Friday, March 29, 2013

Crazy Ray’s Three ‘Vairs

The gentleman that came by to look at Lucy last Wednesday mentioned he was just at the Fort Smallwood Rd Crazy Ray’s junkyard and saw they had some EMs out for the picking. It just so happened I needed to make a junkyard run to get a part for the lovely Loriann’s daily-driver, so today was the day to take an extended lunch. After procuring the PT Cruiser part, I wandered over toward's the GM area of the yard. I was, however, waylaid by a really cool ’55 Plymouth Savoy. This car has some unique features foremost of which, in my mind, is a dash-mounted transmission shifter. A precursor to the Corvair’s Powerglide shifter perhaps? I couldn't help but snap some photos that I've posted on Flickr.

Finally prying my eyes from the fifty's awesomeness, I moved on and found three ‘63 Corvairs sitting nearly side-by-side in various states of dismemberment. The first one I inspected was a Spyder with much of its drivetrain displaced and dispersed on the ground. It's worth mentioning that the engine block was stamped with an RB. This letter combination is from the very desirable 140 HP engines found in the LM Corsas. Interesting. And strange that whoever did the swap did not include the required harmonic balancer, but rather just swapped the solid pulley wheel from the car's original turbocharged engine. Looking for one of ‘vairdom’s holy grails, the engine thermostat, I located the two bottom shrouds and found one good thermostat and claimed it. Sadly, I forgot to check for the even more valuable holy grail, the temperature sensor. Before moving on to ‘vair number two, another coupe, I snagged three unused brake shoes. The fourth one was missing its liner.

This one still had its engine in place and both thermostats were in good shape. A few minutes Iater, I had liberated both of them. While prone with both hands under the car, I noticed the muffler was in really good shape – no rust or holes. I’m sure TwoTone needs a good muffler. Extricating the exhaust pipe/muffler assembly was only slightly more difficult than getting the thermostats with two of the four manifold bolts doing their normal thing of snapping under significant torque. The other two unscrewed nicely, and after cutting the rubber hanger, the ungainly assembly was lying on the ground.

The last Corvair was a 4-door with a really solid body. While its drivetrain appeared basically intact only missing its air cleaners and carburetors from the top side, the underside was missing both shrouds so no thermostats. The interior had been mostly stripped away, but lying loose on the floor was a brand new 4” heater hose. Hmm. I’m sure they don’t want much for one of these. Snagged.

Remembering Crazy Ray’s only takes cash, I pulled out my wallet to check how much I had - $45. I toted my treasures over to the payment window, where I was told it would cost me $42.95. This isn't the first time they've taken nearly all my money. It’s like they know exactly how much money I have. I guess I need to take less with me next time. It's really a moot point since they've finally joined the twenty-first century and accept plastic payment.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

No Sale

While the guy interested in buying Lucy really liked the modifications I've done to her, he was looking for a nicer specimen. I sent his contact information to Gary, the local 'vair guru, who I knew has been trying to sell his '64 Spyder (with a non-original engine) since it looks nicer than Lucy. Karma can be a good thing.

With some time left before the lovely Loriann and Mikhaila returned from their Girl Scout meeting, I donned grungies and headed out to the garage. I'd previously lubricated Glinda's replacement speedometer cable, so now was a good time to install it. Three bolts held the broken one in. Before installing the replacement, I slid on the grommet that'll seal the firewall hole and pulled the grease cap off the right front wheel. The old cable had left its end stuck in the hex pocket of the cap, so I had to pull it out with a pair of pliers. With the new cable in place and its wheel end in place, I screwed the other end to the back of the speedometer, snapped the grommet into its hole, and pushed the carpet back into place. Job done.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Make It Better to Make It Gone

I may have a prospective buyer for Lucy. He answered my Craigslist ad last week and we had a tentative appointment for him to stop by Sunday afternoon, but that ended up not happening (he did call me, so my faith in mankind is still intact). We rescheduled for Wednesday evening, but I'll leave Lucy parked on the curb while I drive something else to work tomorrow, so the guy can start his inspection prior to my arrival.

Much of this last weekend was consumed with non-car activities, but I was able to complete Lucy’s alternator swap Friday night. With my new Harbor Freight soldering iron, I finished splicing the LM alternator harness into the EM harness. After protecting the soldered joints with shrink tube, electrical tape, and plastic armor, I installed the new voltage regulator. Since it is smaller than a stock EM regulator, I had to fashion a couple adapters from strips of sheetmetal leftover from past radio installations. I was finally able to turn the key and see if the GEN-FAN light would go on and then go off once the engine was running. I first plugged my charging system monitor (voltmeter) into Lucy’s lighter socket so I could see how much electricity the alternator of unknown provenance was putting out – if anything. The light came on with the key in the ON position, so I knew I’d wired up the idiot light circuit correctly. The light went off once I got Lucy’s engine to fire. The monitor was showing a nice, steady reading of greater than 14 volts. Project successfully completed.

The only other car work that was accomplished occurred Sunday afternoon and was precipitated by a Saturday morning text message from Ariel, “My car wouldn’t start so I had to take your truck,” and, “the battery is dead I think.” Thinking the terminals were corroded, I gathered up my voltmeter, wrenches, wire brushes, and Ringo’s key and headed out to the curb. The meter read over 12 volts once I probed the battery’s two terminals, so I plopped my butt into the driver’s seat and turned the key. At first, the engine barely turned, but eventually it began spinning fast enough for the engine to start. I let it idle for a while noting the charging voltage was above 14. That told me the alternator and voltage regulator were doing their job. Confident I’d put enough juice into the battery to get another start out of it, I turned off the engine and thoroughly cleaned the positive and negative terminals and connectors, reattached everything, turned the key to START, and the engine returned to a nice, steady idle. Fifteen more minutes of idling and charging and I pronounced him good-to-go (with fingers crossed on both hands). By the way, he started right up this morning.

Monday, March 18, 2013

I Thought This Day Would Never Come

The day when I actually got to choose what fleet work I wanted to do instead of what fleet work had to be done. Ringo is back on the road and, other than a rough idle during warm-up, seems to be performing properly. I’m waiting on Glinda’s replacement speedometer cable, but she’s still running reliably as my current daily-driver. Heidi sits patiently waiting for better weather, but when I did press her into service a week ago, she went willingly down the road. Mikhaila’s still not quite ready to tackle working on Two-Tone, so that left me with Lucy.

To solve the engine dying problem, I first cut away the tape over the connection between two 10 gauge wires that carry the main 12 V from the voltage regulator into the main harness. They were corroded and looked like they’d been getting hot – an indicator of increased resistance. After wire brushing everything back to shiny metal, I coated the connectors’ surfaces with dielectric grease, plugged them back together, and then enclosed the connection in a piece of shrink-tubing. That was Saturday afternoon.

Yesterday afternoon I decided to do the generator to alternator swap on Lucy. I thought I had all the pieces - the trick was finding them. I located the LM correct adapter on the shelf, its new gasket amongst a collection of gaskets, and the correct LM engine compartment wire harness. I dug out six different alternators and selected the one that spun the quietest. After raiding the Corsa engine for some bolts, all I was missing was a voltage regulator. To swap the adapter, I had to, in addition to the generator, remove the fuel pump. Once all the new stuff was bolted in place and the fuel pump and fanbelt in place, I tackled the wiring. The new harness can’t just drop into place – it has to be spliced into the existing wiring. The smaller wires solder easy enough with shrink-tube going over the joints, but soldering the main 10 gauge wires together takes more than my 45 watt iron. I’ve never been able to get reliable heat out of my big gun (rated 140 W), and last night was more of the same – couldn’t even melt solder. I cleaned it up and will try to get Home Depot to exchange it for a new one.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Good News is Good - Really Good

Ariel misunderstood my text request yesterday, and once she was clear she confirmed the gas gauge needle did in fact go to the Full mark after she topped off the tank with 87 octane. Thank goodness that issue has been resolved. Definitely good news.

Some more good news is that it looks like Lucy’s fix will be fairly straightforward. As reported yesterday, the consensus of the wise on the web was a bad connection of the main 12 Volt circuit – probably the one in the engine compartment. Many recommended I just bypass the connector and solder the two ends together permanently. Once I got Lucy home last night, I took at look at the connector. Lo-and-behold a PO had already done this bypass, but I couldn’t tell how well. I noticed right away that the joint was warm to the touch, and as I wiggled the wires, I saw the GEN-FAN light dimming and then getting brighter. I’m going to remove the electrical tape and re-do this splice, so hopefully that will take care of this. While I’m at it, I’d really like to do the alternator swap. I have everything necessary. It’s just a matter of time.

Speaking of swaps, I recently placed an order with the Corvair Ranch for a GUP speedometer cable for Glinda. While I was on the phone with Jeff, I asked him if he could hunt down a EM 3-speed shifter base for me. According to one of my favorite sources, Bryan Blackwell’s site, “Early 3 speed shifters are faster ratio than 4 speeds, so a quick upgrade is to use a 3 speed unit.” If Jeff’s able to find one, he'll include it in the order, and I’ll give the mod a try. I'm real curious as to how much it will reduce the long throws required to row through Lucy’s gears.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I've Got a Word for You - It's ARGH

Last night I finally got Ringo running and out of the garage – but not without him making it far more difficult than it needed to be. After installing the rest of the stuff to the top of the engine, I hooked up the battery, slid behind the steering wheel, and turned the key. Two weeks of evaporation had emptied the carburetor bowls, so starting the car took a few tries of pouring some gas down a carburetor and cranking the engine. Just as I thought the battery had no more to give, the engine started and settled into a decent idle. I figured I was home free. NOT.

As I was checking the belt travel on the running engine, I was blipping the throttle. During one of the blips, the throttle stuck at a higher rpm. It took some searching, but I found the cause – a broken linkage on the right carb was allowing the hi-idle cam to intermittently hang up in the ON position. After replacing the broken part with a GUP from my stash of spare carb parts, I thought I was home-free. NOT.

As I was re-checking the belt travel on the running engine, I discovered gas leaking from the fuel pump. It took a few turns of each screw, but I was able to stanch the flow of fuel. I then thought I was home-free. NOT.

As I was backing the car out of the garage I pulled the headlight switch, but the void in front of Ringo stayed unilluminated. I jumped out of the car and verified I had taillights, so I knew it wasn’t the headlight switch. It had to be the ever-troublesome hi-beam floor switch. I pulled back the carpet and jiggled the connector and, sure enough, the lights came on. After a few pull offs and push ons the contacts were clean enough and the lights stayed on and the floor switch functioned properly. I then thought I was home-free. Only time (and Ariel’s driving) would tell. NOT.

Ariel’s report to me this morning said the car runs fine, but after filling the gas tank, the needle only indicates 3/8ths tank. So the problem wasn’t the sender (even though I thought I’d verified it was using four different gauges). Irrrrr. I’ll go back to trying different gauges. I may have to break down and connect Ringo’s circuit up to Lucy to checkpull a known good gauge out of Lucy to check. Could all my supposed GUP fuel gauges be bad?

Speaking of Lucy, it broke down last night on Ariel’s late drive home from work. According to her, after cruising fine for about thirty minutes at highway speeds, the car had the simultaneous symptoms of engine down on power, headlights dimming, and GEN-FAN light illuminating brightly. After about a second everything went normal again, but the problem came back about ten seconds later only to disappear again almost immediately. This went on a couple more times until the engine died, the headlights stayed off, and the GEN-FAN stayed on. She coasted to the shoulder, tried getting the engine to refire, before giving up and calling Victoria to bring her a ride. This morning I drove the truck to Lucy’s location expecting to have to flat-tow her home, but (of course) she started right up and I was able to drive her to a safe parking spot about a half-mile away. I’ll go get her after work.

I posted the issue online and the consensus seems to be a bad connector between the battery/generator and the fuse block. There’s one in the engine compartment that’s notorious for corroding, so that’s where I’ll start. If that’s the fix, then I got off lucky this time.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Progress … Finally

Between waiting for parts and being away from home for a long weekend, I’ve not made an effort to go out to the garage, so Ringo has sat ignored in the garage. That finally changed last night when I ran out of excuses, donned my grungies, and proceeded to put Ringo back together again.

Before installing the new gas gauge sender into the tank, I messed around with it connected to the wire harness to determine which gauge read empty with the rod fully down and full with it at opposite lock. With the right gauge selected, the sender was poked into the tank, and, with a new gasket, retained with the lock-ring. After the wire ends were connected and the fuel hose was slid over the tube ends and clamped into place, task one of the evening was complete.

Task two was replacing the crankcase cover and that started with the pulling off the existing EM cover. I had somewhat dreaded this operation since cleaning the hardened gasket material off the mating faces is a pain in the butt times two – there are two gaskets sandwiching the crankcase vent (windage tray) between the engine and cover flanges. Careful, well-aimed tapping was rewarded with only the cover and its gaskets coming off leaving the vent and its gasket still in place against the engine. TYL! The LM cover needed some scraping before it was ready to go, and after fifteen minutes or so it had a new gasket light adhered to it with a thin coat of RTV. The outer surface of the gasket just got a light coat of grease before mating to the engine. All the bolts went in being torqued to roughly 150 inch-pounds. Since the crankcase cover includes a larger blower bearing that that for an EM, I had to go hunting for a LM blower. It took a few minutes, but I unburied one from the shelves. With it in place, I could maneuver the engine upper shroud into position. After bolting it down, the last task of the evening was simply dropping the blower pulley onto the blower hub.

I can’t go any farther until I find the four bolts that retain the blower and pulley to the bearing hub. I’ve done some cursory hunting through containers of engine fasteners, but have struck out each time, so my plan is to use the four off the Corsa engine and replace those when I’m rebuilding that engine. This evening should provide me with some more garage time with the hope being Ringo ends up out of the garage and back at the curb.