Short yarn about Colts
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Old Mitsubishi Colts have taught me many things over the years. And not just how a transverse front spring works or why fibreglass isn’t a permanent fix for rust. Nope, these little critters have taught me many things about human nature, good and bad, right and wrong and how businesses are run.
Let me start with the first Colt I owned; a white 1100F Fastback. Now, unlike these days where kids stay at home until they’ve notched up their first divorce and lost their hair, back when I was a young `un, you kind of left home as soon as possible. By which I mean the moment you’d finished high school. This was made easier in my case by an ongoing battle of wills with my old man; a war that didn’t seem to have an end in sight. So, rather than turn it into a domestic version of The Somme where we both dug in and slogged it out, I elected to get the hell out the instant I could do so.
My father clearly felt the same because he rolled home one day with a 1969 Mitsubishi Colt 1100F on a mate’s trailer and rolled it into a corner of the yard, declaring that it was for me to `do up’. Clearly, this was a thinly veiled way of getting me mobile and, therefore, capable of leaving the trenches - er - nest. Things is, I had no idea what the damn thing was. I’d never seen a car like it before and I’d never owned any kind of car before. I was smitten.
Problem was, my old man knows as much about cars as I do about Estonian folk dancing and what looked like a reasonable sort of resto project turned out to be, in fact, a slightly rusty car with completely stuffed engine. No compression, oil leaks everywhere; you get the drift. Clearly, this thing wasn’t going to take me anywhere but, at this stage, I was still at high school and knew as much about cars as the old boy. So I got stuck in.
First thing to do was tackle the rust. The trouble with living in a pre-internet world and being surrounded by useless male role models is that you run the risk of growing up useless yourself. Even my school mates had no idea on how to fix rust, so I took matters into my own hands, mixing up a batch of fibreglass, chiselling most of the loose rust out of the lower rear quarters and slopping in the plastic with a few sheets of fibreglass mat. That was fine for now, and I elected to leave the rusty inner hatchback alone since nobody could see it when it was closed.
The motor was another matter altogether. I kind of figured I needed to remove the cylinder head to kick things off, so I removed the rocker cover to reveal a set of completely rounded-off head bolts. Eventually I figured that the bolts could be removed by smashing the next-size-down socket on to the bolt head and then praying. But, crazily, it worked. Except for one bolt. Looking closer, I could see that it had been attacked by somebody with a cold chisel but that same somebody had eventually given up. Not me. I whacked seven shades of buggery out of that head bolt until it finally gave up. The thought of what was going on in that little cylinder head still keeps me awake some nights.
By now, anybody who knew anything would have looked for a replacement motor. Not us. My old man figured he had a mate who owed him a favour, so the motor was shipped off to the other side of town to be rebuilt: A process that took years. By which time I had, of course (like anybody else in my position) bought a second-hand Holden (no less rusty than the Colt had been, I should add) and got the hell out of home. My old man eventually got a transfer to another town and the body went to the tip while a mate of mine grabbed the engine. What became of it, I know not.
Okay, I know that Colt wasn’t an SS or anything, but, hell, I wish I still had that little bugger. Because knowing what I know now, I could fix the rust properly, and I reckon I could keep that little motor whirring away too. But it didn’t happen. And that’s what this episode taught me: You can learn how things work and how they’re done, but no matter how clever you get, you can’t turn back time.
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