Category Archives: 7. Miscellany

Ford Tough

Driving RedRock to work this week, I see this vehicle at a red light proudly wearing a Ford Tough sticker…

But wait a minute…  What is wrong here?  This is not a Ford Tough SUV!!  This is a Honda Pilot.  😯

I get a kick out of the different stickers people plaster on their cars…

  • Stick families (gotta include the dogs/cats)…
  • Holy rollers…
  • “My kid did this or the other special crap”…
  • Political affiliation – these are even more entertaining when comparing candidates vs car/SUV/truck…
  • Hardware (as in guns)…
  • In memory of…

And then, one of my favorites:  the ones that make no sense at all.  As in today’s featured picture making a Honda Pilot “Ford Tough”.  Wonder how the boys in Dearborn feel about that?

As we say here in the South, “Bless his heart”.  But it’s all good, after all he is a Clemson Dad.  😉

Question of Motor Oil Qualities

I decided to change oil on bowtie6 and headed to AutoZone with three jugs of used oil and responsibly disposed of the old stuff in their recycling tank.  Since they let me do this, I try to keep business with them so I picked up an Ecotec compatible K&N oil filter and a 5 quart jug of Mobil1 5w-30 oil.

The fellow behind the counter scanned the goods and said the bill was almost $50.  This didn’t make sense because the posted price for the oil was $29.  He said that is the price with a Mobil1 oil filter; otherwise the price of the oil is $38.  This is a scam because the Mobil1 filters are slightly double what the K&N filters go for.  So at the end, the price is almost the same.

I told him I would pass on the oil; instead I just bought the K&N filter.  This is when I asked him why the price discrepancy because I can buy the same jug of Mobil1 oil from Wal-Mart for $23.

His reply was very interesting…

Before he started answering my question, he informed me he was a previous manager at a Pep Boys and had also been in charge of an automotive department at a Wal-Mart before working at AutoZone.  And, he gave me the “look”, as if to say what he was about to say was the inside dope on matters.  Then, he proceeded to tell me that Exxon-Mobil makes two different qualities of oil.  AutoZone gets the premium batches while Wal-Mart gets the scraps.  Thus the difference in price between the two.

According to this fellow, the AutoZone Mobil1 oil gets certified as premium oil.  He then informed me that the Mobil1 oil sold at Wal-Mart is of a lesser quality.  In his words: “the Mobil1 sold at Wal-Mart is the bottom of the mixing vats and the size of the molecules is not up to par with the batches they sell at AutoZone”.

Hmmmm…  Again, I did some Google searches on this subject and indeed it is a matter of debate.  All I have to say is that given the law-suit friendly climate prevalent in our nation today, why would a huge company like Exxon-Mobil expose themselves to loss by making two qualities of oil branded under the same name?

Yet more food for thought:  what about the Mobil1 sold at Costco?  They don’t sell the jugs, instead they carry the six-packs.  Yet the price is comparable to the Wal-Mart price.  Reckon this has to do with volume of good sold and not necessarily quality?

What are your thoughts on this?

Like my Dad used to say, “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one”.  😉

Until next time…

Restoring a Vintage Stereo Console

Restoring a vintage stereo console is a project I’ve wanted to work on for a very long time.  I know, these things are dinosaurs from an era long gone, but I have always had a certain affinity for them.  Finally, a couple of weeks ago I found this piece of furniture and decided it would make a great candidate for restoration – ahem – upgrade…

Some History

Back in the 60’s a console was one of the nicer options to bring hi-fi sound home.  “Separate” components would make the scene a few years later, but this was the way to go in those early days of stereo sound.  This console consists of two stereo speakers on either side.  The center has a lift-up lid that when opened, displayed the magic:

On the left is an automatic record player with a selector for different speeds and on the right, a tuner/amplifier.  Oh and don’t forget a compartment to store records.

This is the audio only version of the console genre:  there were also larger consoles that would not only have the above components but would also house a television.  The TV would be in the center and usually had sliding doors to hide the screen.  My aunt had a Magnavox console with the television set in the center and it was awesome!

The Project

This particular console is a “Silvertone” made for Sears from sometime in the mid to late 60’s.  As expected for a piece of furniture of this era, it is very, very heavy.

I plugged the power cord in the outlet and sure enough, the receiver’s lights came on.  Unfortunately nothing but static and hissing came from the speakers.  I switched the record player on and as expected nothing happened.  I wasn’t expecting much, after all don’t forget this is almost 50-year-old components.

Today, I decided to open the console and disassemble the components.  From the back, this is what the console looks like…

And as expected, there are three separate compartments.  To the extreme left and extreme right you can see the back covers for the speaker enclosures.  In the center, the cover for the amp, tuner and turntable mechanism.

This stuff is ancient!  I found brittle connectors and cables as well.  Also, to the right of the power supply/amplifier I found two shriveled up belts (possibly from the turntable mechanism).

And next, this is what I found in the speaker compartments.  As it turned out, the big woofer is a paper cone affair with a very small magnet and a horn tweeter at the very top.  You can see that in the second photo below.  This must have been state-of-the art when this console was sold but by today’s standards this is not so great (more about this later).

Taking it Apart

Since none of these bits work and the cost to repair would likely be high, the sensible thing to do is to gut the console.  My plan is to replace the old components with a modern integrated amplifier with bluetooth and upgraded speakers.  This way, I can stream music from my iPhone or iPad and in the future I can get a modern turntable for playing my old vinyl collection.

Taking the components apart took patience.  I started by removing the power supply/amplifier by disconnecting wires from the tuner.  There were several that had to be cut but eventually the unit came out.

Next, the record player.  This is what it looked like from below:

It took some doing, but eventually I figured out to remove the safety pin from one stud (above right) – then the whole thing just rotated up.  The record player’s mount consisted of three springs and foam, which by the way had almost completely deteriorated to dust.

The last piece of hardware to go was the tuner.  This took patience but eventually it came out.  At the end of the day, the piece of furniture is now empty!  There is quite a bit of room left to design a new top to house new components.

The top picture is looking at the console from above.  Once I figure out my new components, this will be cut where needed and a new top made to fit.  The last two pictures show what the lower cavity looks like.  You might notice the holes on the “floor” – those were there to help vent the old components.

Finally, the speakers.  This part was very dusty and smelled bad.  The sound baffling insulation was covered in 50 years’ worth of dust.  Once I had that nasty stuff out, I started by removing the paper cone woofer, shown below…

Once the woofer came out, I found this:

LOL!  A center mounted mid-range driver!  At the very top, this is what the horn tweeter looked like:

Eventually, the horn tweeter came out and I was left with only the dark gray mounting plate attached to the inside of the console.  Screws held the mounting plate in place along with the dowels that you can see above.  You can also see the mesh on the other side of the port in the picture above.  That mesh was covered in dust too.

What Next?

Well, this is where the fun begins!

At first, I thought I could re-purpose my vintage NAD 1700 pre-amp by mounting it vertically inside the console after making a new top.  But, the pre-amp is way too wide and has no bluetooth built in.

After several Google searches I have found a few alternatives.  They are all more modern integrated amplifiers with a very small footprint.  I’ve found some with old-fashioned tubes (which would look cool as heck) and the others made from solid state components.  The majority of these modern integrated amps do have bluetooth and some even have a built in DAC and digital input from a computer.  Very nice options indeed.

I’m also researching the speakers.  I’ve found a couple of “kits” I can adapt to fit inside the speaker compartments, which are large enough for a nice option.  Then again, I also have a pair of very nice PSB bookshelf speakers.  However they will need a small subwoofer and real estate is tight.

So, stay tuned.  I’ll have more articles as the project takes shape!  And if you have any suggestions please let me know.  This will be a fun project!

And while on the subject of music…  May the road go on forever for the Midnight Rider…  RIP Greg Allman…  Ramble on…

2017 Chevrolet Equinox

Taken at the dealer’s parking lot after a test drive

Well here it is:  my wife’s new 2017 Chevrolet Equinox.  In the last post, I wrote about the extensive hail damage on our Chevy HHR and how the insurance company totaled it out.  We went shopping and after many queries on Google, found exactly what we wanted.

We found a small town dealership that treated us very friendly and we got a great deal.  Thank you Clinkscales Chevrolet and Teresa and Edwin for a great experience!  Much appreciated.

Our 2017 Chevrolet Equinox is a LT model, with a number of amenities that were just not offered in the HHR.  Power comes from a direct injected Ecotec 2.4l engine.  It is powerful enough and provides nice fuel economy.  The interior is nicely appointed with comfortable power assisted cloth seats, tinted windows, power lift gate, etc.  The color is “Velvet Blue” and has a certain purple tint to it under certain light.  Finally, the ride is much improved over the HHR.  The HHR had a nose-heavy feel to it; the Equinox is more balanced.  It is much more quiet too!

So far I’m very pleased.  Looking forward to a road trip for a more detailed review…  Stay tuned!

Hailstorm Aftermath


Last week, parts of the Upstate of South Carolina experienced a very severe storm with golf ball sized hail.  No, this is not an April Fool’s day story; on the contrary.  Because of the weather event, my wife’s 2008 Chevrolet Heritage High Roof (HHR) endured a great deal of hail damage, resulting in it being totaled.

Both of us had become attached to the utilitarian HHR not for its luxurious appointments but because it was a very versatile little vehicle.  I hauled lumber in it several times, took several long trips in it, and our two Corgis fit very comfortably with the back seat folded down.  The HHR got decent mileage and overall was very economical.  Perhaps the only shortcoming on the HHR is that it is nose heavy and thus the front suspension components take a lot of wear.  On the other hand, this HHR shares the same 2.4L Ecotec with bowtie6.

The storm hit late in the afternoon, around the time to leave from work.  Fortunately I was working late that night, and a good friend of mine called and warned me about the bad weather.  Since I didn’t want to have RedRock damaged, I took refuge in the underground parking lot at a mall across the street from my office.  Suffice to say, I was not the only one!

However, the HHR did not fare as well.  At the time of the storm, the HHR was in the parking lot at my wife’s workplace.  She took the picture shown here from the side door of her office.  It is a very helpless feeling when hail of this size falls knowing all too well the amount of damage being done.

The next day, my wife called our insurance carrier.  The rep was very nice and said they had received many calls reporting this sort of damage.  During that call, the rep gave my wife an appointment to have the HHR inspected.

As we talked about this with my wife later that night, I did a few Google searches trying to figure out the current value of our 2008 Chevy HHR.  It was then when I realized the HHR might be totaled.  Like I mentioned above, our HHR was not a luxury cruiser, however mechanically it was in perfect shape with something like 83,000 miles on the odometer.

After a lengthy 40 minute inspection, the adjuster gave us the bad news:  it would take almost $5,000 to repair the hail dings.  He said this is a very time-consuming process and the amount of time to repair damage was too large.  For example, the hood took several direct hits…

And these are only the larger ones.  There were multiple smaller dings that did not show up very well in these pictures.  What about the roof?  Well, these pictures show what happened there…

The insurance company gave us two settlement options:

  1. Accept the lesser amount of money, keep the car and have it repaired.  The problem with this option was the title would be re-issued as “salvage” and the HHR would need a road-worthiness inspection.
  2. Accept a larger amount of money and have it towed away.

The first offer didn’t thrill me.  That road-worthiness inspection has “hassle” written all over it and the salvage title means resale value would be non-existent.  So, we accepted the second offer which incidentally was very fair.  We had entertained the idea of trading the HHR and we were semi-looking but not very serious as of yet.  I suppose this means we will be getting a new car sooner than later (stay tuned, I’ll have an update on our next car!).

Sadly though, the rollback truck showed up yesterday and took the HHR away…

So long, HHR!