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Sheldon Aubut's
Corvette Wagon Universe

Sheldon's Big Adventure - Page 2

August 7, 2003 Photos of burned out car

Tuesday August 29, 2000, Day 74...  (Continued)  9:15 a.m.  Just heard back from Rick, and now I am even more on pins and needles.  He said the electrical is done, and that we can do the body work this winter.  Just about everything is working, including the air conditioning, lights, signals, brakes.  Only things that are not working are the horn, which is missing parts and was not working even before the fire, they were not able to find a replacement windshield washer reservoir, which was melted into a gob, and the driver's window doesn't seem to work.  They thought that was a problem with the motor, but it was working when I drove the car, and for that matter, after the fire, along the side of the road I was able to raise the window for towing using the switch.  So that is something we will need to take a look at yet.  I'm hoping that it will not keep me from picking up the car though.

The problem right now is that the insurance adjustor is on vacation this week.  But they have faxed up the paperwork to the local State Farm office and hopefully they will return an ok to release the car.  I'm hoping.   Cost so far is around $4,100 and that does not include the bodywork yet.  So as of now I have $14,000 into the car and the insurance company will have probably about $5,500 by the time all is done.  And there is still quite a bit of work to be done on it before I will consider it ready for prime time.  But I do so want to drive it now that I am willing to take it just the way it is and finish it this winter.  It will probably end up getting the fender repaired and a whole paint job, although the insurance will just cover painting the fender.

So now I have to sit here waiting until the insurance company ok's payment, so that the body shop can release the car.  Argh...

10:15 a.m.  Just got the word.  I can pick the car up at 2:00 p.m.!!!!!!!!!!  They will try to find time to check out the window but if no time then I might have to bring it back for that.  I will still have to dicker with the insurance adjustor next week on his return but so far State Farm has always treated me well and I would expect no less from them.  I'm not a big fan of insurance, or insurance companies, but I have had a couple of claims with State Farm over the years on house flooding and such and they have always come through without fuss.

Just a few more hours...

2:45 p.m....  It's Alive... Signed the check for $4,154 and picked up the car.  It sure needs a lot of work yet, but by spring it should be in awesome shape.  In a week I will pass the keys to Son #1 and let him drive it and work on it for a week.  He has tons of small block Chevy engine parts laying around and he is going to breath on it.  I told him not to breath too hard though as I also want it "dependable".  As a matter of fact I told him that was the first priority.  Right now the timing seems to be off and the body shop tried to time it but they said there were no timing marks.  That seems strange but I am sure Aaron can figure it out.

I left the body shop and headed up the North Shore just a little ways to give it a little run.  Noticed that the drivers window only rolls up or down when it wants to.  The engine heat gauge doesn't work and the left turn signal doesn't cancel.  Another thing is that there has been a lot of strange things going on in the steering column and some of the parts from the horn are missing and it has strange screws in it which interfere with the telescoping steering wheel.  So, I'm told, I can either have the horn button on or have the telescoping steering wheel working.  I opted for the horn button for now until I can get a chance to look at it and determine what parts I need.

The car is drivable and it should be interesting to see what kind of response I get from the European Motorcycle crowd tonight.  Funny thing is that right now I feel like I could use a nap.  I've expended so much energy today just anticipating getting the car that now I am totally beat.  The car is sitting outside the office right now, and all the other folks here have gone and taken a look.  Responses were very positive and they all liked it, some even calling it "way cool", and "awesome".

10:00 p.m.  A very interesting night indeed.  Came home from work at 5:00 ate a bit of dinner then off to Sir Ben's.  Sir Benedict's Tavern on the Lake is a British pub overlooking Lake Superior. They have excellent sandwiches and a very good selection of beers.   Of course I was anticipating a "root" beer.  It is only located about three miles from my house.

Driving down London Road I was in the left lane and I noticed a Minnesota Highway Patrol car in the right lane ahead of me doing about 25 mph in a 30 zone.  I slowly caught up with him and passed him.  He was in a right turn only lane, when he hit the red lights and pulled in right behind me.  Now here I am in a RED CORVETTE doing the speed limit and I couldn't think of anything I had done wrong.  I was as legal as I could imagine.  But there I was, with red and blue alternating lights in my rear-view mirror.  My next thought was, "Only I would get a ticket three hours after getting the car back and doing the speed limit."  I turned on my directional light and pulled to the curb.  Sat in the car and waited for the officer to come up.

Me, "Hello Officer."
MHP, "Are those pipes legal?"
Me, "To the best of my knowledge."
MHP, "Aren't they straight pipes?"
Me, "I don't believe so, they have mufflers in them."
MHP, "But I don't see catalytic converters."
Me, "Eh, I don't think they needed them in 79."
MHP, "I believe they did.  Did this come from Chevrolet that way."
Me, "I don't believe so, but they did come from Greenwood like this."

I'm starting to think I am about to get an equipment violation ticket.  That is all I need.

MHP, "These are considered straight pipes because they don't have the catalytic converters and this would be ticketable."
Me, "How do you know that?...   Are you going to write me up?"
Officer Mike, "No, because I have one just like it.  I have a 76 with the same pipes and mine are rusted and now I have to decide if I want to replace them at $1,300 or go with the stock system."

My sigh of relief must have been audible...  We then talked for about twenty minutes, on the side of the road, with his lights going the whole time and traffic going by by the hundreds.  I suspect there must have been folks I know in the cars, and I am sure I will be asked about it sooner or later.  I kinda felt like Arlo Guthrie in Alice's Restaurant.  Only he was really a nice guy and we exchanged names at the end.

Went on my merry way to Sir Ben's where there were only two bike there when I arrived.  They were both Japanese bikes though....???  At a European Motorcycle event at a British pub.  Who would have thought?  Soon a few other Harleys and Japanese bikes arrived, and then a Harley and a Valkeryie arrived on their way around the circle tour of Lake Superior from Cleveland Ohio.  They were just passing through looking for someone to tell them the hot spots in Duluth, saw the bikes and pulled in.  I chatted with them a while and of course filled them in on all the good spots.  It was kind of funny that by 7:15 there were no European bikes and about 15 from America or Japan, but then the Euros started to arrive.  BMW's, Moto Guzzis, MUZ, Triumph, and Norton were all represented.  We ended up with a total of 38 bikes and one Corvette.  It seemed to be the hit of the party and I had to (got to) tell the troubled story of my Florida trip over and over again.  It was great fun, but I did get a bunch of ribbing for bringing a car and not a bike.

All-in-all a great day...

Wednesday August 30, 2000...  Last night was a good night.  I even managed to get a couple of photos of the Corvette.  Funny thing is that while I was shooting the pictures my grandmother's old admonition popped into my brain, "It isn't worth takin' any photos unless there are people in them."  So I grabbed my friend Laura and put her in the pictures.  Her husband Mike and I are the only two Ural owners in Duluth.  I showed up at a European bike meet in a Corvette and he showed up on his Harley.  Go figure.  But Laura is a great model.  He has also modeled T-shirts for North American Russian Motorcycle Association.

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I took the car to work today, then at lunch I went and picked up a few little things at the auto parts store and stopped by my son Aaron's shop and let him and a friend take it for a test drive.  It is still running quite rich so he will do a bunch of adjustments this weekend.  Also the brakes still do not feel quite right to me.

I have also decided that if someone makes me a reasonable offer I will sell the car.  I guess I have just had one too many projects in my life.  This thing is starting to get sorted out now, but after all I went through with it I guess I would just as soon let someone else finish it up.  It is about the most awesome car I have ever owned but my heart is not in it right now.  Kind of like a woman that beats on you, then cheats on you; I am feeling right now like I need to move on.  So if anyone reading this is interested in making an offer please e-mail me at:  sheldon@sheldonaubut.com or call me evenings at:  (218) 525-0285

But, in the mean time I will keep plugging away at it, and who knows, maybe I will fall back in love...

Tonight I have to go out to a friend's house and work on his computer so I will get a chance to drive it on the freeway.  We shall see how it does.

Friday September 1, 2000...  It rained all day yesterday and it is a windy overcast day today that started with rain.  Because the rubber moldings on this car are 21 years old and I haven't had the chance to go over them I decided to let the car sit for these two days.  Tonight Son #1 is coming to pick it up and he will drive it for the weekend.  I expect that by the end of that time he will have it completely tuned up and running right.  Besides it will do the Father/Son this a great deal of good if Dad lets him play with his toys.

Last night my friend Roger stopped by with his girlfriend Laura.  He suggested a name for the car, "REO SpeedWagon" and it sure does seem appropriate.

The car is really for sale though.  I've taken a couple of unexpected financial hits in the last month and all of a sudden I find myself in the un-envious position of having to struggle up once again.  So, if you are interested please e-mail me at:  sheldon@sheldonaubut.com 

Sunday September 10, 2000...   Spent several hours polishing, shining and scrubbing the Vette.  It is AWESOME!!! This has to be the coolest, most incredible car around.  It really polished up and is looking good, except for the right front fender of course.  Patti is on her way up from Rice Lake Wisconsin to spend the evening and I am sure we will be taking it up the shore.  Son #1 had it all last weekend and did a bunch of work on the carb and engine, but the carburetor needs some parts and I have to get them ordered.  Right now it is running way rich and he says until we get the parts it will be doing that.  But it is still good to drive, so off for a ride we go...

Monday October 2, 2000...  I've been driving the car for almost a month now and have lots of pictures to post when I get some time.  Aaron (Son #1) took it to "Cruise for Cancer 2000" a couple weekends ago and the car was a huge hit.  I've been taking it absolutely everywhere (my poor neglected motorcycles are jealous) and having way too much fun.  It is starting to look like I will be keeping it, even though it has taken complete hold of my wallet.  Between my son, my friends, Patti and the rest of the people I come in contact with I am on only one who even remotely thinks I should sell it.  Everyone things the car is way too special to part with and that I must be crazy to even consider it.  What is a guy to do?

Son #1 plans on rebuilding the engine and transmission this winter.  He is going to install a 2500 stall converter on the transmission so the thing will launch like a rocket, put on maxed out heads, huge Holly double pumper, slightly hot cam and a bunch of other goodies.  By the time he is done with it the thing should go as fast as it looks.  Right now it is just a bit of a sled.  Seems the cam is about gone and there are just too many mismatched parts in set-up of the engine.  He and his buddy Rob, who owns Custom Concepts Auto Body are going to fix the fender and re-spray the whole car while it is down for the engine repairs this winter.  When we roll this thing out of the garage in the spring it will be a fire breathing rare monster.  Isn't life wonderful?

Here are two photos taken by my friend David Smith at the Caswell Cycle's open house in Mora Minnesota this weekend.  One of course is the Vette, the other is me on a new 1999 Moto Guzzi Bassa that I took out for a bit of a spin.  I have been eying this bike for some time and want it in my stable, but keeping the Vette will probably keep me off one of these for another year or so.

Sunday October 21, 2000...   Spent a good portion of today patching the front fender.  Just a temporary patch of epoxy, but enough to keep everything together.  Was able to get an exact match of paint at the local auto parts store.  From anything more than thirty feet it looks pretty good.  At least it will hold everything together until winter when the bodywork is done and the car gets a new coat of paint.

Below are some photos that were taken a few weeks ago when Patti and I took a ride to Two Harbors Minesota.

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Wednesday February 21, 2001...  I bet you have been wondering when I would update this site...  Took me a while, but I am ready to do it.  Much has happened.  I have gotten myself wrapped up in trying to save the historic Duluth National Guard Armory, and turn it into the "Dylan Arts and Music Center".  A huge multi-million dollar project, but I am confident that we can pull it off.  When done we will have an international class center.  Check it out at http://www.narma.org/armory 

Patti and I have hit it off completely.  It really doesn't get better than this.  She moved to Duluth,  in with me, and I am sure it won't be long before we make it legal as it were.  She got a job in the Cardiac Care Unit at the regional medical center.  She is a 26 year RN so she was very much in demand.  Funniest part of the move though was that she has three dogs.  If one knows me they would know that I have been a dog hater since a kid.  We had two dogs when I was young and both of them were poisoned.  My sister was mauled by two Doberman's and a family in the neighborhood raised German Shepherds and they would get out and attack anything in sight.  So I grew up hating dogs and haven't seen much use for them in my later years.  Then here comes this woman, who I am madly in love with, and she has a 13 year old Black Lab and two Shitzu (sp?).   From the moment that I met them they have turned me.  When that big, female, old lady sets her huge head on your lap, and looks up at you with those huge brown eyes, one can do nothing but love her.  And the little girls are a real treat.  It is funny to watch when I come home from work.  They worship me for some strange reason.  They all jump around and won't even begin to settle down until I sit on the couch and let them jump all over me and I pet them.  The upshot of this is that I have fallen for the dogs.  They have quickly become a part of my family.  Funny how things like this work out.

Oh, Son #1 and his wife had problems and moved out of the house, so I moved out of my comfortable apartment by Lake Superior, back to the house in the country.  Bad part is that now I have a house to take care of again.  Best part is that I now have my garage back so I can start to re-build my vehicle collection.  I've sold most of them in the last year but this kind of gives me a green light to start collecting again.  And now I have a full shop to work on them.

Life is wonderful, and very busy.  My web site design company is picking up two to three customers a week.  Growing much faster than I had anticipated, which keeps me hopping, but it certainly is fun.

Soon I will start to work on the Vette.  This morning was -22 F. so it is still a little early around here to be working out in the garage.  Next year I will have to insulate it and put in a heater.  But for this winter it is time off to try to catch up with my computer stuff.

Wednesday May 2, 2001
Was driving the Corvette quite a bit, until..........  Sheldon has another adventure going.  Check it out at:  http://www.narma.org/jackal 

Had my Moto Guzzi Ambassador in for repairs but when told what it would cost to finish it I decided to cut my losses and traded it in on an new Moto Guzzi Jackal.  The full story is at the above URL.  Now I will probably be riding that while son #1 swaps out my carburetor and fixes a bunch of things.  We were going to drop a 406 in the car but as of right now I decided to just fix what is there for now.

I am loving the Vette more and more every day though.  It is slowly turning into an absolutely awesome machine.

Saturday October 27, 2001
Lots of things have been going on in my life since the last report.  In June I broke my leg.  Ouch...  Just about healed now but it put a bit of a crimp in my summer.  Then on July 24th I was "downsized" at work.  After almost 9 years there I was tossed aside as if I didn't even exist.  Pretty disappointing and for at at least one day it was traumatic.  But once I gave it some thought I decided that this might be the perfect opportunity to really get my web site design company going.  I've been doing computer consulting and web design for many years but have done it more as an after work hours hobby than anything.  We've got about 120 web sites that we administer for companies ranging from hunting lodges in Alaska to Oil companies, national construction companies and all kinds of things but I've never had to really get serious at it.  I now am and we are concentrating on adding new customers.  This site is just one of my simple private things but the ones we do range from simple to very complex Flash movie sites.  So life is going to get very interesting for me.  Might be tough times for a while until things get going better.  Have to sell the boat for sure:  http://www.narma.org/searay and have been trying to sell the Vette.  There is a chance that I will be keeping the Vette though.  We are now going into winter here in Duluth and I see little chance of it selling locally this time of year, and if I still have it in the spring and can continue to make the payments it will probably end up staying.  I've really grown to love this thing.

Corvette : America's Sports Car
by Randy Leffingwell, David Newhardt (Photographer)

One important thing that happened recently was that on Thursday October 11, Randy Leffingwell, who wrote "Corvette - America's Sports Car" and about thirty other books, was here and spent a whole day photographing it for his next coffee table book.  He shot about 300 shots of it and he thought it would get a big spread in the book. That was quite exciting.  And what was most exciting for me was to know that at least one authority on Corvettes realizes just how rare this car is.  So far we have been able to track down only five of these things.  If there are only five of anything in the world it would be rare, and he was thrilled to be here photographing it.

Because of the job loss I would sell it right now if I got a decent offer, but if it doesn't sell soon this is one car I might have for a very long time.

Patti and I are still together and it actually gets better every day.  About the only conflict we have is that I can't stand Country music and she lives for the stuff.  Go figure....  But if that is our only problem it just doesn't get much better than this.  My book "Images of America - Duluth Minnesota" has been out for a couple of months now and there is good news and bad news about it.  The good news is that it is so popular that it is sold out of it's first printing.  The bad news is that it is sold out, just at Christmas.  It is going into a second printing but won't be in the stores until late February.


December 18, 2001
Patti and I have set a date to get married and June 8, 2002 is going to be a big day in my life.  It is great finally having the feeling that I am with someone that I can comfortably spend the rest of my life.  I've had a lot of nibbles on the Corvette but as long as I can still make the payments I'll probably just hang onto it.  I'm already looking forward to spring so I can start driving it again.  This winter I am going to have the carburetor rebuilt, the fender finished and a few other little things done.

October 28, 2002
Patti and I did get married on June 8, 2002.  I finally did it and have never been happier.  
The Wedding
I managed to only put about 200 miles on the Vette this summer as I was so busy building and riding my 2002 Moto Guzzi Stone Metal, with a Russian Sputnik sidecar frame and a Chinese "Flying Tiger" police sidecar.  It is quite the unit and can be viewed at:  http://www.narma.org/metal

November 30, 2002
I've decided I needed to fill in a couple more details that folks might be wondering about...  Son #1 (Aaron), his wife and children are now living in Mesa Arizona.  In moving back to the house in Esko Minnesota I left Duluth (about 20 miles away) so now I won't be running for office there.  I did run for County Commisioner in Carlton County but got blow out of the water.  Esko is a very Finnish community and my being a Frenchman didn't help at all.  Not to mention the fact that I was running against a Finn named "Liupakka" who is not only well liked but he was the furnace guy in the area for many years so he's been in just about every house in the county and knows everyone.  He also ran a great campaign, spending a great deal of money on signs and such.  Trounced me royally he did.

Drove the Vette a couple time since the last post and only wish I had the time and energy right now to finish it.  The carburetor still needs a rebuild and the fender is all epoxied and ready to grind, sand and paint.  I did put some matching rattle-can paint on it so it doesn't look too bad but it needs to be finished.  Winter is here now and it probably won't be driven much until spring.

July 23, 2003
Patti and I have now bought a house in Houlton Wisconsin.  A great place but still with a tiny garage compared to what I had in Esko.  Drat.  In late April of 2003 I sent the Vette wagon on its way to Son #1 in Scottsdale Arizona.  He'll be rebuilding the engine and making other changes to it.    Below is a photo of it as it went down I35 in Minnesota on its way to Scottsdale:

August 4, 2003
My Greenwood SportWagon no longer exists.  It is nothing but a charred pile of ash.  My son Aaron's other car broke down today so he had to take the Vette and on the freeway in Tempe a wheel fell off and the car headed towards a wall, he managed to get it away from that but found himself headed toward the front end of a semi-truck, just then the gas tank exploded and the car burst into flames. He whipped the wheel, avoiding the semi but slammed into the wall on the other side of the freeway. He crawled from the car as it burned to the ground and apparently is uninjured but the car is a total lost. It is just sinking in that I almost lost a son today. Scary stuff. I'm sure glad he is ok.

I guess this will put a fitting end to my Vette diary and because I only had it insured as a regular Vette I am sure it will also continue my trend of losing money on every vehicle I've owned. I guess at this point the car doesn't really matter, I'm just glad that Aaron is ok.

August 7, 2003
Aaron went by the wrecking yard today and took photos of what was left.  Apparently the insurance adjusters were also there today.  This is enough to make a car lover wretch:

Click thumbnail for larger view

March 23, 2010 Update:
Lots of water has passed under the bridge since my last update and life has certainly flowed by for us.   I lost some weight, started to feel a bit better and found a perfect brand-spankin' new 2006 Chrysler Crossfire Roadster.  You can see it here.  It was awesome and I absolutely loved it and for a time I had both the SLK and the Crossfire, then sold the SLK as I found myself driving the Crossfire all the time.  Then my health sort of crashed and I was losing the use of my legs.  By the fall of 2008 I had to rely on crutches or a wheelchair to get around.  I was in a world of hurt.  Up till then my doctors had not wanted to do surgery on my leg for fear of what could go wrong.  It was not your normal leg in that when I was ten years old I'd had an experimental surgery on my left (my good) knee that made it tough for them to predict the results if they'd started chopping.  Here is that info

In November of 2008 the docs finally figured they had to give it a try and they cut off the top of my tibia and the bottom of my femur, inserted 8 inch spikes up each and attached a bionic knee.  To me it was like a miracle!  Two days after the surgery I was walking with only a cane and two weeks later I was walking without support.  Absolutely incredible.  Unfortunately at the time we didn't have very good insurance and I had huge medical bills to pay and had to sell the Crossfire.  I was absolutely crushed to once again see one of my babies go away on a flatbed tow truck.  So my "toy score" is now just the non-running AMC Eagle SX/4 Sport.  I've been without a car now since February 15, 2009 which has been a killer and it looks like I will have no toys any time soon.  Patti still has her Buick Rendezvous but in June of 2009 Patti lost her job as a telephonic Registered Nurse and hasn't been able to find another.  It has been 9 months so we've had to pull in our belts and just try to get by.  It is tough as she was making good money and with what I took in we had our bills paid.  Now it is a struggle living month to month.  Luckily I've been able to pick up a little consulting work or some Web site design jobs for a little extra each month.  The saga isn't quite over yet and I'm sure there will be many more adventures down the road.  Vaya con dios....


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If you find this diary of interest you may want to check out my other diaries:

1998 Ural Sportsman Diary
1998 Ural Deco Classic Diary
PT Cruiser Diary
Moto Guzzi Jackal Diary
Moto Guzzi Stone Metal
2003 Ural Patrol
2000 Mercedes-Benz SLK230

at http://www.sheldonaubut.com

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