Monday, April 27, 2009

Brakes, and other things that break.

(Kitty Still Here)

2 weeks ago I got busy taking care of some of the basics on our LeMon MGB.

First up was replacement of the 30 year old brake hoses, with an upgrade to braided Stainless Steel brake lines. I have used these lines on several street MGBs now, and am a huge fan of the firmer pedal and positive braking feedback. I also really appreciate the extra safety margin over the original rubber hoses in case we run into debris.

All three lines were replaced, and the lines were flushed with new fluid.

Next up were new brake pads.

I chose factory style MGBGT-V8 pads, which have a 20 percent larger swept area, yet still fit in to the stock calipers. Again, this should improve brake pedal feel and allow even slightly longer periods between pad changes.

The rears will remain stock.

While I had the front end up in the air I heard something make a crunchy sound, and noticed things did not look normal. Upon close inspection I saw the passenger side front coil spring was broken and sitting at an angle. “Ah crap!” I thought. So I pulled the whole thing apart to see what the damage was.

Turns out, the spring had snapped off the last 2 coils. “Interesting” I said to no one in particular. What to do? Why, cut the other side to match of course! Old school lowering 101!

Rubber bumper MGBs suffered from being raised higher than the earlier cars due to federally mandated bumper height laws in the late 70’s. In addition to giving them a farm truck look, it also had a devastating effect on that handling the earlier cars were known for. A popular modification is to lower them back to chrome bumper levels and restore some dignity.

So back in went what was left of the broken coil, while the driver’s side got disassembled then surgically altered with my trusty Dremel tool to level it out. The end result was perfect, and the car finally looked a little less awkward.

Except now its butt was still up in the air.

(Gratuitous shot of Brownie, worlds Greatest crappy RV, skillfully blocking nearly all view of my private backyard Kentucky from the street)

So, not wanting the car to handle strangely, I relented on my self-imposed new parts ban (for other than safety) and picked up a set of lowering blocks for the rear. This set me back a hundred bucks that I will hopefully be able to pick back up by selling something else, keeping me under the 500 dollar limit.

I installed the lowering blocks and checked the static ride height. I was looking for the car to be ¾ inch higher in the rear as measured at the pinch weld under the rocker panel, and within ½ inch side to side with driver in car and the weight of half a tank of gas mimicked. I figured gas to be about 6.2lb per gal, and half a tank is aprox 5 gal, so I stuck 35 lbs of junk in the trunk and measured.

It was nearly perfect which indicates the corner weight loading is at least in the right ballpark. Wow, it almost sounds like I know what I'm doing! Such is not the case however...

And as we run over bumps and rusty parts begin to fall off, we may have to re-think our approach.

Chowderhead expresses concern...

Next: Another guy, Another motor

Previous: Progress on RACE car.

From The Beginning: The Hook... (Part 1)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Progress on RACE car.

This weekend we hit a major milestone with our race car code-named Lazarus. Shh… you don’t know that. It’s an MGB. Shhhh… You don’t know that either.

John Condren graciously agreed to help me weld in the Autopower roll cage I got from Raceport on Saturday. I say help, but I really mean I watch and stay the hell out of the way, and try not to burn myself a SECOND time from hot pipes. “Oh, it’s only a flesh wound!”

(Keeping a bucket of cold water handy was one of MANY a good ideas I learned from John, thanks!)

My original plan was to finish up bleeding the brakes and fix the clutch on Friday night, and nurse the car onto the trailer for the half hour trip south. However I was delayed by the bad news concerning Tigger-cat, and we spent the evening with her instead.

Saturday morning I got the brake job done, which meant we could now STOP the car, but discovered the clutch slave cylinder was shot and leaking like a sieve. The repair kit only costs 5 dollars, but I had no parts and no time. So I stole a battery out of the infamous Datsun – Bluebie, and proceeded to wake the entire neighborhood while I loaded it on the trailer with no clutch. As a bonus I was able to conduct a “Wicked-Hot-Starter-Test”. Result: Pass. Good old Lucas Electrics.

After unloading at John’s house we attempted the same thing to get it up his driveway. To my surprise the engine even started. It would sputter, but not really move the car. So, between the intermittent engine, a wicked hot starter and the two of us pushing, we were able get it up his driveway and across 100 feet of soft grass to where his garage and welding equipment were. I was wheezing for breath a long time it seemed. (Gotta quit eating them Mother’s cookies I stocked up on.)

I say garage, but what I mean is “Cool-ass-shop/man-cave.

It is everything that mine is not. I marveled at the fact that I did not have to step over crap or duck underneath anything. Bright, clean, well lit… and organized. Twice a year I get a vision in my head like that, and spend DAYS cleaning mine up. Best I can manage is “mild catastrophe”. Maybe I should practice on this focus thing I hear so much about.

I watched him weld, helping when I could, and taking in as much as possible. It is one thing to read about welding or to see it on film, but is better to see it done up close live. Having several decades of soldering experience and certifications, I know a bit about fusion of metal. However other than that, the two skills are about as dissimilar as you can possibly get. So it was a good class, so to speak. I plan on finally doing it myself soon.

Of as much value, was listening to John’s stories and advice. We were pretty busy so I did not get a whole lot of the stories but they were keepers. And his advice was spot on, which I appreciate. Thanks John! The Condrens were very gracious hosts.

On a worrisome note, he told me with a chuckle, he admired my gumption and naivety.


No time for pondering; On to the next task! Let’s see if we can get this thing to RUN!

Next: Brakes, and other things that break.

Previous: Progress being made, (on support vehicle)

From the Beginning: The Hook... (Part 1)

Kitty Still here....

Monday, April 13, 2009

Progress being made, (on support vehicle)

(Kitty still with us)

In addition to safety gear, recently a flood of boxes containing new parts steadily kept arriving. My suspicious-of-the-empty-boxes-spouse asked, “What are all these parts that keep showing up? I thought you had a 500 dollar limit?”

Oh yes my little crumpet, tis true I can spend no more than 5 Benjamins on that heaping pile of rust we foolishly decided to call a racecar.

However, there is NO spending cap on Brownie, the worlds greatest crappy RV! In fact, since we were gonna keep it after all, I decided to pimp it out! I mean if we are going to use this as race headquarters, I gotta replace the exhaust anyways, and we GOTTA do SOMETHING cool to it!!!

My “I-can’t-believe-I-married-you-spouse” slapped herself on the forehead, yet again.

“No, no, I have it ALL figured out. I even have a plan this time!” I defended my self.

Side-pipes, disco ball, vintage steering wheel, some shag carpet to go with the existing shag carpet, a little velour to compliment the wood paneling, I’m doin this thing up big time, ’70 STYLE! “

Ooooh yeaaaaahhhhh!”

“Think about it” I added excitedly to my rolling-eyes-spouse. “It could be, like, the ultimate 70’s cruising van, except with a built in shower!!”

“Oh dear, REALLY?” she said with a lot of hesitation. “I dunno, I think I would have to actually see it.” While she still doubted my vision if not my ability, I could see she was starting to get infected with my enthusiasm for the project.

I forget, she is a product of the ‘80s. And while the passage of much time has allowed me to finally look back on the ‘70’s with rosy-colored goggles, she has no memory of it at all. Bell-bottom cords, feathered hair, velour shirts, CUSTOM VANS, CB radios, Smokey and the Bandit, BJ and the Bear, NONE of this rang any bells. So I went online and looked up as many photos of vintage custom vans as I could find on Yahoo and Google.

Turns out, there are about 5.

What the HELL? What happened to all the cool shaggin-waggons? (I doubted myself for a moment, then I was sure, no, it really DID happen).

I suddenly had a new obsession, researching the millions of vintage custom vans that apparently have all mysteriously vanished off the planet. Were we REALLY so embarrassed about what had transpired, that we spent the entire 1980’s wiping out any trace they even existed? Am I the only one who secretly disagreed every time they were made fun of? I find that hard to believe, even if it is true.

In fact, now that I think about it, my favorite TV show “Life on Mars” had not shown ONE example of the “Vannin Craze”.

Hmmm… not to be deterred, I got back on Evil-bay and found some vintage customizing brochures from the era, in COLOR! Brochures are my heroin. I have more than I can count, from Ford Couriers, to 1960s Dodge School buses, and nearly every early Datsun sales catalog ever printed. Sometimes I just gotta stare at one for an hour to get my fix.

So a few days later a bunch of custom van brochures showed up at the house… and I had a lot of explaining to do.

After I made up for it with a night at the movies and some pizza, I showed her the vans in the photos. Some were horrible, some were kinda cool. But I got the all important “That would be neat” from “under-my-spell-spouse”.

And then I reminded myself:

I am SUPPOSED to be working on the race-car.

Next: Progress on RACE car

Previous: An ode to my fuzzy little companion (Sad)

From the Beginning: The Hook... (Part 1)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

An ode to my fuzzy little companion

Tigger -

The wonderful thing about tiggers
Is tiggers are wonderful things!
Their tops are made out of rubber;
Their bottoms are made out of springs!
They're bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy,
Fun! Fun! Fun! Fun! Fun!
But the most wonderful thing about tiggers is
I'm the only one!

It’s approaching midnight, Good Friday of 2009. I can hear the music of a Mexican pop love song escaping a dimly lit cantina and wafting through the late night chill, the crooning voice eerily echoing down this normally busy but now deserted street. I am alone walking my dog underneath orange sodium lights, past empty storefronts that line Main Street of my small California town.

I am drunk with grief.

Exhausted, eyes stinging from hours of tears barely held back. I have gone for a long slow walk to try what I have heard others say helps in time like these, talking to my dog. It’s a new dog for me, and I’m not sure the dog even likes me, so I don’t know if it’s going to work.

Many years ago when I got out of the Navy, the timing coincided with the second annual running of the Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour, and I jumped at the chance to take part in it, driving my 383 powered ’67 Dodge Polara, an ugly $300 car carrying an $8,000 drive train.

With me in the back seat of the car was a large plastic box with a swinging door cut out from a plastic milk jug complete with a peep-hole, and above that was a tongue in cheek sticker above it that read “Caution: Live Animals”.

What’s in there? People asked. “Oh, it’s my cat” I replied on numerous occasions. “WHAT?? You brang a CAT on Power Tour?” yes, yes I did. And she wasn’t all that happy about it either.

It was funny though, seeing people’s faces as they watched the parade of hot-rods make it’s way across the great plains, and then suddenly spotting my cat’s head staring back at them.

We spent another 3 months on the road, camping and couch-crashing to visit old friends, and see as much as we could of this great nation. It was as if I was a beatnik – a throwback from another time.

Tigger and I hit all our major bodies of water. The night before the tour we camped out in the car just off the Santa Monica Pier. Hello Pacific. We drove with the group up towards Chicago to bookend old Route 66, then on to the Great Lakes, ending up in Norwalk Ohio. After the festivities we drove south, stopping off to see the Chattanooga Choo-choo and go camping in the Great Smokey Mountains and chase fireflies, Tigger doing so in a harness and on a leash. We continued on to Pensacola and New Orleans for the gulf of Mexico, and then on to Daytona beach for the Atlantic.

As I was staging the car for a photo on the beach, the tide suddenly came in, and as the waves came up to and under the car, the look on my cat’s face was priceless.

I rescued her and we drove back to New Orleans (of course), then on to Texas and up tornado alley. We stopped to pay our respects at the site of the still recent Oklahoma City tragedy, and cut back across to Salt Lake City, Wendover, and the Bonneville Salt Flats. Finally our travels brought us back home to the Sierras via Lake Tahoe.

Quite the well traveled cat.

She was also a feisty one, full of attitude, and always had something to say. She practically named herself with all her bouncy-springy craziness, just like the
animated character. It was unreal. My Hispanic friends called her “Gato-Demonica. My Japanese friends called her Paaco-chan - Little Crazy. People who don’t usually like cats found her hard to resist. And my late Grandfather, the only time I saw him laugh his ass off, was from her antics, some of which I happened to catch on tape.

Years later in the aftermath of the dot-com bust, I sold most of what I owned and put the rest into storage. Tigger and I moved into Brownie - the world’s best crappy RV – and hit the road for a whole year while on sabbatical, to travel and write music.

It is this period of time I realized she had a hidden talent. She became my music critic. When I play well and my songs flow nicely, she will sit with her back towards me, eyes closed, ears following the music.

If I mess up or she does not like the song vibe, she lets me know with flat ears, a sharp look, a meow, or by just walking away. I consider her my ultimate test, and it works.

Years ago when I adopted her from a San Diego shelter, I thought myself more of a dog guy but decided a cat better fit my living arrangements at the time. None the less, I’m an animal lover in general, and she soon stole my heart with her antics and feisty attitude.

I believe that adopting an animal is for life, and a serious commitment. Nothing is as cruel as to be abandoned. After a rocky start to our relationship I eventually realized Tigger secretly loved me, and I promised her I would take care of her to the very end, and never ever abandon her - for any reason.

Now I find myself 16 years later, having nearly fulfilled my promise. And wishing - somehow - that I never ever could.

Earlier today my big-eyed-concerned-spouse and I took Tigger into the vet. She had been getting sick, stopped eating and was losing weight fast. For years she has been on a strict diet because of her slightly “Garfield” figure. Recently her sudden slimming has been a major concern. The first doctor a few months ago took x-rays, said she had an inflamed tummy, gave us medicine, took our money and sent us on our way.

Shortly after that my lost-one-Mackie-dog-and-worried-about-her-other-dog-spouse, lost her Chow Cinnamon to a botched surgery by the same clinic. In a last ditch attempt to save Cinnamon, we transferred her to an ER clinic, who said she should have NEVER been operated on. My poor tearful-eyed-spouse ended up losing both her life-long friends in a span of a few months.

And now again, just a few months later, Tigger is also sick.

Our new vet, one of the best and kindest I have ever met, came back with bad news and showed me the X-ray. My little buddy has a massive growth in her intestines which has blocked everything off. Nothing in, nothing out. Worse, it has recently spread to her lungs. It was caught too late.

We can try to manage and shrink the growth temporarily to give her a more comfortable ending… We may delay it from days, to weeks, maybe even a few months. But there is no mistaking it… this will be the end, and it is almost time. It is now my job to watch for the signs, and decide.

I have been dreading this moment. When she hit 10 I realized she was an old lady. At 11 and 12 I tried to prepare myself. At 13 and 14 she was so healthy I thought maybe she could go all the way to 20. I even started to expect it.

This spring, my little girl will have reached her sweet 16th birthday, which is ancient for a cat. Yet it still seems to have gone by in a blink of an eye. How can the day I knew was coming “someday” have suddenly showed up so out of the blue? What will I do without her? And how am I going to know if my music is any good? She WAS my music.

Chelsea, our team mascot, listened to my ramblings as we walked aimlessly, occasionally stopping to smell the odd bush here and there, but uncharacteristically stayed well behaved for the whole walk, and gave me looks from her soulfull eyes. I appreciate her company and it did make me feel a little better. We are off to the same rocky start I had with Tigger, and there is some poetic justice in that.

In typical dog selflessness, she suggested we make Tigger our honorary team mascot for the race. From her I got the idea we can take one of kitty’s toys racing with us, and bring it back a trophy of success. We can even have Tigger choose which toy to bring…

Thank you for everything little buddy. You outlasted nearly everything else in my life. God I’m going to miss you…

Next: Progress being made, (on support vehicle!)

Previous: The Characters

From The Begining: The Hook...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Characters:

Dreams are like rainbows. Only idiots chase them.

Now that we found our 6th consecutive 4th team member, and have officially been accepted into the Reno 24 Hours of LeMons race, work has progressed steadily both on the car and getting the team ready for the race. A steady stream of boxes has been arriving every morning, full of the required safety gear.

After receiving our official acceptance letter (WHOO-HOO!) a team email was sent out to team members saying “Pay Up Sucker! Last one to pay wears the Dancing Bee Costume.” Also listed was the following small text warning: “A sense of humor is MANDATORY, and stupid nicknames WILL be assigned.”

To that end, let me introduce our drivers;

“Lurch”: (Chris) A tall strange man who I have worked and traveled with for quite a few years now. His qualifications are simply that he has a proven ability to hold his bladder while driving intensely for many hours on end, often without hitting anything. Oh, and he signs my paychecks and does a mean BBQ, Wife is a superb pastry chef. In order to fit him in the car, the seat will need to mounted so low the rest of us can't see over the steering wheel. What could possibly go wrong?

“Chuck”: (Brandon) As in Norris. Aka Brother in Law. On the team partly because he is married to my sister in law, and rumored to be made of pure Kryptonite. Has spoken of having MUCH track time, and being a worldwide contender for best driver EVER. (May have secretly mentored the Stig). Also a 3x Neon belt Ninja, Army Ranger, and in fact - most heroic characters in action movies are loosely based on his life. His tears can cure cancer, too bad he never cries. Bonus skill; Answers unasked questions with remarkable accuracy.

“Hey WOW man”: Last name Chong. Artist. Blows Glass. Builds and races carts, Loves BBQ. Claims to be involved with many aspects of behind the scene racing… uh… stuff. Sounds unfocused and fishy to me. But hey, we met him at random in a Clamper bar, so that’s good enough for me. Only team member safe from wearing the dreaded “last to pay-up” costume.

“Sparky”: (Pete) as in “Sparky from Speed Racer” Team Capitan’. Yours Truly. Only qualifications… able to hold bladder for LONG periods of time, well versed in living with the Lucas Electrical systems found on MGBs and other fine British makes (Dim, flicker and dark – all you need to know). NEARLY a 24 Hours of LeMons veteran. Obsessed with filling garage full of obscure car parts, “Just in case”. Loves his crappy old RV. Bonus: Will have the only functioning fleet of vehicles after a nuclear war, and nearly all have wing windows.

“Squeeky”: Team Manager: “Cute-fluffy-pants-who-puts-up-with-A-LOT-spouse”. The brains of this outfit who keeps this whole mess moving forward. Makes me walk the dog in the middle of the night. Also makes a KICK-ASS spicy spaghetti!

“Chowderhead”: Team Mascot. A former Rescue Shelter Dog (frequent flier). Has defect in brain. Won’t be participating in any race festivities due to alleged brain defect and subsequent liability issues. Loves to chase concrete squirrel statues, bikes, strollers, cars, joggers, trees, telephone poles, airplanes, moon, tail, leaves, grass… can catch a mean crop of grass. Known to freak out from breathing too much oxygen.

And so there you have it. The whole mess.

Names have been changed to deliberately reveal the guilty parties.

(No concrete squirrel statues were harmed in the making of this blog entry. Batteries not included, hurry while supplies last, do not attempt at home, EVER.)

Next: An ode to my fuzzy little companion

Previous: Convergence of weirdness, team comes together.

From the Beginning: The Hook... (Part 1)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Convergence of weirdness, team comes together.

Frisbeetarianism- G. Carlin

Up in the mountains, when we had electricity one of my favorite pastimes was to listen to old vinyl records of comedians like the Smothers brothers, George Carlin, Bill Cosby, Cheech & Chong. There wasn’t much in the way of TV stations, maybe 2 or 3 stations that faded in and out even if you had power. Of the few shows we DID get I grew up on “Creature Features”, Friday Night Videos, and Dialing for Dollars (They never called me when we had a phone). Otherwise it was radio (Dr Don Rose, Dr Demento and Paul Harvey – Good Day!) and good old vinyl.

When we had no power, it was battery powered radios and cassette recordings of all the old radio shows like the Lone Ranger. We also had a DC powered TV so we could watch the Raiders play Monday night Football while plugged into the lighter of my parent's T-bird. Sitting on the hood as we cooked some BBQ, it always faded out at the end of the third quarter so we never knew who won. And with the Raiders of the early 80s that was torture. Down by 20+ points at the end of the third, we just knew they got their asses handed to them. The next day on the bus to school I was stunned; "What do you mean they won?" Or the next weekend they would be up by 14, and I find out the next day they LOST? UG!

But it was the comedy records I remember the most, especially Cheech and Chong bits like “Crusin with Pedro de Paco”, which also was the team name of my first (and rejected) Lemons entry.

“Hey WOW man, you drive just like Steve McQueen…”

I read Tommy Chong's book, "The I Chong: Meditations from the Joint" while on a cruise to Alaska for our 1st anniversary with my
"loves-to-sail-because-she-wasn't-in-the-navy -spouse".

The cruise was nice (Saw a bear) but the book was more interesting. He went to prison for 9 months for selling blown glass "Art" nationwide on the Internets.

I think "The Man" was still a little upset about the whole 70s stoner thing.

I have been known to sneak into our conference room at HQ before presentations and write on the upper left hand corner of the whiteboard:

Sister Mary Elephant
Social Studies-1
Guest: SGT Stadenko

Then struggle to keep a straight face as the CEO gives his company wide quarterly updates, while people quietly notice it and figure out the joke. (Why do they always look at ME?)

Recently we went to see the "Cheech & Chong Light Up America" reunion tour at a local theater. Pretty funny stuff, but it just DID NOT OCCUR to me that the theater would be filled with Ganja smoke. Yes, I know, it seems blatantly obvious in hindsight. I just remember being glared at my “what-is-WRONG-with-you-spouse” who I dragged out to see them with me. She was from a different generation, and I found myself with a lot of ‘spalinen’ to do, after we stopped on the way home to buy some nachos. She had her first case of the munchies I think.

The next day I flew out on another business trip and my hero Tommy Chong was at the airport with his wife Shelby. They walked by, and then a while later she walked by again. She walked back, and came through once again dragging Chong with her. Not sure what just happened, but it was funny. Later as I was buying a car magazine Shelby got in line at the kiosk. “Great Show” I said.

“Thanks” she replied. And then an awkward silence followed...

I felt like a jackass.


And speaking of Jackasses;

The most entertaining thing up in the mountains growing up were Clampers.

ECV, E Clampus Vitus. Typical garb at a 'doins, what sayeth the bretheren?

Motto: Creedo Quia Absurdum- I believe because it is absurd.

Yes, I am also a Clamper. Third generation, and unfortunately it is terminal.

But what does Clamper mean you may ask?

Answer: I do not know.

“And so recorded”.

These seemingly fractured elements would converge one recent evening as I was out to dinner with my “I-want-BBQ-spouse”…

We went to the Highlife in San Jose, which was recently featured on “Man-vs-food”, and a known Clamper bar in addition to having great ribs.

I was sitting there discussing with my hungry-spouse how I was going to find a 4th driver for the team. Suddenly a man walks in behind me and asks “Do you do that 24 hours of LeMons race?”

“What?” I replied a little shocked. “Um, yeah. I keep trying to. How did you know THAT?”

“Your jacket” my “captain-obvious-spouse” whispered. Oh, RIGHT! I had been wearing my awesome new Lemons Jacket, the only real tangible evidence I ended up with from the arsefreezeapalooza fiasco.

The guy said he had heard about it and been checking it out, and REALLY wanted to do it.

I said “Well, I just happen to have an open seat on my team if you are interested”.

We introduced ourselves, and he told me his last name was Chong. “Lol, NO way.”

And he was a glassblower. “Ha-ha-ha!! Hey WOW man! You are SOOOOO on the team!!”

Next: The Characters:

Previous: Hammer, Screwdriver & Vise grips

From The Begining: The Hook... (Part 1)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Hammer, Screwdriver & Vise grips

I grew up in the backwoods boonies of northern California. Several of the homes and cabins we lived in had no electricity, and even those that did could sometimes have the power interrupted for days or weeks at a time. Long before cell phones if a tree took out the power, it took out the phone too, for weeks. Such was life deep in the woods. Most homes ran on generators if they had one. Otherwise it was kerosene lamps, propane stoves and fridges, hand washing and sun drying, just like the good old days grandpa kept yappin about.

The bus stop was at the end of the line, over an hour from the centralized high school. And then it was another 7 mile walk home over a mountain pass with over a thousand foot elevation change. For several years I had to walk and it was 5 miles uphill, 2 miles steep down. So yeah, it kinda WAS uphill both ways. But I wasn’t thankful, ha-ha-ha… Especially when it snowed, and it snowed a LOT.

You learned to make do with what you had. Later when I started driving, if your car broke down you had two choices. Fix it with what you happened to have in the trunk or found laying on the side of the road, or walk home - because there were no part stores. The problem with walking home was that even if you made it without encountering a bear (Yup, say “Yo bear!” ala Man-vs-wild) or mountain lion, you still had to walk back and fix the car.

The big cats and bears usually left you alone and weren’t much of a problem. It was the free range cattle and wild pigs that were a problem. Every herd of cows had a bull somewhere that did not take kindly to you making your way through the herd as they wander stupidly all over the dirt roads. You never knew when you would run into a herd, and when you did, you looked for and hid from the bull. When you heard the snort and feet stamp, you knew you were in trouble.

The wild pigs were something else completely. I don’t know what their problem is. I do know I had been treed a few times in gold rush era apple trees by angry boars. They will circle the base of the tree snorting and grunting for HOURS trying to eat you. Thank god there were apples to munch on.

It was a lot easier to just fix the car.

I once replaced a lower control arm and spindle on the Gremlin (wheel got torn off by the infamous cedar trees I don’t want to talk about) on the side of the road with a hammer, flathead screw driver and a pair of vicegrips. I was doing the vagrant thing, living out of my car and couch crashing as I tried to finish high school, so I REALLY had no place to go. A nearby hippy had an old Hornet racecar sitting behind his shed, so he cut parts off with a torch and rolled it out to me wheel and all. I sat down in the dirt and did roadside surgery right there at the scene of the “incident”. It took me 3 days and it wasn’t pretty, but I got it rolling again. Do you realize how long it takes to remove a bolt using the hammer and screw driver technique? It CAN be done though. As a result though, to this day I have a tool fetish, and am no longer allowed into the Sears tool department.

Just one look at that back wall with all their tools on display, and...

Next: Convergence of weirdness, team comes together.

Previous: It lives... No, not really.

From The Beginning: The Hook... (Part 1)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

It lives... No, not really.

The next day after work I removed the Zenith Stromberg “Firepot” of a Carburetor to see what condition it was in before messing with anything else. The float bowl was leaking like a sieve, and I discovered that the o-ring that seals the center drain plug was completely rotted. I picked one out of the shop bit-bucket where I toss all my un-useless stuff. It looked like something that I removed from the Harley but fit just right.

I threw it back on the car and tried it again. The float chamber was no longer leaking, but it was still flooding badly. So back off it came and I opened it up. I found 2 out of 3 tiny rivets holding the float to the needle arm had given up the ghost, leaving it to flop around inside the chamber. Interesting.

Rather than mess around with something I wasn’t going to use any longer, I borrowed the smog-check-special carb from our other MG just to see if I could get it started. My hope is to get this thing smog and street legal, and drive it. Even commute in it. I don't know why I do these things. But the carb went on, the fuel pump filled it with 4 year old gas, and then the car started right up! The motor had good oil pressure, and also a spine-tingling squeal originating from the back of the engine. Ooh boy.

The star of the show however was the huge cloud of blue smoke coming up from the engine compartment as it warmed up, rolling out from under the front fenders, spewing out the back and even drifting up from the floorboards. Ooh Boy.

I recalled Hillary saying “The motor is pretty much shot” and thought to myself “aren’t all MGB motors? Ha-ha-ha…" but no, he wasn’t kidding. This one was pretty bad.

The squealing noise got louder and I saw the curtains next door part for a second, so I shut it off. The smoke kept coming though. And coming… It looked like an old steam train warming up for a trip up the mountain. “Holy crap!” I cursed, waving at the smoke as if I could do anything about it as it drifted across the busy street and towards the local tree-hugger’s house.

Last thing I need now is the fire department showing up like it did for the gear-heads down the street last Christmas. They closed the garage door to keep their smoking car from attracting attention as they worked on it, but when it started coming out of the chimney and every window in the house the fire department showed up. They opened the garage door to find a sea of emergency vehicles and rescue personnel staring at them, as they stared back with bloodshot eyes. Thank god I’m not like THEM I thought. Carbo-monoxide-o makes me mellow man... like WOW man.

(Tip: Growing and/or mowing your grass helps keep neighbors from getting too nosy)

I was standing behind the MG when I looked down and saw a HUGE comet shaped pile of rust originating behind the exhaust, and leading towards my unaware-as-of-yet-spouse’s smart car. And, ALL OVER the front of her smart car. Ooh boy. Where did THAT come from? I looked into the tailpipe and saw speckles of daylight everywhere. Ah. Interesting.

“Honey? Can I borrow your keys? I called out.

“Sure, where you going?”

Gotta go pick up some parts real quick. Be right back.” I answered, and secretly stopped off at the car wash.

“How sweet” she said later when she saw it all clean.

Yeah, that’s me. Mr sweet. I’ll buy you dinner…

“Ok, now what did you do?”

Next: Hammer, Screwdriver & Vise grips

Previous: Work on the Race MGB Begins

From the Beginning: The Hook... (Part 1)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Work on the Race MGB Begins

The last few months have been a whirlwind of activity with the team, the car and work....

...Not to mention a whole bunch of butt kissing directed at my “Hey-we-have-no-more-parking-spouse”.

When we got the car home I gave it a thorough inspection from top to bottom. And my first impression came from under the hood the next evening. In the fading sun the car almost looked too nice to turn into a LeMons racer. Most everything was in place, and included factory tid-bits not usually seen after so many years. I began to second guess my plans for a moment, and called it quit for the night while I mulled it over.

The next day however in the sunlight my opinion completely changed. The more I looked at the more I saw. The interior was garbage, every last bit. It had more rust than I first thought, and every single part on the car was corroded, broken or scratched. There weren’t many parts in good enough condition to reuse on a restoration or worth selling. They weren’t even driver quality.

That’s going to make it hard to sell extra parts and offset some of the car cost. The rules state you can sell parts to bring the total investment in under 500 bucks, but I have very little I can work with. This is going to be a little harder than I hoped. But I felt better about the LeMons thing. This is the PERFECT car.

I ordered new brake components, including Stainless Steel lines and V8 front pads. The rules state safety items like brakes, tires, fuel cell and roll cage are not included in the limit. In keeping with the spirit of LeMons, I am staying with stock components and/or whatever came on the car whenever possible unless safety dictates something better. Brake hoses are one such item along with new pads and a fluid change.

On Evilbay I scored a set of earlier MGB S.U. side draught 1 ½” carbs for 125 bucks, to replace the Zenith Stromberg “Firepot” on the car now. Anyone who has owned a Rubber Bumper MGB knows this is for ALL our safety. This whole setup was a stop-gap contraption by British Leyland and is prone to catching fire. I'm all for excitement but that's where I draw the line. While the stock earlier SUs are not really performance items per se, they may allow the car to get out of it's own way on the track. I’ll also throw on the rusty header I picked up at the swap-meet for 20 bucks and call it good. Plans call for a cherry-bomb muffler and the exhaust exiting on the drivers side in front of the rear wheel, NASCAR style. Er, NASCAR, if it was made up of a bunch of hillbillys.

I also ordered an Autopower roll cage from I/O Port. This is the beginning of the big ticket items and was a little hard to swallow. Almost 900 bucks for the full cage. But as they say, racing ain’t cheap.

Next I threw a spare battery in the car and hooked it up to see what happened. Nothing. Good news. I turned the key to accessory and waited again. Silence. So far so good. No smoke, no fire. (A rare feat in an MGB!)

I turned the key to the on position. Dash lights came on, and the fuel pump started whirring. Still no fire, and no smoke. I could hear the fuel pump sloshing fuel into the lines, and it began to slow down. Good news.

But it kept going. Normally the pump will slow down and begin to click as it builds pressure. This one sped up and slowed down as air pumped thru the system, but never built any pressure. After a moment or two I turned off the key and looked under the hood.

Ah. A gas leak. HOLY MOLLY, Make that gas leaks. Whoo boy. That Zenith carb has some serious flooding issues. No wonder it had high hydrocarbons on the last smog check, lol! Gas came out of every POSSIBLE orifice. And several more areas I did not think was possible.

I stepped back and let the car dry out, while making a mental note on where the fire extinguisher was.

But then came the call, it was time for dinner. Pizza? ALRIGHT! Screw this thing.

Next: It lives... No, not really.

Previous: The Race Car

From the Beginning: The Hook... (Part 1)