There’s nothing like having your car-enthusiast boyfriend tell you what you need to write about on your blog. Like, really? I can appreciate a good paint job (which this car is still awaiting) but I sure as hell don’t speak carburetor. But maybe I need some help – some variety in these posts. All that aside, I love him, so I promised I’d give it a go. He actually wanted to write some, too. And he was excited about it; I just couldn’t deny him this opportunity. So I’ll let him take the floor….with a few interjections here and there. Because this is MY BLOG, Webb. MINE.
Webb: Like most people I have a little addiction. A friend of mine owns a shop in a neighboring town and I can’t seem to go without coming home with a new toy. Instead of shoes, books or the latest iPhone, however, I have an addiction to cars. And this friend? He does too – has for a long time, which only feeds my addiction. I’ve purchased numerous vintage cars from him and 90% of the time they’re BMWs. I’ve also gotten an equal amount for free if you can believe that….a free BMW. The caveat is that neither of us care for one newer than 1990. 😉
Heather: Phew. Guess I just made the cut.
So a little over two years ago I’m at my friend’s shop for one reason or another and he offers me an old 1988 7 Series. It was a car that I’d seen a couple years ago when it was lucky enough to be inside; but it now sat in “the row” behind the shop where the train track was. Most consider this car to be unlovable, too complicated to keep going feasibly and too ugly to bring back for its design merits. However, the reason I took him up on the offer was that it housed one of BMWs oldest engine designs, a simple 6-cylinder designed in the early ’60s. It also had a 5 speed manual gearbox which meant it was 1 of 450 out there. Your average Honda Civic is 1 in 2.7 million.
OK, OK, we get it you elitist, you …On with the story!
I slowly went to work repairing things that had been neglected by the previous owner. But mainly I tried to catch it up on its maintenance, which it was quite down on since it had sat at that shop for 6 years! Why? Some story about a driver in the past cramming the car in reverse while moving and grinding the gears out of the transmission. A new gearbox, some cooler wheels, sport seats from an M5 (the sporty little brother to this car).
I then went a year fairly uneventfully running around town in my new luxury machine with only small teething problems popping up.
Which brings us to this year. Our annual Christmas trip north from Nashville, TN to Columbus, OH was coming up and instead of driving Heather’s Hyundai Elantra I wanted to drive my new car. I mean if you read about BMWs 7 series platform its what they call the flagship. the best they can come up with. It’s literally MADE for a 7-hour road trip.
Despite her worries Heather decided to trust my confidence in this old car and the day of, we packed all our clothes and presents for the family into the back and headed out.
“Are you sure you want to wear that out in the rain?” he asked me.
I looked down and back up at him and nodded. I’d been at Target the other day and found the most fabulous faux fur jacket that just screamed ‘1940s Road Trip in the Snow’, a classic non-existent film starring Barbara Stanwyck.
When I was told we’d be writing a joint travelogue of our journey in this car, I knew what my role was. Provide the comic relief, provide the commentary, provide the style. I figured I could best do that in character. So, as ridiculous as I realized I probably looked and as sure as I was that there would, in fact, be no snow, I felt properly attired for our winter trip up north. I felt vintage, I felt glam, and I felt ready to properly document our adventures through the written word. All I needed was a little sunshine so I could whip out my giant Kate Spade sunglasses.
It rained the whole way which worried me because the last thing I wanted to do was wrench on a car beside a busy interstate in pouring down rain. But, we had zero issues. The HVAC worked flawlessly (which had been having issues the week prior) and the cooling system seemed like it was finally happy despite troubling me for weeks leading up to this journey.
Somehow, we got there in six hours…near record time. We had our Christmas fun, saw relatives, hung out with family, watched old movies and ate cookies. But come Sunday, the day before we were to head back home, I started the car to run to town and the water pump bearing screamed out in pain. Apparently on our trip it had gone bad and didn’t show signs until the car had cooled off! Now, this isn’t the V12 bad daddy Timex that people dream of, remember, it’s the old engine that found its way into the car by default. And because of that fact the local NAPA Auto Parts store had a water pump in stock! As if I’d expected this to happen, I had all the tools and coolant bottles to do the job right there in the driveway.
WHAT. A. MAN. Webb knows better than to ask me to stand and watch him work in the driveway, so I spent some time inside playing with different nail polish colors and plotting out some New Year goal-inspired activities that will be featured here at a later time. I enjoy being a girl.
Monday came and all looked good. She (the car) seemed happy, like that water pump was the only thing she really needed. So we hit the road and since all was going so well we only stopped for ourselves. Outside Cincinnati at a rest stop I noticed the car had puked coolant where we stopped; most likely there was an air bubble I didn’t get when I bled the coolant system. No worries – we just waited til she cooled down enough to top off the system.
We waited long enough for a nice couple of ladies to worry we were lying when we said we didn’t need a jump, though…
But then we were back on the road. About halfway through Kentucky we finally decided everything was in fact OK. The temp gauge which usually floats around had settled in and the car felt incredible.
We were headed to a Christmas Eve service at my parents’ church where we were going to have dinner, but that wasn’t until 9:30 and it was only 4. We were hungry! So in a place called Smiths Grove we stopped at McDonalds and, like an anchor falling off the bow, we had just touched the pavement of 65-South when the gauge cluster dinged to let us know the coolant was way over temp.
I’m used to hearing those little ‘dings’. Most of the time, I’m assured that it’s nothing – a dashboard light that we already know is out, a misread error about something that’s obviously fixed. So at first, when I heard it, I settled back into the podcast we were listening to and kept a side-eye glance on Webb for anything telling. But as soon as he tensed up and started hitting the dash, murmuring little “fuck fuck fuck”s and “no no no”s, I was worried. That only happens when it’s bad. We pulled over and steam was pouring out in front of the windshield.
Now, to those who don’t know, if a car gets “hot,” the engine is trash if you don’t have it turned off in the next few seconds. And suffice to say if one overheats you’re generally staying put for a while. So we sat eating quarter pounders on the side of the road while the coolant steamed out of the overflow tube. Being on the side of a busy road in a smoking car is not new to me, though it was to Heather. And while I waited to check the car out to see what was going on, I assured her that this could most likely be fixed with some patience and some stuff we had in the car.
I breathed a sigh of relief, but kept my expectations low. Surely we’d get going, right? The sun was setting right in front of our eyes, but surely…
Once it had cooled down I started feeling the coolant tubes to see if the engine still had at least some coolant left…it didn’t. Oddly though the tank the coolant is poured into did, so I assumed the thermostat had failed shut. Again another common issue, so I removed it and to take up the gap caused in its absence I made a little cardboard gasket out of a cardboard Christmas gift tag.
Now this entire time either you’ve been reading and not understanding a thing because I’ve gotten too “car guy” for you or, you’re still hopeful.
But get this: I’d used up two gallons of coolant before I realized it was coming out somewhere as fast as I could pour it in. And we’d used up all the water, too. (Thanks, Mama Sue, for the “Plant Water” that you didn’t know I took!)
After some looking around I assumed the plastic coolant tank had busted, which is a failure I knew I couldn’t fix on the side of the road just outside Smiths Grove, KY. Even if it wasn’t past closing time on Chrismas Eve, the parts store would give me the “we can order it but it’ll be two weeks” crap. So we made… the call.
He made the call. I was busy crying and keeping a suspicious eye on the RV that had been pulled off on the road behind us for the last 20 minutes.
Like I said I’m no stranger to this and thus my father is no stranger to saving me. So there we were in the dark, in Kentucky, cars flying by, windows fogging up with the cold that was slowly but surely taking hold outside. And while Heather expressed a fear of such a situation that I didn’t know could exist,
(I couldn’t feel my toes)
I regaled her with some breakdown stories from my past. Two hours later ol’ Dad pulled up and we had the car loaded up on the trailer in seconds flat. We were once again on the road.
I sat there in the warmth of that truck and bathed in our luck and good fortune. I coughed a lot, too. I was, and still am, getting sick, which made everything that much more miserable. Still, I couldn’t believe Webb’s dad had come to fetch us without hesitation. This was our Christmas Eve miracle. We owe him our lives. Literally.
We ended up having a fantastic Christmas Eve and finally got to bed at 2:30 AM after making a couple more presents and pouring a glass of whiskey to calm our nerves. I’d reheated some Chinese food when we got home and before we went to bed I decided to see what the lone fortune cookie left had to tell me.
“Man has a limitless ability to achieve goodness”.
During our two hour stint in that cold car waiting Heather admitted to me that she didn’t trust that old car anymore. Worse, that she questioned her own ideals of owning a vintage 4×4 if such things could happen. But we have a huge network of family and friends to call on in such events. We made it home to spend the evening almost exactly how we would’ve anyways. And we had each other.
Dawwww. Ain’t he a sweetie?
Oh and that fortune? Once we got the car on the trailer I could see a steady stream of coolant coming from the head. We’d blown out the head gasket. So next year I guess we’ll be more prepared if we go ahead and upgrade to a cometic head gasket and arp head studs.
NERD. Next year we’re going in MY car.
Happy Holidays, y’all. We hope you find this season full of all things good.
Love, W & H (Webther) (Weather) (Hebb)