Opinion Piece: Getting Dirty (Street Commodores Editorial Column)

04 Dec

This is the 20th in a regular series of editorial pieces we’ll be posting here on the blog, originally written by Hosking Industries’ Ben Hosking for Street Commodores magazine and other magazines he’s completed opinion pieces for. This column appeared in issue 188 of Street Commodores:

Getting Dirty (Written July 4, 2011)

Dipping a toe into the water with some simple mods to the new daily.

So it’s been about a month now since I introduced you all to Project BASICS: the newest member of the Street Commodores family. I’m very happy to inform one and all that it’s been a case of ‘so far, so good’ – nothing has fallen off, nothing has stopped working and I haven’t been left stranded at the side of the road with no oil pressure.

I must admit, I always find the first few months of car ownership the most stressful. Whenever I buy something new (which really isn’t often) I’m always waiting for something to fail. Often the stereo stays off so I can listen to any and all creaks, squeaks and rattles – no matter how tiny.

You’d probably be right for thinking I could be acting a little too paranoid or overly concerned about a vehicle that only cost a few grand, but it’s always the same process with me: a little extra tension in the jaw, an inability to relax when I’m behind the wheel and regular checks under the bonnet for leaks of any kind. That’s just me.

I invited readers to proffer ideas and suggestions about modifications and fixes that we could cover in the magazine using BASICS as a basis and I’m happy to say that we’ve had a few we’ll look at actioning over the coming months. Since last month’s column I’ve already been out in the shed doing a few small things to the VS to tidy it up and keep it moving. It IS called Project BASICS, after all.

So far, the Ecotec has had a new serpentine belt fitted, the side indicators have been replaced with clear VSIII items and I swapped the plastic exterior rear sun visor with a metal venetian. I’ve also given the car a good service: changing the oil and filter, air filter, fuel filter, spark plugs and leads. I also installed a new pair of gas struts in the boot so I didn’t end up with concussion every time I stuck my head back there and tucked away in a box somewhere is a second set of door handles that we’ll have painted body colour before showing you the process of changing them over. There are still a ton of projects we have planned, like replacing a power steering pump, fitting a stereo, replacing shocks and springs, fitting fresh wheel bearings, servicing your brakes and cooling system, fixing a sagging roof lining, how to pull apart a second-gen dash and that’s before we get to performance mods. Best yet, most mods will be relevant to most models and many mechanical mods will also be relatable to V8s.

As I pointed out last month, the DIY and easy tech stuff we want to bring you with this project will encompass restorative elements as well as modification projects. They’ll naturally increase in difficulty, just like they would for many of you at home with a new decade-old toy (or older) in the shed. However, we don’t envisage BASICS ever getting the point where engine builds or forced induction and the like will take place. There’s plenty of that going on with the other project cars.

It’s been great getting the tools out and working on a car again. I have to admit that working with cars all day every day – even in the context of writing about them – killed off a lot of my passion for working ON cars. With XXX away on a seemingly endless holiday and the decision made not to do anything else to RAT304, I just stopped tinkering.

So, the act of getting out there and doing even the simplest of things to the new VS has been refreshing, to say the least. It’s brought back plenty of happy memories of working on XXX way back in the day. Certainly, many of the modifications have been very similar and will continue to be so.

We hope to make the tech projects accessible to anyone: from the youngest readers who’ve just got the keys to their first VN right through to older guys and girls who’ve just never had a reason to change their own oil. They’ll include visual modifications and mechanical; exterior and interior – but for the most part, always budget and always within the realms of DIY.

You’re unlikely to see any of these stories in print for another few issues yet as we build up a decent stash of them so they come to you regularly, every issue until such time as we’re satisfied we’ve got the ‘basics’ covered or the requests for certain projects dry up. Until then, I’ll be dragging myself away from the keyboard to spend time in the garage than I have in years – practising what I preach – just like I should always do.

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