Attack of the Killer Cabrio – Part 2


Like all internet photos, this one makes the car look awesome, baby!

How do you define success? 

By the absence of failure?  By reaching 95% of an unattainable goal?

Or do you just make it up, sometimes, like I do? 

Also sprach ZarathustraDon QuixoteVW Cabrio Convertible Top Replacement — the novella Hemingway meant to write after The Sun Also Rises.  Apparently, he never got around to it. 

And for good reason. 

Good God, you have to be something of a philosopher poet mechanic to get the thing (said Top) fitted on the car correctly. 

And for the record, I did have some help the last couple of days.  My Significant Other assisted me in maneuvering the monstrosity (said Top) onto the body yesterday, and Daughter’s Little Biting Sister struck a perfect Statute of Liberty pose for me today as she held the thing half-open so I could tighten some inaccessible bolts. 

Let the record, therefore, show that the marginally negative comments I referenced in my last post were balanced by a little bit of timely assistance by sideline family members. 

Thanks, Girls!

As the photo above should demonstrate, I did manage to reinstall the new used Top onto Daughter’s car today.  I carved out about four hours (more or less) to “git ‘er done” and I just about hit the mark. 

At this point, I would characterize the job as being almost finished.  And even though I took everything apart just yesterday and thought I had a pretty good idea of where all the pieces went, I managed to end up with everything back in place and “only” five grommets left over — a couple of them are fairly large, too. 

I have no idea of where they supposedly fit, but I’m sure their absence will be felt during the first rain or bumpy road, depending on their purpose.  Until they are needed, they will slumber in the console.

On the positive side, I did note upon disassembly that one bolt used to secure the rear seat to the frame was missing.  And though I couldn’t remember the position of all the rubber bits (see previous two paragraphs), I cannily made a mental note to address this absence and source a replacement from my Spares Coffee Can. 

I did, in fact, find a correct replacement this afternoon, and I happen to know that it originated from an old Alfa Romeo of mine from years past.  For good measure, I even replaced the good German bolt (that wasn’t missing) with a second Alfa bolt, so Daughter’s VW has a tiny bit of Italian blood in it now. 

Based on my many years of experience, the next failure for the VW will have something to do with the Alfa parts. 

Trust me on this. 

So as I was finishing everything up late today, my work certainly seemed to be taking on the appearance of looking half-way decent.  A neighbor across the street emerged from his house, just as I was taking the Cabrio for a test drive — I had to make sure the Top wasn’t going to fly off at speed — and I commented to Said Neighbor, “Hey, I noticed you didn’t offer to come over and help me with the Top today.”

To which he replied, “I’ve had a headache all day, and it looked like you knew what you were doing.”

“My goal is to be semi-professional,” I shouted, and I roared off down the street. 

Actually, Daughter’s car never roars; it putt-putts. 

After a successful test drive (nothing bad happened), I pulled up to the house and began to button everything up for the night. 

Don’t be fooled — the Cabrio still needs a major, thorough cleaning, top to bottom, and I’ve got to figure out why the “Check Engine” light is now illuminated and, of course, the speedometer and tachometer have stopped working again. 

Plus, there’s the matter of making final adjustments to the Top — the last 5%, as it were. 

By my reckoning I’ve got at least another weekend of work ahead of me to conquer all the remaining tasks and to address whatever new ones pop up during the course of knocking out the old ones. 

But it’s good therapy, after all. 

So for me, success is a new used Top on Daughter’s VW that fits pretty darn well and no longer has any gaping holes around the rear window.  Yes, in a pathetic attempt to stave off the inevitable replacement hassle, I was one of those guys who used packing tape to try to patch up the Top in a forlorn quest to keep the elements from entering the cabin. 

The tape lasted about two days before completely delaminating. 

And just to reassure you that this new used Top was meant to be exactly for Daughter’s car, as I was cleaning off the rear window, I noticed not just one, but two very faded decals in the corner of the glass.

You guessed it.  They were cats. 

Hope does, indeed, spring eternal, and tomorrow is, indeed, another day. 

Daughter, I want my truck back!

- Dad

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Attack of the Killer Cabrio – Part I


“Yeah, I think I can fix that.”

Let’s face it.  I’m cheap.  Really cheap, but not as cheap as I used to be.  After all, the women in this household have gotten me hooked on a variation of the foo-foo coffee they seem to consume in ever-increasing quantities.  I’m sure there was some cunning master plan involved there, but maybe not.  To be honest, I can’t even understand what they order most of the time (double-pump soy what?), so I just let it go. 

Just let it go.  However, I digress.

Anyway, since I mentioned being frugal, when it comes to Do-It-Yourself projects around the house, I usually step up to the plate if I have any time at all to spare.

I look at it as therapy.  And saving money, of course. 

But I’ve also been known to get in over my head with a few of these deals over the years.  The kitchen remodel comes to mind.  The head gasket replacement on the old pick up –things of that sort.  It’s not that I don’t have the intellectual ability to complete the projects; it’s either the real-world know how or the particular tools necessary that I usually lack. 

While Zen-me’s War Cry is “No Professionals!”, I’ve learned enough over the years to apply what I euphemistically call “The Rule of My Father” to any potential project I contemplate tackling.  That particular benchmark was developed as I was growing up, and it roughly equates into whatever time span I think is going to be required for project completion, I simply multiply by three to achieve an estimate much closer to reality. 

By now you’ve probably guessed it came from my Dad and his inability (planned or otherwise) to provide a best guess for knocking things out around the house. 

“Go ahead and clean the garage, son.  It’ll take about an hour,” (I knew that meant three minimum, and so on).

Well, I’ve made mention previously of Daughter’s prime time ride — a VW Cabrio, which she has orphaned this semester since she kidnapped my truck and brought it to school instead.  To be fair, I wouldn’t allow her to take the convertible cross county because:  a)  I didn’t think it would make it out of California, and b)  See a). 

The convertible top on her car, no doubt, helped give rise to the phrase “rag top,” because it is, indeed, very raggy.  Very raggy, and holey, and ripped. 

Rather than spending seven hundred bucks for someone to replace it, I bought a decent used one a few months ago for one-third the price, and I’m now just getting around to trying, yes, trying to install it. 

Today was the day — at least part of the day.  To prepare myself mentally, I watched some show on the Discovery Channel last night about excavating tombs around the final resting place of King Tut.  When the Dog Archaeologists finally opened the main sarcophagus, it did not contain a mummy.  Rather, it held a cornucopia of trinkets, jewelry, and eleven herbs and spices.  Far from being disappointed, the Diggers were overjoyed, because it provided important historical context for the entire complex. 

Removing the top off of Daughter’s car today was something like that.  Applying the aforementioned RoMF, I figured this job was going to take two, multiplied by three, so six hours. 

I’ll know more in 24 hours, but I think that estimate is fairly accurate.  I’m about half-way done today. 

I jumped into the thing head first, and as I peeled back layers of carpet and unhooked seats and panels, various objects of wonder came to light.  In no particular order, I found a complete set of blue earrings, a remote control for a solar system mobile, eleven cents, three pens, two bags of clothes in the trunk that were supposed to be given away several months ago, one pencil, one Nintendo DS2 stylus, a cassette tape iPod adapter, one pair of sandals, and one pair of shoes. 

Sure, the objects provide a somewhat sad commentary on Daughter’s transportation life, but the main lesson I took away is the entire automobile exuded a slightly musty, filmy vibe.  Maybe not as bad as Hoarders, but getting there, I think. 

After much wrangling and gnashing of teeth, I did finally manage to remove what was left of the old convertible top.  And because I had a few hours of sunlight left, I launched Plan C, which was to get a head start on tomorrow’s work by at least nominally installing the frame for the new (used) top.

At this point, my Significant Other wandered by, looked and the expanse of tools and bits and pieces scattered about and commented, “Don’t you need a book or something for help?  Do you know what you’re doing?  Wouldn’t you rather pay someone to do that?”

Great encouragement around here, I tell you.

My reply was simple:  “The book is on my shoulders.”

However, that doesn’t take into account the 2,359 nuts, bolts, and fasteners that are now strewn around the driveway and car. 

I think I remember where most of them go.  Maybe not.  But time will tell.  Stay tuned. 

After all, tomorrow is another day. 

- Dad

VW Convertibles and Three-Legged Dogs

I am a creature of habit.  I wake up at the same time most days, eat exactly the same breakfast, and head off to work usually within the same 10-minute window most mornings.  It sounds boring, but it’s three fewer things I have to think about in the midst of my daily challenges.

I commute in my non-descript, beater Miata, and my route never varies.  Evidently a few other folks maintain similar schedules, because in the midst of the thousands of lemmings driving to work, I frequently recognize the same two or three cars (and drivers) every couple of weeks or so.  My all-time favorite is an older woman (older relative to me, that is) who sits pressed close to the steering wheel of a faded red, mid-60’s VW Beetle convertible.  On nice days she motors along with the top down, wearing a bandana, with her dog (a smaller mongrel of indeterminate age) proudly perched beside her, propped up evenly between the front and back seats.  I always imagine they are heading over to Dog Beach for an early morning run (dog) and coffee (human).  Were it me, that’s what I would be doing.  Anyway, it’s quite a sight.

A few months ago I borrowed my daughter’s VW Cabrio convertible for my morning drive.  It was a beautiful, sunny day, and I lowered the top before embarking on my journey.  Let me add that, if you’re a guy, you have to be pretty secure in your manhood if you are going to drive a Cabrio — but that’s another story. . . .

As luck would have it, that particular morning I spotted ahead of me my favorite red VW convertible motoring along at about 50 mph.  I could see her dog standing up in the airflow, clearly enjoying the ride in that particularly doggy sort of way.  Though it was a stretch, I felt a strange kinship to them both — I had my top down, too, wished I were heading to Dog Beach myself (instead of work),  plus, I was driving a 90’s version of that VW classic.  As I passed them on the left, I tooted the horn and gave them a quick thumbs up.  I was met with total indifference by the dog, and a curious stare from the woman.  I am relatively certain she didn’t get the connection.

Fast forward to this past weekend.  We spent a few hours on Saturday at Dog Beach, with our own pooch.  Our dog (whose dandyish photo is sadly prominent in some of my daughter’s posts) happily ran himself to exhaustion during our visit.  However, the defining moment of the day was when I passed an older gentleman (older relative to me, that is) who was flanked by his small, three-legged dog.  I turned around to my wife and simply pointed out his companion to her by saying, “He’s a three-legged dog.” I knew she would be interested, because we almost adopted a three-legged chihuahua five years ago, except that he ended up continually biting our then six-year-old during the meet-and-greet.  Instead, we went 180 degrees and brought home a stunning (or dandyish) White German Shepherd.  He has since become the love of my wife’s life (or she, his), but that’s another story. . . .

So, I kept on walking down the beach, and when I looked back I noted my wife engaged in a conversation with the owner of the three-legged dog.  The talk went on for quite a few minutes, but I couldn’t really tell what was happening.  When my wife eventually caught up with me, it turns out the owner thought I was somehow making fun of his dog by pointing out it had three legs, so she told him the story of our own near-adoption to set the record straight.  Point of fact, I think it’s great he adopted that dog, and my wife thought he had a bit of a chip on his shoulder, as well.  So, the best part of the story, at least from my wife’s perspective, is that during their chat he referred to me as her father.  Not that it happens all that frequently with us, but that reference certainly made her day, since we are both of a “certain age.” However, I guess my age is more “certain” than hers.

Me?  I don’t really care that much.  The way I see it, I have a happy dog, happy wife, and happy daughter with a VW convertible — all in the same family.

I guess in the end, knowing that made my day.

- Dad

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