Friday, December 25, 2015

I would like to make my final entry for the year. My Mustang has been up and running now for about a year. I have spent more time driving it instead of working on it. It has proven to be quite reliable, it has not left me anywhere except when it ran out of gas several times. I finally got fed up enough to pull the instrument panel and fix the gage. The working gage is much appreciated. I had a lot of trouble with the illumination of the instruments. They were so dark, even after replacing the burnt out bulbs. I had considered adding some kind of internal lighting but decided that I didn’t want to drill any holes in the dash cluster. I found some stick on blue led projector lights at Pep Boys. They were designed to plug into the lighter socket. I ended up using three two light sets, wiring them all together and hooked them up to the existing rheostat wiring. I used a single light for the smaller gages and two lights for the larger gages. I ran the wires under the panel and though they look a little cheesy they really make the gages easy to read. At least I didn’t make any permanent modifications.

The Mustang starts right away in the morning but after a ten minute stop it takes a bit of cranking with the throttle down to clear it out. It seems it floods out a bit after sitting hot. I think the float level might be a little high but I’m reluctant to open up the carb until I can find a source for the float bowl gaskets. I’ve been forced to buy a complete rebuild kit and the enclosed bowl gaskets had to be stretched out to fit. These kits have run me over twenty bucks a piece. What I need is a fuel resistant o-ring that would work. I might also add a heat shield under the carb. There is a shop in Santa Clara that would rebuild my carb for 125.00. I had them rebuild the Quadrajet in my 66 Riviera and they did a good job. I haven’t wanted to spend the bucks because I was thinking of selling the car.

I put it for sale on Craigslist and didn’t get any serious response. I even took it to the Goodguys event in November with no luck. I’ve taken three other cars there over the years and had struck out three times. I was kind of disappointed as I thought a Mustang would be an easy sale. I’m beginning to think that people just attend the show as entertainment although the swap meet seems pretty busy.

Why am I thinking of selling after talking so much about automotive equity? It’s hard to accept the fact that this car isn’t anything special. It pretty underwhelming. It’s slow and get crappy gas mileage. There’s all kinds of squeaks and creaks, and water leaks. Financially I’ve now got a bit over five thousand in the car. ( I tried to sell the car for that price with no takers) I figure if I upgrade the car with a V8 auto trans combo, power front disc brakes,fix a few misc. bits and a suspension rebuild I might spend another five grand. Now I’ll have ten grand tied up in the car. The car would now be in a pretty good state, pretty much as I had envisioned. I could then square away the prior body repairs, repaint the car, recover the seats and spruce up the interior. And there goes another five grand! So now I’m up to around fifteen grand. Is it worth spending fifteen grand on a salvage coupe? At this time it’s a moot point as I don’t have that chunk of money to spend.

I’ve decided to hold onto my Mustang for awhile and make some of the repairs it needs. I’ve bought some new parts that I still need to install and there are some low priced repairs that I can do to improve the car, but I will let the car remain what it is. A six cylinder stripper. I am going to accept the car for what it is. I do plan on working on the induction system by going to some kind of dual carb set up. I think this might also improve fuel economy by more efficient distribution. I actually found an old complete three carb set up at a swap meet, the seller only wanted fifteen hundred bucks for it, more than I paid for the entire car!

Once when I tried to explain hot rodding to my Dad he didn’t get it, but he made a very valid observation. He said, “If you want a faster car, why don’t you just buy a faster car?” Well, that is just what I have done.  

Monday, August 17, 2015

It's not always a good idea to add up all your receipts and see how much money you have sunk in your current project. Still knowledge is power or at least awareness. I've got a little over 5,000 dollars in my Mustang, probably more that I can sell it for, but every car will cost you money. If you don't spend some money on repair and maintenance you won't have any kind of reliable car.

My 96 Mustang has got more into it that my 70, but it has rewarded me with lots of good fun and reliable service. When I bought that car it was in pretty good overall condition. The paint and interior were good and even the A/C worked for the first year. The biggest problem was a worn rag top with some duct tape patches. and the rear glass pulling away from the fabric. I reapplied a better looking black duct tape repair and drove it for another year while I saved up money to replace it. The top itself from a repop supplier was only a few hundred bucks but the labor cost is the issue. I had installed a new rear window and top in a previous car but the results weren't that smooth. I found a local shop that would replace the top, labor included for a grand. Did it in one day too. I have been quite satisfied with the results. That was probably around three years ago which has helped to amortize the cost. This car was in much better shape that my 70 which pretty much needed everything replaced. Didn't have to mess the paint or body work, or interior, no rust or botched up repairs to redo. I later had to fix the A/C, reseal the transmission, replace the battery hoses, intake manifold, fuel tank grommet, brakes and rotors,tires, new CD player and just a couple of months back, a new fuel pump. That was 500 bucks alone. But I really like this car, it fulfills all my performance parameters even though it's twenty years old. It's plenty quick, handles great, sounds great (Flowmasters)! Cruises effortlessly at 70 mph at 2,200 rpm and will return 25 mpg. at 70 mph. on regular gas. And the top goes down. Just a great car and a great bargain. But...

On the other hand my 70 is a cool looking car and a real Classic but in it's current configuration  the driving experience is pretty blah. It was built to "secretary special" specs. Six cylinder motor, ( though it is the 250ci.) auto and power steering and that's it. Manual four wheel drums, of course no A/C cruise control, or tilt wheel. It rides okay and will handle pretty good now but fuel economy is dismal. I got 15.5 mpg at 65 mph. cruising down to Santa Maria for a car show last May. Still it was reliable and made a 560 mile trip without incident, which really is worth something. It's really easy to work on and parts are readily available and cheap. And people really love to see the going down the road! Thumbs up, big smiles and lots of questions at gas stops. The fun is basking in the Classic Mustang Mystique. So many people have owned one, or their Mom or Dad, Uncle, Aunt, sibling, friend, neighbor, co worker, etc,etc. owned one, or wanted to. I can build this car up any way I want to depending on my tastes and finances. On Sunday I was driving on the freeway with my son, who is also a car guy. I told him, " You know, I could drive this all the way to L.A. ( then a pause), but why would I want to?"

Time will tell.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Time to get back to earth. "Automotive Equity" What is it and how do you achieve it? Pretty simple, just build on your foundation and each improvement will pay off in a car in better condition and will allow you to amortize the costs over a longer period. Some investors buy stocks this way, they invest maybe five hundred bucks a month over the years. Dollar cost averaging I think it's called. Of course we all do the same thing, we try to squeeze a little money out of our monthly budget to keep our project cars moving forward. Figuratively and literally! No extra money, no work on the car. I read a post on the H.A.M.B. (Hokey Ass message board, check it out), discussing their project car budgets. Most of the responders are regular working or retired guys. One older guy said that he usually limits himself to 25.00 a week. He saves up week to week to make bigger expenditures. During that time he will do the labor intensive projects like disassembly, scraping and cleaning the motor and chassis, minor bodywork and sanding and painting, In this manner the car progresses steadily. Most of these guys are wheelers and dealers also, buying and flipping old parts and cars to help generate a little extra income.

Taking the long view is not something I'm very good at, at least when it comes to project cars. I have kept some cars, like my first '66 Riviera for many years. Once I got it into running condition it became my Daily Driver. I kept that car in good mechanical shape and trusted it enough to drive to Klamath Falls Oregon and down to Santa Maria. Unfortunately my stand on cheap paint jobs had not evolved and it looked like crap during those years.

Building on a good foundation is important. I have spoken with many older guys at car shows who own early hot rods, customs, and muscle cars and they have told me the same thing. " I've had this car for: ten, twenty, even thirty years" Then they add " I couldn't afford to buy this car now." It has taken them years to achieve the finished project, I salute their dedication and financial acumen, especially if their current car is now worth a small fortune. But this really applies to any car, even my poor little Mustang. I've had this car for about a year and a half and I've brought this car up to a acceptable level of functionality and appearance. There's still a lot more left to do. I've been pretty good on keeping the costs down, for a good reason. I don't have a lot of money to throw at the car and it would be a poor financial choice. If I can keep the car for at least another year I can improve the condition of the interior, detail it out under the hood and make some final low buck improvements to the appearance. But that's the point, I've got to keep the car. I've got to maintain my interest and enthusiasm. My interest is wavering. I've decided that I won't be swapping in a V8 or upgrading the transmission or chassis. It will be a good reliable base car that can be driven and enjoyed by myself and the next owner. I'll let the next owner decide how much further he wants to take the car. And I'll buy something else.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Whew! Discussing 12 cylinder Euro cars on a beater blog? Where have I lost track? Well these are going to be a little better than a beater. The concept really revolves around picking the low hanging fruit. These cars are really pretty cheap in terms of the "buy in" price. Let's talk about my current craze, Jaguars. An XJS convert or especially coupe can be found in running condition at anywhere from 1,000 to around 3,500 bucks. Pay more and get a car in better condition. Now, you have to have done your homework. These cars are notorious for electrical, fuel, and cooling issues. I've been doing a lot of research online and have discovered the Jaguar Forum and Kirby Palm's free book. "Experience in a book, Help for the XJS owner." This book is over 750 pages long so there is a lot of info. contained within. The gist is- that these cars can be maintained and repaired by a experienced hobbyist mechanic. If you have worked on less complicated motors before, you can handle most repair jobs. You will need good basic trouble shooting skills and the ability to hunt down electrical gremlins with a test light and multimeter. The electrical troubles really revolve around the failure of the various sensor functions: crank position, throttle position , coolant temperature, etc. For example a failure of the coolant temp sensor will deprive the ECU of a vital signal that will prevent the motor from firing. The condition of the connectors, ground straps etc. are of extreme importance.

Come on, Where's your sense of adventure.

Due to the size of the motor, the crowded engine bay and problematical cooling conditions, the intense engine heat will "fry" many components and lead to relatively short service life. The wiring harness for the fuel injectors runs deep in the "V" and is subject to intense heat damage. I would anticipate replacing all sensors, cleaning all electrical connections, fabricating a new injector harness from improved materials, replacing all fuel, water, and vacuum hoses, and repairing or replacing the radiator, just for starters. This is what is euphemistically referred to in the Forums as "sorting out".  If I do all the work myself, I will save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. The cost of these items is not prohibitive, but the cost of labor would be. So I will have to invest my "sweat equity" and time. Just like any other project car. But what will I end up with?

Well, these are fantastic cars. They are classic twelve cylinder super cars that the average dedicated hobbyist can afford to own. I know that I couldn't afford a new Jag then, and surely cannot afford a new one now. But I think I may be able to acquire a vintage XJS and hopefully get and keep it on the road.

Do the economics work out? Well, compare the cost to buying a classic American muscle car. The big savings is in the "buy in" price. An early Camaro or Mustang, especially a fastback or convertible builder can easily run from 7,000 to 15,000 dollars. Then all of the rust repair, body work, painting, interior, engine and chassis building and upgrades can push the build cost well over 25,000 dollars. Even if you go for a less desirable model like a Mustang coupe (like I did) you only really save on the buy in price. Even if I left the cosmetics of my car in "driver" condition I would have to upgrade to a V8 motor with corresponding transmission and chassis and brake upgrades. This would probably set me back around 4,000 to 5,000 dollars at least. This would put the total cost of my driver around 9,000 dollars or thereabouts. Not too bad to get a car that you like, and to be honest, this car would probably be easy to resell and recoup your investment or possible even make a buck or two. The Jag, maybe not. Figure 2,000 to 3,000 dollars for a fairly nice car. Figure at least that much to sort out the problems. There's no need to upgrade the performance of the motor or chassis very much, as these were outstanding performers when new. So you've got about 5,000 to 6,000 dollars into it. Not too bad to own a Classic. Will you be under water? Maybe. But I think the value of these cars is going to start climbing. How many V12s are out there? Where else can you find  a car of this beauty, performance and heritage at anything near these prices?  I saw in a recent issue of Jaguar World magazine that these cars are popular in England for vintage racing. This is sure to raise interest, and hopefully values. A "sorted out" XJS, especially a convert, would be attractive to many collectors. And at least you get to enjoy the car.

It's just a damn car. Roll up your sleeves and get to work!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

After finishing the last post I felt I should do something constructive to my car. I had bought a set of KYB Gas charged shocks to replace the tired air shocks in the back. These are not the heavy duty high performance models, these are like an upgrade from stock, the Excel G. After a twenty five mile test drive I hope they break in a bit. I would have liked them a little softer. I'm not a fan of the punishing ride. When I ordered these from Rock Auto I saw that these were eligible for a 45.00 rebate. This time I downloaded the form. When the shocks arrived I sent it and the box ends in to KYB, A month later I received the check. Not bad. This brought the total cost of the shocks to around 50.00. This is the first time I have ever returned a rebate form but 45.00 is a fair amount of change.
I've had the shocks for a few months but hadn't gotten around to installing them. I've got a few more parts sitting around that I should install. I installed the new fuel level sending unit and the front spoiler. I don't want to be the guy that puts his car up for sale with a bunch of new parts in the trunk.

I find that the best thing is driving my car. It makes me appreciate it more. It starts up easy and runs real smooth. Cruises easy at 65-70 mph. What more do I need?  At this point, nothing but I've got a roving eye. There's a consignment lot in Santa Clara called Wheels and Deals. This place has been around for quite a while. I've bought two cars from there and sold one. It's a great place to see a wide cross section of different cars and the best thing is, there are no salespeople. I can wander around checking out Bimmers, MBZs, muscle cars all kinds of stuff. I saw a beautiful 66 GTO parked there at the curb today. It was blue and the bodywork and paint were straight as glass and twice as glossy. I can appreciate a car like that but I know that I will probably never have one that nice. I would guess that the paint and bodywork alone was probably 25 grand. It would probably be hard to recoup most of your investment at sales time. Still the fact that there are guys that can write a bunch of big checks shouldn't have any effect on how much we enjoy our cars.

This beautiful black, up and running Benz is offered at 3,500!

There are a bunch of one time high dollar cars that are approaching the bottom of their depreciation curve. MBZs such as SL models from the 70s,80, and even 90s are bottoming out at less than five grand. I saw a beautiful 92 MBZ SL 300 that was offered at 3,500 bucks. Sl 500s at around five grand, Jaguars, not just XJS' but XK8 convertibles at 3,500 to 5,000 bucks. Big Bimmers are similarly priced. Now there is a reason that they are so cheap. While some are fixers, (actually priced from 1,000 to 2,500 dollars) most are currently running functioning cars. Of course that's the rub. How long will they be running? No one knows. Truthfully no one can predict. You might buy one and enjoy a couple of years of service or it might die a terrible death right after you drive it home, It's all supply and demand. Not many people are demanding their chance at automotive Russian Roulette. So the prices are low, and the sellers are motivated, really motivated.

This 12 cylinder Benz is offered at 3,500.00

This jag was described as "beautiful luxury car, runs great" 3,500.00

This jag looked beautiful from every angle and from inside. It's got "engine problems" and they are asking 2,500 bucks. I bet they would take 1,500 (or even less) in a heartbeat

Still if one of these is your dream car, this is your chance at greatness. I just saw a 12 cylinder Mercedes coupe that cost one hundred and twenty thousand dollars new in the mid eighties, selling for 3,500 bucks or offer. And it had 20in. chrome wheels, new tires, straight body,great paint and a clean interior. Personally I lust after a Jag. I was thinking of an XJS, maybe with a 12, but maybe a later XK8. These are the brother to the vaunted Aston Marten V8, which believe me ain't on this depreciation trajectory. Yes I have visited the forums and even the late 90s Jags still have terribly unreliable electrical systems. It seems that most of their problems are electrical based, no complaints on the forums of these cars throwing rods, just iffy trannys. If you or I were to buy one of these gems I would choose one with the great body, paint, interior equation and currently registered and running. I would hope that I could enjoy it for at least a little while before the work starts.

I would need a garage to keep it in, and where I could work on it. I would just assume that I'm not going to drive this like my 96 Mustang which I would definitely keep. Yes, have at least one reliable easily fixable daily driver you can depend on. Like I read on another forum, a car like this is not just a purchase, it's an adventure, a relationship and a dream come true. Life is too short to deny your dream. let me know how it turns out.

Now that the basic frame has been built and fit, it's time to cut the aluminum strap that will "sandwich" the mesh. The upper and lower straps are just a duplicate of the one's you already cut. Then I cut four "uprights" that will bridge between the top and bottom straps. I laid everything down on the table to mock it up. Then I painted all the parts. I know that I am probably going to scratch up some of the parts on assembly, but I'll just shoot another coat when I'm done. It would be too hard to get proper coverage if I tried to paint it once it was assembled.


Next I laid the mesh and bottom strap down on the base frame. I was going to start from the bottom making any adjustments for fit as I went along. I now drilled through the three layers of material. I clamped the parts with some strong spring clamps to the wooden board and drilled the holes. After I
did each section I riveted each one down. I drilled through the top strap, assembled that then fit the uprights. I fitted them making any needed adjustments, I had to file one which was a little too long. Then riveted them down. Be sure that your rivets are long enough to secure all three layers. I had to make a quick trip back to OSH.

I was going to mount this by screwing it to the underlying body panel. I drilled a hole at each end of the top straps and the bottom straps Earlier I had removed the screws holding the gas filler neck, I was planning on using one of these screw positions to mount the panel also. I placed the panel into position using strips of blue painters tape to secure it temporarily. I lined it up and drilled one screwhole into the body panel. I screwed this down loosely then drilled another  hole while maintaining alignment. This screw was tightened down a bit. The alignment looked pretty good so I drilled the bottom holes and installed the screws. I was very satisfied with the look. I removed the panel and re installed the filler neck screws except for one. I had thought of painting the underlying body panel black also. After mounting the new mesh panel I liked the effect of seeing the green color through the mesh. The contrast made the panel stand out a little more so I left it as it was. After I mounted the four screws I drilled a hole through the filler neck mount from inside the trunk and ran a screw through the body panel and my new panel. I ended up dilling another screw to mount the panel under the filler neck and I was done.

I had painted the tail light housings after masking the lens. I also painted the trunk lock bezel. The lights were painted black when I bought the car but the refresh really made the whole thing pop

The addition of the tail light panel matches the texture of the grille which gives my car a cohesive design. This was part of my goals. I wanted to do improvements to my car that complemented each other. Visible in this picture is the Boss 302 front spoiler that I installed. It's made of black plastic which matches the other accessories and gives my car that competition look. This is a common piece that cost me less than 75.00. It also has some actual aerodynamic benefits. I drove down to Santa Maria for a car show in May, a round trip of over 460 miles. The car ran great, but I was disappointed in the gas mileage. I only averaged 15 mpg at 65 mph. I later  ran a 100 mile fuel economy check at 55 mph. Fuel economy was 17 mpg. Before I installed the spoiler I did some coast down testing. I found that it took 14.5 secs. to coast down from 55 mph. to 35 mph. After the installation of the spoiler coast down time had increased to 15.0 secs. This means that aerodynamic drag had been reduced a bit, this should hopefully result in somewhat improved fuel economy. I plan on trying some other improvements. If you look at the front of the car, the body curves under which exposes the the entire front of the wheel to the oncoming airstream. The air can flow over the tire and into the fender well and will have to exit from around the wheel well opening and out the side, causing a lot of drag. if you look at at any modern car from the front, you will notice the the bumper or fender extends past the front of the tire. The oncoming air is directed around the tire to the side side the car preventing the air from entering the front wheel well. Originally my plan was to build a panel straight down from the front bumper and around the sides to the front of the fender opening. This is the kind of front air dam used by top speed racers at Bonneville. I think it looks cool, but it might be a bit much for a six cylinder street car. So my plan is to add a panel to the front valance panel that will cover the front of the wheel and divert air to the side. I was going to try to fabricate something but then I had an idea. There might be an existing "found shape". Something that exists already and could be adapted to work. Well I think I have just the thing. I'll get into that on another post. On my next post I'll describe how I built the front grille.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Building a custom tail light panel or grille

I have been reading Hot Rod magazines since I was a kid, well over forty years ago. I always wanted to customize my car as I built it, not only the motor and chassis but also visually. Since my my current 70 Mustang was lacking a grille and turn /signal parking lights I got the opportunity to do just that. I decided to build a custom grille with turn signals and driving lights hidden behind the mesh. I built the grille before I made the tail light panel. The method and materials were very similar. I will show how I built the tail light panel first, as I had not documented the process of building the grille. I will then discuss how the frame of the grille was constructed. Even though I once knew how to weld and had bought a cheap wire welder at Harbor Freight I felt it would be simpler to use hand tools and readily available materials. I chose steel mesh available in panels at my local Orchard Supply Hardware store. I used aluminum strap, angle "iron" scrap sheet aluminum, screws and pop rivets. I used a hacksaw, metal snips, hand drill and a couple of holesaws to make some openings. For this particular application; a panel to cover the stock sheetmetal panel  between the tail lights I would have to provide an opening for the fuel tank filler neck and truck lock.

The first thing I did was to measure the dimensions, then cut a cardboard template to fit the opening. Since I had already built a grille using similar materials and methods I was confident in the process.

The template is your guide, if it fits in the space and you build the panel to fit the template there should be no problem. However if your car is like mine and has been banged up and not repaired exactly correctly there will need to be an "adjustment" factor. My rear panel was kind of wavy, the filler neck was a little tweaked, and the bumper was bent a little. Come to think of it the tail light assemblies were a little wonky too. Don't let this faze you, just build it as if your car just came off the showroom floor. I did establish a center line for the template to locate the filler opening. I then made  another small template to position the trunk lock opening. I should have made a preliminary light paper template, then transferred both of the locations to the cardboard. I just introduced more opportunities for mis- alignment. I also wanted to use some scrap aluminum sheet for the center of the panel. If you are careful to square up all your measurements and cuts I guess it would be okay, I just wanted to be in the "re-purposing" groove. I used the sliding shade panel from a 70's Buick sunroof I had laying around. I had used this for part of the grille too. It just makes it harder to make accurate measurements, since you don't have a "factory" straight side to use as reference. Still it can be done successfully.

I laid the mesh panels on top of the template and marked the cuts with a magic marker. I cut them with a a pair of metal snips. I cut one, positioned it on the template to make sure that it was the right size, than cut the other panel. You could use a hacksaw or cut off wheel just as well.

I mocked up the panel by placing the mesh panels over the center panel. I still needed to cut out the opening for the filler neck and trunk lock. I had a small hole saw, approx. one inch, from a wooden door lock mounting kit. I drilled the small hole for he trunk lock easily. I used the saw to drill a center hole for the filler neck opening which I enlarged with tin snips. Not a real good idea. I couldn't make an accurate circle and tried to grind it smooth with a rotary stone. After some frustration I went and bought a 2 1/4 hole saw at OSH and made a new center panel. This came out much more satisfactorily.

Now I had two mesh panels, a center panel and I had to build a frame to hold them. I was going to build a frame work out of 3/8 in. flat aluminum stock. Two long strips on the top and bottom and two shorter ones on the ends. I had initially used screws to hold the grille frame together as I mocked it up, but this time I felt it would be easier and quicker to use some short aluminum rivets to put the frame together. I assembled these directly on my template. I placed a wooden panel under the template so I wouldn't drill into my table. I used just one rivet at each connecting point. This frame was going to be covered by the mesh panels and another set of aluminum strips. The mesh is sandwiched between the inner and outer panel.

I mounted the frame under the filler cap for a look see. Not too bad. I tried to contour the upper and lower strips to  conform a bit to the tail light housings. What I could have done was to mock up the top and bottom strips by using a flat wood molding, then I could have made a much nicer fit to the tail light housing. Then I could have transferred the contour to the aluminum strap. Truth is I didn't feel like driving to OSH for the wooden molding. I guess I could have used a piece of card stock also. It would have made a better quality job and only taken a little more time. This is really where the difference in craftsmanship makes itself known. Take more time, measure twice, cut carefully. Take time to "massage" the fit. You can do an outstanding job if you don't rush it. Still pretty good for a beater. I will continue the journey on my next post.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sometimes you just have to do the work. I've been doing a lot of mechanical work on my car during the last couple of months. I installed a battery hold down clamp. The battery had been just sitting there unsecured an accident just waiting to happen. Though it didn't seem like it had much room to go anywhere. I found that the battery tray was rusted through. I used a plastic tray from one of my old Zs under the battery . I ordered a replacement battery tray from National Parts Depot, one of the advantages of having a popular car- plenty of repop parts. I pulled the front springs to replace the spring perches and isolators. That took care of the irritating screeching sounds. I also replaced the rt.side tie rod end which removed a lot of slop in the steering. I bought a tach and installed it on the steering column. This wasn't done to aid performance driving but to provide me with info on the relationship between the power curve and gearing. The next week I installed poly urethane bushings on the front sway bar mounts. I found that the front bar had been replaced with a 3/4 in. unit that I learned was standard on Mach Ones. I have ordered a new set of KYB gas charged shocks which will be especially useful on the rear end, the existing shocks are some worn air shocks. Even without the new shocks I am pleased with the handling of the car. The lowered suspension and  larger sway bar, combined with the wider and lower profile tires contribute to a good riding, responsive and steady handling. My goal has been to improve the handling without ruining the ride. So far mission accomplished.

 I installed a tachometer on the steering column which has given a much better understanding of how the power curve and gearing interact. I have driven my car on several longer trips, once to my brother's house over a hundred and twenty miles. I drove at an indicated 65-70 mph. and of course most other traffic went screaming past me. Still there was no real problem. I've been using my odometer to keep track of my fuel use. What I discovered is that the motor spins a lot higher than my newer cars. First I calibrated my speedometer using a smart phone app. I discovered that the speedo reads three mph faster at speeds up 45 mph. From 50 mph. on it reads five mph. faster. Cruising at an actual 65mph. I'm turning 2,800 rpm. At 70 mph. I'm spinning at 3,100 rpm. well below the 4,000 power peak. But it does sound kind of busy, though I'm getting used to it. My 96 Mustang GT auto turns 2,200 rpm at an indicated 70 mph. Cruising at what sounds like a comfortable rpm level is an actual 60 mph, at 2,500 rpm. I've noticed that most old six cylinder Mustangs on the freeway are cruising at this speed which feels the most comfortable to the ear. Even V8 cars have trouble cruising in modern traffic flow because they also turn some pretty high rpms, especially if they are running lower performance gearing of 3.50-4.11 in the rear end with a 4 speed manual or three speed auto. Average speeds on the freeways around here are at least 70-80 mph. and that's just the old ladies in Camrys!
Actually my car is geared perfectly to maximize performance from the 155 bhp. six motor. Torque peak of 1,600 rpms is achieved at approx. 45 mph. Max hp will probably be achieved near maximum speed of 95-100mph. as 70 mph. is at 3,100 rpm. and their is still a thousand rpms. left to go. So I'm always in the middle of the powerband and acceleration is always pretty positive ( not really fast, but adequate). I've run it up to 85 mph. and that's at about 3,700-3,800 rpm. This gearing is not the best for fuel economy but it does keep the car from feeling underpowered. Realistic cruising speed is 65-70 mph. but there is still power left for passing and pulling hills.
I took a mini road trip of a little over a hundred miles, up into the Santa Cruz mountains on SR17 to Summit Rd. than took Summit Rd to San Jose Soquel Rd. Then I took SR-1 south to Watsonville then across SR152 e/b over Mt. Madonna to Gilroy then up US101 to San Jose. This trip gave me a chance to experience how the car runs so great up hills.  The torque of the six  feels different from a V8 and the handling on the twisting mountain roads was very positive. The key to safe back road driving with drum brakes is to find a speed that allows you to enjoy the rhythm of the curves without braking hard all the time. Sure you drive slower than all out, but this is safer and much more relaxing. In a modern car the tendency is to rush up on situations then brake hard to slow down abruptly. Do that in an old car and you will experience brake fade. Something I'm sure most younger driver's have never experienced.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

One of the most fun aspects of fixing up an old car is making visible changes and improvements. Rebuilding the chassis or brakes is important, but who's gonna know? It's good to mix in some mostly cosmetic improvements to keep your spirits up. One of the most noticeable changes are tires and wheels. That old bomb probably needs some new shoes and there is so much to choose from at swap meets, on the web and in the wrecking yards. Tires are expensive. I have found that used tires are selling for around 30-35 dollars at used tire stores. It's a good idea to price the tires that you want, to determine if the tires offered up are really a good deal. If you can find a nice set of wheels that still have a good set of tires already mounted then you are ahead of the game.

If your car is a popular, fairly late model or has current incarnations you will have a lot of options. If your car is older or a little offbeat you are going to have to really keep your eyes open. I thought that I would have all kinds of choices available since I had an early Mustang. While the lug pattern is shared with the current generation there are substantial differences due to the rim diameter, width and especially backspacing. Looking back at the 2005-2015 models these wheels are too wide,   (many are 8in.) too big ( 16-19 in.) and have way too much backspacing. The 1994-2004 models have similar fitment problems and don't even interchange with each other. The 1979 -1993 models had four lugs instead of five and are totally unsuitable. There weren't a lot of low cost options.

I had a similar problem with my 280Z. These were 4 lug 14 in. wheels. I already had a good set of stock steel rims and wheel covers but trying to upgrade to 14 in. or especially 15 in. alloys was a real challenge. The later 280ZX turbo models came with a couple of different 14 in. alloy designs. There is the "swastika" and "laced spoke " designs. I was also able to find a set of 15 inchers on CL. Missing the center caps, of course. I came up with a low buck center cap replacement that will work for many wheels.

First you need to determine the wheel lug pattern and spacing. There quite a few on line sites that will list the lug pattern and you can check the listing for possible interchangeble replacements. The Tire Rack  has a great site that has a tremendous amount of info.Usually there is a family of cars that will interchange. With early Mustangs platform mates such as Falcons, Cougars, Fairlanes etc. are possible sources.

The internet is a great source of information. There are enthusiast forums for almost every kind of car. Search the site for posts that discuss interchanging wheels. Using this method I learned that 16 in. wheels do not work with early Mustangs. I also learned that Ford Ranger and Explorer wheels were an inexpensive 15 in. wheel option.

Pay particular attention to backspacing. The wheel has to clear the brake drum/rotor caliper assembly and the ball joints and tie rod ends. Also pay attention to wheel lug length. Replacing a steel rim for another is straightforward. Aftermarket alloy or custom wheels will require the proper lug nut. Some of these will be difficult or expensive to obtain, best if they are included with the wheels. I found that the OEM (Ford Ranger) alloys that came on my car had the proper backspacing and used standard taper style lug nuts but the mounting face of the wheel was thicker than the original steel wheel and the lugs did not protrude far enough to secure the lug nuts properly. I could have replaced them with longer wheel lugs, but I didn't want to deal with that problem at the moment. If you are planning to run wheel spacers ( not recommended) consult a good tire store for advice.

The most obvious improvement in handling will come from the increased tire width and lower cross section. The width of the rim must be compatible with the width of the tire for proper mounting. There is usually a range of a couple of inches, but the wider end of the range will contribute to a more stable sidewall and avoid that "balooned out" look. If you select the right size tire/ wheel combo you can avoid having to roll the fender wells for clearance. Back in the day you would "jack up" the rear with longer spring shackles or air shocks. None of this made for a better handling machine and were many times unsafe. If the car is lowered about one inch handling and appearance can be improved provided that the wheel has proper clearance.

I have bought sets of wheels with good tires still on them. This can save money and headaches because you can try them on to see how the package fits. Of course you have to consider the price the seller is asking. You have to decide how much the rims alone are worth to you, then how much the tires are worth. Lots of times the tires are referred to as "rollers" and they are only good enough to roll the car around the garage or drive to the tire store. The price should reflect the value of the wheels alone. Price out the tires you want, so that you can make an informed decision.

Inspect the condition of the wheels and tires. Check for bent rims, curb rash, cracks and elongated or damaged lug holes. Roll the wheel on flat pavement and see if it rolls true or pulls to one side. I've seen tread separations that were clearly apparent, with one side of the tread surface clearly higher than the other. Look for cracking and checking of the tire sidewalls. It's also really important to check the manufacturing date of the tire. In the last twenty years of so tires have had a DOT number incorporated in the sidewall. This is not a serial number but a batch number.Tires manufactured since 2000 will have the last four digits specify the week of the year and year of manufacture. For example, 5110, 51 indicates the 51st. week of the year, while 10 corresponds to 2010. Tires manufactured prior to 2000 will have the same info conveyed in the last three numbers. For example 239. The first two numbers indicate the 23rd week of the ninth year of the decade; 1999.

Hubcaps and wheel covers are a great low cost  way to improve the looks of your car. Most standard steel rims will accommodate almost any hubcap of the same rim size. There are stores that specialize in hubcaps only, but you probably won't find the best deal there. Wrecking yards are a good choice but be sure you find a full set. You can probably find a better deal at a swap meet or on Craigs list. OEM hubcaps are very well made, usually out of stainless steel and high quality die cast chromed pieces. They can be refurbished easily and look great. After market hubcaps are made of lightweight poorly chromed steel or plastic. I don't think that these have as satisfactory an appearance. If a cheap aftermarket cap will fit, so will a much better built OEM.

One of the nice things of going the lowbuck method is that you don't have a lot of tied up in your rolling stock. Most of the wheels I've bought  are around 100 -200 dollars a set. You an always upgrade when you find something you like better and there is always a buyer willing to take them off your hands.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Well I went to Ventura on my trip down south and visited  National Parts Depot. I picked up some items that I needed and I figured I could save some money on shipping. I bought some large items like preformed steel brake lines and a steel rear seat trunk barrier panel. These were bulky items, and anyway I was just curious about the warehouse. It was located in a light industrial area. Neat, clean with some items on display. There were several guys manning the phones to take orders and to handle walk in customers. I had phoned in my order but they held back on actually filling it until I showed up.

I bought that steel divider panel after reading online about the hidden danger of the gas tank in the early Mustang. The tank drops into the trunk and forms the floor of the trunk itself.  There were some online articles and discussion of how in a severe rear end collision, the tank could rupture and send gallons of gas into the trunk then through the rear seat back into the passenger compartment. The trunk is only separated by the upholstered back cushion with a  paper type seal. If ignited the fuel would cause a horrendous fire which has been documented a few times. This resulted in some deaths and serious injuries. When you consider how many million Mustangs have been sold and how few documented cases have occurred, it doesn't seem like a huge probability. If you remember the flap over the exploding gas tanks in the early Pinto, then you suspect that many cases were settled and kept out of the media. Ford states that the Mustang complied with all current standards at the time of manufacture. I don't doubt this, as there weren't a lot of things that were covered by safety standards in those days. Any one who is familiar with the Mustang community through experience, magazines, or on line, won't have heard a lot on this subject. I myself had not even heard or thought about it until a couple of months ago.

The practice of having the fuel tank form part of the trunk structure is somewhat unusual. Most vintage cars have the fuel tank attached by straps under the trunk area. The tank is separated by the steel trunk floor and it appears that if it ruptured, fuel would spill out under the car. A lot of modern cars locate the fuel tank ahead of the rear axle where it is less likely to sustain damage in a rear end collision. Very early cars had the fuel tank mounted under the driver's seat or in the cowl area below the windshield. This was done to assist in gravity feed to the carb.

There have been several methods of minimizing the potential hazard. There is a steel cover that bolts over the top of the gas tank which puts a layer of steel between the tank and the trunk compartment. Not a bad idea, but it is bolted on and I imagine that it could be bent and become ineffectual in a serious rear end collision. You could replace the tank with a fuel cell which contains a flexible bladder within. Many types of racing cars are required to use them. This is a pretty good idea, though they are expensive. I think that the steel seatback panel is a pretty good idea. It may prevent intrusion into the passenger compartment by fuel or heavy items in the event of a collision. If it is insulated it will probably reduce noise and it may even stiffen up the structure a bit.  I have seen articles on Mustangs where the owner has fabricated a steel trunk floor cover of their own design. This couldn't hurt. I suppose someone could design a replacement system that would replace the truck floor and utilize a strap mounted fuel tank underneath. I will post some pictures when I add the steel seat back panel to my car.

 Anyone who is familiar with early Mustangs knows that there just isn't that much metal in the rear structure. The rear bumper is pretty much just decorative. I noticed that when I placed the full size spare tire in position, it nestled up very close to the rear tail light panel and the rt. side rear wheel housing. It appears to me that the inflated spare tire was possibly placed in that position to reinforce the rear structure. The inflated tire would provide a lot of resistance to being crushed and would transmit the force into the wheel well area. This is just my intuitive feeling, I don't have any way of knowing what the designers intended. My conclusion is that it is a good idea to keep the full size spare right where it is at all times, It couldn't hurt.

On a final note. Nothing that has been discussed is to imply that the vintage Mustang or any other vintage car is a particularly dangerous or particularly safe vehicle. They were designed to the standards of the day. The earlier the car, the lower the standards for safety. There weren't that many legislated safety standards until the 70s. When we are driving a forty or fifty year old car we are operating in occupant safety conditions that existed at that time. Sorry to end on such a serious note. However there is lots we can do to improve our old cars and make them safer at the same time.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Well I've had my Mustang for almost a year, eleven months to be exact and there has been a lot of progress. Once I completed  wiring up the relays for my headlights I've spent most of December  test driving the car then driving it to work and on errands. Just like a real car. As part of the New Years celebration I just took a bunch of new photos  The main visual change are the tires and wheels, The Ranger alloys were replaced by a a set of Ranger steel rims measuring 15x7 in. These wheels have the proper backspacing and have plenty of clearance with the 215 60/15s I'm running. I broke down and bought a new set of touring rated tires. The were from Pep Boy's own collection: Futura LTEs. These are made by Cooper tires,  I have used  these tires before on my mini van and found them to be excellent, grippy, quiet, and smooth riding. I have racked up lots of vacation driving at 75-80 mph. on the straights and zooming through the mountains, just ask my kids. Now the car sits level. The car is pretty low, it came with one inch lowering blocks in the rear. I assume that the front springs must have been changed or modified or it wouldn't sit level.  There had been an issue with the lug length, they weren't quite long enough to properly secure the lug nuts. maybe it wasn't a real issue but it did bother me  and I''ll describe the issue further in a future post. Now onto the photo show..

 This shot of the interior shows the Grant GT wheel that I installed. There was a few problems that I can describe and share the solution in a future post. The original dash pad is pretty beat up but the car came with a tailored carpet cover which I'll use for now. The cut out that was used for the radio was done by the former owner  and it is an improvement over the stock location of the radio above the heater controls. I painted the instrument panel and rt.side dash panel and glove box lid  a medium grey  color to coordinate with the grey sheepskin seat covers and the grey floormats. I wanted to lighten up the  inside appearance and a similar color scheme is used in my forest green F-150.

Here's a close up of the tire and wheel combo. The wheel diameter has been increased by one inch, to 15 inches. The rim width has been increased from a stock 5 inches to 7 inches. The original tire was probably a C78 14, the equivalent  of a P 175R/14 tire. The 215/60 15 sits in a7 in. rim which is almost the widest recommended for that width.(Maximum 7.5 in.) This stabilizes the side wall which combined with the 60 aspect ratio will provide better steering response. I also didn't want to overtire the car since a good ride and fuel economy were primary goals.

 This photo shows off the grille I made. Behind the black mesh you can see the driving lights. The turn signals are clearly visible  when they are used. The blacked out grille really cleans up the front appearnce.

 The side view shows how low the car sits . The stance and lack of ornamentation gives it in my opinion a serious business like look. The hardtop coupe is the least appreciated of this era's Mustangs  but still looks clean ,crisp, and sporty. If you need cred, Shelby raced coupes in SCCA sedan racing and Shelby de Mexico built notchback coupes like this that dominated their class in Mexican roadracing.

Now a shot of the "little locomotive that could" The 250 CID (4.1 litre) straight six. This was an option in 1969 and 1970. This represents a 25%  increase in displacement over the standard 200 CID six. It's like the difference between a 302 and 351 V8.  It had not yet suffered the drop in power that followed in 1971 and beyond due to smog regs. and still boasted a 9.0 compression ratio. Rated at 155 HP at 4400 rpm and 240 ft/lbs of torque at,  get this,1600 rpm. The 200 six was rated 120HP at 4400 rpm and 190 ft/lbs. of torque at  2400. The 250 six was described as  "the six that runs like an eight, but saves like a six". Yes, a V8 would be quicker but so far I think this engine will be adequate. I will also see if I can improve  it a bit. You can swap any V8 up to the 428 Cobra Jet into this chassis if desired.
I must admit that this car is growing on me. I need to drive a car so that I can build a relationship with it. Just looking and working on it aren't enough. Soon I 'll get back to working on it more. I'm planning on taking a side trip to Ventura Ca. and visiting NPD's warehouse.