April 30, 2017

A Wonderful Time

• By John F. Chisholm •

I traveled to Searsport the other day.  Doug and I worked on my Daimler.  The weather was horrible with a wet, heavy snow falling.  The roads were treacherous.  Saying the very least, the driving was tenuous.  Never mind.  I’m glad I made the trip.  We got a lot done.

You might recall that a year ago we remade the rear body mounts.  We impregnated the fiberglass of the trunk floor above the frame rails with 5/16th steel, predrilled to accept the mounting bolts.  Good move.  The repair made an enormous improvement.  Not only is the car quieter with far fewer squeaks, rattles and groans but it handles significantly better as well.

That second improvement might sound like a stretch, but it’s absolutely true.  Quite evidently, it’s important that a car act as one, as opposed to two separate entities, while driven.

Unfortunately our repair raised hell with the doors.  That’s right, the doors.  The driver’s side, in particular, cracked at the top of the panel where the window emerges.  Yes.  At both edges, too.  Of course the driver’s door receives the most use.  But there are two other factors to consider as well.  First, the vast majority of the mass in either door is contained within the windows and their frames.  That, in turn, has real implications for inertia, especially when the door is opened or closed ― particularly if the window is raised while these operations are completed.

That’s because the second factor is leverage.  The raised position gives the weight of the glass significant leverage on top of its inertia.  That’s right.

Physics broke my doors.  (I knew there was a reason I hated it in school.)

It turns out that the fit of both doors was unavoidably altered by the change in geometry of the trunk.  That, in turn, gave inertia and leverage the room to do their insidious work.

There are a couple of points to make about the repairs as well:  First, Doug is clearly well versed in fiberglass, its strengths and weaknesses.  Second, he’s very, very good with it.  Utilizing the same techniques employed in the repair of the rear body mounts, we reinforced the top edge of the driver’s door ― around either end of the window ―with steel reinforcement pieces specially fabricated for the job.

Think of it this way:  We inserted miniature horseshoes into the doors around both edges of the glass, crossing and repairing both cracks while adding reinforcement in the process.

I measured, cut and shaped the steel while Doug prepared the door for their insertion.  Together, we laid the fiberglass mat and resin around the steel, working it into place while trying not to make too big a mess.

Clearly, I’m significantly better at this latter process than Doug.  Particularly with the resin.  Oh, yes.  I try consoling myself; everyone has to have their own set of skills.

At least there’s no question that all this was necessary for the proper repair of my car.

But beyond even that, there is a point to this effort.  Rather than simply an in-depth review of the importance of high school physics, this process, all of it, gives obsession a good name.

That’s right.  I risked life, limb and my Dodge truck on the drive to Searsport.  I came home filthy and exhausted with fiberglass slowly solidifying my clothes.  My jeans, in particular, will never be the same.  No.  Judging from the innumerable cuts on my hands, resin is likely hardening my arteries while I write this, too.

On top of all that, the day is certain to be an expensive one.  Doug will bill me.  (Don’t misunderstand.  I’m not criticizing. Far from it.  He’s very kind.  He won’t charge me for my help, the way some garages do.)

The point here, despite all that, I had a wonderful time.