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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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.

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.