In the winter, time finds you

Kyle Smith

If you are in one of those locales that gets tolerable weather year-round, go ahead and skip to the bottom now and make your snarky comment. Not even going to try and take that away from you. What I will say is that I need winter. You might need it too and not even realize it. Seriously.

The snow falling—or, more accurately, the salt truck driving by—signals the end of one season and entry into another. The race tracks are closed. The roads are covered in that nasty mix of sodium and chloride that conspires to oxidize nearly every surface of a car with ruthless abandon. Toss in the whole tilt-of-the-earth bit and how short the days get up here on the 45th parallel and it’s easy to see why seasonal affective disorder is a thing—especially for those of us who enjoy vintage cars.

For some of us, this season is not the sad one, though. These are the exciting times. Okay, maybe not exciting, but at least not the depths of boring. Not because I enjoy the snow or cold, but because it means no more driving. No more racing, except for a few crazies. Significantly less time and money spent traveling to events. Of course, that sounds like hell to most, but feeling truly stuck at home is impossible when you have a heated garage and a backlog of problems and projects awaiting attention.

More often than not, the hardest part of any project is finding the time to do it. During the warm months, it is easy to feel bad about holing up in the garage to work for an entire Saturday when the sun is begging you to swap safety glasses for Ray Bans. Given the opportunity to drive your car, you should. But the shift in seasons means that no one can tell you that your car should be on the road. You don’t have to justify staying inside to work on piddly tasks or spending a whole weekend in the shop just cleaning.

Now is the time to work on a project peacefully and without rush. The batteries in the one clock I have in my shop usually die about now each year. It’s magical timing for sure. A time for getting lost in a task and focusing on all the little details that you have no reason to ignore, since time is not a factor. Deadlines still exist, but they are far into the future at this point. You can take time to breathe and refocus.

There’s also that old part about distance making the heart grow fonder. Being separated from cars for the season only makes me enjoy the sliver of summer that much more. I’ll drive the fun cars at every opportunity, even if the choice is slightly inconvenient. If the weather was near-perfect every day, I would probably never drive my cars, because I would skip over good enough and wait for perfect.

A college roommate once told me about the house he grew up in, just half a mile from a California beach. Can you guess somewhere he had never been, when he moved to Kansas’ McPherson College at 18 years old? The beach. It was always there. They could always go tomorrow. The weather was two degrees less than ideal, so they stayed home. A whole 18 years passed before they knew it.

Everything has a deadline set by Mother Nature. Winter becomes the yin to summer’s yang, and months of driving become months of parking. For some of us the extremes are required. The seasons prevent me from getting lost and never finishing my project cars. Nothing makes driving season quite as sweet as enduring—nay, embracing—wrenching season.

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    While many of us like to drop every dime into as much cars as we can invest in.

    I made a move a few years back and built a nice roomy shop that is part man cave part full working shop. Insulated, heat, hot and cold water were all added.

    I have found a way to extend my summer garage time year round as I work in the dead of winter in shots and T shirt.

    It has added much not just to my enjoyment but also to getting things done around home as many home projects are completed in these walls.

    One thing too that is needed is a remote thermostat. Dial up the heat on my phone and it is all ready for work when I open the door.

    I could have bought a nice used Corvette for what I invested but the enjoyment is just as great but I also get things done.

    Some drink I work on cars for relaxation. I call it Auto Aerobics as it is goo exercise.

    Winter is helpful in the south so that you don’t have to broil or bake when working on the car. Perfect time to wax the car and other maintenance.

    Like. Our summer is almost equal to your winter . Heat and humidity in the mid 90’s and rain most days in Central FL.

    Completely agree with the winter pause as a time to get those projects done; makes spring that much more appreciated when you can reap the rewards of a winter well spent. Now I just need to find a place with the garage that will let me put this productive objective into practice.

    A week ago today I took my Thunderbird on 200 mile run, it was 25C and sunny. I put it and my F150 short bed away into their respective winter sleeping quarters on Friday. Sunday, we got 7 inches of snow, yesterday, 8 more, and a possible foot by on the way by this coming Sunday. The joys of living on the shore of Georgian Bay in Ontario, Canada.

    I knew when you said “25C” that you were going to drop some real snowfall numbers on me! I saw the salt truck rumble by the day after I tucked everything in for the season, so I guess both of us got in right under the wire.

    One corner of my shop houses the Betty Boop Biker Bar & Grille, a collection of memorabilia pertaining to the Boop gal and home to a trio of mannequin bar flies. Break time sometimes stretches longer than it should, but at least I never drink alone!

    I live in rust belt Built a new shop couple years ago and installed hydronic heated floor. Best money ever spent. Dogs will even lay directly on concrete in middle of winter when it’s. -10 degrees out. My suggestion if your in colder climes and build a new shop at least run the pex tubing. If you can’t initially afford to plumb the rest at least you can do it at later date

    Man, I really wanted radiant heat for my shop but sadly didn’t have the money to build a shop so had to make do with the garage that came with the house both my wife and I could agree on. That meant I installed forced air heat and it is totally livable, but would I love if nothing was blowing dust and crap around while I build and assemble things.

    well here in eastern Washington the snow arrived two weeks ago, 19 deg. this am dry frozen roads the last week. I also have a nice warm shop, too small but swell 10,000# 2 post lift a car side and an rv side only room for 2 cars and my tractor, 7’snow pusher on the front 5′ blower on the back. a great blessing. no salt on the roads here. retirement is great, however after 3 years my wife is tired of only seeing me at lunch time and dinner time. endless projects. and lots of people that need help. this winter I’m spending more time in the house which drives me nuts. I do most everything myself so I stay busy. money is tight that’s my restriction. my social security is it, hard to survive on 2 grand a month.

    “Because it (he) was always there” I never drove the few hours to see Les Paul while he performed in a bar every Monday night until he passed.

    I’ve been saying for decades: “No one appreciates the first T-shirt day in spring like a New Englander”. Feel free to adjust it for..Michigan is it, Kyle?

    It’s Michigan all right, and that saying will absolutely become a part of my regular conversation this spring!

    I’ve not spent a great deal of time in Michigan, but I’ve stayed a few nights in Minnesota where, if you mention the phrase “t-shirt day in spring”, they’ll look at you like you’ve got two heads. Around Thief River Falls, there ain’t no such thing as spring – it goes straight from 8 months of winter into 3 months of Mosquito Season. The remaining month is spent burying the dead (who either froze during winter or got caught in a mosquito swarm). 😋

    I am sitting here with 22degrees , frost , a cup of coffee and your article! I hear everything you are laying down! This winter slumber, my trusty steed( foxbody mustang convertible) will see some interior upgrades like a drivers window motor and even a new switch to stop the lean over for the passenger window🤣.Also some under the hood goodness, but you will have to come over in person to see. I am in Washington State, so drop me a line, I will respond. Have a great winter slumber!!!

    I live in your neighbor state of Idaho, and I regularly travel from your eastern border all the way to the Puget area, as all three of our sons live near the I-5 corridor. Here’s the deal: I LOVE underhood goodness! Don’t know where you are in WA, but I might be tempted to swing by and see your ‘Stang next summer. Problem is, this new forum we’re stuck with won’t allow us to send private messages, and I don’t think putting our contact info out there is a great idea. Oh well… 😥

    My challenge seems to be this: I try to wring every drivable day out of late Fall so as to, well, wring every drivable day out of late Fall. Thus, I hold off getting the shop ready for winter projects in a timely manner (assembling and staging parts and tools, stocking the beer fridge – important tasks such as that). Ultimately, I put that stuff off long enough that winter is 1/3 to 1/2 over before I actually “get into the thick” of doing projects. Throw in few days where I can roll off the car cover, unplug the batter tender, check the tire pressures and go for a spin, and well, I often find myself looking at Spring and a pile-o’-projects not nearly completed. I need to discipline myself better, I suppose. But honestly, I am MUCH better at not thinking about projects than I am about doing them! 😏

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