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.

Chapter 11: Driveshafts and Rust

So this week I took 3 days off work while the kids were in day care. 3 glorious days of uninterrupted Val work. First on the list was replacing the old battery tray with the new reproduction from Pentastar parts (man I visit that site a lot. If I had a dollar for every time I clicked on that bookmark I could have enough cash to restore the val twice). The old battery tray had long ago completely rotted away. It looks like a battery leaked into the engine bay pretty severely once upon a time and messed it up pretty badly

When batteries go pop. One rusty fender apron.

When batteries go pop. One rusty fender apron.

After removing the old tray by angle grinding off the old rusted bolts, I removed the support struts so I could sand down the rusty inner fender to clean metal. Thankfully apart from a small pinprick the rust was just a thin surface coat and there was plenty of meat left in the metal. I decided to grab some POR 15 paint I have heard others rave about when doing restos to keep the rust at bay. POR stands for paint over rust, and I figure there is a fair bit of that to be done on this old girl. It’s pretty amazing stuff, you just get rid of as much loose rust as you can, degrease and spray rust converter on the metal surface, and brush the POR on. Its epoxy based paint and dries like ceramic, effectively sealing off the metal from any air preventing further rusting. It’s hard as buggery, and won’t ever chip or crack. It’s pretty bloody expensive, but a little bit goes a long long way. I’m sold on it. Its self-levelling too so a brushed finish comes up like a spray painted coat. It can be easily primered over and painted with top coat. That’ll happen…one day. Anyway, the area looks a lot less nasty now, and the battery tray is one less thing the licencing people can pick up.

Freshly cleaned and POR15'd

Freshly cleaned and POR15’d

Battery and Tray in Place (hold down bolt needs a trim)

Battery and Tray in Place (hold down bolt needs a trim)

I wanted to get really stuck into the mechanicals, and figured the prop shaft was a good a place as any to move onto next. The front end is the old school ball and trunnion setup, which was the most common method of allowing the driveshaft to lengthen as the suspension moved before slip yokes became common. Its pretty simple, the end of the driveshaft has a T shaped pin driven through it, with a ball on each end running on needle rollers inside a cast channel. They are apparently strong as buggery and rarely fail, but they still need regreasing and that is a fair job requiring disassembly. I popped the rear end of the diff pinion (that’s a standard cross and roller setup) and took the ball and trunnion of the tranny flange. Those bolts were almost welded on with rust, but some cheater bar action sorted them out, and out came the shaft.

I chucked the whole thing in my old mans ute and headed off to his place. His shed has more room, and more tools than mine. I started by pulling apart the ball and trunnion. It has a rubber boot at the back, which was toast, it had half disintegrated and I expected to see some messed up rusty internals. Thankfully the boot had an inner sleeve that kept things more or less sealed up, and the insides still carried plenty of grease. The T pin, ball, rollers and slip channel all looked factory new! They sell a rebuild package for these things but I have decided to not bother given it looks in good nick., I’ll just clean it up, slip in some clean grease, add a new rubber boot and call it done.

Ye Olde Ball and Trunnion Universal Joint

Ye Olde Ball and Trunnion Universal Joint

Ball and Trunnion T Pin looking nice and shiny

Ball and Trunnion T Pin looking nice and shiny

Onto the rear end of the shaft and you find a standard cross and roller setup, still in use today. The shaft and rollers for the pinion looked great, but the ones pressed into the yoke were very gravelly. Given I didn’t have a press on hand, I used the old mans bench vice, and some carefully selected sockets to press out the old cross from the yoke. And yep…toast. Ah well, it’s a cheap fix with new ones being about 20 bucks. Something else to order from pentastar. In the meantime, I cleaned up the surface rust on the shaft and gave it a dose of the POR15 as well.

Pressing the cross and roller from the yoke

Pressing the cross and roller from the yoke

Toast

Toast

While getting off the prop shaft, I noticed how badly the 3 speed manual trannie was leaking fluid since I topped it up a few months back. The unit is a top loader, and that’s where most of the fluid seems to be coming from so it could just be the top cover gasket. Given the prop shaft is already off, I figure I may as well drop the trans off while I’m there and have a look. If the cover appears to be the only source of the leak I may just swap it out for a 10 buck fix, otherwise I may just rebuild the whole thing given it’s age. An overhaul kit is pretty cheap, and a trans rebuild does sound like a good project to expand my skills.

My fuel pump also came in so I slipped that in as well. Pretty simple job, the worst part was the cramped quarters (its squished up against the inner fender on the side the slant 6 leans over to) and the fact the whole side of the motor is covered in goop from the leaky valve cover gasket. After some degreasing and fiddling the old one was off and the newy in. I had a bit of trouble getting it to seat, but if you bump the starter you can get the cam eccentric to sit in a position that makes installation a bit easier.

New fuel pump

New fuel pump

I’ll dump the old oil out this weekend and put some fresh, uncontaminated stuff in. Then I can set the valve lash.

Next job…pulling the trans.

Chapter 10: From little things big things grow

Well yep, it’s once again been a long layoff since the last post, and that is mainly due to uni being a time theif and taking up all my available val time (which is pretty limited as it is). But the good news is that uni is finished for another semester and I have a bit of time to mess around with the car again.

One of the things that has been annoying me is the valve cover, its the first thing you see when you open the hood and it (and the air cleaner)  just look really daggy. Given i basically had zero time to do anything recently I figured I would have a crack at restoring them, and use the skills on the various other parts of the car that needed a bit of a renew. The valve cover was probably in the worst shape, I figure the seals at the back of the bonnet must have been letting in rain for a long time as the back of the cover was pretty rusty. Just a quick rub with some sandpaper wasn’t going to do the trick here, so I bought a 80 grit flap disc for the grinder. Those things are great, I can see myself using them a lot in future on this car. They took the rust off with ease, and while the metal still was pretty badly pitted, it came up well enough. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the underside of the valve cover was pretty clean with not too much gunk buildup, I’ve heard stories of taking off the valve cover and still having a solid mass of goop remaining, like a goop sandcastle or Jelly mold. A quick clean in the parts washer at work had it looking like new, well, clean anyway.

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My natty valve cover and air cleaner

Continue reading

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  that 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