Sunday ShopTalk: Anti-Aging Autos, Side of Woo-Woo

Since I’m updating my book “How to Live on $10,000 a Year – Or Less...” over on the Peoplenomics side of the house (free there, update will be $4-bucks here when done), this whole matter of America’s Assinine Auto Addiction (quadruple A) was my focus Saturday.

Cars as Investments

Pappy always taught that cars were “…not investments…never think of ’em that way!”

But, when I raised the issue of original invoiced  early split-window Corvette’s going to the moon (and well beyond, lately), he had to admit to a few exceptions.

So far, every time I have owned a Porsche, the whole period of ownership was essentially free.  The asterisk is that the maintenance  wasn’t.  My ’73 911-E, for example, had the six-pack of Zenith TIN 40 MM carbs.  They liked to be air-balanced every valve job or four,

Still, if you look around for cars, many of what are passed off as “beaters” today actually go up in value over time.

I’m not the only one in “exception-hunting.”  Oilman2, for example has a Toyota FJ that will likely hold value nigh-on to forever.  He’s also found that a well-maintained Ford big-block diesel pickup will hold value well; though YMMV in uppity areas like the So. Bay and NYC.

Type of transport is just one aspect of car-cost reduction, though.

Elaine is a Looker – Details Matter

Another way to make money – rather than spend – on cars is to learn the fine art of detailing.

Fun story.  When we were dating, she’d expressed an interest in a collectible car – a Jaguar XJ-6.  White, red leather interior, wire wheels.  But the interesting part was under the “bonnet.”  Everything had been done (with receipts!).  Brakes, master cylinder, tires, battery, fluids and filters, and a transmission adjustment.  Air conditioner had been serviced, too.

To me, the car looked a little “tired” though.

$4,500 bucks for it.  Sometimes you take a flyer, right?

Well, in no time, Elaine the Detailer went to work. Must have taken her two days of work in the marina parking lot (we were living on the sailboat in Seattle at the time – Shilshole.)  After that, saddle soaping leather, Q-Tips and cleaner  were turned loose on the air conditioning vents.

Overall, it must have taken a week (between rainy days) to get it done.  But, the difference in “look” was amazing.  Good looking blonde at the wheel of a white Jag which was looking utterly showroom is one thing.  Old gnarly geezer in a dirty around every edge and dirty sidewalls ride is quite another.

Clean looks like money.

The Shop Project

Our present ride is a 2005 Lexus ES-330.  Had it since 2007.  Just turned over 120,000 miles.  Sewell Lexus up in Fort Worth has done all the major service.  Damn shame we didn’t hold off until Lexus dumped timing belts because that was a bite…

Still, one of the last of the Japanese-made (in the ‘old country’) – most today are ‘sembled in ‘Merica.  While it has great sound, and the leather and exterior are perfect, there’s one thing that dates the car.  Here’s a hint:

Not clear?  Exactly!

Look closely at the headlight covers.  Most of the major manufacturers use an acrylic plastic cover and over time (and UV light exposure) these tend to yellow.  Especially, as you can see, along the top of the brow.

OMG – this is so like people aging, right?

The ideal ShopTalk project was at hand.  And, as always, what’s the point of any project?

“Let’s Buy Something!”


Amazon sells a 3M 39165 Headlight Restoration Kit (Heavy Duty – Drill Activated) for just under $34-bucks.

If you don’t have a well-stocked shop, toss in an additional inch and-a-half wide roll of tape.  Spray bottle for the water you’ll use in the next to final step.  And you’ll need a small electric drill.  Power’s not critical since only light to medium pressure will be applied.

Let’s dump the box out on the bench…

So here’s the work plan:

  1. We’re going to mask-off the headlights so Mr. M. Precision doesn’t grind off paint while sanding. (lower center)
  2. We’re going to chuck up the hook-and-loop sanding wheel in an overcharged drill. (top left of center)
  3. We will attach the 500 grit pad and rough grind the covers. (middle right)
  4. Then we will put on the 800 grit pads (white middle) and grind some more.
  5. Then to nearly finish, we will get a spray bottle of water – soak the pad wheel and the working area well – and use the the 3,000 grit Trizact pad.
  6. When that’s all done…and we like our work…off comes the tape.
  7. Wash and dry the headlight cover.
  8. Put on blue glove (upper center)…
  9. …and open and apply the contents of one of the “clear coat” packages.
  10. Take a 20-minute beer break (HBR — hot buttered rum if under 55F is OK, too).  Though somehow 3M just says “wait 15-minutes” then…
  11. Apply the second pad contents evenly.
  12. Keep car out of rain for at least an hour (longer is better) after.

Here’re the Visual Aids

Mask and sand.

This is the 800 grit – the 500 looked like a frosted light bulb.  Then we work our way down to the 3,000 grit Trizact being careful and evenly throughout the process…

At last – on goes the blue glove and the top clear-coat:

Which, we I look at the top picture and one here:

Seems like a worthwhile investment for 45-minutes of detailing.

The amount of “worth” will depend on how old your car is and how much “accumulated sun time” has yellowed your existing covers.

(Come on Man!  I don’t need to say ‘Doesn’t work on glass lenses….” do I?)

When people buy cars, they’re usually buying CLEAN.

The Ideal Six Ingredient Dinner

Simple country food, for us, last night.

First two ingredients:  Big bag of frozen scallops from Wal-Mart.  And thin-sliced bacon (low-sodium is best).

Unthaw,  rinse thoroughly, and pat very dry, the scallops.

Cut several strips of bacon in halves or thirds.  Halves for super-big scallops, thirds for quarter-sized and smaller.

Roll bacon around scallop, securing with organic toothpick

Pop in air fryer for 15-minutes on “Jeez that’s hot!”  (400+) for 10-15-minutes.  Also can be done 7-10 under a broiler but that makes the house smoky and do you really like to wash windows?

Third ingredient:  Large glass of Pisano.

Fourth and Fifth ingredients:  Wash a small head of Romaine per person. Pat dry.  Break into large salad bowls.  Toss a tablespoon or two of Marie’s or other cold-case Bleu Cheese dressing on salad.

Sixth ingredient:  A dozen, or so, pitted black olives, which then get tossed into the salad.

My, ain’t simple country fare great?  Refill third ingredient.

Woo Woo and the Whales

A word from the whales in Dream Realms overnight.

We were out in a boat and crossed a “floating grid line” we didn’t understand.  But there in the middle of the grid line was a pod of whales.  Not especially big, might have been Manatee’s or one of the killer whale pods in the PNW.

Not sure what it will be, but we’re scanning the news for word about whales now.

By the way, those grid lines were really neat.  Authority put them on the water.  They comes out of a shaving-cream looking container.  So to put in a “line on the water” you push on the top of the can, the stuff floats, and a little goes a long ways.  Like miles.  And when it hardens (which is damn quickly) it’s stronger than ultra-high-density poly plastic rope.

Seems like I was supposed to mention this so a “floating life-line” could be invented for mariners over here in Waking World.  So rescuers could snag the line on the first pass in difficult seaways.

(Also useful in the Dream Realms for trying to keep waking-state visitors from talking to the whales about their offspring!)

Whew…time to work…

Write when you get rich,

Prepping: Fix-It Shop Basics (Part I)

OK, suppose the worst happens:  the lights go out – the Internet has been attacked – but where you live, dedicated worker are getting the power on a couple of hours per day.

You have been able to scrape-by – supplementing some wholly inadequate stored foods with a few fresh veggies from your quickly-planted garden.

There’s no work to do – and since there is no Internet, only radios that people have been using for low-power local communications – there’s not much to do.


There are a handful of skills that will be of inestimable value in such conditions:  Being able to provide at least some advanced healthcare.  Being able to put in and raise a good garden.  Being able to put together moderately complicated bartering in your community (think trading bank). And being able to “Fix Things.”

Of all of these, three are pretty easy to come up to speed on.  A good study manual on emergency medicine will cover those requirements.  Backed-up with a good first aid kit, you ought to be able to handle everything from a sliver to just short of surgery. Advanced CPR classes, a half dozen large cheap bottles of baby aspirin, plus lots of Band-Aid’s and Neosporin.

The garden?  Well, that comes from experience with actually doing some gardening.  And barter?  Think of something you have, that someone might want – and list some things YOU want dabble your toes on Craigslist.  Maybe start by listing a “skilled trade/Artisan” listing and work up from there.  Or, if you see something that catches your eye, call and offer a trade for something excess your needs.  Part cash, part trade is often a winner.

Eventually, you may be able to set up a small “Fix-It” shop.

What Goes into a Fix-It Shop?

It depends a lot of where you are and what kind of environment you’ve chosen to live in.

Obvioously, the most survivable places in America will be modestly sized towns of less than 50,000 – the kind yiou can walk around in an hour or two, or walk directly to any business in the town in 30-minutes, or less.

Somewhere cold enough to kill a few bugs with deep frosts in winter, warm enough to be less than a sauna in the summer, and a place with plentiful water.

A good sense of community mattrers, too.

Many such places exist in America and why they are not wildly populated is beyond me.  “Tech” is a job magnet, until it’s not.  We totally get that.

Closing down China, if only for a while due to the coronavirus outbreak, may actually be a very good thing for the planet:  A chance to get back to fixing things.

There are lots of things that will need fixing if TSHTF, but its the exceptional article or source that says more than :”Get water, get armed, get med, and if necessary, get out!”

There will always be an economy.  Based on what, we may not know yet:  Seeds? Silver?  Books (especially reference)?  Skills? Barter?  Sure – all of the above.

In something less than a mountainside town, a bike shop would be a logical kind of “small shop” to have going in your garage.  Easy to set up, not difficult – if you like working with your hands – and since bikes tend to be human-powered and incredibly useful in gird hard down conditions, ask yourself “How close is the nearest bike shop?”

Finding Room for a Shop

A couple of things you need to set up a post-crash bike shop.  A selection of used (reconditioned) bikes, or lightly used new ones.  With some of these dandy bike hoists from Amazon (RAD Sportz Bicycle Hoist Quality Garage Storage Bike Lift with 100 lb Capacity Even Works as Ladder Lift Premium Quality – $14.03, also available in 3-packs) you can get “product” on display and out of the way all in one swift move:

By the way, as part of this “dry run” exercise, for several years now, I’ve been putting up pulley’s on screw-in hooks all over the shop.  Here’s one, over the air compressor, that is holding 50-feet of air hose and an electric string trimmer:

The line doesn’t have to be anything fancy – 3/8ths poly rope will hold a lot.

One other “finding” in this is that cheap pulleys on screw-hooks is NOT the right way to hand heavier gear.  For things like the backpack leaf blower and chain saws, the answer is 450 pound rated real pulleys like this:

These come in a 5-pack from Amazon National N233-247 1-1/2″ ZN Single Pulley for about $35.  Saves $10-bucks from the single unit price.

The key to ANY pulley you hang up in the rafters is tdo make sure they are big enough.  Take a few minutes and read up on “turning friction” of pulleys.

Last few tools will include a bike stand – fold-up variety. $58 bucks for a Yaheetech Adjustable 52″ to 75″ Pro Bike Repair Stand w/Telescopic Arm & Balancing Pole Cycle Bicycle Rack makes sense, depending on your long-term outlook.

That just leaves a good Allen wrench assortment – real sockets since the metal those easy-to-carry dog bone type wrenches isn’t very sturdy.  And then, of course, a set of screwdrivers!

Make absolutely certain than you have the odd kinds of sizes including Torx wrenches.

Last, but not least, a good manual on bike repair, tire-changing tools and spare tubes in several sizes.  Be sure to have a good selection of bike tire patches (vulcanizing are better than glue-type, but nothing ever beat the old tire-shop “flame-on vulcanizing” back in the day).

Half a dozen chains and extra links, chain tool, and some oil, sure.  Brake pads…eventually.  Add spare tires, too.

Before collapse, don’t bother with trying to be a dealer.  Just sell Amazon bikes that you assemble and tune to perfection.  People will pay for service.  Kevlar tire liners are great, too..

If you have a router and an old 2-by-12 you can make up a Bike Shop sign.  And, depending on zoning requirements, you could be in business in no time.  Zoining won’t matter when collapse comes calling.

In the event of an economic crack-up, people will still be looking for ways to get around, and if you’re clever about it, your skill at fixing things could be turned into food, medicine, or whatever else might be available.  Most simulations of “life afer the big one” seem to neglect some obvious opportunities for business development and expansion.

In our next  (thrilling and exciting) preview of home-scale business after collapse, we’ll talk about expanding into other areas.  First, though, you need a book on bike repairs so how about a copy of Leonard Zinn’s Zinn & the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance: The World’s Best-Selling Guide to Mountain Bike Repair.  On any book for after collapse, get real paper, non ebooks!

Note to self:  Look up what bike and power equipment solvents kill viruses!

My dream of dispersed manufacturing and “making” may come sooner than anyone thought.

Write when you get rich!