Chapter 9: Release the beast

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White walls all fitted up

Well, it feels like something monumental has happened, a milestone reached, the summit of the hill scaled. The Val finally had it’s first spin on the open road for nearly 30 years, and went flawlessly.

After sticking on Karls tyres I figured a little squirt down the back roads was in order, just to make sure that there wasn’t something obvious that I had missed. Was the gearbox going to shift gears? Was the motor going to cough and rattle under load, was the diff going to let out an almighty whine? Well thankfully none of those things happened. I drove the car smoothly about 5km down the road, and came back with not a worry. Even the speedo worked and showed ┬áthat I managed to get the old girl up to 50 mile an hour before I backed off and realised that I still didn’t really have enough confidence in the steering or brakes to be travelling at such speeds.

Everything went very well: The temp needle climbed to 1/3 of the gauge and steadied nicely, and no coolant was seen to be squirting from anywhere, so everything is ok in that regard. The steering seemed nice and tight with no wandering. The brakes…worked, I think that’s the best thing you can say about 4 wheel drum brakes with no power assist. They slowed the car to a stop (eventually) when a large amount of force was applied, which is all this car, which will be treated as a nice sedate weekend cruiser, really needs to get by on. There were no major rattles, whines or creaks anywhere so I don’t think there is much to do in the way of driveline and suspension work. I think I might replace the tie rod ends, which have rotted rubber dust boots, the shocks obviously (which are originals) and maybe replace the rear spring bushings but that is about it. The rear springs have sagged an inch or so, but I think I might just wind down the front ride height (an easy job with torsion bars) to compensate and bring her back nice an level.

 

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Much better stance with the larger tyres

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Gabs enjoying the old girl

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Can’t keep her out of it

Things are a little tight budget wise at the moment with Anna still on maternity leave, so the big jobs required for rego will need to just hang 5 for a couple of months. That said, there are lots of little cheap jobs that I can get started on in the meantime. So far the list reads:

  • Get a temporary transport permit and drive her to the car wash to de-grease the engine and tranny. The leaky valve cover and spark plug tube seals have resulted in a nice thick coating of goop and dirt over the motor. I’m hoping the car wash de greaser soap and a high pressure wash will fix that. Don’t really want it on my lawn/drive.
  • Pull out the old buggered vinyl floors and clean up the floorpan. It still has the beautiful mouse poo smell, and a bit of surface rust. It just needs a good wash out, rough up with some sandpaper and an application of rust inhibitor. Nothing fancy, will all be hidden with carpets.
  • Replace rear spring bushings
  • Replace tie road ends
  • Service universal joints
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First pictures in her natural habitat

That should keep me occupied for a while, and then I need to look into getting a replacement exhaust and muffler. The current equipment is holier than Jesus and makes the old girl sound a bit rugged. I would like to lose the fencing wire exhaust mounts too that rattled every time i went over a bump. Then its new shockies time (maybe gas ones in the back so i can support the saggy leaf springs a bit), and finally just getting the little rust spots fixed up.

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Looking sharp

Now that I know for certain that the car is running nice out on the road, it feels like everything else is easy (even though as a whole it seems a lot of work.)

I took a couple of shots of the old girl down the local beach carpark, which was basically the point at which I decided enough was enough and turned for home. Something that was nice was that I got a few admiring glances while i was out and about. I can’t wait to have her on the road and have that all the time. The other nice thing is that my 3 year old daughter Gabriella loves the car to bits and always wants to just sit in it and play with dad. Unfortunately she won’t be able to come for a ride, even when it’s registered, for years given she needs child restraints by law and the val is sadly lacking them. The time will come though

Chapter 8: The serious stuff begins….soon

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Out in the sun to wash off some accumulated grime

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A nice little touch, the last time the car was rego’ed, well, when it expired anyway

It sorta surprised me when getting into this project how long it takes people to complete car restos. Often you hear numbers like 2 years, 5 years, 10 years….more sometimes, and you think, “Christ, what are these guys doing, turning one bolt a month?”

It’s not until you start one of these things that you understand why. Of course there are the critical path things like waiting on parts, which can be a few days if you’re buying off a parts website and waiting on delivery, to a couple of weeks waiting for an ebay auction to end for that little fiddly bit that you need and is either not available/crazy expensive, or sometimes longer for really difficult parts that need to be fabricated/hunted down.

But, that sorta time spent is nothing for me compared to the time it takes for me to actually get some quality time on the car, and not just an hour or so, a good solid day of work where you can get heaps done. I just don’t get the opportunity to do that. I have 2 great young kids under 3, including my youngest, Nicky at only 5 months old. They always, always have to come first. Then I have to spend quality time with the wife, outings, birthdays, friends visiting out of town, work (obviously), and now, at this time of year uni semester has started (which I have been doing part time for 6 years…seems like forever).

Long story short, it has been 9 months since I bought the car. In that time I have turned it from an old, rusty, oil stained inanimate object that had to be pushed around, and stopped with chocks of wood/bricks due to lack of brakes, to what it is today, and old, rusty, slightly less oil stained object that can actually move under its own power and be stopped by a foot on the brake. I have no doubt that a decent mechanical shop could have done in a day and a half what I have achieved in 9 months.

But, that is the life of the amateur restorer, I work when I can. When the kids are napping, or late at night. After which I sneak in smelling of grease and oil, and grab a late night shower in the guest bathroom, where i can scrub the muck from my hands and under my fingernails so I don’t get divorced from staining the sheets with 40 year old val grime.

So if you ever read this and think “This guy never seems to get anything done” well, that’s why.

Anyway, enough self flagellation, what’s been going on? Well the brakes are done! After starting what i thought would be a couple of week job in October (well actually August, if you count sending the MC off to get rebuilt “brake work”). Here I am nearly 5 months later with operating brakes. The upshot was, after trying to salvage as much of the original equipment as I could, the only real original equipment in the brake system are the shoes (good old asbestos ones, they’ll kill you but they work good) and the metal lines. everything else is new or rebuilt. It’s probably a good thing, the single circuit brakes don’t give you second chances if something pops, so best that what is there is solid and newish.

The work list:

  • Rebuilt master cylinder
  • 3 new flexi lines
  • 4 new wheel cylinders.
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New lines and wheel cylinder installed

Now i haven’t taken her on the road yet, but a push on the pedal will stop the old girl rolling forward after a quick squirt in the backyard, I’m calling it a success. I have now fixed my mind on a “danger ride”, basically a good test drive to try and highlight what needs attention before licencing (lots), and see if there is anything I haven’t already accounted for (I haven’t tried the gearbox out of 1st and reverse for example). In prep for a drive, I changed out the tranny oil. The box was supposed to hold 2.3litres and had about 1 litre left, hopefully some of that has just seeped out the seals while it was in storage so it hasn’t done too many miles half full. I threw some quality penrite stuff at it so hopefully the old girl appreciates my efforts. I also topped off the diff, which belying its oil stained appearance and only took an extra couple of hundred ml, good result. (btw, if you look at one of these old mopar diffs and wonder how the hell you will get the odd looking star shaped plug out, the drive of your 1/2 inch ratchet will fit perfectly). I also chucked some new (er) wheels and tyres on that my VF owning bro in law lent me. While I have those i will rip mine off and get the old tyres peeled off so I can clean the rims up and repaint em the factory white.

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White wall loaners courtesy of my B in Law and fellow Val enthusiast, Karl

The other job i tackled was changing out the 30 year old spark plugs. It was pretty cool to see the old ones were KLG’s. I haven’t seen them for years, and Dad was pretty happy to see them and tell some old spark plug war stories. I replaced them with NGKs, give the old girl some oriental flavour. While i had them out I decided to change out the plug tube seals as well. The slant 6 plugs go down through the head, and are sealed with a little rubber oring, much like the 426 hemi. I like the thought my little 6 banger shares some heritage and design aspects with that beast. I changed them out as they are apparently a big source of top end oil leaks, and my old girl seems pretty typical of that. Hopefully a new set of plug seals and a new valve cover gasket will solve 90% of my oil leak issues. As one of the below images show, the old ones had red paint on them and were probably original equipment.

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The old plugs, installed in the late 70’s most likely

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The plug tubes, new seal and old stuffed one

Now I am working on getting a temporary movement permit this weekend and go for my first spin. Basically in WA you can pay 22 bucks and drive your unlicensed car on the road (for the purposes of going somewhere for repairs, I think i may overlook that bit for now). I must say i am a bit excited, I hope it all goes well and there are no disastrous hidden surprises (3rd gear sounding like 3 nuts being rattled in a can for instance.)