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Wrench Scramble 2015: It’s ALIVE! LeMons Domination is but 13 Trillion Little To-Dos Away

If you recall, this car fired (and actually drove) earlier this year. However, the oil pan had a stripped plug and the exhaust manifold was so warped you could see fire through the gap between it an the head. Also the carb was leaking gas right above said exhaust manifold. It was cheaper to find a whole new setup than replace the individual parts. So after re-assembling the head, rebuilding the carb, replacing the fuel pump and starter and doing a bit of tuning, it fires right up. That burble is courtesy of about 18 inches of leftover exhaust pipe.

Funny story: when cranking endlessly to get the thing to start, we noticed the throttle rod linkage was sparking and getting hot. WTF? Turns out in re-EVERYTHING-ing, we forgot to hook up an engine-to-chassis ground. With no driveshaft in place, there’s nothing but rubber mounts between the starter and chassis ground. Well, nothing but the throttle linkage. Thus, we were pumping a couple hundred amps through a series of clipped-together metal bits.

But hey, it runs (idles and revs) with no major issues.

With that out of the way, the to-do list as of tonight is… … Continue Reading

Justy Little Project Car: Engine Teardown and Inspection


The engine’s out, all 1.2 liters of it. Since my last post, I separated it from the transmission and hung it on an engine stand. There’s not much left to do except to start taking it apart and see just how bad I’ve got it.

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Wrench Scramble 2015: Witty Title about a Battery Box

battery relocation box

For those of us with good-but-not-great fabrication skills, 1/8″ X 1.5″ Ell channel steel is wonderful stuff. Thick enough to weld without blowing out, thin enough to weld with even the most mediocre of welders. With a halfway decent intuition of solid mechanics, you can sturdy built boxes, frames, etc. Case-in-point: LeMons grade battery box and hold-down. Follow along for a simple kinda-tutorial for keeping these joules in place…

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The Porsche 944 is the cheapest 80’s hero car

Patrick Hoffstetter November 16, 2015 Project Cars

Last night I was in a foul mood. It was chilly, rainy, and I had a bug up my ass. I wanted to get out, get out of my apartment, get out of who I was in my head at that moment. I tried watching Kung Fury, a fun little 80’s send up that our very own Jeff Glucker had recommended on twitter.

That little 3o minute tribute to the 80’s, synth and kung fu had two really great standouts to me. The brilliant red Countach that was used as the hero car, and the amazing soundtrack of music that can only be called Outrun now. All of this had me thinking about what I could do.  … Continue Reading

Wrench Scramble 2015: Two out of Four Ain’t Bad

carburetor adapter

Have you ever met someone with extensive knowledge of the minor engineering changes made within a model or brand? Someone who can say “oh, this is an early ’82 car, so you need the EA44517 starter, not the -524″ or “don’t get the Moog part for that bushing, their book is wrong”? You know how they know that? Because at least one time a thing that was supposed to fit, didn’t.

I’m becoming such a guy with this build…

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Wrench Scramble 2015: Don’t Do Cage Me In

24 hours of lemons roll cage ranchero

LeMons is all about cutting corners, be it in build quality or literally in driving technique. I’ll admit that the cage I put in The Uberbird was very much My First Rollcage® grade fabrication, likely to help in the event of a big crash, but not something you really really trust. Which, of course, defeats the whole purpose.

After seeing a Volvo P1800 take a K-rail to the driver’s door at last year’s Thunderhill with an unscathed driver inside, I knew who I wanted to make my cage. John, Grant and crew, at Evil Genius Racing in Sacramento didn’t just slap some tubes in there and call it a day. They added an extra lower-rear bar connecting the back of the hoop that tied into transmission tunnel, some of the last remaining good original metal in the car. The floor plates are all double or triple oversize to met spec, but it was necessary to distribute load and tie into something solid. It’s built from 1.75″ tubing, which is over-spec for the weight of the car, but again, this thing can use all the stiffness it can get. To quote John “there’s just no car to weld to!”

Was it cheap? No. However, the difference between this (arguably the best possible cage I could get) and a cheaper shop or DIY option is really only a few hundred bucks. For all the cash spent to construct a car, why skimp there?

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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Justy Little Project Car: Pulling the Engine

Alan Cesar October 19, 2015 Featured, Project Cars


I’m done with half-measures. This Justy engine—with its frighteningly uneven compression figures across its three cylinders, thrust bearing slop, huge oil leak and worn motor mounts—had to come out. I could have tried to take care of these things with the engine in situ, but odds are good that it would require pulling the engine anyway. Removing the engine makes all of these jobs quite a lot easier. Now that my AMC Eagle Hell Project is gone, I actually have the space to do it.

… Continue Reading


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