Saturday, May 30, 2020

Here are five more gems from the CraigsList mine.

2,500/trade. Nice rake.

A '79 Coupe De Ville. At one time I considered the downsized '77 to '80 Cadillacs to be the best Cadillacs  ever built, at least up until that point. They were the right size, smaller than the enormous previous model, but still big enough to look impressive, like a proper Cadillac. They were also pretty good driving machines. It was a balance that wasn't easy to maintain as GM disastrously made them even smaller on the next round of downsizing. They were pretty sad looking at that point. As I've mentioned I owned a three year old, '77 Coupe back in the days right after graduating from college. This car has a strong personal connection to me, I might be trying to relive the past with a car like this. This one? It needs paint, interior and probably some mechanical work.

6.800.00, this one's been babied!

1986 Mark VII "show" car. This is one is very well cared for, and the asking price reflects that. I have always admired the Mark VII, ever since it was announced. Styling wise it's combines the aero look with elements of the traditional Mark cues. It reminds me of the '84 Cougar that I bought new. The engine powering these cars is the good old 5.0 V8. Initially they were pretty weak, but by 1989 the power level was acceptable. They shared the same H.O. motor with the Mustang GT. Obviously they are going to be slower than the Mustang since they weigh more. They are pretty roomy and well built. I actually went to see and test drive one earlier this year. I was surprised by how much smaller they appear in real life.


1993 MBZ SL300. New tires, brakes, 3,800 dollar top, ready to go! I was late to the whole American Gigolo 450 SL craze. I finally succumbed to the desire to have one of my own. I was also looking for an S class Benz but I ended up buying a Cadillac STS. That dried the cash flow to look for extra cars. I remember seeing a beautiful teal SEC coupe at a local higher end Benz resale car lot. These next generation SLs look very trim and timeless. As a contrarian the six cylinder model appeals to me. These are now quite affordable as the earlier models have been increasing in price and desirability. I have had a long running love/ hate relationship with Mercedes Benz. I have long wanted one, but I chose to go with the Jaguar instead.

3,950 bucks 69K

A '97 Cadillac Eldo, three way white, gorgeous! I still think that these cars are beautiful. I originally wanted one of these instead of a Seville, but chose the four door Seville so that my son could have his "own" door. My buddy Rick bought a three way white Eldo like this one. Like my STS, these NorthStar powered examples are great driving cars that are very fast. Unfortunately they did have some mechanical glitches which I have experienced first hand. So why would I want one now?


'99 SC 400 well maintained, really clean, 248 k?

The Lexus SC400 was a very well received car. Lexus has a legendary reputation for quality, reliability, and durability. Everything I've read has verified and reinforced this reputation. This has kept the prices high for used examples, but if you will settle for an older model, prices have drifted down. Styling is simple, but tasteful. The interior appointments are of high quality but quite plain, at least compared to a Jaguar. This particular example has a documented record of a lot of maintenance and necessary repairs performed. Many of the lower priced examples have truly astronomical mileages, sellers are blithely stating that these cars "run forever" though realistically their "forever" is probably already passed.

I currently have several high mileage old cars. Two of them are well over 200,000! I won't pretend that's not a lot of miles on the odometer, because it is. Modern cars can reliably rack up high mileages especially if they receive adequate maintenance and timely, proper repairs.  Even with well documented service histories, you cannot buy a high mileage car and simply assume that it will provide years of reliable service. You have to carefully inspect any car, but be reasonable. It's old. You might receive several years of usage if you keep an eye on fluid levels, brake pad thickness, hoses, belts and tires. Owning a high mileage machine requires diligence, buying one requires "due diligence." Every machine will eventually wear out during it's use, that length of time is it's service life. Don't be mislead, nothing will last forever. But it can be extended, that's what we're all looking for. Sometimes you stumble across the well loved, well serviced example. That's what keeps me looking!

I won't pretend that trolling through Internet car listings is the best use of my time. But at least it doesn't cost me anything, and I get to rethink all my car related choices. It's fun to re-visit potential choices that I could have made.

Or choices that I actually made.

This picture is from 1980. 

I really don't spend very much of my time reminiscing about the past. My outlook is to focus on the present and consider the future. There's no way to go back in time and of course I'll never be 25 years old again. Once was quite enough! Sometimes I feel like I'm very much like these old cars I find on CraigsList. Sometimes I feel that appearance and condition is pretty good (maybe misleading!) especially considering all those years of wear and tear. Unfortunately human beings can't be rebuilt like the Six Million Dollar Man. 

I don't think that I really want to try and relive the past. I just would like to revisit the times when I made the choices of the cars that I would own. I might have missed out on a car that I would have really enjoyed. Of course I missed many that I couldn't afford then, and even now still can't afford due to rising values. But I keep on searching. Maybe I can find one of those that  got away!

Friday, May 22, 2020

How does that new Wilwood master cylinder compare to the original?

They both seem to measure out at about six inches.

On first examination, they look to be very similar in length.The original master cylinder is mounted by two bolts that pass thru the body into the frame. The new unit has side mounting as well as flange mounting provisions. My first task is to see if the new unit can be physically mounted in the same position and will be compatible with the existing stock floor pedals and linkage.

New, and old.

I can always make an adapter plate that could accommodate both side mounts. It would be nice if I could use one of the stock mounting points.

One view of how the mountings match up.

I will try to mock it up into position using the lower mount of the original. It appears to me that they might be pretty close to fitting in the same spot.

That mounting boss broke when I tried bolting the thing to a metal plate and held it in the vise.
I tried using a socket with a long breaker bar on that nut.
 The force bent and twisted the plate which caused the edge of the boss to break.

Here's the flip side view.

This is the clutch master cylinder.

This is the clutch master cylinder, again it is a pretty good match in size. I would use the same type of Wilwood cylinder. The difference will be in the smaller bore size.

Flange mounting opportunities.

From this view you can see that the clutch cylinder mounts with three bolts to the flange. One bolt hole is oriented at the top. I'm hoping the there will be enough "meat" on the frame mount to allow me to simply drill a lower mounting hole. If not it should be fairly easy to fabricate an adapter plate.

I got out my tubing cutter to remove the master cylinder fitting ends from the chassis hydraulic lines. You can't mix them up, one is bigger than the other.

I just have to find the proper fittings that will allow this...

to mate with the output fitting here.

Those old rusty cylinders look like a nasty old potato
 that fell under the sink and has started to grow "eyes!"

These are the cylinder fluid output ports to the brake system. The other fitting is for the remote reservoir.

If I could find  replacement master cylinders
I would choose that alternative in a heartbeat.

My mission is to find the proper fittings to adapt the outlet port of the new Wilwood cylinder to the fitting that I cut off of the existing brake supply line.

Is the new master going to be compatible to the existing brake hydraulic system? I know that the bore of the new cylinder has to match the old unit. The volume is another question, one that I don't know how to calculate. The Wilwood unit is a high pressure system that can work unboosted with disc brakes. I suppose that you could mathematically find the volume it displaces by multiplying the bore X the stroke. Maybe throw pii in there since it's circular. Or I could just hook it up and see if it works! Honestly, if I was that good at math I could have found a higher paying job and could have a late model Aston Martin sitting in my garage, without all this extra work.

There is a store in town that specializes in brass hydraulic and air fittings of all kinds and sizes. Their ad says that the customer should just come in and let them utilize their expertise in finding the correct fittings.

Sounds good to me.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Please pass the H.A.M.B.!

It tastes as good as it looks.
photo source: Nueske's

There are forums and blogs on the internet for every conceivable subject and interest. There are some that attract a lot of traffic and there are those are seldom visited.

This is one that has been around for a long time with a dedicated audience.

It is associated with the Jalopy Journal. The name is the H.A.M.B. The Hokey Ass Message Board.

I'd like to add that there are a lot of nice pictures of hot rods and custom cars. Some are current and some are historic or vintage.

However that's not what attracts me to the site. I've never been one to go to car shows and drool over all the pretty shiny cars.

I want to see how people build their cars. The H.A.M.B. is the place for this. I'm not going to post any pretty pictures here.

This is a site for die hard, old school, hot rod and custom builders. These are the guys that get their hands dirty. These are the guys with the skills. Wrenching, welding, machining, painting, upholstering. Whatever it takes. This forum is a treasure trove of DIY skills and inspiration.

Especially inspiration.

If the poster does not currently have the skills, they will often jump in (with both feet!) and acquire the skills while they work on their project.

Since I have a lot of free time a the moment I decided to re-acquaint myself with the H.A.M.B. Since I had not visited in several years, there was a lot of new material for me to peruse.

Posters that are starting long range projects post "build threads." These are usually fairly detailed with lots of photographs illustrating their build operations and progress. These threads can span years.

What is very rewarding is the honesty of the posters. They will often admit that their current project was a poor choice. They buy it and then later find that there are so many more problem areas that they overlooked in their excitement of acquisition. So what are you going to do now? Sometimes they cut their losses and sell it for what they can get. Or they can push it out of the way and just forget about for a while. Most of these guys are just like me, in that they have some wrench turning skills but they don't have the money to farm out the work. They realize that if they don't do the work themselves then it will never get done. Besides, whats the point in paying for things? The idea is to get in there and do it themselves.

They just grit their teeth and start in.

I'm going to share part of one build thread posted by Hackerbilt of St. Johns Newfoundland Canada. This thread ran from 12/30/2010 through 11/7/2012, almost two years. I have followed threads that have documented a four and a half years process!

Hackerbilt bought this '63 Dodge four door as an easy Winter project. It was going to be a driver, up by the spring. He knew that the car needed some frame repair to the rear spring perches, He was ready for that. He was aware that it was going to need some floor pan repair. He was ready for that. He right away replaced the springs and perches with Chevy S10 parts. Then he started  in on the floor boards.

It was four door and he got a little grief for that.
It was also slant six powered but he was okay with that also.

That orange thing is the tail shaft of the transmission.
The thing contained in the "white curve" is the
right side torsion bar pocket of the cross member.
It was rusty, so were the floor but they were covered in tar!

First he cut a bit, then a bit more.

Then he cut more and removed the torsion bar cross member.
The shiny pieces are the metal bits he fabricated. Notice how much shiny metal will be fabbed and replaced!

This is a section of replacement floor.
He made a tool to fit to an air hammer to make those beads.

Replacing the entire floor was a bigger job that re doing the spring perches. Worse things were to come however. The following pictures show how rusted the rt. side of the door pillar, firewall. heater plenum, and toe board were. One of the big holes was patched with some vinyl house siding, liberally coated in tar!

That white object is the siding patch.

If I would have found that much rust out, I would have called it quits! If the builder couldn't do the work himself, he probably would have also. Rust likes to hide in hidden areas and it is often bodged up and covered up, this case in roofing tar which keeps it from being seen by the buyer before purchase. Many posters are located in the north east or Canada and they know it almost impossible to find inexpensive old cars that are relatively free of rust. Other times, they just didn't look close enough!

Cut out the rusty metal and make a card stock template.

Take fresh metal trace, cut, flange, add holes, and a bead.

It fits! You can see other fabbed panels below this one.
The grey "paint" is weld through primer.

Clamp securely and weld, The round hole is for the blower fan.

All done.

Here you can see the underside of the repair.

Yo can see that you often don't have much original metal to work with. It takes skill to fab these bits.
Hacker says to just cut the rust all out! Still you have to proceed methodically.

This is the driver's side of the plenum, the area of the cowl
under the windshield and dashboard.

Look at all the patchwork. Hacker patiently positions and welds each patch in.

This is the driver's side door pillar area. You can see all the replacement metal.

It looks much better now.

Now it looks almost like new.

Compare this to the earlier photo.
What a transformation.

Looks like the rear quarters and wheel arches needed reconstruction too.

What happened to the trunk floor?

It looks pretty good from this angle.

Is it worth all this work?

There was rust everywhere.

Hacker is not giving up.

If you've got the skills....

And the will...

I guess that it's all about the challenge.

Look at that new metal. Look towards the rear and there's more rust!

No, it's not the same car. Of course it would have been easier to start out with this!

Did Hacker ever finish the car? The thread went dead after a couple of years. I'm guessing that he didn't. It is incredible that he put so much effort into a car that he knew from the beginning wasn't worth very much. He probably started in on another project. It seems like these hardcore HAMBsters like the building even more than the driving

You can learn a  lot from these build threads. They come up with some clever and innovative solutions. I really admire the determination that the builders display.

The rest of the forum provides other nuggets of wisdom. I'll revisit this subject in later posts.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

I haven't been just sitting around during the shelter in place.

Those ceilings didn't seem so high
thirty years ago.

Actually I have been sitting around a lot. I've shared the results of some of my internet searches last week. What I haven't been doing is any work on my cars. I had to move the XJS and XJ6 out of the garage into the street to make room in the garage for all the  boxes and items that are being displaced from the house. There are rows and rows of U Haul boxes that were patiently filled by my Wife and myself.

The big project was putting in new plank flooring. At one time it would have been real wood, then wood laminate. Now it's what is called "luxury vinyl flooring". It looks like a real hard wood floor but it's water proof and there's a lifetime guarantee. This meant that all the furniture has to be moved from room to room or placed outside. The installers are tearing out all the existing carpet, hardwood parquet, and tile flooring. Which means that all the various cabinets, display cases, book cases, dressers, curio cabinets, shelves, trunks, hope chests, boxes and what-nots have to be emptied and have everything that is piled on top has to be removed so that the items can be moved.

My Wife is a crafter/artist. She started out as a scrapbooker, then progressed into what I would call a decorative  and assemblage artist. She also alters and makes display books and other decorative items. Thank God our shabby chic furniture days have passed. We spent a lot of time crossing the state looking for finds and transporting them back home to the "studio." It was fun as I learned to really enjoy going to Antique Faires. My back is finally recovering from that time period.

While car guys often end up with a bunch of cars and parts, crafters and artists need to accumulate an inventory or supply of raw stock to work with. They need to have a workspace, and then they need a place to display their finished pieces.

My Wife was initially limited to a scrapbooking room that I converted from an unused bed room. I had been wanting a den, that I could decorate to my tastes. On my suggestion a bargain was struck.  We would convert the living room and dining room into a studio for her use.  I would turn the former scrapbook room into my den. Later I would gain the sole use of my garage as all storage would move to the two new storage sheds in the backyard.

Masking and covering. Standing on a fifteen foot extension ladder
is quite stressful.

This turned out to be a very satisfactory arrangement. She had the use of the biggest rooms and I had a private retreat. She could get together with her friends to craft and create, and I had a comfortable place to be out of the way. Let's face it, a group of ladies doesn't want to get together and have someone's husband hanging around.

She has decorated to her taste, which of course is kind of frou-frou, but that's okay. There are many chandeliers and her creations are on display. We both share an appreciation of vintage wooden furniture and she has a collection of beautiful pieces; some shabby chic, some natural wood; an antique printer's cabinet, library file cabinets, a set of huge cabinets that were once a custom built media center, and armoirs and many more than I can name. I think the overall effect is very nice. It doesn't look like the inside of a typical tract house, and I love that.

What does all this have to do with Better Beaters?

Nothing really, but like many that are looking to retire the decision of where to live becomes a discussion. I have dreamed of having a place in the country where I could have a big shop to store and work on my cars. Two acres that I could fill up with stuff.

I'm getting a bit too old for this stuff!

When I was working, I always kept that thought as a kind of escapist valve. I could retreat into that little fantasy of what "might" take place in the future. Whether or not it did, wasn't as important as thinking that it could. It's the same way in thinking about cars!

My bookcases are starting to look like the toilet paper
aisle at the supermarket. It's mosty all coming back in.

Well, as retirement looms the discussion about where to live in retirement has to be addressed. My brother moved out of the state and is living in one of the least inhabited states of the lower forty eight. His experience has been satisfying to him, but it doesn't seem to fulfill that escapist fantasy that I nurtured for so long. In reality I'm happy here and so is my Wife. She may be a bit happier than I, but I trust her judgement! Long story short, I'm not moving out to the country, and I'm not moving out of this house. Did I really need all that extra room for more cars? I can't deal with my current stable.

So we decided to start fixing up the house. We've lived here for 37 years. The house started out as just the right size, got a little tight for a while, but now it's back to the right size. We both prefer a single story house. I had to recover from a back injury and I couldn't imagine climbing stairs, it was hard enough getting around on the level. The basic truth is that we're not getting any younger.

It's much easier to pack things in uniform boxes.
I did some purging as I packed.

The biggest part of the project was scheduled before the shelter in place order started. We postponed work on a bathroom until a couple or weeks ago, and the floors have been put off for a month and a half. The floors were just finished last night. I was doing a lot of painting, including most of the ceilings before then. We still have a lot of work ahead just to decide what is coming back in. I've been busy in the yard and I've still got to paint the outside of the house. Lot's to do, but hopefully I'll have my garage back and will be able to do some work on my cars.

This pandemic is a life changing event. Luckily my family and I have escaped getting sick, (so far) but we still have to deal with the financial consequences. I think that we'll be okay, but we are going to have to cut back on some luxuries and hobbies. I think that I'll probably be cutting back on the number of cars, but I haven't made any final decisions yet. Health is more important than anything, stay as safe as you can, where ever you are.