Monthly Archives: March 2011

Disc Brake Project – Sidelines

Since the last update on this project, I honestly haven’t made much progress.  Life and other, more important things have gotten in the way, to the point that even my lovely wife is making jokes about looking forward to going for a drive sometime in September.  It doesn’t help that I’ve completely given up on trying to rehab my upper control arms; after weeks of intermittently beating and chiseling, I made one last attempt to heat the bushings and pound them out and got nowhere.


That was the last straw.  Coincidentally, OPG was having a sale last weekend, so I bit the bullet and ordered complete new upper arms.  I’ll be able to offset some of the cost by returning the ball joints and bushings that I’d already bought, but it’s still money I wasn’t expecting to have to spend.  Of course, one of them (I don’t know if it’s the left or the right) is on backorder.  Grrr.

Shifting gears to a concurrent side project, I was able to successfully disassemble the junkyard steering box to inspect the wear items and replace the shaft seals.  It was actually fun – sort of like 3D puzzle, I had to rotate a shaft to get the gears to line up and slide the shaft out of the housing, then remove a dust seal, snap ring, outer lip seal, plastic spacer, and inner lip seal, and then install new parts in the reverse order.  Unfortunately, I was too covered in power steering fluid to take pictures.  Next, I need to find the right adapter fittings to couple the “new” steering box to the old hydraulic lines.

Which gives me a chance to vent.  Maybe I’m deficient in some way, but I’ve yet to use my flare wrenches on a project without at least partially rounding off a nut – which is exactly what they are supposed to prevent.  A flare wrench is essentially an open-end wrench with longer “arms” to wrap around the nut; since you can’t use a box-end wrench or socket on a nut that has a metal tube coming out of it, the flare wrench gives you a little more contact area than a standard open wrench.  Yet, nearly every time I’ve used mine, they’ve slipped off and I’ve either busted a knuckle or rounded off the nut.  Removing my old steering box was no exception, and I eventually gave up and used a pair of vice-grips to loosen the line nuts.  If anybody out there knows what I’m doing wrong, I’d love to hear it.

While I did make a trip to Summit Racing and buy the springs and shocks I wanted, I’m a little bit in limbo until the upper control arms arrive in the mail.  Since I’m waiting on the parts to arrive, I plan on cleaning up the frame and inner fender area and painting it, disassembling the old master cylinder and installing the new power booster and master cylinder, and fixing the brake line that I broke way back at the beginning of this project.  This weekend is my oldest daughter’s second birthday, so I’m not planning on much garage time – but since Spring doesn’t seem any closer around here, I’m not exactly feeling rushed.


As Seen on Craigslist – 1966 Ford Bronco

Before it became an OJ Simpson-related punchline, the Ford Bronco was one of the first SUVs.  I’ve never driven one, but I doubt that that short wheelbase results in anything close to a comfortable ride.  That said, the Jeep-like dashboard (a steel sheet with a large round speedometer and little else) and removable top results in a fun little runabout, even though it’s slow as mud and lacks any kind of modern driveability – it kind of reminds me of a VW Beetle in that way.  That Indian blanket seat cover is probably covering any number of springs that will poke your nether regions with every bump and pothole, and I know these things are rust prone, but it looks like it would make a decent alternative to an older Jeep without being a as weird as an IHC Scout.

On Small Trucks

As I’ve mentioned before, modern full-size pickups have become bloated family haulers rather than tools.  Yes, you can still buy a regular cab, long bed, bench seat F-150, but since it shares the body and frame of the family-friendly quad cab version, it’s too big for the occasional truck duty most people need.  Couple that with the car-buying public’s insatiable need for higher horsepower and tow ratings, and the end result is a category filled with lumbering brutes capable of pulling down a house but overkill for the monthly Home Depot run that most will actually see.  Take a look at the recent “torture test” that Ford did with the new Ecoboosted F-150.  While the ability of the truck to sustain that kind of abuse is impressive, it doesn’t really make me want to buy one – my weekends don’t involve logging or horse trailering.

Clearly, I need a smaller truck.  Once upon a time, virtually ever automaker had a small truck in their lineup, but those days are gone.  The Dodge Dakota and Toyota Tacoma are really mid-sized trucks (and keep growing), and the Nissan Frontier, Ford Ranger, and Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon are all either homely, antiquated, or both.  I was interested to see how the Indian-built Mahindra small pickup would do in the market, but it’s unspeakably ugly and has met importation issues.

The main problem is that automakers have learned that, much like small cars, it’s difficult to make a good small truck and make money with it.  Small vehicles aren’t really any cheaper to produce, and people, trained to believe bigger is better, see a small truck that is only a few thousand dollars less than a full-size truck and wonder why anyone would want a more maneuverable, more efficient truck when the big boy over there can drive through 24 inches of water, has 500 horsepower, and takes up three parking spaces – it clearly is the superior vehicle.

I’m in no position to blame people for wanting the biggest and most powerful vehicle available – God knows I’d like to put a twin-turbocharged 455 cubic inch V8 in my Tempest and buy stock in oil and tire companies – especially when the vehicle in question is your primary source of transportation.  It’s easy for me to compartmentalize a daily driver, a “fun” car, and a truck because I don’t need to have one vehicle be all three.  But I’d sure like it if somebody would build an attractive, useful small truck that would actually fit the needs of your average suburban family… hey, what’s this?  An attractive new small truck, available with an efficient-yet-torquey turbodiesel?  Great, except it’s only for sale in – Thailand.  Ugh.

As Seen on Craigslist – 1972 Chevelle Wagon

This is one of those instances where I wished I lived somewhere that didn’t get a lot of snow or use salt on the roads.  This station wagon, in all its beige and rear-facing back seat glory, would make a fabulous family truckster/parts hauler, but I’m not willing to submit it to certain cancer-stricken doom by driving it in the winter in Ohio.  That’s a weird thing to say, considering these cars were generally considered disposable when new; would you shed any tears if you watched a Dodge Caravan – the rough equivalent of this vehicle today – get crushed?  It’s not as if a beige station wagon is worthy of the Hemi ‘Cuda or Shelby Cobra treatment, but I’d be saddened if I ran across its rusted carcass in a junkyard three years from now.

Regardless, I don’t have the spare cash, time, or space to justify another semi-presentable old car in my driveway, and my lovely wife doesn’t share my feelings about wagons.  Alas, I’ll have to let this one pass me by.

Disc Brake Project Update – Stalled

When we last left this project, the driver’s side suspension was entirely disassembled.  Since then, I’ve made little tangible progress.  I disassembled the passenger side, although one of the lower control arm mounting bolts gave quite a fight, and removed both lower ball joints – after struggling with the driver’s side, the passenger joint slipped out quite easily.

I still need to remove the four rubber bushings in the upper and lower arms, but they are proving to be stubborn.  I was hoping to utilize a hydraulic press (one of the perks of working in a factory), but there isn’t enough room to get the arms oriented in the press correctly.  After a few abortive attempts using a bench vise, sockets, spacers, and a hammer, I’ve succeeded only in slightly bending the arm itself.  Looks like I’ll finally get a chance to use the air chisel I got for Christmas two years ago.

At the same time, since it’s coming out of the car anyway, I’ve decided to replace the old, loose-ratio steering box with a newer, tight-ratio box that I pulled, strangely enough, out of a late-90’s Jeep Grand Cherokee at the junkyard last year.  Doing this will eliminate the spongy, one-finger steering endemic to most 60’s cars.  Using the newer box requires some modifications, including adapter fittings (the 60’s hoses are standard while the 90’s hoses are metric) and a steering column coupler out of a mid-80’s GM pickup truck.  I also need to swap pitman arms from the old box to the new one, which gives me the challenge of opportunity to replace the seals in the junkyard box.

I’ve got the parts for the steering box job on order, and I hope to have the control arm bushings out this weekend.  Once that’s complete, the teardown portion of this project will finally be complete and I can start actually putting stuff back together.

Own The Boss’ Shoebox

To follow up on my earlier post about Bruce Springsteen, I ran across this the other day – apparently the Boss owned a flamed ’57 Chevy in the mid-70’s and now it’s going up for auction.


As Seen on Craigslist – 1959 Edsel Ranger

There isn’t much to say about the Edsel that hasn’t already been said (check out Ate Up With Motor’s excellent model history if you’d like to learn more).  But rest assured, you’d be the only owner of a pink Edsel around if you bought this one.  Believe it or not, the design of the 1959 Edsel was toned down compared to the ’58, but it retains the “flying ladyparts” grill treatment and jet-age styling.  This one looks a little beat – although that might just be the crappy pictures – but would seem to have many new parts and would be a good driver for the price.  I don’t know where the Ranger submodel fits in the Edsel hierarchy, but as these were meant to slot between Ford and Mercury in terms of price and perceived quality, I’d bet it’s a pretty comfortable cruiser.  Pink or not, there’s worse things to blow three grand on.