Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Almost a Dozen

As I mentioned in my last post, the recent arrivals of Mikhaila’s project car and Victoria’s modern car has our yard and front curb (and neighbor’s curb) bursting at the seams. When our 1920s vintage neighborhood was laid out, I don’t think the city planners had any idea that, nearly a century later, some crazy family would possess and attempt to park eleven vehicles and a trailer. Where do we have all these vehicles? The garage holds TwoTone; the driveway has Luna, Wilma, the Suburban, and the PT Cruiser; the backyard is home to the LeMans and the trailer; while our front curb catches Lucy, Heidi, and Glinda. Finally, two of our understanding neighbors (only one car each and rarely, if ever, have visitors) see Ringo and Victoria’s Mazda5 when they look out their front windows. INSANITY!!!!

A line must be drawn in the pavement. After asking me which ones are going away, the lovely Loriann posed two more questions. “Do you want to continue to call a Corvair your daily-driver?” and “What one Corvair would you have for the foreseeable future?” Both excellent questions; and ones which I could, surprisingly, quickly answer. First, no, I don’t want to continue to rely upon a Corvair for my daily commute through the forthcoming salt and snow. So the Suburban will be going away, replaced by a nice, used medium-sized pickup. Second, with high hopes of participating in at least three track events next year, I want a LM coupe. There are many reasons LM Corvairs outnumber the EMs nine-to-one at track events – the two biggest ones being Corvette-style suspension and Chevelle brakes. I’ve wrung all I can out of Lucy short of fitting her with a 140 HP engine – that, I’m afraid, would make me afraid. And an EM wagon is NOT a track car, no matter how many creative band-aids I could put on during Wilma's roadification.

So that means both Lucy and Wilma will be going up for sale starting this weekend. I’d like to still put some flooring into Lucy and put her interior back together, and I just placed an order with the Corvair Ranch for a GUP speedometer cable to replace the one I stole to put in Ringo. With that done, I’m thinking I’ll put a $2500 price on her since she’s really ready to go racing as-is. Wilma’s another thing. She doesn’t run and she needs floors – actually an entire restoration, but she’s a rare and quite desirable wagon. Plus there’ll be a lot of extra parts included. I’m thinking $1900. Is that crazy?

That brings me to Glinda. Do I sell her and try and find a replacement LM coupe with a manual transmission setup, or do I heed the recommendation of a Corvair buddy and convert her? He reminded me that: one, “you know what you have with your ‘68”, and two, “you’ll spend more registering and tagging the replacement than you would on the parts you need to do the swap.” Both excellent points. Glinda is a pretty solid car and her current engine is a strong one, albeit a thirsty one. Since Victoria is always behind the wheel of her new car, I’ve been commuting in Glinda and enjoying everything but watching the noticably steady decline of the gas gauge needle. It may not be as bad as I perceive, but I won’t know until I run a couple tankfulls of high-test through her.

I hate making decisions.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Seven is More than Enough

The final father-daughter Corvair has joined the fleet.

Work has gotten in the way of promptly posting fleet updates, but things have calmed down some, and hopefully my contributions to the blogosphere can be timelier.

On the evening of Friday the 7th, I loaded the Suburban with a set of four good EM wheels, jack, lug-wrench, new come-along (winch), tow-chain, and large ratcheting strap. These, and the beautiful aluminum car trailer of my ‘vair-pal Jonathan, were the tools needed to bring home Mikhaila’s car.

As I described to others afterwards, Saturday was a perfect day for fetching a Corvair. It rained lightly over the night, but the drops had stopped falling by the time Mikhaila and I for Riverdale, MD and the detached garage of a buddy of mine. Dave, Mikhaila, and I attempted to roll the ’64 Monza 4-door across the floor of the large 8-car building, but were stymied by a locked-up right rear wheel. With the car’s rear on a large rolling jack, we were able to get it to the nearest opened door, but no farther since the loaded wheels of the jack quickly sank into the soil off the garage’s apron of concrete. Fortunately, our path was still blanketed in damp, fallen leaves so the Suburban was easily up to the task of dragging the car across the backyard, down the driveway, and out to the waiting trailer. Some more gyrations with the jack, and a few minutes with strapping and chain and we were ready to roll. As we drove home, the sky started to clear. This made my telling Mikhaila she needed to give the car a good bath much more palatable. By the time we home and I backed the trailer up our driveway, the sun had come out and temps were in the low 50s. She actually had a smile on her face as she scrubbed off thirty-plus years of the dust and grime off the car. I snapped a few pictures which can be viewed here.

Sadly, at that point life got in the way and the car just sat on Jonathan’s trailer.

Finally, yesterday afternoon afforded me the opportunity to unseize the stuck wheel. It took me over an hour, and resulted in a scrapped brake drum, but the car was now rollable. With Mikhaila steering, the car was in the garage before dark.

Since Dave couldn’t locate a key to our acquisition, the last task of the day was going through my rings of Corvair keys to find one that would work in the ignition. Lo-and-behold Lucy’s worked, so were now good-to-go. There are many hours of labor ahead of us, but she’s excited.

Now that brings me to the title of this posting. The more rightly insinuates that the fleet needs some culling. After some hard thinking, I’ve decided that Lucy and Wilma are the victims. I’ve spent many, many enjoyable hours driving and working on Lucy, but the fact that she’s sat for weeks now with no attempt to renew her rusted floorboards is proof she’s the apple of my car-eye she used to be. And while I’ve always wanted a wagon, I want a capable track car and an EM wagon with its rear-heavy, tail happy design is not the best basis for go-fast and turn-fast escapades.

So what will I take to the track? Victoria recently bought herself a modern car since her job requires it, so that makes Glinda available (she’s selected Luna as her Corvair keeper). My first thought was to sell the Glinda too and then buy a 4-speed equipped LM coupe, but Dave reminded me that the cost of converting a car from automatic to manual is about what it would cost me to register a replacement at MVA. Plus I know exactly what I’m getting with Glinda. Now I’m waiting to hear back from Jeff at the Corvair Ranch regarding just how financially painful the parts and assemblies would be if the swap-route is the way I go.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

All’s Quiet on the Fleet Front

Well, not all. There are a few issues that I’m dealing with, but all-in-all the fleet’s behaving. TYL.

Ariel has had to drive Ringo around without functioning gauges for at least a month, so I decided I’d deal with that this last weekend. Thinking it was a bad cable, I disconnected the dash-end and checked it by twisting and pulling. If it was broken it’d either spin freely or pull right out. It did neither, so my diagnosis was bad speedometer/odometer. My ‘vair buddy Ken had pulled a gauge set out of PartsWagon, and I used the guts of it to rebuild the gauge set in Ringo. First, though, I had to remove Ringo’s from his dash. That’s always a fun contest of contortion. With it out, I drove the input with my electric drill running backwards – the needle jumped but then quickly settled back to 0 while the odometer did not move. Confident there’s where the problem’s lay, I disassembled both gauge sets (Ringo’s and PartsWagon’s) and put the speedometer guts from PartsWagon into Ringo’s nicer housing. Once the gauge set was reassembled, I tested it with the drill. The needle climbed as drill speed increased – success. To check the calibration, I spun the input at a steady indicated 60 mph and then timed how long it took the odometer to spin a half-mile. About thirty seconds proved it was pretty darn close to dead on. Of course there is some error that the rest of the car will introduce, but this is a good start on accuracy.

Before putting the gauge set back in, I needed to deal with the stuck gas gauge. I asked Ariel how much gas she guessed Ringo’s tank had in it and she thought it was pretty low. None of the gauges I plugged into the harness agreed with that, so I siphoned out all the gas. After nearly filling five gallons, the clear tube went dry, so I removed the hose from the tank’s sender. Lo-and-behold, another gallon-and-a-half splashed into my catch pans. With the tank finally empty, I removed the sender from the tank and inspected it. I immediately found the float had filled with gas – there’s the problem. Just in case there was more wrong, I measured the resistance while moving the sender’s arm. Zero ohms with the arm straight up (correct) and forty ohms when completely down (correct). I had a new float on the shelf, so I popped it in place of the failed one and reinstalled the sender. After pouring the gas back into the tank, the gauge read just about ½ a tank. Success!

After another contortion session, I had the gauge set back in. Not having the time to take him out for a test drive, I quit with the feeling of success.

The next day Ariel drove him to work and reported that neither the speedometer nor odometer moved during her commute, and the gas gauge hadn’t move either. CRAP!!!!!!! Last night, I pulled Lucy’s nearly-new speedometer cable off and replaced Ringo’s. The subsequent test drive up the driveway resulted in a moving needle. This success was verified during Ariel’s morning commute. The gas gauge issue could be that I’d installed the float backwards and it’s hanging up on the tank’s wall. Since the tank is basically full, I’m going to wait a few days before taking on that task.