Project Car SOTU: The Ranchero(s)

Hey Everybody! Remember me? Been a while. But you don’t care about my excuses, you (might) care about my Ranchero(s).

Time for an update from Rancho Ranchero….

Let’s get something out of the way first: The first Ranchero, which became the “Crunchero” is no more. It donated its front suspension, fuel tank and rear diff to the 2nd Ranchero, then sat in my side yard for two years, collecting rust and wasp nests. Finally, a few weeks ago we harvested the last thing of value: the cage. I’m optimistically hoping to drop it into another car (more on that later…), as it was two freaking grand. We chopped it out and, after a frustrating back-and-forth with Pick-and-Pull, kicked it off a trailer into their receiving yard. ¡Adios!

So, the second Ranchero: we built it and raced it with varying degrees of success in 2017-2018. First race out we chased overheating issues that we resolved through a combination of swapping a head gasket (probably unnecessarily), adding a restrictor to the thermostat housing, and not having the electric fan wired backwards.

Our second race, we chased a belt-throwing issue in 107 degree heat at Thunderhill. Any time we decelerated from 5000 RPM, the belt would resonate and fly off, leading to overheating. Overheating cooked the rear main seal, so we spewed oil all weekend. SOP was to do about 10 laps, get over-excited and over-rev the thing, lose the belt, shut it off, get towed in, swap in a new belt and a couple quarts of 60wt oil, then head back out. For the record, all-iron, inline engines are remarkably tolerant to thermal abuse. Apparently.
That all-weekend-long toil (combined with our sisyphean backstory earned us the Index of Effluency.

Since then, it’s been all about addressing the weak points. I Frankenstein-ed a Jeep 4.0L adjustable belt tensioner into position to successfully keep our belt on. We finally ditched the 57 year old rolled-seam fuel-puking factory tank for a 24 gallon FIA-cert ATL cell. Both of those did their jobs splendidly in May’s Thunderhill race, but an early hose-versus-alternator bracket incident overheated us once and once again cooked the rear main, causing us to actively rust-proof the undercarriage. Good thing we’re friendly with a motor oil company. In my stint late on Saturday, I noticed the shifter dancing around in no small way, perfectly in sync with my throttle inputs. Turns out our motor mounts had completely disintegrated, and the mill was basically just resting in place in the engine bay. Rather than source another set, we ditched the rubber and just direct bolted things in. We finished the day barely shifting at all, as the fittings on the clutch hydraulic lines were stripped and leaking. 

…and that brings us to the present: We’re prepping for Button-Terrible the last weekend of September. Typical LeMons maintenance cycle: brakes, tires, a wheel bearing, rear main seal, clutch lines and–WTF is up with that pressure plate?–apparently also doing a clutch. Hopefully this round of whack-a-mole repairs puts us closer to the eventual goal of just running all weekend.

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3 responses to “Project Car SOTU: The Ranchero(s)”

  1. outback_ute Avatar

    Nice going – still running the 3 speed column shift?

    1. mad_science Avatar

      Nope, 4 speed on the floor. The column-y-ness (?) of it wasn’t the problem, but the 2-3 RPM gap was. You’d rev the hell out of 2nd, then just “buuuurrrrrrrrr” when going into 3rd.

      1. outback_ute Avatar

        Column-y-ness doesn’t help though. Coincidentally I drove a 4-sp column shift Hillman a while back, every gear had a big gap… Actually that is a bit unfair, it was just slow.

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