Chris McKitterick (mckitterick) wrote,
Chris McKitterick

Hearse! Yes, I have a hearse...

... well, sort of. Recently, bluebuddha moved from Lawrence, leaving behind his sort-of non-running 1973 Cadillac hearse. It's been sitting in a field for years, not getting any better, and they decided not to take it with them when they moved away. So he offered it to me with the proviso that I make it live again.

(By the way, I had to take some "before" photos: before it runs, before I drive it home, before I restore it... so you'll find them behind the cuts.) It looks more like the Ghostbusters emergency vehicle than a hearse, really.
"Before" photo:

Yes, it really does live in a field right now.

So! I have been doing my damnedest to fulfill my part, despite some obstacles:
  • The car is currently sitting in a field off a gravel road several miles outside of Lawrence.

  • I don't have the ignition key.

  • I can only take the time off during Thursday and Friday afternoons to work on the car.

  • The tool that you discover need the most is always the one you didn't bring.

The first few times I went out to the car, I asked for rides because I (silly me!) thought I might be driving it home and didn't want to leave my car parked way out there, blocking the gravel road, tempting passers-by to steal or ram into it. Thanks to amjhawk and jamer_31 for those rides and for the company.

The first time I visited the hearse, I discovered the key issue (which included missing a key for the locking gas cap). The second time, I returned with the suggestion to try using the keys he sent "upside-down" and instructions from the local auto-parts store for how to drill out a locking gas cap. On the third return trip, I returned by myself with some other plans... including replacing the ignition switch. On the fourth trip, I brought a drill for the ignition and a number of other tools, too, and got to meet the realtor selling the land on which the Caddy rests. I also discovered that battery-operated drills run out of power long before you finish drilling out an ignition switch (they're really hard steel.)

No, I don't have the car running or home at my tool-filled garage yet (which would solve 90% of my problems!), but I have managed to do these things:
  • Titled, insured, and licensed it to legally operate in Kansas.

  • Removed and replaced the gas cap.

  • Poured several gallons of fresh gas into the tank.

  • Replaced the spark plugs, ignition wires, cap, and rotor.

  • Filled the (nearly empty) radiator.

  • Removed the steering wheel, blinker unit, flasher unit, and other hardware in an effort to remove the locked and un-removable ignition switch (for which I have no key).

  • Killed the colony of ants living inside. Ew. Ether (starting fluid) is a fine pesticide, as it turns out.

(Another "before" photo. It's really lovely out there:)

Things left to do in order to get it home:
  • Finish drilling out the existing ignition. Turns out you can't just replace an ignition switch by following the instructions you'll find in a new switch... you need the damned key. So why would you replace a switch if you already have the key? Grrr.

  • Replace the ignition.

  • Prime the fuel system. That gas is at least three years old according to the license tags.

  • Make sure the tires are full enough to drive.

  • Surely lots more surprises!

Wish me luck! More updates to come as I have them. Hopefully I'll have some "during" photos up soon.

Tags: vehicles

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