Sunday, June 1, 2014

I've been waiting to smile, Holding it in for a while

Have you ever watched the movie Old Yeller? It's an awful heartwarming story about a boy who had this dog named Old Yeller who is in fact, yeller in color. Honestly I don't remember the story at all, but I do remember that at the very end Old Yeller gets bit by a rabid dog. Or maybe it was a wolf. Or a coyote. Or a honeybadger. It doesn't really matter, what matters is that Old Yeller gets bit by a rabid something while protecting little Timmy. So here we are at the end of the movie and Pa tells Timmy that they have to shoot Old Yeller because he is now an old-school zombie dog. Timmy cries and tells Pa that Old Yeller is his dog and thus he must shoot the dog himself. So Timmy takes Pa's musket and shoots his best friend who sacrificed his life to save little Timmy. At this point in the movie, the VCR (that's what we used to watch movies in those days) releases a packet of ragweed pollen into the room and everyone suddenly has allergies.

Me and the Little Green Monster, and early picture.
The day we brought her home from the dealer
Feast your eyes on this pinup, ladies.
Yesterday I had to put down the old green Ranger. I've had that truck for 11 years. I still remember when we took it out for a test drive and it overheated. For some reason my dad still paid $575 dollars for it, and thus began an era of my life. I had that truck by my side through it all. A 9 year bachelor's degree, countless homes in three states, several girlfriends (though to be fair I've had tanks of gas that lasted longer than some of my girlfriends), it even waited for me while I was on the other side of the world for 2 years as a missionary. I pulled the engine yesterday knowing that chances of ever cruising around my favorite old rattletrap again are slim. The chassis is beat, the body is rusting through and it would be cost prohibitive to restore. Swapping the Ranger engine to the Falcon has always been the plan, but actually doing it made me a little bit sad. I'll get back to that though, I need to take a detour.

My friend Tim is in Los Angeles this summer doing an internship. I've mentioned Tim in a previous post, we used to wrench together in college when we had a rented garage know as Tim's Temple of Testosterone. Tim's wife is finishing up a school year as a teacher in Utah, so this was his last weekend of bachelor life so he wanted to live it to the fullest. For guys like me and Tim, living the bachelor life has nothing to do with drinking, partying, and girls. 1, we are mormon. 2, being a gearhead bachelor means all your money goes to feeding your automotive addiction. It also means there is a Snap On tool chest in my kitchen (in the same place a dirtbike used to sit), a welder, argon tank, and MIG welder in the living room, and  a turbocharger, subframe connectors, and countless tools in my bedroom. But I digress. Tim wanted a gearhead bachelor weekend, so I happily obliged.

On Friday we headed to Bob's Big Boy Burgers in Burbank, California. Bob's is a diner from the 50's which has had Friday night cruise-ins since the 50s. For a casual Friday night meet up, Bob's has some phenomenal attendees.

Hudson with Ben-Hur chariot spikes.
Clean wedge style Falcon.
With a clean 5.0 / T-5 swap
RS200!!!!!!!!!!!! Much like a good joke, if I have to explain this one you just won't get it.
Mid engined Group B goodness!

I have a great love for beat up wagons.
The quintessential car show car.
The next morning we hit up Cars and Coffee in Irvine. This is another loosely organized car show that happens every week during the summer. It starts at 6 AM and I really like it because they don't waste time with stupid things like trophies and the lawn chairs are minimal, thought there are still a few too many Hawaiian shirts. Irvine Cars and Coffee is especially awesome because you get a large contingent of classic European iron, rather than your usual fare of muscle cars.

DeTomaso Slayer. Or was it Pantera?
Shaken, not stirred.
If I were to dress as an Alfa owner for Halloween, this is how I would dress.
Cars and Coffee? Close enough.
Excellent ergo design.

GT40 replica

First time I'd ever seen one of these in the wild.
The Morgan 3-wheeler is incurably cool.

As we were walking up to the show we passed a guy wearing a Deus Motorcyles shirt. I didn't think anything of it, but Tim stopped, peed himself, and said "That was Jeff Zwart! Why didn't I shake his hand?? I've missed my chance!" For those who don't know (I didn't), Jeff Zwart is a very famous automotive photographer, filmmaker, and racer. He has won 7 class championships at Pikes Peak, including an open class win. Kind of a big deal. We got lucky though because Jeff had brought his 1 cylinder diesel Porsche tractor to the show, so we had a chance to chat with him later. I must say I was impressed. Being a world renowned racer you probably get tons of nerdy guys approaching you all the time and he was very friendly and gracious. He even made it a point to thank us for talking to him as we left even though he was talking to someone else at that point.

In the Porsche row, just where it belongs.
Tim talking to Jeff Zwart while I selfisize myself.

This is the part where we get back off the detour. Tim has been reading this blog and had an itching to help out with Grace. After all, he was there when I built the second turbo setup on the Ranger. He was absolutely indispensable during that project. We were putting in 6-8 hours a day on that project beyond our regular jobs for two full weeks, and he took the first ride with me. We both remember the boost hitting 30# and then popping the hose off the boost gauge on that first ride. In the garage I was always the typhoon that would come through and tear the place up but get things done quickly. Tim has a lot more attention to detail, and I tease him about being a wrench polisher. We make a great team so long as he can stand being in a garage with a maniac who has to spend 20 minutes of each hour muttering "where did i put that @#&% wrench?"

I brought the truck around to the carport and had a little moment with it before we got started. It was like that moment a native american hunter has with the deer after he's killed it and tells it that he is very sorry for killing it, but thanks the deer for giving its life so his family can survive.

Precious moments
Heart surgery begins.

Just as I had predicted, we had the motor and transmission out in 3 hours while working at a relaxed pace. I've done this enough times on this truck to predict pretty accurately. Fish tacos are one of the best ways to celebrate a smooth and successful powertrain removal, so we took a break for lunch. When we returned it was time to push the Ranger back into the back yard bereft of it's motive power. I felt it necessary to pay my last respects to this faithful companion which has had more effect on the direction of my life than any other single inanimate object. I stood and saluted as Taps played.

Prior to installing the powertrain, we needed to swap out the 2.3l bellhousing for the 5.0l. This was a straightforward process. We then slid the engine and trans into place without too much trouble, at least in my view. Tim had to remind me that I had used my angle grinder to cut out a section of floor pan so that the transmission would fit. I am starting to worry about myself now that I've realize that I consider such an action to be a normal part of the process.

It seems I got a bit greedy while building the motor mounts. In my pursuit of good weight distibution I didn't think much about the clearance required for my intake manifold. It's a good thing I already wanted to build a custom intake for this car, because now I have to.

Intake clearance issues
The upper manifold had to be removed to clear the brake master cylinder.
This is the type of custom intake I would like.
I haven't been able to stop looking at Grace since we got the engine and trans in. She's still got a lot of work before she'll move down the road under her own power, but she looks like a real car now. That little hunk of iron bolted in place is such a beautiful sight, I caught myself on several occasions staring at Grace like the slack jawed high school freshman whose head is always turned to the left because the prettiest girl in the senior class sat on that side of the classroom today. While we were cleaning up a neighbor of mine, Don, who I had never met, came by to check out what we were doing. Don is probably in his late 50s and repairs big rigs for a living. We got chatting about the car and as is common, he had some stories of his own to tell. Cars like this are so much fun because they create connections. Countless times I've had guys tell me how they used to have Falcon or Nova or any number of old american economy cars. I can't help but wonder if hot rodding will be alive in 30 years and guys will talk to the crazy kid in their neighborhood building a Focus or Cavalier.

Behold, the 1962 Ford Falcon with the  rare 2.3 turbo option

It was an incredible and productive weekend, thanks to Tim. It's good to have friends who understand your sickness. With the shifter in place, I can now sit in the driver's seat and play racecar. Every car builder knows that playing racecar is an essential step that provides much needed motivation to keep going when times get tough.

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