Mistakes and Lessons Learned

I’ve made mistakes…and then some

I’m sure there’s some way to call a mistake something else, like “a lesson in disguise,” but I’m just gonna go right out there and say I’ve made a lot of mistakes.  I’ve learned a lot.  But the fact that I know what I’d do differently in the future doesn’t really help that I’ve screwed up here and now.  I’ll be the first to tell you that doing it right in the first place is a lot easier than fixing a mistake later.  But that’s what I’m basically doing at the moment— fixing my mistakes— rather than making true progress.

Mistakes when Purchasing Parts

  1. Taking part descriptions at face value – this one has bitten me multiple times.  The oil pan, the door latches, the windshield weather strip, the rearview mirror, and the rear springs are some of the things I bought which haven’t lived up to their glowing descriptions.  I replaced the rear springs today with correct load and rate springs from Eaton Detroit Spring.  Already the car has a better stance, and I haven’t even driven it yet.
  2. Trusting a brand name – I had thought Scott Drake was a premium brand name.  I thought Dynacorn was, too.  Dynacorn is actually just a synonym for Taiwanese garbage.  Scott Drake makes some nice stuff in-house, but they also throw their name on a lot of foreign-sourced crap, too.  I’ve been very disappointed in several of their items lately.
  3. Not testing sending units before installation – Just because a sending unit is new, doesn’t mean it’s good.  I ended up with both a defective oil and temperature sending unit.  Talk about frustrating!  Draining the coolant out to replace a defective sender is a pain.  Getting to the oil pressure sender is an exercise in futility.  I could have avoided both issues had I tested things on the bench.

Mistakes with Options

  1. Undertaking too many modifications – Because I was doing a complete nuts and bolts restoration, I figured I should build the car the way I wanted it.  So I added front disc brakes, a power brake booster, headers, air conditioning, a T5 stick shift transmission, upgraded suspension, a Rally Pac, sport seat foam, a day-night mirror, and a host of other small upgrades.  That was a mistake.  Individually none of these would be an issue.  Together they spell trouble.  I couldn’t use the cable clutch with the headers.  The air conditioning compressor and hoses make the engine compartment super cramped.  The brake system leaks fluid from somewhere (though I haven’t been able to figure out where, everything I check is dry).  Upgrading the suspension just made the car stand funny.  The sport seat foam added height and decreased the depth of the seats so that I don’t actually fit in the car comfortably.  The list goes on.
  2. Overdoing individual components – I’ve probably spent more than I needed to because I’ve taken the “in for a dime, in for a dollar” attitude.  Big mistake.  I didn’t need a roller cam engine, a limited slip differential, or the heavy-duty suspension.  But I bought into the hype and over-did it, and I’m not getting one bit more enjoyment from any of these things.
  3. Over-complicating things – Rather than putting on all these options, I should’ve thought about how the car would be to service.  I’ve made things way more complicated than they need to be.  I should’ve thrown away the power steering to begin with, that would’ve saved at least $1000.  I’m still dealing with power steering leaks.  Air conditioning, power brakes, the hydraulic clutch linkage, even the 4-barrel carburetor…all add to the complexity.

The biggest mistake?  Restoring a car in the first place.

Don’t do a ground-up restoration.  It sounds like fun, but it isn’t.  It’s not worth the money, it’s not worth the time.  Buy the best car you can afford and have fun with it.  Take on weekend projects, spruce it up, but don’t do a complete restoration all at once.  I could’ve had the fastback or the convertible I wanted, in #1 shape, for what I’ve spent, not to mention the three years I’ll never get back.  But all I have to show for it now is a partially complete car that I don’t feel confident driving.

After spending the morning replacing the rear leaf springs, I dove into hunting down the power steering leak.  I took the pump out, tightened the nut at the pressure port (as recommended by StangerSite), and still the damn thing leaks.  I think it’s actually leaking from the front of the pump, where the housing is attached to the reservoir, but that’s for another day.

My major finding of the day: as I was running the engine testing the pump, I caught a tinge of a tappet noise.  Pulling out the stethoscope confirmed a metallic banging noise coming from cylinder #6.  So now I don’t even want to run the motor.  I’m pretty sure one of the rocker arms is hitting the valve cover.  That’s not a huge issue.  At this point, though, I have no desire to dig into it.  At least not tonight.

In light of my generally poor mood and ever-increasing frustration, it’s time for me to push the car back into the garage, turn off the lights, call it quits for a while, and ruminate on how to get past my mistakes.

2 thoughts on “Mistakes and Lessons Learned”

  1. Andrew, even though you made some mistakes as we all have on working on our cars you have done a great job and gained a lot of experience along the way. That experience you cannot buy so you should feel good about yourself.

    • Thanks, Paul. I feel good about myself for what I’ve accomplished, and like I say, I’ve learned a lot. But last night was one of those moments when the frustration overwhelmed anything else and I had to push the car back into the garage and call it a day.

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