Tuesday, August 15, 2017

MGB - floor pans (Part 1)

Today's post is the first of a series dedicated to the removal and replacement of the floor pans in my MGB. This process would be the same for any car whose floors are not a critical part of the structure. I believe most cars fit that description, but I'm sure there are some unibody cars out there which have particular demands on the floors requiring a little more expertise. On that note, let's be very clear: I have zero prior welding experience. Nada. Zip. I've tried to play with a stick welder and was unable to strike a spark without getting the stick stuck to the target material. After a few hours of that frustration, I gave up, put the welder under my workbench and moved on. Until now.

The Patient
right side floor - before
I have posted quite a bit about the journey with this little British car since I acquired it late last Summer. After a spirited drive home with no seatbelts, no brake lights and little understanding of how it operated, I've made many improvements:
  • brakes (link)
  • fuse box (link)
  • master cylinder / pedal box removal (link)
  • engine mounts (link)
  • rebuilt the front suspension (link 1, 2, 3, 4) including front wheel bearings, etc
  • new seat belts, rear suspension rebound straps, fixed the brake lights (no links)
While working on the front suspension, I had a volunteer in K2 ask if he could help out. I wasn't in a spot where unskilled hands were really a help, so I asked him to start removing the interior. The carpets smelled bad and were pretty worn, so I'd intended on at least getting the smelly stuff out and putting in a temporary solution until I had the cash to do the interior well. That is where this story begins.

left side floor - before
With a 1/2" spanner and a small ratchet, K2 was able to remove the 4 bolts which hold in the passenger seat and pop them into a ziplock baggie. We pulled the seat, and set it on the floor. I left K2 to the carpet and I returned to the suspension. K2 did a great job pulling the carpet free from the floor, and the transmission tunnel. The floor looked fair, with surface rust, but half of it was covered by the original sound deadener. We split the task of hammering that out with a chisel so we could evaluate what lay beneath. There were some rusty spots as you can see in the upper picture, but only pin-holes through.
Prognosis: fair, but will require some work to have them sealed up. Replacement suggested.

With the limited space in the garage, K2 had to perform some gymnastics to get after the bolts holding the driver seat in, but once removed, he made quick work of the carpet and we cleared the sound deadener much faster as well. Unfortunately, as "okay-ish" as the passenger floor was, the driver floor was pretty bad. There were multiple small holes and the sound deadener came out so easily because of the heavy rust underneath it. Upon further examination, the floor around one of the nuts for the seat had cracks in it.
Prognosis: This floor was toast. Replacement required.

Decision made: we'll replace both pans, one at a time, and hopefully have the MG road-able before the next rainy season starts.

aftermarket pan
When it comes to the floor, there are OEM and aftermarket floor pans. The OEM cost about twice as much, but they have all of the little things that make them easier to work with. They have the nuts for the seat-bolts already installed, and the reinforcements to the floor around them. There are various little threaded studs on the underside that are on the OEM pans. Last, of course, they are heavy British steel. The aftermarket pans do not have most of the fasteners attached, are made with thinner (not British) steel and they reportedly have an extra lip around the edge that needs to be cut off. Based on the pictures, it looks like the aftermarket pans also lack the drains. neat. I chose the OEM pans, and ordered a set through my local MG specialty shop: British Auto Works in North Plains.

Weld or Glue
OEM pan
There is a whole religious war about using a structural glue to attach floors, or other "non-structural" panels. The glue argument goes "modern cars are glued together, and the new glues are far better than anything they had back then so the manufacturers would have used them if they'd had them". Sounds reasonable. The weld counter-argument goes "modern cars are CAD designed with things like cost of materials and time/effort factored into the engineering so the glue is part of the engineering work, the crash testing, etc so gluing anything that isn't purely cosmetic on a non-glue car is a bad idea". This also sounds reasonable. I decided that I'd err on the side of caution and learn how to MIG weld on these floors. I have always wanted to learn how and while floors may not be structural, my seat is bolted to it, so it feels a little more important than, say, a rear spoiler. With this in mind, I reached out to my wife's sister's boyfriend to borrow a welder, and some welding instruction. But, before we get too far down that path, we need to remove the old. We'll get to that next time.

That's it for today's appetizer of a post. More to come on this topic for sure. Thanks for following along.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Almost Frog Lake (Part 2)

Today's post is a continuation of Part 1, but this time I actually get to the ill-fated trip up Mount Hood, vagabonding, and Boo's saving the day. In the last post, I had packed the bus mid-week for our weekend camping trip. We usually do this the evening before, but one of my old friends was getting married that Thursday, so we went a different route. In summary, we had a yard sale over the weekend, then the purchasing / flush fill of the coolant on Monday/Tuesday, packing Wednesday and a wedding on Thursday leading up to the departure on Friday. Timing was tight. Now, on to the adventure-

Up Hill, Up Temps
We hit the road for what was to be a weekend of camping lake-side in the Oregon Cascades. With visions of hiking and floating in a paddle-boat driving us on, we headed west out of Beaverton shortly after 6. We knew we had at least 3 hours before darkness hit, so we drove at a relatively easy pace over the Sellwood Bridge, over OR224 to OR212 to US26. We came upon another bus on the OR224: a nice blue and white 2-tone which the driver had just purchased. He had a flat, and AAA on the way to help, so after exchanging pleasantries, he waved us on. Along the way, the bus temps were staying around 185*, the point where the thermostat opens. But, as we climbed more hills, the temps started rising. We stopped at the Subway for a quick dinner in Sandy and to let the bus cool off before returning to US26. By the time we hit ZigZag, I was genuinely concerned, pulling over periodically to let things cool off. As we passed through Rhododendron our temp was approaching critical, so I pulled into the breakdown / chain-up lane between forest service roads (FR) 24 and 26. With the engine idling, the fans blowing, heat fans on, the temp kept climbing. We passed 206* for the first time, and before I could kill the engine, steam started venting out through the overflow bottle. I turned off the key, the engine stopped and steam eventually stopped venting, but not before a large puddle had appeared under the passenger side rear-end of the bus. We were stuck: never add coolant to a hot motor; the engine needs to cool to ambient temperature or you could crack your block.

WildWood Recreation Area
I was in a form of shock, self-loathing for not doing the job "right", maybe using the wrong coolant or not getting the coolant-to-water concentration right.... but Boo leaped into action. The sun was dropping, and we needed to get off the road or deal with authorities. She scouted FR26, about 100 feet ahead of us, and spotted a clearing just off the road. With an apology to Hapy, I started him up and crept to the turn-out and nosed him into the clearing. While off the road, we were still very visible, so Boo started off down FR26, and returned with a big smile on her face. She found a driveway off to the left, leading to a private property which had been triple padlocked with a barrier, but the barrier was 20 feet off the road into the forest. The entryway was flat, and the locks were well-rusted, telling us that not only was no one home, no one was probably coming tonight either. We moved Hapy, noting an "if you see suspicious activity call the sheriff at..." sign, and while darkness closed in, we put up our curtains... only to discover that when we let K2 use the bus as a tent the night before the yardsale, he had left the cabin lights on, draining the auxiliary battery dead. The day had cratered. Boo, though, was incredible. She pulled out a couple of camping chairs, a couple of beers from the cooler and our leftover Subway sandwiches and served a picnic in the dark. Day saved. No sooner did we put everything away than we saw headlights on FR26.

Solving and Slipping Out
WildWood Recreation Area
Fortunately, the headlights turned to the right and went to a different cabin. We chose to settle down and get as much sleep as we could, expecting to hear a tap-tap-tap of a Sheriff's flashlight on the side of the bus to awaken us before dawn. That didn't happen. In fact, we slept for 9 hours and awoke to birds chirping at a post-dawn sun. I peeked out the window and saw a man walking his dog, and he had a "what's that?" look on his face. Recognizing the man would probably call the Sheriff, we started moving rather quickly. I had a full liter of 100% G12 under the bed, so I pushed the bedding out of the way of my self-cut engine hatch and poured it into the overflow bottle. Luck was on our side as the coolant filled the overflow bottle to the "full" mark, telling me also that we didn't lose that much coolant in the prior evenings debacle. With the bottle full, we packed up for travel and fired Hapy's engine. He started without delay and hummed like nothing ever happened. Recognizing that were were still literally in the woods, we quickly checked that the space looked as we found it and drove to US26. As soon as we were on the public road, we headed for the chain-up area about 100' downhill. With Boo's foot on the brake, I went around back and checked everything. The coolant level had dropped a little bit, but it was still closer to full than fill.

ZigZag and WildWood
Rather than continue to drive away from civilization up to Frog Lake, we chose, instead to lollygag our way back out of the mountains, stopping first at the ZigZag Cafe. Boo and I had driven past the ZigZag Cafe for years before first stopping in a couple of years ago. Since then, we try to include a meal there when we're up at the mountain. It is a mom and pop place where the owners cook and serve some great food. You just need to wait for it. We whiled away our morning, sipping coffee, watching the trickle of the ZigZag River out the window and enjoying an easy brunch. Deciding that we still didn't have great confidence in the cooling system, we continued downhill. Just west of Welches, there is another spot we've driven past for years, but never visited: WildWood Recreation Area. Wildwood sits on the Sandy river with many riverside picnic areas, a group shelter and, apparently, very few visitors.

We turned a weekend camp into a day at the river, selecting food, drinks, and materials for a riverside hang out. We sat in the river and talked, snacked, and relaxed. We encountered only the camp hosts, a young family (who also had a VW bus in their yard) and a tourist from Singapore. The tourist was looking for natural sights so we talked about some of the wonders of Oregon, encouraged a visit to the coast and learned about Singapore. All in, we visited for about 20 minutes, but it really resonated for us.

We had decided that driving up to the camp site was probably a lost cause; someone else probably found the reserved, but unclaimed spot and nabbed it. Besides, we still weren't 100% sure our cooling issues were behind us. So, as the afternoon shifted to evening, we packed up into the bus and nosed towards home. Now, the drive "down" from Mount Hood isn't all downhill. Most of it is, but there is a stretch between Brightwood and Sandy just past the Ivy Bear Restaurant where there is a long uphill pull. That was our first real test. By the time we got there, we were running at 185* (our Normal Operating Temp with the thermostat we have). As we started climbing the hill, the temp didn't really move, so I pushed the speed a little bit, trying to stress the system. That did it. A little bit. The temp rose into the low 190's, but stabilized at 194 the rest of the way up. Once we crested the hill and leveled off, the temp dropped right back down to 185 and then 183 (thermostat closed). Hazah!

There are 2 more meaningful hill-climbs on the way home after that one. The first is leaving Boring heading west towards Clackamas and the other is on I-205 between Oregon City and West Linn. The first, we took from a dead stop at the intersection across the street from the Timber Pub and Grub. We stayed in the slower-traffic lane, but held at speed the whole way and didn't see our temp get above the new high-point of 194*. For the second, we were at highway speed (60mph in the bus) and would have maintained speed except for a slow moving heavily-laden semi-truck in the right lane. Regardless, our temp wasn't a factor, and it appears that our cooling issue has been solved.

Since this ill-fated trip, the bus hasn't seen much action. I have been focused on getting the little convertible MGB into road-ready shape before the nice weather ends. My next few posts will probably be focused on that work. I hope to isolate another weekend day for a day at a park with the family in Hapy. We have plenty of water-side parks here, so it's just a matter of circling the day on the calendar and doing it.

That's it for today. Thanks again for following along-

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Almost Frog Lake (Part 1)

Today's post is about our ill-fated trip up Mount Hood, vagabonding, and Boo's saving the day. This post got pretty long, so I'm going to cut it up into pieces. This one covers my efforts to resolve the coolant issue we encountered on the way home from 4Peaks.

The Set-Up
After 4Peaks, we had a hectic week of preparing for a huge yard sale. Last Spring, Boo and I moved one house over (See Move Again), and in so doing, reduced our living space by 20%. We didn't reduce our stuff, so after a year of consolidating, shifting and GoodWill'ing, we still had a major purge. The week after 4Peaks was the final lead-up to that purge with the yard sale acting as the culmination. The yard sale was very successful, but it was held on 2 of the hottest days of our Summer: 105*F both days (Fri and Sat June 23/24). We were cooked and after having had a hot and dry end to the festival, we wanted a cool, relaxing camping experience.

The Fourth
The following weekend, however, was US Independence Day weekend. Finding a camping spot that weekend is nearly impossible, but I found one on the east face of Mt Hood at a place called Frog Lake. Based on the pictures, it looked amazing. It's called Frog Lake because you can hear the frogs at night. Neat. I was able to secure us two nights, Friday June 30th and Saturday, July 1st. I just needed to solve the cooling issue in Hapy before we left.

G12 compatible coolants
Recall from the 4Peaks Road Report (link here) I had cooling issues on our way home. I concluded that I committed the cardinal coolant sin of mixing my coolants types. Bad bus owner. When you mix coolant types, a few different bad things can happen. The nasty brown color is your first tip that things have gone awry. In terms of real impacts, it could be something as simple as the coolants bond to one another. Under a microscope, the coolant will bead-up, rendering it useless. I've read that it can leave salt residues as well. That really sounds bad.

Or, one or both of the two coolants can bond to various parts of your cooling system, basically putting a coating on things, reducing the remaining coolant's ability to pull heat out of the engine or to set it free through the radiator. If it is bad enough, you may need to tear your engine apart to clean out the badness. Before anything gets that drastic, though, try this first: smack yourself in the forehead for not buying the right (and probably only a few bucks more) coolant. This is best performed with an open hand, but if you're really feeling stupid, a 13mm spanner will wake you right up. After the next paragraph, and the adventure in the second half of this story, I clearly need to use the spanner.

Ok, seriously, to remedy, you need to drain the system, flush it with water and then run a flush chemical through to get any bad buildup off the insides of your cooling system as well as to trap and wash away any funky coolant. Then, follow your manufacturer's instruction for what kind of coolant to use. In the TDI, this should be G12. Or is it "used to be before G12 was superceded by G12+ and then G12++"? In my confusion, I sat on the floor at the local parts store, digging through internet sites and posts looking for a safe coolant. Turns out, G40 is the most current super-coolant for german engines. The jug clearly listed VW and the typical internet boards agree that G40 is compatible with G12, G12+ and G12++. The picture here is from one of those boards (thanks TDIClub, you're an amazing resource!). I got a gallon of Zerex G40 50/50, some Prestone flush and headed home. In the interests of transparency, my VW-specific parts place is only open during business hours during the week, and I don't have any time-off from my new job yet. So, before you ask... "no, I couldn't get the right G12 pink coolant".

The Doing
After work, I pulled out the large catch-pan, slid it under the radiator and loosened one of the radiator input hoses. I drained out the yucky-brown, and then disconnected a few other hoses and bleeders to get as much of the old stuff out as I could. I then re-connected everything, poured in the chem-flush and topped with water. The instructions say to then run the engine with the heater wide open until it has been at Normal Operating Temperature (NOT) for 15 minutes. This posed a problem.

The TDI wouldn't get to NOT just idling in the driveway, and I wasn't comfortable driving around so I arrived at a different idea: If the NOT direction is simply so the thermostat opens, why not remove the thermostat instead? Sure, the chemical might work a little better at 190* versus 170*, but is it really that much better? I'm sure some chemical engineer could explain. I plowed ahead and removed the thermostat housing, removed the thermostat and re-installed the housing. Now, flush/water would pass through the radiator, effectively cleansing the whole system. After running the engine for 20 minutes, I repeated my draining efforts. I also ran water into the various openings from a garden hose, forcing the flush and any remaining yucky out. Once the dripping stopped, I re-connected everything (including returning the thermostat to the housing) and reached for the G40. I poured in as much as the system would take. It seemed like less than I expected, but I wasn't really sure how much it would take, since my coolant lines aren't exactly stock. With a shrug, I buttoned everything up, and packed for camping. In the back of my mind, I wasn't really sure the problem was fully solved, but I was out of time and considered that I would just drive easy and watch the temp gauge.

That's it for today.

Friday, July 28, 2017

4Peaks 2017 Festival Report

Well, it's the middle of festival season, and I'm realizing that I hadn't summarized the 4 day music festival around the Summer Solstice yet. So, today is all about 4Peaks. I covered the getting there and getting home odyssey in 4Peaks 2017 Road Report.

Location Location Location
After having this festival hosted at the "Rockin' A Ranch" for the first 9 years, 4Peaks moved to the other side of Bend for it's 10 year anniversary event. The Rockin' A Ranch had been receiving noise complaints from neighbors, and the festival had started to outgrow the space in Tumalo. The new location is Stevens Ranch, on the SouthEast edge of Bend. This new location is at least twice the size, making for larger camping zones for everyone.

With the new location came some welcome new additions, like a map of the entire grounds where areas had names. This made is much easier to tell friends where to find you. In the old location, you had the RV area near the entrance, the valley and the far ridge to give general areas. Otherwise, you gave directions like "over by the van with the big flag". With a festival as small as 4Peaks had been, this worked okay. This year, telling folks we were at "The Junction" made it very easy.

Carabus Camping
As I mentioned, the overall festival space was probably twice the size available in prior years. This meant folks spread out a little bit more, and there were open grassy areas where no one was camped at all. As a result, kids had safe open places to group and simply play. The greater space between camp zones could have created more barriers between each other, but we found that we actually visited with more people than we had in prior years. Whether the space was a contributor, we can't really be sure, but I think our having parked across the road from the Furthur bus may have.

This year, Boo and I carabus'd with GratefulEd and his '73 Riviera poptop, so our camping spread was a little bigger. We parked in an "L" shape, placing our sliding doors on the inside, and our driver's sides pointing at "The Junction" intersection. This really helped keep the dust down as cars and foot-traffic moved through the intersection. Between the buses, GratefulEd erected his BusDepot exclusive canopy, while Boo and I put up our 1st edition version of that canopy. 10 years later, that canopy has about had it, but it held up for the weekend. Last, we put a 10x10 canopy between them, creating a relatively large covered space, keeping us dry for the 1st half of the festival and shaded for the second half. We brought a stack of rugs, so we covered the dust with them, scattered our camping chairs, coolers and new table (See Camping Table). Midway through the festival, after the rain moved on, we put up some wind breaks in the form of tie-dyed sheets to reduce the dust from the wind as well as improve the shade. Overall, it was a very comfortable and welcoming spot.

Friends and Friends of Friends
With each passing year, we seem to find a few friends from the years before, and make a few new ones along the way. We were greeted with appetizers by our neighbor to the north before we were completely set up, for example. Our neighbors to the west were ranch owners from near the old location, and we shared food, drinks and lots of conversation over the course of 4 days. Beyond our neighbors, we had old friends and VW-curious stopping by, sharing stories, whisky and appetizers. As much as we had started coming to this festival for a few bands, increasingly we go to 4Peaks for the festers.

One big new addition to the festival experience this year was the simulcasting of the music from the main and tent stages on Saturday. Since it was the first year for the community radio station, there were some technical difficulties as they shifted from stage to stage. That's to be expected, though I'd encourage them to borrow some technical help from Portland's KBOO, since they have been live broadcasting the waterfront blues festival in Portland for 25 years. Lots of experience, and also community radio. Most of the music performed on Saturday did make it to the air, though, and I sincerely hope they not only do it again, but broadcast all 4 days.. just don't talk while performers are.

The bands this year were arguably some of the biggest names yet. While we were first attracted to this festival for Melvin Seals and the JGB, this year's festival was co-headlined by moe and RailRoad Earth with the Infamous Stringdusters, Poor Man's Whisky and Karl Denson's Tiny Universe sharing the second level billing. We were treated to Achilles Wheel, MoonAlice, Warren G Hardings on the tent stage as well as the return of the Students of String Theory on Sunday morning. I had only heard of many of these bands so getting to see them (or hear the simulcast) was a real treat.

moe - I had heard of these guys for years, and somehow never heard anything they'd done. They played for 2 hours straight, and when they laid down a groove, it was real good. Unfortunately, they subscribe to the Phish kind of thinking where if the crowd is diggin on something, change the beat, rhythm and key without warning and decimate the vibe. Over the years, I've called this "Groove Assassin" and moe had this at an award winning level. They weren't as good as their hype, unfortunately, but the festival-goers showed them the love.

RailRoad Earth - Boo and I had first heard of RREarth at the last NYE show by a Dead affiliate on our honeymoon going on 5 years ago (See HNY) from our neighbors on the mezzanine. We hadn't ever heard them, nor seen them, but they were awesome. Closing out the first full day of the festival is a tough slot, especially knowing fest-favorite Poor Man's Whisky is following them in the tent stage afterwards. They crushed it. One of their players was not with them, and they had a guest on the organ, but that guy was killin' it. Billed as more of a bluegrass band, they sounded more Americana... with an organ. So good. Seriously. Definite must see.

Infamous Stringdusters - Most folks from the PacNW or even the western end of the US knows of the Infamous Stringdusters. They are regulars on the festival circuit, though we hadn't seen nor heard them before and they'd hadn't been to 4Peaks at least as long as we've been going. As the last band on the main stage before RREarth, they were kind of the warm-up band for the first night finale, but they brought it, and raised the bar. I'm not usually a big fan of the banjo, and while they had banjo representation on pretty much everything, it didn't dominate like the Death-by-Banjo experience we had at NorthWest String Summit in the Summer of '15. I just realized I never posted on that. Drat. Regardless, the Stringdusters were great.

Karl Denson's Tiny Universe - At the start of the festival, a new stage schedule was released and the Universe had been moved to the main stage, shifting festival favorite Poor Man's Whisky to the tent. When I saw that, I figured there would be a revolt -OR- the Tiny Universe was just that good. Either way, we had to be there. It was so good. These guys completely stole the festival.If you haven't seen them, go. You can't help yourself from dancing once they get started. Karl was the sax player for The Rolling Stones, and he surrounds himself with young talented players. Their energy is contagious and execution fantastic. Mid-set, they brought a young guy, probably 15 or so, up on stage to sit in on one of the keyboards. Even he ripped it up. After their show, they were the only artists I saw walking the festival grounds, in the camping areas, just hanging out. I'm a huge fan and will go out of my way to see them again. I wholeheartedly encourage you to do the same.

The rest of the bands on the list above I heard bits and pieces of. MoonAlice, I've since seen on internet streams, and they sound pretty good. I regret not hearing more of them at 4Peaks. Achilles Wheel, I heard the first song. They played the tent between the Stringdusters and RR Earth, so a sacrifice for food was needed. Unfortunately, they were sacrificed. That one song sounded really good though. Rocked a bit.

Students of String Theory - This is a loose collection of students at the String Theory studio in Bend. Over the years, a few of the students have really grown, and their presence on the tent stage on Sunday morning has become one of our favorite parts of the festival. It's quiet, everyone is a little blurry, and these kids make some great music. This year, they were pre-empted by Pitchfork Revolution (who were really really good), playing acoustic instruments around a single old-skool mic. The first String Theory student, whose name I or course now can't remember, has been playing this stage for as long as we've been coming to 4Peaks. Her teenaged voice is hauntingly mature, bringing tears to the eye as she shares her song of an also-young friend who recently passed of cancer. She will be playing big stages one day.

I think that's it for the festival review. It seems like it gets better every year, and unlike most festivals, 4Peaks doesn't seem to have identity problems. They are small, and like being small. They aren't trying to get bigger name acts which require more money which means more festival attendees which bring more security, etc etc etc. Instead, 4Peaks has figured out how to deliver a great festival with a few small national acts mixed in with regional bands at a price that works. As always, thanks for following along-
1.. 2.. 3.. 4Peaks!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Camping Table

Years ago, I bought the interior from a '79 westy to replace the interior of my '72. The old interior was shot, and it wasn't nearly as ergonomic as the later westy or the Riviera. Today's post covers how I finally figured out how to make use of the table that came with the interior.

How I Got Here
The '79 Westy came with a table which rode on a swing-out arm. The arm attaches to the sink/stove unit where it meets the little Dometic fridge. There have been numerous reports about the usefulness of that tiny fridge. A few years ago, I switched mine out into dry storage instead (See From Fridge to Storage). Later, in fact just about a year ago, I finally gave up on the old sink/stove unit and sold it to a car club here in Portland. It should give refreshed life to many westy's with broken bits in their kitchens. I sold off the headbanger cabinet then too, since the later westy depended upon a full-length cut-out roof (that the '72 didn't have), so it didn't fit my bus. This left me with the rock'n'roll bed, the closet, the storage fridge and the table. I had been using all the other parts, but the table just moved around the garage.

Table Top
The table has a large round metal bowl attached to it's bottom, applied with screws so the underside of the table acts like an oversized lid on the bowl. From the center of the bowl is a short (~4" long) 1" diameter post. This post is supposed to fit in the swing arm, making for a nice table in the camper, but without a use outside the vehicle without custom brackets from BusDepot.

Without the kitchen, and without the brackets, the table had no purpose. So, I hit Home Depot and bought some galvanized steel pipe from the plumbing section: 2 10" long 1" diameter pipes, 1 1" coupler, 1 1" to 1-1/2" adapter, a 3" long 1-1/2" diameter pipe and a 1" pipe wall mount. These bits form the leg. Combining all of the parts together (mount | 10" pipe | coupler | 10" pipe | adapter | 3" pipe) net a leg that's over 2 feet long, making for a nice counter height when the base is added. By removing one 10" pipe and the coupler, the table is cocktail / coffee table height when the base is added. So, all this is great, and it's been the plan from the beginning, but a 1" leg holding a 2-foot by 3-foot table in the air won't work without something at the other end of the leg to hold it upright. This is where the pipe wall mount comes in.

Love That Bass
Pretty much every car comes with a spare tire. From when I first started thinking about this little project, I figured that the spare tire that sits on the bus' nose would be the base somehow. I intended to use an old rotor, but in digging through the garage, I didn't find one. Instead, I found a wheel spacer / adapter for 5x100 to 5x112 (so a Subaru can run VW rims). This has 5x112 lugs already, making it all the easier. To form the base, I set the 1" wall mount under the spare rim, and put the adapter underneath that, with the lugs pointing up. With extra lug nuts I had lying around, I torque the rim to the adapter, squeezing the wall mount between. The 1" threaded opening is available through the centerbore.

Top to Leg
The last piece is getting the post coming out of the table to stay put in the 1-1/2" pipe. I drilled a hole just below the upper (nearest table) threads larger enough to fit a 1/2" head bolt. Within the 3" pipe, opposite the hole, I JB-Weld'd a nut. It took a couple of tries to get the nut to weld well, but now it holds the table.

Pudding Proof
I tested the assembly in the driveway with increasing amounts of weight, starting with a cup of coffee. Held firm. Tried the Coleman stove and it held. Tried a tire from the MG and it held. I decided it was ready for some real-world testing, so we made it central to the camping at 4Peaks. All weekend it held the stove, supported our cooking and other activities. It had stuff on it all the time.

The leg parts break down and fit under the rock-n-roll bed. The wheel adapter with lug nuts fits under the rock-n-roll bed too. The spare tire goes back on the nose, and the table slides onto the rear deck with the rest of the gear. Ultimately, it takes up very little space, and makes use of a table top I've been carrying around for years.

That's it for today. As always, thanks for following along. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

MGB - Steering Rack Install

I realized that I didn't post about the install of the steering rack, so today I'm going to have a quick post about that. For reference, I removed, cleaned and re-assembled the rack in this post.

steering arm seated in clamp
Before you start putting the three-armed monster in (what's that? See MGB - Steering Rack), check that it's centered left-to-right by turning the steering arm. Next, check that the steering wheel is straight, the center spokes level with the bottom of the car. On the other side of the firewall, you should be able to spot the steering column butting out. There is a clamp on the end for the three-armed monster to fit in. The clamp has a bolt/nut combination which needs to be removed from the clamp before assembling the three-armed monster. That bolt needs to align with a cut-away on the three-armed monster steering arm. So, look at the two ends, and recognize that if the steering rack is centered within itself, but not centered once the cutout aligns, your steering wheel won't sit nicely level. Fixing this could be as easy as a minor adjustment during alignment, or more complex like removing and re-installing that clamp or doing something to the steering rack. In my case, I was putting the old rack back in, and the wheel was close to level before.

In She Goes
If you're doing this alone, like I was, getting the monster in can be a juggling act. The column arm fits around the right engine mount bracket. Get the unit in the right general location, and use a rubber tarp strap to hold it there. Believe me, holding the monster in the right general location while also trying to do the fine motor work of getting the arm into the clamp is simply impossible by yourself. Once successfully suspended, set the steering arm into the clamp. If the clamp is not amenable, it has a split down one side where you can coax it open with a wedge. Once you have it in the right alignment, slide under the front of the car and drive it into the clamp with a rubber mallet driving against the housing. It should slide in with only a few light strikes. Remember, that's a $250 part, so rap on it gingerly.

The rack is held to the frame with 4 bolts and 4 nuts with some washers. Get replacements. The bolts closest to the firewall drive into nuts which are part of the mount. They thread in pretty easily. Just do enough to get the threading started. The bolts closest to the front use a pair of nuts each. Yes, I said that right. The order of the fasteners from the top: bolt head - washer - steering rack - nut - frame bracket - washer - nut. The nut between the frame bracket and the steering rack is absolutely necessary to not bind the steering action. Yes, I tried it without the nut to see what would happen.

Tie-Rod Ends
I blasted The Roadster Factory for their return policy and continued sale of junk tie rod ends. Get the sealed OEM ones, and use a different vendor if you can. There are a few out there. Assuming your new ends are the same size as the ones you removed, you should be able to thread the new ends to the marks you made earlier. I determined during my "Rough Alignment" that my new ends had more housing to them, knocking my measurements off. Had I to do it again, I would measure from the edge of the steering rack housing to the outer edge of the tie rod end instead. Regardless, thread on the tie-rod ends and set the wheel-end into the arm on the swivel, and finger the washer and nut on. Don't tighten yet. There's rough alignment to do first.

Rough Alignment
There are a few ways to get the alignment roughed-in. By roughed-in I mean close enough to drive it to a shop to have someone with a machine do it. It's possible that you could do it as well with one of the methods, but I encourage having it verified. The easiest method is simply looking down the line of your car and matching the front wheels front/back along the body line. I did this first, once I discovered how toed-out my front wheels were.

Changing your alignment is pretty easy: pull the tie-rod end out of the steering knuckle and rotate it on the tie-rod clock- or counter-clock-wise to move the end in or out relative to it's prior position. There is an alignment lock-nut just to the inside of the tie-rod end that will need to be loosened before you play with the adjustment.

After the body-line rough-in, I would encourage the measuring tape method to rough-in your alignment. Measure the distance between the inner edges of your tires both behind and in front of the swivels. If they aren't the same, you may have adjusting to do. Ideally, the front is slightly narrower than the rear for better handling and stability. This measurement should happen with the wheels on the ground after wiggling the steering a little bit and then centering as best as you can. It will take a few tries to get it right. Once you think you have it, tighten the lock-nut and test it in your driveway. I still need to complete this on my MG, but the steering is close enough now for me to move the car around my driveway / garage.

Regardless of which rough-in you try (and there are probably others), don't assume it's right. The idea is simply getting it close enough to take to a shop. If you aren't confident with your rough-in, have it towed. If your car is anything like my bus, it's getting used to riding on a flatbed.

That's it for today's brief posting on getting the steering rack back in. More to come soon, and, as always, thanks for following along,

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

MGB - Front Suspension Refresh (Part 4)

This post finishes up the front end rebuild I started in Parts 1 (See MGB - Front Suspension Refresh Part 1), 2 (See MGB - Front Suspension Refresh Part 2) and 3 (See MGB - Front Suspension Refresh Part 3). At this point, the front beam is back in the car. The front shocks (and upper control arms) and lower control arms are installed with the spring pans. Today we will get the springs in, the swivels mounted and the front sway bar attached to the lower arms. By the end, the car could go back on the ground. The how-to for the springs I lightly touch on because it is pretty well documented around the internet. Not so much with the sway bar, so that's a little long.

Spring Thing
Back in Part 1, I described the concerns about how the springs were under load when the lower control arm was to be removed and that some level of care was needed to prevent it from launching across the garage. That concern returns as we approach the install. I followed the exact same routine: zip-tie the upper end of the spring to the top of the beam. Getting the zip-ties in the right spot may take a few tries with the jack (during the Jack Be Nimble step), but for now, just get the spring all the way up in the beam pocket and zip tie them so they are mostly in the right spot. Once the springs are suspended from the beam, we move on to the swivels. I did one side at a time, but I don't think there's a compelling reason to other than I confuse easily.

Swivels, bottom mount
The swivels are really nicely balanced lumps of steel, when they are mounted to the suspension. When you are holding them in your hands, or trying to attach them, however, they feel unwieldy. So, to protect yourself from, uh, yourself, put something soft under the end of the beam to catch the swivel when it inevitably topples over. It will topple. Since I had a bunch of things shipped, I took a larger flat box and filled it with the crumpled newspaper and air-filled bags that arrived with the parts. I highly recommend it. The alternative is a damaged swivel. Anyway, take the swivel for the side you're working on (caliper is on the rear), and fit the lower mount into the lower control arm. Thread the bolt from the kit from the front to the rear, minding the order of the washers (nut - washer - rear arm/bushing - swivel - front arm/bushing - washer - bolt head). Once you thread the castle nut on, you may feel driven to crank it on tight. Don't do that yet. Get is on pretty well, though; finger tight.

Jack Be Nimble
With the swivel attached at the bottom, it will want to fall over, especially when you start lifting the lower control arm with your jack. To prevent that, I looped a stretch of bailing wire around the top of the swivel and then around the shock absorber. This loosely held it upright, but didn't restrict movement. Now the fun part begins. Lift the lower control arm under the spring and set the inner edge of the spring inside the spring cup. Now, set your jack as we did in Part 1, on the outer edge of the underside of the spring cup. Slowly start raising the jack. I did it in spurts and then wiggled or rubber-mallet'd the bottom of the spring so it would shift in the spring cup. My thinking was that the cup was rotating 90* so the spring would be under weird tension as is was set into place, putting more pressure on the inner edge than the outer edge of the spring. I don't think it did much other than create more danger of the spring flying out, so consider that optional.

As I got closer to fully-installed, I found that the spring tension was greater than the weight of the car. I mean that the car started lifting off the jackstand before the top of the swivel was within an inch of the holes lining up. If you have a friend, not even a very heavy friend, have him or her sit on the wing over the wheel well. I was flying solo, so I stacked tires on the wing instead. Yes, that actually worked.

Swivels, top mount
As I alluded to in Jack Be Nimble, most of the top mount work is getting the jack positioned right, and raising the swivel while keeping the car solid on the stands. Once the holes in the upper control arm / shock absorber align with the hole in the top of the swivel, it's easy. I found that getting the top of the swivel to sit in the arms wasn't simple though. I needed to loosen the bolts that hold the top arms together a little bit so the swivel top could fit. You may need to do that same, just don't forget to torque them back down when you're firming up all of your fasteners.

Now do that again for the other side. I found that the first one took at least twice as long as the second side. Ironically, I had more spring slippage on the second side, but that didn't slow me down as much of the fear of that happening on the first side slowed me. Interesting.

Anti-Sway Bar
With the rest of the suspension put together, all that's left is the front (anti-) sway bar. In my searches around the internet, all of the articles I found about replacing the sway bar had the classic "install is the reverse". That is not helpful, so I'm documenting what I did that worked. If you're using your original bar, clean it up and paint where it's been chipped when you're doing your other parts. It is so much nicer, and the bushings go on much easier. We start with those bushings. The graphite-poly bushings are a solid trapezoid, so you will need to cut along the seam so it will wrap around the arm. I tried sliding it on from either end, including removing an arm-end, but that doesn't work. You have to cut it parallel to the path the arm would take through it.

Get the bushing onto the bar. This can be hard, but with some window cleaner (or plain water) as a lubricant, and a little force, it pops on. Use the little locks on the bar as a guide for where they should be located (just to the outside of the lock/clamp). Now test fit the bar with the new brackets. For the MG, there are 2 small black pieces of steel that hold an air deflector that need to fit between the bracket and the frame. Just test fit that it will roughly fit and that the bar is pointing the right way (ends pointing rearward).

With the brackets now removed you're ready to start the install for real. Hold the bar in the rough spot where it was during the test fit and wiggle one end of the bar into the lower control arm. Since nothing is preventing complete movement, this should be relatively easy. If the sway bar end is not making it through the hole no matter what you do, you could be experiencing a manufacturing defect in the arm. I had this happen: the rearward hole was too small for the sway rm end to pass through. I had to widen it with a drill.

Once the first one is through both holes so a bunch of threading can be seen/felt on the rear side of the control arm, switch to the other side. You may need to work kind of hard to get the second side in. I did. Lots of pulling and pushing before the bolt passed through both holes. Set the ends all the way in with a couple of whacks with a hammer. Place on the lack-washer and the 3/4" nut, but don't tighten it all the way down. Now shift to the brackets, the metal thing, and the bushings. Thread in the 2 pairs of 1/2" bolts, but again, don't tighten. Now, push/pull on the bar left and right to makes sure it is centered and there isn't any torque holding it out of center. Now, tighten the bolts and nuts down. Again, I recommend new fasteners.

Now, we can lower the car. I set the jack under the rear edge of the front beam, lift the car just enough to get the stands out and set the car down. After so many months of the front being in the air, it really looks kind of weird. Really low. For fun, I jumped up and down on the front bumper. Where there used to be considerable bouncing both on the initial jump, but in aftershocks as well... the MG barely responded to my jump and didn't bounce. It just returned to it's ride height. So tight. Once I get back on the road, it is going to hold the road like a brand new (or better) MGB.

That's it for today. This has been an incredible marathon, but feeling the difference bouncing on the front bumper tells what it will be worth. The front end should be in solid operating shape for another 40 years. Thanks, as always, for following along. I will get the festival review, the bus improvements, another road story, etc. posted as I can get to finishing the stories.