Commentary by Ward Degler
Something I miss seeing on Saturday mornings is guys working on their cars. That’s what Saturdays were all about years ago.
There were six of us, and we would decide the previous Saturday whose car we would work on the following week. The work level depended on the car’s age and how many miles were on the odometer. And money. You need money to buy parts.
My backyard was the “garage” because there was a big tree with a limb perfect for attaching a hoist, which we used to remove the engine from the car.
We’d usually start at about 9 a.m. by draining the oil and water. Then, we would disconnect the control cables and remove the bolts attaching the transmission to the engine. Finally, we removed the car’s hood and attached cables to the engine and the hoist.
We spent the rest of the morning stripping the engine of parts. We would take the valves to a shop in town to have them worked on. Then, we would remove the cylinders and dress the cylinder walls with a ridge reamer.
New rings were next, along with crankshaft inserts. Then, as soon as the valves returned from the shop, we put the entire mechanism back together, reattached the hoist and returned the engine to the car.
We all had our tools, but the most essential member of our team was Jimmy because he had a torque wrench, a tool vital to getting all the bolts tightened to the proper tension. The torque wrench was the most expensive tool back then, so nobody except Jimmy had one.
Usually, at about 4 p.m., we’d have everything reassembled and start the car. One of the guys had a “good ear,” and he would set the timing by listening to the engine. By 5 p.m. most Saturdays, we would be cruising Main Street.
All of that in a single day. Nowadays, a guy can’t even change the spark plugs on most cars.