Tuesday, June 13, 2017

You're never gonna believe this!

Well, well, well...
On this day, June 13, 2017....a mere 5 years since parking my greatest challenge in Hubby's parking spot and ordering the parts for the drum to disc brake upgrade...I'm ready to hook up the brake lines and get the rotors and tires back on!
This weekend I had another day of 'oh, all I have to do is this one little thing and I'll be on track to tie this brake system up, finally!'...which turned into, instead, 'what a surprise. I can't get this to work out. I need a drink.'
It gets pretty exhausting, going day after day, hitting a wall every time I try to get some momentum on this project.
I feel overwhelmingly lucky to have a handful of folks I can text, message, call (ha! like I use the phone for talking!) to ask 'what am I doing wrong?'
The car forums are super helpful, too, when it's a specific A-body question.
And I always have my Haynes manual handy...
But all of that is still not enough to work out a problem without a little mental & emotional breakdown thrown in.
Let's just get right to it...we all know this is the longest brake conversion in the history of brake conversions, I'm sure.
Once all the stuck parts were off, I thought it'd be pretty smooth sailing to get the new stuff right in there and off we go to the next thing.
Alas, that is not how this project works. This past weekend, I went out to work on the car with all kinds of hope and excitement that the front brakes would go on, lickety-split, then I could get the rear drums all put back together and then hook up the brake lines...then onto the fuel system.
Instead, the new parts didn't line up properly. with lead to all sorts of frantic messages and texts and forum questions, followed by a couple days of checking emails, and reconfirming that I was understanding the information I was getting.
With the knuckle connected to the upper ball joint, I could not get the lower ball joint to meet up
With the lower ball joint connected, which is the order the manual says to do things, things also did not line up 
Adding a jack, to help raise the knuckle was the best suggestion, but this is as far as the jack would go before the pressure just seemed to intense.
So, when the jack method wasn't working, I got emotional. I thought back to the forum replies. And the manual...the thing I kept thinking was 'why is the adjuster bolt not loose?' According to the manual, the bracket should move freely, but I just chalked it up to rust, since previous posts on the forum lead me to believe that the bolt was out 'all the way'.
But the manual says it should move...besides that, upon further reading, that bolt comes out when/if the torsion bar is removed.
Let's pretend I'm removing the torsion bar.
As I recalled, I turned to bolt as much as I could in past attempts.  Out comes the PB Blaster and the breaker bar...
Oh, good god! It's still turning! and turning! and for heaven's sake will this bolt ever come out!? Then the bracket began to move! Joy! A new emotion.
Eventually, it came out and, just like the guys in the chat rooms said 'once that bolt is loose, the lower control arm should move freely.' It really did!
There it is! The adjuster bolt just had to come all the way out for me to get the range of motion I needed for that lower control arm to move!
 So once I could move the LCA, I used all my upper strength to get the parts to meet, and my lower strength to hold the low parts up with my leg.
But hold the phone...it's not so simple.
I was able to get it all together without removing the new bump stop, as everyone had suggested, to get the UCA to move down more. Yeah, right?
Wrong...at that point, I couldn't get the adjuster bolt bracket back into the LCA...
so, off come the new parts...out comes the new bump stop (which I've been assured will go in easy once the car is back on the ground)...in goes the bracket...and back on go the new parts...
All buttoned up, but without the bump stop.
So, I gave myself an hour to work out my problem, hoping I could a)figure it out, and b) move on to get the passenger's side done, as well. Unfortunately, it took me nearly the full hour to do this.
Fortunately, I'm home for the day and have to power to extend my stay, so long as the heat didn't cause me to pass out (it's currently 85 degrees outside the carport...but, I was working around 10am, so it wasn't as hot...but the sweat was still dripping. No getting around that!)...so, I gave myself another half hour before I would have to call it a day.
passenger's side, done, with bump stop!
The passenger's side took 20 minutes. Not only that, but learning from my mistake, I put the bracket back in, leaving the bump stop on, and then put it all back together.

So that's that! Now I need to add the rotors and all that jazz, of course, but I'm without bearing grease and I'm going to be honest...I hate this heat and really just want a cold beer.

Until next time...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Now we're moving along

The struggle continues. On and on I go, just hoping that the daily task I have set for myself goes off without (too much of) a hitch.
The latest issue: bump stops.
the silly little rubber bumpers that keep the upper control arms up and away from other metal parts as the car hits all the bumps in the road.
A bit of rubber on a bolt that is screwed into place.
That's it! It's a rubber topped screw.
The task: unscrew old bump stops, screw in new bump stops.
WOW! That'll be easy. Probably a little (a lot) rusty, but I'll just douse it with PB Blaster and use the impact wrench on it.
OOPS...not enough clearance for the wrench...or the wrench, socket and hinged adapter.
Breaker bar? NOPE...so here we go with the smallest wrench and socket I have...and after hours of struggle...I mean, ab wrenching and shoulder pulling struggle...nothing.
How can these things not be moving AT ALL!?
I'm getting better at holding back the tears. I'll get a cutting blade for my 8-in-1 multi-tool thingamajig and try again.

Fast forwarding: metal cutter in hand, eye protection on, footing as secure as i can get it (well, not really 'footing' since everything I do with this car I'm either lying on the ground or kneeling until my legs go numb)...
After just a few seconds of using this tool, I can tell it is not going to work. The intense vibration has my hands going as numb as my legs and my brain telling me that this will only end badly, if I continue to attempt this.
So, I give up again. As I think about my problem, I remember that I am not opposed to more elbow grease if that's what it takes. People may think my way tends to be more labor intensive, but if I can get the job done with less fretting that I may slip and cut my hand off, it's worth it to me.

My solution: get thee a hacksaw!
I put it in my head that, no matter how crowded Home Depot was going to be on a sunny day after 2 weeks of rain, I was going to stand in line and buy my $10 mini hacksaw.
The true victory was actually going home and USING the saw, rather than waiting another week.
But as with most days working on this car, the joy from this victory was short-lived.
After a lot of work without much pay-off, it didn't seem like the saw was cutting the bolt at all.
Though to look at it, and the relation of the blade to the placement of the screw, it had to be going through...so I continued on.
Finally, after a pretty intense upper body workout, That disc popped right off!
And I was faced with another 'haha, you suck at this' slap in the face from this car that I can only assume, at this point, is haunted by some asshole spirit that likes to watch me beat my head against the car window and pretend to smash it to bits with a hammer...
...wait...where was I going with this...?
Oh, the top finally came off to reveal....
A square hole, with a square bolt that has been tightened beyond it's proper position.
Seriously...is this whole thing a freaking joke? Well, universe? Is it?
What could I do, but move on to the passengers side, leaving this bolt stuck. I did not have the wits to figure this problem out, at that time. It looked as if it had been welded in, and the fact that I was unable to get it to budge at all, it's truly what I thought.
The passenger's side bolt actually had some movement to it, I was just not able to get the nut off the bolt.
That went much more smoothly and I was beyond excited to just get it out and move on to try to solve the problem of the driver's side fiasco.
That all happened on Monday...with my day off just around the corner, I made up my mind to get that bolt out on Wednesday (today).
More PB Blaster...sledgehammer and a big metal punch we had lying around from some other random project...flat head screwdriver-as-chisel...and more sledgehammering.
My god I pounded on that thing...I cursed the car, per usual...I fake cried (because the tears just don't come anymore)...then I gathered my strength to go at it all again. Staring and wondering how it could be that this fucking thing won't budge!!??
Out comes the drill. That's no help, because I'm not really sure, at that point, what or where I should be drilling.
So I chisel away at the parts that I think will help relieve that tight grip of a diamond in a square.
Finally, I could see the PB Blaster shooting up through the bolt hole...I thought 'why not give that little socket wrench one more try?'
Oh sweet merciful whatever, it moved...but not straight...so it was simply stuck in a different position.
So I go through all the usual quips: 'really!?' 'are you fucking kidding me?' 'this is SO my life'...
A little more wiggling and another smack with the hammer and it's out.
Mangled and shiny. 
The best part: I'm too nervous to check but, to my memory, my new bump stops are not square at the base. We shall see soon enough, though.

The light at the end of this tunnel that took me several hours over the course of many weeks to get through: 
Parts can start going back on!
We're not done yet and I think the real fun is about to begin.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Days of rain

I'd love to say that the days and days of rain is the reason that i've been lazy about working on the car. But it's really only part of the reason. The main reason is because I've spooked myself. I've convinced myself that I don't have what it takes to see this project to the end.
And that's just silly! I mean, sure, I have no idea what I'm going to do when it comes to the engine work, but I can figure that out. I know people.
It's true that it's taking me FOR-EV-ER to move along on this thing, and I've thought about giving up several times (but then couldn't figure out how to get that heap of metal out of the driveway, anyway, so why not give it another go, right?), but I always go back. Maybe it's because a lightbulb goes off and I figure a different way to get past my roadblock. Or, maybe it's because a new person enters my life with the knowledge that I need to move past my current problem. Or, maybe I just somehow summon the strength and courage to push through my doubt and get shit done.
This time it was a combo, really...
and I'm still moving along.
Here's where we were last time: unable to get the tie rod out. Why, you ask? Well, because, as we know by now, I don't really know what i'm doing. So I could not get my impact wrench in a position to get the nut off. But, with media, my super power of admitting I am ignorant, and my collection of car friends, I was guided. 'Turn the steering wheel' my friend Pat told me. Of course. Sometimes you just have to put yourself out there and be ready to feel like a complete dolt.
I turned the steering wheel and, low and behold, I had no problem on the driver's side. The passenger's side was a little more of an issue, but I still managed to move along.
The tie rods are out.

They, of course, needed some cleaning...and removal of old bushings. Removing old bushings isn't all that easy, by the way.

They've been cleaned up.

The new bushings are on and it's basically ready to go back in.

And that means we finish that brake conversion! The thing that started it all, in my eyes. The upgrade that I thought this car needed. Let's face it, it's not a great looking car to start, so spending money on body work wasn't really important to me. It's a heavy beast so souping it up to become a race car would be the most ridiculous idea ever (that's my next car. *wink*). I just wanted to get it running so I could drive it around a few times during the summer...maybe hit a car show some weekend...then maybe sell it to recoup the money I put in (which is basically the few dollars I got from a lawsuit my dad was involved in before he passed away). So, since driving on the Cape means having brakes that work...I was willing to spend the bulk of the budget on this disc conversion...and it's about to happen, folks! Years later, I can actually say I'm ready to start emptying the boxes of rotors and dust shields and calipers and (ugh) adapters...

While playing my usual game of getting frustrated and feeling like I couldn't make any progress on the car, I decided to do some cosmetic stuff (nothing major...just trim and window stuff)...
the dark brown is the old (outer) trim...a look at that same trim but on the inside of the door revealed that it was originally silver. I got new silver trim.
You can't really see the silver in this picture, but you can see the difference compared to the picture below...

I also replaced the weather stripping between the front door window and the quarter/back window. The door still needs to be adjusted to make it water tight (another procedure I didn't know about until my friend Pat mentioned it...more researching needs to be done there.)

So that is where I'm at now.
And it's been raining for a week, basically. With another weekend of more rain ahead of us.
We shall see when I get back out there, but I'm feeling good and positive about where I'm at. Just trying not to think about the engine and floor boards just yet. (oh, yeah...I bought a pre-fab floor pan to weld in to fix the driver's side floor rust...another adventure there, for sure!)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

and just like that...

Well, folks, it's been a long time, hasn't it.
A long few months of silence here, and over on the ol' facebook page.
I've been dormant, though the weather has actually been pretty nice considering it's winter in New England. We had a big snowstorm, but it was all cleared out by rain and warmer temps within a few days.
So, my point?
It's not the weather keeping me from that beast in the driveway.
I pretty much gave up on the ol' gal after all the trouble with the front suspension, as you all know.
But not the kind of giving up that leads to the thing just sitting there to rot or trying somehow to get someone to come buy the heap so I didn't have to keep being reminded that I was in way over my head simply starting this project. (that was a long ass sentence!)
maybe you're thinking 'what kind of trouble were you having? i forgot.'
 The front disc brake conversion can not take place until the old brake parts and suspension are squared away...
remember...I had to buy 2 of these $20 tools because i broke the first one trying to get the ball joints off?
 All the things I tried...including the pickle fork/sledge hammer combo and this stupid 'too big' pitman arm tool.
Ahh...the joy of auto restoration, coupled with a complete lack of car knowledge makes for some pretty rough days of waking up the neighbors (guess it's ok if they shine their headlights in my windows, after all...and eye for an eye, i suppose.) and tears. Lots and lots of tears.

Well, winter will give me a great excuse to just not think about it for awhile so when people ask 'how's it going with the car?' i can say 'um, it's winter. what could I possibly be doing? It's going just as scheduled.'
Then we have the ridiculous warm weather and days when I should be out there. But I'm not.

Enter my new friend, Jeremy. 
Husband of a woman my hubs works with. Mechanic. Happens to have some free time this week...and Wednesday looks good. Oh, but wait! There's snow in the forecast for Tuesday, of course.
Miraculously, Wednesday is still looking like 40+ degrees...and it was.

Yes, yes, and...?
Let's just let these pics do the talking...

All the parts are OFF! Which alone is enough to really bring me joy. However, I got a bit of pleasure when the ball joint gave him just as much trouble, until he used some tricks of the trade and his knowledge of leverage and how it can work in this situation. It was better than finding a unicorn while out on a walk in the woods. It proved to me that I must have a little bit of good karma built up somewhere.
Since I really just met Jeremy a few days ago, I told him my whole sad story. Which reminded me of the long and winding road I've been down with this car. I have renewed excitement for this project again, now. Soon, the long and winding roads will be for cruisin'!
***(Jeremy, if you're reading this, I hope you're not completely embarrassed and unwilling to ever speak to me again. ...Perhaps I should've asked him first...)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

another long absence

Does absence make the heart grow fonder?
I'm not sure. It makes my heart grow more stressed and anxious, that's for sure.
It's winter here in New England, which usually means tons of snow and frigid temps. This year, we're having unseasonably warm days that I have been letting get away.
We have had one crazy snowstorm, so far, but it got so warm and we've had a lot of rain, that the signs of that storm have all been erased. 
The next few days are looking pretty mild, but it's definitely headed back to a cold trend.

At any rate, I'm not really here to give a weather report. I'm certainly not here to give a car work report, because I haven't done anything in months. Except, well, you know...the useless ball joint labor.

Last night we had dinner with a couple friends. New friends to me...one of hubs' co-workers and her husband. It was nice. Get out... meet new people (though i had met them before, we've all just never hung out). Well, her hubby is a mechanic by trade and it was sort of a set up that we've been trying to make happen for a while. Most of the night was shop talk between work pals, but by the end of the night, we managed to make a tentative meeting at the house so he can see what I'm up against. 

So look for at least one more update soon...

...still, to be continued...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Last post: August...it's almost December

Wow! I know restoring a car can take a long time, but I don't think it's usually held up by tantrums and crying fits.
I'm sure no one really wants to hear another story about how hard this project is. How everything just seems to go wrong at that moment when I feel like something might just go my way. It's exhausting listening to someone go on and on about how the universe is against them and they are doomed to live a life of woe.
Well, I'm sorry, but that is how it goes.
I'm still sitting here with stuck ball joints and control arms. I've gotten lots of advice and tried a few methods (not all...I mean, there's still hope that I can get some forward momentum again). I've gone the route of simply giving up on the brakes and deciding to work on other bits, and then go back...but then I get it in my head that I can try just one more time...maybe the rust has loosened up enough...maybe I'm a little stronger today. But that just ends in more tears, same old stuck parts, and NOT moving on to other parts...and me drinking the beer I didn't earn.
What is wrong with me, anyway? 
Why can't I just face the fact that I may have reached that point where I just can't move forward?
Well, oddly, I have friends who still encourage me and tell me 'you can do it!' and continue to offer advice. I miraculously have a husband who, despite his burning desire to have 'his' parking space back, still asks 'how's it going?' and 'are you working on the car today?' like it's just a normal thing for me to do on a Saturday afternoon.
But, I'm not sure how to move forward anymore. 
I'm so down every time I think about the brakes and then I get nervous that my bad luck will continue when I go to drill the hole for the bolt for the fuel tank. Then I think about using a grinder to cut bolts off, and envision a cutting wheel to the face as my brother and so many others all over social media have endured. I like scars, but I also like not going to the hospital to have parts of my tools taken out of my face.
But it has to be done. 
I have to just get out there and drill that hole.
I have to cut those bolts off, if they aren't going to budge.
I have to get that torch and heat up those parts.
I just have to do it. 
I've used a drill before...I've just never used one while lying on my back.
I've cut bolts and nails before...I've just never done it in such tight spaces.
I've never used a torch before...that'll be a first!

So I do go on with my life thinking it's totally feasible for me to eventually get to the day when I have finished this project. Well, to the point I can drive it, anyway. I had some things that didn't make the list of repairs due to budget constraints, but after the hell of the brake conversion, those things will be for the next owner to tackle. I don't need a headliner, carpet, spare tire or non-leaking windows.

Basically, I still haven't gotten to the point of giving up. Well, I have said it, but that odd husband of mine has talked me off the ledge and convinced me I'd regret that decision. And I would regret it, I just wish I was stronger and better equipped to handle the set backs. these moments of non-movement.
If I knew even a little about cars, I'd feel more comfortable about it all.
Maybe I should use my complete ignorance of the job as a tool to lift me up. It can be my mantra:
You've done more than most people with your lack of car knowledge!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The longest brake conversion story...EVER

One of the two days I am able to just get out and do what I can with the car, without any other obligations.
Three hours seems to be the maximum time I can manage without having a breakdown.
Now, I don't mean in the intense 'losing all control' sense of the term...just a mild 'okay...get out while you still have your wits about you' sense of the term.
So today's 3 hours of work got me a little further in the conversion process, but I'm still stuck on the driver's side. Still not able to move onto drilling the hole for the fuel tank strap bolt. Still not able to finish hooking up the brake lines (and then the brake bleeding process...ugh). Still not able to concentrate on running the fuel line.
Still stuck on getting the old suspension parts off and replacing bushings and boots.
But, I still made some progress!
I bought this tool at Harbor Freight. It costs a mere $22.
And it worked wonders on the tie rod end!! I could feel the 'pop' up into my teeth when it finally came apart, but I was overcome with excitement and couldn't wait to just get all that stuff unstuck!
 so much pressure and nothing that should be moving was moving ...then...POP!... Yeah, it...wait a minute...it's all.still.together...and ...where's the other part of the tool????
Now seems like a great time to let you all know: I am always wearing gloves and glasses. And, if I'm being perfectly honest, knowing that this is a violent kind of prying apart of ...parts, I actually propped my rubber floor mat up in front of me, so that if anything DID come flying off at me, it hit that instead of my person. I don't mind bruises and cuts and scars and things like that (honestly sort of like them)...but I don't need to maim myself!
After that I pounded on my pickle fork. I tried the pitman arm tool...

...but...it was too wide. I ended up gouging the end of the lower control arm because i didn't realize it wasn't doing what it was supposed to be doing.
I got on the ol' facebook and posted some stuff...got some solid advice and virtual high fives from my car guys...
I released the jack I was using to support the lower control arm, hoping the problem I was having was simply a matter of pressure being applied in the wrong place.
After all the struggle I could handle for the day...
I decided to see if I could get the rusted nuts off the upper shock bolts.
More spraying of rust stuff...more clamping of deteriorating shocks...more spinning of bolts...
 And then FINALLY....
...something went right.
And if you're counting...that's TWO things that went right for me today!
I wiiiiiiiinnnnn!!!!