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Breaking the seal on a long-term project

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With both cars in the garage, there isn’t much space to work on the T/A, unless the Buick can be pulled out, which isn’t an option when the snow flies. Photos by author.

If you have read my blogs over the last couple of years, you know that I have a few never-ending projects, and that I’ve employed myriad excuses to avoid working on them. Fortunately, my shrewd plan of shaming myself into revisiting them by blogging about my lack of motivation has actually been successful, meaning that I’ve logged progress on a few of them.

Though my “lack of time and cash” excuses are still looming large, a few of my others have faded. More specifically, the justifications for not working on my ’77 Trans Am, which I’ve owned since the early 1990s, were that the Buick was closer to road ready, so it had to get finished first. As long as the Buick had to take up residence next to the Trans Am in the garage, there would be no room to work on the Pontiac during the winter months. Thus it sat. Besides, the engine for the T/A was still waiting to be picked up at the builder three-and-a-half hours away, so I couldn’t get it running anyway—more hollow justification.

There you have it—three solid excuses for not working on the Pontiac, while ignoring the thousands of things that I could have done to it or for it, regardless of the Buick’s situation.

Over the last year or two, I put concerted effort into the Buick and lo-and-behold, it has become a reliable driver. Sure it could use more work like any other old car, but none of it is really major for now, so one excuse has fallen by the wayside. The Buick’s good health enabled me to secure dry, warm and safe winter storage for it that’s not in my garage, so my lack of space justification has evaporated.

02-HDB-Break the Seal-s

Here’s the engine, still on the trailer, with the cover and the hold-downs that secured it for the trip removed.

After a few marathon prep sessions by my son Tommy and I to ensure my long-parked 5×8-ft trailer was safe for road use, we took advantage of the late December warm spell here in Western Pennsylvania to pick-up my waiting 467-cubic-inch Pontiac engine from RaceKrafters in Lancaster. In my past magazine life it was used as a dyno mule. It just so happened that it was the last mild day, and the trip was completed without issue. The next morning, however, it was 19-degrees here and snowing.

Fortunately the night before, I was able to back the trailer right into the garage next to the Trans Am to keep the engine warm and dry until we could unload it. More winter fun first, however, as the cherry picker had to be retrieved from the shed and reassembled. I’ve had it since the late 1980s and I take it apart to store it. Upon cleanup and reassembly, I noticed that the hydraulic ram was leaking, so I had to fix that first and ensure that it worked safely afterward. The reason I mentioned this is so you know to expect small setbacks when digging out tools or parts that have sat for years. You’ll get sidetracked fixing these items and that eats up some time, so make allowances.

It was a tight squeeze getting the engine off of the trailer while inside the garage with the Trans Am and the garage door closed. I didn’t want to open it since it was about 8 to 15-degrees outside the whole week. Sure, I could have done this in the Spring, Summer or Fall, but that would have been smart and easy—neither are my strong suits. Yet, ultimately, it worked without any issues.

Feeling pretty good about getting some things done for the T/A, we then “broke the seal,” so to speak, on the car itself by opening it up and unloading the boxes of parts from inside to go through them and inventory what we had.

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This is what awaits me, hours of parts-sifting nostalgia.

Proof of my newfound motivation lies in the fact that I’ve had about 10 years of springs, summers and falls to go through every box and plastic storage tub in the shed out back to find the Trans Am’s parts and separate them from the Buick’s, the GTO’s and the Oldsmobile’s, and I chose to do it for two hours in January on a 15-degree night. Smart? No. Motivated? Yes.

At this point, most of the stuff I have for the Trans Am is strewn across the garage floor awaiting my attention. There are a few things I realized while getting reacquainted with a long-dormant project that I’ll share with you.

Over the years, I had psyched myself out into thinking that the project was just too big for me to finish at home, in part because it had sat for so long and I’d never be able to round up all of its parts again and put them back in the way they came out. While there’s always the possibility that this is true to some extent, simply getting most of the parts together in one room and beginning to sift through them has restored some optimism that the project is doable.

There are other things to be aware of, however. Depending upon where and how you stored them, the parts may or may not be in the condition that you remember them. They’ll probably be dustier, but some, especially plastic parts may have broken or dry rotted over the years. They will cost money to replace.

In some instances, you’ll find stuff that you forgot you had and be pleasantly surprised at your good fortune. In other cases, you won’t be able to lay your hands on some parts that you swore you had, and that can be disheartening and potentially expensive. Regardless, going through those items will be a walk down memory lane, and for many of us, that stroll will be filled with positive memories.

Hopefully, I’ve written enough to shame me into doing some more work on the T/A and at the same time provided a little insight into the process to maybe motivate you to break the seal on a project that you feel has lacked your attention for too long. Either way, let us know your thoughts on your long-term projects.