Wastelands of Suburbia

A place where the cast-off ephemera of the last four generations comes to rest, and is discussed fondly....Like junk, or the injection-molded minutiae of history? Welcome home...Junkyards, yard sales, roadside oddities, thrift stores and more-your memories are deep inside the box, so keep shaking.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

How Sweet! New Seat! Part II...

(One could make the assumption, from the askance appearance of this worn leather seat in relation to all right angles in my driveway, that it was the victim of a spirited bout of English/Polish Seat Tossing, and, knowing my patience, you'd be right. Oh, how she flew!)

I had some spare time this evening, and since I didn't need a nap now that I am basically a secretary at work, I decided to get started replacing Greta's front seats. As you may recall I had purchased some newer seats a while back, and have been looking for a good excuse to get started on installation. It was a little warm for May this evening but my shower works, so I tore into it, Stink be damned...

Basically most seats are held in with four bolts-leave it to Mercedes-Benz to go one better-that's right, there's one extra bolt that holds the whole works in place, seemingly it is for collision protection as close as I can tell-anyway, after looking at the new seats I got the general idea of how the old ones were held in, and got to it. The rear bolts are a bit of a bitch-they require either carefully angling and turning your socket wrench, or putting the socket on and carefully placing the wrench on top. Of course, there is most likely a factory tool for this, but it's probably 600 bucks and made of stag bone. Hell, there's probably just a better wrench, but This Guy doesn't have it.

But soon enough, I had the bolts undone and was easing out the seat. It gave me a chance to get a good look at it, even in the fading light of the day: (I never really noticed just how faded this was-of course, the tears in the leather are obvious.) If your 124 Mercedes does not have the front bolster piece [where the boomerang-shaped tear is in this one at the front], and your center perforated tucks go all the way to the front of the seat, guess what? Hate to break it to you, you don't have leather! It's MB Tex, sorry. Realistic feeling, ain't it?

I was not surprised at most of what I found under the seat-one needs only look down between their center console to find the collection of spare change, errant french fries, and cigarette ashes to get an idea-but some of it was a little distressing:

(total take? 21 cents, a pair of shitty sunglasses, some broken glass (automotive)and plastic pieces from some toy, a Tampax [thankfully unused, though that smell is still there, need to track that, lol], two paper matches, and a pen. My tools and solvents don't count, on top of the brown floor mat. This is actually better looking than it was, and I thought the camera didn't lie-or maybe that's the mirror...)

I generally try not to screw around when buying tools-mostly I try to get the best I can for my money, or get the best for less. This Mondo-Sized ShopVac is from an auction I went to a while back-it pays to go to an auction when everyone else is interested in a stupid John Deere Tractor with all the attachments. The tractor? $3500. My ShopVac? Ten bucks. Retail? More than ten bucks. Sucks like a prom queen, too.

So I got to work with some foamy carpet cleaner with a brush on the top and I got this:
(MUCH better-I strongly suggest doing this annually if your seat comes out easily-that way, it won't take half an hour like mine did to get the mung out. Of course, I anal-retentively combed all the nap back in the right direction, despite the fact that until the car gets junked, no one would know but me.)

There was a little grease at the rear bolt mounts-I assume from grease on the seat tracks-you'll notice the black marks above. I used one of the newer "purple" cleansers-mine was a generic version, but Castrol Super Clean is a good one if you want a brand name. I buy it by the two-gallon jug now. Word of caution: Open your doors, this stuff is caustic-smelling, and will get you coughing-God only knows what is in it to get grease out.

That left me with this:
(Some tiny remnants, but a lot better than it was, trust me.)

By now it was getting dark, so I figured I'd hold of installation until tomorrow or later in the week. I'm crossing my fingers it will be an easy one.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Kar Kulture going mainstream?

Anyone who knows me fairly well knows that I love Kustom Kulture-the Bettie Page chicks, tatts, ducktails and pompadours, flat-black ratrods, the works. I am a huge fan of The Reverend Horton Heat and bands like Southern Culture on The Skids. It's a huge subculture that always seems to lurk in the fringe. So it was a surprise to me when I got a look at Car Kulture DeLuxe on the shelves at Barnes and Noble of all places. It is the little snippets of irony that get me through the day when I'm feeling down...I picture the lone greaser leafing through the copies of Vogue and Architectural Digest with a tattoo-covered arm, saying "man there has to be ONE copy left here, man".

Usually when a magazine is published catering to a subculture nowadays, it is assumed that it has "jumped the shark" as they say in TV lingo-meaning, it is no longer hip, hot, whatever the kiddies are callin' it. So at first blush, I'd say that it was time to move on to the Next Big Thing.

However, this subculture has a few things going for it in terms of survivability-it is driven, by and large, by a slightly older demographic. It's not uncommon at Rat Rod shows to see guys in their sixties who actually worked on all-steel customs back in the day. With guys like Jesse James paying homage on his shows to icons like George Barris and lead-slinger Bill Hines, The perpetuation of the custom car phenomenon continues to roll on. One would think the compact car craze would see the older trends dying off-not so. As more folks get older and have a little scratch in their pocket, it's not uncommon on a decent cruise night to see Rats, Rice Burners, Sportbikes, Harleys and Musclecars under one sodium arc lamp in Anytown, USA. What's cool is you see the generations sometimes sharing tips and fish stories, and there is a genuine respect for those who have gone before-something sorely lacking elsewhere in our culture these days. It hearkens back to the elder telling stories around the fire, spinning tales of mystery and wonder.

The Compact Car phenomenon is borne out of the same necessities Hot Rodding was-take a lightweight, readily available, cheaply-aquired car, and wring every last bit of horsepower out of your engine. The Honda and Nissan engine swaps of today are no different than the Cadillac or Olds engines dropped into the Ford Roadsters of yesteryear. Early hot rods were the most available cars of the day-usually old Fords that had lived out their usefulness as family cars or daily commuters, rusting away in junkyards until enterprising youth rescued them and chopped, channeled, bored and stroked their way into automotive history.

Another thing the Kustom craze has is that it has both nostalgia and rebellion rolled into one-the iconic image of James Dean is etched on the far-off glance of every Wannabilly that stares at a chopped all-steel sedan as it rolls by. It is something that some youth as well as the folks who lived it in the 1950s can identify with.

I predict there will be a new segment of the subculture-perhaps the foreign sports car faction-James Dean drove (and died) in a Porsche after all. These enthusiasts will be a bit snobbier, less ornamentation, more clean cut... They'll wear chinos and poplin windbreakers, madras shirts, shiny penny loafers and flattop haircuts. The rift will be like the Mods and Rockers in Quadrophenia. Subcultures of today are simply examples of Neo-Tribalism-your group, your Boys, Your Homies, your Tribe. It's just that rather than gang violence, some of us just like to look at cars.

Long story short, I bought the magazine-I like it, and I'll probably get it again.

Funky Flea Find...

I'm not sure what to make of this-I got it at the flea market today. The vendor dude only wanted five bucks for it, and my friend Tammy had come out for the day so I got a quick "you need that" from her which sealed the deal. As you can probably see by the difference in the two pics, it spins and changes patterns in a psychadelic way-since i loved all this crap as a kid (still seeking a reaaaallly nice disco ball, y'all!), it was an easy decision to make. Based on the plastic being a neon yellow I'd place manufacture in the early 90's. I've seen beer lights of this era use the optical method to simulate "water" in an outdoor Molson scene, etc. It has no real purpose I guess, other than to maybe use if I decide to get that online Hypnotherapy degree. I'm sure the 4:20 crowd would like it.

There is something vaguely Subgenius about it-like if I stare long enough, I may actually be able to see the damn Fnords...

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Insane Diesel action....

There is something about the Finnish people-the more I research things pertaining to squeezing more horsepower out of any given vehicle, the more sites point towards Finland when all resources are exhausted. It is the home of Mika Hakkinen, after all...I didn't think Greta would be able to ever lay rubber until I saw this:

For those of you not used to watching diesel performance at the track, my understanding of making one perform is thus: You first need to focus on getting more fuel to your engine, and everything else is second. There is nothing wrong with the cars you see here spewing smoke-it is simply unburned fuel, and therefore, wasted horsepower. If this could be harnessed these things could not be beaten I would guess. Check out the 201 190D Benz smoking the older Vette at the end of the dragstrip...cool.

The Finns held off the Nazis during WWII with their hunting rifles-one of them is even credited with bringing down a Stuka with one shot from a deer gun....nice folks....

Computers at the Dawn of Time!

Many moons ago, when I was a child, the odyssey of video gaming began...it was not as it is today, there was no such thing as CD, DVD or uber-bit graphics. We had sixteen bits and we liked it!

When you wanted the best of both worlds, you bought a Commodore computer-it would let you compute (even write your own games!) as well as play games from the arcade (is there such a thing as an arcade anymore?) Anyway, this was the Vic-20-as I recall, this dealie was a little less expensive than the 64, which was the Commodore Computer flagship. Anyone correct me if I'm wrong. And best of all, it's being hawked by shameless pitchman William "Wiggy" Shatner-some things never change.