Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Restoration Begins

My 1988 Pontiac 6000 LE Safari will be back from its first stage of restoration tomorrow. It will have a new rack-and-pinion, new brakes, and a new master brake cylinder. All this has been done under the tutelage of J’s Automotive in South Miami (no link; Jay’s not the kind of guy to go high-tech. But I would recommend him for anything.) This makes it safe to drive and useful for the garden projects I have planned for this winter. (Besides, you just can’t pull up to Home Depot in a convertible.)

The next stage will be to replace the headliner and the fake-wood-grain moulding applique around the fake-wood-grain panels. The panels themselves are in good shape, but sun and time have taken their toll on the trim. After that will come rust removal in the wheel wells, paint repair and ding removal, and powdercoating of the wheels. It should be ready to show by the time it qualifies as an “antique” and ready for the Memory Lane exhibit in 2012.

It’s a bit of an expensive proposition, but it’s also a labor of love. (If you’d like to participate in the restoration, contributions are always welcome.) I’ve owned this car since January 1989 when it had 5,648 miles on the odometer. It now has over 238,650 miles on it.

Station wagons have always been a favorite of mine. That’s probably a throwback to when I was a kid and we, like millions of other families, had the Ford Country Squire or the Chevy Briarwood or the Chrysler Town & Country as the family car next to Dad’s sedan. It took us to the lake in summer, skiing in winter, and everywhere else in between. It became part of the language (“Dibs on sitting in the wayback!”) and to this day I can still hear the hum of the snowtires and the fading signal of WJR in the night as we drove up to Boyne Mountain for our annual Christmas trip. The first car I drove (legally) was a fully-loaded 1967 Ford Country Squire; navy blue with wood-grain and a blue interior. It was our first car with air conditioning, and it had an 8-track. One of the first tapes we got was Dave Brubeck’s Time Out. Is it purely coincidental that my Pontiac is also navy blue with wood grain and a blue interior, or is it karma? It was no coincidence that the first cassette I bought for the Pontiac was Time Out.

It’s seen me through my life and times in Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, and Florida. It was the car I brought Sam home in when he was a pupppy and the car he rode in when I took him to the veterinarian during his final illness. There are memories in it that go beyond just being a mode of transportation. It may be an odd sentiment to have about a piece of machinery, but if you’ve ever watched people going through an antique auto show and overheard their comments – “My dad had one of those…” – you know what I’m talking about.