“It’s cute as hell, ain’t it?” my uncle asked as he pulled himself into the cab and onto the passenger seat of our 1965 Clark Cortez to join Andy and me inside. We were taking a break in our exterior light work after discovering we needed a new alternator. This, after our Cortez refused (once more) to fire up. Turns out, our alternator was dead and therefore not charging the battery, which meant our light work came to a grinding halt and this is when my uncle stepped in. Let me also add here that since Andrew and I have brought the Cortez to my uncle’s farm, my uncle has gone back and forth between ignoring our ancient motorhome to having interesting suggestions for its fate . . . which was the discussion he wanted to have now.
Beer in one hand, my uncle leaned back in the passenger seat to take in the cab before turning to examine the back. “When you’re finished with it, just hand it over to me,” he said as if doing a huge service to Andy and me. “I’ll sell it for more money.” Then he chuckled and my uncle doesn’t chuckle. This was the first time though we had heard him say he would sell our steel beast. The plan he had maintained from the start was different: He desired to use our motorhome for none other than to improve his hunting game. “It’d make a damn good huntin’ stand,” he’d say while looking at it and seeming to go into a daze of future camo and secret wooded spots. Then he would blink back to the present and here, he would smile at us — a smile so large I was confused as to whether he thought I was proud of this idea or (even worse) I agreed with him. I — the non-hunter and animal-rights activist. I mean, I smiled back — to be polite, of course, and that seemed enough for him as he took another sip of beer before leaving to once again work on his farm. This also meant Andy and I were left once more to our old alternator.
With little space to work in the engine bay, we squeezed against one another as Andy shifted the heavy radiator to one side before teaching me about alternators.
Apparently there were supposed to be three bolts to remove; however, of those three, one was missing and another had sheared into two pieces. This meant our alternator was held in place by one bolt. After removing the one, Andy focused on the sheared bolt and miraculously removed it too. Now our alternator had dropped down, allowing us to slide the belts off.
“So what do you think?” Andy asked me once we got it out our dirty part. He had been trying to persuade me to have our original alternator rebuilt but that seemed costly and timely, to me.
“I think we should at least go to the auto parts store to see if they have a replacement” and so that’s where we went and what we did.
“This is the closet I can get you,” the auto parts store employee told us as he dumped a remanufactured Dodge V8 alternator in front of us. From here he pointed at the two alternators’ pulleys, explaining our original pulley size was no longer made so the new one had narrower grooves.
This, therefore, became our first Cortez part that did not have an exact match.
From here though we had two additional options: We could buy the new alternator and purchase narrower belts (which we did not measure at the time) or we could remove our old pulley so that it could be installed on the new alternator. Either way, buying the new alternator seemed a smart idea — at least, if anything, to have a back-up if we chose to rebuild our current one.
Back at the garage, an idea occurred to me: We were ruling out installing our new alternator without even testing it first. “Let’s just try it,” I coaxed Andy and so — despite his best judgement — we took time to install the new one.
Here’s what we found: While the belts did not slip fully into the pulley’s grooves, they did somewhat fit our alternator.
We know this isn’t a perfect fit, but for now it is not a big problem because we do plan to replace all belts (and therefore buy ones that fit the new pulley) when we refurbish our engine. For now though, that job will have to wait, as will so many other planned Cortez jobs . . . which made me question how many more powering-parts we would unexpectedly have to buy as our beast seems to have trouble staying started.
“Hey Andy,” I asked as we left the garage to head home. “We’ve replaced the starter motor — ”
“Yep,” Andy responded.
“And now our alternator — ” I continued.
“Yep,” he said again.
“So will we have to replace anything else that gives our Cortez power?” I held my breath waiting for his answer. Surely there were other parts I did not know about, other parts that would die, other parts that would need replacing . . .
“I mean,” and he had a quick think. “The only other part that powers vehicles are batteries but ours is new so that shouldn’t be a problem.”
Shouldn’t be . . . at least that’s what we thought . . .