Friday, August 19, 2016

Dead as a Doornail

This morning I slid behind the wheel of Glinda and went to insert the key into the ignition and found something distressing. The switch had been left in the ACCESSORIES position. When I turned the key to the ON, ironically no idiot lights came on even though I felt like an idiot. BTW, is that the correct usage of ironic?

Expectedly, the starter was silent - and motionless too. I let the car roll down the hill some and let out the clutch with the transmission in third gear. The engine spun, but never came close to firing. Irr. I walked back to the house, moved the awesome Challenger out of the driveway, swapped the battery from Scarlett to Ringo, and drove him to work.

Never a dull moment.

I received a response to Ringo's For Sale posting on Facebook's Corvair Trader group. The interested party wanted to know if, 1. I'd be willing to meet him halfway between Baltimore and his home in Maine, and 2. did I think Ringo could make the drive. I responded yes to both with the caveat that the money changes hands (virtually = PayPal) before I hitch Ringo to the truck for a six hour tow. I explained to him the only reason I was towing was I needed transportation to get back home.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Too Tight?


Mikhaila and I had a few goals to attain last night, and we got to most of them. First, we wanted to return Ringo’s borrowed parts. While Mikhaila removed Ringo’s carbs, fuel lines, and throttle linkage, I finished rebuilding two carburetors I’d started on months ago. We bolted them onto Scarlett along with GUP fuel lines and linkage. We started the engine and I adjusted the idle speed screw. I was so intent upon the two screws, I missed that right carb’s fuel fitting was not tight enough and gas was spraying all over the front of the engine compartment. I immediately pulled the coil lead from the distributor cap. We wiped up the gas and tightened the fitting before moving on to Ringo. I found a fuel pump that did not have the word BAD marked on it, and we installed it into its hole in Ringo’s engine. Fuel lines went in next while Mikhaila bolted the carbs in place. We retrieved the batter from Scarlett’s engine compartment , dropped it into place, and attached the leads. A push of the “start” button and Ringo fired right up. I kept waiting for the engine to stall due to a bad pump, but, instead, I was rewarded with some spewing fuel from another loose fitting. Actually a good sign since it indicated the pump was still good.

With Ringo functional again (just in case someone wants to test drive him before buying), we moved on to the second goal of the night; checking compression. I had Mikhaila remove all the spark plugs while I swapped the battery back into Scarlett. With the compression tester screwed into Cylinder #1, Mikhaila turned the key to spin then engine. The needle did not move – zero compression. I connected the tester to #3 – same result. I moved it to #2 – 65 psi. This was an improvement of 20 psi from the last time we checked compression – certainly moving the right direction. As for #1 and #3, I must’ve gone too far with tightening the valves during the readjust of months ago. Pulling the valve cover and re-setting the lash is now at the top of the to-do list.

The final goal for the night was to pull the transmission shifter linkage from the trans and reinsert following the manual’s directions. We didn’t get there.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em


Last night, the lovely Loriann came out to the garage and warned Mikhaila and I about the dangerous atmosphere we'd created in the garage. At the time we were standing in a fog of Scarlett's exhaust and blow-by, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Monday evening Mikhaila and I traveled to the home of the local Corvair guru, Gary. He had the balance tube we needed for Scarlett. He joked that if she was missing hers, the one in his hand may have been it. He’d helped the previous owner get the car running about fifteen years. He warned me it was a hot engine – “the strongest 110 Powerglide I ever drove.”” The only problem,” I replied, “it’s got low compression now in at least one cylinder.”

Yesterday, after dinner, Mikhaila and I headed out to the garage to, hopefully, get Scarlett running. We installed the aforementioned balance tube using new hoses to the carbs and transmission. Thinking positively, we screwed on the taillight lenses and bezels with new gaskets. Next, we opened the garage door, turned on all the fans to keep air moving through and out the space while we poured in about three gallons of hi-test and half a bottle of Marvel’s Mystery Oil into the gas tank. During the pour, I had Mikhaila check for drips and puddles under the car. Thankfully, all remained dry below.

A check for fuel at the carbs by blipping the throttle showed they were empty. Using a large syringe I squirted about a half-cup of gas into vent holes to refill each carb’s bowls. Before starting, we checked the dwell (31 degrees – close enough) and set the timing. The former was checked with the dwell-meter while cranking the engine, while the latter was accomplished by turning the engine until the rotor was pointing to the #1 terminal on the distributor cap and the timing mark was sitting at about twelve degrees before top dead center and then slowly turning the distributor counter-clockwise until the timing light (connected to the #1 lead) blinked. Jumping the starter’s purple wire to the positive battery terminal got the engine spinning and a few seconds later we had a running engine.

The first thing I noticed was the excessive blow-by coming out the crankcase vent tube. The second thing I noticed was the lack of a clacking lifter. Okay, bad news balanced by good. We let the engine warm up watching the chokes slowly open – oops, the left choke is not opening very quickly. After tweaking the timing to get it up to around 12, and adjusting the idle speed down to around 600, we pulled spark plug leads off the distributor one at a time to gauge whether individual cylinders were contributing. Pulling #1 – no change in engine rpm. #3 – no change. All others appear to be functioning. This is odd since the last compression test (if my notes are correct) showed #2 to be the dead cylinder. Ah, old cars; consistency is a myth. The last thing we checked before turning off the engine was the transmission. Mikhaila put the shifter in Drive and the left rear wheel spun (the rear of the car’s still on jackstands), but only half-heartedly. I asked her to put the shifter into Reverse and the only change was a backup light came on. The left rear wheel kept spinning forwards. Irr. Looks like we need to reinsert the shifter cable.

What to do next? In addition to fixing the shifter cable (hoping that it really is installed wrong and not a deeper problem with the trans), we’ll do another compression check on each cylinder to see if things have changed. I was going to do a top-end engine clean using Sea-Foam, but I want to know what we’re dealing with first.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Reversible Sharing

Last night, in support of getting Scarlett on the road ASAP, I made the hard decision to pull perfectly good parts off Ringo and install them on Scarlett. The other option was to rely on recently rebuilt carburetors and a suspect fuel pump, and buy a battery. Since I expected it to only take a few minutes to remove the requisite Ringo parts, I went the cannibalization route. I figured if someone wanted to test-drive Ringo in the next few days, I’d swap everything back – not too big a deal.

While Mikhaila installed the final engine seal retainer on the passenger side, I remove Ringo’s fan belt, loosened the fuel pump retention bolt, spun off the four nuts holding the carbs to his heads, and disconnected the throttle and choke linkages. With Mikhaila helping, we pulled the carbs, fuel pump, and fuel lines as one assembly and dropped it onto Scarlett’s engine. Mikhaila went to free the battery while I began tightening bolts and fittings. Once all that was in place, I realized we hadn’t installed the choke linkage into the thermostat ends. We got it done, but it would have been MUCH easier prior to putting the fuel in the way. Mikhaila bolted down the carbs and then busied herself cleaning chrome while I finished hooking up and adjusting linkages. Ringo’s battery was then yanked from its home and dropped into Scarlett’s engine compartment. After cleaning the terminals, we established electrical power to the car. Next needed part? A vacuum balance tube. I searched the washtub of Scarlett parts – nothing. I searched the shelves and walls and I was able to turn up four tubes, but they were all for LMs. Cool that one of them was from the 140HP engine from the Phil collection. I briefly thought about pulling Ringo’s, but the thought of finagling the tube out didn’t thrill me since it violated the easy-off easy-back-on rule I’d applied to this cannibalization episode.

When I shared my frustration at not have the right piece amongst my stash, Mikhaila pulled out a pen and a used part box to start a list. I guess she figured if we were missing one part, there’d be more. I scanned the engine compartment to see what else I was forgetting to install and came up needing the two brackets that position the bottom air cleaner cans over the engine (circled in red in the image below – taken from the excellent source corvanatics.com. A little explanation here since the Corvair enthusiasts among you readers will recognize that this style air cleaner (two separate elements) is not correct for a ’64 engine. I had given Mikhaila a choice as to which air cleaner style she wanted (correct ’64-‘69 style with a single, larger element or ’61-’63 dual element style). She chose the dual style, so many months ago I made sure I had the cans, lids, and crossover for that. Sadly, I’d forgotten the two brackets. Another deep search of the shelves turned up nothing, so those went on the list. I was, however, able to unearth all the parts necessary for the LM style, so that’s what we’ll go with until the correct brackets are obtained from the Corvair Ranch.

The next scan of the engine reminded me we needed to plug the large hole on the front right of the top engine cover. GM’s design had a hose go between the pressurized volume under the cover and the heater box to provide air to mix in the heater box. That AIR knob under the dash controls the door that lets or restricts this flow. Since stealing any cooling air from an air-cooled engine is not a good idea, many folks remove the hose and block off the exposed opening, and we did that exact thing. Without explanation I cryptically directed her to go to our recycle bin and bring back an aluminum can. She was then instructed to cut the can leaving only the unrolled flat side piece. Using the adapter as a template, she crudely cut out the sheet to fit, we poked holes where the three attachment screws went coated the mounting perimeter of the sheet and adapter with RTV and screwed the parts in place over the hole.

The final act of our evening in the garage was testing the lights. With the key in the ON position, I flicked the blinker lever to the right and left with each position providing the resultant blinking of the front and rear lights. The shifter lever was moved to the R position and one of the two backup lights illuminated. I think I know the issue with the balky passenger side – grounding, and we’ll deal with that soon.

Once back inside I grabbed my phone and sent my buddy, Gary, a quick e-mail to see if he had a balance tube he'd be willing to part with. This morning's response was positive, so I'll be paying him a visit next Monday evening.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Three Things

Occasionally – ok, frequently, I get RCS, or restless car syndrome. I can’t just be happy with what I’ve got – I need to drive something different.

A few weeks back I experienced the best cure for RCS when the lovely Loriann entrusted me with the keys to her Challenger while she was away. I had the EXTREME pleasure of making that awesome automobile my daily-driver. Each time I slid into the leather driver’s seat and my hand fell to the pistol-grip shifter, my day was made (or re-made as the case was).

While a week at the wheel of a Hemi Challenger with a six-speed is an absolute cure for RCS, it’s only temporary since the lovely Loriann has the keys back). It did, however, reinforce that “Life is too short to drive boring cars.” While I enjoy the truck’s cold A/C and Ringo’s attention-grabbing appearance, I love being behind the wheel of something sporty; something that requires my left leg to operate a third pedal; something with taut, race-ready suspension; in other words, Glinda.

But what to do when winter arrives and the salt hits the roads and attacks fifty-year-old steel? Last winter I parked Glinda under a tarp during salt-season and either drove Ringo or the truck, and I’ll do the same again this winter (although without the currently for sale Ringo). I’d really love to have a non-boring fun car that will withstand the attack of the salt, and since winter is, sadly, gonna’ get here before we know it, I feel I need to begin looking for a candidate.

First, though, I needed to discuss this with the family’s arbiter of sanity, the lovely Loriann. Her response? Do three things. First, finish fixing Victoria’s car (complete). Second, sell Ringo (in process). Third, get Luna out of the driveway (Victoria’s rowhouse residence has a waiting parking spot in the backyard). Okay, all done or doable.

Second, what do I want? It’s got to have a manual transmission, sporty suspension, decent power, no more than two doors, and be 20 years or older (MD historic tags). The car that’s at the top of my list is a second-generation (’91-’96) MX-6. Ever since that body style came out, I’ve loved the looks, and from the personal experience of putting well over one-hundred-thousand miles on one (until a stop-sign-running dumptruck totaled it), I can attest to their wonderful handling, comfortable interior, and reliable engine. I went through my collection of photos from years past and could only come up with two that would prove I used to own one.


Other cars on the list are the Eagle Talon, Plymouth Laser, BMW 3-series, and VW GTI.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Full Speed Ahead, Scarlett


As the sun shone through the garage windows Saturday morning, Mikhaila and I could tell it was going to be another hot, humid day – finally time to dig out the garage-only A/C unit from the basement. It’s marked garage-only since the fan doesn’t start without some help and never gets up to the spinning speed it should, but it’s still makes cold air, so into the window it went.

The second order of the workday was to make Scarlet rollable again, and that meant dealing with wheels and tires. We pried the damaged tires off Ringos rims and the good tires off Glinda’s green wheels. The good tires, whitewalls out) then went on the black four-lugs and were filled with air until they their beads popped into place (much to Mikhaila’s surprise). Once we pumped them high enough (40 psi), the bubbling at the bead stopped and they were ready to go on Ringo. First the rear, then the front, we freed up Scarlett’s smaller tires and made Ringo sit flat again. Scarlett got her 185-75R13s back and we rolled her into the garage and quickly shut the door to keep as much cooler air in as possible.

I’d decided we needed to do the minimum required to quickly get this car roadworthy for Mikhaila, so we focused on getting the engine ready to run. The seals on an EM are 3” or so wide pieces of leather-like rubber. Originally, they are stapled to the top sheetmetal shrouds. While this is the preferred way of attaching replacements, riveting is MUCH easier, so that’s the route we took. With a GUP front shroud (good, pliable seal still in place), we only needed to deal with the two side ones. After marking drill locations, I had Mikhaila put in holes using the drill press. With me holding the shroud and the seal, she then poked holes in the seal using an awl followed by the rivets and the shrouds were ready for installation. First, though, we needed to remove the old front shroud, and that necessitated disconnecting the battery cable and throttle linkage that pass through a hold in the shroud. Of course, that little task wasn’t so simple since we had to remove the left rear wheel to get access to the solenoid. We then snaked all three top shrouds into place as well as the engine’s top cover and bolted them all into place. Finally, working under the car and with the wheel already out of the way, we installed the outer seal retainer to the driver side. We tried to do the passenger side, but the muffler and wheel made it too difficult, so, since it was past dinner time, we quit for the day.

Sunday, Mikhaila had to work, so I did a couple quick Glinda tasks – adjusted the clutch and sewed the headliner. Yes, the same headliner I just finished writing that I’d be replacing. Well, I’m such a cheapskate and the needle and thread were handy so I just stitched the gap closed.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Ringo's For Sale

Click here to see a video this car starting and running.

My daughter and I got this car back on the road about ten years ago. It got her back and forth to high school, college, and assorted jobs. Five years ago, when the original engine started to burn and blow lots of oil and rust issues became too extensive to ignore, we took the car off the road and put some real work into it. I decided to rebuild a newer 95 HP engine with new bearings, rings, pistons, cylinders, and seals and bolted that to a rebuilt Powerglide transmission. As part of the drivetrain swap we replaced the heavy, inefficient generator with a modern alternator. To deal with the rust, we welded in new rocker panels, floor panels, and body patches before coating the underside with POR-15, and laying down Black Cherry Pearl 2K paint over epoxy primer.

About a year ago, she decided to upgrade, so the car became my daily-driverIt was her daily-driver until recently when she upgraded. and has been, for the past year getting me to-and-from The new engine runs nicely on 87 octane, starts up every time, purrs around town, and cruises easily on the interstate at speeds above the local posted limits.

Purists will see that, in addition to the non-factory paint, this ’61 has the rare (okay, never factory offered) ’64 Monza trim and the even rarer (okay, also never offered) ’62 seats. The rear bumper guards, however, were offered by the factory back in the day.

The rigors of driving during the salt season have taken its toll on the body and there is some rust that should be dealt with. New patch panels are available from Clark’s Corvair Parts and used panels are out there as well. I’m including a solid replacement hood, wheelwell trim, and leftover paint, and more is available from Summit Racing. The bodywork on the right rear was necessary due to a tire coming apart on the highway and beating the inside of the wheelwell and the fender. I didn’t replace the torn wheelwell, but patched it with adhesive-backed membrane. This has served well for the past year properly sealing the interior from road noise and rainwater.

Two issues that I live with, but would be easily fixed (if I had the time) are: 1. the heater cable won’t slide freely so every fall and spring I slide under the car and manually switch from no heat to full heat or vice-versa (I am including a replacement cable – the defroster cable/lever works fine); 2. either the solenoid or the ignition switch is unreliable, so I’ve installed a switch on the inside that always energizes the starter (Corvair Ranch will sell you replacements for both that are easily installed).

I’ve got quite a stash of parts, so if the buyer is interested, I can sweeten the deal with spares like a good, used cylinder head and a starter (while I’ve not needed these on the rebuilt engine, it can’t hurt to have backups).

I’m asking $1800. Feel free to make me an offer, but please don’t ask what my minimum price is. I don’t have to sell this car, but it’s time to move it on, so I’m only somewhat motivated.