My wife fully gestated and expelled a baby in less time than it’s taken me to finish my engine rebuild. It was September 2015 when I removed the engine from my ’91 Subaru Justy project car. I had it apart shortly after that, pricing out exhaust valves, bearings and machine work to see if a rebuild was financially feasible (and if a motorcycle engine swap was a better idea). By the end of November 2015, the machine work was done and I had most of the parts I’d need, but it wasn’t until this month that I put the engine back in the car.
Now I’m making the final push to get this car mobile so I can let another project gestate in my garage. A Pontiac race car with a due date 10 months out. Read on.
The hard thing about making progress on any of your goals is not finding the time to accomplish them. It’s making the time. Something will always get in the way. For me, it has been classes I’m taking toward another degree and time spent on my new hobby: mountain biking. Oh, and my wife was also pregnant with our second kid. And I like sleeping. But I’ve been cranking on this car nearly every night for the past week with newfound enthusiasm and dedication. Hopefully I can keep this up so this high-compression Justy can finally get moving.
Apropos of nothing, here’s a picture of a different tiny Subaru I saw at the Turkey Rod Run.
Now. Catching up on progress: I spent a few extra bucks on a name-brand timing belt for the first time. This is a Gates, and it’s what I’m buying from now on for no reason other than those little white stripes. They tell me exactly where my sprocket timing marks are supposed to be when I install the belt, which makes for stress-free and guaranteed correct belt installation. Too many times I’ve installed belts and either worried that they were off by a tooth or found out that they indeed were, because those marks are never very precise. Not this time.
I had an exhaust header made this summer. I loaded up my engine into my van along with the Honda motorcycle header I bought for next to nothing, and took them to a local muffler guy who is willing to tackle these stupid oddball projects. Someone told me he makes motorcycle headers for somebody down the street that builds drag bikes.
Fortunately, he understood that I was looking for something quick and dirty rather than pristine craftsmanship (of which he’s also capable). He cobbled this together for me and charged $120 or so. Unfortunately, since dropping the engine in the bay, I’ve run into clearance problems with that lower runner (cylinder No. 1) and the sway bar. I’ll have to make some modifications and take it back to him to weld it together—ideally with the whole car.
Another summer accomplishment: An oil pressure switch and a mechanical oil pressure gauge. I think this switch closes around 5-7 psi, Justy few psi higher than the factory one. Not a huge improvement, but it’s cheap, and screws in to NPT threads. My local hydraulics shop had the adapter and T fitting I needed so I could use these bits. The Justy oil pressure boss in the block is tapped British Pipe Thread. Adapters are generally hard to come by, but this place seems to have everything.
A tip if you opt to do something like this on your car: These 1-wire oil pressure switches operate by completing the circuit to ground (through the engine block). If you opt to put Teflon tape on the threads like I did, don’t tape the whole length of it. Leave a bit of bare metal at the end of the threads so you don’t interrupt the circuit.
The gauge will sit up at the wiper blade until I can get the engine started. Then I’ll see about either weatherproofing it and mounting it directly to the cowl, or running the line into the car so I can mount it to the dashboard. If anyone’s ever successfully weatherproofed one of these gauges, I’m all ears.
This is where I currently stand with the car: Tidying up wiring, plumbing, axles, and other odds and ends so I can open up the space in my garage. Once it’s done, I’ll take delivery of a Fiero that was once prepped for SCCA racing and later disassembled. It’s got a V6 with an oil cooler, a big radiator, Koni suspension and all sorts of other possibly-cheaty stuff. It’s been sitting in a yard for three years, and who-knows-where for who-knows-how-long-before-that, but it’s free right now, and it’s mine.
With Justy little luck and a lot of dedication, that Fiero will come out of the garage screaming and crapping its pants just in time for the LeMons race at Road Atlanta in December.
Of this year.
[Photos copyright 2016 – 2017 Alan Cesar | Hooniverse]