It’s been over two years since my last post on here. There are a lot of reasons I’ve fallen behind. But the main one is that my band, Uncle Leon and the Alibis, put out a new album at the end of last year. I’m really happy with the result, but the recording, mixing, and subsequent self-promotion did a good job of eating up my life for a while.

The good news is, the van is still running. She’s been through a lot of unglamorous—but very necessary—repairs. In the summer of 2011, one of her brake lines rusted through, up near the master cylinder, and I had to have the whole thing replaced. (Of course it happened the week before a big trip, but we managed to get on the road with only one day lost.) I learned that brake lines are incredibly simple parts… that require some very tricky access and a hell of a lot of custom bending. The final bill was $15 in parts… and $1000 in labor. Ouch.

Chiltons

Then, last spring, I took her in for her yearly inspection. She’d been running pretty sluggish, and louder than usual, so I was pretty sure there was a hole in the exhaust somewhere. Sure enough, the mechanic called and told me that the entire exhaust system, from the catalytic converter back, looked “like swiss cheese”. Once again, I whipped out the credit card and grabbed my ankles.

After that, I decided that this van is officially a restoration project. I’d already been told that, with less than 115,000 miles on the odometer, the motor should be good for a while (he says, knocking very loudly on wood.) The problem now is keeping all the little things from wearing out—particularly since, underneath, this is very much a Northeastern van. (For those of you lucky enough not to know what that means: Up here in the cold, nasty North, we’ve got a thing called rust. It’s exacerbated by salt, which gets poured all over the roads when it snows in the winter. Rust is everywhere, and it sucks. There’s a reason that, in the classified ads, you will see the phrase “California” or “Southern” car, usually accompanied by a much higher asking price.) On the other hand, I now have an all-new exhaust and a half-new brake system, which means two less major things I’ll have to worry about for a while. I also put four brand-new tires on last year—a gift from my girlfriend Ashlie (who, perhaps not coincidentally, I am now engaged to). And I finally replaced my smashed stock plastic grille with an aftermarket aluminum billet one.

grille

The next big step will be to tackle the cosmetics of the body. In particular, removing the cheesy stock Mark III graphics, which I’ve never liked. And slowly tackling the many, many tiny nicks, scratches, and rust spots that have gathered over the years. I’ll be devoting separate posts to both these activities very soon.

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