LIVE LOCAL, LIVE SMALL: Getting The Argus on the road again—and learning some things along the way

Mar 1 • FEATURE SIDEBAR, Live Local, NEWS & VIEWSNo Comments on LIVE LOCAL, LIVE SMALL: Getting The Argus on the road again—and learning some things along the way

“So what do you think, darlin’?” Jock did his fake Southern drawl.

PRIMED FOR THE ROAD: Gwenyfar foregoes the body shop and takes The Argus into her own hands, with help from friends. Courtesy photo.

PRIMED FOR THE ROAD: Gwenyfar foregoes the body shop and takes The Argus into her own hands, with help from friends. Courtesy photo.

“I can’t believe it.”

I took a deep breath.

“I honestly wasn’t sure this would ever happen.”

“Of course, it was going to happen,” Jock responded. “It’s amazing what a difference the primer makes. Suddenly, all the sanding and paint and filler pattern you couldn’t see past just fades, and you can see the project.”

The bus (The Argus) has been in pieces in the garage and getting sanded for the better part of 18 months. I have blown out four sanders. Jock joked we basically bought a second bus in metal parts last year. She spent much of her life in the mountains, so the salt on the roads ate through so much of her metal work we had to get a pretty astounding number of replacement pieces. We took her off to a body shop for welding. Though I can weld, and Jock is a master welder, making metal fit together on a Volks is an art. 

I must say I am by nature far-too trusting a person. Conversely, I am incredibly protective of the VW. I visited the body shop almost daily while she was there. Poor Jock was in Africa (of course) when he started to get a series of emails from me one day. They went something like this:

“Do you think if you asked nicely, Jim Halstrom would loan us a nice paint gun?”

“I might buy an air compressor. Is there anything you recommend I should look for or avoid?”

… And so on.

Meanwhile, I contacted my friend, John (who has spent most of his working life with boats), and asked him if he had ever painted a boat. More so, if based upon that experience, did he think we could paint The Argus together?

Jock woke up after a final email:

“I might be in tears by the time all of this is over. Nothing has happened, and she has become a trash can and storage place for other vehicles’ belongings.

“I would like to ask you to grind out the remaining weld. John Wolfe has painted several boats. He will help me paint the bus.

“Please, don’t be mad, but I have had several people trying to tell me I am getting the run-around … and it is time I listened to that and take the bus home. I will not move any air compressor parts until you are home. Just asking questions for informational purposes.”

The body shop had fallen into some sort of weird loop where nothing was moving forward on my project and everyday a new lie was put together for me. After tears and deliberation, I began looking at other options and was reminded that the possibility of learning to paint her myself was always there.

Hadn’t I begun this adventure with the hopes of learning new skills?  A year ago did I think I could sand down a car on my own?

So, Austin went with me to bring her home.

“Did he just try to tell you they sanded the entire bus?” Austin queried when we were outside.

“Austin, no one has sanded her since me,” I replied. “Yes, he tried to say that between 2 p.m. yesterday and noon today, they went over the entire vehicle with sandpaper—except the roof. Apparently, being blind is a side effect of being female, because he seems to think I don’t have eyes in my head to see what is in front of us.”

“OK, just checking, because that’s what I thought he said.” Austin glanced over her. “And it looks like he’s lying.”

I nodded. We sat in the sun and I fumed.

“He was expecting you to scream and act bitchy,” Austin commented.

“I know,” I nodded.

“It would have made him feel better if you had acted like that. It really upset him that you were calm and polite.”

“Yeah, I think the sanding thing was partly to try to get a rise out of me,” I offered. “Though the other guys were clearly giving him some weird looks when he said that.”

I took a deep breath.

“You know, I just have to say, as a small business owner, I don’t think I would let over $5,000 in business walk out the door without at least trying to make it right.”

“Don’t you have another car you are going to be doing after this one? I mean, it’s not just this project, he’s losing the business for the next one, too.”

“It’s awfully short-sighted,” I nodded.

I went back to sanding my little heart out with John, and learning more about body work and fabrication. But, let me say this, about sanding: It makes Sisyphus look like an amateur. It is never done. You can sand and then sand some more and then keep sanding, and there is still more to do.

Like I said, between body work, priming and painting, I was looking at another $5,000 or more at the body shop (above what I spent on the metal work).

So, this is what we have spent since then:

  • $37 for an air sander
  • $135 for two kinds of primer
  • $100 in sandpaper, microfiber cloths, bondo, etc.
  • $115 in fine detail tools
  • Food and beer budget: untallied thus far
  • Learning a new skill I thought was beyond me: priceless
  • Memories made with the friends: transcend value

A few weeks ago I wrote how I would like to take a small vacation with Jock and the dogs. On a day I was feeling particularly in need of getting away from everything, I happened, on a lark, to look up plane tickets to Ecuador and the Galapagos—because why not? I found tickets for $710 out of Wilmington. Friends, let me tell you: It was that suggestion that put Jock in panic mode to move The Argus project forward with priming. The man just returned from Africa (again) and really was not up for another trip.

I explained, “Sweetheart, please, realize you have been to Jamaica and Africa twice, and I have been here working seven days a week.”

The panic of another possible trip put Jock in mind of getting The Argus painted so I would stop talking about South America.  He reasoned that taking the dogs camping would be more than exciting enough for me, and the Galapagos thing was an extreme reaction brought on by fatigue. He was right: It is hard to express just exactly the feeling of finally doing something you have worked toward for 18 months.

John was jumping up and down, pumping the air with his fists. He and I hoped on our first day to get the camper top and maybe a door panel finished. To get the camper top and the entire body primed (sans the roof) was beyond our wildest dreams. John ran out of the last can of primer right when he finished up the engine lid. Five minutes later, we felt the first tell tale drops of rain.


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