Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Flower Fields

I've been rather preoccupied with other things over the last few weeks, but I thought it would be good to post something.  Earlier this month, my local T-bird club visited the local flower fields.  What a riot of color!  Here are some pics...
Me and my sweetie.  And the car.
Fields of color!
Nell and her peers
A beautiful outing!
Nell is running well, consistently getting around 10 mpg (I drive with a rather heavy foot).  There are things I can do to the engine to improve the gas milage, but I don't want to mess with a good thing!  I've registered for a local car show, and expect to have fun during the upcoming cruise night season.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Fog Lights Revisited

Lots of things going on in my life, but not much with the T-bird.  Over a month ago, I took some pieces to Chrome Guy... a set of rear exhaust "donuts" appropriate for an early-model '55 that I got a good deal on, and the front "bullets" that I modified for projection fog lights.  The chrome on these pieces around the fog lights was very weak, and the whole fog light thing was really just an experiment to see if it would work, cosmetically.

I like the effect of the fog lights well enough that I felt it was time to scrub off the rust and have the bullets re-chromed.  I took them to Chrome Guy when I was in Torrance for a technical conference.  I also spent some time with Uncle Cord, and saw the progress on his '36 Cord 810 Westchester sedan.   Uncle did a tremendous amount of work, modifying an '85 Olds Toronado chassis to fit under the Cord monocoque body.  The project is probably a year from completion, and it's exciting to see the pieces start coming together!  A month later I attended another workshop in Redondo Beach, picking up the chrome and visiting Uncle again.  There was noticeable progress on the Cord in just a month, as Uncle started laying in the custom wiring!

The difference of the new chrome isn't obvious, since these pieces are small and partially hidden, but I think the overall look is much more professional.  Of course, better chrome on the bumpers makes the weak chrome on the grille more obvious!
Here's a shot of the front and exhaust donuts and fog lights uninstalled.  I painted the bases black, just as they were originally.  I used tough black epoxy primer.
Nell continues to run well, and is a real joy to drive on sunny Southern California days.  The satisfaction and memories associated with driving this car are priceless to me.

Dad died just over a year ago.  In his effects, I found a stack of letter he wrote to my Mom before they were married.  I have not really been emotionally ready to read them until just this month.

It is very touching to read Dad expressing his love to Mom, and talking about his life and ambitions.  As I work through this grieving process, I think I'm getting a more healthy perspective on Dad's life, and I'm becoming more comfortable with who he was and who I am.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Radio Delete Complete

Nell has been running great, and driving her has been a great joy!    I drive her at least once a week, usually to my Saturday morning step study and sometimes to Friday morning breakfast with my recovery group.

Today I took the "last" step to finish the dash, installing a different bezel nut on the fog light switch and   re-routing power to the audio amplifiers.  While this wasn't difficult, it was harder than it sounds.  I used reproduction blower/wiper switch bezel nuts on the volume control and fog light switch, so they would match the rest of the dash.  Unfortunately, the volume control and fog light switch have different threads than these nuts, so I had to improvise by wrapping the threads with some copper foil I had lying around.

In any event, the dash switches, knobs, and bezels all match now.  Most people probably won't notice... but I will.  I want any modifications made to the car to look classy and finished.  In this case, I think I have succeeded.
What radio?  This looks dash looks stock!
Why is making the dash look good so important to me?  Well, I remember some of the projects my Dad did around the house.  "Looking good" was never important to him... I grew up around unfinished bookshelves, patched together furniture, and ad-hoc car repairs.  Dad could fix things, but he didn't see the value in aesthetics.  Looking good just wasn't worth the extra work.  Taken to it's logical conclusion, this attitude has had a strong negative impact on my own feeling of self worth.  Am I as ugly as this broken chair I am sitting in?

I resolve to break the chain of disfunction.  I don't want to tolerate shortcuts anymore.  I want to make things right... not necessarily perfect, but right.  I want to honor those I love... and the memory of those I love.  I also want to strive for consistency in my attitude and my actions.

I love living by the beach!
I have clearly been blessed.  I acknowledge that freely.  I have recently had time to reflect on this.  I don't know what is in store for me, but I will move forward with clear intention and integrity.

Quiet Riot.... "Fly On, Thunderbird Fly!"
Today wasn't dramatic, just a minor tweak.   Chrome guy called yesterday to say that the foglight bumper surround/spinners are ready (right now Nell is without fog lights), along with the stock exhaust donuts for the rear bumper guards.  I'm not sure I want to change out the oversize exhaust tips that Nell is wearing now, but I feel better having the stock parts if I ever want to.

I need to remember the story of Nell's restoration, and what it means to me.  I just want to enjoy and share the car...  Show and parade season starts up in another month or two.  I'm in a good place right now.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Bird Songs Revisited

Muffler guy replaced the two-chamber "turbo" mufflers on Nell with OEM mufflers, resized for 2" inlet and outlet. Maybe I'm getting old, but in the end I just didn't want anything louder than the turbo mufflers. Glass packs may sound cool for a while, but they aren't polite to the neighbors and are annoying on long trips. The OEM mufflers are the largest that will fit under the frame. They aren't really quiet, but they have mellow tone without any metallic ringing and are a little quieter than the mufflers they replaced. With the muffler leak gone, I could now hear another exhaust leak at the driver's side manifold flange. This to went away after loosening the flange and applying a liberal coating of high-temp gasket sealant.

You would think that making the exhaust quieter would make the stereo sound better... unfortunately, not so. Wind noise drowns out everything on the highway except for passing trucks. The motorcycle stereo that I installed doesn't really cut though the wind noise over 50 mph. It's really not quite adequate on the freeway with the top off. At this speed it reminds me of music, but is only enjoyable if I have heard the song before and can mentally fill in the gaps! I've been suffering with this for the last 10 months, and finally decided to do something about it.

The motorcycle amplifier is pretty wimpy... It was clearly cutting out long before the speakers were distorting. It would also be easy and inexpensive to replace. I needed to know if the speakers could handle more power, so I took them apart and examined the drivers. I have built many sets of loudspeakers in my day, and have even been published in Speaker Builder magazine, so I have a pretty good idea about what to look for. The drivers in the motorcycle speaker pods have massive magnets and fairly stiff rubber surrounds, so I figure they can handle a LOT more power. I stuffed the backs of the speaker pods with some left over miraflex and sealed them up. I then got an inexpensive 50 watt/channel stereo amp... which is 5 times larger than the old one! Yeah, I know it has "200w" printed on it. Don't believe it. The old one said 600w on the box! Hogwash. There really isn't a reliable standard for advertised power of car amps.

I rearranged things under the dash to fit. I retained the 50w mono block I got to drive the 6x9 dash speaker. It has a switchable low pass filter, so I can use the dash speaker as a subwoofer or a center channel. Oh, it says "200w" too! This shot shows the new amp on top, the old mono block underneath, and the back side of the dashboard with the dual potentiometer/pull switch I got from an old tape deck that I will use as a volume control.

I also did some things to dress up the front of the dash. I got a set of used bezels and knobs to make the fog light switch and volume control fit in.

The little knob between the gauges has been there for a while. It is the pull switch for the electric radiator fan.

After hooking everything up and carefully testing it, I must admit that it sounds pretty good! It isn't "killer" loud, but it is loud enough that I can clearly hear rock and roll from my iPod over the wind noise at 70mph. That is definitely good enough!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Misplaced Desire, Sincere Gifts, and Amends

I'm infamous for going off half-cocked.  This has gotten me in trouble more than once, and has sometimes hurt people I care about.

I wanted new mufflers for Nell.  When I installed the exhaust system 18 months ago, it came with inexpensive 2-chamber "turbo" mufflers.  The motor backfired when I was first tuning it, which caused the right muffler to blow a head seam.   I had a muffler guy weld the lower part of the seam back together when he installed hangars for the tailpipes 9 months ago, but it still leaks.  It doesn't rattle any more, but the exhaust is a little loud, and the exhaust leak is clearly audible when the car is idling.

I did extensive research... I may have even been a little obsessive about it, trading off sound and performance numbers from a variety of muffler manufacturers.  I wanted a performance muffler, not some "pedestrian" OEM can!  Yeah, perhaps my ego got a little involved.  The reviews were very positive for the product line I selected, and by my measurements the smallest model would just fit in the stock muffler location.

Amazon is great!  As a family, we tend to use the "wish list" function for gift planning.  I also use my Amazon "wish list" at other times just to keep track of the kind of things I may want, or to track prices.  I put the mufflers on my wish list.  I kept thinking "I need to re-measure the space for these mufflers", but I didn't get around to it.  After all, they were the smallest reasonably quiet performance mufflers available... of course they would fit!

My son surprised me by giving me a pair for Christmas!  It was a very thoughtful gift, and I am extremely grateful.
Today, I took Nell and the mufflers to my muffler guy to have them installed.

They don't fit.

Any early t-bird owners out there, be advised... Walker Dynomax 17730 mufflers will not fit.  You may think that they will, but they won't... they are about a quarter inch too wide, and won't allow enough clearance with the frame to keep from rattling.  I now have to send these big, heavy puppies back to Amazon.

I also need to make amends to my son, who went out of his way to get me something I desired.  It's not his fault that my desire was misplaced, and that my obsession blinded me to reality.  And I'm genuinely sorry.

As a recovering addict, it is often hard for me to fully understand how obsessions I pursue privately can negatively effect other people.  Perhaps this muffler experience is an important reminder.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Recognizing my need for a Redeemer

A lot has happened since my last post.   I officially retired from my employer of over 29 years, and  have received my first pension check.  I have participated in two technical conferences as a "retiree", followed up with several professional relationships, and am actively seeking ways to continue my professional career.

I also experienced my first Thanksgiving totally without Dad.

Nell hasn't received much of my attention, aside from a weekly drive.  I am co-leading a Men's 12 Step Study on Saturday mornings, and Nell gets me there if the weather is dry.  Driving up the coast in Nell is a clear reminder of God's grace to me.  This kind of reminder is especially important when I'm caught up in the emotions of recovery work.

I started my step 4 "fearless moral inventory" when I was on Jury Duty the Monday before Thanksgiving.  I selfishly thought it would be a light week for juries, and the odds would be good that I could serve my "one day" without being empaneled on a trial.  I was sitting in the jury assembly room most of the day, working my inventory.  Writing about my own resentments, and the harm I have done to others, is very taxing emotional work!  My thoughts revolved around Dad... with loss, anger, and resentment all mingled together.  I found myself becoming more and more restless, and a kind of discontent rising up within me. 

When the jury clerk announced that the entire jury pool was going to be screened for a 4 week trial, I was in a pretty foul mood.  It took considerable effort for me to find some peace in the situation, and resign myself to the possibility of extended jury service.  As a retiree, I really had no excuse not to serve.  The courtroom never got around to empaneling the jury, and we were released at about 3:30 PM.  By the time I got to the train station, the commuter train had just left.  I had to wait another hour for the next one, and that really upset me!  It seemed to be the last straw in a frustrating day!  Fussing and fuming, I sat on a bench at the station to collect my thoughts.

Slowly, I began to reflect on how ungrateful I had become.  God had reminded me about some important truths... the importance of my civic duty, the need for willing sacrifice, and the importance of taking stock of my emotions.  He had also just provided an hour for me to spend just talking to him, with no other distractions!  I silently walked from the train station to the waterfront, gradually beginning to enjoy the hour of freedom I had been given.  I found two small war memorials at a waterfront park that I didn't even know was there.  I began to sense the healing in my heart that God has intended for me, if I just let go of the resentment.  By the time I got on the train, I was in a much better mood.

Christmas has become an increasingly important holiday for me.  I used to focus on Easter as the highlight of the year, celebrating of Christ's act of redemption for all mankind.  But Christmas has come to symbolize my own personal need for a redeemer, a deep longing that can only be filled by God. 

He is waiting,  ready to spend an intimate hour talking with me... if only I sit on the bench, collect myself, and respond to his invitation.

Friday, October 18, 2013

23 Cents...

Nell is once again running strong.  Great, in fact!
The problem with the distributor?  The rolled pin that holds the distributor gear to the shaft had started to back out, and needed to be replaced.  Cost of replacement? 23₵, and less than an hour's work, including the drive time to the auto parts store!

To pull the distributor, I first put #1 cylinder on TDC.  I wanted to be absolutely sure where the rotor should be when I put the distributor BACK. With the distributor cap off, I pulled #1 spark plug, disconnected the hot start ignition wire from the coil, and bumped the engine with a remote starter until the rotor lined up with the #1 mark.
 Then I confirmed that #1 was at TDC with the timing marks (down there by the pointy thing)
 After disconnecting the electrical connections and removing the hold down bolt, the distributor slipped right out.  I could diagnose the problem right away by looking at the drive gear!
 The rolled pin was sticking out, and had actually disengaged completely on one side.  I could wobble the gear back and forth a little on the shaft.  No doubt about it!  This was the source of my timing problem.  The end of the pin was cracked, and it fell to pieces when I used a drift to tap it out:
 There are probably a few tiny bits of rolled pin in the engine oil pan or oil filter right now.  I'm hoping they stay there!  23 cents at NAPA got me a new pin (I spent more on gas getting there)!
I juiced the new pin up with red loctite, tapped it in position, then peened the ends between a pair of center punches using a vise and a heavy hammer!  This one isn't coming out on its own!  Nell fired right up once I replaced the distributor.  I let her warm up, then easily set the timing to 14° BTDC.   She idled well, and pulled very strong during my short test drive.  Nell is back, and she's having a blast!

What did I learn from this?  Well, I got disenchanted with the Mallory distributor before I had a chance to pull it and confirm what was going on.  I seemed to forget how good it has performed over the last 3000 miles.  In my disenchantment, I purchased a (rather expensive) 1957 Mercury tach drive distributor from eBay.  I had been debating getting one of these anyway, but I could have been more patient.

I must confess that I do this all the time.  With each new upset or disappointment, I forget what has worked for me in the past.  I forget how much God has blessed me.  My longing and obsession kicks in, and I try to work my way out of the pain or disappointment.  Patience is the last thing I want to experience!

Still, I find that God can redeem my mistakes.  The guy selling the distributor is extremely friendly.  He lives in New York and has a yard full of old Fords, with more than a few Y-blocks.  We talked for half an hour or so, and I told him about Nell and this blog.  He set the distributor up for me to make sure it worked properly, and even set me pictures of it running in one of his engines!  Now that's service!