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 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


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