the project car

>> 3.07.2009

In my garage is a car.  Well, sort of.  My children call it "Daddy's Broken Car".  It sits in a distressing state of disrepair--actually, to be truthful, I've done more to pull it apart than to put it together.  I go through spurts where I work furiously on it, yet sometimes months go by without me giving it a second glance.  Even at its prime, it was never an awe-inspiring vehicle, and it had left me stranded on the side of the road more times than I can care to remember.  From the exhaust falling off while driving, to the cabin filling with smoke (and the subsequent panicked search for the source of the fire), that car gave me more than its fair share of my headaches . . . and yet, it also gave me many happy memories.  Saturday afternoons on back country roads, tractionless forges through too-deep snow en route to work, ferrying my future wife to and from dates . . . there's no way I could let that car be crushed.  Still, there's a mountain of work that has to be done, just to get it back on the road.

Yesterday, I started reorganizing my tools, dragging them up from the basement, from inside the car, from wherever.  Just this task dredged up all sorts of metal and mental flotsam: where I'd left stuff, tools that were broken or set aside, adaptors and extensions of many flavors, shapes, and sizes.  Loose nuts and bolts I didn't label because when I loosed them, I figured I couldn't forget what those
 were, etc.   Just this simple task of trying to sort out my tools--and move them from an old dresser I'd repurposed into an actual tool cabinet--made plain the yawning chasm between where I was at and where I needed to be.

It struck me that this is what Martin Mayhew, Tom Lewand, Jim Schwartz, and Shack Harris must be going through right now.  Looking through what they have, thinking about what they need, sorting and organizing the tools they have to work with, and just shaking their head.  The task in front of these two men is really quite enormous--it's not just that the Lions are in real rough shape.  The Lions were in real rough shape five years ago.  It's that from that point, more time has been spent tearing the Lions apart than putting them back together.  What was left of them was rent asunder; stripped, bolt-by-bolt, down to the frame, for a sandblast and repaint that never came.

These men inherited a broken, rusting, lifeless hulk, and have many long nights ahead of them just to get back on the road--let alone carve up country roads, drift through fresh-fallen snow, or escort their ladies anywhere past the end of the driveway.  Unfortunately for us, this will not be like watching an episode of "Overhaulin'".  Entire crews of guys laden with top-notch parts will not be coming up the drive.  The budget is not unlimited.  The guy calling the shots is hardly the Chip Foose of his industry.  No, this "project car" will not be a catalog of megabuck parts hastily swapped into a classic chassis.  It will be a labor of love: of junkyard crawls and bloody knuckles; of greasy hands, and oily pants.  It won't take a week, and there won't be scantily-clad babes draped in sponsor's clothes cooing over the results.  But when this old Ford comes out of the garage in August, just the fact that she runs will be reason enough to stand up and applaud.  Even though the parts won't drip with chrome, and the paint won't dazzle or shine, I'm willing to bet that the heart of the beast will roar, and the once-proud ride will at least be able to prowl the streets like it used to.

Then, I'll need those guys to come up here and help me turn a few wrenches . . .


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