Boston Driver’s Notebook 8/1/12 Part 3

1 08 2012

Part 3: A Pair of Cudas in Paradise

Note: this post has already been published as part of an earlier post.  I have broken a long post into three parts to honor all of us with ADHD.

“Nobody likes a coward,” was a favorite saying of Power Dave.  It was with this aphorism in mind that I left for the land of Paradise in the Tunacuda on a hot Saturday in July.  The Tunacuda roared along up the Route 2 hill that is nature’s compression test.  It was running great with the clean needle valve and new float level. Over the last six or eight years, I had increased the compression, blueprinted a new cam, ported the head, and blended the bowls.  The stock exhaust is the last remaining chokepoint.  The exhaust is newish, so that will be improved in due course.


The Tunacuda and I took the back road past the DeCordova museum and Gropius House and Walden Pond, whose parking lot was closed until 5:30 according to the sign.  I listened to Glen Campbell’s Greatest Hits on the 8-track.  As is the way of my people, I made up my own lyrics as I sang along.  “Like a limestone cowboy… Getting cows and lettuce from people I don’t need to know…”

Pair of Cudas in Paradise

I hadn’t driven the Shark Cuda since it ran out of electricity and was overrun by mice in the Paradise garage.  I had been working six days a week all year and now it was mid-summer.

It’s said that no one ever looks back on life on one’s deathbed and wishes one spent more time at the office.  My father maybe, but he scarcely could have spent any more time at the office, God love him.  They had to coax, cudgel and cajole him out of the office at the end.

Anyway I was regretting spending quite so much time on the job lately.  I looked over the sad looking Shark Cuda.  Charlie Paradise had sent me an email that he had trapped eleven mice in the car, and the glue traps I had left under the car were each covered in a mound of fur amounting to a half-dozen more expired rodents.  It was a mouse atrocity that didn’t bother me as much as it might have.

A Bowl o Mice

Charlie Paradise was in absentia, as Tom, a new and imposing roommate arrived in the garage with a somewhat confrontational demeanor.   I stopped what I was doing and faced him with body language that neither displayed aggression nor cringed.  I gave him full attention, as if waiting for the wisdom of the ages.  I had read him correctly, and he gave forth with the information that Paradise was gone for the weekend.  I remembered his name, and soon found that he was a professional piano tuner .     He was serious in the manner of a gunfighter of the old West, which I found agreeable.

We’re not Here to Play

We discussed wood glues, and I learned that hide glue is the best for musical instruments, I gather because it crystallizes rather than staying pliable like a casein-based glue or a modern plastic synthetic.  I didn’t tell him I had built a guitar, but I resolved to use hide glue the next time.

The sad Shark Cuda, in addition to being coated in hantavirus-infused rodent poo, had a flat front tire.

The Original Shark Tuna: Coronet 500

I pulled the front tire, after unburying the car from the new pile of discarded pallets and other junk that Charlie Paradise had piled around it, in the way of his people, hoarders one and all.  The front tire had reverse thread lug bolts, which it was thought would keep the lug nuts from loosening while you drive.  It probably works, but was too confusing and not really necessary, so they stopped with the reverse threads back when Spiro T. Agnew was making himself beloved to a nation.  “Righty loosey,” I said to myself.

I drove the tire over to the gas station and bought a dollar’s worth of air and filled it and topped off the Tunacuda’s tires.  With old Mopars, it’s best if you inflate the front tires to 34 psi and the rears to 32.  Don’t ask me why, just do it.

In the Shark Cuda trunk I had earlier placed various spare electrical parts from the Basement of Perdition, on a previous journey to Paradise.   I replaced the voltage regulator with a new solid-state one, and disconnected the battery from the Tunacuda.  Charlie had stolen the battery from the Shark Cuda so long ago that by now he owned it by squatters’ rights.

Doug Nash 5-Speed Ready for Installation

The Shark Cuda started reluctantly, and still wasn’t charging.  I drove it over to get some gas, and fortunately it started again, after getting some 93 octane.  The 340 is also high-compression, and likes expensive gas, lots of it.  After getting gas, I ran through all 5 gears on the way up the hill.  The gearbox had a faint jet-turbine whine with its new bearings.  The gears had looked fine when I had the Doug Nash 4+1 opened up, despite some inexpert grinding and clashing at times.

Doug Nash Gearbox: Guts
ElFin photo

The left turn redlight finally green arrowed us, and I hung back as the soccer mom ahead of me made the left.  I gunned it around the corner fully expecting there to be a town police car second in line waiting for the light.  There was.  Accordingly I pulled back, and he didn’t jump sideways out of line to arrest me, although I know there was some watching me drive away happening in the police car side mirror.

Back at the Paradise garage, I put the Paradise battery charger on the shared Barracuda battery in the trunk of the Shark Cuda.  It was run down from starting the Shark Cuda twice without getting a re-charge.

In addition to the extra voltage regulator, I had an extra alternator that I proposed to switch with the possibly suspect alternator in the Shark Cuda.  I unbolted the two bolts holding the alternator to the alternator mounting bracket and brace.  I went to pull off the ground contact, when I discovered the ground contact was broken having perhaps been chewed through by a rogue rodent.

Shark Cuda: 340 T/A Engine

It brought me back to a drive my brother and his son and I had attempted from Central Pennsylvania to Boston on a frozen winter night.  We were in an oxidized red Volvo sedan.  It had been having charging problems, and my brothers had replaced the alternator one morning without my help.  As the car died a slow death as we entered the Promised Land State Park, and we pulled off the road and found a ghostly car lot just closing up for the night.

It’s Always the Green Wire
ElFin photo

My nephew and I waited out on the front porch, as my brother went inside for what seemed like an hour with the ghostly car lot guy to call AAA.  We exchanged the usual banter about “What are we going to do if that is a serial killer in there?”

Old Connector; New Solder

The brother finally emerged, and we went over with the car lot guy to look under the hood.

There was a green wire dangling next to the alternator, and the car lot guy pointed at it and said, “Couldn’t it be that wire there?  Next to the alternator there?”  It was dark and cold, but we could have hooked up the green wire and been on our way, but waited for the already called AAA truck, and got towed all the way back to the parents’ house.  Dad, in particular, welcomed us back with a look of someone that has had his weekend pass canceled.

Unidentified Blogger on the Taconic Parkway

I hooked up the green wire, using an antique soldering iron from the basement of Paradise.  The alternator gauge read that it was charging with extreme prejudice.

I felt like walking the railroad tracks to Walden to cool off, given the mid-90° heat.

Charlie Paradise on Track for Walden

Instead, I got out some polishing compound and a garage sock, and washed the hanta-virus poo and other crud off the Shark Cuda.  It took a lot of washing, but at the end the car sparkled and shone in the twilight.  I took a quick drive to the hardware store parking lot to dry off the car the rest of the way, without needing to call AAA.

Then I drove the Tunacuda home in the dark.  I didn’t bother with the long cut through Lincoln.




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