Shop Talk – Gremlin Bench Seat!

A good shop needs good seating. A place for buddies to take a load off or for you to just sit and ponder your projects. My shop is pretty weak in this department. I have one CHEAP Ikea stool and… that’s it. Before I moved in I had thought I would snag a free couch off craigslist. But once I got all my stuff moved into the shop I realized it really wasn’t big enough to put a couch somewhere. So I gave up on that idea…

I had pulled the Gremlin bench seat out of the track gremlin and didn’t know what I was going to do with it. I knew I was never going to put it back in a Gremlin but I didn’t want to just take it to the dump. Then it hit me. Slap some legs on it and make it a SHOP SEAT!

So that’s what I did. Picked up a 10 ft. stick of 1×2, some angle iron and four casters from Harbor Freight. Maybe an hour of time to cut and weld and voila! An AMC shop seat that rolls! Can you tell I’m quite pleased with myself?

Here are a couple of pics:

Gremlin Bench Seat - Detail

Gremlin Bench Seat

Shop Talk

Gremlin Track Rat – gutting doors and buying parts!

So I’ve been splitting time between the Javelin and the Gremlin. At this point I’ve completely removed the interior and pulled the engine/trans. I haven’t explained why the motor came out so let me tell that story. I had originally hoped to get the engine running but a little bit of time messing with it proved that was not going to be an option. First I tried to turn the engine over with a breaker bar. Nope. At that point I decided to drain the oil. YUCH!!! When I removed the drain plug FIRST I got a TON of water. Next I got a lot of white sludge. I *think* that means this motor was run with water in the oil… anyway, it was clear this motor was going to need some major attention if it’s ever going to run again. I don’t know why I didn’t start by pulling the valve cover but I finally did (wasn’t even bolted down. more carnage. Both cylinder #5 rockers/pushrods were missing. also, one of the pushrods for cylinder #6 was bent badly. So that’s why this motor got pulled. The auto trans was pulled because it was an auto and the track rat needs a stick…

I’d been watching craigslist for a while and over time I scored an engine and a Mustang T5 trans (separate purchases). Both were close by. I got the engine for $400 bucks and was told that it came out of a 1980 Jeep. Story is it had been rebuilt and then run for less than a 1000 miles before being pulled and swapped for a v8. In the pics below it’s the red one (the motor on the stand is a 1972 258 I got for $50). The red motor is already set up for a T5 and came with the flywheel, bellhousing, etc. Hopefully the story about the rebuild is true. The T5 was $170. Guy said he bought it for a project that never happened and that it’s supposed to not have any problems. Fingers crossed.

So, a good chunk of the drive train is coming together. I’ve been looking for a Mustang 8.8 rear but haven’t found anything yet. I’m considering welding the spider gears in the stock rear I have and just running that.

Next up I wanted to gut the doors AND try to lighten the hood. I started with the driver’s side. In addition to cutting out the inner door panel I also wanted to remove the window frame. It was a bit of a job but after drilling about 6 spot welds out and bending the frame back and forth I got it out cleanly. On the hood I just started cutting away the inner frame. I left most of the structure around the studs though. Next up I need to gut the passenger door and then I need to start working on the rusty floors!

1975 Track Gremlin, Body and Paint, Drive Train

American Iron Javelin – Getting ready for paint

After the test day in January (2014) it was time to get the car ready for paint. I was not looking forward to that bill so I wanted to do as much as I could on my own before bringing it back to Maaco. I had a long list of things to do:

1. make/weld in a block off panel between cockpit/trunk area
2. fix/install rear spoiler
3. weld up little rust pin holes in the quarter panels
4. sand surface rust off the new roll cage bars and prime them
5. cut out some rust from the inside trunk panel
6. remove all the interior items since the inside is getting painted (seat, belts, rollbar padding, fuel line, etc…)
7. put on my old wheels so the new ones don’t get messed up while in the paint shop

For the block off panel I wanted to do something different than I had last time. On the original build I left part of the package tray intact and then built an aluminum panel that hung off the shelf. It didn’t really seal very well as my shape around the wheel tubs was not that tight. This time I decided I would completely remove the package tray and just weld in a sheet steel panel. I didn’t have a big enough piece to do it as one piece. So I used every inch of the piece I had to create 2 side panels with a strip down the middle to finish it off. This took a LOT of fiddling but I got it reasonably close and was able to weld up all the seams.

At the test in January I didn’t run the rear spoiler. Most of the mounting bolts had broken off when I wrecked the car and since the car under-steered I thought I might as well try it with no rear spoiler. But now that the test was done I, of course, wanted the spoiler back on. trying to restore the stock mounting studs (and drilling the stock mounting holes in the correct locations) seemed like it was going to be hard. So, I came up with a different solution. I got rid of all the stock studs and bent up 4 pieces of flat stock and fiberglassed them in. I put bolts into the flat stock. Now I had 4 mounting studs in a fairly straight line. I took some measurements and drilled holes in the trunk. Pretty happy with how it turned out. I also fiberglassed a couple of big chunks that had been knocked out of the spoiler.

So with all that done, I need to figure out a time to get it over to Maaco. Pics below:

1974 Javelin, American Iron, Body and Paint

Norcal AMC “work day”

So, 99.99% of the time, when I work on my cars, I’m solo. I don’t mind it but I do think it’s nice to have another set of eyes and hands to help with projects. So, I suggested a “work day” to the club. My idea was get people to drive their cars over to my shop and spend the day helping each other work on any projects that needed doing. A few guys said they were in so we scheduled it and today 4 cars showed up making a total of 8 AMC’s in one place at one time :) A couple of guys swapped carpet, another couple worked on the windows in their ’68 AMX and I yanked the motor/trans from the track Gremlin (with help from some of the guys). It was a lot of fun and I hope we do it again. Here’s a little video I put together.

1975 Track Gremlin, Norcal AMC, video

Gremlin Track Rat – Scarebird Disc Brake upgrade

So, I’m trying to get the Gremlin track worthy. One of the first things I knew had to happen was ditching the front drum brakes and getting disc brakes. My goal for this car is a BUDGET FRIENDLY / PARTS BIN build. I’m trying to reuse as much stuff as I have laying around and when I do have to buy something I’m trying to find it used on craigslist or ebay or the cheapest option I can find. With that in mind I decided to give Scarebird a try. Scarebird is a company that makes caliper brackets for lots of different cars that allow you to use calipers (and rotors) from more common cars. They have an AMC kit that works on Gremlins so I ordered it ($125). You can use your existing drum brake hubs (with modifications) or you can buy pre-modified hubs. I just got the bracket and used my existing hubs. You have to separate the hub from the drum and turn down the outer diameter and the snout of the hub on a lathe. I had to pay to get that done. I also installed longer wheel studs. This kit allows me to use Toyota Previa rotors (which I found on Amazon for $16 each) and Chevy Cavalier calipers (I paid $50 for a pair). So, the whole upgrade (including the lathe work) is just under $500… If you have access to a lathe you can get it done for about $350.

I got everything installed on the car and just need brake lines to finish it up. Here’s a couple of pics:

Scarebird kit on Gremlin 1

Scarebird kit on Gremlin 2

1975 Track Gremlin, Brakes

Greta – Maiden Voyage!

Took Greta to the grocery store today. It’s only 7 minutes from my house. Got there ok but the clutch slips pretty bad and the car gets a lot of fumes in the cabin. Definitely a lot of work to do with this car but it was fun to be tooling around in a Gremlin. Of course as soon as I parked someone came over and said, “oh, man, my brother had one…”. So it was a successful trip but probably my last until I figure out what to do about the clutch slipping. I had assumed it was just a worn disc but the more I look over this car, it has a significant oil leak(s) and the bottom of the car is caked in oily crud, I think the clutch issue MAY just be that the clutch is covered in oil…

Unfortunately, not a quick or easy theory to prove and this car is 3rd in line behind the road race Javelin and the track Gremlin.

Here’s a pic…

Greta the Grocery Getter

1975 Gremlin -Greta

Yellow Javelin Update

Since I’ve moved I’ve been able to go to the local AMC club meetings every month. I finally took the Javelin to a meeting and the car was overheating. It was weird. it’d get to 200* when stopped at a light but then go down when moving… I only had a 20 minute drive so I was able to get to the meeting and back without out it getting crazy hot. I figured the easiest thing to do was replace the thermostat. I did that and took it for a test drive. It still ran hot. So, even though the water pump doesn’t have that many miles on it I decided to replace the pump. Bought a replacement online and installed it. Bingo, overheating issue solved. I expected to see something obviously wrong with the old pump when I removed it, but no. Impeller shaft doesn’t wobble and don’t really know how else a water pump could go bad…

Another thing that I did was pick up a set of used auto store vinyl bucket seats. Got the pair for $175. So I pulled the Corbeau A4 drivers seat that’s been in the car for 10 years and replaced it with these seats. Had to do a bunch of seat track mods to get them in. Now I have a matched pair. Looks much better to have matching seats BUT this seat is not as comfortable as the Corbeau seat was. I need something (towel, small pillow) at the small of my back or it starts hurting in like 15 minutes…

It’s been a lot of fun getting to drive the car again semi-regularly. There’s a car show in June the club always goes to and I plan on taking it this year. I’m not really a car show guy but I like the idea of getting as many AMC’s in one place as possible so I’ll go to support the club and the AMC cause!

New Seats!

1973 Javelin, Drive Train, Interior

And Greta makes four…

I’ve been in the new house for six months now and am settling in and looking around for how to make use of all the space I have now (read, looking for more AMC’s to buy). One day it dawned on me that there was an AMC club in Santa Rosa and I’m like 15 minutes from Santa Rosa now. I actually went to one of their meetings 10 years ago. I drove the yellow Javelin. But it was a long drive from where I was living and so I never made another meeting. I decided I’m so close now I should see if the club is still going and try to get involved. So I jumped on the internet and did a search and couldn’t find any reference to the club. I thought they must not exist anymore. Then I remembered I’d actually exchanged emails with a club member a few years ago. He was selling an AMC part on craigslist and I responded. He recognized my email address and told me who he was. We exchanged a few emails and that was that. Well I dug up that email and contacted him and asked him if the club was still going and he said it was and that the next meeting was the following week (this was in December).

So I went to the meeting and recognized some people who had been there 10 years before. At the meeting I mentioned that I was in the market for another Gremlin. I was told that another member, Ross, had one and might be thinking of selling it. After the holidays I followed up and turns out Ross lives 10 minutes from me. He said to come over and I could check out the Gremlin. He’s got a v8 Gremlin and this 6 cylinder car had been sitting in his driveway, unused, for 4 years. We agreed on a price and that I’m come by the next weekend to pick it up. So yesterday I drove over with the trailer and winched it on and brought it home.

After getting it unloaded I messed around with it and confirmed that it was getting spark and had fuel in the carb. Then I turned the key and it fired up! Ross had said he’d parked the car because it had been unreliable and had stalled and stranded him a couple of times. I let the car idle for 20 minutes, then shut it down for 2 minutes and then started it again. Fired right up. So, I guess I’m going to have to start driving it longer and longer trips until it dies and hope I can figure out what the issue is. Goal for this car is a reliable daily driver. It’s 3rd in line though behind the race Javelin and the track Gremlin so this is going to be a slow project.

Here’s some specs:
258, 3spd, not the original motor, AC car but compressor is missing, had carpet but Ross put the carpet in his v8 Gremlin and put the rubber floor mats in this one. Turn signals and temp gauge don’t seem to work. looks to have been hit in the passenger quarter panel. pretty thick bondo is visible. At some point I’ll dig it all out and see how bad the damage is. Car was purchased in 2000 from Eddie Stakes in Texas.

The car has a name, Greta. I’ve never been one for naming cars but that’s what Ross calls this car (and everyone in the AMC club knows the car as Greta) so I guess that’s what I’ll call it. Now that I have 4 AMC’s (and am looking for more) I’m starting to appreciate the idea of naming them. It’s getting annoying to say “yellow javelin”, “race Javelin”… I can’t even just use years anymore because both Gremlin’s are 1975… I’ve got ideas for names for the Javelin’s but I’ll save that for another post.

So that’s the scoop. Stay tuned.

Greta the 1975 AMC Gremlin

Greta the 1975 AMC Gremlin

1975 Gremlin -Greta

444 days…. NASA AI Javelin update

After exactly 444 days Franken-Javelin returned to Sears Pt. for a shakedown run. Signed up for the afternoon test session 1pm – 4pm. Got to the track around 11am so I had plenty of time to register, get unloaded and get the car gassed up.

While I was unloading who walks up but Gaetano (Track Junky from the Lat-G forum). He just happened to be in the area and popped in so see what was happening at the track. He hung out a bit and helped me unload but had to go before I got on track. Matt, Jeff and Dan also showed up so I had some support.

Plan was just to take it slow and see if the car worked. Did 2 slow laps and was getting a fair amount of smoke in the cabin so I pulled in. Jeff dove under the car and said there was a decent drip coming from somewhere. Only took him a few seconds to pinpoint the dipstick tube at the pan. So I jumped out of the car and got to work removing the dip stick tube so I could replace it with a plug (I knew I had one with me). Here’s where things get ridiculous. Of course when I pulled back into the pits I forgot to refill the Accusump and close the valve before shutting down. I should have known what would happen but I was so focused on trying to fix the problem (dip stick tube). As soon as I loosened the tube fittings and pulled them out… look out boys, we’ve got a gusher! Oil starting pouring out of the top of the pan. I dove into the back of my truck and dumped some stuff out of a catch pan and got the pan under the car. Not before a decent amount of oil had spilled out…

Once I got the dip stick tube out I could see that it had fatigued at the base. This was my fault because I never got around to securing the top of the tube. So it just vibrated like crazy and of course finally split. Put a plug in the top of the pan and topped off the oil and headed back out. Slowly started going a little faster. First lap was like 2:40… then 2:30, then 2:20… etc. After about 15 minutes I pulled back in. I didn’t like the seat position. I was having to look up OVER the hood. I remembered I’d had the same problem the first time I had driven the car on track. the fix was to simply raise the back of the seat one hole up. That took 10 minutes and then I strapped back in and got back out there. Lap times kept coming down till I got a 2:00 flat. The sun was getting low and was becoming a problem going into 2 at the top of the hill. I came back in for another brief break because I wanted to check the lug nuts and make sure they weren’t backing out (new wheels, aluminum lug nuts, so I wanted to double check). They were mostly ok but I was able to snug a couple down. I was also noticing my back hurting. Again, something I had experienced before but had forgotten. The fix was simple, I just folded up a towel to put behind my lower back and hips. The deal is I’m skinny enough that although I’m strapped in tight there are voids around my hips and it tires my back out quick (plus it’s not like I’m in shape or anything…).

I headed back out for one last session. Got out there and the sun was even worse in 2. Basically blind for probably 3+ seconds. So, I did a few more laps but knew I wouldn’t be able to get a faster lap than the previous session. So that was it. The car works but with me being rusty I was about 3 seconds off my best (1:57.x). Disappointing since with the new tires, reconfigured panhard bar and blocked off grill I was hoping the car might be better than before. And who knows, maybe it is and I’m just that rusty… Anyway, I loaded up and headed home.

What now? Well, I need to get the bodywork and paint done. I’m going to strip the interior out and try to paint the cage and interior/trunk myself. Then take it back to Maaco and let them repaint the exterior. Finally, I get new stickers for the back half of the car. As for performance? The guys said the front end still comes up a lot going down the straight. I really need to get this car LOWER. It’s 9″ at the rockers and 7″ from the bottom of the frame rail. Joe says I can’t go any lower with the current setup because I’m out of shock travel. I really need drop spindles. I’m also going to try a front spoiler extension again. And of course the biggest thing is I need to start doing laps again to build up my confidence (in myself and the car). And, of course, getting in better shape would help a lot as after 20 minutes I’m getting tired.

we’ve come a long way and are basically back at square one… That’s life I guess. I’ll just keep plugging away and hopefully get the car and myself more competitive someday.

Here’s a couple of pics and some video from the day.

FrankenJav front qtr

FrankenJav front qtr

FrankenJav rear qtr

FrankenJav rear qtr

1974 Javelin, American Iron, Track Events, Traqmate, video

Prepare for (re)Launch! – Nasa AI Javelin update…

After getting the car back from Joe’s I still had a number of things to do:

1. I nut and bolted the whole car.
2. I painted and installed the grille block off plate Joe made me.
3. I installed the right side window net.
4. I welded a few more holes closed.
5. I increased the pre-charge in the accusump. This is one more attempt to try to cure my oil pressure problems. I think I have the accusump so far from the engine and the pre-charge was kind of low. The theory is the the motor had to get down to like 20psi before the accusump started flowing. But when the motor gets to 20 psi it’s falling FAST and the accusump moves the oil out to slowly. Hopefully with a higher pre-charge (it’s at 33psi now) the accusump will be flowing more often and getting me through the spots where oil pressure would drop before… The other thing is I am going to add drain back lines from the valve covers to the pan. Just one on each side to start. Back of the drivers valve cover and the front of the passenger side valve cover.

So, after that there was really nothing left but to try to fire the car up. There was really no reason the car shouldn’t fire right up but I was still a little nervous. This would be the first time the engine has been started since the day I wrecked it (Oct. 29, 2012). I filled the radiator up with water and started cranking the motor with the ign. switch OFF. I wanted to build some oil pressure before firing it up. We I cranked, waited, cranked, waited, cranked, waited. I just wasn’t seeing any oil pressure. Finally I decided to just go for it and try to actually start it. So I turned the ign. switch to ON and tried again. Nothing. I finally gave up for the day…

After thinking about it that night I realized that I was watching the oil pressure gauge but I should have also watched the fuel pressure gauge. I was sure I wasn’t getting fuel up to the carb and I needed to figure out how to prime the fuel system. The next day I confirmed that I was not getting fuel pressure. Then it dawned on me how to prime the system. I disconnected the fuel line at the rail by the carb. Then I got my shop vac. I covered most of the hose with my hand and then put the small opening that was left up to the fuel line. Sure enough, a few seconds later I got some fuel out of the line. I shut off the vac. Reconnected the line and started cranking the motor again. This time, after a couple of cranks, the fuel pressure needle started to move. I cranked it a few more times till I got 7lbs. At that point I tuned on the ign. switch, cranked again and WHAM! Car fired right up. I was pretty pleased with myself :) I opened the accusump and waited until I was sure it was full then closed it again. Then I let the car idle for a few minutes until it got up to temp. Then I put it in gear, drove out of the shop to the end of my blacktop and then put it in reverse and backed it back into the shop and shut it down. It lives! Last thing I did was put another quart of oil in it to top it off (11.5 qts total).

So that’s it. Now it’s time to take it to a test session and see what happens. Sears Pt. has an open test day on Jan. 15th and that’s my plan (assuming the weather holds, so far it’s been amazing all winter)…

had video but I lost it :(

1974 Javelin, Body and Paint, video