Crisis Averted – Morley's World #483

By: Dave Morley, Photography by: Dave Morley/HSV/Chrysler/Unique Cars Archives

The Boxster and Morley were fanging on back roads until there was a funny smell. Gently back to the MBC then...

Crisis Averted – Morley's World #483
Crisis averted!

How can you tell if you’re on to an honest mechanic; a good guy or gal who won’t dud you?

You send them a job that could be a big-dollar fix, only to have them discover a much smaller problem and charge you accordingly.

This was brought home to me the other day when the Boxster S put the first blot in its sexy little copy-book.

There I was, fanging along a nice piece of back-road, when I suddenly popped out of paradise, back into suburbia and struck the first red light in about 50km of – ahem – spirited driving.

Because it wasn’t actually raining speedboats at the time, I had the roof down and, as I slowed to stop at the intersection, I could suddenly smell coolant.

So, back at the MBC, I checked the level of the expansion tank and discovered that, yes, I was down a cupful or so.

Boxster coolant bleed valve was the culprit.

Now, I could have stuck the Porker on the ramp and checked it out. But you know what? This is a mid-engined car with three (count `em) radiators in the nose and the expansion tank in the boot.

That’s a lot of potential for getting the bleeding process wrong, leaving a hot-spot somewhere in the water-jacket and torching something inside with a part number that begins with a dollar-sign.

So it was off to Cascone Auto Sport (who did the IMS and clutch replacement when I first bought the car) for a professional diagnosis.

A quick online search had already revealed that the Porsche 986 is blessed with a vague propensity to eat its own water pump, as well as develop terminal cracks in the expansion tank.

Neither of those possibilities was going to be kind to my wallet, but what price motoring nirvana, eh? (Yes, I am still digging the Boxster like a crazy man with a shovel.)

Morley's favourite toy.

A day after I had the car trucked down to Cascone (no genius-points for driving a car in city traffic if it has a potentially dicky water pump) I get a call from Nick, boss man at the workshop.

Turns out, it’s good news, the leak was a simple matter of the bleed valve for the expansion tank having lost its mojo and allowing that small amount of coolant to escape.

Ah, says I, the penny dropping somewhat too late, that’ll explain the condensation under the boot-lid! Yep, says Nick.

So, with a new bleed valve fitted and crisis averted, the 986 is back in business and my bank account lives to fight another day. Probably with the ATO, but that’s another story.

And like I said, it would have been very easy for a shifty mechanic in the same situation to have sold me a water pump I didn’t need.

And while I’m not suggesting that even a small percentage of mechanics are crooks, it’s still nice to find one as honest as Nick.

Veneer of respectability

Moving on to other cars cluttering up the place around here, you’ll recall I recently stumbled on to a W124 Mercedes-Benz in utterly amazing condition bar the fact that it wouldn’t actually run. Details, details, right?

Anyway, you may also recall that I did the only sensible thing and bought it, non-working engine and all, while taking a massive punt on being able to fix it and everything else working properly once the donk was back in action.

Which – amazingly – is kind of how it all turned out, and now I have a lovely 260E in the driveway that drives as good as it looks.

Lots of things to go zap.

So now it’s time to start fixing all the little things that, while never deal breakers, might annoy me as time goes by. The first of those was the timber veneer surrounding the gearshift and power-window switches.

Over time and exposure to Aussie levels of UV radiation, the shiny coating (I thought it was lacquer, it’s actually a hard, bonded plastic material) had gone brittle and started to crack up like a dry lake bed.

Okay, compared with the rest of the pristine interior, the veneer was like a giant zit on a supermodel, but to be honest, it didn’t really bother me too much, but both Bondini and The Speaker were horrified at the sight of the timber work and demanded it be fixed.

Most of the inch-thick bonded plastic has gone.

And since Bondini has been an invaluable help with getting the Benz back to full health, and The Speaker prepares much of my food, I was obliged to see things their way.

In turn, that meant figuring out how to remove the piece of veneer. It wasn’t too difficult and, once you’ve removed the ashtray and a couple of screws, the piece of trim in question pops out and you can remove all the switches from underneath to liberate the piece. The task then became what to do about the crazy-paving plastic coating.

A quick dig around with a sharp blade revealed that some of it could be chipped off. But other bits that weren’t so affected were still firmly bonded.

Which meant sandpaper and a sanding block. Tremendous … my favourite things.

Many hours later, I had the coating stripped away to reveal a nice thick (about 3mm, in fact) of actual tree wood that could now be stained to match the rest of the timber trim (which hadn’t been sun-affected at all because the piece I was working on is the only one that sits horizontal and in direct sunlight much of the time.)

Callum, Bertone... Morley.

Problem number one was that even though I’d used a sanding block, I’d still managed to remove the striped pattern on the timber around a couple of the edges and corners.

That’s where The Speaker came in handy, digging out her old graphic design skills and hand-drawing the stripes for me.

From there, I managed to find a stain that looked about right, applied a few coats of that till I got the shade I was after, and then sprayed on a few light coats of high-gloss clear to bring back the wow-factor.

Okay, the end result aint perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the cracked mess I started with. And now I know what I’m dealing with, I reckon I could find another panel from a wrecked W124 somewhere and make an even better job of it.

New skillset pays off for the W124.

Finding another one shouldn’t be a problem, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Benz from this era that hasn’t got the same crazing on the same trim panel. Not that I really want to do another one, but when the rest of the car is so nice…

Fortress MBC

A recent security scare at the Melbourne Bloke Centre has convinced me it’s time to up the fortress rating.

Long story short, a couple of blokes recently decided to take a peek inside the garage at the side of the MBC. At 3.06am on a Monday.

They cut the locking pins on the door, opened her up, took a 30-second gander at what was in there, worked out there was nothing they could carry by hand, closed the door and buggered off.

In the end, they managed to steal precisely nothing and, apart from the cut locks, there was no damage to my stuff. Except to my psyche, that is. I spent the rest of that week wondering if I’d been targeted and whether I could expect a return visit.

No oil on the premises.

According to the cops who attended, these goons were almost certainly looking for tools and other portable stuff they could flog to finance their next hit.

Okay, but that didn’t stop me feeling really antsy for the next few days. Antsy enough, in fact, to get off my bum and up the security.

First thing was to install a nice new alarm system that will blind and deafen anybody stoopid enough to trip it, as well as send me and the monitoring company an alert that all is not well.

I’ve placed sensors everywhere and located the keypad where anybody looking in can spot it and make an informed decision about moving along.

I’ve also replaced the locking pins and welded steel plate over them, so that they can’t be cut so easily with a cordless angle grinder.

Yeah, you could still cut your way in, but it’d take a lot longer and there’d be a lot more noise and sparks to give the neighbours a heads-up.

Ya not gettin' in 'ere anymore.

Finally, I contacted a mob called Hoodlum Bollards and had a pair of their finest installed at every vehicle-entry (and exit) point at the MBC. I won’t go in to how they work, but they’re Aussie made and top-quality gear.

They weren’t what you’d call expensive either, and I reckon for folks like us who value our four-wheeled toys, the price of a bollard or two to protect what’s inside the garage is small beer.

Who knows, you might even find your insurer will reward you for such diligence with a premium discount come renewal time.

Morley's new method of garage safety.

I’ve now had time to take a good look at the security camera footage of the break-in supplied by my mate’s camera system across the car park, and it appears these dills really do fall a long way short of the master criminal category.

For a start, they assumed there were no cameras (there are plenty) but also that it would be okay to use a very distinctive car as their transport that night.

I’ve now seen enough angles to identify the vehicle and I’m hoping the cops either already know who they are or can find them. Meantime, how anybody thinks they have more claim to stuff I’ve worked hard to own is beyond me. Keep yer mitts off my stuff, ya bastards.

That was then

Jeez, the backside has really fallen out of the car market right now, hasn’t it?

The end of Covid and its ramifications for car prices seem to be a pretty distant memory now, and while the ghosts of daily price increases on anything remotely collectible remain, it’s equally true that that was then, this is now.

I’m seeing all sorts of tasty rides advertised right now for around two-thirds what was being asked for them just a couple of years ago at the height of the pandemic.

And while, in some cases, that’s still a bit more than the pre-COVID price list was showing, it remains that you can now get into something like a HSV Clubsport or XR8 – you know, relatively modern stuff by our standards – for sensible money again.

Ditto the Japanese stuff which has fallen back to somewhere around where it should have been all along.

The exception to that being anything old and Mazda and rotary-powered which, for reasons known only to generations of lunatics prepared to stump up huge bucks for some otherwise pretty ordinary tin, have defied any trend to create their own, stratosphere-bound fiscal trajectory.

Some of the General's finest are great buys.

I don’t think we’ll ever see pre-COVID pricing return in full, but it’s kind of nice to know that the market is being somewhat sensible when it comes to valuing the sort of cars us lot are interested in.

Really old stuff seems to be holding on to its value a bit better, and truly collectible stuff of the high-end variety isn’t going to take a bath any time soon, either.

But since I’m in no position to be shopping for those things, the news that reasonability has returned to the market pleases me.

Here’s a thought: Should you find yourself with some cash to splash on a collectible set of wheels, right now might not be a bad time to start sniffing around.

Just remember one thing: The prices being advertised and the prices actually being paid are often two very different figures. Get to it.

From Unique Cars #483, Sept 2023

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