Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN


December 5, 2012

DIY: Damage it yourself

Greensburg — At some time or another we have all felt that it wasn’t necessary to call on professional help to repair that noisy air conditioner or do a ring job on a lawn mower that was effectively keeping all the mosquito’s in the neighborhood at bay by belching out clouds of smoke.

The old saying, “I don’t need no stinking repair manual” normally ends up with the repairman fixing not only the original problem but also the mess left by the self proclaimed professional.

If anyone fits into the latter category like a square peg in a square hole, it’s me. My usual reaction when told the cost of replacing a leaky faucet is, “HOW MUCH? I can do that myself with nothing more than a hammer and a screw driver.” Finally, with the kitchen floor covered in an inch of water and Judy struggling to load the shotgun, I pay twice as much as the original quote for repairs and a cleaning service.

Many years ago, I was bitten by a disease called “teenycarpsychosis.” This ailment is diagnosed as the inability to resist buying small two-seat cars produced in such countries as England and Italy and referred to as “sports cars.” The name is appropriate because anyone has to be a sport to live with some of those things. I

t’s well known that the average automobile buyer is driven first by the emotion of attraction to styling followed by the number and function of accessories available for any model. Brand loyalty also plays a role. “If my daddy always drove a Belchfire 88, that’s good enough for me.” It doesn’t matter that the good old Belchfire is built in Siberia by itinerant goat herders; it’s brand loyalty that matters.

My first sports car was an MGA, a bright red British two-seater coupe with a faulty door latch on the passenger side. Unless I held onto the door handle in a left hand turn the door would swing open, requiring a pullover to the curb to jerk it back in place. Passengers were instructed to hang onto the handle except in the case of a large dog chasing the car. Large dogs have always been a potential problem.

I’ve always had a fear of being caught by one and buried in someone’s back yard. However, an open door smacking a dog in the rump always works as a deterrent. I finally solved the problem by hooking a screen door spring to the passenger door and securing the other end of the spring behind the driver’s seat. I loved that little tomato can.

As the years passed, I owned a succession of the little junk heaps with my moods swinging between enjoyable summer drives with the tops down and pure rage at a bevy of niggling problems that frequently popped up.

One car, a beautiful Jaguar XKE, was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Trying to use one of those things as a daily driver is like attempting to make a living on the horse races. Put it in the garage at night and the next morning turn the ignition key and get nothing. After a lot of trial and error and a broad expansion of my four-letter vocabulary, I learned to dismantle the ignition, jiggle certain wires around and be back on the road in five minutes — not to mention the times when the cockpit would suddenly fill with smoke which meant fiddling with the wiring under the dash, finding the shorted out connection, separating the smoldering wires and driving on. It was a bittersweet divorce when I finally sold the car.

Then came the cherry on the sundae. I found a semi-rare car I had lusted after for a long time, a Lotus S4. A limited production all fiberglass bodied small speedster, it had apparently been electrically wired by the freshman class at the Neanderthal School Of Electrical Nonsense.

When it ran it was a little rocket. When it decided not to run, the problem was always due to electrons in the circuitry trying to swim upstream. I would spend hours trying to figure out if the blue wire connected to the yellow one or if the oscillating transverse modulator was supposed to activate the double pole scintillator. My vocabulary expanded to words never before heard on this planet.

One day, we decided to take a two-car jaunt around the countryside, Judy and Gina, our daughter, in the Triumph TR4 and Tony, our son and I in the Lotus.

I pulled the Lotus out of the garage and sat, letting it warm up, when the engine exploded in a ball of fire, blowing up the hood and sending a fireball rolling over the windshield. My first thought was to protect my hairdo from being scorched and the second was finding the on-board fire extinguisher.

After the smoke settled, I had $1,200 dollars in damage in only 30 seconds of excitement. A paint job, body work and new wiring later, the little assassin messed up a valve in the engine. After driving it noisily to a local repair shop and the mechanic seeing me pull in simply shook his head no. I had no choice. I had to do the job.

This was no ordinary engine to say the least. In the garage, I removed the top end, twin cams and all.

After hours of labor dis-assembling the thing, correcting the problem and during re-assembly, I accidentally dropped a small nut into the exhaust manifold.

No problem, since exhaust systems blow, not suck I thought. It will blow the thing out the tailpipe. Wrong! It sucked the nut back into the engine on top of the repaired valve and locked the engine again. That’s when I learned to do the Saint Vitus’ dance and curse for a full 10 minutes without drawing a breath.

After the second valve rebuild, I rewired the thing, put another new paint job on it, found a hapless buyer and unloaded it. Over the years following that car, I’ve owned a procession of some of the most mechanically incompetent machines ever created by mankind. I finally settled on my present sports car which, being a more recent model, hasn’t given me nightmares over the past 12 years.

But because those memories still smolder inside me, I plan to write letters of protest to the Queen of England and the president (or whoever controls the country) of Italy. They should be aware of the larceny of their automotive companies who preyed on innocent Americans by pawning off those pretty little pieces of junk on us.

But if I could, I’d do it all over again.


Text Only
  • Thanks, Max

    Max Dickson has given the historical society a gift that many will enjoy for years.

    April 17, 2014

  • Lee H. Hamilon: Government As Innovator? You Bet! Five years ago, the federal government spent $169 billion to fund basic research and development. This fiscal year, it's down to $134 billion. People who believe in public belt-tightening applaud drops like that. I understand why: There are many reas

    April 17, 2014

  • How to deal with nuisance wild animals Most people enjoy watching wildlife and sometimes even interacting with critters on occasion. One of my favorite activities is keeping the bird feeder well supplied and seeing Hoosier song birds up close and personal. Sometimes there are situations w

    April 17, 2014

  • Self deposit box: Wolfsie takes a selfie of his check I love where I bank. It's a branch inside of a big supermarket. I can make a modest withdrawal and then go and blow every last penny in the cookie aisle. The tellers at the window appreciate me. They know about my obsession with round numbers and und

    April 17, 2014

  • Alice Woodhull: Back on the job Well, this is Alice, and I am back on the job. It has been two months since I got my new shoulder, and so far it is working like it should. I have had a couple weeks of therapy, plus doing a lot with it on my own, and I'm hoping it will soon be as g

    April 16, 2014

  • Linda Hamer Kennett: The timeless beauty of wicker No matter what the day may bring, I can leave it all behind when I take my evening walk. Strolling through our historic neighborhood on Indy's south side is a multifaceted treat. It is good for my heart, it erases the cares of the day and it affords

    April 16, 2014

  • Dr. Michael Layne: Palm Sunday Matthew 21:1-11 is the Gospel passage that will be heard in many churches this Palm Sunday. Today, I want us to look at the last two verses: 10When Jesus came to Jerusalem, everyone in the city was excited and asked, "Who can this be?" 11The crowd a

    April 12, 2014

  • Jenni Hanna: Exploring the mystery of the bitcoin I've heard of a lot of synonyms for currency, but "bitcoins" was a new one to me. Although bitcoins (BTCs) have been around since 2009, they are something I've just recently learned about and am really struggling to understand. Bitcoins cannot be hel

    April 11, 2014

  • nws-gb041014-Spaulding headshot Jack Spaulding: A time not to adopt Springtime brings a host of new life into the outdoors. The fields, forest, and the nests and dens are full of new life and cute and cuddly baby critters as nature carries on procreation. Nature knows how to take care for her own, but unfortunately,

    April 10, 2014 2 Photos

  • Net tricks My wife and I went on a binge last week. If you think I'm talking about an eating binge, you've never seen how thin we both are. If you think I mean a shopping binge, you don't know how cheap we are. And if you think it was a cleaning binge, you've

    April 10, 2014

Featured Ads
AP Video
Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.