Saturday, July 27, 2019

So whats going on with the XJS?

A seldom seen vantage point of the V12  caught with it's pants down.

Unfortunately not much. Does the term "Gumption Trap" ring a bell?

Well for one thing, my new battery just died. Not really much of a problem. My Harbor Freight battery tenders actually do a pretty good job re-charging the batteries.

However, I just need to face the facts.

The bottom suspension arm is twelve inches wide, The pivot bolt is a bit longer than that. There's no way to remove the bolt without dropping the sub frame. The bolt will hit the transmission or exhaust manifold.

Where did I read that before? Just about everywhere, including the factory repair manual. Still, there must be an easier way.

Why do I torture myself reading this magazine?

I was voraciously reading my latest copy of Octane magazine which featured three hybrid cars. Hybrid meaning a European body containing a good old American V8. The Jensen Interceptor, Iso Grifo, and DeTomaso Pantera. Either of these cars would be highly coveted by any automotive enthusiast.

The current owners had enjoyed the ownership of these vehicles for a few years, purchasing them before the latest increases in value.

Looking at these articles it's pretty easy to feel a bit jealous of the lucky owners. What enthusiast wouldn't like to have one of these beauties parked in their garage?

Well, what do I have parked in my garage? My '89 XJS convertible. Quite a beauty in it's own right.

The XJS was designed to be a luxurious high performance GT car. It's my opinion that the XJS was designed to compete in the same market that was occupied by the outgoing Jensen. The Interceptor was quite successful, producing over six thousand sales. The XJS enjoyed a run of twenty years and sales of over one hundred thousand examples. It obviously filled a market niche.

The XJS was considered to be a near exotic, especially boasting the V12 engine. While it was not cheap, it was much more affordable than competing vehicles. It was never meant to be a a faceless, mass produced and easy to manufacture vehicle. Somehow, the factory managed to cram all those complicated mechanical bits into and under that sleek shell. As I've said before, It's like a jello mold.

Working on these cars is not easy. Affluent customers may have groused about paying for costly repairs and maintenance, but most could easily afford it. Thirty years later these cars have filtered down to everyday enthusiasts. These are the guys that have spent there entire lives turning wrenches. That's how they managed to own and drive the cars that they lusted after.

This leaves the modern enthusiast with a problem. Back then, when a mechanical problem would develop, the original owners would stoically shake their head and take their XJS to the dealer.  When the problem was fixed, they would stoically shake their head and write out the check. There was probably little or no thought to the complexity of the repair, or the frustration that the mechanic endured. Which is as it should be, I guess. The upper classes have a responsibility to provide employment for the proletariat!

As the ownership of these vehicles passed down the social and economic chain, subsequent owners felt an increasing financial pressure of trying to preserve a somewhat exotic and eccentric machine. Something had to suffer and it was usually the condition of the vehicle. The depreciated values of these cars made it an unwise economic decision to invest too much money into their upkeep. Love may be priceless but automotive passion often comes down to dollars, and more dollars! Things just got progressively worse as time passed. The British term "banger" comes to mind.

Still, any car is just a damn car. Still looking for an an easier fix.

Welcome to another entry in my "Nothing to be proud of here" series.

My original idea was just repair what had to be replaced. My idea of dropping the inner pivot to allow for the replacement of the A arm bushings has run into a dead end.

Last night though, lying in bed, trying to sleep, I had another idea. Wasn't the front lower bushing located outside of any frame member?

All I need is to pull this mess out and scrape the area clean.

In the morning I went out to the garage to confirm my recollection. I was right.

photo source: English parts .com
This quality component will set you back. 2.42.
No wonder they don't last very long.

These bushings consist of a steel sleeve surrounded by a tubular rubber bushing. Unlike most suspension bushes however, that rubber tube is not enclosed in another steel tube. Only rubber actually touches the tubular inner surface of the suspension arm mounting point. Maybe I could just slide the pivot bolt back enough to remove the perished bushing and then reinstall a new one? I would just have to scrape out the old rubber which is already pretty much shredded to bits.

Of course this is not the optimum repair. It is at best perhaps only a 25% improvement from the front suspensions diminished state.  Still, that wouldn't be that bad of an improvement. I can roll with that. But it's still it's not anything to be proud of.

Now to crawl under the car and get to work. The Gumption is back!

Friday, July 19, 2019

I've written a lot about my Explorer lately.

To be honest, after it was first recovered I felt like scrapping it. I was angry that it had been stolen and then I had to pay out a bunch of money to get it released from the yard. To be fair the local Police did telephone me when they found my truck. If I could nave gotten there in time I could have avoided the tow and storage fees. I tried but I couldn't get there before it was hooked up.

However after a period of grousing I decided that that not only still had plenty of uses for the Explorer, I still actually liked it.

After repairing the theft damage I decided to start taking some positive steps in fixing it up.

Looking a bit shabby.

Not quite as bad.

The "D" pillars at the tailgate were looking pretty sad. The paint was weathered and worn through, giving the rear of the truck a down at the heels look. I wasn't sure if matte black would be the best color but I still had some of the "Granite" grey Rustoleum spray paint left over from my '70 Mustang project. So that's what I used.

This stuff covers well and it even sticks to flexible plastic.

Prep consisted of sanding and masking.

Smoothed it out a bit.

A couple of coats did make a difference. A darker shade might be better, but it was still an improvement. The window trim looks to be matte black and the "B" pillar trim appeared to be grey. In the future I might just paint all trim the same color.

I didn't have any silicone seal adhesive,

I hate to admit it, but I bought all the missing emblems from Pick and Pull a couple of years ago. I couldn't find any silicone adhesive so I just used Gaskacinch. It sure looks just like rubber cement! Since it was going to be applied to a large mounting area I figured that it should work fine. Still, I'll keep and eye on it. Just in case it starts coming loose.

Blue oval forever!

I used Meguiar's cleaning wax to polish the emblem as well as the tail lamp lenses and headlamps. I really need to polish the entire vehicle.

A definite improvement.

Overall I'm very pleased iwth the results.

This was the kind of quick and easy project that I wanted to document on my blog. It was the initial idea behind starting it. A little bit of effort and materials were used to make a noticeable improvement in the appearance of my vehicle. I find little upgrades like this are still fun and satisfying to do. Unfortunately, not every task can be so simple!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

A lock and chain will only stop the honest people from stealing your motorcycle,

I used to keep a chain of this size on the front of my Harley.
photo source" the net"

The bigger the lock and chain, the more people you'll keep honest!

These were some words of wisdom that I read in Easyriders magazine many years ago.

Good advice then, even better advice now.

I used to laugh and say that a thief would be a fool to steal one of my cars when there are so many more desirable, and valuable cars in my neighborhood.

That might be true but it takes a more sophisticated crook to steal a modern car with an alarm and a theft proof "chip key."

My '96 Mustang has a chip key but my Explorer doesn't.

They can be defeated but it requires the use of a scanner to override the anti theft feature.

I got to thinking that the thief might have been looking for a certain vehicle that didn't have the chip key. Unfortunately, he found one.

All he had to do was break the window, break the ignition lock and turn the switch with a screwdriver. Crude but effective.

Some of the things that I had done to my Explorer might have made it a little easier to do the deed.

I knew that I had a problem with the remote locking system. It appeared that the front passenger's side door lock would stick, either up or down when the locking button was pushed. I should have replaced the lock actuator. When the doors are remotely locked then the alarm can be activated. Instead of dealing with the actuator I fitted a battery disconnect switch.

Now the doors would remain locked but the alarm couldn't be activated. My Explorer has a feature that activates the interior lights when the front door handles are pulled. With the battery disconnected there wouldn't be any lights turned on. While a thief can check out the contents of your vehicle, he might also see something else. Like an additional anti-theft device.

It's kind of disconcerting to think that someone could just decide to take your car and then just do it.

There's nothing I can do to stop someone from smashing a window.

There's nothing I can do to stop someone from breaking the ignition lock.

All I can do is take measures that will tend to keep more people honest.

The best thing that I could do to keep my car safe is to keep the car in my garage at night. That adds more levels of security to the equation, and also adds another felony, burglary, to the auto theft. This might tend to keep most people more honest. But I'd never be able to keep all my cars safely parked indoors.

Parking the car in my driveway or directly in front of my house would also help. I could hear the alarm and the thief could be caught on camera. I'll admit that my Explorer was parked around the corner and in a dark area where no houses actually face the street. In fact, there's no way to see the street from those houses as their aren't any windows that could look out and can directly see what was happening.

About the only thing that I can try to do is to make stealing this car unattractive, and add a layer of defense that will slow down the process. I could use an aftermarket device like "the Club".

With only two hooks it is quick and easy to engage.

I had always been a non-believer in the effectiveness of this device. I've heard that a thief can cut through the steering wheel with a bolt cutter to remove the device. Probably, but he'd have to have brought that bolt cutter with him. That might discourage some more folks.

I needed to do something. I tried a "Club like" device from Master Lock. It had four claws that could grip around the spokes of the steering wheel. The thing even boasts of a 1,000.00 anti theft warranty. I'll bet that would be hard to collect on!

This didn't fit properly on my Explorer's wheel.

I just couldn't get that thing to fit properly. I still wanted something to immobilize the steering wheel in addition to the column/ignition lock.

Hanging next to the Master Lock steering wheel lock was a brake pedal to steering wheel lock. Years ago I had purchased a pretty flimsy version from J.C.Whitney to use on my '57 Cadillac. It didn't inspire too much confidence but it was better than nothing.

The quality was much more reassuring.

This device fit quite well and it was possible to secure it to one of the wheels spokes. However it would still be possible to move the steering wheel to some degree. So I had a brilliant idea, "Why not use two?" I purchased another one to secure to the other wheel spoke. Now the wheel and brake pedal were both immobilized. It would be twice as much work to defeat these devices. Even if the thief cut the steering wheel to remove both of them, it would be harder to drive the car with what's left of the wheel! At least I hope so.

This is what you see when the interior light comes on.

You can see how the triangulation works.
These devices are even color coordinated to the interior!

Will these measures work? I certainly hope so. In this case, the Explorer was driven from the scene. I didn't take the battery disconnect knob with me when I parked the car. It was a simple matter to reconnect the switch. I also used to disconnect the battery in my '56 Cadillac but I used a chain to lock the hood. I was mostly concerned that someone would walk off with the original air cleaner. Just something else to slow the crook down.

I'm not minimizing what happened to me. A crime was committed. It ended up costing me a lot of money and aggravation and work. None of this was my fault. Even if I had left the keys in the ignition of an unlocked car, that doesn't give anyone the right to take it. I, or any honest person wouldn't drive off with it. However there are obviously plenty of people out there that would.

Like in every aspect of our lives we are responsible to take the best measures to ensure the safety and security of ourselves, our family, our homes, and our possessions. We won't be successful in every scenario, but we can try to stack the odds in our favor!

Sunday, July 7, 2019

How about a rope, instead of a shoestring?

Doing anything on the cheap is often referred to doing it on a shoestring, but how about when that shoestring leads you to the end of your rope?

In other words sometimes you gotta spend a little money.

Especially if you don't really want to do the work yourself!

Could there be a cost effective work a round. Meaning, could or should I actually pay someone to do the job?

The whole idea kind of goes against my cheapskate ethos. However I'm finding myself up against the wall.

I'm finding every excuse to avoid dealing with the situation. The situation being, "what's up with my XJ6's suspension?"

But you have to know how much something is going to actually cost before you can make an educated decision. Or any decision for that matter.

In the past I have made an assumption that something was too expensive to consider, when I had no real idea of what it might actually cost. Where did I get my numbers from? I'll be kind and say that I pulled them out of a hat, though I may have pulled them from somewhere else!

Once I made that determination I just took no action at all. That was kind of comforting, in a way. I just let that particular situation go on for many years. I just put it out of my mind. I was adamant that it was just too expensive to consider. So there wasn't any hope of progress.

Until... My Wife suggested that I get an estimate from a contractor, in this case.

I took another trip to the Jaguar Purformance Center in Los Gatos to speak with the owner. I told him that I was disappointed that he couldn't give me an estimate on how much it would cost to rebuild my XJ6 suspension. He told me that he couldn't give me an estimate until he had done a thorough inspection. He said that there was not a flat rate cost that he could give me. When I insisted that my car needed everything done, he responded that most cars don't need everything done.

Maybe. I don't think that a guy that has been in the business for as long as he has couldn't give me a price range of typical jobs. Maybe he thinks that if he quotes an average price that I might decide that it is too high. That maybe I don't want to invest that much money in fixing the car. Maybe I'll decide that I don't want any work done at all. However if the estimate is not that high, than maybe I'll go ahead with the repairs.

That's a lot of maybes. If he doesn't know what the car needs, than he can't give me an estimate. Without an estimate I can't decide if I want to invest the money and keep the car. I can respect his position that he won't deal in unknown cost projections.

Is it the cost of the inspection? Well it's 180.00, that might be for two hours work. Or whatever it takes to complete the inspection. I wouldn't really expect him to do it for free unless we've had a history of doing business together and he was pretty certain that I was going to follow through. I mean the guy has to make a living, I understand that.

When I had my shop I got to know one of the owners of the German car repair space next door. He told me that many car owners were hesitant to invest much money in their older cars. They would bring them in to get an estimate. He would provide it and then they would disappear. No money made there. Now, he charges them a diagnostic fee and he can waive it or use it to discount the job a bit to help sell the owner on the repair.  I know that it's not easy to make a living, especially when you are dealing with cheapskates like me.

I'm proud to be a grassroots car enthusiast, a Do it Yourselfer. I've been doing that for a long time. That's the way my Dad did it, and it's been good enough for me. My home wrenching skills have served me well over the years.

But that's the point, "over the years." I ain't no spring chicken and I've been to more than a few rodeos. When I was a kid I had more energy than money, more time than money, and a higher threshold of pain. The other problem is that currently I don't have whole lot of extra money.

As I posted last week, the tires are holding up and the steering feels okay. Their are a few noises from the suspension. I'm keeping my eye on that upper radiator hose. I also need to track down the power steering leak. I haven't even looked underneath yet. Maybe it's just a bad hose. Could I be that lucky?

Either way my plan is to drive the thing, but it bothers me to let the car start to sink into real beater status. It's going to be time to make a decision. Pretty soon.

Luckily the damage was mostly limited to the lock cylinder

Of course Life always gets in the way. Having my Explorer stolen took some of the wind from my sails and money out of my budget.  It cost me over 400.00 just to get the thing out of the tow yard! Another 100 bucks covered the new ignition lock, a replacement window, track, and windshield post molding from the wrecking yard. I still have to repair the damaged area of the dashboard cowl. While I was at Pick and Pull I was eyeing the dashboard that was in the donor Explorer. It would be a lot of work to remove and replace the entire dash. I guess that I could just remove and buy the dash and hold onto it for awhile. It might be worth it if I wanted to keep the truck for a long time, as a collectible. Don't laugh. There are thousands of Millennials that grew up riding around in Explorers. Not every kid rode around in a Camry or Accord. At least some of them might be a bit sentimental about their childhoods. My Explorer could be fixed up as a "Street Machine", an enthusiast's vehicle. Especially with the classic, fuel injected 302 mill.

Collector interest aside, it's always been a real useful vehicle. It carries people and it carries stuff. It's just so much more convenient to use and drive than my F 150, at least most of the time.

The battery was completely dead when I had it towed to the house. I removed the battery and replaced it with one of my extras. I placed the dead battery on my float charger for a couple of days. It took awhile but the battery came back and indicated over twelve volts. Cleaning out all that broken glass was a real pain. That stuff got into everything! Replacing the broken window was a bit of a chore as I discovered that Ford had started to use rivets in a lot of the places I was used to them using screws and bolts. Upon disassembly I discovered that one of the window tracks had broken free from it's mounting bracket. So I picked that up at the wrecking yard while I was there. My repair was successful and the window glides up and down like new. I got the Explorer back on the road and drove it to work and on errands for a week. I even used it to take the family to a relative's  house for a barbeque, an 140 mile round trip. It didn't skip a beat.

No exotic or complicated engineering in this area of the fleet.

Maybe three Fords are all I need. My F 150, my Mustang and the Explorer.