Rough Road - Morley's World 457

By: Dave Morley - Words & Photos

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In the past month Dave has hit more than his fair share of speedhumps

Ever had one of those days? Sounds like the start of a bad joke, doesn’t it, but in a way, that’s exactly how some days pan out. You know it. I know it. The sort of day where, if it was raining Hollywood starlets, I’d get hit on the head by Lassie.

My most recent should-have-stayed-in-bed moment came the other day when I was heading into the big smoke to visit my mum who was in hospital recovering from surgery. And she wasn’t doing so hot. So, right from the off, I ‘m not in the best mood about the world in general and I have that horrible feeling that it’s only gonna take one more dickhead to appear in my cross-hairs and I’m going to wind up in front of a magistrate. The city traffic (which I avoid at all costs in normal circumstances) is not helping.

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So there I am, sitting at a red light on a major three-lane arterial, trying to figure out how to organise a visit to a hospital in the midst of a COVID scare, wondering if the mouth-breather in the car next to me is going to dawdle away or lay rubber when the lights change (‘cos I’ve just worked out I need to change lanes pretty soon) when out of nowhere…BANG! Some idiot has gone screaming into the back of the MBC parts-chaser at what feels like a decent velocity (because I remember my head hitting the head-rest).

I dispense a few well-chosen oaths, haul the car up on to the footpath and get out. The white Mazda SUV that has cleaned me up has also headed into a parking space. Walking to the back of the parts chaser, it’s pretty clear that it was, indeed, a fair old shunt. The tailgate is stoved in, the hinge is bent, the bumper toast and the whole show looks to be listing to port a little. I walk over to the white Mazda and, as the driver emerges, I ask the one, truly obvious question: What the…?

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The parts chaser gets a spruce up

Perhaps sensing the peril he was in, the young fella immediately set about saving his own life by apologising, admitting total fault and promising me he was insured. This, I will admit, disarmed me somewhat. A bit like the way some dolt will stitch you up in traffic but then wave an apology through the back window, thereby defusing the whole situation. Actually, I reckon there’s a thesis in this, not to mention a great way to reduce road-rage.

The upshot is the parts chaser is going to spend a few days at the panel beaters. And while it’s pulled to bits and the spray painter has Hothouse Green in the gun, I’ve arranged to have the front panels (where the Holden clear coat had done its usual thing of falling off the car) resprayed which should take the car back to 2003 (if you ignore the 185,000km that have gone under the wheels since then). So, not a total debacle then? Er, maybe…

Oh, and Mother is back to her normal, trouble-makin’, plate-throwin’ self, thanks for asking.

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Speaking of getting rear-ended it seems to be happening to my cars quite a lot over the past few years. Luckily – I guess – it’s always been the daily-driver stuff that gets the big whack in the quoit, which is why this chain of incidents hasn’t yet seen me on murder charges. Had I been driving something a bit special, the inevitable roadside chat might have ended a bit differently than it has been. And I’d like to think that any prosecution case with the slightest interest in justice would surely downgrade the murder charge against me to justifiable homicide on the basis that some dingbat who was texting when they ran up the back of my Charger was clearly asking for it.

Meantime, the Whoops-Matron episodes with my cars have included four, with the Speaker’s string of three hatchbacks. The second-most recent one actually wrote the car (a VW Golf) off when a cement-mixer came over all amorous in Sydney traffic. And now my beautiful SS Ute. Morons, the lot of them.

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And, when I think about it, they actually have all been morons. Except for the driver of the cement truck who simply lost sight of the Golf as I stopped at a pedestrian crossing, his line of sight blocked by his own bonnet. But the others have either been talking to their mates in the car, fiddling (I suspect) with a mobile phone, attempting to run an orange light (from behind me, remember) or simply having a zone-out moment when pulling out into traffic and presuming that my car had already moved. You guessed it; it hadn’t.

Anybody got any ideas for a bumper sticker that repels dickheads? Might be handy for other things than cars, too, now that I think about it.

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All dressed up and no place to go

Okay, confession time: I’m a complete dribbler. I shouldn’t need to explain that; you’ve been reading my stuff for years, but here’s the latest piece of evidence for having me locked up for my own good. I decided that, when we’re all finally allowed to have fun again, I will finally get Project Duckshit on the track (Remember that car?) and do some grass-roots hillclimbing. The old Commodore is ready to go apart from a wheel alignment, and has been for some time. Fact is, I tightened the last nut and bolt about the day before the first Covid lockdown hit and the world went berko. So it has never turned a wheel in what passes for anger for a 202 and a single-pegger diff. Anyway…

The other thing that I’m aiming to do is attend some car-club motorkhanas and such. But for that, I reckon the RA40 is the gun weapon (stay with me). So I’ve stuck a proper driver’s seat in that and started to have a fiddle with its set-up. And one of the first things I identified as missing was a dead-pedal. Even as a committed left-foot braker, a does-nothing-pedal to the left of the clutch is worth its weight in cocaine when you’re hanging off the steering wheel as the car makes like a border-collie puppy and ignores every instruction you give it.

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Celica looks good, doesn't it?

So, I welded up a length of 3mm steel with a mounting surface at each end and started to mount it in the footwell hard against the tunnel. This proved to be more difficult than it might have been for a smaller bloke with a better torch, but in the end, I got the floor end mounted and then went for the drill to mount the bit that disappears up under the dashboard. It was at this point that my dribbler status was confirmed. See, I figured the firewall would be double-skinned. So imagine my surprise when the drill-bit went through the firewall and solidly into something else behind it. Imagine further, if you will, as my surprise to turned to horror as I withdrew the drill, only to have a trail of fluid follow it into the cabin. A quick taste confirmed it to be brake fluid. You may have heard me from anything up to 50km away.

Yep, I’d somehow managed to defeat the odds and drilled through the firewall and into the hard brake line that takes fluid from the union under the master cylinder to the rear brakes. Fluid that was now pooling in the footwell of the car. Up on the hoist and the carnage becomes obvious. But precisely how I managed to nail that little hard line so utterly dead centre is the real mystery. A thousand other idiots would have tried and failed. Not this one.

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Now, finding a new hard line for an old Celica was never going to be easy, so I took the opportunity to improve on Toyota’s original design a little. Think laterally, and all that. I visited my local brake shop and asked nicely if they’d cut off the damaged end (about 30cm) of the line and make me a braided flexi-line to replace it. That way, I still get the firm pedal I need, but by being able to route the new flexible line more sensibly, I have a few choices in how it’s all packaged. The other issue, of course, was that the hard line in question ran almost the full length of the car from firewall to diff (where it joins the factory flexible lines to each rear drum). Removing it to take it to the brake shop involved undoing about 8 P-clips and even unbolting the tailshaft centre-bearing mount to allow the line to drop out. Clearly these lines were put here before anybody at Toyota fitted an engine or transmission.

As with everything, however, I took all this as an opportunity to learn. And I learned two things. One: Dial before you dig, and; Two: In building the RA40 Celica, Toyota started with a hard brake line and built the rest of the car around it.

Like the majority of Aussies right now, I’m in the middle of a Covid lockdown. Talk about the Ducks of Uselessness lining up…first we have various tiers of government (Tiers of a Clown, anyone?) who, frankly, wouldn’t know if a tram was up them till the bell rang and passengers got out, trying to herd other non-governmental (but idiotic just the same) folks towards the (from where I sit) impossible goal of zero community Covid.

And the next galoot that tells me we’re all in this together is going to experience blunt-force trauma. We are most definitely not all in this together. Not everybody has lost their job. Not everybody has a relative in aged care they can’t visit. Not everybody has a new grandkid interstate that they haven’t even met yet. Not everybody is struggling with a house full of rowdy, bored kids. But a lot are, so spare a thought and don’t insult those doing it tougher by presuming that not being able to play golf is the same as not being able to feed your family.

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It's time to do those fiddly jobs

Look, I don’t wanna get all political, but seriously, if my company made such a lousy fist of a job I was being paid for as our elected officials have made of Covid, I reckon I’d be casting a shadow on the footpath outside Centrelink before the editor had hung up the phone. And while I understand that restrictions are necessary to keep vulnerable people safe, where the hell do others get the notion that it’s okay to gather in big groups and punch police horses? I mean, going to a mass rally, where you’re a good chance to pick up your very own dose of the virus and extend any lockdown, to protest that same lockdown…? Surely, as own-goals go, that’s up there with farting in your space-suit.

Anyways, while I can’t be out driving my collection of cobwebs and oil leaks, I have turned lockdown into some kind of maintenance challenge. I’m doing all those fiddly, little, time consuming jobs that I’ve been putting off for ages. Stuff like committing a neatness at the MBC, stripping, masking and repainting the black bits on the grille of the VH Charger. You know the kind of stuff.

Funny thing is, rather than making me pine for the open road all the more, I reckon there’s actually a therapeutic net result to it. For the first time in a long time, I’ve actually had more time than I need to do these otherwise nothingburger little tasks. And that means I’m taking the time to do them properly, rather than rushing it all so I can get down to the local pub and gallop through the mid-week parma-and-pot deal with a couple of mates. Don’t get me wrong, the minute I’m allowed out, it’ll be schooners at 10 paces. But for the moment, I’m stuck with going nowhere and, I have to say, my cars and my workshop are the better for it. And there’s definitely a Zen side to carefully masking a piece of trim, trimming the excess tape, keying the exposed surfaces and then spraying on a layer of newness. Hell, I’m even shaking the rattle can for the full two minutes recommended on the instructions.

I dunno, maybe I’m slipping into an OCD coma where only perfection will do. Nah… But I can tell you one thing: Once this is all over and I hit the road in the old Val, it’ll be a sharper dressed tool than it might have been if I hadn’t been sentenced to several months fiddly labour. And that parma is going to taste even better.

Stay outa trouble, you lot.

 

From Unique Cars #457, Sep 2021

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