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.

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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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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Get Your Rear end Up!

Mavis has her rear end up, almost.  It’s so great to be able to start putting parts and pieces back on the car rather than taking them off.  So when I say ‘rear end’ I’m referring to the gas tank, back axles, differential, leaf springs, shocks, drum brakes and parking brake.  We also got the brake lines and gas line connected.  This picture doesn’t really do it justice, but here is the finished product of a shit ton of work.

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First thing up was the gas tank.  Those two long bolts can be shortened, but all that is covered by the back bumper eventually.  We also got the front of the leaf springs up and they lay in waiting for the differential assembly.

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We ended up keeping our original axles, but bought new bearings and had to get those pressed on.  Curt to the rescue!  We went over to his garage where he cut the old ones off (the ONLY way to get them off) and used his 40 ton press to press the new ones on.  He did the first one and let me do the second.  This machine is quite intimidating, you can crush things in it!  On approach, it looked like an industrial guillotine.

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Curt showed me how to place the axle with the new bearing. Here’s how it looks all ready to be pressed.

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Of course, me being who I am, decide I was going to be concerned that with all the pressure, the bearing may go on crooked.  I find things to be worried about, you see.  Here I’ve never done this myself nor seen it done and I’m telling a long-time veteran mechanic not to “put it on crooked”.  So, I deserved this.  Perhaps that’s why Curt wouldn’t accept any money for his work, because giving me shit was more satisfying.

 

Bearings, pressed and ready.

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Back at Woody’s Garage we carried on.  Backing plate on, axles inserted, brake cylinder attached and brake lines in.

 

Pop says, “We’re a fucking machine shop!”  As much as you can call cutting screws shorter and rethreading them ‘machining’ things.  But we did have to come up with a solution to a brake line issue we had.  The main line was still in good shape (the line that brings the brake fluid from the master cylinder in the front of the car back to the axle.)  Where that line splits into two, we had to order.  Miraculously they fit, but for just a few modifications we made with a tube bender.  What didn’t fit were the fittings that connect them to the junction block where they split off.  BUT – the ones that were on the $100 piece of metal (the unusable axle we bought from Mustang Marty Miller) did.  Yes!  One less trip to the parts store!  We cut off just the tip of the ends, replaced the fittings and reflared the tubing.

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To do this, we had to use a special flare tool.  I don’t understand how Pop continues to come up with a tool for EVERYTHING.  We’ll run into a problem or a need for something very specific and his eyes get all big and his mouth says, “ooh” without any sound.  He puts his gorilla finger up in a ‘wait a minute’ sort of way and says, “I have just the thing.”  Then he rummages through the garage and comes back with the perfect tool to get the job done.  I think he’s jacked to be able to use what 60 years of tool gathering gets you.  It is pretty awesome.

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Flare tool, happy to be used.

Next up, getting the differential housing attached to the springs, the back end of the springs up and add shocks.  So here’s a big admission.  I didn’t know that the axle sits on the leaf springs.  I can’t say I knew how it was attached to the car at all.  I can’t even say I pondered this at any point during this project so far.  So when that concept clicked in my mind and I had that Aha! moment, Pop just looked at me and said, “How did you think it connected to the car? Did this not occur to you when we disassemble it?”  Again, I hadn’t really thought about it.  I was like, “What’ev.”

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We used the jack to hold the axle in place while we set it on the springs, secured the axle on the springs with u-bolts then raised the back of them and connected.  Who knew?!

Next, shocks.  One of the parts that must be bought new because they lose their gas and their ability to dampen motion, or in my terms, their ‘puffiness’.  Quick trip to O’Reilly and boom, new shocks.  It’s always exciting to get a new part…here’s me coddling $60 worth of shocks on the way home.

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One of the final steps was getting the brakes assembled. These are the second set of drum brakes I’ve done, as we had to put the Firebird’s back together to get it on its wheels and out of the garage at the very beginning of this project.  Still though, Pop and I had to dodge a couple errant springs.  We have the tool for getting them on, but not off.  So we work together with a screwdriver and pliers and wait to see who’s going to lose an eye.

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Although this all sounds like a lot of work, and it was, we still had time to fart around a bit.  Curt put Lil’ Big Rig up for auction so we went to that and watched him say goodbye to his baby.  We also took the opportunity to get under any 60’s Ford we saw to check out the parking brake system (which we also finished on Mavis.)  So everyone is walking around looking at these beautiful cars and Pop and I are like this most the time…

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Curt got close to what he wanted for Lil’ and it was the star of the show as it’s quite the site.  All chromed up and shiny.  Pop kept saying that someone should buy it to pull their 5th wheel camper with but I think it looks more like something a Country Santa with a cowboy hat would ride down Main Street in a Christmas Parade.  Well, we all felt for Curt as he had a lot of hours and TLC into that truck.  Couldn’t have been easy to see it go…but then he texted Pop a pic of a 1932 Ford Victoria kit he bought the day after.  Curt’s moved on.

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Lil’ Big Rig

Momma, Pop and I also went to a car show in Somerset, KY where I got to meet Tony, the fine gentleman who donated a hood latch to our cause when he and Pop met at the Maverick/Comet gathering last summer.  What a great guy.  He asked me what it was about the Maverick that made me choose it for the project.  When I said that I just loved the shape of it, that it is a beautifully balanced little car, I think he teared up before hugging me.  Tony was at the show with Lemonade, his beautiful, supercharged 302 Mav, which Pop says is a ‘truly dangerous vehicle’ (in a good way.)  Afterward we followed him back to his garage where he literally, has Mavericks STACKED.

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So, great last trip.  Lot’s of work, lot’s of fun and now the holidays hit. Next up on Pop my Ride, Mavis’s front end, disc brakes and more adventures.

Keep on Rockin’ in the Wheel World

Pop and I had to replace one of Mavis’s rocker panels because it was totally rusted out.  This was a BIG deal and new even to Pop, but we both think the results are of rock star quality.  The rocker panel is the length of metal that runs from the back of the front wheel well to the front of the back wheel well just underneath the door.  It’s what you step over to get into any vehicle.  I’ve recently discovered that its name originates from back in the day when they were building horse drawn carriages.  Here’s a fascinating bit of info for ya from “A Practical Treatise on Coach-building” by James W Burgess, published in London in 1881.

“Proportion in carriages applies to both form and colour; as regards form, it regulates the sizes of the various parts so that the whole may harmonise, and dictates the adoption of contrivances for lessening the apparent size of those parts which would otherwise be unseemly. Thus, the total height which is necessary in the body for the comfort of the passengers is too great for the length which it is convenient to give it ; therefore the total height is reduced, and to give sufficient leg room a false bottom is affixed by means of convex rockers, and which, being thrown back and painted black, cease to form a portion of the elevation ; they are, -like a foundation, out of sight, and thus the proportion of the front view (the side is called the front in coach-builder’s parlance) is preserved.”

Well thank God!  I felt my original explanation to friends who were trying very kindly to understand (and stay interested) in my rocker panel story was much more understandable.  I told them to imagine driving their car over a very steep bump in the road.  It would surely get stuck at the top, rocking back and forth with the wheels above the ground on either side.  What it would be rocking on would be…you guessed it, the rocker panels!

Regardless, they do tend to rust out faster than any part of a car or truck and Mavis’s passengers side had seen better days.

Skills required to replace a rocker panel:  Metal cutting, accurate measuring, plug welding, tack welding, grinding, body filler work, sanding, more sanding, patience and a good attitude.  It is really really stressful because neither Pop nor I are psyched about making our first real cut into Mavis’s body and fucking it up isn’t really an option.  There are only so many YouTube videos you can watch before you gotta get in there and make it happen.

I think this part may mark the first fight Pop and I have gotten into during this project.  Ok, not a full out fight, but he was clearly irritated with me.  We were up under the back wheel well where I was showing him the inner patch for the back of the panel I had been working for like, 3 hours on, and felt I had messed up.  So both our heads are crammed into this 2×1 foot space, 2 inches from each others faces and I’m whining about this shitty patch and he’s telling me it’s “just fine” and I’m saying it’s unacceptable and I’m pissed and now he’s getting pissed.  We keep grabbing this patch out of each others hands tryting to show the other how it’s working or not working and dropping it and hitting our heads trying to pick it up and in the stress of this whole fucking thing Pop says, VERY sternly, “God Dammit Janet, stop being such a perfectionist!”  I mean, he’s not happy with me, which hasn’t happened often, or ever, in my adult life.

Years ago I would have immediately felt that stinging feeling in my nose just before the tears come.  Now, I was just so blown away with being called a perfectionist tears were beyond me.  A perfectionist?  I think the only other person who has ever called me that was my best friend Beth of forty years who is a trained psychologist and knows me better than almost anyone.  So really, what does she know?

Fuck.  I may be.  Never thought of myself as a perfectionist, but I do have to admit that there isn’t much space between, “we’re going to do this thing right to the best of our ability” and, “if I can’t do this thing right I have no abilities.”  I’ve been known to never start something because it may not turn out how I envisioned it.  After years of doing this to myself on a creative level, I now decide to rebuild a car?  Not sit and doodle out a sketch, not try some slab work with clay…no, rebuild a whole fucking car.  It was the black and white of it I was attracted to at first.  Either the car starts and runs or it doesn’t.  You’ve either succeeded or failed.  But like anything, there are so many levels of what is acceptable or what is ‘right’.  High-end, high gloss, big money Foos paint jobs or flat black spray paint applied in the hot sun in the backyard.  I’m cool with both for others, why not me?  Pop and I, we are not high end, we are ‘do the best you can do with what you’ve got’ because that is what he, and Momma, taught me.

This is a lesson.  Not one I planned on.  But as I write I’m realizing that I must stay true to my mission…which I didn’t have for this project until now.

Have fun, damn it.  Do your best, learn, be in the moment and enjoy the loving relationship you and Pop deserve to have with the added appreciation of being comforted by Momma with long warm hugs, morning chats and dinners from my childhood.  Love them both back deeply, be grateful and keep on rockin’ the rocker panels!

Here are shots throughout the rocker panel replacement process.  Please enjoy, Pop and I are very proud.

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Pre-surgery. Ensuring we’re working on Mavis’s correct side and the ‘implant’ is ready to go. It will need to be cut to size and drilled for plug welds. Note the very accurate Sharpie lines marking where we will cut the old panel out.

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Cutting out the ‘cancer’ as they call it. Back end.

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Front end.

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Cancer sucks.

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First fitting after the way too stressful first cuts.

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Inside of the panel cleaned up and rust treated.

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The front of the back wheel well area that was so bad we had to cut out most of it out and create patches. Always trying to save as much good metal as possible.

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Replacement panel after we drilled the plug weld holes.

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Woody on the torch!

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Welding in the ‘shitty’ patch, having learned my lesson.

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Plug welds done…not too bad!

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Front pre-fit a little scary.

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Back pre-fit looking good.

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Plug welds ground down and filler applied, dried and sanded.

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Front looking much better.

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This was tough as we needed to keep that horizontal seam but ‘hide’ the vertical one.

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Skim coat is the darker red.  Trying to use as little as possible.

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Front sanded, pre-paint.

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Back sanded, pre-paint.

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Prepped for paint.

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Done!

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Final back. Don’t even try to tell me you can see that vertical seam!!  

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Final front.

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Full on final shot!!

Oh shit!  I forgot to tell you about the outcome of the brake situation and Mustang Marty Miller!  It didn’t end well in terms of the brakes, but Marty’s cool.  Skip to the end of my last post to read about it.

Car Folks

Maverick Mike from the Maverick forum told us about a gathering in Somerset, KY in July.  Fellow Maverick lovers get together and show off their pride and joys or projects in the works and yuk it up about Maverick life.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t go, but Momma and Pop were able to hit it and represent for me and Mavis.  Although I’ve given some of the forum guys a little shit, it’s all in jest because car people really truly care about other car people.  They want to help with advice, share stories and tips and generally support the passion.  The P’s said that all of the folks at the gathering could not have been nicer.

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Maverick Mike with his ’72 Mav which he has driven as fast as 117mph (so far).

 

Car shows and gatherings are also great places to find that ever elusive part you’re looking for.  Pop met a great guy named Tony Rahm.  Tony is known for having a lot of parts stashed away in his wood shop, so Pop mentioned that Mavis had come with pins to hold the hood down but no hood latch.  He gave him his card and asked Tony to let him know if he ever came across one, that we’d buy it.  Later in the day Tony approached Pop with, guess what, an upper hood latch.  Said he had to go by his shop anyway and handed it to him.  Pop took out his wallet asking what he wanted for it and Tony told him to put it away.  He wasn’t going to take any money for it.  That’s just good peeps.

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Pop, Tony and the hood latch.  Tony, you’re a gem, thank you!!

More pics from the Maverick gathering:

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Forum member Frank’s ’73 Grabber is named Patches, due to the fact that he has pieced the body together and has yet to paint the thing.

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Patches was honored with its pic on this years t shirt.  Something I aspire to.

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The closest thing to Mavis.  Four lug wheels, and a 200ci Inline 6.

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Not much has been changed since the factory, but for the custom wheels and color.

I’m here in KY for a couple weeks and we were all over the Cadiz Cruz-In, a local car show the first Saturday of every month.   Pop and I continue to wring our hands over our brake situation and the fact that we absolutely cannot find a larger drum brake for the rear axle than the dinky, unsafe 9” drums (that we threw away…don’t want to talk about it).  Giving up on drums entirely,  we now find ourselves looking for discs for the back.

We finally, FINALLY thought we had found a disc brake kit that would work for Mavis.  All of the dimensions were right but for one.  It’s called the ‘flange offset’ and it’s kicking our asses.  The kit calls for an offset of 2.8 inches, ours is 2.  It makes absolutely no sense why our 8” differential doesn’t have what everyone is saying all of the other 8” back ends have, a 2.8” flange offset, but it doesn’t.  Word on the street is that back in the day, Ford factories would switch up parts depending on what they had laying around.  So discovering that your old Ford has a slightly different part than other Fords of the same year is not uncommon.  (I recently learned the Henry Ford would use wood from shipping crates as the floor boards for his Model-T’s.  Great reuse of materials, but unfortunately doesn’t make him any less of a dick.)

So, circling back to the car show and why all of this is important.  We think one of our only hopes is to find a 7.25” Ford differential as we have come to believe that it will have axles with the 2.8″ flange offset we so desperately need.  (It also needs to have the right length and spline count.)  Now, you can’t just order up a 7.25″ Ford backend, no one makes this shit anymore.  You have to find it, or rather search for it in salvage yards, in barns and overgrown backyards, through car forums, or, in some cases, on a car just about ready to get crushed in a scrap yard.  We heard from our buddy Curt that he had seen a Maverick at the local metal recycle yard, so we hauled ass over there, only to find that it had been crushed only days earlier.

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Pop looking at a pile of scrap crap where an old Mav once sat, perhaps trying to will it back.

There was only one Mustang at the Cadiz car show that night, and we asked the owner straight up if he had or had a line on old Ford rear ends.  He said no, but that his friend “right here” just pulled one out of a Mustang days before.  His friend Marty proceeded to pull out his phone and show us a 4 lug backend.  Said he had no use for it and that it was a…wait for it…7.25″.  Holy crap.

Marty said he’d call us to set up a time we could come get it for $100.  We may have the ultimate solution if everything measures up.  We could have either beautiful, safe disc brakes on Mavis’s original 8” back end, or, we may have a 150 pound piece of scrap metal.  And that’s only IF he calls us.  Our back brake dilemma has come down to one question:

Is Mustang Marty Miller a man of his word?

5 DAYS LATER

Aaaaaaand, yes!  Marty Miller IS a man of his word!  He called and we swung by his place to pick up the back end.  Paid him the $100, exchanged contact info and took a look at his project car, a ’65 Mustang fastback.  (Which means the back of the hood slopes down into the end of the ‘trunk.’)

 

I hate to say it, but once we got it home and pulled everything apart, we found that the offset was exactly the same as ours.  Long story short, it won’t work for the disc brakes we wanted.  But Marty proved again that car folks are good folks and at least we’ve made a new friend out of the deal.

So, we’re going back to basics and shit-canning the rear disc brake idea.  We’ve already found another set of 9″ rear drum brakes through a friend of Pop’s, Mark, another car guy.  I think we are both almost relieved to come to a final decision about the back brakes and move on.

Give Me a Brake

No seriously…I need brakes.  Old Mavis has 4 lug wheels and 9” drum brakes on front and back.  To ensure satisfactory stopping, Pop and I want to trade out the front drums for disc and change the 9″ back drums to 11”.  Just as most people upgrade the inline 6 to a V8, most change out their 4 lug setups to 5 lug.  Again, Pop and I don’t want to do it like most people.  I have great 4 lug wheels and I don’t want to spend a grand changing those out too.  So what’s the problem?  Finding a brake kit to simply change out both the front and the back brakes has proven to be a real bitch.  Pop said to me the other day as we discussed brakes for the umpteenth time, “This stuff is keeping me up at night!”  We’ve both become obsessed with finding a solution.

Let’s talk front discs first.  SSBC has a kit that seems to be exactly what I need.  Made for 4 lug, 6 cylinder cars.  Includes master cylinder, proportioning valve and all hardware needed.  Sounds perfect, but for the fact that they say it’s for 1964-66 Ford Mustangs.  The SSBC guys say that this kit also fits a ’72 Mustang, and if my spindles are the same as a ’72 Mustang, it should work for me.  (If this was true, why the hell wouldn’t they list the ’72 Mustang as well?  And I’m supposed to drop $500 plus based on what an 18 year old pimple faced kid says?) So I chase this little tidbit of a fact down and find I have the same spindles as a ’72 Mustang, but now we’re dealing with the fact that the bearings that come in the kit don’t have the same inner diameter.  So frustrating!!

Back drum brake upgrade to 11” drum brakes. Quick Performance sells a 11” rear drum brake set up.  They offer 3 different flange bolt patterns.  Large bearing, small bearing and new Ford.  $300 for everything.  But they are all 5 lug and don’t fit our axle flanges.  As it stands, we’re gonna have order those and get them machined back into 4 lug.  Our buddy Curt has machine shop connections that may be able to help us out.  We need to find a shop anyway for the engine work we’ll be needing in the future.

The issue is that not only is all this not straightforward and complicated by the fact that we are dealing with a 40 plus year old car, but I’m still trying to learn about brakes in general.  Just when I think I’ve got it down, Pop throws in a new word.  Inner bearings, outer bearings, spindles, backing plates, hubs, rotors, flange ends, tie rod pin size and on and on.  But this is part of the journey…learning, researching, hunting, etc.

Momma and Pop are going to the Maverick/Comet gathering in Summerset, KY in a week.  There should be plenty of folks there Pop can talk to about brakes and see if he can get any more information.  He’ll also take LOTS of pics including any and all green cars (with paint name).  I’m still trying to fine the perfect green to paint Mavis.

I’d like to be able to put the back end together next visit, after we finish the final patch welding and undercoatings.  Other than determining the brake configuration, we’re ready.  The differential got a new pinion seal (old was leaking) and a nice clean up.

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Rust Galore

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Brushed and Buffed

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Painted and Slick

New u-joints are in on the drive shaft.

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And the transmission is right tight and lookin’ alright!  Isn’t she pretty?!

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I’ve also just ordered the rear brake lines.  The ones we pulled off Mavis were crap but the main line is all good.  We got those cleaned up and painted as well.

So it’s July and my 47th birthday is fast approaching.  I started this project last year on my birthday with the hopes that it would take 2 years.  It’s truly looking more and more like I’ll be 50 before I drive this car back to Denver.  When I lamented to Pop about this he said, “But we HAVE been working hard.  Well, you have.  I might have fucked off somewhat.”  At least he’s honest.

Quick side note on potty mouths and the fact that I am one.  Momma used to say, “I have two sons and two daughters. My sons don’t swear but my daughters have mouths like sailors (ignoring the fact that we were the daughters of a truck driver.)  Pop once burned the garlic bread in the broiler when we were kids.  I think before he knew it he yelled it –“FUUUUUCK”!  From then on it was game on, the f-bomb had been unleashed.  At 15 I said ‘motherfucker’ in front of Pop.  Don’t remember the reason, but I’m sure it was warrented.  He very calmly leaned in and said quietly, while looking straight ahead, “Babe.  You can say  mother, and you can say fucker.” Then he shook his head back-and-forth slowly and waggled his finger, “But you can’t say motherfucker.“  There were some limits.  My sister Kristen, I must say, is an excellent curser mostly because it’s unexpected.  She’s a quilter, a former preppy, has exceptional organizational skills and is involved in her non-denominational church, but ‘fucker’ rolls off her tongue as smooth as silk.  I love her.

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Kris and I on my first birthday.  Pre-swearing days, although it looks like I would if I could.

 

A Girl and Her Inline 6: I’m Keeping my Baby

The first week of my second trip back to Eddyville has been quite successful.  The back end is out of Mavis, which means the differential with its axle, springs, shocks, gas tank and all the various tubes and pipes that entails.  Still, everything takes longer than you think it’s going to.  Something as simple as pulling the filler neck out of the gas tank through the trunk took over an hour and we had to consult the experts.

Thank God for our new Maverick/Comet forum friends!  Inevitably someone has gone up against the same challenge and has that little tip that does the trick.  Even if the advice is to spray it down with a lubricant, have a couple beers and then bang the shit out if it.  Pop and I did cause a bit of stir when we started asking about souping up our Inline 6, which I’m happy to report we are indeed keeping (no 302 switch out for us).

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A girl and her Inline 6.

I must say though, for a bunch of macho dudes in a male dominant field, these forum guys can bitch fight with the best of them.  So, Crazy Larry from the 302/V8 crowd got into it with gregmaverick of the Inline 6 sanction over advice for Pop and me.

Crazy Larry: A car like that needs a V-8 swap. If you just want to get the car running, keep the 200 completely stock. It’s a complete waste of money trying to soup up a 200 I-6.

gregmaverick:  Sixes are way cool (posts some pics of his ‘killer 6 banger’ as Pop called it.)

Crazy Larry:  Maybe in an alternate universe. The sixes of the Ford Maverick era are no comparison to the sixes of today. They make good boat anchors, but are otherwise a big waste of time & money.

Dang Crazy Larry, you CRAZY!

gregmaverick: Larry, perhaps you have no time or no money…???

Crazy Larry: Whether I do or not is irrelevant. The fact is that spending the same amount of money on a V-8 will yield much greater performance as it would on a I-6 from the 1970s. You can argue all you want but it won’t change physics. At the end of the day, it ends up being a huge waste of time and money to hop up one of those sixes, which is something that most people who are new to these old cars do not need.

Pop and I had been interjecting with questions and such, but at this point, we sort of ‘crept away’ and let these two go at it.

gregmaverick: Gee Larry – we’re up to the challenge. “Laws of Physics”? Which ones?  I’m curious to hear your explanation in terms of Newton, thermodynamics, and bore/stroke ratio.  Perhaps you need to go back to the library and re-do your homework…?

Ooooooo-eeeeee! He did NOT!

Crazy Larry: You’re hilarious. Like I said; put the same amount of money into a V-8 as the Ford I-6 from the ’70s, and the v-8 will stomp all over it (not to mention that it will sound a heck of a lot better too).   And if Newton’s theories, or thermodynamics were on your side in this debate, there never would have been any reason to create the V-8.

gregmaverick: Well Larry, I don’t know what to tell you…except, you still haven’t answered the questions. Perhaps it’s a little too technical for you. We’ll just let it go at that.

And it goes on and on.  The forum admin tells them to ‘give it a break’ but they keep at it.  Rapture chimes in and I adore him.

Rapture: i mean wouldnt they have to upgrade their brakes, rear end, transmission, radiator, and a bunch of other small things to put in a v8? i feel that would eventually put the cost way higher for them. of course they are not going to get the same horsepower as a v8 from the inline but beefing it up for a more fun driver doesnt sound bad to me, doesnt sound like they are throwing away money necessarily. do the upgrades and enjoy, but thats just my opinionated suggestion.

It was like watching an online fight between a Trumpy and, well, everyone else, but much less maddening.  There is no lack of strong opinions in the car world.  On one of our many excursions to Harbor Freight, the ‘Bed, Bath & Beyond’ of the automotive enthusiast, we were tracked like prey by ‘Jeff’ and his V8 hard on.  When I explained our project and Mavis’s cute Inline 6 he immediately turned up his nose.  Out came the pics of his high horse power, Chevy LS crate engine and his Ford insults.  We couldn’t shake this guy, popping up around every corner to tell us what saw blade we should buy and where to get it.  After he explained that he’s been off work with a bad back, I asked him, “So this is what you do?  Hang out in Harbor Freight bugging people?”  I couldn’t help myself, by the time he was telling Pop how to hang paint tarps I was done.

This isn’t Pop’s first rodeo and the Ford Inline 6 is an incredibly strong engine, so as I said, regardless of the arguments, we’re keeping the 6.  I’m not racing this fucking thing (although you never know), but I do want a little zip.  Besides, Pop’s got his 350 V8 we can cause trouble in.  We took the Bird out the day after I got here.  Pop says, “Go tell Ma we’re going hot rodding.”  Warning, I’ve taught myself a little iMovie and I’m working on mastering the cheesy video.

As well as being a stupid good time, this little act was an exercise in differentials and how the rear axle isn’t one big tube going from one wheel to the other.  Each side is it’s own section and they can turn at different speeds.  This explains that when you ‘lay down some rubber,’ one wheel bites while the other burns it up!  How do you think you can take a tight turn and not have the outside tire skip and skid to keep up with the other?  It’s like when iceskaters do their little whip line.  The inside one basically turns in a circle while the outside gal is skating her ass off to keep up.

We made some pretty big purchases this round too.  I’m switching out the 3 leaf for 4 leaf springs.  Seeing that part of the old spring fell off as we removed it, I figured I should.  Needed new u-bolts and shackles for those and pinion seal and u-joints for the differential. We found an original front grill and fender splash guards on eBay that I grabbed and also picked up some smaller fun stuff like window handle knobs and a dome light cover.  All these little things add up so believe me I’m saving everything I can possibly save regardless of the work.  I’ve spent 3 days on the gas tank already.  I really really want to do this thing right, and as you know, I love me some physical labor, so I scraped the outside of the tank of road crap, rust protected it and painted it.  Pop and I cleaned and sealed the tank with a special 5 step process and that’s that.

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Gas tank before: Covered in tar, dirt, old undercoating and shame.

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Gas tank after: Cleaned, sealed, fast-etched (rust protected) and painted.  Proud as a peacock.

I’ve added the tank to the Before and After section of this blog…it’s just the beginning.  I love tracking this kind of stuff.  I’ve also started in with my spreadsheets for listing parts needed, bought, costs, timing, etc.  All told, we’ve figured that this little car project will cost about $10K and take 2 years.  I’ve been told it’s more realistic to double both of those numbers, but I’d like to finish the car before I turn 50!  I personally think that Pop is slow playing this whole thing to savor it, which I get cuz we’re having a blast, regardless of what Crazy Larry thinks.