Monday, September 21, 2015

Soll Ich's wirklich machen oder lass es lieber sein?

One day each month, we are allowed to bring our cars into work and use the shop to perform maintenance. I thought this would be a good chance to bring Grace in and do a checkup. I wanted to make sure I didn't have any loose bolts or major leaks I hadn't found yet. I also wanted to see what the ol' girl weighs, and what the weight balance was. As you can see below, she is just over 2700 lbs, with a 55/45 front/rear weight balance. It's a little heavier than I had expected, but I don't think she'll have any problems getting around at that weight. Once the interior and HVAC are installed, we'll probably see a curb weight of 3000 lbs. Eventually I would like to switch to aluminum wheels, and perhaps an aluminum cylinder head, both of which would drop weight significantly.

And just so you know that Grace isn't a spoiled child, I'm posting a pic of her doing grocery getting duty. She's a real car and will be used like one.

Since I need to get this crazy old Ranger (now with 120% more RB20!!) off my hands, I've been dedicating most my car time to it. The nice thing about a swap like this is that I'm not concerned with the aesthetic of the work, so as long as it's functional I can proceed. It speeds up the process significantly. Also, like that time in college we put $1.26 of gasoline in a Pepsi bottle and lit sidewalks on fire, we aren't taking ourselves too seriously, just chasing a good fun per dollar ratio. 

While shopping for intercoolers at my favorite intercooler store, I knew I would need something a little different due to the lack of space in front of the engine and radiator. I noticed a funky little intercooler listed as a Renault 5 intercooler. I'm not sure if I've ever seen a Renault 5 in my life, and certainly not on this side of the pond but I thought what the heck, I can make this work.  

I thought the driver's side wheel well would be a nice place to put the intercooler, but there was a wheel well in the way, so out came a knife and the angle grinder. In a few minutes, there was room for the intercooler.  Considering the fact that the intercooler is in the wheel well, I may need to provide some sort of screen or other protection against road debris.

Another minor issue I noticed was that the inlet and outlet were 2 3/8" OD. I had counted on them being 2 1/2" OD. No matter, with a bit of leftover intercooler piping from the Falcon I made them 2 1/2" OD.

A couple hours of cutting, checking and welding later, the intercooler had inlet and outlet pipes of 2.5" mandrel bent steel.

I also noticed that when I set the height of  the transmission mount, I didn't account for the weight that would be put on it by the the transmission and it was about one inch lower than I was hoping for. This of course, like bad days at work and most stress in life, is nothing that can't be remedied with a good angle grinder and welder. A few hours later, all was well again for this transmission mount.

The last item I checked off the list this weekend was the downpipe to connect the turbo to the Ranger's existing exhaust system. The minor challenge I faced in this task was that the Nissan exhaust is on the opposite side from the Ford exhaust, so the downpipe had to cross over from the one side to the other. As you see below, it turned out to be a pretty easy job.

As I've mentioned previously, somehow I got engaged. Usually projects like mine are a great way to stay foreveralone, but with a lot of squinting I guess Jen was able to see past all that. In any case, one of Jen's very best friends Tegyn shot our engagement photos and I was pretty stoked with how they turned out (well at least the 3% of them where I don't look like a total goober) so I had to share.

I am a fortunate goober.
There will be more 62 Falcon and RB20 Ranger to follow. Until next time, keep your stick on the ice.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Every night they rock us to sleep, digital family

Now that I've got two kettles on the boil, I guess I'll give you updates on both. While Grace has been legal for a couple weeks, she wasn't really. California, the state with the most severe emissions requirements (Grace is exempt from emissions testing since she is pre-1975) does not perform any sort of safety inspection, so I was able to register the old girl without any functioning lights. I wanted to be able to drive at night, and not live in constant fear of a teenager or distracted mom (or distracted teenage mom) rearending me because I didn't have functioning taillights. After a few evenings and a saturday of wiring, I finally have functioning lights.

Cibie H4 projector headlamps
Functioning lights were a big step forward for this project, since it's starting to get dark earlier and I needed to be able to drive the car on the road in order to begin the engine tuning process. As you may remember, I'm using Megasquirt II for engine management. It is low cost, and incredibly flexible. The tradeoff is that the learning curve is relatively steep. Thankfully there are a ton of people online who are willing to provide support to those who want to learn. Even though I did not purchase my MSII unit from they were still willing to provide support in setting it up.

Another awesome feature MSII has is that at a relatively low cost, you can buy a software package that will automatically tune the fuel tables in the ECU. What this means is that I can just drive the car around, and the software will compare the actual air-fuel ratio to the expected air-fuel ratio and adjust parameters accordingly. This gives a big head start in tuning an engine. As I drove the car around, the software added about 30% more fuel in the turbo boost and high RPM regions than I had initially expected it to need. This is a good thing, because it means we are making a lot of power. How much power? We won't know until I take it to a shop for dyno tuning.

On Saturday, I took Grace for her longest drive yet. I drove from my house to Seal Beach, about ten miles, on surfaces streets. I then got -stupid- daring and took the freeway back. I was pleasantly surprised when she performed as well as I would hope for at this stage. The engine is making gobs of power, but the two main issues are that the boost control isn't working, so it will overboost if I floor it, and the vibrations from the engine are unnerving. I'm afraid the car is going to shake itself to pieces if I don't make some changes. Sometime soon you'll see a post about new motor mounts.

After returning from a place that Kenny Loggins only sings about, I got to work on the Ranger. Due to packaging constraints, the stock Ranger radiator was not going back in. I got to work on google images, searching photos of radiators to find one that I thought might fit. I spotted a short, wide radiator and looked closer. It turns out the radiator was from another American car with a straight six, one that I own in fact. I ordered a Jeep Cherokee radiator on eBay and waited for it to arrive.

When I got the radiator, it was a bit wider than I was expecting, even though I had looked at the measurements. It is 35" wide, probably the widest light duty radiator I know of. But after a little creative trimming with one of my favorite tools, it was a perfect fit!

Last week I finished the motor mounts, but did not build a transmission mount, so I spent a couple hours building on this week. It was a pretty simple, quick, and dirty solution, but it shouldn't have any trouble holding up to the stresses it will be subject to.

That's all for now, but since I'm never one to leave you without a parting gift, please accept this GIF.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

I'm like a one eyed cat, peepin' in a seafood store


You may remember my tearful farewell to my lime green 1988 Ford Ranger last year. After I pulled the engine for Grace, I sent the Ranger to the back yard, unsure of what to do next. It sat there for over a year, and in the meantime I tried to think of things to do with it. Someone offered to give me $450 for it and then never called me again. I thought maybe I should just send it to the wrecking yard, and ultimately the crusher, but that felt like sending my puppy to the pound. Enter Colby.

Colby is a whale of a man, and a great friend of mine. We met in college when I was going to fix some random chick's car so I would never have to speak to her again (long story, but it worked). I was pulling out of my driveway and Colby, who lived across the street asked what I was doing. I told him "I'm going to fix some random chick's car so I will never have to speak to her again" and he said "Cool, I'm coming", and hopped in the truck. Last year while discussing this problem with Colby, we reached an agreement where he would buy my truck and give it tender, loving care if I put an engine in it.
Behold, Colby
There was one small hitch though. We agreed to put a non-original engine into the Ranger...

Unfamiliar with the anatomy of a powertrain, Harley sniffs the tailshaft assuming it is a butthole
 TA-DAA! Colby and I got the stupid idea that a Nissan Skyline engine from Japan was the best choice for the Ranger. This engine, codenamed the RB20-DET is a 2 liter, straight-six turbo, with a 5 speed manual transmision. It puts out 215 hp / 195 lb-ft, and redlines at 7400 RPM. Is it an odd choice for a Ranger? Yep. And that's half the reason we are doing it. People always ask why, but the better question is why not?

It's bone stock, I swear
The age old question of the forum noob is almost formulaic: can you put ("x" engine) in ("y" chassis)?? lol i'm 17 and have four dollars and a turnip Well rejoice dear noob, the answer is yes. It's always yes. I can put "x" engine in "y" chassis. And I'll show you how it's done. But you aren't going to like it because while I can put "x" engine in "y" chassis, you probably can not. To do so it takes a lot of wrenches, a lot more dollars, and a welder. Take heart though, if you keep at it and don't do anything terribly stupid someday you can also put "x" engine or "q" engine or "ΓΌ" engine in "y" chassis.

Since Grace is road legal and I had a couple days off, much to the dismay of my Fiancee, Jen, I set to work on the Ranger. While the Ranger had been sitting in the back yard for the past year or so, Backyard Chris (the predecessor to Backyard Steve) and Steve the barrel guy (who runs some sort of barrel exchange in the back yard?) had converted to Ranger to a rolling dumpster. I can't say this was my favorite thing but what can you do?

Starting Point
The Ranger's engine harness. Not my finest work...

Removing unnecessary weight
Stock left side motor mount bracket
Bracket mods
Bracket mods
Finished left side motor mount bracket

The RB20 engine sits at about a 10 degree angle towards the driver's side (the US driver's side) so I made a 3 point chain system to lift the engine and hold it in the proper position for mock up. 

On Saturday, I had the engine in and out of the engine bay no less than a dozen times. Lifting and maneuvering a 700lb powertrain by oneself is a pretty good workout. Sunday morning I felt like I had been pushed down an escalator. A couple of the trouble points for putting the RB20 in a Ranger chassis were the steering shaft and front suspension crossmember. I notched the crossmember, but the steering shaft will likely require some modification. I do not think the rubber "rag-joint" can be trusted when positioned right next to the turbo housing so I will likely have to get a metal steering U-joint.

Crossmember modification

Once I had determined where I wanted the engine to sit, the easy work began. Compared with finding an engine position, fabricating the frame brackets for motor mounts was relaxing. I just got to pull the trigger on the welding gun and watched Joan of Arc do the hard work. A few hours later. the engine was sitting securely in the engine bay.

So if you looked at the last two pictures with a critical eye you are probably thinking "This guy is loony. He's got no clue what he's doing! That engine is so far forward he'll never fit a radiator in it!" You are mostly right. I am loony. I really for the most part do not know what I'm doing. But I'll make a radiator fit. Somehow. I always do.

In the meantime, look busy my friends.