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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. My grandmother had a leather trunk in which she used to keep her linens. She passed it to my mother and she kept her linens in it too. She then passed it to me. I assumed it was a steamer trunk, but the two long slats on the bottom and two unusual strap-keepers on the front puzzled me. Finally I took photos and sent them to an antique trunk specialty shop. The owner informed me that it was a car trunk. The slats fit into slots in a rack behind the rear of the car and two straps from the rack went through the two holders to keep it in place. It is in very good condition and I'd like to put it with a proper antique car so it would be shared for people to see. Do you have an idea of anyone who would be interested or how I could go about finding an interested party?
M.H. San Bernardino, CA

A. Over the years I've gotten lots of letters like yours from non-enthusiasts who have an auto-related piece of memorabilia that they've inherited or somehow acquired. They know the item has historical as well as monetary value, but they don't know how to hook up with an appropriate buyer. An ad in the local papers has a very low probability of success. One in a national magazine that caters to auto restorers is a better choice, but the turnaround time is much longer. A friend of mine has recently gotten turned on to the world of on-line auctions like eBay.com. He sold some sheetmetal front aprons for an old MG for what I thought was a exorbitant amount. You can probably find a buyer for your trunk this way, but there's a learning curve that goes with it. You also need to have access to a computer and an internet server. You might also try hemmings.com but if I get any inquiries, I'll pass them on to you.

Q. I have a '91 Chevrolet S-10 with a six-cylinder 4.3 engine and 91,000 miles on the odometer. It has what seems to be a valve clicking rather loudly after it warms up. I had a valve job done, but it didn't stop the noise. The owner of the shop that worked on it had seven other mechanics, three of which owned their own shops, listen to it but none were able to find the problem.
A.S. Virginia Beach, VA

A. The valve job eliminates a broken valve spring. If it's a rhythmic click, using a mechanic's stethoscope will localize the noise. A broken piston will sound like that after warmup, but I'd look for a valve lifter that is bleeding down. You can check this by taking off the valve covers when the truck is warm, then running it again at idle speed and slip a feeler gauge under the rockers in the noisy area. It's a messy job. If a lifter is bad or any of them have non-radiused bases, change them all along with the camshaft, timing chain and sprockets. At 91,000 miles, just one new lifter on an old cam would lead to early failure.

Q. I'm a four-foot, ten-inch woman and I have a phobia about air bags. I am forced to drive a pre-1992 model car and would like very much to buy a new car. Is there any model that one could easily dismantle the driver's side airbag? I can buy the car with cash and am willing to waive the insurance liability. However, no dealer is willing to show me how to do it and they do not dare touch the airbag on a brand new car. Government permission is too expensive and much too cumbersome to obtain. Many of my women friends are in the same situation as I am. Airbags make us so nervous that it is unsafe. We feel like the authorities are holding a gun against our faces and eyeglasses to boot!
A.P. Eugene, OR

A. I've been asked this question before and so far I haven't found a way that airbags can be legally disabled other than going through the government process. As a mechanic, I can understand the reticence one would have in doing the job. We're a litigious society and having a bag disabled might involve someone in a crash other than the owner/driver.

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