Unique Cars - - CONTENTS - JON FAINE

RARELY – IF EVER – can I claim to have done work on a car prop­erly. There is al­ways some­thing slightly bodgy in the de­tail, the short cuts, the fi­nal re­sult, or the longevity. I am the master of the quick fix.

A com­pe­tent an­a­lyst – if I could sit still long enough – would di­ag­nose CARS. Care­less Ap­palling Re­storer Syn­drome. I break things. I lose tools. I hurt my­self. I dam­age rare parts. I strip threads. I scratch chrome.

I spend hard earned money on pro­fes­sion­als rec­tif ying my mis­takes. It would be cheaper and quicker just to pay some­one to do the job in the first place. But where would the fun be in that? And as I re­mind my dear beloved, if she in­quires about the go­ing­son in the shed : “It’s cheaper than a shrink…”

CARS has only re­cently been di­ag­nosed, and the lat­est in­ter­na­tional re­search is sug­gest­ing there is un­likely to be any cure in the fore­see­able fu­ture. The con­di­tion of­ten de­vel­ops in early adult­hood, most com­monly but not ex­clu­sively in males. It re­curs reg­u­larly through adult­hood, and can still be ob­served in later years. It has a causal con­nec­tion with other rare but in­creas­ingly ob­served med­i­cal con­di­tions in­clud­ing BIKES.

Bel­liger­ent Ir­ri­tated Kick Ev­ery­thing Syn­drome has been seen of­ten in peo­ple with full blown ir­re­versible CARS. If un­treated, CARS can mu­tate into BIKES, lead­ing to the ur­gent need for a more nu­anced and com­plex treat­ment reg­i­men, typ­i­cally re­quir­ing self-med­i­ca­tion com­bined with be­haviour­change ther­apy.

Men in sheds have led to the­o­ries of clus­ter-like pat­terns of be­hav­iour, with re­cent in­ter­na­tional sur­veys con­cen­trat­ing on search­ing rusty dusty barns for cures. The lab­o­ra­tor y be­hav­iours of sam­ple groups have led to sci­en­tists ob­serv­ing in­ex­pli­ca­ble be­hav­iour, ir­ra­tional and f lorid ex­pres­sions of ma­nia, typ­i­cally seen in pub­lic at what have been quaintly called “Clas­sic Car Auc­tions”.

My symp­toms f lare up when do­ing what ought be a sim­ple job, of­ten caus­ing two or three hour tasks to take months. The in­abil­ity of the pa­tient to re­solve sim­ple tasks, dis­ori­en­ta­tion and con­fu­sion are all part of CARS and lead to BIKES.

For in­stance, swap­ping over old and de­spoiled head­light buck­ets on the 1975 DS23 Citroen started in Au­gust and now in No­vem­ber it is still in­com­plete. Ear­lier edi­tions of this es­teemed jour­nal of record show the in­tri­cate steps in­volved and for the pur­pose of the avoid­ance of any doubt, I out­line here the lat­est ex­cru­ci­at­ing steps.

The front guards come off with just two bolts – Citroen genius! But to change a light bucket within the guard re­quires hours of pa­tient un­do­ing of cables, wires, brack­ets, rub­bers and elec­tri­cal ca­bling. Oh, and the heater ducts that snake their way through the wings.

The old buck­ets had dis­coloured badly. The used re­place­ments were scrubbed, sanded, pol­ished, painted, painted again, treated with a clear coat, pol­ished again and then had lights in­stalled.

The tiny plas­tic ad­justers, all eight of them, were per­suaded to work and the swiv­el­ling mech­a­nism for the driv­ing light was grad­u­ally re­in­stated.

The head­light glasses come in at least two makes – Mar­chal and Ci­bie. Each has etched onto the frontage a se­ries of par­al­lel ver­ti­cal lines and a mys­te­ri­ous and faintly sus­pi­cious se­quence of let­ters and num­bers re­sem­bling the best ef­forts of the French Re­sis­tance to hide in­for­ma­tion from the enemy.

In the 40 years I have been wast­ing im­mea­sur­able amounts of brain space on triv­ial rub­bish about Citroens, I have never met any­one who knows what the hi­ero­glyph­ics on the head­lights re­ally mean. Clearly they ex­ist to as­sist with aim­ing the lights. But what each sym­bol rep­re­sents – a big­ger mys­tery than the Rosetta Stone.

Re­assem­bly is straight for­ward enough. The chrome strip that trims the head­light cut-out is se­cured with a tiny clip. Then there is a rub­ber gas­ket between the in­side of the guard and the out­side of the glass. The dis­tinc­tive glass beaks are se­cured into place with mul­ti­ple hid­den ad­justable steel stays and clips, and then, af­ter yet an­other layer of foam gas­ket, the buck­ets are in­serted into the guards with the lights al­ready in­stalled.

If the in­staller – in this case me – is suf­fer­ing from even a mild dose of CARS, then it trig­gers the in­evitable late on­set of BIKES. The small­est mis­take, some er­rant glue, a slipped cor­ner of the gas­ket, a greasy fin­ger print smudge in­side the bucket… any and all of these mean un-in­stalling the en­tire assem­bly and start­ing the en­tire se­quence again. And that would make a visit to a real shrink look like great value.

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