Once again, I’m daydreaming of a classic family hauler. I just can’t bring myself to drive an old car through the Ohio winter, and I don’t have the space or time to maintain another antique. That doesn’t make it any easier to ignore this $3000 family truckster. The four-barrel 383 will have no problem hauling the groceries, and the grille and taillight designs are delightfully evil looking. The fact that it’s fleet-car white with what appear to be dog dishes on steel wheels only sweetens the pot. Woodgrain would add to the family car vibe, but I prefer the cleaner lines without it. These old Mopars handle pretty well despite their girth, and they’re cooler than the more common GM wagons of this era. I hope somebody buys this and uses it to take their kids to soccer practice, 9 MPG be damned.
Monthly Archives: May 2011
After installing the wheel end of the brake parts, I moved into the engine compartment to finish off the master cylinder and brake lines. I was temporarily derailed twice during this stage – once by the cheap bleeder kit that came with the master cylinder, and again by an oddball brake line fitting.
In order to install the master cylinder, I first had to install the proportioning valve, clamp the assembly into my bench vise, fill it with fluid, and bench bleed it. To do this, the manufacturer provides some plastic fittings and tubing that route from the output ports back into the fluid that allow trapped air to pumped out when I stroke the piston with a screwdriver (yes, I chose those words on purpose). In this case, the fittings weren’t airtight and allowed air to be sucked back in on the piston’s return stroke. A trip to the parts store the next day for a better bleeder kit solved that problem.
After bleeding the master cylinder, I used some threaded plugs to block off the outlets, snapped the lid back on, and carefully hung it from the studs protruding from the vacuum booster.
Next, I was miraculously able to gently coerce the original brake lines into position so that they lined up with the ports on the proportioning valve, which the car didn’t originally have. The rear line threaded right into the hole in the valve, but the front presented a problem. Despite being standard 3/16 line, the fitting on the end was a massive 1/2 inch nut instead of the expected 3/8. Another trip to the parts store the next day resulted in 2 adapters coupled together to step down from 1/2 inch to 3/8. I tightened everything together and threaded the whole mess into the proportioning valve, with only a small amount of brake fluid spilled.
The next night, I was able to get the rear shocks and springs installed with little difficulty. The only remaining assembly task is the steering linkage, which requires a new drag link. In a fit of “get this done already” momentum, I spent my lunch hour driving up to Summit Racing and back with a new drag link – which you may recall I was concerned wouldn’t fit. I eyeballed it at Summit and thought it would work, but after an hour trying to position it under the car I determined that it just won’t; it wants to clunk against the grease fitting on the left inner tie rod and the spacing of the tie rod holes is a little off as well. I should have investigated this sooner so that I wouldn’t be waiting on the correct part to ship, but I apparently use up all my project management skills at work.
My arbitrary deadline of June 1 is fast approaching, and it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to get the correct part installed, the brakes bled, and the engine started in time without some divine assistance. Despite that, I’m happy to officially be in the home stretch – I realistically only have maybe two evenings worth of work left before I can head to the alignment shop and call this finished.
While I’ll never be able to say I’ve seen every type of car there is, it takes something pretty unusual to really stump me. So when I saw this ad pop up on my usual search, I was truly surprised. At first I thought it was some variation of a French KV mini car, but according to the all-knowing Wikipedia it’s a kit car that was produced by the Athens, Ohio-based Midget Motors Corporation from 1946 to 1970. The kit apparently came with a suspension, chassis, and steering mechanism, and patterns for the bodywork – it was up to the buyer to cut out the sheetmetal, as well as provide the engine.
This particular example looks like it’s spent some time at the bottom of a swamp, but I suppose considering the bodywork was handmade, it could be in worse shape. I’m not sure what you would do with it
once if you got it roadworthy again, but you’d at least be able to make even the most jaded, experienced gearhead wonder “what is THAT?”
Sometimes, I do some pretty boneheaded things. Most of the time, I can chalk it up to being in a hurry or trying something I’ve never done before. My most recent screw up was the fault of the latter – prior to last week, I’d never installed wheel bearings in a brake rotor before. The new bearings were supplied with a mating race, which I assumed I needed to install in the bore of the rotor. So after packing the bearings with grease, I used a large socket to drive in the race. The race went in part of the way and then stopped, but I could tell from looking at it that it wasn’t far enough in. I test fit the bearing and seal and they were clearly too far out. I gave the race a few more taps with the hammer, but it wouldn’t budge. At this point, I took a look at the rotor for the other side of the car, and noticed that was already a race installed; I was trying to drive a second race on top of the existing one. I flipped the rotor over, tapped the second race out, and the greased bearing slid right into place, followed by the seal. Luckily, it doesn’t appear as though I caused any real damage.
Despite my idiocy (which cost me about 20 minutes of trying to figure out what I had done wrong), I was able to mount the rotor and loaded caliper on the car. I had to do some creative work with a leftover piece of metal and a pair of tin snips to replicate a clip that had crumbled when I removed the original hoses, but I made it work and was able to install the hoses, completing the brake portion of this project:
Unfortunately, in what has become a recurring excuse, I was derailed by yard work, two sick kids, and my own lingering head cold. Next up is installing the brake master cylinder. Fingers are crossed that I can make my existing brake lines work, because it’s the home stretch from there on out.
While I understand it’s necessary when describing a vehicle like this, but it makes me chuckle when I read “drivable” and “Brakes good” in a car ad. This art deco fastback only needs a tailfin and it could pass for an early batmobile, or leave it primered and red wheeled for the gangster look. Cars of this era usually have some interesting equipment, whether that’s a tube radio that takes 10 minutes to warm up and work, or a weird semi-automatic transmission that you have to use a clutch for half the gears. That… uniqueness makes them conversation pieces but difficult to work on or live with every day, although my grandparents’ generation certainly managed. That experience isn’t enough to make me want to buy it, but I wouldn’t turn down a chance to drive it.
I was driving home the other night after golfing with some buddies, and as usual, my mind started to wander. There’s something about nighttime driving that I’ve always enjoyed, but something just seemed… off. I realized that it came down to the car I was driving. As I’ve mentioned before, my daily driver Cadillac is comfortable and powerful, but it’s also a little sterile. It wallows a bit (especially as the miles have increased and the struts have worn), it’s quiet and the ride is smooth, and the steering doesn’t provide a lot of feedback. As a result, I don’t get the same sort of tactile feeling that I get from any of the old cars that I’ve driven. Whether that’s just nostalgia talking (driving as a teenager wasn’t the chore that it often is as an adult) or the fact that road noise, steering effort, audible exhaust, and other “annoyances” have been engineered out of newer cars, rendering them easier to drive but less direct.
I’m struggling a bit to put my thoughts into words here, but there’s something intangible and almost romantic about the incandescent glow of an old instrument panel and the steady thrum of a V8 that makes me happy, and is missing from any new car. Apparently Murliee Martin was thinking the same thing, as he posted a similar sentiment on TTAC yesterday. As he points out, old cars have plenty of faults, but sometimes the right road and the right song can overcome those failures.
Maybe it’s just the after effect of a lifetime of cars without working air conditioning, but it has to get pretty hot before I turn on the A/C when I’m driving alone. Warm weather has finally settled in Northeast Ohio, and with it comes the great simple joys in life – rolling down the windows and letting your hand play in the wind as you drive. Much like there are few sadder things than a convertible in winter, there are few happier things than the first few times it’s warm enough to drive with the windows down. So roll down the windows, turn up the radio, and take the long way home tonight.