Category Archives: Cars

Ode to the 60’s


America was king.

…but Camelot ended when President JFK was assassinated; he was our last true combat veteran and leader. LBJ came into power.

LSD.

The Feminist Movement.

The first heart transplant.

Liberal tainted news reporting, ‘Nam and 55,000 Americans.

Hippies.

Apollo 8 and 11.

The Wonderful World of Color and Combat!

Marilyn OD’d and Joey Heatherton was in.

Gas was 29 cents per gallon and you got Blue Chip Stamps.

Fuel, oxygen, compression and a spark was all that was required to fire up your prized motor. Well, that part (almost) hasn’t left us.

Gas stations cleaned off your windshield with real paper…even the stuff from birds. Yes, you were actually waited on. Just how cool was that?

The service attendant that would short dip the dipstick and tell your old man he was a quart low… Well, maybe it’s good that part’s gone.

Studebaker folded.

Pontiac GTO and the Mustang. A behemoth 409 in an Impala. Four-on-the-Floor and a Hurst. Your cup holder was the babe sitting alongside you in a miniskirt.  Polyglas GTs and Firestone Wide Ovals. Toyotas and Datsuns were nothing but big Hot Wheels.

Ah… Car styling that said, “American”. In 1959, we had this:

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Twenty-five years later, we had this:

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What happened? We lost Oldsmobile, AMC, Plymouth… Pontiac and Oldsmobile with the future of GM and Chrysler becoming uncertain soon thereafter. Sure, we can always place blame on management but I feel it is much deeper, much more complicated.

One thing is for certain: I like Clint Eastwood and his spaghetti Westerns… I cringe imagining him riding off into the sunset on a Fiat-badged Jeep.

Indeed, Car 54, where are you?

(Note Jan. 6, 2019: I wrote this over ten years ago for a national Mustang car club.)

Cops and Me


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Cops surround me even at breakfast.

Cops love me, I tell ya.  We have a special relationship.

Cops and me have met on official business while on the road.

Three times between 2008 and 2010.

But I have not seen the inside of a police car, paddy wagon or jail.

Don’t you wonder why?  I had three chances to do so in two years.

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Leaving Cars and Coffee, Irvine, CA, 2008.  How is it cops can spot my car from a mile away?

During the first two-plus years after customizing my car, I was lit up by CHP, police and sheriff black and whites.

Just once for each law enforcement branch to be modest.

The first time was on my way back from a Ford Mustang car show in San Diego.  Heading north back to LA and after passing Camp Pendleton – home of the US Marines’ famed 1st Division – I noticed a CHP motorbike merging onto the freeway in my rear view mirror

I am very good at spotting CHP, you know.  Especially since the CHP – for some silly reason – is attracted by bright orange¹ Mustangs without mufflers.

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See… Cops love me. A lot of them. On my way to have Jack Roush of NASCAR fame sign my dashboard.

Traffic was heavy heading away from historic Camp Pendleton being a Saturday evening; the entire 1st Division must have just been issued liberty.  I was pretty much boxed in on the highway.  Going with the flow, you know.  There were SUVs and passenger cars all around me, most with tinted windows which are illegal here in California.  I remember one SUV with limo tint.

But sure enough, before Las Pulgas Road and the border check point, the motorcycle cop lit me up.  Hmmm.  I wonder why?  Could it be because my car is orange with racing stripes?  Nah.

So I pulled over, rolled down my tinted windows, put my left arm and hand out my driver’s side window, with my right hand on the top of the steering wheel.  Common sense given the car.

The CHP officer carefully walked up to my passenger window and peered in.  He walked to the front then came back.  “You were speeding back there, have tinted windows and no front license plate.  Driver’s license, registration and insurance, please.”

Speeding?  No problem.  I wasn’t going to bicker with him about the speeding since we were all going at XX mph.  I told him I need to get into my console to which he nodded his head.  He looked at my driver’s license.  He pulled down his sun glasses.  I could see he was MUCH younger than I.  He then looked up from my license, stared at me, then stared back at my license.  He looked into my back seat area, hoping to see if anyone else was back there like a 16 year old son.  “Is this YOUR car, sir?”

I yelled over the traffic noise, “Yes, sir… and I bet I’ve been driving longer than you’ve been alive.”   He smiled.

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Me doing my Lightning McQueen thing.

He walked back to his bike and I’m sure he checked for wants and warrants.  No big deal.  I would want him to do that on every stop. I want to protect my kids, you know.

He came back and handed me a “fix it” ticket while saying, “I’m letting you off on the speeding but you have 60 days to get these violations fixed.”  I now had to officially get my window tint removed and front license plate installed on my then show-quality car, then have an officer sign it off.

“Ok, sir.  Thank you… but you never answered my question if I’ve been driving longer than you’ve been alive.”

He grinned, patted my passenger door’s window sill and said, “Have a good day, sir,” while smiling and walked back to his bike.²

Gee.  I didn’t get tackled to the ground, handcuffed or guns drawn on me.  I wonder why?  Instead, he just smiled.

And I am glad he didn’t ask me to pop the hood…  That’s a whole different type of fix it ticket under there.  It would have been a gold mine for the CHP money bucket.

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Assembling for a cruise to Blackbird Airpark. Now you gotta ask: If all these supercharged Mustangs were going 85 mph and you were a cop, who would you single out?

Another time was at lunch.  I can’t exactly say for sure but perhaps I was speeding just a teensy-weensy bit.  Anyways, a Fullerton PD black and white lit me up.

Same routine.  Pulled over, rolled down my tinted windows and put my hands where he could see them.  He did say he had seen the car driving around before and that he was going to let me go on the window tint, the missing plate and a VERY loud car…this time.  But I do think he recognized the “Voss Performance” stickers all over my car.  Voss knows a lot of cops around there, thankfully.

The other time, the same routine and results, thankfully.  I think the LA County Sheriff felt sorry this nice car was being driven by a decrepit old man in a higher crime area.
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But each time, I did not make mainstream mis-media.  You know, CNN and the like.

I followed the officer’s orders.  Plain and simple.

Nobody came out to say I was being discriminated against because I got picked out of a dozen cars going the same speed, some with a LOT darker tint than mine.  What if I were of a different race and I went after the cop?  Is it because the cop is a racist?

And please don’t say it was just a traffic stop. It’s the same if a cop approached me on a street corner. I interacted with a cop.

But one thought I do have.  Slavery was abolished more than 150 years ago.  There’s nobody alive today from that time – well, at least not since George Burns passed away.  Yet, they still speak to it in volumes in our children’s US history books.  But don’t you find it curious they pretty much overlook WWII which was only 70 years ago?

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My 13 year old son’s US History textbook.  There are pages and pages about discrimination in our children’s textbooks and that it hasn’t improved much. To me, this becomes one overriding concept taken away from school by our children.
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More focus on discrimination. What are the children learning about our nation’s greatness? Can this be a cause for certain people the world is owed them?  Are they thinking America is BAD?
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There were only about four+ pages on WWII with a lot of side bars. There was no true learning about individual sacrifices as a nation to become victorious but ask the children to instead think about discrimination against minorities.

And if any one “race” has a reason to scream discrimination, it would be my father’s generation about 75 years ago.  People of Japanese descent in the “West Coast Exclusion Zone” had all their citizenship and rights stripped away and worldly possessions taken.  I don’t recall any other “race” en masse having their citizenship taken away by the stroke of a President’s pen and put behind barbed wire.

I do feel one thing.  All this poppy-cock about it being solely the cops that caused the riots in Ferguson, Baltimore and unrest in Philadelphia.  It was WRONG for anyone to have NOT complied with the officer’s orders in the first place.  Simple as that.  Why resist arrest or fight a cop?

If someone doesn’t have drugs, weapons or outstanding warrants on their person, complying would be the end of it… like with me.  The only crime I committed was being old.  Well, I guess the tint, no license plate, no mufflers and supposed speeding, too.

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Hmmm.  Do you think I burned rubber while leaving?  Pretty tempting with 505 hp.

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Why isn’t attention being focused on why these so called race incidents occurred in the first place?  Some jerk did not comply with an officer’s orders.  Plain and simple.

Has NOT complying become accepted as an appropriate behavior for thugs when stopped by law enforcement officers… and then for it to be pretty much overlooked if something happens just because of their race?  That a cop can be assaulted and to say afterwards its part of their job to be a glutton for punishment and not have the right to protect himself/herself?  If they fight a cop, what would they do to YOU?

No, I am not condoning someone dying for whatever reason.  But we have to stop overlooking the perpetrators themselves and then using their upbringing as the excuse for their behavior… and make them – and their parents – be accountable for their own actions.  We need to stop giving them hall passes in every way, shape and form.  In essence, we have to stop making ANY race feel special just because of their race.  I blame the DOJ, too, for not placing any blame on the “victims”.

If we don’t, this spiral will never end.

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Notes:

1.  It is orange.  Not yellow!

2. By the way, there are no more “fix it” tickets here in California.  You are cited for tint, no plates or whatever else with no chance to appeal.  Each type of infraction, I believe, is about $160.

Old Man Jack-ism #9 – Respect


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My supercharged Grabber Orange Mustang lived outside 24/7 for her first five years. Old Man Jack’s driveway is to the very left; he would on occasion call me over to his garage to chat.

I was out front one morning, enjoying a gorgeous holiday weekend.  While pointing in my general direction, Old Man Jack said to me from across the street, “Koji, she needs to come in at night.”  My car was in between Jack and me.  He loved my car…almost as much as his F4U Corsair.

Why would he tell me to put my Grabber Orange Mustang into the garage?  He knows it’s parked outside 24/7 because the aggravating ex took away my garage space without saying a word.

“Say what, Jack?” asked I…

I was humbled shortly thereafter by this exceptional and aging WWII combat vet who went to war as a young boy.

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Indeed, I had to park my supercharged, car show winning Grabber Orange Mustang at curbside 24/7.  Blistering sun, rain, ashes from wildfires, toxic sea gull poop and dog pee on my chrome wheels, I tell ya.  The sea gull poop was the worst: unless you got if off before the desert-like sun microwaved it, it would leave the vinyl graphics underneath stained.  Crap.

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Sea gull bomb.
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Aftermath of sea gull bomb – the stain.

But I had to park it outside on the street, as I mentioned, as my darned ex decided to secretly take over my man-cave just months before I got the Mustang GT.

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After the divorce and after throwing a lot of the stuff she didn’t take, this is what the garage looked like. The illegally built room took up about 75% of the space. She even had a door, lights and curtains installed. Definitely no room for a car… Well, maybe a Smart car…but that isn’t a car. 🙂

If you thought Pearl Harbor was a sneak attack, the ex’s takeover of my man-cave was a blitzkrieg.  Let’s just say it was a helluva shock to come home from work one day to find an illegal alien well on his way into putting up walls in the garage.  She was building a “massage room”.  Well, in the end, it was used for much more, unfortunately.

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The cleared out space after I paid my AMERICAN citizen buddy to tear it down and haul it away. My car now has a home.  Notice the door and the window with curtains she had installed. It’s going to cost a pretty penny to have them torn out and filled in. Oh… Look at the bottom right corner… Six feet of my driveway is missing. That is another ex story.

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But back to Old Man Jack telling me that “she needs to come in at night”…

“Jack, I can’t put the car in the garage.  You know that,” I said.

“No, not the car, you dumb shit.  The flag!” he said with his boyish trademark grin and with great fondness.

“Huh?  The flag?” I asked.

“Shit, didn’t they teach you anything in school?  You gotta put a light on her if she’s staying out at night,” he said.

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Old Man Jack with his happy face on and me. He would pass away about a year later.

I then realized he had pointed to the flag behind me and not my car.  Duh.  I had put the red, white and blue out for the holidays as always and had simply left it out – and yes, for convenience.  He must have seen it left out the night before.  But then again, he must have been biting his tongue for years as I had left it out before.

As Popeye, the Sailor Man would say, “How embarrassinks.”

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Well, Old Man Jack was right; there has to be a light shining on the flag at night.  And yes, I had learned that exact flag etiquette as a youngster in school but just plain forgot with time.  Heck, me and this other kid had the honor to take down the school’s flag at the end of the day on a regular basis then properly fold her up while in the 6th grade.  I can still hear the clamps clanking on the metal flag pole as we lowered her.

Anyways, I had remembered that story with today being Memorial Day.  I had the flag out in reverence to our fallen.  I even caught the tail end of a flight of four WWII T-6 Texans just north of us in a missing man formation.

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It is now dark outside and yes, I brought her in.  Can’t upset Old Man Jack, you know.

But it ate my heart out to see it draped over his casket just about three years later.

I was alone with Old Man Jack during visitation.  It was good as I was able to say good-bye in private... The mortuary didn't invest in good quality Kleenex, though.

Thanks for reading and revere our fallen.

“Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge” – Shine


In response to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge of this week: SHINE

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, June 28, 2010
The Enola Gay (For a short computer animation of the atomic bomb’s explosion, please click.

 

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Custom downdraft carburetors in a hot rod.

 

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My car enthusiast bud Prof. Arnold is reflecting off a meticulously polished all-aluminum Cobra.  That’s the hood’s surface propped open, folks.

Hamburgers and a ’63 Merc


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Marilyn Monroe eating an old-fashioned hamburger at a drive-in hamburger stand. Photo by Philippe Halsman.

Nearly all Americans would agree that hamburgers are the All-American icon.  A simple grilled ground beef patty, salted and peppered, slathered with mayo, mustard and ketchup then sandwiched in a plain bun.

At least that’s how I know them.  Oh, hold the pickles, please.

Now, us kids that grew up watching “Bewitched” and “I Dream of Jeannie” have given birth to a generation that has taken a simple thing and made them into $15 gourmet, fancied-up, mushroom-covered (expensive) cuisine.  Do you think I like Elizabeth Montgomery and Barbara Eden?  Drool…

But I don’t know if I like the “change”.

Back to this in a minute, folks.

The fancy hamburgers – not the drool.

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Dad had always owned Fords when he could finally afford getting a car.  I guess that’s where I get my Ford passion from.

July 5, 1955
Aunt Eiko holding me in front of my dad’s Ford Consul automobile. If you are reading my past stories about WWII, you will know that only the occupying Americans could afford to buy a car. Her husband was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.  Occupied Japan, Tokyo, July 5, 1955.
Enoshima Beach, Tokyo - April 1957
My dad’s ’57 Ford Fairlane parked on Enoshima Beach, Tokyo. I’m thinking it was a dark green. April 1957.

After leaving Japan for the last time  in the late ‘50’s after the Occupation ended, my pop bought his first new car stateside in 1963 – he was 44 years old.  It was a two door Cascade Blue 1963 Mercury Meteor custom hardtop; a king of obscurity to say the least, but to a kid of about ten, it was Flash Gordon’s rocket ship.  Unlike Hillary, it was easy to love this car.

1964 or 1965 / Dad's new 1963 Mercury Meteor
On a road trip to Chicago in 1964. I’m still holding onto my Fujipet camera with dad’s 1963 Mercury Meteor behind us. This may have been in Utah.

Don’t get me wrong.  It wouldn’t get a choice spot if valet parked.  I say wouldn’t as my old man couldn’t afford valet, let alone a family dinner out.  But to me, the rocket ship had a chrome finish AM push-button radio – turn the dial on the right, find a station, pull out a button, then push it back in to set it.  Trouble is I did it a dozen times each time I got into the car.  But all I cared about was KFI 640 AM, the Dodgers’ station.  The golden voice of Vin Scully… and Fairly, Gilliam, Wills and I forget who played third.  They were World Series champs that year.

Six adults could get into this rocket ship with room to spare – eight of us little Japanese folks and a dog.  The cargo hold in back swallowed up my Sears JC Higgins bike in one gulp with enough space leftover for Frank Howard.  (I saw him hit the scoreboard in right field with a home run.)

Unless my aging grey matter is dissolving at warp speed (maybe it is), there were ash trays with shiny covers in each armrest…and this was for the back seats.  It was a favorite depository for my Bazooka chewing gum but I kept the wax covered cartoon that came with it.

Pop kept it for quite some time.  I passed my driver’s license test in it on my 16th birthday.  I got a 96 only because she claimed I never looked in the rear view mirror.  Poppy cock.  I always look in the rear view mirror for cops.  Even back then.

And as it was the only car we had back then, I also drove my date to one of my senior proms in it (I went to two.).  And the answer is, “No,” if anyone was wondering…but I’m sure she was disappointed.  Well, maybe not.

The four-wheel drum brakes were spectacular…not.  Instead of rubber meets the road, it was like rubber met the world’s supply of Vaseline while fighting the pull to the left… and this was at 25 mph.  Steering?  An oil tanker’s captain would do well.  Turn the wheel a lot; see the slight change in direction a few seconds later.  Pat Brady and Nellybelle turned better – and that was out in the desert on sand.

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The Mercury Meteor’s 260 cid V-8.

I overhauled the epoch 164 hp 260 cid V8 sometime around 1976 in our garage.  At 13 years of age, she had become an old girl.  She had become a V6, meaning it had lost compression in two cylinders.  I remember setting zero lash, then three-quarters turn of the ratchet for the hydraulic lifters during the overhaul.  The distributor was the biggest headache, of all things.  It was like extracting an impacted molar and only after using copious amounts of Liquid Wrench in place of laughing gas did it finally come out.  “Older” Blue Oval guys know what I’m describing.

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Back to today’s elegant hamburgers and change.

Instead of the push-pull AM radio, my youngest son – who was seven when I bought it – similarly discovered my ’08 Mustang GT had a “My Color” dashboard light feature.  Now I know how my pop felt as my son forced me to experience every color of the rainbow while driving at night – every time.  It was like being at an all-night disco club.

Bazooka bubble gum and ashtrays are no more but treasure hunters will be pleased after exploring the map pockets.  No disappointments there.  I promise… especially after my little Cake Boss had sat in the back.  Latex gloves are highly recommended before exploring.

Overhaul it?  After all, my GT’s got a 281 V8, only twenty-one more cubes than my pop’s…but it pumps out a magnificent 505 hp thanks to her Roush supercharger and Carmen pulley.  Hell, I’m afraid to change spark plugs.  Who would imagine in 1963 there would be a TSB on just how to R&R spark plugs?

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My Roush supercharger and gizmos.

And unlike my pop’s ’63 Merc which ran on simple mechanical principles (but threw physics principles out the window for the so-called braking), the computing power in my Mustang would cause Einstein to strike a pose like Captain Morgan.

And today’s stunning braking power is the true reason for seat belts – it compassionately keeps your head from being continually used to redesign the windshield.  The aftermarket Wilwood six-piston disc brakes I installed with slotted and cross-drilled rotors exacerbates the stop-on-a-dime tendencies… which is a good thing.

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The Wilwood Six Piston disc brakes on my Mustang.

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So it appears the delicious, basic hamburger of the 1960’s has been brought into the 21st Century.  Kids that watched Elizabeth Montgomery and Barbara Eden fooled with the wonderfully simple ground beef and bread formula to give us today’s foodie gourmet burger…and we can still listen to Vinny’s golden voice, to boot.  Glorious.

And well, with 505 hp at the crank instead of 164 hp, it’s hard to complain.  Neither do my kids when they hear the whine of my Roush supercharger.  They like to scream.  But it’s a shame my pop’s ’63 Mercury Meteor won’t be swept into anyone’s museum.

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I guess technology has its benefits.

I’ll take a gourmet burger in the end after all.

Pass the Heinz ketchup, please.

At least that hasn’t changed.