Saga of the great white whale

(Long post – buckle up!)

I know many of you have been following poor Araignee’s tale of woe with her kitchen reno. Over here at Chez Wanderingcat, we have one of our own. It isn’t quite as drastic or long-standing has her, and it doesn’t involve a house. It involves a car.

Most of you recall that Dave has a couple classic cars – a ’67 Charger and a ’67 Bonneville. They are the main reason we bought this house in particular – the garage was big enough to house both of them with some room to spare. This was especially challenging with the Bonneville, as she’s almost 20 feet long.

Now, when most people tell me they’d love to have a classic car, my knee-jerk reaction is to always say “Oh no you wouldn’t!” because the truth is, unless you can do all of the work yourself, or have bags of money sitting around, they are nothing but a giant financial headache. You’re always throwing money at them to keep them going. My Dad said to me once “Old cars are just a hole in the road you throw money into.” (This is his variation on his opinion of being a boat owner – just a hole in the river you throw money into.)

Don’t get me wrong – I love them (and if we had more $$, there’s a ’66 Galaxie convertible down the street I’d be buying for myself), but there are times when I’d like to light them on fire, collect the insurance and be done with it.

This particular instance started around the beginning of this year. We’re lucky that Dave CAN do most of the work they require himself. But something cropped up on the Bonneville we just weren’t equipped to tackle – she needed a new convertible top. She’s actually needed one since the day I met him (19 years ago), but he’s managed to patch and repair her to keep her going. To put it in perspective – a regular convertible top usually sees 10-15 years before the weather beats on it enough that it needs replacing. If you’re lucky, and really take care of it – you might get 20 years out of it. The top on our Bonne was ORIGINAL!!! Yep – 54 years. That’s unheard of. Even the guy who replaced it didn’t believe it at first (until he got working on it)

Anyway in January, Dave started calling around to get some quotes. We were looking at least $3000. Now remember, this is also around the time that we were getting ready to start looking for a house. But we both agreed – the top couldn’t wait any longer.

By March, Dave had managed to put away over half of it, and he dropped it off as a deposit with a guy in St. Catharines (about 40 minutes from the townhouse, and an hour and a half from where the car is stored at Dave’s mom’s condo). The guy said he should have the materials in by the end of the month, and we could bring the car in around early April. This was great because it would all be done and out of the way by the time we started seriously looking at houses.

Around the end of March, top guy called; He couldn’t find a kit for that particular car. To us, that’s not surprising – that year of Bonne is pretty rare – especially in Canada (our is actually and American car that was brought up some time in the ’80s). He’d have to have it custom made. It would take six weeks. No big deal – that would mean it would be done around mid-May. That was still doable. We didn’t really expect to have a house ready to move into for May.

We continued with our house search, and of course, found this place. With all the drama going on with that, we didn’t have time to worry that it was almost June and we still hadn’t heard from top guy.

Around mid-June, Dave decided he better call and check. It wasn’t a problem that it was taking so long – we had the house to focus on, he just wanted to make sure top guy hadn’t run off with the deposit. The car was stored at his Mom’s condo and could stay there as long as we needed. So he called; COVID causing delays… blah, blah blah, totally understandable. We go back to focusing on the house.

Then… literally the day before moving day (July 24) we got the call. “Top is in – can you bring it in next week?” We agreed. (Keep in mind, we are now living almost 3 hours from the repair shop, and we have to drive 2.5 hours to pick her up from the condo first)

Of course, you know the move actually took a little longer than expected, so we ended up rescheduling to take Bonne in the following week.

Of course, that was the day the darn diva wouldn’t start (you can read that mini saga here)

We tried again the next week and finally got her to the shop (it’s now mid August), and top guy tells us she’ll be ready to pick up in a few days. A few days goes by an we don’t hear anything. Dave’s not worried because he told top guy not to rush.

The following week, Dave gets a call from top guy – the tack strips that hold the top to the rear of the car are toast – we need to order new ones. No problem. Or at least – it shouldn’t be. It took Dave several days to find a set – they were new ones (he’d been checking scrap yards too), but they were in stock. Or so the website said.

After a week, and they hadn’t shipped yet, Dave calls the place he ordered from “Oh – they are back-ordered,” they say. “It will be at least six weeks for them to come in.”

So why are they showing in stock??? The company couldn’t give us an answer, but according to online reviews (which we unfortunately didn’t check until after), this place is notorious for that. Dave goes on the hunt again, and in the mean time, top guy is calling, getting antsy. You see – his shop isn’t actually big enough for Bonne (I told you, she’s a beast). He’s being storing the car in his neighbour’s shop (a mechanic) overnight, but it’s a really big pain. He also can’t take in other cars incase they need parts and need to be stored too – he needs that part!

Everywhere Dave finds the aftermarket part , they say the same; Part is back ordered – minimum six weeks (Thanks COVID). And the scrap yards just don’t seem to have it.

FINALLY, he find a used set at a scrap yard in California. One problem – the part is too long to ship USPS and they tell us they don’t deal with couriers (Fedex, UPS) etc. I offer to set up the courier pick-up myself- they just have to have it ready – no go. “We don’t do that,” the lady says on the phone. She sends us the links to some freight forwarders other customers have used.

Now a little disclosure here – I work for a customs broker/freight forwarder. I know there is no freight forwarder in the business that is going to take ONE parcel that’s only 66″ x 4″ and weighs five lbs. That’s not what they do. Customers may have used them to ship whole cars, but one one part. But, Dave calls them just in case. No surprise, he’s pretty much laughed off the phone.

In desperation, I emailed a colleague in our freight division. I explain the situation, and ask if he knows of ANY company that can help us. His response is “That’s definitely a courier package, but send me the details and let me see what I can do.”

He emails back an hour later – he had a colleague in California call the wrecking yard. It was too far for said colleague to go pick up (which was amazing that he was willing to even do that), but the yard agreed to send it to the California colleague, and he will forward it on to us by courier. AMAZING!!!

But guess how the yard is going to send it to my colleague??? BY FEDEX!!!!! They use couriers all the time. They just refuse to do use them to send to Canada – and they won’t explain why. If we didn’t have our backs up against the wall with this, I would have walked away and not given them the business.

Anyway, they send it out. But of course, now we are dealing not only with COVID staffing shortages, Labour Day, and Hurricane Bloody Ida!!! It took almost a week to reach my colleague. (It was about a four-hour drive from the yard to his house.) Wonderful man that he is, he sent it on right away, but because of all the aforementioned things, it seemed to take FOREVER to get to the border. (And of course, during this time, top guy is calling every other day to find out where the part is – he’s old school and doesn’t use email, so we can’t send him the tracking directly). We watched it inch along, one state a day, through tracking. FINALLY, on September 17th, it was delivered directly to top guy. We breathe a huge sigh of relief.

The morning of the 21st, we get a call – Bonne is done and ready to come home. And as you can imagine, top guy wants her out of there right away. No waiting until the weekend.

I tell Dave I can take the next morning off work, and we can get up early and go get her. There’s one problem – they are forecasting a huge storm – 125mm/5 inches of rain, high winds, possible hail, covering almost the entire province – ALL DAY. Those of you with classic car experience know – those cars RARELY see rain, and never on purpose. Dave once drove her through an early October sleet storm to pick me up when we first started dating and it was a sign of just how much he liked me and was trying to impress me. I doubt he’d do it now!

He reluctantly agreed (because he knew we didn’t have a lot of choice), but wanted to take her back to his Mom’s condo when we picked her up. It’s closer to the shop (but only by about an hour IF we don’t hit traffic). That would mean we’d have to go an pick her up from the condo another day, which means another five hours on the road. I just wanted her home and done with. I finally convinced him when I reminded him that the condo likes to clean the underground every six months or so, and we ALWAYS get a last minute call from his Mom telling him we have to move the car. If that were to happen, and the weather wasn’t good enough to bring her all the way home, it means not only do we have to drop everything to do it, but also not one, but TWO five hour round trips (one to move her to Dave’s grandma’s driveway, and one the very next day to put her back in the condo)

Wednesday morning arrived, and it was just as bad as they predicted. I don’t mind driving in bad weather, but it did mean taking a little extra time – almost four hours to get to the shop.

Dave got in Bonne, and I followed behind, making sure no one could tailgate him. We made better time, but it was still a miserable drive. We had to stop half way because one of his wipers went on him, though he was able to get it going again. The top is also missing some weather stripping along the front (not part of the replacement, and we knew that – and not an issue if you’re not driving in the rain), so it was a bit of a damp drive for Dave. By the time he got home, his jean were pretty wet from water pushing through and dripping down.

But the main thing is she got home in one piece. The wind was really howling so we cleared out one side of the garage as quick as we could (we still had some flooring and records and stuff stored there) and got her under cover before it hailed or a stray branch came down.

Happily, the next day was bright and sunny, and Dave pulled her out and cleaned off all the dirt and dust from the rain.

It makes me so happy to finally see her in her permanent home (she always had to go back to the condo in winter because we had no place to store her). And after the nine-month saga of getting the top done…

Of course, now he’s go to look into the a drive-line vibration she has at highway-speed. Oh, and the Charger needs to be brought from storage at his Grandma’s but we need to do some work on her brakes first… it’s always something!

10 thoughts on “Saga of the great white whale

  1. Cheryl J

    Beautiful car Val. Your stories are great. Always an adventure. You remind me of my mom. She could ride via from Chatham to London and come off with an epic story. Keep writing.


  2. Araignee

    What a beauty she is!
    We had a 66 Mustang in our driveway for about 10 years and this is why we finally gave it away to a family member that owns a repair shop. It’s a full time job keeping these old things on the road and I can’t imagine the frustration you had with all these insane supply issues. Every time The Mister whines about getting another old car I tell him he can’t have one unless he puts on a garage. The poor Mustang was a rust bucket by the time they hauled it away. Poor thing.


    1. Robin

      I understand everything you went through! We had a 1970 Maverick. Husbands dream car but what a nightmare! Something always seemed to need fixing. After owning it for two years the darn thing caught fire in our garage and could have burned our house down if my husband hadn’t of pushed it out into the driveway. We got back more than we paid for it from the insurance company and vowed never again! But Hubby is now looking at vintage cars again!😆😆


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