Life in the Satch Lane


by Satch Carlson

Spring break: This is the time when SOME people go to the beach, and SOME people go to Yurrup, but not rally guys: Rally guys go to the garage. This is to escape the specter of spring cleaning, which sometimes seems to Certain Espousal Units to be the very reason for spring break in the first place. Ha. It is to laugh. The only connection we have with spring cleaning is that we might get around to washing the rally car before spring break is over. . . but probably not. However, somewhere around midweek it is possible that the Espousal Unit may come to the garage in search of, say, the vacuum cleaner, which is being used FOR A SHORT TIME ONLY to clean out the detritus of the previous rally season.

You have to be careful with the vacuum cleaner, of course, especially if you are hopelessly in the thrall of vintage rallying, because the vacuum cleaner is especially fond of Halda gears and the like; but vacuum you must, because it is the only way to remove the Rollos, Hershey Solitaires, and Bit-O'-Honeys that constitute rally food. (It has been reliably demonstrated that a Bit-O'-Honey can be safely ingested after bouncing around the interior of a rally car for at least three seasons.)

Anyway, spring break is the last real stretch of time most of us have to get a car in proper order for the upcoming rally season, so we certainly don't want to waste this time by, say, painting the kitchen curtains. And it may be your first chance to try my latest guide to successful project completion: The Two List List.

Like all of my best ideas, the Two List List is not really my idea at all, but rather comes from Russ Huntoon, who knows more about most things than I do, especially motorcycles and welding. About a week before the Thunderbird Rally, knowing I was working on Oakley Woman's vintage ride, Russ called to see how I was doing. This is because he had heard me gloating several weeks before about how I had over a month to do a week's worth of work, a week at the most, even if Dr. Parkinson showed up at the shop and started laying down the law---which he did. "How's it coming?" asked Russ.

"Oh, jeez," I said, "I don't know, I got a whole page of things to do, and I got quite a few of them done, but I don't know. . . ."

"Well, there's your problem," he said. "You only have one page. Every list has to have TWO pages."

"Two pages?"

"Yeah. Well, actually, two lists. The first list is stuff that absolutely, positively has to be done, or the car won't make it to the start of the rally. The second list is the stuff you'd like to have done, but the world won't end if you don't get 'em finished."

There it was in sudden epiphanic brilliance! You see, Huntoon understands my character very well, and he knows that I am not only goal-oriented, but task-oriented. That is, once I am sucked into one chore or another, I tend to chase it down to the last dregs of the evening, even when I'd be better off abandoning this particular waste of time, because I started it, see? And I am therefore somehow compelled to finish it. And it's far better to apply that kind of fanaticism to the really urgent tasks before you get sidetracked.

On interior lights, for example.

See, in its original form, the Saab Sonnet does have a tiny interior light, the equivalent of lighting a match and holding it way under the dash. So in one of my excursions to the parts store, I had come across and purchased a sort of universal interior light the size of a small cigar box. "This," I said, "will come in handy when the navigator drops a pencil or needs to change a fuse under the dash or something." And in the days of the One List List, "interior light" showed up about halfway down the page---and this was the project I was still working on when Russ called.

It is not exactly a difficult job, wiring up an interior light, now, is it? Ah! But! In the process of figuring out which of the original wires went where, I discovered that the Sonett originally had a circuit in which power went to the light all the time, but grounded through a door switch, so when you open the door the light goes on. (This amazing possibility will not astound any but the vintage crowd, or owners of British sports cars, for whom the concept is still elusive.)

Ah! But! The new one-size-fits-all interior light is wired with a single lead, to be affixed to a 12-volt positive source, and completes the circuit through its mounting screws, which presumably make decent contact with your chassis, which eventually wanders into contact with the negative side of the battery. So it isn't going to work with a grounding door switch.

Ah! But! It's a simple matter to drill out the rivets that hold the light socket into the housing---and which form the ground connection---and ISOLATE the light socket by looking around the shop until I find the little rubber grommets that I know I saw around here someplace. . . and then it's a simple matter to solder a lead to the now-isolated socket to run to the door switch.

Ah! But! If we run that lead through a single-pole-single-throw-center-off switch, THEN we can have a courtesy light in ONE position but you can ALSO turn it on with the switch without opening the door, or you can put in the center position and have it off even with the door open, like when you're crammed under the dash drilling holes to mount the OTHER interior light because it makes more sense to have two on far sides of the car than one in the middle. . . .

As I say, it was with a burst of insight that I realized that the Two List List was my only salvation if I ever wanted to change the kind of conversation I've had all too often lately: "Gee, hon, I ran out of time before I could change those warped old brake rotors---but wait'll you see your new INTERIOR LIGHTS!"

[Editor's Note: The Sonnet did make it to the Thunderbird Rally, as evidenced by the photo supplied by our intrepid writer; click on the thumbnail on the right. Photo by Gerry Frechette]