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A 1968 Camaro R/S – The Car that Got Away

I bought my 1968 Camaro Rally Sport from a used car lot in Thousands Oaks California. It was light blue inside and out. It had a four speed manual transmission and bucket seats. The body looked pretty good, although I would find out later that it had some bodywork done on the passenger door and truck lid.

I bought the Camaro in my senior year of high school or soon after graduating. I can’t remember exactly when. During my high school years I worked in a gas station. It was good for me because I learned how to work on cars. 

My First and Second Cars

I was driving a 1954 Ford truck. It had lots of problems so it wasn’t long before I realized a replacement was in order. You can listen to that story here. I bought a Red1964 Corvair Monza that was in good shape. Just needed tires and new carpet.

The Corvair was fun and very reliable. I bought new tires. They were called Tiger Paws if I remember correctly. They were wide and had a red stripe on the sidewall. I bought some small Chevrolet hubcaps and repainted the rims black. Like I said it was fun but I wanted something more.

Moving up to a Camaro

The Camaro had stock wheels with ugly hubcaps. A common look for sporty cars in that time was to have split rims. They were modified to be wider than the originals. You would take the tires off the wheels and send them to a machine shop. 

They would put the wheels on a lathe and cut them, or split them into two pieces. Then they would bend a piece of metal that is two, three, or four inches wide and weld it into the wheel. I think mine were two or three inches wider than stock. I only did the two rear wheels because that was the look I wanted.

When you mounted the tires on the wheels it spread them out. With wide tires on the back and stock on the front it look sweet! The car didn’t need much more work other than a good wash and wax. But after driving it a while I noticed it would jerk slightly or shudder when I let out the clutch.

General Motors Motor Mount Breakage Causes Clutch Shudder

I started a process of trying to figure out what was causing the shudder. That problem turned into the most difficult mechanical issues to resolve of all my vehicles. It resulted in me pulling out the transmission probably six times. 

I replaced two clutches, a new flywheel, and a transmission overhaul to replace the throw-out bearing sleeve on the front of the transmission. Checked the clutch linkage. Lubed everything relating to the clutch. I just couldn’t find the problem.

The owner of the gas station I worked at was a master mechanic. We worked together on it but couldn’t figure it out. I talked to other mechanics but no one could help. One day I was talking to a guy about the problem. He mentioned that Chevrolet cars in that era had problems with engine motor mounts breaking. 

If the motor mounts were broken and the driver accelerated hard the engine would lift up. That would bind the throttle linkage and cause the throttle to stick in that position. You can imagine the problem with having the throttle to stick in a heavy acceleration position. The car would continue at that speed even after the driver took their foot off the gas pedal.

Rather than replacing motor mounts on hundreds of thousands of cars GM decided to put cable straps from the car frame around the exhaust manifold and back. The purpose was to hold the engine in place during a hard acceleration.

After talking with that guy I had hope of coming up with a solution. When I got to work that night I had my boss watch the engine when I let the clutch out with the park brake on. The engine lifted up and the car shuddered! The broken mounts could have not only bound the throttle linkage but they also could affect the clutch linkage. That was the cause of the clutch shudder. I replaced the engine mounts and the problem was fixed.

After all the problems and working on the car so much I got burnt out and thought I would make a change. During that time small pickups had become popular. One day I made an emotional decision and decided to buy a new Ford Courier pickup.

What a mistake! The truck was cute and had some features that were nice. I bought a camper shell and padded carpet for the back. Not sure why. The sales guy probably just sold me on it.

So yes, that Camaro is the car I wish I had never sold. It was fun, easy to drive and looked great. You can see a photo of the car on one of the other stories on the Auto Owner Story page about my sister Gayle’s car story.

As I sit here telling this story it’s amazing to me how clear my memories are about this time in my life. I had some emotional times as I progressed through high school and college. I’m sure many of you had similar life issues as you learned and matured.

Personally I wish I still had that car and frankly even the old Ford truck and the Corvair. I have many memories of my cars and years working in the automotive service industry. 

After college I worked as an auto mechanic at a British car dealership. I drove and worked on Jaguars, Lotus, MG’s and Triump TR6 sports cars. It was hard work but I made good money for a first job. The sports cars were fun to drive. I liked the TR6 cars the most. One of the most comfortable and quiet cars I’ve ever driven is a Jaguar  XJS 4 door sedan. They were a great road car.

I hope you enjoyed this story. I’m sure many of you have stories like this of cars or trucks you wish you still had. We would love to hear your story!

Please share this with your friends or family. Help us spread the word about the Auto Owner Story podcast so we can get some more fun car stories.

If you’re open to sharing a story please go to the Auto Owner Story website and click on the Schedule a Call link in the menu at the far right.

We can talk on the phone, connect via email to set up a time to do a trial recording or just record your story.

Additional Resources:

Gayle’s First Cars Story

My First Vehicle 1954 Ford Truck

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Stories

My 2003 Buick LeSabre with 343,452 miles

In this episode of the Auto Owner Story podcast I’m going to share about a work vehicle I bought. I used it to travel the roads of southern Idaho and eastern Oregon. I was working as a sales representative for an automotive diagnostic equipment manufacture. I also sold point of sale and repair manual software to auto repair shops.

I bought the 2003 Buick LeSabre used with 18,000 miles. It has been one of the most reliable cars I’ve ever owned. It’s like that TV commercial from years ago for the Timex watch. It just keeps on ticking! It’s got 343,452 miles and every time someone goes out to use it starts and runs with virtually no problems.

It’s been semi-retired for years so it sits a lot but when needed it’s ready to go.

My family has used the Buick as a back up vehicle for situations when someone needs transportation while their car is being worked on. My wife likes to use it for short runs in town rather than taking the truck.

The car is a white four door with cloth interior. It has A/C, cruise control, electric windows and locks. It’s a Custom model car but fully loaded. The engine is the famous 3.8L 3800. I believe it’s the best engine GM has ever made. The engine has a lot of miles but it’s as reliable as it can be.

There are slight engine oil leaks but it never needs to have oil added between oil changes. I have replaced some gaskets for oil leaks over the years but the car is 17 years old so that is expected.

A comfortable car for long road trips

I was a sales representative for 15 years. Southern Idaho and eastern Oregon are located in the northwest part of the U.S. The area is sparsely populated. Both states have a lot of farms, agriculture and open rangeland. 

Living in Boise Idaho I was centrally located in my territory. Travel times to the far edges of my area were five hours in each direction.

I was successful in my position but to do that it required a lot of windshield time, meaning I was always driving to my next sale.

I chose the LeSabre because it has a long wheelbase compared to many front wheel drive cars. That makes them a very stable and comfortable road car. Something needed when you are driving eight to ten hours a day on the road. The other thing I liked about this car is the abundance of legroom for my 6’ 2” body. There was plenty of room to spread out and move around while driving.

Having been a mechanic and technician for many years I knew the value of maintenance. Oil changes, transmission flushes, coolant services were always done as needed. Even with maintenance the car still needed repair work at times like water pumps, transmission repairs, axle bearings, etc.

The body has been great. Doors and windows all work well. The paint looks good. 

The brake pulsation problem that wouldn’t go away

One of the common problems I had was disc brake rotor warping. It caused that pulsation you get when you apply the brakes. I would have a repair shop turn the front rotors and install new brake pads to fix the problem. The next time it needed fixed I’d just replace the rotors and pads.

I started having an intermittent pulsation problem that varied by the type of road surface. It confused me, and two of my shops, for several years. They turned rotors, replaced rotors and checked everything they could think of on the brakes. They couldn’t fix it. One day I was at one of the shops getting an oil change and a new mechanic checked my front end. He found a loose ball joint. We discussed it and determined it could be the cause of my brake problem.

I wanted to get a second opinion from a suspension mechanic so I had a tire store look at it. That turned into a fiasco because the young mechanic who check it said the ball joint was good but that it had a bad steering tie rod end. So I went across the street to another tire store to have them check it. They said the tie rod was okay but the ball joint was bad.

Those are the type of things that happen in the auto repair industry. All service industries have those types of problems. They’re the result of lack of training and education. It’s common in small businesses because it’s hard to spend the time training front line employees. That is not an excuse though. There is a lot of room for improvement.

So I went back to the first tire store and talked to the manager. I wasn’t upset, I just wanted an accurate diagnosis so it could get fixed.

The lead mechanic raised the car. Determined the ball joint was bad and brought me out to the shop to show me the joint. It was bad. They replaced both lower ball joints and aligned the car. The brake pulsation was finally fixed! 

Conclusion:

So my high mileage Buick just keeps on going.

I just keep doing a little maintenance to the car. I pay the minimal car insurance bill. When my wife or family member needs it, it’s ready to go.

I wanted to tell this story because it’s an example of the type of car stories I’m looking for on the Auto Owner Story podcast. If you have a story about a car you had or have now that is interesting or funny we would like to hear it

Maybe you have had an experience with a shop where they went above and beyond the norm that you could share with us. 

I do have another podcast and website called Auto Shop Connection. I would like to get auto repair shop stories for that podcast. If you are interested in sharing go to Auto Shop Connection and click the Schedule a Recording link.

Sharing positive automotive stories are good for all of us to hear. Most of us are aware of the negative experiences many have had getting their car fixed. We’re not looking for those.

For many of us a first car experience can turn into a great story. Many people name their vehicles. The name may come from its appearance or some other situation that brings out a unique name. We would love to hear your first car story.

If you like these car stories please share them with a friend or family member.

If you’re willing to share you can contact me to schedule an initial informational call or to record your story.

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Kevin’s Story about his First Car a 1960 Hilman Husky AOS004

In this episode of the Auto Owner Story podcast Kevin Hughes tells the story of purchasing his first car from his grandfather. It was a 1960 Hilman Husky, that he transformed into a surfer’s car with a musical twist for transportation to the beach and back. He tells about getting the car running and then dressing it out with a stereo and paneling.

About Kevin

  • Has lived in Boise since 1978
  • Grew up in the city of Ventura in Southern California
  • Kevin married Gayle Eastman in 1974
  • Kevin has one daughter and 5 grand children
  • Hobbies are wood working and Plein Air painting, which is painting in the open air or outside
  • Kevin’s career was spent working with Civil Engineers as a draftsman using CAD computer drafting software

About Kevin’s Family

I was the third child of eight kids. And so I had an older sister, an older brother and my younger brother Tim. I had three younger sisters. And the youngest child was my brother Jack. We had a lot of fun times together. Of course, in the 60s life was pretty simple. W didn’t have all of the electronics that kids have today. So we would just do a lot of things like going to the beach, play football or softball out in the street, and do all those kinds of things to entertain ourselves. We rode our bicycles everywhere.

Kevin’s Story

My first vehicle has a lot of memories and it’s fun to talk about the events that surrounded getting the car and learning about fixing and caring for it.

I was 17 years old when I got my first car. It was actually after I graduated from high school. My parents didn’t want me to have a car in high school, so after high school I found out my grandfather, who had passed away just recently, had a car he’d used to drive back and forth to work. That car was a 1960 Hilman Husky.

A lot of people have never even heard of it. Hilman was a brand name for cars made in England. The Husky was a car that had a tiny little four-cylinder engine with a stick shift. It was a little station wagon that only had two doors. The back had a door, which they call an ambulance type of door because it swings across from left to right instead of lifting up like a hatch.

I’d found out that my grandfather was selling it for $75 bucks. And so my dad and I went there in his pickup truck. When we got there, I found out it wasn’t running.

I said I would pay $75 for the car but my dad volunteered for me to pay a hundred. He negotiated me up instead of down. We connected a chain and towed the car 30 miles from Santa Barbara to Ventura.

The year was 1966 so the car was about six years old and I don’t think I’ve mentioned that the car had low mileage so it was in nice condition. It only had like 28,000 miles on it.

The car wasn’t much bigger than a Volkswagen bug. In England most of their cars had radiators and inline four cylinder engines that had very little horsepower. You had to take a run at hills because they had so little power.

It was really an important car to me because at that time I was into surfing. So I really liked the idea of this car because it was perfect for putting the surfboard on top or even a smaller surfboard on the inside.

Over a two-week period, I started to figure out how to work on cars and how to fix things and identify the problem areas. I asked a bunch of questions of friends and neighbors and different people to try to get the car running.

I finally got it running to after a lot of help from the neighbors.  I installed a new battery. And then a quirky thing happened as I realized that my grandfather had put four different size tires on the car. So I had to replace all the tires. While the tires were off I checked all the brakes and they were good.

I got to the point where I wanted to fix it up and make it really fun to take to the beach. One of the earliest things I did after cleaning it was put a 4 and 8 track stereo in the car. I installed the player and installed six speakers. And the reason I put in six was because I didn’t want four. Four wasn’t enough.

Then I paneled the inside of the car after installing the speakers. I did some other cosmetic things on the inside. Then I cleaned it up. I wanted to have a small mattress behind the back seat. So when I fold the middle seat flat, it would have created a flat area. So I wanted a small full mattress in there. I went down and got some foam rubber and cut it to fit the back. My older sister, Coleen, was good at sewing. She made all her own clothes and prom dresses. And so she said she would make me a cover for it. So she made me a cloth cover to slide over the mattress.

My brother Tim and I worked on the car together. We would go out there every day and crawl underneath it. We put it up on jacks and at first we couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t run. We kept going to our neighbor who was two doors down. He was a born mechanic. His name was Swede Larson. He was Swedish and he worked for the navy. Any question you ever asked him, he always had an answer and he had all the tools too. So we would go down and say, well my car is doing this or my car is doing that and what do you think it is? And he would say, Oh wow, that’s probably this or it’s probably that. And so then he would say to fix that you need to do this thing. So we would do that next thing.

And finally one night, I think it was late like 11 o’clock at night, I was out in the driveway with my brother and we kept trying things and finally we got it started and the car roared to life. But there was a problem. The muffler had a big rusted hole in it so it roared like a V8 but it was this tiny four-cylinder engine. So we were pretty excited about it. We drove it around the block even though it was roaring with the loud muffler. And we thought we were pretty cool at that time for getting it started after two weeks of time working on it.

We had to fix the hydraulic clutch so we learned how to bleed the lines to get the air out. Once we got all that done, then it was just cleaning it up and making it look good and getting it ready to go to the beach.

I had to get some surfer racks that bolt to the rain gutter on the top of the car. At that time my first surfboard, which I think I still had at that time was 10 foot, two inches. I used rubber straps to hold it on, and then I was able to go to the beach.

So I would take the car and turn on the 4 and 8 eight track player with my six speakers and play a little rock and roll, a little beach boys music to go to the beach, surf for a couple hours, and then load everything up and come back playing music.

I would drive the car to the beach a couple times a week at least to go surfing. I have so many memories of how important that car was, how fun it was and how practical it was for going to the beach and getting around.

Most of the time I was by myself just because everybody was so busy. But sometimes I’d take my younger brother Tim who is two years younger than me.  He was into surfing also. We’d put our two boards on the top and drive to the beach playing our music.

Dave asked Kevin what his next car was after the Hilman.

Kevin said my next car, which is pretty exciting, was a 1969 Opal Cadet Rally. Buick sold them and my brother’s friend’s dad was the sales manager at a Buick dealership. I went down there and he was showing me all these cars and I really liked them. They had a four-cylinder engine with 102 horsepower. Well that was pretty much unheard of in those days in 1968. He told me that I could buy this car brand new for $2,433. And so I thought, okay, I could probably afford that because at that time I was working for Raytheon. They made aerospace parts for the navy and I had enough money that I could pretty easily make a car payment.

So I ended up buying the Opal Cadet Rally. The Rally was an upgraded model. It was a metallic gold color. It had black stripes on the side and the hood was partially blacked out. Compared to the Hillman, it was amazing. It had twice as much horsepower, I think, as the Hilman.

I set it up with surf racks on the top and put a stereo in it also so I could play all my music and set it up similar to the Hilman. It had black interior bucket seats. It was quite the little car. It was really fun. It was fast and got good mileage for a car in that time.

 

 

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Stories

My First Vehicle was a 1954 Ford Truck AOS003

An Automotive First Vehicle Podcast Story

In this episode I share the story of my first vehicle, a 1954 Ford truck. It was mechanically worn and un-reliable with faded paint and doors that often wouldn’t latch properly. Though the transmission and brakes worked amazingly well while driving, I never knew if the engine would start. Once started, though, it ran like the “Little Truck That Could.”

I end my story reminiscing about my next two vehicles, a Corvair Monza and my favorite, the 1968 Camaro that I wish I still had.

Key Talking Points

  • First vehicle purchase price
  • A worn out 6 cylinder engine
  • Never new when it would start
  • Mom’s frequent trips to jump start the truck
  • Driver door pops open
  • Quick discussion about my next two vehicles

 

This article was originally posted on the Auto Shop Connection website. Later I decided to create this site to share automotive stories. So the podcast episode is here but if you want to read the full story go to the article here.

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Stories

Gayle Reminisces About Her First Cars – AOS002


On this Auto Owner Story Podcast episode, Dave interviews his sister, Gayle Hughes and asks her to share some of her early memories about the cars she drove and her driving experiences.

Gayle tells about getting her license when she was 17 and driving her brother’s ’68 Camaro Rally Sport to school and on errands while he was overseas in Viet Nam. She remembers struggling to become proficient driving the stick shift, lurching through different speed zones while trying to figure out what gear to drive in.