Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Weekend of Work, But all Lights are Still Mighty Small

Those would be the lights at the end of the tunnels called Glinda and Scarlett.

Friday evening I backed Glinda up onto ramps and slid underneath to try and figure out what was causing the clicking linkage clicking. I disconnected the cable from the pivot arm being careful to keep tension on the cable so its other end didn’t come off the pedal arm inside the car (a zip-tie did the job). Next I removed the small cover that closes off the clutch volume inside the bellhousing. That gave me access to jiggle and push the clutch fork around. Lo and behold, I got a clip-related click when I pushed the fork inboard. Problem solved? Only putting everything back together and taking the car out on a test drive would verify. That’s what I did, and before I could complete my couple miles and stop-and-go, the clunk had returned. By the time the car was back on the ramps, the whole area under the car was too hot to handle, so I gave up for the night.

The other sad outcome of the test drive was the unsolved rough running. I’d thought (hoped) the problem had been a failed Pertronix electronic ignition, so I was confident (mis-guided) that putting the stock points plate back in would result in a free-revving 110. Pedal to the metal in first and second gear and the tach needle would never go above four thousand. It’s so sad (there’s that word again) that I can’t get the work on this car going in the right direction. Mikhaila and I spent a solid six hours in the garage last weekend trying to make some headway with her car. What did we have to show for it? Three crusty brake lines lying on the floor and a better understanding of Scarlett’s electrical issues.

As to the first, Saturday was brake day. I had high hopes we’d get the final brake pieces installed and the system bled of air. After bending and screwing in the last piece of brake line, I went around and made sure all bleed valves were tight. Sadly, when I got to the right front (with the new wheel cylinder), I found I could not get a wrench on the valve. It looks like I mistakenly used a LM cylinder. Irr. We dug Scarlett’s original cylinder out of the box of brake parts, punched out the old guts, cleaned it in the parts washer, honed the inside, blew it clean, and stuffed it with a GUP rebuild kit. The newly rebuilt cylinder then replaced the incorrect and we were good-to-go. We topped off the master cylinder and began the dance of Press-Press-Hold. She would press the brake pedal twice and hold it on the third pump while I cracked open the bleed valve to let out the air. After a few minutes of this, I looked under the car and saw significant amounts of brake fluid dripping onto the cardboard. Irr (there’s that word again). We both grabbed paper towels and wiped up the mess. We then removed the front underside tunnel covers and confirmed the back-to-front brake line was rotted through in a couple spots. The rear tunnel cover came off next followed by the humped cover under the dash. That gave us access to remove the entire line. As I lay under the rear of the car looking at the crusty left and right rear lines, it was easy to make the call and remove them too. I’ll get the replacement lines from Napa sometime this week for installation next Sunday.

The next day, we hooked up a 12 volt supply to the ends of the battery cables and began a thorough check out of Scarlett’s electrical systems. The connectors for the right rear taillight showed 12V with the headlight switch pulled, but the left side was dead. We moved to the front and found both headlight plugs were powerless. A quick check showed we’d never returned the dimmer switch after painting the floor. With one pulled from GUP stock, cleaned up, checked, and plugged in, we had 12V at both contacts of both plugs. Yay! We then plugged the connectors to send the juice to the headlights, pulled the switch, but were rewarded with all four beams staying dark. Dead bulbs – no problem. Sadly (there’s that word again), though a continuity check showed all bulbs were still fine. We spent the next hour or so swapping switches and cleaning contacts until we finally got all the bulbs to burn brightly. TYL. We moved on to the blinkers, and, the left side checked out as did the front right side, but there was no electricity making it back to the right rear plug. I’m thinking the issue is in the blinker switch assembly – a little cleaning and adjusting is called for. Finally, I had Mikhaila connect the two brake light wires (the ones that plug into the brake light switch), so we could check out that circuit. Result – right works, left doesn’t. Again, the blinker switch is probably the culprit.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Are My Corvair Days Numbered?

A few recent occurrences in my life have me pondering my current car path. Of the cars in the fleet, none are roadworthy and it will take, I believe, significant efforts to make each of them fit for driving again.

Glinda is the closest, and she’s a drivetrain dropping project away from having her clutch fork engagement corrected. Added to that, every time it rains, her carpet gets wet; the needle on her voltmeter shows a charging voltage that’s too high; her dash still has an automatic transmission shifter sticking out it; and her trunk’s leading edge is a minefield of rust bubbles just waiting to explode. Many, many hours ahead of me to deal with those top of the to-do list items.

Scarlett is many Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons away from complete roadification – not to mention the challenge it’s going to be to come up with the estimated $1600 of parts that are left to buy. That all assumes the engine is good-to-go – not a surety by any stretch.

Luna has sat untouched since Victoria and I installed her new top eight months ago. Her engine hasn’t run in over a year, and she hasn’t been on the road in nearly two. I blogged back in February of 2014 that she and I agreed to regularly spend time working on her car. Obviously, that hasn’t happened. I wish I could count on one hand the tasks ahead of us to get her car where she’d like it, but it’ll take three hands at least.

Finally, there’s Ringo. When Ariel and I had to pull him from the road, he had a myriad of issue including a ripped out right rear wheelwell with associated body damage, a driver’s door that wouldn’t open, and a driver’s seat that wasn’t fully bolted to the floor. While I have all the parts and supplies to do the work, what I don’t have are the space and hours to make the repairs. Once Scarlett is on the road, Ringo will go in next I suppose.

So, what were the occurrences that caused this trip down Frustration Lane? First, a recent visit with my parents reinforced how important it is to make the most of every moment since we never know when we’ll lose the ability to do the things we love. It’s been a few years now since my mom and dad had to stop traveling due to my mom’s advancing dementia. Now she’s in assisted living and his days are spent as her caregiver. You never know what God’s plans are. Second, the budding trees and warmer weather means winter’s over and our yard needs attention. Finally, there are the never-ending house projects that suck a significant portion of my weekends.

So, what’s a whiner supposed to do? One option is to sell all four of them. The uproar that would cause would be immense, but the girls would forgive me eventually. Fortunately, the lovely Loriann recommended something a little less drastic. I give the daughters responsible for Ringo and Luna a couple ultimatums. They shall find time in their busy schedules to spend at least eight hours working on their cars before June 15, and then enough time to get their cars on the road before September 15. If they fail on either of these, I will sell their car for them.

That addresses two of the four. What about Scarlett and Glinda? Mikhaila and I WILL spend sufficient hours in the garage to get her car on the road by early June so she can enjoy a summer of top-down motoring. I WILL spend an evening a week working on my car knocking out her issues and making her a reliable, racy daily-driver.

One other fleet-related happening is tomorrow’s expected purchase of a second racing seat for Glinda. My occasional Craigslist searches finally turned up a reasonably priced, used seat that looks enough like my existing seat to not induce disgust every time I climb in. It needs cleaning and some coats of black spray fabric dye before being bolted in. Two bucket seats means I now get to find a storage place for Glinda’s original bench.

Monday, April 6, 2015

It Was Glinda Time Yesterday

Yesterday afternoon, while Ariel and Victoria were cooking a delicious Easter dinner, I was out in the driveway working on Glinda.

Before diving into discussing the work accomplished over the weekend, I need to share a couple events in Glinda’s life. I thought I’d already blogged about them, but a quick search proved a complete lack of documentation. First is an air cleaner modification. Back in the days of Lucy, I’d bought PVC couplers that were supposed to fit between the air cleaners and the carburetors to increase the straightaway the incoming air travelled before entering the carb. That modification lasted about a week when I found the air cleaners sitting askew atop the carbs. I reverted back to stock and squirreled away the PVC pieces. With some time to kill a few weekends back, I installed extensions between each of Glinda’s two carburetors and the associated end of the air cleaner cross-tube. In order to accommodate the increased height of the air-filter housing, I needed to increase the length of the stud that retains the cover. To do this, I ran two of the correct-sized nuts together onto a piece of all-thread and welded two nuts together. After letting the fabrication cool, I unscrewed it from the all-thread and installed it part-way onto the existing stud. Into the open end of the welded nuts, I then screwed in a 4” long piece of all-thread and snugged it against the end of the stud to lock it in place. It was the perfect length for the top wing-nut to hold the air cleaner cover in place. Zip-ties held the ends of the crossover tube to the carburetors.

The other undocumented work was the voltage regulator I’d mentioned in my last post. Well, it arrived from Amazon, and, once installed, actually increased the voltage reading rather than reducing it. It went back to Amazon, and I’ve chastised myself (again) for not supporting a Corvair parts’ vendor. The old regulator is back in place and borrowing Luna’s for another test is on the to-do list.

Now back to yesterday’s activities – which were focused on Glinda.

First issue to address was her clunking clutch. After backing her up onto the ramps, I tried all the linkage adjustments I could from one extreme to the other. Sadly, it was all for naught. Here’s a video of the issue as it now stands: https://www.youtube.com/edit?video_id=xOwfakkv-8o. I posted my problem on VirtualVairs and the first few responses I got all point to the clutch fork incorrectly installed. One responder’s sharp eye spotted a slight sideways movement of the rod that pushes the fork right as the clunk occurs. That, to me, is an excellent clue the fork’s got an installation issue. This wouldn’t surprise me since, at one point in my working on this car, I accidentally popped the fork off the pivot ball. I’d thought, at the time, that I’d properly popped it back into place, but that sounds doubtful now. Sadly, I don’t think it’s possible to access the fork’s attachment point through the small hole in the bell-housing. I think, however, I can drop the drivetrain enough to slide the engine rearward to access the clutch area. My hope and prayer is that I do NOT need to disconnect axles and control arms. There’s rain in the forecast and taxes to be done, so this project, however involved it gets, will have to wait a week.

The second issue I addressed was the stumbling performance under heavy acceleration. In keeping with my bad luck with Pertronix, I swapped out the Ignitor II for Glinda’s original points’ plate and made the necessary dwell and timing adjustments. The whole clutch thing will keep me from finding out if I’ve solved the problem until that’s resolved.

The third issue I fixed was the sticking throttle. I'd installed one of the new engine carburetor linkage pieces too close to it's neighbor and they were binding at wide-open-throttle. I moved the part slightly and the binding is history.

The final thing I did was finally install the last throttle linkage pivot subassembly. This was a piece I got a while ago, but was unable to use as-is since I couldn’t use the later transmission. The maker of this fine product, Roger Parent, sent me an adapter bracket that accommodates bolting his pivot onto the early transmission, so that’s just what I did. It looks and works wonderfully - nice and smooth actuation.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Glinda’s Back on the Road

For a few days, spring had sprung here in Maryland. A couple steady rains had washed the corrosive chemical down the storm-drains and into the bay (don’t get me started), so it was safe to bring out Glinda and her un-galvanized body. I had decided last fall that I was done with unnecessarily creating corroded metal projects, so Glinda spent the snowy months under a big tarp. Last Sunday I pulled the tarp off and fired up her engine. It took a few seconds of cranking to re-fill the carburetor bowls, but she finally rumbled to life and settled into a nice, throaty idle (I really love the Flowmaster muffler).

It wasn’t until today, though, that I drove her to work. She behaved fairly well. There’s still some hesitation and bucking at higher rpm, so I’ll be tearing down the carbs for a thorough cleaning. I got a bit of a scare when doing a full throttle test and I thought the throttle was stuck in the full-open position. I need to check and make sure that all is well before I try another pedal-to-the-metal maneuver.

The voltmeter is still reading above 15 most of the time, so I ordered a replacement that, once installed, should prevent the alternator from burning up the battery. While the wallet was open, I also ordered a new set of spark plug leads for Scarlett. I was tempted to buy a battery box in hopes that it would motivate me to weld in Glinda’s replacement trunk floor and do the battery relocation, but I held off since the chances of me finding the time for an unnecessary project are slim to none.

Friday, March 6, 2015

I Had a Dream

It must’ve been the recent purchase of a VERY nice car for the lovely Loriann – a ’10 Dodge Challenger R/T – that caused me to have an extraordinary dream. No, not the kind of dream MLK had, but the kind of dream one has in their sleep. The kind of dream we have no control over. In this dream, the fleet was gone, and all we were left with was the Challenger and the LeMans (fully restored, of course – it wasn’t a nightmare). The driveway was empty providing an unencumbered path to the garage, and the garage was cleared of all spare ‘vair parts and tools so we could – and this is what made the dream unbelievable – park both our daily-drivers inside. This has never happened to us before. There’s always been at least one old car in the family, and not since living in Pittsburgh an eternity ago has a daily-driver had the luxury of enclosed parking.

Sadly, it was just a dream, and my barely-a-two-car garage is still filled with Scarlett and car stuff, while the driveway is looks like the beltway at rush-hour. Do I see a day when our home only accommodates two cars? Doubtful, especially if the trend of the last few years continues. The graph below tracks our car ownership starting with our first year of wedded bliss. I guess it’s expected that the number of cars would rise as our fleet of daughters reach driving age. The scary thing is we can’t seem to stem the tide of a growing fleet of Corvairs, even after the eldest had me sell Heidi. If this trend of expansion continues, we’ll gain another Corvair by the end of next year and add a sixth by 2019. In other words, the trendline must make a turn down immediately.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The List Dwindles

Bundled for the cold, Mikhaila and I went out to the garage yesterday afternoon for a couple hours of quality Scarlett time. I’d purchased all the parts I thought would be necessary to get us to the brakes-are-done point, so we voraciously attacked that project. We bent the new front left brake line to match the old one and routed – Mikhaila on her back under the car and me jumping between right front wheelwell and under the dash. Next we bent and installed the left front followed by finding and popping in the grommets. Sadly, one has gone missing, but I’m hoping I’ve got a GUP sitting in box A4 (see previous post on inventorying). After bench-bleeding the new dual master cylinder, we bolted it to the firewall and moved on routing the last two brake lines. Since the threaded holes in the side of the master cylinder were larger than the stock lines, I’d bought adapters. The thickness of the rear adapter (for the front lines) forced us to re-bend the end of the existing brake line, and then, once it was lined up, we discovered I’d bought the wrong adapter. So, we moved on to the new line connecting the front port of the master cylinder to the existing brake line fitting under the dash. We carefully located and drilled a new hole, ran the grommet over the brake line and stuffed one end of the tube through the hole. After popping the grommet into place, bending a generous U in the tube, and screwing it into the adapter on the master cylinder, we climbed under the dash again and found the tube I’d bought wasn’t long enough to make the bends to connect to the rear line. Now I have two reasons to go back to Napa. Hitting that dead-end forced us to move on to other endeavors. I decided it was a good time to make a list of the minimum amount of work necessary to get the car on the road. We came up with the following list:
  • Buy brake line fittings, short brake line, and replacement lightbulbs.
  • Bend and install brake line and install the fitting.
  • Install seat
  • Bleed brakes
  • Buy spark plug leads
  • Take muffler and pipe to muffler shop
  • Install exhaust system and spark plug leads
  • Check fluids
  • Borrow battery
  • Start and run engine
  • Check transmission
  • Check compression
  • Scrape paint off windows
  • Check lights
The sooner we can get Scarlett on the road, the better for our attitudes.

With the garage finally warm and some time before dinner, we decided to continue working. The easiest task to cross off our list, we felt, was checking the lights. I grabbed my 12V transformer and we hooked it up to the battery cable ends. I had Mikhaila turn the key, but instead of seeing idiot lights illuminated on the dash, we saw and smelled smoked coming from the transformer. The + and – terminals are unmarked on the transformer, and when I’d recently put new leads on, I'd gotten them backwards. It was toast – literally. Taking that as a sign, we shut off the heaters, turned off the lights, and locked the door as we headed back to the house.

Monday, February 23, 2015

It Had Been Too Long

Even though the garage was at least ten degrees colder than the outside temperature yesterday, I didn’t hesitate to fire up the kerosene heaters to make it tolerable. After an hour or so, I ventured out to work on Scarlett. Mikhaila wasn’t feeling well, so I was on my own. That meant I pick tasks carefully – try to finish off jobs she’d find very uninteresting. I started by putting the drums back on all four corners – wheels and tires won’t be far behind. Next, I rummaged through my collection of fanbelt idler pulleys, selected the smoothest spinning (but not too freely) one and mounted it to the engine with a new fanbelt. I then hooked up the temporary input fuel line (the one with the rubber hose on the end to feed into a gas container) to the fuel pump. Once we get a new set of plug leads and bolt on an exhaust system, the engine will be ready to start. Speaking of exhaust system, I removed her muffler from the broken exhaust pipe, pulled a GUP pipe from the rafters, and then spent the next half-hour cleaning old exhaust packing off the two flanges. I still need to take the pipe to a muffler shop and have them expand the clamp depression out of it.

Other than hacking away at solidified exhaust donuts, the other time consuming project was attacking the whole brake routing thing. I measured all the fittings and discovered the parts Clark's had sent me were not going to work. The master cylinder has two different diameter holes for the front and rear circuits. The existing line that goes from the master cylinder to the T-block that feeds the front two wheels is smaller than its associated master cylinder holes, so I'll need a reducer for that one since the one Clark's sent is too small for the master cylinder. Then, the line that feeds the rear wheels is smaller than the coupling Clark's sent, so I'll need a new coupling as well as a reducer for the master cylinder. I wrote everything down and will spend some quality time at the local NAPA to get the parts needed.

Other than general straightening up, the only other task I undertook was installing a vertical magazine rack. It was very difficult finding an open spot on the wall, so I ended up rearranging my pegboard to make room. With it hanging, I filled each slot with manuals and catalogs. This freed up room on a shelf that I quickly filled some stuff that had been sitting on the floor.