There’s one thing I’d like to have back from my youthful days …my flexibility. All that movement and bending I used to do; contorting like some circus act and getting up from it all with no ill effects. Yea, that’d be nice, because I still need some of that flexibility today. I’ve gotten myself into a lot of crazy positions over the years, and it’s not getting any easier. After all these years I still have to get my head under a dash like some acrobatic act.
I don’t know about you, but I find rolling down the window and sticking my feet out of it works better than bending my back in some awkward positions. Its bad enough being under there but it makes it worse that I have to wear “cheaters” so I don’t have to try and bend my head back so far to find the bifocals, and squeezed under the dash is not the appropriate time to lose that flexibility. At times I’ve had my whole arm shoved through some air conditioning duct looking for a mouse nest, retrieving little “Tommy’s” favorite school pencil, or a valuable ring that made its way down the heater vents.
But there was this one car I’ll never forget. A little Mazda Miata convertible came in the shop one day. It was more than your normal street driven Mazda, it had a full roll cage welded into the car. It still had the factory doors on it but they were practically useless. Oh they opened, but you would have to be extremely small to fit under the roll cage bars and squirm your way into the driver’s seat. I would guess there was about a 2 foot opening between the bars.
The main roll bar support was welded between the hinge area of the door and the door opening. This formed the convertible top arch, and came down into the back seat area. To make it even stiffer, they added a horizontal bar just above top of the seat cushion. It was welded to both ends of the arched piece. It wasn’t a small pipe either; more like about 3 or so inches in diameter. The factory seats were replaced with those hard plastic racing seats, which made it even worse to crawl into the car.
I found it a lot easier to do one of those “Dukes of Hazards” leaps into the thing. It wouldn’t start, that’s why it was at my shop in the first place, so crawling around on it was part of the job. This thing was set up to go racing, from top to bottom, but retained the street look from the outside of the vehicle. It meant business. (Ok, it’s still a Miata though.) It had two problems, one which turned out to be just as difficult as the other one. The crank sensor hold down bolt had sheared off even with the block. That alone took some dexterity to remove the broken section.
The other problem was someone took the computer out of the car. (I think somebody thought it was a ECM problem, when it really was probably only the broken bolt to the crank sensor.) The ECM had been removed by another shop, but after it was removed the owner of the car wasn’t getting along with them at all so he had it brought over to my shop. The computer was also “hopped-up” for racing (where people find the places to do this to their cars, never ceases to amaze me.)
The computer was under the center section of the dash below the ash tray area. It would have been a piece of cake to get to, if you could squeeze between the door and the roll cage. Not happening, sorry… even with the doors wide open the roll cage took up most of the door opening.
There was only one way I was going to get to that part of the car. Head first down thru the top, dangling your feet and butt over the back of the seats and the horizontal tie bar that ran from side to side of the roll cage. All this while guiding both arms through the now darkening floor area, keeping in mind you have a ratchet with a 10mm socket on it, the ECM, a small screw driver between your teeth (don’t drop it) and a flash light.
With all the blood rushing to your head and your entire weight resting on the top of your skull it wasn’t the most comfortable position to be in. To make it even worse, you had to move from one side of the foot well to the other to get all the bolts installed. The whole time I was doing this upside down side show act, I kept thinking, if the shop suddenly caught fire, they would find me right here just like this, upside down, feet straight up in the air, and that pocket screwdriver still clenched between my teeth. (Still ain’t dropped it.) The worst part about it, once I got in there, I never put any thought on how I was going to get out. It’s not like I have the strength to do a “stand on your head pushup”. Come on, I’m not that young anymore, and besides, I don’t think I could have done one of those even back in my younger days when I was in the Marine Corps and worked out everyday.
The only way I could get out of there was to corkscrew myself off my back and get over onto my side, slip down into the back seat area (ain’t much of a back seat) and duck around the roll cage bars, all the while trying to keep from blacking out. Mind you, those race seats don’t have any give to them, and very little padding. Oh, the things I get into… and out of.
What a day that was. I hope the owner never wants me to change that computer again. But, I’m sure there will be an even more difficult one out there sometime in the future. I’ll have to pass on them anymore. It’s that flexibility thing, you know. I play a lot of golf to help retain some of that “youthful” flexibility, (at least that’s the excuse I’m giving the wife).
But, there’s one thing for sure; the older I get, the more I’m going to avoid standing on my head in tiny cars with roll bars and racing seats in them.