2017 wrap up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tig Cart

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

California King Snake

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


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

304 for ’71 SST

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

Buckets for Gremlin

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


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

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

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

1975 Gremlin -Greta-street, Misc, Shop Talk

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