What we have here, boys and girls, is what we call an “Oh S#!t” moment. You see, normally the bow of a boat, below the waterline, would NOT have a hole in that one could put ones finger in.

This new fenestration is the result of the telephone pole sea-wall at the state park at Gun Lake (who hits a telephone pole with a boat, anyway?), a slight miscalculation of water depth and speed, and 60 year old bottom planks.

We were able to use the boat, even leaving it in the water all week, but this is a clear message that we will be starting a major woodworking project. We’ve been putting off putting a new bottom under the Chris Craft for the past several years, but now there are no more excuses. At least until summer is over, and the 3M 5200 I plan caulking up the hole with, lets go…





Rex McCool, circa 1946 in Yokohama, Japan.

Rex McCool, circa 1946 in Yokohama, Japan.

My dad Rex McCool (who just turned 90, and thinks he’s 50), grew up on a farm in Kalkaska MI, in a time when people did what they had to do, with what they had to do it with.  One of his uncles, another farmer, had little fear, and some prowess with dynamite.   He also had a small dozer, and when a neighbor farmer had a boulder in a field, or a stump they were tired of farming around, they called Fay to blow it up and bury the rubble.  He evidently passed this handiness  with explosives down to my dad, who likewise had little fear, and liked explosions.

My Dad has told this following story so many times, I feel like I was there, so I have no shame in relating this as fact:

Uncle Fay was called by a neighbor to help blow a hole in a field stone barn foundation large enough to get a tractor in and out to clean the barn, as this particular farmer had grown tired of shoveling cow manure, and had just purchased a tractor which seemed capable of doing that for him.  Fay examined the barn, the foundation, the surroundings, and agreed that dynamite was the perfect tool for the job.  A string of explosives was hung along the foundation where the new opening was to be, some old mattresses hung over top and over the string of dynamite to keep debris down, the fuse was strung, the crew got a safe distance away, a match struck and the fuse was lit.

At that precise moment, a big yellow Tom-cat walked out of the barn, jumped on top of the mattress and began to serenely, in that particularly cat-like way, to give himself a bath.  The horrified onlookers coaxed, called, “Here Kitty-Kitty-Kitty!”, then threw stones or whatever else was at hand to try to scare the old Tom away before the charge went off.

He looked up, regarded them all for a moment, and went right back to licking himself, when of course the charge went off.

Out of the cloud of dust and smoke and falling stones, past the gathered crew of now genuinely shocked and sorrowful (remember now, these guys butchered their own pigs cows and chickens, and were no strangers to the perils of life on the farm) farmers, shot the yellow cat, eyes as big as saucers, fur scorched and tail bushed out like a bottle brush, one or more of his nine lives spent, never to be seen again.

When I was a kid, as I said at first, my dad enjoyed blowing things up on our farm as well.  He razed a cement block silo from beside a barn without  breaking window, and made a home movie of the thing toppling over, that us kids loved watching in reverse, the silo rebuilding itself from a cloud of dust and pile of rubble like that ’58 Plymouth Fury in the Stephen King movie “Christine”.  He  blew stumps out of the ground, and busted big boulders that broke plow points and drawbars.  I remember well going with him to buy dynamite at the “Hooper Supermarket” over on the Gun Marsh, bringing it home in the truck, those dangerous sticks of explosives wrapped in yellow waxed paper in a wood box, cushioned with shavings of wood called excelsior.

Seriously, we bought dynamite at a country grocery store.  Try that now…

Like his uncle Fay, my dad became known as something of a local demolitions and explosives  expert, and his neighbors called on him to help blow stuff up.  One time,  the local cop called him saying a neighboring  farmer  had called him to report his kids had found some dynamite while playing under an old corn crib on the their farm, and could dad come over to help safely remove it, so as not to have the farmers kids, or himself, blown to Kingdom Come.

So, dad went over to find the farmer, his entire family, and the local deputy standing  back some distance from the now explosive corn crib.  (A corn crib, if you don’t know, is a tall, rather narrow building with a pitched roof and wire mesh sides, that holds ear corn to dry, usually  built with poles set in the ground and a wood floor of off the ground.)  They pointed out which end of the shed had the dangerous treasure, and Dad, a small wiry  guy, slithered underneath, and in a dark corner at the back, saw what the kids had seen.

It was not dynamite at all, but an rather old dry cell battery, with the bundle of paper wrapped carbon rods now exposed, in the dry dirt under the building.  He took a couple of the sticks out with him, and emerged  sweaty, dirty,dusty, covered with cobwebs, carrying the paper wrapped sticks, about 8 inches long and an inch in diameter, in his hands.

Facing the deputy and the farmer, who had moved back a considerable distance,  without saying a word, holding one of the sticks by both ends, he broke it over his knee.  The kids ran, the deputy’s eyes got as big as the old yellow cat’s, and probably had to change his uniform.

Again, I relay this story as factual, although I was not there.

So, Happy Father’s Day Rex McCool, let’s get some dynamite and blow the hell out of something!




Wow, its  been awhile since we’ve updated the blog, and LOTS has happened here!  We’ll take a moment to recap the excitement that’s gone on in the month since our last post:

Old Faithful.

Old Faithful.


Get the wagons lined up!

Get the wagons lined

We went on our first camping outing of the year, with the Tin Can Tourists in Milford MI, at the TCT Spring Rally the weekend before Labor Day.  Although the weather was NOT good for the first half of the weekend, we had a great time with all our friends.  The ’51 Pontiac got to flex its muscles a bit and tow the Spartan over, Kim and I both commented on how comfortable it is, compared to the one ton Diamond T truck.  We had an impromptu “Station Wagon Parade” around the grounds of Camp Dearborn, with all our wagon owing pals, and had a ball.

On the project front, the ’59 T’bird has seen no progress at all.  I don’t feel very good about that, but, it’s not like other things haven’t happened.  My friend Ron’s Edsel wagon got an initial spruce up, to take care of the rusty roof, and is now back for repair of all 4 doors, and a little quickie fix of the left rear quarter.  The doors present a challenge, but with a little tack welding, and the use of 3M “Panel-Bond”, we think we have a very acceptable repair for a driver.  The quarter would be better repaired with a patch panel, but Ron is suffering from sticker shock at how much effort (and therefore how much money) the roof and doors are taking, so a correct repair can wait.  It’ll look good, and we’ll take care of the rest when he’s ready.

Lacey door corners.

Lacey door corners.


Tack welding patch panels in.

Tack welding patch panels in.


Welding completed, 3M Panel-Bond over the weak to seal and waterproof.

Welding completed, 3M Panel-Bond over the weak to seal and waterproof.


A good afternoons work.

A good afternoons work.



In a moment of weakness, last week, I brought home a late 80′s Starcraft motor home.  This brute has only 14,00 miles on the clock, and sports a 454/400 Turbo combo that amazingly fired up instantly on the 12-year-old gas in the tank.  After a lesson in the reliability of 25-year-old tires, I was able to pull it out of it’s resting place and drive it home.  I enlisted the senior “Cool McCool”, my dad Rex, to come along, drive the chase truck, a real treat for him on his 90th birthday!

After getting my eyebrows singed  off seating two tires back on the rims using starting fluid and a match, and changing the right front tire which blew after rolling about 50 feet, we got home with no issues.  The coach has an Onan 6.8KW generator, two slimline roof air conditioners, a big two-way fridge, convection oven, holding tanks, water pump, fittings, lines, fixtures, etc. that we can hopefully use in the soon to be started ’47 Spartan Manor project.  Meanwhile, it’s hidden from view (at least from OUR view) in the back of the lot, and I’m trying to figure out what to do with the fiberglass body once I start cutting it up.  The entire roof is rotten, and much of the left sidewall, from a leak in the rubber roof, so it’s not salvageable,  Kind of a shame, but hopefully it’ll be worth all the effort dismantling it for the parts.  Now we have to decide what to do with the chassis, it’s air suspension, hydraulic leveling system, cruise control, air conditioning, and miscellaneous.

COE ramp truck maybe?

The original "Cool McCool"

The original “Cool McCool”


It's home, now what will we do with it?

It’s home, now what will we do with it?


Garage wall art...

Garage wall art…


You can almost smell it from here...

You can almost smell it from here…


So, that’s it for now.  Stay tuned for updates on the motor home project (or come over with your Sawzall and maul and help tear it apart), get ready for updates on the T’bird and the rewiring of the dash and steering column, our latest camping expedition, and all the other activity here at Cool McCool’s Garage!

Today I went over to my buddy Joe’s house to help him lift the capper of his pickup so he can pick up a slide in truck camper he’s going to get tomorrow.  After the work was done, we sat down in his shop and took a little break after the hard work was done.

Joe is an avid motorcyclist and collector of vintage cycles.   And, by collector, I don’t mean he has a couple of vintage bikes in his garage, I mean he has almost one hundred vintage bikes.

That’s right, almost one hundred.  One.  Hundred.  Motorcycles.  Harleys of course, but he’s got half dozen Indians, a Norton, over a dozen BMWs, and Hondas, Yamahas and Kawasakis too numerous to count.  They’re in barns, trailers, his shop, and his house.

Of course they are.

In the shop were his latest projects, a 1913 Harley single, and a 1941 Indian Chief with a leaf spring front fork.  They’re both “patina” bikes, with crusty, rusty sheet metal, remnants of the original paint on the tins, and both decked out with vintage accessories and add-on’s from back in the day.

The ’13 Harley he’s assembled from swap meet bits, stuff off his shelves, with the heart being an engine and transmission he got from a friend of mine when I nearly got in trouble with my wife.  My buddy had called me to look at a ’58 Panhead, the first “Duo-Glide”, that a neighbor wanted to trade him for a Jag sedan with a Chevy 350 in it.  He wanted my assessment of the value of the basket case bike, who’s owner had taken it apart in the 70′s to paint it and never put it back together.  It looked as if all the pieces were there, and it looked to me as if it had to be worth what he was asking for the Jag.

I had a ’61 Panhead at the time, and the last thing I needed was another old bike, but the price was right, and I was tempted to buy it, but wanted to discuss the deal with Kim before I made a commitment.  I hadn’t put my feet on the ground in the driveway when I got home when Kim met me at the car, with the words, “You are NOT buying another Harley.”

Since I’d encouraged my friend to go ahead with the deal on my assessment of the value of the bike-in-a-box, I felt sort of obligated to help him sell it since I obviously wasn’t going to.

I made a call to Joe, knowing he didn’t enough Panheads (he only had 4 at the time), and most importantly, didn’t have a wife to prevent him from financial ruin buying stuff he didn’t need and already had too many of.

They made a deal, and Joe hauled the Panhead home in crates in the back of his truck, along with a single cylinder Harley engine and trans the seller’s dad had stashed in a chicken coop in the back yard sometime in the 40′s.  I knew he had the engine, but he didn’t mention it to me as potentially going with the Pan, which is good because then I WOULD have really wanted it, and there’d have been war at home.

Long story short, Joe put the Pan back together in a weekend, buying NOTHING, and it fired on the 3rd kick.  Sadly, the tins had been painted (poorly) sometime in the bikes murky past, and he left it as is, so it doesn’t have the original factory finish, but he likes it and named it “Orange Crush”, since the tins were painted orange and white sometime in the 60′s.   It runs good, leaks oil appropriately and he has fun with it.

Having the single cylinder engine on the bench was too much of a temptation for Joe, and he started gathering parts to make motorcycle out of it before the Pan was even finished.  The engine turned out to be a ’13, the trans a later bit from the ’20′s.  He found a rolling, late teens chassis with the springer forks folded back to the down tube cheap at a swap meet, with original paint on them, fenders from another late-teens/early 20′s bike, also with some of the original grey/green paint and red striping, and had tanks made by a local sheet metal shop.

The engine has compression, the mag makes spark, the tanks are full of gas and oil, and it’s lacking only one bit of linkage to the timer to be ready to ride.

How 'bout that kerosene headlamp?

How ’bout that kerosene headlamp?


Beautiful, isn't it?

Beautiful, isn’t it?


1913 Michigan 'cycle plate.  Yes, the engine came with a title too...

1913 Michigan ‘cycle plate. Yes, the engine came with a title too…


The other bike is a much more modern piece, even though it’s over 70 years old.  It’s a ’41 Indian Chief, and it’s story is interesting too.

Joe has had the big flathead V-twin Indian engine for years, all freshened up and ready to go, but didn’t have a frame to put it in.  He’s got several other Indian twins, all Chiefs, but none with the post-war with the springer front fork..  This engine is a also  ’48, but since it’s his bike and being built to ride, when he found a deal on a rolling, complete, 1941 leaf spring fork frame, he knew had to have it to build a pre-war Indian to ride.

Like the ’13 Harley, it’s not authentic, but it’s all built with period stuff, suitably crusty and is almost ready to go, aside from wiring the (VW) generator and ignition switch.  It’ll look nice on the side-stand next to his three other unrestored Chiefs, and the beautiful restored now in his living room.



No motorcycle ever built has prettier fenders than this.

No motorcycle ever built has prettier fenders than this.


Foot clutch on the left, hand shifter on the right, throttle left.

Foot clutch on the left, hand shifter on the right, throttle left.


I couldn’t be happier that the basket case Panhead went together for Joe without a hitch, and even happier that the Harley single thrown in to sweeten the deal is once again the heart of a real, pre-WWI bike.  I wouldn’t have had the knowledge or determination to do that, the bike(s) went to the right guy, and my other friend got rid of his Jag, turned the bike, so he was happy too.

Joe had me sit on the Indian, and it feels RIGHT.  So right in fact, that he asked if I thought I could get used to the hand shift and left-hand throttle.

I think I’ll be able to learn that…




Booty call.

Booty call.


I can’t spoil Ron’s reveal for the car in a couple weeks, but the Edsel wagon, while not completely finished, is now ready for it’s inaugural show.  He’s towing his ’59 Easy Traveller trailer to the Tin Can Tourists spring gathering in Milford Mi, May 17-20,  and I don’t want to give too much away.  It looks great, but still needs some attention on the doors and left rear quarter that I didn’t have time to get to.  So, it’s coming back later on for some additional work, but for now, here’s a little bit of the “after”.


No more holes!

No more holes!


Next time you see it, it'll be towing a trailer.

Next time you see it, it’ll be towing a trailer.

It doesn't LOOK very rusty...

It doesn’t LOOK very rusty…


My friend Ron recently bought a ’59 Edsel station wagon, which looked as if it needed a little body work from the pictures he sent me.  (Fully admitting responsibility, I urged him to buy it based on the photos and his description).  For reasons which are not clear to me right now, I broke my rule about working on other people’s cars, raised my hand and offered to do some quickie straightening,  paint the mis-matched tailgate and lift gate and take care of some little blisters here and there.

What was I thinking?

The extent of the problem was apparent when I raised the lift gate, and the entire back of the roof skin flexed.  A little further investigation revealed the drip rails didn’t seem to be actually attached to the roof for most of their length, and there was something funny about how the rear window stainless trim seemed to have what looked like window caulk oozing out around the edges.  That, and the front of the roof at the corner of the drip rail and windshield also had window caulk smeared on it.

I shoulda known…

Turns out the roof skin was rusted through all along the edge above the drip rail, the rear of the roof skin was completed loose from the drip rail under the lift-gate, and when I pulled the side windows and removed the stainless trim, there was NOTHING there.  The top of the body and window frame was completely rusted away, hence the globs of caulk smeared on by the PO to try to stop the leaks.

Of course, I could have bailed right then, but, since I’d encouraged him to buy it, and had offered to fix it, I dove in, with a two week deadline to get as much done as I could and at least in primer.

It’s going pretty well, thanks to the recommendation of another builder friend of mine to use 3M “Panel-Bond” adhesive instead of trying to weld patches in.  On a roof, welding anywhere usually causes huge warpage problems, that I didn’t want to tackle.  New cars have their fenders, door skins, roof skins etc. mounted with the stuff, so it works.

Turns out, the stuff is just the ticket for repairs like this.  I’d like to be a little further along, but I should still be able to get primer on everything, even if the tailgate only gets dusted with it to rather than color.   Because I didn’t think I had enough to do, I also replaced both rocker panels and did a quickie, temporary fix on the rusty right rear quarter panel until Ron gets some patch panels for the rear fenders.

It’s been a challenge, and I feel like I’m in one of those stupid “reality” TV shows, with ridiculous deadlines, unexpected problems, set-backs, budget constraints and delays.  If I had some contrived drama, I think I”d be ready for my own show.

Here’s what’s happened this week on “Cool McCool’s Garage”


There is supposed to be metal there.

There is supposed to be metal there.


Look! this is better!  Hammered over the edge of the wood stove in the shop.

Look! this is better! Hammered over the edge of the wood stove in the shop.


Window frame profile.  Both sides had to be replaced.

Window frame profile. Both sides had to be replaced.


"Uh Ron, we have a problem..."

“Uh Ron, we have a problem…”





Even better...

Even better…


Roof edge and lift gate drip rail repaired.

Roof edge and lift gate drip rail in progress.


And done.

And done.


Body work almost completed on the roof and drip rails.

Body work almost completed on the roof and drip rails.


Temporary "fix" of the right rear quarter.  Needs patch panels, but we'll do that later.

Temporary “fix” of the right rear quarter. Needs patch panels, but we’ll do that later.




When I was a kid in high school, I devoured car magazines.  My favorite (then and now) was “Rod & Custom”.  Close second was “HOT ROD”, and then “Street Rodder”.  I bought them at the grocery store, and poured over the pages, dreaming of the day when I’d be the owner of a smooth, low custom car with a chopped top, or a stripped down Ford roadster with a big engine, a 4 speed with chrome headers leading in to big chrome pipes that dumped out just ahead of the fat rear tires.  Someday, I’d have a car featured in one of my favorite magazines, and life would be perfect.

Pretty much the opposite (in both dream scenarios) of my high school ride, a dumpy ’41 Chrysler Windsor sedan.  But I digress…

I’ve been fortunate enough to have realized the dream of having had a couple of smooth, low customs, a low, loud, stripped down Ford roadster with a huge engine (although it lacked the chrome headers, big pipes and 4 speed trans), and have been lucky and honored to have had a couple of my cars featured in those childhood favorite magazines I read at the magazine rack in the grocery store.  I freely admit I’ve ruined a few cars along the way, the learning curve has it’s casualties, but the survivors of my (sometimes mis-guided efforts) have been pretty well received.

Life IS good.  But…

All these years though, one car was burned into my psyche.  A little yellow ’23 roadster I’d seen in “Rod & Custom” during those formative years, back in ’68.  It was far different from the other “Fad T’s” in the magazines of the time, spindly things with their glass bodies perched on rectangular tube frames, tall T windshields, motor cycle wheels up front and huge rubber out back.  Goofy looking, to my young eye, unbalanced and out of proportion.

This one had the glass body slung low, literally wrapped around the round tube “bird-cage” style frame, Indy rubber at all four corners, shorty windshield, with the valve covers of the Ardun Ford flat-motor ABOVE the cowl.   The seats were lawn chair pads, the body was trimmed with outdoor carpet, and the floor, about 3″ off the pavement, was the frame.   Nothing but the bare necessities, no frills, no fuss, nothing on the car but what made it a CAR.

I never built one, and my own ’36 roadster was a far cry from that one, but Cotton’s T was always there, in the back of my mind, and while I didn’t copy it, the essence of it, the DIFFERENCE, I like to think, was there.

Fast forward to last summer, when we visited the Gilmore Car Museum,  just around the corner from us, and what did I see?

Cotton Werksmans ’23 T.

Low down, stripped down, glass body wrapped around  the tubing frame (gas welded by the way) so tightly it had to be cut in half to go around it and reassembled, Ardun Ford V8 slung down between the sprint car style front axle and quick-change rear end.  My childhood vision in jet black with a red engine block and polished aluminum,  positioned no less next three Barris smooth, sleek customs.

My good friend Dennis Lesky, who put the Legends display together for the Gilmore, and managed to wrest these cars from their owners for two years was there and gave me a little back story on the car.

This one is not the car featured 40 years ago in “Rod & Custom”, but one of three cars he built along the same plan.  Originally powered by a flathead, now sporting one of his (Cotton is regarded as THE Ardun guy to this day) Ardun equipped engines, 4 speed and quickie rear, this one is black with bright flames.  It, and the entire story of the original, and Cotton’s influence in the hot rod world, are featured in the last “Rodders Journal”,  and done much better than I possibly could, so I won’t repeat all that.


Suffice it to say that the flame has been re-kindled, and as soon as the current, low, smooth custom in my garage, the ’59 T’Bird is done, something will be leaving Cool McCool’s Garage to finance my version of that low slung, bare-bones,  roadster.

Enjoy, and dream along.