Hot Rod optimism and the trouble it gets us into

Welcome to the online edition of Blowin’ Smoke. While I write a Blowin’ Smoke column in every issue of Canadian Hot Rods magazine that used to mean I could only regale you with my wit, wisdom and hot air six times a year. Thanks to the internet, this space will now allow me to steal time you will never get back at least once a week and maybe more if the brain synapses are particularly active.
You will also be able to access a Blowin’ Smoke archive with more than 30 of my past columns and if I’ve moved you to tears or just bored you to tears you can let me know by commenting on the columns. Thanks for visiting the site. Stay a while and check it out. There’s lots to see and over the next month or so we’ll be tweaking and modifying things and making improvements based on both our observations and your input. Look forward to hearing from you. Now for the rest of the story. Maybe you can relate.
They say experience makes wise men of us all. Well, that might be true of other people, but not gearheads. The other day I went with a buddy of mine to look at a ’79 Dodge C class motor home that was one of those “just figure out a way to get it out of my yard and it’s yours” type of deals. The main attraction was the 440 and Torqueflite drivetrain that at one time motivated this beast. Gearheads are the “crazy cat ladies” of the automotive world. Why stop at one, two or three engine blocks and trannys taking up space in your shop (or yard) when you can get find home for more — especially when they’re free.

Though the Dodge hadn’t moved in 10 years – we were told the engine turned over and that it had less than 90,000 miles on it. Of course, whenever my buddies and I go look at junk the wheels start turning and optimism kicks in. My buddy started thinking this dung heap was “actually in pretty good shape” and could be salvaged and turned into the road trip living space we often talk about when groups of us head to swap meets or to be spectators at hot rod or drag racing events. Hey, it was “free.”
Usually, I’m sucked in by the optimism. That’s the gearhead curse: Anything can be saved and is worth saving. A past experience was tempering my enthusiasm. Free ain’t always free. Not even six months ago, we decided it would be worth it to remove the very same type of vehicle – a Dodge C Class motorhome – from this same buddy’s grandfather’s farm. This one didn’t have a 440 and vandalism and at least two dead, rotting racoon carcasses squashed his dream of putting it back on the road. Instead of just calling a tow truck to haul it away, we thought we’d use my car trailer to make some easy money at the scrap metal dealer. If “easy” means a full days labour, a broken winch line and severely maxed trailer then we were right.
The big problem was the brakes were seized on the driver’s side rear wheel and we could not get the wheel to turn no matter how many times we pounded it with a sledgehammer. My 4,000lb winch couldn’t pull it on the trailer without the assistance of my

buddy’s pickup and a tow strap. We also soon found out the vehicle was just going to fit the trailer with the rear dually’s hanging off the deck. Once we got the thing on the trailer and after a quick trip to my shop to reverse the ball on the hitch (the trailer was dragging on the road so we had to get the ball lower to drop the nose of the trailer down) we felt pretty good about ourselves. Our sense of triumph lasted as long as it took to get to the scrap dealer (about 20 minutes) who informed us the grand sum of all our sweat and effort was less than $40. Yep. We called the other local scrap dealer in town and they said they wouldn’t even take it unless we stripped all the living space from it and brought them a bare frame and cab. We went for lunch and laughed at ourselves saying at least we never gave up and let the tow truck company get the $40 bucks and hey that winch line needed to be replaced anyway. The lunch ate up the $40.
Lesson learned, right? Well, here we are six months later contemplating something of a similar scenario all in the name of a 440ci engine and tranny that might bring us a $200 at a swap meet if we’re lucky.
Here kitty, kitty.

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