On to the T

“Don’t laugh,” Burkhard said as he opened the container door.

It’s a Ford Model T he plans to restore. Notice the little round springs – those are aftermarket additions. Apparently the T had a rigid suspension. Ouch.

He confesses that the radiator has already been restored. And though the hood and fenders have been primed, there’s some serious fender rot which will require some TIG welding. He’ll get someone else to do that, since he doesn’t want to invest in a [Tungsten Inert Gas] welding rig. Since I’ve never learned even basic welding (even though my father’s company in the ’70’s made radio-frequency welding machines for similar sheet metal applications), it’s all rather magical to me.

Inside, make yourself comfortable on top of the gas tank.

But nah wurreez; you’re protected by the firewall, that separates the controlled-burn part of the operation (engine) from the potentially-uncontrolled (i.e., gas tank) part. You’ll note that the firewall is made of – drum roll, please! – wood! I’m feeling safer already.

Although it looks like a disaster to me, he says this engine – and car – is in good shape. Unlike the A, he doesn’t plan to rebuild the engine. Turns out that the Ts were such a bitch to drive that when the A came out, they were simply abandoned, so existing ones have much less wear.. As I pointed out a few months ago, Model As have turned out to be venerable beasties.

If you’re curious, do a Youtube search for “how to drive a Model T.” Three pedals: the right is the brake, the left the shift, and the middle, reverse – do I have that right? In any event, you could probably drive a Model A with minimal effort. A Model T, uh, no.

I don’t know what all this crap piled on the back of the vehicle is. I’m not sure I want to know.

This should make for a fun ride – stay tuned!


My nemesis, the bifurcated A-pillar

Last Wednesday, 4:55 PM

broadsided Chevy Meriva, Uruguay

I was traveling from right to left in this picture, so yes, the truck that hit me spun me 180°. It was entirely my fault as far as the two vehicles were concerned. It took me a day and a half to realize exactly how and why it happened.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m fine. A couple of small bruises, one on my hip from the seat belt anchor, one on my upper back from who-knows-what. Benji, sitting as usual in the back right seat at the point of impact, fared a little less well. He jumped out and ran away up the median at top speed. I called after him, but then had to turn my attention to the other driver, and Benji was gone.

Shortly after, six friends appeared in four cars, and all set out to look for the dog. A kilometer and a half away was a lookalike, but in a yard with three others; he lived there. Otherwise, nothing.

The next morning, after a widespread and unproductive search in Syd’s car, I was surprised to hear Syd – who had just left – loudly beeping his horn in the driveway. With Benji! After leaving our house, still automatically looking down side streets, he had spotted the limping yellow dog just a few blocks from home. And coming from the opposite direction I had seen him run. He’ll need a week at least before he can run again with the other dogs, maybe more. But dogs are remarkable in how they heal.

A story within a story

At the scene: finally able to get the number for the insurance company, a friend called and a rep for Sura (the new name for RSA) showed up, took tons of pictures, told the other driver – who, breaking the law,  had no insurance – that he could leave. Fortunately his truck was drive-able.  I then sat in his car with the Sura agent, who made a snappy little diagram on his Samsung tablet, had me do a spoken description of what had happened, and called for a tow truck. It took over an hour to arrive, and I rode in it a couple miles down the road where we left the remains of the Meriva at a mechanic’s shop. It was all very professionally handled. Except for one detail: we don’t have insurance with RSA/Sura.

The next day I talked to our insurance agent (whom I’ve never met) in Montevideo, and got things sorted. Seeing as I hadn’t been in an accident that was my fault in over 40 years, and drivers in Uruguay by law are required to have insurance, I didn’t have collision insurance. But that brings me to my next point, which is:

I will not miss this vehicle

First, what happened:

crash site diagram

I was at the PA. Another car was to my right at the RE (Pare means “stop,” a very good idea here). Often cars to the right block the view of oncoming traffic, but in this case I had a very clear view. Except of the oncoming truck, probably about where you see the middle arrow. The black car is probably exactly where he hit me. I assumed it must have been “hiding” beyond the A-pillar of that car to the right, but I remembered it being rather thin. Strange….

It was only two mornings later, meditating, that it came to me: it was my A-pillar.

2010 Chevrolet Meriva A-pillar

That has got to be one of the nastiest pieces of design deception, because it gives the illusion of visibility. I am tall, but even for a person of average height, that little triangular window is utterly useless. Suddenly, I couldn’t even begin to remember all the times, in eight years, I have had close calls because of that blind spot.  Too late, I realize that I would have done well to simply paint the window black, as a reminder that there was a huge area – possibly more than 10° of the compass – that was invisible to me. Instead of falling, once again, for the illusion of visibility.


One of the friends that showed up had a large plastic bag, and while it was still light I loaded all personal possessions from the car into it. The next day I met another insurance rep, who in lieu of a fancy Samsung tablet with accident-diagramming software had a clipboard and carbon paper. But hey, was able to determine we actually were insured by his company!

Only after returning home on the bus did I realize that there was one thing I had neglected to retrieve from the car. The next day, after it had been taken to a nearby body shop by our real insurance company, I rode my bike there and collected this, previously neglected in a door pocket:

angel pin

an angel pin, given to my wife by her mother when she lived near us in North Carolina, almost two decades ago. It has ridden in our vehicle ever since.  To whom I say thank you, because I think it does no harm to acknowledge that perhaps something I don’t necessarily understand helped make something like this

broadsided Chevy Meriva, Uruguay

turn out not as bad as it easily could have.

Kind of like paying attention to retrograde Mercury, the reason we won’t necessarily be buying a new car for the next couple weeks. And there’s no hurry, because yet another friend has loaned us a car for the duration.

I have many reasons to be grateful.

And I am.




The getaway car

…may or may not be ready when you need it.

older Fiat car, Uruguay

But you will have easy access to the back.


Saab story

On Saturday, returning from the organic vegetable market, we passed an unusual crowd of parked cars on the entranceway to the Ruta Interbalnearia, and glimpsed a collection of antique cars on display in a most unusual and inaccessible area.

Atlátnida, Uruguay: location of antique car show

It was a bit before noon. We unpacked groceries, I checked email, then hopped on my bike with camera to document the event.

Alas, there was nothing there, and no evidence that there had ever been anything there. Gone!

So you get this instead, spotted a day or two later in Salinas:

Old Saab in yard, Salinas, Canelones, Uruguay

It’s got potential, no?

Impala, Méhari

Like the fuel to run them, cars are ridiculously expensive in Uruguay. I’ve talked about that before.

1960s Impala, Citroen Méhali in Uruguay

Here’s a decades-old Chevy Impala (I have been unable to determine the year) for sale. Not in very good shape; I don’t even want to know what they’re asking for it.

Approaching is the quintessential cheap-ass-looking Citroen beach buggy, called a Méhari. They were actually produced in Uruguay from 1971 to 1979. So you can probably pick one up cheap, right? As we say in Spanish, jajajajajajaja!

Interestingly, both are named after African animals, albeit two unlikely to cross paths.