Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving! Turkey and left overs.

photo source:
There's always something left on the platter after the meal.

What am I waiting for?

I got the chance to drive my Mustang enough to chase down the source of the coolant leak, sort of. I finally saw a small drip running down the right rear side of the intake manifold. After closer observation I saw that the right rear manifold bolt had coolant flowing around it. I could see that there wasn't any coolant flowing down into the engine valley. Could the manifold have loosened up enough to permit a leak? Is anything ever that easy? I checked the manifold  bolts and found that the torque reading was within specs. The manifold must have a little crack, the heater hoses connect to a boss at the rear of the manifold that contains the hose fittings. That could be the source of the leak. I guess I could put some sealer into the system to check my hypothesis.

The intake manifold is made of plastic, and they were known to break down and leak around the thermostat housing, among other places. Sometimes they suffered a catastrophic failure that erupted into an under hood shower of green coolant. An updated design used an aluminum coolant cross over pipe which was supposed to alleviate the problem. The original manifold in my car lasted for 175,000 miles which is pretty good service. I replaced the manifold in my car about three and a half years ago. Could the replacement have failed so soon?

I was successful in removing the pistons from the front wheel cylinders of my Mark VII. I need to replace some parts that were damaged: I need the internal cylinder spring for one cylinder, the crossover pipe fitting refused to loosen and the pipe was twisted and broken when removing the fitting from the other. I would also like to replace the brake shoe return springs

My plan is to clean, rebuild, and remount the cylinders, reassemble the brake shoes but not connect the brake hoses, yet. Then I will move back to the rear brakes to repeat the process. If I could get the hand brake to work, I could use it while moving the car, if it was running. Of course I need to remove and rebuild the master cylinder and blow out all the brake lines.

The oil filter canister top cover gasket didn't fit properly and needs a better design. I have to repair the end fitting to the add on oil filter canister and secure the mounting.

The carbs need to be cleaned, the broken bushing housing replaced and the assembly mounted to the head.

I have to clean out and check the integrity of the fuel tanks. I also have to devise a gravity fuel feed directly to the carbs. Not that I'm forgetting the dual fuel pumps, but I would rather concentrate on getting the motor started.

The vacuum advance assembly on the distributor needs to be replaced.  I saw one for sale on Amazon but it cost 80 bucks!

The registration on my XJ6 was due this month. It also needed a smog check to complete the process. I misplaced the renewal notice and when I checked the actual registration document I found that it had passed a week earlier! I went to Triple A and paid the registration, plus fees. I only had to pay a penalty of an extra thirty bucks! I've done much worse. The CEL has been on for a long time, but the car runs really well.  Still, that will have to be dealt with before it's gets the smog check.

The front suspension really needs to be rebuilt, I mean REALLY needs to be rebuilt. The steering is sloppy and it pulls to the left constantly. The last time I drove it to work it had developed a really bad oscillation that was felt in the wheel.  No more driving it to work.

This is the official Jaguar tool.

The homemade tool is on the left, threaded rod, nuts, washers, and a piece of pipe.
The tool on the right is for the rear spring units.

This is going to be a difficult job so I've even toyed with the idea  of buying the actual Jaguar spring compressor. Jagbits offers the tool for 500.00. That's a chunk of change so I started building the homemade job like I've seen on the forums. I have several additional compressors that I can use in conjunction with the DIY tool to ensure a level of safety. This is more in keeping with my driveway mechanic ethos, except that I don't want to do the job in my driveway.

The shed is in, and my Wife has started the process of clearing out the garage.

My goal is to be able to park two cars in the garage, while still housing all my necessary tools and equipment like the tool chests, jacks, and air compressor. I would like to be able to keep my workbench and some of my steel industrial storage racks, but nothing is written in stone. I graciously decided to set aside some space along the wall for my Daughter's small business stuff.

The XJS needs the same front suspension rebuild that the XJ6 does. Still, it is running and driving. At least all my cars except the Mark VII are driveable and I can easily move them around. That makes huge difference.

Am I buried alive or just slogging through ankle deep mud?

Last year I posted the following quote: "The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything, they just make the most of everything that comes their way." Karen S. Magee

That's an attitude that I've tried to embrace and it leads me to be appreciative of everything that I have been able to enjoy in my life. Cars are important to me, but there are things of greater value. I have responsibilities towards my Wife and family first. I am blessed that the important things  are going well enough to allow me to have a little fun with my old cars. I hope that you have an enjoyable Thanksgiving.

And now, for something completely different.

Just something I can kick around in the back of my mind.

My 1970 Mustang hardtop.

Thinking back about my '70 Mustang coupe I'm left with mixed feelings. On one hand I was kind of glad to get rid of it, on the other hand I thought that it was a pretty good looking, just a right sized, fun to drive car.  It was a project car, and it was built to suit my design. On that point I think that it was a success. I built it with the look I wanted.

On the other hand I found myself with a car that would need a pretty big expenditure to bring it up to the technical specs that I wanted. While I really didn't have a beef with the straight six, it was the biggie after all, displacing 250 cubes, it's just that the fuel economy was so poor. Any equipment to improve performance and economy was scarce and very expensive. The braking system, though it was the same five lug wheels and drums as on the small block equipped car, left a lot to be desired. My experience indicated that a power boosted disc brake system at least on the front would have been a much better set up.

Sure, all kinds of upgrades are readily available, they just cost money. Add up all the upgrades; V8 swap, disc brakes, and adding a/c and the price tag turns out to be prohibitive. I guess that I should have started out with a better car! I know, I know, it didn't take a genius to figure that out. I started out trying to make an end run around the high price of a ready to go V8 muscle car. It didn't really work out.

I did that like that '70 Mustang, it really is my favorite model classic Mustang, but I don't think that I will try to find another one. If I go for another Classic Mustang it will be better equipped, but not one of the more expensive models. My choice would be the much unloved '71-73 Mustang coupe.

I actually like the sail panels of the C pillars.You can see how the level the roof line is,
if it would have tapered at the rear it would have been a much sleeker design

Why? Well because they are unloved (even in the Sportsroof version), and they are therefore cheap. Most are equipped with the standard small V8, usually an auto trans, power steering and often power disc brakes up front, and even a/c. All he basic building blocks are already there. Since they are pre '75 no smog test is required and I would be free to modify the motor and make some real improvements.

Some say that they are too big, ungainly, even ugly. I used to think so too.

This is the look I would try to avoid.

The rear of the roof is pretty tall and there are those roof sail panels. I think that the stance is very important. having a jacked up rear just makes the car look too tall. A lot of guys add the Mach One wing which doesn't help the profile any, in my opinion. I think that it should be lowered slightly, maintaining a level stance. A front spoiler would be okay, keep the tires and wheels within the fender contour, no big meats hanging out! I would build a custom front grille and tailight panel like I did on my '70. And it would also be Highland green, if I'm going to have a classic Mustang it's gotta be Highland green! The wheels would be wires. My favorite pick would be the Mark VII alloy wire as used on the Bill Blass editions. If that can't work, then maybe some other type of OEM alloy wire. If all else fails, GM wire hubcaps as used on the Buick or Olds models would be an option. Cadillac caps have too big a center section.

These are alloy wheels with actual spokes laced in the front.
I guess the center section is kind of big, too,

I've been reading Octane magazine for several years now, and what I'm going for is a kind of Euro vibe. A clean look that would stay away from overused muscle car cues.

photo source:Stephen Alfon
In this shot you can see that the design is well proportioned. 
The large wheels fill out the wheel openings without having to lower the car excessively.

This is a 1977 Aston Martin DBS coupe.
I do love a green car!

I think that the Aston's fastback roof treatment is better than on the '71-73 Sportsroof Mustang, but the coupe looks better than the Aston convertible with the top up! The cars do have a lot of similarities in their profiles and even in the front appearance. Am I saying that the Mustang is the same thing as an Aston Martin? Of course not. But they ARE both large V8 powered GT cars, and they can be put to the same uses. I've always believed that the Mustang was the "Everyman's" Aston.

You won't find many pictures of the car with the top up, now you can see why.

Am I really going to buy a '71 Mustang? Maybe someday, but I think that I'll just keep my eyes open for a set of those Lincoln wheels!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Engines. Sometimes you just dig them. The motor is the heart of an automobile or motorcycle. It can also be be the primary focus of the vehicle. Especially if it is the product of a famous manufacturer and is heir to a long history of racing success. Opening the hood can provide a world of satisfaction.

The Vincent.

What else could this be but British?

The Vincent was the World's fastest motorcycle during it's production run. It's all alloy construction and novel frame design kept the total weight of the motorcycle down. There were two carburetors fitted, and with the superior porting it allowed breathing at high rpm. The use of an advanced cam and follower design allowed the motor to achieve much higher operating speeds than it's contemporaries.

It is also the look of the engine which makes it so appealing to me. So very "busy" in appearance, with so many bits and pieces bolted on here and there. So very very British in it's visual complexity.

1936 Harley Davidson EL
Looks a bit cleaner than the English V twin.

Compare that with the Harley Davidson EL of 1936. In 1936 it set the World speed record for motorcycles at 130 mph. Real world performance was over 90 mph, this was at the time when your average Ford Model A would be hard pressed to hit 60 mph. With a single carburetor it was designed for reliability and longevity. The alloy valve covers identify this as the legendary "knucklehead." It is a feast for the eyes.

Bentley Pre War Six.

This is the motor that powered the racing machines of the legendary "Bentley Boys." The Twenties and early Thirties were the glory days of the marque that achieved it's greatest success before being bought by Rolls Royce.

The straight six configuration was the favorite design of the premium British marques. An overhead cam design was employed with a novel cam drive tower located at the back of the engine. Multiple carb set ups were determined by the state of tune and expected use of the vehicle. One of my favorite features, (shared with both of my six cylinder Jaguars) ts the use of a dual exhaust manifold. Straight sixes were never treated like the poor relation here, unlike in the U.S.

Even before the era of American V8s, inline engines never received highly developed manifolding or multiple carburetor set ups. Most inlines were flathead designs that were developed to provide low end torque as well as run on the low octane fuel available at the time. There were a few exceptions. The Buick  OHV inline eight of the late 1940's showcased a progressive dual carb "compound carburetor " set up that pre staged the use of four barrel carbs on V8s. The "Fabulous Hudson Hornet" sported "Twin H" twin carb set up and was NASCAR champ for a couple of years, owning to their competitive power and superior handling.

Aston Martin.

David Brown, a British industrialist purchased the faltering company for 30,000 dollars after the war, also picking up the ailing Lagonda concern. David Brown manufactured tractors, so he knew how to run a successful production company. Aston Martin enjoyed their finest era of racing success and produced some of their most memorable car designs during the David Brown years.  "Shaken not Stirred" Right?

This engine was designed by W.O. Bentley, and was the reason that David Brown
bought Lagonda.

The all alloy engines were powerful and like the Vincent, and are known for their eccentricities of construction. It is British, after all. One interesting feature is the presence of "weep holes" in the block to drain the area around the cylinder liners. Aston Martin did not produce a V8 engine until the 1970s.

The Jaguar XK Six.

The story of how Jaguar engineers developed this motor while on fire watch at the factory during WWII is a modern legend. They discussed the new motor that they would hope to build after the end of the hostilities.

William Lyons tasked his engineering crew with developing not only a technologically superior motor but he wanted it to look good also. Mission accomplished.

The engine enjoyed a notable run of success in multiple types of competition during the 50s and early 60s. Notably five wins at Le Mans. The XK powered Mark VII sedan finished second in the Monte Carlo Rally of 1952 and overall winner in 1956. (This could be the reason that I bought one!)

Jaguar V12

This was the most successful passenger car 12 cylinder ever, well over 150,000 units were produced. It was the sole powerplant of the Series Three E-Type, and of the XJS during fifteen years of it's run. The 12 was also used in three series of the XJ12 sedan. The 12 cylinder XJS was the fastest four passenger vehicle on the market for many years with a top speed of almost 160 mph.

It is a very large engine and it was a tight fit in every model car that it was installed in. The above picture, though a bit dirty illustrates the size and density of the unit.

The motor was renowned for it's smooth turbine like delivery of power.

Buick Nailhead

This is the motor that replaced the straight eight. It is quite narrow and compact. The story is that it had to fit in the existing inline engine  designed frame. The  design features horizontal valve design which results in the valve covers lying flat an unusual design for an American V8. I love this engine because it is not only a good performer, it is quite attractive. The intake manifold sits above a sheetmetal valley cover with an attractive thermostat housing water manifold. The stock rocker covers are nicely shaped and it also features an alloy water pump. This motor was used in the Early '60s Buick Riviera where it reached it's final displacement of 425 cubic inches. The motor in the photo is dressed out with finned aluminium items; valley cover, rocker arm covers, and spark plugs covers. There is even a finned aluminum air cleaner set up available.

You can get all those cool finned accessories from
O ' Brien's Trucking

Harley Davidson Sportster.

The 883 cc Sportster motor was the development of the KH flathead unit construction V twin. While the OHC XL motor was used on street bikes the flathead was developed into a racing motor that was most seen on flat tracks, but even raced at Daytona. AMA rules limited OHV engines to 500 cc displacements but they allowed 750 cc displacements for flatheads. This gave H.D. and exploitable advantage over Triumph. The left side four speed shift mimicked set ups used by the European vertical twins and it is clear that they were it's main competition in the market.

The Sportster was successful in competition, mostly drag racing where it created it's own classes. It was most successful on the street as the first Superbike. It was the quickest generally available bike, as those Vincents were rarely ever seen.

It was all image, and it had a magical name but it fell from grace as the 1970s dawned. While it is still in production it lost it's performance cachet many years ago,

Datsun 240Z OHC six.

This is the basis of the first great Japanese performance legend.

European marques had stuck with the six long after the American V8 had become the norm on the domestic scene. They did develop it's design to a high level. Mercedes, BMW, as well as Rolls Royce. The Japanese manufacturers started out with various four cylinder designs before moving up to the six.  Datsun developed an single OHC design that developed a surprising amount of power considering the fact that it wasn't even a cross flow design. There is a story that Nissan supplied Pete Brock's racing team with a prototype DOHC design that failed to out perform the standard design. Straight six Datsun Z cars remained competitive in amateur road racing well into the 2000's.

My Son had been attracted to the early Z ever since he was a little kid. It was his interest in that car that led to my first foray into the sports car world. Until then I had insisted that "I would never own a small car!" I became, and still remain a Z fan. There's just something about that straight six. I just don't get that same feeling about the later V6. Toyota designed a DOHC six that should have out performed this older design as it boasted a higher technical  specfication but it initially produced only equal performance to the Datsun. Over time Toyota gradually updated this engine into the legendary Supra twin turbo design

There are other motors that I have owned, along with the cars. The Cadillac Northstar was the most advanced American auto engine of it's era.  With 295 hp. and 300 lbs/ft. of torque it brought muscle car performance to the domestic luxury sedan scene. It was a real revelation. The car it was installed in also pointed in a new direction for a venerable American marque.

I owned several early Buick Rivieras that featured the classic Nailhead. I was quite the Riviera fan and these early models were such great combination of performance and elegance.

Currently I am lucky to own both an example of the first XK motor powering my old Mark VII and the 5.3 liter V12 in my XJS. The motor in my XJ6 is the final edition of the straight six concept that gave Jaguar such a heritage of racing success. I must admit that I find the view under my cars' hood to be  most satisfying!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Working on the new car: Part two. Tire Troubles.

photo source: YouTube
     I love these old cartoons. A lot of the situations they deal with were based on the tough reality of the 1930s.

Besides that grey Mustang I have my '07 F150. It was bought new six months before the Mustang, and it now is also not a "new" vehicle.

I had been having a lot of tire trouble with several of my cars.  My '97 XJ6 suffered from a slow leak which was finally traced back to a leaking valve stem. The '07 Mustang started a slow leak also. Initially the technician told me that I needed a new tire because he couldn't determine where it was leaking from.  I know that these tires are approaching the end of their useful life, but they weren't even worn down to the wear bars. I was depending on these to last into the beginning of next year. Tires are expensive. Typical of many techs and mechanics, they will always recommend replacement even if they couldn't identify the problem.

So I asked him to put it in the water tub and show me where it was leaking from. There wasn't any indication of leakage. I asked him where the air was escaping from, it had to be coming out from SOMEWHERE.  Luckily the manager was standing by and he took a look. He told him to change out the valve stem, which I had mentioned I had seen leaking.  (Though it wasn't leaking now). The valve stem was replaced and that solved the problem.

A week ago I noticed that the right rear tire of my truck had a slow leak. I topped it up and figured that I would just keep and eye on it, A couple of days later I was leaving for work in the morning and found that the tire was completely flat. After work I put the spare on and decided to take the tire back to the dealer in Santa Clara that had sold me the tires. I was informed that the puncture was not repairable since it was in the outside row of tread. I protested that it was not in the sidewall. The tech showed me a poster that explained that on truck tires the outside lines of tread are considered sidewalls due to the heavier loads that are carried. These are the first set of replacement tires. They are the OEM Hankooks which are fantastic performing tires. Of course I didn't want to buy an entire set of new tires, even buying one new replacement wouldn't be cheap. Buying a new set of tires is a big deal. A quality set is expensive, and it's not the kind of decision you want to make on the spur of the moment There's a lot of  thought and cross shopping involved.

I decided to give my local WheelWorks a try. They didn't have a Hankook tire in stock, and offered up a set of Firestones. No, I can't get any enthusiasm up for Firestones! They quoted the same price as the Santa Clara shop had quoted for the Hankooks, 175.00 per tire plus all the usual add ons that bring them up to almost 200 bucks a piece.

Used tire stores can be a lifesaver for the working man.

I realized that the best alternative would be to buy a used tire to get me through, and out of town. I was supposed to be on my way to Solvang for a birthday getaway.  It was already well past noon, and I needed to get on the road! I visited a used tire outlet on Monterey Road, There are many such establishments in San Jose. Calderon's tires sells both new and used, but the chain has made their name on used tires. They have several stores and they are well arranged and neat. I informed them of the needed size, it would be fifty bucks installed, not bad. At first they showed me a Michelin with plenty of tread. I would always prefer a matching tire but beggars can't be choosers. When I went back to double check that it was a light truck tire, I saw them installing an identical Hankook. The installer told me I had asked for a 16 inch tire and I needed a 17 incher. Either way I was very happy to be getting the Hankook which also had plenty of life left on it. Put away the spare, which was in worse shape than I had remembered, (!) and I was good to go.

Mention buying a used tire and you might get some strange looks from your middle class friends. They kind of give you a look like you were buying used toilet paper or something. Have you ever bought a used car? That car comes with "used tires." Middle class customers just replace all tires as a set, or they replace them when they buy new custom wheels, or sometimes just because they want something sportier. And think of all those wrecked cars that are sent to the scrapyard, what do you think happens to all those tires? The good ones are culled and sold to used tire dealers, and they are a Godsend for the working man. Prices range from 30.00 to 50.00 installed and balanced. There's no excise tax, or tire disposal fee tacked on. Road Hazard? Time for another trip to the used tire dealer. A good set of take off tires will run more of course, but are still a bargain.

Sometimes you just need to replace a single tire after it was damaged by some road hazard and is not repairable. Can't always spare 600 bucks on up for a new set. While I prefer to buy new tires as a set, as a quality tire can last a very long time. The current  tires on my truck have around 50,000 miles on them and a bit left to go. Hopefully I will make it through to the next year.

This experience made me consider finding some used, modern 16 inch tires for my Mark VII. Perhaps a 205 /16 might fit. It's really only a consideration in back, with those big skirts. The modern tire would have a wider tread and the shorter sidewall would lower the car at least a couple of inches. That couldn't hurt. I might have to run some inner tubes. I don't know how air tight those wheels are. A set of good tires for a couple of hundred bucks? I could live with that.

I did put some used modern radials on my '56 Cadillac's original rims. I had those buffed out to wide whitewalls. That was a messy and smelly procedure! I think that I would do the white primer treatment. If I go that route it will be worth an entire blogpost.

Working on the old car. At least one of them.

image source:
                                      Where is that coolant going?

My '97 Mustang has been pretty good to me, mostly since I made it a priority to keep up on the maintenance and spend a few bucks when necessary, It has gotten displaced somewhat from it's position of favor since all those Jaguars arrived.

I had planned to drive the Mustang down the coast to Solvang for a little weekend get away.  I had noticed last month during the heat wave that the temp gauge was indicating a little over halfway going over the Mission grade on I 580. I checked and found that the coolant was a little low. I topped it up with plain water and promptly forgot about it. My Wife was using the car and told me that then low coolant light had come on. I topped it up with coolant this time, and figured I was good to go.

We were packed and gassed up and ready to go. We were running a couple of final errands and I noticed that the low coolant light had come on again. Hmmm. I had checked it before we left and it was full. I let it cool in the parking lot and again checked the level. It looked okay. Maybe it was just the sensor?

I decide to return home and investigate. On the trip home I ran the heater full on to eliminate the chance that there was air in the system. When I arrived home the light was on and the reservoir was definitely low. I had been keeping an eagle eye on the temp gauge and it hadn't gone more than a hair over halfway. Normal.

I checked and couldn't find any sign of leaking hoses and there weren't any drips under the car. The motor didn't smell hot, but I could detect the faint odor of coolant. Where was the coolant going? Was there a leak in the heater core? (I sure hope not!) I thought that the radiator cap might be losing pressure and allowing the coolant to drain into the reservoir and then into the overflow. But the temp didn't indicate that it was hot. Then the worst alternative presented itself. Could the head gasket be leaking? (Even worse!) There wasn't any indication of excessive steam from the exhaust.

We were burning daylight and I had to find an alternative. I thought about taking the Explorer, but my Daughter needed it for a sales event on Saturday. (It also was having it's own issues) I could always take the truck, right?

 See above.

Friday, November 3, 2017

In praise of "Petrolicious."

Drive Tastefully

Petrolicious is a YouTube site that feature the most beautifully produced car videos that I've ever seen. The photography is exquisite, the choice of subject matter is eclectic. Antique, Classic, racing and collector cars and even motorcycles. These short movies will warm the heart of the true enthusiast, because we know that it is passion that drives out hobby, not money.

Below are my three favorite Petrolicious videos:

Number One:  Against the grain. This video features an unrestored Porsche 356 coupe that the owner drives the wheels off of. The owner takes it to the most unusual places, taking the most unusual routes. The aerial shots are breathtaking. He acquired this car years ago, before the prices started climbing out of reach. My advice to you is the same, if you can find a way to buy the car you want now, do it! Chances are the price won't be this low again.

Number two: Living life as a Bentley Boy. There is something about these pre war 3.5 litre Bentley racing machines that just lights my fire. They seem to encapsulate all the beauty, romance,  and adventure that we wish could be in our lives. The saga of the Bentley Boys is the story of a group of rich, successful, young men that raced and won in these magnificent cars and lived their lives to the fullest. These cars are huge, brutal, and raw. Similar in many ways to American Hot Rods, just on a much grander scale. The video describes the journey of a modern Bentley owner.

Number Three: The Joy of Jaguar

One of my favorite parts of this video is the view of this gentleman's garage. The tools and fixtures that I'm sure he is completely familiar with and capable of utilizing. He is a long time owner of one of these amazing cars and describes how he could assemble an apartment full of automotive parts into a running car. Seeing this beauty rolling down the highway is an absolute treat.

It's a common theme that many of these owners decided to acquire the car of their dreams as soon as it became possible. Instead of buying and driving  a commonplace new car they made the commitment to own and preserve something special.  These owners come from many different backgrounds and economic situations. Some are able to afford to own and drive some of the more pedigreed examples. Some own more attainable models. But it is apparent that no matter what car they own, they own  these cars because they treasure them. Sure, some of these guys must be pretty well off, but honestly wouldn't we all own something amazing if we had the opportunity? In one video the owner of an Aston Martin V8 coupe relates: "My brother thinks that I'm crazy to have a car like this. He has a house, I don't. But I have the Aston Martin, and that's all I need."

I think that the whole purpose of motoring media, be it magazines videos or blogs is to keep the flame of passion and enthusiasm burning bright. There is so much tedious, and at times even, maddening, hard work involved in maintaining, preserving and restoring old cars.  An occasional shot of adrenaline is required to maintain the energy level. Petrolicious is like a triple Espresso shot!

Seeing a beautiful finished car can help us keep our own project in the proper perspective. Many of the featured cars have been in the owner's possession for a long time. This time has been used to maintain, preserve and improve the car's level of refinement. Listening to the owner's story can connect us to the feelings and frustrations that are shared by another enthusiast, who may, or may not, be just like us, but is someone that shares  the common trials and tribulations of our automotive odyssey.

Drive and Live tastefully.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Working on the "new car",

"Alloy" is the name of this color. The Pony package provided the 17 in. wheels, grille mounted driving lights. and black leather interior. 200 hp V/6 provides 28 mpg. through the five speed auto transmission. ABS was still on the option sheet this year, mine has it. This is not my car, but a look alike. These are really very good cars.

photo source: all Ford Mustangs. com

When does a car you purchased new, stop being the "new' car?

In 2007 I did the outrageous, (for me) act of purchasing two brand new vehicles, a 2007 Ford F150 pick up and a 2007 Mustang coupe. Fast forward ten years and the truck is displaying 123,000 miles on the odometer and the Mustang has rolled up 143,000 miles. I've purchased many late model used cars with less mileage. The Mustang served as my Wife's car and was used for family excursions. My then, teen age children shared the rear seat on these family journeys, luckily neither is very tall! My Chrysler minivan suffered from several mechanical maladies along this time period and it became too unreliable to trust on long runs.

Like most new vehicles my truck was used extensively during the early years of ownership while I was trying to develop my business. Plus, I just liked driving a new vehicle.  As my children are now grown my Wife and I find ourselves taking many empty nest trips together and we find that the truck is ideal for these activities. (Lot's of room for flea market and antique store finds!) We have gone to Las Vegas, The Oregon Coast, and a two week trip that took us to Oregon, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and back to California. While I did use it for our last vacation to Oregon I now kind of use it just for hauling stuff. During these years my Wife has never driven my truck, not that I wouldn't let her, it's just that she doesn't want to drive something so big,

After my Daughter finally got her license at age 18 we passed the Mustang over to her use. She did pretty good getting a seven year old car as her first car but there was a selfish motive for me involved. When my oldest Daughter got her license I bought her the car she wanted, an older VW bug, with a manual transmission.  These old bugs are great for teaching a new driver how to drive a stick. They are pretty hard to stall no matter how suddenly you let out the clutch. However I always worried about the reliability, of driving an older car. There were a few times that I got the call out responding with my tool bag to see why the car had stalled out  or wouldn't start, usually at inconvenient times, for me!

My youngest seems quite busy now, running all over at all times so I seldom drive the Mustang. In fact the car is seldom parked long enough for me to take a look at it! So my access to the car is limited. Just getting the oil changed somewhere near the recommended intervals is a struggle. Out of sight out of mind. So true. I don't get the opportunity to drive the car enough to see if it's developing any problems. I'm quite busy trying to manage the rest of my fleet, and besides it was the "new" car.  Not any more. I was kind of surprised by the accrued mileage.

I had bought new tires for the car some time ago and even with the 70,000 mile wear guarantee are getting near replacement. It was the air bag recall that really brought home the need for service. While they had the car, the Ford service center provided their analysis of desperately needed services and their cost estimates. As if I would pay to have the dealer do them! I've got a good indie shop that I would rather send some business.

One thing that it needed was new brakes. I had already replaced the rear brake pads several years ago. My Daughter had recently been mentioning that the car was squealing once in a while. I figured that a squeal is better than a scrape, so I hadn't paid too much attention, even after I heard the sound myself. They also recommended a brake fluid change which sounded okay since the car is ten years old.

Cheap and disposable. This way you wont contaminate the fluid during the next use.
 I added a short length of hose to the end.

I decided to do the brake job myself. I bought new pads, rotors and fluid, One of the pads was almost worn down to the metal. I drained the fluid from the master cylinder with an infant snot bulb. I added a length of rubber hose and this worked great. It was cheap, less than four dollars and I could discard it after use. Then I bled the brakes to get the rest of the old fluid out of the system. Luckily my Daughter showed up and helped, which made a hard job merely tedious. I had been doing it very slowly on my own. I gotta learn how to use my Mityvac! That brake fluid sure was dirty!

It is kind of funny that I have put new fluid in many of my old hobby cars, in the last few years. My '70 Mustang was changed when I totally rebuilt the brake system. I had replaced the fluid when I rebuilt the brakes in my old Riviera. This was also a total brake rebuild including new brake lines. I had changed the brake fluid on my F250 while rebuilding the brakes, and even on my '96 Mustang. I just didn't think about doing it on one my "new" cars. Which is the real root of the problem, they just aren't new anymore. I've got to think of them like I think of my hobby cars, always in need of something!

I performed the brake job, replacing the pads, rotors and fluid. I also rotated the tires which should be good until next Spring. I'll just drain and refill the power steering fluid, using one of those bulbs and a transmission fluid and filter service is on the schedule. Oh, also a belt, hose and coolant change. Spark plugs would probably be a good idea too. So much to do. If I bought a new car every six or seven years I could avoid all these headaches and just make a monthly payment, if that isn't a headache of it's own.

My truck is also in the same situation. I did change the front brake pads a while back, but didn't have the rotors turned at the time. The rotor is held on with a big non reusable nut, that had to be torqued down to 150 lbs./feet of torque. I don't have a torque wrench that can register that high and besides I don't have the wrench to do the job. There is a tell tale pulsation in the pedal while braking that tells me that the rotors are warped. Hoses, belts, transmission service and more are on the agenda also.

While maintaining a fleet of vehicles does reduce the mileage accumulated on each vehicle, it just increases the amount of maintenance that has to be done by someone. That would be me.

Does it ever end?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Roadblock!  Dead End. Progress comes to a grinding halt!

photo source:

I have described in an earlier post how my Mark VII's wheel cylinders defied my efforts to disassemble them. This resulted in a feeling of frustration and then, even desperation. Rebuilt cylinders were available on an exchange basis for 400 British pounds, that's over 500.00 American! And there was a 200 pound core charge, That's a total of almost 750 bucks. There is also a disc brake conversion which goes for around 1,500 bucks, much more than I want and am able to spend right now. I don't plan on spending that kind of money until I know that the car can be a runner.

What do I do now?

Luckily, I don't have a lot of spare cash to throw at the problem. Step back, take a breath and look for that detour.

My Wife is going to be out of town for a long weekend with the girls; a three day "crop." For those not familiar with the term, it's a get together to work on scrapbooking and other artsy projects. Doing it out of town at a nice hotel is just an excuse to have a little holiday away from Hubby and the kids. I planned my schedule to accommodate this outing and I'll have several days to work uninterrupted on my own automotive projects. That is if I actually get to work, and dive into some of my longstanding projects. Sometimes it's easier to get up late, have some leisurely breakfast and surf the web over coffee for several hours. The time can easily slip away.

I decided that I want to put some time in on the Mark, it has sat for a few months after my wheel cylinder rebuilding program ran into some unexpected snags. I had redirected my the time on much delayed yard work in preparation of my Wife getting her "she shed," (Quite a silly name.) This shed will lead to the liberation of my garage, at least in theory. So I don't mind putting in the time to achieve my payoff. This is an example of the enlightened self interest that I learned about in Economics class.

As stated, I found that I could not disassemble the wheel cylinders as easily as I hoped. (Actually not at all!) Sitting for twenty five years leads to some stubborn mechanisms. I soaked them with different penetrates to no avail. I shared how I had tried using my hydraulic bench press, heat, and compressed air in an attempt to free them. Only one wheel cylinder yielded to my efforts. Diving into the web for more ideas I read a post that explained how you could hook up a grease gun to the cylinder and use the hydraulic pressure to pop the cylinder pistons out. One advantage of this approach is that the pistons will not be propelled across the room at a high velocity, they will just ooze out of the bore. (This proved to be true.) He made it sound quite easy, just thread a grease fitting into the bleed or hose port and pump the thing full of grease. A high pressure grease gun can develop up to 15,000 psi . I'm guessing that my old unit will be much less, but it will still be more than the 130 lbs. of pressure I could achieve with my air compressor.

This just like mine.

Going at it "Mano a Mano" on the garage floor!

As I mentioned in an earlier post I was unsuccessful in finding some cobbled together fittings that would work. I concluded that I would have to drill out and tap a bolt to achieve the desired result. I considered approaching a machine shop to do the job for me. They of course could easily handle it, but I was unsure if they would even care to bother with such a minor job. I decided I should give it a try myself first. It would have been nice to use a drill press but my old HF unit quit working years ago and had an encounter with the landfill, I considered buying another drill press but figured I would attempt it old school; a hand held drill and a bench vice placed on the garage floor. Without a fixture I would just have to eyeball it.  A few more new drill bits would have been nice. Of course I couldn't located my center punch, enough delays. I just dove in.

With a 1/16 in. drill bit I managed to make a shallow divot in the bottom of the bolt.
This would guide the bit for further drilling.

All the way through with the 1/16 th, inch bit.

I began with a 1/16th. inch carbide bit and gently started drilling with my rechargeable Makita until I made a minor divot. Now I had my reference mark. I  then switched to my heavy duty Makita plug in drill. I held everything as steady as I could and things went quite well. I went through several bits. It took a long time and I must have been getting a bit tired. When I had drilled almost a half inch I must have pushed too hard and the tiny bit broke off in the bore. Darn It! It was under the surface and I couldn't pull it out.

I drilled from the top and the bores met in the middle.

I figured that I would start drilling through the top side and if both bores met, I could drive the broken bit out. I started with the 1/16th bit then moved up to a 1/8th bit. It went okay for awhile until the process came to a halt. It just wasn't going any deeper. I wondered if I'd hit the broken bit since it's really hard to drill through a carbide steel bit. I took the bolt out of the vice and wiped it off. I noticed that the broken bit had been forced out of the bottom bore a bit. That's why it wasn't drilling deeper. I got a 12 inch pair of channel locks and worked that broken bit out like a bad tooth! I ran the 1/16 bit all the way through. I followed that up with the 1/8th bit. Success! Now all I had to do was drill and tap the top of the bolt for the grease fitting.

The grease fitting was 1/4 in x 20 coarse thread. I drilled the top of the bolt out with a 1/4 inch bit and found the appropriate tap in my set. This is the first time I ever threaded a drilled hole. Usually I've just used my tap sets to chase bolt threads. After cutting the threads I tightened the fitting down.

It worked! Nothing more than a drilled out bolt with a grease fitting,
but I was depending on this to work.

The ribbon of grease tells me the cylinder is filled with grease.
Note that the piston is approx. 1/4 inch below the rim of the cylinder bore.

I blocked the crossover port with that old Sportster crankcase stud.

It only took a couple of minutes of pumping before the piston
was almost completely out of the cylinder bore.

Finally! Now to clean out all that grease.

The whole process was not nearly as time consuming as I would have thought. The most time was spent drilling out the bolt. Though I managed to do an adequate job by my crude methods it would have been much easier with a drill press. I should also have bought some extra drill bits. Luckily I had a few on hand. Drill bits are consumables, like sandpaper, paper towels and cleaning solvent. I remember that at GM I would see that the repair men had handfuls of drill bits that they would discard quickly as soon as they lost their effectiveness. Time was money. I sometimes lose sight that my objective is to complete the repair, not save money on tools and supplies. There are sometimes diminishing returns from being a cheapskate!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Harley wings over America, Part Four, The road home.

Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho.

This 2,000 year old lava flow created some interesting formations. Even though it was almost 90 degrees outside, inside these caves there were still sheets of ice!

Stopped in mid flow, frozen in time.

Frozen in time and cold enough inside to freeze water.

Just a nice walking path through the surface of the Moon.


EBR-1 was the first nuclear breeder reactor in the United States.It's located in the middle of a large restricted experimental area. EBR-1 produced enough electricity to light up the small nearby town of Arco. It's surprising how little shielding was used around the reactor core. I'm glad I stopped to see it.

It gets really hot in the central Idaho- Oregon desert. After I spent the night in Boise, I finished up crossing the desert to Bend Oregon.

Crater Lake, well worth the detour.

At Bend it became cooler and greener. As the elevation increased it even became cold enough to find some snow left on the mountainside.The side trip to Crater Lake was well worth it. The lake is surrounded by very steep cliffs and it is possible to go over the side. That water is 3,000 ft. deep! At the rim of the lake I met some people and we took each others pictures. Unfortunately his finger got in the way! At Grant's Pass Oregon I was lucky to find the only open gas station in town.

Always a picture of the bike.

At least they got my face in the picture.
As I crossed the border into California I knew that my trip was coming to an end.

The coast just south of Crescent City.
California sure did look good.

Paul Bunyan is joined by Babe, who is off camera.
Rick and I had stopped at the trees of Mystery in Klamath Ca. a couple of years back. This time I just stopped to take a couple of pictures. My last night on the road was spent in Eureka. The next day I was home.


This was the trip of a lifetime. When I started the trip my bike was using oil at the rate of one quart every five hundred miles. By the end it was only getting 125 miles to the quart. The valve guides were pretty worn and a puff of blue smoke marked every instance of acceleration. Except for the trouble with the ignition advance weights it had been pretty trouble free. Since I assembled it using Locktite not a single part vibrated off. I had learned my lesson about cheap aftermarket parts and preferred to use genuine Harley Davidson parts and accessories in my bike's construction.

I had bought this bike new and at the end of the trip i think that I only had a total of around twenty five thousand miles on the clock. I decided that a top end rebuild of the motorcycle was required, new valve guides, and regrinding the valves brought the motor up to snuff. It seems odd now that Sportster valve guides didn't have much of a life expectancy. The entire motor didn't have much of a service life beyond around fifty thousand miles. When I reached that mileage I did a complete rebuild and used Manley phosphur bronze valve guides and stainless steel valves, These higher quality components would last another fifty thousand miles. 

Though I continued to ride motorcycles for the next thirty years, I've never again took a single trip that was longer than this. There were plenty of trips to Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, Mendocino and LA. The responsibilities of adult life started to take up more of my time, and it was not a bad trade off. 

Almost forty years later I don't think that any more motorcycle trips will be in my future. When I stopped riding motorcycles my family and friends were kind of amazed. I had been riding since I was fifteen and a half years old. I rode everyday and everywhere, I had wanted to disprove my Dad's perception (and comments!) that motorcycle was just a toy, not real transportation. My Brother said it was like "Fonzie" giving up his bike.

 My decision to stop riding came from a couple of factors. For one, I had seriously injured my back, though it had not been motorcycle related. After I recovered I continued to ride, but I just found that I didn't enjoy it that much any more. Especially just getting on and going for an aimless ride. It just felt like a waste of time. After a second more serious  flare up of my back problems ten years later, I decided that It wasn't worth taking any more chances, and I would reduce the risk by not riding motorcycles anymore. I suppose that the most terrible thing isn't that I gave up riding. The terrible thing is that I don't even miss it anymore.

In the early shows, Fonzie rode this cool knucklehead
photo source: Happy Days

Fonzie Out!