Saturday, September 18, 2010

Accepting applications

Friday, September 17, 2010

No, really.

It feels very safe to me, living here in the south Bronx.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

She’s ported and relieved and she’s stroked and bored

I saw this beauty parked along WestEndAvenue the other day.

“just a little Deuce coupe with a flathead mill” 
Ever wonder what that means?

A “deuce” is a 1932 Ford and the “mill” is the engine (never motor, motors are electric).

“Flathead” was a 1930‘s engine design that required the gas and air mixture to take a tortuous U-turn path as it was delivered through the four-stroke combustion cycle. That complicated path hindered airflow and horsepower, so...

“Ported” means taking a small grinder and a steady hand to remove extra material inside the intake manifold and exhaust passages to improve breathing.
“Relieved” is a similar process, but around the valve seats themselves.

“Stroked” increases the length of the combustion cylinder and therefore lengthens piston travel to increase torque, while “bored” bores out the diameter of the cylinder to increase displacement. All seek to gain interior volume to create more power.

Drag slicks (the wide rear tires) give better contact with the asphalt to improve traction “comin’ off the line when the light turns green.”
But this creates a problem.

An internal combustion engine that has been ported and relieved and stroked and bored is likely to run very hot, in effect a short but merry life. To address this overheating, our featured rod runs on Liquid Salvation with an improvised radiator overflow to allow more coolant than the radiator was intended to hold.
“She’ll do a hundred an’ forty in the topend floored.”

Don’t bet against it. :-)


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

No use crying over

spilled paint.

Those freaky Deegan worklights

were on again last night.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

These Bronx guys

I grew up in a rural Pennsylvania automotive culture where everybody drove, so an engine swap was no big deal.  You always knew someone in the middle of some big home repair, but it was always being done at leisure in the barn in Summer or in Winter, in a heated, dry garage. Every tool you owned was within reach. Electricity, good lighting, soap and running water was assumed. The well-off guys even had those rolley wooden platforms to lay on underneath the greasy frame.
Not in the Bronx.

We’ve developed a whole subculture here of street corner mechanics for whom no job is too large as long as alternate-side parking cooperates and the rain, of course, holds out. It’s amazing to me.
It’s like a high pressure TV game show: the light is failing, legal parking is like sand through an hourglass and the only tools you have to work with are the ones you carried here yourself. 

Forget light. I ran into this guy Saturday night when he was working right here at Lincoln and 135th at sunset, buttressed by more battery powered torches and flashlights than I’ve seen outside a hardware store.

And get this. With only a helper and two repurposed tire jacks to pump the heavy steel assemblage into place, he was swapping out the entire rear differential along with the axles and wheels. HOLY freakin’ smokes. That involves the rear brakes and brakelines, too. 

For those who cannot appreciate this it’s not quite open heart surgery. That would be a full engine swap involving a rolling crane and a chain lift to heft the 300 pound engine block out from under the hood. 
But this was no trifle either, it’s the automotive equivalent of a full-bore ball and socket hipjoint replacement on a dirty cot in the backyard with a time constraint and that ever-failing light. And what happens when he needs a small part he forgot? He can’t exactly leave it and wander over to the local auto supply. He has to think through every aspect of this out ahead and then get it right the first time.

I just walked by again last night and he’s back together again, albeit held together with a fuschia bungee cord. lol

I’m so impressed. These Bronx guys have cojones the size of a Manhattan auto repair bill.
Then again, he’s registered in Pennsylvania.

Monday, September 13, 2010

I'm just sayin'

This is ClockTowerTenants 100th post, a minor milestone for those keeping track of such things, but it’s going to be a kind of “kids get off my lawn” rant so if that bores you just stop reading here.

For those still reading, I want to say right upfront I’m a big fan of the MTA. I know... I know, that’s not a popular stance, but I think what they do day-in day-out while we vandalize our own transit system ($2million in damage last year alone) is amazing, and I’ve said that here before.
But the local news these days is full of ominous predictions of a pending and significant fare hike. In the past I’ve had no problem with this. Costs go up, then so do prices. It’s an endless, unavoidable cycle in a free market economy.
But this recession is different. I’ve been through recessions before and watched the economy slowly regather itself and rebound a mirror image of what it was a couple years earlier. This recession isn’t doing that. It’s stalled and even shrinking further by some measures. I think the digital revolution is a large part of this and the jobs we are losing in old media are not coming back, but that’s a topic for another time.
What interests me today is this fare hike, and how it will impact on the average New York family of four struggling to keep rent paid and still somehow get food on the table each night. The average family is hurting. Essential costs like food, shelter and insurance are climbing without end but wages are flat and frightening layoffs are all around.
Monthly budgets are already tight to the point of fracture so just a $.25 increase in each fare is not doable. A family of four riding daily for work or recreation would pay a dollar extra one way, $2.00 a day round trip or $60 pretax dollars extra a month, another $720 a year in just the $.25 increase assuming 8 one-way trips per day. Even if I’m pessimistic by half, a $360 a year increase over the already $2.25 fare represents real money to a family already clipping grocery coupons while the MTA exec’s commute to work in freshcut flower scented limo’s. Over 8,000 MTA workers earned in excess of $100,000 last year.
That’s almost 12% of the total MTA workforce.
Now I’m no Socialist. I do not begrudge hard workers doing well. I’ve been a self-employed capitalist my whole life but something about this proposed fare increase within the unprecedented context of Iraq, Afghanistan and the deepest economic recession since the crash of ‘29 strikes me as wrong at the moment. People need jobs, not MTA fare hikes. Maybe it’s finally time to cut back on the MTA’s freshcut flower and limo budget. I’m just sayin’.
You are welcome and encouraged to leave your thoughts.

our friendly neighborhood contractors

Regular readers of ClockTowerTenants know my career is in design with many years dealing with builders and contractors, fabricators and installers of every kind. My projects tend to be rather small in the grander scale of things. Not so, though, our friendly neighborhood contractors currently swapping out the Willis Avenue Bridge. These guys are huge.

KiewitWeeks, the General Contractor for the bridge project, is a hybrid firm specially formed for the assignment; a joint venture between the Kiewit Corporation (construction and engineering)and Weeks Marine. (marine construction and dredging)
Kiewit of Omaha Nebraska is massive, the 4th largest contracting firm in America in 2010 (up from #5 in 2009). Founded in Omaha by Dutch immigrant bricklayers in 1884,(our ClockTower was built the following year) it had a revenue stream of  $6billion, 237 million dollars in 2008. From Wikipedia:

To give some kind of context for a figure like that, “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II... Since 1985, the United States has provided nearly $3 billion in grants annually to Israel.” 
Three billion a year. In other words, our yearly no-strings aid to Israel amounts to less than half of just one year’s revenue from one American company, our #4 building contractor.

Weeks Marine, founded in 1919 by Francis Weeks right here in New York City as the “Weeks Stevedoring Company” has been providing river and harbor construction services to New York City for over 75 years. Along the way Weeks has been buying up smaller stevedoring and dredging firms and growing into a good sized firm in its own right, (#110 on that same list) but it is clearly the smaller partner in the Willis Avenue Bridge project.

You can tell a lot about a building contractor by how they maintain their jobsite. This storage lot of re-rod on the Bronx side just north of the bridge is so clean and organized it’s the contractor equivalent of a hospital operating room. A good sign.

Currently the new bridge is in place and everything is being “buttoned up” at the moment. Traffic is scheduled to be rerouted sometime in December. Then the old bridge will be detached, lifted off its moorings and floated away on a barge for scrap.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

It's FASHION WEEK the ClockTower, too.

Emily did a photoshoot in the salon last night.

No no no you girls

Ooh kiss me
Lick your cigarette then kiss me
Kiss me where your eye won't meet me
Meet me where your mind won't kiss me
Lick your eyes and mine and then hit me
Hit me with your eyes so sweetly
Oh you know, you know, you know that yes I love
I mean I'd love to get to know you
Do you never wonder? No
No no no you girls never know
Oh no you girls'll never know
No you girls never know
How you make a boy feel
You girls never know
Oh no, you girls'll never know
No you girls never know
How you make a boy feel
How you make a boy
Oh kiss me
Lick your cigarette an’ then kiss me
Kiss me where your eye won't meet me
Meet me where your eye won't lick me
Lick your mind and mine so briefly
Oh you know, you know you're so sweetly
Oh you know, you know I know that I love you
I mean I, I mean I need to love
Do you never wonder? No
No no no you girls never know
Oh no, you girls'll never know
No you girls never know
How you make a boy feel
You girls never know
Oh no, you girls'll never know
No you girls never know
How you make a boy feel
How you make a boy feel
How you make a boy
Sometimes I say stupid things
That I think well, I mean I
Sometimes I think the stupidest things
Because I never wonder
Oh how the girl feels
Oh how the girl feels
No you boys never care
Oh no you boys’ll never care
No you boys never care
How the girl feels
You boys never care
You dirty boys’ll never care
No you boys never care
How the girl feels
Oh how the girl feels
Oh how the girl feels