Cars n Aeroplanes

January 2010:

Have you checked my white horse? Well, white VW kombi – WHICH . . was towed into the garage while on holiday two days before new year. Today I towed it again – to a clutch place. I’ve been driving Trish’s ole man’s 1980 Opel Kadett. He handed me the keys, his vision is shot. Glaucoma and deciding not to use the drops for years as they irritated his eyes and blurred his vision. He was right, xalatan is a bitch. But . .

I await the verdict on the kombi’s clutch – which I hope is better than VW’s R17 290.

I KNEW I shoulda fitted a Stromberg.

Peter Brauer wrote:

How thick can ONE man be?

Read what you wrote: ‘Been driving Trish’s ole man’s 1980 Opel Kadett.’

Do you not see the message in that? Let me help you: 1980……Opel . .

Give the kombi to the clutchplate and buy a fucking Opel. Of ALL people I thought you would have learned something as a student.

I wrote:

Problem is – no matter how hard I try – I don’t get the 1980 feeling driving it. I just remember Kevin Stanley-Clarke’s firm statement, as he drove us around Doories in his chocolate brown Alfa: “When driving, always watch out for old toppies wearing hats. Give them a wide berth.” My current cap says DAS Pilsener.

Also, clicking in the gearlock, fitting the steering lock, feeling the ceiling fabric fluttering on my bald head as I drive with all windows open – the aircon substitute. Then waiting for the misfiring to end after switching off – it all brings back TOO MANY memories.

PS: New crutch and “dual flywheel” (TF is that?): R9 900.

Steve Reed wrote:

Like I said: Buy a Toyota.

I wrote:

The WORST thing is, you’re right. As my Toyota patients never tire of telling me. With the Durban Toyota plant just down the road I see a fair number of them and their suppliers; and they have NO doubt as to what I should do. Trouble is: The Hi-Ace minibus has a bench seat – I can’t stroll back for a beer or a kip or to feed the kids. That’s a deal-breaker.

Steve wrote:

I never owned a Toyota in my life, despised them in fact, till arriving here in Australia and had to take the cheapest / most reliable / least offensive on the tweedie handsey (second hand) market.

Try standing on hot used car lots in the Brisbane heat !!!  Water boarding is a kinder form of torture.

Eventually when my head and body was about to be fully done in, I gave way and said “OK OK  I’ll take it”  and by some luck I was standing on the Toyota forecourt at the time.

VERY pleased I was not standing next to a Kia or a Holden Captiva.

As for the clutch, anything that can take six months of the good wife Wendy’s clutch abuse and still be on the road is ok for me. And I am brave enough to say this in front of herThen duck.

I wrote:

It’s a sad state of affairs that I will take anything that doesn’t give me kak in the line of cars and women nowadays.

Which reminds me:
Bob Ilsley was at Addington when I got there in my khaki uniform. He was in legs, I was in eyes. He made woorren legs for the hobbling. He’s turned 81 now, still flies the plane* he made in his garage – a Piper Vagabond – and waltzes around in rude T-shirts. One says, ‘IF ITS GOT TITS OR WHEELS IT
WILL GIVE YOU SHIT.

I’ve made glasses for him since 1980: Glass PGX execs; 3 cyl power, same axis; SAME heavy, dark Safilo zyl frame (same frame, not same type of frame), same add, same same; Tried changing a number of times to new frame, multi, CR39, flattops, different axis, whatever, and every single time we go back to EXACTLY what he had before.

Last year we tricked him. We made a free pair of CR39 flattops (‘temporary’ we told him) in a better frame (still zyl, but thinner) and made him wear them while we took his old specs and “searched for a frame just like his perfect one”. The search continued while his wife, all his girlfriends and mates told him he looked much better. Now he has stuck to them (except every now and then he walks in with his old ones on and kicks up a huge stink in the front office when its crowded about how “These bloody new frames you gave me are NO GOOD!”).
He’s a character. Sharp as  a whistle. He flies and signs off home-built planes – experimental aircraft – before they can be licensed.

* or would still be flying his Piper Vagabond tail-dragger if he hadn’t pranged it on take-off in PMB with his wife on board. He is re-building it in his garage now.

Bob’s Vagabond in his garage, being rebuilt after the PMB prang – never did fly again.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Anyway, owning a Toyota probly makes you more boring in the long run: You, for instance, would not have to catch a lift with friend Bruce to fetch your car in Umbilo Road (and the clutch feels kak, thank you).

We made a detour for lunch – a currie at Gounden’s. Gounden’s is at the back end of a panelbeating shop between Umbilo and Sydney roads. You walk thru the workshop to get to it. Lekker bare place, cheap tables with a big bar doing good trade. Many ous there for liquid lunch. We took quarter bunny mutton, made my hyes water.
Washed it down with Black Label and coke – one bottle, one can, long sips from one then the other. R80 for the both of us. Service: Of the Hey You variety. Ambience: Faint sounds of panel beating in the background.
Gounden opened this “restaurant” to spite his wife when they divorced. Her restaurant is a few shopfronts away, on the street: Govender’s Curry House. We feel in such cases of matrimonial argy bargy, we should support the husband.

~~~oo0oo~~~
My good wife Aitch also should be employed on a test track for concept offroad trucks along with Wendy. A mate from England visited and Aitch drove them around quite a bit while I worked to make money to take them all to Mkhuze. He drives ancient Peugeot heaps and lovingly tends them with kid gloves, keeping them alive long past their date de vente (sell-by date), so this was an eye opener to him. He said a Cockney version of Yussiss! and described how she takes no shit from a gear lever, nor a clutch. She knows first is somewhere up in that far left corner and she shoves the lever there without any how’s-your-father.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Bob is now 82. Last week he came in with his “Recycled Teenager” T-shirt. To proudly collect his – wait for it – Glass PGX Exec Bifocals in Thick Square Plastic Frame.
“Much better” he says.
His CR39 flattops were coated with a thick layer of some spray. Took lots of cleaning with acetone to get them clear and smooth. He did acknowledge they were clearer than they’d been in months. But the execs were better.

Today he’s back from passing his flying medical.
“Told you” he says.
“You wouldn’t lissen” he says.

Today he’s off to Kokstand to check if a home-built – built by the local hardware man – is safe to fly another year. He’ll certify it if all’s well.

Next week he’s on his way to Oshkosh in Wisconsin to the world’s biggest home-built aircraft show. Sleeps in a pup tent in the campground to save tom.

Last time he flew a simulator of the Wright Brothers’ first aircraft. Crashed after 3 seconds. Went to the back of the queue and stood in line again to have another go.
Flew it for 44 secs that time. Longer than the brothers themselves.

Steve wrote:

Amazin. Where do you get PGX glass execs from? That stuff is illegal here – we live in a nanny state though. Had a dude on the phone for 20 minutes wanting glass PGX trifocals.  Banging on about how he could buy PGX exec TRIfocals on the net if only he could get someone to fit them for him. Had not given up and had been trying for 18 months. PLUS of course being a veteran he needed to have them free. Veterans Assistance (V.A) here only does SV or bifocals, plastic only and a free pair every two years. Clear rules. He has been in battle with the head office of V.A. and after 18 months says he is beginning to make progress.  Fantastic. Over here if you whinge long enough, know how to use email, have time, and use the term “human rights” you can have anything. Just shout loud enough. Its all yours. And then the taxes go up.

I wrote:
Your veteran sounds like Bob.

On the execs, I got a definite NO WAY from Zeiss, Essilor and Hoya, but of course in Debbin there are lots of little one-man labs with family connections in places that keep Morris Oxfords running for half-centuries after their sell-by dates.

They woke up Hoya who then found a pair covered in dust. The add was +1,75 not +2,00, but I said “What’s the difference?” and we made them up. Bob’s as pleased as punch, like I told you. He loves a good “I told you so”.

Steve wrote:

Like Horseshoes and Handgrenades, closies DO count.  Excellent.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Fab Five Reunion

Larry visited from Ohio back in 1996. Pierre was in Harrismith; I was in Durban; Steph and Tuffy were living in Cape Town, so they won – we arranged to meet up as the Old Fab Five musketeers down in Kaapstad.

Larry Wingert had been Harrismith’s Rotary exchange student back in 1969 and had returned to South Africa twice before – once in 1976, down through Africa from Greece, mostly overland, all the way to Cape Town; and once in 1985, when he and I had done an overland trip from Maun in Botswana to Vic Falls in Zimbabwe.

Trish and I took him to Mkhuze game reserve:

– in Mkhuze –

and down to Cape Town:

– the Fab Five plus Rope – Pierre, Rope, Koos, Steph, Tuffy, Larry –

Steph took us to his Kommetjie beach house

This year 2020 Steph’s brother JP sent me pics of the magic pub in the beach house

– JP in Steph’s well-stocked pub –

and Tuffy entertained us royally at his and Lulu’s lovely home in Langebaan:

– Larry Lulu me and Tuffy –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Asked what the Fab Five was, I had to think about it. We were a gentlemanly triple-AA gang Educational Club who would meet clandestinely after dark and do creative things to broaden our minds.

The one AA was for automobiles, which we would borrow under an intricate arrangement where the actual owners were not part of the bargaining process; we would then use these automobiles to go places;

The other AA was for alcohol, which we would procure under an intricate arrangement of dispatching a third party who could legally buy the stuff, to a bottle store other than my parents’ bottle store; this we would then imbibe for the purpose of stiffening our resolve. And for laughter and the third AA:

Action! Adventure! Anything but boredom.

– the SAAB re-enactment didn’t happen – we used Tuffy’s bakkie instead – Fab Five plus Frik – Steph Frik Pierre Tuffy me Larry –

One of the founding reasons for launching the august club was we suddenly had a Yank in our midst and we were really afraid he’d go back to the metropolis of Cobleskill, upstate New York and say there was nothing to do in Harrismith. The thought mortified us. We had to DO something!

~~~oo0oo~~~

We were reminded how offended we were late one night on one of our adventures – this one not motorised – we were prowling the empty streets at night te voet – on foot.

And we spotted a policeman driving around drunk! Can you believe it!? That was OUR forte! What was HE doing driving around drunk like us!? So we indignantly phoned the copshop from a tickey box, reported him to the dame on laatnag diens and walked away feeling smug. Next thing we heard a squealing of tyres and the roaring of a Ford F150 straight six. It was him! She had obviously radio’d him and told him! Maybe they were an item!?

We started running as the cop van roared closer. It was the only thing making a noise in the whole dorp at three in the morning so we could easily hear where he was. We sprinted past the Kleinspanskool and as he came careening around the corner we dived under the raised foundations of Laboria – Alet de Witt’s big block of flats. We crawled through and out the other side, at Steph’s house. Steph & Larry went home as did Tuff, a block or two away. Pierre and I had a way to go yet, so we set off along Stuart Street – we could hear the fuzz in the grey Ford F150 with the straight six and the tralies over the windows roaring around in Warden Street. He never stood a chance of catching us. We were fleet of foot and we could u-turn within one metre!

~~~oo0oo~~~

te voet – on foot; saving fuel for the environment

tickey box – street phone booth

dame on laatnag diens – lady on late night duty

Kleinspanskool – junior primary school

tralies – burglar bars

It’s Just Cos You’re Old

My ole man complains his doc doesn’t even try to help him. “He always just says ‘It’s cos you’re old’ ‘Dis die ouderdom.’ Any problem, there’s no attempt at fixing or understanding – just ‘Hey, you’re old.’ He doesn’t even get up out of his chair!” Now I really empathise with people wanting to be heard; I think every effort should be made to patiently hear out 95yr-olds and understand their problems; Hell, I regularly do just that! Maybe he should make a double appointment?

BUT: I did also suspect that some things – human and mechanical – are simply “because they’re old” – reinforced by Tom’s refrain from The Boondocks: “You’re just mad cos your ass is old.” 

SO: Although I told the ole man he really should get a second opinion – to which he replied, “I’m going to make one last appointment with him and I’m going to tell him I’m leaving him!” Why? I asked, Just leave. “No, what about his other patients!?  He needs to be told!” – I did also secretly think, Hey, some things can’t be fixed.

So my Ford Ranger – that’s my white 3litre diesel 4X2 hi-rider double cab Ford Ranger bakkie – has been a bit noisy, but I was not admitting to it. What? What noise? I can’t hear anything. I once heard a noise and it cost me money.

Then three things happened and forced my hand: One, a very young lady – teenager really – reversed into my left front wheel, BANG. I got out and she burst into tears Waah! I’m sorry! Waah! I’ve had such a terrible day! Waah! I’m going to be in such trouble! I looked at my car: not a scratch. I looked at hers: a dented soft bumper. I said Off You Go. Just Go. As I drove off Tom said Dad! You’re such a sucker! You should have sued her ass! Nah, I said, nothing happened. Then the car starts to shake like its got Parkinson’s. See!? says Tom, I told you. She just suckered you, you should have sued her. We’d gone ten metres and a glance at the young lady – teenager really -‘s car showed she’d already gone seventy metres in the shade. She was outta there!  What to do? I pretended not to feel the shake. What shake? I don’t feel a shake; I once felt a shake and it cost me money. Tom just gave an exasperated eye roll and shook his head.

Two, driving up our road with Jess, a cacophony of sound like forty seven tin cans had been thrown under the car made it hard for even me to ignore it. What was that Dad!? says Jess, who usually doesn’t notice anything automotive. Did you throw all your tin cans under the car, Jess? I deflect. No! That noise is from your car, Dad! she says firmly. Jess, I once heard a noise . . oh, hell, I just kept quiet.

The clincher was I had volunteered my vehicle as able to take the nine lady walkers and me to the Zululand beach walk and I now found out they expected it to drive to the actual beach, then on to fetch us at the next stop and I suddenly thought, “What if it lets me down in front of these grown – not teenage – ladies? That could prove embarrassing.” A 4X4 it ain’t. So I leapt into action: I had the left rear door fixed. It hadn’t opened for a year; And I decided I’d give it new tyres. That always makes it look better. The front ones were worn quite sadly. New tyres, I thought, and then the alignment will probably fix all the other problems which are simply a matter of being out of whack after being whacked by a young lady – teenager really.

And you won’t believe what the tyre man told me as he was doing the alignment! Your Shocks Are Fucked, he tells me. Bluntly; Just like that. How dare he? I was still puffing when he scribbled on my tyre invoice “Four shocks” and said “Go get a quote.” Well, I’m a diplomat and they say the meek will inherit the earth without any land claims, so I absorbed the shock and next thing I’m driving away with two new Dunlop-with-superblue tyres, balanced and aligned and four new yellow Monroe shock absorbers.

And would you believe it!? Silence! Smoothness! Amazing. Maybe old things CAN be fixed. I may have to re-evaluate.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

While these shocks were being applied, this party bus was having its wheels aligned nearby:

So I dial the number and a voice behind me says “Are you calling me?” It’s Ndumiso and he’s the owner-dude. Sure, he can do Jessie’s bar for her 21st party, he says. No prah-blim. Ha! Two birds with one stone.

You can see from their bumper they’re probably steady, reliable ous.

Update: NOT. He hasn’t phoned, hasn’t returned messages. He’s like King Kong with Faye Wray. I’ll have to play barman.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

On Seeking Good Advice

. . and then ignoring it.

I couldn’t believe they wanted R40 000! Forty Thousand! NO WAY!

So I sought advice from someone who really knows cars.

Hi Alan
My VW kombi is a 2005 1,9TDi T5 8-seater – 166 000km.

Repairs needed:
Clutch (R12 800); Brakes (R3 000); Driveshaft (R10 100)
Sliding door not opening; plus 165 000 km service.

I have been quoted R40 537 for the above by Alpine Motors VW.

As a trade-in on a second-hand vehicle (around R250k) they offer me R30 000.

I think I’m ready for a double cab bakkie now. Needn’t be 4X4.

Please tell me what you think. Thanks a lot. Cheers. Pete

(this was in 2012)

~~~oo0oo~~~

Hi Pete.

My value for your kombi: R105 000 less 15 for high kms = 90. Less repairs. So worst case scenario on a trade-in = R50 000.

So their R30 000 offer is taking a chance. You don’t need to give it away, these kombis are very sought-after.

If Alpine sells you another they will do the repairs for half that. Tell them to work a deal and you want 70 as-is on another Kombi.  If not, rather keep it and fix it yourself as the repairs it needs are all wear and tear being the driveshaft, clutch and brakes – not unusual at this mileage.

My advice:
Fix it. That is the cheaper way round. This is not so expensive in comparison to other cars.

Regards, Alan

~~~oo0oo~~~

So: Did I take his advice and spend R40k to get exactly what I wanted?
No, I spent R140k and got a bakkie. Which I didn’t really want. And which I still have and I still don’t really want.

One day I hope to live and learn.

DSCN8788.JPG

Things are actually fairly easy . . .

. . . if you pull your finger out of your arse. But digital-anal extraction is not really a prominent forte of mine, me being more a procrastinator, thinker, cogitater, planner and delayer sort of person. Circumspect. Not that I’m saying that’s a bad thing, I’m sure it has saved me money at times, I just can’t think of any specific instance when it did.

So the white Ford Ranger pickup clocks 150 000km and is due for a service – full diesel and turbo service and check the nipples or whatever these okes do that know what they’re doing. At 152 000 and 154 000 I’m still serene and only at 156 000km do I start thinking Shit, you’re actually a slack SumBitch, y’know!?

At 158 000 I start making plans and at 160 000 I actually phone Mario and tell him I will be bringing the Ford Ranger bakkie in as soon as I can organise a lift. “Any time” he says in his Italian accent. And then he says “Those Ford Rangers are wonderful vehicles, they’re bullet-proof”, not realising he has just given me a subconscious reason to take my foot off the Urgency, Jeez you’re Slack pedal again. He is a qualified mechanic who apprenticed and specialised on Alfa Romeos back in the day so he knows about cars giving grief and he can diagnose from fifty paces. He knows you have to LURV your car and LISTEN to your car and FEEEL for your car. Right.

Invariably, after a service, he gives me a long and earnest lecture about neglect and how to treat a car. He has serviced my Ford Cortinas and VW Kombis for at least 25yrs and knows I am not what you would call Italian for “meticulous”. As they say: Devi prestare un’attenzione meticolosa alle istruzioni perché le dirò una volta sola. Prestava un’attenzione meticolosa al suo lavoro assicurandosi che fosse sempre perfetto.

So at 163 000km I gear up for REALLY doing something about this and then luckily lil sister Sheila phones: Would I like to join them, they’re going to Ngoye forest in Zululand with a bunch of birders all older than us this weekend and can we take my bakkie?

So I phone Mario and my dilemma about how do I get to work once I’ve dropped off the Ford is solved: Sheila takes me to work then fetches me at 1pm and takes me and Jessie to the dentist. We walk the 3km home.

Now I have to fetch the Ford. Jon is in Jo’burg or Barcelona; Bruce’s Mom just died, he’s organising funeral homes; I don’t want to ask Sheila for a third lift.

WAIT! Jessie’s scooter! There’s a plan. I’m unlicenced and don’t have a helmet but I don my cycling helmet and a jacket and I’m off. Wheee!

Yamaha scooter.jpg
Heather & Bruce on that scooter

Yussis I enjoyed it! It started to rain and those wheels are small but I zoomed off, 150cc’s whining. I diced – and beat – every car at all the lights. Twenty kilometres later I was there and asked Mario to help me load the Yamaha in the back of the Ranger. We huffed and puffed and we had to call his son Andreas to help, but we squeezed it in lying on its side with the handle bars hanging over the tailgate. I was about to clip Sambucca’s dog leash on the brakes to stop it from falling out when Mario said “The petrol is leaking out” so we dragged it back out and abandoned it in his garage.

I have my bakkie back. The noise wasn’t a hole in the exhaust, the fan belts were shot; the seat belt light was just a loose wire to an airbag; the brake light was low brake fluid; I’d imagined the discs paper-thin, so I had stopped braking for the last few weeks; Two minutes after I got there Mario poured brake fluid in to the appropriate reservoir and the light went off!

Nothing was as bad as I’d imagined. So he fixed everything and did the 150 000km service 13 000km late all for R2200. Things are actually fairly easy if you pull your finger out of your arse.

=======ooo000ooo=======

If you check the Italian words “attenzione meticolosa; volta sola; and perfetto” – you will find this translation: What I’m Not.