Thursday, June 5, 2014

P59 - Getting Hosed

Part costs can add up, especially the little stuff. It seems the price of cut-to-length hose and clamps has quadrupled in just the past few years. The trouble is, unless you know for certain exactly what you need, you're not going to order this stuff online, and who would pay shipping on hose clamps?

Needing to replace all the hoses in the cooling system, I took a few section samples with me to a local box store that carries auto supplies; I also took my digital caliper. To my point above, heater hose was $1.99 a foot regardless of diameter. A store 20 miles away had the same stuff for $0.69. This I knew, but the retailers know most folks won't waste their time and gas to drive somewhere else for a few feet of hose (and they're right, I paid a 1.99 a foot). 

So maybe I can save you a few bucks in advance...Four feet of 3/4" hose is all you need to connect the heater core to the heater pipe, the pipe to the rad, and the core to the intake. No 5/8" in this car. The original hose from core to pipe was specially formed to account for the tight angle. With a little trial and error on length and twist, you can use conventional hose without causing a kink. Don't forget hose clamps when you're picking up the hose. You'll need 5.
The pre-cut length crapshoot. Occasionally cheaper than by-the-foot.
Pre-formed upper radiator hoses are available from a lot of places, that's no problem. But the lower hose isn't, and you'll have to substitute a 'bend to fit' version. The problem with this is that the lower radiator port is easily malleable brass that reduces to a 'round-rect', and the angle to the waterpump is pretty tight. To compound the problem, the hose wall is pretty thick to resist collapsing under suction. When installing, I could tell there's a lot of side loading going on at the radiator. Not ideal, but I'm not the first guy to go through this.

Note hose sections to heads (clamps not installed).
There are two hose sections that run from the WP to the heads. The elbows are interchangeable, and the sections are identical in length. On this car, the head-to-elbow gaskets were factory installed dry. I added a skim coat of blue silicone to each of the replacements for a little insurance. These gaskets are part of the timing cover gasket set Felpro TCS126811. The entire set is around 10 bucks online, not bad, even if you buy it just for these two.

With my digital caliper at the parts store, I found a sub-$10 radiator hose with the identical ID of the stubs, and with enough section length to cut two new stubs out of it. Look for Dayco 70081. For hose clamps, the uncompressed OD is 1-7/8". You'll need 4, obviously.

Now's a good time to talk about the t-stat. I bought a 180 degree replacement, but found out later the original (and the shop manual confirms) the factory t-stat was 170 degrees. I need to add a temp gauge anyhow, so I'll keep an eye on what effect this ultimately has; 170 is a tough number to find.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

P59 Update #3

So here we are, the beginning of June and the majority of parts have arrived and lots of work done. The brakes are coming along with the rears complete, the fronts waiting on return springs, new lines all around and new fuel line plumbed in and ready. The rear drums showed up and are a perfect fit. The tires came in and were mounted this weekend. Lots to report. Here are the details....

The majority of parts for this project have come from Rockauto. Can't say I like paying the separate warehouse shipping charges, but it beats the nonsense I've had to deal with at the local parts stores. 

For the brakes, cylinders were replaced all around with Raybestos (they have a terrific website with cross reference numbers for everything, including this 50+ year old car). Canadian-built Pontaics use different size brake components so order carefully. 

Here are the correct wheel cylinder numbers if you're redoing the brakes:

Wheel Cyl Front L: WC32091
Wheel Cyl Front R: WC32092
Wheel Cyl Rear R: WC7564
Wheel Cyl Rear L: WC7563

For brake hoses, the front takes two BH5433 and the rear axle uses a single BH26960. Be sure to pick up some hose retainer clips while you're ordering as the originals are sure to be a rusty mess (Dorman HW1457).  

Now take note, this might save you some running around. The hold down pins on the rear wheels are a different length than the fronts, and no hardware kit is available. What you want to do is order two of kit H4020. Each handles an axle and includes all the springs and cups. Then order yourself H1105. This is a package of 4 pins for the rear brakes. Check eb*y for stuff like this, it can be had cheaper than the local store which won't know what you're talking about anyway. You'll also need two packages of H131; these are the brake shoe return springs. With that, you should have everything but the adjuster springs, and those rarely need replacing.

My front drums were in good shape and my plan is to re-use them as is. However the rears were another story. Heavily gouged and machined to their limit. Heavy-duty cars (like wagons) used 2.5" shoes and drums but the Cat uses 2". Ames Performance came through with the correct drums: PR448W (59-64) is just the ticket.

For brake lines, I used pre-made straight sections, but with a twist. A friend loaned me his Ridgid flaring tool model 345. If you do any kind of tubing work at all, pick one up. With it I was able to shorten up a long length of the pre-made for the rear axle, and needed only a single union for the line from front to rear. This union also made it easier to bend and install the two lengths independently. Incidentally, the brake lines run along the middle of the X-frame while the fuel line runs along the LH side of the body. Self-locking clips retain the brake line and mine were reusable (which means yours probably are, too).

New cylinder, springs, shoes, hold down kit.
Front drums with integral studs in background.

The fuel line on this car was toast and I was able to replace it with 3/8 coil stock without much trouble. In a rather dubious decision, the factory line is semi-exposed in the LH rear wheel well before it makes a 90 over to the tank. It took some work to get the new line tucked in and out of harm's way as I'm sure it was installed before body-drop. The sending unit is mounted at the rear of the tank on this model and the hardline is exposed without needing to drop the tank. Since the fuel gauge is currently functional, I drained the fuel in the tank via siphon action and left the tank and straps in place. Up at the front rocker ahead of the driver's door, the factory used a small section of hose to link the steel line from the engine to the steel line mounted to the body. It's a semi-protected area so I wasn't overly concerned about doing the same. I've read that some models had continuous steel but this probably complicated body to chassis assembly. 

With a car like this you've got to work with what you have. Simple upgrades for safety's sake make a lot of sense. For $5 a pop, I upgraded all four headlights to GE halogens. The connectors were in excellent shape with no signs of corrosion so I wasn't concerned about voltage drop issues. Unlike some of the H4 conversions, these are sealed beams and are practically indistinguishable from original equipment. New top-post battery cables made sense, too. 

New Halogens
June 1st:
The tires arrived and it was time to get them mounted. I could either spring for big-buck wide-whites, cheapo black walls, or something in between. After reading reviews, I rolled the dice and ordered a set of Hankook Optimo H724's. These are 14" radials with a whitewall and available for order through wally-world or online. Best of all, the entire set with mounting and balancing cost less than a pair of the wide-whites alone. Since this is my only car with 14" rims, and it's unknown if it will even drive under its own power, this made a lot of sense.

My buddy Ben stopped out in the afternoon with the goal of changing the timing gear set. Things did not go as planned. The balancer pulley mounts to the crank flange via six 5/16 fine thread bolts. These were removed easily enough. The crank flange is then secured with one large center bolt that theoretically can be removed without too much effort. In order to keep the crank from rotating during this process, we initially bolted a length of angle strut to one of the open pulley-mount holes such that the strut would rotate, contact the frame, and prevent any further rotation. What we ended up with was a bent strut.

Next we tried a stout piece of heavy gauge door track with a c-profile and positioned it such that rotating the crank would force the track downward into wooden blocks on the ground (a pushing, rather than bending, action). The engine rose up to the extreme of its mounts and the frame wasn't far behind. we decided not to risk further damage. 

Next we bought some grade 8, 5/16 bolts and used chain. If we couldn't push, then we'd pull. With the chain fastened to the frame and bolted to the pulley mount, Ben gave it hell with a 4' pipe. Laterally there wasn't much to give, and we decided to bolt the engine down just in case. And was pretty clear we were going to break something before that bolt was going to loosen.

Short of pulling the radiator and hauling the car to a shop with a pneumatic impact, we were at a loss. At least we knew the engine ran (and sounded good) in its current state. After blowing the afternoon, we decided to at least install the new water pump, bolt on the fuel pump and call it a day.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

P59 Update #2

April 19th. After the snow had melted and the ground had firmed, it was no trick to get the car out to the Lodge, however getting it off the trailer was another matter. On the plus side, bruises eventually heal.

While rusty, the car showed a lot of potential. The dash was mint, the seats were soft and in good shape, the carpet wasn’t torn away. Yet it was obvious the mice had had their way with the headliner and the ashtrays full of firewall insulation told a similar tale. We won’t discuss the smell. One taillight worked, the radio was clear as a bell(!), dash lights were inop but the wiring was in good shape. Those things could wait. The first order of business was seeing if we could get the engine to start. So began the first of many expenditures. New plugs and wires were ordered and a new point set as well. While we knew the engine would turn freely via the battery (!) getting it to start would be another matter.

April 25th: An oil pressure gauge was setup under hood and new oil and fuel filters were bought and installed for the test. A 5 gallon can of non-ethanol was plumbed up and the work began. We had some initial trouble getting the 389 to roar to life. We knew we had fuel, but no spark. It appeared someone else may have had similar trouble as the coil resistor had been bypassed, but there was no reason it shouldn’t at least sputter with new points. After some head-scratching and electrical continuity testing, we determined the new points were inop! We tried a second set and still had an intermittent closed-circuit when the points were together. Now, these weren’t the cheapest of points, but they weren’t the gilded 30 dollar sets, either. Finally, I grabbed a set I had on the shelf (GP brand) for the ’59 Cad and the motor came to life with ease. So, word to the wise, just because they’re new, don’t assume they’ll work. Will I eventually go breakerless? Maybe. But first we need to prove out the transmission.

And so the engine ran great. Good oil pressure, a sticky lifter that cleared itself, quick revving and smooth sounding. All was well except a weeping water pump. Hey, you can’t expect everything to go perfectly. With that green light, we proceeded to pull the brake drums. The fronts looked decent but the rears were heavily gouged. No problem! How tough could it be to find some drums?

April 26th: Big Money #2. The waterpump was ordered. Herein lies a tale. This car uses, what is referred to as, a Counter Clockwise pump. Here’s a good primer on the subject: Don’t trust any websites or parts stores until you’ve confirmed the pump you have because most sources are incorrect. You can’t go off casting numbers, either, because it’s the impeller shape that’s different, not the body. Physical rotation is unchanged, too. Luckily, I did this before ordering. The CCW pump is around 2-3x the price of the CCW pump but if you watch ebay, you might catch a deal.
CCW Pump Fin Direction
Meanwhile…. I had been on the hunt for an air cleaner housing. For whatever reason, this was the one part the car was missing. I could either buy a cheapo Chinese chrome job that may or may not fit and rust out in short order, or I could hold out for a GM unit that would fit the 2GC. Nice ones were going for good money on that popular auction site, but I managed to snag one on the cheap, intended for a mid-60s Buick after confirming the bore size with the seller. While that was in transit, I found a guy that would sandblast the rims for 10 bucks a piece. If you’ve ever spent time leaning over a bead blast cabinet, you know you can’t beat that deal. However before blasting, I needed to confirm the wheel paint color and get an aerosol can mixed up. That would prove to be a challenge.

April 28: For only a few dollars, the local ag supply box store (with full tire department) would strip the cracked bias plies off the 14” rims. Stopped by after work and dropped them off. 24 hours later they were ready.

April 30: Dropped off the rims for blasting. I also attempted to match the color locally and determined the car’s paint code was Gulfstream Blue. Neither Dulux, Lucite or PPG reference numbers would work in the paint supplier’s system. Though in retrospect, fresh paint wouldn’t have matched the faded body anyhow.

May 1: Hey, check out these rims! And look at that, the air cleaner fits. With rain imminent, I pressed forward after work and got them primed, sealed and stored indoors to avoid flash rust. 

May 2: More parts ordered from Rockauto. This time shocks all around, a timing set (might as well while the waterpump is being changed), new fuel pump (more preventative maintenance) and misc cooling system parts.

Weekend of May 3-4: Time to get a few things straightened out with the interior. One, got the dash pulled and the radio removed for a recap. Two, figured out how to remove the headlight switch to fix the rheostat issue affecting no dash lights at night (with switch plunger pulled all the way out, reach up behind the dash and depress the small release button built into the switch housing. The entire shaft will come out from the front and the retaining nut can be unthreaded). These rheostats are connected via pressure to two electrical tabs in the switch body. Corrosion overtakes the entire rheostat coil and in the end it’s a lost cause. Since these oldies aren’t the brightest anyhow, I like to bypass the rheostat and eliminate the source of the problem. Few people have ever complained about a 55 year old dash being too bright.

#57 bulbs are used everywhere in cars of this era. You can either pay $4.99 for a pack of two at your FLAPS, or buy them online, four for a buck.

That's more like it!

Radio Recap: The Catalina is equipped with a Super Delux radio with front and rear speaker and an external combination fader/tone control. The fact that the radio is working and the speakers are completely intact might be the biggest surprise of all. To keep the radio going for years to come I decided a recap was in order. I had replacements on hand for the paper caps on the main board, but the oddball electrolytics would have to be ordered. Mouser to the rescue!

Drum City: In parallel with the rim blasting efforts, I took the drums to a local shop that has the capability to turn them on a lathe and true them up. While the clerk put in a good effort measuring them on my tailgate, I was lucky that he misread the dimensions of the front pair. To drive home the point of how big a chore this was going to be, he checked his books for new replacements and not a single number was listed.

Now, the Catalina uses 2”x11” drums in the rear while the wagons and HD cars get 2-1/2” x 11”.  The latter appear to be available quite a few places. The former, not so much. After more fruitless searching, I took the old drums to a FLAPS that could turn them. This time I took the measurements and found the fronts had never been turned, but the rears were at their limits. But again a problem- the machine had recently been repaired and the staff didn’t trust it to turn a set of unobtainium drums. I was advised to take a trip across town to their other franchise where the machine was in good working order. This time I got a lecture that they shouldn’t even turn the drums because, despite my providing the max dimensions, they couldn’t find a reference in their computer. The silver lining was that they wouldn’t touch them until I pulled the bearings, and a check on bearing prices was enough to convince me to run the front drums as-is.

Questionable Materials.

 I drove across town, bought shoes in stock at Autozone, and went home.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Project: P-59

Since not a lot of blogging has been taking place lately, and since I have no dedicated internet connection at home to support creating and modifying html pages, I thought, what better place than here to chronicle the resurrection of a 1959 Pontiac. So, here we go.

It was a cold and snowy January day when my buddy Ben sent me a craigslist link to an interesting car with a very decent price and located within an afternoon’s drive of CF. I shot the seller a message and heard back that same day (Jan 10, 2014) that the car was still available, so now the only question remained, when could we go see it? Menomonie, WI is about a 4 hour drive, and in my mind it wouldn’t make sense to pull a trailer for 8 hours if the car was junk.

With some pretty decent weather, we took the Sonic up to inspect the car. I think we were both a little shocked, Ben more so, when I pulled out cash and made the deal while he was snapping pics. The interior was in surprisingly good condition, the tires were holding air, the paint combo was terrific, and the engine spun freely. Even the radio fired up. Yes, the body had its share of pinhole rust, but I could live with that. It wouldn’t make sense to take a 4-door Catalina and pour thousands into bodywork and paint given the other examples out there. But in its current state, it’d make a great driver. All it needed was brakes…fuel line…a running engine…suspension parts….tires….

With the deal made, the next step was getting the car home. This was easier said, than done. After finally landing a date that worked, and after getting Ben’s dad’s trailer free (long story), we attempted to make our way (Jan 25, 2014). This didn’t go so hot. The 1993 Chevy pickup performed admirably for its first time out, but the weather slayed us. The roads had glazed with ice from the high crosswinds and it would only get worse the further north we drove. After an hour or so north, with cars getting fewer and fewer, and with the ice so bad we couldn’t break 35MPH without fishtailing, we decided to call it off and reschedule.

Feb 1st, and we were finally successful. Other than some very rough road that just about threw us out of the truck, some very tight loading work to clear the trailer fenders, and the disappointment of finding Skoogs closed, the trip was otherwise uneventful.

However, I was now presented with a new problem. As our lane was impassable, the car would have to sit at the parents place in town until spring. Fine.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Thanks for the Memory

After puttering off and on with my relay computer design over the last several years, and scrapping two major revisions, I’m finally at the point where the design is 98% frozen. Controls have been identified, dimensions documented, instruction set semi-frozen and internal timing coded. The challenge is that you have no idea how the machine will eventually be used. Unlike a toaster oven where your bases are covered with a thermostat and a power switch, this computer must be flexible enough to handle a variety of different tasks, yet have the necessary controls and features to allow simple, straightforward use. About all that can be done is to simulate such varied use as though the computer did exist, writing programs and working through different interaction scenarios to make sure my bases are covered.

Interestingly, the machine will have two different memory systems. A high-speed solid state memory of 4096 words (4k) and an electromechanical relay-based system originally targeted to be 128 words. And herein lies the rub.

A ‘word’ (or byte in today’s parlance) is 8-bits. The ‘straightforward’ method of design requires 8 relays to store the 8 bits, plus 8 relays (or two, 4-pole relays) to act as switches to gate the word onto/off of the data bus. Additionally, you need a relay to ‘reset’ the word when it’s loading data from the bus. Total: 11 relays x 128 words = 1408 relays.

Due to size limitations of where the memory will be placed in the machine, I only have enough room for 96 words. Still a lot of relays, but I actually have them all on hand. Recently I developed a new method of storage and addressing using bi-stable latching relays and some clever diode logic. The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages- consider this:

Only 8 relays required per word vs 11, and no 4-pole relays required. That’s a 30% reduction.
Power consumption is ZERO vs 30 Amps with full memory!
Retains its data even when power is off.
Can be read and written to simultaneously with separate busses should the computer support it.
Reduced footprint means 128 words in square area of 96.

Approx $1 a piece in quantity; I have none.
I already have the necessary parts for the std mem design.

So yeah, the latter is a more elegant design, but because I’m sick and tired of spending money, I suppose the original shall have to do.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Buffer Overflow

I've been meaning to post more, no, really, I have entries written that ended up getting discarded due to the complexity of the posting process without a fixed internet connection. The best I can muster is the remote BT keyboard to iPad arrangement, which works well enough for the most part.

So here we are at the end of 2013, and what a year it's been. While I would chalk this one up to "improvements", there have been a number of notable accomplishments for the year.

One cannot over-emphasis enough the prospect of finishing a major project. My life is a major project. But what I'm talking about is the living room. Walls painted, carpet installed, furniture in, yes, that was done before. But we still were living with record albums stacked on the floor, an old glass and chrome shelving unit from my parents that barely held the Sansui, and a makeshift coffee table under the north windows as a catch-all. Nothing integrated the way the architecture did. Now the black and glass cabinets are in- dust-free display space for my computer rarities, shelving for DVD's, tapes, records and LaserDiscs. Plus a credenza-type unit for the stereo, turntable, reel to reel and other media devices that otherwise stick out like sore thumbs. The trick to this project was using inexpensive Ikea cabinets with more upscale trim pieces, and then ditching their cardboard backs for 1/4 plywood I bought and sized to the units. I picked up some special stain at a woodworker's supply shop in Chicago that matches better than factory. That said, the total bill was tough to swallow. Now, I just need to finish my display cards.

2013 also saw the completion of the insulation and wall boards under the Lodge stairs, the completion of the kitchen trimout- both stain and trim for the wall cabinet, but also trim beyond the drywall where insulation was previously the finished surface. Let's be honest, it really did look like the set from a TV show!

While on that subject, the room divider/display cabinet in the dining room reached completion- banded, stained, and glass shelves cut and installed along with lighting. As if that weren't battle enough, I managed to go through all the glasses in the collection and pare them down to the essentials, then washed every frickin' one.

Big deal you might think. Well, consider that each one of these things is a knot untied. Like driving a car with a steering wheel but no speedometer, it's the completion of the whole that makes the home.

And speaking of tying knots, I proposed to Cara this year with a wedding planned for 2014. Details to come!

In the pocketbook-pinch department, out came the 18' bi-fold garage doors and in went the pricey, but all-so-needed glass and aluminum doors. With the increasing prospect that we'd live in the Lodge longer than initially anticipated, it made more and more sense that we wouldn't be driving cars in and out of the Lodge daily and hence moving forward with the pulley and cable system I wanted to implement for the bi-fold doors didn't make much sense. As it stood, I couldn't trim the doors out because of the way they folded, and the smooth exterior wasn't a good match for the textured siding. The new doors, while pricey, look nice and bring in lots of natural light that really changes the interior feel of the place during the winter months. Even when below freezing, if the sun is out, the interior warms up more than the old insulated, but solid, doors.

And with the doors open, the cars and other miscellany moved out. The ETC needed a home and found one in the form of The Annex. The '59 needed a home and it was clear I wasn't going to get around to the '60 for a few years, so the '60 moved on down the line to my friend Ben where it will stay in the area and the '59 moved into CS3. In a few years time, we'll be cruising the two cars down University. Pretty cool. And with the southwest area opened up downstairs, we were able to finally epoxy coat the floor and clear out all the construction tools and materials stashed down there, effectively turning the downstairs into the area that I had always envisioned.

A 2009 Sky joined the fleet this summer which is very atypical of my automotive purchases, but it meets my criteria- Last year of production, turbo, 5-speed, convertible, metallic green. Plus I can cruise anywhere without those "old car" worries.

With the '59 out of the Lodge, Ben and I put the finishing touches on the engine, and after several bone-head moves, actually got the car running under its own power. This brings the total for running cars in CS3 up to 4 for 4. 2014 will see a gas tank recoat and the necessary work required to get her fully roadworthy.

Parallel to this little trial and error, my friend Geoff from Australia visited the states for 2013 and we had a blast showing him around Iowa and enjoying his Cadillac ATS rental. The only regret is that we were not able to host him in CS3 this time around, but it all worked out.

Early in 2013 Cara and I took an amazing trip to Disney World which took years off our lives (in a good way). Even the Sebring convertible rental was palatable after purchasing a pair of Walgreens aviators and a fedora! We can't wait to return.

As summer hit full stride I refocused on the siding of CS3. Not an easy task considering the reveal of each course is dependent upon lots of little factors, such as the beltline height, the lower course reveals, the top and bottom planes of windows both front and west, and so forth. When you go with horizontal siding and mitered corners, you basically work as though you're drawing continuous belts around the building, and all lines must match up. But it all worked out, including the cedar trim-out of the front 40' window section. When the thought crosses my mind that I should hire the siding out, it occurs to me that none of this will be considered and the job will look like shit. What remains is siding on the east side, and upper rear. I'll be glad to put that to bed this spring.

We also saw the opening of a Cedar Falls Menards which has saved an uncountable number of hours and dollars in travel. I haven't been to the Waterloo Menards in a long, long time. Helps with those pricey deliveries, too!

On the work front, this fall saw a promotion which has added to the gray temples, but not to the extremes I've seen of others. Let's just hope the ride doesn't get too crazy. How long am I going to go on with this? Well, we'll see. Too many unknowns at this juncture. 

And then there are the 2013 hobbies. Oye.

2014. Welcome.