Racing in the Rain: or how I stopped worrying and learned to love the spin, part 1

Posted in Uncategorized on May 1, 2015 by ladyvargas

A little over a year ago, my FCA friend (and buddy from the Mezzi) Bert ranted and raved about a driving school he attended through RMVR. “You sooo have to do it!!! I learned so much! You’d love it!!”

My response: “Why didn’t you tell me sooner your sorry son of a–”

So I made Bert promise to let me know when the next school was, intending on taking the Cheese and burning some hot laps. And also to try and overcome the damn understeer that occurs when you have a monster motor in the nose.

Fast forward to the very beginning of February this year. I am just toodling along, and Bert sends me the email…

It’s time.

Well then, let the racing begin! I surfed my way over to the RMVR sign up site, and upon reading all the info determined that I needed at least a 3-point belt and a roll bar for the Cheese. Crap. Ok, make some phone calls, bug Tom at Aspen…no roll bar around. Because I was a bit concerned about my job status at work, I really didn’t want to spend goo-gobs of cash prepping the Cheese for a 2-day affair, only to take the stuff out and have to store it the other 363 days of the year. So I contacted the head of the racing school to see what the options were, if they were hard pressed on the roll bar thing, and if so does an X 1/9 need any modifications for the school?

Joe Bunton, organizer of the school, contacted me and was super excited that a Fiat would be coming. However, it definitely had to be one of the X’s, no way the Cheese could partake without the extra safety goodies due to insurance reasons.


An X it is then. After talking with Tom about which X might be the better choice, we decided that the Xpresso was probably the most likely to not get heavily scrutinized during tech, and also already had tires that should work. The red X (also just known as “The X”) had been hit REALLY HARD before I got it, and while the repairs were sound, they weren’t all that pretty. Tom’s concern was even though the car is in excellent driving condition, the repairs made to the nose might cause undue alarm and tech might garage it. While I would have preferred to take the X with the less-nice body in case of an unplanned merging with the banking wall, I wasn’t too heartbroken to take the Xpresso and show it off.

Having the “which car am I taking” decision made, I sent in my paperwork and payment of $300 for the weekend. For reference, just to get track time by itself for 1 day is close to $300, so to get pretty much the track time at 1/2 off, instruction, classes, and food? Yeah, sweet deal. I also booked a place to stay through AirBNB, which if you haven’t ever used it for travel, look it up!!! It’s the only way to stay if you like 25 year old scotch and are on a PBR budget. Just check out the slideshow below….I rented this entire house for $95/night, and was 15 minutes from the track.

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Now comes the middle of March, which brings all sorts of fun surprises since it includes my birthday (YAY!) and getting laid off from my job (BOO!). I am still a month out from racing weekend at this point, so I wrestle with myself on whether I should be so decadent to go ahead with the trip despite having no income, or if I should cancel. Obviously I decided to go, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article, right? It actually was resolved something more like this:

F**K IT. I’m going racing.

The closer racing day came, the more I was somewhat panicked. Since I had already paid for everything, cost really wasn’t a concern, but there were all those stupid little things going through my head like:

What if you eat the wall? What if you break something? What if you get there and the other racers are pompous assholes? What if your instructor thinks girls belong in the kitchen and not on the racetrack? What if the Xpresso chokes?

Having encountered many occurrences of snootyness directed both at Fiats and being a car chick, my biggest concern was not getting the most out of the weekend due to marque bigotry. After thinking about all of these things for a week or so, I came to the following conclusion:

F**K IT. I’m going racing.

Finally racing day was just 24 hours away, and I got up that morning to very sloppy weather and a VERY ill kitty cat. Now severely panicked and on my way to the wonderful emergency staff at CSU, I really wasn’t sure if I could go on the trip. If Vega was extremely ill and needing constant care, I would be forced to not go, and potentially lose a large portion of the money already put down. Fortunately, the amazing vets at CSU were able to correctly diagnose and fix Vega, and Steph volunteered to keep a close eye on her while I was gone in case of a relapse. Though I would be racing, Vega would be at the back of my mind the entire weekend.

This wasn't my idea of fun either, mom.

This wasn’t my idea of fun either, mom.

Friday (tech day) finally arrives, and though I am tired and stressed form Vega being ill, she has improved dramatically and I feel better about leaving her for a couple of days. I had sense enough to prep the car earlier in the week, so a quick shakedown of the car, removal of all unnecessary things such as hub caps and junk in the trunk, and a packed overnight bag and I was ready. My plan was to go down the day before actual racing to get the tech done on my car, so if there was a problem I had at least a slim chance of fixing it, and also so I could wake up in the morning with just a short drive to the track, hopefully rested and ready. Traffic was light, and I made good time to my “rad pad” to dump the majority of my stuff. I then bolted for the track, unsure how tech worked, who would be there, and what I was in store for.

Tech time!

Tech time!

I really didn’t need to worry too mech about tech. Jeff the tech guy just gave a quick look over to make sure I wasn’t spewing fluids or parts out of the motor, checked that the ball joints weren’t falling out of the car, gave me some stickers that said my car and helmet passed inspection and we were done. Whew! While checking in for tech, several of the instructors came up an introduced themselves, so many in fact that I lost count of names and also lost track of Hank, who was assigned as my instructor. One instructor named Roger made sure to come and say hi, and we had a nice visit about the awesomeness of X 1/9’s. His was a little warmer than mine. Sadly I was so busy the rest of the weekend I never got back to play with this amazing X.

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Just before the Xpresso got teched, this BIG guy named Randy came up and introduced himself. He was in full racing gear, carrying his gloves and a huge happy grin.

Randy: “You wanna go for a ride?”

Me: “Sure. Which one’s yours?”

Randy: “The silver Mustang.”

Me: “OOOHHHH. Did you see me standing in my puddle of drool?”

Randy: Snickering “No, you just looked like a gal who appreciates horsepower. Get your helmet.”

Me: “Yes sir. I’m right behind you!”

Randy has a really nice Mustang. REALLY nice. 709 bhp of nice. Make you have permagrin for days nice. Proof you can buy happiness nice.


This pretty much sums it up.

To say we went on a “spirited drive” would kinda be like saying the Millennium Falcon uses just a bit of boost. But why tell you when I can show you. Click HERE to watch the short video. (Sorry about it being sideways, my phone was weird)

Afterward I got to help park the car. You can tell I am totally bored with the whole thing. NOT.


While walking past the registration desk carrying my helmet, Dee (who is Randy’s wife) asks “So, did you get carsick?”

Me: “Yeah, only because I know I won’t get to do that again anytime soon!”

Dee: “Oh, you’re one of them. Definitely addicted.”

So my Friday evening at the track was AMAZING. Everyone was super nice, very welcoming, and very supportive of me and the Xpresso. Everyone had Fiat stories, most of them good, a few about rust, but none of them bashing the awesomeness of Fiats. I can’t tell you how refreshing that is. And it was GENUINE. The RMVR folks are true racers, it doesn’t matter how much horsepower it has or how many doors (2, 3 or 4, there were SUV’s there!), if you enjoy driving it and want to play with it, they are there to help.

That night I caught up with an old dear friend and traded silly stories, and I went home too psyched to sleep. Despite drugs, sleeping wasn’t really ever achieved, and 6 o’clock lift off was rough.

Join me for part two of the RMVR racing school coming up next!


Filler Neck Hoses on a 1972 Fiat Coupe

Posted in Uncategorized on June 11, 2010 by ladyvargas

Filler neck hose differences on Fiats...

Attached is a picture of the only hose I list for a 1971 coupe (right)–and a smaller right angle hose. When I did mine–a 1972 coupe–the listed one (right) was incorrect and kinked where it bent to go over to the tank.  The one on mine was like the smaller of the two in the picture, only it had a 3 inch longer upper limb.

To fix mine,  I cut the top 3 inches off the smaller hose, and added a cut portion of another filler neck pipe.  I clamped the cut piece to the filler neck in the car.  Then clamped in the 4 inch extension pipe.  From there, I clamped the remaining L shaped piece to the extension.  Effectively extending the upper portion of the hose by 3 inches.  Fit great, works fine.
The shorter L shaped hose is for a 124 spider, so the replacement at a later time is readily available.
I know sounds a bit rube gold-berg—but works well, and is hidden under the plastic cover that fits over the filler neck area anyway.   I can come up with a cut bit of pipe to do the conversion, if you wish.  Or sell you the larger hose if you think you can make it work.
–Courtesy of Tom at Aspen Import Auto,


Posted in Uncategorized on May 18, 2010 by ladyvargas

I received this as an email from some good friends about 6 years ago, and it still makes me laugh. I thought you may laugh, too (unless you are one of these owners!) so enjoy, and don’t take life too seriously!

If you like this list, be sure to pick up You Are What You Drive, available at

Acura Integra: I have always wanted to own the Buick of sports cars
Acura Legend: I’m too bland for German cars
Acura NSX: I am impotent
Audi 90: I enjoy putting out engine fires
Buick Park Avenue: I am older than 34 of the 50 states
Cadillac Eldorado: I am a pimp
Chevrolet Camaro: I enjoy beating the hell out of people
Chevrolet Chevette: I like people’s reactions when I tell the I have a “Vette
Chevrolet Corvette: I am in a mid-life crisis
Chevrolet El Camino: I am leading a militia to overthrow the government
Chrysler Cordoba: I dig the rich Corinthian leather
Datsun 280Z: I have a kilo of cocaine in my wheel well
Dodge Dart: I teach third grade special education and I voted for Eisenhower
Dodge Daytona: I delivered pizza for four years to get this car
Ferrari Testarossa: I am known to prematurely ejaculate
Ford Fairmont: (See Dodge Dart)
Ford Mustang: I slow down to 85 in school zones (The editor slows down only because of the speed moguls, thank you!)
Ford Crown Victoria: I enjoy having people slow down to 55 mph and change lanes when I pull up behind them
Geo Storm: I will start the 11th grade in the fall
Geo Tracker: I will start the 12th grade in the fall
Honda del Sol: I have always said, half a convertible is better than no convertible at all
Honda Civic: I have just graduated and have no credit (what degree do you have Caroyn?)
Honda Accord: I lack any originality and am basically a lemming
Infiniti Q45: I am a physician with 17 malpractice suits pending
Isuzu Impulse: I do not give a damn about J.D. Powers or his reports
Jaguar XJ6: I am so rich I will pay 60K for a car that is in the shop 280 days per year (Is this true Vince?)
Kia Sephia: I learned nothing from the failure of the Daihatsu Corp.
Lamborghini Countach: I have only one testicle
Lincoln Town Car: I live for bingo and covered dish suppers
Mercury Grand Marquis: (See above)
Mercedes 500SL: I will beat you up if you ask me for an autograph
Mercedes 560SEL: I have a daughter named Bitsy and a son named Cole
Mazda Miata: I do not fear being decapitated by an eighteen-wheeler
MGB: I am dating a mechanic
Mitsubishi Diamante: I don’t know what it means either
Nissan 300SX: I have yet to complete my divorce proceedings
Nissan Sentra GLE: The JokeMaster talked me into it
Oldsmobile Cutlass: I just stole this car and I’m going to make a fortune off the parts
Peugeot 505 Diesel: I am on the EPA’s Ten Most Wanted List
Plymouth Neon: I sincerely enjoy doing the Macarena
Pontiac Trans Am: I have a switchblade in my sock
Porsche 911 Turbo: I have a three inch thingie
Porsche 944: I am dating big haired women that otherwise would be inaccessible to me
Rolls Royce Silver Shadow: I think Pat Buchanan is a tad bit too liberal
Saturn SC2: (See Honda Civic)
Subaru Legacy: I have always wanted a Japanese car even more inferior than the Isuzu
Toyota Camry: I am still in the closet
Volkswagon Beetle: I still watch Partridge Family reruns
Volkswagon Cabriolet: I am out of the closet
Volkswagon Microbus: I am tripping right now
Volvo 740 Wagon: I am frightened of my wife

X-asperation!!! Interior Upgrades and Speedo Cable Replacement in a Bertone X-1/9

Posted in Uncategorized on May 6, 2010 by ladyvargas

An X-pose by the Editor
Some of you will remember the “Dash is a Four Letter Word” article, and of recent, many may remember the “Topless” article…and you would think that I had learned my lesson when Tom at Aspen says “Hey, this would make a great article!” from those two experiences…HA! Clearly I have some kind of memory loss or deficiency that keeps leading me back to projects that just scream “BACK AWAY NOW!!”

When I acquired (adopted, really!) the latest member of the stable, a 1986 Bertone X-1/9, it really didn’t need a whole lot to be a WHOLE LOT of fun! In comparison to the Cheese (the ‘75 124 Spyder that has been the center of many an article) the “X” really was in great shape. All the parts (or most of the hard to find ones) were either in fine shape or easily brought to that level…quite a change from the endless hunts on ebay and calls to Aspen Imports for goodies for the Cheese. The few things that would be “nice” to have were an interior swap, and a Speedometer cable, neither of which seemed all that daunting.

There was the first mistake.

“In” X-S (Xtra Spare time required!)
I purchased a parts car from Aspen Imports on the recommendation of Tom, since the Bertone’s of later year’s tend to have some “idiosyncrasies” that make life difficult on occasion. The one I acquired is rusting out from under itself, but the interior really was stellar! Since the ‘Mezzi was approaching, (you all see this one coming, I’m sure!) I figured an interior retrograde (since I was going back to the original equipment of ‘86) was in order to really finish off the car.  It can’t possibly take more than a day, can it? Just swapping a seat or two and a couple of door panels? No sweat!!

My first goal was to take the seats out of the parts car and put them in my X, since that would be the biggest and most dramatic improvement, and would spark me to spend more time on the detail things to get the car just perfect! So, I get out my trusty 6mm allen wrench and proceed to attempt to remove the driver’s seat.

We don’t need no stinking directions!
After bashing the #%&%^ out of my knuckles a few times, and realizing that the bolts are SEVERELY rusted to the frame, I call Ginger for a few “helpful hints.” Supposedly, the seats just slide forward off the rails! Ok, cool!
So, I hop in, slide forward and…
No luck.
I try this about six or seven times, with my neighbors watching, thinking I am having some kind of epileptic fit, as I am cursing and swearing at the car, adding “i’s” and “ini’s” to the end of common swear words. (It makes them sound italian, hopefully to convince the car I am serious.) Nope. That doesn’t work.

Ok, get out the manual…

Manual says the seats slide off the front of the rails. So does the other manual. And the internet.
I decided at this point that this must be one of those “idiosyncrasies” that Tom mentioned. So, I get out the WD40 (all I had on hand at this point) and soak the snot out of the bolts, then put on some gloves, and proceed to spend almost two hours removing the bolts from the seat rails. Amazingly enough, I was able to get all but one out! Not too shabby!

Paneling – Not just for the 70’s
Now that I have severely burned up some daylight, and figure that I am pretty sick of cranking on allen bolts upside down, I decide to tackle the door panels. If something goes wrong with those, I can still drive the car, right? No seats=no fun.
While my current door panels were massively faded, they were flat and nice and came off quite easily. The “new” panels came off easily as well, but were fairly warped from water damage from sitting for years.

The trick to flattening warped panels is NOT to get the panels too wet when reshaping. I was VERY careful during this process, and was rather successful in getting the panels back to almost flat. I used a paper towel to apply water in specific areas to expand and bend the “masonite-like” material that is pretty much a glorified cardboard. Once it is reshaped, it is critical to get the panels on and tacked down with the clips so that it is forced to dry in the proper form. The only other way I could think of to make this work was to press the panel between two boards with weight on it, but since I didn’t have that technology, I opted for the “reattach” theory.

Since the panels were already off, before I started the reshaping, I cleaned and lubed the window motors. Here again is a GREAT example of “idiosyncrasies”. The book says there is a pulley system that the motor controls, as did Tom when he advised me on what to expect…yet when I open the panels, I have a rail and no pulleys! The motor moves the window up and down on a worm gear set-up that you really can’t see to well from the “open” side of the door. So, I used paper towels again, and cleaned as much of the “gook” off the gear as possible and off the track as well. I then applied a light lubricant that doesn’t harden or break down easily, so that I won’t have to do this again for a while. WD-40 is NOT for this! I then ran the window up and down a bunch of times to make sure the lube got everywhere and more, and it seemed to help, so that was done.

Back to the panels…between my old panels and the new ones, I had ALMOST enough clips to get the panels back on and stay there…I have an order in to Tom to get some more clips, I am hoping I can find some that are metal or stronger plastic. The ones that are pushing 20 years are REALLY brittle! Make sure you are really careful and work with plastic on a warm day, or you will end up where I was…counting and recounting to see if you have enough to reattach!

While the Cheese has a courtesy light in the center console, the X has one on either door panel. These are hard to come by and are often broken, fortunately, both of mine are in pretty good shape (a minor crack or two) and fully functional. I was smart enough to check and mark the wiring BEFORE I removed the lights, which came in handy later, but getting the wires out of the way of the panel and the motor takes a bit of skill during reinstallation.

At this point, it was now getting dark, and I was bushed! However, my windows worked much better, and the panels were a dramatic improvement!

Day Two – Not for the Faint of Heart!
So, a few weeks later, I went back to the seat dilemma. I decided to work my way into the job this time, and pulled the last bolt, then spent some time cleaning the upholstery. If you want a really nice cleaner that won’t screw up your fabric, Simple Green mixed 1/2 and 1/2 with water and a SOFT bristle brush do wonders! Spray on the mixture until the fabric is damp, then scrub with the brush. Once you get a “foam” that looks nasty on the fabric, blot with a paper towel. Repeat until the “foam” or paper towel look pretty clean, and let dry. Not too shabby! And it does a pretty good job on stink, too!
So, now that I have clean and REALLY nice looking seats, I pulled my faded seats out of the X, which were WAY more cooperative than the rusted out version.

Upon inspecting the rails from both sets of seats, the ones off the faded seats were much nicer, so I decided to swap rails.

Rust in Pieces
At this point is where the bolts started shearing off on the “new” seats. Crap. This was not how things were supposed to go. So, after some careful inspection of the upholstery, I decided the fabric was probably going to survive removal from the rusted seat cushion to mine, and resisted the urge to wonk my head into the side of the car from frustration.

First I pulled the seat back from the bottom cushion, which is held in place by three screws on one side, and a couple of allen bolts on the other. Again I had the “rusted screw snap off” problem, but since they snapped off the bottom cushion I wasn’t keeping anyway, it turned out alright. An impact driver came in really handy at this point, and I highly recommend that you have one in the tool box for many different chores. It loosens stubborn bolts by placing the “driver” on the screw, then whacking the driver with a hammer, causing a shift in the screw without stripping it. VERY cool.

Now that I had the bottoms of the seats off, I could start the “swap” process!

There are several metal “teeth” that bend over the backside of the seat cushion that keep the fabric in place. They bent and did not break, so I was rather pleased with that streak of luck. At this point, there is a piece of plastic that runs along the bottom of the seat in a u-shaped groove, and it is stitched to the edge of the fabric. The trick is that this piece of plastic folds over the lip under the seat as a sort of anchor, so you can pull the fabric back toward the “teeth” to get a snug fit. However, it tends to mold itself into the “stay put” position, and without careful coaxing, it also tries to break when pulled from the u-groove.

And, again, here is another one of those “idiosyncrasies”.

The fabric has long “tails” that attach to the springs on the underside of the cushion with things called “hog clamps” that are metal clasps. Since the fabric was so old, when I pulled the fabric off the cushion, it just tore off the hog clamps. Oops. Now when I put the fabric back, it wouldn’t be molded to the foam! Uh oh! Luckily, there was a lot of good fabric left on the “tails”, so I planned on figuring a way to fix this slight bummer.

Once the fabric was removed off of both seat bottoms, I reattached the plastic guide in the groove, then CAREFULLY pulled the fabric back onto the metal teeth on the other end. Do NOT use needle nose pliers for this, it will screw up the fabric. Once in place, I bent the teeth back down and BINGO! we have a nice seat!

Now to tend that “shaping problem”…I pulled the tails of the fabric back through the foam of the cushion, (the foam is sectioned off so this is not too hard) and had a helper hold the foam back while I used extra strong string and stitched the fabric to the springs on the bottom of the cushion. Good as new! And, MUCH stronger, since I was able to get farther down the fabric into the “good,” non-rotted parts!

I then reassembled the seat back onto the bottom cushion (note, don’t play with the seat release for the back during this part, it is quite a surprise when it springs back and smacks you!) and voila! New seat!

Now that the sun was setting again, I sped up the pace and got the new seats in, and, WOW! What a difference!
But it sure wasn’t a “weekend” project!

The editor would like to thank Ginger and Tom at Aspen Imports for their endless patience with questions and “tips” during the editor’s adventures!

X-asperation!!! Interior Upgrades and Speedo Cable Replacement in a Bertone X-1/9, Part Secundo

Posted in Uncategorized on May 6, 2010 by ladyvargas

An X-pose by the Editor

Part 2: Slow-dometer Cable Installation
One of the few things that was actually broken on the X when I adopted it was the speedometer cable. Naturally, this is not REALLY a necessity, especially if you drive in traffic a lot, where your speed is kind of dictated by the traffic anyway. However, on a long run out of town, not knowing how fast one is going can be rather pricey! I was fortunate enough to NOT have a pricey experience, but I figured I really needed to take the risk out of that, and fix the cable.

Tom had told me endless stories of the nastiness of replacing the speedo cable on an X, especially a Bertone with A/C in it, due to the tight quarters and long winding routes that the cable takes. One of the most crucial parts of replacing a speedo cable is to make sure that the cable is properly lubed, and that it is NOT kinked at any point during the installation, which will break the cable.

I suppose that information should have come to mind when I asked Tom if he thought it would take less than two hours to install, and he laughed like a hyena.

Well, I took that laugh as a challenge, and decided that I would attempt the dreaded speedo replacement by my own hands. I did, however, manage to convince Tom to loan me a hoist while he was in working over a weekend, provided I wrote this article from the experience! A hoist is a MUST for this project, I really can’t imagine trying to accomplish this task with jackstands, though I am sure it could be done with enough tenacity! But you’d have to get all four wheels off the ground at the same time, for routing, which I will explain in a bit.

Let the brain surgery begin!
After putting the car up on the hoist, I unhooked the cable from the transmission side first. The cable attaches on the top rear of the transmission, toward the back of the car. When you are unhooking the cable, note that the nut should be about finger tight or so, and that is plenty. Also note to keep your mouth closed while undoing the cable, as dirt likes to jump off the tranny while you are looking up! YUCK!!

The cable then makes a sweeping arc up toward the engine, and toward the front of the car. There is a clip at the top of this arc to unhook the cable from. The cable then threads through a metal holder, with a rubber seal in it, to protect the cable from rubbing the metal. There are MANY of these metal holder/seal combinations, and this one is the easiest to work with. The seal is removed and the cable easily fits through the hole.

Once free from the tranny compartment, the cable follows the cooling lines or A/C hose along the underside of the car to just before the firewall. It then goes into another of the hole/seal combos, and into the cockpit. The cable comes out under the carpet just to the lower right of the accelerator pedal, where you really can’t see.

At this point, it is best to begin removal of the OTHER end of the cable, so that the bottom part kind of holds the cable in the car. The weight of the cable makes it want to hit the ground, so kind of keeping it in place is a good thing.
I lowered the car down so I could get to the cockpit and the front trunk. The plastic artsy/fartsy screen that sits near the windshield wipers is removed, and this gains access to the connecting end of the cable.

It is really kind of a cool design, because if you are careful, you can remove the cable end from the connector, and attach the new one without taking out the instrument cluster. I wasn’t as careful as I should have been, so I ended up breaking the connecting piece, and taking out the cluster. This is much easier on an X than the Cheese, there are 5 allen screws and removing the steering wheel, and you’re all done! I also cleaned the bulbs in the cluster at the same time, so it really wasn’t more than a 15min screw up, plus the cost of the extension cable that I had to replace.

Once the cable is off the extension to the cluster, then it routes through yet another hole/seal combo, into the front trunk. It then curves down into a space, with two other cooling hoses under a removable cover, between the firewall and the trunk, (through another seal again!) and into the cockpit, just above the upper left of the steering column. You cannot see where it comes into the cockpit from under the column, I tried.

There’s a fun part?
Now is the fun part. Notice I did not use an exclamation point, because “fun” really is not the correct word in this instance. “Fun” should probably be replaced with “stupid,” “asinine,” “completely a pain in the neck,” or some other phrase I could use, but this is a family newsletter!

When the cable enters the cockpit by the steering column, it travels UNDER the upper arms of the pedals, and also UNDER the brakelines. This leaves about 1/4 of an inch room to manuever the cable under the brake lines, and then down into two clips, both of which are under the carpet. The carpet must be pulled back gently, or it will try to rip and cause issues. It is best to remove the screw that holds the center console to the carpet, to get more “fold down area.”

The part that really is a pain at this point, is the fact that the stupid clips that hold the cable in will NOT give way. And that brittle 20 year old plastic I talked about earlier? Well, they made these things out of something impervious to time! They WOULD NOT break! I was lucky enough to borrow some “reverse pliers” from Tom (they have another name, I can’t remember it!) to pry open the clips, then try to pull the cable out. Probably the simplest way to accomplish this is either with some sort of hook, or to use vice grips to yank, because hands don’t fit, and there isn’t enough room to get any kind of pulling motion to get the cable out of the clips. Whoever thought up this system was clearly masochistic.

Once the cable was free from the clips, it is now able to be threaded out of the car through the bottom hole in the cockpit. This requires a helper, as you can save a ton of time with one!

I taped the cluster end of the old cable to the tranny end of the new cable, and while I was under the dash, Tom fed the cable through the top. I then eased the cable under all of the brake lines and other nastiness under the carpet, and down into the hole in the floor. This takes some skill, as the end of the new cable wants to catch on EVERYTHING as it is snaked around, and you want to keep as much dirt and crap out of it as possible, so it lasts longer.

Tiny hands are the devil’s envy!
This particular maneuver is actually not going to work for most of you out there, due to one tiny reason…Actually, it’s two reasons…

My hands are EXTREMELY small compared to most, and while I have a wide span, my fingers are quite skinny and boney. This allowed me to slide my hand in between the accelerator pedal and the side of the floorpan, so I could guide the cable through the hole in the floor. It also meant I could stick my fingers behind most of the brake lines to string the cable as well.
The majority of the population will have to remove the accelerator pedal, if not the assembly, to perform this part of the task. This adds another hour or so to the time it takes to replace the be aware!

I also am small enough to move my arms around under the dash with my head there at the same time, this may also not work for you. Tom has to take the seat out in order to fit under the dash with room to move, another obstacle to keep in mind.
Once the cable is out of the bottom of the car, the helper on top will need to feed the cable all the way though until it is just about the right length to attach to the extension on the cluster. DO NOT attach it at this point, it should stay in place just fine, and you may need to move it around a bit. If it is attached, and is then yanked on, it can cause a kink and break the cable.

Now it is time to go under the car again, so the car is lifted back up for easy access. It is a good idea to wrap a paper towel or something over the end of the cable to keep grime out of it while replacing under the car. The cable is routed LOOSELY to the back of the car, but NOT put into the clips on the bottom, other than to keep the cable from trying to escape. It is then formed into a nice arc up and over the tranny, and reattached to the tranny.

At this point you work back toward the front of the car, replacing the cable in the clip above the tranny, and making sure there are no hard angles that may cause a kink. If it looks good, then it is time to reattach at the TOP of the car.
I reattached the cable to the cluster end, and then CAREFULLY made sure there was enough slack in the cable as it went back into the cockpit. The seal into the front trunk, and into the cockpit, are then replaced, and the cover over the cable and hoses put back on. I also put the plastic mesh back on the car too, to keep it from becoming damaged.

I then checked the slack and curves of the cable in the cockpit, but DID NOT reattach the cable to the clips, since that was a raging pain. Since it is routed under the brake lines and under the carpet, as long as it doesn’t rub on anything or interfere with the pedals, it is safe to leave out of the clips.

Now I’m back under the car again (this is why it is nice to have a hoist!), this time carefully adjusting the slack in the cable to be even along the bottom of the car, so that the cable isn’t hanging down anywhere that it can catch on road debris. Once the cable is completely back in the clips, I replaced the front and rear  hole/seal rubber pieces, and
double checked everything once more.

Looks ok!

And not too bad on time either… 2 1/2 hours!

Tom is jealous! I think I may be shanghi’d to replace these things more often with my tiny hands!

Now the fun part…the test drive! Everything worked fine, and I found out my guesstimation of how fast I was driving was actually 10 mph SLOWER than what I REALLY was travelling at…so I did save myself the cost of an upcoming ticket! Yipee!
Again, I want to restate that this particular project really is a pain, and without the guidance of Tom in several areas, I would have either been unable to replace the cable, or ended up breaking my new cable in the process. The time involved to do this and the amount of patience required is a lot, and one could easily lose their mind during this installation. Not to mention the fact that, on cars that are 20+ years old, other things that are involved along the way tend to break…so if you do attempt this at home, make sure you are not REALLY needing to finish the project that weekend, because the silly part you break while trying to replace something else, may not be available on demand!

To attempt or not to attempt…
To sum up…Interior replacement really isn’t too bad if you take your time and are willing to accept setbacks. Odometer/Speedo cables should really be named “slowdometer” cables because it is such a slow and tedious process. If I were to do both projects again, and had the $, I would probably still do the interior myself, but I would DEFINITELY leave it to the professionals for the Speedo cable.

I also learned to appreciate things on both the X and the Cheese that I really hadn’t thought of before..the Cheese seems like it has a TON of room under the dash now, and the X seems VERY high tech and “polished”. How everything manages to fit together on the X truly is an engineering work of art, and there are a few things that are amazingly easy to get to, while others are a nightmare. The Cheese, on the other hand, tends to be a bit easier for accessibility, but there are more steps to get to the final result.

Are either of them worth it??
DUH!!!!!!! They’re Italian!!!

The editor would like to thank Ginger and Tom at Aspen Imports for their endless patience with questions and “tips”
during the editor’s adventures!

Cars and relationships…what’s your project?

Posted in Uncategorized on April 30, 2010 by ladyvargas

While these two topics tend to be quite polar on the discussion scale, it occurred to me last night at a friend’s house, that really, these items are one in the same. Allow me to explain….

A long time friend of mine, (who shall be referred to as Ramen-man, for ease of telling the tale) has a new girlfriend. She’s smart, funny, pretty. has a good sense of humor, has an education, and is classy. Clearly, this gal is several notches above Ramen-man’s previous parade of barflies. After the usual amount of razzing, joking, and insults common among our band of geekdom, we ended up discussing how Ramen-man would be lucky enough to find himself with such a great gal. Our veteran counselor/wife summed it up fairly well, “she had to be willing to take on a project.”
I had to think about this statement for a bit. I have not found myself in a situation where I had a guy as a project, so this was sort of a foreign concept to me (a lot like those fart cans on rice burners). But, perhaps that is because I spend so much time on the car projects, that I don’t have the burning desire to take on one more project, that also empties my refrigerator in a matter of seconds. But the more I thought about it, the more I noticed some definite correlations between guys, gals, and their “project cars.”

What draws a guy to a car? When one is at a car show, of mostly classic nature, there are a few characteristics of the vehicles that always get attention, and the nod of “nice ride.” The short list of these would be:
Original, well kept equipment
Nice paint
Good body (no rust or poorly done repairs)
Strong, nice sounding engine (of any variation)
Well kept interior
“Drool Factor”, also known as “whiplash effect”
• Classic Lines

Now, that being said, we can’t ignore the next generation of sportos who are into choppers, rice burners, etc. There’s just too many of ‘em to skip this bunch…and they tend to look for these items at their vehicle shows (you know the ones…)
Cost of the mods
Wild paint
Over the top sound
“Go Fast” options, whether they really work or not
“Pimped out” factor
Extreme body enhancements

A few things you’ll notice on either list, is that reliability and cost of maintenance are both omitted. But really, these are often toys, so those two items are not as important as the main “wow” effects of either list.
Now, let’s cross-reference the first list with what our classic guys notice in a gal…
Original, well kept equipment
Nice paint
Good body (no rust or poorly done repairs)
Strong, nice sounding engine (of any variation)
Well kept interior
“Drool Factor”, also known as “whiplash effect”
• Classic Lines

Hmm. The list doesn’t have to change at all, does it? And let’s look at the import/chopper preferences…
Cost of the mods
Wild paint
Over the top sound
“Go Fast” options, whether they really work or not
“Pimped out” factor
Extreme body enhancements

Nope, no change there, really, either.

Now, before you guys start claiming exemption from either or both lists, take a minute to ponder a few things. The first being, well, gals have changed quite a bit over the years, and the ones in Playboy up to the early 80’s are NOT the models you’d see in today’s Hustler. And that’s not saying that one is bad compared to the other, that’s just saying that things are different. Ditto that to a 1950’s edition of Hot Rod magazine, vs. today’s Import Tuner magazine…it’s a whole different world. And, there will be guys with a ‘65 Vette who think that 17 piercings and a dozen tattoos do wonders for a girl’s appearance, and there’s probably some Import guys who prefer a “homegrown” beauty (but for sake of simplicity, I’ll generalize a bit, so don’t be offended!).

So, once these guys are attracted to their particular “marque”, if you will, then the “test drive” phase begins. You take the car to shows, to look at other cars and compare paint, options, etc. You discuss the pros and cons of your ride vs. your buddy’s ride. You lavish your ride with new toys, be it floor mats or “bling” spinner wheels. And eventually, you can’t imagine yourself driving anything else, because you are “one with the car.” If your car is in the shop, your coworkers ask where it is, and check to make sure everything is ok. And while you notice the new 2008 in the movie theater parking lot, you know that the payments on that baby are just insane, and really, is it all that much better than what you have? Sure, it’s faster, but that also means it’s more “stealable”, too, right?

Then, after a few years, the fact that the paint is faded a bit really doesn’t matter, because the amount of cost to make it “perfect” really doesn’t outweigh the beauty factor. And, the compression may have dropped a bit too, but she still can run with the best of ‘em. Plus you know all those little quirks that make the engine purr just so, adding that “dependability” factor we omitted earlier. The lines are still great, even if your 5 year old spilled grape juice in the back seat, and the stain won’t come out. She’s still “the one”. Be it daily driver or weekend toy, you know what I am talking about!! A good wash and wax and you’re in love all over again.

And is it really that different with a gal? REALLY??

Now ladies, you are not free from this little diatribe either. Sure, most of you are not “car people”, though you know where the dipstick is (he’s behind the wheel, duh!) and make sure to get your timely tune-ups. But that just means your “car relationship” is a bit different than a guy’s…

For example, when a gal is looking for a car, she really isn’t concerned about horsepower or compression, or what gear ratio the differential has. She wants to know if there’s ample room for the kids, if it comes in her favorite color, and has a great warranty protection program. Cost isn’t an option, it matters, but if the car is going to do what is promises, then she’s good to go. There isn’t really a “list”, as much as the car sells itself to her needs.

As for ladies who like the speed, power, and looks over practicality, they usually “lease” more than “buy”, to keep up with the hottest thing. The minivan and station wagon gals know what I am talking about here. Gals that buy a car, expect they are going to have to do without it for maintenance, upkeep, etc, once in a while. Those that lease, well, when the regular car is down, that’s the time to test drive a new model!! Change your hairstyle, change your ride…

For those gals who buy, knowing how your car will handle in a variety of situations and how far you can push it when you need to is also a plus. With a little regular maintenance, the reliability lasts for years. Most gals would say it’s not all that different from the classics – if you don’t have the right stuff to start with, you’ll always have a high-maintenance ride. Who needs that?

But the happiest gals are the ones with the little bit older, little bit dinged up car…one they don’t have to worry about AT ALL. They’ve found a good mechanic, the car never lets her down, she knows every nook and cranny in it, and has her “Stuff” stashed accordingly throughout the interior. She may have changed the steering wheel cover and the seat covers to reflect her personality a bit more, but that’s about it. Even the ones that really don’t like the looks of their car, or the color, still stick with it if it is “there for them.”

Hmmm. No similarities to a guy. Yeah, right.

Of course, drawing this conclusion means one of two things…either I am a polygamist, or need to date a Japanese-Italian American. Yikes.

So, whether you have a new model, or have been doing the upkeep and maintenance on your dependable ride, remember this…the paint may fade, but if you’re happy along the journey, the miles don’t matter.

As for Ramen-man and his new lady…I’m looking forward to some new paint on that chassis. I’m really sick of that shirt he’s had since we were in high school.

Testing…check check

Posted in Uncategorized on April 30, 2010 by ladyvargas

For a start, I’ll reprint some old articles, then we can move forward with some new stuff as I think it up…