The Restoration From Hell Part Five

my star belvy resto 8a

my star belvy resto 8aMY STAR-YOUR  !#$%ING ENGINE IS STUCK

Wally phoned me to deliver some great news-the 318 motor was definitely stuck thanks to “Right-On” John’s somewhat haphazard winter storage of engines policy-again I wanted to extract some Duke Wayne justice on him but again Wally was the voice of reason-cased closed.

Wally was by nature, a pretty surly guy but for some reason there was a bit of a lilt in his voice when he delivered the bad news about the frozen engine.

It seemed like the thought of me forking over an extra 5 grand for a complete rebuild really tickled his funny bone.

Wally’s great mood really skyrocketed when he reminded me that he would definitely quit working if the problem wasn’t solved within 2 weeks. Delivering that news was like an early Christmas present for Wally.

What could I say?

It was nice to see the old Wally-ish warm and fuzzy style back


Every now and them you get a break-my break came decades earlier when I started Grade 1 with a guy named Larry Robinson. Larry became one of the best and hardest working mechanics in the area and he agreed to take on the 318 project.

That was a huge favor.

Larry runs an extremely busy shop and the last thing he needed was a time consuming rebuild. But as a fellow car guy he felt the pain of what had been to this point a long expensive and painful journey.Larry took it on but he sure wasn’t going to do it in 2 weeks. The parts alone would take that long to be delivered.

Wally took the news like I thought he would.

The car was banished to Wally Purgatory-the darkest back end of the shop.

Then came the hard part- that step back into that murky but familiar nether world of obscenely expensive parts and incredibly sketchy, conscience-challenged suppliers. As Alice Cooper once said, “welcome to my nightmare”.I’d done some serious pre-internet searches and found out that the price for the kit varied across North America from 500 bucks to over 1200 dollars plus delivery. My hometown suppliers all leaned heavily into the $1200 range.

Nobody would budge.

These guys were stuck on that extortionist price ‘like a crow on a June bug’, as the legendary Jed Clampett used to say.I passed but not before going through another consumer rite of passage with a local automotive chain. I had them do a little work on the block that they grossly overcharged me for so I asked the shop manager if they could meet the price that an out of town supplier had given me.

No way.

I would have had a better chance of asking him for permission to take his wife on a swinger’s weekend. 

I’m sure he couldn’t have been any more pissed off at my audacity.In the big scheme of things you always want to deal locally for parts but when the local guys I needed were nothing more than outlaws masquerading as decent human beings the answer is always easy. I went with an out of town supplier.

And saved almost 50%.

Oddly enough, when I picked up the block weeks and weeks and weeks after the deadline they’d agreed to honor I saw a bunch of parts in a box for a 318 motor. I guess they didn’t quite understand that they could kiss my ass on the extorto-price. The shop guy shocked when I told him I bought them somewhere else-a kinder, fairer, PR oriented somewhere else where the customer was more than a mobile credit card.

Here’s a guy who’d blown by 6 drop-dead deadlines on giving me the block back, tried to strong arm me into paying twice as much for parts and lectured me like I was in the wrong. I had to talk to his manager.When I sat down with this clown’s manager to complain about slow service, brutally high markups on parts and the generally horrible attitude emanating from his top employee the manager gave me a lecture about hurting the guy’s feelings.

Nothing more.

The only concession was that he would have met the competitive price on the parts if asked.

That’s like saying John Wilkes Booth wouldn’t have shot Abe Lincoln if someone just would have asked him not to.

Anyhow, business as usual in this crazy upside down car world where the customer is always wrong. Sure, I felt bad about hurting the guy’s feelings but I like to think of it as Stockholm Syndrome- where the hostage starts feeling sorry for the gun-toting kidnapper.


I’d farmed out the cylinder heads, line–boring for the cylinders and crankshaft grind to 2 other local shops and it actually worked out very well. A lot of guys will tell you to get it done in one place. They are probably right but this did work out for me-that much I can tell you.Larry did an absolutely amazing job on the motor and I got to hear it running in late May 2007.

It ran like the proverbial Swiss watch and he was incredibly generous about his price.

That’s why the guy is so busy. That wasn’t a gamble on my part.


I’d picked up an incredibly clean 59 Plymouth 2 door sedan in Montana thanks to a tip from my older brother who’d seen it while he was on vacation.

It was a Godfather deal-I couldn’t refuse it.

That proved to be a lifesaver in the reassembly of the 59.As you can guess Right-On John didn’t leave an easy to read guide after ripping the old beast apart years earlier. I still hate that guy but he was so typical of the masked stagecoach robbers that waved Colt 45 pistols in my face through the whole project.

You can’t just hang all the sins on Johnny.

But I digress.

That car was like a missing blueprint, a key to the mystery of the missing knowledge, Indiana Jones Holy Grail stuff-well, you get the point.At the same time Crank had found some guy with more money than brains who wanted me to sell the sedan for 3 times what I’d paid. He wanted to gut the old Montana classic so he could save a 59 convertible. Even though I could have used a cash injection like that I just couldn’t do it. That was a solid rust-free car and sometimes you have to adhere to a code of ethics so I passed.

Crank thought I was crazy but a few years later they started making floor and trunk pans so we would have lost yet another great example of finned history just so some guy long on money and short on brains could speed up his project.My advice-fall on the grenade for these cars like I did and keep them around for you or somebody who respects them. Don’t cut them up like a corpse on an autopsy table because a sedan is worth so much less than a convertible. The Ancient Egyptians believed in a host of afterlife gods that made you pay for bad decisions in your current life.

Don’t tempt fate.


A few years earlier I’d heard about a legendary fin car stuck in the bushes about 25 miles away from my house. I finally met a guy that actually knew where the car was-for a price.This weasel actually wanted me to give him 200 bucks for information about the car.

Yet another chapter in the documentary series “Is the auto restoration business morally bankrupt?”

Anyhow, I’d had enough so I phoned a cousin who lived in the same area and found the car in 24 hours. A few years later the chiseling slime-ball that wanted to separate me from 200 bucks dropped dead at a Christmas party.

Say what you want about Karma–I sure didn’t lose sleep when I heard that plus I hoped that there was something to those Egyptian afterlife god stories.

Maybe this guy is spending eternity getting run over by giant fin cars. 

I’d sure vote for it. I know that sounds a little offside but by now I’d spent nearly a decade dealing with some seriously ethically challenged guys. I see the 200-dollar finder fee guy as a casualty.

The universe was righting itself and he got caught in the door-the bastard deserved it.