Have you ever had one of those moments where you just wanted to forget all this playing-with-old-cars stuff? I love old tin, working on it and cruisin' in it, which is why I'm doing what I do; but the last couple of weeks have had me thinking seriously about finding some other form of transportation. The automobile and I haven't been seeing eye-to-eye lately.

It's not that I have any shortage of cars, so when something goes wrong I can generally find another to use while I figure out what's wrong with the other. That was until a couple of weeks ago when my '63 T-bird started making a lot of noise while cruising along the interstate on my way to work. This car has low miles and has been sitting a lot the last few years, so I halfway expected some things to start happening once it started getting some miles put on it. I had it towed to work to avoid any possible additional damage. My initial reaction always seems to be preparing for the worst-case scenario. I started thinking it was most likely the transmission or the torque converter giving out. So I, of course, started thinking about how I was going to modify it while I had it torn apart. There was no need to fix the Cruise-O-Matic, so I would have to figure out how to install an overdrive transmission that could possibly help the 390FE make a gallon of gas go a little further. No time for it now, I left it downstairs at our office until I could find some time to take a closer look at it.

I then started driving one of my other almost-40-year-old cars, the '69 Ranchero. That was until a few days later, when it suddenly developed a very noticeable ticking sound from the engine. This one had also been sitting quite a bit over the last 20 years, so I hoped it was just a sticky lifter. I parked it until I could find the time to change the oil and check it out further.

So on to Plan C: driving my 200,000-mile import backup car until I could get the time to check out the other two. This one generally never lets me down; that is until this week when the Check Engine light started coming on and the engine started running really rough.

With everything needing some attention, I tore myself away from the house remodel to go get some oil and a filter, and dragged the jack and jackstands out to service the Ranchero. A few pumps on the jack and the seal blew, leaking hydraulic fluid on the driveway. Good thing I couldn't pick up the 60-pound jack because it might've ended up in my neighbor's pool. I then had to track down my other jack and, once I found it, the pad/cradle was missing. I figured it was no huge deal-I'd just swap the one from the broken jack and I'd be in business. Of course you should know by now the hole wasn't big enough to accept the other piece.

At this point, I'd just about had it with automobiles. I was done-I was ready to sell everything and get another hobby. I put everything away and just walked away from it for a few days.

With a new jack and a fresh perspective, I serviced the Ranchero and found that one of the rocker arms had jumped off the valve stem. A quick fix and it was back on the road. I then proceeded to give it a thorough wash, and my original appreciation for it was back once I was done.

The T-bird also looks like it should be a quick fix. Upon closer inspection, the noise sounds like it's coming from the front of the engine, most likely the alternator. As soon as I get a few minutes, I'll remove the belts and see if the noise goes away. With any good luck, which I've been a little short of lately, that'll be all it is.

I doubt I'll learn my lesson from all this. I'll still play with old cars and argue that they are much better than new ones. Just make sure to have a couple so you have some backup when one temporarily fails.