Archive for the ‘Interior’ Category

It’s Not a Moh-tah

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

This title should be read in a deep Arnold Schwarzenegger voice with the cadence of “It’s not a too-mah.” (Well, it’s funny to me.)

Recently my partition stopped working (the solid privacy shade that separates me from my passengers) and I’ve been running around the greater Seattle area trying to find someone who is even willing to look at it, let alone fix it. My regular body shop doesn’t do after-market electrical work, and the several other places I called weren’t interested in messing with it either.

I took it to Car Toys over the weekend, and they said it wasn’t a power issue and I would probably have to replace the motor. The friend I was with offered to look at it if it were a brush motor, but of course it was something more complicated. Making matters worse, there was no brand or descriptive text written on it so I couldn’t start the task of tracking down the part.

One of my awesome facebook fans recommended Brody’s in Lynnwood, so I trucked it up there taking 99 the whole way, which was sort of interesting. They were really nice there, and they seem to have more business than they could handle. They couldn’t take the motor out right then and there (and I learned later that was actually a good thing), so I made an appointment to have that done next month and continued on my merry way.

Since I went to work late that day, I had told my boss and some other folks in passing what I was doing. So of course it was anticlimactic and a little embarrassing when everyone asked me if I got the motor fixed and I had to tell them I couldn’t even get someone to take it out. My boss suggested I ask one of the engineers I work with. He spends half the day on the phone looking for parts, and he’s very much into electronics, so it was a sensible suggestion. I didn’t want to put him out, but when I asked he seemed intersted in the challenge. He told me to pull into the manufacturing area after 3:30 when most of the guys leave and he’d have a look at it.

The first thing he did was connect it to a power supply. I told him the people who have already looked at it said it wasn’t a power issue, and he replied, “I have very little faith in most people’s troubleshooting skills.”

It’s a fair and understandable statement. Plus, I didn’t watch anyone test the power, I just went by what they told me. I shouldn’t have done that, as it wasn’t entirely true. Connecting the power supply to the wires nearest the motor enabled my coworker to put the divider down, which was great, but then we still had to find the faulty connection between the motor and the switches. Even without that information though, we learned the problem wasn’t the motor. Removing and replacing it would have been time-consuming and expensive, so I’m glad my coworker took the time to manually power it to be sure and I wish the car shops had done the same. It literally took two minutes.

He then removed the switch box. No loose connections there. Tracing back the wires got kind of tricky, and we ended up having to pull back a good portion of the carpet, where he found a poorly grounded connection. Depending on the rattle and hum of the car at any given moment, a loose screw could break the circuitry or close it again, which explains why the divider was going up and down sometimes but not others. He reconnected the wiring and it works now, but I may need to revisit this issue again and find something to stabilize that screw.

At any rate, I learned a lot that day. I learned a little more about my car’s electrical wiring, the aptitude of my continuously kind and talented coworkers, and the places I should avoid taking my car. I’m not surprised the average body shop wouldn’t take on this project, but it’s pretty crazy that somewhere like Car Toys, who specializes in electronics couldn’t be bothered to troubleshoot a wiring issue. Oh well, I’m just happy it’s fixed, and Barbie will live to drive another day.

Detached switch box:

Wires under the carpet:

BDH after hours on the manufacturing floor:

Shake, Rattle, and Roll!

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

The door rattle is gone! Thanks to the ever-helpful, always friendly staff at L-M Body Shop, I am rollin’ without rattlin’. Carl, their resident Cadillac guru, had the manly task of driving the BDH through Kirkland and listening for the rattle. So if you were on the 405 yesterday and saw a long-haired guy taking my Barbie car for a spin, yes, that happened on purpose.

The guys had secured all the loose wires and checked the electronics in the door console last time, so finding the noise had to be difficult. It turns out a small piece on the outside of the door was loose, just below the grip (not the door handle, although I find it funny when people mistake it for one). All it took was some sticky material called Butle, which I’m sure I’m spelling wrong.

Rather than gunning it all the way back to Seattle where I belong, I stopped over in Bellevue to meet with my Junior League committee, Life Skills for Women. Our goal is to help women do more things that are awesome and fewer things that suck. (Awesome things include writing a resume, creating a budget, cooking healthy meals, and the like.) I’m flattered that people think I can do that, and I’m looking forward to getting started. We all have something inside us that makes us the fantastic individuals that we are, it’s just a matter of finding and harnessing it.

Apparently, taking the pristine road less traveled was good for business, too. I came home to a few calls and emails from people who had seen the car and wanted to know more. How sweet! Coming up this week, I have a party, and then I’ll be in the Greenwood Seafair Parade and the Silverdale Whaling Days Parade. Let’s do this!

At Last!

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

My driver’s seat no longer has a butt-dent!

I dropped my car off at Mac’s Upholstery in Ballard this morning, not sure what to expect when I returned. They were highly recommended by Dave at L-M Body Shop in Kirkland, my hearse club’s go-to place for body work, but I still get a little antsy every time I need to work with someone new.

No matter, these guys rocked. They got everything done in less than a day, from the partial rebuild of the seat, the rear cab seat belt replacement, and hard vinyl paint touch-ups throughout the car.

Now let me be clear about the butt-dent: It was not caused solely by the fact that I have a vast and voluptuous backside (although it may have helped). When Frank and his team worked on my car, the just covered the two front seats; they didn’t add any more padding. So basically, I was sitting on a leather covered chair from 1992. If you’ve been sitting on anything made 20 years ago lately, you know that familiar sinking feeling. It felt weird getting into my car after the fix… I was so much taller I had to adjust my mirrors!

Happy Birthday, BDH!

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

It has been exactly one year since the Barbie Dream Hearse began her transformation from a plain old funeral coach to heavenly cute girlie taxi. I decided to celebrate with a much-needed bath (for both of us!), a lightning speed photoshoot, and a trip to Norwescon, a scifi/fantasy convention.

The day went as planned… sort of. Someone must have told the sinister weather gods I was planning to wash my car. Just as I finished making plans to meet my friend Josef at the car wash, the rain began rolling through. We opted to meet at Top Pot Doughnuts instead, where we watched camera crews from the Food Network battle the weather, disruptive parked cars, and ugly patrons to capture the perfect 20 seconds of scene-setting footage for the TV show, Chef Vs. City.

After chugging 20 ounces of coffee, I decided it was time to make my own magic and clean my car. Although Pink Elephant down the street will do something to your car for reasonable price, I opted to haul it out to the DIY Brown Bear. My two favorite chores in the world are walking the dog and washing the car. My dog is in Austin, so I’ve got plenty of steam to spare.

There’s something about covering every square inch of my largest, most prized possession that requires my full attention and permits me to shut out the rest of the world for all the precious time my quarters can provide. I think washing your car should be fun. If it’s not, get a new car.

Yes, this car wash picture finds me fully clothed and makeup-free. Winter in Seattle lasts until at least May, so if you’re holding your breath for something more “traditional,” I suggest you exhale and wait a couple more months.

After washing my car and cursing at the drizzling clouds all the way home, I loaded up on mid-afternoon snacks and makeup and drove out to Volunteer Park for a quick photoshoot with Josef. The overcast sky forced me to rush through a blitzkrieg of poses all around the car until resistance was futile and the expected showers began once more.

Here’s another whoop, painstakingly paint-shooped:

For the amount of time we had, there are a large number of photos, which I’ll be combing over and hopefully adding to in the near future. (Big thanks to Josef for making the effort to come out and shoot me. Many are willing, few manage to take the plunge!)

As the rain died down (of course), I cruised through Capitol Hill and headed down south to collect a couple for an impromptu date at Norwescon. He was dressed for the Zombie Walk, she was in it for nostalgia’s sake, and I heard there was a poker tournament.

So, decked out in a skull-covered party dress, I played cards with a bunch of people dressed like zombies and scifi characters. This was by no means a serious game, but all the fake blood might have outsiders believing otherwise.

What began as a good-spirited effort to promote the Barbie Dream Hearse ended with me placing second in the satellite game and moving on to the big tournament Saturday. I mentioned the car at the table, but no one seemed interested in discussing cars so I dropped it. I don’t see the point in becoming one of those LOOK-AT-ME-I’M-SO-UNIQUE-WHY-AREN’T-YOU-RUBBING-ONE-OUT-AT-THE-MERE-THOUGHT-OF-ME-GODDAMMIT people, since the result would probably be the same. I think my car is pretty awesome, but everyone’s got their tastes. Check it out or don’t, whatever.

Thanks to everyone who wished her a happy birthday, though. I appreciate all the support and positive wishes while I dealt with the ups and downs of this crazy project, and I’m looking forward to many more fun-filled years going wherever this morbid party bus takes me!

The Search for Hearse Curtains Endures

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Since last year, I’ve been on a mission to find the purrfect (sorry) fabric to make curtains for the back windows of my hearse. It began at the cluster of F&S fabric stores on Pico Boulevard in LA and probably should have ended there, since the first pattern I saw is still my front-runner.

But I didn’t want to buy and haul 10 yards of fabric from LA to Seattle without being sure it was the best out there. So in typical Kat fashion, after I found what I wanted, I kept looking. When I returned to Seattle, I figured it would be less of a hassle to buy locally and try to make them myself or have them made here.

I began my search at Snider Burien Draperies on a rather vague recommendation from a friend. They had a wide selection of fabric, but all their pinks were Laura Ashley looking prints, so I didn’t even bother to take pictures. The lady in charge kindly measured my original set of hearse curtains (which are baby blue… bleh) and gave me a quote for labor costs. It was reasonable, but still a decent chunk of change. I told her I would supply her with fabric from somewhere else if I end up using her services.

After that, I went to Queen Anne Upholstery, which also had a whole lot of nothing. I found something semi-similar to my front-runner in colors and weight, but it didn’t look quite right. I also found the store to be large and depressing.

A few days later, I caught up with the owner of Stitches on First Hill, who emailed me a bunch of samples. None of those seemed to work either, but I went into the store to say thanks and tell everyone there about my awesome car. They were really nice and appropriately excited, so it was a trip worth making. Maybe I’ll use one of these fabrics for something else.

The next day, I drove to JoAnn Fabrics in Ballard. I didn’t care much for that store either, but it was nice being about to get out and enjoy the day. My main growl with JoAnn’s was their inability to cut me a sample more than an inch wide. I understand they don’t want to waste fabric, but come ON. F&S cut strips that were short but thick, so you could actually see what the pattern was. A couple of the strips from JoAnn’s were so frayed I might as well have unwound a few spools of thread. I ended up paying a couple of dollars for a decent-sized piece of a gauzy pink sparkly fabric, thinking I could put something under it that will match the car. How pink is too pink?

This brings us to yesterday, when I walked up the giant freaking hill to Nancy’s Sewing Basket in Lower Queen Anne (recommended by the nice people at Stitches). They had a bunch of stuff, but were busy helping rich chicks choose bridesmaid dresses and design evening wear. At this point, I’m a little tired of telling menopausal women that I’m making hearse curtains and having them look at me cross-eyed, so I looked at some fabric uncross-eyed and decided none of it was right for my car, no matter how hard I squint. I really wanted to believe that this one would somehow match my interior, but considering my camera added some brightness and it still looks wrong, I’m thinking no.

So I’m still on a mission. I am almost feeling like the perfect fabric has a greater chance of dropping from the sky (10 yards, please) than making itself present in any store that I visit.

If you changed your mind about clicking the link in the first paragraph and want to see what I’ve been seeing, check out my newest album, Fabric Hunt on Picasa.

A New Frank

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Rick from the Rain City Hearse Club recommended L-M Body Shop on our discussion forum right around the time I returned to Seattle. In the back of my mind, I was planning to look for someone as patient and skilled as Frank to help maintain the car once I got up here, but I wasn’t looking forward to the arduous task of finding the phantom “perfect shop”.

Of course, I found myself needing some minor body work and door lock repairs almost immediately, so I took the car in last week. Since I never had a car up here, I wouldn’t have known where to go if Rick hadn’t said something about L-M out of the blue.

Dave, the owner, was relaxed and pleasant to do business with. He was happy to hear Rick recommended him and to have the opportunity to work on my (now) one-of-a-kind hearse. This was a huge relief, as I’d half-expect a “WTF” reaction from the average body shop, not to mention a stiff “female tax” when the bill came.

All of Dave’s employees were enthusiastic and complimentary of the car. They seemed quite knowledgeable of older and custom cars, and happy with their jobs in general, which I think says a lot. His wife, Tami, runs the office, and she’s very nice and well organized.

They had my driver’s side rear door looking like new by the deadline quoted, and they fixed the passenger side door lock so it would actually lock when I used the remote. I had to leave LA in a hurry, so I didn’t get to test everything I wanted to before I left. It is such a relief to have a good, reliable shop up here since I can’t visit Frank and his people.

The man who drove me to and from home while they worked on my car, Luis, was friendly and gave me some good tips for cleaning my car. (Did I mention they detailed my car when they were done working on it? How awesome is that?) Although we spoke English the whole time, he did a great job of filling Pablo’s shoes.

When we arrived at the shop, I saw a light blue ’86 Lincoln hearse parked next to my Barbie Dream Hearse.

“Did you get my car a boyfriend for Valentine’s Day?” I exclaimed as I walked into the office.

Rick found out from Dave that I would be picking up the car that day and wanted to see Barbie for himself. He (like many other car enthusiasts) was wary of the girlie limo seating idea, but admitted that it was well executed and perfect for what I want to do. And, his car is also a girl, so I guess Barbie’s gonna swing both ways.

I ended up going back to L-M today because the passenger seatbelt was over-extended, and I thought maybe something had happened when they popped the door off to look at the locks. They took off the door panel and showed me the plastic track that was getting in the way of it catching to allow it to roll back up, and they fixed it about 10 minutes. It wasn’t their fault and they still didn’t charge me, which was really nice of them.

Pictured below is my passenger door with the panel taken off. They mostly just had to cut out that white plastic part and reattach it.

All in all, I can’t believe how lucky I got when it came to this particular to-do item. If only everything could be this easy!

The Infinite Loop of Groundhog Day

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Pablo came to get me around the time Frank’s shop opened. After acquiring my coffee ration for the day, I talked to Frank about stereo issues. The stereo guys had held the car for several days, even though Arbey had installed the alarm and done all the stereo wiring he had wanted to do in the first day. I know Frank wasn’t trying to play the blame game, but I was noticeably disappointed. The stereo guys said they’d tint the window, and they didn’t even do that.

It seems that the main struggle for these two entities is that each one wants to receive the car in its completed state in terms of the other entity’s work, but neither one wants to complete the job before the other has installed all of their components. Since Allen (stereo) and Frank (upholstery) already knew each other, I didn’t think I’d have to be around to manage the details of how they did their work. I admit I don’t know much, but since I’m funding this venture, apparently my being around to make some sort of executive decision about every little thing was imperative.

Frank called Art, recommendor of shitty stereo guy Admir, to see if he had a person who could come out and tint the back window for me. By the point, the encasing and bracket for the TV had been made, but not installed. Since Art still feels bad about Admir trying to rip me off, he sent a guy over right away who tinted the back window on both sides so it’s practically solid black. After some hesitation, I had him tint the other two back windows. I wanted to keep those clear so I could show off some pink and white curtains, but I know I’m not going to get to making those for another couple of months.

Art came over a little while later to check out the car. He wanted to talk about Admir, who I’m still in the process of suing. Apparently, he’s shitting his pants over this debt he owes me, and I had to gently remind Art that wouldn’t be the case if he were innocent.

As we parted ways, Art said something about the cops leaving me alone while I’m on the road, given the size and nature of my vehicle.

“Well, I would expect them to, since I don’t plan on breaking any laws,” I replied.

Yeah, I can be kind of a righteous fuck sometimes.

Allen came by over the course of the day, speaking mostly on administrative matters of payment and when he was going to record the car as having left the shop. I wanted to grab him and say, “Do you understand that I’m 1200 miles away from where I want to be? Did you know I’m here on my own dime, waiting for a car that has taken 10 months to finish? And instead of telling me how you’re going to finish your piece of the job, you want to talk about what you’re going to write down on a fucking piece of paper??”

My facial expressions must have communicated at least some of that because Arbey and another person from his shop were at Frank’s that afternoon, working in tandem with Frank’s guys like I wanted to have happen all along. Frank said they were pissed, but they held my car for several days that could have been productive, so they could go ahead and be pissed. Allen plainly stated that Saturday is their busiest day, so basically, my car was an afterthought. Well, we are now entering the “after” period during which you will be thinking about it.

By the end of the day, everything was almost done, but not quite. Since it’s Groundhog Day, I’m preparing myself to wake up in the same hotel, maybe with some Sonny and Cher playing on the clock radio. But I’m not as mean and crotchety as Bill Murray was in that movie… Maybe…

Frank took a bunch of pictures of the car throughout the day, but I don’t have them yet. The rear cabin is basically done and most of what’s left is electrical and lighting-related. Here’s a quick snapshot I took with my phone during one of the few short periods of the day when there weren’t several guys working on the car:

It’s Like a Van

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

I’m back in Seattle for the time being and I’ve been avidly searching for a place for me and my car to live. Explaining to possible landlords why I need a large parking space has made for some interesting conversations. When people seem interested, I go into full Barbie-car-gaga mode and tell them everything. When they don’t seem to understand what the word “hearse” even means, I tend to compare it to the length of a full-size SUV or utility van. Although sailing is a popular past-time here, if I said “land-yacht” I don’t think they’d get the joke.

Per usual, the car isn’t done, but it’s close, as you can see in the new pictures Frank took for me. I’m still waiting for pictures of the back door with its expected TV and enclosure. I have a feeling that might be part of the reason it’s taking even longer, even though the car was wired with the TV in mind.

The finished divider looks exactly like I expected, but I can’t say the same for its execution. Frank had to outsource its installation, and when he got it back he found a bolt rammed through one of the fuses so there was no electricity in the car. They had to take the whole thing apart, including all the panels and seats, which set us back considerably. I was hoping for a little more team-playing, particularly in this exercise, but I guess it’s no different from any other project.

Frank also needed more time to pull the back seats out an extra couple of inches. They were flat against the wall for awhile, which wasn’t very comfortable. I’m really looking forward to experiencing the comfort for myself in the near future. I’ll be the first to admit the raised floor in the back half of the rear cabin is already kind of weird. This will be a car for show more than anything, but since I’ll have passengers for short distances, the consideration is very nice.

The last major item of business is getting the alarm installed. I had asked Allen to help find me something, but since I haven’t been physically around to lean on anyone, things are getting done slowly on that end as well.

Luckily, I’ve had recent success discussing it with Arbey, the guy who has been and will be doing most of the stereo alarm work. He said he ordered me a Viper alarm system with a two-way remote. He seems to understand the style of the car and what I’m going for, so he suggested I get the pink one. Since the electricity was cut and Frank had to rewire everything himself, it’s probably going to take Arbey a few days to reorient himself with what’s going on there in order to install the alarm.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to find places here and along the way up from LA who might be able to make decals for the outside. I really don’t feel like spending extra time in LA if I can have someone do it here.

Anyway, here’s a snapshot of the back door and seat. I can’t wait to get a chance to use them! (To transport passengers, obviously. What were you thinking??)

New Seats and New Home

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

I went to Glendale for a day last week to look at my car and sue my previous stereo guy, Admir. One of those things happened (obviously), and the other is tabled for now. The drama behind the reason for that is not as interesting to read about as it is a hassle to have happen to me, so I’ll get to the car.

It now resides down the street at Megaplex, where Allen and Arbey are busy doing what it took Admir 100 years to try to do. They have already installed most of the wiring and have almost all of the parts they need. That’s pretty good for having only been in possession of it for one day. As I should have assumed by that point, Francisco was late delivering the car. It’s always something, and it’s usually not his fault.

This time, he experienced some complications with the width of the rear cabin seats. The original depth of both the rear-facing and side-facing seats was 18 inches. When placed in the car, Francisco found that there wasn’t enough space to comfortably enter through the rear doors. His solution was to shorten the rear-facing seat by 2.5 inches, which seems reasonable and didn’t cause a noticeable difference when I sat on the unfinished seat during my visit. But since I’m being very hands-on (well, at least eyes-on) with this project, I would have appreciated a phone call. I was also a little miffed because this could have been determined months ago by simply measuring the inside of the car. I know it’s hard to get an exact measurement, but I feel like we could have anticipated this.

During my last couple of visits to Francisco’s shop, I met with Allen and Arbey to discuss cameras, audio, and whatnot for the car. Allen told me over the phone a couple of weeks ago that he wanted to work on it in his own shop. I knew that would slow things on the front end, but it looks like he’ll be able to commit more resources to the project if the car is at his place.

We had made plans for where to put everything the last time I was in town, and those changed a bunch of times, a concept that I am growing used to. We’re putting the subwoofer all the way in the back now instead of near the front end of the side-facing rear seat. The 12-inch sub poked out just a tad too high above the constructed seat frame. The two amps are going into an opening near the right rear door.

With Admir running the AC at full-blast the entire time he was putting substandard materials in my car, the battery was out of juice. Allen tried to hook up a generator to squeeze some extra life out of the battery, but that didn’t work. So he’s been jumping it through another car in the lot every time he needs to work on it. I had grown used to the idea of having to buy a new battery if I really want my car to be the destroyer of worlds. But I was hoping the current one would last long enough to power the preparation of my car for regular use.

Incidentally, that thick blue cable snaking around it will be connecting the battery to all the electronics in the car. It’s quite a lot to ask of a standard battery that was doing nothing before. I’m having Allen get me an Optima, which will be sufficient for noisy, flashy things.

Door Handles, Rear Panels, and Stereo Scandals

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

My friend Justin picked me up this morning to go look at the car. I know Frank would have sent Pablo if I asked him to, but Justin wanted to see the car and I had to run a few other errands as well.

When we arrived, I saw Pablo washing my car. That made me very happy because it was filthy from sitting outside. I’ve probably already mentioned my paranoid fears of the dust and dirt being baked into the vinyl top, which is WHITE, by the way. Pablo said they wash the cars they keep long-term about once a week. The grime is unavoidable because of the smog and nearby railroad with trains releasing soot and other crap into the air.

Frank was busy so I did my usual trip around the inside of his two garages to see what’s new and who all was there. The pink armrests for both the front and rear doors are done. When I got the car, there was nothing on the rear doors at all. Frank went to a junkyard and found two matching ones, but what I love best of all is that he found two matching door handles, which also match the front door handles. This may not look like much in the picture, but it takes a lot of work to install one of these where there wasn’t one before.

We also took a look in the back, where the panels were being fitted. As you can see, they’ve been built, and those lines represent where the pink stripes are going to be. The rest of the panels will be white. And if Admir doesn’t return my parts, the ceiling will be all white to match.

Speaking of Admir, the next stop on our itinerary was to visit Art’s shop and hand-deliver the same letter I sent certified yesterday. I just want to make sure I do everything I can to make sure he gets it. I was expecting to say a quick hello to Art and give him the note, but we ended up talking for awhile.

He initially began by saying he didn’t want to get involved, which is funny because he totally does. He went on to tell me that he talked to Admir over the weekend and he thinks he convinced him that he needs to settle this, because I’m not going away. And that’s true, I’m not. He also said that Admir is making him look bad. And that’s true, he is.

He also mentioned that Admir had broken his nose by diving into a shallow pool. Justin and I listened to the story while stifling uncontrollable, boisterous laughter. Now I agree it’s sad for anyone to be in pain, whether they owe me a shitload of money or not. But this was pretty indicative of the kind of idiot I’m dealing with here.

Now I play the waiting game…