The Motor Gods Smiled

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Some of you may have seen the Viking funeral I gave my ’76 Trans-Am’s rear tires – which were both very old and nearly bald. I bought a new pair to replace them but figured I’d use the old ones one last time, so as to get maximum use out of what was left of them. Here’s the video of that event:

Afterward, I drove the Great Pumpkin home and parked it in the garage, figuring I’d deal with the tires in a couple of days when I could find the time. A couple of days passed and I hadn’t yet found the time. A nice day came – this was last week – when I almost drove the car into town (another one last time) rather than drive something boring. Had I done so, it would have been very exciting.

But the Motor Gods intervened – and whispered in my ear to drive something else that day instead and so I did.

A couple of days later, I found the time to pull the rear wheels off the car, in order to schlepp them over to my buddy’s shop to have him remove the old skins and mount and balance the new ones.

As per that epic prank call of a few years ago after an Asiana flight crashed – Ho Li Fuk! 

The driver’s side rear tire was shaped like a malformed doughnut. Underlying steel belts were poking through what was left of the rubber. It is astounding the tire held together long enough to get home from the funeral. It is all-but-certain it would not have held up much longer had I taken the fateful decision to drive the Pumpkin into town, as I had almost done.

A catastrophic failure at speed might have Epsteined the Libertarian Car Guy!

Lucky for me, the Motor Gods interceded.

I took the remains of the tires to my buddy’s shop and he installed the new skins. These ought to be good for another 20 years (which is how old the old ones were) if I can manage to resist the temptation to let the Pumpkin’s 455 do its thing, which – these days – is a necessary tonic to keep up one’s spirits.

But I can now perform what amounts to playin’ outlawed tunes on outlawed pipes without worrying about getting caught because the Pumpkin got immobilized at the scene. It’s best to be able to depart with alacrity, leaving only the smoke and smoldering black stripes on the road to mark your passing.

. . .

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  1. Radial tires can fail, bulges on the face, translate to defective tires. Have had it happen, buy new.

    My old Ford 860N has tires that have been there for probably 40 years or more. They have a few cracks on the faces, but still are in fairly good shape. Stays out of the sun, either in the shade or a shelter, garaged during the winter.

    Tractor tires are kind of expensive and you have to remove the tire via a tire repair/replacement vehicle that will visit the farm to make the change to a new tractor tire. The vehicle will be equipped to do the job.

    You don’t want a tractor tire to fall on you, it’ll be bad. Has happened, makes the news.

    Not an easy job. Tightening the bolts to mount a tractor wheel to the axle and hub is a lot of work by hand. Done that, been there a long time ago.

  2. Well, the ‘motor gods’ may be smiling on you, but they are pissing on me.
    I am getting sick and tired of translating ‘yuck-yuck’ into English.
    “I need a sticker.” – State Inspection requested.
    “Are you the one…..” – Am I the person/place they previously spoke with regarding a repair. “They said you would do…..” – As if I have any clue who “they” are, or what is needed prior to actually seeing said vehicle.
    “Is my xxxxxx ready yet” Usually heard when no such vehicle is even at my facility. Often followed by “Are you the one…..”

    Folks, do yourselves, and everyone else a huge fucking favor or two.
    1. Know where your vehicle is going, and how to contact said facility.
    2. Write down (assuming you even have that skill) the names and contact information.
    3. LISTEN & COMPREHEND what you are being told regarding what, when, and where your vehicle is located, and services being provided.
    4. Get a fucking ride and leave your vehicle for adequate observations &/or repairs. Your physical presence & supervision is not required, until said services are completed.
    5 Don’t ask for “free” anything. If what is offered is undesirable or unaffordable, go elsewhere, or figure it out yourself. You are ‘entitled’ to absofuckinglutely nothing other than life, liberty, and the pursuit (not fulfillment) of happiness.

  3. I had old truck tires GOOD YEAR rated E that was on my truck for 20 years. I hardly drove it the last 10 but every time I did I was worried they would blow out. Still had plenty thread left on them and they still looked good but one day I did a real close inspection and could see the rubber cracking on the sidewalls of the driver side and I immediately began looking for a replacement tires and replaced them all with the same tire brand – GOODYEAR. Glad I did. Truck rides so much so much smoother and nice and it makes the truck look so much nicer too.

  4. Eric,

    PLEASE don’t leave tires on for 20 years! DON’T DO IT! Rubber ages, and it loses grip as it does. It doesn’t matter how much tread might be left; because the rubber comprising that tire and tread is old, it won’t have the grip it once had. Motorcycle tires lose about 5% of grip a year, and I would assume it’s the same with car tires. Ten years from now, you might be out having fun in the Great Pumpkin, and you’ll be in for a nasty surprise when the tires don’t do their job. You’ll be taking a curve hard, stopping hard, or both; the tires will break loose, and you’re F*CKED!

    It’s been said that that’s what killed Paul Walker, star of the Fast & Furious movie franchise. His buddy had a Porsche Carrera GT. They went out for a ride one afternoon, and his buddy, a race driver, got spirited with it. They crashed into a sign or a pole; the car caught fire, and they died. While the Carrera GT is known to be a tricky car to drive (IOW, you have to know what your doing), Walker’s friend was skilled enough to handle it. What did them in was old rubber; they got a bit too spirited, and the tires didn’t do their job when they needed the grip the most. Had that Porsche Carrera GT had new rubber on it, both men might very well be alive today. DON’T USE OLD RUBBER, PLEASE!

    • Whenever I went cheap with “stuff” my father use to always say, how much is your life worth? So I always bought the best and I’m still here. 😉

    • I have this habit to look at tires on friends cars/bikes 90% of the time. probably from my younger days when I totaled a GTO Judge because I was tire naive. And then I totaled a CRX Si, not because of bad rubber, but because of really sticky stuff up front and the stock rock hard stuff in the back (she swapped at high speed).
      My friends call me the tire nazi. And I will take the hit. I even look at countless street motorcycle tire ‘build dates’ on the sidewalls and decide if I’m going to ride with them or not.
      Of course I have to do most of the tire changes for said friends, but I happily do so.
      For my and my families cars? They rarely get past half tread depth (shame on you Eric!!!, I likely wouldn’t have even got in your car)
      Hell if I’m going to go through (or my crazy kids) a storm surge puddle at high speed on the interstate without more than half tread life.

      • I know, Chris… I have sinnnnnnnnnnned! The good news is I receive the Blesst Cloth from Ernest Angley Ministries the other day and all is well again!

  5. It is common practice amongst professional bicycle mechanics to “age” tires for months and even years before use. Some reasons given is to allow the softening agent to outgas, bonding agents to cure and to allow the rubber compounds to harden/stiffen.

    But like many things professional athletes believe, probably more superstition than science.

    • hmmm, never heard that before RK. We would run brandy newly manufactured tires on roadrace bikes at very high speeds and on their sides most of the time. But we did get them hot enough they would burn you to the touch, maybe that’s the difference?

  6. Ho Li Fuk, Eric!
    Sum Ting Wong!

    (That was epic and the highlight and of some intern’s life for possibly all of it that remains, by the way.)

    I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such a thing in a car tire. It looks a bit like bicycle tire/tube phenomena I experienced when I was young when I would skid to a halt. Once a bubble appeared afterward, which grew until it burst while I watched.

    Luckily, even if you would’ve driven, I’m assuming you would’ve been okay, rather than getting “Epsteined”, (which takes the intervention of nefarious agents, by the way) due to those being the rear tires and you being a skilled driver.

  7. Hi Eric,

    I am glad to hear that the Motor Gods intervened and you didn’t drive on them!

    I do have a car question for anyone who hopes to opine:

    As I mentioned hubby and I are investing in older vehicles. Our criteria…low mileage, preferably one owner, and an affordable price (around $15k or less). Our goal is to buy one a year and hold it over the next few decades.

    We are about to make our second purchase and have an option of three choices. All are under $14k, less than 40k miles, clear titles, and no accidents. Very little wear and tear and all run. May have a few cosmetic defects, but all can be fixed for less than $500.

    In no particular order:

    1. 1986 Chevy Corvette convertible, one owner with all paperwork.

    2. 1996 Ford Mustang Cobra coupe, one owner, with certificate from Ford and some paperwork

    3. 1971 Ford Torino, three owners, but car is in very good shape. Limited paperwork.

    Any thoughts? Potential problems? None of these will be daily drivers. We hope they appreciate in cost, but if they don’t they are still good cars to thumb our nose at the climate change activists.

    • RG, if it were me, I’d go with either the Vette or the Stang. Both are sought after cars that not only hold their value; they’ve appreciated handsomely and will continue to do so. That said, the ’71 Torino is cool too.

      • Thanks, Mark. We are leaning toward the Vette, but was unsure if they held their value since they seem pretty affordable and there are so many available.

      • C4 corvettes 84-86 are cheap for a reason. Very undesirable on many levels among ‘Vette enthusiasts. Styling was “meh”, anemic horsepower, etc. I’d go for the 96 Mustang Cobra if it were me.

        • Hi User,

          I don’t necessarily disagree with you. The 1984 Vette seems to have a host of problems. The C4s seem to get between 200-300 hp. I think the ‘86 is around 235, but the V8 is pretty torquey. The car (for being almost 40 years old) is in pristine shape.

          We haven’t ruled out the Mustang Cobra. It is ten years newer than the Vette, but we want to check it out in person before making an offer. If it still available when we travel in January it may be the 2024 purchase.

          The Mustang Cobra is in Florida

          • I’d watch corrosion on anything Florida (salt air). Bring a mirror or two and some good flashlights! If the owner doesn’t mind, reach in and unplug some lighting connections for a corrosion check too.

            If corrosion isn’t a problem I’d vote for the Mustang for parts availability ease of maintenance over the Vette, that 71 Torino is pretty aged at this point, parts?

            • Good advice, Sparkey. I will do this if it is still available when we head down next month. It is located at the beach, right outside Daytona.

    • Hi RG,

      The ’86 Corvette is analogous to what my ’76 Trans-Am was in the early ’90s – i.e., just an old car and at the bottom of the depreciation trough. This is good – for you. The car is probably being sold for the price of a used Camry but (assuming we don’t go totally Soviet) is likely to appreciate significantly in value, as my TA has. The main worry I’d have would be hard-to-get electronic bits but the running gear (TPI 350) is very solid and easy to maintain.

      The ’96 Cobra is already collectible and also modern and could serve as a daily driver, too. Huge aftermarket support for these cars.

      The Torino is totally analog – unlike the Corvette and the Mustang. This is a huge advantage in that it is made of mechanical and common Ford parts, all easily obtained. It may not become a high dollar investment (unless it’s a Talledega) but it might be worth its weight in gold one day. Does it have a 302 or the 351?

      • Hi Eric,

        The Torino has a 351. It is not a Talledega. It is the one that needs the most work, but doesn’t look like anything too complex.

        What are your thoughts on attending any of these car auctions? Mecum has one in Kissimmee in early January that we were thinking of attending. Do you think prices are more affordable than private sell or just a waste of our time? Carlisle, Pennsylvania, also has a pretty nice auction house.

    • Early C4 Vettes are crap. Big, heavy, flexy bodies and not a lot of horsepower thanks to the crappy “Crossfire” fuel injection system. From 85 onward, it was replaced and those cars are a lot better.

      The Stang is solid. Do a solid inspection to make sure there is no body rot. Those Stangs can have expensive repairs where water sometimes collects.

      The Torino sounds like your best bet for a fun driving older car.

    • Since it’s not going to be daily driven and sounds like an “investment” vehicle, I personally would go for that sweet 351 Torino! To me this is the standout of the 3 choices. The other 2 are just “blah” to me. Personally, I like to see rare old cars on the road that no one ever sees now-a-days.

      • Hi Philo,

        The thing I like most about the Torino is that it’s a completely computer-free car. Nothing electronic (not even the distributor; should be a points-type system). Mechanical fuel delivery. Very easy to maintain and repair. Abundant necessary parts (the parts that make it go; it might be harder to find some of the trim pieces but the mechanical stuff is common Ford stuff). Plus, it’s just a cool ride!

      • Thanks, Philo and dr mantis!

        The Torino is right down the road from me (about 30 miles). The Vette is about four hours away and the Mustang about 14 hours. I would have to trailer the Vette and Mustang back. The Torino I could probably drive home.

        I was watching the Mecum Auctions the other day and two 1966 Oldsmobile Toronados went for $3K and $5K. It kinda of broke my heart that nobody wanted them and they went so cheaply.

        • RG, if you plan on storing them for extended times, do NOT put ethanol fuel in them. store with non-ethanol and if not available add fuel stabilizer, a lot, and then still have to change it out 1-2 years. Especially carbureted cars, injected cars have a longer stay of fuel execution because the gas in the lines/injectors are not open to air. Best of luck

          • Thanks, Chris. I was not aware of this. I would expect to only drive them about 2x-3x per year just to keep them running. They won’t be daily (or even monthly drivers).

            The great thing about living in a rural area…no shortage of non ethanol gasoline. 🙂

            • Hi RG,

              Chris is right. If you buy the Torino – and it’s original – I recommend replacing all rubber fuel lines with new/ethanol compatible hoses and getting a rebuild kit for the carb; this will include ethanol-compatible float/needle and seat, power valve and gaskets. The cost for the kit should be less than $100 and if you guys need help with it, you can send me the carb and I’ll go through it for you for your favorite price (free) as this kind of thing is fun for me.

              You may also need to replace the gas tank, if it’s factory. After 50-plus years, the steel is probably rusting from the inside out. Same with the steel fuel lines. Fine Lines makes excellent stainless reproductions, bent to OEM and with the correct spiral winding. I’d also replace the fuel pump – it’s easy and cheap to do – so as to eliminate ay worries about ethanol-laced fuel. Once done, you can burn E10 without worry; just don’t leave it siting in the tank for more than 2-3 months without stabilizer!

              • If you’re only going to drive them 2-3 times a year, then always run non-ethanol. that amount of non-E fuel won’t break the bank with that limited use.
                I’ve left cars/bikes sit 9-10 months with non-E fuel with no issues. with e-fuel, I wouldn’t trust sitting more than 3. the e-stuff still pisses me off on how many small engines of mine it’s ruined.

                • Amen, Chris –

                  I drive the TA once a month; the bikes get fired up and walked around during the winter months. It’s the outdoor power equipment that (for me) is at most risk from ethanol. I run ’em dry and drain them at the end of the season and this seems to work.

                  PS: Did you catch Orange Man pandering to the ethanol lobby the other day?

                  • Yup, can’t believe they are going to attempt to double down on this absolute crap. I hope he is lying just to get Iowa in his corner.
                    At least the AMA is fighting back on this pretty hard “no motorcycle is rated to handle more than E10” but the idiots don’t seem to care.
                    I am a very part time logger (20-30 trees a year?, so they sit a lot) and in t he E-fuel early days it ruined 3-4 nice stihl saws, until we all figured out what was going on, and now it’s a freaken ritual where I have to put dates on all saws (I have 6? now), and all power equipment of when I last changed the stupid e-fuel (which is not avail. in our deep blue state). I don’t have these issue in our deep red state where we can get non-E-crap.

              • Keep an eye on the aging gas tanks, son in law replaced the tank on his 85 Defender last winter, original developed a case of the weeps it was corroding from the inside out. There is a marine grade StaBil available supposed to provide better corrosion protection for long storage metal gas tanks.

                The Harleys now have unlined gas tanks since as the old lined tanks aged the liner would flake off, happened to my 04. My winter storage routine is full tank of alcohol free gas hopefully filled from 1/4 or less to minimize any alcohol, then StaBil and a couple ounces of Marvel oil, one last fall ride for at least 1/2 hour to mix and run the treated fuel plus ensure oil gets hot to remove moisture.

  8. I drove plenty of vehicles in my younger days with balding, mismatched & belts poking through,.. never did I encounter a tire like the one in your photo. That. Is. Wild. Man.

    I won’t ever forget seeing that.

    Anyway, it left me wondering. You’re planning on keeping your TA tires for 20yrs. … the stuff I’ve read (if I recall correctly) suggests replacing tires (on daily drivers) if they’re over ~ 7yrs. old.

    Other than having the m-o-n-e-y, And availability of replacements,… how does a person decide when to get new tires? …What’s, ‘the metric’, Kennith?

    • Hi Helot,

      For cars in regular service, the problem takes care of itself in that the tires will usually be worn out after five or so years of driving. Often, less. But with a car like mine that is driven a few hundred miles annually, the tread might take decades to wear down. But that doesn’t mean the rubber (and so on) isn’t also wearing out. The tire may look fine, but it may not be fine. That said, it is probably ok to drive an old car with old tires occasionally – and with respect for the fact that the tires are old. So, no high-speed/high-load driving. And keep track for signs of internal problems. Sidewall bulges, for instance. And cracks (more than just the superficial type). Regardless, it is probably wise to just buy new tires for the old car every ten years, even if the tires still look new.

      • Having worked in a rubber mill once upon a time, I learned that the rubber compound has preservatives imbedded that require flexing the rubber to release. Cars that sit idle a lot do not get this flexing. Hence do not release the preservatives. Which is why one must be extremely vigilant of those tires. There is a point where miles and appearance matter not.

      • First time ever driving over 70. Back in 74 getting drivers ed from Dad. Right front tire on 68 T bird goes boom!

        I calmly slowed down, looked over at Dad and said “what” ?

        A tire nazi is born.

    • One way of keeping the tires “young” is storing the tires inside out of sunlight. So garage that car or put those RV tire covers over them when storing them outside. My Chevy’s tires are about 25 years old with no weather cracking at all. I pulled them a couple years ago when painting the rims and all was good. This of course is on a limited use vehicle driven on secondary roads. If your driving on I-10 at 80 mph during a heat wave on really old tires all I can say is good luck.

      • Yeah. Keep them out of the sun since the rubber is most affected by sunlight, right?

        I think that replacement schedule for every 7 years is something for the tire manufacturers to keep selling tires.

        As for me, I drive 20k miles a year on each car, so I wear the tires out every 2-3 years.

          • Apparently if you have an electric motor (a compressor) running by where you store your tires it can be a problem due to ozone from the motor’s brushes.

        • If you only have one car chances are the tires will be worn out before it’s a problem but if you have lots of cars chances are it will be a problem. I put less than 500 miles a year on each of my Chevy’s. The rest see about 5,000 miles a year.


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