Life at Random

ut of sheer randomness, I’ve been noticing how popular the word random has become. Random uses like “wow, that was so random” or “that dude is fully random” are springing up everywhere. There is no end to it and rightly so if this is truly a random phenomenon. My random fascination with random is more desultory than haphazard but it is random all the same. I am intrigued by the popularity of it and I surmise it must be the surprise factor of anything random. Surprise suggests new and new is always popular, no matter what random time frame we're talking about.

When it comes to Mopes there are plenty of random things to talk about without having any sort of plan or goal. One of my favorites is the breakdown story; these are totally random, spanning the world of tales from short to big ‘n tall.

Like the time my ’68 ‘Cuda decided to drop its load of water on a desolate stretch of Montana highway. We weren't too far from Glacier National Park when a freeze plug randomly failed. Not being the kind of full-on Boy Scout who packs freeze plugs, I didn't know what to do. We were on the verge of walking when a man and wife pulled over in a pickup. They offered help, he said he had several freeze plugs of varying dimensions, took off, then came back with the right one. Job done, he insisted we have dinner and come see his western art and sculpture studio. We wound up having a great time playing with his pet bobcat, burning sage and sleeping in the authentic Blackfoot teepee behind his place. So random.

Just this week it was “nono” who randomly decided to rain on my day. This time there was no tee-pee or bobcat to be found; only me figuring that the idle circuit of the old Holley one barrel was inoperative. Great, it was Saturday, sun going down. Thanks to Lee Auto, in Alameda, there was a carb kit available so I went to my business. Holley 1920’s go wrong in so many random ways that I figured nothing would surprise me at all until I saw the brass collar, check ball and spring from the power valve assembly laying on the bottom of the float bowl. No wonder my mileage was crap, but this did not explain the lack of idle. I cleaned everything up and put the carb back on. Everything was perfect until the next day when the same thing happened again! Turned out, some transient piece of dirt was, in a very desultory way, getting stuck in the idle feed passage. So far, that is my explanation and I am sticking to it. Nono is running fine now, nothing random about that, thank you.

Sometimes, meeting a fellow Mopar enthusiast happens in the most random ways too. A few weeks ago, I was visiting my friends David Perry and Mike Blanchard in Vallejo at Matt Seret’s hot rod shop. I was in need of an area rug, and on Craigslist was a decent, affordable one, just over the river from Vallejo in Martinez. I figured I’d go check it out. Being early, I walked around the sleepy town of Martinez, took photos and did some random antique shopping. It had just gone sundown when I pulled over to catch the light on the edge of downtown. I was haphazardly shooting and then I heard the unmistakable sound of long cam timing and high compression. I spun around and did a double take on a ’63 Belvedere in full race trim cruising down the street.

I ran over and flagged the guy down. I know gas recently went absurdly cheap but I could not believe this monster was out for a leisurely ride around town. The idle was nasty, the rear was nice and high on SS springs, the side was lettered “Brooklyn Boys”. The car was right. I got totally excited by the sight of this car in a way I had not been in a long time.

The car (right) belongs to Joey Piscitelli, originally of Brooklyn, New York, and now longtime Northern California resident. He raced at the Fremont Dragstrip back in the 1970’s and still hits the drags for fun. The ’63 is outfitted with an 11.5:1 Max Wedge with a single four-barrel on top for streetability. The “OG” crossram and carbs are sleeping safely at home. Behind the 426 “orange monster” is an A-833 four-speed driving a 4.56:1, 8 ¾ rear end. What a time capsule.

I walked back to my “nono” as Joey drove away thinking, “Man, that was so random. If I hadn’t stopped for that photo of the Moose Lodge sign this never would have happened.” You just never know when life is going to bring you a pleasant, random surprise. Have a great New Year folks.