July 28, 2002
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
Well, as things go in the restoration business, not everything turns out the way you want it every time. But the good thing is that I don't mind when things go wrong on this car--I know I'll have to fix everything anyway, so something going wrong at this early stage in the game doesn't upset me in the least. That was quite a relevation as I sat by the side of the road with a crippled car. If this had been FrankenRanger, I would have been looking to kill myself.
However, a few good things came of being stranded for a few minutes. First, I found that a few nice people still exist out there, and often in the most unlikely places. When I first pulled the car over, quite a few people came up to me and asked if I needed any help. Many just wanted to talk about the car. All their comments were positive, despite the car being stranded, the condition of the interior, and the wisps of smoke coming off of the junk on the engine (with these old cars, you'll find out that everyone has a story to tell about the one they or their father owned). Second, I had a chance to read more of the shop manual, and discover ways of tricking the car into running when all other systems are shut down. That made all the difference when I went to start the car, but the traditional method failed to elicit even a "click" from the starter solenoid. Good to know.
But first, let's get to the things that went my way this weekend:
First, I finished installing the new wheel cylinders from Kanter Auto Products. They went in without a hitch. With the help of my wife, I flushed and bled the brakes and reinstalled the drums, bearings and seals, and put the tires back on (no photos because there's nothing there you haven't already seen). I also noticed when remounting the wheels that there are not two, but three different sizes of tire on the car. I put the two mismatched tires on the front, so that their different rotating speeds wouldn't overheat the differential. It leans a little now, but that'll change when I put new tires on it. Now if I could only get ahold of Doug Seybold and ask him what size radials to use...
With the car on the ground, I could pull it out of the garage and get access to the trunk so I could remove the taillight housings and replace my faded taillight lenses with the ones I polished. I'll save the beautiful NOS lenses for when the car is complete. For now, these will work just fine and they look much better than those original ones:
Next up was the exhaust. Since I don't have the new exhaust system yet, I reinstalled the muffler that the trucking company tore off unloading the car when it was delivered. Again, no photos because I don't want you to see my sloppy (temporary) work. Getting that ancient tailpipe to connect to an equally deteriorated muffler (the wrong type, by the way) is nothing I'm proud of. But at least the car is quiet and driveable now. I also readjusted the carbs according to the shop manual procedure, now that I had a muffler for a little back pressure. It's better, but I think the idle is still a little too high.
With all that done, I decided to take it for a spin. My first impression is of how powerful this car is. It pulled HARD. Even with 4200 pounds to lug around, it accelerated with authority and had no problem keeping up with modern traffic. Impressive. I didn't probe its limits, of course (that's just stupid on an untested motor), but the moderate driving I did was quite amazing. The new brakes were a little grabby and the rears locked up too easily, but I suspect that will become less of an issue once they break-in and adjust themselves. I may add a proportioning valve if that doesn't change.
Unfortunately, my previous noting of the temperature gauge pegging itself at 220 degrees as it idles is no different when on the road with airflow through the radiator. My first suspicion was a stuck thermostat, since the gauge is pegged, but the radiator was merely warm and there was no steam or pressure at the radiator cap. However, once everything cooled off (on a side street about 2 miles from my house), I noticed this:
There was very little coolant left in the system. No wonder it was overheating almost immediately (and no wonder the previous owner shipped it with 2 gallons of anti-freeze in the back seat). Hopefully there's no permanent damage to the internals of the engine (I doubt it, since I shut it down instantly). But this means that 1) I'll have to buy some new heater hose (21 feet of it!) sooner than I had planned, and 2) the thermostat may still be bad, but it wasn't the cause of this particular problem. Once I have the system sealed up properly, we'll try again. I'm so stupid--of all the basics I checked, the cooling system wasn't one of them. Duh!
I'll report back in a day or two when I get the new heater hose installed and can get it out on the road for some real driving...
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