In my limited time working on old jalopies I’ve come to hear 1 piece of advice that rings true: make it stop, make it go, make it pretty. The words are easy to grasp but the concept can elude me – actually the concept almost ALWAYS eludes me.
Making something stop may be the most important but for me brings the least bang for the buck. Let’s face it – most of our projects don’t move anyway so adding time and money to keep it not moving doesn’t really give a tingle in the pants region. “Hey I just redid the brakes and spent $400 and 2 weekends and the car stays still just like it did before!”. Obviously stopping is paramount, else the first death defying run to the hardware store in the whenever-you-get-it-running rod becomes less about defying, more about maiming and killing. So yea stopping is important but it’s boring. New brake lines are pretty when done in a show car but all I see on mine are weird sorta-circles and oblong traces of lines bent every way from Sunday to get full use of the 36 inches of line I bought when only 28 was needed. I swear I measured. Maybe I did. Oh who knows, I’ll make it work. Just add a couple extra bends and make this loop a little larger and…
I like instant gratification and have almost zero tolerance for waiting. When more than 3 cars are in line at the cofee/donut drivethru I get ansty. When I watch someone at said drivethru get handed a box of dozen donuts, 3 coolattas, an assortment of toasted bagels and 1 light Chai tea I want to ram them with the truck (the hot rod still only stops, but it does it much more expensively now). Or at least explain to them that under normal circumstances ordering for a family of 13 is probably better suited to doing so at the inside counter. So yes I am impatient. I’m not proud of it. But I know this about me. It’s what gives me determination but also remarkably unfair expectations. I want my stuff to look like it came from the annals of Hot Rod History and to do so in a nanosecond but I haven’t the ability, financial means, or patience to actually get to that point.
And so to stay on point of “Stop.Go.Pretty” I need some instant satisfaction beyond knowing that I am following the best approach. I have to be able to SEE progress at some point, to be visually inspired to keep going. Having completed – for now – the “Stop” section I moved on to the “Start” section which had a bit of the “Pretty” in it. I wanted to lower the front of the car and thought I could kill two birds with one stone by using the time needed to remove and inspect the oil pans to also cut the coils. Since I would have to drop the crossmember anyway to get to the inner bolts on the oil pan I decided I’d pull the coils, cut them and reinstall after inspecting/cleaning/installing the oil trays.
In plain English this part has sucked. I have more hours into the oil pan procedure and reinstalling the control arms than I would have if I simply just pulled the engine. Between repeated trips to the hardware store, cutting all-thread pieces to length, and actually doing the work under the car by myself I have at least 15 hours into this. Whomever came up with the idea for 34 bolts on the oil pan – THIRTY-FOUR BOLTS – really needed his or head examined. I’m sure the “bolt every 2 inches” did do well for longevity but if I ever have to do this again I will be installing a crate Chevy 350. It irked me that much. I expect fabrication work and upholstery items to take me eons since I’ve never done them but replacing bolts? The concept isn’t difficult. Loosen. Remove. Install. Tighten. Torque. Pretty simple. Not with this car.
Removing the coils was easy enough. Put a jack under the center of the control arm, raised it up a little bit to relieve some stress on the bolts, fit various wrenches and sockets on top of the crossmember and used an impact wrench to spin off the nuts of the 4 bolts holding the arm in place. Slowly lowered the arm down and the coil came out without much fuss. Great! Other than needing a bit of contortioning to reach up inside the top of the crossmember to lock the bolts while spinning the nuts on the bottom it wasn’t too bad.
Now to the crossmember. Moved the jack to the middle of it. Replaced 3 of the 5 factory bolts on each side of the crossmember with new 6 inch long grade 8 bolts. Removed remaining 4 bolts, slowly lowerd jack until the crossmember lowered and sat on the bolt heads. No big deal. This is going great.
Oh shit. Now I had access to the oil pan. And now is when the pain began. Some of the bolts are easy to reach, some needed longer extensions, some needed shorter extensions, some needed none. It was as if the story of Goldilocks had come to life except nothing was truly “just right.” I had to crawl around the nasty floor trying to get the little air ratchet onto each bolt but I finally got there. Forgot to drain the oil so had to cinch it back up a bit to buy time to go grab an oil pan. Cursed. Grabbed pan. Drained perfectly good oil. No smell, no discoloration, no glop. Poured right out. Onto the floor. Had misjudged the angle of the dangle. Cursed again. Moved pan, again. Safe. Went back and undid the bolts and dropped the pan. While we couldn’t have used it to hold a Thanksgiving turkey – it’s big enough too tho – it was pretty clean. Various rags and brake cleaner and a couple hours of elbow grease (nice pun) and it was cleaned up good.
Then the Dipper Tray. This was the anticipated climax. Oh what will I see!! Will it be crud and mud and gunk and hardened oils of yesteryear? Minerals from when oils were oils and men were men and lunches of bologna and SPAM were carried in real metal boxes with initials crudely written on them? Would I need a 10 gallon bucket to store it all? What would I do with it all? The answer: it was fine. Slightly gummy but overall it was just some old oil.
Talk about ati-climatic. The tray was clean. The oil in there was a bit heavy but it still flowed and was still a liquid. It’s a strange feeling to be joyous and saddened at the same time. It was great that the pan was clean – hopefully a positive omen for the future start attempts. But it also meant I had done all that work technically for nothing. Much like improving an already stopped vehicle to stop better. But I assured myself that with Mr. Murphy always nearby (more on that later) if I hadn’t inspected the trays they surely would have been filled with the sludge of legend and my engine would have fired up instantly for the first, and last time. Armed with a bit of satisfaction I set to cutting the coils and planning to reinstall the oil pans.
Doing a quick search on youtube I found Eaton Springs. I considered buying a set of new lowered coils but 1> I don’t have the $210 and 2> I figure that if I destroy the old ones by cutting them then I’d have to buy new ones anyway so might as well try it. The video shows how to measure and cut the coils which is pretty simple. Busted out the cut-off wheel and 10 minutes later I had new “custom” shocks. Knowing that the reinstall of the oil pans was going to be a bear I called it a day. Had a beer. Went to bed.