Sunday, August 6, 2017

The 5 Year Summer

Five years and one month ago I packed up my dad's pickup with my twelve belongings, and with my Ranger in tow, I headed for my new home in Bellflower, California. It was a long, strange trip complete with an exploded battery in the 106° Nevada desert. This past week I moved, this time to Diet Canada Michigan. I can't remember if I've mentioned it here, but my employer is moving my position from California to Michigan, and in the interest of having a job, Jen and I have decided to go. 

Grace has always been a cruel mistress, so it's fitting that we'll be leaving the world class canyon roads I built her for without ever driving her on them. Instead, we'll get to experience the potholes of Michigan together.  In reality, she'll be on the back burner for a bit, until our house is in order... By the way, we bought a house!

I like old cars, Jen likes old houses. Our house, named Old Sid (from a name that was on the property deed) was built approximately the same time Henry Ford was down the road cranking out Model Ts in any color you wanted, so long as it was black.  Old Sid will be getting a new kitchen, new bathrooms, some landscaping work and at some point (my favorite point) a new garage. So yeah, Grace will have to get used the the fact that she's not an only child anymore and Old Sid is mom's favorite.  

Today, I'm just going to try to get current with the work that was done before we moved.


Brakes, in their ideal form, will bring a vehicle in motion to a stop and very little else. Of course that would be far too simple, so my the brakes on my Falcon sometimes attempt to also bring the rear of the car into the direction of travel.  For some reason, the rear brakes had far higher brake force than the front. A tail happy brake system can lead to creases in the seat upholstery from the strong sphincter puckering action it can induce. In the interest of upholstery longevity, I began looking for a solution. 

Applying Occam's Razor, I attacked the simplest explanation first. It is my assumption that the brake pads that came with the suspension and brake kit were incredibly cheap. TCI, who sells the kits, most likely gets the cheapest pads available in anticipation of the end user purchasing a high performance pad after a short amount of time. I picked up a set of Wilwood Polymatrix E compound pads, which are a high performance street compound. A race compound would not work well when cold, and would have much more wear than the street compound.


In my last post, I wrote about the fuel system issues we had on the dyno. Grace ran out of fuel pump at about 350HP. I think the reason was two-fold. First, the pre-pump filter was not large enough, and second, the Bosch 044 pump was pulling fuel too far. 

To address these issues, I bought a larger filter, capable of flowing 400 GPH, up from the old filter's rating of 125 GPH, and I installed a Walbro 255 right at the tank as a feeder or lift pump upstream of the Bosch 044. 

Walbro 255 mounted to the front of the fuel tank.

400 GPH 40 Micron fuel filter from Robb MC Performance
Filter and pump installed

I also wanted to make sure that both pumps got full voltage from the battery, so I rewired the pumps to provide larger gauge wire and shorter runs of wire feeding them with fresh, high-grade, organic, grass-fed, amps and volts. The relays are in the trunk and have fuses built into them.


Cars without interiors are pretty miserable to ride in, and Grace was no exception. I felt it was about time to start working on the miserableness aspect of this car. The first big step was to install carpet. There are a lot of vendors that sell carpet for Falcons, but it seems they all have one thing in common: they all sell the exact same carpet. This is likely true for most makes and models, since there is one major manufacturer of aftermarket carpet, namely Auto Custom Carpets. I found a wide range of prices but the best price was through Rock Auto. I think I paid about $200 for a molded, mass-backed carpet.  

The mass backing adds a little shape to the carpet, and should help reduce interior noise a little bit.

mass backing and felt backing

Due to my raised transmission tunnel I knew no carpet kit would fit exactly. The rear carpet fit quite well, but when it came to the front, I had to do quite a bit of cutting to get it in. This is one of those projects that I'll definitely revisit. The front carpet will be modified to fit the trans tunnel properly, but for now, the noise levels are drastically reduced, so I'm happy.

rear section installed
felt backing installed on mass backing


When things get going too good, Grace is always willing to bring you back to reality. While on the freeway breaking in my fancy new brake pads in, for no apparent reason, the head gasket decided to let go while boosting at about 10 psi (or 275 hp on this engine). Keep in mind that about a week and a half ago on the dyno, this car was making up to 350 HP on E85 and 320 HP on 91 octane. 

At this point I had a follow up dyno appointment set to finish up the tune, now that the fuel system had been improved. I figured I could get the head gasket changed (I'm pretty quick at it by this point, I think I've done head gaskets or rebuilds on this engine about a dozen times by now... seriously, what's wrong with me??) and still make it to my dyno appointment, so I set to work.

Coolant bubbling out the #2 spark plug hole
Cylinder #2 pushed the gasket out

Shiny clean cylinders
But seriously, so shiny!
Luck was not with me, because even though I made good time thinks still went wrong. Any time you see someone using an EZ-out in the garage, step away, say nothing, avoid eye contact, and don't make any sudden movements. while trying to lower the cylinder head onto the engine, it slipped and I broke an oil fittting adapter, which wasted about two hours of my time that I did not have.

I wanted to make sure the head gasket didn't let go yet again so I went to the trouble of getting the correct assembly lube for my ARP head studs. After reading through an ARP technical presentation a few times, I was convinced that this was a necessary step if I wanted to actually achieve the correct fastener preload, or in other words the correct clamping force.

In the end it was all for nought, because the engine was still burning coolant after the head gasket was replaced. With the move coming at me like a freight train, I didn't have time to do anything but load a sickly car on a trailer and have it shipped across the country.

So here I sit in my barren house, waiting impatiently for my car and tools and real mattress to arrive (I've had enough air mattress for the next few years). I'll try to keep updating the blog when I can, but it might be a little less often until Old Sid gets the love he needs. Thanks again for reading, keep your stick on the ice!