2017 wrap up

Well, another year has passed. Still getting just a trickle of shop time. Because time is so limited I spent a lot of this year (especially starting in the fall) trying to organize the shop so that I can be efficient when I do get shop time. So…

Enter the LIFT! I had been thinking of a lift for a while. I’m 50 now and realized having a lift would allow me to get jobs done quicker and be easier on the body. I saw a lot of people talking about the Max Jax lifts on Garage Journal and was getting close to pulling the trigger. Then someone mentioned a Triumph C7000. The maxjax only lifts to 48”. The Triumph was only $500 more but lifts to 72”. I have low ceilings in the shop so I couldn’t get a more traditional lift that has a crossbar up top and I didn’t want one that had a cross plate on the bottom. I knew that the lift would be used for the race car a lot and I didn’t want to have to push the car over the plate (and didn’t want to have to start the car just to drive it over a plate). So, the Triumph seemed like the way to go. It arrived in late February and I got the columns into my shop and stood up by myself (with the help of my engine hoist). Then things stalled. It took me a LONG time to decide on exactly where the columns should be positioned. And I was trying to find someone to install it (which really just meant someone who could drill the holes in the concrete floor so the anchors could be hammered in). In the end I bought a drill bit and just borrowed a hammer drill from a friend and did it myself. But all the worrying about getting the lift positioned right (to work with the different cars; Gremlin, Javelin and Matador) and deciding how to get the holes drilled took me almost exactly a year! Another part of what took so long was that I thought there was no real wiring needed. The pump runs on 110v so I thought I just need to plug it in. WRONG. It’s 110v but 30 amps! I didn’t have any 30 amp circuits. Turns out 110v 30amp is something RVs use so I got an electrician to put in a 30 amp breaker for me and build me a long RV plug extension cord. With that done I got distracted by my shed project and the shop was a disaster for a while. I finally got it cleaned out and was able to actually do my first lift last week! (see pics or it didn’t happen).

401 all the things!
When I got the Matador I wanted a 401 to put in it because that’s what they ran in it when it was racing. So I picked up the ‘71 Javelin SST with a 401 and thought great, I’ve got my 401. But then I started getting a little 401 crazy. I lucked out and found another 401 in a Jeep truck in my local Pick ‘N Pull. Score! But that wasn’t enough. Then I saw a for sale ad on the AMC Forum. A guy said he had EIGHT 401 bare blocks for sale. I resisted for a while and he ended up selling 3 of them over time. When he posted that he had 5 left I lost it and said make me a deal for all 5. He did and so I bought 5 blocks in one go! They showed up in June and I got them unloaded into the shop. This meant that between the 401s, a 360 that I picked up off of craigslist (because it was $150 and literally a ½ mile down the road from me), a 304 that I picked up for $100 and three 6 cylinder motors, I had 12 disassembled motors in the shop. Plus 3 cars and now a lift. Things were getting TIGHT. Which brings me to…

When I moved in there were already two plastic sheds on the side of the garage. I quickly filled both of them with junk (I mean valuable vintage AMC parts!). They were STUFFED. It got to the point where I didn’t know what I had. And even if I did I either wouldn’t be able to find it OR it would take a long time to dig out. So I wanted to replace the 2 plastic sheds with a shed that spanned the full length (almost) of the side of the garage. Finally a contractor friend said he would help me build it. We ended up starting with a “kit” from a local truss builder. Really my contractor friend built it and I handed him tools and helped here and there. I did install the floor and am building the shelves inside. It still needs to be painted.

I unloaded both plastic sheds and put all the junk on my trailer and got the sheds moved out of the way. The pic below doesn’t show how full the trailer got. When I had everything out of the sheds plus some more stuff from the shop the entire top of the trailer was covered stem to stern. The trailer was out of commision because of all the junk on it for the duration of the shed build which took a number of weeks because we could only work on it a few hours each week. Anyway, it’s basically done now and it’s awesome. I need to build more shelves inside but it’s really let me get organized and get stuff out of the shop. The goal is that the shop should only be for tools and projects. Not for storing any parts.

I kept both plastic sheds and am using them for overflow storage. One got moved behind the shop and is where I put stuff that I didn’t feel was worthy of the main shed (like heater boxes, seats, some wheels, etc). The other shed is near the shop and I put my pressure washer, kerosene heater, car wash stuff and other odds and ends. The shop still needs a lot of organizing and rearranging but it’s great to have places to get stuff out of the shop!

Other things that happened
I finished my tig cart. Well, it still needs to be painted and I may build a box with a hinged lid on the top shelf but it’s done enough for now and I’m pretty happy with it. Of course I haven’t had any time to actually use the tig welder…

Tig Cart

In May (2017) I found a KING snake in the shop?! I walked in and saw something that looked like a weird piece of rope on top of my garbage can that was full to the top with garbage. After taking a closer look I realized it was a SNAKE! I walked back out and did a quick google search. Once I had decided it was a California King snake and not dangerous I went back in the shop. At this point it had moved and was hanging off the wall. I grabbed a welding glove and got a hold of it and walked it to my field behind the shop and let it go.

California King Snake

Also not car related but in July I went to see IRON MAIDEN!!! So awesome.


A friend in my local AMC club saw a post on facebook. It was the guy I bought the ‘71 SST from. He was looking for his car. I contacted him and he said he really wanted his car back. He knew I was keeping the 401 motor but wanted the car. I told him I would sell it back to him if he wanted. I also said I would try to get it running. So I picked up a partially disassembled 304 and am putting it back together. I’m going to try to put a 904 I got out of a Gremlin behind the 304. This side project really stalled out when I started all the shed shenanigans. But I’m almost at a point where I can get back to it.

304 for ’71 SST

New seats for Greta. I saw these seats on ebay for real cheap and thought they would work well for Greta. They sat around forever until I finally had time to make a bracket for the drivers side. I’m not happy with it though. I think it’s too low. So I need to redo it and then make a bracket for the passenger side and get it installed.

Buckets for Gremlin

I finally bought a set of tires for the Wheel Works V40s I used to run on the yellow Javelin. They’re Pirelli’s and were on super sale on Tire Rack. I was planning to put them on Greta even though the diameter was a lot smaller than the current tires. I thought it could still work but they looked ridiculous. So I tried them on the Rambler and I think they might work. For now they’re just rollers. I’m hoping to spend some time on this car in 2018.


The Hyundai. This one goes down as a fail. I finally got it running with no CEL and it passed smog! But it was burning oil at a ridiculous rate (1 qt in 50 miles). And then the CEL came back on. It sat for months before I finally accepted that I would never have time for it so I let Pick N’ Pull take it. My guess is that when the timing belt went it wasn’t just the valve train that got trashed. The valves hitting the pistons maybe damaged the rings? That’s my best guess. I really liked the car and if I had time I would have probably gotten a motor to swap. I don’t regret getting rid of it though. It was a bummer just having it sit there month after month.

So that’s it. Oh, the race car. Haven’t touched it and probably won’t for a while. Just don’t have time to go to the track. So the time I do have I want to spend on street cars since I can actually drive them.

That’s 2017. 2018 is going to be about really dialing in the shop and then working on Greta, my yellow Javelin and the ‘62 Rambler.

1975 Gremlin -Greta-street, Misc, Shop Talk

Pick n’ Pull SCORE!!!

I’ve been trying to focus on existing projects but the fact that they aren’t making any more AMC’s always has me thinking about what parts/cars I can’t pass up when they come along. Recently I’ve been thinking about engines. I would like to have a couple of backup motors. 401’s would be awesome, but let’s be realistic. I used to think 360’s were pretty common but lately I’ve been questioning that. I did pick up a FREE 360 (craigslist) back in 2010. But I rarely see them for sale on craigslist these days and I don’t think they are that common in the junk yards either around here.

So, I’ve been paying attention to the local pick n pull. I got an email alert last tuesday that they had a “pre-81 AMC truck”. Don’t know why it’s listed as AMC instead of Jeep. There was no other info. I had some rare time on Saturday and I really needed to focus on existing projects. But the weather was nice for a change (it’s been raining a ton here lately) and so I decided I had to run up to the yard and just see if this truck had a 360 in it.

The website said they had three “pre-81 AMC trucks”. I got to the yard around 11am and started heading to the row the first one was supposed to be in. Found it quickly. A 1974 Jeep J20 pickup. Awesome. If I didn’t have too many projects already I would love to have a j10, j20, etc. truck. I think they are very cool. Anyway, I walk up to the truck and look in the engine bay. Engine is there and it’s a v8. I also see that it has these Doug Thorley tri-y headers and a Holley carb. The truck is lifted and on the stands they put all the cars on so it’s sitting pretty high. I stick my head in the wheel well and shine my flashlight up at the side of the block. And there it was… “401”. Jackpot!!!

I was so excited. So I start taking stuff apart to get the motor free. After about 15 minutes I realized I could really use some help. I thought I could get the motor out by myself but I needed to get one of the A-frame rolling engine hoists and I didn’t want to leave the truck in case anyone else showed up and tried to claim the motor. So I got on the phone and started making calls. Called a number of people and found TWO friends who were able to come help. Now that I knew reinforcements were on the way I went back to trying to free the motor.

The truck was so high that even I needed to stand on something to reach over the fender and loosen bolts. I got the radiator out and several of the header bolts. I removed the master cylinder as well. After a bit Mark showed up. I asked him to go find an engine hoist. After a few minutes he came back with one and the two of us kept working. It was sunny and warm but there had been so much rain recently that there was a several inch massive puddle along the driver’s side of the truck. And it was wet under the truck as well. There were already some hoods and floor mats around to lay on but it was still not ideal conditions for being under a truck at a junk yard. Mark just go to work though. I wanted the headers so he started disconnecting the headers from the rest of the exhaust.

Eventually Matt showed up and started dragging more hoods and floor mats over to try to make a bridge over the deep puddle. We removed the Jeeps hood and set it aside. I didn’t want it being stepped on in case some jeeper needed it. The 3 of us just kept picking away and removing more and more stuff. The transmission was fighting us until I realized there were a couple of allen head bolts that we didn’t remove. Got those off and was able to kick it off the back of the motor. After a couple of hours we got to the point where we were ready to pull the motor. But we didn’t think we had enough height on the winch to get the motor over the grill. So first we hooked up the lower frame/rad support and lifted the truck off the front wheel stands it was on. We lowered it back down and now the front end was nice and low. Next we strapped up the motor and undid the motor mount bolts and started lifting. Yes, it came out no problem and we got the hoist with the hanging motor away from the car and through the big puddle.

Next I got the torque converter off the back of the motor and I let a guy that had come all the way from San Jose take the power steering pump and bracket off it. Matt pulled a few remaining vacuum lines off it and then we pushed the thing up to where they ring you up. Total was just under $475. That got me a complete 401, oil pan to carb and the set of headers.

I really lucked out with both Mark and Matt coming to help. With the 3 of us it still took 4 hours total to get it out. I wouldn’t have been able to do it myself AND I realized I wouldn’t have been able to get it home without Matt. My truck has a shell and they don’t have a forklift or anything to help you load into a truck with a shell. Luckily Matt came in his Ranger and so we used the hoist to get it in his truck. Then I drove his truck home and he drove mine.

That was it for Saturday. On Sunday I got an hour to get it unloaded from the truck and onto an engine stand. I did a little research and those headers are $800+ online!? However they are for Jeeps and I don’t know if they will fit any of the passenger cars. Worst case I’ll sell them. The carb was less interesting. It’s a Holley 4160 600 cfm. Looks like you can get them rebuilt for $250 online. I was hoping it was a 750 and maybe appropriate for the Matador. No biggie. The motor was a big enough score by itself. I think this is the 401 that I will build for the Matador. It’s a ‘74 so it has the later crank style. Next order of business is to degrease the crap out of it.

HUGE thanks to Mark and Matt! Pics below…

Drive Train, Exhaust, Misc

2016 Wrap Up

Haven’t updated the blog in over a year so I decided to just do one BIG post to cover everything that happened…

The Baby
Yep, near the end of Feb. 2016 my wife delivered our baby boy! That’s why all my car shenanigans came to a screeching halt. It wasn’t until we hit the six month mark that I was OCCASIONALLY able to lift my head up and get a couple of hours here and there in the shop. He’s eleven months now and I’m getting more and more shop time but still a trickle compared to before. He’s worth it though!

The Hyundai
The what? I don’t usually talk about non-AMC/Rambler cars on this blog but I’ll tell the story of this car as I spent a good chunk of my limited shop time on it this year. I had a 2002 Hyundai Elantra GT. The first brand new car I ever bought. A few years ago I got rear ended and the car was totaled. Took some of the insurance money and bought a 2003 Hyundai Accent 1.6L, 5 speed hatchback with 110k miles on it for $2700 (including DMV reg/tax/etc). It was my daily/commuter and I loved it. It’s small, nimble, gets great mpg (35+). It’s kinda like a more modern Gremlin 🙂 It’s also a complete POS that I never lock or worry about. I bought it with 110k miles on it and got it up to 137k miles and I knew I should get the timing belt changed. But I was busy at work and didn’t have time. Sure enough, one morning on the way to work the belt let go. I was only 15 minutes from home so I got towed back. I parked the car and it sat for a good while. I was working 7 days a week and my wife was pregnant and so it was more than 6 months before I even had time to look at it. I did a little research and found out these are “interference” motors. That basically means if you lose a belt you probably bent all the valves. I decided to fix it myself as a learning experience. I’ve never really worked on “modern” cars. So I bought a complete head (cams, lifters) off ebay. I got the car up on jacks stands and pulled the old head. Things stalled for a LONG time. When I finally got back to it I installed the new head, buttoned everything up and tried to start the car. I was nervous but it fired right up and sounded like it was running good. EXCEPT there was a lot of ticking at the top of the motor. I guessed it was lifters but wasn’t sure. Had my friend Doyle come over and take a listen. He said yep, lifters. So I pulled a bunch of stuff back off and we checked all the lifters. This is a DOHC (dual overhead cam) motor so I had to remove both cams. About HALF of the lifters were bad. I was pretty pissed. So I bought a new set of lifters and got them installed. Yes! The noise was gone. I had put the car on “non operation” so I wasn’t paying registration. but now it seemed like it was time to get this car going again. So I went to the DMV and got the paperwork started. I couldn’t complete it because the car needed to be smogged. But the paperwork included “trip passes” so I could legally drive it to the smog station. So, the morning I was ready to take it to the smog station I decided to take it for a test drive first. I had let it idle for a while in my driveway but hadn’t actually driven it yet. So I took it on a 6 mile loop. On that trip I felt like I was smelling oil. So I went back to my house just to do another once over. I got out of the car and looked under the front of it and oil was POURING out into a puddle on the passenger side. WTF??? So I pulled it in front of the shop (leaving a trail of oil across my blacktop). I opened the hood, got a flashlight and started looking under the car (while it was running). I saw oil everywhere. I kept looking higher up the motor and then I saw it. Oil was running out from behind the cam sprocket. Then it hit me. There must be a seal I neglected to install. Ugh. So I had to pull a bunch of stuff off AGAIN. That’s when I realized there were FOUR seals I didn’t install. One on the exhaust cam, behind the sprocket. That meant I had to loosen all the cam bearings and remove the sprocket. One for the intake cam which could be put on with the valve cover on. And TWO half moon shaped seals that sit INTO the head. I found the two cam seals in the gasket kit I had bought. But I only found one of the half moon seals. The stock ones are metal and this one was rubber. I decided I’d go to pick and pull and try to find the other half moon seal and a few odds and ends I needed for the car. I got everything I needed and was able to button everything up again. Time for another test run. This time no oil smell. But when I got home, as soon as I came to a stop the check engine light came on. Are you kidding me??? Sigh… I have a code reader and I checked the codes. It was complaining about the TPS and the APPS (accelerator pedal position sensor). One of the codes said idle RPM was higher than expected. And that was true. The car was idling at about 1500… I had a feeling it wasn’t a bad sensor but I went ahead and changed both sensors anyway. That didn’t clear the CEL. I did a little internet searching and everything seemed to point to a vacuum leak. Extra air was getting in somewhere and that’s why the idle was high. I ran the car and sprayed some carb cleaner around trying to see if the idle would raise. I didn’t get that to happen so I was at a loss. After a few days of trying to see what else I could try I decided to throw in the towel and take it to the dealer. They charged me $140 bucks to diagnose it and confirmed that there was a vacuum leak. The intake manifold gasket was leaking. They also said they could tell it was the WRONG type of gasket… So I had them get me the correct gasket and I brought it home and changed it myself. VOILA! The CEL was gone!!! So at my next opportunity I took the car to the smog station and it passed! Then back to the DMV to complete the registration and the saga was over (or so I thought). The car now runs and is current on registration BUT it is both leaking and burning a LOT of oil. One of things I did when I was working on the car was pull the oil pan, clean it and reinstall it. There is no gasket for the pan. Hyundai just uses an RTV type sealant. I think (hope?) that maybe I didn’t do a great job with re-sealing it and that’s the source of most of the oil leaking. So the story continues. When I can find time I am going to try to figure out where the leak(s) is/are.

The Race car (1974 Javelin)
Last time I had the Javelin on track was Nov. of 2015. I’ve got a post/video about it. It was a test day and on my last run of the day the steering arm bolts on the drivers side sheared… So I only had the passenger side wheel able to steer… Where did this happen? Turn 10 at Sonoma (the fastest turn at that track). I usually come through that turn between 85-90 mph but it was my outlap and I was only doing about 77 mph. I was incredibly fortunate to keep the car out of the tire barrier and get it off track. After getting home I realized that I couldn’t simply replace the bolts and continue running the car. I needed to do something to give me confidence that this wouldn’t happen again. So I made a few phone calls to different people looking for advice. Got some different suggestions but none that I felt great about. Then I got the opportunity to talk to Ron Sutton. Ron’s a bonafide race engineer with decades of experience. I explained the issue and said I was looking for a quick fix to make the car safely driveable until I could do a more permanent upgrade of the suspension. He came up with a plan in seconds that made total sense to me. He said I should drill/tap the spindles for ½-20 (they are 7/16-20 stock) and replace the bolts with some he said are stronger than grade 8 (he pointed me to a supplier). Finally he said I would need to replace the bolts on a schedule. So that’s what I’m doing. I got the spindles tapped for ½-20 and bought the upgraded bolts he recommended. I will run this way and after a certain number of sessions I will replace the bolts. The other thing I hope to do it to RAISE the motor an inch. This will let me also raise the steering rack an inch which will let me shorten the bump steer spacers which are currently 1.8” and I believe are a big part of why the bolts failed (the long spacer acts as a lever allowing the bolts to stretch/fatigue at a faster rate than if there was no spacer/a shorter spacer). I hope to run the car a couple of times in 2017 but I only want to get back out there after I’ve made enough changes that I think the car has a chance of being decently faster (1 to 2 seconds). So the minimum I’d like to get done before running again:

  1. Raise motor 1” (also plan to shift it BACK 1” at the same time for weight distribution)
  2. Raise steering rack 1” and shorten bump steer spacers 1”
  3. LOWER the car another 1”. The oil pan is the lowest thing on the car. If I raise the motor I should be able to lower the car by that amount. That would put my rockers at about 6” above ground. Rules state I can be at 5” at rockers and I’m currently at 7”.
  4. Finally build a removable front airdam/splitter setup

With these changes I think it would be worth running the car again. We’ll see how soon I can get all that done.

My First Rambler!
The last thing I needed was another project. When I first moved up here and got the acre and shop I was like “finally, I can buy/drag home all the orphaned AMC’s I see on craigslist but had no place to put before”. And I did, for a couple of years. I bought a 2nd Gremlin, a road race Matador shell and a ‘71 Javelin SST (for the 401 motor in it). That brought the car count up to 6 and I finally realized I really needed to stop and TRY to focus on all the cars I already had… BUT, then this car came up. I had purposely stopped cruising craigslist for cars. BUT I still looked in the parts section. And there it was, not in cars for sale but in the parts section. A complete 1962 Rambler American 400 convertible. I have had a soft spot for these ‘61-’63 Americans for a long time now. It was on my bucket list. I actually would like BOTH a coupe (to make a track car out of) and a convertible (as a family go for burgers and shakes car). Well this convertible showed up literally 10 minutes from my house and for $500. Sigh…. went to look at it and decided to drag it home. Got my friend Matt to come with me and help. The car had been parked in a back yard about 32 years ago! Tires were all dry rotted, flat and square. We carefully jacked the car up a corner at a time and put on some rims Matt had brought. But the car wouldn’t roll. We rocked it for a while and managed to get it rolling. We got it pushed near a gate in the fencing and backed my trailer partially into the back yard. Then we used my winch and snatch block to pull the car, at a right angle to the trailer. After a lot of maneuvering we managed to get the car lined up with the trailer and winched it on. Got it home and got a little bit of time with it here and there. The convertible top had long since disintegrated and the interior and trunk was filled with all sorts of debris. Got it all cleaned out and then tried to get the hood open. It was frozen shut. A lot of working it up/down inch by inch and I finally got it open enough to get some liquid wrench on the hinges. Drivers side freed up pretty good but the passenger side is just tight. Finally I managed to get it up using a 48 inch crow bar. 1962 was the first year for the OHV 195.6 L6. That’s what’s in this car. The non 400’s got the flathead motor. This is my FIRST RAMBLER ever. I’ve had a Rambler tattoo for 25 years but I’ve only owned AMC’s so far. Now I have an actual Rambler. I was worried about the DMV paperwork as ownership was a bit convoluted. The woman who owned it signed it over to her brother. He never did anything with it. Finally he died and his son is who sold it to me. Anyway, went to DMV and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get it titled in my name. It’s not REGISTERED yet, just titled. But hopefully when it comes time to register it’ll go smoothly since I have a title in my name now. I’ve got a tarp over it now and hope to have it running in about 3 years.

I had gotten the 1975 Gremlin called “Greta” running and had started daily driving it in 2015 (I’ve got a few posts about it). I put about 1400 miles on it and was living the life when, one night on my way home from work, the alternator light came on really bright and the car stumbled but kept going. I was sure it was going to quit on me but I made it home. First thing I did was pull the alternator and took it to the parts store to be tested. It passed. Then I started researching alternator light wiring. I replaced the pigtail to the alternator with a new one (this is an internally regulated 10si alternator). That didn’t fix it. I unwrapped the wiring in the engine bay and traced it all the way to the firewall. Didn’t find anything that looked bad. So then, in a fit of desperation, I yanked the whole friggin’ dash out of the car! 40 year old plastic is really brittle and I didn’t know how it was attached so I just kept removing fasteners I found. I ended up cracking it in a number of places. Anyway, with the dash out of the way I was able to really dig into the wiring. I cleaned all the contacts on the gauge cluster and replace the burnt out bulbs. But still the ALT light was on while running. I had checked fuses before anything else and none were burnt out but now I decided to REALLY dig into the fuse panel. First, I cleaned ALL the contacts of the panel AND the fuses. When doing this I noticed that the WRONG amp fuse was in the slot for the alternator. I also checked all the fuses for continuity (even though none of them LOOKED burnt out). Surprise, the one for the ALT light failed the continuity test even though the element was not visibly broken. I put a new fuse, of the correct amp in the panel and YES the ALT light started behaving as it was supposed to. Only problem was now the dash was in the shop on a table. The car was totally driveable without the dash shell but I just didn’t want to do it because the gauge cluster and weather eye panel would just be flopping around the whole time. So the car just sat. It took a LOT of fiberglassing to get the dash shell to be one piece again. When I was removing the crash pad ALL of the screw posts just broke off when I tried to remove the screws. Ugh… The dash pad also had a lot of bad cracks in it. I tried to fix it all but the fiberglass crack repairs made it too stiff (it needs to have some give to conform to the dash shell). And I tried to glue/fiberglass the screws posts back on but it just didn’t work. So I gave up on trying to fix that pad and looked to buy a used one. Lucked out and found a guy on the AMC Forum who had one in black and sold it to me for a reasonable price. After the shell was back together I decided to try wrapping it in vinyl. The dash was tan and I wanted to change over to black. I had bought the vinyl years ago but never ended up using it. It came out “fair” for my first attempt at doing this sort of thing. But it was good enough to install back in the car. So, after months of picking at all the other projects I have going on I managed to get the dash re-installed. I charged up the battery and drove it for a few days and thought I was home free. Then, one morning, it wouldn’t start. Hmmm… had to get to work so I drove another car. That weekend I had a little time to mess with it. I confirmed the carb was getting gas. I got it started and thought maybe I had just flooded it that morning? It needed gas so I took it to the gas station and filled it up. When I tried to restart it it didn’t want to fire. Wtf? I managed to get it running but as soon as I put it in gear and started to give it gas it wanted to die. Somehow I managed to get it rolling without stalling. I could barely touch the gas. After about a minute of driving it down the road it seemed to clear up. Made it home but just as I pulled in it stalled again and wouldn’t re-fire. I this point I decided it must be an issue with the carb. It’s got a YF single barrel on it and I have a couple extra of those carbs lying around. I had bought a rebuild kit a while ago and now it was time to do a rebuild. I decided to rebuild a carb I had on the shelf rather than pull the one on the motor. I watched videos from “Mike’s Carburetors” on youtube. He’s got a series specifically on rebuilding a YF. Went pretty well. But then instead of trying it on the car I decided to see what other options I had. I had read some disparaging things about the YFs. Didn’t know if it was true or not but poking around lead me to the Motorcraft 2100 2bbl carb upgrade a lot of Jeep guys do. I bought a 2100 “kit” from an ebay seller. The ad made it sound like it would be plug and play but of course it’s not. I have the adapter plate and carb installed but the throttle cable hook-up and throttle return spring setup will have to be custom made. This car has the throttle cable attach BELOW the exhaust manifold and then has a rod which attaches to the carb. Step on the gas and the linkage pulls the throttle DOWN. The seller adds a little “T” square piece you get at the hardware store for building shelves, to the throttle bracket on the carb. This relocates the throttle stud and was supposed to work with my existing linkage. But no dice. So, I think I’m going to remove the existing bracket underneath the exhaust manifold and make my own bracket that will attached to the intake manifold. Of course that’s going to take time and I don’t know when I’ll be able to finish up this carb swap. I really want to get it done because I’d like to have this car operational again since the Hyundai, while drive-able, is burning/leaking insane amounts of oil.

Wrapping The Dash

The Matador
One day when I had a bit of shop time I decided to play around with the Matador. The guy who built it was a LOT shorter than me and I really couldn’t even sit in the car as it was. So out came the sawzall. I unbolted the seat and then cut out the seat frame that was welded to the floor. I also cut off the tube that was welded to the cage and held the head rest. Then I was able to take one of the fixed backed buckets I had and set it on the floor to see how I fit. It was a big improvement and i could sit in the car and make vroom vroom noises but the seat was TOUCHING the cage and I still didn’t have the room I really needed. The more I looked at it the more I realized that the cage was going to have to be moved/redone. That was a real bummer as a big part of the reason I bought the car is I thought it was mostly ready to run (minus the engine/transmission). I’m still happy with the car but it’s a definite setback. This car is on the back burner again for a while. BUT, I may start playing with the 401 for it this year.

seat fitting

Welding table and cart build
I’ve been wanting to do a couple of welding projects for a while. Specifically I wanted to build a cart for the EASTWOOD 200 Tig welder I bought and I wanted to build a welding/fab table. I, of course, watched a lot of youtube videos and read a lot of posts on Garage Journal and others. One of the things I did in the first few months after my son was born, when I had no time to actually get in the shop, was learn how to use Sketchup. If you don’t know what it is, it’s a 3D design software package. I got the one month free trial and started learning the basics. I really enjoyed being able to build things “virtually” while I wasn’t able to build them actually… It was really helpful to try ideas and get accurate dimensions laid out. It also helps you visualize the assembly. Anyway, I came up with a basic design for both the cart and the table. I started building the frame of the cart on my shop floor. Then got distracted by other projects (mostly the Hyundai). In the meantime I was collecting parts for the table. I went to my local steel yard and got a 3/8” piece of steel cut 30 x 52. I had wanted 60” but this was a drop they had in the yard so I got that piece (including the cut) for $130. I was going to make the legs out of 2” square 1/8” wall tube BUT my friend Doyle had a bunch of 3” square 1/8” wall laying around and he traded me enough of it for 4 legs for a couple of AMC bucket seats I had. For the rest of the material I went to a local salvage place near me that also carries a lot of tube, angle and sheet. I bought a bunch of 2”, 1/8” and 2”, 1/16” wall. I also got some 1 ¾” square. My design called for the frame to have 2” square tube the long way, with the ends open. I wanted to use the 1 ¾” to slide into those tubes. I wanted to make an extension on one side and a removable stand for my chop saw on the other. I didn’t get to “test” the slip fit of the tubing because they are in 10 and 20 foot sections. I just did the math and assumed it would work. Well that didn’t work out because I didn’t know the SEAMS for this type of tubing are on the inside and therefore you can’t get the next size smaller tube to just slide in. Lesson learned. I’m not sure what I’m going to do at this point. I need to see if I can make 1 ½” tube work. We’ll see. I had basically the same problem with receiver hitches I added. I wanted 4 receiver hitches (2 per side) that would let me slide in things like my grinder or a vise. The salvage place has actual 2” receiver tube (no seam on the inside) for $22 a foot! That seemed crazy. So I looked around and saw that Harbor Freight sells long receivers tubes (18”) for $15… That sounded more reasonable. So I bought two and cut them in half and welded them on. I just assumed that because they were being sold as receiver hitches that meant they had no seam inside so I didn’t think to check (they are sold in a box). Wrong again… they are just that same cheap 2” tube I already had with a seam inside. Anyway, I may have to cut them off and start over with the good stuff. Neither the table or cart are done but they’re getting there.

So there it is. That’s what got done this year while learning to take care of a new baby! I am going to try to update this blog more regularly this year. It’s just hard with so little shop time to think about taking pictures or setting up to record video.

1974 Javelin-road race, 1975 Gremlin -Greta-street, Misc, Shop Talk

Grem Life – Project Greta update…

Had some time to mess with the Gremlin recently. I bought a cheap plastic console/cup holder combo and cut it down to fit. This is a temporary solution but who knows how long it will be before I redo the interior. So in the meantime, grab a drink! Also pulled the AM radio in preparation for putting something else in there. Haven’t decided on exactly what I want to do yet. And lastly, the heat had stopped working. I was pretty sure the core had gotten clogged after having the motor apart. So I pulled used the heater hoses to reverse flush the core. It was a bit of a messy operation. The heater hose was not big enough to fit over my hose nozzle and I didn’t have any hose the right size to make an “adapter”. I tried duct tape which worked for a bit. Anyway, at first I couldn’t get any water through the core, kept backing up and spraying everywhere. But after using the tape to improve the seal I started getting water in the bucket. Gross, brown, full of crud water… I did this until the water coming out was completely clear. I also drained ALL the coolant out of the rest of the motor/radiator. It was brown and muddy looking. put a fresh gallon of coolant in and topped off with clean water. Put everything back together and have my fingers crossed. I didn’t run the car long enough for it to get hot so I’m not 100% sure this fixed the heat but I’m fairly confident. Will update after I get a proper test run…

1975 Gremlin -Greta-street, Interior

Project Greta: The first thousand…

I’m a thousand miles into my adventures with Greta and I’m loving it! Greta’s become my daily driver at this point and I haven’t driven anything else the last couple of weeks. I drive her to work, to lunch, on any errands I need to run. She’s the go to ride!

The only issues that have come up are that I believe the heater core is now clogged 🙁 If I don’t turn on the fan I will get enough heat “leak” to make the car comfortable though… it just doesn’t get cold enough here for this to be a huge problem.

It also stalled on me once (and started blaring the horn at the same time!). I jumped out of the car, popped the hood and yanked the horn wire. That shut it up. Then got back in the car and it started right up… I’m assuming it’s electrical. I’m pretty sure the motor/trans will be reliable as a hammer. The only weak spot would have to be the 40 year old wiring… I need to spend some time pulling switches and cleaning contacts. I also want to try running an additional ground wire from the block to the body to see if that makes a difference. Another electrical quirk is that the dash lights don’t work. But if I jiggle the headlight switch I can get them to work. It’s all on the list now…

I’ve also done some miles in the rain. Ross (previous owner) said that the car stranded him in the rain a few times. So far, the only problem I’ve had in the rain is that there is a leak and it drips water on my left foot if it’s raining hard enough. But if the car is stationary, even in REALLY hard rain, it does not seem to leak. No evidence of water in the footwells after a hard rain overnight. Even still I eventually should replace all the weather seals on the car.

Really want to get some bucket seats in there. The bench is not comfortable and since I’m logging a lot of miles it’s becoming and issue. And swapping the front drum brakes to disc is going to happen in the very near future.

So that’s the 1000 mile update. Here are a couple of fun pics. First is Greta in the garages at Sonoma Raceway. Went to watch Matt run his 914-6 and at the of the day was able to pull Greta in while we were loading up the Porsche. The next pic was the result of me dropping off some packages at UPS for my wife. I realized Greta is UPS BROWN. Perfect… seems like a good way to earn some race car money on the side. I’ll have to see if they’re hiring 🙂

1975 Gremlin -Greta-street, Misc

BANG! – NASA American Iron Javelin update…

After the relative success of the Oct. NASA race (car ran all sessions and I got a new best time for me) I wanted to get on track ONE more time before parking the car for the “winter” (in quotes because, California).

I had reviewed the Traqmate data from my best lap of the race weekend and Dave Brown’s best lap (½ second faster). At first I thought we were pretty much driving the same line. However, when I zoomed in to the track map I saw a few places where we differed. I also saw that he was downshifting to 2nd in turn 4 and shifting UP to 4th before 6. I had been keeping it in 3rd all the way from 3 to 6. I wanted to try “Dave’s way” because my way didn’t feel good. It was lugging in 4 and I was hitting the rev limiter before 6. I was doing that because I was intentionally trying to avoid shifts as shifting takes time. But he was faster so I wanted to try to copy his lap as best I could.

The other differences were that I was turning into 4 too early and that I was drifting to the inside of 7 and 11 early as well. So, I headed back to the track and hoped I might be able to get a new even faster lap.

I signed up for the afternoon session and got to the track around 11am. After signing in I took a minute to take a pic of the car on the hill above the track. Then headed down to the paddock and unloaded. Got lunch at the grill and then waiting till 1pm for my session to start. While eating lunch I ran into Ken Epsman again (owner of the #2 Roy Woods Racing Trans-Am Javelin, see my last post about the Oct. NASA race). Unfortunately he was running his NASCAR and not the Javelin.

I headed out for my first session and went around for about 4 laps. There was actually a bit of traffic. Seems like a few Lemons cars were testing as well as a couple of spec E30s and a couple of Miatas. On the couple of “clear” laps I did get I was seeing the oil light at the top of the hill (turn 2). So I pulled in and added 2 quarts of oil. That’s my default now. See the oil pressure light, hit it with 2 quarts…

Anyway, went back out for the 2nd time and did 8 laps. Got a couple of 1:58.xx laps and a 1:59.xx but didn’t get back to 1:57.xx… After 6 laps of “pushing it” I came up on the Miatas so I backed off and pulled off that lap.

After another short break I headed back out. Unfortunately by this time the sun was low and blinding in turn 2. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get a fast lap now but I figured I try to work on the rest of the track. After 5 laps though I was getting tired and decided to pull in for another break.

Rested for 15 minutes and then decided I need to get back out there and keep working. So, fired up the car and headed out for round 4… The sun was still in 2 and I was running around the track on my out lap just warming the tires. When I got to turn 10 I took it at about 77mph (10 mph SLOWER than my usual)… right after I apex’d at 10 there was a loud BANG! and the car just washed out toward the wall. WTF! It was obvious something broke but I didn’t know what. I just kept the steering wheel turned away from the wall and started applying brake. Luckily I got it slowed down. Once I had it under control I realized I was heading right for pit in so I just drove off track right up to my trailer and parked it. After shutting down the car I climbed out and checked the passenger side. Everything looked fine. Then I checked the driver’s side. There it was. The steering arm was separated from the upright and laying on the ground still connected to the steering rack. I wasn’t interested in crawling around for a closer look so I just loaded up and headed home. Once home I took a closer look and the two bolts that hold the steering arm to the upright sheared. So, figuring out how to not only fix this but make sure it doesn’t happen again will get added to the winter list. Video below…



1974 Javelin-road race, Suspension, Track Events, video

Project Greta – Sans Bumpers

One of the things on my list for Greta was ditching the HEAVY front and rear bumpers. Initially I was only going to get rid of the bumperettes but the more I thought about it the more I just wanted them completely gone. If this was an earlier car, with the nice thin bumpers that recess into the body a bit, I’d keep them. But the later, ginormous bumpers are just fugly (and weigh a ton). So I’m ditching them…

I did this on the track Gremlin as well (also a ‘75) but forgot exactly how I did it. I do remember I ended up having to take the grill off. With Greta, again, I tried to do it without taking the grill off but in the end I guess that’s the only way to do it. Just like with the track Gremlin I ended up breaking the bottom tabs on the grill because I didn’t have a trim removal tool (I finally have one now!).

I had hoped to just pull the bumpers and be on my merry way but after the bumpers were off I had two things to deal with. First I needed to repair the tabs I broke on the grill. The second was that the bumpers were SO heavy that with them off, the car seemed like it raised up a bit. Especially in the front. Wasn’t expecting that. It looked like a car that has no engine in it…

Besides looking stupid I was also concerned that it would adversely affect handling. So I decided I’d cut a ½ a coil out of the front springs. In the rear I’ll use lowering blocks (probably just 1”) and see how that looks.

For the grill I repaired the tabs with fiberglass. I also did some epoxy repairs to the driver’s side fender cap. It’s cracked up and missing a chunk and I didn’t have a reflector for that side either. The grill and fender caps on the car are actually from ‘76 Gremlin X. New reflectors are $60. So I’m not doing that. Instead I think I’m going to fiberglass over the stock reflector recess and then mount some cheap LED universal side marker lights…

But for now I’m just sticking this wrong shaped reflector from the track Gremlin (don’t need side markers on a race car).

So here are pics of the car without bumpers and with ½ a coil cut in the front. Curious to see how it runs with all that weight removed. Oh, I weighed everything I took off the car and it came to 120 lbs…

Sans Bumpers!

Sans Bumpers!

1975 Gremlin -Greta-street, Body and Paint, Suspension

Project Greta – Greta commutes!

With Greta finally running it was time to take the next big step… drive it to work! I’d been dreaming for several years about the idea of having a street legal 6 cyl AMC to try to use as a legit commuter car. The yellow javelin is reliable and street legal but it’s a gas guzzler and has no heat, wipers or working radio. I wanted something cheap to run that still had the basics and I was hoping Greta was it.

So on Sunday I got her gassed up and ready to go. It rained overnight and was still wet in the morning. I thought about not driving the Gremlin but was pretty sure it wasn’t going to rain more. I decided to go for it but to avoid the highway for my first trip. If the car did die on me I’d rather be on the back roads than on the side of the highway with lots of cars flying by at 70+ mph. Plus the back roads from Petaluma to Novato are awesome! So off I went. Had to keep reminding myself that 1st gear was down on this little 3 speed. When I got the thing up to 60 I had a big smile on my face. I was commuting in a Gremlin!!!

I drove the car to/from work and to lunch for 3 straight days without any hiccups. Thursday morning I went to start the car. It fired right up but died within a couple of seconds and then wouldn’t start again. Hmmm… is this the problem that had gotten the car parked by the previous owner? I knew it was fuel or spark as the starter was cranking hard. But I didn’t have time to mess with it so I bailed and took my truck to work.

Saturday morning I went out to the car and it fired right up. Drove it over to Jeff’s and hung out for a couple of hours and then drove it home with no problems… So, I’m not sure what happened Thursday morning. Maybe I flooded it??? Anyway, I’m going to keep driving it and hope it doesn’t strand me. Performance wise the only plans I have is to install the HEI distributor I have to for it and rebuild another YF carb I have and swap it on. I’ll also change plugs/wires when I do the HEI swap.

So, here’s the review after 3 days of commuting:

  1. The bench seat is not comfortable. The drivers side padding is shot so it’s a literal pain in the ass. I want to get some kind of bucket seats for it.
  2. The brakes suck. 4 wheel manual drums are not the hot ticket. I *think* I am going to pirate the scarebird kit I installed on the track Gremlin and get something more track oriented for that car.
  3. No arm rest. I want a center console with an armrest and a drink holder 🙂
  4. The 15” steering wheel is like a giant bus wheel. want something smaller. *if I really get ambitious someday I may try to swap in the tilt column I have from a Javelin.
  5. FM radio + more/better speakers. The AM radio and one, dash mounted speaker is not working for me.
  6. Dynamat and carpet. This car had 40 year old rubber mats. It’s not super noisy but it just sort of drones….
  7. Bumper removal – I’m going to ditch the bumpers. I’m going for good gas mileage so the extra 200 lbs of ugly mid-70’s 5 mph bumpers can take a hike.
  8. Rear view mirror – current one is pretty fogged out so that’ll get changed out at some point.
  9. Horn doesn’t work. need to fix that.
  10. Driver’s side fender cap is cracked and missing pieces including the side marker light. Need to replace that.
  11. Needs all new weather stripping
  12. Headlights need a little adjustment
  13. It’s doesn’t handle that bad but I’m sure it could use a front end rebuild.
  14. Change out the wheels/tires. I think I’m going to use my 16×8 Vintage Wheelworks V40s

So that’s the list. It’s not in order and I don’t know how fast I’ll get to it all but to be a good commuter it needs to get more comfortable. Here’s a few pics of the Gremlin out and about during its first week of commuting.

1975 Gremlin -Greta-street

Race Report! – NASA AI Javelin @ Sonoma Oct. 24/25, 2015

I took Friday off and got the car all loaded up in the morning. Dan was already at the track and had saved me a spot. I parked next to his rig and got the car unloaded and the trailer unhitched. I had filled the car with gas earlier in the week and I took the time now to fill up my three 5 gallon jugs with gas. I knew that would be enough to get me through Saturdays sessions. Then I put a cover on the car and headed home to load the truck with all the gear so I’d be ready to head to the track first thing in the morning.

Sat. Practice
Slept OK but not great. Got up at 6:30am and headed for the track. When I got there Don was waiting for me. He had come up Friday night and camped at the track. I got the cover off the car and we set tire pressures and torqued the wheels. Practice is a bit crazy in that they stuff 3 separate groups on track at once. Remember that a group is a collection of classes. So we’re talking a lot of cars. I was driving in my mirrors trying to stay out of the way of faster cars. One of the first things I tried was to break hard and see if the wheels were still hitting anywhere. Sure enough on one hard brake application I could tell the passenger side tire was still hitting a little bit. Damn. I knew I should have been more aggressive with my fender trough clearancing. Also I was seeing the oil light here and there. And on one lap in particular, coming out of the carousel it went low I got out of the accelerator and had to wait a few seconds for it to come back up. So I pulled into the pits.

The good news was, no leaks! After having the front of the motor off to replace the cam gear it was definitely a worry but everything looked dry. We got the front wheels off and saw that on the passenger side there was rubber on the corner of the notch I had made. Luckily being parked right next to Dan’s rig meant we had power. So I got out the cut off wheel and notched out a few more inches on both sides. As for the oil pressure I decided I just needed to add more oil. So I put in 2 more quarts.

Sat. Qualifying
Went out for qualifying and when I tested the brakes I could tell I finally had no rubbing! Yes I could actually use the brakes! I was still having to get out of the way for most of the cars but I was coming across a few that I could pass. After a few laps I got some open track and was feeling good. Came across the line and looked at the traqdash and saw 1:57.3. Yes! A new personal fast lap. This was a LONG time coming. My previous best was a half second slower and was run back in 2012. So I was finally faster and with a car that was down 50hp to the old car and 150 lbs heavier to boot! I backed it up next lap with a 1:58:00. Then on the next lap I came out of the carousel down towards turn 7 real hot. Got on the brakes late and hard and locked up the rears. Just kept it going straight and ran into the runoff area but stalled it. I waited a few seconds and tried to refire it but couldn’t get it going. Kept trying until the safety truck came by to get me I told the guy I couldn’t get it going and he was about to get ready to tow me when I tried again and it fired. So he pointed me back on track. I pulled off into the pits that lap as I knew the session was almost over at that point. Got back to my spot and was stoked to be able to tell Don about the brake issue being solved and my new fast lap!

There was a big gap between qualifying and the race and I had arranged for Dave Brown (Life’s Good Racing) to run a few laps that afternoon to see what the cars potential was. So I gassed up the car and we sat around waiting for the HPDE 4 session to come up. As we’re all sitting around a golf cart with 3 or 4 guys rolls up and a guy jumps out and starts yelling “who’s the idiot running this javelin!”. Or something like that. I recognized him immediately. It was Ken Epsman who owns the #2 Roy Woods Racing real Trans-Am Javelin (along with several other high dollar cars including a Bud Moore Trans-Am Mustang). He was running around the car saying “how cool is this!”. I’ve met Ken a few times over the years but he didn’t remember me. So I reminded him that the first time I met him was right there at Sonoma (Sears. Pt. back then) when I came to the first (or one of the first) Wine Country Classic vintage races. I have a picture of me in his car from back then… anyway, he seemed to be really into the car and wanted to check everything out. After a while he says “we need a group picture!” and says he’s going to go down to his garage (at the track) and pull out his Javelin. I said sounds great and off they went…

Maybe an hour went by and then one of his guys finally came back and said the Javelin wouldn’t start so could I bring my Javelin down to the garage for the photo op. So I hopped in, fired it up and drove down to the lower garages. I get down there and Ken is standing out front directing me in. As I pull in I see they have his Javelin pulled out so I stop with the cars nose to nose. I got out of the car and Ken asked if I had a camera (which I did). So I started taking pictures of the two cars. After barely a minute Ken says they have to go get ready for his next session (I think he was running a vintage Nascar). He said, “move the cars around however you want and take whatever pics you want and when you’re done just close the door”. I said “no problem, but, which Javelin do you want me to leave behind???”. He just smiled…

So my friend Matt and I spent 10 minutes in his “toy box” rolling his half-million + car around to get a few different angles for pictures. crazy… I now have pics of my car next to BOTH Roy Woods Javelins. I just need the #6 Sunoco Javelin to complete the set 🙂

After we got tired of rolling the cars around Matt and I headed back to our spot to wait for Dave. Dave is a Pro driver, with Life’s Good Racing, who’s been racing for 20+ years and has many many championships in many different categories under his belt. Back in 2012 I worked with him for a day of driver coaching at Thunderhill. I also put him in the Javelin because I wanted to see what the potential of the car was. He went out and did two laps at speed and was instantly 9 seconds faster than me… NINE. I had contacted him before this weekend and asked if he would do a few laps to baseline the car for me in it’s new configuration and he said sure. So about an hour before my race he took the car out in the HPDE 4 group. He did about 5 or 6 laps. He came in HOT so we could take tire temps. As he was sitting there waiting for us to get the temps the car boiled over and barfed some water out of the radiator… Once the temps were taken he drove back to the pits to let the car cool down. Interestingly this time he was only ½ a second faster than my best time of the day… however, he was babying the car and never rev’d past 6k while I was running up to 6500… he had generally good things to say about the car (which wasn’t true when he drove it back in 2012) so I was glad that he confirmed that all the changes have resulted in a much more capable car. He did say the front shocks were not great and so I’m planning to change them. One other thing he did for me was adjust the brake bias. I have a Wilwood brake bias knob but I’ve never adjusted it (because I don’t know how). He dialed in a LOT more front bias and said I might even be able to go a bit further. I’d been having a bit rear end hop under braking and dialing in a lot more front bias has almost gotten rid of it.

Sat. Race
Went out Saturday with the goal to just stay out of everyone’s way. I was hot and tired and so I didn’t manage any new fast laps. But I finished, and being the only car in my class, I believe that means I won!

After the race I got out of my driving suit and rested for a while. Then I went to the pumps and got more gas. came back and filled up the car so it would be all gassed up for the morning… When it was time Don and I hit the BBQ. NASA always thows a BBQ on Saturday night . Eventually Chris from Life’s Good Racing (Crew Chief) showed up and sat down and talked with us for a while. Don introduced him to me in September at the Trackmasters track day (where I cut the tire). Chris has been really helpful talking through stuff with the Javelin and offering his years of insight. Really appreciated that!

By 8:30pm I was ready to collapse. Dan was going home to sleep but said I could camp in his trailer for the night. My wife was having a birthday party for a friend so I decided I’d stay at the track. Got my pad and sleeping bag set up and settled in. Not the best nights sleep but not the worst either. The track has a lot of lights that stay on all night and there are a couple of vents in the top of the trailer that let that light in. So the inside of the trailer had more light than I would have liked. But it was dry and off the ground so I appreciated it. Got up around 6:30am on Sunday and started getting ready for the day.

Sun. Practice
Went out and was even more tired than the day before… just driving in my mirrors and staying out of everyone’s way (or trying). Dan didn’t even go out for Practice. I thought about skipping it too but decided to just go out and confirm that the car was still working. A couple of laps before the end of the session I hit the curb in 3 a little hard and got some air. Came down and heard a “thunk”… I thought I had just bottomed out so I kept going and finished the session.

When I got back to the pits the plan was to swap the front tires side to side. I started the weened with the new tire on the passenger side (the side I cut during the last outing). So we swapped to get more even wear side to side. While the wheels were off I asked Don to look around and make sure everything looked good. That’s when he found it… the driver’s side sway bar mount (on the lower control arm) had snapped off. I had welded that on myself with my little 110 buzz box and did not get enough penetration to survive that hard landing. I assumed I was done for qualifying (which was only an hour away). But I figured I could find someone at the upper shops who could fix it for me. The race was still 5 or 6 hours away… Don was having none of it! he ran over to Life’s Good Racing and borrowed a Millermatic 180 with autoset feature. only problem was that Dan’s rig didn’t have 220v… but the guy park on the other side of Dan had a monster, rolling Honda generator that DID have 220v! He graciously said we could borrow it. Thanks!

So I got to work grinding the snot welds off the bracket (Dan had a grinder) and then used a wire wheel to clean the paint off the lower control arm. I wasn’t working that fast and was still assuming we’d skip qualifying. But Don went into crew chief mode and said (incredibly tactfully) get in there and get it done! we’re making qualifying! 🙂 So I picked up the pace. Life’s good didn’t have a welding helmet or gloves so I had to do it blind. I set the dial to ?” and the wire speed to auto for .30 wire. I lined up the gun, closed my eyes and pulled the trigger. bzzzzzzzt… I could tell instantly by the sound the settings were perfect! Got the thing rewelded in a few minutes. I did flash myself a little a couple of times but not too bad. Anyway, then Don put the sway bar back together. the swaybar link was bent but it was still able to be connected. I got into the car and on grid with 2 minutes to spare!

Sun. Qualifying
More of the same. Tired, hot, driving in my mirrors… just didn’t have the strength to really push. But I completed the session and got back to the pits. When I checked the time sheets I found out they didn’t have any times for me for practice or qualifying for Sunday!? Said something about the transponder being intermittent… I went and got the transponder and showed them it had plenty of charge. They just shrugged. So I went back and put it in it’s charging cradle (unplugged). This is supposed to basically turn it off. I thought maybe if I did that it would be like restarting it… guess it worked because they had times for me for the Sunday race.

Sun. Race
Exhausted, hot oh and now the sun was right in your eyes at the top of the hill for turn 2. So I knew I wouldn’t be getting any good times and just rode the session out and brought it home…

So that was the weekend. I have to call if a HUGE success. Car ran all 6 sessions (plus the Dave Brown shake down). The tire/fender trough/spring perch interference has been eliminated! The brake bias got adjusted to something more more reasonable. I didn’t have any oil pressure problems (after I added the 2 additional quarts). and, I believe I “won” 2 races. I also believe that means I’m the American Iron Norcal champ for 2015! I know that doesn’t mean anything as there was no competition BUT I am happy that, whatever the reason, an AMC JAVELIN is going in the NASA record books as a Champion! 🙂

This *might* be it for the season. There are a couple of test days and another Trackmasters weekend in November at Sonoma. And there’s an NCRC weekend at Laguna Seca in Dec. I may do ONE of those. Otherwise I’ll start working on all the needed improvements for next season!

here’s some pics and video from the weekend:

1974 Javelin-road race, American Iron, Racing, Suspension, Traqmate, video

where’s my f’in oil pressure! – NASA AI Javelin update

OK, that was an insane detour. So after completing the fender through clearancing I got the car back on the ground. I had a few little items I wanted to take care of before the October race. One of them was testing the alternator. I had a suspicion that it wasn’t charging. So i hooked a multimeter up to the battery and started the car. Meter read in the low 12 volt range so I was pretty sure that was confirmation that I wasn’t getting any charging from the alternator. That only took a couple of seconds.

No big deal I’ll just order a new one. But what did concern me was that the motor had been running for several seconds and I was not seeing any oil pressure on the gauge. Wtf? I let it go a little longer and blip the throttle gently a couple of times but nothing. So I shut it down. The car was running fine last time out the only thing I did since it last ran was have it up on jack stands in the front for a week.

I wondered if maybe the gauge was bad. I really didn’t think that was likely but I couldn’t see why else I would suddenly not have oil pressure. So I started it one more time and quickly powered up the traqmate. I have an oil pressure sender in addition to the mechanical gauge. Crap the traqmate was also showing no oil pressure so I shut the motor down again. Ugh. Now what!? Why can’t stuff just work?

My next idea was to start pulling lines to see if any fluid was moving. So I disconnected the oil gauge feed line at the oil pump port and spun the motor with the starter. I could see some fluid dribble out. I then did the same thing with the line to the remote oil filter in. When I turned the motor over with the starter some fluid dribbled out.

The next day I called Doyle and told him what I was going through. He said if the fluid isn’t blasting out there’s a problem. He reminded me that it should be at 50+ psi. Not dribbling but like a garden hose when you put your finger over part of the nozzle. So what was the problem? I started to think that having it jacked up for a week allowed all the oil to drain out of the lines and that I needed to prime the system. That meant pulling the distributor. Great more work. I really didn’t want to but it seemed like I didn’t have a choice so out the distributor came.

That’s when things went from bad to worse. I pulled the distributor and saw that the gear was wearing badly. This was not a new problem. After I blew the motor up in 2012, during the tear down, we discovered the distributor gear and cam gear were badly knife edged. This is a common problem on AMC motors and you can find lots of threads online discussing the problem. There are many different solutions people recommend but the common reasons cited are cam walk and/or poor lubrication of the gears. The walk is supposed to be solved with a cam button or cam retaining plate. The lubrication issue is dealt with by making sure the oiling holes in the cam gear are not blocked. Some people also add an external oil feed line to spray the cam gear directly. I opted to replace both gears (bronze for the dizzy gear) and put my head in the sand and hope it didn’t happen anymore. Well that didn’t work. It was happening again.

Doyle said I was going to have to pull the timing cover to check how bad the cam gear was. No! I don’t want to keep tearing this car apart. I could whine all I want but it had to be done. So drain the radiator and yank it. Unbolt the power steering pump and move it aside. Yank the alternator. Remove the pulleys and water pump. Are we having fun yet? Finally it was time to pull the harmonic balancer. Doyle came over with his box of pulling tools. It’s good to know people who have tools, know what they’re doing and are willing to come over and bail you out of a jam. So we get the puller set up and start cranking on the bolt. Thing won’t budge. The tool just starts bending. Oh boy. Of course it’s going to fight us. It hasn’t been hard enough already. We keep working at it. We put spacers behind the tool to support it so it can’t bend. We try a breaker bar. We go get a shorter grade 8 bolt so that there is no slop in our pulling setup. We try the half inch electric impact gun i have. Nothing. Doyles starting to think we’re going to have to cut it off. Finally I get my air impact and crank up my air compressor pressure and hit it. Yes!!! It starts to move. Finally things are going my way.

With the balancer off we could finally pull the timing cover. And sure enough the cam gear was badly knife edged. The cover itself confirmed the cam walk as there was a deep gouge where the end of the cam had been digging into the cover. There was also evidence that the timing chain was rubbing on the rib that runs around part of the crank seal. Sigh. Guess I was going to have to actually fix it this time. I had a spare cam gear but I had to order a replacement bronze dizzy gear. The plan was to replace the gears, make a cam button and then index the gears as Doyle felt the reason for the wear was that the gears were not aligned properly.

So while everything was apart and I was waiting for a new dizzy gear to show up I took the opportunity to do some timing cover/oil pump housing mods. We opened up a few ports and cleaned up some casting flash. I used JB Weld to fill in the gouge in the cover and I got the die grinder out and clearanced the “rib” that was contacting the timing chain. There’s a great YouTube video showing the improvements you can make to your timing cover/oil pump housing here. AMC Timing Cover Oiling Modifications V8 https://youtu.be/-_t2U2UPEZs

When it was time to start putting everything back together I first installed the cam gear. Then I put a bit of clay on the end of the cam (wrapped in wax paper) and reinstalled the cover. Then I pulled the cover and measured the depth of the clay. Using that I made a cam button on my lathe out of a piece of Delrin Doyle gave me. Next I installed the dizzy gear. For some reason the roll pin hole did not go all the way through both sides. Doyle said that wasn’t right so we drilled all the way through. Then we used some distributor shims he had to make sure the dizzy gear lash(?) was correct and then more shims to make sure the housing was in the block at the right height for the gears to mesh properly. We coated the dizzy gear with spray on dykem to help with that.

Getting the cover back on the motor was a real chore. There are two dowels you have to get lined up while trying not to rip off the rubber gasket you’ve glued to the cover. Very stressful and I couldn’t have done it without Doyle’s help. Really hoping this thing isn’t going to leak!

Next I reinstalled the balancer. This went smoothly. Doyle had me really sand the inner diameter of the balancer with some fine sandpaper. I did an honest job of it and it was paying off now. Balancer went on without drama and i was able to continue putting everything back together.

But I wasn’t done. Another suggestion Doyle made was for me to rotate my oil cooler. I had it on its side with both ports facing left as you look at the front of the car. He pointed out that this meant the oil was constantly draining out of it when I shut the motor off. He said if I rotate it 90* with the ports facing up then it would stay full. So I bit the bullet and made the change. And then I put everything back together (radiator in, accessories back on, etc).

Finally the moment of truth. I used the priming tool in my drill and spun the pump for 30 seconds… nothing. Crap. So I decided to try to prime in stages. I disconnected the oil filter in line and ran the drill. YES! I got oil out of the end of the line. And it was definitely under pressure. Then I disconnected the filter out line at the oil cooler. Hit the drill again and waited… YES! got oil out of that line. Then I reconnected that I disconnected the oil cooler out line at the engine in port. Ran the drill… YES! got oil. So I connected that line back to the motor, crossed my fingers and ran the drill. YES! Oil pressure on the gauge! Whew…

With that taken care of I put the motor at TDC, installed the dizzy, advanced it a bit and tightened it down. Got in the car and fired it up and still have oil pressure. Then I just timed the motor, filled up the accusump and closed the valve and shut down the motor.

So that was the detour from hell… I believe the problem was just that the system drained and needed to be reprimed. But digging into to it revealed that I am still chewing up gears. Hopefully the indexing we did will solve or at leave improve the situation. After a couple of events I’ll pull the dizzy again and check the gears. I think I’m ready for the Oct. race at this point. Hopefully nothing else breaks between now and then!

1974 Javelin-road race, Drive Train