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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

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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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: You Know it’s LeMons When…

Tim Odell November 10, 2015 24 Hours of Lemons

Transmission Mount

When you score a good deal on a heavy-duty transmission with the rare bellhousing and clutch configuration you need, you put up with it’s non-matching stubby tailshaft. When you have a transmission with a non-matching stubby tailshaft, you find yourself having to add about 9″ of length compensation between the existing transmission mount and the mounting pad on the transmission itself. This is a feat easily (?) accomplished with rectangular tube from the remnants rack and a few bolts from the bucket.

DIY transmission mount (2)DIY transmission mount (3)DIY transmission mount (1)

Yes, it all bolts up and yes, it gets the job done.

This Axle Shaft is a Metaphor for the Ranchero Build

Tim Odell November 3, 2015 24 Hours of Lemons

Things were going so well this weekend. I borrowed a tow rig, brought the car home from being caged and we got the engine in relatively quickly. Given that gas tank crude is the #1 hobbler of old LeMons cars, we pulled the gas tank. Thankfully, it doesn’t look too bad in there, just minor particulate and old gas residue. Thus concludes the good parts of the weekend.

The new rear axle was to follow suit, but upon installing the drivers side axle shaft (in the correct order), we noticed this. Before you start your “tsk tsk”-ing, this is not the shaft I wailed on, attempting to remove it. This was the good side. I’m getting a kick out of Google/YouTube’s attempt to stabilize the wobble out of this video.

In addition to this little snafu, we have rear leaf spring plates and bushings that both literally crumbled upon removal. Oh, and a strap broke while we were lifting the engine, but that’s a video of that for another post.

Thus, the shopping list at Tony the Parts Guy’s place now looks like this:

  • Return:
    • Toploader, header, various driveshafts.
  • Pick up:
    • Longer driveshaft, non-bent 8″ short-side shaft, cheap exhaust components.

More to come later in the week.

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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Hooniverse 24 Hours of LeMons: Halloween Hooptiefest is a Clean Race for Idiots in a Buick

halloween hooptiefest 2015 tree

Four “idiots in a Buick”, as Jay Lamm once famously called us, car number 451, finished third in class and fifteenth overall at the 24 Hours Halooween Hooptiefest in New Hampshire. We made no contact, did not go off-track, did not speed in the pits, had no black flags, and made just three pit stops and driver swaps each day. We ran clean and we ran consistently, we were slightly slowed down by the Sunday morning rain, but we still didn’t win. Ugh.

That said, we are very happy with our second top-five in-class result in two races. After some high-fives, chest-bumps, and beers, we started discussing our future racing strategy. I questioned if we have reached the potential of this tired old Buick. We sat down and started chatting about some issues.

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AER, Jalopnik, and the Art of Racing in the Rain


Racing takes skill, knowledge, and experience. A slow racecar at a 24 Hours of Lemons event is a great way to gather those. American Endurance Racing (AER), like 24 Hours of Lemons, is another cheap-ish car racing series that has recently started up. You may have seen it, as the series seem to promote themselves quite well on Facebook. My knowledge of it is limited to what I have read about it on the internet, but they basically want to offer a race series that is a step-up from Lemons but still affordable – faster cars, better drivers, none of that theme crap, and teams that have their shit together who want to race rather than rebuild engines before the green flag ever drops.

In order to further promote themselves, AER organizers brilliantly invited Road & Track and Jalopnik writers for a little friendly autojourno competition in exchange for some exposure from both outlets. I am assuming that race entry fees and fuel were covered by AER, as were the cars provided to them – two Spec E30 BMWs.

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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:

… Continue Reading


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