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As a general rule, we like to think we’re getting a great deal more creative when it comes to transport than we were 40 years ago. As it turns out…nope. These rail cars stowed 30 Vegas per car, nose down, in the early 70’s, ya’ll.

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I live in Texas, and trucks are a religion down here. It seems whether or not the need for one exists, most folks want one — and the bigger the better. Last weekend the parental unit and I decided to go to an estate sale. We took the Ranger over his ’98 Ram because it averages 27 mpg, we had 60 miles to go, and by chance it was cleanest.

We’ve spoken many times in the last year and change about how much we’ve come to support buying for what you need instead of the shiny extras that look or sound impressive. Just to be clear, we at Toolmonger have absolutely no beef with professionals or hard-working people who require/use heavy duty trucks on the job or at home. There are about a hundred good reasons to have one. But I don’t off-road, don’t have a crew to be transported, and don’t pull a trailer. I commute and haul wood and project supplies to and fro, and that’s about it. I bought a truck that supported that and have never regretted it.

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If you’re worried that someone might steal your license plate, Amazon offers a $5 solution to the problem in the form of specialty fasteners. They’re designed to make your plate just a little harder to steal than the one on the car next to you. I came across this while spinning around Amazon looking at tools, and I’ll admit my first thought was “Really? These are necessary?” Apparently so, at least if you believe the review comments. Check out the first one in which “psnorb” shares his experience of having his plates stolen and promptly used in a high-speed chase with police. (Interestingly, his biggest gripe is that the police kept his plate as evidence.) I have no idea where “psnorb” lives, but I’m guessing it’s not here in Dallas, TX.

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Last year I wrote about choosing our daughter’s first car using 9 criteria. Less than a month later Toolmongers read about “The Dent” and what a non-event it turned out to be, thanks to these criteria. Now, a year later, it’s time for an update. What other bumps and bruises did the car receive? How did the car’s mechanical systems hold up? Did our daughter ever find out how fast it could go? Basically, did the 9 criteria work, and how exactly did our teen’s first wheels fare during a year of use?

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MAC Tools announced five new automotive specialty tools recently, including the hammer you see pictured above, which they claim is designed specifically for coaxing auto interiors into place. At first glance, it looks pretty much like the rubber mallet Sean and I have used for years for the same purpose. And honestly, that’s pretty much what it is… with two slight differences. First, the handle is a little longer and more grippy than most of the mallets I keep around the shop, and second, MAC added a third rubber tip on the end of the handle.

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According to Top Gear on the History channel last year (yes, we know the Brit version is better; move on) you can grab a $500 ride almost anywhere that looks like crap but has a heart of gold. Some car shows do, and it’s good TV. But when these guys tried it two years ago they got about as far as you might expect. Jalopnik posted the “totally awesome” carnage from YouTube that may actaully be funnier than U.S. Top Gear’s attempt.

Our question is, can you even grab a $500 car than runs reliably? Normally after hearing that question everyone will wax poetic about a cheap-ass car they got on the super deal “this one time.” That’s not what we’re talking about. Most people stumble across a deal or two like that eventually, if given enough time. The trick is, if you had to go out today and find one, could you, and where would you go for it?

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The CEL. (That’s what mechanics call the “check engine light.”) The folks over at Lifehacker recently posted a list of “the five most common causes of a check engine light and what you should do about them,” and it’s not a bad list. Check out the article if you wish, but I’ll save you some trouble. The list: faulty oxygen sensor, loose or faulty gas cap, faulty catalytic converter, faulty mass airflow sensor, bad spark plugs and/or wires. They suggest taking your car in for diagnostics (which will work, of course), but most Toolmongers know by now that with a simple reader you can at least see what the computer thinks is wrong. And if you don’t own a reader, you can generally rent one (or borrow one with the purchase price as security) from auto parts stores.

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Sometimes the words “fuel” and “economy” don’t really go to together but are linked anyway. One of our favorites is Ford’s “Best-in-class” claims at 23 highway and 17 city in the vaunted F-150 lineup. The funny part is they are perfectly correct. The sad part is they are perfectly correct.

For some reason we’ve been sold on the more-power-and-less-mileage package on trucks. In the interests of full disclosure, other than a Ford Courier I had in my teens and the Ranger I roll around in now, every truck I’ve owned has had some truly terrifying mpg. It’s not that a V6 that averages 20 mpg and sports 300hp isn’t impressive; it is. We’d just like to see something like a small truck that averages 30 mpg or better.

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Old-time TM contributor Ricardo dropped us a note this week with the above gem from CarDomain. Yes, that’s a 1988 Oldsmobile Delta 88 (the one your mom probably owned), lovingly converted into a less pricey (and possibly more fuel-efficient) El Camino. Bonus: With the market for El Caminos driven out the roof by collectors, this probably cost a hell of a lot less.

Seriously, this looks like a lot of fun. You can see a pretty cool little garage shop behind the car in some of the CarDomain photos, so we’re betting this was totally a garage creation.

Have you seen any cool shop projects lately? If so, drop us a line. We’d love to feature ’em here on TM.

1988 Oldsmobile Delta 88 [CarDomain]


On my way home from the home center today, a mudding enthusiast managed to pop two rocks into my windshield that left two chips in the glass. I handled it with the grace and charm I exhibit on all such occasions — that is to say, copious amounts of creative language and possibly one or two rather impolite gestures. After I arrived home I felt annoyed but as calm as anyone is with two dime-sized chips in his forward glass.

I had seen commercials for glass repair on TV and on the web, but had never used the service. After a little research I placed a call to Safelite to survey the damage. They in turn connected me with my insurance company who informed me that little chips/cracks like this can be repaired at no out-of-pocket and no hit on the insurance, as long as it’s done with a reputable repair service — of which Safelite was one.

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