Unrequited Love

Merriam-Webster defines unrequited as “not reciprocated or returned in kind.”

Unrequited love is what I am getting from the Bluebird. The Bluebird is the restomod 1962 Pontiac Catalina that I have been working on lo these many years. (No, it is not a Bonneville. That badge in the grill just came with the better replacement grill that I installed, so why change it?) As my third, and very last build, it is to be my “Bluebird of happiness.” It is a car, a mechanical device devoid of feelings – or is it? Why do I have a premonition that it may indeed have feelings and experience breakdowns as a way of expressing those feelings? I know that this sounds preposterous, but let me lay out the evidence, and you may draw your own conclusions.

The Gas Tank Caper – A brand new gas tank and a brand new internal pump. First the filler neck leaks, and then the sender unit leaks. It gets a new unit and a new gasket, which had to be removed twice, and I had to get a special prescription orange goo to cure it! My thought was that it is a new baby, and maybe incontinence can be overlooked.

Petulant Howl – I treated the Bluebird to a very high-quality Auburn racing differential with limited slip clutches. The LS3 engine is very powerful, and I did not want it to shame itself in public by spinning just one wheel. So how am I rewarded? It howls at me when it goes between 40 and 50 mph! I did get a 3:42 ratio, which with the six speed transmission and its .65 overdrive does mean that it has to lug along a little at some highway speeds. I was not really aware of this as just a light push on the gas pedal, and it takes off. To ease the burden, I changed the ratio to 3.90 and had an expert mechanic do the precise installation. My reward? It howls at 45 to 55 mph! (sigh)

A Special Treat -I decided to let the Bluebird join the real hot rods in a 15 car convoy to Lincoln, Nebraska and the Speedway Car Show. I even arranged to have Dusty Price do the driving as he did the major body and mechanical work on it, and he would be kind to the Bluebird on its initial road trip. Since it is a restomod and a little out of place with the classic hot rods in the convoy, we decided to tag along at the rear. I think this offended the Bluebird as it wanted to show off more. It threw the emergency cable, which then dragged on the highway, in addition to letting some of the heat wrap on the exhaust pipe come loose. These are weird things for a car to do. Some ty raps fixed the problem, but this needed fix put us behind the group. Dusty got frisky and took the car to over a hundred mph to catch up. The Bluebird definitely liked that!

Brake Light Problem – The brake light is turned on by a very simple switch that is activated by the brake pedal. Push on the pedal, and the light turns on; release the pedal, and the light turns off. It works just fine while driving. Stop the car and behold – the brake light stays on! I made an adjustment, which fixes the problem, but in few days, it reverts back to its old habit. The brake light stays on when you leave the car. Does this signal the Bluebird is lonesome and wants attention?

Banjo Bolt – As an old duffer, the Catalina had typical-for-the-era drum brakes. I want it to stop as well as it goes, so I installed four wheel power disk brakes. It is a bit of a feat to get wheel offset etc. correct, but with a kit containing all new parts, it now has modern disk brakes that gives it modern stopping power from high speeds. With the round trip drive to Nebraska, they worked just fine, which was a good thing because Dusty never let the Bluebird get under 80 mph on the interstate. When we passed semis, it dropped down three gears and took off to over 100 mph with ease. So why did the brakes feel soft when I was test driving it later doing some around town driving? I put it over the pit in my garage to inspect it and found the left rear tire bathed in brake fluid! The new banjo bolt with the correct new copper washers had come loose. I have never had this happen! Did it object to city driving and want to go back to the interstate where it could kick down and run?

I am beginning to think that the Bluebird has an identity problem. It does not know if it is a hot rod or a grocery getter, and should it respond to the style of a young, aggressive driver, or putter around with an old man at the wheel? It is a Pontiac Indian, and I may need to get a medicine man to administer to it and help it realize that it is no longer 1962; while it has been dragged kicking and screaming into the next century, it does not have to resent the transformation. The Bluebird can just settle down, enjoy its reincarnation, stop being petulant, and become a true “Bluebird of Happiness” enjoying life under the white apple tree in my yard.

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