The “Ah Hah!” moment – NASA AI Javelin update!

The Trackmasters event was a mixed bag. I didn’t go any faster and I cut a tire which meant I didn’t get to run the last two session. The tire got cut because I didn’t run the ½” front wheel spacers I usually use. However, cutting the tire has lead to a HUGE breakthrough because it lead to the discovery of what’s been causing my brake shimmy!!!

Ever since I lowered the car I’ve been having problems with a bad shimmy/shake under braking. Early in 2015 I was just having weird issues with the car. Shimmy under braking and some weird side to side motion under acceleration. When we discovered the 3rd link ripping out I thought, ah, that’s it! But, with the 3rd link mount fixed and re-inforced I was still getting the shimmy. I didn’t realize it but over time I had trained myself to use the brakes less and less. So I had sort of fooled myself into think the shimmy was still there but that it wasn’t that bad…

The day after the Trackmasters event I got the car jacked up and pulled the front wheels. My plan was to remove the 3 bolts that hold the remote oil filter and relocate the filter slightly to move the bolts farther from the tire. However, while looking in the wheel well with the wheel off I suddenly saw what had happened… The first was the real breakthrough. I noticed the undercoating was completely worn away from the bottom of the fender trough! THAT’S what the shimmy was. Under braking the top of the tire was hitting the bottom of the fender trough. That’s what was causing the violent shaking when I really used the brakes. If I used the brakes lightly, the front didn’t dive as much and the tires didn’t hit. I check the drivers side and it had the same wear so I knew it was happening to both sides. Seroius “ah hah” moment… What had been cutting the tire was also obvious. The upper spring perch had wear marks from the tire and I realized that, without the spacers, when I was turning left the passenger side tire was contacting the edge of the perch and getting cut. Not sure why it wasn’t symetrical but it did not cut the drivers side tire…

Anyway, I was jumping with joy because now I knew what the problem was! ok, I guess I Don’t know 100% till I run the car again but I’m willing to bet big money that this is the problem that’s been plaguing me all year. No worries, nothing a little quality time with the grinder and a cut off disc can’t solve!

It was actually pretty hard, dirty work but I got all the offending metal cut away and I plated the notch I made in the fender trough. I’m a little concerned that maybe I should have made the notch even longer but at least I know what the issue is. If I’m still hitting next time I run I’ll know I just have to keep cutting till there’s enough clearance Clarance!

Unfortunately I’ve run out of time and won’t be able to make the Sept. race. So now I’m shooting for October.

1974 Javelin-road race, American Iron, Body and Paint, Suspension, Wheels and Tires

Still no faster and a cut tire to boot! – NASA AI Javelin update

So after another long summer of working around the clock it was finally time to get back on track with the Javelin. At the last test the car was “ok” but I just couldn’t get near my old fast lap of 1:57.8… I was getting discouraged. Despite that I REALLY wanted to make at least one race this year. March had been a bust (broken 3rd link mount). That set me back so I missed the next couple of races. Then work hit (like always) so I was out of the game from June – August. I really wanted to make the September race but knew I needed a good test day under my belt first…

There weren’t any test days before the NASA race and I was stressing about what to do when I found out that Don was going to be at Sonoma for a Track Masters event the Saturday before the NASA race. SOLD! I jumped online and signed up for the event. I’ve run the Javelin with them a couple of times and they’re a great group. Unfortunately the Advanced group was full but I got into the Mixed group and Don said it wouldn’t been too bad (it’s open passing unless someone has their car marked in which case you have to wait for a point by).

The week before the event I nut and bolted the car and the night before I loaded the car on the trailer and got all my gear in the truck. Saturday morning I got up at the crack, hoped in the truck and took the scenic 30 minute drive to Sonoma Raceway!

Oh, I had sprung for a garage space which is always awesome. Keeps you out of the sun and just generally make a track day that much more enjoyable. So I set up my tools and a couple of chairs and got ready for the first session.

Dammit! Brake shimmy was still there… Got 6 laps at speed and managed some 2:02s and a 2:01… went out for the second session and after two laps they black flagged the session because of a wreck. Both laps were 2:01s… when we got to the garage Don notice my passenger front tire was getting cut on the inside. I had removed the ½” spacers I usually run after talking to Don about scrub radius and deciding maybe it would help the handling. Remember I’ve been unable to get the car to go faster than before I lowered it so I’ve been looking for ANYTHING that might help… well, without the spacers that tire was hitting something and getting sliced. it was right were the sidewall and tread meet. We looked around the wheel well and turned the wheels in both directions to try to see what it was hitting. The driver’s side wasn’t having the same problem. After a bit the best we could come up with was the 3 bolts that hold the remote oil filter mount. They were covered in rubber so Don thought that was the culprit. I called AIM tire to see if they had a replacement tire and they said they don’t stock Toyo’s. So I was going to have to run it or call it quits.

The cut wasn’t that bad. So I decided to go out for the 3rd session. For this session I hooked up a 2nd camera in my wheel well to watch the front suspension to try to see what was cutting the tire. I didn’t have a laptop at the track so I wouldn’t be able to watch the video until I got home but it was worth trying to see what it would show. Anyway, got back on track and we got a full session in. Got several more 2:01 laps but that was it. Traqmate data shows theoretical best laps for a couple of session in the 1:59s (including a 1:59.00 flat). So that’s somewhat encouraging but still not great. After that session we checked the tire and it was getting worse. I decided to call it a day. So I loaded up and headed home. I’m going to have a bit of thrash. I need to move the remote oil filter housing bolts that we think are cutting the tire and get a replacement tire mounted/balanced. Only have a week until the Sept. race!

1974 Javelin-road race, Track Events, video, Wheels and Tires

Project Greta – Engine’s back in!!!

So we’ve hit a big milestone here. The motor is back in the car! When we last left off I was scratching my head trying to figure out what I was going to do about the clutch. The 10” kit I bought did not seem like it was going to work with my little 3 speed. I had ordered a diaphragm style and after talking to some people it seemed like the answer might be to try a 10” 3 finger style. So I ordered clutch #2. Once it arrived I pulled the bellhousing and clutch #1 off and re-installed with clutch #2. This 3 finger clutch (Borg and Beck) came with yet another type of throwout bearing. This one is a square style with clips. I have a Jeep motor on a stand (for the track Gremlin) that was setup for a 5 speed and has a fork that is designed for the clip on throwout bearings. I’ve been comparing the new clutch to it and even considered pirating some parts from it but I couldn’t get any combo of clutch forks or throwout bearings to work with the 10” clutch and my skinny 3 speed input shaft. So I realized the answer was I needed to find a stock 9” clutch. Called Dave (Dave’s Auto Parts, Santa Rosa) who’s a member of the AMC club and asked him about it. He was able to get me a part # for the stock clutch and with that I was able to find the right clutch on Amazon. Done deal.

So, with the stock clutch kit everything went great. Got it all installed (didn’t take pics because it looks the same as the 10” clutch pics basically). And finally I was able to bolt the trans to the bellhousing. I could not get the trans to seat just by pushing. Finally resorted to using some long bolts to pull it together. I was very careful to not use a lot of force so as not to damage any threads in the bellhousing. I could tell immediately that it was working and I wasn’t having to use much force to get it to seat.

After getting the T150 bolted up I went to re-install the shifter rod assembly. That’s when it was finally time to deal with something that happened during the cleaning process. I had let the trans slip off the jack stands I had it on and it broke the plastic rod bushing. I had looked online for a replacement and couldn’t find one. I needed to come up with something. So I took two washers and ground one side of each straight. Then I welded them to the rod mount. I think it’s going to work great!

The moment had finally come where it was time to put the motor/trans back in the car. I was lucky and got some help from Matt. He came over and we pushed the race Javelin out of the shop and pushed Greta in. Then we put the motor/trans back in, rolled Greta back out of the shop and the Javelin back in. Really, it was basically that simple… took maybe 30 minutes total (including all the pushing cars around).

And what would a Greta update be without painting? Yep, there was more crap to paint. Be warned once you paint one piece it’s hard not to paint them all… Next step, get all the crap put back on the motor so I can fire it up!

1975 Gremlin -Greta-street, Drive Train

Project Greta – Off the stand!

With work finally starting to slow down I was able to get a weekend in the shop! It was time to pull the trigger and get the engine off the stand and start putting the transmission parts back on. So I got the engine in a spot where I could work on the back of it and pulled the engine stand mount off.

I had gotten the flywheel surfaced at Norm’s Machine Shop in Petaluma and had the new 10” clutch kit ready to go. I had already pulled the old pilot bushing out, which was badly cracked, when I first separated the engine from the trans. Now it was time to put a new one in. I bought a pilot bushing driver from Summit a few years ago and used that. I’ve used it a few times now and I think it’s definitely worth the $10 I paid… Then I put on the flywheel, clutch disc and pressure plate. And lastly the bellhousing.

Then it was time to put the fork and throwout bearing in place. That’s where I hit the snag. When I first went shopping for replacement clutches I had trouble finding a 9” (stock) kit. There were some 10” options though. Well, I thought bigger is better right? I knew the flywheel was drilled/tapped for both size clutches so I thought it would work. Wrong. Everything bolted up fine but when I went to use the new throwout bearing I found out the inner diameter was for a bigger input shaft than my little T150 has. So I thought, no problem, I’ll just use the old throwout bearing… well, I was able to get the bearing on the fork but it was pressed right up on the fingers. I realized that was just not going to work. So I’m going to have to do a little research and see what my next step should be.

With the trans install halted I decided to get more painting done. I cleaned and painted the intake/exhaust manifolds. Intake got a coat of silver and I hit the exhaust with some high temp black (forgot to take a picture of the finished product).

So that’s where we’re at. As soon as I can sort out the clutch situation I’ll be able to put the motor/trans back in the car and then I can start bolting stuff back on! pics below…

1975 Gremlin -Greta-street, Drive Train

Project Greta – Still cleaning and painting!

Works been getting busy but I’ve been spending whatever time I could over the last month cleaning and painting the engine and transmission. I got the block degreased and painted, the valve cover cleaned and primed and the transmission relatively clean. I’m not going to paint the trans… To clean the trans I used to jack stands to hold it up so I could rotate it (like a pig on a spit). Unfortunately it slipped off once and when it landed it broke the plastic bushing that holds the back of the shift rods in place. Hopefully that bushing is available somewhere.

I also got the new waterpump installed. Getting closer to putting this all back together. Still need to order a clutch, get the flywheel surfaced and get the engine off the stand so I can install the flywheel, clutch and trans when I have all those parts ready.

Here are a few pics of the progress:

1975 Gremlin -Greta-street, Drive Train

Stuck on slow… NASA American Iron Javelin update

So With the car all reassembled after the 3rd link repair it was time to get out for another test session. I loaded up and headed to the track. Weather was great. Unfortunately there were no real Trans-Am cars testing. I had gotten spoiled. The last two test days I had come to had Trans- Am cars testing (including Javelins!). But not today.

Oh well. I unloaded and headed out for my first attempt. Just feeling out the car. First good thing was the exhaust leak was gone thanks to the new gasket. I did maybe 6 or 7 laps and then came it to look over the car. By this time Matt and his brother Pete, who was visiting, showed up. It was great to have some company and help! I did 3 more sessions but the best I could muster was a 1:59.9. I still feel like if I brake too hard the car shakes. It also finally sunk in that while the car is lower and I believe handles better than before it’s also 50hp weaker, due to smaller shorty headers and 150lbs heavier…

The shorties were the “easy” button to getting the car lower and running again quickly and cheaply (already had the shorties). But, losing that power has put me in a two steps forward, 1 step back situation. Not sure what my next move is but I’m pretty frustrated right now. Here’s a video of the fast lap of the day.

1974 Javelin-road race, Track Events, video

Project Greta – that’s alotta GRIME!

With the engine and trans out of the Gremlin it was time to get the oil pan cleaned up and painted so I could put it back together with fresh gaskets. Now, cleaning 40 yrs of grime off of engine parts is not my idea of a good time. BUT, I could not bring myself to just slap the oily parts back on. PLUS the whole point of this adventure was to stop the oil leaks and without cleaning the motor I wouldn’t be able to tell if any oil was old or new.

But first i got a piece of wood and a hammer and bashed out a big dent in the pan. Then I got the scotch brite pads and the engine de-greaser and one of my grinders with a wire wheel on it and just generally made huge messes for a while. I started with the oil pan and transmission cross member. When I finally got them clean I painted the pan gray and the xmember black. Then it was time for reassembly. I started with the oil pan gasket but hit a snag. One of the bolt holes in the aluminum front cover was stripped. luckily I had the correct helicoil set on hand and was able to fix it on the spot.

With that repair made I was able to put the new one piece gasket down and bolt the pan in place. Before I did though I put a line of rtv in each corner. It was about this time I realized that I really should have left the whole motor assembled and degreased the whole thing as a unit before pulling the pan. Oh well. Live and learn. So now with the pan on I’m trying to de-grease the block and not get the pan dirty. Not easy. Well that’s it for now. More cleaning to come.

1975 Gremlin -Greta-street, Drive Train

The “bars” are back in town – NASA American Iron Javelin Update…

Got the Javelin back from Evil Genius Racing. The 3rd link mount has been fixed. They plated a much larger area around the 3rd link box and added the support bars the car originally had from the main hoop to the sides of the box. These bars are also thicker than they were the first time around. Hopefully I won’t have this problem again.

Of course, all the new plating and bars were bare so I had to prep it all and rattle can it. I lucked out as the light gray chassis paint I found matches what Maaco used when they painted the interior. After the paint dried I remounted the accusump and bolted the seat and battery back in. Then it was time to take care of a couple of other odds and ends. First I safety wired the brake caliper mount bolts. Then I replaced the passenger side header gasket. Last time out with the car I had a pretty bad exhaust leak. Once I got the header off it was easy to see. The bottom corner of the gasket for cylinder 8 was gone. So I replaced it and then instead of using the same header bolts I switched over to Stage 8 locking bolts. It was my first time using them. They work but it does take a lot of time to get them right. I didn’t want the bolts to be able to back out at all. So I ground some of the tear drop shaped tabs so that the bolts couldn’t back out even a touch…

And next on the list I took the car back to TFB Motorsports (Tim Barber) at Sonoma Raceway. After I switched from the big 1 3/4″ long tube headers to the 1 5/8″ Edelbrock shorties I never touched the carb. Seemed like I should get the thing tuned for the new exhaust setup. So I dragged it over there and Aaron from Huffaker came over and did the carb tuning. I expected it was going to be running rich with the header change but actually it ended up being a touch lean on the top end. So Aaron changed jets and fattened it back up a bit. The Dyno tune shows that switching headers cost me FIFTY HP at the wheels! This is the same dyno that the car was run on back in February with the old (big) headers. Wasn’t expecting that much of a hit. I want to either make custom, large diameter shorties OR use some larger Jeep shorties if I can modify them to fit. Bottom line is that I had gone to a salvage place and bought a bunch of lead because I thought I was underweight for the power I had. Now it’s the opposite. I’m 100 lbs heavier than I need to be for the power… So I’m thinking of ways to save weight. I’ve got lots of ideas but they all take time + money to do… I’ll try to pick at it some this winter. For now I just want to get the car back on track and see where I’m at…

pics below:

1974 Javelin-road race, Body and Paint, Brakes, Drive Train

Project: Greta! engine pull

I’ve had the brown ’75 Gremlin (Greta) for over a year now. When I first got it, I got it running, fixed some lights that were out and took it on a drive to the local grocery store. On that trip I discovered that the clutch slipped really bad. I also found out that the car was leaking oil at a decent rate (needed a drip pan underneath it when parked) and the engine/trans were covered in oil and grime… and so I parked it. My guess was that the rear main was leaking and that there was oil on the clutch (in addition to it leaking oil from everywhere else as well). So I need I need to pulled the motor/trans.

Well, a year later, and with the race Javelin in the shop getting the 3rd link mount fixed (see previous posts) there was a “hole” in the shop. So I decided it was time to make some progress on this Gremlin. I drained all the fluids, removed the hood, disconnected everything I needed to and yanked the motor/trans as a unit. I used an engine leveler and that was crucial as you really need to tilt the motor/trans to get it out.

Once it was out, I separated the motor from the trans. First thing I noticed was that the clutch disc was NOT covered in oil. There went that theory… The clutch also didn’t look severely worn either. The flywheel didn’t look that great but I don’t know enough about how to “read” the flywheel or clutch disc to know if they are glazed or something…

So, now that the drive train is out the next order of business is to clean the grease off of everything and then replace a bunch of gaskets to try to stop all the oil leaks. And, because now’s the time to do it, I’ll replace the thermostat and waterpump. I’m also going to paint the block, oil pan and valve cover and clean the engine compartment a bit. More later.

1975 Gremlin -Greta-street, Drive Train, video

Race Report – STRIKE THREE!!! NASA American Iron Javelin update

So the continuing fiasco of getting back into racing the Javelin continues. After the 2nd test was a partial fail (car ran but something was up with the brakes) I only had 3 days until the race weekend. Couldn’t find anything wrong with the car so I just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. Dan was racing his new (to him) RX7 GT (from Seven’s Only racing). He got to the track Friday afternoon and saved me a spot right next to him. I had loaded my car up and brought the truck/trailer to work. Once he had the spots I headed from work to the track, a 12 minute drive 🙂 Got the car unloaded and the trailer disconnected. Hung out with Dan a bit and checked out his new car and then headed back to work.

Next morning I got up early, went to 7/11 to grab some drinks/donuts and got to the track around 7am. Annoyingly my group was first out at 8:05am. So I fire the car up around 7:30am and let it run until it gets temperature and then shut it down. Don had come up Friday night and camped at the track so he was there too. About 5 minutes before it was time to go out I climb in, get all my belts on, hans on, put the net up and go to start it. Nope, battery’s weak and it won’t turn over. I about lose my mind. The battery should have been fully charged. I’m so frustrated. Anyway, Don snaps me out of it and I un-belt and jump out of the car and grab my SPARE battery. I have the batteries set up with quick disconnects. I do have to undo two nuts to remove the hold down but we get the battery swapped pretty quick. The new battery starts the car fine so I jump back in the seat and get all belted in again and head out on track.

I accelerate up the hill and no oscillation, whew… then I go to use the brakes and, argghh… the shimmy is still there. Shouldn’t have been surprised since I didn’t do anything to fix it. But, it’s not just there, it feels worse than it did 3 days ago… It’s actually feeling really bad and I’m going really slow and having to stay out of everyone’s way. I come around start finish and take one more lap… it feels like it’s getting worse each time I brake. I start realizing whatever the problem is it’s at the BACK of the car…

sigh, so after only 1 1/2 laps I pull into the pits and get out of the car. Jeff’s there now too. I tell Jeff and Don that it feels like the rear end is going to fall out of the car!? So we jack up the rear and start shaking and pulling on it. Don’s looking under the car for a bit. I’m just standing around confused… Nothing is immediately obvious… I’m just at a loss. And then Don goes… “I got it! I see the problem…”. He’s gotten out from under the car and he points INSIDE the car at the 3rd link mount and… the mount is tearing itself out of the car!!! Holy Crap! So glad I pulled in… FINALLY, we start to realize what’s been going on with this car. THIS is the cause of all the problems I’ve been having. The rear end has been ROTATING (under accel/decel) and it’s been getting worse as the metal fatigued to the point of tearing… letting the rear rotate would put the drive shaft angle in bad and changing angles… at the first test day the angle was causing oscillating at the front end. What I thought was a front-end problem was really the tail (driveshaft) wagging the dog… On the 2nd test day it probably “stuck” at a spot where the oscillating didn’t occur but shimmy under braking did. Crazy… I was done for the weekend. BUT, at least I finally knew what the root of all my problems were.

I called up Evil Genius right on the spot and told John what had happened. He said bring it in and he’d take care of it. So I loaded the car up and went straight from the track to Sacramento and dropped the car off. Should have it back in a week or so… I swear, you can’t make this shit up. When the car was originally built support bars were welded between the main hoop and the 3rd link mount. After the car was wrecked in 2012 and they frankensteined in the new rear clip they DIDN’T redo those bars. Well, turns out those bars are an absolute necessity so they are getting added back!

Wondering if I’m ever going to get this car sorted out. Here’s a pic of the original setup with the bars and the failing mount with no bars.

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