Haven’t updated the blog in over a year so I decided to just do one BIG post to cover everything that happened…
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 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:
- Raise motor 1” (also plan to shift it BACK 1” at the same time for weight distribution)
- Raise steering rack 1” and shorten bump steer spacers 1”
- 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”.
- Finally build a removable front airdam/splitter setup
With these changes I think it would be worth running the car again. We’ll see how soon I can get all that done.
My First Rambler!
The last thing I needed was another project. When I first moved up here and got the acre and shop I was like “finally, I can buy/drag home all the orphaned AMC’s I see on craigslist but had no place to put before”. And I did, for a couple of years. I bought a 2nd Gremlin, a road race Matador shell and a ‘71 Javelin SST (for the 401 motor in it). That brought the car count up to 6 and I finally realized I really needed to stop and TRY to focus on all the cars I already had… BUT, then this car came up. I had purposely stopped cruising craigslist for cars. BUT I still looked in the parts section. And there it was, not in cars for sale but in the parts section. A complete 1962 Rambler American 400 convertible. I have had a soft spot for these ‘61-’63 Americans for a long time now. It was on my bucket list. I actually would like BOTH a coupe (to make a track car out of) and a convertible (as a family go for burgers and shakes car). Well this convertible showed up literally 10 minutes from my house and for $500. Sigh…. went to look at it and decided to drag it home. Got my friend Matt to come with me and help. The car had been parked in a back yard about 32 years ago! Tires were all dry rotted, flat and square. We carefully jacked the car up a corner at a time and put on some rims Matt had brought. But the car wouldn’t roll. We rocked it for a while and managed to get it rolling. We got it pushed near a gate in the fencing and backed my trailer partially into the back yard. Then we used my winch and snatch block to pull the car, at a right angle to the trailer. After a lot of maneuvering we managed to get the car lined up with the trailer and winched it on. Got it home and got a little bit of time with it here and there. The convertible top had long since disintegrated and the interior and trunk was filled with all sorts of debris. Got it all cleaned out and then tried to get the hood open. It was frozen shut. A lot of working it up/down inch by inch and I finally got it open enough to get some liquid wrench on the hinges. Drivers side freed up pretty good but the passenger side is just tight. Finally I managed to get it up using a 48 inch crow bar. 1962 was the first year for the OHV 195.6 L6. That’s what’s in this car. The non 400’s got the flathead motor. This is my FIRST RAMBLER ever. I’ve had a Rambler tattoo for 25 years but I’ve only owned AMC’s so far. Now I have an actual Rambler. I was worried about the DMV paperwork as ownership was a bit convoluted. The woman who owned it signed it over to her brother. He never did anything with it. Finally he died and his son is who sold it to me. Anyway, went to DMV and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get it titled in my name. It’s not REGISTERED yet, just titled. But hopefully when it comes time to register it’ll go smoothly since I have a title in my name now. I’ve got a tarp over it now and hope to have it running in about 3 years.
I had gotten the 1975 Gremlin called “Greta” running and had started daily driving it in 2015 (I’ve got a few posts about it). I put about 1400 miles on it and was living the life when, one night on my way home from work, the alternator light came on really bright and the car stumbled but kept going. I was sure it was going to quit on me but I made it home. First thing I did was pull the alternator and took it to the parts store to be tested. It passed. Then I started researching alternator light wiring. I replaced the pigtail to the alternator with a new one (this is an internally regulated 10si alternator). That didn’t fix it. I unwrapped the wiring in the engine bay and traced it all the way to the firewall. Didn’t find anything that looked bad. So then, in a fit of desperation, I yanked the whole friggin’ dash out of the car! 40 year old plastic is really brittle and I didn’t know how it was attached so I just kept removing fasteners I found. I ended up cracking it in a number of places. Anyway, with the dash out of the way I was able to really dig into the wiring. I cleaned all the contacts on the gauge cluster and replace the burnt out bulbs. But still the ALT light was on while running. I had checked fuses before anything else and none were burnt out but now I decided to REALLY dig into the fuse panel. First, I cleaned ALL the contacts of the panel AND the fuses. When doing this I noticed that the WRONG amp fuse was in the slot for the alternator. I also checked all the fuses for continuity (even though none of them LOOKED burnt out). Surprise, the one for the ALT light failed the continuity test even though the element was not visibly broken. I put a new fuse, of the correct amp in the panel and YES the ALT light started behaving as it was supposed to. Only problem was now the dash was in the shop on a table. The car was totally driveable without the dash shell but I just didn’t want to do it because the gauge cluster and weather eye panel would just be flopping around the whole time. So the car just sat. It took a LOT of fiberglassing to get the dash shell to be one piece again. When I was removing the crash pad ALL of the screw posts just broke off when I tried to remove the screws. Ugh… The dash pad also had a lot of bad cracks in it. I tried to fix it all but the fiberglass crack repairs made it too stiff (it needs to have some give to conform to the dash shell). And I tried to glue/fiberglass the screws posts back on but it just didn’t work. So I gave up on trying to fix that pad and looked to buy a used one. Lucked out and found a guy on the AMC Forum who had one in black and sold it to me for a reasonable price. After the shell was back together I decided to try wrapping it in vinyl. The dash was tan and I wanted to change over to black. I had bought the vinyl years ago but never ended up using it. It came out “fair” for my first attempt at doing this sort of thing. But it was good enough to install back in the car. So, after months of picking at all the other projects I have going on I managed to get the dash re-installed. I charged up the battery and drove it for a few days and thought I was home free. Then, one morning, it wouldn’t start. Hmmm… had to get to work so I drove another car. That weekend I had a little time to mess with it. I confirmed the carb was getting gas. I got it started and thought maybe I had just flooded it that morning? It needed gas so I took it to the gas station and filled it up. When I tried to restart it it didn’t want to fire. Wtf? I managed to get it running but as soon as I put it in gear and started to give it gas it wanted to die. Somehow I managed to get it rolling without stalling. I could barely touch the gas. After about a minute of driving it down the road it seemed to clear up. Made it home but just as I pulled in it stalled again and wouldn’t re-fire. I this point I decided it must be an issue with the carb. It’s got a YF single barrel on it and I have a couple extra of those carbs lying around. I had bought a rebuild kit a while ago and now it was time to do a rebuild. I decided to rebuild a carb I had on the shelf rather than pull the one on the motor. I watched videos from “Mike’s Carburetors” on youtube. He’s got a series specifically on rebuilding a YF. Went pretty well. But then instead of trying it on the car I decided to see what other options I had. I had read some disparaging things about the YFs. Didn’t know if it was true or not but poking around lead me to the Motorcraft 2100 2bbl carb upgrade a lot of Jeep guys do. I bought a 2100 “kit” from an ebay seller. The ad made it sound like it would be plug and play but of course it’s not. I have the adapter plate and carb installed but the throttle cable hook-up and throttle return spring setup will have to be custom made. This car has the throttle cable attach BELOW the exhaust manifold and then has a rod which attaches to the carb. Step on the gas and the linkage pulls the throttle DOWN. The seller adds a little “T” square piece you get at the hardware store for building shelves, to the throttle bracket on the carb. This relocates the throttle stud and was supposed to work with my existing linkage. But no dice. So, I think I’m going to remove the existing bracket underneath the exhaust manifold and make my own bracket that will attached to the intake manifold. Of course that’s going to take time and I don’t know when I’ll be able to finish up this carb swap. I really want to get it done because I’d like to have this car operational again since the Hyundai, while drive-able, is burning/leaking insane amounts of oil.
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.
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.