Theseus’s Corvette


IMG_0722The great Greek hero Theseus sailed to Crete to slay the Minotaur. Upon his safe return, his ship was preserved as a memorial. By ancient accounts, it was preserved for centuries, though the wear of wind and water began to rot the ship at its moorings. The citizens of Athens replaced the planks of the deck, the mast, the rigging, even the pieces of the hull as time ravaged the old vessel. This led philosophers to ponder a question: was the ship still the one Theseus sailed, even though nothing remained of the original vessel but its shape and memory?

I recently purchased a 1973 Corvette in Blue-Green, and the legend came sharply to mind as I probed its workings. I’m not sure how original this car is, much less how original it will be. I knew its previous owner had replaced the engine and the exhaust system, re-plumbed the radiator, rebuilt the steering mechanism, and replaced all of the shocks and springs in the rear end. He also replaced the differential cover, which — on this car — also holds up the rear leaf spring. But that was only the beginning.

I think that every buyer of an old car starts out thinking “Hey, I’ll just replace a few worn out items and be OK. Hmm… a few hoses here and there, fix that loose trim panel, work on those squeaks…” We’re good at telling ourselves little lies as we peruse the parts catalogs. The first item I ordered was a replacement adjustment knob for the clock in the dash.

Lies we tell ourselves… I had owned the car only eight hours when the first problem struck. As I gassed up, a man in a brand new 2014 Vette of identical color drove by, waved, and complimented my color choice. My chest swelling with pride, I got back in and prepared to rev-up. The engine would not start.

A car like this always attracts attention, but embarrassingly more so when it fails to run. I had several offers to help jump the battery and the first Samaritan soon pulled alongside and popped his hood. After attaching the jumper cables to his car, I clipped black-to-black, and orange-to-orange on my battery. Sparks flew. I knew that shouldn’t happen but — in my growing embarrassment — I didn’t realize the implication until after I’d tried to crank the engine a few more times and the other car had driven off. I then re-checked my battery cables and noticed something odd: the orange wire was hooked to ground, while the black wire was hooked to hot. The tow truck driver, when he arrived, also noted this.

So, ten hours after I bought the thing, it returned home a flatbed tow truck; it left the same way the following morning for a local garage. The alternator had failed, and this was right before what promised to be a weekend of perfect driving weather. I picked the car up on a Tuesday.

I drove then to work without issue, but a belt broke in the right-front tire on the way home. On Friday, I took it to a tire shop and had four new tires put on it. That weekend, I pulled the exhaust pipes to swap out the mufflers with something that wouldn’t give me tintinitis, only to find that the last owner had welded the “slip in” mufflers in place, so I had to replace the exhaust pipes too. Driveable at last!

Till the brakes gave out on Monday.

The brake line to the (again) the right-front had ruptured. I made the first of many trips to the auto parts store for brake parts. At home, I pulled the wheels and tried to swap out the rubber brake lines. They had corroded in place so badly that I broke the steel brake line. Thus began a month-long saga where I worked upstream throughout the brake system, eventually replacing or rebuilding almost everything.

As I spent so much time under the car, I created a growing wish list of other items to replace. The big-ticket one is the frame itself. I’d checked it before purchasing the car, but a steady rain of rusty dust on my face during the repairs has forced me to reevaluate.

Along the way I have made a number of other small repairs — replacing rusty bolts, dismantling systems to swap out old parts — and now I wonder: by the time I am done with this car, how much of the original will really be left?

If I replaced the frame, would the car still be vintage? The engine is new, the wheels are new, the brakes are new, the wiring will all eventually be new, and I plan to replace most of the dash gauges, including the clock. In the end, what will be left of the original? Perhaps the fiberglass body panels alone will remain, holding the shape in memory of what once was. Will the car still be “vintage” in any meaningful sense? I think I shall name the car Paradox, in honor of Theseus’s ship

IMG_0574Relatedly, my family visited the USS Constitution — the world’s oldest floating commissioned warship — in Boston this summer. I asked one of her crew how much remained from her 1790s construction. He said maybe 20% of the original timbers remained; the rest was of the ship was newer.

Similarly, on the USS Niagara, in Erie, Pennsylvania, some wood from Perry’s real flagship was re-used to make doors for the officers’ cabins. Everything else (including the diesel engine) is newer.

Published in General
Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 79 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. user_1938 Inactive

    Forza Horizon 2 offers point bonuses for clean driving (no or little contact with other vehicles, and staying on the road) in the online races. In a race series, the winner isn’t necessarily the person who placed best at the end of the four races. You get points for placement, but also points for skillful driving (controlled drifts, clean passes, etc). By default, racers can (and do) knock each around a bit.

    In solo mode, you can tailor everything exactly how you want it. You can make damage realistic. On the other hand, you can rewind after a mistake (for a penalty) and try again without restarting the race. You can turn anti-lock braking on or off. You can drive with a on-track guide that advises you when to slow down before a turn, or you can wing it.

    And the vehicle variety is so much better than other games. It comes with hundreds of vehicles: supercars, sportscars, SUVs, sedans, offroaders, toy cars, and even some zany stuff like a WWII Jeep and a Volkswagen hippie van.

    Overall, I think it offers something for everyone. The bottom line is whether or not you enjoy Forza’s physics modeling. I love the handling compared to other games.

    If y’all do pick up an Xbox One, my gamertag is hallower1980. I generally prefer solo games and hate scheduling play sessions. But we could at least share video clips.

    • #61
  2. Tuck Inactive

    Aaron Miller: I think driving in games has also taught me to be more aware of my surroundings in real life.

    I was referring to GT Academy:

    ” While Mardenborough started with virtual racing, he’s now part of the Red Bull racing team and is being touted as a potential Formula One racer in the near future.”

    Pretty cool way to get into racing.  I wish it had been around when I was a lad…

    • #62
  3. Trink Coolidge

    Wonderful piece, Skipsul.  You drive a great narrative.

    And the car is lovely.  (Do you say that about a fella’s vette?)

    And your family is lovelier.

    • #63
  4. user_138562 Moderator

    Trink:Wonderful piece, Skipsul. You drive a great narrative.

    And the car is lovely. (Do you say that about a fella’s vette?)

    Definitely.   I’ve never yet heard of a guy who dislikes it when someone compliments them on their car.

    • #64
  5. Asquared Inactive

    Aaron Miller: Forza Horizon 2 offers point bonuses for clean driving (no or little contact with other vehicles, and staying on the road) in the online races.

    Perhaps.  My 9 year old plays Horizon 2 (on a 360), and whenever I see him drive in the game, I say, “You are NEVER driving one my cars in real life.”

    I would say in his defense, he doesn’t have a wheel, but I’ve seen him drive with a wheel on GT and he isn’t any better.

    • #65
  6. Devereaux Inactive

    ?You guys have the microsoft wheel and pedals for Forza. I think it makes the game SO much better. You get some feedback through the wheel, too, though not enough.

    The think I like about Forza is that the computer doesn’t randomly move an opponent ahead of you just because. And you CAN go slower if you try harder. You really do have to get the feel of how hard to push.

    Never tried Horizon but I have 2 versions of F1. The latest has the engine boost and the added grip I think it is. You have to figure out where and when to use that. I find it a bit tiresome, so I prefer the older F1. But I end up with Forza most. Wish it had some additional cars, though. I would love to drive open wheel stuff. Be kind of like back in the day of racing lay-down karts.

    • #66
  7. Devereaux Inactive


    • #67
  8. Devereaux Inactive

    Randy – there is it. I don’t quite know how I managed to get the image in, but it doesn’t seem to allow for any comment, so I had to do it separately.

    • #68
  9. user_1938 Inactive

    A high school history professor once sent a classmate and me out to his 911 Turbo to get something out of it during class. I think it was a cunning lesson on the historic principle that power corrupts, because we weren’t in the car two seconds before my friend suggested taking it for a quick spin.

    Sadly, I declined.

    • #69
  10. skipsul Inactive


    That is a fine ride there.  I remember someone one posted a link here to a 1970 comparison of the 911 and the Corvette on the track, and while the author concluded that the cars were definitely competitive with each other in terms of speed and maneuverability, the author made a prophetic remark to the effect that in a rematch of the same cars 20 years hence, the 911 was more likely to still be mechanically sound and running.

    My father has a 1986 944 Turbo that, aside from needing an expensive rebuild following a wreck (a sand-shoe broke off a truck ahead of him and ripped out the underside of his car), is in fantastic shape.

    • #70
  11. user_1938 Inactive

    I recorded some videos of my custom liveries in Forza Horizon 2 the other day.

    I spent many a summer day riding around in my cousin’s 1972 Chevelle. Here is a similar one to which I added blue flames.

    My custom Bentley.

    The ever-popular Lamborghini Veneno.

    A Countach. I love driving (virtual) cars with wide axles. You can’t beat a Lamborghini for grip.

    My McLaren.

    A Hummer.

    And something a bit more practical.

    • #71
  12. skipsul Inactive

    Aaron Miller: a bit more practical


    I love my Toyota Celicas in Forza 4.  I had 2 Celicas before I had kids and LOVED those cars.  Nimble, economical, gorgeous cars.  Sadly 1 was wrecked (see my old Jeep post), while the other was sold (though repaired first after another Jeep wreck) after my first 2 kids.

    • #72
  13. Johnny Dubya Inactive
    Johnny Dubya

    Skip, as you and I have already discussed, I recently purchased a 1981 Fiat Spider.  I registered it as a historic vehicle in NJ.  Note the following from the Motor Vehicle Commission’s website (emphasis mine):

    Historic registration may be assigned to an antique vehicle which is at least twenty-five (25) years old. The vehicle must be owned as a collector’s item and used solely for exhibition or educational purposes. Please note that the vehicle cannot be altered from the manufacturer’s original design in any way and must be equipped for legal operation on New Jersey roadways. Historic registration must be renewed every three (3) years, but there will be no-fee for the renewal.”

    This is a great example of a poorly-drafted law.  First of all, technically, my wife and I could be ticketed for taking the Spider on a Sunday drive.  But how is one supposed to keep a car “solely for exhibition or educational purposes” and not drive it occasionally for other purposes?  There aren’t enough exhibitional and educational events to keep the average historic car driving enough to prevent it from soon becoming a non-running historic car.

    Secondly–and this relates to the subject of your post–how many historic vehicles have not been altered from the manufacturer’s original design in any way?  As you well know, Skip, the Spider suffers from several serious design flaws that, if not addressed, can cause really bad outcomes–from engine failure to fire.  I am currently in the process of altering the Spider’s design by retrofitting a fuel strainer between the fuel tank and the pump.  Therefore, the car will no longer be eligible for historic status, by NJ lawmakers’ lights.

    Of course, the reality is that aesthetics is all that the MVC cares about.  When I went to register the car, I presented the supervisor of the MVC branch with photographs of the Spider, taken from exactly the same angles as the reference photos on the MVC’s website.  The supervisor told me that the angles were all wrong, website be damned.  My wife had to go back with new photos, which were presumably scrutinized by the crack team of vehicular historians at the MVC.  (Oh, yes, so-o-o much more was revealed by the photo taken directly in front of the car at a 90-degree angle rather than in front of the car at a 45-degree angle!)

    The historic registration was approved.  If only they had known about the soon-to-be-installed fuel strainer!

    • #73
  14. skipsul Inactive

    Johnny Dubya: The historic registration was approved.  If only they had known about the soon-to-be-installed fuel strainer!

    Are you saying that you are straining the intent of the law?

    • #74
  15. skipsul Inactive

    The vagaries of Ohio law on “historic” vehicles would prevent me from driving the Vette much at all.  No night driving, unless I was traveling to or from a car show or the like, no daily driving, no even taking it out for a jaunt on a nice day unless I was on my way to a car-related event.  Would only save me about $25.00 a year in tags.  BUT I would not have to keep the car in any kind of “factory original” condition at least.  That requirement would mess with the guy I know who put an electric starter on an old Model T.

    • #75
  16. Johnny Dubya Inactive
    Johnny Dubya

    There are no restrictions on night driving for historic vehicles in NJ, as far as I know. The factor that closed the deal for historic registration for me is exemption from inspections. Apparently, the exhibition/education restriction is widely flouted, and there is always a classic car get together going on somewhere. I figure I’ll take my chances that Barney Fife will stop me one day and read me the letter of the law. I will maintain that occasional driving is part of classic car maintenance. Furthermore, our collector’s insurance caps the annual mileage, so I can’t be accused by Barney of insurance fraud if I’m staying under the maximum. If would make FAR more sense for NJ (or any state) to put a mileage cap on cars registered as historic. I’d rather have the odometer checked annually than always be worried about getting pulled over and ticketed for simply enjoying my car.

    • #76
  17. Asquared Inactive

    Johnny Dubya: I registered it as a historic vehicle in NJ.  Note the following from the Motor Vehicle Commission’s website (emphasis mine):

    I looked into the Illinois Antique Vehicle laws a few years back when I was thinking of buying an old car that had some of the emissions stuff removed.

    IL has similar restrictions

    Antique Vehicle License Plates are issued for a five year registration period expiring Dec. 31, 2014. To qualify for Antique Plates, motor vehicles, including motorcycles, must be more than 25 years old. Firefighting vehicles must be at least 20 years old.

    Vehicles displaying these plates may only be driven to and from an antique auto show or exhibition, service station or demonstration. The mechanical and physical condition of the vehicle, including brakes, lights, glass and appearance, must be the same or as safe as originally equipped. An antique vehicle may be a “bona fide replica” – an exact copy of the original in design, frame and mechanical operation. “Facsimiles” – close, but not exact, reproductions of the original – do not qualify for Antique Vehicle plates.

    Given the number of antique license plates I see on the street, I believe that is a law that is more honored in the breach that observance.

    • #77
  18. user_1938 Inactive

    skipsul: I’ve got Horizon 1 and Forza 4 already, and they are lots of fun on rainy days.  Not been willing to pick up the next Xbox till the prices come down.

    I read today that the Xbox One is getting a price cut this holiday, to $350.

    It will be a while before the games are much cheaper. But Ryse: Son of Rome is old enough to be discounted, and that’s certainly worthwhile. There are a lot of good games competing with each other in the next 6 months, so the crowded market will force some discounts soon.

    In the meantime, an EA Access subscription will get you more than a few good games to toy around with. I’m not much into the sports games (though I miss NCAA Football), but Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare, Peggle 2, and Dragon Age 3 (when it is released next month) are all included.

    Some games like Titanfall are already dropping in price.

    • #78
  19. Devereaux Inactive

    JD & A2 – I believe the laws are written the way they are to give cover to the whole concept of an “antique car”. If you look at the $120 annual tag for a vanity plate in Illinois, the $35 for 5 years is a nice break. But I don’t think the cops care much.

    Usually the real limitation is the owner. My 911 has had 600 miles put on it in the last 10 years, reviewing my maintenance records. It just doesn’t get out much. Part of that is that I don’t want it to lose its originality, nor its pristine shape. Since these old Porsches are made of Unobtanium and Rustanium, there can be NO MENTION OF RAIN – probably within 500 miles. Even then I go for a drive of maybe an hour, then home. Don’t stop anywhere, don’t park it anywhere, don’t even exceed 100 mph in it. And my mechanic found a 1973 plate that I think I will put on the back, keeping the antique plate in the rear window (just for the cops). Gives it more of a “show” look.

    I DO know a guy in town that has a Ferrari 250 that he trucks out to Californis, then drives down the coast in an organized event that takes all week (I think they go from Portland to Laguna Seca), and he has antique plates, so I guess that is an “exhibition”.

    • #79
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.