Friday, February 22, 2019

Is there any easier way to fix the suspension of my XJS? Time to find out if my idea will work.

The marriage of rubber and steel.
In this case not a match made in heaven!

This suspension component is the bane of owners of older Jaguars. There is a reason that these cars ride so smoothly. There is a lot of rubber in the suspension. Unfortunately, many of these rubber bushings don't have a real long service life. As they wear, slop develops in the fit of the suspension parts affecting the alignment and control of the wheels. This all results in imprecise steering feel, pulling, darting, shudders, vibrations, groans and squeaks. This free play doesn't do anything good for tire life either.

If you buy an inexpensive, used Jaguar, you are usually buying a car that will need quite a bit of deferred maintenance. Rebuilding the suspension is not something that an owner thinking about getting rid of their car would contemplate doing. It's a fairly involved job. Removing springs is a tough job. Tough on any car, even tougher on a Jag which usually uses quite long coil springs. Tough always means expensive.

Since I have to get started on doing something with my fleet, I decided that I'll give my idea a try on the XJS.

I had preferred to work on the XJ6 first, since I will get more use out of that car. However, It does take up a little more space in the garage. Which is still at a premium.

But there are several reasons that I should consider doing the XJS first.

First of all, it's already in the garage. Safe, dry, and warm. I don't want to park it outside until most of the rainy season has passed.

Second, the XJ6 is still usable as it is.

Third, the XJS is the car that I should be fixing and keeping.

From the ancient manuscripts. This is my idea.

Here is the situation as it currently exists. The car is sitting with both front wheels resting on the ramps. A jack will be placed under the lower A arm spring cup. Other jackstands and jacks will be deployed to provide suitable support to the chassis. The lower A arm pivot bolt will be removed. It will probably be necessary to unbolt and move the steering rack up a bit. I might be able to do that without disconnecting the tie rod ends. We'll see.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

After removing the lower pivot bolt I''ll lower the jack and allow the lower arm mounting end to drop a few inches below the frame attaching point. This will allow access to a bushing removal tool and I'll be able to drive the old bushing out. Then I can clean up the mounting area and install the new bushing.

What could be easier? Quite a few things, in fact.

This a ball joint remover and installation tool. It doesn't need that much space to access the bushing.

The procedure is illustrated in this video.

                                                     video source: YouTube

What could be easier? Quite a few things, in fact.

I'll have to see if I can drop the steering rack enough to remove the lower suspension arm pivot bolt.

As part of my safety plan I will apply a pair of spring compressors to the spring to limit the spring's extension.

I will use a jack under the spring pan to control and limit the amount that the arm can drop.

I need to drop the arm end far enough down to be able to use a bushing removal tool.

This will save me the time and trouble of removing the springs. This would be a huge help to me.

The ball joints bolt to the two piece upper arms. The upper arm should be able to be removed without disturbing the spring and lower arm. At least it seems like this should work.

There are lots of internet videos illustrating how to do this. Nothing specific to the XJS, but close enough to get the general idea.

The big question is if the tool can generate enough force to remove the  bushing from the arm.

A very big if!

As you can see from the photo of the bushing at the top of the post, the bushing is just a steel tube with a rubber tube molded/bonded around it, This outer rubber surface is pressed into the suspension arm. This doesn't look like a design that would last a long time. In fact it doesn't. But it's construction will work in my favor. As you can see in the picture below shards of rubber are sticking out of the rear of the opening. It doesn't appear that the steel tube is still bonded to that rubber wrapper. I can't imagine that the steel tube won't be able to be removed easily, maybe even without using a tool. Maybe just drive it out with a few hammer blows?

Other bushing designs have a steel shell that surrounds the rubber, This can often become rusted to the arm and become extremely resistant to removal. This is a common design on American cars.

This the front lower mount.

This is the rear lower mount.

Front upper mount.

Rear upper mount.

As you may have noticed the upper bushings still look to be in pretty good shape. I think that their job is a lot easier and their design is also better, as it incorporates a thrust surface. That poor little lower bushing takes a big hit every time the front wheel hits a sharp edged bump, pot hole, crack, or pavement fault. There is an initial sharp impact before the tire rises and rolls over the hazard. All of those impacts have to absorbed by the lower bushings, no wonder that they wear out so soon!

If they wear out before the upper bushings, why not just replace the lower bushings? Just consider them a normal wear item requiring periodic replacement, like brake pads. Why dismantle the entire front suspension? Just replace what is needed. Besides, the other components are easier to replace and do not require the removal of the springs, a big job. I'll discuss these other parts in later posts.

If I'm successful in replacing these bushings without a complete suspension teardown then it will be easier to keep the car in service.  How many XJS owners have just parked and forgotten about their cars because they required this kind of maintenance? Especially lowbuck DIYers like myself. In its current condition the car wasn't very pleasant to drive, and it wore the crap out of the inside tread of the tires!

I called one of the better known indie Jaguar repair shops in my area and asked about the cost of  a suspension rebuild. They wouldn't even give me a rough estimate, they said that they couldn't give me an estimate without seeing the car. I told them that I just needed a ballpark figure, I wasn't going to consider that price etched in stone, but I needed an idea of the cost. I can't believe that they didn't have a flat rate manual somewhere in their shop!

Spring compressor applied to front of spring

Compressor applied to the rear of the spring.

I applied these spring compressors to hopefully reduce some of the spring's extension when I lower the suspension arm. They can also serve as a safety device to restrain the spring if it were to get loose. I've wrapped a chain or threaded a rope through the coils of the spring as a safety measure before. It doesn't hurt to have a back up.

I'm not always a fan of ramps, but they do allow me more space to move around the car.

I'll probably end up putting some wooden planks under the ramps to gain a little more working space.

Updates will follow in the next few weeks. I'll detail my progress and hopeful success. Then I'll apply my strategy to my XJ6.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

POR-15; is this a dirty word?

Rusty metal has always been the bane of the automotive restorer. Especially the amateur home restorer. It has always required special equipment and techniques to address it. Either cut it out and replace the metal or patch it with "some kind" of material. Over the years fiberglass, bondo and chicken wire, and finally epoxy putties and coatings have become available. There was a thread on the HAMB where guys that had bought cars that were painted and looked to be in decent shape found inches of bondo slathered over tin foil, chicken wire, and even balled up newspapers! When the new owners decided to fix the cracking paint or to make some additional modifications they found that their cars fenders, doors, and rocker panels were just a mass of plastic filler.


Chip away at cracked Bondo at your own peril.

It is easy to condemn the people that repaired these cars in such a shoddy manner, but the reality is that the repairs were performed when these cars were virtually worthless, and nobody thought that they would be around twenty or thirty years later. The idea was to get a few more years of service out of them.

Large areas of surface rust must be dealt with effectively or the new coats of paint won't stick properly and the rust will continue and bubble up to the surface.

My Mark VII has large areas of surface rust and a couple of areas of rust through that must be dealt with. There is a process where the entire car body can be dipped in a tank of chemicals that will dissolve away all paint, filler, and rust, leaving clean metal that can be repaired. This would be the preferred choice if money was no object, and a complete restoration of a vehicle was going to be pursued.

photo source: metal dipping .com
This would a pleasure to work on, clean bare metal!

The entire car would have to be stripped to a shell and transported to a facility for the process. There are only a limited number of facilities located in the U.S. Would I spend this kind of money on a 900.00 Mark VII? Of course not.

But of course I have a plan. And it's a cheapskate approved plan!

I intend to sand off the surface rust on the roof hood and decklid with an electric palm sander that I bought at Harbor Freight Tools, I even bought the one year replacement service plan. I recall a poster on the HAMB who said that he he had burned out two of these sanding down his car, with a free replacement on both!

Just what the Dr. ordered.

Then I will use the whole POR 15 system. The cleaner /degreaser followed by their Metal Prep. This way the products should work well together. Then I will apply a coat of POR rust encapsulating paint, followed by some high build primer. This process will stop further corrosion and protect the metal until I can get the car painted.

This is a high quality, metal infused body filler. I intend to use this as well as POR 15 epoxy putty. Regular old Bondo will soak up moisture like a sponge creating an ample opportunity to create an unseen rusty mess.

If the paint was only worn through to the primer in some areas and had small patches of surface rust I might consider retaining the "patina" though this just too much of a good thing!

Surface rust covers the top of the hood.

The car is now in my yard, but it doesn't look any better.

I initially started writing this post almost a year ago, well before I moved the  car into the sideyard. This winter of 2019 has been a real gully washer. Today there was torrential scattered rain and even a hailstorm. Luckily hail in the Bay Area is "rice crispy" sized, not walnut sized. It's entertaining but won't cause any damage to cars that are parked outside. I am glad that the State has received enough rain to technically end the drought, but it is messy and cuts down on working on the cars in the driveway.

Time to focus on my other projects. The Mark will have to wait it's turn.

I'm very happy that my XJS is sitting safe, snug, and dry in the garage. I still have to order the replacement suspension arm bushings before I can get to work. Since I have a copy of the factory repair manual I'll study up on the procedure before I will jack up the car and take a look underneath.

The time for talking is over. Time to crawl around on the garage floor.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Thinking about getting a "Forever Car?"

If I found this, Would I would keep it forever!
Probably not.

If there one thing that I have learned from all this smog test hassle is that certain cars will be difficult to carry forth into the future.

Is an older, pre smog car really the answer?

Yes, they are usually much simpler of design. Carburetor instead of fuel injection. Simple hydraulic disc or drum brakes. No added complexity from an ABS system.

They are also sometimes lacking in modern creature comforts like A/C, cruise control, power windows, seats, etc.

Even more importantly they are grievously lacking in safety features. You can add a good set of three point safety belts, but collapsible steering columns, air bags or even engineered crumple zones are not on the agenda. This is an area that warrants a more complete discussion at another time.

Is the idea of an everyday classic driver a realistic dream? Should it be?

Sometimes holding onto an old car can turn into a joke. Back in my old neighborhood, there was a very old man named Mr. Marshal. Mr. Marshal drove a 1949 Chevrolet sedan, which he  had purchased new.  Let's do the math. He was driving this car in 1975, so at the time it was only 26 years old. The paint was faded and dulled to a matte gray color. The interior looked like an explosion in a cotton mill. As plumes of stuffing erupted through the worn upholstery. There were dents and scrapes along the entire right side of the car.  The white tire sidewalls were completely mangled from his parking strategy. Just run the wheels into the curb, then it'll be close enough. It came equipped with what he described as his "own version" of an automatic transmission.  He just left it in second gear and slipped the clutch like crazy to get started. Since he only drove around the neighborhood, he didn't have a need to shift into third. I imagine that he went through quite a few clutches.

Not exactly the kind of image that I want to project.

Still, a simpler, less complicated vehicle might be easier to maintain. But would you want to?

Some parts will be come harder to source as the years progress.

Especially for a car that was never meant to be a mass market model.

My Jaguars fall into that category. Not all of them, but primarily the Mark VII.

Some parts are already kind of pricey and hard to source.

Of course some things can be replaced by modern components.

I learned from my smog doctor that modern universal replacement catalytic converters could be legally used on my XJS.

Good news.

Last week I explained how Burt Monroe kept his '21 Indian motorcycle competitive by fabricating new parts out of available materials.

Pre War Hot Rods are now primarily built out of reproduction parts. Or so many components have been replaced over the years that there are almost nothing original left. Kind of like Grandpa's old axe. Two new handles and a new head. It only resembles the original.

I thank this site for making these ads available.

I love this ad because it displays the relationship between the owner and his car. You can see the pride that he takes in his possession.  "This is My car! Oldsmobile ran a whole series of ads that were in this same vein.

I hate to admit it, but I wanted this car back.

I once bought a vintage car that was simple to fix, enjoyed widespread popularity, had enormous fan support and even more, crucial manufacturing support. Every single part could be easily replaced with a replacement or reproduction part. It was good looking, just the right size and easily customized. In fact, I actually did do some customizing. There was also a lot of room for development and improvement. It didn't get really great fuel economy but I've had cars with worse.

So why didn't I keep this car? Believe it or not, that photo came from the Craigslist ad where the buyer of my Mustang was trying to resell it a year or so later.

It turns out that it wasn't that interesting a car. In it's current state it could not hope to compete with my '97 Mustang GT. It was slow, the brakes were terrible and it didn't even get acceptable gas mileage. Even with a six! Even performing a resto mod couldn't make it comparable to a modern car. Even if I could afford it. For some reason I didn't want to be known as the old guy with the slow old Mustang.

Which is of course kind of silly. Of course it couldn't compete with a modern car, it was a 40+ year old vehicle at the time. However, I had some history with that car. I had done some custom work to it. I was really tempted to buy it back, especially since the asking price was 500.00 less than I sold it for!

But I didn't.

It wasn't really a bad car, but it wasn't really a good example of the breed. I'm sure that you have often read that it is always better and maybe even ultimately cheaper to start out with a better car. Especially if the price difference is relatively small. 

I've read that and I even believe it.  it's just that I'm a cheapskate and I want too much.

I bought my Mustang for 1,200 bucks and invested another 3,500 to 4,000 dollars into it. I could have started with a better car, but I would have to have saved up the money beforehand. I spent the money in smaller increments that I could more easily afford. This is the trap that the low buck DIY car guy can fall into, sometimes over and over again.

And I had too many other project cars in my current stable.  If you want to start a collection of cars, then buy them as they become available. Then the best course is to start work on only one car at a time. When that one is finished then you can start on the others. Just park the other cars out by the barn, or in the shed, garage or whatever you have available. Then you'll be just like those old farmers and tell anyone interested in your cars that they're not for sale. "Because I'm gonna fix them up one day." Maybe they were telling the truth!

My Wife hears me endlessly talking about different cars but she knows better. I will never have a forever car. There are cars that I might own for a long period of time. It's not that I have a problem with holding onto a car as long as it is still useful. Ten years or a bit more is not unusual.

It's just that there isn't a car that can satisfy me for the long term. It doesn't have anything to do with the cars themselves. It's not them- it's me!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Lessons learned from the movies.

Come for the movie.

This movie chronicles the carer of New Zealander Burt Munro. It is a factually inspired film that tells the story of his trip to the Bonneville salt flats of Utah to run his heavily modified 1920 Indian motorcycle. The movie has been out for quite a while but I had never seen it, I didn't know initially that it was about a motorcycle. I thought it might be about the legendary Native American football player, Jim Thorpe.

It is refreshing for a motorcycle enthusiast to see any aspect of the motorcycling spectrum given the celluloid treatment in a respectful manner. I grew up in the "Wild Angels" biker flick era. These were fun for a teenager, but thankfully (hopefully?) not very realistic.

Burt  is a persistent, penny wise old fellow whose ingenuity and intelligence has permitted him to modify his Indian to a point that there just isn't a suitable venue for a top end run in the Southlands. As an accomplished racer he has heard about the Bonneville Speed Trials and he finally gets the idea to take a trip to America.

Stay for the book.

This book was given to me by my Brother. Since I had already seen the movie  I put off reading it for quite awhile. As everyone will usually say, "the book is better than the movie." There is so much more detail about Burt's life and activities contained in the book.

Burt was a rabid competitor participating in motorcycle racing events in all types of venues. Oh, did he take more than his share of hard knocks and crashes. Not only was he headstrong, it appears that he actually had a pretty strong head!

Being stubborn he wouldn't take no for an answer, either from other people or even his mechanical sidekick.

I found the detailed descriptions of how Burt would fashion scrap raw materials such as tractor axles and cast iron water pipe into components that extended the life and potency of his motorcycle. He used many basic hand tools and a worn out and discarded old lathe.

Burt set his last speed record at the age of 71 years. Wow! It was 136 mph. set at Enteri Beach. Earlier at Bonneville he reached a maximum speed of over 190 mph. Unfortunately he wasn't able to complete the required second return run to secure the record.

Courage? Check. Tenacity? Check. Stubbornness? Check.

Not to say that his life was perfect or exemplary. He was not as attentive as a husband and father as he could have been. This resulted in his Wife's leaving him, taking along the children,. However this did free up a lot of extra time to work on the motorcycle! Everything comes with a cost.

Poignancy: Evoking a keen sense of sadness or regret.

At my age I am now a real sucker for this. It is a feeling that is easily felt. At this point of life I have quite a long period that I can look back on, and reflect on the events of my Life. I also have more empathy than I ever did in the past. Combine both of these qualities with a Rocky movie and things are bound to get a bit maudlin.

My favorite of the series.

What can you say about Rocky? If you are a fan then you will probably get the feel good vibe that 's been present in most every movie of the series.

I suppose that this episode hits a lot closer to my heart because Rocky is about my age, right around 60 years.

The drama arises when the widowed ex fighter feels a yearning to complete and connect to some inner need. The need is to fight, of course. Nothing too big. Just some small local events, just for the challenge. It seems that the current heavy weight champ, Mason Dixon has enjoyed such success that many think that it was because he had it too easy, with sub par competition. He is not respected as one who had to battle his way to the top. Then a computer simulated match between Rocky and the champ ends with him losing by decision. This really angers Mason who feels that he just can't get any respect.

His promoters come up with the idea that an exhibition match between the two would generate some good buzz for the Champ, who would carry him along to the end. No real harm done.

Of course this is a Rocky movie, so the old champ has a slightly different idea!

Boxing aside, the appeal of this story for me is the dilemma of the older fighter. In his life he has enjoyed success, as well as failure. Due to circumstances of his health, his license to compete was pulled by the boxing commission. He cannot partake in the activity that defined his life for so many years. He's trying to reconnect with a lost part of himself. What is he supposed to do, now?

Of course his appeal is denied.  As our hero rises and turns to leave the room. He delivers a heartfelt and stirring response.

                                                  Video from the movie via YouTube.

The subplot of the movie is his strained relationship with his adult son, and it is quite touching. His Son feels that he can't be truly himself, or be as successful as he should be, because his Father casts too big a shadow.

                                                Video from the movie, via YouTube

Even as a Father we have a life of our own. Despite the responsibilities of Fatherhood we want to live our own lives and find fulfillment in achieving the accomplishments of our own choosing. Come on Son! Man up and give the old Man a break!

I read a viewer review of this movie that stated that the aim of a Rocky movie was to make men cry. They are pretty successful at this!

What does all this have to do with old cars? A valid question.

Maybe everything. Maybe nothing.

Well, I am not a racer, and I am certainly not a fighter. I'm just a guy that wants to own a few interesting old cars (and maybe another motorcycle!) and drive them to interesting places.

This hobby can be a headache and I find myself surrounded by half finished projects. Sometimes I do feel a little foolish about spending so much time and effort on something that no one else cares about. But that's okay, I'm not doing it for anyone's approval. It's not like I have people around me that are negative about my interests. My Wife has been very supportive and realistically I don't care much about what anyone else thinks.

I remember an interview with Sylvester Stallone that appeared in the Harley Davidson in house magazine, "The Enthusiast" after the release of Rocky III. Stallone says that his movies connect with the audience because they all have some type of challenge to overcome in their life, "even if it's just cutting the lawn."

Old Burt demonstrates how tenacity and ingenuity can accomplish a difficult task even when tethered by a distinct lack of finances. We just have to put in the effort. Stallone's character, Rocky Balboa illustrates that we have to preserve the heart of our passions. "It ain't over 'till it's over!"

Okay Rhett, I guess I got a little existential there myself!