Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Above My Pay Grade

Post-practice teardown of Richie Hearn's CART racer at Road America in 1998.

Watchtower has a bum tach in his Bullitt.  His choices are to buy a new gauge cluster from Ford (expensive) or to try to replace only one faulty drive motor himself (inexpensive).  The job can be done with screwdrivers, wrenches, and a soldering iron.  But it's not a simple swap-out: some mechanical skills are required.  Watchtower has them.  He hasn't decided yet which way to go.

Apparently instrument failure is not uncommon on S-197 Mustangs.  So I may face the same choice.   I'd probably buy a new cluster.   I used to enjoy routine maintenance work on my own cars in the era of points and condensers and mechanical distributors.  My skills were only fair, and I had the good sense to not attempt anything that required more than screwdrivers, wrenches, and a timing light.  Hotshoe is replacing the brake lines on his VW Scirocco.  I lack the tools, skills, patience, and confidence to tackle projects far more simple than that.  Even if my joints were still supple, which they no longer are.

All this put me in mind of the best mechanics I've seen: the pros who work on race cars at major meets. It's a delight to watch them work.  That's one reason to get a "superticket" paddock pass for three days for a major event.  When CART was at Road America, the cars were partially torn down after every practice and qualifying session, to the tub and power train--further, if there were problems.  Including data uploads and downloads. There's a job list, usually inside the hauler to protect it from prying eyes. Each mechanic has a specialty and primary area of responsibility, but he also backs up his colleagues. There's no wasted motion.  It's like watching a choreographed dance production.  Unless the car was damaged in the previous session, they usually have it ready to go again inside of an hour.

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