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.

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Chapter 4: Awakening the beast

One of the frustrations of owning a 50 year old car,let alone one of a brand that hasn’t been manufactured for over 30 years, is that you can’t exactly go down the local Repco and pick up a water pump. I was getting itchy feet waiting for my cooling system gear in the post, so set to work on other tasks that would need to be addressed before I could fire the old girl up.

Before sticking in a nice new water pump I figured a good flush of the cooling system was in order. One of the nice things about the slant 6, is that it has a handy block drain plug to facilitate the task. Unfortunately mine was covered in decades of muck and oil, and I figured it probably had never been removed in the life of the motor. It was also a square headed plug and I had a bugger of a time finding a tool to fit. I eventually relented and pulled out the 12inch shifter, which to my amazement removed the plug with ease. A little too easy it seemed, and I was a little dismayed to see about the back half of the plug completely devoid of threads, they’d simply corroded away. I then stuck a hose in hole left by the removed thermostat housing, and was surprised to not see the a stream of water exit the block drain. A quick poke up the hole with a bit of wire met resistance very quickly, the hole was well and truly blocked with rust. A good 5 minutes of poking later, and finally I broke through and was met with a stream of water. I imagine it is still pretty nasty in there as there is only so much an external flush will remove, but hopefully it was better than nothing. Thankfully the ugly looking block plug wound straight back in with no issues, although a mental note was made to purchase another. It’s a 4 dollar part on the fantastic online Val store. They’ve thought of everything.

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The badly corroded block drain plug

Next I thought it wise to check something else that may come in handy when it came to turn the Val over, the electrics. The car came sans battery so I had well and truly gambled on them being ok. I figured the easiest way to check was to park up the Commodore at the door of the shed and hook up some jumpers to the terminal cables. This was a bit of a worry, what would I find once I introduced actual power to an electrical system that had been hibernating since “The Uncanny X men” were riding the top of the charts? Would my pride and joy spontaneously catch on fire? Or maybe almost as worrying, would absolutely nothing happen. As mentioned previously, I am not a mechanical genius by any stretch, but I know even less of the black art of electrics.

Snapping on the jumpers didn’t result in any visible smoke signals, first hurdle cleared. I figured the next thing to check would be the accessories. Unfortunately on turning the Pentastar stamped key to the on position I was met with perhaps what I dreaded nearly as much as an impromptu viking funeral, absolutely nothing. No radio, no overhead light, no headlights, no dash lights, no brake lights.

Bugger.

My first efforts at trouble shooting, wiggling the jumpers around, yielded nothing.

Bugger. Dammit, first hurdle and I had failed dismally. I was thinking of complete re wiring, new starter motor, new everything. I was going to be broke at the end of this. The one saving grace of a ’66 Valiant is the electrical system is…simple. First effort was to trace the terminals back to their connections on the car, positive to the starter and neg to the block. I then rolled the car forward a foot or so to give me the slack required and hooked up the jumpers to the connections, bypassing the somewhat dodgy battery leads. As I pulled my head out from under the bonnet I was met with a beautiful sight; near my knees was a mournfully blinking front indicator, like an automobile version of an ECG, we had a heartbeat.

Turning the key to on still resulted in… absolutely nothing, but I had an interior light and brake lights. But I had no headlights, no dash lights, no radio. Refusing to give up, I twisted the key back to off, then on, then off, then on. My old man used to have a Ford Trader truck of a similar vintage back on the farm, and that key took about 5 turns before it would work, most likely due to a dodgy connection. I was hoping this was the same. Sure enough, on the 4th or 5th turn, there it was, the oil warning light shining on the dash. Never has a warning light been so welcome. The fuel gauge crept up to a quarter, nice. Even if the car never ran I had maybe 10 dollars of 30 year old super to somewhat recoup my losses.

I’d come this far, why not see if the starter would turn over. Obviously with no spark plugs or water pump I wasn’t going to be able to fire it up, but at least I’d be able to see if the starter worked. Turning the key resulted in a loud “CLUNK”, and a shake went through the whole car. Again…”CLUNK”. It seemed the starter was engaging but there wasn’t enough juice to turn it over.

It was getting late and I couldn’t be stuffed removing the terminals and cleaning the rust off them, so I figured I’d start the commodore to get a few more amps to the jumpers. “CLUNK”. Bugger. One more time.

“CLUNK….RRRrrr”

ITS ALIVE! A full second or so of cranking, very slow sluggish cranking, but cranking all the same. I sat back happy, looking at the cheery little red oil light and feeling another step closer to success. I have put the sluggish response down to my cheap jumpers and heavily corroded leads and terminals on the Val. Hopefully with a nice new battery, leads and clean terminals I’ll have a nice strong crank.

But that’s for next time. Meanwhile my water pump and associated bits have arrived so they’ll hopefully go in this week. I’m somewhat held up as domestic duties call, in that I have been ordered to paint the nursery. Hopefully I can fit in a couple of late night tinkering sessions, aided by the nice new LED work lamp I grabbed on the weekend.

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We have a heartbeat!

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Brake lights!

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A very welcome oil light

Until next time.