Monday, August 24, 2015

I Love the Smell of Ignition in the Morning

Late last week Glinda became undriveable. The tach needle was jumping around and the engine wouldn’t idle only staying running if I kept the rpms above 2500. I limped her home thinking the issue was with the dying ignition switch. I surmised that the contacts inside the switch were failing and the engine was not getting enough electricity to run properly. The replacement GUP switch from the Corvair Ranch showed up in Saturday’s mail, and I installed it that night. Upon first firing up the engine, it was still running rough – crap, not the switch. I hopped out to look at the engine, but it died before I could get the lid open. I wiggled all the electrical connections that may be causing the issue – nothing appeared amiss. I hopped back behind the wheel and turned the key. A single backfire and the engine was running smoothly again. I took her for a spin around the neighborhood and everything seemed normal.

Yesterday morning I turned my attention to Ringo. I finished sanding the Bondo, blew off all the dust, wiped down the area with cleaner, masked off and shot the entire area with three coats of red sandable primer. I’ll let it cure for a day or so before wet-sanding the primer in preparation for some coats of Black Cherry Pearl.

This morning I grabbed the keys to Glinda, buckled up behind her steering wheel, and turned the key. Her engine reluctantly fired into a stumbling idle – crap. I let the engine warm up a little with my foot finessing the throttle, but to no avail. To determine if it was a carb blockage, I pulled off the air cleaner and peered down the venturis while blipping the throttle – healthy squirts of fuel indicated the issue was ignition. I confirmed that when I fetched the timing light, hooked it up, and cranked the engine – no spark. Off came the distributor cap, rotor, and dust shield exposing the points. Using the remote starter (jumper wire from the purple wire connector to the positive on the battery), I watched the points move, but saw no spark. I was at a fork in the road – either replace the points with an unknown GUP or reinstall the electronic ignition module and coil. I opted for the later. Fifteen minutes or so later, I had everything in place and hooked up. The momentous turn of the key was immediately followed by a smoothly running engine. I let it warm up as I put some of the tools away and then plugged the vacuum line, adjusted the idle speed to around 500 rpm, and checked the timing. It was reading a little above 16 BTDC, so I loosened the distributor’s hold-down nut, bumped it a bit to get to get it to around 15 BTCD, and then tightened the nut. After reconnecting the vacuum advance tube, I set the idle speed to 800 rpm, and shut off the engine. I put away the rest of the tools, washed my hands, and inspected my work clothes to make sure I hadn’t leaned against something untoward (must be why I wear black slacks a lot of the time). When I finally pulled away from the curb, I’d only lost an hour of my day. The drive to work was wonderful with Glinda’s engine pulling strongly in all gears well above 4000 rpm – yes, that’s over 80 mph. Bonus, I can cross an item off the To-Do list.

Monday, August 17, 2015

It's Been Way Too Long

Wow, nearly a month since I last posted. Pretty sad. Anyway, what’s been happening? Well, Mikhaila and I are pretty close to dropping Scarlett off the jackstands, Ringo’s had some work done, and Glinda’s been a reliable daily driver.

More specifically, Scarlett has a re-sealed Powerglide, a Safety-taped shifter cable, two borrowed carbs from Ringo (since I’m sure they work), a solid brake pedal, a coated and installed gas tank, a new in-line fuel filter (by the left rear wheel), hooked up throttle linkage, front seat belts, and all four tires bolted on. In addition to coming off the jackstands, all she needs to get out of the garage under her own power is some gas in the tank, ATF in the transmission, and some ignition system adjustment.

I closed off the opening created by the shredding tire with a membrane tape carpenters use to seal around house windows. It has a strong adhesive backing, is plenty tough, and comes in a roll that’s four inches wide. I also applied Bondo to the treated rust-through around the right rear wheel well. I’ve decided that I will spend my car time this winter working on Glinda. With Mikhaila off to college, Scarlett will vacate the garage and Glinda will take her place. My current list of prioritized projects is:
  • Treat body rust appropriately
  • Get replacements for the racing carburetors and install
  • Paint and install the correct dash (no transmission shifter)
  • Replace the ignition switch
  • Tighten up the front steering (maybe replace the box with a quick-steer unit)
  • Weld in floor patches
  • Weld in the trunk bottom
  • Relocate battery
  • Dye the gray racing seat black to match
  • Install both racing seats in place of the front bench
If the kitchen project goes well, I may even prep and paint the car. I’m torn between Summit Racing’s Teal Green Metallic and Bright Aqua Pearl. Then again I may go crazy and shoot the car with Orange Pearl.
Regarding Glinda’s ongoing carburetor saga, she’s still showing far better mileage with the stock carbs, so I’m on the verge of sending the modified ones back for replacement. The next fill-up and spark plug inspection will tell the tale.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Little Electrical

Last evening Mikhaila and I worked on her current daily-driver, Glinda, addressing issues that have nagged this car for many months. First, we tried fixing the current right rear taillight socket, but to no avail. We ended up replacing it with one from my mass of harnesses hanging from a garage rafter. Next, we put a new blade terminal on the end of the ground wire for the left rear side marker. Mikhaila took care of replacing the failed front blinker bulb. Finally, we moved on to adjusting the front headlights. Sadly, the first one we went to adjust broke as I turned the screw. Not having a replacement, we jammed a piece of wood between the bumper and the bottom of that headlight ring which will keep the bulb from flopping. The other side adjusted just fine.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Ninety-nine Percent Positive

The other day, as I previously posted, I swapped out Glinda’s modified carburetors for the newly rebuilt ones that were meant for Scarlett. Since that change, she’s been running wonderfully for Mikhaila’s in-town trips. Yesterday morning I couldn’t resist claiming Glinda as my day’s ride. During my brief test drive of a couple weeks back (right after swapping carbs), I could tell that the throttle response was significantly better, but it still a thrill as I headed down the beltway’s on-ramp, transmission in third and pedal to the metal. The tachometer climbed above 4000 rpm with no hesitation and very little needle jiggling. A shift into fourth gear and back to WOT and soon after I was going eighty. What a huge difference. Later that day I pulled into a gas station and put less than seven gallons of high-test into the tank. According to Glinda had averaged over 17 mpg since the carb swap - where she’d been before the swap.

When I got home, I pulled the #1 and #6 plugs and checked them for fouling – nice and clean tip and ground electrode. #1 looked clean all over, while #6 had a little black buildup around the face of the plug body. I didn’t clean them, but put them right back in and will check again after another couple hundred miles. If, after that, the mileage is still good and the plugs are still clean, I’ll be asking the source of the modified carburetors to replace them. I’ll also, at some point, put back the Pertronix Ignitor and coil since they weren’t causing the rough-running.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Three Cars, Three Updates

Glinda: No Racer No More

A couple weeks ago I hopped into Glinda for a quick evening drive. I started her up, and pulled away from the curb. Since it had been raining, I turned the wiper knob to clear the windshield, but nothing happened - at least nothing wiper-wise. Some other things DID happen though. The radio shut off, the tach needle went to zero, and so did the voltmeter. I immediately turned off the wiper switch and everything went back to working. Since I didn’t want to get stuck somewhere, I pulled her back to the curb, with the intent of dealing with the problem later. The following morning, before turning on the car, I pushed in the wiper switch rather than turned it as a test – the wipers worked as normal. I turned them off, and, thinking the previous evening’s gremlin had moved on, I started the car and drove away. A few moments later, I checked Glinda gauges and found the voltage sitting at 10.8 rather than the normal 14+. Not having a spare vehicle available to me this morning, I continued on to work minimizing my use of electrical stuff. By the time I pulled into my parking spot at work, the gauge was now reading about 10.2. I shut off the car, and then turned the key to the ON position – the gauge needle was now pointing at slightly above 12. The drive home, however, was business as usual. The voltmeter needle pointed back to where I was used to seeing and all seemed fine.

The lovely Loriann and I decided that Mikhaila needed a car to drive while waiting for us to finish Scarlett. Glinda drew the short straw. To facilitate Glinda’s new duties, Mikhaila and I swapped out the racing seat and harness for the stock bench and belts, and we put back the skinny tires in place of the wide racing wheels. I rode with Mikhaila giving out instructions as she wheeled the car around the neighborhood. She did quite well getting used to the heavier steering and relearning the manual transmission skills she’d not had to put into practice for months.

Yesterday, after recording another tank-full of atrocious gas mileage, I gave up on the modified carburetors and swapped on Scarlett’s pair. With the recently rebuilt carbs hooked up and some gas poured down each throat, the engine reluctantly fired. After a few moments, gas started squirting out of the vent holes of the right carb. Off went the engine and off came that carb top, but not until I checked the accelerator pumps – no squirts in either carb. Inspecting the removed top assembly, I found that the wire needle retainer was preventing the needle from easily seating itself. So, I removed and re-set the float levels to ’65 setting (1-1/16” full up and 1-1/2” for full drop). I then dug out some new accelerator pump cups and a couple GUP pump assemblies from my stash. I found that the two assemblies both had pliant cups that worked perfectly in their associated bores, so one went on in place of the right top’s non-functioning one. After reinstalling that side, I pulled the left top assembly off made the same changes. Next, I needed to again clean all the filthy, fouled spark plugs (this is getting old). With everything installed and connected back up, jumping 12 volts to the purple wire contact got the engine running right away. No gushing gas and blips of the throttle were met with immediate rpm responses from the engine. I climbed in, belted up, and took her for a spin around the neighborhood. She ran better than she had in months – coincidentally the same number of months the racing carburetors had been on the engine.

Needless to say, I was quite happy as I backed her up to the garage opening. I got out my length of clear tubing, shot some water in, hooked both ends up to the appropriate vacuum ports, and balanced the carbs. With the air cleaner back on, I adjusted the idle fuel screws per the manual before setting the idle speed to 800 and shutting the engine lid convinced all woes with that car were now behind me. That euphoria lasted less than twenty-four hours ended by a single text from Mikhaila: “Glinda keeps stalling and the gas gauge went from full this morning to half full when I ran an errand.” CRAP! I thought I’d get to work on the house this evening, but NO!

Scarlett Brakes Won’t Bleed

During the last week Mikhaila and I have had a couple productive sessions in the garage. Scarlett now has all her new brake lines in place as well as her exhaust system completely hooked up. With the last brake line fitting tightened, she and I spent at least an hour and went through over a pint of brake fluid trying to get a solid pedal. With all the components of the system being new, there was a lot of air that had to be bled out. After running out of fluid, we were still getting air with each opening of a bleeder valve. Part way through the task, I got smart and adjusted the pedal rod making it longer so it would push the pistons in the new dual master cylinder deeper. This seemed to get more fluid pushed out with each stroke. I hope we’re right around the corner from an air-free system.

The muffler hanger arrived in the mail Saturday morning, so we bolted it to the engine. A new strap held the GUP muffler in place and a new 2” muffler clamp solidified the exhaust pipe to muffler joint. The engine is ready to start up other than the fact that 1) I took the carbs for Glinda, and 2) I put battery back in Ringo (see more below).

Mikhaila also took advantage of the seats being out and more thoroughly scrubbed the years of dirt from each of the front bucket seats. We also stripped the old rear window material from the three trim sticks in preparation of a new top getting installed (a ways off from happening).

Ringo Readies for Upcoming Sale

Yesterday, I pulled the tarp off Ringo with the intent of deciding what I would do to this car before I put it on the market. Instead, I jumped right into the fray by swapping back in the battery he’d so graciously loaned to Scarlett. A bit of gas poured into each carburetor and a few revolutions of the engine by the starter and the engine was running smoothly like he’d been on the road a week ago not a year ago. Next on the checklist was bodywork made necessary by the destructive right rear tire. I bent and pounded the sheetmetal behind the wheel into some semblance of its original shape. Grabbing the grinder fitted with the wire brush attachment, I attacked the mess along the front edge of the wheel-well as well as the inside of the wheel-well (is that too many wells?). I also brushed away the flaking paint and surface rust on straightened out section. Next, I pulled a jar of rusty metal primer and brushed over all the exposed steel.

I remembered that the last time I’d seen Ariel drive away in this car, one of the rear taillights wasn’t working. It took some cleaning and bulb replacement, but after a half-hour or so I had all essential lights operating properly.

With all this progress, I decided I’d move him out into the middle of the driveway so I could access the stuck driver’s door. I climbed behind the wheel, put my foot on the brake pedal, and it went all the way to the floor. I climbed back out, popped the trunklid, spun off the master cylinder cap, and stared down into an empty master cylinder reservoir. Hoping against all hope I filled the reservoir with fresh fluid and crossed my fingers. Maybe, I though, the seals will magically rejuvenate themselves after a good soaking with DOT 3.

This morning though, I went ahead and made the call to the Corvair Ranch and ordered a rebuild kit. I also asked Jeff to send me a Powerglide re-seal kit, two carburetor rebuild kits (so I rebuild the two EM carbs on the shelf to put on Scarlett’s engine), and a muffler strap for Glinda.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Fleet Will Lose a Member

Last evening Ariel and I had a short conversation regarding Ringo. While she isn’t emotionally ready to be rid of him, she shared that: 1) she had no desire to work on him, and 2) she couldn’t come up with a scenario where she would choose to drive him over her modern car. We agreed we both have many great Ringo memories, but we don’t need the car sitting in our driveway to keep those memories.

So, it is time for me to put a few hours into prepping him for sale. The to-do list needs to be kept short since my curtailed car-time is currently spread across the fleet plus my truck. Here’s the list as it stands today.
  • Replace the black GM deluxe seatbelts with GUPs from my stash since they belong to my LeMans
  • Get the driver’s door to open and reliably latch again
  • Put the battery back and make sure the engine starts and runs reliably
My hope is the door fix will be easily accomplished. The other two tasks will take no time at all. Then he’ll go up for sale via the usual places: Craigslist, CORSA website, VirtualVairs, CorvairCenter forum, and Facebook.

Monday, June 8, 2015

It’ll Buff Out

I’m headed into Turn 18 – the left-hander before the long, uphill straight. My brain has convinced my body that this time I could drive a little deeper and accelerate a little sooner. I waited a split second too long before coming off the gas, so I was at the turn-in cone before I’d suitably whoa’d the car. I cranked the wheel to the left, and the tires squealed in objection as I tried to get the front end close to the apex cone. Right then I felt the rear of the car start to slide out. I’d overcooked it. I spun the steering wheel to the right to try and catch the spin. The car went into the grass at about a thirty degree angle to the track. After taking out a two-foot high sign, I finally got the car pointed straight. Rather than going back on-track, I bounced through the lawn to the nearby pit entrance to get the car checked. As I passed a spectator, he yelled out, “Get that guy a new pair of shorts.” Such was my one and only four wheel foray into the agricultural side of this NECC high-speed driving event, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

To begin at the beginning, my wonderful weekend started with a Friday afternoon drive to Cobleskill, NY that, thanks to construction and idiot drivers, took over six-and-half hours. My ‘vair-buddy Jonathan with his trailered Corsa and I caravanned up there and we rolled into the hotel’s parking lot right around 6:30. Hoping to find a tech inspector to check out our cars, we soon found out that they’d gone inside to get ready for dinner. So we checked in, dumped our luggage in our room, and headed to the lobby where a dozen or so Corvair folks awaited the supper call. All of us then trooped past the pool, through the restaurant and bar, and into the attached bowling alley (it was the only space they had that could accommodate all of us for the meal). A lively time of good food, great beer and even better conversation ensued.

The next morning a six AM alarm and rain greeted us. assured us the day would not be a washout and we’d be seeing zero percent precipitation by 9 AM. We made the forty-five minute drive to the track over bumpy New York backroads and parked in the paddock behind a guy backing his Maserati out of a trailer. We then got our cars inspected with both passing – although Jonathan’s required a replacement lightbulb to get both brake lights to come on. After sitting through the efficiently-run driver’s meeting where it was announced there’d be three hot laps, rather than two, I checked the lists posted on the wall and discovered I had been placed in Group B for the initial track session. That gave me time to mooch a couple donuts from Jonathan, grab my video camera, and stroll through the paddock to record all the participating vehicles.

Finally, the call went out for Group B drivers to get lined up. I climbed in to Glinda, put on my helmet, and buckled up. Glinda’s engine fired right up and we rolled through the paddock to take our place near the track entrance. At roughly twenty second intervals the cars were sent out onto the track for a couple low-speed yellow flag laps. Once the yellow flags were stowed by the corner workers, we could run at speed. This first session was for learning the track, not for pushing our cars hard, and the twenty minutes had flown by when the checkered flags started flying to get us off the track so the last group could go on.

After Group C had their turn, it was open track for everyone, and I wasted no time getting back out. I have no idea how many 2.1 mile laps I put in before the lunchtime shutdown at noon. During my time on the track, I experienced something new - turning laps faster than other cars. This was happening even though the engine was still not pulling hard at high rpm. So, even though I couldn’t top 70 on the long straight, I was making up for that on the rest of the track. The way the circuit is setup – a very long, uphill front stretch followed by mostly downhill and level turns – masked the lack of power, and Glinda was handling exceptionally well – great grip getting me through the turns and brakes that would test the strength of my five-point harness. I guess my reign as the keeper of the STD (slow time of the day) has come to an end.

During the lunch hour, one of the track operators took us on an informative tour of the track. A bunch of the drivers piled into an open trailer and we were slowly towed around the circuit. At each turn, the guy thoroughly explained how we should be driving through that corner. He really tried to impress upon us that taking straight lines was far faster than swooping (making the turn longer by rounding it off). He liked the word “swooping” using it at least ten times, but it got my attention.

After lunch there was about an hour more free track time during which I tried hard to remember all the instructions I’d been given during the trailer ride and felt like I was really pushing the car. It was during this session the aforementioned agricultural adventure took place. Thankfully Glinda survived that folly undamaged.

We were flagged off the track around two so the timed laps could begin. I took a short break to let the tires and me cool down before getting in line for my turn. Even though I try to tell myself to just drive the timed laps like I’d driven the practice ones, there’s still a little more adrenaline flowing when I know I’m under the clock.

When it was my turn to be one of the two cars on track – my heart rate was up a bit as I took the warm-up lap. In third gear and trying to maximize my straightaway speed, I did my best to nail Turn 18 and then kept the pedal to the metal shifting into fourth as the tach showed 4000 rpm. Then, just past the one-hundred foot marker, I stomped on the brakes, shifted into third, let off the brake, and immediately steered left to negotiate Turn 1. At the apex cone, I was hard on the gas, aimed straight for the apex of Turn 2 and then making a beeline for the drift-out cone on the track’s right edge. I waited a little too long to nail the brakes prior to the first of the two Turn 3 apexes, so I drifted out a little too far adding precious time to my lap. Hard on the gas I carved past the second apex marker and drifted out to the left edge of the track. Turn 4 isn’t anything more than a slight kink, but Turn 5 is the first of two turns that are basically one sweeping hairpin. Aimed right at the turn-in cone, I got on the brakes and turned left. Once I hit the apex for 5, I floored it through 6 and up a slight hill shifting into fourth as I crested at the Turn 7 slight right hander. I was still WOT through Turn 8, but let off the gas as I neared the turn-in for Turn 9. Trying to keep to the right after passing 9’s apex, I shifted back into third, nailed the gas, and headed for the Turn 10 apex. For me, it took some fortitude, but I kept the hammer down through 11 and headed straight for 12’s turn-in cone. Hard on the brakes– almost to the point of lock-up - before going through the long, tight right-hander. Following instruction, just at 12’s apex I went WOT and turned the wheel from right to left to head straight for the apex of 13. After which I was again hard on the brakes to negotiate 14 which, for me, felt like the slowest corner on the track. Coasting through a slight right-hander I then floored it as I passed the apex of Turn 15, drifting dangerously close to the gravel as I began my favorite section of the track. If I could come out of 15 correctly, the beginning of 16’s ess-turn could almost be taken straight and the left-hander that completes the turn has just enough camber for carving hard through it. 17 is just a flick to the right, but 18 needed my full attention to have the most momentum to battle the runway-length main stretch.

As I mentioned, Turn 3 stole time from lap number one, and it was Turn 12 that bit me on the second lap. I pushed too hard and couldn’t make the apex which ruined my entrance into 13. At that point I was grateful for that additional hot lap which I ended up running mistake-free. I did, however, ease through that last turn not wanting to ruin the otherwise good lap.

As I’d expected, my lowest time came on my last hot lap – 2:03.85. While that wasn’t good enough to beat the other car in my class – the ALWAYS fast Brett Aston – it did put me right in the middle of the eighteen timed drivers. , I even came out ahead of some more powerful cars [some 140 HP Corvairs and some higher-rated water-pumpers (non-Corvairs)].

After everyone had their chances to race against the clock, it was open track again, and I took full advantage of it. I must’ve done at least another dozen laps when a basically empty gas tank forced me to head for the paddock. I’m sure the huge smile was still on my face as I was hooking Glinda back up to the truck.

Dinner at a local Italian restaurant and the nightcap in hotel’s bar were made better by great conversation. I’m trying to figure out if there’s any way I can make it to the next event – New Jersey Motorsports Park – in August. The issue is the Monday it’ll be run is my second day of vacation with the family. Just not looking good.

Thankfully, the drive home Sunday morning was basically traffic-free and uneventful for both Jonathan and I – a good way to end a great weekend.

By the way, the title of this missive – It’ll Buff Out – came about when the lovely Loriann saw the scuffs on Glinda’s right side - incurred when I’d taken out the off-track sign. Oh yeah, one other thing. The tools never came out of the bag the entire weekend - TYL.