Grandson, Doug (Dougie when he was like 5) inherited the car. So did Doug restore it? It was in rough shape the last time I saw it – interior rips, a buckled fender, some rust I think. Not to mention the unknowns like the shock towers, the floor boards – all of the usual Mustang aging glitches. Did he actually take it? Did they sell it?

So back to the scale model – I was thinking, “ok, I need to find out what happened to Uncle Pete’s Mustang.”

I don’t care much for Facebook  – but my cousin Mary (Pete’s daughter) and I are “friends” on Facebook, and I wrote her to ask what happened to the Mustang. I was afraid of the answer, but guess what?

The Mustang is still in Florida. So I am now hoping to find out if she and her son Doug (and Doug Sr. for that matter) will help me with my new “project”…..

More to come!