Retirement Toys

For those of you who might be worried if I will have enough to do in retirement, here are some of my toys:

 

  

This is the "fiberglass egg" travel trailer, brand name Casita.  I got it in 2004 and it has traveled over 45,000 miles -- two major trips out West, and three major trips East.  Inside that little trailer is a bathroom with shower, toilet, and sink, a closet, a refrigerator, a microwave, a gas stove, a kitchen sink, a hot water heater, a furnace, an air conditioner, a 25 gallon water tank, a water pump, an electrical panel, a 12V marine battery, a smoke detector, a propane detector, ten storage compartments, a table for two, and a very comfortable full sized bed. I didn't get the optional television system because I didn't think that would be properly 'roughing it'.

This picture is from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, in 2006, when I went to see a number of plays at the Shaw Festival. 

 

This is a West Wight Potter sailboat.  It's concept is similar to the Casita -- high quality construction, but small and inexpensive to maintain (no slip fees, easy to tow, and it fits in the garage).  No, it's not about "Harry Potter".  "To potter around" is the English equivalent of the American "to putter around".  We like golf analogies, I guess.  You're supposed to use the boat to 'potter around' the west side of the Isle of Wight. The design goes back to the 1960's, and the boat has been made continuously since, although not by the same manufacturer. This picture is when it was new. It is rigged now and regularly sails on Clinton Lake, 30 miles west of Champaign.

 

This is a 1966 Mercury Park Lane convertible.  It is classified as a 'restored driver' collector car.  That means it is not serious show quality, but it is good enough to get 'ohhs and ahhs' as you drive around, and it can be entered in local collector car shows.  It really has only 34,500 miles on it, with title documentation back to the original owner. The interior is all original, except the padded dash and carpets.  The car has been repainted, using the original black, and the frame, body, top, and running gear have been reasonably restored.  The engine runs decently, but is still a little rough Ė thatís what I want to learn and work on. It has the standard engine on the Park Lane back then -- a 410 cubic inch Ford big block FE series, with four barrel carbs.  So far, Iíve learned and restored the ignition system, replaced the power steering pump, cleaned the carburetor (without changing anything), and drained and refilled the coolant. Except for the original AM Radio, which still works, there is not one transistor in the car, and definitely no computers. It is entirely mechanical and a lot easier to understand compared to current cars. In addition, even though it is the top-of-the-line Mercury from 1966, it does not have air conditioning, power windows, power seats, or cruise control. All of those were extra cost options even on a top model back then. The only pollution control is a simple Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) valve. All that makes the mechanics simple, open, easy to get at, and easy to work on.

Do you see the big rectangle on the front fender? That's a cornering light, an option that was first offered in 1966, and was a feature of full sized Mercuries until 2010 when Ford discontinued the entire Mercury line. Cornering lights are bright side lights that stay on continuously when you use the turn signals to illuminate a turn around a dark corner. On this first year offered, however, they flash along with the turn signal.

Hopefully the Mercury will hold its value reasonably well if I garage it, maintain it, and drive it only about 1,000 miles a year.   Driving just 1,000 miles a year will be easy, because it gets only 11 miles per gallon.  Of Premium. Plus, it is registered with Illinois Antique Vehicle plates, so it is illegal to use it for everyday driving. We'll see about holding its value, I guess.  In the meantime, it is really, really fun to drive. There is absolutely nothing like these big old convertibles. They are so low and wide that you feel like youíre floating down the road with just a windshield in front of you. Plus I get to shout "Get a REAL convertible!" at all the dinky little modern convertibles I see.  

The "Lincoln Continental inspired" dash panel. Notice the full gauges (no warning lights), the original AM radio, heat but no air conditioning, crank windows, the high beam button barely visible on the floor to the left of the brake pedal, the air vents in the lower kick panel instead of the dash, the mechanically adjusted left rear mirror (they never worked very well, even when new), and the elegant chrome gearshift and turn signal levers. Even the horn buttons are chrome and brushed aluminum. The ignition switch is on the lower dash, not the steering column because there were no locking steering columns back then. The sunken steering column was a "safety feature" they had before steering columns that collapsed in a crash. In a head-on crash, this steering column goes right through your chest. The little circle on the right, which has the head of the Greek god Mercury, is not a substitute for a missing clock. The clock is included as the right-most gauge. The little circle is just a plastic bauble that was on many Mercury models of the mid-sixties.

This underdash panel is a rare factory option which was an early appearance of now-familiar warning lights and buttons: "Door Lock", "Low Fuel", "Seat Belts", "Door Ajar", and "Flasher". The Door Lock button doesn't do anything, because the original owner didn't buy power door locks. The button came with the console anyway. On the 1966 Thunderbird, these lights and buttons were on an optional overhead 'airplane style' console.

The 1966 Mercury Park Lane convertible getting checked out at the 2011 Urbana Illinois Sweetcorn Festival's Motor Muster. It is, without doubt, the flatest production car ever built. In the mid-sixties, long, low, heavy, powerful, and flat meant 'elegance'. Now it just means 'extravagance'.

 

Additonal Pictures of the 1966 Mercury Park Lane Convertible

 

 This is the smallest on-off road motorcycle you can buy that will do 55 mph and hold its own on most roads.  It is legal on Interstates, but I hope I never have to use it on one.  It also fits very nicely in the back of the truck.  I really look silly riding it, but it is fun.  Well, it's not fun at 55 mph, but it is fun at 35 mph, or 15 mph on dirt roads.  I got it mainly as a safety item, to carry in the truck in case I get stuck in the wilds with the Casita.  I was trying to find a really attractive, but out of the way lakeside campsite in the Moab, Utah area, and I was getting far out in the lonely wilds with my truck and Casita.  I realized that if anything happened, I would not be able to just walk out as I used to when I was younger.  Hence the motorcycle.As of this writing (August 2011), it only has 830 miles on it.

 

Below is a partially restored MG Midget that I bought on eBay as an experiment.  I'm going to see how successful I will be continuing the restoration.  I picked this one because the work I can't do, body work, has already been done.  All I have to do is the mechanical restoration, which is what I want to try.  I can hardly fit in a Midget, and it is not really a practical car for me, but that's not the point.  The Midget is an absolutely wonderful car for restoration.  There is nothing to it.  It has a 1275 cc engine.  You can pick it up.  It never had anything complicated such as, oh say, automatic transmissions, air conditioning, or power windows.  And because there are so many enthusiasts in the U.K., the parts are incredibly cheap and available.  I'll see how far this project goes.  If it doesn't work out, I'll just resell everything on eBay, and consider it an educational experience.  These are the original pictures from the seller from eBay.  Everything is in my garage now, waiting for me to start the project.Iíve concentrated on the other toys for now, and all my automotive work has been directed at the Mercury convertible.

 

 

And, of course, I have Elliot:

"You're fat and boring, and I want to go to the Dog Park."

 

Scott Badman  Phone: 217 979-1384  scottbadman@comcast.net