Chapter 18. Home stretch?

Unlike my usual disappearances, the break since the last post for once isn’t due to a lack of progress. Truth be told, since the last post I’ve knocked off a bunch of things on the Val. Just none have been large an interesting enough to dedicate an entire post to.

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Manifolds, Headers and carb all fitted

The most important update is the mighty slant six has been plumbed, wired, prepped for take off and is officially running, and quite nicely too. First point of order was adding the manifolds…well, manifold singular now as i installed the fresh painted set of headers in place of the old, restrictive cast iron exhaust manifold. I retained the old single barrel intake the car came with stock, as i knew it ran nicely prior to tearing the engine down and it was one less unknown to deal with.

The job was pretty easy with the graphite manifold gasket i sprung for. These apparently don’t need any sealant like the pressed tin ones, and so far it looks like i have no leaks. It’s a fiddly job getting to all the fasteners as some are in very fiddly positions.

Anyway here’s a little vid i made on it. I have meant to do a few more of these but I usually just want to get stuck in

 

Lets see what else. Lets burn through these:

  • I rebuilt the clutch linkage and fitted that all up. Works like a brand new on now.
  • Set the timing (thanks for the gun to my workmate Craig). I have set it up on premium fuel at about 8 degrees BTDC. Probably pretty conservative but can always sneak it a bit more further advanced
  • Plumbed the fuel tank back in
  • New rear shockies to match the front
  • Rebuilt universals and new boot on the driveshaft before fitment to the car
  • Finished the front end, setting the suspension height, greasing the ball joints, reset the wheel bearings.
  • Rebuilt the master cylinder again after it started leaking

The biggest (and messiest) job was cleaning up the floorpan before install the new carpets I had delivered from knox auto. The main problem area was under the back seat,which (as described in an earlier chapter) had housed a family of mice for what was likely decades. Their years of occupation and filthy habits (poo and wee) had not only caused a stink, but also a fair bit of surface rust. First job was to get in there with the shop vac and suck all the left over poop out. I even found a few skeletal remains in some nooks and crannies. Then i popped the floor plugs out and just scrubbed everything clean with a heavy duty truck wash.

Then  out came the angle grinder and a ceramic stripper disc. If you haven’t used one of these things, they are a car restorers best friend, powering through paint and rust, but not as harsh as a grinding or flap disc, so you don’t eat up all the good metal that remains

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Once that was done i was left with a nice, shiny, albeit pitted surface. No drama though as this was all going to be hidden by seats and carpets. Another scrub down with strong soap, and then a hit of rust converter, and it was ready for an application of KBS rustseal (another one of my oft used, and favourite products).

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Rear floor pan cleaned up and coated with KBS Rustseal

It wasn’t necessary to do the whole floor as the rest was pretty solid. So i got to work laying out the sound deadener/underlay, and then the nice new black carpet. All in all that was a pretty easy job. A good pair of scissors is essential to trim the excess out, as well as cutting reliefs for the steering column, throttle pedal, seat holes etc. The whole job came out really nice, with my only regret being not being bold and getting bright red carpet to match the door cards. That said a carpet set is under 200 bucks, and it’s an afternoon’s work to change it if i get motivated.

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New carpets fitted and trip replaced

After hosing out the smelly, dusty seats and letting the warm spring sun dry them out (one advantage of vinyl), they went back into the car. My back bench looks awesome however the cracked front bench has seen better days and was shown up by the nice new carpet. That’s a job for the list, but i don’t need it for rego (a cheap cover will sort it out for the time being) so it can wait.

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Well worn front bench refitted

With 99% of the jobs done, it was time for a much awaited road test, which the old girl handled with aplomb. I only did about 20 miles, but the fluids stayed inside the mechanicals, the temp gauge stayed cool and i didn’t have to walk home. Throttle response was a bit sluggish, but that can apparently be put down to the rowdy open headers. The slants are supposed to run nicer with some backpressure, so the lack of exhaust was probably leaning things out. I’ll soon find out once i get the new exhaust installed, but in the meantime a couple of clicks of the manual choke has things running smoothly.

The exhaust should be done in the next fortnight, then it’s just a few little jobs prior to rego, like sorting out a windscreen washer and the dodgy earths in the front indicators, and i am good to get some plates on her.

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That will hopefully be the next update!

(PS, so it took me a while to post this one. Exhaust now fitted and I sorted the sluggish throttle response, but we’ll keep that one for the next instalment)

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Chapter 17: Replacing the heart. Slant Six install

Things are moving right along now. A couple of days ago I got my 2 brother in laws together and we reunited car with engine. The slant six is officially back in the hole that has been under the bonnet for 18 months. Whats more, its looking a lot nicer than when it came out.

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A very grotty before

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Somewhat nicer after. No manifolds on yet (which will make it look even nicer) but you get the idea

First job was to install the flywheel, clutch, bellhousing, starter and transmission. I decided it would go quicker and easier to do all that in the shed with the engine out of the car and then just install the whole lot into the car as a unit. For the most part i think that was a good decision, you have far better access to everything in the shed, tools right nearby, and no need to contort yourself trying to access bolts in hard to reach places. As a result i could easily get the torque wrench on everything and do them up to spec. It made getting the whole assembly a little trickier to get back in the car, but nothing too difficult.

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Clutch in…looking good dad

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Bellhousing and Clutch fork installed

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Fitting the little Chrysler 3 Speed

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Torquing it down, much easier doing this work out of the car

To do the install, I ended up rigging the lift chain slightly towards the front of the block, so the weight of the trans made the rear hang low. The slant is well set up for this with 2 threaded bolt holes in the top of the block located perfectly for mounting a lifting point. In order to get the steep angle of attack required to get the trans into the tunnel, and the super long slant 6 fitted in the engine bay, we wrapped a strap around the transmission extension housing, and pulled it towards the front of the car, using the K member as a pulley. One we had lowered the whole lot low enough for the trans to fit into the tunnel, we just slackened off the strap and the whole thing just slipped into position.

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Preparing to drop her in

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Steep angle of attack, note the yellow being pulled to keep the extension housing low. Hillbilly engine leveler!

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Plop, its in

To level the engine up, a trolley jack with a block of wood on top was slid under the trans and jacked up. A little jiggling and the engine plopped into the mounts. Not so easy was the transmission mount. The crossmember the mount fit into was gummed up with dirt and underbody sealer. I hadn’t brought it out for a clean as the handbrake cable was seized inside it and i didn’t want to risk breaking it. Some underbody wire brushing and some taps with a rubber mallet sorted it out and it was soon buttoned up. Job done.

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The biggest holdup was the bloody trans mount. It just didn’t want to fit. The mount needed cleaning up, few taps, and we were in business

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Bonnet on. Done!

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Stanced a lot nicer now with the heavy slant back in the hole

Next step is wiring, plumbing everything up, fitting the manifolds, fluids, and we are ready to fire up.

I also have taken care of some odd jobs, including front shocks, fitting a new inner splashguard (in fibreglass…no rust!) and rubber seals.

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One of the true heroes of my recent efforts. My AEG impact wrench. These undo everything, don’t tackle an old car build without one

Next update i will hopefully have video of a running slant (with all the fluids retained on the inside). Fingers crossed.

Huge thanks to my Bro in laws for helping me out, an engine install is not a one man job. Double thanks to bro in law Warren for filming everything in HD, so i have some awesome momentos of the occasion.

Also did up the old extractors for the build. These were pretty rusty and grotty, but a run in the sandblaster and some high temp flat black had them looking sweet

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Chapter 16: Quantum Leap

Two updates in 2 months…crazy.

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Off too the beauty shop

Big news this update with the Val having her date with the body shop and coming back (more or less) rust free. I gave the body man the brief to fix all the body rust that would hold up getting her regoed, then to blend in the repaired areas to match the original paint, then give her a light scrub back all over and give her a coat of clear. I would have loved to have extended to a full new paint job, but the budget on this build won’t all that for now. Paint is overrated anyway.

What resulted was a rust free body (except for some pinhead surface spots) that is now protected somewhat from any further degradation. So she shines, but still carries the odd little nick and scar worthy of her age. I think she looks great and has really retained her survivor look.

He did a great job to be honest, as though it is a relatively solid car, it had some problem spots in the lower doors, quarters, fenders and some small spots in the floors. The car certainly isn’t of show car quality, that would be a 20,000 dollar job, but she will look quite good from 5 metres away, which is really all I wanted.

Good from far, far from good

With that big headache/handbrake on progress out of the way, I am really fired up to get the engine back in. to that end in the last month or so I have buttoned up the sump and transmission (that I rebuild 2 years ago, dry assembled and chucked on the shelf). I’ve also ordered all the bits I need to get it driving again; new engine mounts, shocks front and rear, new clutch throwout and some other odds and ends. I’ve also painted up a bunch of engine accessories that came up really well. I’ve been giving the sandblaster at work an absolute workout.

I have decided at this stage to simply reuse the old single barrel manifold. I know it works, or at least it ran before I took everything apart. The carb I got with the 2 barrel manifold is off a Holden and has no place on a Valiant. Plus it would require stuffing around with linkages, a different air cleaner etc etc. Too hard, I’ll save up and get the proper carter 2 barrel in a couple of years when I am sure that the motor (that sat for 27 years) is going to hold up.

Next job after all the mechanicals are back in the car is a replacement carpet, and we are off to rego. Hate setting deadlines on things as I often fail to get there, but I’m pretty keen to have the motor in there within the month and driving by the spring.

Will update when I have the donk back in.

Chapter 15: Front end rebuild

So these are updates are getting further apart, but things are still happening on the old girl slowly. Progress has been recently aided by Ana (my wife) subtly hinting that I should speed things up a bit, or in her words, “fix that piece of shit on our patio or I am sending it to the dump”.

She apparently doesn’t share my thoughts that a laid up rusty car is a great conversation piece.

Obviously my love for the car needs to be weighed up against impending divorce proceedings, but there is no way I am quitting after 4 years of (sporadic) work. So I have got a few quotes, and managed to get a decent price to have the rust issues sorted professionally, along with a tidy up the paint. So that will be happening in the next few weeks. Then I need to get the motor back in and go get her registered.

In the meantime an absolute non negotiable to get the car roadworthy has been a rebuild of the steering and front suspension. I bought a kit for that a couple of years ago on sale, so it was just a case of getting stuck in. I’d read a fair bit on the net about the pain in the arse that is this job, but after watching a few how to videos and reading some of the guides that are available, I tackled the job with a bit of confidence.

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Half way through and the old girl is missing her front legs

In summary, yes it is an absolute bastard of a job, but doable and I managed to do it all without paying a workshop hundreds of bucks to do it for me. To summarise my experiences:

  • Undoing rusty fasteners by hand gets old quick. Buy a decent impact driver if you want to do this job without the hassle
  • A ball joint splitter is also a decent investment. A pickle fork works but is very agricultural and takes a big hammer to do the job.
  • The upper ball joints are supposed to be undone using a special tool, a CNC socket that costs 70 bucks…for a job you are likely to do once, maybe twice in your life. I did mine with a massive open ended spanner which worked but is probably not recommended. It was hard work
  • The biggest head scratcher is getting the pivot bushes out of the lower arms, mainly the outer sleeve. I ended up tapping into the sleeve with a big tap, and knocking it out with a soft drift (see pics). Worked well, but a tap that big isn’t generally in most people’s tool box, I borrowed one from the workshop at my job site.
  • It is bloody hard getting the new pivot bush sleeve in. A weak hand press will struggle, again I used some gear at work, namely a hydraulic power pack operated press.
  • Take your time and take lots of photos prior to disassembly, it makes reassembly much easier and will minimise stuff ups (like me putting the drivers side spindle on the passenger side then having to bust it all apart again when I realised)
  • Check and double check all the fasteners are tightened to the specified torque and your cotter pins are back in place. Dying due to a linkage coming loose at 110km/h is problematic. Also spend a few bucks and get some new fasteners. The old ones are 50+ years old and you are reliant on them to not fail and kill you.

As mentioned there are some good online guides, and the main ones I used are listed below. Follow that step by step and its hard to go wrong.

http://www.moparmax.com/tech/2011/vi_10-torsiontips-1.html

http://www.moparmax.com/tech/2011/vi_11-torsiontips-1.html

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The lower control arm bushes wouldn’t have passed roadworthy, and the 50 year old plus rubber would likely have fallen apart in the first 100km

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36mm tap used to extract the lower control arm metal outer sleeve. I simply threaded it in and tapped it out with the soft drift.

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Front strut bush, old on left, new on right. These were stuffed too

I also talked work into getting a new sandblasting booth (for work related maintenance of course), which was great to clean the decades of rust and grime off everything prior to painting and installation. In the end I managed to get it all done, and turn my crusty, loose, worn out junk suspension and steering into something that approximates factory new.

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New sandblaster made cleaning up rusty bits a breeze. They paint up so nice after blasting

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Shiny bits back in car prior to adding the brakes. Makes the inner guards look like shit now

After a few months with the front end out of the car, it was nice to have the old girl on 4 legs again and ready to for her time in the body shop.

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Back on 4 legs again!

Chapter 14: Belated updates

It’s often difficult to find the opportunity to work on the Val. On the weekends whenever I try to do much, my “helpers” are always keen to get involved. Which is great, I want them to inherit the passion, but their passion at the moment usually involves running off with bolts I’ve removed and hiding them in a sandpit or toy car, hitting the val with a tool or simply using dad as an adventure playground as I’m laying by the car unbolting things. Also it’s pretty tough to schedule in many of the jobs I have left, which is mainly body work. Most of my free time is at night, and air tools and hammering I imagine would put me at odds with my nice neighbours.

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Can I help Dad? Can I, Can I? Give me that tool you are using

But the dream is well and truly alive, I love this old girl and I’m determined to see it through. One of things I can work on is the little jobs I have to do on the engine. I put that off for ages as I didn’t have the tool to remove the harmonic balancer. I stupidly procrastinated for a few months trying to track down a loaner, but for all the frustration, I spent 30 bucks and just got one. Balancer popped off in 5 minutes and I was off again. Have taken off the front timing cover and changed the crank seal, and also managed to pry out the old rear main. After a lick of paint on the timing cover and sump, and I’ll button all that back up and it’ll be ready to go back in the car (hopefully sans leaks). One of the wins i had was getting the old rope rear main out without pulling the rotating assembly, which is a huge job I didn’t have the stomach for right now. I was told it would be impossible, but after slackening off the main caps to drop the crank 10mm, i managed to get it out with my special home made tool, and old dipstick that i worked inbetween the seal and the block. It popped right out, woo! A rubber one was easily slipped back in.

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Woo Success, old rear main seal removed without dropping the crank

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New timing cover seal in place

In the quest to at least give a nod to better performance, I managed to track down a 2 barrel intake manifold, carb, and a set of extractors off a fellow local VC owner. They’ll be getting cleaned up and slapped on. Only issue is the carb is a Stromberg off a holden, but apparently they go ok. If it annoys me too much I’ll try and source a VE 2 barrel Carter from somewhere.

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Some new go fast parts. Genie extractors and a 2 barrel manifold

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Test fit of the extractors, looks the business

Body work next. Might have to take some days off work while the kids are at school/daycare to make some progress there. Aim is to do the minimum that needs to be done to get it rego’ed, then I can at least drive it to a few places for odd jobs.
Hopefully springtime brings some more progress.

Chapter 13: Out with the donk

Struth, 6 months goes by fast. Things had to go a bit quiet on the Val while we did some pretty significant renos to the outside of the house. You don’t get much time for car work when you’re busy digging in soakwells and ripping up lawns.

Good news is there was a method to the madness, and i now have a a new work area for the val under the patio, which gives me heaps more space than I had in my dog kennel shed. Side benefit is that i now also have the shed back, without a car taking up 90% of the room. I’m sure I will fill it with crap soon enough.

So…progress. As you can see from the pics I finally have pulled the motor so i can give it a good clean, and see what needs refreshing. It’ll also give me a changce to clean up the engine bay sort out my front end bushes and ball joints. The motor came out surprisingly easily. An hour or so of prep work disconnecting a few cables and wires, the exhaust and dropping the fluids (i’d already taken out the trans), and we had it out in about 10 minutes.

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First job was stripping back the 50 years of grease to reveal an engine underneath. Then it was off with sump (which had a good 5-10mm of hard sludge built up on the bottom), which was straightened out with a sledge and a block of wood. Everything else seemed pretty much ok, no play in the rod bearings or mains, bores looked good, bit of wear on the cam, which i’d replace if i was doing a rebuild, but i’m not…for now anyway. Next stage will be fresh main seals, sump and timing cover gaskets, and new core plugs.

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In other news i pulled the vinyl floor in the front to have a peak at the floors. They seem pretty solid, although i have some more rust at the point where the floor meets the frame rail. Yay…more rust. No biggy, we’re talking a patch maybe 200mm by 100mm max on either side. Its probably as good a place to start rust repair as any, if i do a shitty job the carpets will hide it. Also managed to score a decent size compressor for half price. Its big enough to run air tools, so that should make life easier.

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More bloody rust. Most is just surface stuff but that bit under the pedals needs some work

Anyways…till next time. I’m getting close to getting this old girl back on the road…i can taste it.

Chapter 12: Rebuilding the trans

Another 2 months fly by without an update.

To be honest, again with uni being back for another semester and the responsibilities of dad-hood, I haven’t really achieved too much. Well, compared to someone who knew what they are doing and has a few hours to spare per week anyway.

But…I have achieved something, and that something is rebuilding the old 3 speed transmission. I’ll make this pretty brief, because in between writing epically long essays for uni and work reports, I’m sorta over typing.

The trans rebuild has probably been the most challenging thing I’ve attempted so far. The first issue was doing this in a cramped shed without a hoist. But I managed to get the car up on jack stands and squeeze under it, fiddle around with various extensions to get the bolts holding the tranny to the bellhousing out, source the biggest breaker bar I could to undo the crossmember bolts, and slide the whole shebang out on a trolley jack without breaking anything! And the first thing I can say is, what a bloody mess. As you can see, the entire tranny was caked in years of mud and leaked oil. The top cover gasket, as expected, was the main culprit and was leaking like a sieve. The parts washer at work soon sorted that out

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After one late night and some mushed knuckles, the grimy, ugly 3 speed is out

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Looking slightly more presentable after a few passes in the parts washer

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27 of August, 1965. 49 years old at the time of writing!

After finding a NOS rebuild kit on ebay for 170 bucks (pentastar were asking 400!), I decided to just give the whole thing a birthday with new seals and perishables throughout. It seemed a bit daunting, but after some googling and juggling my two shop manuals, I managed to get it done (whether it blows up in the first 100km is another story). The hardest deal was the c clips holding the various bits together. The snap ring pliers I had were pretty hopeless, and I definitely recommend sourcing some decent ones (like the double x’s) before attacking one yourself. The needle rollers were also a bit fiddly, but nowhere near as bad as I thought. The box seems nice and smooth, and is easy to shift, so hopefully it’s a good thing. If nothing else, after a coat of Chrysler red it looks nice!

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The nice internals belie the crusty exterior. It was actually in pretty nice shape

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Everything torn down and ready for rebuilding

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New bearings pressed on the input and mainshaft

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Freshly painted and ready for rebuilding (sorry for messing up the laundry honey)

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As good as new…i hope

That’s pretty much the extent of the progress. My CV boot for my drive shaft arrived so I tried to sort that out. According to my books and the internet, you can install one of these without disaasembling the uni joint. Bull shit you can. After 3 hours of pushing and prodding I had 2 sore and bleeding thumbs, and a boot with a tear in it jammed halfway through the housing. I bit the bullet and disassembled the thing, slipped on the boot in 2 seconds and put it back together. The main issue will be centralising the uni joint which apparently you need a jig to do, but with some careful measuring I’m hoping it’ll be good enough. My mechanical guru mate reckons a bit of glue on the split boot will sort it out, hope so.

I’m now putting in the prep work to pull the motor. I wasn’t going to bother originally, but seeing as the trans is already out, I figure I might as well. Plan is to clean off the 50 years of accumulated oil and mud from the old slant and engine bay. As well as pulling the dent currently in the sump and cleaning out any sludge sitting in the pan. A few new gaskets and a clutch refresh should get me on the road. It will also make a few of the jobs I need to do much easier if I can access the engine bay. Stuff like cleaning and painting the K member and engine bay, and replacing a few bushings in the steering and suspension.