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Update on May 2nd:
I got an email apology from Raybestos about the experience I had with them and they want to call me to discuss further.
Other than my experience dealing with the product warranty with Amazon, the Raybestos rotors are good quality. Just knowing that they do want their customer experience to be a good one may have just restored my faith in their products.
Original post on April 23rd:
Part of my Trans Am restoration includes restoring the brakes. After seeing a number of endorsements for Raybestos products on TV I decided I wanted to use Raybestos brake pads on my project car.
In early January I ordered AC Delco Advantage rotors to go along with the new brake pads, but when I received them I found their casting and machine work in the wheel hub area was quite horrible. I returned them and decided to pay the extra $10 a rotor on Amazon.com for Raybestos 5040 PG rotors. Since I’m using their brake pads, I may as well use their rotors!
When I received the Raybestos rotors in mid January, I quickly inspected the wheel hubs and found the machine work was excellent and casting was nice and centered. I did not think to inspect the rotor surface on the rotors assuming that they were fine (why would they sell a rotor with a bad surface). From what I understand, the wheel hub area needs to be right otherwise you get a serious wobble. Anyway, my failure to review the rotor surface right away was my mistake. Even so, the rotors have a no rust and no turn warranty, so if I didn’t get to the rotors till March then that’s fine, so I thought assuming there wasn’t rust on them. At that point I stored the rotors in my house until the weather warmed up.
In March, the weather did warmed up and I had an opportunity one weekend to tackle the front brakes. I did my normal procedure with the first rotor, cleaning the surface with brake cleaner, packing the bearings and installing the rotor hub on the spindle. When I started unpacking the second rotor, to my surprise the back side had 8 obvious spots of rust (see photo). Aside from that, there were 3 deep scratches that ran against the pattern of the rotor, meaning they were not caused by being machined. From that point on, I dealt with both Amazon and Raybestos and had a horrible experience with both companies. The details follow.
First I called Amazon.com. Initially they did not want to help me because it has been over 30 days since I purchased them. Then after being persistent, they said they would take the rotor back and issue me a refund, and that if I wanted a replacement I could order a new one. Well that was super lame, the price of these rotors went from $51 to $64 on Amazon.com between January and March.
So then I called Raybestos to see if I could have them exchanged directly under warranty. The gentleman I spoke with wasn’t technically rude, but he sure had an attitude. He was utterly surprised I was even able to buy Raybestos products from Amazon.com as he personally was the one who made the deal with Amazon to sell Raybestos products. The first impression I got was he didn’t believe I got them from Amazon directly (you can buy things on Amazon.com that are not actually sold by Amazon). Furthermore he made it very clear all warranty handling of Raybestos products is handled by the retailer.
So the only option was to get a refund from Amazon and order a new rotor. I paid another $63.66 and ordered a new rotor right away, and shipped the bad rotor the following day back to Amazon. 3 days later my replacement rotor arrived, with the box ripped open (see photo). A quick look inside and the rotor appeared ok, but rather than take a risk that the rotor may have slipped out and bounced around some UPS sorting facility I decided to ship it back and get another one. This time because I made the request within 30 days I was able to exchange the rotor without incurring additional costs. Thanks Amazon, you could have done this in the first place and I wouldn’t be telling this story!
Two weeks later I got an email from Amazon.com that they received my returned Rotors (both the original bad one and the second one I got in an open box). The email went on to explain that they will not refund me the full 51.49 that I paid in January, but instead only refunded me 41.19, the $10.30 difference going to a restocking fee (which was not mentioned to me when they finally let me return it with my call with Amazon.com). I sure hope they did not restock that rotor, it needs to be shipped back to Raybestos and the rust needs to be fixed.
If Amazon refunded the $51.49, I most likely would have left the whole ordeal alone, but the restocking fee for a faulty part just pushed me too far.
These are Automotive Brakes People!
The lack of seriousness to get the problem resolved for this particular type of item bothers me. We’re not talking about a book or a computer gadget, we’re talking about the brakes that go on a vehicle.
Amazon.com and Auto Parts
After this whole experience, I wouldn’t buy any critical or important automotive parts from Amazon.com. If I have a problem, I’ll take my part to my local auto parts store and get it resolved without dealing with 3 days to wait, product inflation and paying restocking fees to get a warrantied item replaced.
Raybestos and Warranty Coverage
Raybestos, you messed up big time. Seeing what Raybestos does for charities and watching their products on some of my favorite car TV shows, combined with their rotor “NO TURN GUARANTEE” and warranty, I expected a better phone call when I gave them a ring. Instead I was not treated as a customer or product advocate, I was treated as some guy who bought their products from someone else and it’s not their problem. Uncool!
If Amazon wants to be in the automotive parts business, they are going to have to take it seriously and handle returns/exchanges accordingly. This stuff is serious business, brakes stop cars, they are serious parts to the safety of vehicles. They either need to support these products or don’t sell them in the first place.
If Raybestos does not want to deal directly with its customers, they should only sell their products through automotive retailers that will honor their warranties. Furthermore, they should still offer to warranty their products directly for those cases like mine or when retailers go out of business leaving the customer with no place to go.
I’m no longer going to purchase critical automotive parts from Amazon.com, and I’m certainly not going to recommend Raybestos products anytime soon. When you get a good Raybestos rotor, they rock, but the quality is not worth the poor customer service and lack of warranty support.
Lately I’ve observed a few web sites that have been “re-launched”. Web sites vary from a small time blogger, a popular car forum, a very large automotive vendor and even Google!
First, let me define what I mean by “The web is getting sloppy”. Essentially the Internet is organized by domain names, for example www.google.com. Each domain name or web site is then organized by paths and files. Between the latest additions of domain name combinations (e.g. example.cc) and the past couple years of sloppy organized paths and files on these web sites, the web is becoming a really big mess.
For Google to make such a simple mistake, it really shows that anyone is susceptible to web sloppiness.
Lets look at a popular automotive parts vendor, YearOne.com. They recently launched a new web site, which is great! Unfortunately, no attempt was taken to route the old paths and pages to the new paths and pages. This means that years of YearOne loyal customers who have been posting links to their favorite products on YearOne.com are now wasted. Bloggers call these links “gold” for a reason, they bring new visitors to your site on a continual basis, usually in situations where traditional means of attracting those visitors is not effective (such as advertising). When the guy down the street recommended a steering wheel 3 years ago on your favorite Chevy forum, you take the recommendation seriously. Well now that YearOne.com failed to correctly redirect the old pages to the new ones, that coveted potential customer traffic is lost.
In the case of YearOne’s problem, this is something that could be solved in 1-2 days with some basic script writing and access to the old and new databases. 2 days of a programmers labor is definitely worth keeping these potential customers coming and buying your products!
Unnamed Car Enthusiast Forum
I absolutely love this site, but it recently violated a number of cardinal rules, such as moving forums to different folder paths on the server and using capital letters in URLs. The forum was moved from www.example.com/smf/ to www.example.com/SOMETHING-ELSE/ and a not so friendly message is now present on the old forum with a link to the new forum. To add insult to injury, the link is just text on a page, it’s not even surrounded with the necessary HTML to make it click-able. The owner of this site missed an opportunity when I offered to help him fix the problem for free. A simple PHP script that automatically redirects traffic from the old forum to the new one would help him keep the old traffic that would come to his site remain, while also keeping the old links on the new forum to going to the right topics on the new forum. The CAPITAL LETTER folder name is no big deal really, but if search engine optimization techniques was ever applied, the folder really should be called “forum”.
Capital letters are frown down upon in web development. When URLs are typed in manually, the possibility of error is increased when someone has to remember to hold down shift. Furthermore, on Linux and Unix based servers, you can have separate folders with the same name since the capital letter folder is recognized as different than a lower case folder.
In this case, I fixed the problem for myself by writing my own GreaseMonkey script which redirects links to the old forum automatically to the new one. My script also removes links that may appear on Google that go to print page versions of the forum to it’s normal readable versions.
Every Day Bloggers
So this is where I will definitely feel bad calling someone out specifically, and luckily the problem is so common I don’t have to anyway. The biggest thing I see is bloggers trying too hard with their sites, injecting every little widget and gadget into their pages till you can’t even tell what was written by the blogger to what is an advertisement. If you take yourself seriously as a blogger, keep your sidebar clean, limit the amount of images you put in your blog posts and don’t over-do your site navigation. And what ever you do, don’t move sites around like checkers. If you don’t have the technical knowledge how to both move a database, reconfigure settings and how to perform 301 permanent redirects, you have no business doing anything with moving sites. Hire someone who knows what they’re doing or leave it as is.
The latest generation of bloggers are unaware of the importance of their blog’s feed URL. What ever you do, treat this as the keys to the castle! If you change this URL in any way, you will have consequences, even if properly redirected it can lead to lost readership and subscribers. Think of your feed as your postal mailbox. You don’t put the mailbox in the back yard and you certainly don’t move it around your front yard either. Once you have a place for your feed, keep it there and never move it!
Who’s fault is it?
I don’t think it’s any one person’s fault. We’re now seeing a new generation of web sites lead by a new generation of web developers who are green, learning the mistakes that my generation had to learn. Unfortunately in an advertising revenue and sales commerce driven web world, even one lost web visitor could mean the difference of gaining or loosing a great customer.
I’ve been developing web sites professionally since June of 2000. If you need a web developer who takes details like these seriously, contact me at www.mandato.com.
It’s not quite spring time but the lack of snow got me motivated to fix some of the little things that have been on my honey-to-do list.
Fireplace and HVAC Vents
The HVAC and Fireplace vents were long over due for replacement. They were cracked/damaged when we bought the house, and this winter took them to their end of life. It was one of those chores I kept putting off because I couldn’t find the appropriate vents at Lowes/Home Depot when I’ve visited for other needs. This past week I went to 4 stores including The Andersons, Lowes and Home Depot specifically for these vents and had no luck. Out of desperation I went to Menards and thankfully they had them and for 1/2 the price than the dryer vents at the other stores! All the other stores sell only outlet vents, primarily for dryers. The inlet allows for fresh outside air to be drawn into the house for specific reasons, so having a dryer vent that closes when air is drawn inward is not going to work.
The great thing about the vent pictured is that it’s shallow. This means the lawn mower isn’t going to run into it and crack it like the last vent.
Screen Door Damage
The screen door has seen a lot of battles with the dog and the cat, but this past fall Ty rammed through the screen after some creature in the back yard and the screen door hasn’t been the same since. Last week I saw a repair kit at Home Depot for re-screening the screen door. I thought “I’m rebuilding an engine, this can’t be that nearly as complicated”. Sure enough, replacing the screen in a screen door is pretty easy. I would say though that patience is needed, taking your time will give you a finished product to be proud of. I was told getting a screen door re-screened can cost between $50-100. The kit cost less than $9 and took about 45 minutes to install.
LED Bulb for Front Porch
The porch light is one of those light fixtures I seem to visit way more often that I care to. Two weeks ago I picked up a Home Depot house brand (40 Watt equivelant) 7 watt LED bulb for the front porch. Even though the box says “For indoor use only”, I figured for $10, I’ll give it a try on the porch. It works great, though the light is more directional than a typical bulb, it serves the purpose of lighting up the porch perfectly. I now know why these bulbs are for indoor use only, freezing temperatures. From what I’ve observed, when the weather is below freezing, the light does not come on. As long as the light bulb lasts a few years, I’ll live without porch light on cold winter nights.
This post has moved to www.modsandrods.tv
This post has moved to www.modsandrods.tv
First let me clear the air, the sears.com / kmart.com (And all other domains it takes itself on as) are horrible sites for web commerce. Also troubling is the trend to manufacture Craftsman hand tools over seas.
Searching for Craftsman Tools on a Mobile Device
Searching for Tools on sears.com with a mobile device is nearly impossible. First, the search on the mobile site is terrible. Second, most of the content is not there. The worst part is there is no way to switch from the mobile site back to the regular site. Hint: iPhone and Android based phones don’t need a mobile site. I usually prefer the regular site on my iPhone or Android phone 99% of the time.
My alternative method of finding stuff on sears.com from my mobile device is to search Google. Well, guess what, when you navigate to the link, the sears.com site refreshes to a mobile version of the same page, which in most cases does not exist because the mobile site doesn’t have all the content as the main site.
What can Sears do to improve this situation? They can add a link at the bottom of the mobile site to allow users to switch to the regular one.
Why should they do this? Because it can make the difference of a customer coming to the store or not. Last thing I need is going to a store to find they don’t sell what I’m looking for.
Intermingling of Products on Sears.com that are not sold by Sears
First, if you’re not aware, many of the items on sears.com are not sold by Sears. Let me be clear what I am saying, there are items on sears.com not sold by Sears or companies that are part of Sears like Kmart or the Great Indoors. There are products on sears.com sold by other, competing businesses. Why does Sears sell their web real-estate to other businesses? My only guess is that someone pitched the idea to be like “Amazon.com” at a board meeting but didn’t think it through. Unfortunately, someone didn’t explain the Amazon.com model very well to the sears web developers, and what you end up with is a web site that pulls away customers from Sears to other vendors. Signs of an Amazon.com model would include products that are shipped and processed by Sears, with Sears products featured first. Quite the opposite, it appears non-Sears products get priority in search, and worse yet they compete against Sears in number of ways.
Further harming Sears, there appears to be a glitch in Sears’ web application as non-Sears businesses are capable of selling identical Sears merchandise, and those items are featured over the same items sold by Sears, even if Sears has the lowest price on the item. Take the following example:
Craftsman 7 Piece Standard Nutdriver Set (link). As of this writing, this 7 piece set costs 112.83 and is sold by “OnlineSuperSeller” (not Sears). When you search Sears.com for “Craftsman nutdriver”, you get the following results (as pictured) with the 2nd and 3rd results being Craftsman nut drivers listed at nearly 4 times their normal retail price.
After some additional searching, I finally found the product I was looking for (link). Though the Craftsman part numbers are different, the 4-5 digit number is not something I refer to when I look for products. Incidentally a search for “nut driver” with the space in between the two words has completely different search results.
The web site is diluted by products that compete with their own line of products. For example, when you go to a Sears store, they have 1-2 alternatives to Craftsman Tools (Evolv Sears economy line of tools and GearWrench. Online you have even more brands, most of which again are not sold by Sears or affiliated companies.
Different Prices on Different Pages
When you do the search for “nut driver” and find the nut driver set in question, it will be priced 26.99. When you go to the actual product’s page, the price changes to $29.99. I am sure many customers get this far, see the price change, then immediately leave the page. Those that swallow the price increase and add the item to the cart, they will magically see a $3 discount to the item, bringing the price back to 26.99. Unfortunately, how many customers is Sears loosing when the customer changes their mind when the price changes?
The search system for normal (not mobile) Sears and related web sites is horrible. Take for example, a search for “Craftsman Combination wrench set”. The first 2 results are a couple of combination sets, 6 point wrenches, which is good, but then to find more combination wrench sets, you need to brwose beyond the rest of the first 25 results to find more sets. I shouldn’t see individual wrenches when I search for “sets”.
To add insult to injury, the search box does not keep what you last entered, which means if your search isn’t giving you the results you want, you have to re-type everything in.
Craftsman Tools no longer made in USA
I don’t necessarily have a problem with tools being made all over the world, but I do have a problem with the current trend at Sears/Craftsman to move previously made in USA tools off-shore. At first I was not concerned because it appeared obvious that the “Evolv” line (priced accordingly) are made over seas while the traditional Craftsman and Craftsman Professional tools are made in the USA. The price difference between Evolv and Craftsman reminds you that your paying for quality tools made by your own fellow citizens. The first sign of Craftsman tools no longer being made in the USA was when I purchased one of the new Craftsman Dog bone wrenches. When I got home I was surprised to see “made in China” stamped on it. At that point I accepted the idea that perhaps new tools will be made over-seas. More interestingly, the Harbor Freight dog-bone wrenches are identical to the Craftsman dog-bone wrenches.
More recently I’ve been shopping for a set of flare wrenches. When I looked at the Craftsman Professional flare wrench set, I discovered they are now made over seas. This scares me, because over the past 20+ years I’ve been purchasing Craftsman hand tools, usually priced 2-3 times more than their import counterparts, with the satisfaction that I was buying a quality tool made in the USA. I have no problem paying a premium knowing the money I spend is paying some tool makers salary somewhere in the country. If someone told me back in 1993 that in 20 years from now the tools you buy will no longer be made in the USA, I wouldn’t have bought them. I’m not questioning quality of the tools, I have some tools from Harbor Freight made in China and they’re great. My issue is with what I thought the brand represented, and apparently I was wrong.
Again, new or specialty tools made over seas with a Craftsman logo on them I can understand. I have a vintage (made in the 70’s-80’s) Craftsman Distributor wrench 9/16″ #47755 that’s made in Japan. Craftsman no longer makes the wrench, most likely because cars no longer have distributors, so it was a smart move on their part not to invest on the tool and die here in the states for such a tool. But the idea of the core hand tools no longer being made in the USA yet still having the premium pricing bothers me.
Lowes just recently completed their transition to a made over-seas tool line, and I’ve made a point never to buy Kobalt tools. If I find out the traditional Craftsman wrenches and hand tools are produced over seals then Craftsman will go on my “never buy list as well”.
By the way, if you are looking for USA made tools, try Wright Tool (made in Barberton, Ohio!), Williams (division of Snap-on), or Masterforce (a Menards brand, not all Masterforce tools are USA made, but most are).
Sears has a lot of brands with brand recognition built up over many years that is now negatively impacted by a poorly executed web site and possibly poor decision making on where some of their items are made (Craftsman no longer made in USA). Though I love going into a Sears store when shopping for Tools, between the web site making it difficult for me to make the decision to go to the physical store and the fact that the product brand I seek now has issues that trouble me, I find it harder and harder to pick going to a Sears store over my local Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes or Menards.
What can Sears do to fix the problems? Stop meddling with the Craftsman line and put out a press release guaranteeing that their tools will remain made in USA. Stop trying to be like Amazon, and use their web site to re-enforce sales at your local stores. Physical stores should use their web sites to reinforce sales at the stores, making the web site compete with the stores is just a bad business practice in my opinion, unless your plan is to eventually close all the stores. Fix the search system by adding better product descriptions, incorporating product importance weights and creating special search algorithms for different departments (e.g. a Tool finding widget). Keep pricing consistent, if you show a price on a web page, make sure the same price appears on all other pages. I would take down the mobile site and only replace it when developers use the same database and infrastructure as the regular site and include the ability to go back to the regular site.
This Memorial Day weekend I got to do some work around the house. My initial plan was to start building the Pontiac 400, but I recently discovered I needed one more part (Cam thrust plate) and it did not arrive yet, so I decided to work on the firewall and other various little parts on the Trans Am. After spending about an hour in the garage moving stuff around, I decided to switch my car project to a Garage improvement weekend. By Monday I installed 64 square feet of pegboard and enough hangers/hooks to get just about everything shy of 15 pounds off the garage floor.
On Monday I started work on tearing down the Pontiac 301 Turbo. If you’re not familiar with the Pontiac 301 Turbo, it was made in 1980 and 1981 for the Pontiac Trans Am and Formula making it a rather rare engine. Some say it was ahead of it’s time, others say it was plagued by it’s oil cooled turbo charger. It was the last true Pontiac designed V8. What ever your thoughts on this short lived engine are, once I confirmed that my Trans Am was not a special edition, I decided to swap it out with a Pontiac 400. Since last fall this V8 has been sitting in the garage just taking space. This weekend I decided it was time to take it apart to see what was wrong with it and recycle what ever parts that can be reused. Believe it or not, this engine shares a lot with it’s larger cousins (350, 400 and 455) such as engine mounts, fuel pumps and the bell housing.
During the initial tear down I ran into a couple snags. First was the flywheel bolts having 12 point heads. My plan was to use my compressor with the impact wrench attached. My plan went foul once I discovered that the impact sockets I got with my compressor are all 6 point. A run to the neighborhood home improvement stores showed me how rare 12 point impact sockets are. I do understand that a 6 point socket is better for 6 point bolt heads and that’s most likely why the 12 point impact sockets are hard to find, but come on, someone has to sell 12 point impact sockets! When you’re dealing with a 12 point bolt head, you can’t use a 6 point socket.
So after doing some online shopping, I found that only a handful of tool companies make such sockets. Sadly most all of these sockets are through brands like Snap-On, which make the tools too expensive for a weekend mechanic like myself. I did find a set of 12 point SAE impact sockets on Amazon.com that meets my price range. (see picture). They also have 12 point metric impact sockets.
The second snag working on the 301 Turbo came when I made a rookie mechanic mistake! I am using an engine leveler for lifting the motor, that way I can easily level the engine with the engine hoist/cherry picker. I recall today reading somewhere “Always connect engine levelers and engine hoist chains using grade 8 bolts to engine heads. Avoid connecting to bell housing or aluminum intake manifolds when possible“. Well I learned yesterday the hard way why you don’t connect your engine hoist to the bell housing! When I got ready to bolt the engine to the engine stand, you can guess the colorful language that came out of my mouth! Lesson learned the hard way, never never NEVER ever use the bell housing when lifting an engine!
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If you’ve talked about cars with me in recent months, you know I’m in the process of restoring a 1981 Trans Am. I bought the car knowing the motor needed rebuilt or replaced. Last fall I picked up a Pontiac 400 V8 (more specifically, a W72 from a 77 Trans Am with the transmission and carburetor, the W72 is arguably the last great V8 designed by Pontiac engineers).
Since about October, I’ve been doing a lot of research on Pontiac V8’s built from 1955-1982, as well as other research specific to the mid to late 1970’s Firebirds. I quickly found that I have about 30 significant web sites I now visit to read about Pontiac engine specifics, as well as about a dozen or so vendors who sell Pontiac specific parts. I also have accumulated over 200 bookmarks. the process has lead me to become rather frustrated. There’s lots of great information, but it’s all over the place and no one has a really good site map to all of these sites. Out of this frustration I am going to launch a new web site that will link to everything I’ve bookmarked. Stay tuned for an official announcement when the site is launched.
Aside from the Pontiac site-map web site I have planned, I’m also going to launch a video podcast of all the work I do on the car. Expect an announcement on that sometime this month as well.
My original plan was to freshen up the 400 I picked up last fall and drop it into the Trans Am. After stripping the top end of the motor down I discovered a lot of rust in the top of the heads and a lot of sludge in the oil pan. At this point it became obvious I would need to tear the motor down further.
In October, I finally got the motor further apart and found a lot of carbon build-up on the pistons, and I also found during the break down that an exhaust manifold stud was broken inside of the drivers side head. I reluctantly decided then I needed to take at least the heads to a machine shop. After further dis-assembly, I decided it would be worth the money to have the motor completely rebuilt.
I decided to take the heads, block and crank to Kauffman Racing Equipment located here in Ohio. They did a great job and kept me updated through the entire process.
Over Christmas I got a few books and a video on engine rebuilding. After reading the books and watching the video I decided that I (Yes I) will rebuild this motor myself! I was able to take it apart, I should be able to put it all back together, right? Following this decision, I’ve done the following:
- Researched and purchased torque wrenches (I will have a detailed post about my research in the coming months)
- Researched and purchased other specific tools (caliper, feeler gauge, bore gauge, plasti-gauge)
- Researched and purchased specific books on Pontiac V8’s made from 1955-1979 (there is not much documentation for the last 3 years of Pontiac v8’s unfortunately)
- Researched and purchased books on the Rochester Quadrajet carburetor
- Took a welding class where I learned how to stick and MIG weld
- Research specifics to the Pontiac V8 (350, 400, 455 cubic inch family specifically)
Last week I picked up my block, heads and crank from the Kauffman Racing and boy they look great. I have new pistons, new rods, a turned crank, 400 block bored .030 over , and new stainless steel valves and springs on 6x-4 heads. Oh, and the crank, rods and pistons have been balanced as well. Based on a compression calculator, I estimate the new compression of this motor is somewhere between 8.3:1 to 8.5:1. The head gasket I end up using will be the final determining factor of compression. Either way, 8.5:1 is ideal, that way I can run unleaded gas from any gas station in the country.
The Pontiac Community is Awesome!
I’ve met some pretty cool car guys that have been very helpful through the project. I will say that the stereotype that many folks associate with 70’s muscle car owners could not be further from the truth. It’s a pretty diverse crowd of car enthusiasts from all walks of life. What has surprised me is how many younger folks younger than I are 100% into the hobby. Another common trait seems to be hard work and dedication, which appears to not only show in their love of Pontiac but also in their careers and family life. What blows my mind is how GM not only failed to capitalize on this passion for the brand over the past years, but they completely turned this community away when they ended Pontiac.
The next 2-3 months will include rebuilding the motor, painting the engine bay, fixing the turn signal and the T-tops. Hopefully by summer she’ll be on the road!
Stay tuned, I’ll be posting pictures of the motor soon.