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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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.

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.

The Big Ask

The idea to fix up an old car with my dad started some months ago when I was visiting him and Momma in Eddyville, Kentucky where they’ve retired.  I was in the garage looking at the Bird with him and said something about getting it out of there so he can help me rebuild a car.  It actually took me by surprise but it was out of my mouth before I knew it.  I think he may have chuckled, if he even heard me.

My first car was a ’77 Chevy Chevette that my grandfather had owned.  It was blue, had a luggage rack and a petrified chocolate chip cookie that was permanently stuck to the carpet under the seat.  It shook over 55mph and I would take it into the city and pray it wouldn’t overheat in the Chicago traffic. I could see the road through the rusted floor on the driver’s side.  Driving in the winter would pack the slush up underneath the floor mat and I’d have to kick it out before it mounded so high I couldn’t brake.  We eventually laid down an old stop sign or something to keep it street legal.

Pop found my second car locally.  It was a northern Illinois barn find.  I thought I paid $2500 for it but he thinks it was closer to a grand.  It was an 8 cylinder ’79 Mustang and it hauled ass.  Now, definitely not the prettiest body shape and the bright red interior was an interesting bonus feature, but I really loved that car and drove it into my late 20’s. After the Stang, I got all grown up and shit and got the token Honda Civic, then finally my incredibly responsible, much loved Subaru Forrester; a predictable choice for a middle aged female Denverite.

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The mighty Stang. Fast as hell and just as ugly. Although as I look at it now I kind of dig it.

I’m no grease monkey, but I was raised to appreciate a good car.  I also love the road.  I love driving and road trips, traveling through big cities and small towns.  I love the differences in the people, the landscapes and the general vibe.  I love driving with the windows down and music loud; it makes me feel free and young and hopeful.  It also makes me feel bad ass, if bad ass is rockin’ out in a Subaru sipping a healthy fruit smoothie from a mason jar.  (It’s not, but screw it, love life.)  I love truck stops, family-owned cafes and roadside attractions.  I love having the choice to turn down any road I want to see what I can find.

So, before I could change my mind, figure out a way to talk myself out of it, run through the list of why this was a bad idea, I emailed Pop.

Hi Pop,

I mentioned this in passing when I was out there, but I’m serious about wanting to rebuild/fix up an old car with you!  I’m in this crazy transitional time in my life, I’m feeling a bit lost about my purpose, future, etc. and I’m tired of it.  I’m tired of feeling guilty for nothing, feeling unsatisfied with everything, but most of all, of having ideas that I continually dismiss because of some bullshit reason.  I have the freedom to do what I want, the means to indulge myself a bit and the desire to spend more time with my parents.

Something is continually pulling me back to this idea/project…it almost feels spiritual.  I’m hoping it could be something that would be fulfilling and wonderful for you.  Perhaps the Firebird has been holding you back, blocking some advancement, and this could be just what you’ve been needing!

I was looking into some type of class on engines/motors the other day and all I could find was tech schools and electronic classes, etc.  Too involved for what I want.  I was thinking, “I just need some old gear head to take me under his wing and show me.”  Then of course, I realized I knew that old gear head.  To give you an idea of what I’m thinking…  I would finance this as I want to own the car.  I want to learn how to work on the car to be able to maintain it.  I would spend numerous 1-2 week long trips out there with you and Momma regularly to work on it.  (Flying of course, with the final trip a triumphant drive home.)

I’ve been looking at Chevy Malibu’s (1970-72) and Chevelle’s.   That’s the look I’m liking.  Two door.  Mat just sent me some shots of a Buick Skylark which I could totally get into, a little less muscle, but I’m not necessarily going for flashy.  Automatic would be best, but I realize I may need to learn manual.  I think it would be fun to write a blog on this experience too, pics and all.  I thought of calling it “Pop my Ride” but friends thought that was disgusting and inappropriate.

BEFORE you poo-poo this, think about it.  Mat wants to come work on brakes, Mike is supportive and Momma thinks it’s a great idea.  Let’s live!!!

Love you!

J

I wrote it quickly and sent it straight off. While rereading it later to Mike, I found I couldn’t get through it without tears.  Lost? Guilty? Unsatisfied?  Dang woman, what the fuck’s going on here? Something hit home hard and Pop’s answer became for me more important than ever.  He’s a cool dude, but I wasn’t sure if this was something he would want to tackle.  All I could do was wait and see.