oo-to (oo-tu) adj. noun.  
meaning out of the office.  
1 State of focused mindset.  
2 Soulful, transcendental attitude.  
3 Mode of efficiency.  
4 Go [out].  

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Dodge A100 Mystery Machine

Wouldn't it be cool to drive a 50 year old dodge A100 van to mexico and renovate it. A friend had an "ol green van 8 door A100 slant 6 225", for many years, he drove but it smelled strongly like gas inside and it was difficult to keep it running and timed right. He did alot of work to keep it running then sold it to his brother who tried as well, but both considered it a pain to keep up and not up to snuff to keep up safely with the high speed traffic in California freeway. They donated it to a childen's charity for resale in Northern California. The charity didn't know what to do with it either, so they stored it in an airplane hanger and kept it safe and well maintained for some time.

Since I first saw the ol green van it reminded me of the mystery machine from scooby doo. I fell in love with it and dreamed of driving it through California from San Francisco to the tip of the baja peninsula of Mexico while enjoying the adventure of meeting mechanics to fix her up along the way.

I made an offer to the charity which they accepted. I met the charities president at the hanger and it started right up and the next thing I knew, I was off with an uncertain plan and no time schedule for a trip from SF to Cabo. I made the first 1500 kilometers fine and then the car wouldn't run do to something electrical and we towed it it a few hundred more kilometers until I arrived in La Paz-"the city of off road racing mechanics". La Paz has small shop mechanics lining up and down nearly every street, who keep the old cars running with a mix of reused old parts and a little ingenuity. Most often they just remove what doesn't work and send you back out with a little less than when you arrived.

The edge of town is "junkyard city" Ciudad de Jonke, which is the most organized series of junk yards I have ever seen. A few phone calls and you'll know if what you need is available or if a trip to the many new parts shops such as Napa autoparts is required. Surprisingly there are about 15 old dodge vans in the junk yards and even a few running around town looking worse for wear and tear. Re-used parts are the norm for most. After arriving I joined up with a few other A100 'ol timers and formed team dodge A100 to cruise the city front "Malecon" at sunset.

The car had many problems, smelled like gas, ran inconsistently, often stopped altogether and had rust holes all the way through the metal. It required a complete overhaul, body work and paint.

Thankfully most of the mechanics have been awesome. This is the center for Off Road racing and a destination for the Baja 1000 every other year and even the paved roads are pretty bad, historic cobblestone streets are quaint but tough on cars, so fixing broken rusted cars is the number one sport. Some recent examples, my mechanic adjusted the valve timing, changed the distributor and plugs for $20. An oil change is $5? Those are labor costs - I bring the parts to be sure they use what I want. I had the body work done too, "Pepe" promised to cut out the rust and weld new sections in, repair dents, prime and paint top to bottom and inside and out for $700 bucks in about a month, he said. Well 8 months and two hurricanes later, lots of body work, with the car torn apart and spread out into piles across the open dirt car lot, I went to to the shop and went nuts and said "that's it, I am leaving whether it is ready or not". I began to put it back together and the shop guys all just stared at me. Eight hours later at about 5pm they finally took me seriously and began to gather and help. I left them there at about 11pm to return the next day. After a two days like this I was driving away with a nearly complete "Scooby Netta" aka Scooby doo van sans mirrors and door insulation. As the weeks passed they repainted some things damaged by the hurricanes and we finally completed putting every screw back together, the mirrors and bumpers and polish her up.


When I finally left the body shop people began to stare, some shouted at me. I began to realize they think it must be the mystery machine and Scooby must be inside. Now when I stop at Napa the guys come outside and salut. The police shout I "Te quiero Velma, I love Velma". "Eres el maestro? Are you the professor?" "Donde estas Scooby Doo?" People just stop what they are doing and stare. Even the grandmothers stop me to tell me they remember a time in a van like this one... I think Scooby Doo is a bigger star in latin american than in the USA.

My mechanics continue to help make miracles. A few in particular, Since my philosophy was not to pull the wiring and instead repair it piece by piece as it fails, it has become a necessity to stop by the magicians often. The bumps in the road knock things around alot so I put a pro comp off road suspension on it and street tires. Thankfully the guys who help are kind and proud to be a part of the project to make miracles happen, I often arrive thinking perhaps it's all over, with the old wiring and used parts then say "fue nada mas de un torneo y cable", "It was a loose screw and we cut the cable and reconnected it", when I pick her up.

I drive the car everyday, all meters and dash board heating and cooling are original and work, even in the 100 fahrenheit plus days of summer. But I maintain the basics, lubrication and cooling are important items to check at every fill-up. Interestingly in Mexico gas stations are full serve and usually run by women. Lupita, Maria, Alexandra are happy to check all fluids in what they call "La Scooby-Netta".

I have insulated the engine compartment, tightened and replaced every bolt or soldered every hole and painted everything to help out plus of course lots of grease underneath.

Here are some shots and stats overall - to me she is worth a million.

Original non-rebuilt slant 6 225 and rebuilt single barrel carb ( I might go 2 or 4 barrel soon) but she seems fast and she is.

The most important thing that has been done is, the car is well maintained across the chassis and motor.

Here is a short list of updates: New first gear, New custom dual headers with cherry bomb mufflers, Voltage regulator, Battery, Distributor, Plugs, Rebuilt Carb, Fuel Pump, Resistance, Rebuilt Radiator, Temp sensor, Brakes, Tires, ProComp Shocks, Paint and Door insulation.

One of the nicest features is this car has eight doors and whether your shopping for groceries or at the beach you have easy access to everything.

Each day no matter what happens to me, or how bad my day is, I always feel a sense of peace when I get back in the driver's seat with my dog or a friend and touch the key causing her to spring to life with a sound that by itself is awesome enough, let alone ripping through the three-on-tree gearing down the dirt roads.
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