2016: The Year on Wheels

A lot of us hated 2016.

Hate is a strong word, but when an entire year does a roundhouse kick to your head, I think its use is justified. Many of us experienced loss, hardship, and even downright disappointment... and I'm just talking about the music industry. Seriously, what the heck happened there?

Then there was that presidential race. No matter what side you were on, the entire campaign season was a reality show run amok. Its not going to get better anytime soon since the internet and social media basically remind us of how polarized we are on a daily basis. What ever happened to 'agree to disagree?"

But the year wasn't all bad.

We put a few miles on our cars, we saw some neat things, and we even added to our fleet. I promised to update this blog more this past year, and I failed in a most epic way. The trouble with blogging is that it takes time away from doing the things you want to blog about. Its your classic Chicken McNugget and Egg McMuffin scenario. Maybe next year we'll improve things.

Here's a few things we DID manage to do in 2016.

1. Drove Our '55 Plymouth Everywhere

From the very beginning of spring, we dragged Minerva, our recently-acquired 1955 Plymouth Savoy sedan to every car show, cruise-in, and tour we could squeeze into our schedule. The purpose behind buying this car was to keep the wear and tear off of Oscar, our '47 Chevrolet since he's a survivor in need of TLC. We wanted to be able to have an old car that still wasn't full of power everything and devoid of any character whatsoever, so we grabbed this bare-bones Mopar and put it to work this summer.

Awkward Selfies For Everyone!
There was the 200 mile trip to Barnacopia in the springtime, a museum of all sorts housed inside a modern three-story barn in Polo, Illinois. We met up with the entire family that day, ate brunch at the historic lodge at White Pines State Park, and had a great visit with some friends.  There were the Central Illinois Cars and Coffee excursions that brought us together with gearheads of all types right in our own backyard. Our flathead six-cylinder puttered along the highways and backroads of central Illinois for the entire season, and kept its cool no matter what the temperature was. It also kept its heat, as the heater and defroster worked overtime in the spring, with 26 degree temperatures for the early meets.

Yay, Trophies! 

Minerva earned her first 'award' at the Bradley University Student SAE Chapter car show in April. The award was for 'Best in Show, Original Class', which was an honor for us. It also came with a nifty hand-built trophy built from Chevy LS motor parts!

♩ ♪ ♫  Off The Road Again  ♩ ♪ ♫ 

2. We Learned How to Repair Nearly Everything on Our Plymouth

Part of the old car game is knowing what to do when something breaks down. No matter how well-maintained your vintage ride is, something will give out when you least expect it. In the case of Minerva, we simply expect it every time. Its not that its a bad car, its a sweet driver and we love owning it. It just screams for more attention every time we venture more than 10 miles from home, and this summer prompted some field repairs that called on my many years of automotive know-how to get us safely home.

From carburetor issues, to losing your brakes, and dead ignition coils, we soldiered through the season and slowly improved the reliability of our 61 year old Plymouth. Some would argue things could have gone smoother if we replaced parts BEFORE our trips, but I guess hindsight is 20/20. Plus, we got to meet some friendly people while throwin' wrenches along a gravel road.

If your coil dies, make sure its near a fruit and vegetable stand so you can have snacks. 

Shock absorbers can explode. Did you know that? I didn't until 2016. 

An eBay-sourced NOS replacement shift arm (left) replaced the wallowed-out original (right).
The Plymouth's gear grinding was reduced, but not eliminated. 

Pro Tip: Brakes work better when the wheel cylinders don't leak. 

The big takeaways for us this season were always have a Triple A membership that includes 100 miles of towing, and keep a spare tool kit in the back of your old car... even if you're just running to the Dairy Queen. You never know when you'll need it. Shop manuals are also your friend.

3. We Saw Several WWII War Planes In Action

The warbirds that helped the Allies win WWII are getting up there in age, and that usually means one thing: Static display. Think about how much work is involved in keeping an old car or truck running, and then multiply that by 100. That's what it takes to run an old airplane. That's why Sarah and I try to catch as much air show action as possible when the old planes are flying, and twice this summer we were able to see some T-6 Texan trainers, P-51 Mustangs, and the mother of all flying Superfortresses, Fifi the B-29. We saw this storied machine take off, land, and even got to crawl around inside the cockpit. It was a remarkable experience that we'll never forget. The sound of a B-29 firing up less than football field away from you is something to cherish forever.

Fifi was built in 1945 and served until 1958 before being retired. It was restored and returned to the skies in 1983. 

This beautiful North American T-6 Texan was spotted at the Pekin Municipal Airport's Wings and Wheels Show in 2016. 

I promise not to get preachy, but please please go see and support any WWII-era shows, planes, trucks, cars, or reenactors whenever you can. Keep this history alive for the next generation and help educate the little ones about an important part of world history while they can still see it in action!

4. I Sold My Cobra. 

After 17 years of ownership, I decided to sell my 1998 Mustang Cobra to my longtime friend, Clint. Sure I miss it, but its in a good home and its running better (and faster) than it ever has. He took it to the next level. It started to require more TLC than my time and one-car garage could allow, and frankly I became to old and fat for it. Sarah joked that I'd never sell it, but it had to be done. I couldn't bear to see it get away from me and fall into disrepair. Today, the Mustang guru that owns it is keeping it up in much better shape than I would be able to.

Loyal Companion: The Cobra in Evansville, Indiana in 2006.

The Cobra was one of the most enjoyable machines I've owned, and I owned it longer than any other vehicle in my life. It was such a responsive car that never let me down and always brought a smile to my face. It also brought me a couple of tickets, but we won't get into that.

5. Because Fossil Fuels Are Yummy, We Picked Up An Old Suburban.

Channeling our inner Tony Soprano at a local pizza joint. 

The last thing we needed in our driveway was another vehicle, especially after we thinned the herd. So it makes little to no sense that we inherited a 1994 Chevrolet Suburban 1500 Silverado with over a quarter of a million miles on it. Some friends of the family were looking to get rid of it since it needed some work and they had gotten their money's worth from the old truck. I couldn't let it go to a junkyard, and the darn thing rides like a Cadillac. After assessing what it needed, I decided it would make for a great Home Depot hauler and as Sarah said "we could live in it once the apocalypse comes." in a half-kidding / half-serious voice.

Large and In Charge, the GMT 400 Suburban platform is next to bulletproof. 

Can you believe this? This beast has been around the block a time or two
and it runs and drives as good as our 53,000 mile Jeep.

So our end of days machine has been secured. After some simple repairs and fresh fluids, the Suburban is right at home. Its super easy to work on, parts are plentiful and cheap, and who doesn't love a full-sized SUV with a tow package? The only item that I haven't gotten to work is the A/C, which is fine since the windows are 8 feet tall and there's plenty of airflow when all four roll down. We've already racked up some miles in it and hopefully the GMT400 platform truck will keep plugging along. Its looking pretty promising so far.

We haven't forgotten about Oscar. He's still around, but staying closer to home. 
How was YOUR 2016?

Was it loaded with car stuff?

Did you get your projects finished?

Better yet, what's on your 2017 list of automotive resolutions? Let me know, I always like hearing from everyone.

So until next time, go out and play with your old car while its in storage. Start it up once in a while, rekindle the flame. You might start to add a few items to your to-do list for next year. That's okay, tinkering is what makes this hobby so much fun.

Make 2017 another great year on wheels.



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