A few more “Before” pics

Front end disassembled, but “mostly” there. The grille and headlight buckets are fine.
Power steering, no A/C, no power brakes.
Trunk floor LOOKS good. There’s a hidden rust hole in front of the bumper brace that some asswipe covered in Bondo and painted.
Someone installed an export brace… it will get put back in when the car is reassembled.
Gas tank and trunk floor look OK, other than needing a couple of small patches.
Does it run? Nobody seems to know. If I get a functional battery we’ll try to fire it up.
Fairly clean, actually. The valve covers will either get cleaned and polished, or blasted and painted blue like they should be.
The hood is toast.

Amazing work.

Found two rust holes in the trunk. Someone covered one with Bondo, then painted over it with undercoating. The other had a metal patch panel screwed over it. No rust removal, no attempt to actually FIX anything, just a cover-up. Sweet.

Right front fender had a patch panel spot-welded over the top of existing badly rusted metal. Again, no attempt to cut out the rust or anything… just weld a patch on top and take a grinder to it. Who the hell does this kind of crap?? Was this attacked by a 13 year old with a garage full of Harbor Freight tools? Then, since it was too rusted out to bolt to the body, the fender was brazed to the rocker panel (very badly), and welded to the frame. You just can’t make this shit up.

The Mustang’s Data Plate

The ’66 Mustang’s data plate tells us:

Model year: 1966
Assembly plant: Dearborn, MI (Code F)
Body style: Coupe standard interior (Code 65A)
Engine: 289cid 2V 200hp V-8 (C code)
Exterior color: Arcadian Blue (code F)
Interior color: Blue with Blue trim (code 22)
Production date: 30 April, 1966 (Code 30D)
District sales office: Omaha, NE (code 54)
Rear axle ratio: 2.8:1 (Code 6)
Transmission: C4 Automatic (Code 6)

Exploring what’s been done

I took a wire brush to the floor pan seams seams today.  I could tell they had been replaced, but given what else I found I was a little afraid I’d find them stuck in place with caulk or construction adhesive or something. The floor pans were welded in, thank God.  It’s pretty crappy welding, and I’ll probably want to grind some down and add some more, but they did get welded. 

The heater box is broken.  I was going to lay up some new glass and fix it (I can do fiberglass work), but it’s so brittle and old that I’m probably not going to bother.  It’s a little bit of a bummer since it’s not cheap to replace, but it’s an area where I’ll trade money for time and only have to do it once.  I’m pretty certain the heater core is toast too, since the hoses were disconnected and bypassed.  I’ll pressure test it, but again — new heater cores are cheap.

I also went after the primer on a few spots I suspected might be hiding nasty surprises, like the bottom of the A pillars and around the rear window.  All solid factory metal, so that’s good.  I was having visions of 1980s Wal-Mart body patch kit fiberglass and Bondo under there. Note to self: Next time, take along a magnet so I will know for sure what’s metal and what’s not.

The cowl area looks like there has been some work done. I’m seeing signs that someone may have already been in there and replaced the parts that tend to rust out — some drilled out spot welds and even evidence of some brazing — but it’s too early to tell what has actually been done. I’m going to hate cutting off the original 1966 date stamped fenders, but I may have to just to get them off the car.

Disassembly and discovery

Tonight I checked on the state of the heater, since the hoses are disconnected and bypassed. As it turns out, the heater box is broken. It’s a $180+ fiberglass box. I’m debating whether to just buy new, or repair this one. A good little chunk is missing, but I have the fiberglass and epoxy here from some wheel pant repair I did. I’ll sleep on that for a day or two before deciding. It would take me a couple of evenings to lay up new glass, clean it up and shoot some paint on it. It’s not like it’s going to show, it just needs to be functional and not too ugly.

I also found one of the most ghetto examples of defect hiding I’ve ever seen. I mean, I saw the telltale globs of pink putty and knew there was some crap work done up front, but this… holy crap. A nice big rust hole under the hood was filled with a great big glob of clear RTV silicone, smoothed out and painted over. I’m not making this up. I have no idea what else I’m going to find up there, but it’s getting a little ominous. Oh well… I did budget for nasty surprises and outside labor for welding. It will just take a fender apron and some labor to cut out the old and weld in the new. If I’m lucky, maybe even just an extension piece. That was the passenger side, I haven’t checked out the driver side yet. Gotta make a run to the hangar before the snow gets too deep… it seems ALL of my 3/8 ratchets have migrated there. I’m not taking the rest of those fender bolts out with nothing but a flex handle.

On the bright side, the more I dig into the interior, the better things look. It’s looking like two people attacked this car at different times. One did the absolute worst job imaginable, and all his stuff needs to be ripped out and re-done — plus fixing the additional damage his work caused. The other tried to do it right, even if kind of cheap, and it just needs to be cleaned up and fixed a little. The dash just needs a new bezel for the instrument cluster. The original AM radio works (the speaker is toast, of course). All the controls seem to be operational and looking OK — I can run them through the brass tumbler and polish them up with some walnut shell media.

I started chipping and scraping away all the primer and filler and caulk and gunk and other crap around the windshield and rear window. I was afraid I’d find rust in the A pillars or around the rear window; aside from surface rust there’s very little. So far, all of the “seriously wrong” seems to be concentrated in one little corner of the car. I’m beginning to suspect a botched collision repair in the distant past, but it’s really too early to tell until I get those fenders off. For that, I’ll need more room in the garage so I can swing the doors fully open. Another day.

Props to Hulu.

We’ve caught up on all the Hulu shows we watch, no new ones for a couple of months. There is really nothing we need from them until the new season is available. Went to cancel my subscription, with the intent of re-starting in April or May. Hey — they let you “pause” your subscription for up to 12 weeks. Sweet!! Exactly what I needed to do. Thanks for anticipating our needs, guys.

1966 Mustang rebuild project

Over the weekend I picked up a ’66 Mustang 289 coupe that two previous owners had started to restore, then stopped. Some of the work is OK, some will need to be re-done. After getting all the parts sorted out and inventoried, I’ll likely pull the engine and trans for a cleanup, rebuild and fresh paint while cleaning out the engine bay. Some sheet metal will just be replaced, like the hood and quite likely the front fenders as well. The trunk is in surprisingly good shape, as is the dash — original AM radio and all.

Most of the glass is present. I was told it was ALL there, but my mistake — didn’t inventory it completely. The expensive quarter windows are gone, as are most of the taillight assemblies, etc. Most of it probably would have been replaced anyway, but the missing quarter windows will be a budget hit I wasn’t expecting. Well, not specifically at least. I did build in a “fudge factor” for things like this, as well as a generic estimated number for assorted interior and exterior parts.

The doors and front fenders may be salvageable, or may not. I budgeted for replacing all of it. Previous owners welded in some patches… some poorly.

No apparent rust on the back end, but I am assuming someone covered rust holes with body filler at some point. We’ll see what stripping reveals.

The dash is in surprisingly good condition, including the original AM pushbutton radio. The whole interior will get a repaint, and the newer floor pans may need some welding. Again, we’ll see what the cleanup and stripping reveals.

At 93K miles and with non-original valve covers and air cleaner, we’ll assume some work has been done and the engine will need an overhaul. It’s coming out for sure.

I think the biggest challenge right now will be not ordering a bunch of parts prematurely. For example, I know the car will need all new emblems, window weatherstripping, and so on. I don’t need that stuff NOW, though, and won’t for quite a while. The first task will be to remove the fenders, then get it up on jack stands so we can pull the wheels and tires off and remove the engine and transmission for rebuild. Interior and trim work is months off, so ordering parts for that would be a waste. Also, if I decide to sell partway through, I don’t want to have to let a bunch of new parts go at a loss.

Right now I have some basement drywall to finish pulling out thanks to a botched waterproofing job by the previous homeowner… then it’s wrench time.

Dumping Hulu

Hulu was more or less OK, but we’re switching to DirecTV Now. Same price, but they have AMC AND a program guide. How did I ever miss the fact that Hulu doesn’t carry AMC?? I have no idea, but that’s a deal breaker. And I got really freakimg tired of no program guide, and being forced to scroll through the crap networks we don’t EVER watch, every time I wanted to see what’s on.

DirecTV Now isn’t perfect but so far it beats Hulu for streaming live TV. We may pick up basic Hulu from time to time if we want to catch up on some of their series, but I’m not keeping them on the payroll any more.

Hulu Support contacted me via Twitter to say they do have a program guide. Let’s just say their idea of what qualifies as a program guide differs from mine. You can get a listing of what is on RIGHT NOW, and the next show on each channel. No indication of whether a show is new or a rerun. No time grid to see what’s on later. No way to filter the channel list other than very recently viewed channels, or scroll through all of them whether you want to or not. Don’t ever care what’s on BET, MTV, Cartoon Network or whatever? Too bad. Oh, and whatever you were watching is gone while you’re looking — no audio or background video, like with cable or DTV.

At this point we’re new to streaming our live TV, so my loyalty to any vendor is zero. We’ll switch until we find something we like, and if I find something better we’re gone.

More on cord cutting

We’re a couple more weeks in now, and so far we’re not really missing the cable TV much. It would be better — much better — if Hulu would just offer a damned program guide. The data is there, why not offer it in the app? Not doing so is just stupid and obstinate. It has my customer loyalty at zero, and I’m looking at alternatives like YouTube TV. Unfortunately, they do not offer a couple of cable networks that we consider “must-haves”: History Channel and Discovery.

I’ve now got 4K Fire TV Sticks on the big family room TV and the one upstairs. The Fire Cube will go on the basement TV, to get it away from the Echo device in the kitchen so those two aren’t always getting confused. I only bought the 4K sticks to get the remote with volume controls… any 4K TV we may buy in the future will have apps built in, so we won’t need the sticks for them anyway.

Ooma service has been rock solid, and it’s nice to be able to answer a call with my cell phone if Lisa is on another call on the cordless phone. I just power cycle the box once a week. I’d love it if Ooma would fix whatever causes the POTS port on the Telo to die weekly, but they don’t seem that interested in troubleshooting it. Meh. For the money we’re saving, I guess I’ll live with it.

New year, new way

Well, we are further down the “cord cutting” path as of 12/31. Friday night I got my billing notification from Cox… over double the amount I had expected, and well over $400. There was an unexplained “equipment” charge of $122, and some other new stuff. Apparently when we ported the phone number to Ooma, they canceled the phone service… along with a bunch of “package discounts” that significantly increased the cable TV costs.

I spent half an hour Monday gathering up all the Cox equipment. One Contour TV box, two mini boxes, a CableCard, the phone modem box, and a “tuning resolver” of some sort that was connected to the HDHomeRun box that had the CableCard. Took it all up to the Cox store, and returned it all. I told the nice woman there that I wanted to drop everything except Internet. She did not seem surprised at all, and much to my surprise didn’t even try to talk me out of it. I suspect it’s pretty common now.

I’d been seeing a persistent nag box on the Cox web site for the past few weeks, telling me I could upgrade to “GigaBlast” 1 Gbps Internet service for $99.99 per month — for the first year, anyway, with no indication of the cost after that period. That’s what they have been charging me for 300 Mbps, but it requires a new DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem. I just bought a nice DOCSIS 3.0 less than two years ago, so I wasn’t wild about that since 300 Mbps is more than adequate for our needs. The GB service is normally $119.99, not that they disclose that anywhere I could find. I asked her what the next step down in Internet access would cost — she said 100 Mbps for $87.95. That’s not much of a discount for a 2/3 reduction in speed, so I passed. However, that caused her to look at my other options. She said we qualified for a special deal on GigaBlast. $65.99 for two years, $85.99 after that, AND a free new cable modem with wifi. Cox calls it “Panoramic Wifi” for some reason. How could I pass that up? Another $34 off my monthly bill? Sure, let’s do that.

I wasn’t expecting this new twist, so I hadn’t given any thought to how to make this new equipment work in our network. I spent an hour or two getting things set up. I thought I’d keep the existing wifi router, so I created a new wifi network. As it turns out I could have saved myself a lot of extra work, because I ended up just using the Cox router and unplugging the old Netgear box. I may use it to set up a guest network, I don’t know. Anyway, we now have fairly good wifi coverage and really good speeds. At some point I’ll drag coax up to the shelf on the main floor where the Netgear router lived, so we will have better coverage. Sure wish I’d thought of that when we did the remodel and it would have been easy. I’m just glad those two Ethernet runs aren’t stapled down to the studs; I’ll be able to use one as a pull line to pull the coax through.

The new hardware and service solutions are still not perfect, but we’re living with it. That’s a subject for another blog post. If you’re looking for a seamless transition or a totally trouble-free experience, we’re not there yet and may never be. Some of us remember when you could pick up a telephone and make a call to anyone, always know for sure you’re going to get a dial tone, calls virtually never got disconnected for no reason, and the voice quality — while not stellar — was always the same. With simplicity comes reliability, I guess. Now, I will grant that we are a little bit of an edge case. I could have gone out and bought a new TV for the family room and used its built-in Amazon/Hulu/whatever apps. That means it all gets power cycled at least once a day. I could have gone with a Fire TV Stick, same deal. I didn’t, because of our specific hardware limitations. After dealing with the Cube for a while, though, I’m going to try the 4K Stick and see if that works for us. Long story, but the Fire TV Stick (or anything else) would have required a second remote. Or so I thought. As it turns out, the newest remote does have an IR emitter to control the soundbar.

So here’s the score so far… our monthly Cox bill, back before our “special deal” ran out, was $210 per month for Internet, TV and phone. We weren’t paying anything extra for streaming services — no Netflix, Hulu, etc. We have Amazon Prime, but I treat that separately because it pays for itself between shipping and credit card discounts. That amount had been gradually creeping upward for over a year as little additions were made to fees and surcharges. After the special deal expired, we were paying $241 monthly. That did include HBO and Showtime — utterly worthless wastes of money, and I just hadn’t gotten around to canceling them both. That would have dropped the bill to roughly $215.

Our total monthly spend now works out as follows:

  • Ooma Premiere phone service $17.64/month
  • Hulu with Live TV $42.77 per month
  • GigaBlast Internet $65.99 per month

Total new monthly spend: $126.40. Total savings: Between $86 and $114 per month, depending on how you look at it. Is over $1K to nearly $1400 a year worth the incremental amount of button pushing to watch TV? I think yes.

Can we save more? I don’t know, but I rather doubt it. We’re paying Hulu quite a bit for the live TV portion. Can we cut that down? Not really. Apps for several networks we watch require a cable TV sign-on to use. Ooma Premiere is costing us about 1/3 what Cox was charging us, and for more and better features. Honestly I don’t know that we can do a lot better. I was paying more when I was running my own Asterisk VOIP PBX and connecting directly to a VOIP backbone provider. We pay about $11.50 per month for “enhanced” caller ID, and some call blocking features that have been moderately effective at reducing the number of robocalls and scammers ringing the house phones. Worth it.

Oh, and when I got home from the Cox store I received an email begging me to stay. They’d cut my rates by 40% if I came back, they said. For a while, anyway. Sorry, too little too late. If you wanted to keep me as a customer, then why were you screwing us by overcharging? If you’ll sell it to me for $144 per month, then why were we paying $240? I don’t want a vendor that I have to call every few months and threaten to leave, then re-negotiate our deal. I don’t enjoy doing it, and I don’t enjoy being taken for granted. We don’t hate Cox, but quite frankly they are pricing themselves out of the market.