Sunday, January 25, 2015

putting the brakes on

I finally got back to some mechanical work at the beginning of October. Longer term followers of this blog might recall that I had a few problems with my front brake system. I tossed away the six cylinder drum components and replaced them with an old Granada set up that I acquired through the BAMA mafia. Later I found that the the hub size on the replacement Granada rotors was too big for my wheels. This led to me transferring the car from the Green Room to my garage in Emeryville with a pair of Ranger wheels on the front. That was in April 2012, and that's exactly where those wheels stayed for the next two and a half years.

Ranger wheels: not very sexy.

I always planned to take the replacement Granada rotors and have the hubs turned down so they fit the wheels. But I struggled to find a machine shop that could do this for me. Later I talked to Mike Maier about the inadequacies of the Granada swap. A couple of months after that I was in Reno for Hot August Nights when I found myself being dragged into the "Big Boys Toys" exhibition hall, and slowly sucked towards the Stainless Steel Brake Co stand. A few minutes after that one of the Summit Racing guys was passing my credit card though an exceedingly hot swiping machine. It must have been hot, because the credit card was melting when I got it back!! A week or so after that some very heavy SSBC boxes showed up at the house. Around this time I also ordered the roller spring perches from Opentracker Racing that we've all heard so much about.

Roller perch (left) and static stock option (right)

After tearing off the Granada spindles (and all the related parts which I spent time restoring...sigh...) it was straight forward to install the SSBC spindles, dust shields and rotors. It's probably fair to say that the SSBC system is overkill for this car, but I just decided not to make any ecconomies with the brakes.

Getting the caliper brackets and calipers assembled and installed correctly was a bit more traumatic, but I eventually got there. Then I wiggled the car away from the garage wall and did the same to the driver side.

Wheels fit now..!

The SSBC brake system comes with a new master cylinder (MC), flexible lines, and all the hardware. It also includes some short sections of hard brake lines, because the setup requires several modifications to the stock lines. Plus you have to install a proportioning valve (PV) that wasn't needed with the original all-drum system.

One of the reasons for working on the brake system now (and the fuel system next) is that I wanted to get all the lines installed before I put the engine and transmission back in. So I ordered up a set of stock brake lines from NPD and set about attaching them to the chassis. The rear brake lines went in just so, and I made finger-tight connections to the wheel cylinders. Nice. The central line at the transmission tunnel and firewall and the connections at the front discs were also pretty easy. I was able to utilize most of my shinny zinc plated hardware with the SSBC brackets.

I bolted up the MC and connected the brake pedals and the piston. You are supposed to bench bleed the MC before installing it in the car, but I didn't because I only bothered to read the instructions afterwards. At this stage I was a little bit more concerned about where to mount the PV and how to get the lines anywhere near to the MC, never mind connect flawlessly.

Of course there was no distribution block included with the SSBC kit, so I had to dig out the original and refurbish it. That's one more time that keeping EVERYTHING from the tear down has saved me.

That's better

I guess it also goes without saying that the brake lines that come in the SSBC kit have completely different connectors to the ones that come from NPD. And they're not quite the right shape, and anyway I've never had to make custom brake lines before, so why not now? Well the answer to that questions is probably "because it's a tedious PITA!" First I had to invest in a pipe bender, and then a flaring tool, and then in some extra brake lines from the local parts store, and then some more spare brakes lines...and...well when it was all done it looked like this:

Now to me it wasn't too bad for a first time, but I know for a fact that some of the flanges are not right, and that a lot of the bends look amateurish. For now though, it's a start.

To be continued...

Friday, January 9, 2015

sounds great!

New year, new plan: I just know 2015 will be the year the '68 runs again! I've got mixed feelings about the decline in the number of posts I've been writing about this project in the latter three years: of course it's mainly due to "other things" taking priority, but I also think that my posting style has evolved such that I can cover more progress in each installment. There, that sounds much better!

The trend is down.

Even though I spent most of the Summer working on the shed and deck projects, I did find a few hours here and there to chip away at the car. One of the things I worked on was the audio system. When I got the car is was still equipped with the original am-only radio and the solitary center-dash peanut-sized speaker. Clearly this would not do.

Original water-stained maroon package tray
starting to look better...
Test-fitted the speakers
After cutting the speaker holes, I covered both sides of the modified package tray in thin foam which I attached with the 3M yellow weatherstrip adhesive. After that I wrapped the package tray in the special material I will be using for the interior accent pieces. I'll be keeping the exact design a secret for the time being. Later I installed the revamped package tray and speakers in the car.

I hand re-painted the original radio bezel and test fitted it with the radio unit I bought from Custom Autosound. I've not heard the unit play yet, so I can't review it, but I will say that I was very disappointed with  the company's customer service (both my emails remain unanswered) and with the lack of speaker wires included in the package.

Installation in the dash was pretty easy. I installed my custom speaker wires for the two rear speakers. I'll be installing custom control knobs for the radio in the future.

I'm using a "hide away" antenna which I can either hide in the glovebox or at the edge of the dash pad. I also made the connections for my cell phone and MP3 player which are straightforward with this package. I made sure I left plenty of extra cable so I don't have to keep the phone in the glovebox while it's charging.

Getting the glovebox door aligned correctly was a bit of a chore. It's been almost four  years since these parts were painted - they were actually done at the same time as the interior portion of the doors. I'll be installing tweeters in the door panels or at the kick panels later.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

and now for more of the same

If one huge construction project wasn't a good enough excuse for not working on the car, then how about a second? The upper level deck and stairs at the back of the house have been on the "must be replaced" list for five years I think, and this summer an opportunity arose to finally take the bull by the horns. Funny thing is, we were so eager to get on with the demolition, that I forgot to take a decent "before" photo. By the time I got the camera out, we had already removed half of the top platform. It took all of the first day just to demo the top platform and remove the stairs. The two 6"x6" posts are in good shape and will be staying. I'll also be re-using the stringers. Everything else will be going!

So far, so dry rot. This is where the project took a left turn. After we got the stairs out of the way, it was immediately apparent we had a dry rot problem in the siding. The trouble is, once you peel off a bit of rotten material, there always seems to be another piece underneath. About an hour later, thanks to a crowbar I picked up at one of the Turlock Swap Meets, and there was a big heap of broken up, siding in the yard.

Add to that, several partially rotten wall studs, and I was starting to think I may have bitten off more than I could chew.

Oh dear!

I was lucky in a way, because the lower door was installed relatively recently, and the laminated header was in good shape. I couldn't say the same about either of the corner wall studs, or several of those in the center, and they all had to be partially replaced and/or sistered. I ended up ripping off a lot of siding until I had decent material above and below.

I had some help with installing the tar paper and the replacement siding, but all-in-all this was a lot of work I had not bargained for when I began tearing down the stairs...and it put the project severely behind schedule.

So, finally back to working on the deck. After ripping out the mid-level platform, I started constructing the replacement. All the timber that is seen, and the entire upper level deck will be constructed from new pressure treated lumber, but I used some recycled material for the supporting structure at the  mid-level platform. All the upward-facing edges were covered with tar paper to prevent dry rot and/or fungus damage. This time around a proper flashing was also fitted at the junction with the house.

The upper level deck is supported by the pre-existing 6"x6" posts and securely anchored to the house with a bunch of 6" lag bolts. I'm never happy with anything I build unless it's 1000% over engineered...

After completing the framing and supporting structure I re-installed the three stringers between the two platforms. Getting the stringers secure and absolutely square took a little time.

Next....a trip to buy a huge pile of lumber on the friday night before a three-day weekend.  I picked up some redwood fence panels for the risers; the treads and deck boards will be cut from 2"x6" redwood lumber. The perimeter railings and handrails will be made out of 2"x4" redwood with standard 5/4" pickets.

Started by installing the risers and treads at the lower few stairs.

Continued with the deck boards at the mid-level platform. This was the most enjoyable part of the project - the bit everyone will look at.

Moved on to the upper set of stairs and the top deck. 

As the sun was going down on the sunday night I was still busy putting up some safety railings and handrails.

Next time out I worked on building the straight sections of the railings and handrails.

The angled sections of the railings at the sides on the stairs were a little bit more challenging but this was also a lot of fun.

The very last thing was the stringer covers - I installed two sections of 2"x12" PT lumber to improve the aesthetics. A few stray end-grains were also stained to match the pressure treated lumber. Have to say I'm very proud of this project....but now it's back to the '68. And about time too....