Driving Finn back from karate on Monday, I was flipping through the radio stations and the distinctive guitar opening for Lit’s My Own Worst Enemy came on. Typically I change the station as soon as I hear these notes, as I could not stand this song in 1999 when it was released, and I dislike it even more now. One of the many “I’m a drunk manbaby and I can’t remember what I did last night” songs that headlined that era, it played constantly for years and never seems to go away. Now it’s stuck in my head.
I don’t have much more to say about it (and I’m not linking to the video here) because I want it out of my head as quickly as possible.
I had some time to tinker on Saturday, and I got tired of tripping over a big box in the basement containing my windshield gasket. Naturally, I saw this as a sign and brought it out to do a test-fitting. I’ve always been confused as to how this thing gets installed, as it’s a huge circle of rubber with the weight of a Burmese python and the cross-section of West Virginia. Which side is up? Which flap do you fit into the groove on the windshield?
I did some tinkering, looked at an old video I’d saved, and finally solved the puzzle: the flattest, squarest section is in the back (facing the passengers) while the part with 17 folds goes in front. Once the glass is in place, one of those folds tucks down into another fold and forms a self-sealing lock, holding the glass in place.
This was also a good time to make the call on which frame will be the replacement: It’ll be the darker gold frame, which has less rust around the inside lip and elsewhere. I’m going to try to repair some of the rust damage on the lip when I get a welder, and then I have to figure out how to paint it before it goes on. But that would be an excellent project for the summer (and long overdue).
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.
It’s been quiet around here this week, as I’ve been going pretty much nonstop since last Friday and haven’t had much time to sit and think. As mentioned earlier, I spent all of last weekend chest-deep in a dumpster hauling stuff out of Jen’s father’s garage. On Monday I had to fit a week’s worth of work into eight hours and prepare for the marathon to come: I was signed up for the CreativePro conference in Arlington for three days, which meant I had to get up at 6:30 to be on the road by 7 and be parked in a hotel garage by 9. I had a day of courses focusing on new tricks and features of the design software we use daily. I had to leave at 3 on Tuesday to drive all the way back up to Baltimore for welding class at 5:30, and practiced stick welding until 8:30.
Wednesday was another conference day, and after the last track was over at 5 we walked down the street and I bought the design team dinner. It was great to sit back and hang out with them, and by the time I got on the road the evening traffic had calmed down. Thursday was a repeat of Tuesday’s schedule, and we spent the evening practicing stick welding and started learning MIG theory.
My brain is full, my body is tired, and I’ve driven in more traffic in the past week than I care to ever again. But I feel good about design and better about welding. I’m looking forward to a quiet Friday.
My (somewhat limited) social media feeds, email inboxes, and texts all blew up with people sending me the news that the Volkswagen group is thinking about making a new electric SUV called the Scout. It’s a long, convoluted story, but the Autopian breaks down how VW has come into possession of the Scout trademark through its purchase of Navistar after a colossal strategic mistake in building diesel engines.
I spent the weekend down at my father-in-law’s house emptying about twenty years of stuff out of his garage. We rented a 20 cubic yard dumpster, which looks very big in the driveway, but fills up very fast. I drove down solo on Saturday morning while Jen was working and waded in to the debris, first finding a way to grease up the wheels on the garage door and get it raised out of the way. Then I started moving things around and working with him on what to keep and what to throw away.
It’s been a delicate balance. I’m not there to just empty the space out, so I had him stand with me for as much as possible and give the thumbs-up/down on all of the major items. There were a lot of things he’d forgotten were in there, including two lawnmowers he didn’t recognize, and overall he was happy to see most of it leave. It was fun to find something obviously important, walk it over to him, and see his face light up with recognition.
While I worked, I consolidated a bunch of different things—tools scattered throughout the garage all got collected on the workbench and later sorted into shelves out of the way. Military gear was assembled and stored safely in two new plastic bins. Important papers were gathered in one place. All of the toys and children’s books were set aside and later stored in a cabinet up off the floor and out of the way. All of the electric tools were tested and tossed if they weren’t functional. We got rid of a lot of ancient technology: both lawnmowers, two CRT televisions, and two weed whackers—one big enough to warrant handlebars and a support strap. Heirlooms like family chairs and sleds got hung on the wall, up and out of the way. By the end of the day I had most of the left bay clear and the car uncovered. I got some dinner, took a long hot shower at the hotel, and got a terrible night’s sleep (mostly climate-control related).
Sunday morning I brought Bob a chocolate donut, finished my coffee, and got back at it. By noon I had the far side clear, all of the boxes stored away, and the inside of the car cleared out. Jen and Bob started chipping ice from the ancient freezer by the back door, depositing about ten gallons of ice on the side lawn to melt. When it was empty I manhandled it out into the back of the dumpster and pulled the door off. After that it was mainly cleaning up after ourselves and finding places to store stuff until we get some shelving to help organize.
I took a little time in the afternoon to find the hood release on the Chrysler and pulled it open to find a dirty but mostly intact 440 with a single-barrel carb and no alternator. Talking it over with him, he agreed to let me try and get it running again, so I’ve got a shopping list for future visits and a plan for how to get started. And luckily I found a working set of door and ignition keys to make the job a little easier.
By the end of the night I was a sore, tired mess. The dumpster is full and will be hauled away tomorrow. The door (mostly) goes up and down by itself, and I’ve got the broken part in my toolbag to source some replacements. Most importantly, we’ve got more room to move and store things as we help him sort out his house.
Extremely satisfying. I’m still working on consistency from one weld to the next, but I was pretty proud of this one. Tomorrow night we start hands-on stick welding, which is supposed to be harder than TIG but much more flexible.
In the face of supremely bad news on Tuesday morning, I’m going to write a little bit about welding class so far to keep myself from screaming. So far, I love both oxy-acetylene and TIG with a new passion; both are excellent in their own way and both come with drawbacks. But it’s like my instructor told us: each one has its uses. Oxy-acetylene is slow and methodical: it’s heating metal with a flame. It’s also the coldest of all methods, so it takes longer and demands patience. But I enjoyed a kind of meditation while welding two sections of 1/8″ metal together. It’s soothing; “knitting with fire” is how my instructor described it. Not quite something I’d do on the couch in front of Netflix, but it would definitely go with some cool jazz or mellow electronica in the garage.
TIG is immediate and gratifying and makes short work of anything. It took half the time to weld the same length of steel together with TIG, and it’s easier to dial in the temperature and keep it steady. I see now why the pros on YouTube bust out the TIG torch when making metal stick together. But I spent half the night running to and from the sander to clean the electrode, even when I kept the tip away from the puddle. That’s a pain in the ass. With skill I bet there would be half the tungsten cleaning nonsense and a lot more productivity; I’d need to take the intermediate TIG course to learn more about how to dial the machine in for different thicknesses and situations. On Thursday we’re going to do another hour of TIG and then start learning about different chemical processes in the leadup to plasma cutting, and then I think we move to stick welding next.
We are home for the first full weekend in a month and a half, and I enjoyed a day of puttering around the house doing small things. Saturday morning I took Finley over to school for a catch-up in Math and Spanish, and when I got home I took Hazel on her 2-mile coffee walk. I spent most of the walk obsessing over a cheap local Scout on Marketplace that I convinced myself I could afford.
When I got back home I figured I’d get my mind off it completely by reading the second half of the comic run of Paper Girls, a title written by Brian K. Vaughn (of Saga and Y: the Last Man fame) and drawn by Cliff Chiang. It’s a bit hard to describe, but I found it completely engrossing and absolutely riveting storytelling. Back in the Before Times, when I was going to the library, I read a couple of issues but found it hard to follow out of order. I’m nervous because Amazon is making it into a series—I hope to got they don’t fuck it up.
My mind sufficiently clear, I got to work fixing the steering wheel on the Scout and then taking Finn out thrifting. While she browsed in one corner of the store, I found a 4-gallon pot and a couple of cheap shirts but not much else. We did some other shopping and then came home with dinner for Mama. When we’d cleaned up the kitchen, I brought the beer stove outside, filled the new pot with water, and boiled the deer skull for about two hours. As the light faded I used a stick to scrape off the loosened skin and hair and set it out to dry. On Sunday I’ll dump it in with some hydrogen peroxide and let it sit for a day to whiten up. Then it’ll be ready to hang.
There are three tomato plants in the greenhouse, but not much else right now. I bought seedlings from the store and threw them in some new dirt, but I’m not planning on filling every inch of the greenhouse like I did last year; I just got too discouraged at the end of the season with how things went. I’ll probably buy five or six more and focus on keeping them watered and happy, and see if I can get some different results with fertilizer and watering schedules.
Today will be more puttering. The dog needs a bath, the bathrooms need a cleaning, and I have a list of things that need attention around the house.