Monthly Archives: January 2011

As Seen on Craigslist – 1970 Cutlass

I’ve sold my share of cars and parts, and it seems to me that acting like dealing with potential buyers is a chore and then threatening the remaining interested parties with a price increase isn’t the best way to complete a sale.  That, and the fact that it’s the dead of winter, might be why this goofus is having a hard time moving this Cutlass.  There’s no real description of the “LIL BODY WORK NEEDED,” or even why it needs painted, but the seller might have better luck if he fixed the torn seat or the rat’s nest of wiring visible in the engine picture.  That might actually explain why the one poor soul who actually stopped to look at it “low-balled” the seller – that and the obviously non-original engine that is missing its air cleaner, allowing the “REAL DEAL ram air hood” to suck more bugs and dirt into the engine than if you strapped a Dyson to the grille.

Somehow I don’t think turning what looks like an understated and decent (if overpriced) silver car into a winged orange monstrosity and charging $2300 more for it will entice anyone else into buying it, but what do I know – I consider a gold interior a selling point.

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Ask The Experts

My coworkers and I were sharing some tips from the “ask me how I know” files, and I thought I’d share them here:

  • When using an”X” shaped tire iron, do not place both hands and all of your weight on the wrench to loosen a lug nut – when it slips off, there won’t be anything to break your fall other than your nose.
  • Believe it or not, a pencil, mechanical or otherwise, is not a suitable replacement for the lock pin in a jack stand.
  • Long hair and creeper casters do not mix, and tend to create irregular bald patches.
  • When performing maintenance on an air compressor, make sure the tank is not pressurized before removing the bleeder valve, or the bleeder valve might remove your fingers.
  • WD-40 is flammable.
  • Speaking of flammable, using a greasy shop rag to snuff out a backfire is a bad idea.
  • Four lug nuts will usually safely fasten a five-lug wheel, but three will not.
  • Battery acid tastes like almonds.
  • How do you know when a bolt is tight enough?  Approximately 1/4 turn before it snaps.
  • Most socket wrenches are just long enough to span the distance between battery terminals when tightening battery cables, and are conductive as well.
  • That wire wheel that removes old gaskets so well works even better on fingerprints.
  • Engine degreaser de-greens grass too.

Disc Brake Upgrade Update

Truth be told, there isn’t much of an update to be had.  The bitter cold and other obligations kept me out of the garage for most of the past week, but I was able to at least get my work area straightened up and put the car up on stands.

Remember how I made fun of people who couldn't fit an entire car in one shot?

My goal for this week is to get the wheels off, remove the rear drums and inspect the brakes, and replace the rear wheel cylinders and center brake hose.  That’s probably a bit ambitious, but wish me luck.  I did manage to get the parts together for a cute group photo.  This should be almost everything I need to complete this project, with a few exceptions.

Not pictured: coil springs and free time.


As Seen on Craigslist – 1966 Mustang

It’s been said before that there might be more first-generation Mustangs still on the road than any other old car.  Granted, Ford spit out about a zillion of these things, but it’s amazing how plentiful they are, even in the Midwest.  They’re kind of a “Classic Cars for Dummies” primer.  This particular car, in a typical red-on-red scheme, seems like a pretty good deal for a car that almost everyone has coveted at some point.

Since early Mustangs enjoy almost unlimited aftermarket support (you could seriously build, from scratch, a Mustang from a catalog), there isn’t anything that could go wrong on this that isn’t easily fixed.  Of course, for $8500, there better not be much wrong with it to begin with, but that amount also nets you a more modern driveline out of a 90’s Mustang.  “More modern” being a bit of a technicality, since there isn’t much that separates a 1992 Ford 302 V8 from the 289 that probably graced this Mustang in 1966.  Ditch that ugly steering wheel and spring for new carpet and you’d have an easy cruiser, and infinite hop-up parts for both the engine and suspension are just a phone call away.  As an added bonus, purchasing this vehicle would require a trip to lovely Lisbon, Ohio on US 30.  Just ignore the manure smell.


My Next Car – Saturn Ion Redline

I know what you’re thinking – a Saturn, really?  But despite the brand’s reputation, these souped-up commuter cars are reliable and economical, the supercharged Ecotec 4 cylinder revs like crazy and will hang with any WRX or Civic Si, and the chassis is well-sorted and handles great.  The typical criticisms of these cars are the cheap, plasticky interior, the large, uneven panel gaps (a necessary evil when dealing with plastic fenders and doors), and the fact that it’s a Saturn.  I don’t really care about any of those things – it’s quick and handles sharply, so I can live with hard gray interior finishes and wonky fenders.  I do have a problem with the factory spoilers on these cars, however.  I don’t need another place to iron my clothes or store canned goods, so that shelf would have to come off the trunk if I bought one.

Pros:

  • The suicide door setup in the rear allows unfettered access to the back seats, which would be great for getting kids in and out of this rather small car.
  • Cheap, if not readily available.  Clean examples can be found for under $8000 if you look hard enough.
  • 5-speed manual transmission is common, and the aforementioned supercharged engine is well-built and reportedly great to drive.

Cons:

  • Styling is questionable to the point of being tacky.  I’m not a “Fast and Furious” type of guy.
  • Center-mounted gauge cluster is idiotic and distracting.
  • Factory thin-sidewall tires are useless in the winter; snow tires would be a necessary added expense.

Overall, the Ion Redline hits all the right notes – cheap, four-door, stick shift, quick and fun to drive, and there’s the novelty factor of a car from a dead brand.  If you can get past the Saturn stigma (which I can), it’s a great car for the value.  It’s not a rip-snorting muscle car like the G8 or Magnum, and its certainly not a luxury car like the CTS-V, but it might actually fit my needs perfectly.


Jackpot!

As I mentioned in my first post, I often buy my daughters a Hot Wheels or Matchbox car when I see them in a store.  I was at the grocery store last night and found this, and needless to say, the girls had to have it:


Winter Project – Disc Brake Upgrade

My 1967 Pontiac Tempest rolled off the assembly line with manual drum brakes at all four corners.  In the 2+ years that I’ve owned it, I’ve come to grips with the eccentricities of the not-so-affectionately nicknamed “death brakes.”  You could make the argument that driving a car with manual drum brakes forces you to be a better driver, because you must be constantly aware of traffic patterns and avoid hard stops at all costs.  I say this because not only do these types of brakes take more pedal effort than modern brakes, but they also fall out of adjustment often, behave erratically, and fade quickly.  During a panic stop, you must prepare yourself for the following scenario:

  1. Step firmly on pedal, which is much harder than the pedal in a modern car.
  2. Feel the car begin to slow down, then rapidly jerk to the right.
  3. Release the pedal to straighten car, then apply brakes again.
  4. Feel the car slow down more, then jerk to the left.
  5. If the car hasn’t stopped yet, expect the brakes to start fading and lose effectiveness until you stop via aerodynamic drag or impact.

I’d learned to adapt to this setup, but planned to eventually convert the car to disc brakes.  Well, “eventually” turned into this winter, as the last time I drove the car the brake warning light was flickering, indicating a fluid leak somewhere in the system.  I decided that my winter project (both the blessing and the curse of living in the midwest) for the car would be to completely rebuild the brake system.

Of course, in order to upgrade from drum to disc brakes in the front, there are a whole host of parts that have to come off, and I might as well replace them while I’m at it.  So not only did I purchase all the brake parts, I also have ball joints and coil springs on the list for replacement.  It’s likely that I’ll get carried away under there and end up with new tie rods and shocks as well.

This will be the biggest single project I’ve ever undertaken and I’m expecting lots of busted knuckles and headaches, but it should be fun and well worth it in the end – not only will the car be immeasurably safer, it will be much more fun to drive as well.  I’ll be posting regular updates as I work on the car, so look forward to in-depth how-to tips, photos of greasy, forty-year-old parts, and perhaps gruesome tales of sledgehammer and air chisel injuries.