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…



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

Race Report! – NASA AI Javelin @ Sonoma Oct. 24/25, 2015

I took Friday off and got the car all loaded up in the morning. Dan was already at the track and had saved me a spot. I parked next to his rig and got the car unloaded and the trailer unhitched. I had filled the car with gas earlier in the week and I took the time now to fill up my three 5 gallon jugs with gas. I knew that would be enough to get me through Saturdays sessions. Then I put a cover on the car and headed home to load the truck with all the gear so I’d be ready to head to the track first thing in the morning.

Sat. Practice
Slept OK but not great. Got up at 6:30am and headed for the track. When I got there Don was waiting for me. He had come up Friday night and camped at the track. I got the cover off the car and we set tire pressures and torqued the wheels. Practice is a bit crazy in that they stuff 3 separate groups on track at once. Remember that a group is a collection of classes. So we’re talking a lot of cars. I was driving in my mirrors trying to stay out of the way of faster cars. One of the first things I tried was to break hard and see if the wheels were still hitting anywhere. Sure enough on one hard brake application I could tell the passenger side tire was still hitting a little bit. Damn. I knew I should have been more aggressive with my fender trough clearancing. Also I was seeing the oil light here and there. And on one lap in particular, coming out of the carousel it went low I got out of the accelerator and had to wait a few seconds for it to come back up. So I pulled into the pits.

The good news was, no leaks! After having the front of the motor off to replace the cam gear it was definitely a worry but everything looked dry. We got the front wheels off and saw that on the passenger side there was rubber on the corner of the notch I had made. Luckily being parked right next to Dan’s rig meant we had power. So I got out the cut off wheel and notched out a few more inches on both sides. As for the oil pressure I decided I just needed to add more oil. So I put in 2 more quarts.

Sat. Qualifying
Went out for qualifying and when I tested the brakes I could tell I finally had no rubbing! Yes I could actually use the brakes! I was still having to get out of the way for most of the cars but I was coming across a few that I could pass. After a few laps I got some open track and was feeling good. Came across the line and looked at the traqdash and saw 1:57.3. Yes! A new personal fast lap. This was a LONG time coming. My previous best was a half second slower and was run back in 2012. So I was finally faster and with a car that was down 50hp to the old car and 150 lbs heavier to boot! I backed it up next lap with a 1:58:00. Then on the next lap I came out of the carousel down towards turn 7 real hot. Got on the brakes late and hard and locked up the rears. Just kept it going straight and ran into the runoff area but stalled it. I waited a few seconds and tried to refire it but couldn’t get it going. Kept trying until the safety truck came by to get me I told the guy I couldn’t get it going and he was about to get ready to tow me when I tried again and it fired. So he pointed me back on track. I pulled off into the pits that lap as I knew the session was almost over at that point. Got back to my spot and was stoked to be able to tell Don about the brake issue being solved and my new fast lap!

There was a big gap between qualifying and the race and I had arranged for Dave Brown (Life’s Good Racing) to run a few laps that afternoon to see what the cars potential was. So I gassed up the car and we sat around waiting for the HPDE 4 session to come up. As we’re all sitting around a golf cart with 3 or 4 guys rolls up and a guy jumps out and starts yelling “who’s the idiot running this javelin!”. Or something like that. I recognized him immediately. It was Ken Epsman who owns the #2 Roy Woods Racing real Trans-Am Javelin (along with several other high dollar cars including a Bud Moore Trans-Am Mustang). He was running around the car saying “how cool is this!”. I’ve met Ken a few times over the years but he didn’t remember me. So I reminded him that the first time I met him was right there at Sonoma (Sears. Pt. back then) when I came to the first (or one of the first) Wine Country Classic vintage races. I have a picture of me in his car from back then… anyway, he seemed to be really into the car and wanted to check everything out. After a while he says “we need a group picture!” and says he’s going to go down to his garage (at the track) and pull out his Javelin. I said sounds great and off they went…

Maybe an hour went by and then one of his guys finally came back and said the Javelin wouldn’t start so could I bring my Javelin down to the garage for the photo op. So I hopped in, fired it up and drove down to the lower garages. I get down there and Ken is standing out front directing me in. As I pull in I see they have his Javelin pulled out so I stop with the cars nose to nose. I got out of the car and Ken asked if I had a camera (which I did). So I started taking pictures of the two cars. After barely a minute Ken says they have to go get ready for his next session (I think he was running a vintage Nascar). He said, “move the cars around however you want and take whatever pics you want and when you’re done just close the door”. I said “no problem, but, which Javelin do you want me to leave behind???”. He just smiled…

So my friend Matt and I spent 10 minutes in his “toy box” rolling his half-million + car around to get a few different angles for pictures. crazy… I now have pics of my car next to BOTH Roy Woods Javelins. I just need the #6 Sunoco Javelin to complete the set 🙂

After we got tired of rolling the cars around Matt and I headed back to our spot to wait for Dave. Dave is a Pro driver, with Life’s Good Racing, who’s been racing for 20+ years and has many many championships in many different categories under his belt. Back in 2012 I worked with him for a day of driver coaching at Thunderhill. I also put him in the Javelin because I wanted to see what the potential of the car was. He went out and did two laps at speed and was instantly 9 seconds faster than me… NINE. I had contacted him before this weekend and asked if he would do a few laps to baseline the car for me in it’s new configuration and he said sure. So about an hour before my race he took the car out in the HPDE 4 group. He did about 5 or 6 laps. He came in HOT so we could take tire temps. As he was sitting there waiting for us to get the temps the car boiled over and barfed some water out of the radiator… Once the temps were taken he drove back to the pits to let the car cool down. Interestingly this time he was only ½ a second faster than my best time of the day… however, he was babying the car and never rev’d past 6k while I was running up to 6500… he had generally good things to say about the car (which wasn’t true when he drove it back in 2012) so I was glad that he confirmed that all the changes have resulted in a much more capable car. He did say the front shocks were not great and so I’m planning to change them. One other thing he did for me was adjust the brake bias. I have a Wilwood brake bias knob but I’ve never adjusted it (because I don’t know how). He dialed in a LOT more front bias and said I might even be able to go a bit further. I’d been having a bit rear end hop under braking and dialing in a lot more front bias has almost gotten rid of it.

Sat. Race
Went out Saturday with the goal to just stay out of everyone’s way. I was hot and tired and so I didn’t manage any new fast laps. But I finished, and being the only car in my class, I believe that means I won!

After the race I got out of my driving suit and rested for a while. Then I went to the pumps and got more gas. came back and filled up the car so it would be all gassed up for the morning… When it was time Don and I hit the BBQ. NASA always thows a BBQ on Saturday night . Eventually Chris from Life’s Good Racing (Crew Chief) showed up and sat down and talked with us for a while. Don introduced him to me in September at the Trackmasters track day (where I cut the tire). Chris has been really helpful talking through stuff with the Javelin and offering his years of insight. Really appreciated that!

By 8:30pm I was ready to collapse. Dan was going home to sleep but said I could camp in his trailer for the night. My wife was having a birthday party for a friend so I decided I’d stay at the track. Got my pad and sleeping bag set up and settled in. Not the best nights sleep but not the worst either. The track has a lot of lights that stay on all night and there are a couple of vents in the top of the trailer that let that light in. So the inside of the trailer had more light than I would have liked. But it was dry and off the ground so I appreciated it. Got up around 6:30am on Sunday and started getting ready for the day.

Sun. Practice
Went out and was even more tired than the day before… just driving in my mirrors and staying out of everyone’s way (or trying). Dan didn’t even go out for Practice. I thought about skipping it too but decided to just go out and confirm that the car was still working. A couple of laps before the end of the session I hit the curb in 3 a little hard and got some air. Came down and heard a “thunk”… I thought I had just bottomed out so I kept going and finished the session.

When I got back to the pits the plan was to swap the front tires side to side. I started the weened with the new tire on the passenger side (the side I cut during the last outing). So we swapped to get more even wear side to side. While the wheels were off I asked Don to look around and make sure everything looked good. That’s when he found it… the driver’s side sway bar mount (on the lower control arm) had snapped off. I had welded that on myself with my little 110 buzz box and did not get enough penetration to survive that hard landing. I assumed I was done for qualifying (which was only an hour away). But I figured I could find someone at the upper shops who could fix it for me. The race was still 5 or 6 hours away… Don was having none of it! he ran over to Life’s Good Racing and borrowed a Millermatic 180 with autoset feature. only problem was that Dan’s rig didn’t have 220v… but the guy park on the other side of Dan had a monster, rolling Honda generator that DID have 220v! He graciously said we could borrow it. Thanks!

So I got to work grinding the snot welds off the bracket (Dan had a grinder) and then used a wire wheel to clean the paint off the lower control arm. I wasn’t working that fast and was still assuming we’d skip qualifying. But Don went into crew chief mode and said (incredibly tactfully) get in there and get it done! we’re making qualifying! 🙂 So I picked up the pace. Life’s good didn’t have a welding helmet or gloves so I had to do it blind. I set the dial to ?” and the wire speed to auto for .30 wire. I lined up the gun, closed my eyes and pulled the trigger. bzzzzzzzt… I could tell instantly by the sound the settings were perfect! Got the thing rewelded in a few minutes. I did flash myself a little a couple of times but not too bad. Anyway, then Don put the sway bar back together. the swaybar link was bent but it was still able to be connected. I got into the car and on grid with 2 minutes to spare!

Sun. Qualifying
More of the same. Tired, hot, driving in my mirrors… just didn’t have the strength to really push. But I completed the session and got back to the pits. When I checked the time sheets I found out they didn’t have any times for me for practice or qualifying for Sunday!? Said something about the transponder being intermittent… I went and got the transponder and showed them it had plenty of charge. They just shrugged. So I went back and put it in it’s charging cradle (unplugged). This is supposed to basically turn it off. I thought maybe if I did that it would be like restarting it… guess it worked because they had times for me for the Sunday race.

Sun. Race
Exhausted, hot oh and now the sun was right in your eyes at the top of the hill for turn 2. So I knew I wouldn’t be getting any good times and just rode the session out and brought it home…

So that was the weekend. I have to call if a HUGE success. Car ran all 6 sessions (plus the Dave Brown shake down). The tire/fender trough/spring perch interference has been eliminated! The brake bias got adjusted to something more more reasonable. I didn’t have any oil pressure problems (after I added the 2 additional quarts). and, I believe I “won” 2 races. I also believe that means I’m the American Iron Norcal champ for 2015! I know that doesn’t mean anything as there was no competition BUT I am happy that, whatever the reason, an AMC JAVELIN is going in the NASA record books as a Champion! 🙂

This *might* be it for the season. There are a couple of test days and another Trackmasters weekend in November at Sonoma. And there’s an NCRC weekend at Laguna Seca in Dec. I may do ONE of those. Otherwise I’ll start working on all the needed improvements for next season!

here’s some pics and video from the weekend:

1974 Javelin-road race, American Iron, Racing, Suspension, Traqmate, video

where’s my f’in oil pressure! – NASA AI Javelin update

OK, that was an insane detour. So after completing the fender through clearancing I got the car back on the ground. I had a few little items I wanted to take care of before the October race. One of them was testing the alternator. I had a suspicion that it wasn’t charging. So i hooked a multimeter up to the battery and started the car. Meter read in the low 12 volt range so I was pretty sure that was confirmation that I wasn’t getting any charging from the alternator. That only took a couple of seconds.

No big deal I’ll just order a new one. But what did concern me was that the motor had been running for several seconds and I was not seeing any oil pressure on the gauge. Wtf? I let it go a little longer and blip the throttle gently a couple of times but nothing. So I shut it down. The car was running fine last time out the only thing I did since it last ran was have it up on jack stands in the front for a week.

I wondered if maybe the gauge was bad. I really didn’t think that was likely but I couldn’t see why else I would suddenly not have oil pressure. So I started it one more time and quickly powered up the traqmate. I have an oil pressure sender in addition to the mechanical gauge. Crap the traqmate was also showing no oil pressure so I shut the motor down again. Ugh. Now what!? Why can’t stuff just work?

My next idea was to start pulling lines to see if any fluid was moving. So I disconnected the oil gauge feed line at the oil pump port and spun the motor with the starter. I could see some fluid dribble out. I then did the same thing with the line to the remote oil filter in. When I turned the motor over with the starter some fluid dribbled out.

The next day I called Doyle and told him what I was going through. He said if the fluid isn’t blasting out there’s a problem. He reminded me that it should be at 50+ psi. Not dribbling but like a garden hose when you put your finger over part of the nozzle. So what was the problem? I started to think that having it jacked up for a week allowed all the oil to drain out of the lines and that I needed to prime the system. That meant pulling the distributor. Great more work. I really didn’t want to but it seemed like I didn’t have a choice so out the distributor came.

That’s when things went from bad to worse. I pulled the distributor and saw that the gear was wearing badly. This was not a new problem. After I blew the motor up in 2012, during the tear down, we discovered the distributor gear and cam gear were badly knife edged. This is a common problem on AMC motors and you can find lots of threads online discussing the problem. There are many different solutions people recommend but the common reasons cited are cam walk and/or poor lubrication of the gears. The walk is supposed to be solved with a cam button or cam retaining plate. The lubrication issue is dealt with by making sure the oiling holes in the cam gear are not blocked. Some people also add an external oil feed line to spray the cam gear directly. I opted to replace both gears (bronze for the dizzy gear) and put my head in the sand and hope it didn’t happen anymore. Well that didn’t work. It was happening again.

Doyle said I was going to have to pull the timing cover to check how bad the cam gear was. No! I don’t want to keep tearing this car apart. I could whine all I want but it had to be done. So drain the radiator and yank it. Unbolt the power steering pump and move it aside. Yank the alternator. Remove the pulleys and water pump. Are we having fun yet? Finally it was time to pull the harmonic balancer. Doyle came over with his box of pulling tools. It’s good to know people who have tools, know what they’re doing and are willing to come over and bail you out of a jam. So we get the puller set up and start cranking on the bolt. Thing won’t budge. The tool just starts bending. Oh boy. Of course it’s going to fight us. It hasn’t been hard enough already. We keep working at it. We put spacers behind the tool to support it so it can’t bend. We try a breaker bar. We go get a shorter grade 8 bolt so that there is no slop in our pulling setup. We try the half inch electric impact gun i have. Nothing. Doyles starting to think we’re going to have to cut it off. Finally I get my air impact and crank up my air compressor pressure and hit it. Yes!!! It starts to move. Finally things are going my way.

With the balancer off we could finally pull the timing cover. And sure enough the cam gear was badly knife edged. The cover itself confirmed the cam walk as there was a deep gouge where the end of the cam had been digging into the cover. There was also evidence that the timing chain was rubbing on the rib that runs around part of the crank seal. Sigh. Guess I was going to have to actually fix it this time. I had a spare cam gear but I had to order a replacement bronze dizzy gear. The plan was to replace the gears, make a cam button and then index the gears as Doyle felt the reason for the wear was that the gears were not aligned properly.

So while everything was apart and I was waiting for a new dizzy gear to show up I took the opportunity to do some timing cover/oil pump housing mods. We opened up a few ports and cleaned up some casting flash. I used JB Weld to fill in the gouge in the cover and I got the die grinder out and clearanced the “rib” that was contacting the timing chain. There’s a great YouTube video showing the improvements you can make to your timing cover/oil pump housing here. AMC Timing Cover Oiling Modifications V8

When it was time to start putting everything back together I first installed the cam gear. Then I put a bit of clay on the end of the cam (wrapped in wax paper) and reinstalled the cover. Then I pulled the cover and measured the depth of the clay. Using that I made a cam button on my lathe out of a piece of Delrin Doyle gave me. Next I installed the dizzy gear. For some reason the roll pin hole did not go all the way through both sides. Doyle said that wasn’t right so we drilled all the way through. Then we used some distributor shims he had to make sure the dizzy gear lash(?) was correct and then more shims to make sure the housing was in the block at the right height for the gears to mesh properly. We coated the dizzy gear with spray on dykem to help with that.

Getting the cover back on the motor was a real chore. There are two dowels you have to get lined up while trying not to rip off the rubber gasket you’ve glued to the cover. Very stressful and I couldn’t have done it without Doyle’s help. Really hoping this thing isn’t going to leak!

Next I reinstalled the balancer. This went smoothly. Doyle had me really sand the inner diameter of the balancer with some fine sandpaper. I did an honest job of it and it was paying off now. Balancer went on without drama and i was able to continue putting everything back together.

But I wasn’t done. Another suggestion Doyle made was for me to rotate my oil cooler. I had it on its side with both ports facing left as you look at the front of the car. He pointed out that this meant the oil was constantly draining out of it when I shut the motor off. He said if I rotate it 90* with the ports facing up then it would stay full. So I bit the bullet and made the change. And then I put everything back together (radiator in, accessories back on, etc).

Finally the moment of truth. I used the priming tool in my drill and spun the pump for 30 seconds… nothing. Crap. So I decided to try to prime in stages. I disconnected the oil filter in line and ran the drill. YES! I got oil out of the end of the line. And it was definitely under pressure. Then I disconnected the filter out line at the oil cooler. Hit the drill again and waited… YES! got oil out of that line. Then I reconnected that I disconnected the oil cooler out line at the engine in port. Ran the drill… YES! got oil. So I connected that line back to the motor, crossed my fingers and ran the drill. YES! Oil pressure on the gauge! Whew…

With that taken care of I put the motor at TDC, installed the dizzy, advanced it a bit and tightened it down. Got in the car and fired it up and still have oil pressure. Then I just timed the motor, filled up the accusump and closed the valve and shut down the motor.

So that was the detour from hell… I believe the problem was just that the system drained and needed to be reprimed. But digging into to it revealed that I am still chewing up gears. Hopefully the indexing we did will solve or at leave improve the situation. After a couple of events I’ll pull the dizzy again and check the gears. I think I’m ready for the Oct. race at this point. Hopefully nothing else breaks between now and then!

1974 Javelin-road race, Drive Train

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Project Greta – Engine’s back in!!!

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

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

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

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

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

1975 Gremlin -Greta-street, Drive Train

Project Greta – Off the stand!

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

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

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

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

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

1975 Gremlin -Greta-street, Drive Train