Archive for May, 2009


Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Buick Riviera Logo

(ed: written February 2009)

Today marks the departure of my 1995 Buick Riviera, possibly the last of the magnificent, stylistically exuberant products of the General Motors styling office.  It was evident that the Buick management had decreed that style would be paramount.  It probably had a decent coefficient of drag, but sacrifices were made to aesthetics.

Buick Beltline View

That deep crease extends the length of the car.  The Riviera was the “halo car” for Buick that year, designed to pull in showroom traffic, and I believe it set the styling direction for Buick for the next 10 years.  The oval taillight design on the Riv subsequently appeared on the rest of the Buick line over the next few years.

color: Platinum Beige Firemist
(ed: Beige Firemist?)

Looks reasonable for a single, youngish fellow, yes?
For purposes of scale, those doors are about 5 feet long.  They open, to borrow a phrase from Raymond Chandler, like the ears of an elephant.  The wheelbase (distance between front and rear wheels) is over 9 feet.  The 16 inch wheels and curvature of the corners obscure the fact that the vehicle is 17.5 feet long according to

These are not criticisms.  I have nothing against big cars.  As a long-distance cruiser over flat terrain, the Riviera would go comfortably for longer than you would.  20 gallon tank, lots of leg and trunk room, quiet inside, and a tall, lazy top gear.  It will carry 4 full sized (and some of my friends are indeed “full sized”) adults comfortably.  The long wheelbase made 70mph comfortable, and I was never really worried about spinning out in the snow.

I like coupes, being unmarried and having no children.  I previously joked that a coupe says “I have no kids”.  With this vehicle, I realized that I had to amend my joke to “… because they are grown up and out of the house”.  Buicks have a somewhat deserved reputation as a retiree’s vehicle, with occasional exceptions such as the Stage 1 and GNX.  Indeed, for no apparent reason, I received an AARP card in the mail two weeks after buying the car from a private seller.  I am not sure how that happened, given that I am decades too young.  However:


It had a few more oats than expected, though really just enough to put it above average.

Unfortunately, this particular Riviera is responsible for several of my new automotive purchasing axioms, to whit:
– Don’t buy the halo car for a given make.  It will have early versions of technology that will be cheap later.
– Don’t buy a used luxury car.  You will experience electrical gremlins.
– Look very, very, very carefully at the brake lines, calipers, oil pan, exhaust system, and fuel lines if the car sees salt.

The latter indicates what ultimately finished the car.  Cumulative maintenance required by corrosion led to the vehicle being put on Dr. Hook and towed to a salvage yard.  The profits from its 3800 lbs. of  scrap value will be donated to a Catholic Charities chapter, and I’ll get a minor tax deduction.  I have to say that my experience with Donateacar was easy so far, though be aware that they use local towing contractors, so your mileage, if you will, may vary.

I’ll miss the respectable stability of the car, and it is a testament to the design that I usually looked back when walking away from it.  buick-taillights

Do It Oneself (1963 edition)

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

It appears that I have no excuse whatsoever to fail to fix anything, ever again.

dozens of encyclopediae


The used book sale just finished, and the above 30lbs or so of books were almost left forlorn upon their shelves.  I felt it was incumbent upon me to further test the load limit of my apartment floor by purchasing them.

The black books are the 1970 edition of The Family Handyman DO-IT-YOURSELF Encyclopedia, and the red books are the 1963 edition of The Practical Handyman’s Encyclopedia.

As noted above, the information contained within is extensive, and surprisingly catholic in scope.  I hope they will prove a useful reference for a broad variety of projects, crackpot or otherwise.

There are a few caveats, however:

1) While I may now be able to make my own tambour door (FHDITE, p. 1082) or Economy Directional Microphone (PHE, 11, 2032), I currently lack the facilities necessary for the construction of a 26′ racing sloop (PHE, vol 15, pp. 2710-2721).

2) As I do not own a home at present, many of the otherwise sound construction projects and techniques mentioned are not useful to me.  In addition, the books come from an era where 100lb. bags of asbestos cement were readily available to the homeowner (FHDITE, p. 101).  While it is easy to laugh at the practices of another era, it is regrettable that code compliance officers have a nigh proverbial lack of humor.

3) As hinted at above, some materials are now harder to come by than previously.  Fortunately, I plan on placing a large bulk order for these materials via the middle book in the picture above, the (reprinted) 1902 Sears, Roebuck catalog.  Those who think that so-called “big box” hardware stores have a large inventory would do well to investigate the pages of this book.  The 1902 catalog contains guns, tools, clothing, corsetry, furniture, electric “vigor” belts, carriages, telegraphs, bicycles and furnaces.   Picture, if you will, stopping by the hardware store and purchasing a a crinoline dress and a new Buick.  This catalog comes from (just before) a time when Sears would sell you a house.  I hasten to add that this house would not be constructed; rather, you would place an order, negotiate financing, and then 30,000 pieces of house would be delivered to the railroad siding nearest you.  Good luck!

4) Regrettably, I did not find a full copy of the Popular Mechanics handyman guide.  The one book of it that I did find included instructions discussing how to build one’s own arc welder.

Now, if you’ll excuse me…