Willow Springs Raceway

I frequent the AMC Forums and I’ve seen posts about track events at Willow Springs that had an AMX track car show up. Most recently, October of 2018, they had THREE AMC track cars attend. The group is called All Time Racing and they are a mopar group that does a spring and fall track day.
When they posted that their Spring Fling 2019 was coming up I decided that it might be good motivation for me to get the race Javelin put back together and get back on track. I’ve never been on track with another AMC. I’d also never been to Willow Springs. So I thought here was the perfect chance. I talked to Don about the track day and he said he’d meet me there and help out. So, a track day in the Javelin, Don there to help, and potentially 3 OTHER AMC track cars? I had to commit!

Well the car had been sitting for 3 years and needed a lot to get it back together. I had mostly fixed the sheared steering arm bolts situation (see my 2015 post from my last test day with the car). I managed to talk to a race engineer on the phone about the problem and his suggestion was to increase the size of the bolts from 7/16 to 1/2 and to get a stronger grade (what he spec’d he said was like grade 9) and to CHANGE the bolts on some interval (like every 6 events for example). So I bought new spindles, had them drilled and tapped for the larger bolts and bought the grade “9” bolts. I put it all back together but when I was re-installing the caliper mount on the side that sheared I noticed a thumbnail size chip was missing around one of the bolt holes. I wasn’t happy about this as I wondered if a crack could start there. So I bought a replacement mount. But I had never installed it.
The other thing was that I had removed the “nose” of the car (bumper brackets, bumper, spoiler, grill block off panel, etc) because I had intended to create a new 1 piece nose/air dam with splitter. I still plan to do this BUT I knew there was no way I would be able to do it before this event. So that meant my only reasonable option was to try to put all the OLD stuff back on. Luckily I had most of the pieces. I also needed to nut and bolt the car and prime the oil system before firing it up. Doyle came over to help and we pulled the valve covers so he could lash the valves (hadn’t been done in ages).
After talking about my list of MUST DO’s for the track day Don brought up tires. The tires I had were 4 years old. He quickly convinced me that driving 400 miles to run on 4 year old tires was not the best plan. So I decided to pull the trigger on an upgrade I’ve been planning for years. American Iron allows a max rim width of 9 1/2″. I had only ever run the car with 9″ rims. Also, American Iron allows EITHER Toyo RA1s OR Toyo RRs. I had always run the RA1s, which are harder. So, I changed rims to Enkei RPF1s in 17 x 9 1/2″ and bought 4 new RRs. The new wheel/tire package is about 5lbs lighter per corner and almost a half inch more contact patch per corner!
Besides the car, I also need to do some truck and trailer maintenance. For the trailer the tires were old and shot and one of them had a leak. I had been fine with airing it up for short local runs but for a 400 mile trip (each way) I decided I needed to get new tires. So I pulled the wheels and dropped them off at my local tire shop. The truck was filthy and mostly just needed to be cleaned inside and out. Also the rear shell hatch struts were shot and the hatch had started falling back down on my head whenever I opened it. So I ordered replacements and threw them on.
And finally, when I had been going to the track regularly I had all my “track boxes” loaded and ready to go. But in the last 3 years, since I haven’t been going anywhere I had gone the other way and had everything UNLOADED in the shop or shed. So I had to get a bunch of plastic totes and get all my spares and fluids and tools together. It’s pretty stressful because if the car runs well and I have no issues I need very little. BUT you never know what kind of problems you might encounter so you want to bring EVERYTHING…
I spent the weeks before the track day working through the to do list and got the car as ready as I could. I even went to Sonoma Raceway and got 10 gallons of 100 octane gas to put in the car. That way I’d start the day with a full thank of gas.
The night before I left I loaded the car on the trailer and got all the spares and supplies loaded up. That way the next morning I’d be able to just hop in the truck and go. Got on the road and started clicking away the miles. I stopped twice for bathroom breaks and the 2nd stop I gassed up the truck. There’s a couple of ways to get to Willow Springs and my GPS took me over the Grape Vine. Man I’m not a fan of that road… was really happy to be over/past it. After the Grape Vine the last leg was fine. I started around 9am and made it to the track around 4:30pm. So 7 1/2 hours to tow 400 miles with 2 stops (20 minutes total time stopped).
I quickly found Don who was already there and got the truck and trailer parked. Unloaded the car off the trailer and then started walking around with Don to check out some of the cars and meet some people. Tim Herren is the main guy for All Time Racing and he was doing a bbq for people that came the night before the track day. The first thing I noticed once I started looking around was an immaculate red ’69 Dodge Daytona… with a TOW HITCH pulling a trailer. And on the trailer was a… ’69 Dodge Daytona track car with giant slicks! Seriously?! that’s pretty wild right there. Don and I got some food and met some people and then we walked the track.
Once it started getting dark some of the guys were going to leave the track and go some place to hang out. But these were people that were leaving the track and not planning to come back until the morning. Don and I were camping at the track and we heard that getting back in to the track if we left could be challenging. We were both tired so we decided to stay and get to bed ealier. Don had pitched his tent at the side of the garages for protection from the wind. I had brought a tent but decided to go through the hassle of unloading the truck so I could sleep inside there. I’m really glad I did. The wind was INSANE. Don said he almost blew away in the night…
Not the best night sleep but I did get some. Woke up around 6:30am. It was cool but not freezing. By 7:30am it was time to warm up the motor. Got it fired and Don messed with the carb a bit. We let it get up to temp and everything seemed fine. Then shut it down and got breakfast at the grill. My first session wasn’t until 9am so we just wandered around until then. FInally it was time to get on track. I got suited up and in the car. Fired it back up and headed out on track. Pulling out of the hot pits in 1st and 2nd everything seemed fine. Then I put it in 3rd and started climbing the hill to turn 3. The car just had no power and wouldn’t rev. Just didn’t feel right. I put it in 2nd and it seemed better but when I put it back in 3rd, same thing. Just fell on it’s face. When I started going downhill to turn 5 it felt better but when the track leveled out again it wouldn’t rev. Made my way around and pulled into the pits. Don was there. I told him what was happening and he said maybe the car was still cold and I should get back out and try again. So I headed back out and it was the same thing. I made myself do 2 laps but I knew the car just wasn’t working so I pulled off and got back to my pit spot.
I told Don I was pretty sure the timing was off. I had pulled the distributor to prime the oil system the previous week. Doyle and I had re-timed the motor but I remember Doyle saying it was a little hard to tell where the marks were. I had my timing light with me at the track. It’s a dial type. When Don saw it he told me MSD says not to use dial lights with their boxes. We walked around and tried to find another light but nobody at the track had one.
So Don turned the dial to 0 and re-timed the motor. He said, best he could tell I only had 10 degrees of timing. He was able to adjust it to the low 30s. About 33 is what it should be. My session was done at that point so I had to wait around for a while. When I got back on track I could tell immediately that the timing had solved the problem. The car pulled fine in 3rd and 4th now. So I started trying to learn how to drive the track. It’s a very fast track and I was going very slow trying to find my way. After a while I realized the car was starting to run hot. I was seeing 230 degrees which may not be hot for some cars but this car never runs that hot. So I pulled into the pits. It puked some fluid and was definately hot. We had to wait for it to cool down and then I topped it off. It was definitely low. I had the car stored with no water for most of the 3 years it sat. I think when I put water in it I never really got all the air purged so I was low.
After that it was lunch time and there was a drag race down the main straight for cars that wanted to participate. I wasn’t planning to but Tim, the guy who organized the event, asked if I would. It was a double elimination setup. If you lost twice you were out. My first try I spun badly in 1st and 2nd and went nowhere. My next try I spun just a bit in 1st and then hooked up ok through 2nd but when I went to grab 3rd it wouldn’t go in. So that was my two loses and I headed back to the pits and grabbed lunch.
When I got back out for my next session the temps stayed fine so that was problem #2 solved… There were only 18 cars signed up and at times I was the only car on track. I finally started going a little faster and was making some progress when suddenly the car started popping really loudly on decel… I pulled into the pits and told Don I felt like I had a massive exhaust leak. I thought maybe an exhaust manifold gasket had blown out. He lifted the hood and looked around and very quickly found the problem. The drivers side header flange (at the collector) had completely sheared 360 degrees! I thought I was done but Don said it wouldn’t hurt anything and that I should keep running. I was concerned that the exhaust pipe might hang down too low now since it wasn’t attached to the header. So I got some safety wire and strung it up to the bar that goes from the dash bar to the shock tower. Getting out of the car and making that repair took a little time and once again I had to wait for another session.
When it was my groups turn I went out yet again and was trying to get back in a groove despite the loud explosions everytime I let off the gas. I hadn’t been out for very long when all of a sudden the car lost power. I wasn’t sure what had happened but then I saw the fuel pressure gauge was reading zero. I coasted for a bit and then I got pressure back on the gauge and the car fired up. I limped it back around and got off the track and back to the pits. Climbed out and checked the fuel cell and yep… I was out of gas. I had come to the track with a full tank and had filled it up again after the first couple of sessions. With all the problems I hadn’t thought that I had run enough to possibly run out of gas but I did. It was almost 4:30 and the track was closing at 5pm. I knew by the time I got the car gassed up and got back in and strapped in that I’d only have 10-15 minutes. So I called it a day right there.
Everybody packed up and high tailed it out of there and pretty soon it was just me and Don. The plan was for Don to leave as well and I was going to camp overnight and drive back Friday morning. It was 5pm and it was going to be a long, lonely night. But Don graciously said he hang out with me. So he put his tent back up and we climbed in the back of my pickup and ate the cold burgers we had bought/stashed before the grill closed and bench built cars until it was time for bed. Man, it was even WINDIER than the previous night. And I would have classified the prevous night as hurricane force winds! Holy Crap. It’s like being on mars. It was so NOISY and the wind would rock the truck. I couldn’t sleep. Finally it died down and I guess I got a few hours of sleep.
Friday morning we were up early. I packed up my sleeping pad/bag/etc. and got the truck all loaded. I had already gotten the car loaded and strapped on the trailer the night before. I had talked to Don about how much I hate the grape vine AND that I had realized my trialer brakes weren’t working. I wanted to avoid that route going back so he told me about the alternative of heading towards Bakersfiled. So that’s what I did. I thought I was just going to head towards Bakersfield for a bit and then cut over to I5 but my GPS took me on 99N. And then, I forget where, there was a massive backup and the GPS had me cut west and finally meet up with I5 at Patterson. It was almost 8 hours but I got home.
So, all in all a success. The main thing was that once I fixed the timing and got the cooling system full the car worked. Just the header breaking was the only “mechanical” problem I had. It was fun to finally see and drive Willow Springs, even though I never got anywhere near as fast as I should have. Of course, my luck, NO other AMCs cars showed up. It was a fun event and really nice people and cool cars. I really want another crack at it… at 400 miles away though it’s a pretty big haul so we’ll see.

1974 Javelin-road race, Track Events, video

2018 Wrap up

The Shed

In January I continued working on the shed.  I built 3 shelves high enough so I could tuck motors underneath.  One long shelf along the back wall. This shelf has 7 large tubs underneath that hold different items.  One tub is for suspension, one for pumps/motors (power steering, starters, alternators, etc). Two are for V8 stuff (timing covers, valve covers, rods, pistons, etc).  One is for 6 cylinder stuff. You get the idea. On the front wall of the shed I built a shelf on each side of the door. Under these shelves are engine blocks. Mostly 401s and a couple of 360s and 258s.

I also wired up 4 strips of 12v LED lights.  They are ran through a regular utility light switch box and down to a car battery.  My idea was to have a solar maintainer on the roof (I don’t use these lights much so I thought that would work).  So far it seems like the battery just drains and doesn’t get topped off… I’ll have to figure out a better solution.

The shed was finally painted in November of 2018!  There are a few small items still to do. I’m going to add MORE light strips and I’ve started adding a 2nd level of shelves (above the current set).  It’s pretty full and already getting a bit disorganized! Need to beat back the crazy so it fulfills its mission; which is to allow me to QUICKLY find and grab parts I need.


‘71 Javelin SST

Worked on it for almost a year from Sept 2017 to this fall. After I pulled the 401 (which is why I bought it in the first place) I parked it as a parts car with no hood on it.  Never expected to make it a running car again. I’ve explained in a previous post how the guy I bought it from got in touch with me and said he wanted it back.  I wanted to try to return it as a running car to both make it easier for him to finish the car and as a learning experience for me. So I screwed together a 304 motor I had laying around. Connected it to a 904 from a 6 cylinder Gremlin. Swapped the yoke from the Gremlin onto the ‘71 driveshaft (fit perfectly). So now it had an engine and transmission.  But the next challenge was that the brake AND gas pedal were completely seized!!! Pulled the gas pedal out and was able to work on it on the bench and get it freed up. Not too bad. The brake pedal took HOURS to work back and forth (on my back, under the dash) until it finally broke loose and I was able to pull it out and clean it up more and lube it.   When it was time to finally start the car and put it in gear I found out the diff was blown! Really? Ugh, pulled the diff cover and all the shrapnel spilled out. Got a replacement from Doyle (2.73 one legger) and he taught me how to install and shim. Huge pita but I did it (learned a lot from a video by oldsmob455 on youtube). Also replaced wheel cylinders and the master cylinder and rebuilt the front calipers.  After all this work I was finally able to fire it up, put it in reverse and drive it out of the shop! In the end, the previous owner is not buying it back so it’s going to sit around for a while. I do have a plan for it that I’m really excited about though. Here’s a tease. I’m going to pull the 304/auto and replace with a built 360/T5. This is down the priority list so don’t expect this anytime soon.

My First Jeep!

I’ve been dreaming about swapping a 4.0 into Greta for a while.  Finally decided to pull the trigger on a donor car. Got this 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo for $1000.  4.0, 2WD 4 speed automatic AND a disc brake rear-end. My idea is to use the ENTIRE drive train (engine, trans and rear) in Greta.  But, it’s a running/driving Jeep with heat, AC and a radio and I needed a POS daily since I junked the Hyundai. So I started driving it.  I did some basic stuff, cap, rotor, plugs, wires and thoroughly cleaned the throttle body. Ran good for a while. Then it happened. I had my first DEATH WOBBLE event.  Holy Crap! At first I thought a wheel was about to fall off. Got it pulled over to the side of the road. Looked around and didn’t see anything that looked like the suspension was about to fall out.  Got back in and started driving. Seemed ok… as I was driving, somehow the term “death wobble” popped in my head. I remembered hearing about it when I was researching jeeps. Kept driving it and a week later I had another wobble.  Kept driving and the wobble events started happening more and more frequently. I finally parked it right as I was going into my busy season at work. It sat for three months before I could finally work on it. Bought a front end rebuild kit (ball joints, track bar, etc) and took the front end apart.  Found that both upper ball joints were good but both lower ball joints were junk. And the passenger side tie rod end was shot as well. I changed them all (big job really). I also driller the track bar for a larger bolt to take some slop out of there. While I was under there I saw the oil filter adapter was leaking massively.  Did a little research online and saw that I need to replace the 3 o-rings. Called up the Jeep dealer and they charged me $25 for 3 o-rings. Took everything I had to not start cursing. I mean that’s some serious BS right there. Anyway, got the o-rings changed out as well. YES! Been driving the car for a couple of months now.  No death wobbles and no leaking. I’ve put 12k miles on this thing already. Some day it will donate it’s drivetrain to Greta, but as long as it’s working this well I’m going to keep driving it.

Greta

Greta had been sidelined for a while with intermittent electrical issues and the heater core had clogged again.  Since I wasn’t driving it I decided to finally pull the bench seat and install the buckets I got off Ebay a while ago.  It took me 3 tries to make seat brackets that put the seat in the right position/height. I’m still not totally happy with them but they will do for now.  I also swapped the steering wheel for a D-shaped one for more leg room. Eventually I want to swap in a tilt column I have to make getting in/out really easy.  I have a tilt in the yellow Javelin and it’s really nice when you’re tall. Once the seats were in I decided to drive it to my AMC club meeting in November. After the meeting it was dark.  Of course ONLY the headlights were working. None of the running lights or brake lights were working. And the brakes were terrible (really long pedal). Made it home and found out I was OUT of brake fluid… completely.  When I got a day to work on the car I first tackled the electrical. One brake bulb was out. When I replaced it, everything started working again. I find that suspicious and I’m sure I’m in for some more electrical fun but for now, check mark.  Then I took a look at the brakes. I pretty quickly determined that the rear cylinders were leaking bad. I decided it was time to pull the trigger on a brake overhaul. For the rears I installed new wheel cylinders; easy. But for the front I decided it was time to switch the drums to disc.  I had a Scarebird kit that I was planning to put on the track Gremlin. But since that project is WAY down on the priority list I decided to use the parts on Greta. This turned into a much bigger project than I expected. Right off the bat I had a wheel bearing on the driver’s side that was frozen.  I had to break/pry it out and then cut the inner part off the spindle. Then I started installing parts. I had first prepared drum hubs for the track Gremlin but when I tried them I felt like they weren’t true. So I bought the hubs Scarebird sells. When I tried to install those hubs on the track Gremlin I found out the inner bearing was larger than the drum hub and I didn’t have the right bearing.  So I gave up on getting them installed. Now that I was putting them on Greta I got the correct bearings and got them installed. Then I went to put the rotors on and the bore was too big for the Scarebird hubs!? I was confused but I finally remembered that I had the hubs machined and I think they also machined the ID of these rotors to fit the drum hubs. The Scarebird hub diameter is smaller than the drums hubs.  Luckily the rotors are CHEAP. $36 bucks later I had a fresh, uncut pair of rotors and they went on fine. Next I got a new 1” disc/drum master. Then I tried to bleed the brakes. I just could not get a firm pedal. I finally figured out that one of the caliper bleed screws was not sealing. Bought a pair of speed bleeders and tried again. Still wasn’t happy with the pedal. And when I tried the brakes in my driveway the rears would lock up solid before I felt like the fronts were doing anything. Scarebird “recommends” a rear proportioning valve.  In my case it appears it’s mandatory. So I ordered one off ebay. I have a Wilwood prop valve in the yellow Javelin but for Greta I got a cheap $14 valve. While I was waiting for the prop valve I installed both front and rear swaybars. Front is a 15/16th bar I got used. Rear is the Addco swaybar kit you can still buy for these cars (I think it’s 5/8th). The front ALMOST touches the oil pan. I think I might need to space it down a ?”). I’m not sure why though as I believe I’m using all stock parts and would expect it to fit… and next, while I had the car on the lift, I noticed that one of the strut rod bushings on the passenger side was completely toast.  I found some new replacements in the shed and got it installed. When the prop valve showed up, I got it installed and bled the brakes again. This time I got a firm pedal! However, after testing it in my driveway I realized things are still not right. The pedal is TOO hard, doesn’t move very much and doesn’t stop the car very well… after a bit of research I am hoping changing to a ?” master is going to be the fix. I’ve ordered a Wilwood unit and will try again when it shows up…

Another One Saved!

In May I got an alert saying a Wagoneer had landed in my local Pick n Pull.  That Saturday was my birthday. I got Conner and Doyle and the three of us went to check it out. The 360 was still in it so we set to pulling it.  It took us almost 4 hours to do it but we got it done and got it home. Plan for this one is to clean it, put an intake on it and have it to throw in something I need to get moving…


The Carport

My house has a 2 car garage.  We’ve been here 5 ½ years now and there has never been a car in it. And I’m pretty sure there never will be.  There’s no room. The washer/dryer and furnace are in there. There’s lot’s of storage, bikes, etc. AND we have a space for the dogs to hang out (a “living room” if you will with a couch and a rug).  So, no room for cars.

Since I’ve been trying to get the shop focused as a space to work and not to store things, that means I really have no covered space for cars that are more “finished”…  So after a bit of research I decided to pull the trigger on a metal carport with side walls. Took five weeks from the time I ordered it but once the guys showed up they had it knocked out in a few hours.  I’ve been really happy with it so far (except that the screws they use have a tendency to work loose and pull out, I’ve replaced with 1/4-20 nuts/bolts where this has happened. I’ve got the yellow Javelin and Greta currently hanging out there. I plan to move the Matador out of the shop soon and into the carport. Greta will have to live outside.  


Shop Organization

The primary goal for the shop this year was to transform it from the warehouse it had become into a place where I could get a lot of WORK done, quickly and efficiently. To that end I wanted to get all cars out of the shop EXCEPT the race Javelin (no way that’s living outside).  So, first I got the track Gremlin out. Soon the Matador will get pulled out and go to the carport. Next I needed to sort out tool storage and work surfaces… I want everything rollable so I can move things easily. To that end the two wooden workbenches I had needed to roll OR to go…  I’ve come to realize that workbenches are just too easy to pile crap on top of… So I decided for sure that one of the wood benches (the long 8 foot one) had to go. I dismantled it and am storing the 2x4s in the carport. I’ve already started using this wood for the extra shelving in the shed #reuse/recycle! For work surfaces I have my welding table I built and the stainless rolling cabinet with the butcher block top I got for free from work. I bought a used metal cabinet and built a rolling dolly for it. This houses all my fluids, paint, etc. I bought a new harbor freight 42” bottom/top combo. Gives me lots more storage (deeper and full width top box vs my old 26” top) and is taller than my old setup (works for me, I’m tall and I have room to go UP). I bought a set of Go Jacks and put the race Javelin on them, under a car cover.The Go Jacks make it easy to push the Javelin into the corner and pull back out when I’m ready to work on it.  After getting the new tool box I was planning to sell the old bottom box. Doyle said no way and after thinking about it I realized he was right and that I still need it. I moved the drill press from the other wooden bench and mounted it on this box (which rolls). I will also mount the grinder to it. So I’ve got the old box as an overflow box and a mini “fab station” with the drill press and grinder. The other wooden bench is still not a roller. But I moved it and stacked a set of drawers on top. Underneath I can roll a dolly with 4 totes on it.  For now it’s staying but I definitely may still get rid of it. All this work means I can now have a car in the front of the shop (lift area) but then roll it to the back if I need to quickly get another car in to work on/use the lift. Success! Oh I also bought a cheap Harbor Freight “workbench” and set the computer and stereo on it near the front of the shop. Not sure if this is it’s final home but it works for now. And I can’t complete this shop section without a shout out to THE LIFT! #LIFT LIFE is incredible and I can’t recommend it enough. If you have the space/money and wrench a lot don’t wait another year. It’s hands down the best tool I own.

Where my cranks at?!

In last years wrap up I talked about how I got 401 fever and ended up with seven 401 blocks. Well I only had 2 cranks to go with those blocks. So, during 2018 I was on the lookout for cranks. A forum member sold me one.  Then I got one off craigslist. Then I checked in with Dean (who sold me the five blocks) he had two cranks so I got those. I was at 7 blocks and 6 cranks. Finally, Connor had bought a jeep to get the 401 in it. He had planned to put it in his Hornet.  After getting it apart he found out the block was damaged. I offered to sell him a block but in the end he sold me the crank so I’m 7/7!

1962 Rambler American

I found this car 10 minutes from my house for $500 bucks.  A ‘61-’63 American was on my bucket list. I had stopped looking at craigslist cars for sale (I had promised myself I wasn’t going to buy any more cars). But I was still checking the PARTS section. Well that’s where this car showed up.  It had been sitting outside since about 1982! Dragged it home and it sat for 2 more years (at least it was covered). I finally pulled it into the shop and started messing with it. First I drained the oil.  Was prepared to see water but NO! Just oil. Great first sign. Next I put a wrench on the crank and tried to rotate the engine. With just a bit of pressure it moved! I just turned it a a tiny bit but it moved!  Next I pulled all the plugs and poured a some ATF in each plug hole and let it sit for a couple of days… Then I put on a new oil filter and filled the motor with fresh oil. Now I wanted to see if the starter motor would work.  I hooked up a battery and and turned the key… The solenoid clicked but the starter didn’t turn… I hooked up my remote starter, pressed the button and tapped the starter… one tap and it started working! Things just kept going in the right direction… next up was spark.  I checked for spark with the #1 plug and got nothing. So I back tracked and checked that the coil was creating a spark. It was… then I messed with the distributor for a bit. I cleaned a lot of contacts and replaced some wire terminals that looked bad. After a lot of messing around I got spark at the spark plugs!  So I put all the spark plugs back in. Next it was time for fuel. I disconnected the fuel line from the pump and ran a line to a fresh 1 gallon fuel jug. I was using clear hose. Cranked the motor and was able to see the pump was pulling gas out of the jug. Another success… Now I was ready to actually try to start the thing.  Cranked a bunch, sprayed some starter fluid in the carb and got it to sputter. But it wouldn’t start. So I started taking a good look at the carb. There were a number of issues. First I found out that the accelerator pump was stuck. So when you worked the throttle the plastic cam couldn’t move and the little metal linkage just pulled out of the cam. Some carb cleaner and working it with a drift got it moving again. I then sprayed it with WD40 until it was pushing in and popping back out smoothly.  Then I was able to hook the linkage back up. I could tell the pump was working now because I could hear a little pffft, when I pressed it. BUT I could also tell no GAS was spraying out. I suspected that gas was not getting out of the float bowl. So I opened the float bowl, pulled the main jet and held it up to the light. Couldn’t see through it. A little carb cleaner and compressed air the the jet was open again. When I pulled the cover off the gasket disintegrated (of course). I didn’t have a replacement.  I thought about it for a minute and realized a piece of twine would probably work temporarily. Cut a piece to the right length and reinstalled the float cover. Tried again. I poured some gas into the vent tube to fill the float and worked the accelerator. For the first time the carb was actually spraying gas! Tied to start it again and this time it started but within a couple of seconds gas started pouring out of the vent tube? I had run out of ideas. I pulled off the carb and took it to Doyle. Doyle pretty quickly saw that the gas inlet tube o-ring was so old that it wasn’t sealing.  So gas was just filling up the float bowl with nothing to stop it. We found a suitable o-ring replacement in his stash. I took the carb home, got it hooked up again and tried to start the motor… finally! It fired and idled on it’s own for a couple of minutes before stalling! Very exciting (see video). Next I’m going to rebuild the carb and bleed the clutch. Now that I know the motor runs the next big thing will be to see if I can put it in gear and get the wheels to turn!

The Matador

Well… I haven’t done anything with it (beyond collecting parts) and in fact, it’s about to lose it’s indoor spot and go to live in the carport.  BUT I have made an important decision. I am going to run a T10 in it. That is what it is currently set up for. I had thought I would do a T5 variant like I have in the race Javelin BUT that would mean LOTS more work.  With a T10 the hole in the trans tunnel is already in the right spot. The car has the bellcrank still in it, ready to be hooked up, the trans crossmember will bolt up and the driveshaft, which came with the car, will work. As luck would have it Connor decided he would sell me a T10 he had bought.  So that settled it. So, I do plan to put together a 360 with the T10 and install it just so I can move it around when I want. I have a 360 flywheel I just had surfaced and I have a bell housing from when I had a T10 in the yellow Javelin back in the day. So I should have all the parts to get it to run under it’s own power so I can move it around easily when/if I want to.  Eventually the “placeholder” 360 can be replaced with a 407+. Oh, and I bought a set of Ford 17” spares to use as rollers. They look silly but the price was right and they are round and hold air (which is more than I can say for the wheels/tires I had on it before).

Other stuff

I have family in Reno.  On a trip there I decided to check craigslist for AMC parts.  Found a guy selling some 360 stuff. My brother-in-law and I went to check it out.  I bought a 360 crank, heads, pistons and rods in reno. Would’ve gotten the block but was driving the minivan and really couldn’t drag a block home in that.  AND when I bought the 2 cranks from Dean I also got a ‘71 360 from him. This motor has the big valve stud heads! More parts for the shed!

So that’s the rundown for 2018.  2019 is already here. I’ll have another post shortly with some updates on what’s planned for 2019.

1971 Javelin SST-parts car, 1975 Gremlin -Greta-street, Misc, Shop Talk

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…

THE SHED!
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.

Maiden!!!

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.

Wheels/Tires

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.

Greta
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…

Broke!

Broke!

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