Monday, February 11, 2008

Liberty Mutual sucks!

Although the accident was deemed the Honda's fault, guess who got the short end of the stick?
Yes, friends, that would be me. The original settlement offer was less than a third what I paid for the roadster. As my poor 29 sat at Jeff-s Resurrections in Taylor, Texas, awaiting my settlement. I got the runaround for months as my case got passed around like a bad cold. After refusing to accept Liberty Mutual's bullying tactics, I finally got what I was certain would be the closest thing to a reasonable settlement offer. I received the price I paid for the car plus the my out-of-pocket for transporting the 29 to Austin. The only thing that I would have to eat was the cost of my flight to go see the car and, of course, my pride. Months had passed since the wreck and all I had to show for it was a pissed off restorlation shop that could not rebuild the car for the settled for amount. After months of Liberty Mutual trying to dick me on the settlement, I was tired of fighting and worn down to a nub. But being a glutton for punishement, I negotitated to buy the 29 back from the insurance company for the value of the salavagable parts. The log road to recovery would soon begin.

The wreck

It was the tenth day I'd owned my 29. Against my wife's wishes, I took my fourteen year old son for a ride in the roadster to a nearby cruise spot about five miles from our home. Since it was a cold night, I coaxed my son to put on a warm jacket and we buzzed down to Oak Hill. It was a little late and there were only few stragglers left by the time we arrived. I remember a young kid excitedly chasing me down and taking a photo of us in the 29 before we headed back home. Moments later, the car would be bent up like a pretzel. On the return ride home, a Honda SUV pulled into traffic in front of us. The driver hadn't realized we were only a couple hundred feet from her when she panicked and did the one thing I never counted on. She froze, right in our path. I got into the brakes hard, and as the car slid toward the Honda, I realized we were not going to stop in time. I looked to the right of the Honda and saw a ditch, then to the left and saw an open lane, I quickly yanked the wheel to the left of the stopped car and almost got around the Honda. Almost. I managed to steer the front end of the roadster around her front end, but the rear right tire of the roadster would not quite as fortunate. It caught the Honda's front bumper full force and all hell broke loose. To be more specific, it was the 29's rear end broke loose from the right rear trailing arm. The damage to the rear end of the roadsters body was extensive but to be honest, I was just relieved that my son and I escaped injury. Drew had a small cut on his shoulder and I had nothing more than a bruised ego. I realized in that moment how terribly lucky we both were. Cars can be replaced. Fathers and sons cannot. The car was not so fortunate. My dream of buying an 80% finished car was put to rest that night as we pushed what remained of the car to the side of the road and waited for a tow truck to deal with the carnage. All that was left of my dream was a heap of twisted metal and a protracted battle with the Honda's insurance company after the accident was found to be the Honda's fault.

Bringing my baby home

Once I'd made the decision to buy the 29, I made arrangement with a shipping company to deliver the car from Irvine, California to Austin, Texas. It seemed like the longest week of my life but finally the car arrived. I'll never forget the look on my wife's face when she finally saw my purchase. Let's just say she thought I was out of my mind. Nonetheless, I had a steady procession of friends coming over for rides around our subdivision. Each one of them would giggle like a kid when I fired it up, romped on the gas and snapped a few hards shifts. It's probably the closest I've ever experienced to riding a chopper and as I was soon to find out, every bit as dangerous.

The test drive that almost wasn't

My flight to L.A. to see and drive the roadster almost went astray. The original plan was to fly
to John Wayne airport, a short drive from San Clemente, near where Ian lived. Unfortunately, I missed my connecting flight in Arizona so it was either fly into LAX insead of Irvine or return home without seeing the car. I called Ian and fortunately he agreed to drive the roadster all the way up to LAX to meet me. I'll never forget seeing the 29 pull up to the passenger loading area. We pointed the car south and navigated through drivetime traffic down the 405 slicingand dicing through the traffic for a good hour to get back to Irvine, where my return flight would take leave just a couple of hours later. My first impression of the roadster was that it was very low and fast. The big 425 nailhead ran well and had a loud, loppy cam. The car exhibited no bump steer and was an absolute hoot to drive. Tight. It stopped in a straight line and handled well for being genie old school technology. Plus the 50-plus miles of driving before we got to John Wayne airport gave me ample opportunity to drive and ride shotgun in the 29. The car was just as Ian described and other than spitting out an exhaust baffle in transit, ran beautifully. By the time I hopped out of the car in Ivine, I was plenty impressed. I told Ian I had a lot to think about on the return flight home and would call him with an answer within a couple of days. I called Ian when I got back home and told him it was a a deal.  

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A tall model A

One day I was reading the classifieds on HAMB and I came across a pretty cool looking model A for sale in California. The photos showed a car that to my eye was 80% finished and seemed to have all the hard work done. I loved the way it sat and in reading the description, had been built around the owner's own 6'4" frame. Intrigued, I called and found out that the builder was a young dude named Ian Loska, who had built the original Gas Monkey Garage car that caused a shit storm wherever it went (shown while still in primer above left). To those who aren't familiar with it, it had the lower part of the body sectioned, had a real severe chop and rode super low with a set of red Tractor wheels. It was purported to have been built by the Gas Monkey Garage in Dallas but was actually bought by them and merely painted primer black with red scallops by them before hitting the show scene. I remember seeing that car at the Lone Star Round-Up a couple of years prior and liking it a ton. So I made arrangement for West Coast HAMBER and then Editor of Rod and Custom magazine, Jim Aust, to go inspect the car on my behalf. Jim called me once he'd seen it and described it as being as advertised -- a solid, well-built car that while a tad rough and unrefined, a damn strong runner. According to Jim, all it needed was an interior, some gauges and for its next owner to decide whether to keep the paint the way it was or make it "their own". Intrigued by the fact that it was a turn key car that needed only cosmetics to be "done", I made arrangements to fly out and see the car in person. 

The rise and fall of my 29A Roadster

It all started back in late '06. I had pretty much wrapped up my 1965 Suburban build and had a classic case of "now what". I'd been spending a lot of time blogging on the HAMB and visiting with the guys at South Austin Speed Shop. Having spent five years building my Suburban, I wasn't looking to get into a full resto project. What I really wanted was a car like Mercury Charlie's 27 Model T. Especially after driving it and riding alongside Charlie in it on a couple of occasions. I had no problem fitting into it and that's saying something seeing as I'm 6'5". I even toyed with the idea of buying Charlie's T on two seperate occasions, but my ego just couldn't handle driving around town in someone else's creation. No, I wanted to exercise my own ideas to build a car, but I knew all too well what a full build entailed. I toyed with having Charlie build me a tall T, since he clearly knew how to capture the ideal proportions. After much thought, I netted out that as much as I liked Charlie's car, I couldn't afford to commision a build. Especially with South Austin Speed Shop's growing popularity and their hourly rates increasing accordingly. The feeling lingered...."now what?"