Oct 232011

I like “Bench Building”; which, much like “Bench Racing”, is a time honored method to waste hours of time and has nothing to do with building benches or anything else useful. 

For those of you that have not been initiated, Bench Racing and Building are all about laying down the tools, picking up your favorite adult beverage and day dreaming,  preferably in your shop with a few friends, the smell of gasoline, burnt clutch, and Orange scented hand-cleaner filling your nostrils.  By the way why do all hand-cleaners smell like oranges?  But I digress.

The act of Bench Racing involves leaning back against your work bench and ruminating on how fast you were, could have been or will be.  Still unsure?   It’s the fish that got away.  It’s the dog fight demonstration with the fighter pilot “shooting his watch”, or the 12 point deer that you are sure you hit – “the blood trail must be around here somewhere!”

I like to dream up some rather unlikely car and drive train combinations and see how far I can get in the design process before I decide I must just be completely crazy.  Bench build - NO

Now many of you know I work for an airline and I drive 172 miles one way to work each week to Albuquerque or if I have an odd trip for the week I drive all the way to Phoenix, AZ (about 425 miles each way).  That works out to about 3 hrs for the short trip and 6.5 hours for the long one, spent in my hoopie car. (I don’t know where the name came from, but every small car my family ever owned got that name – on lives the tradition!)  All that time spent on the highway lead me to decide that I need a good, comfortable, smooth running, smoothing driving car with reasonable fuel mileage.

Can you hear my cranial wheels turning? – Bench Building time! 

Currently, I drive a 2006 Nissan Sentra. (BECAUSE IT IS GOOD ON GAS!  SO LEAVE ME ALONE ALREADY!)  It is getting a little worn out, and I am getting tired of driving a roller skate.  I would like a little more space and a smooth ride that can also hold its own on an on-ramp. 

With that criteria in mind, I bought a 1981 Volvo 242. The purchase of this particular car was partly influenced by nostalgia.  I had a 244 in high school and part of college, and have always missed it. (Difference is 2 vs. 4 doors)  It was a GREAT highway car. 

Volvo-242-TurboMy “new” Volvo will need a few things; a new Ford Coyote V8, 6 speed trans., and a full up air bag suspension for the smooth ride and the ability to carve corners.  A little paint and interior, sound system, Nav, and – well you get the idea.

In the meantime, a good friend of my suggested I buy his Town car and just drive it.  He maintains it meticulously and hey it only has 150,000 miles on it so it should be good to go.  Of course, we all know nothing stock is EVER “Good to Go”.   As my mind wonders about the possibilities with the Town car I remember that I have a set of turbos I bought (cause I couldn’t live without them), and they would fit real nice under the hood of my new cruiser.   You know 8 psi, twins, intercooler should be up and running in like a week – Right?

Wait. I already have the Volvo – Town car is out.  So, I start thinking – (yes, there was smoke) what if I pick up a C4 Corvette (No, not to drive)? Would the 242 body fit? As it turns out, they almost fit, which is close enough to send me off on another tangent.  I could flair the fenders like Volvo did in the 80’s for their racing teams and shorten the C4 frame and WALA.   Presto! Magico! –  I have a real corner carver! 

But wait!  You know what would be even better?!  I know where I could get an early (small body) International Scout!  I bet that would fit the C4 almost exactly.  How cool would that be?  A Scout that can go fast and turn?       

ScoutRRRRRRRRTTTTT (sound of brakes)

 I am not driving an old Scout (Corvette underneath or not) to and from PHX or ABQ every week!

Back to the Volvo.

Last weekend, my Dad comes for a visit; and, while he won’t build a car himself, he does like Bench Building with me.  “A Scout” he says. “Son, we had one when you were little. Can you really get one cheap?  UNOE (“You Know” for those without the southern accent) with a good straight 6 engine and a 4 speed transmission with a granny gear and maybe a Gear Vendors overdrive unit, that would be fun up in the Mountains.”  So I reply, Well Dad, yes, I can get the truck and UNOE (I regress when we are together) I have the original engine out of the Impala.  It ran great before I pulled it and I think I have a 700r4 trans., which, with the use of an adapter kit would fit.  Then we wouldn’t need to deal with clutch linkage or an external overdrive. “ – “ How long to build it?”, Dad asks.  “Oh, I don’t know.  Maybe a month or two.” (read a year or two, nothing for Me ever gets done in a timely manner)  “How much would it cost?”  

 Thanks Dad – Way to ruin a perfectly good Bench Building session.   Reality – who needs it?

Where is all this going you ask?  I don’t know.  I am just daydreaming and spewing my thoughts out on to this keyboard.

The upshot of all this is – if you try enough scenarios you will eventually come up with at least one you really like. Then, you should get out there and build it.  You only live once.  To have a great life, you should work hard, be the friend that you would want to have, love like it all ends tomorrow and, most of all Enjoy it!  Build it!

So let’s hear your ideas.  What Benches are you Building?


~  Jeff


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