Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Around the Rim (Part 1)

Today's post looks at rotating tires, one set at a time and some planning / thinking around how to rotate tires from car to car, ending up in a better place than where we started when the music stops. This got really long, so I'm splitting it up into sections (again). Today, we'll focus on how this rim job got started.

The Catalyst
rusty rim
A couple months back, I pulled out the studded snow tires and my floor jack, to get Flash the Jetta ready to be our snow tank when winter turned nasty. While I swapped my 3-season tires for my studded snows, I got thinking about how we were going to finish the stripping work on the donor, and then getting the remaining shell removed. "If we pull the wheels, how will they get it out of here," I asked myself. By the time I'd gotten the winter tires on the Jetta, and the 3-season tires stored, I thought I had a plan.

My Logic
When we got the part-donor 280ZX, it was originally because C wanted the rims. I did a little research and found that most of the time when you have a yard pick up a scrap car, they give you less money if the car doesn't have wheels. I guess this is because they can't use their usual tricks to get the car, and someone has to pay for the nuisance. That someone is you. The interweb says that there are some yards that simply won't accept a junk car without wheels. I'm not fully sure that's true because sometimes the Interweb is wrong, but with that thought, I started thinking about how we could resolve a potential rim shortage.

The 280ZX and the MGB run the same size rim: 4 holes by 4.5 inches (or 114.3mm) apart. The backspace / ET is different, but they are close enough that they mostly fit each other. In fact, I'm fairly sure the rims currently on the MGB are 280Z aftermarket rims. But they're crummy fake wire-spoke rims that has the chrome flaking off, leaving large rust swathes around the lugs (see picure above). They're awful, and within a few days of getting the MGB I decided I wanted to replace them. To avoid possible junk-yard-wont-take-it issues, we're going to put them on the donor ZX. With that settled, the MGB will need rims before the donor shell gets removed. Well, the rims on the keeper 280ZX would fit, but as I described in the post about how we got the donor car (See 280ZX*2=Y), they just aren't our style. We are going to keep the smaller front rim/tires as a spare for each of our cars (one each 280ZX, MGB). This leaves us short one set after we move the donor ZX rims onto the keeper 280ZX and the crummy chromies from the MGB to the donor.

The Rims
Honda rim
I hadn't intended to keep those crummy chromy rims in the MGB anyway. I'd been looking, but original-looking aftermarket rims are, like $175US each. I'd been leaning towards getting a set from Acme Speed Shop, but I needed to corral $800US to make that happen. Knowing that simply wasn't going to happen soon, and having rims would enable us to ship the donor to the wrecker.... I went a different way. I had been trolling craigslist like I do when I stumbled upon a set of alloys that used to ride on the mid-90's Honda Accord. They looked okay in the posting, and the seller assured me they held air, so I took off to nab them. $100 later, I have a set of rims (with trash rubber) I can put on the MGB. I didn't go into this blindly. There is a great resource on the MG Experience identifying rims that fit. I figured with a savings of nearly $700US, I could clean up the Honda set, maybe apply some paint and still be ahead cost-wise. Or, I could just clean them up and sell them to fund one of those Acme sets.

Test Fit First
This sounds obvious, but so often we'll get all excited about something and tear right into the doing without first checking to see if what we're about to do makes any sense. Case-in-point, I could have started repairing on the curb-rash before even checking that the rims even fit. Again, the Interweb sometimes is just wrong. Okay, maybe I did get excited a little. But, it was no more than a few minutes of cleaning before I realized that I hadn't verified the linked resource. So, I pulled off the rear passenger (right) side wheel and slapped on one of the new-to-me Honda rims. The bolt-pattern was a perfect fit, so with very little wrestling the rim was on, nutted down and on the ground. So far so good in terms of the linked resource.

crummy chrome backspace
I took one of the other new-to-me Honda rims and set it next to and then on top of the crummy chromy rim I'd removed. The rubber (tire width) is about an inch thicker with the new rim, which aligns with what I was expecting. The new rim is 15" diameter and 6" thick. The one I removed was 14" diameter and 5" thick. The thicker rim supports a wider tire, so checking clearance both at the leaf spring and at the wheel arch is important.

As you can see from the pictures, the crummy chrome rims sat much further out towards the wheel arch than these Honda rims. There is almost 3" between the leaf spring and the tire sidewall. In contrast, the Honda rims sit quite close to the leaf springs, so close I can't even fit my index finger in-between the spring and the tire (see the lower picture). This leads me to believe that I am going to need spacers to center the rim between the leaf spring and the wheel arch. Spacers aren't nearly as expensive as I'd feared, running $10US per corner for off-the-shelf spacers. I just need to determine how much space I need and then figure out what lug nuts I need to make sure there's enough thread to hold the rims on well. To clarify... consider that the lug bolt (stud) is a fixed length and the more space you put between the hub and the backside of your rim, you are potentially taking away threads. The holes in the spacers for the lug studs are usually loose enough for you to get extension nuts that will thread between the spacer and the stud so you can still use most of the stud threading to hold on your rim. This takes care. If the extension on the nut is too long, you will bottom-out before the nut can be torqued on. If you use a nut that has too little (or no) extension, there may not be enough thread to safely hold your rim on.

Honda backspace
Or, there are slightly more expensive spacers which have lug studs integrated into them. T got a set of these when he was going to fit old (80's) Mercedes rims onto his not-quite-as-old (90's) Subaru. In fact, I used one of them to make the camping table attach to my spare on the bus (See Camping Table) after he got rid of that old Subbie. This style also lets you change the bolt pattern, if you want. You could run 5-lug rims on a 4-lug car without a whole lot of work. The upside for my application is that the spacer is nutted down onto the hub and the rim is then nutted down onto the spacer. This leaves plenty of meat on the respective lug studs to make sure your wheels are on safely. I have found 4-wheel sets delivered for under $100US, so while it's more than double the slide-on style I described first, if you add in the expense of getting the right lug nuts to be safe, the prices could nearly wash-out. Plus the added headache of time lost getting one set only to need something different, etc. Of course, the sense of security that comes from knowing that your wheel isn't going to fall off makes the decision much easier. I just need to figure out the right amount of backspace. I'll address that next.

That's it for today. Thanks, as always, for following along-

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

New Year, New Tools

Over the course of the last 6 months or so, we've picked up some new skills and a couple new bigger shop tools to power them. Today's post goes over some.

Boo power washing back deck
About a year ago, Boo wanted to power-wash our concrete. You read that right: she wanted to. She was not asking me to do it nor solve for it; she wanted to be the person doing the washing. She looked at renting one, and they run around $300 per day. On a whim, she looked at the Bi-Mart mailer, and they were selling them for, get this, $295. So, she went and got it, got a 2-gallon of gasoline and power washed the rear deck, the back patio, the front side walk and some of the driveway. She has since used it on the back patio again, and I'll be washing the siding when the weather warms back up. I've thought about how I could use this tool on the cars, but figured it would probably do more damage than anything. I've read about folks using a power washer to strip paint. I may experiment with that when I re-paint the bumpers on Hapy.

Set for floor, I think
If you've been reading this blog, you know that over the Summer of 2017 (read: MGB - floor pans 1, 2, and 3), we played with a MIG. It all started when we discovered floor-rot in the MGB. To resolve, we borrowed a MIG from our good friend Travis. He is a welder by trade and has a few of them at his disposal. Truth-be-told, he'd rather have a TIG welder, but the MIG is so handy (or appropriate) for some jobs, that it will soon be back in his shop. We really had fun, and have used it on a few smaller things since the floors. While we don't expect to use it on the Z or again on the MGB, there's always a use for a welder. Once it goes back to Travis, I'll be adding it to my list of tools to add once i have space.

Soda Blaster
C wanted to get the paint off the Z. He started with a grinder. That's dirty, but dry. And loud. And slow. Then, he tried Airplane Paint Stripper. Still dirty, but wet. And nasty-stinky. But a little faster. We have watched videos and television shows on Velocity where the project car rolls in, gets taken apart and then "sent off to blasting". After the commercial, the car comes back completely stripped of paint and rust. Sometimes the body is in pretty good shape, but usually the blasting exposes all of the history: old dents which were "cave and paved", rust that ate through and interesting cheap body shop repairs. Seeing that magic, we figured we wanted to get some of that.

HF Soda Blaster
First, we looked at renting one. These run at $325US a day, and the only outfit around here is an hour across town. So, we could get up at 6:AM, pick it up at 7:AM, be home by 8:AM and then blast until 3:30 when we tear the machine down, pack it up and haul back over to the rental shop which closes promptly at 5:PM. Arriving after 5 means you pay an additional day. So for 7.5 hours, the rental runs at around $46.50 an hour, and that assumes you don't stop for lunch. AND, you need to buy your own soda (at $40US per 50# bag). Blasting an entire car would probably take 3 bags, so at this point, one fun day of soda blasting (plus 4 hours of combined travel time) is just under $450US.

When we bought the power washer, it was virtually the same thing as what we would have rented. Clearly, that was a good move. The soda blaster, however, is a little different. The fancy rental was almost 3 times what a Harbor Freight blaster cost ($135US), so we bought one, with a dead-man valve and some extra nozzles. And a 50# bag of large soda.

The nozzle on our blaster is really small, and while it does effectively remove paint or grime from metal, it is much slower than I expected. In doing research, I've learned that these are much slower than sand-blasting, and that's by design: the soda is much less harsh both on the environment and on the target material. We have decided that the soda blaster is probably best suited for sensitive areas where you can't get after the paint with a grinder. We may circle-back and try the power washer too, to see if we get better results in shorter time with that. One last concern is the need to properly treat the metal which was stripped by the soda. The soda changes the surface pH, which helps prevent rust, but also gets in the way of paint or primer adhering to it. There are a few different ways to solve for this, but first pressure wash the soda-blasted areas to get all of the residue off. Then, it is recommended to use something like HoldTight 102 to address the pH shift.

Capacity Reached
I've mentioned our limited space, and while it's a "first-world problem", it's still a problem. We are now leveraging a small garden shed for storing thing, like the power washer and the soda blaster. I think the acquisition of any new large tools will need to wait at least until we are down to one car in the garage. We may need to consider a larger shop somehow.

That's it for this week. Thanks as always for following along. I think I'll have made sufficient traction on one or more of the projects to be able to get back to posting on them.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

One of the Many Joys of Home Ownership

Taking a short and unexpected break from fixing cars, today's post is a distraction. Sorry I missed a post last week. I spent the week flat on my back fighting off one of the worst colds I've ever suffered. The story below didn't contribute to either contracting nor prolonging that cold.

If you were to break down the core requirements for a dwelling, and then prioritize them, what order would they fall into? I'd start with shelter from rain and wind: roof and walls. After that, one could argue that everything else is nice-to-have, especially in more rustic parts of the world. In the non-rural areas of the States (like most countries), things like running water and some form of temperature control are assumed. Hot water even. How about a not-dirt floor? Sure, that sounds modern.

On top of these basics, lots of folks are trying to layer in "smart" technologies so they can turn on lights or set the thermostat from their phone when they aren't home. Sounds cool, but after the whizz-bang wears off, do people actually use that stuff? I don't know. I'm pretty sure the excitement wears off in a few weeks and pretty soon you've forgotten the password.

Heat Wave without Water
Anyway, when one of these basic systems fail, you realize just how precarious and fragile your security bubble is. Last Summer, we awoke to a failed water heater. It failed in glorious fashion, leaking water all over the garage floor, trashing cardboard boxes, carpet and anything non-metal as it went. It did create an opportunity to clean the garage, of course. And we took it. More importantly, it reminded us of the fragility I mentioned. Since it was July, and one of the hottest stretches of the Summer, lacking a shower had an extra burden to it. Additionally, I couldn't figure out how to fix any of the plumbing so that there was water pressure  even just cold so we were without water for a few days. Again, it was Summer, and we had kids enjoying Summer break, so there were many trips to the corner store to bridge the gap. I installed a new water heater, and we were back to normal in a few days. Looking back through my posts, it was such a non-event, it didn't make it into even an opening or closing comment, much less garner an entire posting.

6 Inches
This brings us to our latest reminder of our fragility. It was the end of the calendar year, and my extended family had retreated to the mountains. T had gone out of town and C had to work, so we had a couple of friends minding the house (more specifically, minding the cat who was really minding the house). C had a few hours on Friday before he had to work, so he stopped over to grind some paint off the rear driver quarter panel. As I mentioned earlier (See: Z - Work that Body), we had moved the ZX project into the garage. C, expressing concern over getting dust everywhere, pushed the ZX into the driveway to grind the paint. When he was finished and had to get off to work, he tried to push the ZX back into the garage. With the slight uphill into the garage, though, he couldn't. So, he fired up the engine to move it in ... but accidentally put it in a little too far... pushing the big red rolling tool cabinet into the water heater... which pushed the water heater into the pipes behind it. It moved about 6 inches. Those 6 inches started an avalanche of trouble.

Above the water heater, the feed line burst, sending a thin stream of water over the top of the water heater and on top of the rolling tool cabinet. At the bottom of the water heater, the gas line split, venting natural gas into the garage. The couple minding the cat turned off valves and called the gas company, but before long the fire trucks arrived, cherries flashing. Fire fighters kicked everyone out of the house. The gas company closed and locked the meter. The cat-minders were let back into the house after the fumes cleared, but by then it was after 6. On Friday, December 29th and freezing temperatures were forecast. With no water. And no heat. And no one available to fix anything until the following Tuesday... if you're lucky.

Cold Snap without Water... or Gas
Fortunately, one of our cat-minders is a handyman. He was able to re-establish our cold water (so the restrooms were functioning) and repair the gas lines. With a few space heaters and a portable Coleman stove they were able to mind the cat until we got home. You see, the gas company won't turn the gas on until someone licensed performs a leak-down test on the repair, then they will inspect it. Only after that will they turn the gas back on. I understand their conservative approach, but when the temps are below freezing, the process could really use a fast lane.

Boo and I got home on Jan1, and were met by the cat-minding couple. We surveyed the damage, expressed our appreciation for keeping both the cat and the house safe... and for helping C through a rough time. Then, we started reaching out to a contractor we know to get everything back to normal again. He, like so many folks immediately after NewYears were groggily getting back to work. He was available to connect with us on Wednesday. He surveyed the work done by the handyman, thought it looked pretty good and started calling for the gas company to come take a look.

We learned that indeed the gas company won't turn on your gas until a leak down test is performed, but that was not even the half of it. Before the gas company will talk to you, you need the gas lines inspected by the city. The city won't inspect non-permitted work (even if, or maybe especially if, it's done by a home owner). So, step one: get $167 down to city hall and get a work permit. Then, schedule an inspection. We were fortunate and we got inspected on Wednesday evening. While waiting, we ran the leak-down test and pressure-tested the hot water heater (both passed). The inspector was one of those who felt the need to find things wrong, and he cited a bunch of things to be changed even though the repairs simply exchanged broken pipes with a not-broken pipes. So, Thursday was spent making all kinds of additional changes involving 2x4's so the inspector could return Friday morning, which he did. He approved the work, and switched our "red tag" on the meter to green (meaning the gas company was allowed to turn the gas back on, pending their inspection). Then, the contractor was allowed to hook up the water heater and try to get NW Natural to turn us back on. The NW Natural inspector arrived shortly before 5 on Friday, approved all of the work, making comments about the age and condition of things, and then turned everything back on. Unlike the city inspector, there is no requirement for us to do anything the gas company guy said, so we probably won't. As it stood at this point, those 6 inches cost us about $1000US with about half of it because of things the city inspector added. At least we didn't need to replace the water heater.

By Friday night, things were back to normal. T had returned from out of town and grabbed a shower. We had the heat cranking to raise the base temperatures of the no-space-heater spaces, and our little bubble was starting to reform. As we sat down to dinner, we realized that we hadn't had the TV on for almost the entire stretch we didn't have heat or hot water. It seemed as though our having to glamp in our house shifted us to a different mindset. We had access to other modern amenities, like the internet and cable television; we just didn't use them. Instead, we sat in the hot tub and talked, or focused on basics like getting clean with an electric kettle and a dishpan. As the days of suffering fade into the past, it was just as interesting to see our old use patterns return as if they had never left. It does make me wonder how much of our daily behaviors really stem from independent thought versus rote actions we've honed over time. Perhaps, if the environment changes enough, the rote behaviors don't come into play.

Well, that's all I have this week. We are back to normal. The garage was an absolute mess afterwards, so I spent the following weekend cleaning things up. The progress on the list of car projects has ground to a halt, pending the no-gas and clean-up, so there may be a short pause in postings while I get some blog-worthy things done. The missing post from last week was purely sickness related, so there could be more ahead. Sorry.

Thanks, as always, for following along. More soon-

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

280ZX * 2 = Y

This math problem is actually a little harder than it looks. Simplifying this does not follow the classic, standard pattern, and today's post explains it.

thank you WikiPedia
The 280ZX is an iconic car. Based purely on the hit rate on my posts that mention it, the car remains very popular. It was one of those cars that every boy wanted in the late 70's and early 80's. From 1969 through 1983, Datsun built 4 different versions of the Z (240, 260, 280 and then the 280ZX). None of these versions had a run for more than 4 years, though, so there are a limited number of them out there. Even within the 280ZX, there are differences between the early and late (series 1 versus 2) which you may see in the picture to the right here and some years had a 2+2 version which included a rear seat. Scarcity of the car aside, finding parts for these is an arguably greater challenge. Lots of the bits and pieces just aren't available anymore. For example, the car we bought had virtually no interior. The carpets can be found online, but none of the plastic pieces are made aftermarket. I can't blame the plastic-injection companies; there are probably just too few people wanting the bits and too many variations between the 4 major models. Finding other things like a window regulator, or even an ashtray are virtually impossible.

In our efforts to leave no stone un-turned, we spent a lot of time on eBarf. Those with parts know their scarcity and are charging a premium for them. Next, we try the pick-n-pull yards. Well, there aren't any 280Z or 280ZX donors in the Oregon / Southwest Washington yards. T and C drove almost to Bellingham to pull parts only to be disappointed with the yard management: they have the cars so close together you can't get the doors all the way open. T drove down to Sacramento to pull a replacement door, but most of the interior was so trashed, it couldn't be used for donor material. He grabbed what he could anyway.

Take 2 They're Small
C had started shopping around for rims shortly after getting the 280ZX. The ones that were on it at purchase were okay, but they were chrome-y flat-faced rims that looked like they belonged on a 1/4-miler. While they allowed the car to move around okay, he didn't like the look. The original rims are classic, and like so many other original parts, they are hard to find at a reasonable price. Usually you'll find 1 or 2 selling for $200US a-piece. If you want a full set of 4, you can find them for at least $600US, but at least one will be damaged such that it can't hold air, and they'll be scratched up enough that you'll need to completely refinish them if you want them to look nice.

While searching for rims, C found a car north of Seattle that had the original rims, but had rust, poor body repair and title problems. Based on the pictures, the interior looked mostly complete. So, he and T hopped in the trusty '87 Cherokee and drove off to take a look. A road trip filled with chatter, fast food and music sharing later they arrived at the set of rims with a car attached. It started right up, and drove around fine. Steering was pretty good, suspension not too soft or fluttery but once up to temperature, it won't restart until it's cooled down. Ha. (For those of us with old VW buses, this is a familiar "hot start" problem. It's so common the aftermarket online sellers offer a wiring and relay system to fix it.) A short negotiation later, they bought it. Since C doesn't have a license, we got AAA to tow it. This transportation ended up costing 1/2 of what the car cost (AAA only does the first 100 miles after that it's a cash business), but when I awoke the next morning, it sat in the driveway outside the door of the garage where the no-rust 280ZX lives.

In theory, stripping a parts car could be a weekend of intense wrenching. In practice, it rarely works out that way. This ZX will probably be more on the "in practice" end of the spectrum. Our plan is pretty simple. We're going to video the engine running and post it on craiglist as a whole unit. We don't need it, and we suspect someone else does. We may keep the 5-speed, thinking it might be a good runner for the MG later on. Pretty much everything else we pull off will get swapped onto the '79: full interior, rims, power window regulators, power door locks, door handles, rear hatch (has the wiper and a good seal), power steering unit, hoses, steering rack, radiator and chrome bits. We may sell other things that we pull off along the way, but that depends on whether they're in decent shape. Anything else will be re-attached and part of what's sold to the scrapyard.

Reading that list, there's a lot of stuff coming off that car. If we're not going to turn around and slap them onto the '79, we need to store them somewhere. Aaaaand.... we're not gonna just slap them on. Instead, we're getting the '79 ready for paint first so that really means more parts will be coming off before parts go on. So, with 2 project cars already in the sub-sized 2-car garage and a driveway full of other cars... where do the parts go? Well... we just cleared out a bedroom for C, so he's decided to use that room as a shed where he'll sleep when he's around. There isn't really any furniture in there yet, so it kinda makes sense. It just seems a little nuts. Fortunately, it's only while the car gets prepped and painted. If all goes well, it'll be a couple of months. So, we're probably going to have a partially torn down 280ZX in the driveway and a steadily increasing pile of 280ZX parts in C's bed- or should I say shed-room until the car has paint which could not happen until Spring.

For those of us who dreamed of owning a 280ZX when we were boys, with posters on our walls, this concept is almost unimaginable: your room is not decorated with poster of your dream car, it is decorated with PARTS of your dream car. Need to sit? Take the driver seat from a '83 280ZX. Beware, they're kinda low.

EDIT: I just watched the season-ender for Mighty Car Mods (MCM) season 10. I've been an avid MCM viewer for a few years, but I was stunned to see that they picked up a Fairlady "Zed" in Japan. I'm sure with their resources, time, friends and skills, their Zed will be pretty amazing. I highly recommend watching Moog and Marty, if you haven't seen MCM before. Very fun.

That's it for today. Thanks, as always, for following along,

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Capturing an Escaped Captive... Nut

Rain. and cold. and blustery wind. All of my projects except one are sitting in the driveway under tarps held down with whatever I could get my hands on. My new-ish job has a policy about how much paid-time-off you can carry forward into the next year, so I find myself with days at home. So... what to do? Work on the one project that's sitting in the garage so one day it too can sit in the driveway under a tarp while one of his brothers are in the garage getting worked on. Today covers one of the final steps to achieving that goal.

Captive Nut
test fitting a panel
On the convertible MG, the top fabric is attached to a steel frame. Depending upon the year, the frame could take on one of a few forms. Mine is the last style, which folds straight back with large scissor-style hinges. These hinges mount to the sides of the car just behind the door latch. The steel inner body panel has a flat surface into which 3 holes were drilled at the factory. Inside the panel a nut was welded behind each hole. These nuts are what holds the convertible frame to the car, and therefore hold the top onto the car. Yes, there are clasps along the top of the windscreen and there are little hold-downs along the rear deck, but most of the work is handled by these 6 bolt-nut combinations.

The Escape
With any car, rust and wear take a toll. On the MGB, the little captive nuts (1/4 - 28) can detach from the inner body panel. Once separated, the frame can be attached, but the person doing the attaching must hold the nut with a wrench or pliers or something. Since the entire inner steel skin is usually covered with a vinyl panel (on top of which the convertible frame is usually attached), the owner has a choice: no more panels, no more top or re-capture the nuts. The PO had decided to select multiple options: no more panels and no more top, leaving the frame stripped of canvas and disconnected, but sitting behind the seats after discarding the vinyl cards prior to selling it to me.

I've driven around in plenty of cars which didn't have all of their inner panels. The operation of the car is in no way negatively impacted. It just looks trash. So, I decided I would get the nuts re-captured. There are a few ways to go after it.

Go Crazy, Tear down and Weld - Since these were originally welded into place at the factory before the body was assembled, getting them welded back in the same way is virtually impossible. I imagine someone industrious enough could take enough of the car apart to get access to the nuts. I don't see the value. Maybe if you have dreams of showing your car at concours or something, this would be the most-like-original path. Or maybe you're just sadistic. Either way, rock on.

Ugliest welds ever
Get a Repair Panel - Moss has a repair kit (link here) that could be used to fix this, so clearly this happens often. They run $18 each, which isn't bad, but as I noted at the beginning, I have some time, and I don't want to wait for shipping. I imagine the kit is a pretty easy solution though: set it so it is aligned with the holes, mark the mounting spot with a pen, drill, install. Easy peasy.

Make your Own Panel - While not necessarily the easiest, if you have some time and either don't have the money for the Moss panel, or don't want to wait for it, it's not that hard. I chose this path and I detailed steps below.

I have the nuts in hand and plenty of super-thin scrap steel lying around. I considered that the steel to which the nuts were attached did not need to be terribly stout. It just needed to be strong enough to hold the nuts in place against some modest pressure during installation. Once the bolts seat into the nuts, the plate doesn't contribute to holding the top on: its still the bolt-nut combination. With this in mind, I cut a couple (one per side) small pieces of HVAC sheet metal with tin shears to they fit in the hole, around the nut(s) which were still clinging to the inner body panel. I held them in place, marked the nut-holes with a pen and step-drilled holes large enough for the bolt to easily pass. I then sanded the steel to get any zinc coating off. This is important as the off-gassing from welding a zinc coating is really bad.

For some reason, my top had an extra bracket that looked like this, but not chromed. I think it is for a wind blocker (like this) that wasn't with the car when I bought it. Love that. Anyway, I took that bracket thing and used it to provide more meat for the next steps (see the top picture). I aligned the HVAC sheet with the holes in the bracket and then threaded the bolt through, tightening the nut against the HVAC sheet.  Next came some of the worst looking welds I have ever produced (see middle picture). That is saying something, because my welding skills are pretty bad. Still, I was able to get the nuts to hold to the sheet and hold well enough for me to remove and re-insert the bolts multiple times.
"Pop" goes the Rivet

Whether you did the Moss repair panel or you made your own, the mounting to the car is very similar. The panel sits flush against the outer-side of the inner wall (inside the cavity) with the nuts pointing out (away from the cabin). With the Moss panel, you can hold the thing on from the inside and see where the hole will be because it's symmetrical. Must be nice. With the home-made job, its not. Instead, I made judgments based on where the holes in the body were, and where the panel was as I held it up against the wall from inside the cavity. I marked 2 holes on the inner wall, pulled the panel aside and step-drilled to 13/32". This is just a hair larger than 3/8" so a 3/8" pop rivet will fit snug without binding as it goes in. To make sure I got the holes in exactly the right spots on the panel, I bolted it into place and drilled through the holes I'd just made in the body and then through the panel. With the panel still bolted on, I pop-riveted the panels in. I was still able to easily remove the bolts from the nuts (without touching the nuts), so the convertible top frame should now be capable of being installed after the interior cards are in place.

That's it for today's post. Yes, I could have simply ordered panels and this would have taken far less time. Instead, I got to play with my MIG and save myself about $40US. Thanks, as always for following along, and I hope you're having a wonderful holiday season. Hapy NewYear!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Z - Work that Body

Today's post covers some more of the efforts on the 280ZX.

Rain Rain Go Away
In my last update about the 280ZX, I described some of the efforts that were going on. The oil and oil filter were changed, but the main focus of the work was dismantling the body. This included removing and stripping body front fenders, removing the dented driver door and removing the hood. If we had a garage larger than a freight elevator, this would have all been done in the friendly, climate-controlled confines of my garage. Instead, we were doing this under 10x10 canopy. Enter a wicked storm. The first night, the wind blew so hard that the canopy flipped over, leaving the Z exposed. We righted it and that afternoon set some things on the feet so they wouldn't move in the wind. Well, they didn't move from the wind... exactly... but they moved.

The torrential rain that fell the following night destroyed the canopy. All four legs were broken, the supports under the main tarp were twisted and mangled. The car was kinda dry, but the canopy was suspending huge bowls of water over the top of it. Boo and I got the water away from the car, but all over ourselves. Hahaha.. The canopy frame was moved to the yard where T could cut it into pieces with the angle grinder. The canopy top was laid on top of the Z to try to keep it dry. The wind remained relentless, so we held it down with whatever we could find: pain cans, old rims, etc.

If you thought the front yard looked bad before, imagine the scene now. Like many yards, it is in it's late-fall least attractive state anyway with leaves and overgrown landscaping. Of course, we have the 7 cars in various states of repair. One is in pieces under a make-shift tarp that is covered in paint cans and rims and other stuff. The canopy frame is sitting in a heap. And, of course, there are bits and pieces of the Z project strewn about the driveway and lawn. Did I mention the large blue tarp where some parts had been primed and left? Yeah.. it's a mess. So so bad. Or it was. And the inside of the Z was still getting watered better than my yard in the summer.

Move-a Move-a
C has been working very hard on this car. He comes over on the afternoons he doesn't have work and spends at least one day every weekend on it. He usually works at least one day every weekend at his job, so, basically, if he isn't in school or at work, he's on his car. Proud dad. He is steadily preparing the car for a re-paint, but the more he exposes, the more he is creating opportunities for rust on the panels or water to get into the inside. The panels have been getting stored inside the 2-car shed (technically my attached garage, but it's really barely 18 feet deep) where the MGB sits awaiting funding.

On his last visit we noted how much moisture was still getting inside his car. By moisture I mean standing water, not just vapor or dampness. Standing water. So, we moved things around in a full-scale version of Tetris. We moved cars all around, some car parts got aggregated into big unwieldy piles, and found a way of fitting the Z next to the MGB in the garage. Now, C can climb in and out the driver side and work on removing windows or tail lights inside. When necessary, we'll move the Z straight back into the driveway for grinding and then move it straight forward into it's indoor storage spot. We were all very pleased with the net results. Overnight, we ran fans to get the moisture off the car so with every step he takes forward he won't be watching his car deteriorate from the weather.

So.. Where's the Progress
Yeah, Okay. I know. Lots of words there but no tangible update about the car itself other than it is now stored indoors. Here goes: T went down to Sacramento and picked up some interior plastic bits as well as a driver door (Thx T!). The door, like the fenders and the hood, has been stripped down to metal. We swapped out the power window guts from the donor door, replacing with the manual crank style from the folded up original door. We test-fit the door card and rolled the window up and down. Perfect.

On the next dry day, C will be setting all bare metal outside on that awful blue tarp and shooting them with primer. Of course, he will follow the standard process of wiping the parts down with mineral spirits first so the primer adheres well. Also, he has started to remove the small triangular rear windows. It appears that these were installed with that black windshield caulk, making their removal more difficult. Still, those are the places where rust can go unnoticed, and he wants his paint job to last longer than a few months, so he's going where rust hides.

Ahead, he plans to remove the trim around the windshield and remove the glass so he can address the small rust spots he can already see. Next is removing the tail lights, rear gate and the glass from the gate so the rear tailgate can be prepped. Once all pieces are ready, he wants to learn how to shoot his own paint, so we'll be looking into that. I sincerely hope we get a dry spell or we'll have to figure out a temporary painting shed. Since so much of the car is in smaller pieces, the "shed" may not need to be as large as a car. We'll see.

One last thing: when it came time to move the 280ZX from where it has sat almost since it arrived in October, it started right up. The only other car we have that starts that fast is the VW bus. I took that as a really good omen.

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

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Dashing Thoughts

Today's post is just musings about how to improve my visibility into the health / well being of the diesel engine pushing the VW bus without retrofitting a NewBeetle or MK-IV Jetta instrument panel into the spot where the current original dash lives. This is actually all related, though it may seem a little scattered. I blame the holiday season.

With a planned change in tire size, the speedometer will no longer be accurate. It's really more of a guide as it is. I know there are converter bits that can be attached to the cable to gear up and down, but I'm not really sure how well those work. There's the option of doing surgery on the speedo, like this page here suggests, but that's a little scary. Still, if I want the original speedo to show the right speed after putting larger tires on, is does read like a viable alternative.

I could figure out a means of getting the speed from a Hall-effect sender. These are basically a magnet on the rotating wheel and a magnet sensor picking up the magnetic field as it passes. This signal is effectively a square wave that an electronic speedo can interpret. OR, the computer could know how fast I'm going, if I route the signal to the ECU. But, I'd still see the old needle on the original dash, showing the wrong speed. I like the idea of being able to keep the original dash operational so I may need to do something to the original speedo no matter what I do about the ECU.

I am currently unable to determine how much fuel is in the tank. I tried swapping out the fuel gauge when I thought I had confirmed the sender was good, but that didn't work. So, I have to consider that the fuel sender has failed. If replaced with a ALH-ranging sender, the computer would know the fuel level. But, that would also mean that the fuel gauge on the original instrument panel wouldn't work. So, maybe I could figure out a way of installing an original sensor in the tank and then splicing a second signal from that, but shift the signal in the second signal to match the modern sensor.
Original VW Bus sensor       TDI
10ohms (full)                          35ohms
75ohms (empty)                    285ohms

If the bus range is 65ohms and the TDI computer expects a 250ohm range. For each ohm change in the sender, I'd need .26 ohms of change. Plus, the floor resistance would need to be increased by 25ohms. I haven't done electrical work like this since high school, but I'm not sure how this would work. In the table below, I've split the target ohm values into 13 5ohm increments from the original bus side. The diff column represents the difference between what the sender would provide and what the TDI gauge would expect. The step increase is the additional amount of resistance needed from the more-full to less-full increment. Nothing is simple.
Bus diff step increase TDI
full 10 25 25 35
15 39.23077 14.23077 54.23077
20 53.46154 39.23077 73.46154
25 67.69231 28.46154 92.69231
30 81.92308 53.46154 111.9231
35 96.15385 42.69231 131.1538
40 110.3846 67.69231 150.3846
45 124.6154 56.92308 169.6154
50 138.8462 81.92308 188.8462
55 153.0769 71.15385 208.0769
60 167.3077 96.15385 227.3077
65 181.5385 85.38462 246.5385
70 195.7692 110.3846 265.7692
empty 75 210 285

Maybe, I could get a converter like the Fuel Gauge Wizard. These are designed to meet this problem for any gauge/sender pair which provides less resistance the fuller the tank and is empty at 500ohms or less. I could splice it in to the original wires so the stock signal is untouched while the new signal goes to the ECU.... hmm... Then, the stock gauge could still read while also informing the ECU to support the digital gauge.

Back to Dashing

If I had solved the fuel and the speed, only the turn signals would remain from the original dash that I'd need to retain. I wonder if there's a way of telling the computer that the turn signal is on....

Continuing down this mental thread, the space available for dash concepts: 13 or 14" across. 5" high. So, fitting a Jetta IV instrument panel (even if I wanted to) wouldn't fit. The one that came from the donor Beetle definitely wouldn't fit. Maybe a tablet could. A typical 7" Android is 19.2cm x 12cm -or- 7.559055" x 4.72441"

Perhaps, if oriented such that the thick "bottom" (or the far right end in the picture here) were set on the outer edges, we could support two screens for a dash.

Seeing that there really isn't an iOS comparable, I looked around for a cheap tablet. $40 gets you a bluetooth enabled, 4GB tablet (link). I couldn't use two of them without modifications to either the vent / heat controls or something else more drastic. Still, its an interesting mental exercise. Maybe it's worth only doing one, covering the blank spot where a tachometer should have been installed stock from the factory (Really VW?, Really?) and most of the speedometer, leaving the cluster with the fuel gauge, turn signals and idiot lights still visible. If the tablet can be easily removed and installed, I could pull the tablet out of the way at will, leaving the stock dash in place. I got one of these tablets just for laughs and the low price comes from the weak battery. Still, this is an interesting idea.

So, assuming the tablet isn't unattractive, how to get the engine computer to tell the tablet what's up? There are a surprising number of tools out there for this, actually. I went and bought this one from scantool. It came with free software for the tablet which I played around with a little bit.

For now, this stuff is sitting in a heap while I consider how I want to address the fuel tank level sender. Ultimately, the sender needs to be replaced, and it makes the most sense to just replace it with an original ohm-range sender. If I want to go further with the ECU stuff, I can do the fuel gauge wizard, build a hall-effect speed sensor and really jump into the electronic dash all while keeping the original functionality.

That's it for this week. Thanks, as always, for following along. With the holidays upon us, and family descending upon us, I may not have much time to post. I am taking some time off, so I'll have some time to generate content of course. I just may not get to telling the stories until some time in January. I appreciate your following, rare comments and more regular emailed thoughts and ideas. Please keep sharing.
Last, if you're in the Portland area and need a place to fix your daily, I'd be hapy to help. You can even use my driveway. Hapy Holidays and Hapy New Year-