Department: Starting Over
Brian Brennan
Life has too Many Channels
By Brian Brennan


e have access to far too many channels with today’s televisions; combine this with the remote control and everyday life is taking a beating. I have begun a noble attempt at spending more time in my garage, reminiscent of my youth, and less time fingering the remote. (Just last week I found my dwell meter and timing light.)

I grew up as the family “carpet rat.” By definition that would be the child lowest in the family pecking order. I would assume my position on the floor, near enough to the TV to respond quickly, but far enough away to keep my “fat head” (as my dad referred to me) out of the grownup’s line of sight. I would change the channel upon command when Pops deemed it appropriate. He “deemed” it frequently.

I yearn for the days when you gave some thought before arising from one’s BarcaLounger and walking the 6-8 feet to change the channel. I found messing up a channel selection very disruptive to enjoying my root beer float along with an episode of 77 Sunset Strip or Route 66.

For me, working in the garage involved patience and thoughtful idea expansion. Modern technology allows “on the fly” changes that can boost horsepower, handling, or change the background color of your gauges with a press of a key or the click of a mouse, but it’s so antiseptic. Working on one’s car used to involve many hours of uninterrupted joy and a sense of accomplishment and lots of greasy laundry. Working in the garage, especially on one’s hot rod, was rewarding and it taught us many of life’s lessons … hard work, patience, resourcefulness, how to apply Neosporin and artfully place a Band-Aid with your offhand. You also gained an appreciation for pizza or burgers with a liberal spread of grease that was transferred from one’s hand.

The cars of the mid ’50s throughout the ’60s seemed to have the right amount of technology. All of us knew by heart part numbers for carburetor rebuild kits, tune-up kits, and when the latest issue of our favorite magazine would hit the shelves. My buddy and I would rebuild mechanical Chevy Rochester fuel injection units, Muncie four-speeds, or swap cams on various cars to make “hot rod” money. To walk into an automotive parts story and spend $20 for points, condenser, rotor, and distributor cap was, for me, akin to having dessert.

How many of you remember distributor caps with windows? You knew the process of lifting the metal door would bring forth heretofore untapped horsepower. Time to set the point gap with an Allen wrench or break out the dwell meter. The ignition to me was the most common reason I found myself under a hood. Do you remember setting points and in an emergency you could use the cover from a book of matches? Why was that? Chevy points were typically set at 0.019 inch new and 0.016 inch used, and the approximate thickness of a book of matches was 0.015 inch. Good enough to get you going. But why a book of matches? The abrasive side on a book of matches was ideal for sanding (filing) down the carbon buildup on the points. Nowadays you can use a common business card as it’s 14- or 16-point stock, which turns out to be approximately 0.015 inch. Alas, who has a hot rod that still uses points? The modern electronic ignition is really a marvel and should be on all of our engines.

Nowadays technology allows younger rodders to grab their cell phone in search of the lowest price, free freight, and check the online reviews. Although not a bad thing, it just lacks “feel.” It seems gone are the days where you built an allegiance with the local parts store counterman.

It’s this fleeting moment of history that primes me to explain why Modern Rodding will be covering the kind of cars, tech, and lifestyle that involves the old ways and the new ways. It’s good to know why things were done so that you can appreciate the changes or maybe make the decision for yourself that the new way is better, or is it just different?

MR is a print magazine but it does have modern components such as a digital version complete with videos, there’s a website that chronicles all things MR, and then there’s social media. For me social media is the bane of my existence yet I recognize it’s a necessary component of modern life. However, now I select the channel I want to watch.

Modern Rodding | September/October 2020