Not a Top 10

Kids today love those damn listicles. For you old people out there–the kind who walk into a place to ask for directions, then argue with the locals that they can’t possibly be right–a listicle is like an article but in list form. It combines our modern obsession with short-attention-span, soundbite media with our natural proclivity to place things in order. It’s win-win.

I had a couple of subjects I wanted to talk about and couldn’t come up with a single, overarching theme. Thus, I present to you this listicle. It’s a mix of the top cars I’ve never owned but always wanted to and the most embarrassing things I’ve done in the shop despite knowing better. Maybe you’ll learn something from one or the other.

1. A Miata: It’s true. I’ve never actually owned a Mazda Miata. Yes, I was the project manager for our 1994 R Package Miata some two decades ago–even won a trophy at Solo Nationals driving it. But my name has never been on a Miata title.

My wife has expressed interest in having a Miata, but she always mentions that she’d like it to be an automatic, and I think I’d rather have a wagon train of bare-knuckle-boxing carnies parked in my yard than an automatic Miata, so that’s not gonna happen.

2. Measure the Work, Not the Waste: Just this past weekend I learned that all 2×4s purporting to be 8 feet long are not, in fact, 8 feet long. I learned this when I measured from the wrong end and cut a few. I needed 90-inch pieces, so I assumed cutting 6 inches off each 96-inch piece would get me where I needed to go. I now have a duck house with a roof that slopes at two different angles. The ducks don’t seem to care, but I learned a valuable lesson about trying to save time by measuring from the wrong end.

3. An Italian Car: Probably the closest I came to owning one was dating a girl in high school who drove a Lancia Beta. That car made a lasting impression with the cool noises it made, its fun demeanor, its quirkiness and its relative rarity. Sadly, many of the things that make Italian cars cool also make them stupid, stupid choices given any rational consideration–just as lots of stuff made perfect sense in high school, but can no longer be justified. Hell, parachute pants made perfect sense in high school.

In the cold, calculating light of reasonable adulthood, maybe a Fiata scratches two items off this list.

4. Sparks and Rubber Don’t Mix: I have, on more than one occasion, welded while wearing Crocs. I’m not sure what the most embarrassing part of that admission is. All I know is that if Crocs decided to make a nice welding clog someday, I could tell them where to get a celebrity endorser cheap.

5. A Pickup Truck: Every time I see a mid-’90s Toyota pickup, no matter how ratty, I get those wistful “I need to get home and check Autotrader” feelings. There’s something about the combination of utility, ubiquity and indestructibility that really draws me to them–and to pickups in general. Pickups are basically cargo shorts you can drive around in. Pickups are a giant man-purse with wheels and an engine. Pickups are a portable hole into which you can throw all your dreams and all your hopes and take them with you on an adventure.

6. “Why Should I Disconnect the Battery? I’m Not Working on the Battery, I’m Working on the Starter.” I’ll just leave that one there, and someday you can ask me why the thumbprint on my left hand is not the same as it was a few years ago.

7. A Tube-Frame GT Car: I am an utter sucker for 1980s and ’90s tube-frame GT machinery. Impossibly bulged fiberglass bodies. V8s that sound like they’re going to swallow you whole and spit you out on the other side of a black hole. And rudimentary, utilitarian construction that’s just a way to support four wheels, an engine and a driver and shuttle them around a race track as fast as possible.

Mine’s got to be something weird, like a Buick Somerset or Olds Cutlass or something. Anyone can make a Mustang or Camaro look fast, but who knew that a Mercury Cougar could look like the gnarliest thing on the track if you threw enough flare and tire at it?

8. Looks Can Be Deceiving: You know what looks exactly the same as room-temperature steel? Steel that’s 700 degrees.

9. A Car I Don’t Really Care About: Not to be callus or anything, but I just want to experience the freedom of zero expectations. Everything I’ve ever owned–even the stuff that was true crap (cough Mitsubishi Mirage Turbo cough)–I’ve cared about at least inasmuch as I wanted to preserve it enough to get some value back out of it at some point.

But I think it would be remarkably liberating to have a car I’m willing to walk away from at some point with no guilt. Flat tire? Leave it at the side of the road. Bad fuel pump? Roll it into a ravine full of mutants. Needs ball joints? Trebuchet.

10. The Addict’s Shame: Damn you, self-tapping screws. Damn you to hell forever.

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Stefan
Stefan MegaDork
2/5/18 11:34 a.m.

I actually enjoyed the Automatic NC Miata I rented. 

It blipped the throttle on downshifts, had 6-speeds like the manual and I could cruise along without issue on the highways and brake stand it a bit off the lines when I wanted to make the merge.

I suspect the ND would be much the same, just more.

Duke
Duke MegaDork
2/5/18 11:45 a.m.
JG Pasterjak said:

3. An Italian Car: Sadly, many of the things that make Italian cars cool also make them stupid, stupid choices given any rational consideration.

8. Looks Can Be Deceiving: You know what looks exactly the same as room-temperature steel? Steel that’s 700 degrees.

3.  Wistful Duke is looking at Giulia Tis to replace the aging 2004 TSX in a few years.  Adult Duke is happy that we have 2 or 3 years to see just how bad an idea that would be before Wistful Duke whips out the checkbook.

8.  High school chemistry teacher successfully beat that lesson into my head, except with lab glassware rather than miscellaneous steel stock.

Stefan said:

I actually enjoyed the Automatic NC Miata I rented.

C/D or R&T, I forget which, came right out in print and said that the automatic NC was every bit as much fun to drive as the manual version, for all non-competition driving.

Torkel
Torkel
2/5/18 11:46 a.m.

9. A Car I Don’t Really Care About: This is a wonderful, liberating thing! About 10 years ago, I had a 1986 200SX coupe. It was bone stock, ran well, near mint interior, absolutely 100% worn out shocks and the air condition worked. Bought it for $600 and drove it (often very sideways) for a full year without more then an oil changes every now and then. It drifted really well on a big gravel parking lot close to my house (and later, when the tires were bald, it drifted pretty much everywhere). I would let friends borrow it if they needed and I never washed it. I finally gave it to a friend who were in some financial trouble and she drove it from NC to Ohio without a glitch.

Best car I ever had - never gave a E36 M3 about it.

8valve
8valve New Reader
2/5/18 11:48 a.m.

2x4's are actually 1.5 by 3.5" as measured.  Like you, I learned that too late.  :P

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
2/5/18 12:47 p.m.

9. A Car I Don’t Really Care About: Dude.... this is the most liberating thing ever.  Buy an old Toyota pickup... change oil some time.. maybe.

DeadSkunk
DeadSkunk UberDork
2/5/18 12:57 p.m.

2x4s come in two different lengths, the 8 foot ones that are 96" long  and the 8 foot ones that are just short enough to fit between the headers to create an 8' 0.5" finished wall. Guess how I figured that out.

racerdave600
racerdave600 UltraDork
2/5/18 1:09 p.m.

Don't know why, but I've never cared for tube frame race cars.  May have something to do with working on them I suppose.  Cutting off and replacing a front clip, not a good time.  Hanging new body panels, also not great fun.  Sure they're fast, but if you ever see one at auction 30 years later, it would be almost impossible to know if you're buying the real thing.  They fact they let something like a tube frame RX8 race against a production 911 still bothers me somewhat, not that I hold things in or anything.  devil

And everyone needs at least one Italian car in their lifetime, just do it!  Years ago I had 8 at one time, a mixture of Alfas and Fiats.  My favorite was a '61 Fiat 600D.  You need to do a 600 based Abarth project car for Classic!  

The0retical
The0retical UltraDork
2/5/18 1:12 p.m.
8. Looks Can Be Deceiving: You know what looks exactly the same as room-temperature steel? Steel that’s 700 degrees.

I was at a prospects location once where their business was producing aluminum billets. The president of the company went out of his way to warn me not to touch anything in the plant as hot aluminum looks the same as cold. I'm sure I had that "well duh" face on when he told me that (I worked in aerospace for a decade) but it now occurs to me that many sales droids may not know that.

9. A Car I Don’t Really Care About: Not to be callus or anything, but I just want to experience the freedom of zero expectations. Everything I’ve ever owned–even the stuff that was true crap (cough Mitsubishi Mirage Turbo cough)–I’ve cared about at least inasmuch as I wanted to preserve it enough to get some value back out of it at some point.

But I think it would be remarkably liberating to have a car I’m willing to walk away from at some point with no guilt. Flat tire? Leave it at the side of the road. Bad fuel pump? Roll it into a ravine full of mutants. Needs ball joints? Trebuchet.

I have this problem too. I bought a "winter beater" and now I insist on fixing every stupid little rattle or broken fastener on the thing despite stating all I care about is that it doesn't kill me. Mechanical empathy or I'm too cheap to just let a vehicle just go to scrap when some minor work would net me at least some return on the purchase. One of the two.

ultraclyde
ultraclyde PowerDork
2/5/18 1:15 p.m.

"Pickups are a portable hole into which you can throw all your dreams and all your hopes and take them with you on an adventure."

 

I'm now using this as my signature on an overlanding forum.

frenchyd
frenchyd Dork
2/5/18 2:39 p.m.

In reply to JG Pasterjak :

I love the tube frame stuff too!  My favorite is Group 44’s Jaguar. The sound of that V12 is magic.  

paranoid_android
paranoid_android UltraDork
2/5/18 2:50 p.m.

Ball joints—>trebuchet, that made me lol!

 

fanfoy
fanfoy Dork
2/5/18 2:52 p.m.
ultraclyde said:

"Pickups are a portable hole into which you can throw all your dreams and all your hopes and take them with you on an adventure."

 

I'm now using this as my signature on an overlanding forum.

This should be available on a t-shirt.

Stefan
Stefan MegaDork
2/5/18 3:11 p.m.
paranoid_android said:

Ball joints—>trebuchet, that made me lol!

 

I thought that was tied into Italian car ownership, especially the Fiat 124 since they had a rash of balljoint failures.

Mndsm
Mndsm MegaDork
2/5/18 3:12 p.m.

The car you don't care about- 

 

I owned a 1995 Taurus. I paid 100$ to own it. That may have been generous. It regularly leaked oil onto the exhaust manifold, and attempted to start on fire. I once was so sure it was going to start on fire, I took the title with me, intent on giving a fully engulfed ford Taurus away as a white elephant gift. God I miss that car.   I did in fact stop driving it because of a flat tire. I traded it for the world's rustiest cherokee, that I never had the title for, and crushed it for 250$. Made a great storage shed. I shoulda kept the waffle wheels. 

Bob the REAL oil guy.
Bob the REAL oil guy. MegaDork
2/5/18 4:52 p.m.
Fueled by Caffeine said:

9. A Car I Don’t Really Care About: Dude.... this is the most liberating thing ever.  Buy an old Toyota pickup... change oil some time.. maybe.

The wife's last 2 cars. Drive them. Occasionally look at the oil. Put tires on them. Eventally rebuild the suspension because bajillion miles. when done, sell for a grand and move on. 

SVreX
SVreX MegaDork
2/5/18 6:33 p.m.
DeadSkunk said:

2x4s come in two different lengths, the 8 foot ones that are 96" long  and the 8 foot ones that are just short enough to fit between the headers to create an 8' 0.5" finished wall. Guess how I figured that out.

8' 2x4's are rarely 96".  They are AT LEAST 96", but usually about 96 3/4".  They vary from 96" to 97".

The ones to build a wall are not usually referred to as 8'.  They are called "precuts", meaning they are precut accurately to length.  8' precuts (to build an 8' tall wall) are 92 5/8".  9' precuts (to build a 9' tall wall) are 104 5/8".

The reason for the inaccuracy in length of 8' lumber is the speed in which they are cut at the lumber mill.  They are cut by gang saws, moving very rapidly.  The goal is to give you at least 8', but not waste time measuring accurately.  If you're gonna build something, the assumption is you have a saw and a ruler and know how to use them.  wink

secretariata
secretariata SuperDork
2/5/18 6:54 p.m.
JG Pasterjak said:
 

5. A Pickup Truck:

9. A Car I Don’t Really Care About:

I had a mid 80's full-size GMC that I got cheap.  Burned oil like I was spraying for mosquitos.  Took it to the dump one day with SWMBO and wound up with a flat.  Didn't have the OEM jack in it, but had a bottle jack that wouldn't fit under the frame.  Dug a hole just deep enough to get the jack under it and then it wouldn't lift the truck high enough to get the spare on.  In disgust I asked the wife to hand me a screwdriver (to release the jack) and she asks me if we can call somebody for a ride instead of walking home!  She thought I wanted the screwdriver to take off the license plate and abandon the truck...laugh

admc58
admc58 Reader
2/5/18 7:48 p.m.

JG, 

I hate to admit it... An NA 1.8 automatic is a pretty easy car to live with and not a slug. Around town it is actually really nice. 

...words I never thought I would hear myself say... :( 

 

spin_out
spin_out HalfDork
2/6/18 8:47 a.m.

There is a comfort in not caring about a car, but the car still being super reliable.  My previous daily driver was a '96 M-edition Miata with bad paint, worn out interior, and a bad top.  I drove it for 5 years and almost never washed it.  When I went to merge into traffic the nice new cars moved out of my way.  After 2 years of use I had gotten my money's worth out of it.  So at 5 years I could have left it on the side of the road and been money ahead.  

pinchvalve
pinchvalve MegaDork
2/6/18 9:03 a.m.

8. Looks Can Be Deceiving: You know what looks exactly the same as room-temperature steel? Steel that’s 700 degrees.

In High School metal shop, we cast a drama mask. I left mine cooling on the grate where you knock off the sand from your mold.  A few hours later, I go back and pick it up with my bare hands.  

In the interim, someone else had noticed that my mask  was cool, moved it elsewhere, and put theirs in the exact same spot.  It was still 700 degrees.  Lucky for my fingertips, I pinched it to slide it over so the damage wasn't too bad.  

Never assume in a metal shop. 

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
2/6/18 9:10 a.m.

In reply to DeadSkunk :

96" and 92 5/8...

Automobilist
Automobilist New Reader
2/9/18 1:09 a.m.

Hmmm.  You're a "car guy", Pasternak?

You haven't owned a Miata?  Yet you diss an automatic Miata for your wife. WRONG. A Miata is pretty much required for any supposed sports car guy. An automatic Miata is a very good driving car, and actually quite fun.  You're bias is depriving her of a wonderful experience. Bad husband!

You haven't owned a pickup?  How do you tow home car projects, engines, etc? How do you tow a race car to the track. (I actually tow mine with a giant diesel motorhome...)

No Italian cars? Again, pretty hard to take you seriously if you haven't ever had one of those beauties.  But then, you probably think a Datsun F10 is a "sports car"...

Pathetic...

nutherjrfan
nutherjrfan SuperDork
2/9/18 1:46 a.m.

Thinking that sex is important.  Can I have my twenties back?  And all the money I spent on eau de toilette and stupid clothes. laugh There's gotta be a challenge cars worth at least. indecision  A list of one.  With sub lists galore.

akylekoz
akylekoz HalfDork
2/9/18 5:57 a.m.

#9 car you don't care about.  

This struck a cord, If and when I stop caring about a car it gets a new owner.   

In my unrealistic world the new owner will treat their new car with more respect that I would to one that I have owned for ten years.  When I look at my van and think if I bought this today for what I'm selling it for, what would I do.  The answer is, lots of very small details that I currently don't care about, don't care = new owner.   I just can't let myself not care about a car.  

I find the need to buy at least one car per year that is bound for the crusher, then fix it up while driving it.  My current $400 jeep will get all fixed up then sold for little to no profit, but it will get saved from the crusher and make someone a nice car.  I will only care about it until it is up to a certain standard, once I'm happy that it is reliable and will be trouble free it's time to sell.  It's this reason that I can never make money selling cars, I can't just not care and push a problem on someone else. 

 

 

 

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
2/9/18 1:12 p.m.
Automobilist said:

You haven't owned a pickup?  How do you tow home car projects, engines, etc? How do you tow a race car to the track. (I actually tow mine with a giant diesel motorhome...)

No Italian cars? Again, pretty hard to take you seriously if you haven't ever had one of those beauties.  But then, you probably think a Datsun F10 is a "sports car"...

Pathetic...

If you saw the string of awesome vans I've owned you wouldn't be up my butt so far about not having a pickup. I once had a conversion van built by the Amish. THE AMISH.

I gotta fix the Italian car thing, though. You got me there. I really need a Fiat X1/9 to go next to the MR2 before they all disappear.

Automobilist
Automobilist New Reader
2/9/18 1:45 p.m.

In reply to JG Pasterjak :

Yep, the "Wizard of Wisconsin": Peter Egan is also more of a van guy. yes  Amish surf van, sweet...

X1/9 is cool, but how about a Lancia Beta Scorpion? 

racerdave600
racerdave600 UltraDork
2/9/18 1:53 p.m.
JG Pasterjak said:
Automobilist said:

You haven't owned a pickup?  How do you tow home car projects, engines, etc? How do you tow a race car to the track. (I actually tow mine with a giant diesel motorhome...)

No Italian cars? Again, pretty hard to take you seriously if you haven't ever had one of those beauties.  But then, you probably think a Datsun F10 is a "sports car"...

Pathetic...

If you saw the string of awesome vans I've owned you wouldn't be up my butt so far about not having a pickup. I once had a conversion van built by the Amish. THE AMISH.

I gotta fix the Italian car thing, though. You got me there. I really need a Fiat X1/9 to go next to the MR2 before they all disappear.

You do really, really need a X1/9.  There is a progression ladder and you started at the other end with the MR2s.  laugh  Maybe at this year's challenge, if Hoelscher is one of the pro drivers, you can convince him to bring out his old DSP car for a drive.  It's pretty epic.  

RevRico
RevRico UltraDork
2/9/18 1:53 p.m.

In reply to JG Pasterjak :

can you point me at pictures or an article about this Amish conversion van?

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
2/9/18 2:29 p.m.
RevRico said:

In reply to JG Pasterjak :

can you point me at pictures or an article about this Amish conversion van?

I'm looking. Might need to wait until I get back to the office Monday where the printed photos are. pretty sure it predated digital technology. In a lot of ways.

 

EDIT: Found one the same brand. Picture this, except blue and gold, and with way bigger fender flares. But that's basically it. Yes, all those windows and ports leaked water like crazy. Even when it wasn't raining.

 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
2/9/18 2:32 p.m.

We have photos of that van but, yeah, it's from the days of film. On Monday we can scan something. JG, I know where some are filed. 

sbrian2
sbrian2 New Reader
2/9/18 2:54 p.m.
JG Pasterjak said:

5. A Pickup Truck: Every time I see a mid-’90s Toyota pickup, no matter how ratty, I get those wistful “I need to get home and check Autotrader” feelings. There’s something about the combination of utility, ubiquity and indestructibility that really draws me to them–and to pickups in general. Pickups are basically cargo shorts you can drive around in. Pickups are a giant man-purse with wheels and an engine. Pickups are a portable hole into which you can throw all your dreams and all your hopes and take them with you on an adventure.

Exhibit A: My wife's daily driver.  I think she loves that truck more than me sometimes.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
2/9/18 3:33 p.m.

I never throw away anything.

Duke
Duke MegaDork
2/9/18 3:40 p.m.

Double extra points for the Jesus fish right below the bootleg Nine Inch nails sticker.

And is that giant CARRIAGE thing the Amish equivalent of having STUNTMAN on your jacket?

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
2/9/18 3:46 p.m.
Duke said:

And is that giant CARRIAGE thing the Amish equivalent of having STUNTMAN on your jacket?

FBI

(Female Body Inspector)

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
2/9/18 3:48 p.m.

It's actually even more awesome in this photo than I remember it. The radio antenna stuck way out on the front fender was a nice touch. Of course the radio was in the overhead console inside just like god intended.

Stefan
Stefan MegaDork
2/9/18 3:49 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:

I never throw away anything.

So how many times was JG stopped back in those days and his van checked for errant children by the local constabulary?

Cause that look, combined with the van, really screams "If this van is a rocking, I've probably kidnapped someone and you should call the police!"

All kidding aside, please tell me you had a member's only jacket in the van?  laugh

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
2/9/18 3:50 p.m.

JG, didn't this van once get taken over by ants? 

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
2/9/18 5:37 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:

JG, didn't this van once get taken over by ants? 

Taken over makes it sound forceful and I seem to recall it being more cooperative.

mlwebb
mlwebb New Reader
2/10/18 4:07 a.m.

Re 2x4's  - all lumber has been shrinking at a rate varying between 1/64 and 1/256 inch per year for decades, as any remodeller can tell you. Trim is particularly bad, it will come in tape form soon.  I think they should label things with actual sizes - ie 1 7/16" x 3 3/8", or 9/16"x 5 1/4 (for 1x6). I've become a fan of engineered wood - at least I know what size it is, and how strong it is.

That 2x4 was probably 8' long once, when it was 30% water. Pre-cut studs are 92 5/8".

That's why they always say measure twice - the first time is to see what you've got. 

nutherjrfan
nutherjrfan SuperDork
2/10/18 11:45 a.m.

In reply to akylekoz :

I like your thinking! smiley

Crackers
Crackers Dork
2/10/18 12:01 p.m.
DeadSkunk said:

2x4s come in two different lengths, the 8 foot ones that are 96.5" long +/- 1/8" and the 8 foot ones that are just short enough to fit between the headers to create an 8' 0.5" finished wall. Guess how I figured that out.

FTFY

And neither one are exactly 8'. 

Crackers
Crackers Dork
2/10/18 12:31 p.m.
pinchvalve said:

8. Looks Can Be Deceiving: You know what looks exactly the same as room-temperature steel? Steel that’s 700 degrees.

In High School metal shop, we cast a drama mask. I left mine cooling on the grate where you knock off the sand from your mold.  A few hours later, I go back and pick it up with my bare hands.  

In the interim, someone else had noticed that my mask  was cool, moved it elsewhere, and put theirs in the exact same spot.  It was still 700 degrees.  Lucky for my fingertips, I pinched it to slide it over so the damage wasn't too bad.  

Never assume in a metal shop. 

Back when I actually had a shop, I used to tell everyone to assume everything was hot enough to burn you. 

On a busy day, mid project, it was even pretty accurate. 

pjbgravely
pjbgravely HalfDork
2/12/18 11:13 p.m.
10. The Addict’s Shame: Damn you, self-tapping screws. Damn you to hell forever.

 

What is wrong with self tapping screws? Or did you really mean self drilling screws? Some people confuse the two types.

 

 

snailmont5oh
snailmont5oh HalfDork
2/13/18 2:23 a.m.
pjbgravely said:
10. The Addict’s Shame: Damn you, self-tapping screws. Damn you to hell forever.

 

What is wrong with self tapping screws? Or did you really mean self drilling screws? Some people confuse the two types.

 

 

Thank you!  I was talking about self drilling screws the other day, and the kid-who-adopted-me-as-his-dad's friend kept trying to tell me that they were "self tappers". I explained the difference, and he just wasn't going along. I had a Red (from that show about the 70s) moment, and told him convincingly that, if he said "self tappers" one more time, I was gonna feed him his Honda Civic. 

 

Also, it's threads like this that make me spend way too much time grinning at my phone. 

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