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Wrench Scramble 2015: Project Axle Hell

ford 8 inch axle shaftI love drop-out 3rd member axles for how much they ease parts swapping and fabrication. Most famously Ford’s eight and nine-inch diffs, as well as most solid axles from Japanese truck manufacturers allow the differential to be removed and swapped with simple hand tools. Find a lower-geared, limited slip example in a junkyard or on eBay? You could swap it yourself in half a day and keep your old one for a spare. Secondarily, the entire housing is heavy-gauge steel (as opposed to the cast-iron center-section on a Dana-style one), allowing for easy welding of whatever brackets you need.

There is one challenging part, however: the axle shafts are a press-fit into the ends of the housing, one that can occasionally border on permanent. While reassembling the Ranchero’s rearend, I made a bonehead move and tapped the axle in place without putting the brake backing plate on first. Ok, let’s just yank it out with the slide hammer. Nope. Queue two days straight of torching, hammering, yanking, chaining, more torching and finally Dremel-tooling…

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Wrench Scramble 2015: Playing Musical Engine Stands

ford straight six engines

I have three engines, three transmissions and a spare head in my garage right now, none of which are bolted up in the right combination.

We’ve got a kinda/sorta “built” 200ci six, the original 170ci that came with the car and a donor 170ci I bought only for the transmission attached to it. Our original 170ci ran, but both the exhaust manifold and stripped oil drain plug leaked badly. By the time you price out replacements for both, a whole engine’s cheaper, so we picked up a 200ci motor in pieces at an estate sale along with a C4 automatic to re-sell on craigslist.

2.77 three speed transmissionthree speed 3.03 toploader transmission

Behind the original 170ci was what’s known as the “2.77” three speed, a notoriously weak three speed with a non-synchromesh first gear. Three speeds isn’t a problem, but the high likelihood of catastrophic weekend-ending failure was. Luckily, there’s a three-speed “Toploader” or “3.03” tranny that’s damn-near indestructible, but frequently swapped out for more-geared manuals or automatics. Despite all this talk of Falcon/Mustang/Maverick/Granada/etc parts continuity and interchangeability, Ford once again screwed me by unnecessarily changing bolt patterns around. Turns out the early (pre-67ish) straight sixes have a smaller bellhousing pattern and an 8.5″ clutch, while the “later” ones have a slightly larger clutch. Guess which one our “good motor” 200ci has? Guess which one nearly all the toploaders bolt to?

Aside from spendy aftermarket adapters, there’s an ultra-rare small pattern-to-toploader bellhousing used only in early Econoline vans. Turns out I found one on Craigslist for super cheap. Unfortunately, it was attached to another sketchy 170ci with what looks like JB weld all over the side of the block.

Anyway, the to-do list was as follows:

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Wrench Scramble 2015: Parts Running and Car Delivery, with Bonus Evil Genius Racing Shop Tour

Tim Odell October 20, 2015 Project Cars

wagoneer towing ranchero

The Ranchero needs a cage. Turns out this week was a window of opportunity at Evil Genius Racing, so I had to activate scramble transit mode. To make it all work, I drove an hour to buy a set of wheels, rented a trailer, drove four hours round trip towing with the Wagoneer and made it home in one piece. Along the way I found my new favorite parts guy (sort of a “Jack” of Ford parts in NorCal) and confirmed the Wagoneer’s towing capability as firmly mediocre.

Click through for the whole story.

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Wrench Scramble 2015: Falcon Steering Rebuild Leads to Exhaust Rebuild

Tim Odell October 15, 2015 Project Cars

Falcon project car steering exhaust

Several months ago, I clipped a curb with my Falcon after spinning in the rain. 100% driver error (never lift, bro!). I decided to use my newly mal-aligned front end as an excuse to replace pretty much every piece of my front end’s suspension and steering linkages. Follow along to see how what should’ve been a triumph of interchangeable parts turned into a multi-month process of nothing fitting quite right…

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Wrench Scramble 2015 is Underway!

Ranchero project car Five years (to the exact day) ago I wrote about learning to avoid getting stretched so thin that project cars are more stressful than fun. Apparently I unlearned that lesson because as of tonight, all four of my cars are in need of services ranging from routine maintenance to a complete drivetrain swap. I’ve gotta get cranking, because the Ranchero needs to be race ready for the Arse-Freeze-apalooza at Sonoma Dec 5-6th. If I could just take like, two months off from work I could get all caught up, but alas, we don’t have paid leave for vehicular health issues. I can’t tell my family to fend for themselves while I live in the garage, either. So instead, the plan is to re-jigger what I do for Hooniverse. Ironically, all too often I find myself deciding between working on Hooniverse or working on cars. That’s about to change.

Relax. This isn’t a goodbye or even temporary disappearance post. It’s more a warning about what you’re likely to see Tuesdays and Thursdays (my days to ensure the schedule’s filled out). Instead of beautifully edited prose or eBay/Craigslist finds, you’ll be getting mediocre cell phone picture documentation of the shit-ton of car work I’ll be cranking out over the next two months. It’ll be a mix of How To, How Not To, or even me asking you guys for help.

With that in mind, hit the jump for a rough To Do list

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Mercedes Turbodiesel Swapped YJ Wrangler Depicts an Earlier Bizzaro World Daimler Chrysler

Tim Odell October 6, 2015 For Sale

turbodiesel wrangler for sale

Last week we showed you the more typical level of attention to detail associated with interesting engine swaps; this YJ Wrangler with a 3.0l Mercedes turbodiesel represents the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s restrained, clean and potentially incredibly useful in daily driving. Since Jeep seems determined to forever tease us about a diesel Wrangler, this seller built his own.

Based on the description 3.0L, turbo and five cylinders, it’s likely an OM617 making somewhere in the neighborhood of 125hp and 170 ft-lb. Not going to counter-rotate the earth any time soon, but still better stats than the four cylinder AMC motor that so many YJs came with. While we’re a bit skeptical of the seller’s 40mpg claim, there’s no reason to doubt this could be the most efficient Wrangler this side of an air-drop. The searing question on my mind is what’s downstream of that motor. Either someone fab’ed a crazy adapter between the MB powerplant and Jeep Aisin transmission or it’s got the trans and transfer case out of an OM617 powered G Wagen.

Thanks to user Jeepster for the find via last week’s Craigslist Crapshoot

1989 Jeep Wrangler with Diesel Swap – Nashville Craigslist

This 5.0L Powered E30 is Somewhere Between a Hopeless Pile of Parts and a Kickass Race Car

Tim Odell October 1, 2015 For Sale

1987 e30 v8 swap for sale

BMW’s E30 chassis lives on for enthusiasts (outside the rust belt) as a well balanced paragon of durability, sport and efficiency. So obviously it’s a great candidate for a drift car. Personally drifting’s not my thing, but any activity that has guys building unconventional high horsepower machines on the cheap can’t be too bad, right? Besides, cheap E30s are hardly rare in my neck of the woods, so it’s unlikely a rare classic was butchered just to smoke tires.

The seller/builder juiced this one up with all-iron, carbed Ford 302, thankfully backed by a T-5. He didn’t just drop the V8 in a call it a day, though. The rear diff is a welded 3.73:1 unit that enables easy slides through third gear. Plenty of fun/stupid to be had there. It’s the rest of the mods list that leaves me wondering if this is just a bunch of shit bolted together, or if it just needs a little…um…social norming to be a fun track or touring car.

1987 e30 v8 swap for sale1987 e30 v8 swap for sale

We’ll let the list speak for itself…

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New Hampshire Estate Auction is a Euro-centric LeMons Goldmine

Tim Odell September 29, 2015 For Sale

Red fiat X19 for sale

I resisted the urge to click on this hopeless project 914, but the X-1/9 lured me in. Per the seller’s description they’re auctioning off “70 plus” vintage European cars from an estate sale, nary a title among them. From the backgrounds of a few of the current listings, we can see a capri, a Triumph or two, a flock of minis and some kind of station wagon all share this lush barnyard together. Currently they’ve got the following on auction…

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Dune Limo? Patio Boat for the Sand? Regardless, We Love It

dunes limo“Oldsmobile Other Awesome” works just as well. What we have here is a failure to communicate an Oldsmobile aluminum 215ci V8 powered vaguely VW-based six seater buggy/sand rail. Literally atop all that awesomeness is a massive platform/roof rack sporting an ambulance light…because why not? Apparently, it’s somewhat famous thanks to appearances in videos from the dune scene out at Glamis.

The seller highlights the highlights without overselling it as some kind of priceless piece of fabrication excellence. I’d be curious to see how it drives with six adults on board, as at a certain point it’s gotta get troublingly tippy. Aside from thinking you and your bros are automatically going to attract the hottest babes at the dunes, this thing could serve some real utility as a shuttle for some remote resort, filming or job site work.

6 seat dune buggy for sale (1)6 seat dune buggy for sale (2)6 seat dune buggy for sale (4)

Bidding’s at $3k with an $8k asking price, which seems a little steep depending on just how fun this thing is to drive.

1963? Oldsmobile Powered six seat Dune Buggy – eBay Motors

Project Cars Update: LeMons Ranchero and Falcon

Tim Odell September 22, 2015 Project Cars

ranchero lemons project carInterchangeable parts, platform sharing and shared engineering are wonderful things. As an engineer, nothing scares me more than low-volume, one-off craftsmanship. On a high level, Ford used The Falcon Platform from the 1960 Falcon to the 1980 Granada/Monarch/Versailles, but their insistence on minor changes over the years has me nearly stymied.

We’ve converted the Ranchero LeMons Racer to nearly full 1965 GT350 front suspension and brakes with minimal effort, but I can’t get the right steering parts to do the same for my daily driver Falcon.

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