Porch vs. Porsche - Life on the Farm

So, for anyone who's not been keeping up, I'm hiding out on a farm, somewhere in Alberta, Canada, between Secret Missions.

On the tail end of the last mission, I bought a used, partially restored 1985 Porsche 928S. Partially is a good word right? The previous owner had the car professionally repainted and reupolstered. They did a beautiful job, really.

But part of the process was taking the trim off the exterior, including the rear spoiler, and also all the interior pieces. That would include anything that was upolstered. Next time you are in your car, reach out and touch anything with fabric or leather, you know, anything not glass or metal. Yeah, when I got my Porsche, all of that was laying in the rear hatch area.

I'm finding the tricky part of my life lately is wondering if I'll be getting sent on my next mission tomorrow, or next week, or if they'll ever call. So the first week off, I didn't do much work on the car, because who wants to get things half done and then have to leave right?

Then I was reading a blog post, talking about the last 100 days of the year. That was a couple weeks ago. Its now 90 days left, if you were wondering! So taking the advantage of the blog post, I decided to set some goals I'd like to have finished by the end of the year.

Well, looking at all the parts in the back of the car, I really had no honest idea if they were all there, or where the went! So when I said I'd have the car finished by year end, that seemed like a stretch, but I was excited to have it put back together.

First day, I took everything out of the car, and layed it out all over the ground around the car, and just looked at everything. Got an idea what kind of condition things were in, and tried to group parts in piles that seemed to go together.

Also part of this process was looking at the outside of the car, to see how good of a job the body shop guys had done. I used to paint helicopters for the Navy, so I tend to be kind of critical of paint jobs! They did a really nice job, so YAY right? The paint is a metallic charcoal gray, in case it doesn't come through well in the pictures.

I did notice some problems though. On each side of the car, there are 3 "door knockers" trim pieces. Its the part that sticks out a bit so when the guy next to you kicks his door open and smacks your car, it hits the trim first. Well, I'm already missing one of the pieces! Seems the glue that was used to put them on hadn't set up well or something. So after seeing that, I started checking the others, and was fairly easily able to take the remaining ones off with my bare hands. So, some day I'll put them back on, with better glue.

There were a couple pieces of window seal missing, which was letting water into the doors. In fact, later on I discovered that was why the passenger side window wasn't working, the motor had seazed up from all the water getting into it!

Looking around my van, I found the perfect temporary solution, a roll of black "Gaff" tape. Gaff tape is used by Gaffers, in their fine art of Gaffing. No one really knows what that means, but if you're in show business, and have a roll of Gaff tape, people don't mess with you!

So, a quick line of Gaff tape to cover the gap left by the missing window seal, and no more leak. Also no more rolling down the windows, but hey, winter is coming, so I got time to figure that out later!

Once I had stacked and sorted all the pieces, I made a plan. I decided to start in the back of the car and work my way forward. Maybe not the most logical plan, but I had a reason. If I finished the front first, like the door panels and stereo, I probably would never finish the back!

So the first day, I put the rear spoiler on. A big part of the first day was getting my head around how many screws were in the bags. Maybe I should back up a bit there! When I first got the car, there were old antifreeze jugs, cut in half, so they'd lay flat, like a tray. 4 or 5 of them, all with hardware in them. And also a layer of dust and maybe sand, like from sand blasting.

First I had to bag up all the hardware, trying to get rid of most of the dust. I always use freezer or sandwich bags, they zip up so you don't lose as many screws. Important tip!

Anyway, none of the screws were labeled. Or sorted. Or in any way attached to what they belonged to. D'oh!

There I am, standing in the middle of the farm, surrounded by broken down tractors and old buildings, trying to put my Porsche back together, and I have no idea what screw goes where. Fortunately, a good part of my training from the Navy was in exactly this kind of predicament! We used to have this kind of issue all the time when I fixed F-14 Tomcats. One shift or crew would take something apart, and the next would get to put it back together! At least then, you could walk over to the next aircraft and see how it was supposed to look.

But in the process of figuring out the screws to put the rear spoiler back on, I had time to see what else was in the bags, and I got things kind of sorted by the process of elimination!

In a lucky way, putting the rear spoiler on first really helped me do the rest of the car :)

While I was working on the back, I finished up the inside of the rear hatch too, tucking all the wires up, which made everything else look SO much better. By the end of the second day, I had the rear end of the car put back together!

Of course, it was really nice and sunny so I worked fast, knowing winter was eventually going to come!

Then, a decision. The car had a cassette deck in it. Obviously that had to go, right? The problem was by now, I'd pretty much blown my money, so buying a new stereo was out. Too bad really, because I'd found a really nice one online, too!

I've been using my van for storing all the car parts. So one day I'm taking a break, sitting in the van, drinking coffee, and jamming out to some Metallica. I really like the stereo that came with the van :) So the question was, should I put it in the car? Free is good right?

Problems. Sigh. GM radios are bigger. Not wider, but taller. This means that it won't fit in the hole left by removing the cassette deck. Decisions...

First off, this isn't going to be a show car. Its MY car :) I will try to take good care of it, but I'm not planning on selling it any time soon. I decided I'd just cut the hole bigger in the Porsche so the stereo would fit. Then I almost threw up!

Part of the reason I needed to put the stereo in sooner, rather than later, is the door panels were already off, and it would be SO much easier to put in new wires, and new speakers if I needed to. Besides, I'm QUALIFIED to make holes in things a lot more expensive than this car :)

A bit of trimming and Tadaaaa! It fits! Just had to get rid of the ash tray and lighter and move the clock, but hey, progress! Later on, I'll redo some of the trim a bit and put the clock back in.

Next to put on the door panels. Oops, right, have to fix the power window on the passenger side. Trouble shooting time. First see if there is power to the motor. Since the panel is off, that's pretty easy, just reach in through the hole, unplug the wire, and with the key on, stick my multimeter leads into the wire plug. Swich up / down, yup, there's power to the motor. Check!

Ok, plug wire back in, hit switch. With one hand on the motor and one on the switch, I can feel the motor jerk a bit, but not move. Ok, unhook the motor and its gear box from the "window regulator assembly", a term I found later when researching! Now the window is free to move independant of the motor. So in theory if the window itself was jammed, the motor should move too, right? Ok, hit the switch. Nope, still not moving. Hmmm. Ok, take more bolts out, and eventually I have the motor and its gearbox out of the door. Plug into the wire, still nothing. Something is frozen up solid.

Now I'm having fun :) Take the motor off of the gear box. Gearbox rotates freely. Must be a bad motor! You ever take an electric motor apart? Its amazingly simple in there. Magnets, wires, carbon brushes. The other stuff has names too, but I don't want to show off right?

Once the motor is apart, I had planned on just cleaning out the rust a bit, and I'd be good to go. Hmmm. That's not good! One of the main magnets had, well, shattered! Looks like it had rusted itself together, then when I was trying to force it to move, it just fell apart. Bummer!

So I email the guy at the shop, where all the main mechanical stuff was done, and ask how much for a new motor. Mean time, I'm hitting Google and Ebay. Find a motor for $75 on Ebay. Add that to my favorites.

Shop guy comes back with $475 for the motor. Go back to Ebay, click Buy It Now! Ends up being $140 with shipping and everything. Oh, and as of this writing, its not here yet, but I have tracking!

Mean time, put other door panel on, some other pieces on various parts, all the carpet liners, and hey, it looks like a car inside again!

Passenger door panel had some broken corners where the bolts would attach the arm rest, so I fiberglassed those. Navy tought me how to do great fiberglass repairs so that was fun to play with again!

Hmmm what else. Battery. Yeah the first week I got the car home, I go to start it, and its dead. I had been leaving all the doors open when I was sorting the parts, so figured I had just ran it dead from the dome lights being on. Since I'm on a farm, I have a choice of battery chargers, so I grab one that can do jump starts. Vrooom and I'm good to go. Had planned to drive into one town that is 20 minutes away, then on into the bigger town an hour away. Figured I'd better just drive to the big town, that will give the battery longer to charge up.

Get to WalMart, and do my shopping. Since I like being prepared to face anything, I go ahead and buy one of those car jump starter battery packs, you know, just in case. Get all my stuff out to the car, and yup, still dead battery. Open up the jump start pack, put it on... so close! Not quite enough power to start!

Walk back into the store, and head over to the Tire and Battery department. They're having a slow day, so I tell the Tire Dude my situation, told him I just bought the Jumper thing, but it wasn't charged. Does he have one I can borrow? No, but he does have a plan. He has his associate grab a hand cart and a new battery off the shelf. They can't find their jumper cables, so I tell him I'll go buy a set and meet him at the front door.

1 cashier open, line from hell. Urg. Thankfully the guy is happy to wait in the fresh air and not back in the shop! We walk out to the car, I pop the back. Oh yeah, this Porsche has the battery in the trunk. Good to remember! We hook up cables, and it fires right up. Cool! Thanks Tire Dude! I try to give him a $20, tell him he can take his boss to lunch, he says no, they're not allowed to take tips. Glad I at least bought the cables from them!

Back home, put the battery on a good charger, a few hours. Nothing. Next day, more charger, few more hours. Nothing. Not completely sure if its a battery or something else bleeding down, so I look around at my "parts warehouse". Its handy having a few extra vehicles around to choose from! I've not been driving the van much lately. Look at its battery, which is fairly new. Hmmm its got side posts, the Porsche has top posts. Oh, and the Porsche has a really big battery in it, its normal width but extra long.

Pop the hood on my motorhome, cool, top post battery. And after sitting about 2 months, the motorhome started right up, so I know its a decent battery. Get it out with a bit of struggle, its not been out in a while I guess. Ok, good, out, rinse it off a bit, its kind of dirty. Get the Porsche battery out. Go to put the motorhome battery in, and because its shorter, the cables won't quite reach! Crap, all I want is to test it, I don't need to get all fancy now!

Give the battery cable a bit of a tug, and slide it through the gromet far enough to reach, barely. Ok, that should at least tell me if its a battery issue! Even after sitting a while, it starts right up. Good, passes first test! Now the real test, let it sit a few days while I was putting the rest of the interior together.

Several days later, it fires right up. Cool! Do a little happy dance! Let it idle for a while, then remember there isn't much gas in the car. Well, I'm not exactly sure how much gas I have! The gas guage isn't really working yet. It works, sometimes. The guys at the shop soldered one wire, and thought they had fixed it. So since the car did start right up, I grab some tools, and the freshly charged jump starter, and head into the closer town. I had to go to the bank, the hardware store, and the gas station. Was just a bit nervous about turning the car off, you know?

First stop, turn it off. Go into bank, then walk to hardware store, then walk back to car. Look around, hope no one is watching. It takes away the cool factor of having a sports car in a farming town, when it doesn't start! Deep breath. Key in, crank... Vroom! wahoo! Gas station. They have a pump jockey there. He fills it, I go inside to pay. Come back out. Deep breath... Vroom! Happy Dance in the car. Pump Jockey is looking at me weird. Smile, drive away.

Still going to have to replace the battery eventually, but for now, I have a battery that works great, plus its not just sitting in the motorhome going dead!

Ok, enough of the car. I had thought that would be shorter!

The title of this post was Porch vs. Porsche. Maybe Vs. isn't the best choice of words. That makes it sound like the Porsche and the Porch are fighting or something.

Life on the Farm

My brother is building a porch, onto the side of his trailer. My brother, Kevin, who has his own blog, dufferkev.blogspot.com/ is a wood working genius. Really. He started off with a little house trailer, partially gutted it, moved walls, did some crazy work on it, and wow, its really looking awesome now. One of his wood working projects was to take tongue and groove pine (I think its pine?) and coated it with "Spar Varnish" which I believe is the water proof varnish you would put on a spar. Spars are on sail boats I think. So they'd have to be varnished to be waterproof right? So that is on his ceiling and wall of the bathroom. Looks awesome. Shiny. And apparently waterproof too! There is more, but for that you'll need to see his blog. This is my blog!

But the porch, until last week was just in his mind. There was space next to the trailer, some mud. A wood sidewalk. But no porch. Since it gets really cold here, there was concern about frost heaves or something, so when he was planning the porch, it was recommended he bury pilings or posts into the ground, in concrete. That sounds a bit more complicated than just nailing some boards together. So he went to town and bought posts and bags of "Post haste" concrete. And borrowed a post hole digger from work. I'm pretty sure they let him borrow it. Not like he just took it, ok?

Well, the digger kind of sucked. Mom and I went to see, and he had not a lot of holes dug on Saturday. It was bad. There was one hole down maybe 3 feet. One not even 2 feet. And 4 orange circles on the ground where holes might eventually be. The plan was for the holes to be 5 feet deep, incase I missed that part? Hmmm yeah, 5 feet. Deeper would be better, but then the posts would be too short. So no, 5 feet would be good.

But with this digger, 2 feet was really asking for a lot. So we called a guy with a Bobcat loader, who had a hole auger. Nope, eventually he called back, he'd sold the auger. Mean time, my Mom insists that she has a much better post hole digger, somewhere. Its a big farm. There are a lot of fences, between the horse corrals and the dog yards and the llama, it could be anywhere. Mom eventually finds it burried in a lilac bush in front of the house. No idea why its there, but she seems to think she might have put it there. Go figure!

But now its getting late. And we'd spent the whole day, Mom and I, cutting firewood. With the chain saw. That might be a whole nother post, because this one is surely going to slip into epic book teritory.

Briefly, yeah, I got to cut firewood with a chainsaw. This is funny, in a way, because my Dad used to drive logging trucks, he had chain saws. I used to watch him, but I really never got to use one myself. So my Mom, Farm Woman Extrodinare of the Pioneer Days, drags out her chainsaws. 2 matching ones, no less, you know, just in case? Ok, talk to me people, how many of you have a Mom with more than one chain saw? I can't make this stuff up!

Yeah, we cut some firewood! End of Saturday.

Now its Sunday morning. We get an earlier start on the holes, because this digging of holes is hard work. But Mom's wonder digger is really great! Where normal post hole diggers look like 2 shovels linked together, this one is more like an auger, you twist it with a handle. And I gotta tell you, this thing digs great!

Right up until we burried it to the handle. Yeah. Its for fence poles. So normally you only put fence poles in 3 feet I guess. The handle hits dirt at about 3 feet. Hmmm.

Nice thing about a farm, is you have "spare parts" everywhere! You can't even start to walk through tall grass with out tripping on some treasure or other. Bit of looking around, and I find a 6 foot long piece of iron pipe, with threaded ends. A few more feet, and I find some buckets full of pipe fittings, some of which fit the pipe. T-fittings, elbows, couplings, etc.

Looking at the post hole digger, its shaft is actually an iron pipe, with threads on it. Wow, cool, so we twist the top handle off. Oh... so close. Our pipe is bigger, and we don't have a long pipe that size. So we just slide our new pipe over the old one, drill a cross hole, and put in some screws. Then using the T-fitting and some shorter pipes, we make a handle. Wow, this is awesome!

In no time at all we have 6 holes drilled down to 5 feet. That could be like one 30 foot hole I guess. But its not. The weird thing, the holes are in a grid, 3 holes long, 2 holes wide. 2 holes struck water. 1 hole had clay, one had almost sandy soil, and the others were black top soil. All within a 8' x 16' area.

Next we nailed 2x6 across the posts to form the floor of the porch. Don't quote me on this, but it seemed like Kevin knows what he's doing, I was just there to hold the other end of the board right? We got the outter framework put together in no time at all, using a new air nailler he picked up for a bargain price of like $45. It was a close out, we found out because the gun used nails the store wasn't going to stock anymore. The nails we got were "close" but we weren't really sure they'd work. If you were curious, they did work!

Grabbing the concrete, an old wheel barrel, and some water from a rain barrel, brother Kevin teaches me the fine art of mixing concrete. Note to self, concrete is kind of heavy! Just saying!

In quick order, we had the concrete mixed, one bag at a time, and down the post holes. A long stick to poke the concrete, to help break up the air bubbles and we called it Beer Time. You ever notice how good beer tastes after a good day of work?

Well there you have it! If you read all of this you probably deserve a beer. Enjoy!

And stay tuned next week for more adventures from the farm.

By for now


By Carlin Comm posted on 2010-10-04 20:07:09