By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News
Posted 9/29/15 (Tue)
I think I’ve figured out what my winter project is going to be, which I will consider a major challenge.
As soon as all the vegetables have left the garage and the refrigerators are unplugged for the winter, my 1985 Pontiac Trans Am is going into the garage to basically get rebuilt.
I’m a news reporter first and a vegetable producer second. I’ve never considered myself a good mechanic. In fact, I get really frustrated when things go wrong in the mechanical world.
Just about anything can be figured out, but as a novice in this regard, I’m not sure how much time I have to decipher all the issues with that car beginning with, it doesn’t start.
After receiving some encouraging comments from Christian Standard at Farmers Union Oil in Kenmare, I believe I can get it started and move it the two blocks it needs to go to get into the garage.
For years I’ve wanted to sell that car and my wife kept telling me no, it would be a mistake. Finally, I convinced her and we put it up for sale, but nobody wanted to buy it. Thus, I’ve decided to keep it and fix it up and maybe drive it in the St. Pete Beach Ukrainian parade or something.
It’s the last Trans Am with a carburetor on the engine, thank goodness, because I have dabbled with carburetors before.
It has T-tops that don’t leak in a car wash and I kept the Kenwood car stereo, with a 240-watt amplifier mounted in the dash and in the trunk, respectively.
What I think is unique is that I paid Eide Pontiac in Grand Forks $6,900 for that car in June 1990 and I drove it 12 years maintenance free. The only thing I replaced was tires.
I replaced lots of tires because that car has been all over; Winnipeg, Kansas City, Denver, St. Louis, Calgary, Regina, Billings, Minnapolis, LaCrosse, Rapid City and Salt Lake City.
I used to call it my perpetual motion machine because it would never break down.
One day, I was driving through Kansas City, on my way to Springfield, Mo., and it got hot, but it was 104 degrees that day in Kansas City. Call me crazy, but I turned on the heater and brought the operating temperature back to normal and drove on to Springfield without incident except for a lot of sweat.
Another time I hit a deer early in the morning on my way to National Guard drill. Smashed up the front end real good. A body shop in West Fargo did a fabulous job resurrecting it and there has never been an indication since that it was in a mishap with Bambie.
I still believe it’s a great car but a lot of little things need attention, such as the shifter needs to be tightened and Tri-Flo lubricant needs to be sprayed on the door hinges; things like that.
Cleaning and detailing I can do easy enough, the problem is going to be a paint job.
Over the 266,000 miles I drove that car, a number of scratches and dings occurred and because it has been parked since the Hazelton Centennial in June 2003, it needs a new paint job.
And Christian Standard will be happy to know that it needs a new set of tires as well. After I get it started, I think I’ll rev up the 305, V-8 engine and burn off the rest of the rubber so I get my money’s worth out of those Goodyears.
The engine smokes a little too so I could go out and fog mosquitoes along the river in Carpio.
But it’s a beautiful car, durable, likeable, black and built in Van Nuys, Calif., so it isn’t some cheap Japanese knock off of an American model.
But looking at reality, this is going to take some time and may very well take all winter.
Years ago I had a 1980 Ford F-150 that I bought from my uncle who about wore that vehicle out. It was my first 4-wheel drive so that was one of those vehicles that truly was held together with duct tape and baling wire.
But this time, it has to be professional grade. There is no doubt in my mind that I can fetch $30,000 for that car in south Florida if I can return it to showroom condition, so maybe someone else would be driving it in the St. Pete Beach parade.
Bit by bit, piece by piece, it will once again be transformed. And with Rock 106 cranked up on the garage radio, I’ll have a lot of time and patience to make it happen.
When everyone else is watching the Minnesota Vikings getting beaten on TV on Sunday afternoons, I’ll be a happy little vegemite, restoring my perpetual motion machine.
There’s something about classic cars that are appealing and appealing this car will be.