What is “A Survivor”

Being car people, we’ve all heard it, whether it be on one of those showcase auctions like Barrett Jackson, in a feature article in a major magazine such as Hemmings Motor News, or simply a word of mouth story from a friend of a friend with a special car. This automobile is a survivor. It’s all original. The car is an unrestored time machine! These words ring loud throughout the collector car hobby but can mean different things to different people.

I’ve been obsessed with cars all of my life but didn’t get involved with the collector car hobby until 1995. As the result of an April fool’s joke by my wife that went terribly wrong for her, I purchased what I thought was an all original unrestored 1973 Mustang convertible. After a multi-year restoration process and thousands of dollars less in the checking account I had probably one of the nicest restored cars that I’ve ever set my eyes on. In fact, the car won first place in the Mustang class at the VAE Shelburne Museum show two years in a row. Unfortunately, the love for a restored car just wasn’t there. I sold the Mustang and then began my journey to find a truly un-restored all original survivor. That has led me to my current collection of Mustangs which include a 1969 Shelby GT350, a 1970 Boss 302, a 1973 Mach I, and a 1973 coupe. Are these all original ? Well, some may say yes, but in my opinion, I have to say no. They all had many of the characteristics that people tend to say make them survivors but a true survivor is very rare. What is a survivor ? Simply stated, I look for a car that has original paint and is as it was when it left the factory floor with the exception of minor consumables such as filters, battery, belts, shocks, etc. Obviously, the more consumables in place, the better. Let’s talk about how I would classify my cars.

1970 boss mustang 302 engineMy 1973 Mach 1 and 1970 Boss are what I will call survivors. They have original paint, original interiors, the drive trains are matching numbers, the glass is original, and all of the performance robbing pollution control piece parts are still in place. Okay, so I’m not being quite truthful. The Boss does have a small area on the hood that was repainted to repair a small dent that happened in a parking lot in 1970 ac-cording to the original owner. I’ll still call it a survivor. The repair is part of its history done by the original owner as maintenance.

david hillman ford mustangsNow, what would I call my Shelby? I can’t call it a survivor. It only has 45,000 miles on it, everything on the car is original, and I even have some of the factory belts and hoses. But alas, the car was re-painted back in the late 70’s by an owner who wanted to keep it looking flawless. I don’t care if the car is 100% original down to the air filter. Once repainted, a car is not a survivor. A repaint also leaves some doubt as to the originality of the body. I’d put this in the class I call unrestored, ie, if selling it I’d say unrestored with one repaint.

My 1973 coupe has only 7,000 miles on it. Wow ! She just HAS to be a survivor, right ? WRONG ! The car could be what I would call a SUPER survivor in that most of the consumables are still in place. When was the last time you saw an almost 40 year old car with original belts, hoses, shocks, exhaust, muffler, and air filter? I’ll better that, when did you last see a set of Trico wiper blades stamped Made In USA !

Unfortunately the original owner had a canoe drop on the hood when it was stored in his garage. That meant a new hood, right front fender, windshield, and the dreaded repaint. Unlike my Shelby, I can’t say the car is unrestored with one repaint. The sheet metal replacement knocks it down a notch. My classification would be preserved with one re-paint.

My passion with all of these cars is that the manufacturing history has not been wiped away by the restoration shop. They have essentially preserved the historic accuracy of factory production cars of the late 60’s and early 70’s. They also hold a story of each previous owner. These were owners that clearly must have had a special relationship with the car. How else would they have managed to survive !

Ode to Stuff

Okay, this is no ode – poets write loads of odes, and to everything; urns come to mind, but I don’t believe I’ve seen one to “stuff”. When I was trying to think of stuff to write about this month, my erudite husband suggested I write about “stuff”. Now, who was the English Lit major?? Not him! Anyway, we all have our stuff, usually unique to the individual, and very dear to him or her. Beanie babies, Cabbage Patch dolls and pet rocks were a lot of folks’ obsession a few years ago. Then there are thimbles, paperweights, cups and saucers, old bottles, books (yes!), stamps, old coins, chickens, old tools, license plates (1909 dealer plate anyone?), art, CAR PARTS – amazing! Many of us have family heirlooms, but where, oh where, to put all of one’s stuff?

It could be put in a stuffing box, but that is a whole other thing, right, old car guys? An addition could be built, another garage, wall- to- wall shelves, hang stuff from the ceiling? Or hand it off to children – probably not, their interests aren’t necessarily ours, so, I say, enjoy your stuff, even flaunt it. Some of our best “stuff” we dug up in our back yard, apparently considered to be “trash” by an earlier generation. So who’s to say what stuff will be collectible, valued, or found in a flea market, o.k., or on line, in the future? As I was writing, I looked around at some of my stuff. Pictures, old books, bottles, old kitchen utensils, a spinning wheel, books, boom chains, rusty iron tools, bowls and baskets, college mugs, coffee grinder, glass and ceramic cats and birds, pewter tea and coffee pots, did I mention books, wooden boxes, Matchbox cars (none made in China), old clocks, 45 RPM records of the 1950’s, old kid’s toys and dolls and more books. Almost forgot, interesting rocks from interesting places we’ve visited, except from England, as “he” wouldn’t let me put them in our luggage, bird’s nests and sloughed off snake skins. Then I think that when I’m gone, these will be what I’m remembered by? Oh well, flaunt our stuff now!!

Pressing Needs – Dave’s Garage

I recently purchased a tool I have been having a hard time living without. It is something that any shop should have, yet I have been working for years without one. I just purchased a 20 ton press. A press is really handy, almost essential for pressing out bearings, u-joints, ball joints and many other jobs.

20 ton shop pressA tool needs to justify the expense, and the floor space it takes in my garage. I have been looking at presses for years. I decided I needed at least a 20 ton, a 12 ton would not be strong enough. I saw prices around $1,000. That was way out of my budget. Harbor Freight had this 20 ton, and it had all good customer reviews. The price? $199. I don’t know how they can sell them so cheaply. I can’t even buy the steel to make one for that price. This press is well made, and very strong. It does not look any different than the $1,200 presses I’ve seen elsewhere. As with most tools Harbor Freight sells, I would not rely on them to make a living, with 8 hour a day use. For occasional use however, most Harbor Freight tools fit the bill.

I tried to order it on line, but the shipping would have been roughly $100.00. This purchase had to wait until I was near a Harbor Freight store. I tried to buy it the end of February when I was driving through Springfield, MA. Unfortunately, the Harbor Freight in Springfield didn’t have it in stock. On my way home from an MG event in Norwich, NY I stopped at a Harbor Freight store. Success…..in stock, $199.00 as advertised. I also bought a bench top 1 ton arbor press for light press duty. It was only $50.00. I’ll keep you posted on how they work.

Out of necessity I have learned a few tips to get jobs done without a press. When I have to replace a bearing, I usually hammer the old part out. If it is really stuck, I will use a cutting torch or a hammer and a chisel. I place the new part to be pressed in the freezer for a few days. I take the outer part (that the part is being pressed into) and place it in the oven for 20 minutes at 300′ (don’t tell my wife). The difference in size caused by the temperature extremes causes press fit parts to easily fit together. I recently rebuilt the transmission on my Saab. All the bearings are press fit, but I did not use a press. I used the freezer/oven trick for all of the new bearing installations, and it worked like a charm. The bearings just fell into place with a light “clunk” then the temperatures equalized and the pieces were tightly married together.

The temperatures that the parts were exposed to is no more than the parts will see in use. I only put all metal parts in the oven, and the temperatures on a cold winter night are colder than in the bottom of my freezer.
The oven/freezer trick takes time. The parts have to sit in the freezer at least overnight, and it takes time to wait for my wife to leave the house so I can borrow the oven. If for any reason I assemble the parts in the wrong order, I need to start all over again. The oven/freezer trick only gives you one shot to assemble everything correctly, and you only have a minute or two before the temperatures begin to equalize and the parts won’t fit. I’ve also been living in fear for years… Waiting for the investable day when my wife would come home early and catch me cooking automotive parts in the oven.

I am glad I finally have a press. It will be a big help with future projects. It is a tool I should have purchased years ago. Now that I have it, I can’t believe I lived without it for so long.


Please email all inquiries to: Dave
or snail mail
32 Turkey Hill Road
Richmond VT 05477