It seemed appropriate to give the “softer side” of our trip to China, observations I noticed, such as the flowers, which were every-where possible and all trimmed and lovingly cared for. One example was a wall of flowers in an elaborate pattern composed of plants in individual pots and somehow set into it; apparently this is a standard planting technique for flower beds as well, at least the ones we saw. There were few overweight Chinese as the majority walk or bicycle everywhere. They need to be agile, as cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, scooters, motorized bicycles with a rickshaw setup for passengers, all competing nonstop for spaces in traffic, and pedestrians do not have priority. As Chris told us, “Look four ways twice” before trying to cross a street! The other part of the street scene is vendors trying to sell passersby everything imaginable, “very cheap” and they are eager to haggle, in fact almost insist on it. These folks are also present at every tourist attraction; the walk up to the Great Wall was lined with them. Meals, ordered by our translator with input from us, were placed, dish after dish, on a huge lazy-susan in the middle of the table. They included lots of tofu, spicy or not, always bok choy, cabbage or swiss chard, a fish and/or meat dish, then rice, and last, soup (it is impolite to fill your soup bowl to the top) and fruit – usually watermelon. Then came the challenge to master chop sticks in order to get the food to one’s plate, not to mention in your mouth – there were spoons for the soup! Speaking of food, we went to a “wet market” where vegetables and fruits were displayed. The meat section was piles of meat – pork, chicken, beef – to be picked over by buyers – a big pyramid of hamburg that was picked up by hand and placed in a plastic bag to be weighed. It was a little shocking as we are used to everything being packaged and in a cooler, but we learned that food is purchased every day, taken home and eaten right away. I stayed away from where the live chickens were, with customers waiting. There were fish, eel, shrimp, clams, crab, etc., swimming around in tanks. Back on the sidewalk there were, besides “very cheap” sellers, street cleaners, mostly women, using what looked like a witches broom made of twigs to sweep up any bit of debris – a lot of cigarette butts, despite “No Naked Flames” signs. There were bicycles passing by with huge loads of cardboard folded for recycling and laundry was hung from racks attached to apartment house balconies. We visited temples which were crowded with people burning in-cense, bowing and praying to Buddha as well as patting the heads of big reddish fish which is believed to bring good fortune, and leaving money in and on the various statues of gods. There are many rituals and traditions the Chinese observe. One last thing to mention were the ladies rooms away from hotels – the “facility” is a porcelain basin set into the floor, no hand holds, and paper goes into a wastebasket. Enough about that! The Chinese people seemed genuinely anxious to try to talk with us Americans, which was gratifying, and their work ethic is to be admired. For someone who originally said no way she would go to China, it was an extraordinary trip, largely thanks to Chris Barbieri’s great organizing, choice of guides, introducing us to new Chinese foods, sights, and all with a fun group of VAE members.
With the new year quickly approaching, I want to throw down a challenge to all members and spouses to introduce a younger person to something of value from your past. Possibly, an old movie, the 1st car you drove, a long forgotten dance or anything that is not currently deemed popular by the masses. A number of years ago, I was standing at a counter waiting for a young lady to take my sandwich order. The news was on; reporting on the life and passing of Elizabeth Taylor. I commented that this was truly a loss. The young lady proceeded to tell me that she had never seen Taylor in her youth or seen her in a movie. I told her that she was only one of the most iconic women in the motion picture industry. How can you go through life without seeing National Velvet or Lassie Come Home filmed in 1943. I have an eleven year old daughter who I continually expose to the best classic Americana has to offer. In our home Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers, classic cars, chrome bumpers, big bands, black & white movies and the waltz are not a thing of the past but an every day staple.
I recently embarked on the task of winterizing my vehicles. I realized that my Subaru still has the original alternator, and it has 195,000 miles on it. I have never had an alternator last this long. When I brought the car in for an inspection, I asked the guy how often they replaced alternators on Subarus. He said they replace a few. I asked him how many miles do they last. He told me they can go at anywhere between 80,000 and 150-160,000. Hum. I called Auto Electric in Williston and asked them how long this particular alternator lasts. They said they seem to last between 100,000 and 150,000 miles. I asked what wears out, and they said the basic wear items- brushes and bearings, but the rest of the alternator holds up well. I asked what it would cost to recondition a working alternator and was quoted between $50 and $80.
I priced remanufactured alternators and saw prices starting in the range of $150.00 and quickly going up well past $200.00 (not including the core charge).
I removed the alternator and decided to bring it in. The first thing I noticed is that when I spun the pulley, the bearings sounded rough. Auto Electric replaced the bearings, brushes and the regulator. The brushes were almost completely gone, and the bearings made noise. Final cost was $80, or less than half what it would have cost to buy a re-manufactured alternator. This remedy also avoided a potential road side break down and unplanned down time.
Penetrating fluid update:
Recently I recommended a mixture of acetone and ATF as an alternate penetrating oil, and I stated that I would try it and report back with my findings. I have done a lot of work recently, work involving removing very rusted nuts and bolts, pressing out frozen bearings, freeing heavily rusted frozen parking brakes, and removing brake bleeder nipples and hydraulic fittings.
I am happy to report that this home brewed concoction has worked very well, exceeding my expectations. The only down side is that the ATF and acetone do not like to remain in suspension, so I have to shake my oil can before each use. The fluid needs to be kept in a sealed container, as acetone evaporates quickly.
I hope you try it, and have as much success as I have had.
Please email all inquiries to: Dave
or snail mail
32 Turkey Hill Road
Richmond VT 05477
Following WWII, the British auto industry was under the mandate of “Export or Die”. As a result, the most popular imported cars in the States after the War were British. According to Ward’s Auto World, the British had a 96% share of the U.S. imported car market in 1952. Today it is less than 1%. Popular post-war British cars were the MG TD and the Jaguar XK120. When most “car people” think of British cars, sports cars come to mind. Indeed, at the British Invasion of Stowe car show, Austin Healeys, MGs and Triumphs are the most popular entries among the hundreds of cars that show up.
But the highest volume product ever made by the British auto industry was the Mini. With 5,387,862 units produced from 1959 to 2000, the Mini outlasted several of its corporate owners. Though Minis were never imported in great numbers to the U.S., they were highly innovative when introduced and set the style of transverse engine design for practically all front-wheel drive cars that followed. The concept was exceptional:
a practical sub-compact car 10 feet long, 4 feet wide, 4 feet tall that would seat 4 adults. Over 80% of the car’s volume is for its occupants. Its 10″ wheels are located at the corners of the body. Originally called the Austin Seven, the car came equipped with a 38 h.p. 4 cylinder en-gine of 850cc. capacity. By 1964, some were factory-modified with a 1275 cc, 78 h.p. engine by Formula I car designer John Cooper. Thus was born the Austin Cooper, aka Austin Mini Cooper. These cars went on to win rugged European rallys with boring regularity in the 1960s, including the Monte Carlo Rally in 3 separate years. A highly modified Mini from New Zealand recently clocked over 200 mph at Bonneville.
Most Mini enthusiasts don’t recognize the current BMW-made Mini offering as a “proper” Mini: It weighs almost twice as much and is a full 2 feet longer. It is available in styles that are even heavier and longer yet. That being said, the new Mini is a car better suited for American conditions than the original Mini ever was. In standard form, the old Minis suffered from the usual British car maladies: overheating, leaking oil, weak engine internals, poorly shifting transmissions and generally poor quality control. But an old Mini is so light and small that it can corner at frightening speeds if you keep your right foot into it. It has been described as a go-cart on steroids, with (as the Brits would say) cheeky good looks to boot.
I bought my Austin Mini around 1977, but family responsibilities kept me from getting it on the road until the late 1990s. I had wanted one since I was a kid in the 1960s. Knowing the mechanical shortcomings of the original car, I knew I was fated to perform an engine swap. The Japanese small car field could provide the powerplant needed to make my Mini a durable highway performer. Equipped with a tape measure, I checked the junkyards for a donor vehicle with an engine/transmission of suitable size, such that I wouldn’t have to cut the Mini body. I found such a front-wheel drive power unit in a 1993 Geo Metro. I was a bit wary at first since this car has a computer on board to control the fuel injection system. But then I reasoned that it’s only wiring and I should not fear. I was right – with a factory wiring schematic I could tell where each wire had to go and it all worked out well.
This Geo Metro engine is made by Suzuki and it is “the Little Engine that Could”. It is a 3 cylinder, 993 cc. 55 h.p. unit coupled to a 5 speed transmission that shifts as smooth as silk and weighs 100 pounds less than the original 38 h.p. engine. My car weighs in at just under 1300 pounds without the driver. The powerplant swap necessitated some tricky surgery on the front subframe but it, too, went well. My Mini looks absolutely stock. But its a sleeper that will elicit a loud chirp from the front wheels when you shift into 2nd gear with a little extra throttle. Its a blast to drive. A recent 210 mile trip was accomplished using 4.1 gallons of regular gas. Prius owners, eat your hearts out!