Tuesday, August 31, 2010

CPotD #147 (Light Blue Hell)

There’s a thread of e-mails on FastVairs right now about a quasi-barnfind Corvair racecar. The really desirable thing about the deal is that the car has all fiberglass body panels and comes with the forms to make more. For today’s CPotD, I thought it would be great to feature some pictures of this rare ‘vair. So I went googling for “fiberglass corvair.” Again my new adage of “it’s not what you’re looking for, but what you find” was proven true as I was led to a site filled with old photos of Funny Car Corvairs back in the day.

Here’s a quick history taken from this webpage.

Ronnie Runyan was a die-hard Chevy funny car racer. Runyan began his funny car career with a gasser style ‘63 Corvette in Southern California. Ronnie kept updating the Corvette until it was time for a new car. He had Dick Fletcher build the "Blue Hell" Corvair, which was much lighter than his stock based Corvette. Runyan raced on the West Coast and in match races, running both cars at some races! Success on the match race scene enabled Ronnie to move to Missouri. The move allowed him to be closer to more races and more money. The "Blue Hell" Corvair proved to be his best-known race car. It ran 7.83 at 187 before being replaced. (Leonard Maxwell photo courtesy of Bob Plumer and Drag Race Memories; info from Draglist.com files)

Monday, August 30, 2010

CPotD #146 (Ah, What a Tangled Web We Weave)

As an engineer, I really appreciate drawings. Today’s CPotD is a drawing instead of a photo. This one is out of the 1965 Corvair shop manual. It’s showing the convoluted path the oil takes as it travels through the engine. Very enlightening.

Friday, August 27, 2010

CPotD #145 (I'm Hearing A Siren)

It’s Forward Control Friday again already, and today’s CPotD was pulled from a CorvairCenter Forum thread called, “corvair service vehicles?” There wasn’t any explanation with the pictures, but it sure looks like this converted Greenbrier could have easily done its job at this airport.

Glinds Gets Her Own List

Not to be outdone by her fleetmates, Glinda now has a to-do list of her own. These are the items Victoria and I need to complete before Glinda’s roadification is complete.
Lube front suspension and steering0.5$0
Replace fuel hoses2$0
Lube front wheel bearings1$0
Sand Bondo4$0
Sand primer2$0
Buy and install carpet4$30

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

CPotD #144 (Ingenuity)

Let’s say you’ve got car with a rotted out floor or maybe some roof damage. Just haul it off to the junkyard, right? Well, not if you need a trailer. Today’s Wacky Wednesday CPotD was taken at the GWFBT (Great Western Fan Belt Toss) in Palm Springs, California and shows a useful and unique usage for two-thirds of an early model. This page of pictures also provided the jpeg for last Friday’s CPotD. They’ve got some beautiful specimens out there in SoCal.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

More Heidi Pictures – Finally

Well it only took me two and a half weeks, but I’ve updated the Heidi Flickr set so click here to check out so-so photos of the finished refurbishment. By the way, there's been no word back from Brianna as to whether Heidi has become an unacceptably high oil consumer. I guess no news is good news.

CPotD #143 (Hillclimbing Looks Fun)

Last weekend my Corvair buddy Jonathan took his racey Corsa up to Pennsylvania to compete in the Duryea Hillclimb. While he did not fare so well since an issue with his car prevented him from running any hotlaps, he was able to climb the hill a couple times in the morning’s practice session. These hillclimbs seem like the logical progression up the competition ladder from time trials. While the time on course is much, much less than a time trial event, it’s that fact that makes hillclimbs more challenging than a closed track event. Hillclimbs are inherently more dangerous than track events since immovable objects such as trees are much closer to the pavement, so the margin for error is significantly smaller. With the decreased margin for error, comes the increased requirement for safety equipment. In order to participate in hillclimbs, I’d need to install a rollcage and obtain a new helmet. Soooo, even though I’d love to try my hand at hillclimbing, my budget won’t allow it for the foreseeable future.

Today’s CPotD for Track Car Tuesday is Jonathan on one of his practice runs.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ringo's Got a List

So Ariel is back at college and without wheels since Ringo is now scheduled for some serious roadification attention. As requested, Ariel put together the attached list of issues I need to make sure I correct before returning her car to her.

I’ll elaborate on each item.
  • floor = Replace the rusted through floor sheetmetal. Not on this list, but the major cause of the rotted floor is leaky rear window seal which to repair will entail backlight removal and a more careful reinstallation
  • tighten steering = Check the adjustment in the steering box as well as ensure there’s no clearance in the linkages.
  • tighten brakes = Install the proper backing plates so the self-adjusters will work properly. Adjust the brakes to get rid of the pulling to the left.
  • rust spots = Get out the wire brush, POR-15, and Tie-Coat primer before shooting more gloss black over the repairs.
  • dent = Repair the dent I put in the right rear fender.
  • gas gauge = Test the sender and gauge so the tank doesn’t go dry while the gage reads half a tank.
  • speedometer = Lubricate so it’ll behave in cold weather.
  • leaking oil = Tear down the engine and check the condition of the cylinder walls (including the diameter). Hopefully, I can get away with only replacing the rings and gaskets. This time, however, I will remember to throroughly scrape out the ring grooves in the pistons.
  • leak under dashboard = Take off the fresh air grill at the base of the windshield and re-seal all the joints. Also make sure the trunklid is sealing well to prevent water from getting in past the main connector on the front shelf.
  • paint = I know she’d like a total repaint with “glittery” black, but I’m afraid the only new paint Ringo will get is to cover the sheetmetal repairs.
  • under hood (burn spot) = Prime and paint the spot on the engine lid that was burned away when she had the fire.
  • clicking in steering when turning = Grease and adjust the bearing in the steering column.
  • screeching in tires when turning = See Tighten Steering.

First things first - get Glinda on the road and stop Lucy’s annoying oil leak.

CPotD #142 (A Fan From the OTHER Air-cooled Flat Six)

The stock fan in a Corvair engine sucks precious horsepower, especially at higher rpm. There are a few who have adapted an electric fan to replace belt driven unit. There are also a few who’ve skillfully grafted the Porsche fan and plenum onto our favorite flat six. There are a couple benefits to this vertical fan over the ‘vair’s horizontal style. First, the straight path the belt now takes reduces the risk of tossing a belt. Second, the fan has been proven to require less horsepower for each cubic foot of air it can blow.

Today’s Motor Monday CPotD is a photo posted by noted Corvair engine builder, Michael LeVeque, of an engine he built. While researching this posting, I was never able to find two sites that agreed on the actual horsepower numbers, but I did come across some photos of a couple other vertically-fanned Corvair engines.

Bodywork Progress

Saturday was welding day at Tom’s Garage. Victoria had previously completed the prep Thursday by covering all the exposed metal with two coats of POR-15 and one of Tie-Coat primer. All that was left for me to do before making puddles of molten metal was brushing off the coatings where the welds would be laid down. By the end of my workday, I had all the patches in and the welds ground down followed by a coat of Rustoleum metal primer.

Yesterday was Bondo Day 1. All the patches and most of the tiny holes were filled. I emptied a quart can before everything was complete, so there will be a Bondo Day 2 before sanding commences.

It looks like we're going to shoot to have Glinda registered, tagged, and reliably roadworthy in time for her driving test on the 9th of the next month. She doesn't know this yet, but I'm sure she'll think it's great that it will be her car she's operating for the examination.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Catching Up - Lucy

Only one more Corvair in the fleet that needs mentioning. My daily-driver Lucy, since returning from VA, has been running wonderfully. There were a few issues that I took care and one that I’ve yet to address. The latter is dealing with the constant oil leak – hence the picture for this post. The leak is rather annoying both from the point of leaving a mess on the ground and the engine smoking with dripping on exhaust manifold. I’m pretty sure that replacing the top cover gaskets will fix problem.

The issues I did deal with last Wednesday evening were electrical in nature. First, the left rear taillight had lost its connection to ground so I pulled the housing out, cleaned the ground wire and socket body, applied some bulb grease, and taped the two together. A couple tie-wraps to secure the tape and reinstallation of the housing and lens and the blinking bulb was bright again. Second, the turn signal switch under the dash was malfunctioning. After removing the switch, I opened it up and cleaned the contacts. More bulb grease and reassembly made the switch ready for installation. Before screwing it back into place, I attached and adjusted the tiny rod that actuates the switch – the one that emanates at the base of the stalk and runs down the steering column. While adjusting I discovered that the right front blinker light was not blinking. Another bad ground. To fix this, I slight bent the tangs on the socket’s ground clip and reinserted the socket into the hole in the car body. With the adjustment complete, the switch back in place and the two tiny screws reinstalled I can now warn the cars around me when I’m going to change lanes and turn. Given all the times I do both of those during my hectic commute, it’s a good thing that these problems were fixed.

CPotD #141 (Looking Through)

When my lovely wife and I were working with an architect designing our next home, one of the important features she wanted was the ability to stand at the open front door and look right through to the backyard. I believe she wanted the open, airy feeling. Today’s FC Friday CPotD, an 8-door Greenbrier, certainly provides that ability though it’s side to side rather than front to back.

8-door FCs are rare, and this one is a beautiful example. I also like the setup with the two back seats facing each other.

Catching Up - Ringo

There are only a couple more days before Ariel goes back to college and Ringo comes off the road. I’ve told Ariel to compile a list of all the issues he has that I will be addressing in the next couple months. Not sure how long the list will end up being, but I know that installing a new floor, reinstalling the backlight, and new piston rings will be at the top of the list. The latter repair is becoming more necessary since last Sunday’s misbehaving.

On her way to work, he started to run roughly and she was barely able to make it into her parking spot. I got the phone call and told her I’d be there with the Suburban and the towbar when she got off work. The next evening I pulled all the plugs, cleaned off the mess, reinstalled, and he ran just fine again. I’d done just this same thing only a couple weeks ago. In that short time, the blow-by deposited at least a tablespoonful of oil in the right air cleaner. At least that much had been pulled through the carbs and sent to four the plugs.

Other than that, he’s been a reliable mode of transportation.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Catching Up - Glinda

With Heidi out of the garage and back on the road and Victoria’s licensing appointment at Motor Vehicles less than a month away, it’s time to get serious and complete Glinda’s roadification.

In concert with Brianna driving Heidi out of the garage, I had Victoria start up Glinda and give her a short drive around the block before pulling her into garage. V said she still pinged some, so I bought a pint of octane booster and poured it into the full tank of fuel.

Sunday past, before Brianna and Nicholas drove Heidi back to VA, I thought it would be great to get a group photo of the four functioning ‘vairs and their operators. Needing a reasonably large plot for the photo op, I sent Ariel out in Ringo to scout out a good place at the school behind our house. I had to jumpstart Glinda to get Victoria going right behind her. Fairly soon after, Ariel returned to tell me that Glinda had died and wouldn’t restart. I grabbed the jumper cables and rode over in Ringo to meet her. After connecting up the posts, I had Victoria crank the engine while Ariel revved Ringo’s engine – nothing. With Brianna and Nicholas wanting to hit the road, I sadly gave up on having that Kodak moment and waved goodbye to them. Before pulling away Brianna promised me we’d have another opportunity.

With Victoria driving and me holding the tow rope, we took the PT Cruiser back to her car with the intention of dragging the uncooperative vehicle back home. One more try with jumping I decided, and hooked up the cable ends again. This time, I got behind the wheel to turn the key. I discovered the shifter was still in Drive. What an idiot I was not to have made sure Victoria understood that Corvairs with automatics had to be Neutral in order for the starter to engage. I moved the lever, turned the key, and Glinda's engine fired right up idling nicely. I told Victoria to drive her car and put back in the garage. Once there, Victoria shared with me that she ran much better than the earlier in the day. Good.

Finally, last Sunday I was able to carve out some time in the garage, and I spent it welding patches. I got the four in for the right front fender and now there’s only three left. I also took the time to expose more rust – not good. With the twisted-wire brush attachment on my grinder, I attacked the underside of the trunk and the seams between the valance and the front fenders. Both places could use replacing, but I’m going to go the route of POR-15, Tie-Coat Primer, and Bondo and keep my fingers crossed that the repairs last more than a year or so. I also removed the trunk weatherstrip and brushed down that channel – an infamous area for rust to invade. It’s not so bad, but I’m going to have Victoria include that when she lays down the POR-15.

Yesterday evening, I ground down the welds and noted they didn’t turn out too badly. They will still, however, provide nice opportunities for Victoria and I to hone our skills of Bondo application.

CPotD #140 (Another Stock Car 'Vair)

As I mentioned in a recent post, life has gotten in the way of my blogging. I'm back just in time for a Track Car Tuesday post. Taken from the thread, “Real Late Models” on the CorvairCenter forum, this photo was taken at Illiana Speedway. This will hopefully get me back in the groove of posting CPotDs again.

Finally a Heidi Photo

And I can’t even take credit. This was taken by one of my parents during the festivities of wedding weekend.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Catching Up - Heidi

Life’s been keeping me VERY busy the last week or so. A lot has happened since I last posted here – both car and non-car related, so I’ll try to catch you up on the former starting with Heidi.

Last Sunday afternoon, the newlyweds (Brianna and Nicholas) loaded up Heidi and hit the road. On one of the mountain passes just west of Frederick, Heidi had issues. Brianna called me to relate her car was down on power and making “putt, putt” noises. The last time she had done that, the right head had dropped a valve. They carefully drove to the nearest gas station and parked the car. Fearing the worse, I hitched Lucy up to the Suburban and drove out to meet them with the intention of swapping my ‘vair for hers. While I was preparing to leave home, I called Brianna and asked her to look at the engine and make sure all cables were in place. She said they were, but she also told me the engine compartment looked more oily than normal. I met up with them an hour later and had her start the car. It fired right up and idled nicely, but I did discover the oil pressure switch had a pretty significant leak. Before deciding what to do next, I took the car out and she ran beautifully – the engine pulled normally, no sign of issues. At that point, I figured the issue on the interstate was overheating. When I got back to the gas station, I told them I could try to swap the pressure switch with Lucy’s and send them on their way. Even though it was going to get them in late, they said to give it a try. I pulled the fuel pump to get access to the switch and tried removing it with a crescent wrench. I’ve got a large socket that I’d normally use to R&R the switch, but I didn’t bring it with me. I soon found out the wrench would not get a good enough grip to do the job without injuring the rather fragile switch, so it was back to plan A. They would drive Heidi back to Baltimore, I’d do the switch swap properly, and they’d then head back in the morning. I reinstalled the fuel pump, they filled up the gas tank, and we headed back east together. Less than a mile down the road, Heidi engine’s quit. After a few attempts to get her restarted, I gave up, unhitched Lucy and put Heidi in her place behind the Suburban. We made the rest of the trip to our house uneventfully.

Once we were parked in front of the house, I spent the next two hours trying to figure out why the fuel pump refused to pump fuel. I swapped the pump with Lucy’s – no difference. I thought that removing the pump had possible caused a leak in the inlet line, so I pulled the tube and tested it – no leak. I then replaced the short piece of fuel hose under the car since I saw some cracks – no success. Then we all pushed the car into the driveway so I could have gravity help me see if there was a blockage in the line – there wasn’t; the gas flowed freely all over my arm. Finally, I loosened the mounting bolt allowing the pump to rise up out of its mounting hole a slight amount – success! A bit of an explanation: the mounting bolt threads into the rear part of the engine where the fuel pump goes and is perpendicular to the pump shaft; the end of the bolt is tapered and goes into a hole in the mounting cylinder of the pump; I don’t remember this ever happening before, but for some reason installing the bolt too tightly held the pump shaft out preventing it from going up and down as it needed to. With that hurdle FINALLY over, I put everything back and Heidi was good-to-go. By the way, I thought this repair would allow me to cross off the oil leak entry on the to-do list. More on that soon.

The next day they drove her back to southwest VA at the legal speed limit. At one point I got a text from Nicholas telling me, “the low speed has been excellent on gas.” Hmm, go figure. Soon after their arrival and unpacking, Brianna drove Heidi to the store and noticed she was running roughly, barely able to hold an idle. She checked the oil level and found it was off the dipstick. I’d bought a pint of oil additive to address the oil leak prior to my discovering it was the oil pressure switch. She poured that in and topped off the crankcase with 30 weight. Got back in the car and the engine ran fine again. Connected? Who knows? Anyway, they then parked her for the week, while they drove Nicolas’s car on their honeymoon. I’ve asked her to keep her eye on the oil level now that she’s driving Heidi again. We’ll see if the overheating has caused a problem, or if I can keep “oil leak” crossed off the list.

Friday, August 6, 2010

CPotD #139 (Show Me The Money)

Today’s image for FC Friday is of a converted Bell Telephone Corvan. Back in the 60’s GM was able to convince Ma Bell the Corvan was a perfect utility vehicle for them. The phone company, however, had some special requirements for their vehicles. Most apparent are the windows in the side door. Stock Corvans didn’t come with these. I’m not sure, but I believe GM also moved the exhaust to the driver’s side. The customer didn’t want to expose the sidewalk walking public to the smell while their vehicles were parked and idling at the curb. I guess if you’re going to buy enough of anything, the builder would be willing to accommodate your requirements.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Stick a Fork in Her

Well, not literally, but since work on Heidi is complete, I’m calling her done. Last night Brianna vacuumed her out, and I cleaned the carpet, changed the oil and filter, lubed the front suspension, and wiped down all the vinyl surfaces to remove the rest of the dust. We then pushed her back in line with the opened garage door and I dropped her off the dollies. It was too dark to roll her out and take pictures, so that will have to wait. I can’t wait to share how great she now looks.

The two items that have squiggles through them are ones that we in the engineering world like to say were OBE (overcome by events). In this case OBE means "ran out of time."

This morning Lucy, me, and my commute we're all reunited. What a huge change to go from driving the Suburban to wheeling little Lucy around the beltway.

CPotD #138 (Even a Really Nice Custom Can Be Wacky)

For some a stock Corvair is a little strange looking, but for me, it’s got to be a custom to qualify for Wacky Wednesday CPotD. Today’s subject showed up in a Hemmings’ blog entry a while back. It’s an extremely well done late model with a mid-engine V8 conversion. LOTS of time and money were obviously spent creating this beauty. The story on this car is that it was up for auction last year. Wonder what they got for it.

I put the rest of the available photos in a Flickr set here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

CPotD #137 (Check Out Those Tires)

Not surprisingly, the Fastvairs Yahoo group site is a wonderful repository of images suitable for Track Day Tuesday CPotD. The other day someone posted a request for information about oval track racing of Corvairs, and a member posted photographs of two Stock cars that were raced at South Bay Speedway in Chula Vista, CA. These cars, with their rear weight bias must have been a real challenge to set up for the roundy-rounds.

Brianna Sees Her Heidi

Brianna drove Lucy up from VA yesterday to get things ready for her upcoming wedding. She thoughtfully waited until I was home before going out to the garage to gaze upon her transformed Heidi. With Loriann’s hands covering her eyes, Brianna walked into the garage. Her reaction, once she saw the car, was suitably appreciative and complimentary. All those hours were worth it just to see and hear her reaction. Ah, the things we do for those we love. We all agreed that, now in her proper silver with original red interior, Heidi fulfills her German name.

Unfortunately, the car was not ready for the road, so I spent a few more hours putting the interior back together (including new waterproofed paper in the passenger door), hanging the bumpers (thankfully no scratched paint), routing and connecting the horn harness, and successfully finding and plugging a leak in the front tire. I also went looking for the leak in the transmission. I’d assumed it was a cracked shift cable, but all along its length the cable was dry. In fact, I couldn’t find transmission fluid anywhere. Motor oil on the ground yes, but no reddish liquid anywhere. Just to say I did something, I gave each of the tranny pan bolts an eighth of turn to snug them up – but not too snug. Looks like topping off with Dexron will continue to be in Heidi’s monthly maintenance regimen.

Monday, August 2, 2010

CPotD #136 (Corvair Airborn)

Today’s CPotD opens up a whole new realm of Corvair-dom - experimental aviation. One of the recognized authorities in applying the ‘vair’s flat-6 to flying is William Wynne. His website is filled with interesting information.

I found today’s image on Flickr and the caption indicated it was destined to be installed in a plane. Even without the caption, one feature on this engine that gives away its future use is the plate at the bottom right. It allows the installation of a starter without a bellhousing. The prop will be driven directly off the crankshaft so no transmission or differential is necessary, thus no bellhousing.

The Weekend’s Over – How’d I Do?

After a Heidi-filled weekend, the list has some tasks crossed out, a few VERY close, a couple deleted, one added and completed, but still five left. Thank goodness I got the paint on when I did, or I’d never be this close to finishing. All the trim is reattached including the wheel-well and rocker panel stainless some of which hadn’t been on the car since she’d been run into three years ago. Fortunately, I was able to find all the pieces and the screws. The engine lid was installed and aligned, all the lights were screwed on and plugged in, and the dashpad was removed and re-glued with new contact cement.

That last task caused some trepidation since contact cement is not forgiving – you only have once chance to get it right. With that in mind, I asked the lovely Loriann to help me and it went in quite nicely. There were a couple edges that didn’t stick, so I reapplied some more cement, let it dry, then forced the edges down and held them in place with wood wedges that I’ll remove tonight.

I actually knocked out two tasks from the “desired” portion of the list – painting the exposed metal on the inside of the doors and painting the inside of the passenger door. The latter converted a black door into the correct red door. After sanding and excessive masking (don’t want any red paint on the silver exterior), I laid down the coat of primer. The smooth surface looked so nice, I decided to do the same to the driver’s door since its original red paint was nicked and scratched. Some more sanding, masking, and priming put the world in balance. The finish coat of Rustoleum’s Satin Colonial Red went on nicely and I was tempted to keep going and do the rest of the interior. The looming deadline, however, prevented me from adding more hours to my already sketchy schedule.

The added item was replacing a worn-out window fuzzy. A new one from the Corvair Ranch showed up in the mail Friday (quick response – thanks Jeff and Luke). This was another job where I had to be very careful. Removing the old one had to be done without scratching the new paint, and all went well. Installing the new one simply entailed aligning the tabs and tapping the edge into place with a hammer and a block of wood.

The deleted items are installing the matching door lock on the passenger side (couldn’t find the original) and painting the door jams (not enough time).
So what’s left? Reinstalling the door panels and associated window cranks, latch handles, armrests, radio, dash pad trim, horn wires; cleaning the carpet; changing the oil and filter; finding and plugging the leaking tire; stopping the leak in the transmission shift cable with heat-shrink; and locating and stopping the engine oil leak. Anyone making odds on me getting to everything?