Saturday, August 29, 2015

Getting a Boost, part 2

I haven't been working on "Nell" much recently, but I try to drive her once a week.  Several weeks ago, a professional photographer friend asked if he could take some stock photos of "Nell", and here is one of the results.

I really appreciate having a few "Glamor Photos" of the car!  My friend has a great eye, professional equipment, and the experience to use it well.

Yesterday, I drove Nell to a local cruise night with the rest of the classic thunderbird club.  We rendezvoused at Ford Guys's shop, which was close to the cruise night.  While I was there, I mentioned to him that I wanted to install a larger brake booster.  His immediate response was "The stopped making them", and he was pleasantly surprised when I said that I had just picked one up on eBay!  I guess I really was fortunate.  Ford Guy then mentioned that he had a template for making a bracket to install the larger booster, which he has used on several cars.  He disappeared for a few minutes, then returned with the cardboard template, and a Xerox copy of it for me!  This will be extremely helpful... I will make a bracket from this template out of 1/16 or 3/32" flat stock, and be certain to avoid any interference issues.

 Cruise night was a lot of fun, even though it was the hottest day of the year!  For reasons not totally related to the true merit of the car, Nell was selected to win an award from among the T-birds present!  This was a nice surprise, and I appreciate the support and affirmation that it represents.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Getting a Boost, part 1

Long time no blog.  I've been busy with my fledgeling consulting business, my family, and my church.  While I have been enjoying 'Nell', I haven't really made any improvements.

Earlier this year, I finally corrected a grievous oversight and had Uncle Packard drive the car.

Uncle Packard seems to be enjoying himself!
This is the man who gave me so much advice, encouragement, and resources to do the restoration two years ago, and he never even drove the car!  Well, he greatly enjoyed the experience of driving his Mother's last car.  He had two interesting and wise comments:

  • "The car seems to want to go much faster than is reasonable."  I guess that means that my engine modifications were highly successful!
  • "The car could use more assist on the power brakes." I agree... the brakes, even with power assist on the aftermarket front disks, require much more pedal pressure than a typical modern car.  If I didn't know better, I'd even say they were manual brakes.
I've been thinking of improving the power assist on the car for several years.  At the CTCI western regionals in 2013 I remember seeing Gill Bumgarner's '57 with a larger brake booster for his aftermarket front disk brakes.  He explained to the eager crowed gathered around his engine compartment that the stock Midland C3400 booster can only develop about 500psi brake pressure, but that most disk brake conversions need closer to 1000psi.  He had installed a slightly larger booster, only on the front disks, and claimed that the better pedal pressure was much lighter and more typical of modern cars.  

Since I want this car to be easy and non-threatening for anyone to drive, I have been on the lookout for one of these larger boosters for some time.  After doing some research, I am convinced that Gil was using a Midland C490 hydro-vac booster, which is available rebuilt from Cardone (stock #51-9241).  These occasionally turn up on eBay for under $250, and I finally picked one up

The C490B is slightly larger than the stock C3400, but the connections are nearly identical.  
 Since Gil had one under the hood of his '57, I know it will fit.  The next question is if I need to fabricate a new bracket.  Time to check some clearances.

The string is a reference for the hood clearance. The string is straight, but the hood is slightly arched.

5" from the bracket to the string.  

There is an additional 1 3\8" clearance over the brake booster location, for a total of 6 3/8" above the bracket.

The new C490 booster will require just over 5" clearance, once I rotate the clamp out of the way.
This gives me some confidence that I will not need a new bracket.   After I pull the stock C3400, I can dry-fit the C490 and very carefully check clearances.

Before I do, I plan on painting the C490 with gloss black enamel.  I think it will look much better than the 'rust-through remanufactured grey', and maybe even dress up the engine compartment a little.

I need to be careful about this, though, or I may end up buying stainless steel fuel and vacuum lines and chroming the throttle linkage!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Another kind of Car Show...

Nell was in a different kind of Car Show earlier this month.  The Thunderbird exhibit was intended to raise awareness of the 60th anniversary of the model.

I was certainly gratified by all of the encouraging comments about "Nell"!  Plus, I got lots of free passes to the show.

Another loss...

I just found out that Otis, the owner of the shop that did such a marvelous job painting the T-bird, died a few days ago.  Is wife preceded him into the eternal realm just last month.

Otis was an amazing and humble guy, who started this body shop in Southern California just after returning home as a WWII POW.  The shop has been around so long, and Otis was such an amiable guy, that it became a local gathering place for metalworking talent to come and just shoot the breeze.  I think I got a lot of free work on the T-bird because of this.

Otis was over 90, and got a heart valve replaced while the T-bird was in his shop.  He was back in the shop 3 days after surgery... His son Van pointed out that Otis needed to be available to talk to his friends, and that helped his recovery.

From my Uncle's email... "Otis was a decorated hero of WWII, a side gunner on a B24,   On a raid of Polisti his plane was shot down and he became a prisoner of war.  He was liberated only when the US Army reached his camp.  He was tendered a medal, but he turned it down, saying the real hero who deserved the medal was the pilot who got them down safely."

There are some people that make you just want to be more like them!

RIP, Otis.  My sincere condolences, Van.  The world is a slightly poorer place.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Advent Reflections 2014

As I have previously posted (2012, 2013), the advent season has become increasingly important to me.  As far as Christian holidays go, I used to really resonate with the desolation of Holy Week and the consolation of Easter, but I didn't understand all the fuss about Christmas.  It just seemed to be a consumerist nightmare, punctuated by too much food and too many retellings of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol".  Yes, yes, "love your fellow man" and all that.  I get it.  What's the big deal?  I felt like Charlie Brown, searching for meaning among all the commercials.  How is God really at work here, and how does this relate to my personal relationship with him?

I came to think of Christmas as a pagan festival (Winter solstice) which was co-opted by the early church oligarchy as a means of consolidating their power base.  There is plenty of evidence to support this conclusion, including a general acknowledgement by most Christian historians that they have no real idea of the day, or even the season of Jesus' birth.

Then I discovered the liturgical tradition of Advent.  Far from embracing the excesses of the season, Advent reminds me of the need to pause and reflect on my personal need for a Savior... or in other words to recognize my inadequacy to get close to God on my own, my inability to find that "way to be good again", my desperate longing for redemption, and for my life to have meaning!

The bustle of "the Holiday Season" pales completely in comparison to this primal emotional need.

Once we recognize the brokenness in our own lives, this need becomes unavoidable.  This is what makes Advent different form Easter.  Having a Savior without first feeling a desperate need for one is comforting, but not personally significant.  It is much like a child that enjoys the security of being with her Grandparents, but not truly comprehending the depth of their love or their sacrifices for her.

To me, Advent is all about longing.  And waiting.  And praying.  It is also about being expectant, holding on to faith that God will do great things, that he will deliver on his promises, and that he really does love me and wants to spend time with me.  So much so, that he is willing to build a bridge with his own body in order for me to reach him.  By immersing myself in this season, I can begin to get a glimpse of the depth of his love and his sacrifice for me.

The 5 Candles of Advent are traditionally lit sequentially every Sunday starting 4 weeks before Christmas.  The order varies in different traditions, but the meaning seems to be consistent.

  1. Hope (or Prophecy Candle)
  2. Joy (or Angel's Candle)
  3. Peace (or Shepherd's Candle)
  4. Love (or Bethlehem Candle)
  5. Christ - Emmanuel (God with us!) - lit on Christmas Eve

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pageant of the Thunderbird

My son and I drove to the 'Pageant' on Saturday. There were at least 60 cars there.

We were shocked when 'Nell' won 2nd in the custom 55-57 class!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Every new car sold in the USA since 1967 has been required to have 4-way flashers.  This was not a new idea; kits have been available to install this safety feature on cars since the mid 1950s.  While "parking lights" have been standard since the '20's, they really don't cut it if your car is broken down on the highway.  Flashing lights naturally demand a lot more attention from passing motorists, and are a lot more visible in the day time.

A 4-way flasher is unobtrusive device that makes sense on a vintage car.  It can be hidden away under the dash or in a glove box. "Period correct" flasher installation kits continue to be easily available for 50's vintage cars.  I got a Roberk model 800 for a very reasonable price 6 months ago, and had been waiting for an opportunity to install it.  When I had the seat out of the car (see the prior post) I figured the time was right.  I found the installation to be remarkably easy, but then I am pretty handy with electrical connections.   Here are a few pics:

The Roberk unit is installed under the dash, in front of the shifter.  I used existing factory holes in the dash, which would have been used for the overdrive selector had this been a manual transmission car.
 I had to replace the light bulb in the unit, and plug in a heavy duty 3-pin flasher.  The cost was trivial.    I also used modern 3-way automotive electrical splices, instead of the funky crimp-on clips that originally came with the unit.  Power comes from the back of the cigarette lighter, and four leads are spliced into the four turn signal wires coming from the turn signal switch.  These are easy to find if you have a factory schematic... green with white stripe, white with blue stripe, orange with blue stripe, green with orange stripe.  I made sure to connect to the dash side of the turn signal junction block, so that it wouldn't complicate removing the steering column in the future.
The unit is pretty long,  including a heavy-duty thermal flasher.   Note the dual-zone equalizer for the stereo.
While I was under the dash, I rewired power to the audio amplifiers, and installed a remarkably inexpensive 2-zone equalizer I got off Amazon.  It was labeled as a "7 band parametric equalizer", but it's not parametric and it's not 7 band.  It has 3 bands for the "rear" channel which I connected to the center dash amp, and 4 bands on the "front" channel which I connected to the stereo amp.   This has made a noticeable improvement in the sound quality, providing a better blend between the under dash speakers and the center-dash speaker.  It sounds really great around town, but it's still not the kind of stereo that can compete with big rigs on the freeway... especially if the top is off the car.  Convertibles on the freeway are definitely high noise environments.  In fact, I tend to wear earplugs on long trips.

Ford Guy replaced the driver door glass for me... it turns out that the steel frame that supports the bottom of the window glass was broken some time ago, and poorly repaired.  That could explain why the driver side glass was broken when I got the car in 2011!  The frame has been replaced with a reproduction, and the window works fine.

Nell is running and looking great!  I'm digging the increased leg room, and the improved stereo.  My t-bird club was featured at a cruise night yesterday, and my wife graciously agreed to accompany me.  It was a great time, and Nell got plenty of compliments.

Looking sharp!
One of the cars that showed up with my club looked really familiar... a Peacock Blue '56 with a supercharger, 4-speed, and lots of speed equipment...
A blown, blue '56... where have I seen this before!
Then it dawned on me... I saw it at last year's west coast y-block shootout!

This was one very fast car!  I had a great time talking to the owner and discussing the modifications he had made.  He is a tall guy, and he also modified his seat to provide a few more inches of legroom!  I guess I'm not so unique after all.

Tomorrow I'm looking forward to driving a friend to my local t-bird club meeting, and then maybe sampling a few local micro-brews with him.  Life is good!