Dear Tom and Ray:
Here's my challenge, for which I'd welcome help and/or suggestions. Our theater company soon will open its latest production. Almost all of the play takes place in one of two cars, which the actors are sitting in, standing by, etc. The only way into the theater is down steps and through a not-much-larger-than-regular doorway. I thus have to disassemble, then reassemble the front ends of these cars, along with the front doors, on the stage. I also have to remove them and rebuild them every week for five weeks, as there is another show running at the same time. I'd like to do so in less than two hours each time. So, how would you go about this task? Feel like coming out to Colorado to tackle the task firsthand?
Tom: To answer your last question first, Darren: No. But thanks for asking.
Ray: I think the easiest thing to do is widen the theater's doorway, Darren. I think that's an easier job. Cars are not made to be assembled or disassembled so easily.
Tom: If you can't actually drive or push the cars onto the stage, I guess you've got two options. The better option is cardboard cutouts. I'm sure you've seen cardboard cutouts -- where you can stand next to someone really famous, like Sleepy LaBeef, and have your picture taken, even though Sleepy's too busy to actually stand next to you.
Ray: Well, you could have photographs taken and cutouts made for the parts of the front ends of two cars. That's about as easy and safe as it gets in terms of moving, assembly and disassembly.
Tom: It would cost you some money to have them made. But they'd probably look pretty good, or at least good enough for a theater that doesn't have a loading bay.
Ray: If that's too expensive or too easy an option, then you need to do a little disassembly and fabrication over at your local junkyard.
Tom: You want just the body parts -- without the mechanicals. So you need to find a couple of junkers that are ready for the crusher. Those will have the engine removed, along with the steering components, the suspension and everything else under there. Not to mention the hazardous fluids. That's a big job, and it's not one you want to tackle yourself.
Ray: You'll then have to cut the body to remove the roof and everything behind the A-pillar (which is what the windshield attaches to), saving the doors for later.
Tom: Then you need to remove, as carefully as you can, the hood, the front fenders, the grille and the headlights, trying not to destroy them.
Ray: Once you have your parts, you can try to install some hinges on the insides of them that allow you to pop in a pin during assembly and pop it out during disassembly so the parts come apart.
Tom: But these are not going to be pretty, street-worthy cars, Darren. These were cars that were moments away from the crusher, before you chewed 'em up with your Sawzall!
Ray: If you go this route, you'll have to mask the audience's view of underneath the car (a curbstone? Some grass? A black curtain? Very dim lighting?) so you can prop the whole thing up from below, including the wheels and doors, and add some chairs for the actors. And hope it doesn't all collapse during Act II.
Tom: On the other hand, if you use cardboard cutouts instead, the underside of the car will already be part of the front photographic panel, so you don't have to worry about masking your contraption. You even can include a realistic oil leak in the photo, Darren. So seriously consider the cardboard option. And break a strut!
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)