The other night I actually dreamt that I was helping another driver move a big old Cadillac inside a garage on dollies.We had very little room to maneuver, and for some reason all we were trying to do was move it from one side of the garage to the other.  I don't know what the "meaning" was other than to decrease the quality of my sleep and to wake up thinking that I just did a whole bunch of work I'll never get paid for. It made me think about some of the "challenging" dollie jobs I did over the years.

One fun one was an impound of an abandoned mid-80s Oldsmobile from a low-income housing project. It was parked nose-in, between 2 other cars.  I picked it up from the rear, and oddly, it rolled a little with the front wheels on the ground.  This didn't make a whole lot of sense, because it was a front-wheel drive with an automatic transmission, but since there wasn't much room between the parked cars, I decided to take advantage of this strangeness by rolling forward a few feet before setting up the dollie.  I figured maybe the lock-pin in the tranny was broke, or the linkage was disconnected.

Rule 1: If something odd happens, take a moment to try to figure out why.

As I rolled forward, both front tires of this Olds flopped outward.  It looked like a special-effect from a Herbie movie.  They just flopped out, and the front of the car sat right on the ground.  NOW I got out and walked back to see what had happened.  There was no engine, no transmission, no front suspension, no radiator.  The only things under the hood of this car were the horn and the 2 shock absorbers still attached to the wheels.  Somehow someone had gotten this thing to stand up on its front wheels with only the shocks attached to the car body. And then I came along and disturbed the precarious balance and, well, let's just say my language got colorful at that point.

First I tried dragging it, but the flopped-out tires were pretty much touching the cars on either side, so that proved to be a bad idea.  With those 80s uni-body designs, there wasn't even really a lifting point you could get to with a floorjack anywhere near the front of the car.  I ended up tilting up the rear high enough to get jackstands under the lifting points behind the front wheels, and then I teetered the car on the jackstands (safety experts do NOT recommend doing this, so I can't endorse this tactic, although I did it about 200 times over the years and the car fell on people only a handful of times, and a couple of times on pets).  This allowed me to set up the dollies under the "free" wheels in the front.  And when I say "free," I mean FREE, because there wasn't anything to hold these wheels upright or straight once the weight of the vehicle was on them.  It was like getting a piggyback ride on a marionette with no one holding the strings.  I positioned the wheels slightly splayed outward, so that they kind of got pinned up in the fender well against the point where the shocks attached to the body, which still was not stable by any  stretch of the imagination.  Then I slowly lifted the car off the jackstands.  I extracted the vehicle from its parking space by retracting the wheellift, then easing the truck forward while simultaneously extending the wheellift, which kept the Olds stationary (term used loosely), then retracting the wheellift some more, until I was out away from the other parked cars.  The car was wobbling in the dollie like Lee Marvin drunk on the horse in "Cat Ballou" (there's an ancient movie reference for you), and there was nothing to keep the dollie from wandering whichever direction, so in the 45 minutes or so I
worked on this, vehicles were coming perilously close to each other at frequent and unpredictable intervals.

Then when I got it out, and the whole thing collapsed upon itself, I got to have some MORE fun trying to figure out how to hook up to the front of the vehicle with the wheellift.  There was nowhere to place a frame fork short of just under the front seat, and then it would have had to puncture the sheet metal around the "frame" to settle into the fork.  I lifted up under the  bumper and set my jackstands back in place (miraculously remembering to block the rear wheels), and repeated the process of balancing the tires, this time in the wheellift.  Again I angled the tires slightly to create a "nestling" effect, and then I tightened the wheellift straps with great force.  I chained the base of the shocks to the wheellift. I knew it wasn't going to fall off, but there was a whole-lotta-swayin' goin' on in the wheellift as I drove to the
impound lot.

2 hours of extra work due to a "shortcut."

Have a safe and profitable week.
Nick Kemper


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