Gas is still $5 a gallon, but that didn’t stop me from taking the Scout over the bridge to Chestertown to pick up a day’s work on the schoolbus. The forecast for the weekend was a beautiful 81˚ so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Brian has gotten a ton of work done since I saw it last—we put the battery box in all the way back in April—as Robbi and Matthew make firm travel plans for the fall. I pulled into the driveway to find a completely painted bus with scenes of kids and animals reading books from the headlights to the rear bumper.
The roof tent had also come in, and they’d put a platform down, screwed it into place, and hooked up the electrical system for the motor lifts. Inside, Brian had roughed in cabinets around the sink area and opposite the aisle for the locker fronts. Instead of using the locker cubbies they asked him to seal the doors and use the locker fronts as two swinging doors to conceal a set of sliding drawers.
We got to work trying to diagnose a faulty electrical motor on the roof tent, then moved inside to work out cabinetry. I cleaned, painted and installed a floor baffle for the heating hoses directly under the kids’ seats, and when that was done we set up an assembly line to cut and build the shelves and drawers. By 5:30 we had those in place and then installed a shelf cubby over the captain’s chair on the passenger side, which will be mirrored on the driver’s side over the kids’ seats.
I hit the road for home at about 7, driving into a beautiful setting sun over the Bay, feeling very fortunate for the ability to work with my hands and make visible progress on a project with a clear end goal.
On Sunday we packed the CR-V and headed down to Bob’s house to continue sorting things out. After eating lunch I headed out into the garage to continue working on the Chrysler. When I was there last, there was no spark at the plugs and I didn’t know why. I’d bought a $9 tool to test it conclusively, and my suspicions were correct. The next point of failure were the points and condenser inside the distributor, so I swapped those out with some new parts in about 10 minutes. With Bob behind the wheel, we tested for spark again, and there was success!
I squirted some gas down the carb and had him fire it off, and it caught and turned over for a few seconds until the gas evaporated. A couple more tries, some more gas, and she caught and ran—loudly and choppily, but she ran! The smile on Bob’s face was huge.
The next steps are to buy a boat tank—basically a small jerry can designed for a motorboat with a built in float and pump—and hook that directly to the carburetor. That will take care of providing fuel. If I can keep her running from the carb, we can test the transmission to see if she’ll pull out of the garage, and I can pull the drums off the rear wheels to diagnose the brake system. I’m sure that will be a leaky nightmare.
I’ve already cleaned the front seats off with 50/50 water and vinegar to kill the mildew growing there, but the back seats need extra love and attention. Getting it out into the driveway will also let us wash off 40 years of dust and grime and really assess the condition of the paint. There are a thousand little dings and chips from being a shelf in the garage for years, so I know it’s not going to be perfect, but I bet we can cut and buff a shine back into the paint with some work. I also want to use some engine degreaser and the pressure washer to shine up the engine bay.
If I’m completely honest, a part of me didn’t believe I would be able to pull this off; I’m mechanically adept but this project is a lot more than I’ve ever attempted, and there were many places I could have screwed it up. I like to think I’ve learned to be patient and careful as I’ve gotten older, and that approach paid off with every obstacle the car threw at me. The next couple of months will prove out the theory, I guess.
I had Monday off, so we all enjoyed sleeping in. Jen took care of some work in the morning while I pressure washed the front stairs and fooled around in the garage, and in the early afternoon we drove out to Frederick to spend a little family time together. We got some lunch at the Tasting Room, which was about ten steps up from where we took Bob for dinner (the Cracker Barrel was the only place open without a half an hour wait) where we sipped fancy coctails and ate a delicious late lunch.
From there we walked through the town, stopping in various stores for Finn to shop through. I found a cheap Django Reinhart LP at the used record store and Finn found some inexpensive jewelry. We stopped and met several dogs who all put Hazel to shame for their calm and relaxed natures. She was our alarm clock, so at about the four hour mark we headed for home. We all spent the evening quietly doing our own things, enjoying the cool breeze, happy to be together.
I intended this to be a 360˚ photo you could pan around in, but apparently Flickr’s support of 360˚ photos took a shit and died. And their forum posts around the problem all date back to 2016. yay technology.
Saturday morning I was happy to have downed a tall glass of water and two Advil before going to bed; I woke up with a clear head but a tender stomach, and there was heavy lifting to do. A while back I helped some Scout friends save an old IH fridge that was sitting in the basement of a house up in Randallstown. We hauled it up out of the basement, wheeled it out into the back of Bennett’s truck, and moved it to Stephen’s house in Towson. He’s downsizing and gave Bennett and I first right of refusal; I was the first to say yes. But first, we had to get his second Scout and a tractor up to his new house—both of which don’t run. No problem.
Bennett brought his brother’s towing rig and trailer, and I met him up at the house in the Scout. It was a beautiful day for driving and pushing and hauling—I was glad the air was cool, as it helped me feel better as the day went on. I pulled the battery out of PP to use for the winch on the trailer, and in about a half an hour we had the Scout strapped down and ready to go. We ran that up to the new house and parked it in a spare bay in the garage, then headed back to the house to handle the tractor. Thank GOD it was a Cub and not a full-sized tractor; It was sitting in a barn on the back corner of the lot, so we had to push it all the way out into the road to get it ready for the trailer. While Bennett got that winched on board, I towed a boat out of his backyard and into the carport with my Scout, and then backed up to his front door with the tailgate down. After some careful pushing and pulling, we got the fridge out over the threshold and strapped it flat on the bed of the Scout.
Leaving my truck behind, we rode the tractor up the second house and got it into the barn there with a minimum of fuss. After a bit of lunch we rode back down here to my house, and got the fridge out of the truck and into the garage, where it stands now. I’m waiting for the refrigerant to settle before I plug it in, but Monday I plan on giving the outside a good clean and shine to get it ready.
Sunday we hit the road back to Bob’s house, where I put the shiny rebuilt carburetor back on with a new gasket, and swapped out a 40-year-old Die Hard battery with the Die Hard battery from Peer Pressure. After re-mounting the alternator with some large nuts acting as a bushing, some careful checks, and with a fresh new fire extinguisher, I hooked the battery terminals up and we waited to see or smell any smoke. There was none, so I squirted some 50-1 gas into the carb and had Jen fire it up. The starter works, and the engine turns over, but I couldn’t get it to catch. There were several times when it sounded like it wanted to, but we just couldn’t get it to go all the way. Figuring it could be a spark issue, Jen and I drove down the street for a new battery, coil, plugs, and a ground wire.
I installed everything, got it all buttoned up, and had Bob crank it a bunch of times, but still couldn’t get it to fire. I know there’s a spark issue, and without my multimeter or the correct plugs for this engine, there wasn’t much else I could do. So I packed up my tools and satisfied myself with wiping mildew off the vinyl with a vinegar solution to bring out the shine. The front seats look much better and the door cards shined up really well, but the back seat is the worst. I’ll deal with that when we can pull it out into the sunshine.
I had my final welding class last night, which consisted of a final test and open lab night. I haven’t studied for a test that hard in decades. It was on all four processes we learned, and because each one is fundamentally different there was a lot to cover. Plus, there were welding symbols and basic diagrams to memorize. I found a bunch of online quizzes offered by Miller that I used to go over the basics, and spent my time on the train to and from DC to review the textbooks. My score was an 84, and it would have been higher if not for a bunch of SAT-tricky true/false questions toward the end. I actually aced the welding symbols and diagrams sections, which made me happy.
So now I have a basic understanding of welding, but need to get time with some equipment and practice. I would have already signed up for the intermediate MIG class, as that’s the one that translates best to automotive work, but I’ve got other bills to pay right now and I don’t have a welder of my own yet.
On the bench downstairs I have the Carter AFB carb from the Chrysler 95% rebuilt—I just need to put the linkages back on. With the videos I followed, the whole process went very smoothly, and any questions I would have had if I’d done it on my own were answered pretty quickly. So the plan is to head back down on Sunday with the battery from the Scout, some 50-1 gas, a fire extinguisher, and some other small parts, and get the yacht ready for a test-fire. If I can get it lit off from the carb and running, the next step will be to drop the fuel tank and either have that cleaned or replaced. While it’s up on jack stands we can run it with the rear wheels off the ground to see how the transmission works. And if that all looks good, then it’s on to a basic brake job.
The update: I’ve got a Carter AFB carburetor in two dozen pieces on the workbench downstairs. It’s waiting for the rebuild kit, which should be here later tonight. I want nothing more than to pull up a stool with a cold beer and start re-assembling it, but I have to focus tonight on studying for my welding test, which will be tomorrow at 5:30. Will I fail at life if I don’t pass this test? No, but I’d sure like to walk away with some new knowledge and the ability to MIG weld with a better idea of what I’m doing.
In the greenhouse, I’ve got three store-bought tomato plants in tubs which seem to be very happy; two are flowering and they’re all at least 3′ tall. I originally thought I’d buy more but we haven’t been to a garden center in weeks, so I’m going to re-pot one in its own tub and let them do their thing. In some ways being this busy all spring is a good thing, as I finished out last year’s planting season very discouraged by my yields. I don’t think I was cut out to be a farmer, but I do love having fresh tomatoes.
I’m just gonna leave this right here, because it’s exactly what I need this week:
I’m stopped at about the 8:00 minute mark on the first video, as there’s one bolt that just won’t let go. It’s soaking in PBblaster overnight, and if it doesn’t budge, I’ll bust out the torch and heat it up tomorrow after welding class. Stuff like this makes me glad I’m a Hagerty member, because these are excellent videos with just the right amount of detail.
How did we operate in the years before YouTube?
First and foremost, Happy Anniversary, Jen. I love you.
We did not have any spectacular anniversary plans because we drove down to my Father-in-Law’s house to continue helping him sort his house out. We got a lot done in two days—not as visually impactful as previous weeks, but we’re making steady progress.
I drove the Scout down separately from the girls because I had it stuffed with tools and four new tires for the Chrysler. The first thing I did after we got settled was to jack up each corner and put new shoes on the old girl; she looks so much better sitting on fresh tires. When that was done I jacked up the front end, put a 1 1/4″ socket on the crankshaft, and gave it a tug with the breaker bar. It moved! Putting a socket wrench on it, I got one full revolution going both ways, which means it’s free!
Next I pulled a heat shield off the steering column so that I could get a smaller ratchet on the socket stuck on cylinder #7, all the way up front on the driver’s side. With some careful maneuvering I got the socket and the plug off, and dumped some Marvel Mystery Oil down that cylinder as well. Then I replaced all of the plugs with fresh ones and reconnected the old wires (new ones are on the way).
Then I pulled the alternator off, flipped the bracket around and re-mounted it; it fits much better but I need to find some bushings to help secure it in place (I’d guess the originals fell off when the old unit was pulled in 1980). When I’ve got those I can mount it up permanently and hook it back up to the electrical system.
- Clean and rebuild the carburetor. I’ve got a kit coming with new gaskets, needles, floats, and hardware. I’ll douse the whole thing in brake cleaner and get it set up for surgery tomorrow.
- Order plug wires, a rotor for the distributor, a new coil, and some fan belts.
- Order a drum brake kit for the fronts—If I can get it to stop reasonably well when it’s running, I’ll drive it to a brake shop and have a pro go over the whole thing properly.
- Read up on testing for spark, using a multimeter to test the coil, and diagnosing distributor issues.
Other than that, I did a lot of stuff around the house, like fixing his garage door, fixing a window, further organizing his garage, and hauling a load of stuff to the dump. It was unbearably hot this weekend, so I was covered in grime at the end of both days. But I had fun driving the Scout—even in heat, it is a ridiculously fun road trip vehicle—only having to pause under a Shell awning for an hour to let a thunderstorm pass by.
Welding class is beginning to wind down. We spent half last night’s class burning wire on MIG machines, practicing lines and tweaking settings. SO SATISFYING. Then we went back into the classroom and reviewed welding symbology for the final test next Thursday. I’m very interested in continuing lessons with MIG in particular—it’s the best of the methods for working on cars, and offers the most flexibility—but I just made a down payment for Invisalign to straighten my teeth, and I’d like to pay that off first before I do anything else.
There are four shiny new Hankook tires mounted and balanced to the crusty Chrysler rims I brought home, waiting to be reinstalled on the car this weekend. When I got them back from the shop I sprayed the rims with Simple Green, let them soak while I took the top off the Scout, and then power washed everything. They look no better but at least they aren’t covered in PBBlaster and cat litter anymore.
Doing my research last night I searched locally for anyone else with a ’66 Chrysler and found a guy in Accokeek with a set of fender skirts for a ’66 Newport, which is the body style Bob’s 300 is based on. His car has one good and one rusty replacement fender skirt but the parts-hoarding part of my brain is screaming GO GET THEM as loudly as it can; I’m ignoring that voice until I know the car will run. The sheet metal on Chrysler products of that era changed year over year, and from the research I’ve done there were only 2,500 of these convertibles made which makes replacement parts more scarce than Scout parts.
Meanwhile, in other Rare And Unusual Items news, we’ve got a date on the books to move the fridge I helped rescue from a basement in the Before Times. It’s looking like a Scout moving and wrenching day is on the books for Saturday, which includes hauling a friend’s roller Scout and tractor up to his girlfriend’s house, moving the fridge down to my place, and putting a windshield in Bennett’s truck. It should be a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to seeing friends.
Monday morning: I feel like I got hit by a truck. But we made a bunch of progress at the FiL’s house, and the Chrysler is one step closer to being on her own feet.
We began with more filing and organizing inside the house, and then I turned to the garage. First, I installed a fix for one of the rollers on the garage door, which had broken off at some point in time. At home, I cut down a plate of flat steel, bolted it the original plate, and greased the bearings. At Bob’s, I bolted the new assembly to the door. I put two nails in the ends of the tracks to keep the door from falling off when raised, and re-routed the spring wires to work the way they were installed—they’d fallen off the pulleys at some point, binding up the top roller, which led to it breaking off. With that done, I raised the door and assembled two wire shelves we’d bought for more storage out there. After moving a bunch of stuff out of the kitchen and organizing the shelves, I turned to the Chrysler.
All four tires are at least 40 years old, totally flat, and completely dry-rotted. I brought a quartet of new jack stands with us and started getting the car up on them starting with the front; in about a half an hour she was off the floor and ready for the next phase. I hit all the lug nuts with PB Blaster and moved to the spark plugs while they marinated.
The biggest concern I have right now is that the crank doesn’t turn. I don’t have a socket big enough to sit on the crank bolt—the interwebs tell me it’s titanic 1 1/4″ —but just putting a hand on the pulley wheel doesn’t budge it. That’s not a good sign. I don’t think I have a socket that big, so I’ll hit the Lowe’s this week and grab one.
Chrysler 440 plugs are apparently oriented almost horizontally compared to International’s design, something I wasn’t ready for; when I put an expandable funnel down the first hole and poured Marvel Mystery Oil in it, I promptly dribbled it all over the floor. I think I got each cylinder filled by tapping on the funnel, but I’m going to need an easier way to get the oil into the passages—probably a funnel mated to a hose. And due to Chrysler’s awesome engineering, one of my 9/16 long sockets is stranded on the #7 plug; they decided to route the steering wheel column directly behind it with about 2″ of clearance to spare, so I have no way to get the ratchet onto the socket without pulling a rusty heat shield off the column. It’s soaking in PB Blaster but I forsee a need to drill the bolts.
Moving back to the lug nuts, I got a bunch of them started and had Finn remove most of them. As they soaked they began to come loose, and one by one the wheels came off. The passenger side front was the most difficult; I had to bust out Bob’s plumbing torch and heat the nuts up in order to break them free. The passenger rear tire was frozen to the drum but all of the other wheels came off easily once the lug nuts released. Now I’ve got to find a local shop with a compatible tire in stock and get them mounted and balanced.
The carburetor is much simpler than my Thermoquad and came off easily—only three linkages and a couple of hoses. This car was built before smog laws went into effect so it’s blissfully simple compared to the truck. I’m going to soak the carb and get a rebuild kit ordered so we can have something useable to fire it off.
The new alternator is a carbon copy of the one I found in the trunk, but when I mounted it up I found that it sits way too close to the fuel filter and looks like it sits too low. I’ve got to find some good photos of an optimal installation and adjust it to fit better, then thread the belt back on. The connections on back are simple to understand. Once I have that sorted I have to move on to the cooling system, which is empty as far as I can tell.
By the end of the day, my back was singing Ave Maria and my stomach was grumbling loudly; we packed things up and got on the road at about 7. There’s plenty more non-car related stuff to tackle, but I’m looking forward to putting shoes on this yacht and setting her back down on the ground.
So plans have changed a bit and we’re headed back down to Lexington Park for more work at my Father in law’s. In looking at the Chrysler in the garage I’ve been putting together a plan to resurrect it, carefully, without blowing up the motor. Here’s a rough outline of the approach:
- Turn the crank pulley and see if the engine turns. If not—and in any case—on to step 2:
- Pull the spark plugs and pour Marvel Mystery Oil down the cylinders. I was able to get my spare 345 in the garage freed up and moving again with this technique, and I hope to god the Chrysler block isn’t frozen solid.
- Pull the carburetor off the engine, cover the inlet, and bring it home for soaking and a rebuild. Well, I’ve actually got several options here—
- I can rebuild it as best as I can to get things moving.
- I can buy a replacement Edelbrock or other aftermarket carb to drop on top of the engine, and get it running reliably.
- I can buy a rebuilt Carter AFB (the stock carb) from an online vendor and swap it onto the engine.
…At this point a rebuild is the cheapest option and I don’t need to have it run perfectly, just enough to get onto a trailer or move under its own power.
- Jack it up and put it on stands so we can pull the wheels off and have new tires put on. All four tires are completely shot, so this is mandatory. Plus then we can sweep underneath and see what’s going on with the exhaust and frame. One thing to remember: The driver side has left-hand threads and the passenger side has right-hand threads.
- Install the alternator. We found the original alternator in the trunk, removed at some previous time, and I have no idea what’s wrong with it. A $40 replacement from Rock Auto is packed and ready to put in.
- Drain and replace the oil. God only knows what’s in it, and it’s a quart overfull anyway. So that’ll come out and be refreshed.
- Test the ignition system for spark. I have no idea what condition the coil or points are in, so I’ll bring a spare set of plug wires from the Scout down in case one or more are garbage.
I put the pod on the roof of the CR-V this morning so that we can throw the useless tires up there and bring them back up here; I’ll order four new tires and have them mounted and balanced locally, then bring them back down and put them back on. I’m going to try and get through as much of the list as I can—I’ll probably only get up to #4 before we run out of time.