File this one under Direct-To-My-Pleasure-Center: a guy produced a 25-minute video about the AMC Pacer for his senior college project, and it was received very well. He decided to expand that out into a documentary about American Motors Corporation, and started the research and production several years ago. He’s self-financing but has an agreement with Maryland Public Television to distribute it. There’s a GoFundMe set up to help with the costs; I threw $50 at it this morning.
With the parade preparations basically monopolizing my time last weekend, I neglected to mention the update from Lexington Park, where we visited with Jen’s Dad and continued helping him get his affairs in order. While Jen focused on paperwork, I hooked the boat tank up to the Chrysler and primed the carburetor with fuel. I should back up here and mention how difficult it was to find the correct fitting for the carburetor fuel inlet; between three different stores, five websites, and two handfuls of brass and nylon parts, I still didn’t get the proper size or thread combination correct. Instead, I hooked the hose up to the lower section of the existing steel fuel line and called it done.
When I primed the carb it leaked out through the gasket, so I torqued the screws down good and tested it until it stopped seeping. This seems to have flooded the carb, because I couldn’t get it to start for love or money, even after letting it sit for four hours. So we’re back to square one there.
I went back outside to the porch ceiling, which I’d powerwashed a few weeks ago, and scraped the remainder of the flaking paint off before hitting it with two coats of white exterior latex. The door surround got two coats as well, which brightens up the front of the house immensely. Then I threw almost all of the breakers in the house until I found the one that killed the outlet on the porch. That plug was flopping loose, which made me nervous. As I unscrewed it, it disintegrated in my hands. Five minutes and a new plug from my electrical stash, and it’s good as new.
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.