I can always tell when it’s time to abandon my keyboard, pull the plug on the computer, and wander to a place far, far away. My first (and only clue I need) comes when I find myself staring at my monitor and it stares back—all white, blank, and reminiscent of a digital snowstorm. Of course, there’s also our Managing Editor Sarah who closes my office door and moves a humongous filing cabinet in front of it. The meaning—I have used up all the allotted time and the cyber highway waits to wing my prophetic words off to wherever the hell these words go to be placed on the page before you.

For starters, what is the real “can’t miss” clue? When I get the urge to detail my roadster I know I have been parked for far too long at my computer. Normally I snap out of this funk within minutes. For those of you familiar with my hot rod hygiene you know that I consider a good rain akin to a car wash. The last time my roadster was detailed it was mandated by my fellow club members who didn’t want “that dirty roadster” of mine around theirs. They paid to have it detailed. Hey, I have a busy life. In my defense while I may not win any beauty contests (me or my roadster), I will gladly drive anytime or anywhere, all day or through the night, or cruise the back roads or roar down the interstates. Bug-less parked cars hold no interest to me. Where’s the story? Show me a rock chip, scratch, or dent and I will tell you a story of riveting interest. These imperfections represent character lines for the hot rod.

There was a time when I took great pride in making sure my ride was spotless and the shine was blinding and oh so deep. The glass was so clear there didn’t appear to be any. You could eat off the engine (which I did, but wait!) and you would be hard pressed to find any road grime on the undercarriage.

The impeccably maintained engine compartment did have its practical uses. I remember during high school when an open Friday evening would arrive, several of us would jump into my buddy’s V-8-powered hot rod and we would head for the mountains. Where I live that would be Big Bear, the obligatory long and winding road, a great lake, and plenty of campsites. Being the industrious juveniles we were, we would cook our meals while driving up the twisty mountain road ready to eat at the campsite.

How did we cook our meals and drive you ask? Did you know that you can take a large can of Boston baked beans and position it on the intake manifold along with several buttered ears of corn wrapped in tinfoil accompanied by a loaf of bread? We once reheated a baked ham. Additionally, did you know that you can make coffee and place it in an old military canteen and rest it on the intake (be careful not to obstruct the throttle linkage) and upon arrival will be plenty hot and quite tasty.

We had made this drive many times, always cooking our hearty meal along the way. Then came that one fateful night when we were halted during our steady climb and what should have taken 45 minutes took nearly two hours. As we would find out that was just too much time to bake baked beans.

I remember hearing a very loud bang. Not sure what it was, we immediately pulled over (there wasn’t much mountain road shoulder to negotiate) and a quick look around the car showed all was well. Next, up went the hood and in the darkening evening skies it was our sense of smell that gave us our clue of what we would eventually find long before our eyes adjusted to the darkness and we would see. Boston baked beans smell really good. Unfortunately, an exploded can of beans while emitting the same delightful scent was now mixed with the smell of oil, gasoline, and antifreeze, yielding an unusual aroma when spread over a cast-iron block, wiring, and firewall. Additionally, the buttered corn was thoroughly burned while the tinfoil did retain an amazing amount of heat immediately sensed by the touch of youthful fingers. Damn that hurt! As for the bread, the best that I can say is it was reminiscent of badly burned toast, and just as coarse to the taste! As for the coffee, well, it was hot, really freaking hot.

It took us months to get the baked-on beans off the small-block. As for the firewall and wiring harness I wouldn’t be surprised if that ol’ Chevy still has a carbohydrate-enriched smell. No matter where we went in my buddy’s Chevy, from that memorable night forward we always endured the ever-present smell of Boston baked beans. And so goes my desire to ever clean another hot rod. Clearly my delicate and youthful psyche was scarred for life. I will forever rebel against cleaning cars, although I do have a constant craving for baked beans!.

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