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


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!


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: 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