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Mechanical skills, sense of humor are often a good mix to have

By Steve Stricker

God knew from my conception that I would always be financially challenged, gave me the desire to fix broken things (and people), and gifted me with “some” mechanical genes from my grandfather, grandpa, and dad to allow me to fix stuff. God also has a keen sense of humor and to keep me humble, did not give me “all” the wrenching genes needed, thus making it a somewhat frightful adventure every time I pick up a spanner (wrench) and assigned the Holy Spirit to be my “tool buddy” and on whom I rely heavily (gets all the credit).

These mechanical skills revealed early in my life and being the only boy in our family with three older brat sisters who ignored me, and mom and dad too busy to attend to me, I took care of myself. If something broke (toys, bike, mower), I used my dad’s tools (much to his discontent) and did my best to fix it. If I couldn’t figure it out, I begged help from anyone having mechanical ability.

As a junior in high school, the beautiful 1957 2-door Chevrolet Belair my dad bought for my sisters, was finally passed down to me. This was my first car and the first time I applied my budding mechanical ability on something “real” by changing the oil, putting on brakes, wide-whitewall tires, fender skirts (which I still have), spinner wheel covers, and whatever.

Although the ’57 was beautiful and I loved it, having come from the salty north it was rusty, so after driving it my last two years in high school until junior year in college, traded it for a stunning 1964 Chevrolet Super Sport. Graduating from college, Uncle Sam pointed that finger at me, so I sold the Super Sport and spent three years in the Army (Jeep story in Vietnam coming).

After my tour with the Army, I began work on my first master’s degree and purchased a used 1967 Pontiac Firebird that although sharp looking, I never liked, and after a year traded it for a new 1971 MGB/GT — my first new car … still have it, and it was on the MG that I honed my mechanical skills.

As of today, Wednesday, July 27, the MG is ready for me to button up. After fiddling with and replacing engine and electrical bits all summer, I still need to fix a carb choke linkage issue, put the carbs back together, install the radiator and hoses, fill with antifreeze, and fire it up! Once running (hopefully), I’ll synchronize the carbs, replace other parts, and get it back on the road.

When, I bought my 1964 Land Rover Series 88, II-A and extra matching pickup top in August 2014 from a dealership in Birmingham, I did so sight unseen from the dealer’s description and photos on their website. This old Landy was perfect for me: the red paint was faded and missing in places, had dents and dings all over it, and seemed to be put together from six other Rovers; but it is a good one. These old Landy’s have aluminum bodies, but steel frame, bulkhead and other bits that are prone to rust. However, mine spent its life in Arizona and other than the rear frame cross member, was corrosion-free.

The day my Landy arrived via trailer at my driveway was exciting, however, the battery was dead and couldn’t be driven off the trailer. Then the guy couldn’t get the bonnet open to get to the battery and took both of us to figure it out. The next day, I crawled all over and under it and was impressed by how rust-free, cool, and straightforward it was.

Then the clutch went out turning it around in my driveway! I called the dealer and he said it was driving fine when he had it (right) and offered to buy it back because another guy was willing to pay more for it than I did. But a clutch master cylinder is no big deal, and after wanting one of these old II-A’s for as long as I can remember, its home.

Over the last year or so, I have ordered hard-to-find and very rare new and used parts from literally all over the world as I could afford and it has been the most fun ever! Some parts I have installed, but my focus has been on the MG. However, now that the MG is almost ready, my goal is to have the II-A running very soon.

Recently, I dismantled the screwed-up gear shaft housing, cleaned and installed new parts, cleaned and replaced parts on top of the transmission, and bolted it down. This week I’ll replace the clutch master and slave cylinders, brake cylinder, put on new brake wheel cylinders and bleed the system. Then reinstall the petrol tank that I had Mr. Dees clean and line and bolt on the cleaned fuel sending unit. I previously cleaned the entire fuel system and the engine runs great. But before I can drive it, I have to replace leaking gaskets, top-off all fluids, (dozens of other stuff to do), but it should be ready for its Oxford debut.

Help Holy Spirit!

Steve Stricker received his Ph.D. in Counselor Education from Ole Miss and can be reached at sstricke@olemiss.edu