Monday, January 21, 2019

Let Thy Cylinders Be Doubled

Here it is. For those who've been wondering what was up next for Grace, now you know. I've tossed around a lot of ideas for the last year and a half since I found out that not only did the head gasket go, but the cylinder wall as well. I've thought very seriously about inline 6 turbos like 1JZ-GTE, 2JZ-GTE, and RB25DET. I've also thought seriously about the 1GZ-GE, the Toyota V12. In fact I had made plans of how to execute almost all of these swaps. In the end though, I came to a realization that I don't have that much free time anymore. Kids will do that. Each of these swaps is fairly unconventional, and could take some serious time to build. I have a deep fear of a stalled project because I know that as stalled project is a sold project. I want to be able to use my car, and not have it eternally hiding in the garage, while I endlessly talk about what I'm gonna do. Someday. I need to keep it a lot more conventional than I have in the past, so I decided that a small block Ford is the way to go. 

After researching this engine, I decided to go with a 5.0 from a 1996 Explorer. The Explorer came with roller lifters on the cam like all the 5.0s after 1987, but they also have GT40 heads. These are the heads that were run on the 1993 Cobra, so they flow a bit more than the standard 5.0 HO engine. Because I want to still run EFI and distributorless ignition, the 36-1 crank trigger wheel is a big plus as well.  

I located an engine in a wrecking yard near Detroit and went to pick it up. Because of a mis-communication, they did not have it on the shelf so I had to go back after they had pulled it from the Explorer. I loaded it up and took it home. When I got it in the shop and unwrapped it, I nearly took it back to the yard. I knew that Michigan salt was rough on body panels, but I hadn't considered what it can do to an engine! This thing looked like trash. The corrosion was so severe on even the valve covers it looked like I could push a pencil through them. Even the aluminum corrosion was far beyond my expectations. I actually loaded it back up in my truck to return it. I talked to the owner of the wrecking yard and had him send me some pictures of the other explorer engines in the yard. In the end I decided to suck it up and accept that I live in Michigan, as depressing as that sometimes is. Pro-tip: Don't ever have a junkyard engine shipped to you from Michigan, no matter how cheap.

Crud, glorious crud.
And the other side
Coolant tubes that have seen things you can only imagine.
Valve covers that have been through 23 michigan winters
Dipstick rusted through.
A harmonic balancer that inspires confidence.
Fuel rail corrosion like this is just not normal.
The corrosion got under the paint on this intake elbow and popped it off in a gigantic flake. 
Sad headers. These things choke down to 1 sq in at some points.

Thankfully the corrosion was external only. When I popped the intake off and looked at the lifter valley, it actually looked pretty decent. The oil was reasonably clean, and there was no buildup or sludge.

Once I tore it down to the the basics, it began to look a little more appealing. Still, I was disappointed by all the corrosion to the parts I had removed. I was not looking forward to replacing a bunch of boring parts like fuel rails and coolant tubes to get back to square one.

Then I remembered that I had seen a good deal on craigslist that would take things a little different direction. If I was going to have to replace that stuff, I might as well be replacing it in style...  What I had seen was an Individual Throttle Body intake for small block Fords at a steep discount. Normally these things run in the thousands of dollars, but this was a cheaper version made by Speedmaster. These normally sell for well over $1000, and I picked this up for well under $1000. It was being sold by an older guy whose friend had bought three of these (I guess he had a barn full of parts) but had passed away. This guy knew what they went for new, but was just helping out his friend's widow by slowly selling off parts.

So that's it. I'm swapping to an all-motor SBF with an ITB intake. Much more conventional, but should still have some wow-factor. Max and Jen are coming back home tonight, and I'm more than ready to see them. What that means for you dear reader, is don't get used to updates this frequent. I'm going to try to get this thing running before August, so stay tuned as I slowly get to that point.

Exhibit A: Turd with a dollop of polish on top.

Sunday, January 13, 2019


Ok, let me get you back up to speed on Grace's state of affairs. It's been a while, so I'll forgive you if you've forgotten. Right before we moved to Michigan, I took her in to a shop to be dyno tuned. She did great, making 350 HP and 380 lb/ft before she ran out of fuel pump. The engine started to run lean at about 5000 RPM, so the tuner shut it down. I was hoping to get that issue fixed and get back on the dyno and see if I could touch 400 HP, but before I could I blew a head gasket. At that point I had to just get it back together so it could get on a truck to be shipped to Michigan. I got it back together with a new gasket, but it still burned coolant. I've been through this before, and last time it was a split cylinder wall, so I suspected that again. I didn't really get a chance to verify it.

In the interim I had a lot of time to think about this project and if it was what I wanted it to be. As you may remember, I battled some vibration issues, and several attempts to fix it were not completely successful. It got better every time, but it still ended up being a pretty uncomfortable place to be due to noise and vibration. I've come to the conclusion that this engine, being a 4-cylinder without balance shafts, is just not a good match for this chassis. Good luck to anyone else doing this swap, but knowing what I know now, I'd go a different route. V8, I6, even 4-cylinder with balance shafts like a Duratec or Ecotec, but not the old 2.3 tractor engine. Additionally, this engine has not been terribly reliable for me. In fact, I'd probably say that it has been terribly unreliable for me. I put some pretty good parts into this setup so I knew that if I parted it out I could probably fund a swap to a different engine.

Well, last Friday I listed up the parts on the TurboFord website and Facebook group. A lot of stuff moved really fast. To keep my customers happy, on Friday night I borrowed an engine hoist and stand from my cousin and I tore right into it. Jen and the boy are out of town so I capitalized on my lack of other obligations and spent most of the day in the shop. I'm happy to report that thanks to the electric heater I did not freeze! Ok, it's picture time:

One last glamour shot of the engine bay.
Bye-bye turbo, I'm gonna miss you.
For reals though.
And away!!
Front view

Side view
Rear view
Things went pretty smoothly, it was a standard engine removal. It took a few hours as expected. Then as I tore the engine down, I took a few pics. These are some of the parts that are being sold off. As I said above, they are good parts, so I'm pretty happy with my PayPal account balance right now. I should be able to complete my new swap easily without dipping into my bank account. This was part of the deal I made with Jen, she (justifiably) wasn't terribly excited when I told her I wanted to change it up just after finishing the 2.3 swap.

Aluminum Flywheel
Adapter plate for 5.0 clutch on 2.3.
Adapter plate removed

Intake manifold measurements

Trigger wheel kit
Rods and Pistons

And here we see the root of the problem (I think). That boogery looking spot in the cylinder wall catches my fingernail slightly when I run it across. It's not a clearly visible crack like the last time I split a cylinder wall in one of these engines, but I'm pretty sure this is what's turning the oil milky and sending coolant into the exhaust.

I'll finish off with some serious nostalgia. I was looking through my google photo albums to see if I could find any old photos of the split cylinder wall. I could not, but I did come across a photo from over ten years ago of me and my cousin (the same one I just borrowed the engine hoist from) in college, swapping out a busted shortblock on this same stupid (there have been 5 different shortblocks...) engine when it was in the Ranger. Funny how these things come around full circle.

Me on the left with hair, my cousin Mark on the right

Ben Franklin's Silk Hankie

First things first. I have done work on the Falcon for the first time since I moved to Michigan. It's been a busy year and a half. Initially I had planned to make this a giant post about the garage and the car, but I think I'm gonna separate the topics.

How I feel when I wire an outlet and it doesn't start on fire.
Since August, I have been working on garage electrical in my free time. Electrical (to me at least) is one of those things that seems simple, and then I find out not only is it not simple, but it is very time consuming.  I now know that there is a very good reason electrical work costs so much.

I started out with this electrical layout plan I made in SketchUp. There were a few minor deviations from the plan, but for the most part, this is what I ended up with.

I rented a trencher from Home Depot. The heavy clay soil made this job a lot tougher than I expected.


I then ran 2 conduits in the trench, one for power, and a spare for futureproofing, in case I decide to run a data cable or something like that.

This is the conduit to the main panel.

Main Panel connection. Had to move around a couple breakers and add some tandem breakers to maker room.

Sub-panel with feeder connected.

Lights! I ended up with 11 4 ft T8 fixtures and LED bulbs. Even without drywall, it's pretty bright.

The inspector saved me from myself! he had me replace a couple boxes because they had too many wires in them. That extra 2.2 cubic inches is going to keep me extra safe.
Plenty of outlets on the back wall.
Finally, the finished sub-panel.

I ended up running a 60A 240V feeder, with 3 20A circuits for 120v outlets, a 15A circuit for lights, a 30A 240V circuit for an electric heater, and 2 50A 240V circuits for welder or potential future EV charger.  I'm not totally finished wiring the outlets but the shop is useable. Stay tuned for actual Falcon updates!

Friday, September 21, 2018

Garage Pt 2

As is becoming the norm, I'm way behind on updates. Where we left off  last time  I had just raged against the local machine. But this time, I have some serious progress to report.

This garage, like many parts of our old house, was designed to maximize use of the available space. Old houses were built smaller because people used to be more in tune with the labor and energy required to build, maintain, and heat the house. It's something I've grown to really appreciate, and I wish the average American gave more careful thought about how we use the resources like land and building materials. Good design enhances quality of life.

On to the actual updates, the concrete was done by a local concrete crew. Concrete is not cheap, and this project made me incredibly curious about concrete. Did you know the oldest concrete in the world is 8500 years old, and that the concrete in the Hoover dam is still curing? As long as the cement stays wet, crystals continue to form, and strength increases.

About 5 minutes before Jen and I left for a summer vacation, the building materials showed up on a truck.

The framing was done by an Amish crew, beards, hats and all. They were recommended by a friend at church, and did great work. Apparently they use all pneumatic tools, and hire a non-Amish driver to get them to the job site. Sadly they built the garage while we were on vacation out west so I didn't get to watch, but they built, roofed, and finished the entire building in less than three work days. Normally I would want to be around for a build just to make sure all goes well, but I figured if I can't rely on the Amish to do good work then we're pretty much screwed no matter that.

So this is the finished product... Sorta. We caught a lucky break and had the garage door installed much sooner than was originally planned. Originally it was going to have a month lead time because it was a custom order, but the vendor found one in stock in Grand Rapids. 

So why were we willing to wait a month for a garage door? When I was shopping for garage doors, Jen said she didn't want the standard garage door you see on about 95% of garages because it "looks so 90s!" I was more than ok with that, so I started looking. I began to notice that every house built in the last 40 years has the same garage door! I got a quote on something I thought looked good and I about choked when I saw the total!

A double garage door can range from $800 for a very basic single layer steel to about $6000 for an aluminum and glass, or unfinished finished wood door. We needed to be on the well into the lower half of that range and for a while I was worried I wasn't going to find anything that fit that requirement. Eventually I stumbled across a line of stamped steel faux carriage doors by Amarr, available in single layer and insulated steel configuration. 
This door checked all the boxes but was a custom order, which is why were willing to wait. The early delivery was just the frosting on the cake.

This is already way too long, so why not keep going? Once we get power to the garage we'll wire up the outlets and lights after which we'll eventually insulate and drywall the interior. There's still a lot to do, so onward and upward it is!