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This is the fourth installment of the Rust Bucket story arc from master storyteller Lee “SeaKnight” on, where all good Land Cruiser things happen on the internet.

The Inspection, Part 1: Horn Tech

From Austin to the Texas-Oklahoma state line, what I call the country route, is around 300 miles. After following US 183 from Austin to Lampasas, and turning north on US 281, there’s over 200 miles of sparsely populated prairie land. This is farm and ranch country, with the highway taking you through a few historic towns and a few more that are dead or dying, and not-so-historic. Traveling this road you see no 18 wheelers and very few cars. You do see all manner of pickups, horse trailers, combines, and the occasional tractor. Because of its isolation and the fact that it’s relatively straight and flat, almost everyone not driving a tractor speeds. And because they speed, the entire stretch of highway is crawling with state troopers—the dreaded highway patrol. I had no fear of being stopped for speeding on the open road, certainly not in the 40, but it’s easy to become distracted, crest a hill, enter some small town you didn’t remember being there, and discover too late that the speed limit has dropped abruptly from 70 to 35. And just like you see on television, there’s Barney Fife sitting at the city limits sign ready to write you up. I didn’t plan on having an encounter with the law but in the event it happened, I certainly didn’t want to be careless and offer up any dumb reason for being fined, or even frivolously detained. That has been known to happen in the South, ya know, and it would have been foolish to ignore the possibility.

A couple of days pre-departure, we’re about to leave Billy’s, Mark is snapping pics of Uncle Meldon’s truck in the parking lot, and he points out that the inspection sticker has expired. Crap. Registration is current but he’s correct; the Texas state inspection sticker has long since expired. I figure this is a PIA, but nothing of great concern. The truck is too old for emissions testing, and it apparently passed the safety check without issue the prior year. I call Jeremy, the previous owner, and ask where he’s had the 40 inspected in years past, thinking this will be the path of least resistance. Some inspection stations are more corrupt…I mean meticulous, than others and I don’t want to pick the wrong one. He tells me of a little neighborhood garage and inspection station that he’s used for the entire 7 years of his ownership, and assures me that they never hassled him.

I find it, an old Texaco station with a big sign advertising tuneups, oil changes, AC service, clutches, brakes, starters, alternators, electrical repairs, and inspections. It looks like these guys can do anything. Business is not booming. There’s no customers there and no vehicles in the service bays so I pull right in and think this is excellent; I’ll be done in 5 minutes. There’s two mechanics on duty. They also appear to be the owners, and brothers. One guy with a clipboard starts methodically checking systems, while the other one paces around outside chain smoking. I’m not sure, but it looks like he’s ducking behind the building every few minutes, and he smells like cheap beer. Um, yes, I’m familiar with the smell, but that’s another story. I pay him no mind, because he’s not doing the inspection and I don’t care if he’s completely ripped, so long as I’m not dealing with him.

Back to the inspection. It never occurred to me that they’d nail this truck for any discrepancy because the same shop had passed it barely a year ago, and nothing had changed. Well, nothing had changed, but it seems there was something that had somehow escaped their notice in the previous seven inspections. Texas requires a functioning horn. Uncle Meldon’s 40 had a Camaro steering column which was way too long. In order to provide clearance between the steering wheel and the driver’s chest, an itty-bitty 12″ diameter steering wheel had been installed. Yep, and it was white. Aside from looking silly, with Saginaw power steering it was perfectly functional, but there was no horn button. I hadn’t even noticed, but this was something I couldn’t argue. In Texas when they identify a deficiency during inspection, you have the option of having the inspecting shop make the repair, or you can go elsewhere, or repair it yourself. In any case, you’re issued a rejection slip and given 14 days to remedy the problem and return for a re-inspection. I thought “How hard could this be? I know there’s horns under the hood. At one time they worked. I’ll figure this out myself and come back later.”

I return home, stick my head under the dash, and Holy $hit! There’s a massive clump of tangled wires the size of a softball crammed up under the dash. I have no idea WTF I’m looking at. I pull it down to get a better view and then purely by luck, I see two naked wire ends in the middle of the ball. I gingerly touch them together, and to my amazement, the horn honks. Thank you Jesus! I doubt this will satisfy the inspector, and I don’t want to screw with the wiring harness and risk buggering up something I can’t fix, so I head for good old Zinger Hardware again. I buy a doorbell button, the biggest one I can find. The button itself is as big as a quarter. The button housing has a plain institutional look, something like you might find on the door of a government building. Which is OK, I’m not looking for bling. I decide it’s adequate and as an added bonus, the package says it’s even weatherproof. I know it won’t look any more stupid than the go-cart steering wheel. It just needs to work. And it only cost $3.79.

The 40 has a nice Tuffy console, the security version that houses a stereo head unit, and the stereo is mounted in the console. The dash has been cut and there’s a rectangular hole where a previous head unit was installed. I think Hmmm, that looks like a good spot for the doorbell button. I forage around and find a piece of scrap aluminum, cut it to cover the opening, and screw it to the dash with sheet metal screws. I connect the two wires to the doorbell button and mount the doorbell assembly on the aluminum plate. Press doorbell button….Honk, Honk! I’m in business. Now back to the station for my new sticker.

To be continued…