Old cars are your best friend and worst enemy, depending upon the circumstances.

MyStarCollectorCar’s trusty old 1963 Plymouth sedan provided an excellent example of a minor task that quickly escalated into a big task after a simple front signal/parking light lens replacement became complicated by unforeseen problems.

The lens was hit by a rock at some point in the past several years but it still provided a signal light, as well as a parking light, so the search for a replacement was slowed by a lack of ambition because the car is a driver and not a show car-so it gets driven a lot.

Eventually ambition ruled the day and a search for a replacement lens was undertaken until we were able to successfully navigate the dangerous minefield known as the old car parts search (see Jerry’s article about this and other old car parts misadventures) and find a replacement lens from a bygone era when parts were parts.

The inevitable problem arose when we attempted to dislodge a rust-welded lens support screw that was exposed to numerous seasons of bad weather over the years.  The grim fact is a world-class welder would likely have trouble matching the bond between the rusty screw and its metal base.

It was the exact point when a minor repair became a major repair in a big hurry because of the rust weld issue. In fairness, my brother Jerry recognized the issue and attempted to dislodge the screw with several types of plier/screwdriver combinations that could be generously described as an effort in futility and frustration.

Fortunately, we have a younger brother named Don who has spent his adult life in the electrical trades and volunteered his time to tackle the problem. He looked at the stuck screw and started to formulate a game plan.

Don has a solid array of tools, given his long career as an electrician and his strong interest in the car hobby, so he tried several of his own screwdriver/plier combinations to remove the rusty screw. Meanwhile, he was formulating Plan B in case none of his earlier approaches worked because his trade has taught him to think of other solutions on the fly.

Don ruled out removal of the entire light housing because it was secured to the front fender by fasteners and panels hidden inside the fender, so the entire inner fender needed to be removed to reach the fasteners.

Instead, he broke off the top of the screw and drilled out the rest of it, leaving a large hole in the headlight assembly base for the original screw. Fortunately, he had already devised a solution: Don used a small electrical bracket fastened by two self-tapping screws to the inside of the signal/park light housing and then added another screw in the center of the bracket to secure the new lens to the housing. He even replaced his original screw choice (Robertson) with one that matched the factory one (Phillips).

The net result was a solution provided by a seasoned tradesman who encountered countless challenges on the job over the years and found a solution every time.

We have interviewed hundreds of car guys who were tradesmen in non-mechanical fields over the years and discovered they are able to see a mechanical challenge in a different light than non-tradesmen car guys. They may not share the same chosen field as mechanical tradesmen, but the common denominator is they see a problem and find a solution.

BY: Jim Sutherland

Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section.