Pride In the Job: An Object Lesson in Halfarsed-ness

I had reason to commute into London the other day. My local routes are served by three varieties of train, long distances are taken care of by rakes of coaches towed by electric locomotives, and fast commuter journeys are handled by recently-introduced Siemens electric multiple units. This leaves the high-density, multiple-stop schedule to be filled by the oldest of our rolling stock.
These trains, the 100mph Class 321 electric multiple units, were built from 1989 to 1992 and have been extremely successful, though they are now getting on a bit. Over their long careers they have seen various efforts at refurbishment, and some units are now being rebuilt with air-conditioning and better facilities. The example I travelled in on Tuesday night had obviously experienced a ‘refurbishment’ of sorts, and I was flabbergasted at the sheer magnificence of its ineptitude.
It got me to thinking about the few times I’ve witnessed cars that display shows of owner complacency of this magnitude.

Having commuted solely for an evening of corporate-sponsored heavy drinking, I had need to visit the bathroom on my journey home. When I ventured inside the clean, white cubicle I noticed nothing out of the ordinary at first, then I became aware that the finish on the wall I was staring at wasn’t the smooth melamine I was expecting. There were brush strokes where paint had been applied, none too carefully, and as I explored further I became gradually aware of just how painstaking the refurbishment process had been. Or not.
I quickly noticed that nothing had been masked off when the painter set to work, there were splashes and runs everywhere and no evidence of any care being taken at any point of the process.
Then I went to wash and dry my hands.
At this point I collapsed into fits of barely controllable laughter. The electric hand drier had been painted, completely, with the same degree of gay abandon as the rest of the cubicle, with any warnings, instructions or branding forever obscured beneath a thick application of uneven emulsion. The directional nozzle was all-but jammed by paint which had accumulated in the mechanism, and I was incredibly surprised that the touch-sensitive ‘on’ button still worked.
This, it transpires, is a ‘refurbishment’. Either that or the most rational graffiti job I’ve ever seen.
I mention it here because it reminds me of a Ford Escort that came in for MOT while I worked at a Ford dealership briefly as a teenager. Its elderly owner had rattle-canned the front and rear wings and wheelarches, with no masking whatsoever and serious overspray on the tyres and trims, almost obscuring the indicator lamps in the process, though the paint was at least a good colour match for the original. Alas, his efforts were in vain as there was terminal corrosion along the chassis rails – which he argued about citing his previous history and expertise as a welder.
His motor-vehicle maintenance skills weren’t so hot, though, and we laughed to find his Blaupunkt cassette player installed upside down.
What’s the most appalling example of contemptible refurbishment you’ve ever encountered?
(Images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2016, taken in an actual train which carries actual people to London every day)

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  1. roguetoaster Avatar

    Expandable foam in the rocker panel with body filler over that, or perhaps filler over aluminum tape, or maybe it’s the undercoating spray to fix a pin hole in the top of the fuel tank, or maybe it’s the simply twisted together and taped over “repair” to the alternator wiring. In fact, there are so many bodgy repairs on my 2002 it’s just like anti-Christmas every time I do a little more work on it, and I couldn’t possibly pick one as my most contemptible.

    1. Vairship Avatar

      It’s worse when people use canvas to patch an oil tanker: “The patching with canvas and the camouflaging of No7 tank lids
      was a deliberate attempt to mislead any person undertaking a load
      line survey. It is not possible to determine when the lids were
      patched, and it might not have been done with the knowledge of the
      owners or those on board the Kirki on 21 July 1991.

  2. nanoop Avatar

    That dryer looks like a secondary prop from ‘Red Dwarf’…

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      Bonus points for mentioning that obscure show. What the smeg?

  3. onrails Avatar

    I can’t think of a better descriptor of this kind of thing than what Corb Lund and the Huntin’ Albertans have already given the world…

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      Let Frank Zappa chime in on the topic:

    2. Batshitbox Avatar

      I just threaded the M8 x 1.25 thread checker into the 5/16-18 thread checker and immediately thought of this song.

  4. 0A5599 Avatar

    My wife painted over the wood paneling in the laundry room. Well, she started on it, at least, but didn’t get very far. When I got home from work, I painted more in 30 minutes than she covered in 3 hours.
    The water heater is in a back corner, surrounded by three walls. I painted those walls (except the part too close to the water heater for a brush to fit). She saw what I had done and said “You bothered with THAT?”
    She had been planning on leaving the area unpainted, even the part of the wall visible from the kitchen.

    1. Van_Sarockin Avatar

      Different strokes…

  5. Alff Avatar

    Over the years I’ve witnessed and committed various kludges. In fact I likely created one with the free car I got last week. After using the scaler to remove rust in the fender lip (and in the process enlarge the void left behind), I crafted a patch from layers of brass screen and JB Weld. I know it will eventually fail. My hope is that it will outlive the rest of the vehicle. That’s not unrealistic, given that the car will be driven by teenagers.

  6. BigRedCaveTroll Avatar

    Not with cars, but seemingly 90% of the housing that my wife and I have looked at here in the PNW has been like that. And yet, people still charge exorbitant prices for their garbage. $300k here will get you a shoddy 100 year old house that’s been poorly redone and may or may not have a garage or yard. Back in Alabama $300k would get you a new, properly-built house with a three-car garage and land.

  7. I_Borgward Avatar

    My First Car ™: a 1963 Rambler American hardtop that came with endless swathes of Bondo, all backed by what appeared to be an entire Sunday edition of the Detroit Free Press. The more body filler I dug out, the more newspaper I found. The odd thing was, the paint job on top of it all actually looked pretty good.
    My brother’s friend had a 1963 Chevy that he’d picked up for $50, running but sideswiped and completely caved in on the passenger side. The gas tank had also fallen out, so they rigged one from a Honda 125 into the trunk in its place. Going in for gas and telling them to “fill it up” got cheap laughs when the attendant would open the fuel flap on the side and see nothing but daylight and pavement; at a gallon or so to top up the Honda tank, such opportunities were frequent.
    Then there was the Econoline with an overstuffed easy chair for the driver’s seat, free of any attachment to the floor. I can’t recall who that one belonged to.

  8. Batshitbox Avatar

    Can you still open the windows on British trains? We once visited Belfast, where they apparently forgot to update the rolling stock around 1963, and were tickled pink at the complete disregard for human folly evidenced in the double hung windows of the commuter trains. Here in the States we would assume everyone was so infantile they would quickly dismember themselves given the opportunities presented by an operable window on a train, and then litigate enthusiastically until the whole rail system went under. (Oh, wait… our whole passenger rail system did go under. Windows and all.)

    1. AlexG55 Avatar

      On the trains I take most often (Class 365s I think) the windows open, but only the top 8 inches or so which hinge inwards at the bottom. It would take serious effort to stick any body parts out of them. On the other hand, they do have a tendency to fly open with the air pressure from entering a tunnel or passing a train going the other way.

  9. Sjalabais Avatar

    Our regional trains were made in the 60s with a redo in the 90s. Commuters call them “cattle trains”, but I think they do their job just fine. No toilets though.
    I’ve done so much bad work on cars, don’t even know where to start. Top photo reminds me of a particular car with massive external door hinges though: Who can guess make and model?

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Can’t see the images on my phone, so either Land Cruiser or CJ Jeep?

      1. nanoop Avatar

        It’s Sjalabais asking, so Volvo would be a safe guess.

  10. Tanshanomi Avatar

    The ’70s Honda Gold Wing that came into the shop with a 120v household wall switch wired in place of the faulty high-beam switch (attached to the handlebar with black plastic electrical tape, of course). And no, that’s not what the owner’d brought it in for, nor did he wish to spend any funds to correct it.

  11. Tanshanomi Avatar

    True confesssions: on my BSA B50SS, the head stay nuts on one side required a very thin, low-profile box wrench, a wrench I did not possess. I did what any 19-year-old would do: I put a cone-shaped grinding stone on my drill and removed the offending metal from the head. Easy-peasy, and cheaper than buying a new tool.

  12. Tanshanomi Avatar

    True confesssions: on my BSA B50SS, the head stay nuts on one side required a very thin, low-profile box wrench, a wrench I did not possess. I did what any 19-year-old would do: I put a cone-shaped grinding stone on my drill and removed the offending metal from the head. Easy-peasy, and cheaper than buying a new tool.

  13. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    I’m more familiar with the bodges that don’t work, and their correction, than those that prove suitable. Like when the genius mechanic cut a fuel line with diagonal pliers (leaving a sharp spur) that dug through the rubber hose of the fuel line. Or the house, where the prior owner would expend all effort, to save a nickel in materials cost – like stopping the baseboard six inches behind the couch, or not nailing off the drywall higher than your hammer can reach standing on the floor. Me, I love using materials in places and ways that they weren’t intended: but my shit works. Like when I used a radiator as rebar in a stair landing slab….

  14. spotarama Avatar

    a friend of mine came over one day on his Bajaj scooter (indian vespa copy circa 1980) which wouldn’t start when time came for departure, I noticed that the flywheel wasn’t turning when he kicked the motor over – diagnosis, sheared woodruff key, flywheel off to assess situation and lo and behold there were splinters of wood where the steel woodruff key should have been holding the flywheel in place on the end of the crank, yep, it appeared that someone had replaced the steel key with a hand carved wooden one
    later on we found out that this was actually a factory fitment, several others were found to have the same thing…….
    denis later compounded the indian-ness of the whole thing whilst attending to several electrical shortcomings by rewiring the whole thing using blue wire for the lot, it didn’t go well

  15. P161911 Avatar

    The gas tank in 1967 Imperial convertible (see avatar) was rusted out. I used a 10 gallon boat gas tank in the trunk. That car had about the same range as our current Nissan Leaf.

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