Finn and I stood on line outside the MVA office for 45 minutes in the “appointment” line two Mondays ago. It’s been in the high 90’s here through July and with humidity, the temperatures are in the mid 100’s. There were actually two lines on the concrete sidewalk: “appointment” and “drop-off”. Because there is a limit to the number of people allowed in the building, we all had to wait outside in the heat until the people ahead of us came out. The MVA staff helpfully put up a square awning outside the front door over the “dropoff” line, which was moving much faster than our line, so the net result was that we in the “plan ahead” line stood around and baked in the sun until they could let us in.
My intention has been to swap out the modern Historic plates I’ve currently got on the Scout for a set of vintage plates from 1976, the year the truck was made. I’d found a set at the antique store down the street and got them cheap, and around the time I was ready to go in and do battle with the MVA, the pandemic hit. So I waited until the numbers went down and they opened up on the restricted schedule.
Once we were inside, we had to wait the normal amount of time for the glacial staff to sort out our issues, so even though we had an appointment nothing was different from a normal visit. Finn and I waited a full hour before we were called up to the counter, and when I explained what I was doing—and showed her the proper form, filled out months in advance—she had no idea how to accomplish this mysterious task and told us to sit back down while she asked someone. She called her manager, who called someone else, explained it to the woman I spoke to, and then disappeared for lunch. In the meantime the obnoxious dude who had been standing behind us outside was called up to the counter next, and his wife proceeded to leisurely fill out all her paperwork while standing at the window for the next 45 minutes.
When that was done, I was called back up a full 2 1/2 hours after my appointment time, and the woman put my old tags in the system and voided them, then entered the new (vintage) tags. The system didn’t spit out a sticker, however, so they had to cancel the void on the original tags and told me I would have to drive around with the original Historic plate in the glove box, as the truck is technically registered to those tags (but for some reason they charged me $70 for vanity plates)?
I have no fucking idea what they did or if it’s the right thing, but I went home and put the new (vintage) plates on the truck. Hopefully I don’t get pulled over and impounded for having the wrong plates on the right truck.
They sure do look pretty, though.
There’s an International dealership down the road from me in Ellicott City that I’ve been aware of since I was in college, and back in the days when I was sourcing parts for Chewbacca I bought some parts from a guy that worked there, including a windshield that still sits in my garage. From the grapevine I’d heard that he got out of the biz after the first EC flood came through and wiped out his parts stash, but apparently he’s still hauling rusty junk out of the woods. A few weeks ago I saw a post on Craigslist for a travel top and some other parts on a junker and realized it was parked up behind the dealership, and this morning I thought I’d go take a look at it on a quiet Sunday morning. The truck is still there, and hasn’t changed since the post went up. It’s a crusty 1980 Diesel from Arizona missing both front fenders, but it looks like there might be some decent interior parts left, including a three-piece rollbar that looks like it would reach further back than the one in Peer Pressure.
He’s got some other rigs parked up there as well, including this ’78 that gets worse the closer you stand to it. I’ve never see two front fenders rust out like that; I have no idea what the cause might be.
There’s also this 1980 with the letters GMS printed on the side; Bennett tells me it stands for Green Machine Sport, which was a special package made that year to dress things up. This one is in about the same condition as the white Scout on the rollback, but at least all the parts are there.
I don’t know what he’s planning on doing with these. I reached out to him via Messenger to inquire about the rollbar, and he says he probably has plans for it, but he’d let me know if he was going to sell it. So we’ll see.
I got a big box delivered to the house on Saturday, and inside were two beautiful olive drab ammo cans ready for engineering into lockboxes: one is for Brian and one is for me. The 30mm can is big and roomy and built to be weather-sealed, so there’s a beefy rubber gasket around the top of the lid. One bummer is that they’re not built like the 5.56 can I have in the basement, so both sides are latched instead of being latch/hinged. So we’ll have to figure out how we’re going to hinge the top and make it easily accessible, or just put lock hasps on both sides.
My first thought is that we can get a couple of wire rope clips, cut the threads down, and weld the flat ends to the wall of the can so that the loop feeds through the hole, as above. That would be a nice fat bit of steel to cut through.
The next solution would be to simply buy a metal hasp kit and use the staple, as long as it stuck out far enough. They’re already drilled for screws so it would be pretty easy to use the holes for welding (or, alternatively, just drill holes and screw the staple in place). I’d like to avoid having screw heads inside the box if at all possible, so I think I’ll try welding first.
We still don’t know exactly how it’s going to secure to the bed yet. Another thing to add will be rubber feet of some kind to keep it from banging around back there. But I love the look of it, and it’s just the right size to fit a backpack or a big toolbag or a laptop.
Ford just announced their new Bronco this week, and I have to say I’m really admiring the look of it. As much as everyone claims they want a bare-bones model with no features at all, nobody would buy one, so the packages start at $28K and go top into the 60’s. I’d assume these will be $10K above list price for the first couple of years, as Ford pretty much knows they’ve got a winner on their hands. As long as they don’t fuck it up too badly, I see these selling like hotcakes.
My personal preference is for either the base-level model with 2.3 liter engine and 6-speed manual (the only way I’d buy one of these, frankly, is with a manual) or the next model up (the “Big Bend”). Optional packages would give us some features we’ve never had in a vehicle: two-door lock and unlock functionality, 110V/150W AC power outlet, ambient footwell lighting, dual-zone electronic automatic temperature control, and heated front seats, among others.
In other Bronco-related news, Hemmings just ran an article about Ford’s attempt to redesign the Bronco in early 1971, and it’s fascinating to look at the pictures of what could have been and where they were looking for inspiration. They started with something that looked great to begin with and generated some of the ugliest redesigns I’ve ever seen. Nothing about the new concepts feels balanced, looks attractive, or works with any of their design cues from that era; the initial sketches have some of the DNA of the full-size trucks but as they looked at the competition (there’s a Scout poster in one of the photos, and later clay models are posed outside with a Range Rover and a Scout in the background) they smoothed the edges until it became a bland stick of butter. The grille treatments alone make me want to barf. They couldn’t figure out how to finish anything behind the A pillar—all of the tailgates look like dogshit—and the side profile looks smaller and more station-wagony as they go. I was always a fan of the 2nd gen Bronco (using the cab of the full-size pickups) so they eventually landed on their feet, but this is a horrifying could-have-been.
So the Harvester Homecoming is actually going to happen this year; I have no idea how they’re going to arrange things so that there’s social distancing, but I’d wager the boundaries will be pretty porous. I’m skipping this year for obvious reasons, but my eventual goal is to make it to the 2022 event, COVID willing.
Back in college, I used to frequent a place in downtown Baltimore that spoiled me for surplus stores for ever after; in what was then a lousy neighborhood there was a warehouse storefront with several old military chests chained to a steel post outside a heavily reinforced door. Inside, a showroom was filled with new camping and mil-spec gear, haphazardly placed and barely organized. Down a tall flight of stairs into the basement of the building, however, was a city block-sized space full of surplus gear, piled high on 10-foot shelves that stretched from one side of the building to the other. This was the kind of place where you could still root through 5’x5′ cardboard bins filled with surplus fatigues for elusive SL-sized Vietnam era jungle pants; there were shelves stacked with tank periscopes, racks of cold-weather coats, an entire section devoted to ALICE packs (the most uncomfortable backpack ever invented), tents made of stinking olive green oiled canvas, bins and bins of 80’s era combat boots—this was where I bought my first pair—and in the far back there were honest to god oscilloscopes sitting next to unidentifiable electronic equipment that was probably used to call in missile strikes. We’d roll down there every couple of months to check things out, much like visiting the IKEA, and usually find something interesting to buy for cheap. Half of my college wardrobe was made up of surplus clothing or thrift-store finds.
About four years ago they picked up and moved north into the Hamilton neighborhood on the east side of town, and I figured they were my best (and only) local shot for 30mm ammo cans in stock. The guy on the phone claimed they had them and quickly hung up before I could ask about pricing or condition, so I was somewhat skeptical about what I’d find. Their current Yelp reviews are less than optimal, but I figured I’d take the chance. I drove the Scout in on Saturday morning and found the place in downtown Hamilton, empty of people; it was maybe 1/20th its original size, now occupying an old beauty supply store. The scene inside was as disorganized as the old basement had been. After a few minutes I found the ammo can section and was annoyed to find they didn’t have any of the size I wanted, and the guy in the store was less than concerned with helping me find any. I spent a total of about 5 minutes in there and left, disgusted with the whole situation.
Back at home, I found them for sale online and for $10 in shipping I’ve got two on their way to the house, due here by Saturday.
I saw this picture in my Instagram feed and it got my brain thinking about a lockable security container again. See that green ammo can on the right side?
That’s a 3omm ammo can, which measures 9″ x 17.5″ x 14.5″, and weighs 21 lbs. For $~35, I could easily adapt this into a lockable container for the back of the Scout for more tool storage. I’d have to do a couple of things to it though. First, I’d weld a loop on the box and cut a hole on the handle for a padlock of some kind. Then I’d need to set up a fastening system on the bottom of the bed to secure it to the truck. I’m thinking I’d cut down a loop of metal and weld it to a square steel plate. That would be bolted to the floor of the truck, or better yet, weld a pair of captive nuts under the truck so that the only way to pull the loop off would be from under the can.
After cutting a slot in the bottom of the can to accept the loop, I’d use some kind of lock or steel bar through the loop, inside the box, to secure it in place. The point of all this is to be able to quickly pull the can out of the truck when it’s in the way and have only the loop in place (or also be easily removed).
I’d immediately discounted the idea of an ammo box a while back because I was only thinking of the 7.62 and .50 cal cans, which are smaller in dimension than the 30mm cans. I have a .50 cal can and it’s roughly half the size. This looks like it’s the perfect size and shape for my plans, and the only other things I’d need to make this happen would be a welder, gloves, and helmet– something I’ve been considering the purchase of for years. There’s nothing like a project to make things happen! And, after some practice, I could then start welding and repairing my spare windshields and other sheet metal to prep them for paint.
After practicing my mechanical skills last weekend, swapping out plugs on Saturday was fast and relatively easy. The only issue I had was getting the #6 plug started; for some reason it didn’t want to thread in to the hole. Once I got that, the rest were easy. I left the #1 plug for last, as the position of the power steering pump makes it difficult to get a ratchet on the end of the socket. (Pro tip: a 3/4 box end wrench on the socket does the job nicely). The Autolite 303’s came out oily and fouled, and that was only after 75 miles or so.
I did a quick test run after the engine bay was buttoned up, and she runs better than ever. Lesson learned: the 303’s are in the trash.
I’ve had new spark plugs in the truck for a week and it hasn’t run this shitty in the 10+ years I’ve owned it. Startup is OK but the engine runs rough and slow, the idle is choppy, and throttle response is abysmal—to the point where I’m afraid the engine will die before the acceleration picks up. Finn and I drove about 25 miles to and from the pick-your-own farm out in Woodbine yesterday, and while it did OK at cruising speed I wasn’t impressed with anything else.
Autolite 303’s are NOT recommended in an International 345 V-8; don’t believe what the parts monkeys tell you. I have eight new Autolite 85 iridiums sitting here on my desk waiting for the weekend, and the 303s will be coming out as soon as possible. NOTE: Amazon and RockAuto don’t offer 85’s in their list of recommendations, but I’ve run 85’s in Peer Pressure for 10 years.
I also swapped out the two courtesy lights at the corners of the dashboard, which were standard filament bulbs, with new LED lights I found on Amazon. It was hard to find replacements for these odd-sized 293 bulbs without the right search terms, but Amazon offers a Sylvania filament-based 10-pack. The passenger side wasn’t working so I pulled the bulb out and cleaned the contact before putting in the LEDs. The LEDs aren’t made as well as I’d like for the money—being bayonet-style they go into the socket and turn to click into place, and what I found was that the metal sleeve holding the two contact prongs was moving independently of the light itself. They are bright and throw lots of light into the cabin, though, and I like that.
I spent a rainy Saturday futzing in the basement, and came upon the three horns I’d bought for the Scout sitting on the workbench, waiting for me to finish the mounting bracket. When last I looked at it, I’d cut down a piece of metal and bent it, but that was as far as I got. I cut the long edge down, ground down the sharp points, added two mounting holes in with the drill press, and painted it with some Rustoleum. While that was drying I pulled the headlight back out and soldered two connectors on to the wiring harness on the single Sprinter horn, then covered the wires with heatshrink tubing. When that was finished, the whole thing mounted up pretty quickly, and I grounded one of the leads to the headlight bucket. Now the horn sounds like an angry European delivery van—but it’s much, much louder. Definitely an improvement.
On Sunday I had some free time with Finley so I figured I’d show her how to change spark plugs. I’ve got a set of Autolite 303’s that I got with some other parts from Brian H. and figured I’d use them as a teaching tool. We started on the driver’s side and worked from front to back. I changed them back in August of 2012 and there was a wide range of wear on the electrodes, from carbon to sludge, so I was a little nervous to see how these looked when we pulled them out. The first couple came out looking clean with just a little tan carbon present, and as we went around they all matched up almost exactly—which means she’s running perhaps slightly hot.
I walked Finn through the basic way an engine works, the importance of firing order, showed her how to pull each plug out individually, hand-tighten the plug before laying on the socket wrench, and hook the wires back up.
The engine fired right back up but she runs a lot rougher now—I seem to remember reading on the old IHC Digest that 303’s aren’t recommended, as well as Champion RJ11Y/RJ12Y/RJ12YC’s, which are always the first to pop up on all of the auto parts websites. Strangely, when I put in Autolite 85’s I get big angry warnings saying THIS DOES NOT FIT YOUR 1976 INTERNATIONAL HARVESTER SCOUT but I ordered eight from Amazon and I’ll replace the 303’s next weekend.
The other thing I’m cogitating on is fabricating a mount for my bottle jack, which is a lot easier to use in a pinch than the Hi-Lift. Chewbacca had a mount on the inside passenger fender half, and even though it’s been twelve years I remember it looking factory-installed. There are no holes in my sheet metal that lend themselves to a mount. There’s no indication anything ever lived there, actually. There’s one threaded hole on the front wall that will be the jumping-off point for what I make—it’s the fender bolt directly to the left of the jack in the picture above. Cardboard bending and cutting will commence shortly.