Missy and Biff spent a couple of days with us last week. They drove up from North Carolina in Missy’s prized 1993 Cadillac Allante, one of the last to roll off the world’s longest assembly line.
The Allante was Cadillac’s first try at building ultra-luxury roadsters in decades. Pininfarina designed and built the bodywork in Italy. GM loaded the completed bodies, 56 at a time, into 747s for the 3,300 mile trip to Hamtramck, Michigan, for final assembly. In the end they built only about 3,000 of the cars each year. Missy’s has the potent Northstar V8, “road sensing” suspension, and vastly better brakes. Unlike the earlier models, it handles reasonably well in addition to being easy on the eyes.
We all went honky tonking in upstate New York on what should have been their last night here. Missy and Biff had driven up so we could all attend a friend’s sixtieth birthday party across the Lake, a fund raiser for a good cause, in a Grange Hall out back of beyond. Our friend has built a life around music so there were great bands and lots of impromptu music making.
We caravanned over. Upstate New York has some towns that even Google Earth has never found. We had to drive on back roads, the Northway, more back roads, over a snowmobile bridge, and through a couple of fields to get to the Grange Hall. Plowboy Willie Lindner was there, doing the mashed potato on the dance floor, and everyone had brought a dish to share. Many of the folks who came to sing and dance are vegetarians. Many of the entrees were beans, the musical fruit.
We drove back to North Puffin after the party; Missy and Biff grabbed a motel room and expected to drive South the next day. They awoke to find a pool of green anti-freeze melting the snow around the Allante.
Triple A towed them to the Bubba Brothers’ Garage.
The Bubbarage had been an upstate institution for three generations. Started by George and Sam Bubba when they mustered out in 1946, the two-bay garage built a strong following among returning vets and hot rodders. They added two bays when George’s sons joined them. The “boys,” George Junior and Billy Paul, brought the four bay into the computer age and sent Junior’s kids to ASE classes. The youngest Bubbas, George III (known as “G”) and Bobby Sam are both ASE certified Master Techs; they learned hot rodding from Grampa George and tractor repair from the farmers down the street. Best shop upstate.
New York Assemblyman Vinnie Alonso (D-Lehman Brothers) finessed the Motor Automotive Fixed Inspection Access Retirement Fund Act of 2009 through the state legislature. The Act required that all state inspection licensees and the associated repair facilities accept state-redistributed TARP money to assure each operation had sufficient capital to maintain vehicle safety and to bring the stations up to state standards. The new law also mandated that the state take a majority position in each station or that each station be held by an approved owner as designated by the legislation. The current Bubba Brothers wanted no part of that so their family garage changed hands (to Mr. Alonso) last fall.
Here is Missy’s note about what came next.
“The tow truck guy didn’t know the garage had changed hands, so he was praising these guys to the roof. I should have known something was really wrong when a one-eyed mechanic showed us to this broken down camper-trailer he used for a waiting room.
“About three hours after we got there, Mr. Alonso came out wiping his hands on a greasy shop rag. I found out later that he used the rag the same way that woman uses flour in the Rice Krispy Treats commercial. He never actually looked at a car. Anyway, he said it surely looked like we had a cracked block and we’d have to replace the engine.
“‘I can give you a good deal on a nice Chevy engine,’ he told us. ‘Probably have it in the car and running by Thursday.’
“Biff had popped the hood at the motel. He wiggled the water pump shaft and saw that the pump housing was cracked. He told Mr. Alonso to check that first. Mr. Alonso wrung out his shop rag and disappeared for three more hours. We were looking at another night in the motel and were about to call you to come get us.”
‘I think you may be right about the water pump.’ Mr. Alonso said when he came back. ‘I’m not sure exactly what kind of car it is, ma’am, so I just don’t know how long it will take to get the parts.’
“We told him it was a Cadillac.”
‘That’s American, right? Good. I have a friend with a junkyard up the road a piece. Maybe he’ll have the parts.’
I called the Bubba household for some insight into the story. Fortunately, they still did a little shade tree work so they were able to have the AAA truck bring them the Allante. The Cadillac dealer had a pump in stock; they got Missy and Biff on the road a couple of hours later. Their total bill was less than $400 including welding the motor mount Mr. Alonso’s wife’s nephew had broken disassembling the water pump.
“That weasel Vinnie Alonso’s a politician, ya know. Doesn’t even know how to fill his own gas tank. There must be a moral in this story somewhere, doncha think?” G. Bubba asked me.
Bubba Brothers have their sequels, and I’m sure everybody has one. Here in SE Texas, I once took a stick-shift Volvo to Dick ‘n Sons (true story) Automotive because they had a nice ad in the phone book. When I got there I found out that Dick had died some years back, and his sons had sold the business to Morales y Tio (that’s Morales and Uncle, for those who are unolingual). But the sign out front still read Dick ‘n Sons.
The car had a bad rattling noise when I tromped down on the gas, and they told me I had a cracked flywheel and gave me an estimate. It ain’t easy to crack a flywheel on a little four cylinder car, but I agreed to the bottom line and told them to go ahead; but when they took it out I was standing there, and it was okay.
Either Morales or Tio scratched his head in puzzlement; and when they put it back in and slid everything together and tightened the nuts, the rattling noise was gone.
The same guy shrugged and handed me a bill for one hour of shop time…which was about all it would have taken for them to tighten the nuts in the first place. I paid it and drove away.
Had I not been there to inspect it, I suspect my flywheel would have succumbed to to the onslaught of a ball peen hammer untill its configuration matched that of the estimated dollar figure.
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