Zen and the art of car maintenance

The more you look, the more you see

by Fons Hartendorp Posted in Chapter One on June 21, 2017


"Ah comon, you can easily buy a 40 year old car, fix it up a bit and drive it to Africa he said, it'll be fun he said". Yes, little did I know when my brother texted me about a year ago.

It would be fair to say neither me or my brother would have come up with ideas like this, if not for this man. My old man. Here in his late twenties camping out somewhere in France. Not only did he infect us with a love for summer-lasting roadtrips and old French cars, he's also still never feeling too bad to get his hands dirty and help out a bit.

Although, it turned out me helping him a bit. Lacking both his car renovation talent, experience and determination, I followed his lead and tried to pick something up about car maintenance along the way. And dude, a lot to learn I had. In contrary to my brother, I was the kid that was rather playing soccer and videogames after school than working on my Puch motoped.

Apparently a recurring theme with renovating seems to be that everytime you start working on one thing, you'll find something new that needs your attention. One moment you're thinking, Ah we'll just take the engine out, let the cilinders get honed, put in some new seals and it's all fine. Than you discover some of the piston rings are broken, the crankshaft bearings need replacement, you ordered the wrong head gasket and before you know you're a couple of weekends futher. And those were even relatively minor things. Why would you buy such a car to drive to Africa?

Because besides their French comfort, this vintage look and feeling, they also have proved to do pretty ok over there!

The nose, below the grill, was damaged so badly by rust it had to be renewed almost completely. So did parts of the bottom, the door suspension and the trunk lid.

So quite some welding. Followed by countless hours with the endless cycle of applying putty and sanding. Don't be talking about mindfullness-exercises to people who are doing this for a living.

But some blood, sweat, swears and a couple of months later, it looked like this.

This was when Joost and I drove directly after a full week of work in a mad 26 hours back and forth to the Czech border to drink some beers at an underground Leipzig techno, sleep for three full hours in a hostel, have a proper German curry wurst and.. oh yea, pick up a rooftoptent!

The thing with renovating a car almost from scratch is, that it's not suddenly finished. The moment you think you're kindof finished, is probably when you've only just passed halfway. This is the moment when you wanna fix all those small things as well - because, comon, the car is so nice now, I'd better do the details as well. So now there's a trunk-door alarm, electric coolbox with switch on the dashboard, engine immobiliser, radio, crankcase protector...

So in case I actually would make it to the Sahara desert, let's hope I'll do the driving better than last time on sand. Probably no tractor over there to tow me out. Wish me luck!



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