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Would you drive across the country in your car?


alini
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Looking for the opinions of guys with 1st and 2nd gen mostly.  Anything later is designed for more modern highway speeds.

 

Throwing the gas mileage discussion to the side.  Do you think the car mechanically would handle a cross country journey at current highway speeds?  Would you change your driving to more 'period correct' to keep engine wear down or is it really safe hitting the road at 65 for hours on end??

 

I have had two guys offering to buy the car wanting to make cross country jaunts after they bought the car.  Of course the deals feel through and I still have my car but it made me wonder, would I want to drive a 65 across the country.

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I've driven my '69 cross country with no problems going 80-100 mph all day. Well, I take that back, finding gas can be a problem in some states. And I can hardly stand up once I get there, but otherwise it's all good. Haven't tried it in the '65 yet.

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I'm no longer a Buick owner, but....

 

In 1966 I drove my 1947 Desoto Suburban from Oakland, CA to Fort Benning, GA, solo, in three days.  Had to replace the generator brushes (myself) in Truth or Consequences, NM (appropriately enough!).  After graduating from the Ft Benning School for Wayward Boys (Infantry Officers' Basic Course) nine weeks later, I drove it to Ft Holabird, Baltimore, MD.  Eight months later we went to Ft Bragg, NC, and then in another three days back to Oakland.

 

After returning from Vietnam, in May 1968 I drove my newly-acquired 1939 Cadillac 75 7-passenger from Oakland to my next assignment in Wash DC the long way, via Grand Canyon, New Orleans, Gulf Coast, Ft Benning, Atlanta, Knoxville, and up the Shenandoah Valley.

 

Leaving active duty in Sept 1971, I used my 1964 Cadillac Fleetwood to tow the 1939 Cad from Baltimore to Oakland.

 

In 1997 I auditioned retirement (the audition was a success!) by driving my 1936 Pierce with factory overdrive from Oakland to Cleveland, then to Detroit, to Superior, WI for a Pierce meet, and home via U.S. 2 across ND and MT, thru Glacier Park, to Coeur d'Alene, along the Colombia, then south to CA.

 

Know what your car CAN and CAN'T do, carry tools and usual spares--and a club roster, and have a plan in case Something Big happens.  Age of the car is not that much of an issue....condition is, and so is your skill.

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I've taken mine on several jaunts of 1000+ miles.  Never gave it a second's thought as to whether such ventures might be beyond the limitations of the car.  From my experience, they clearly weren't.

 

BTW, what was the speed limit in the mid-60s?  Remember, folks squawked when it was lowered to 55.  It's doubtful the preceding higher limits were just a temporary blip.

 

My dad went from Ohio to California (and back) in a Buick in 1925.  I'd think a 60s car would have no trouble making the journey on modern roads.

Edited by KongaMan (see edit history)
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In my 1966 run, speed limits were 65 on divided highways and 55 otherwise; interstate highway system had some gaps.  With a few exceptions like NV, that's where they stayed until the Double Nickel mandate of the 1970s fuel crisis.

 

The DeSoto had taller gears and cruised at 65.  Due to its gearing, I kept the 1939 Cad to 55-58 mph and didn't irk too many people.  Towing the 1939 with the 1964, I ran at 55-58, but the '64 Cad was good for 75-80 cruise solo.  The factory OD allowed me to run the 1936 Pierce at 65-70 (2,700 rpm at 70).

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Chris,

 

I know this example isn't a total cross-country run but, may give some insight as to how a first Gen Riv will do. In 2014 my brother-in-law Greg and I drove my 1963 401 equipped Riviera out to the ROA International Convention in Colorado Springs from central Wisconsin. We made it a 2 day trip, stopping one night at a motel. On both of the driving days we drove straight through only stopping for gas. The stretches in Nebraska and Colorado where the speed limit is higher, we drove a solid 80-85 mph for long periods of time. The Riv loved running at those speeds on the highway. For the return trip we actually had 4 guys in the car and a trunk packed so full you couldn't get another thing in it. The car performed flawlessly. Again we were running 80-85 for long periods with no problem.

 

Last year Greg and I took the Riv to Flint, MI from central WI. via the upper peninsula which is a 10 hour drive one way. We drove straight through there and back only stopping for gas. On that trip we were running 70-75 mph for long stretches. Again the car ran flawlessly. 

 

The one thing I took away from these trips is that these cars love the highway and highway speeds. I hope this helped.

 

Bill

 

 

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4 minutes ago, RoadShark said:

I drove a '67 Chevy C10 (with ultra-rare '66 bed option :P) from CT to Alaska with a couple of buddies.  14,000 miles in 3 weeks with a straight six and 3-on-the-tree.  

 

 

 

 

Thats the record breaker! One tough rough ride.

Bet you wish you done it in a Riviera. But then you'd have been so comfortable you might have fallen asleep on such a haul. ;)

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I do a lot of highway driving in my 64.  I use it for work so it gets about at least 1 hour of highway driving on nice days.  I have a gear vendors overdrive and a vintage air system plus chrysler sebring conv. seats which all add up to making it a comfortable safe drive.

IMG_0383.JPG

IMG_0385.JPG

Edited by rapom
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I haven't taken the Riv on any big road trips yet, but that's the plan for the summer.  I drove the Cadillac to Vegas and back from Montana for Barrett Jackson last October, and wouldn't hesitate to do it again.  Can't think of anything better than a roadie in a classic car.  Can't wait to get the '63 out and in it's natural element.

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I agree with Grimy. If you know your car, have some skills and are prepared for the unexpected...you could probably drive a first or second gen Riv around the planet. These cars were meant for the highway and exceeded the performance/capability of most 60's cars back in the day. When I was a kid, we used to drive from Long Island up to my grandparents in upstate NY in the summer. My first ever memory of a Riviera was seeing a black 65 whoosh past our station wagon carrying about 85 mph on the Tappan Zee bridge. Minutes later I saw it parked at a Howard Johnson's roadside restaurant in Sloatsburg. Soon after, the same 65 hauled past us again at about 90mph. Again, I soon saw it parked at the Hojo's beside the highway at Newburgh. This went on all the way north practically to Montreal. They passed us about ten times. I'm sure that driver was stopping for a smoke and a double bubble at every Hojo's up I-87. Each time I saw that Riv, it was steamrolling down the road passing everything else without even breaking a sweat. The biggest thing holding cars back in the 60's was tires and poor mileage. With modern radials and a credit card for gas, I'm thinking a well sorted Riv could go anywhere. My 63 really likes 65-70mph on the highway and seems in it's element. What kills me is the rock chips. That and the morons driving a clapped out Kia at 95mph, while talking on their phone and cutting me off on their sprint to the vape shop. PRL

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2 hours ago, PWB said:

Bet you wish you done it in a Riviera. But then you'd have been so comfortable you might have fallen asleep on such a haul. ;)

 

Aye - that would have been tough for the driver.  We were doing 8-hour shifts: 8 driving, 8 navigating, and 8 in the back recuperating.  95 hours non-stop until we got above Fairbanks.  I recommend doing this when you are young...:mellow:

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           Chris, these cars were designed to run all day at 70 or 80 miles per hour. That being said, your car

was recently completely redone and has very few miles on the rebuild. Your car hasn't been driven enough

to be sorted out yet. Because of that, I think the plans of your potential buyers would not be something I would want to risk.

Of course, if you tell them that, it may discourage them from buying it, so I would not tell them that unless they are a friend of yours. I can share a personal experience in this regard. Back in 1990, I had

just finished a 4 year resto on my 69 GTO convertible. I had only driven it to a few local car events at a

total of maybe 150 miles, when I decided to drive it from Dallas to Kansas City for the Pontiac-Oakland

Club convention. I got as far as the middle of Oklahoma when the car backfired and died at 70 miles per hour. It turns out that when I degreased the distributor while rebuilding the engine, I had inadvertently

washed off all the internal grease on the distributor shaft and it had frozen up in the distributor housing,

causing the distributor housing to rotate 180 degrees, even though it was clamped down to the block.

By some miracle, this did not damage the distributor drive gears on the camshaft, and by pure luck, it happened on the outskirts of a small town that had a wrecking yard with lots of 60's cars in it. I bought

a used distributor and installed it and went on my way after a two hour delay, but it could have been a real disaster. I still have the original distributor for my GTO and that shaft wouldn't turn with a six foot

cheater pipe. It has welded itself to the aluminum housing and it would never come out unless you drilled it out.  Another story that comes to mind is what happened to Pete Lempert's 63 Riviera a few

months ago. He had just finished a resto and had been driving it to local events for 9 months when

his harmonic balancer came apart due to improper torque on the retaining bolt. If he had taken off cross country, this would have shut him completely down out in the middle of nowhere with no spare

parts available for several days. 

Edited by Seafoam65 (see edit history)
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Man thats awesome.

I dont know whether those are flames or it's beard blowin in the wind :D

I'd take your Bel Air to Alaska in place of the truck.

 

39 minutes ago, RoadShark said:

I got this Bel Air for free.  It went around the lower 48 a couple of times.  Had to replace a fuel pump, a shock, and replace converter bolts (my bad from a power glide - to -th350 swap).  No big deal.

A1991 40.jpg

 

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I'll vouch for those Sebring seats. I owned them and are they extremely comfortable/durable. And they look pretty darn good in your Riv' - surprisingly.

 

2 hours ago, rapom said:

I do a lot of highway driving in my 64.  I use it for work so it gets about at least 1 hour of highway driving on nice days.  I have a gear vendors overdrive and a vintage air system plus chrysler sebring conv. seats which all add up to making it a comfortable safe drive.

IMG_0383.JPG

IMG_0385.JPG

 

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It's amazing how much more comfortable a old car can be with modern seats.  The only thing else that would be icing on the cake would be an armrest.  But that wouldn't look right and I don't miss it since it never had it.

 

I think I would have died of discomfort if I would have did the Alaska trip in an old pickup.  25 years ago I could have done it but not now.

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I completely agree, as long as you know the car go for it.  I was just taken back by guys who wanna come buy a car and jump in and take that kinda trip.  Mind you my car is running great and handles the highway fine.  I've debated about going to Reno if I still have it then, and at this rate it looks like I will.  BTW the sales fell out because they never came to town like they said they were, not because of anything to do with the car.

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The comment regarding tire quality reminds that as a young pup I worked for a while in a busy Goodyear tire shop. Some may remember that in the 60's the OE tires were 2 ply and the 4 ply were optional-and quality of many tires was iffy.  Tires with defects and being out-of -round (and wheels) were every day. It wasn't rare on a road trip to have flats, cord separations or road hazard events. Spare tire use was always part of the picture. (as bent 'decorative' Riv bumpers from the OE jack can attest!)Tires are much better today, but there are still many, IMO, that are not round enough. We used a spinning 'hop' of more than 0.030" as a guide and trued many tires over this amount. Today, about nobody but racers know about this and the term is now 'shaved'. 'Road force' balancing 'manages' sins today. As always, monitor tire condition and pressure. (and bring along a small floor jack!)   Rivs, do love the open road.    Dan    Mpls. Mn.

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Seafoam-Just a little more history on my harmonic balancer event. Turns out the balancer was fine, it literally just came loose. To your point (and luckily) I'd only been driving it around town when it started acting odd. The nut was not correctly torqued and it worked loose.  One new nut/washer, some Locktite and 220lbs later it was solved. Also luckily, the nose of the crank was fine. One the road, this might have been a much bigger problem. PRL
 

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If a car will go 15 miles with a stop at 7 1/2 and home again it will go anywhere. All the mechanical functions come up to operating conditions in a drive like that. Right now the only car I wouldn't take is the Packard because I am still farting around with the new taillight harness.

 

Now there is a caveat. There is one question that the owner must honestly answer. Will your car be OK for a long trip?

 

There are three answers that only they can give:

     1, Yes

     2. No

     3. I don't know

 

Only one answer is right. One of the wrong answers is acceptable.

 

Two issues in a long drive reliability are the brakes and the rear end. You guys with bad brakes know it, You are the ones whom always brake gently and avoid putting too much pressure on the system, And always ready for a jerk on the steering wheel if one wheel locks up. You know you are at risk and adapt your driving to it. Don't think I don't know how many of you relate to that!

The second, the rearend is more common than one would expect. If your car spent a long time in unheated storage the rearend needed to be flushed and refilled back when you started driving it. It is amazing how much water condenses inside that mass of vented steel. And, over the years, it seems to be one of the most overlooked recommissioning services I have seen.

 

If it makes the 15 mile trip and you have addressed the brakes and rearend, you should be good to go.

 

I am remembering a call I got from my Daughter about 10 years ago. She was leaving work and lost the brakes on her Roadmaster in the parking lot. She was 25 miles way, in the city, a few blocks from the expressway. I told her I would be right there. When I arrived there was a puddle of brake fluid under the driver's door. I handed her the keys to my truck and told her I would bring it back when it was fixed. She asked how I was going to get home. "Drive your car." She exclaimed "It has no brakes." I told her I didn't need to stop that much. She went home stuttering on that one. I brought it back and asked her if she hadn't heard of "The Male Mystique". Years ago my Grandfather had told me about driving through Chicago on Main Street in a Model T with no brakes. YOu remember stuff like that.

Bernie

Edited by 60FlatTop (see edit history)
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Chris I have driven my old cars all over the US.  I took my 64 Riviera from Houston to Seattle and back. Besides breaking a A/C belt, I had no issues. Most of it was on Freeway at 65 to 75. Except coming across Nebraska, we did 350 miles rather quickly at the cost of 7 mpg.

 

I took my 1960 Electra from Austin To Allentown PA this last summer. Except for the A/C not keeping up with the heat the last day, It want great. Again 65 -75 mph.

 

Old cars were and are meant to be driven.  Yours though is too new.  I like to get a couple of thousand miles on a car before taking off.

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1 hour ago, Bill Stoneberg said:

Old cars were and are meant to be driven

Absolutely true.  I have driven my (daily driver) in and through every state west of the Mississippi, including Alaska, but not Hawaii.  The first time I went from Winnipeg to Texas the car was only 32 years old and had not been overhauled.  Now at 500,000+ miles the engine has been overhauled three times and the differential 4 times and one clutch replacement.  The only breakdown on the road was the day after I had been using the car to pull shrubs out of my back yard and the clutch pressure plate disintegrated.  Not the cars fault.  Operators fault.

If you won't take your car out on a long trip perhaps it shouldn't be driven at all.  If it's unreliable it shouldn't be on the road.  If it's reliable go anywhere with it.  Enjoy your car.  My wife's Sonata is a lovely car (good mileage, comfortable and has AC) but I would rather drive my 1930 Pontiac.

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About 5 years ago while driving my 67 big block El Camino down the freeway at about 70 on Hot Rod Power Tour my 3 groove pulley on the crank decided to come from all together to apart. No known reason. In fact my buddy and I were at that very moment discussing how well the trip had been going. Thanks to the help from a couple of other guys on Power Tour and a local hot rodder living on top of the closes hill in the middle of nowhere in Tennessee we were back on the road in less than two hours. You just never know, we had already logged about 500 miles that day catching up with Power Tour. But to answer your question, if I felt the car was in good mechanical condition, I would do it. In fact my 64 Riviera was driven from Idaho to Mississippi, then southwest Louisiana when purchased about 5 years ago.

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"If a car will go 15 miles with a stop at 7 1/2 and home again it will go anywhere. All the mechanical functions come up to operating conditions in a drive like that."

 

Bernie, with all due respect I would have to disagree with that. Widely varying regional temperature changes, elevation changes, traffic congestion, etc. are usually part of a cross-country trip of more than 2,800 miles and 5/6 days of steady driving. Unless you have gone through your car with a fine-tooth comb and had just about everything rebuilt -- and rebuilt to a high quality -- chances are something in a 54-year old car (I have a '63) will give out or at least make enough noise, etc. to make you take care of it in the next town if possible. Yes, our best tools these days, in addition to a general knowledge of how 1960-era cars work, is a cell phone and a comprehensive roadside assistance plan, and even those may not work so well in some places. I drive my Riv, and before that, my '60 Electra on weekly 40-60 mile trips, but other than some long grades east of San Diego, there's not much in terms of variable conditions. Still. this thread made me think of the time my parents took us kids cross-country and back in 1966, in my Dad's non-air conditioned Mercedes 190 sedan. In the southwest U.S., he delighted in taking pictures of all the overheated large American cars, saying his Mercedes was superior, even though it was nothing like the ones today in terms of comfort or driving dynamics. I was thrilled to come across these photos years later and see that flattop Buick, which was a mere six years old at the time!            

Summer 1966 Zverina cross-country.jpg

Summer 1966 Zverina cross-country1.jpg

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If it takes 5-6 days of steady driving to go 2800 miles, you probably ought to check to see if your parking brake is stuck on. ;)

 

We went cross-country in 1967 in a 61 LeSabre.  The only trouble we had was when the AC went out somewhere near Albuquerque.  I can't think that all those cars were actually overheating; one might posit  that it was more monkey-see, monkey-do than anything else.

Edited by KongaMan (see edit history)
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2 hours ago, KongaMan said:

If it takes 5-6 days of steady driving to go 2800 miles, you probably ought to check to see if your parking brake is stuck on.

 

As I get older I find I can't do the milage I once did.  I find I like to sleep in a hotel, eat and take a shower every night. Not to mention have a beer or two.  

This limits my milage to 500 - 600 miles a day, which in a old car is plenty.  Plus if you travel with a wife or family, you have to stop more often.

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42 minutes ago, Bill Stoneberg said:

 

As I get older I find I can't do the milage I once did.  I find I like to sleep in a hotel, eat and take a shower every night. Not to mention have a beer or two.  

This limits my milage to 500 - 600 miles a day, which in a old car is plenty.  Plus if you travel with a wife or family, you have to stop more often.

Just last summer I drove a 1989 Jeep loaded with tools and machinery from California to Ohio (~2800 miles) in 2-1/2 days.  Daylight driving only (save an hour in eastern Wyoming), off the freeway from the Wyoming/Nebraska border east, and both nights in a hotel.  Woulda done the beers, too, if I'd had any in the cooler. ;)

 

The wife and family are definitely counterproductive, though.  Leave them at home if you want to accomplish anything.  My Granddad used to say that every extra person adds an hour a day.

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19 hours ago, 60FlatTop said:

I brought it back and asked her if she hadn't heard of "The Male Mystique".

 

Ha - had to do that once with my '56 40 years ago.  I wasn't aware of the "Male Mystique" thing at the time (maybe because I was living it).  I thought it was simply judicial use of the accelerator pedal and hand brake...  :huh:

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It is probably not a bad idea to get a portable GPS and program it to avoid locations containing the words Death, Bad, Rocky, and Summit for starters. And if a friend named Dante offers to be your navigator, politely decline his offer.

 

It is interesting to consider leaving the family behind. A few days alone, quietly surrounded by steel has a peaceful eternal flavor to it.

 

 

On the mystique thing, there was a book for feminist activists published in the 1960's called The Feminine Mystique .It was a kind of credo for my Wife as a hippy college student. I think she still has the symbolic women's fist tee-shirt. I used to tease her about the male mystique. The shock value of the first off hand use was worth it all. It was fun to use it on my Daughter about 40 years later

I remember a panic call when I was at work, that our little red convertible wouldn't start.

19425.jpg.205b3ae615318153baa54c80b42a156f.jpg I told her to go back out and put it in Park. She called 10 minutes later and asked "How did you know that!"

.

 

I still say a car that will drive 15 miles successfully is capable of a long trip. Use the northern route and if you come to a river look for a bridge. Things should be OK.

Bernie

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1 hour ago, 60FlatTop said:

It is interesting to consider leaving the family behind. A few days alone, quietly surrounded by steel has a peaceful eternal flavor to it.

 

I'll tell ya, going across all of Nebraska, Iowa, and Indiana on two lane road (30->34->24->224) was very enjoyable.

 

1 hour ago, 60FlatTop said:

I remember a panic call when I was at work, that our little red convertible wouldn't start.

 I told her to go back out and put it in Park. She called 10 minutes later and asked "How did you know that!"

 

Ha!  I had that exact conversation with the wife a couple of years ago when she was stuck with her Acura. :D

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I don't have fear of anything breaking.  My problem is the comfort. The car is great for cruising and doing the highway speed.  It's my ears and my back that can't handle it.  The engine noise coming into the cabin just because it's a 65 not for any other reason and the seats while comfortable aren't the best for 8 hours of driving

Edited by alini (see edit history)
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I would say a lot of confidence has been gained since post #1. That's pretty good.

 

Re-upholstery is coming up for mine, hopefully this year. I know it should get new foam, but I have been looking over a spare set of seat frames and thinking about converting them to tied coil springs with burlap and cotton batting to make that living room couch feel under original covers.. I am intrigued enough to do one up "in my spare time".

 

One of the real pleasures I get from old cars is the non-overdrive engine feel. They are always right there in a sweet spot. I don't care for overdrive in the 45-50 MPH range. I usually pull it down and bring the revs up if I drive like that long. I do run quiet exhaust on most of the stuff. Hot Rodders with those 2 1/2" pipes and "performance" mufflers gotta pay for that image.

 

On the constant high speed thing, the engines I have seen burn out of those sustained highway trip seem to all belong to college girls with a heavy foot and a sludged up engine with the oil returns blocked. All the oil up in the valve covers is not a good thing.

 

I am pretty lucky for my age and physical condition. I never worked hard or got into athletics so everything that is not bone conforms pretty good to its surroundings. It ain't like I am solid muscle and every ounce pounded on with a hammer. I'm much more adaptable. Like today, the Pope said celebrate St. Paddy's Day and I took my Wife out for lunch at a convenient store about 7 1/2 miles away. We got the two slices of pepperoni Pizza and non-diet Coke for $4.34 each. See, made the 15 mile reliability run and got the grease to help conform to the seats. I'm ready for a road trip!

Bernie

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