Friday, October 3, 2014

Workin’ for the Weekend

It’s been a while since I’ve had a full-tilt, keep it coming, weekend. But with 70F+ weather in late September, you make hay while the sun shines.

I eased into things Friday after work with some extensive grocery shopping at HyVee. Spend $90, save $0.03 per gallon, woohoo! While I specifically went for some sales, I’m reminded why I stick to Fareway. In and out in 20 minutes. With a boatload of groceries, I navigated the ’59 over to the parents and replaced the heating element in their Maytag dryer. This, just after replacing the motor due to a bad switch only recently. Frankly, the teardown and jostling probably fatigued part of the old element and after a load it gave up the ghost. OK, with that done, I could head home and start my work.

With some decent evening light, I crawled under the Pontiac to confirm the rear axle leak (yes, pinion seal). Installed a replacement wiper motor in the Olds wagon and adjusted the arms (works great!). Tightened up the front brakes on the 59 (no real change). Put in a Rockauto order for a replacement brake booster and the pinion seal in question. Then pulled the agitator in the Frigidaire which had been squawking as of late, to discover broken ears on part of the jet cone. Glued those and put it back together. Then it was time to relax!

I won’t bore you with excruciating details of the rest of the weekend, but I put this list together to remind me how thankful I should be when it’s 10 below zero in just a couple of months.

Folded up picker and took truck over to annex with stuff to store.
Cleaned out the Pontiac trunk and Wagon storage area.
Installed replacement alternator on the Blazer.
Pulled the battery and took it over to the lodge to charge.
Got tractor and moved picker to east side of lodge and set up outriggers.
Scrubbed east Lodge fascias with hot water.
Cleaned up the Annex while fascias dried (now you can actually walk through).
Drained cooling system on the Pontiac (running 100% water).
Hauled old tires and misc over to the Pole Building to store.
Winterized the boat motor and stored in the Annex.
Re-installed the battery in Blazer and attempted jump-start (no go).
Installed new radio silverbox while battery was charging (appears to work).
Unloaded THM-425 trans from truck (ugh)
Painted red beltline on east side of lodge (two coats)
Painted fascias white (much better shape than the west side).
Removed Blazer battery (again) and hauled to lodge (again)
Charged 1st bank of picker batteries after folding up.
Filled, circulated and tested antifreeze (3gal) in Pontiac.
Cleaned and installed dog leg and front pillar L&R trim on Pontiac.
Charged 2nd bank of picker batteries.
Checked for leaks and replaced ceiling tile in kitchen
Put Blazer batt on charger overnight.
Time to grill out!

Attempted to move picker to behind CS3…tractor quit halfway due to low fuel (known leak somewhere in tank seam). What a way to start the day.
Grabbed Blazer batt off charger and installed (again) Success!
Took Blazer to pole bldg and filled up a small gas can to run back to the tractor (and exercised the Blazer a bit).
Got tractor running, continued transport. Put picker in a very tight spot behind CS3 where the boom stands a chance of reaching the back wall without striking it.
Ran tractor back to lodge and tore apart. 
Drained/pulled fuel tank, tightened other loose bolts.
Washed, dried, and cleaned inside/outside of tank. Cleaned all fittings, etc in mineral spirits.
Still lots of rust particles present, I put a chain inside and shook it up to break the loose stuff free, followed by vacuuming and force-air drying. Then placed in sun to bake. 
With Cara’s help, opened new skid of siding and painted 30 boards (two coats) for CS3 (which I’ll have to put up very soon).
Coated inside of fuel tank with Red Kote fuel tank liner and drained (interesting stuff).
Currently curing inside the lodge (24 hr min).
Time to collapse!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Where has the time gone?

Here we are at the end of September, but I have some good news. The car is now officially road-worthy and I'm attempting to press it into daily-driver service, per the plan.

But first, there were two orders of business that had to be settled.

First was bleeding the brake system. Pretty straightforward, if not for the difficulty of getting to the bleeder screws. It's just about impossible on this car while still having a hose attached to the bleeder. With that complete, we now had a firm pedal.

The second order of business was the carb. The car would start up, run great, but then stumble and stall when warm. This was attributed to copious amounts of fuel being dumped into the intake. Clearly, a rebuild of the 2GC was in order. The original kit I ordered from RockAuto turned out to be for a marine application despite the listing. But there was a bigger problem. As Ben discovered once he got into it, the checkball for the accelerator pump was lodged firmly in its recess. No amount of compressed air, solvents, oven baking, rawhide hammering nor even hydraulic action from the port behind it would free it from its frozen cove. Luckily, Ben had enough parts on hand to cobble together something that would work. In the interim a new kit was on order from 'Chicago Corvette' ( which was the right kit, with a great price and fast shipping.

It was Thursday night and we had a deadline to get this car going before sundown. Ben did his best carb reassembly while my friend Geoff and I worked, scrubbing the door panels, wiping down the interior, putting the rear upholstery back together and generally getting things ready. Magic Erasers to the rescue (again)!

After some difficulty getting the fuel line threaded to the carb, and locating a nut for the air cleaner (you'll recall it was missing one), the Pontiac was actually drivable. The trans appeared to work, though very low on fluid. The brakes left something to be desired- essentially a power booster without any power assist. Hmm. We loaded into the car, turned on the headlights, and made a bee-line for the nearest gas station with high octane (and made it!).

However there was one small complaint- with no exhaust system and a fairly rich mixture, fresh air was at a premium! But that's another story...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sum 41

Here we are at the end of August, the heat finally upon us, and thoughts of winter’s duties beginning to clutter the frame. I must admit I haven’t done much in the way of writing nor blogging this year. That may account for my feeling of unsatisfied wheel-spinning the last several months. I can take stock of the new experiences, far-flung trips, and groundwork laid for the year ahead, but I can’t help but feel there’s an elephant in the room, silently staring me down.

To start with the most recent, my grandma has now officially moved to CF from northern MN. The movers made quick work of it when I stopped by yesterday, and the lake home has officially been sold. The weight of this should feel particularly heavy, but a) it won’t really hit me until July of next year, and b) it’s been a long-time coming. In fact, several years ago when my grandpa was still alive, they put the house on the market. When you see the for-sale sign out front for the first time, the gravity of it really hits you. And so I did what any normal person would do and snap photos, visit the haunts, consider each trip ‘the last one’. But then the market fell out, and the interest fell off and the price was reduced. And years went by. While the summer visits were still fun, the soul of the experience had moved on.  This last July I arrived and the decorative plates had been pulled down and packed, boxes were accumulating in the basement, drawers were being emptied. And I took my last spin around the lake on the aging pontoon boat. Tensions were high, minds were focused on moving forward. We pulled the boat from the lake on an untried trailer I had bought several years ago for just this purpose. Things had changed, and it was easier this way, I suppose. The remains of my childhood had long since flown, now it was only a matter of saying goodbye.

10 days ago I rode up with the parents on a Friday night with the goal of making roadworthy both the pontoon and Suburban for a solo-journey back to CF. I stayed with my grandma, the house now mostly packed up, and spent that Saturday drilling, winching and loading the pontoon and trailer. The humidity was terrible in the woods, but by afternoon the job was done. A trip into town was quick and purposeful. The dock was lonely, and the water still. I snapped some pictures, I said my goodbyes and around 9AM the next morning, set out for home.

Much had changed in those years on the lake, but the grandparents were a constant. I recall the Browns and the Kleens coming over for cards and coffee. They all moved back to the cities years ago when it got to be too much work. Snyder drug is no longer a one story 1970’s pharmacy with a fountain out front that will send your Kodak film out to be developed and sell you an ice cream cone. No, it was razed to make way for a shiny new Walgreens. The wide, 50’s style movie theater was divided into two screens, then remuddled beyond recognition into three screens in the same footprint. Dish TV has made sure that everyone on the lake has 300 channels instead of the 3 there used to be. The resort down the way was sold, and with it came a vinyl doublewide and a wide-scale repaint. No more penny candy or bike rides on the sandy roads.

My mind was on pulling the load behind a truck with 20 year old tires that saw use roughly twice a year, not thinking about the first time I got to pilot the mighty Suburban to town with the 6 of us all those years ago. And she made it home, just fine. I suppose there’s a message in that. Just remind me next July.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

P-59: Discharged

One of the more surprising things that occurred when I first looked at the car on that cold, snowy day, was that the interior light came on when I opened the door and the radio came on after flipping the key to Run. Mind you, the car hadn’t been on the road since at least ’78. Yes, the Motorcraft battery was in good shape and held a charge, and while maybe only a decade or two old, it had no trouble turning the engine over during our attempts at getting the points functional. Unfortunately, while the chemistry was in good shape, one of the internal links to the battery posts wasn’t and it went open during cranking recently. So much for that battery.

The modern replacement is a Group 24, which is what I bought. Clearly, the lower height Motorcraft wasn’t legit. With the 24 installed, I now worried about terminal height and shorting to the hood, my ground cable (recently replaced) was now too tight for comfort, and fastening the battery down to keep from bouncing into the hood, or off the battery shelf and into the belts, was now a real concern.  A universal battery hold down kit for $6 uses the factory T-holes to capture new hold down rods. Another ground cable (4 ga) but slightly longer did the trick. Despite the hood having a special stamped area to accommodate the positive terminal, I don’t plan on taking any chances. Rubber terminal covers are en-route and are cheap insurance. Likely available locally, but equally cheap and with free shipping off that e-place.

A stroke of Pontiac genius, the battery distribution point is up on the driver’s side fender with the horn relay, rather than off the main terminal of the starter. This keeps the wiring short, clean, and out of harm’s way. It also makes troubleshooting a breeze. With terminals clean and tight, the engine should spin with ease.

Friday, July 25, 2014

P59: I Brake for Vacations

It’s been a month and a half since I last posted, but don’t worry, progress has been steady.

After getting the cooling system buttoned back up without leaks, I resumed work on the brakes. You might recall I had to replace the rear drums due to heavy gouging but the fronts were okay. Well, after installing the brake shoe retaining springs, I was ready to slip the front drums on. Big problem…they simply would not fit, even with the adjusters turned all the way in. I chalked it up to surface rust/buildup on the drum outer edges, which meant they’d need the slightest of cleanup and truing. The local shop was reluctant to turn them despite the fact that my measurements showed they had never been turned, but the results look good and while extremely tight, they do fit into place. However, this meant that I’d need new bearings, inner/outer and both sides. Not cheap, and not a lot of fun (wrong bearings were shipped, new order was cancelled, etc. etc.). The Outers are B67 and the Inners are B70. Check ebay and shop around…they can be tough to find and fairly pricey unless you do your homework.

With the help of a friend and his father’s press, the new bearings went into place, lots of grease was packed in, and the drums are now on the car.

While this was going on, I was working on the master cylinder situation. The original unit was a single chamber, manual setup. The only thing worse than a car wreck is having been the cause, so any kind of safety upgrade was welcome. I had read about a dual chamber, power assist arrangement from a ’68 Chevelle (with 4-wheel drums) being a ‘drop in’ fit. When I couldn’t order the Cardone number locally, I decided to roll the dice on a ’68 Cadillac (4-wheel drum) setup that I’ve read is practically a direct fit on the 59/60 Cads. Knowing the whereabouts of both a 59 and 60 CdV, I figured if it didn’t fit the Poncho, it at least wouldn’t be a total loss.
Original on left (obviously). Chevelle booster with threaded rod on right. Note bracket.

As it turns out, the pushrod end is completely different than the Catalina; back to the drawing board.

Well then, guess I’ll pay the extra for the Chevelle unit. What was most critical about the arrangement was having a threaded pushrod for the pedal, and getting a 4-hole mounting pattern that would semi-line-up with the original firewall studs. While not “drop-in” by any stretch of the imagination, it’s a very workable solution. The booster is Cardone 50-1105 and runs just over $100. For installation, the top holes of the booster drop over the lower firewall studs, and the pushrod lines up exactly with the firewall opening. Unfortunately, you need more than 2 bolts to hold this thing down, which means (carefully) drilling a pair of holes in the firewall to accommodate the lower MC bracket holes. Use good quality hardware/washers/locknuts to keep the new hardware from coming loose. As can be seen in the pic, the bracket puts the unit at an aggressive angle which puts the pushrod far out of line (angle) with the pedal. To remedy this, I threaded two of the original mounting nuts all the way down on the top studs (one per stud) to act as spacers before mounting the MC.

The last problem was a head scratcher, especially from those that have claimed this to be a drop-in, and that is that the push rod on this MC was far too short. The solution here was to use a pushrod extension. They’re available from Jeg’s, Summit, and that ebay place. The rod is 3/8 fine thread.
Rod must be long enough to engage eyelet when pedal is
up against the brake light switch. Dust boot not installed.

There’s a couple other parts you’re likely to need. At minimum, a power booster plastic dust boot (used 64-74 at least). It’s made of semi-hard plastic and is reusable, which is why the MC’s don’t ship with them. New ones can be had for a few bucks and you’ll need it to keep the booster side from getting contaminated since these don’t use a rubber boot. You may also find the female fittings on the booster won’t match your brake lines. Brass adapters are cheap and readily available at any local parts store.
Mounted but not plumbed. Vac line is 3/8 fuel line (to avoid collapse)
connected with tee-fitting at rear of carb.

Now to bleed the system...