Get Your Motor Runnin’

She’s alive.  Yes, Mavis’s engine is in and has successfully turned over.  Honestly, the whole thing scared the CRAP out of me.  First off, after connecting the electrical and gas lines, and actually putting gas in the car, things started feeling dangerous.  The possibility of electrocutions and explosions became a reality and I couldn’t remember if Pop said amps burn you but voltage can kill you, or the other way around.  It’s one thing to talk about souping up a little I6, another to have a great time building it, but once you connect everything to real power…holy crap!

Couple KY visits ago, we installed all of the engine’s accoutrements, as I like to call them.  Accessories such as the water pump, thermostat, starter, fly wheel, clutch disc, pressure plate and bell housing.  Then, headers and transmission, which turned the engine into a 5 foot long beast we needed to get into Mavis’s little body.

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Transmission on.

Unless we were missing something, there is no way to remove the front upper radiator support bar in the engine compartment.  So, to properly install the engine, we really needed an engine hoist with an adjustable bar to allow us to tilt the engine in order to ‘insert’ the transmission through the engine compartment, move the whole kit and kaboodle back and in, lift the trans nose before it scraps the ground and settle the 400 pound engine and transmission assembly snuggly into place.  We didn’t have that special hoist, but because we are geniuses we figured we could make this work without.  It was just a matter of hoisting the engine in a way that allowed for the correct tilt and then pushing the car forward as we carefully lowered the engine in.

I was NOT looking forward to this procedure, as it’s nerve-wracking to see your newly built engine dangling from chains secured with a few temporary bolts…let alone at a jaunty angle.  As I enjoyed my coffee on the porch the morning of ‘insertion day’, Pop heads out the door saying, “I’m going out to experiment with some fulcrum points.”

“Don’t fucking drop my engine old man…or hurt yourself!”

But he was half way to the garage, determined, with plan in place.  I stayed right were I was and finished my coffee.  Once Pop felt confident in his fulcrums, we lifted the whole thing up and in.

The whole process took about 10 minutes and consisted of me under the car a good amount moving the jack into the right position, guiding the transmission’s tail onto it and then raising it as the engine moved down and into the compartment.  I will admit that once this was all done, we ended up lifting it back out order to ‘manipulate’ the shock tower so that the headers were not touching it.  This consisted of first banging the hell out of the shock tower and then heating the whole thing up and prying the hot headers away from the wall.  Come to find out that the whole engine was shifted to the right about 1/2 inch due to the fact that we installed the motor mounts opposite.  Who knew there was a designated right and a left?  (Apparently, not us.)  Plenty of clearance now!

Next up, connecting the gas line from the tank all the way to the carburetor where it is mixed with the other vital ingredient, air, and turned into energy to keep the motor running.  We had the main line in, but needed to bisect it for a fuel filter.  We installed a new gas hose to get it from underneath the car and up into the engine compartment (Pop and I LOVE rubber grommets, look how clean it is.)

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Feeding gas line to engine.

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Gas line and carb.

Now, to test that the gas is flowin’ correctly and we don’t have any leaks from the tank.

We celebrate even the small successes, as one should.  A final connection to the carb and some tweaking to convert it from an automatic choke to a manual one and we are done with that job!

Next up, electrical.  We were trying to save as much as we could because the electrical system in even a ‘Simple Man’s Machine’ is really complicated.  We had labelled the wires carefully when taking everything apart, so all I had to do was clean them up, replace any really bad parts, re-tape and reroute them to their various locations.  No problem, right?  WRONG!  It totally sucked.  Look at this mess!

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Wiring…Janet’s job.

Ok, so I kind of loved it.  I made them all so pretty and even ended up wrapping parts of the wiring in looms to made them super neat.  Squeeee!

We had some trial and error around figuring out what went where when it came to the solenoid and voltage regulator.  The first time the fan came on inside the car was incredibly exciting, celebratory even, as it blew 50 year old pine needles in my face.  So with gas and electric connected, there was but one thing left to do…start her. 🙂

The engine turned over first try, which was just amazing.  I don’t know why I didn’t think it would, but you build this thing from engine block up and can’t imagine it’s going to just…start.  Pop never doubted it.  So exciting.  We’ve since worked on the timing and have a little more work to do to get her idling right, but this was just HUGE!

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Seat Cover Jim’s

Trying to pick the seat upholstery for Mavis is like choosing one outfit to wear every day for the rest of your life.  Dramatic, I know, but unless you’re Steve Jobs or don’t give a shit, that would suck.  Currently, Mavis is donning the equivalent of a wallflower’s dress that’s been dragged through the dirt.

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I liked the idea of finding the fabric first, then basing the car color on that.  I knew that I was leaning towards green, so after seeing this phenomenal fabric in a ’75 Maverick, I was determined to find it.

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My dream fabric!  The original from 1975.

You can see how Ford was going for that Western feel with the Native American blanket like fabric and of course, naming the car ‘Maverick’, like the wild beast that it is.  In fact, this ad from 1970 really drives this vibe home.

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But then there’s this…a bit confusing, but good to know that this car will get me to and from my dive trips to the lake…with a little more jazz.

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There’s an auto upholstery shop in Denver that had book after book of amazing Ford fabrics throughout the ’70’s.  I think I spent about 2 hours pouring over swatches in their back room.  There was a possibility of ordering some of these vintage fabrics!

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I looked at fuzzy stuff…too itchy:

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Knitted vinyl anyone?  Without AC in the car, this option seemed a bit ‘sweaty’ if you get my drift:

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I even found Mavis’s original sad sad fabric, #2123 below:

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Then I found it…the original fabric from the ’75 Mav I fell in love with, swatch number 512.

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The owner of the shop boasted the whole time about his connections and how he had a line on vintage fabrics.  When I showed him this he said, “Yeah, but not that one.”  Anyway, if he had been able to get his hands on it, it would have run me about $300 a yard.  I’d determined I needed about 5 yards, so this was a no-go, but it was already a no-go because I couldn’t fucking find it.  At this point, I’d fallen for the green stripe look, so I carried on, searching for another green striped fabric in my price range.

Over a year ago, in Kentucky, Pop and I had found a third generation upholstery operation called, appropriately, Seat Cover Jim’s.  Now Jim is a good guy, as was his father Jim and I can only assume the same for his grandfather, Jim.  I liked their sign, it leaves nothing to the imagination.

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When we first met Jim, he thought that maybe grandpa had a stash of that amazing ’75 fabric tucked away in his warehouse.  Now Jim could not be a nicer guy, but he is the epitome of the concept that everything goes a little slower down south.  Momma and Pop call it, “Kentucky Time.”  I think I waited an agonizing 4 months before he actually walked over to the warehouse to look for the fabric, only to tell me he didn’t have it.   But can you blame him?  Look at the thing!

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But Seat Cover Jim did come through for me in the long run.  He found a beautiful, affordable, green striped upholstery fabric that I really liked.  He ordered it, I waited over a year, then my seats were done!  I’m giving Jim a hard time, but the reality is that I’m not close to being done with the car and the seats are really the last thing I’ll install.  He probably could have dragged it out another year or so.  But, without further ado….the seats.  Aren’t they pretty!!??

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Seat Cover Jim III did a beautiful job and has been nothing but kind throughout the whole project.  Thank you, Seat Cover Jim, for being a part of Mavis’ rebirth.  And if anyone is on “Kentucky Time”, it’s me, as July was the start of the 4th year since I first felt the tickle of Mavis in my para menopausal womb.  But, things are speeding up! As of this writing, Mavis has received her rockin’ 6- banger and we’re hoping to start her up next visit!  Yes, you heard me right.  Stay tuned and much love!

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Me with Jim, son of Jim, son of Jim.

Momma – Putting it Back Together

I come from a family who likes to put shit together.  We’re tinkerers and fixers.  Jack and Jill’s of all trades but masters of none. Our group text strings usually involve pictures of someone’s weekend project, lots of thumbs up and many questions about the particulars.

The last PMR, ‘Pop – Putting it Back Together’ was graciously written by the man himself as the engine stuff really blows his skirt up.  But this one is from me and it’s called, ‘Momma – Putting it Back Together, because without her, Pop My Ride wouldn’t be.  This woman can put (and keep) things together too, namely; herself, our family and many times over, me.

Paula and Woody were high school sweethearts until Pop went away to the army.  They broke up and continued to grow up following their own paths.  But, Pop continued to write her at college from his post in Germany, obviously wanting to stay on her mind. It was on a spring break night home when friends got together on a Lake Michigan beach, building a fire and hanging out.  Pop was back and also there.  She says that when she looked at him in the light of the fire, she just knew…he was the one she wanted.  To this day, that is one of the reasons she likes fires so much.  She says it reminds her of that night and her crystal clear realization that she loved Pop deeply.

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With Pop’s first truck.  He had painted on the front, very small, ‘Paula’s Problem’.

But the years following were not always easy.  Pop was on the road a lot and could be gone weeks at a time.  In those days there was no way to easily keep in touch and the phone calls could be as random as the pay checks.  By the age of 30, Momma had brought four babies into the world and was doing all she could to love and support them, mostly by herself and with little means.  She was smart and scrappy and I attribute my frugality and the respect I have for my physical belongings to her.  Pop hauled furniture for most of his career and she would sell the used moving boxes out of the garage for extra cash.  We always had a big glass of milk at dinner, even if it was powdered, and sometimes more like cloudy water as she tried to stretch it.  As an adult, I still get a little feeling of excitement when I see a pop can on the ground.  We used to collect them and throw them in a big box in the garage to recycle for a couple bucks.

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Tired but happy.  This is while Pop was working for United Van Lines.  Momma will sometimes say even today, “I miss my babies.”  We were so loved.

She found a way to get us a membership to a neighborhood swimming pool, but it cost $200. She told me she spent the last of what was in the savings account to join.  That pool was a Godsend during the hot summers as we had no air conditioning and she had four young kids to deal with all day.  She was young and fun and would play in the water with all of us.  I loved to cling to her back like a little sucker fish while she swam deep under the water.  I remember the feel of her strong shoulders under my hands as I tried to not slip off.  We used to laugh about her thick, curly red hair that the water would roll off like a duck!  She still loves the water and at 76, leads the water aerobics class at the local pool.  I’ll go with her when I’m out there and love bouncing around the pool with all the old gals.  They love when she teaches because, “Paula really gives us a good workout!”

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Momma with Grandma and all of us.  She could carry all four of us at a time (not the norm, but for fun).  One on her back, one on the front and holding the two smallest in both arms.  She was and still is a fierce Momma Bear, check out those arms!

Momma rejected her Catholic upbringing as a young woman and adopted instead a spirituality that she has found great strength in.  I have memories of her teaching me the Serenity Prayer as she sat on the side of the bed while I struggled through many bouts of depression, something she has battled herself.  She has always appreciated the beauty and wonder of nature and is most at peace in it.  We camped a lot as a young family, always hiking, fishing and playing in the forest.  (Pop used to tell us kids we were Pagans…not totally accurate.)

Momma’s a feminist, always on the right side of woman’s rights, and taught me my worth as a woman by example.  As a northern woman living in a southern state as well as being involved in the male dominated world of trucking, she has more than once had to assert herself as someone to be listened to.  She has supported other women in need for years now through organizations she’s involved in.  She will be your most loyal friend and stand strong with you but also knows the value of a good cry and has an unbelievable amount of empathy.

This past Mother’s Day I called my mom, needing her love and support desperately.  Here it was to be her day, a celebration of her, and I just sobbed into the phone, trying to will her physical body through the line so she could just hold me.  Although I’m almost 49 years old, and these types of calls to her have become less and less over the years, I still need her.  I still call and start with, “I’m OK, but…” and burst into tears.  This time there was no, “I’m OK,” just pain so bad I wanted to disappear.

She listened, she didn’t judge, she didn’t match my level of intensity with her own fears but instead was a steady, calming force for me.  She was what she’s always been; there for me, solid and strong.  She reminded me of my own strength and to take care of myself first and foremost.  She reminded me to breath and take it one day at a time…one hour at a time if that was all I could manage.

This woman is a force.  She knows how to put shit back together.  She’s dealt with a lot of crap, seen some tough times and came out the other side with her integrity intact.  I love you Momma.  Thank you for being who you are; honest and real.  Your ability to be vulnerable is the very essence of what strength truly is, having the courage to open your heart and dare to love deeply.

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IMG_9599Hey, hey Paula, I want to marry you
Hey, hey Paula, no one else will ever do
I’ve waited so long for school to be through
Paula, I can’t wait no more for you
My love, my love

 

 

 

Pop – Putting it Back Together

Hi folks, it’s Pop here.  Janet did an excellent job explaining basically the what’s and why’s of rebuilding her little 200ci six banger.  More air, more fuel, bigger spark, bigger explosion and more power.  Carl’s Machine Shop was fantastic, and now we have to assemble the parts.  This indeed trips my trigger and I will explain the procedure much to the boredom of some of you.  But, perhaps we can convert a few into budding “gearheads”.

We’ll begin with the bare engine block which was cleaned up, magna fluxed (a process to detect cracks…it passed), over bored 60 thousands of an inch (this is the maximum and was necessary because of scoring in cylinder #4, the result of a broken ring), and new freeze plugs installed.

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The crankshaft went in first with .010” over bearing inserts.  This requires clearance checks using plastigauge.  Plastigauge is thin plastic thread which when compressed, spreads out and its width is then measured to determine clearance.  The top bearing shells are placed in the block, then the crankshaft, then strips of plastigauge across the bearing journals, then the bottom bearings and caps.  The bearing caps are then torqued to specs.  The caps are then removed and the width of the plastigauge measured.  I won’t further torture you with the measurements acceptable throughout the assembly procedure except to say, “everything checked out”.  (Janet: “Except to say we had to do math…math sucks.”)  The crank is then removed and turned over 180 degrees and the process repeated, assuring a straight bore and shaft.  Everything checking in specs, the bearing surfaces are lubricated, assembled and torqued to specs.  One final step, the crankshaft is then moved forward and backward to check end play.

The camshaft (which opens and closes the valves) was original and installed by Carl’s with new bearings, as this requires special tools.  (Janet: “Some of the only tools Pop apparently does NOT have in his garage. It’s just a matter of time.”)

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Next, the pistons with new rings (which snap into piston grooves, hold compression and control oil on the cylinder walls), three rings per piston.  Before the rings are installed in the piston grooves they must be placed in the proper cylinder bore and the gap between the ends measured.  Too close a gap and the ring will break when it expands with heat, spelling disaster.  (Janet: “Apparently I got my dramatic nature from my father.”)

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Each piston is fitted to numbered connecting rods then placed in the proper cylinder and attached to the crankshaft, plastigauged, lubed and torqued to specs.  With the installation of a new oil pump, the “bottom end” is now complete.

 

New timing chain (which goes on gears at the front end of the crankshaft and camshaft) is installed and the front cover and oil pan installed.  We’re now ready for our new and improved cylinder head.

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One final and most important measurement is needed, valve clearance.  We now have oversized valves and increased openings with our new 1.6 to 1 rocker arms.  Heaven forbid the valves hit the pistons at top dead center!  That would again lead to disaster.  (Janet: “Need I say more?”)

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With #1 piston at the top dead center, we fill the space between the block surface and the piston with clay (in our case, Playdough).  We also filled #6, then install the head gasket and head.  The head bolts are torqued, the valve train assembled and adjusted and the engine turned over 720 degrees or two revolutions of the crankshaft (one revolution of the camshaft).  With fingers crossed, we disassemble the valve train, remove the head and measure the distance from the bottom of the valve indentations to the piston surface.  Yes!  We have clearance!

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The top end is now reassembled and the oil pump driven by an electric drill (the bottom of the distributor shaft will do this).  Checking for oil flow from the rocker arms aaaaaaaand – success!

 

Finally, valve cover on and new Ford blue paint job.

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During Janet’s next visit we’ll install our Autolite two barrel carburetor with automatic choke onto the beautiful adaptor plate on the intake manifold.  Add our new 50,000 volt ignition and big exhaust headers and we’re ready to kick some ass.

 

(Janet:  “Pop and I have very different ways of showing overwhelming excitement.”)

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Carl’s Automotive Machine Shop

Carl’s Machine Shop opened in 1988 in Calvert City, KY.  It’s a small garage with an adjoining office that cranks out some big stuff.  Carl’s daughter, Carla, runs the shop with her husband Michael as the lead machinist.  The combined knowledge between the two of them is unbelievable.

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Carla and Micheal of Carl’s Automotive

Pop and I were literally talking about who to bring Mavis’s straight 6 to for some machining when we passed Carl’s.  Pulling in I was already nervous about how “Carl” would react to being asked about souping up a little 200.  “We only work on V8’s.” “No specialty jobs.” “Why would you waste time and money trying to build that thing up?”  Michael was working on a opposed 6 cylinder engine when we approached through the open garage door.  We explained our situation and what we were attempting to do and he lit up.  “I just finished a 3 carb set up on a 200 for a guy last week.” Hot damn. Michael was our man!

The real engine work is what really blows Pop’s skirt up.  He’ll let me clean bolt threads and wet sand all day, but when it comes to the mechanical shit, I’ve gotten my share of love shoves.

Love Shove: When Pop wants you to move, so he can basically take over what you are trying to do, he will use his body to ever so gently move you out of the way while his attention remains on what you are doing.  Next thing you know, he is now working on what you were working on and you’re not quite sure how it happened.

I (sort of) gave Pop free reign on the decision making around the engine and its performance.  First thing he did was purchase The Ford Falcon 6 Cylinder Performance Handbook by brothers David and Dennis Schjeldahl.  It contains about every thing humanly possible to do to get more power out of our little 200.

Then he and Michael co-conspired on how to spend as much of my money as possible.  Kidding, but really, they came up with a plan to punch up the power.  Here’s the skinny:

The weakest aspect of the little Ford 200 6 cylinder is the integral intake manifold.  In other words, the manifold is a part of the engine head casting.  Besides being set up only for a small, one barrel carburetor, castings can be rough, limiting, and obstruct a smooth air/fuel mixture.  To cure this problem, we had Michael install a two barrel carburetor adapter plate, increasing air intake from roughly 110 cfm’s to 240 cfm’s.  So now we can cram 240 cubic feet of air/fuel mixture per minute into the combustion chamber, doubling what we had before.  More air, more gas, more power!

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An example of Michael’s top notch machine work.

To get this increased mixture to the cylinders, we had Michael install oversized stainless steel valves with new stock springs and .060 shims.  According to old turbo 200ci Mustang racers, this should be good for 6000rpm without valve float.  (Valve float: When the valves do not follow the cam or ‘float’, they can actually run into the piston tops.)  This is more than enough, as I told Pop we’ll redline at 5K at the most.  He looked at me with a grin and said, “maybe.”

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We also had Michael add a 3 angle cut on the valves.

He ported the head, enlarging the intake and exhaust passages.  Michael also installed an exhaust port divider on the Siamese number 3 and 4 ports, which stops possible exhaust induction back into the engine at the exhaust port, making the outflow of the exhaust smoother.  There’s arguments for and against doing this.  Some say it adds 5 or so more horsepower, some say it doesn’t do a damn thing.  We’re betting on the horse power.

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Beautiful!

To finish the top end, we’re dumping the exhaust into oversized, stainless steel headers (BIG exhaust pipes).  These will be revealed at a later date.

On the bottom end, or the block, he bored the cylinders .060 of an inch over which cleans up any old scores and imperfections and will give us another few cubic inches. We installed flat-topped pistons, which will raise our compression ratio, adding more torque and power.  We turned the crankshaft .010 under on the rod and main bearing journals, again, cleaning up any imperfections or misalignment.  Our little inline 200ci 6 cylinder has 7 main bearings, making her virtually indestructible.  A 350ci GM V8, for example, has 5 main bearings.

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We’ll be running the stock camshaft, great low-end torque, with hydraulic lifters and adjustable 1.6 to 1 ratio rocker arms.  Stock rocker arms are 1.5 to 1 ratio.  1.6 gives us approximately .034in increased valve opening.

Soon to come, electronic ignition for the big spark we need and a Autolite/Holly 2V carburetor (also known as a 2 barrel).

Pop says, “We’re hoping to pull 200 horse power out of this little girl.” The stock rating was 91.  Dear Lord, what have I gotten myself into?

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Carl’s Automotive Machine Shop

To close, I must extend a very big thank you to Michael, Carla and the team at Carl’s Automotive.  Once we got the engine home for the build out, Michael continued to be available to us for questions and advice.  Check out his Instagram account where he pulls in a couple thousand viewers by posting videos of machining crankshafts.  Good guy, good family, good peeps.

 

Is it Done Yet?

I don’t know that everyone who knows I’m rebuilding a car with my Pop realizes that I’m actually rebuilding a whole car.  Taking Mavis totally apart, cleaning, fixing or replacing every piece and reassembling her to be a greater version of her former self.  Yes, Mavis is taking some time.  My 48th birthday this past July marks two years since I came up with this wack-job of an idea.  But I’m ok with that.  In fact, here is a pic of me in my car, just enjoying the process, thinking about the damn good time I’ve had so far and how amazing the finished product will be.

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Patience is a virtue.

Actually, a lot has happened in the last two visits down to good ol’ Eddyville, KY.  Best way to describe the progress would be to say that once we put the tires back on Mavis, she’s rolling.  Now, she has no engine or seats to speak of, but she has her back end up, front end together, brakes, steering and suspension.  Mavis and I could literally be pushed down a hill and I could steer us to safety and stop, sans injury.  This, in my book, is progress.

First things first, we (I) finished the scraping and sanding of the engine compartment.  With our previous welding reinforcements and patching we were ready for paint which was VERY EXCITING as it was my first time using the spray gun that Pop has spent months teaching himself.  A coat of Rustoleum, a couple coats of glossy black and we’re set to go.  We’re a good team, as Pop takes the ‘easy to reach’ areas and I lay on my back to get in the nooks and crannies.

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As you may recall, the brake situation stumped me and Pop for quite some time.  Went with the 9 inch drums in the back and took a chance ordering a disk brake kit for the front.  We knew going in that we had a spindle issue, that being that the 4 lug kit we wanted would only fit on ’65 Mustang spindles.  NOWHERE is there a front disk brake kit for a ’72 Maverick that we could find.  It was all about the bearings, inner and outer, not being the correct size for the spindles we currently had on Mavis.  We found a shop that at first we thought could machine down our spindles to meet the needs of this disc brake kit, but when that proved to be impossible we bit the bullet and ordered the ’65 Mustang spindles off eBay for $75 a piece.  Everything we read said they should work.  These things showed up while I was back in Denver and Pop said that they were the wimpiest looking set of spindles compared to the Mav’s.  But he also said that he’d never heard of old Mustang wheels just ‘breaking off the car’ and we’d probably be ok.

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Wimpy spindles…we can only hope we’ll be ok.

By being smaller, the spindles allowed the steering wheel to turn way too far to the left and the right, resulting in the soon-to-be installed tires rubbing on the soon-to-be installed fenders and that wouldn’t do.  So, as we tend to do, Pop and I came up with an ingenious little adaptation by adding an extra piece of metal rod to the stop on the spindle arm.

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Gosh, hope it holds.

We shaved down both sides of the two rods to a flat surface and had our buddy Curt weld the shit out of it.  It’s not pretty, but it will do the job.

Before installing the brakes we had to get the suspension in place.  This part of the project was a test of both of our coping skills.  Attempting to squeeze a massive metal coil down enough to fit in a small compartment and then releasing the insane amount of pressure on that coil so that it sits correctly in that compartment without crushing your finger off is quite the challenge.  No fingers were lost, but I do seem to remember at one point the car shifting on its stands, me leaning against it to keep it upright while screaming, “Pop! Put her down!!!!!”  Not one of our better moments, nor decisions, but the good news is we got the fucker in…both sides.

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Brakes went in pretty easily, as Pop had already done one side to ensure that they would actually work with our dinky spindles.  Because we went with drums in the back and discs in the front, we did need to install a proportioning valve to ensure the pressure to the back and front brakes was correct.  Pop and I installed the master cylinder (came new with our disc brakes,) connected the lines, put the discs on, bled the system and voila, we got brakes!

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Golf tees to stop the flow ’til we’re fully connected.

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We found the smallest can possible to catch brake fluid in.

Next up, wheels refinished and on, then tires.  See?  We’ll be rolling down a hill in no time!

I’ll leave you with yet another of my video creations.  On a visit to Curt’s, we were dazzled with a display of his new toy.  Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Bitchin’ Camaro

Beth was the proud president of the Asshole Driver’s Club, but it wasn’t because she was an asshole, she really wasn’t.  She just didn’t pay attention as well as some when behind the wheel.  She paid attention to everything else; you, the conversation, the music, the journey, the destination.  She was the one who turned at the last second, sans signal.  Crossed three lanes of traffic to exit.  Swerved from one lane into the other while fully turning around to laugh with someone in the back seat.  Driving with Beth was a harrowing, sometimes terrifying experience.

In high school, Beth drove her step-dad Bob’s old light blue Camaro.  I had known that car from my youth.  When we were kids, Bob and Kate in the front seat and Beth and I in the back, some teenager in a Jeep tagged us hard from behind at a red light.  The kid came up to the driver’s side window to tell Mr. Cieslak that he had hit him.  Bob responded the only way one could in such a situation.  He said, “no shit.”

By the time the Camaro was passed down to Beth, it had been given the title of Bitchin’ Camaro (thank you, Dead Milkmen) and had seen better days.  Still, we would park it across two spaces in the high school lot out of respect for its history and because we thought it was hilarious.  Once, when I was (not supposed to be) driving it, Beth was in the passenger seat with her feet up, flat against the windshield.  I took a left into the 7/11 and pop!, the windshield cracked from side to side.  Then there is the epic story of Beth somehow hooking her front fender over someone’s back fender in a movie theater parking lot.  It took about 5 of the high school jocks to lift the entire front end of the Camaro to free it.  I don’t remember the details, but I would bet anything Beth left a note, because she truly wasn’t an asshole.

She was a sweet heart.  She was hilarious, and brilliant and loving and my best friend since 1977.  Beth passed away earlier this year and I still can’t wrap my head around it.  I’ve been down to work on Mavis twice since she died but writing about that before acknowledging her death didn’t feel right.  She and my girls, Michele, Lisa and Darice, were the first I told about my Mavis mission and they were yelling ‘yes’ even before I finished explaining the idea.  Beth would write or call me after each blog post, telling me how hard she laughed, or cried, always telling me how proud she was that I was tackling this crazy feat.  The last time I heard her voice was on the phone while she sat in her basement digging up old pictures of us for my last post, Titties, Trauma and Transmission.  Another of the long list of memories we created over our 40-year friendship.

Driving to work at the end of this past January I was overcome with a feeling of dread deep in my heart.  The tears came so fast, blurring the road and forcing me to turn back home.  I made it into the house and weak kneed, supporting myself against the kitchen counter, I sobbed.  I said out loud to no one, “something’s not right.”  And it wasn’t.  Beth would die that night.

So, I’ve been struggling and don’t know if, or when, that will ever end.  But I do know that Beth would want me to continue this journey.  Bringing Mavis back to life, accomplishing something new, sharing time with people I love.  We’ve always been a bit cosmically connected.  She’ll know, she’ll watch as I reach my goal.  Then I’ll take a long ride, play ABBA real loud and try not to drive like an asshole.  Love you Bether.

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