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,

23 thoughts on “Sunday ShopTalk: Anti-Aging Autos, Side of Woo-Woo”

  1. Love the old Jaguars. I’ve had MK10, MKii, MKiX and 3 XK 150 Dropheard Coupes..learned a lot. ONce drove from Dallas to San Antonio in 3 hours. I could write a book….

    • I owned one as a teenager. It was cheap because of the maintenance nightmares! It never got the girl, so it was rather useless.

      Today it would have value, but storing it for over half a century was not viable.

    • ’92 XJ 6 Sovereign for me. Odometer showed 20k & some change, and this was in 96 or so when I bought it, so I’m thinkin’ almost new Jag for 1/3 price; (car dealer had a long story about it being a former “drug car” and was impounded in a lot somewhere)…..until a month later when the 3rd member started screechin’ and I limped into the dealer who informed me the last time the car had seen a dealer it had almost 100k on it.
      Long story short, I successfully sued the dealer for odometer fraud but in the process the cost of a Jag rear end was about even with the award.
      I will say it was the smoothest car I’ve ever owned.

  2. Mr G lobal,

    Shout Out to the patriot investors taking on the wallstreet greedster-crimminals !

    “secrets revealed” -CH

    Who knew the battlefield would pit biggest US bank & Hedge funds versus Joe&Jane Sixpack??

    Answer – ANYONE with a set of eyeballz. Its called incredibly disparate income levels-wealth gaps..duhohh.

    They have been [“RARing”],”going in raw”, on the middleclass for soooo looong, feeding “tips” to their associate scum bags in DC – to keep the funds flowing – out of Ure pocket(IRA/401k) into wallstreets.

    April 35 SLV Calls are a “robinhooders’ target.

    -U can join the fun/revolution – and get some “skin” back from the foul cheaters, who have been stealing Ure families future- with congressional blessing, like forever. . U can think of it of as not only taking a vampires blood supply, but driving a SILVER stake thru his heart..blood sport!

    Maybe Buy a share or two of GME – if in U can afford to lose it all – entertainment money/sports gambling on outcome..Power to the People.

    -wonder what the Over/Under of Billions of dollars lost by WS/hedgefds/Banks – so far the number is around $70 Billion lost !

    Long the SLV (Feb27 Calls), AG Feb/Apr Calls, SPY 350 Puts – can hardly wait to ring the register as the STORM comes in manana.

    .. Swan hunting – the ever elusive, always dangerous & severe black swan event (s)

    • There are NEVER leftover scallops, so honestly, the question has never come up before…

      One of Ure family old sayings about Cigars comes into play. “Cigars are like women…once they go out, they’re never so so good again…” Same holds true of Seafood and freezers.

  3. I thought of polishing my headlights too. How long do you think they will last? Saw some reviews that said you may have to repeat when they yellow again (ymmv).
    You guys are lucky that you don’t have snow or salt. I think that’s why your cars last so long. Used to love detailing, but not so much anymore. Still like a clean car, just too busy? to bother with the ultra details. Still get comments like-how old is this and did you just wash this?
    Y’all talk funny down there too-what happens when you unthaw something?
    Checked that barn full of surplus. No radio stuff :(
    Do you think your super antenna would work on 10m with low power (under 5w)?
    Do you have any hints for documenting your dreams? I tried to keep a notebook by my bed to write down what happened in the middle of the night, but when I look at my notes in the morning, nothing makes sense.
    Love your site-thanks for they years of good reads and ideas.
    Money printer go burrrr!

    • Don’t really need more radio gear, lol.
      On the super antenna: Yes – and now for 10 meters.
      As built, it squirts out 11.35dbRef (that is, 2.15 dbi so isotrop is 13.5 db with a takeoff angle of 10 degrees (hard to beat with a stick. Sadly, the return loss is 7 db, but this seems to be because it’s just a tad on the long side./ Example, the return loss at 28 mhz improves to 7.5 and the gain to 12.61 dbRef (14.76 dbi) so I figure a foot or two shorter.
      When you reduce the element length from 90 feet to 88 on the long side, you pick up a lot of gain (modeling 12.61 dbref )(14.86 dbi) at a takeoff angle of 10 degrees. But price of this is you begin to get significant directivity – there is no free lunch, so at 88 feet, offsetting the game is a 9- db front to back ratio – and you start thinking of it as a wire beam.

      The OTHER tradeoff is that on 20-meters, you lose gain and drop 1 db, or so. Since 20 is my “go to band” and 10 is not open all the time (seldom here in the sunspot cycle) it’s not worth the loss. Using 88 feet losses 0.5 db on 80 and 40.

      I do have plans for a further iteration which may provide more frequency agility, but we shall see how schedules work out…

  4. What I wouldn’t give for a 1971 Townsman wagon again! 18mpg with a 350 cu. in. 2bbl. Could go a lot higher with modern fuel metering tech. Big doors that are easy to get in and out of. Carrying capacity that would match a modern half ton pickup, probably.

    We had a Chevy Laguna wagon for a while until it saved my wife’s and our son’s life in a wreck which bent its frame. Bent my heart a bit, too, because we’d bought it from a Chevy mechanic that had kept it immaculate for years. Those old cars like that are road warrior wagons which is why we drive the large SUVs now. They’re the only thing that will match those old cars in a “mishap”.

    • Roger that. Wife and got pushed out of our lane outside Lebanon, MO back in 2010, did a 360 on the interstate at 70 mph then rolled our 05 GMC Envoy four times down an embankment. We both walked out with nothing more than bruises on our shoulders from the seatbelts, and I had a quarter-size “rug burn” on top of my head I guess from rubbing the roof four times. Ambulance guys showed up and couldn’t believe that we were the “victims.” Two hours later we were back on the road in a rental.

      Car-guy son-in-law immediately asked what were looking for in a replacement. I said “anything that weighs 6,000 pounds.” That is what I call a good car.

  5. Nice article on headlights. My ’99 Avalon (since replaced) had its lights restored at Sam’s Club on a sale deal for about the same price as the 3M kit. Results were actually better than when I did it myself on an ’04 Solara. A flea market near me had (maybe still does have) a guy who would do it cheaply while you shopped and his results also looked good.

  6. Hi, George,

    Leather seats are practical in most areas of the US except Arizona and New Mexico. In Texas, you receive what is the stuff of legends in the arid southwest known as rain, that phenomenon where water actually falls from the sky and hits the ground. Leather seats are too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter, and tend to crack due to a lack of humidity.

    When my late husband and I were dating, I was working in the Midwest doing title for oil companies through a title service based in Olney, Illinois. I drove a Saab 900 turbo at the time. Once when I was returning to Illinois, I followed a BMW on one of the Kentucky turnpikes. We went over 110 miles an hour that Sunday with hardly anyone on the road, and made remarkable time going northwest, covering a lot of ground in that hour.

    After that trip, I had the opportunity to move to Alabama and then move to northeast Tennessee to do title work there. A friend of mine told me to get room number 120 at the Holiday Inn in a certain town there as it had a water bed. Our crew traditionally stayed in Holiday Inns when possible. Well, when I asked to have room 120, I was told that it was not available. The water bed had been shot and stabbed during a domestic quarrel, which must have been a surprise to the maid when she noticed water coming out the door the next morning. Oh, well. I stayed in northeast Tennessee for a year before moving to Atlanta to be with Steve, got married, and soon moved to New Mexico. I kept the Saab and drove it all over the country. Had to sell it in New Mexico with 235,000 miles on it.

  7. I know what cars have worked for me, and I know the new ones suck, no matter what you choose to buy. The last year I even considered buying new was in 2012, and I steered clear. Planned obsolescence IS an actual thing, and there is far too much plastic in our lives – cars using more and more of it to look just pretty enough and last long enough to get to the end of the extended warranty.

    My plan is to keep what I got, even to replacing the engine, xfer case, tranny <—-(transmission for the PC folks getting irate already), and the rest. Son and I have decided that the next generation of Oilman2 vehicles ought to be 1980ish or earlier which we rebuild and fab out exactly the way we want.

    Automotive Progress? I drove a 1983 Honda Accord with 390k miles on it that got 48mpg driving in Houston traffic, including AC, power everything and damned reliable. Gave it to my son when he went to uni, and it got totaled. So what's the mpg on a Prius in 2020?


    With vehicles so expensive that you need an 8-yr finance period, you gotta be nuts to go new. I could actually buy a fully restored 1967 Mustang or Camaro and get same mileage and better pricing than what is currently on offer. Even an Intl Scout can be had in full resto for about $18-20k. The above cars are mostly metal, rather than plastic.

    I am thinking our next truck will be a 1950's era type, which we gut and do full resto, custom paint and interior and a diesel engine transplant.

    Of course, if we lived in most ANY other country, we could simply buy a Toyota HiLux diesel and get 750K miles from that and nearly 40mpg – but sadly, we live in America, a land with two sets of laws now rolling out rule by executive fiat.

    What a time to be alive! /s

    Stay frosty readers – everything IS a business model.
    Therefore the only way to win this strange game is not to play…

    • Hey Oilman2, I’ve discovered a couple of U-tube channels you might enjoy where guys pull cars & trucks out of a field or barn and get them running after being idle for 20-40 years. Pretty cool! Here’s a sample:
      vice grip garage
      junkyard digs

      • ‘now where did a guy put that?”

        vgg is a howl – country boy learning us suburban folk how to actually get old vehicles running again – dude has a million and one solutions to all probs mechanical.
        Same kinda tool turning show is B is for Build – more fabrication – but real world projects – sharing tons of knowledge – including 3d printing car parts – really cool scheisse..

        2018 Hiluxx in Belize – drive early model “small” PU with lightning whirler &carb vs. EFI.

  8. I just got back from a six hundred mile run at around 75mph to handle some business. My 24 year old S-series has 360k miles on it and the original drive train. I’m not afraid to drive it across the country and back and did so a few months ago. It looks very sloppy inside, so nobody’s likely to steal it. It just does what it’s designed to do – haul me and some stuff very economically whenever I wish to. Detailing is nice, but it has a short half-life. The car does have a desperate need for headlight renewing though. I was given a 3M kit and will have to focus on actually doing the work. The hardest part of some jobs is actually starting them!

    Regarding Space-X, I’m concerned that Elon Musk may have offended the bureaucrats:

    Actually, the person who complained was neither a US citizen nor permanent resident. As such, he has no legitimate right to complain against a US company preferring legal and loyal people in critical roles.

  9. You can get that Lexus serviced/repaired at Pratt Auto Repair, not 5 miles from Sewell Lexus. They ONLY work on Toyota and Lexus. They have stolen a few Lexus dealership mechanics. We always take my wife’s 2006 LS430 there for work. 190k but looks and drives much younger. (No affiliation with Pratt)

  10. The problem with “restored” headlight covers or headlamps is the sanding removes the UV coating which allegedly makes the Lexan “resistant” to UV.

    The headlight nerds (yes, they really exist!) say a spray-coat of water-based spar varnish will prolong the fix, but I’ve only done this on emergency lightbars. What I do with headlights is coat them with Lamin-X. Lamin-X is a crystal-clear self-adhesive vinyl film (with an embedded UV coating, I think…) It protects the lenses from both fading and random rock or sand damage. I did the Jetta 6 years ago and my POS pickemup 7 years ago. Both still look like new — and I drive a LOT of miles…

  11. I am so proud of my sons. They will drive beaters, but the women in their loves better have nice wheels. Older son who is surviving Covid (plus his trach and some future surgeries to correct throat damage from virus/ventilator) decided this week that life can be too short and bout a 6 month old Mercedes for his wife. He was bragging on Facebook about her and the car…they do look lovely together. Younger son bought his fiancee a Rav4 with seat warmers since she agree to move to Kansas City last month. The boys seemed to have learned from their father’s mistakes. Treat a good woman well and she will love/respect you right back.

    Cars. *sigh* My late husband was always badgering me about how a doctor’s wife should be driving a Lexus. He did not understand me liking my little cars. As a youngish great-grandma, I bought a 2020 Kia Rio last year. This is the 4th Kia I have owned. (Sephia and 2 other Rios) New car gets about 50 mpg on highway. Even in town driving here in Memphis (I am a psych travel nurse.), I get about 30 mpg. I love that I need to fill up about every three weeks here. And now that I am losing weight, the seat belts aren’t as tight. :-)

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