Monday, December 29, 2008

Well...we did it!


We did it...

My brother and I sent the car in for the collision repairs back in October. After straightening the frame and aligning the front bumpers, the body shop outsourced the fiberglass repair for both fenders. The fenders were returned to the body shop a few weeks ago and we had to decide on the new paint.


I was here in Chicago when Mario called from the shop. They needed our decision within a few days and there wasn't any time for me to travel back to Michigan. The Clenet-approved DuPont paint specifier happened to be with Mario at the shop, so I made my decision by memory.


I truly value and appreciate the advice and thoughts from a few friends who suggested keeping the paint colors original...


The paint chip I liked was located in the center section, right column about midway down. A deep lustrous red that wasn't too tomato, nor too burgundy. However I did not know the shade name, nor paint number. I had to trust Mario as he described the shades to me. The shop owner told Mario that he'd have a card painted for us by mid-month so that we could make a firm decision on the new color for the fenders.


Last weekend I was in Michigan, enjoying the weekend prior to the Christmas holiday week. I mentioned getting the painted card sample from the shop to Mario. He was busy the prior week and did not hear from the body shop. We had a few free hours on Saturday and I was hoping to drive to the garage where the car is being stored. As the weekend ended, I headed back to work in Chicago on Monday morning. It was difficult getting back due to a horrible blizzard in Western Michigan, however I finally made it to the office just after the noon hour.


As I was getting caught up with many e-mails and voicemail, I picked up a call from Mario. He exclaimed that the body shop called and needed the car to reinstall the fenders. They went ahead and painted the fenders without giving us the option of seeing a card. There was an obvious communication error and misunderstanding.


Mario immediately drove to the shop to give approval and was very happy with the color and the application. He retrieved the Clenet and drove it back to the body shop (yes, in the blizzard) where the car is now getting reassembled.


It's been a week since this all went down and I have yet to see the car...just some poorly lit and very fuzzy pics from Mario's cellular.


I'm preparing for a new year (today is Monday the 29th) and for a new look with our beloved Clenet. Let's hope I too like what he saw!

rz

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Annual Holiday Letter...

Christmas 2008


Dear Family and Friends:

Wishing you and your loved ones a joyful holiday season and a magnificent new year! The past year brought many fond memories of family, friends, gatherings and happiness...

We sought sunshine and solace from the cold Midwestern winter last February and enjoyed ten days of relaxation in Pie de la Cuesta,
Mexico. The small hotel: La Villa Nirvana is located in the small fishing village just outside Acapulco. A few excursions and many lazy days spent under the palupa mere yards from the Pacific surf were perfection.

In late May, I jumped on a plane bound for Dallas where I purchased a 1979 Clenet Series I, something that fulfilled a dream since Mario and I were sixteen. I have published a blog that can be found on Google. The Clenet is a very limited production, hand-built car from Santa Barbara, CA, mostly driven by celebrities of the day. We own #229 of 250 built.

Our distant "relatives" from Italy came to Chicago for a ten-day visit in early August. Gianfranco and Suzanna (who are seasoned world travelers) were quite impressed with our fair city and all it has to offer. The visit cumulated with a weekend barbeque at Mario's home in Michigan. They will return in May of 2009, as Daytona Beach will host the Zarantonello reunion; The first time it will be held in the USA. All "Z" descendents must attend.

The fall season was somewhat hampered with my first ever hospitalization from diverticulitis. Three solid weeks of intense treatment coupled with permanent dietary changes should keep further symptoms at bay.

Thanksgiving was held at Mario’s home in Michigan with most of our family and a few friends. Cesha and Phil will host Christmas Eve at their home. I will co-host Ken's family at his home in Three Oaks the weekend prior to Christmas. There are numerous holiday parties on my social calendar this season, let's hope I can fit them all in.

The upcoming year may present new challenges and perhaps changes with my service at GSP. As of this writing, we are renegotiating contracts with my entire client base. They all want top-notch work for pennies...go figure! In any case, I am preparing myself for change, including my own business venture. I keep saying the glass is half-full.

Enjoy the season and everyone dear to you!

Fondly,
Ron Z.

e-mail: zarantenello@aol.com or ronz@zarantenello.com

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Repairs Have Begun...

Just three weeks ago I was driving the Clenet with the top down along beautiful country roads admiring the fall colors with temps in the low 70's for goodness sake.

Today the Clenet is at our local collision center in Union Pier, Michigan to start the repairs from the collision back in August. The shop owner has already straightened the frame to original specs which has realigned the fenders up front. The gap between each fender and sub-frame is now symmetrical.

Mario met with the shop guys this morning to discuss removing the fenders. Many of the bolts that attach the fenders to the body are hidden behind the interior carpets along the outer body walls. They are concerned that the original lambs-wool carpets might become damaged when pulling it away from the interior fender/body walls. Being hands-on, Mario was able to crawl into the cabin of the car to inspect the area affected. He found small slits already cut into the hide where each mounting nut is located. This is good news.

The shop owner and his team are now more confident that we will be happy with the repair now that a plan has been agreed upon. By keeping Mario and I informed of any concerns, changes and ideas during this process, I also feel much better with the shop we chose to complete the repairs.

Once the fenders are off the car and being repaired, we will take the car from the shop and spend time working on the power window installation and other various projects while the fenders are off the car.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Time For the Facelift!
















Mario and I pieced the front end of our Clenet back together after the collision I endured back in August. This past weekend we decided it was time to remove all of the trim, lights, horns and other chrome goodies from the fenders to help facilitate the body and frame repair.
Saturday morning was cold and rainy in Three Oaks, MI. After having breakfast at Bailey's Cafe we returned to Kens house to start the de-jeweling process. Mario and I jumped in with both feet. He chose to start up front and I began by removing the teak rub strips on the running boards.

The process took about three hours as we methodically removed bolt after bolt, labeling each piece and placing them into their own zip-lock bag. Most parts were already labeled from the factory which will make refitting much easier.

Each individual wiring harness were tagged and photographed as to ensure lights don't flash when we push the horn button upon final reassembly!

The car will be going into the body shop this week where both fenders will be removed, repaired and repainted. With the fenders removed, the shop can nudge the frame back to where it belongs, giving us a symmetrical vehicle when complete. We will most likely not be driving the car until spring arrives in early 2009. Something that I will be greatly anticipating over our blustery Midwestern winter.

We have a week or so to decide upon the new color of the fenders and we are both leaning to a red that will compliment the grey body and the red leather interior. We'll see what happens...

-Ron

Warren Woods Road







I spent last week in Michigan as I usually do every mid-October, to enjoy the bright crisp mornings along with the vibrant fall colors that abound. Wednesday afternoon was one of those spectacular fall days and I knew that a drive down Warren Woods Road was in order.
I grabbed my camera and hopped into the Clenet. Here are some pics taken from inside and along side the car.

-Ron

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fall Driving Tour







Every fall season, the LCC-LMR will host a weekend driving color tour to a predetermined destination where we can combine our love of driving and see the splendor of nature. This year I made a suggestion of our group motoring along rural roads to Starved Rock National Park along the Illinois River just outside Utica, IL. Our club treasurer Jim volunteered to coordinate the route while I was entrusted to secure a lunch reservation in the main dining room at the lodge.

We agreed on the date in mid-October and settled for Saturday the 18th. Bright and early that morning, Mario collected me and the Clenet from Ken's house for our two-hour drive from Three Oaks, MI to Channahon, IL where the group met for a quick breakfast of pastries and coffee prior to the color tour. The weather was perfect for the day with sunny skies and a daytime forecast in the mid-60's. Mario and I arrived at the morning meeting place with just a minute remaining of our anticipated two-hour ETA. Jim and Larry were already there with breakfast waiting. The group quickly assembled over the next forty-five minutes with about forty members joining.

Both Jim and I made a few announcements, talked about the scenic route along the historic I & M canal and handed out maps with areas of interest along our proposed three-hour driving tour. The group posed for a quick photo-op and then quickly settled into their places in our caravan as Mario and I lowered the top on the Clenet. We were positioned just about in the center of the caravan along the entire route snapping a few pics along the way.

As the group motored along, we passed through small towns bustling with Saturday morning activity and quaint rural areas that gave us the fall color we came to see. This tour gave me the opportunity to see these down-state Illinois towns that were grew from both shipping and farming. Our route took us past elaborate Victorian mansions as we motored through Morris and Ottawa, IL. The rural areas between these river towns were ablaze with stunning colors that only a Midwest fall season can produce.

We finally arrived at the State Park and enjoyed a wonderful meal. Afterwards, Mario and I joined a few car club friends for a scenic walk along the river and up along the cliffs. The driving tour concluded our car related adventures for the season and we are now going to concentrate on the repairs needed from the collision back in August.
-Ron

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Our First Award


The LCC-MDR guys hosted their annual early Fall event known as "Something About Saugatuck" in S.W. Michigan last weekend. A handful of guys from the Chicago area brought their cars out in the endless rain to be part of this annual event. The meet was held in Saugatuck/Douglas, MI at an all-inclusive, somewhat retro 1950's resort.

The west coast of Michigan is known as Chicago's Hamptons with many lake-side resort towns that span the last 100 years. This event is usually well attended by at least 6 Midwestern groups with guys from Minneapolis, Chicago, SW Michigan, Detroit, Indy and Columbus. Our group booked the entire resort and the spill-over at nearby hotels.

Mother Nature was not cooperating and gave us the combined efforts of a Northwest weather front combined with the remnants of Hurricane Ike - bringing billions of gallons of rain to the upper Midwest. We remained optimistic as the 10-day weather forecast gave us a mere 30% chance of rain all weekend.

We removed the hard-top from the Clenet and relied on the canvas soft-top to keep us dry and headed towards Saugatuck on Friday morning. There were momentary patches of light rain as we motored along, nothing that we felt would become a problem. We expected some rain infiltration into the car as we both drove MG's when we were in our late teens and early 20's.

We arrived at the host resort, parked the Clenet outside our first-floor room and immediately began to party. This was the first large-scale meet where we shown the Clenet. Many of the guys asked questions and we gladly answered.

The car show was held at its scheduled time on Saturday with everyone walking among the cars with their umbrellas or hefty-bags used as makeshift rain gear. Nobody was going to let a little rain dampen our spirits. Ken joined us just after the car show and brought my XK-8 from Three Oaks. Later that night at the awards banquet, our Clenet took runner-up for the "Best Saugatuck Cruiser" award. Mario and I are absolutely delighted considering the competition was fierce.

With the rain not letting up on Sunday morning, Ken and I decided to leave early and head back to Three Oaks, letting Mario take the Jag on real estate appointments. The rain continued and the Clenet let us know he was not happy being driven in it. The water entered the passenger compartment from behind the dash, through the rear window stitching and at least a half-dozen other entry points.

We now understand the Clenet is a fair-weather vehicle...but at least we have our first trophy to show off!

-Ron Zarantenello

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Years Later...

The original idea for my Clenet blog is to share my excitement and enthusiasm with anyone interested. Today I have to say something to honor those who lost their lives, their survivors and the valiant heroes of that fateful day seven years ago.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001 had begun as any other late summer/early fall day here in Chicago. Clear and brisk with the remnants of the morning dew evaporating into what would have been a spectacular warm and sunny day.

I had just purchased and moved into my two-flat the weekend prior and felt great about my new home and neighborhood. I left my Lincoln Square home at 6:45 a.m. and headed north to Glencoe, IL instead of downtown Chicago where our offices are located. My crew and I were to start one of our typical location photo-shoots at a private residence for our client, Spiegel Catalog. Being the producer of the shoot, I like to be the first to arrive at the location.

Knowing that I wasn't in any rush, I followed surface streets instead of the expressway from the north side of Chicago and into the suburbs. The convertible top of my Mercedes 560SL Roadster was lowered as I motored along, stopping at a local coffee shop midway to my destination. The weather was wonderful and I was feeling good that my client chose a local home to use for the shoot as I absolutely love being in the Midwest for these crisp late-summer days.

I arrived at the home and met with the homeowners who were eager to host a commercial photo-shoot. I went into "Ron, the producer" mode and walked about their home detailing the progression of our shooting schedule. Everything was going smoothly as my photographer and client set up the first shot of the day. As the crew was making decisions on lighting and props, the homeowner hurried into the kitchen where we were shooting and turned on the small counter-top television. She exclaimed that a small plane had just hit one of the WTC towers. We immediately focused on that small screen showing a live-feed of the towers.

The world changed as we knew it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Some minor changes...





My brother Mario and I have been tooling with the idea of making some minor and one major change to the car.

The minor changes include exterior and interior lighting. The one and only element on the car that we think could have been better executed are the exterior turn signal lamps. We both agree they seem too large and flat, especially the front indicators. We would prefer smaller, chrome bullet style indicators that would mimic the shape of the driving lights and headlamp pods.

As for the rear turn indicator lamps, we are both in agreement they should be chrome bullets with a square lens as all other rear lighting lenses are square when viewed from behind.

On a recent weekend trip to visit our niece at her cottage in rural Illinois, we came across the retail space for JC Whitney auto and cycle parts. I found several bullet style lamps that could be used for either hot-rods or motorcycles. We purchased a few varieties for both the front and rear of the car and will make the decision to swap these out from the Yamaha cycle indicators that Alain originally used.

All original parts and pieces will be stored safely at Mario's home if we ever need to put the car back to original condition.

As for the interior lighting, while driving at night, the lower dash beneath the tray is not lit very well. The two small pivoting lights buried in the floor carpets between the seats do not illuminate the lower dashboard as planned. To bring more light onto the lower dash, we found a few small chrome lamps that can be mounted to the underside of the dash tray and attached to the dash lights. This will require some planning on our part for the aesthetics and electrical work required.

Now...for the more drastic changes...
We recently received word from our adjuster and appraiser from Hagerty Insurance regarding the collision repairs that are necessary from last month's little fender-bender. Both fenders need to be removed from the car to ensure a proper repair. With both fenders needing to be removed, repaired and then subsequently repainted, Mario and I are toying with the idea of changing their color from dark gray to deep red - to match the leather interior. We've seen similar color combinations where the body is light with dark fenders and alternating painted pin-stripes to coordinate the two colors - something like Jerry Capizzi's former Series I.

We are both intrigued with the idea, however we also realize the original gray on gray color combination is truly a classic design and should be honored.

We have a few months to think this change over as the car will be going into the body shop after we are done showing and driving the car this season.
-Ron Zarantenello

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Frosty Ice-cold Air

The Air Conditioning did not work when we purchased the Clenet, something that we really didn't give much thought.

As we were driving back towards Three Oaks from Auburn, Indiana for this weekend's A-C-D festival and Kruse Auction, we discussed picking up some replacement dash lights for the Clenet. As we approached South Bend, IN along I-80, I entered "auto parts" into the GPS unit which immediately redirected us to the nearest auto parts store.

While searching for replacement dash lights at a nearby Advance Auto, Mario happened upon a conversion kit for older 12R A/C equipped vehicles. The kit contains three canisters of new R-134a refrigerant, replacement high and low pressure valves, a handy re-filling tube with pressure gauge and DVD to follow along. All this for the whopping sum of $26.99. We walked out of the store with the A/C conversion kit and the lights we originally wanted.

Arriving at Ken's house thirty minutes later, Mario popped the DVD into my laptop and watched the tutorial a few times to ensure he was confident the process was as easy as the guy portrayed.

We already had the system checked earlier this summer at the Ford dealer who told us the system was evacuated, but not recharged. By following the easy instructions, Mario had the new valves installed within a few minutes and had begun pumping new refrigerant into the A/C system before I could get back outside to the driveway. As he was attaching the second canister to the fill tube and shaking it vigorously as instructed by the DVD dude, I placed my hand in front of a dash vent that had already begun to blow cool.

By time we finished the final canister of R134a, the A/C was blowing ice cold. We'll now monitor the A/C over the next few weeks to see how long it will hold this charge.

Easy, easy, easy!

Ron Zarantenello

Thursday, August 21, 2008

New Acceptance...


The Antique Automobile Club of America created a new display class for factory-built vehicles that replicate the look and style of a previous make and model. These vehicles must be 25 years of age or older to qualify and be certified by the AACA as such. The new display class (Second Generation Collector Vehicle) includes Avanti II, Clenet, Glenn Pray, Shay along with others. This new designation does not allow home-built kit-car vehicles that are not recognized by the AACA.

This is good news and I want to focus my energy and thoughts on something positive after last week's collision while driving the Clenet.

As I mentioned in the earlier posting, Mario wanted to show the car at the AACA meet in San Diego in the new show class created for factory-built neo-classics with the Clenet being the featured make. We learned of this new vehicle class a few weeks ago from Tom @ the Clenet Registry. Mario has submitted an application to the AACA along with the necessary documents to get our Clenet registered.

Both Mario and I are pleased that certain neo-classic vehicles are being recognized by the AACA, which will hopefully enlighten more people that our Clenet is a factory-built car.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ouch!





Please tell me this didn't happen!
I'm in shock! Today just isn't my day, even with the sun shining, moderate temperature and low humidity! The weather is just perfect for a top-down drive through Three Oaks to fill the tank and run the car past the dealer to to get their advice on the air conditioning.

Mario wants to show the car at the AACA meet next month in San Diego and wants the A/C to be in top-notch condition for the drive through the desert states! We also anticipate participating in the LCC-MDR car show in Saugatuck, leaving the LCC-LMR fall driving tour to Starved Rock, IL in mid-October to finish off the car show season.

I'm about a quarter-mile from the Ford dealer cruising at a respectable 20 mph or so when a red blur suddenly appears from my left. About one second before impact I was able to get my hand on the horn and foot firmly on the brake when the most sickening crunch and simultaneous jolt rocked my inner core!

Ouch!

The car came to a halt and the red blur is continuing beyond the intersection, never applying his brakes! I sat there for a second making sure I was not injured and then looked off to my right, seeing the red blur is actually a Pontiac Transport mini-van. The driver finally came to a stop a good half-block from the intersection, his rear tire already flattened. I turned the wheel, pulled out of the intersection and came to a stop.

I sat motionless behind the wheel for about thirty seconds, not wanting to see what he did to my Clenet. When I felt that I could stomach the carnage, I opened the door and got out of the car. At first glance, the cracked fender apron, twisted driving light, mangled bumpers and sheared horn look somewhat superficial...however the bent frame behind the bumpers and under the apron seems to be more serious.
Several residents near the intersection began to emerge from their homes to check on our well-being after hearing the thunderous crash. I kept pacing about the scene holding my head, not wanting to believe this just happened. I'm so grateful so many people came to ensure we were not injured and also called the accident into the Three Oaks Police Department.

A Three Oaks Police Officer arrived and took statements from both of us. I'm glad the other driver immediately took responsibility for the collision and most importantly that neither of us were injured. I just cannot figure out how he could miss that stop sign? My neighbors from town were approaching the scene and stopped upon seeing me, the Clenet and a Police Officer. I'm so grateful they were able to run back to Ken's house to retrieve my phone and camera to document the collision. Deb and Bruce, thank you so much for helping me!

With almost an hour passing by, the Police Officer completed his paperwork and issued a citation to the other driver. I finished taking many pictures of both vehicles, the scene and of course...the unobstructed stop sign the other drive failed to heed. The car does not feel correct as I drive away, and once again I'll be without my Clenet for many weeks! How could this happen?

At least the Waterford crystal ashtray survived! I'm doing my best to stay sane and keep a positive attitude - after all - aren't situations like this why we purchase insurance?

Ron Zarantenello

Friday, August 15, 2008

What a find...


"I'm sorry, it doesn't have the crystal ashtray." The words I didn't want to hear from the seller back in May when I first inquired about the Clenet. Nonetheless, Mario and I continued with the purchase of the Clenet.

Before the car was delivered to us in early June, we had begun the search for the correct crystal ashtray that Alain specified for the car. Mario and I worked independently of each other using certain Internet search engines with the intent of finding a suitable replacement. We also have been in contact with several Series I owners and Tom at the Clenet registry. Everyone we contacted told us that the ashtray has been out of production for many years and finding it would be next to impossible. Tom at the Clenet registry told us that we could use a substitute ashtray, dish or bowl that fits into the leather receptacle and that other owners installed exquisite substitutes made of hand-carved wood.

Mario and I never shy away from a challenge! We want an original Waterford crystal ashtray and darn it...we'll make it happen!

Twelve weeks of daily Ebay and Google searches turned up very few glass and crystal pieces that could work, however we were reluctant to purchase anything to fill the void. I went as far as finding the printed book of Elite Cars that shows a rather decent shot of the original ashtray. We scoured the Internet for all available Clenet Series I interior photographs showing the ashtray. We now had our library of ashtray photographs that would help provide some detail of the glass design. We noted that the ashtray is tapered with the top edge being wider than the leather cradle where it would reside. I took measurements of the cradle and assumed that the top edge would be approximately 5-1/4" to 5-1/2" square and protrudes about an inch higher than the cradle. With these dimensions and the many photographs, we now had good information to find the proverbial needle in the haystack.

Last week while on my daily search for that ashtray, one particular eBay auction leaped out at me. The seller merely stated that she was selling a pressed glass ashtray that measures 5-1/3" square. The minute I opened the picture and saw the details, I knew this was either an original Waterford ashtray or something that is very similar. Without hesitation, I entered my highest bid that I was willing to pay in order to win the auction. Five Hundred dollars seemed a bit extreme for a piece of glass, however I wouldn't let it go.

Thirty hours had passed and at the few remaining minutes of the auction the price started to climb past my opening bid of seven dollars and eventually stopped at the whopping sum of $24.98 plus shipping and insurance. After the auction ended, I sent a picture of the ashtray to Tom at the Clenet registry who replied that the ashtray does indeed seem to be the correct Waterford piece.

Yesterday afternoon, the ashtray safely arrived in Chicago. I drove it out to Michigan this morning and to our excitement...fits like a glove! Mario looked at me with a grin and said, how did you know this would work? I merely held up my right hand for a high-five!
Ron Zarantenello

Monday, August 11, 2008

A new carburetor for the Clenet...


After we picked up the car from the Ford dealer last month, the car still had an annoying rough idle/ surge problem. As the Clenet reaches operating temperature, the idle surges past 1,200 rpms and then drops under 400 rpms. The surging and sputtering continues until the engine eventually stalls and is most embarrassing when driving up to a stop sign or stoplight.

Over the past 4 weeks, we've re-checked many of the new tune-up parts installed by the Ford dealer several times over! I communicated the rough idle with Tom Pierpoint of the Clenet Registry in California and he suggested replacing the Dura-Spark ignition module. To our dismay, the rough idle is unchanged. After replacing the ignition module, we tested vacuum lines along with replacing some of the vacuum temperature valves - which aren't cheap or easy to remove! Again, same condition.

We have also adjusted the carburetor at all of the adjustments screws we would find and again, anything we did would change how this car was running. Being frustrated and annoyed, I went on-line and found a rebuilt, California-emission carb out of a Phoenix, AZ shop. The shipment arrived late, so we ended up showing the car last week at the Illinois Transportation Extravaganza in its sickly state. The next day, the new carb arrived in Michigan and Mario quickly went to task and made the swap while I was at work in Chicago.

That afternoon my office phone rang with Mario on the other end. He couldn't contain his excitement...the car was idling as originally intended. No more surging, sputtering nor stalling. The beast has transformed into the elegant motor vehicle it should be.

The following Wednesday afternoon, Mario brought the Clenet to Chicago from Michigan to join us at the Millennium Park Orchestral concert that evening. While he and his business partner were on my balcony enjoying the view and a good red, I quickly took the Clenet out for a drive through the Gold Coast neighborhood. Being pleased that I was finally able to drive the car normally without one foot feathering the gas pedal and the other holding the brake, the car seemed effortless to pilot.

As we continue to improve the car, we are now concentrating on the one final piece to make this car whole...finding the elusive original Waterford crystal ashtray. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Ron Zarantenello

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Illinois Railway Museum and Car Show


Earlier this year the LCC-LMR made the 18th Annual Vintage Transport Extravaganza one of our summertime events to show our cars. The Extravaganza is held at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, IL. Well before Mario and I purchased the Clenet, we penned this car show into our calendars thinking we'd show our 1967 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham.

The Illinois Railway Museum is something that everyone needs to see - even without having the additional 500+ vintage cars added to the mix! Museums I've visited display artifacts in small glass cases or within moderate vignettes. This museum has hundreds of locomotives, coaches, interurban commuter trains, trolleys and most anything else that can ride on rails! We walked through vintage train cars that were contained in barns several-hundred feet long. Some train cars were in all of their restored glory, while others are awaiting complete makeovers from hundreds of die-hard volunteer rail enthusiasts.

Getting there...hours, minutes, miles and car swapping. Sounds like something one did at parties during the 70's by mixing car keys in a large bowl.Yesterday, Mario needed to be in Three Oaks, MI for their annual summer fest that is held along the main street of the tiny hamlet. He combined the Clenet with the Realty's parade float, which is a cute little house that is painted in Century 21 yellow with white trim and black details. Being one of the busiest summers I've had in years, Ken and I missed the summer fest to attend a wedding held in Indianapolis, IN. With no time to swap cars on Sunday morning, Ken and I took the Jaguar X-type sedan from Michigan instead of my XK8 convertible. I will require the sedan in Chicago on Monday morning to collect our distant cousins who will be arriving from Italy. Try getting 3 adults and their luggage into an XK8, especially after an eight hour international flight...I think not.

Early Sunday morning, Ken and I left the very fashionable downtown Indy hotel and headed north along I-65 to rendezvous with Mario just over the Indiana/Illinois border. I phoned Mario and gave him our estimated time of our arrival to the expressway oasis, hoping to allow him sufficient time from his home in Lakeside, MI. As Ken and I arrived at the Mobil station, the Clenet was already parked at one of the gas pumps. We pulled along side and began to re-fuel the Jaguar. Mario walked from the store, saw us and said he just pulled in a few minutes ago. Talk about great timing! We agreed to change cars for the ninety-minute drive to Union, IL. We quickly moved to the oasis rest area and made a pit-stop for breakfast and much needed coffee.
The drive out to Union was uneventful with the Sunday morning traffic being quite light.
Utilizing our Garmin navigation devices made our jaunt much easier as we didn't need to bother referencing our printed maps. We arrived at the show-car gate and were surprised when one of the attendants spotted our car and knew exactly what our car is. He also inquired if our car still had the original crystal ashtray and unfortunately it doesn't.

Most car shows I've attended over the years usually assemble the cars in an open field or area with neat orderly rows and categorize by make/manufacturer. Not here! Cars and groups were placed sporadically about the campus and in areas between the rail car barns. Some cars were grouped by manufacturer and marque, while others were grouped by club affiliate without regard to make/year/manufacturer.

As Ken and I drove along the paved drive, we passed some of these groups of cars while the volunteers gestured us to keep moving along to our designated area. Being our first visit to the Railway Museum, we did not know what to expect, nor where the car would fit in. Nope, not GM, Chrysler, nor Ford products. We passed Special Interest and noted the Studebaker, Cord and Packards with AMC nearby. I kept driving along and passed our designated and assigned area. Darn it! I now had to find a place to turn the Clenet around.

As we returned to our assigned area, the somewhat helpful volunteer motioned us into the Replica / Kit car area that was mostly filled with the local Chicagoland Replicar Association. Link: http://chicagolandreplicar.tripod.com/ We pulled in to the assigned area nestled between a 1950's 4-car train to one side and one of the train barns on the other. Not wanting to express my concern that I was showing a low-production, factory-built vehicle and not a replica, we took our assigned space and quickly became acquainted with members of this local car club. Several members came right over, introduced themselves and asked many questions about the Clenet that we were very eager to answer.

Within minutes, Mario arrived and quickly asked why our car was assigned to this particular area. Without knowing who, what or why, I answered him by assuming the organizers chose this particular category for our car because they don't know what a Clenet is. Knowing the car show was not juried, we let it go and continued meeting more of the Chicagoland Replicar Club members and checked out their wonderful collection of hand-built cars. Their cars ranged from the well-known MG and Mercedes replicas to a stunning blue Bugatti along with a boat-tail speedster.

Just about an hour had passed when two Ferrari replicas arrived. Mario, Ken and I paid particular attention to these cars and questioned the owners/builders who all happen to be women. That's what I like...a girl who knows how to cut into metal with an acetylene torch! Their story and cars can also be seen at the noted link.

We finished setting up the Clenet with our information cards and leaflets to help educate & inform the public at large, then set off to see the show cars, walk through and ride the trains. What a wonderful way to spend the day.

Ron Zarantenello

Friday, August 1, 2008

Hey, you know those are from a Harley?




It's Friday afternoon and I just got back from taking a small ride through the Harbor Country area to fill the tank and check the tire pressure. I noticed that a good number of guys on motorcycles always seem to give the "thumbs up" or other positive gesture. Mario and I ask ourselves...what is it that gets their attention? Could it be those fabulous chrome side pipes? Or, how about the stand-alone headlights? Perhaps its the sheer amount of chrome on the car.

While stopped in the left turn lane at the (and I do mean the one and only) stoplight in New Buffalo, a guy on a Harley pulled along side and looked over. He said...Hey, you know those are Harley tail lights you got there?

I knew the stop/tail light lens assemblies Alain used are from a motorcycle as they have a clear window that would illuminate the rear license plate. We just didn't know from which manufacturer or make.

For the past hour, I've been using Google to find really cool chrome add-ons for Harley Davidson tail lights. Something tells me that UPS might deliver some chrome visors or other Harley accessories to dress up these lenses.

*It's a few weeks since I wrote this post. Last week, Mario and I purchased chrome sleeves from the local Harley shop in Michigan City, IN to dress up the motorcycle look of the taillights. I like the fact that the sleeve covers the clear window on top of the light and helps disguise all of that red plastic of the lenses. We may need to fashion some sort of replacement side-marker for the rear of the car.
Happy Motoring.

Ron Zarantenello

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Another Seatbelt Upgrade...



After I added the hooks to support the convertible top when lowered to keep it from interfering with the seatbelts, Mario wanted to add another part to keep the belts aligned with the seats. He found his way to a salvage yard in Suburban Chicago and located several types of seatbelt supports. Mario spent a few hours going through many cars to find the right seatbelt supports ranging from GM, Ford and other various import makes.

One particular pair came from a mid-eighties Pontiac that are affixed to the headreast support posts and are typical black plastic.

The seats in the Clenet have removable/adjustable headrests with two chrome posts that go deep into the seatback. Also, the headrest itself has several screws on the underside that secure the mounting rods.

Mario pulled the headrests from the Clenet and was able to modify the salvage find with one simple hole drilled into the arm. This allows the seatbelt support to fit nicely between the top of the seatback and the headrest. Easy to install and easy to remove should we want to show the car without them.

These seatbelt supports combined with the convertible top supports that I installed make the car that much more enjoyable. When you get in to go for a ride, the seatbelts are right there along side the seatback. The original Clenet design merely let the seatbelts fall away from the seats and were somewhat difficult to wear in the tight cabin of the car.

Binding Sticky Seatbelts





The first time we drove the car, we found the seatbelts were difficult to operate and seem to bind when the convertible top is in the lowered position.
The upper portion of the seatbelt reel is anchored in a recess behind the seats. When the convertible top is lowered, the cage sinks low enough to where it interferes with the normal operation of the seatbelts. Once you're buckled in the car and start driving, the seatbelts slowly pull themselves back onto the upper reel. Should you try to lean forward to change the radio station or operate the lights or wipers, you find the seatbelt is too tight and will not release you from the seatback!

To solve this issue, Mario and I agreed that the convertible top cage needs to have some kind of support that will keep the lowered top high enough, away from the seatbelts when lowered. The folded convertible top also needs to be low enough so that it will not affect the boot cover when in place. We've discussed this issue for the past few weeks before I went looking for the appropriate hardware to remedy the problem. While lowering the top, I noted that we couldn't use anything along the back as it would interfere with rear window, therefore I'd have to use one support on each side of the vehicle.

I found two chrome plated towel hooks at a big-box home improvement store in the hardware department that appeared to be the correct size. I also purchased longer screws to save a future trip back to the store if the supplied screws were too short.

Once home, I took my time lowering the top several times to ensure I was happy with the placement and that the cage would descend into the curve of the hook. Taking very careful measurements, I marked the two holes and temporarily mounted the hook into the fiberboard behind the red leather upholstery. The hook looked good, however it was very weak as the fiberboard backing is about 1/8th inch thick. I had to find a suitable backing piece that would add strength to the hook.

I removed the speaker, reached into the cavity and found enough room to add a small piece of wood behind the hook. I pre-drilled the wood backing to ensure it would not split when tightening the screws. This process took about twenty minutes and the hook felt solid enough to carry the weight of the top and cage. I took very careful measurements and repeated the process on the other side of the car. Before mounting the second hook, I lowered the top again to ensure the lowered top was level and that both hooks would equally share the weight of the folded convertible top.

Problem solved. We are now able to easily move and adjust the upper portion of our seat belts while driving the car with the convertible top in the lowered position.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Clenet Gets New Sound...


About two weeks ago, Mario and I retrieved the Clenet from the local Ford service center where we had the radiator replaced. The repair was lengthy as a new custom radiator had to be created and the car sat motionless in their service facility. The day after we picked up the car, Mario and I jumped in and took it out for a test drive and a much needed wash! My oh my those mechanics know how to leave oily handprints all over it.

While driving around the area, we both noticed that one of us would turn the radio on, but then turn it off after a few minutes. The reason being that the originally installed Pioneer stereo just doesn't sound that great! We both agreed that the car needs some new sound! Together, we inspected the installation of the radio and felt a new unit shouldn't be too difficult to replace as it's a standard universal size. The radio is located in a recess that is covered in black leatherette and surrounded by the immaculate burl-wood fascia.

Mario began to pull the radio knobs from their stems while I opened the cowl cover that is under the hood. While dinking around in the cowl area, I am again impressed with the neat, orderly and clean work that went into building this car. All of the wiring is loomed and neatly banded from the fuse panel to all of the accessories, dash lights, gauges and miscellaneous components. Then...I hear Mario exclaim "oh no" from inside the car. I ask what's wrong and he immediately replies, "well, nothing is actually wrong, but we will have a major job ahead of us." I asked him to further explain.

When Mario removed the faceplate from the stereo, he discovered that the dashboard backing is one very thick piece of steel plating and the radio "cut out" is actually 3 holes. 2 small circles for the volume and tuning stems and a center opening for the cassette/tuner display. We both know that nobody manufactures the old-style stereo units anymore! We continued to remove the old unit, which came out of the car through the cowl and not from under the dash. We both knew what was ahead of us...the job just got bigger.

We had already purchased a new Sony single-CD player with an MP3 port and other various accessory ports and agreed that we would make it work. The four original speakers are in very good shape and will remain for now.

The reality set in that we'd have to cut the dash backing plate in order to install the new radio and we both knew a hand held hacksaw wasn't going to do it!

Just as a surgeon would prepare for his work, Mario and I prepared the Clenet for the face lift! We masked off the dash and the leather covered tray lip. All of the wiring behind the dash was carefully held back with ties and tape. We both sat in the car going over the plan to ensure the burl-wood dashboard fascia wouldn't receive a single blemish. Mario set up the reciprocating saw with a fresh metal blade, put his goggles on and went right to work. I didn't want to watch, but had to keep my eyes on the blade from behind the dash.

The sound of metal being cut from the Clenet while in Ken's driveway brought many of the neighbors over to see what he was doing with that saw. Mario and I continued to slowly and methodically cut into the dash to ensure precise, level cuts while Ken "entertained" the small crowd. They set up lawn chairs, a blanket and ordered in dinner while we were working.

Dinner arrived and a few bottles of red were opened just in time for us to take a break from the sawing. Several test-fittings and a few more passes with the saw gave us an appropriate opening for our new stereo. In tandem, Mario and I fitted the new unit in place and secured it with the original rear bracket. Mario then spliced the speaker wiring, ground and various switched and constant power supplies. We found matching nylon straps and rebound the wiring to original Clenet standards, keeping it neat and orderly. Mario slid a CD into the unit and we enjoyed some new sound while enjoying dinner just as the sun was setting in the western sky.

The radio-ectomy turned into another evening party out front of Ken's house where we listened to music, enjoyed a few more glasses of red and stayed up much too late!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Joans at the Acorn Theater


After rushing through a client meeting this past Thursday afternoon, I drove out to Harbor Country to meet with Mario to collect the Clenet. The servicing garage in Three Oaks took seventeen days to remove, rebuild and reinstall the radiator. The actual removal and reinstall was quite easy and didn't take more than a few hours. The subcontractor that re-cored the radiator took the most time. Last weekend was a huge let-down as we didn't get the chance to enjoy the car over the long holiday weekend. I was more than determined to get that car well before this weekend.

Photo Credit: G. Thomas Ward Photography at www.thepeoplephotographer.com/

Mario and I met at the service department late in the afternoon to get the car. The service manager closed out the work order from when they first took delivery of the car in early June. The total amount was nearly four thousand dollars for over twenty hours of service and repairs to get this car running correctly.

Mario and I quickly drove the car back to Ken's house and reinstalled the hood and took the car for refueling. Ken came home from his shop and we settled in for dinner. Later in the evening we decided to go see the Joans, an irreverent tribute to Joan Crawford, performing live at the Acorn Theater in bustling Three Oaks. This will be the second time we've seen the group play at the Acorn. Mario insisted on driving the Clenet and parked it right outside the front door of the Acorn Theater! Ken and I followed behind in my XK8 and were relegated to parking a good block away as the theater was filling.

The Acorn Theater is "the place to be" on most Thursday evenings with retro music videos shown throughout the night and amazing drink specials. As we entered, most of the usual Thursday night crowd were there, so we settled in with smart cocktails in hand awaiting the performance. For all of you Joan Crawford fans out there, I strongly encourage you to check out The Joans website: http://www.thejoansband.com/ and see a performance! It's true camp.

After the show, I had to get my phone out of the Clenet and went outside where Dave, one of the co-owners of the Acorn Theater was standing. I joined him for a quick conversation just as the band was approaching along with their manager/photographer. They inquired about the car and asked if they could have their photo taken next to it. Of course I obliged as the car could easily be considered to be just as campy as a tribute band to Joan Crawford!

Now that the Clenet is back on the road and we are enjoying it and needs to be named. Our 1967 Cadillac has been christened "Priscilla, Queen of the Prairie" back in '94 when we found her at the Iola car show and swap meet in Wisconsin. My former Maserati that dear friend Jeff found up on Milwaukee was named "Aldo" and was equally butch in "Stormy Sky" blue/gray paint and caramel suede/leather interior.

We are soon off for a Sunday dinner at Mario's Lakeside home with friends and I'm sure after a few glasses of wine we will come up with a suitable name for the Clenet.

Happy motoring!
-Ron Zarantenello

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Waiting Room

The last time we drove the Clenet was 16 days ago after Mario and I removed the hood and drove the car to Three Oaks Ford. We were told that the radiator needed to be rebuilt and would be sent out to a fabricator in N.W. Indiana. The Service Team ensured us that the car would be ready in a week or so. That timetable worked as I would be in Michigan the entire week prior to the July 4th holiday as I usually take that week off from work.

I met with the service team on Monday the 30th to discuss the ensuing repair. They assured me that the car would be ready on Wednesday the 2nd. No problem, I thought as Mario and I found things to do together early in the week with his real estate happenings. Wednesday came and we received word that the radiator wasn't ready and Thursday the 3rd would be a definite completion.

I joined Mario at the Realty mid-day Thursday waiting for the phone call to come collect the car. A representative from the dealer phoned me at 4PM with news that the car would not be ready until after the holiday weekend. What a let-down!

Mario and I both planned on playing with the car later that day and to give rides in it on the July 4th holiday with our family and friends attending a daylong outdoor barbecue at his home in Lakeside. The bad news ruined my afternoon and I decided to delve into party prep later that evening and all morning on Friday the 4th. With the "change in plans" I chose to party the entire holiday weekend that culminated at midnight on Sunday with friends from Michiana Shores.

While driving back to Chicago Monday morning with just five hours of sleep, I phoned Mario and asked him to deal with the service department at Three Oaks Ford awaiting their call to give us news on the delivery. Today is Wednesday the 9th and they still have the car!

I'm confident we will be meeting with the service manager after it is completed to discuss the many delays. We've owned this car for six weeks as of today and it has been in our possession for only 5-1/2 days. I am frustrated because there were full weeks where nothing was done to the car and it was actually drivable, only to have the service being performed while I waited for the car on the following Saturday. We could have used those days to upgrade the windows, replace the stereo along with other wants.

As of yesterday, Mario was assured that the car would be ready tomorrow and that everything we asked the Ford dealer to find/troubleshoot/solve/repair would be completed. I have a feeling we will be keeping our future service options open.

I'll be working from home all day Friday in Michigan and hopefully the Clenet will be in my possession. Let's just hope the weather holds so that we can enjoy it on the open roads.
-Ron Zarantenello

Monday, June 30, 2008

Please Don't Let Them Sit Silent!

Last week I was excited that the car received so much positive attention at the Burr Ridge car show along with the many thumb's-up while driving out there and later, back to Michigan.

Sunday morning came and with the car cooled from the previous day of driving between Chicago, Burr Ridge and Michigan, I now wanted to see what was going on with the cooling system. I opened the radiator, as sure enough...there was transmission fluid floating on top of the coolant. It was bright red and I wasn't very happy!

Fearing cross-contamination of coolant in the transmission, we agreed that we wouldn't drive the car further than the Ford dealer in Three Oaks. The internal transmission cooler is obviously leaking into the radiator and it is unclear if coolant is seeping into the transmission. Instead of driving the car on Sunday, we decided to tinker with other areas of interest.

1. The gas filler area drain-tube was clogged and needed to be opened. We tried 12-gauge copper wire from under the car to dislodge the offending blockage. From the top, we could get the wire about one inch into the drain hole. The blockage felt solid and I wondered if the factory workers forgot to drill out the drain tube. Mario and I cut a 10-inch length of heavy coat hanger wire and used the drill to slowly get through the clog. It worked and we no longer have standing water around the gas cap.

2. The leather seats being 30 years old need significant conditioning. We've driven the car only the past three weekends and noticed the seats were starting to show stress marks and heavy creases. Mario and I each chose a seat and vigorously massaged an entire bottle of Zymol into the entire seat. We did this over and over until the leather soaked up the conditioner. The last bit was applied just after putting the car away for the night. We let it soak in over night. Come Monday morning, the seats seemed to be a bit more pliable and not as dry to the touch.

3. We installed the new wiper blades that we ordered from British Victoria.

Wanting a better sounding radio, we also inspected the dash and cowl area to see how easily we can replace the current pioneer cassette player. The car originally was equipped with the equalizer/amplifier, however it is no longer attached to the dash. Just a bent bracket remains on the underside.

Later in the day we decided to take the car back to the Ford dealer to have the radiator, hoses and belts replaced. Without further ado, we removed the hood assembly by methodically removing the fore and aft retaining nuts and carefully counting the washers being used as shims to keep the hood aligned with the cowl and the grill shell. We figured it would be better for everyone if the hood was kept safely at Ken's house while the car was in for service.

Mario phoned the dealer midweek and learned that the radiator is basically a custom part and needs to be recored by an old-school radiator rebuilder. We spoke to the shop who exclaimed that he'd never seen a six-core radiator from any passenger vehicle. He promised a class-A job when finished, however the cost will be in the neighborhood of $1,200 for the rebuild.

Another nagging problem is that the car is sputtering and stalling at low idle when fully warm. Given it has a new fuel pump and filter, Mario insisted that the garage drop the fuel tank to see if any rust or corrosion could be blocking the fuel take-up. Just as I popped in on the garage this past Saturday morning, they already had the fuel tank dropped. I saw no rust, sediment or corrosion within the tank. To my relief, it was bright and shiny inside. I thought...well, there goes $65 worth of gasoline out the window! We also did a quick underside inspection. The left muffler seems to be a bit heavy, I'm sure it's filled with rust scale...or worse...a mouse condo!

Today is Monday, June 30th. I'm off work this entire week, taking some vacation days here in Michigan. I was hoping to play with the car all week...wanting to install a new radio and the power window kit, along with a missing snap for the convertible top. Instead, the car is sitting on a hoist at Three Oaks Ford with the radiator 35 miles away being rebuilt.

What a let-down!

I just returned from an estate auction nearby. Up for auction is a 1975 Dodge Charger SE, Gold Edition with only 48K on the odometer. From what I saw while inspecting her car, the door sticker shows a oil and lube service was performed locally in 1995. The mileage on the sticker is about 200 miles less than what's currently on the clock. Here too, is a car that the owner let sit for thirteen years without driving. Under the hood is a bright and shiny fuel filter. The heirs and auction house must have gotten the car running for the bidders with the least amount of effort or investment.

As I walk around the car, two men were discussing the carb being varnished and the old gas making the car run a bit rough! I simply smiled and walked away. I have my own neglected car to deal with and I'm not ready for another, thank you very much! Too bad, the car is very clean without any rust on the body and the cream colored interior is in excellent condition. I only wish I could say the same for under the hood!

So...anyone and everyone who reads this blog...please drive your cars! Don't let them sit still and silent, they are mechanical objects that need to be driven.
Ron Zarantenello

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Burr Ridge Show


I attended the Burr Ridge car show on Saturday the 21st with approximately sixty cars being shown. Link: http://magnetic.photodeposit.com/ I was happy to see a variety of cars being displayed along the Village Center. Everything from the pre-war classics through present day was on display. The Clenet being positioned alongside a late-20's LaSalle and across from a stunning '35 Packard. Centered on the lane were a brand-spanking-new 200-mile Ford GT in baby blue and a late-model red Ferrari paired with a Lamborghini in canary yellow. I have never been a huge fan of the Italian exotics, but after speaking to the owner of these cars and getting a personal visual tour...my thoughts are shifting.

The morning started with me detailing the Clenet at home in our garage wash-rack. I went back up to my condo to get ready and noticed rain showers moving into the area. I had 4 hours to arrive at the car show, and decided to take my time heading out. Mario entrusted my services to deliver paperwork and documents to a client of his in the far west suburbs, being that the car show was nearby to their home. I decided to leave about 45 minutes after the last rain shower that left the city streets a bit damp yet drivable.

The car was gleaming as I pulled out of my Gold Coast garage in Sandbur Village and drove up Sandburg Terrace towards North Avenue. Heading out on Lake Shore drive tested my patience with other drivers that were oblivious to me and my extra-clean Clenet! I must compliment the driver of the city-driven Dodge Neon who changed lanes ahead of me several times, kicking up copious amounts of standing water from between the lanes. As I headed westward on Interstate 55, the sky cleared and became mostly sunny. Within the hour, I delivered the parcel to Mario's client and could now concentrate on getting the car ready for the show.

While refueling at a nearby BP, I checked all vital fluids and noticed the newly filled transmission was low! Not finding Type-F fluid at the BP, I endured a quick jaunt through a nearby Wal-Mart, safely parking the Clenet far away from the local minivan-driving crowd. I topped off the transmission and then noticed a red glow within the radiator overflow tank, causing my heart to sink! Why would new coolant be deep red when it was yellowish-green going in? The transmission seemed to shift normally without any discernible variations in shift pattern or other quirks. I crawled under the Clenet and noted the underside of the transmission was dry without any leakage present.

Burr Ridge was all of 15 minutes away and I chose to get moving in that direction. I stopped along the Toll way at the newly remodeled oasis to let the car cool down while I enjoyed lunch at the Panda Express. After eating, I went back to the car to bucket-wash the insects and water spray from the fenders and front end. A good hour had passed, giving the car sufficient time to cool. I squeezed the upper radiator hose, checking for pressure with very little resistance. Opening the radiator, to my displeasure I found more transmission fluid floating on the coolant, confirming my suspicion of a problem with the trans-cooler within the radiator.

Spending over 90 minutes at the Toll way oasis, the registration time was quickly approaching. I was there at precisely three o'clock and took my spot as directed. Throughout the next five hours, the Clenet received a great deal of attention from fellow entrants and from the growing crowd. The few times I came back to the car, more and more people asked about the car and its history. I was very happy and eager to answer the many questions and enjoyed the pleasant comments and small talk. The show ended as the sun was fading, I was ready for my 70-mile cruise to return the Clenet. I found my way back to Lakeside utilizing Interstate 94, top down with the cool evening wind surrounding me. As I pulled into the drive, Mario and the gang came out to the car to greet me. It was a long day with the Clenet and it was time for a long-awaited glass of wine while Mario showed the car to his guests.

Knowing the car will now require a new radiator along with other work; we removed the hood assembly and delivered the car to Three Oaks Ford to resolve the newly found mechanical issues...we are sure more will be uncovered...proving that cars are meant to be driven!
-Ron Zarantenello

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Magnigicent Mile

Late Wednesday evening after enjoying the symphony at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, we took the Clenet out for a drive. Starting out from my Gold Coast neighborhood, we entered Lake Shore Drive southbound to Michigan Avenue. As we casually drove past the likes of Louis Vuitton, Neiman-Marcus, Gucci and Tiffany, we received many compliments from pedestrians, tourists and even a traffic cop.

There's something special about driving a car like this along Chicago's Magnificent Mile. With the top down, we were able to look up at all of the tall buildings and take in the sights. Each and every stoplight, we were the first car waiting for the light to change. The reactions were as simple as staring and smiling to cat-calls: Suhweeeet, nice car, cool ride, hey...is that a Rolls, check out that car, just to name a few.

Mario and I have only driven the car in the Harbor Country communities along Lake Michigan in the southwest tip of Michigan. Driving in the third largest metropolitan area of the country is a whole different game! There are so many people that must react to the car. On the road this morning, a car from two lanes over started blowing his horn and shouting towards my direction. I looked over and the guy simply had a huge smile on his face and his left thumb pointed up, hanging out the driver's side window. "Oh baby, that's one nice ride" was his only reaction just as the light turned green.

Fast forward to Thursday evening. After dinner I took the car out again for a quick jaunt up and down Lake Shore Drive, the Yacht Club and back to Michigan Avenue and the loop. It was about an hour earlier than when Mario and I were together the previous evening. More people were out and about and again, I received many of the same reactions and compliments.

This morning (Friday) as I drove to the office, a few co-workers on their bicycles passed me as I entered the GSP parking lot. They too have the thumb's up.

I must admit that the attention is fun, however there are times I feel a bit "too obvious" while waiting at a stoplight. A few less-fortunate people walking past in the crosswalk also gave the thumb's up and cat-calls...but I must say that I feel a bit guilty or embarrassed getting their attention. I return the gesture with a very heartfelt "thank you" as I do with all others.

The one fun thing is letting people know it's a Clenet...not an Excalibur or Rolls Royce. While downtown last night a car full of young guys asked about 172 questions from the next lane over. I had to quickly explain that it's not French and is an American car built by a French designer.

Who knows...maybe some of them will Google the name and find my blog? We'll see...

Tomorrow is the Burr Ridge Car show. I'm sure I'll have an update to add over the weekend.

Happy Motoring..

-Ron Zarantenell0

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lake Shore Drive

Mario and I just spoke on the phone. Tomorrow, he is driving the Clenet to Chicago so that I can have it this coming weekend to show at the Burr Ridge Village Center car show on Saturday afternoon. He will return to Michigan in my XK8 Thursday morning.

Wednesday evening we are meeting friends at Millennium Park to attend an outdoor concert at the Pritzker Pavilion. Our original plans were to drive the Clenet to our favorite restaurant in Old Town, however our plans changed when Bjorn sent an e-mail inviting us to the concert. Of course we will take the subway downtown for the concert...but something tells me that afterwards, you might find us driving the Clenet up and down Lake Shore Drive with the late evening wind swirling around us.

I'll have the Clenet in Chicago for a few days and let's hope the weather holds so that I can get some photo-ops in various settings!

We'll see...
-Ron Zarantenello

Stars and Stripes



On Sunday, June 15th we celebrated three occasions in Three Oaks, Michigan. The tiny village of Three Oaks continues to hold the title for hosting the world's largest Flag Day parade. We were entrant #130 for Century 21 First Team Realty. This is Mario's third year participating in the parade. Sunday was also Father's day and my sister Joan's birthday.

Most of our immediate family members live in suburban Chicago and welcomed the drive out to Three Oaks. Ken and I hosted the combined Father's day, birthday and pre-parade party at his Three Oaks home.

The morning was clear and sunny as I backed the Clenet out of the garage into the driveway. I then pulled my XK8 behind the Clenet to wash both at the same time. Just as I finished rinsing the cars, my brother Mario arrived, not in "car wash" garb! He had a listing appointment in an hour, so I delegated drying the Clenet to him.

Just as we finished drying both cars, the sunny clear skies turned dark with a west wind kicking up! We looked up and knew the heavens were about to open. He quickly pulled the Clenet into the garage while Ken was calling us in for breakfast. I didn't care about the XK8 getting rained on...so long as the sand and mud was washed away!

As we began our wonderful breakfast, the first bolt of lightning flashed outside and a torrential, gusty downpour enveloped the neighborhood. The last thing I wanted was my family cancelling on us; and my parade getting rained upon! Mario departed to meet with his business partner for their listing appointment and would return in time for lunch with the family.

The local news channel reported that the severe storm would be short-lived and the sky would soon clear. Within the hour, just that happened and we were now able to go back outside and set up the back garden for our pre-parade family cookout. Ken was up 'til 2 a.m. that morning preparing the best homemade recipes and I patted out twenty half-pound burgers complete with my secret seasoning!

The family was scheduled to arrive at noon, giving me an hour to get tables and chairs set up. To my dismay, the lawn was too soaked for use and I had to change the locale. We were now going to dine alfresco on the front drive!

Tables, chairs and umbrellas were all relocated to the front driveway along with the grill and prep table. First to arrive was my sister Donna and our father. This was his first time seeing the Clenet and he headed straight for the car, still parked safely in the garage. My eldest brother and his family arrived next. He too made a beeline for the Clenet, asking many questions and giving his thoughts.

Suddenly, the sky turned dark and another gusty rainstorm plowed through the neighborhood leaving the outdoor furnishings toppled and blown into the next yard. Again, the local weather station Doppler showed a very thin line of storms moving quickly through the area. My sister Karen and her date arrived next. We were all accounted for with the exception of the birthday girl. Joan had decided to stay home on her birthday, I was very disappointed that she chose not to participate.

Ken was eagerly mastering the grill when Mario and Ginny arrived, and without further ado we served lunch at noon, all being very relieved that the skies were clear and sunny again.

The parade would be starting at three o'clock and the Clenet needed to be in its assigned spot by 2:00. Everyone helped clear the driveway of furniture to get the Clenet out of the garage. Once on the street, my father and brother Reno were the first to give it a whirl. Next were Karen and Clive who were both enamoured with the car! After the quick test drives, Mario and Ginny scurried off as everyone else prepared to leave for the parade route.

Ken and I walked to the other end of town to meet up with Mario, Ginny and the other Century 21 Realtors who were part of our group. Mario and Ginny prepared hundreds of flags to hand out along the route while Ken and I drove the Clenet. We threw 20 pounds of flag-wrapped tootsie rolls to the masses while navigating that wonderful car through town!

Over and over and over again...the cheers and compliments we received along the parade route resounded that our car was a huge hit. This was our second weekend with the car and again, we basked in the warm comments from the delighted crowd. I love driving this car! Whether down a winding country road or through town in a parade! I truly enjoy telling people about the car, how we found it and answer the many, many questions that are asked.

Now...if I can only get a pic of us driving the car in the parade! during all of the excitement, I completely forgot to have someone snap a few photos of me!

The day is only half over - there are two more post-parade parties where the Clenet took center stage. More to come...

Next weekend, I am invited to display the Clenet at the Burr Ridge Village Center car show.
-Ron Zarantenello

Monday, June 9, 2008

How many a's are in Fabulous?


Mario drove the entire distance from Three Oaks to the LCC-LMR meet, hosted on a 80+acre spread complete with a mile of paved driving track. As we turned into the private drive, about half of the attendees were gathered near an out-building at the end of the driveway, sharing lively banter. All conversations stopped, heads turned and all eyes were immediately upon us.

I didn't know what to say or expect from the group. We quickly asked where the show field was and drove off in the direction our host had gestured. As we drove away from the group, all I heard was "faaaaaabulous!" Hearing that many a's pronounced in the word fabulous, we knew we had a captive audience.

We took the next open spot and immediately fielded many, many questions from guys who own stunning mid-century Lincolns, Imperials, Cadillacs along with the Audi / Porsche / VW performance crowd. It wasn't too long that the host opened up the track and we had many of the guys asking to take the Clenet out. Of course we obliged!

Other than my brother and I discussing the purchase, I have not heard "Clenet" spoken so many times and by so many people...ever!

The Clenet looked great, we felt like celeb's and it was the perfect meet to debut our car. Next weekend: The worlds largest organized Flag Day parade!
-Ron Zarantenello

Off the truck and in good hands...


At 8:00 Friday morning, the carrier delivered our car. We were excited and relieved that it finally made its way to Three Oaks. The service team quickly examined the car as we discussed details to make it ready for a quick car show the following day. We agreed on a tentative completion time, barring any unfortunate findings once the car was thoroughly inspected.

Later in the day, Mario dropped in on the dealer and to his surprise, they had the car running. All it needed was a new fuel pump, filter and oil/trans service. We insisted on new tires which had been shipped via overnight service. A hearty thank you goes out to the guys at Three Oaks Ford and to Tom @ the Clenet Corner who phoned our service manager with information and suggestions!

I am the lucky brother who collected the car Saturday morning - 90 minutes earlier than promised. I was merely driving past the dealership and noticed our car off the rack and backed into the stall. The team met me as I entered the bay and told me to go ahead and take it out for a spin. A technician had already performed a road test and was confident we would be just fine for the afternoon LCC-LMR meet.

I immediately drove away to fill the tank with fresh gas and couldn't believe the amount of attention I was getting. After fueling, I drove back past the dealership to where some local friends were hosting a benefit car wash. As I approached the supermarket, I didn't see Mario driving towards me. He pulled his car up next to me and had the most incredible smile on his face! Wow...I knew that was you from a good mile away, he exclaimed!

He followed me to my partner's home where we spent the next three hours cleaning, polishing and buffing to get it ready. The sunburn was worth it! As I compose this posting, my neck is still tingling.

By 2PM we were off to the car show, not expecting the reaction received from our fellow club members...we never thought our Clenet would be the jewel of the show!
-Ron Zarantenello

Saturday, June 7, 2008

It's a real car!


This car is a treat to drive, the frame is strong and rigid, the body is solid and the overall feel of the car is: it's a real car. The guys at Three Oaks Ford did a great job getting it ready for us to take to a car club event today. From Friday morning through Saturday morning she got a new fuel pump, new tires, a new steering bushing that was sorely needed and an oil and trans fluid change. Monday morning she goes back for chemical flush, belts, hoses, filters, plugs, rotor, cap, etc.

We did notice that there is a clunk coming from the drivers side rear axle. Either a trailing arm, spring or bearing. That will get a full check up too.

I'm going to enjoy this car very much.

Mario

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I've never been this anxious...

The car is scheduled to be delivered early tomorrow (Friday) morning with the service team at Three Oaks Ford ready rock and roll! We will be there to facilitate the car coming off the truck and then do a walk-around with the service manager once in the service bay.

I've never been this anxious over any other car that I have purchased over the years. Looking back on the first car I purchased on my own caused similar excitement because at the age of 18, it was the first car I had to myself. Back then my brother Mario and I shared our first two cars while in High School. I asserted my independence from Mario and my father by doing so. At that time, Mario and I shared the use of our father's '75 Buick Electra 225. Back then I wanted a Mustang or similarly sized car, however as I started to research quality used cars in my price-range...the mid-70's Opel Manta or GT were the cars I settled on.

Within a few weeks, a wonderful '73 Opel Manta Luxus edition was being advertised in the local newspaper. Burgundy with burgundy cloth interior and real wood accents. My brother and I drove over to the seller's home and found it to be in very good condition with just under 50K on the odometer. To me, this represented my freedom. Small, zippy and much better built than the Mustang II's and other similarly priced/sized used cars of the time.

I drove that Opel for 2 years without any breakdowns or repairs needed. That Opel served me well, however I now became interested in another "want" and that was the MGB! I sold the Opel for $100 less than what I originally paid for it and made certain it went to a good home.

The purchase of the Clenet brings the total number of cars I've owned by myself or jointly with my brother to about 43 or so.

Will I ever be this anxious over another car?
-Ron Zarantenello

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Now What!


The team got the car running for short periods of time by priming the carburetor. After several repetitions we all decided to stop to keep the raw gasoline from washing any remaining oil from the pistons and cylinders. Seeing that the car will eventually run, I handed over the nonnegotiable payment to the seller, which was a very fair price for us all, considering the amount of work it will require to make roadworthy.

The team had to disband and I again was left alone with the car. I opened the driver's door and sat in our car...our Clenet! It took 28 years to find it and now it was ours. I was now able to phone my brother Mario who had been anxiously awaiting a call from me. I told him that he'd be hearing from me by ten o'clock that morning and as I looked at my watch it was half past one in the afternoon! I quickly phoned Mario in New Buffalo, MI at his office to let him know it started and that we just bought a car! I could hear the excitement in his voice, however he had to maintain his professional composure. Looking down that long hood at the crystal ornament, I had begun to imagine myself driving this wonderful creation between Chicago and Harbor Country!

Now what! How do we get her home to Harbor Country! I had made pre-arrangements with the same transport company that came six months earlier to snap up the seller's other cars, however they were told the car was in full running order. How do we move a non-running four-thousand pound neo-classic? I called the transport service thinking the deal was off, and to my surprise, the shipping representative told me that she already had a truck in Dallas and the vehicle not running wasn't a concern...just a higher fee to winch it onto the truck. I told her to send the driver as early as possible. No less than 40 hours later, the car was being hoisted onto the carrier while I was back in Michigan having breakfast!

As of this morning (Wednesday 6/3/08) the car should have arrived by now. Mario just learned that the hauler experienced a malfunction/breakdown just outside of Des Moines, Iowa and the anticipated delivery will be two days late. I found the car, hopped a jet to see the car and then crawled in, under and over...afterwards arranging the shipment; I have now passed the helm to Mario. Once the car is in Three Oaks, MI on Friday, it is he who will be working directly with the servicing dealer to bring it back to life. New tires are already on overnight order and other "tune-up" parts are ready and waiting the arrival. I see a great deal of magic wadding being consumed on all that bright-work!

We are hoping that we can use the car Saturday afternoon to attend the LCC/LMR's get-together about an hour from Harbor Country! Let's all keep our fingers crossed!

Next...she now has a new home, but still needs to be named!
rz