Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Boys Don't Cry

Its been a rough coupla weeks. The car is still immobile and I have been going through a break-up. The now ex BF was away on a trip, the very trip we broke up over. The details are long, sad and personal so I won't get into that here but needless to say I've have found myself suddenly operating solo in areas of the heart and auto repair. :-(

I put in a frustrating yet ultimately triumphant day's work on the wagon last Saturday (at least this story will have a happy ending). My Dad had a few clients scheduled for both Saturday & Sunday and could not be my wrenching partner. We had previously gotten the engine all put back together and what tasks remained were to re-assemble the rest of the stuff under the hood we had to take apart for the head removal. I aslo had my radiator rebuilt & flushed so that needed to be re-installed too.

I started with the new thermostat, remembering to put the copper pellet towards the engine & gooped the gasket only to put the housing on upside down. When I saw the connect for the radiator hose pointing down to the ground I said, "Hey, that aint right!" I flipped it and screwed it down proper. Then on to the fan assembly, I flipped to the pages in my trusty Mopar factory manual, which is totally covered in grease by now. I put it all in order and screwed in the bolts. After I admired my work, I gave it a spin only to hear "clank!"

It was hitting my formerly non existent crank case pully bolt. Apparently Fred told us all cars should have one of these and I not knowing any better was surprised that my car was lacking one. Turns out that Jeff says slant 6s' actually DON'T have crank case pully bolts but I found that out the day AFTER Fred had installed one for us. Jeff said since it was in there it was fine to leave it, so long as it wasn't in the way of anything. Dammit. I set off to remove the damn thing but it wouldn't let me get a turn on it without turning the damn engine (like a crank shaft pully bolt is supposed to do). I was sitting in the car ruminating on what to do. I was scared to forcefully prevent the engine from turning while wrenching the bolt the opposite way. I didn't want to bend any internal components. I had just rebuilt the top end of the motor there was no way I wanted to do the bottom end! I was alone, and undereducated on this issue. I decided I needed to call Fred. He put it in there, he would HAVE to be able to get it out right???

Getting a hold of Fred wasn't easy. The only person I knew who had his number was the xBF. I swallowed my pride and text messaged him. The chances of a speedy reply were slim since one, we had just broken up and two, he was in New Zealand. I tried every other person who I thought may know someone who knew Fred but I wasn't getting any response. I was feeling like an emotional & mechanical failure when I decided to call my BFF Robin. At the very least Robin could help me feel better and he may have some advice on the car too. I called him & told him the whole sorry tale and by this point I was pretty pitiful. He gave me his patented tough love, "Stop being a fucking baby! You can do this." were his exact words. God Bless him, he was right. I was being a big baby and feeling sorry for myself. I thanked him for the pep talk and went back down to the car.

I used my head, first I needed to get the car off the jack stand. One of my wheels was removed due to a serious flat, I filled the also flat spare with air, stuck it on the car and lowered it. Then I put the car in gear & chocked the wheels. I busted out the torque wrench that when we bought it I thought I would barely use. I set the tolerance & gave that bolt a good turn. Nuthin. I tried again, and yet again. Nada. I was crestfallen but I HAD to get that damn bolt out. I crouched down and leaned my head on the front of the car. With frustration of the bolt and my currently depleted emotional state I was.....about...to....cry. The thought of me shedding tears while wrenching on my car was a pitiful one. I took a deep breath and told myself "Just don't cry about it dammit!"

I stood up, picked up the torque wrench and raised the tolerance to 160 foot pounds. I put it on the fucking bolt and gave it a turn and just like that, it broke free. I reached in with my hands & loosened it after that. Once the bolt was out, I thanked every one. I thanked the car for holding still, the bolt for turning, the heavens for the fortitude bestowed upon me.

The whole thing went smoothly after that. I got the fan on, the radiator back in. The hoses hooked up, the engine block water channels re-filled. I had done it, on my own and best of all, I didn't cry. If you have ever seen the movie A League Of Their Own, you will know the quote "There's no crying in baseball!" Well, there's no crying in auto repair either, dammit.

Boy's don't cry, and really tough girls don't either. So there.

P.S. If you wanna get an idea of how I feel, watch this music video:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I love Lucy!

Ok, so we left off with Ol' Blue heading towards retirement and the thought of a classic wagon waiting in the wings. Like I said, I wasn't really wanting to replace Blue but had been scanning local Craigslists for "vintage wagons". Mostly I was pulling up 50's Chevys that were priced astronomically high. I wanted something that could be a daily driver & you know, cheap. I was just toying with the idea until I stumbled upon a Dart wagon in Highland Park, near downtown LA the very same town where my best friend & evil scientist/mechanical genius, Robin lives. This car embodied everything I could ever want in an old vehicle. Firstly, it was running (lol!), it was a wagon, it was a dart wagon, it was a 1963 Dart wagon. Wait, 1963?? That's the same year as Blue! Basically, this is the exact same car as blue except it was a manual 3 on the tree transmission and had the slant 6 270 engine, and of course the amazing wrap around bubble windows in back. *drool*

I had to have this car but wait, I can't have two Dodge Darts can I? Ultimately I had to decide that no, I could not own both Darts. I had a heart to heart with Blue and told him the bad news. I put Blue up on Craigslist and the very next day he was sold to a cool dude out of Santa Paula who had always wanted a Dart. I know the feeling! It did take some extra deal making with the BF to bring the new Dart home but it wasn't long before I was driving her up the 101 towards her new home in Ventura. Now, onto the pics of Lucky Lucy, my '63 Dart wagon:

The resemblance to Blue is uncanny aint it?

So Sweet!

Lotsa room for junk in the trunk

Toothless grin, no bumper...eek!

Mister Mikey & the good, aka intact tail light

Dodge LVR

Well, I figured it was about time to post some pics of the wagon. I have been so waylaid by the blown head gasket and all the resulting repairs I have not sat down long enough to pull them off the camera. But before I post the wagon, I want to show & tell a little about my 1st owned Dart, 'Ol Blue. I was trying to tell the stories of my Dart obsession in chronological order so sit tight & soon you will know the whole history of my decline into Dodge lover madness.

Lets see, it was at least two years after the whole Beulah experience. I had already fallen in love with Darts and had been scoping them out ever since Beulah had slipped through my grasp. I wasn't really looking to buy one, but I was noticing them more. One evening I was driving to my dad's house in his green mini van that he had graciously let me borrow since I had ehem, blown up my Ford Escort Wagon (that I had actually purchased from C4C, the same lot Beulah once resided in). I was on my usual route when lo and behold, I pass a Dodge Dart in a parking lot for sale. I pulled over and checked it out, it was only $600! Right then and there I decided it was to be mine! I jotted down the number and continued to my Dad's place. When I told him about it he remembered Beulah, and how badly I wanted that one. I called the seller & set up a test drive for the next day. My dad agreed to go along.

Instantly I was in love with that car. It was a 1963 4 door 170 slant six with push button auto transmission. It was done up in a ghetto facsimile of a surf woodie. The owner, Lance had "decorated" it with bamboo and primer-ed it a cheap blue color. It was a jalopy for sure but it was too late, I had to have it. After the short test-drive I shook hands on it. I asked my dad what he thought about the car. He said it didn't matter because I had already made up my mind to get it. I paid Lance and I drove it to work that day, happy as a lark. Sadly, the car wasn't as happy. Lance had worked some voodoo on it and it once the car was signed over to me went ka-put. Little did I know how bad it was.

It sat in the driveway for a month or so until I miraculously met up with Jeff Chong & the boys at Sutton Engineering. They took me and my Dodge under their wings and hooked me up. It took many weeks and many dollars to get the monster up to code but when he was done it was a real tiger. I drove it every day for almost 2 years. It never looked much better than the day I brought it home, but it drove like a champ. Eventually the current boyfriend convinced me to take up driving his 90's Ford Ranger on a daily basis. I think he was jealous of Ol' Blue (I had known & loved that car longer than than him). I drove the Ranger with the intent of letting Blue rest while I fixed him cosmetically. I only got as far as primer-ing it flat black. Once Blue was no longer blue, I usually called him the Old Man. Once my occupation of the Ranger expired, I was back in the Dodge but things we different. He was really leaking exhaust and I kept getting migraines from driving it.

I secretly (Blue didn't know, neither did the BF) began looking for an old wagon that would be tough enough to tow my '63 camper trailer. It was more of a whim than anything because I knew nothing could replace that space in my heart that Blue held....until that is, I met Lucy.

Before I talk about Lucy, lets give Blue his day in the sun:

Sunny days

Side view sans Lance's bamboo

Blue up on the lift, me under it at Sutton

Up next: I love Lucy!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Daddy's Girl

My Dad & I put in a really good day's work on the Dart this last Sunday. Here is an email he sent out with the details!

Mechanical Progress

It was with some trepidation that I went over to my daughter Amber's
this afternoon to resume wrenching on her 1963 Dodge Dart 270 station wagon.

This was in no small part due to the fact that last Sunday we had failed
to align & install the intake and exhaust manifolds with attached
carburetor to the resurfaced cylinder head that we re-installed on her
225 cubic inch slant six engine block.

Our success, today, was largely due to the research Amber had done
online and email advice that she had secured from her friend and MOPAR
expert, Jeff Chong, in Los Angeles. She printed out the resulting
diagrams, text and photos and we had another go at it. The trick was in
not trying to align all the threaded studs in the head with the holes in
the manifolds at the same time. We left out the outboard fasteners on
the exhaust manifold and saved them for last. The nuts and washers on
the top of the manifolds were easy to get started and finger tighten.
Those underneath the manifolds were a real challenge. Fortunately,
Amber bought a couple of magnetic pickup tools the last time we were at
Harbor Freight and they proved to be just the tools to get the washers
on the threaded studs and start the nuts. After we got everything
finger tight, we tackled the outboard washers and bolts on the exhaust
manifold. We drove wedges between the exhaust and intake ports and made
the holes line up. We finger tightened the last two bolts and brought
out the torque wrench to achieve the ten foot pounds specification on
all 14 fasteners.

I am impressed with our success. So is Amber. We fought the good fight
and won this battle. There is still a good bit of work to be done but
we had been at it for a solid three hours, the sun had slid down the sky
and it was getting cool, so we got cleaned up and went out for Mexican
food, Amber's treat.

We'll try to do the radiator and the alternator next weekend, I
suppose. Hopefully, the weather will be as good to us shade tree
mechanics then as it was, today.

Hope you all had a nice weekend, too.


I love my dad SO MUCH! He is so wonderful helping me with this. He doesn't seem to mind that his daughter is crazy for loving this old car. Well, he did own a '60 Valiant and a '69 Dart back in the day. I guess crazy runs in the family!

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Beat Goes On...

Many moons have passed since I first started my head gasket replacement job on Lucy, the wagon. Yesterday my pops & I were coming down the home stretch. We had gotten the head back on w/ new gasket, rocker arm shaft & push rods in place and then torqued it all down to spec. The sun was getting low in the sky and our energy was getting low too but we really wanted to get the exhaust manifolds back on as well. We ran into a memory lapse. Even though I bagged all of the nuts & bolts as they came off and kept them separated, there was bit of confusion. The machine shop guy told me I should replace the bent studs on the head. I had John helping me one day and asked him to remove the old studs so we could get new ones. After he was done, we had more holes than old studs & I couldn't remember how many were there to begin with! We ordered a box of studs, more than enough to fill all the holes and I kindof forgot about it. When my pops & I were trying to mount the manifold we had difficulty aligning it. Suddenly it dawned on me, maybe some of those studs aren't supposed to be there!

We were too tired to continue and I ended up doing some searching on the inter-web for some better pics than my manual has. I came up with this gem of an article:


I think we can do it!

Now I also found this:

This abomination just gave me a stomach ache.