Issue time07:56:00 pm, by volvoclearinghouse Email 13200 views
Categories: Tuna Move, The Big Move

Believe it or not, The Great Vehicle Relocation of 2012/13 has been progressing faster than I can document it.  Today was an uncharacteristically relaxing Sunday, however, which gave me the opportunity to catch up on some things- pay bills, do laundry, watch a half-dozen or so episodes of Top Gear, and clean up my computer.  Now I'm streaming 88.7FM across the interwebs from Isothermal Community College and having a bit of Riesling accompanied by a dark espresso-flavored chocolate. Time to recap some car moves!

I'm going a bit out-of-chronological order here; this move took place sometime between the wrecked Miata/Simca load and the Green '49 Plymouth/ '67 Amazon wagon trip.  Here we have a _different_ Amazon wagon, and a primered-out gray 4 door Amazon.  The wagon on the trailer here is a '68, which is clearly a different car than the other wagon, a '67, parked next to it.  In 1968 Volvo, like all other manufacturers hawking their 4-wheeled wares in America, had to add dash padding and bulbous side marker lights to its cars.  The '68 Amazon also has a different steering wheel and headrests on the seats.  And the carburetor setup was slightly different, I believe for emissions purposes.  The gray four door is, for all realistic intents, a parts car.  I believe it to be a '62 model, as it has front drum brakes and some other early Amazon touches and trim differences.

I just realized that I know far, far more about Volvo 122s than anyone has any real reason to.

After New Years, Katie came up to Maryland with me, along with this fine cargo comprised of a 1951 Plymouth sedan and, yes, another Amazon.  The observant, um, observer, will also notice the spare Volvo 122 rear axle lashed to the front of the trailer.  More on this in a future post...

I ended up with this '51 Plymouth in trade for a '74 Satellite (the car, not a vintage space instrument).  It's fairly rusty, and thus meant to be a source of spares for the '49 model from a previous post.  But it does move on it's own power...

The 2-door 122S is the very first Volvo Amazon I ever bought- The Green Turtle.  Yes, that is the origin of my 122 hobby right there.  Like the wagon above, it's a 1968 model, however it seems to be an _early_ '68 model, as it has no headrests, bulbous side marker lights, or dash padding.  In my ownership this car has gone from a daily driver, to rally car, back to DD, to engine donor for our final Amazon LeMons effort.  It's currently engineless, but does sport some fancy rare fiberglass body panels.  I'm working on a replacement drivetrain for it, as this car is fairly special: it was the car my now-wife and I rode together in for our first date!

Stopped at my usual QT in Gaffney, SC, rolling out on 1/1/2013!

We passed this unusual load shortly after fueling up at the QT.  Katie wouldn't take the picture, which is why it appears to be from my perspective- it is.  Ten Fiat 500's...would that be Fiat 5000?

This gets us about caught up on the car moves for now.  My Baltimore garage is full to capacity, with a few cars parked outside, even.

Next up:  Some cars that won't be moving to Maryland with us...


Issue time01:25:00 pm, by volvoclearinghouse Email 2298 views
Categories: Race Days

Well, well, well, look who made the illustrious glossy pages of Grassroots MotorSports Magazine!

I like how yours truly is half-shadowed behind the wheel.  It adds to my aura of mystique and intrigue.  Some say Guinea Pigs dry clean his socks.  Some say his breakfast consists of a single boiled radish and a glass of crab juice.  All we know is, he's called The Captain of the Tunachuckers!

Also depicted (from right to left) on the car:

  • The Oldest 'Chucker, an ever-flowing font of wisdom and experience, obscure British car devotee, and voted Most Likely to be Driving When the Car Loses Oil Pressure: Rob.
  • Some dude who claimed to be Brian's father, whose tastes in eyewear were universally described as "festive".
  • The black-flaggiest driver in our squad, who boasts an inexplicably high amount of enthusiasm for Heroic Fixes, worships at the altar of Colin Chapman, and whose tastes in headwear mirror his father's tastes in eyewear: Brian.
  • A partially- obscured member of the New York Contingent, recently relocated to warmer Carolina climes, brother of the man predisposed to cigar-smoking while observing fuel system repairs, and the second-hairiest Pontiac GTO owner in the Western Hemisphere: Matt.
  • One pair of legs, possibly belonging to Robin Williams.

Will this continued fame and press go to the Tunachuckers' heads?  Will it inspire them to ressurect the grandiose LTD Landau from its slumber and ply the hallowed and cracking asphalt of Carolina Motorsports Park again?  Will I use up my daily quota of question marks before finishing this posting

Issue time11:26:00 am, by volvoclearinghouse Email 2093 views
Categories: All Things Tuna

Having gained some momentum, the move is now in full swing.  There's no turning back now.  Time to relocate two more select members of the Tunachucker herd to Baltimore.  This time, it's a pair of cars that are separated by almost two decades, but which, if you squint, bear a fairly strong resemblance to each other.

Or, you know, if you squint, and look at them in the side-view mirror, out a dirty window, while it's overcast outside.

The car in front is a 1967 Volvo Amazon Estate, or 220, or station wagon, depending on which continent you're from.  The vehicle behind it is a 1949 Plymouth Special Deluxe (which was also the name of a band sometime in the late 90's) 4 door sedan.  Both cars run, drive, stop and steer, which made loading them pretty straightforward- unlike some _other_ vehicles, which shall go unnamed *cough* Simca *cough* that were much more of a pain in the rump to haul onto The Duece.

Now there's a rig!  It's not too bad on fuel, either.  Pulling around it's own weight, plus the trailer, plus two old cars, and with that O.D. green soft topper up and the bed full of stuff, it still manages mid-teens on the highway, sucking down 40 cetane dead dinosaur juice.  This picture was taken at the QT on exit 90, Interstate 85, in South Carolina.  They have the cheapest diesel of any stop in the 540 miles between Greenville, SC and Baltimore, MD, so I always make sure to end up here on a nearly-empty tank and refuel.  They also offer 49 cent, 32 ounce slushies, which are a nice treat.

QT's have been popping up everywhere in SC lately; they seem to be the newest truck stop experience.  So far, I've found them to be cheap, clean, and convenient.  Call me a QT convert!  If this picture had come out clearer, you'd see they were getting 3.69 per gallon for #2 heating oil, AKA diesel fuel, on this particular day.  Every other station I passed (even those with cash discount prices) was more expensive.  Some places wanted as much as $4.15!  Thieves!

I like to fuel up in the big rig section of the truck stops.  There's usually good maneuvering room, and pumps on either side.  Plus, you get to be surrounded by compression ignition engines all idling in concert, which is like a symphony to car guys.  The only problem is that many truck fuel pumps aren't set up to pay by consumer credit cards, meaning you have to go into the truck stop if you don't have a fleet card (which I don't) and pay.  But the QTs do take credit cards at the pump.

Christmas is coming, and I'll be heading down to SC next week to bring up one last load of cars to close out the year.  At that point, the front yard will be mostly cleared out, so the house should be presentable enough to put on the market.  Whatever cars are left there I'll either sell, or relocate to Maryland once we buy a house up here.  My rental garage up here has room for about 2 more classics- and that's packing them in tight.

Merry Christmas!

Issue time04:12:00 pm, by volvoclearinghouse Email 3019 views
Categories: Tuna Whips

Now that I'm becoming a regular Balt-Wash commuter again, I'm reminded of just how _bad_ the drivers are in this area.  I mean Bad.  Really, really bad.  Epic-ly bad.  Every commute is like a 45 minute LeMons race, complete with breakdowns, caution flags, spinouts, and interesting themes.  Just like LeMons, too, I can often pick out bad drivers just by the car they're driving.  (SUVs and minivans drivers require particular caution while manuevering in the viscinity of.)

After several near-rear-end incidents, I decided to step up the safety in my little blue Volvo Amazon.  Even in 1967, Volvo made a pretty safe little car- they were years ahead of the competition in many regards, with things like shoulder seat belts and front disc brakes.  But even the Gotenburg folks couldn't anticipate _everything_.  Sometime in the late 80's, the Federales started mandating a third brake light on passenger cars- when I used to work at GM they called it a Center High Mount Stop Light- CHMSL, for short (say "Chim-sel"). 

You're familiar with some modern interpretations:


I've seen some people add brake lights to older cars, and usually the addition, while probably safer, leaves a lot to be desired from an aesthetic point of view.

I think a lot of people just grab a set of cheap trailer lights, drill some holes, and slap them in the back package shelf or glass area.  I wanted something a bit cleaner.  There's a bit of trim under the back window of the Volvo 122 that conceals the center rear speaker, which I was no longer using.  I pulled the trim off, removed the speaker, and used the speaker as a template to drill two holes in a metal bracket.  Here's a view from inside the trunk area:

And this is what it looks like from inside the passenger area, facing out the rear window. 

With the  trim piece in place:

If I painted the bracket up nicely it would almost look factory.  There's just a single small wire leading down to the passenger side brake light where I plugged it into the trailer connector that Volvo thoughtfully installed from the factory.  The LED strip was purchased from Advance Auto for $19.99 on sale (there's enough to do two CHMSLs in the package, too).  But, the big mystery is- where'd I get the bracket from?  It turns out the trunk weatherstripping channel from a first-gen Mazda Miata is the perfect size and geometry.  Just cut out about a 6" long section:

Before you gasp in horror at me butchering up the Miata, this car was bought as a parts car- it has no title, and was hit in the back and side. 

While I was at it, I replaced the flakey pressure brake light switch with a more conventional brake pedal switch.  This is a common conversion on old Volvo Amazons, and one of my parts cars had a pretty nice bracket and functional switch I was able to snag.  I extended the wires from the pressure switch in the engine compartment to the new switch under the dash. 

Here's what it looks like in action.  "Look out, I'm stopping!!"

(Antifreeze bottle used to hold down the brake pedal)


Issue time08:22:00 pm, by volvoclearinghouse Email 1735 views
Categories: All Things Tuna, Tuna Whips, Tuna Move, The Big Move

A few posts ago I went into excruciating detail about the Class V hitch I'd installed on my tow pig, the ubiquitous Dodge Apocalypse Power Wagon.  Along with the 15,000 pound hitch, I also wired in a trailer brake controller.  Unfortunately, I discovered on the inaugural trip with The Duece that the controller didn't appear to be controlling anything.  It's amazing how exciting it can be travelling at a mere 60 mph when the only thing preventing 16,000 pounds of truck, trailer, cars, driver, and diesel fuel from slamming into whatever hapless fool is in front of you is a pair of disc brakes and a pair of drum brakes that, even in 1992 when Chrysler put them on this truck, were fairly marginal.  ABS?  Ha!  Yeah, like you could even get these brakes to lock up.  Needless to say, I kept plenty of following distance and downshifted a lot while braking.  Diesels don't have much engine braking, but every little bit helps.

After that white-knuckle adventure, I sat down with a pair of crimpers, a box of connectors, and a spool of wire and rewired the trailer brakes on The Duece.  It turns out the old truck to trailer connector had a short in it, so I replaced that, too.  I also returned the parts-store brake controller that resembled a 1970's Heathkit and bought a more modern Curt controller.  (For those who recall my earlier posts, Curt was also the manufacturer of the new Class V hitch components.)  The Tri-Flex controller has adjustable gain and tip-in rates, as well as a cool "Oh sh*t" button that lets you manually apply the trailer brakes to 100%.  It works.  And stopping is much improved. 

For those of you who are wondering, that little guy sitting up in the windshield is Truck Monkey.  Truck Monkey keeps the Dodge running and protects its inhabitants from harm.  He has been an indispensible traveling companion for tens of thousands of miles.  Long live Truck Monkey!

In addition to the trailer brakes, the Old Gray Mare Dodge had experienced another, albeit less mission-critical electrical failure.  The passenger side door speaker quit functioning.  Since I usually while away the hours on the road listening to some fairly stereo-intensive music, this was quite irritating.  The short-term fix was to re-route the passenger door speaker wires to a Sony bookshelf speaker I had laying around:

This worked fine, as long as I was running solo, but the loudspeaker occupied most of the passenger-side footwell and prevented the seat from rolling forward, critical to reaching essentials piled in the extended cab area (yes, this Dodge pre-dates 3rd and 4th doors on extended cabs, meaning access to the rear require tilting the seats and hyper-extending one's back while making groaning noises.)  So at the next opportunity I put a set of these in the doors:


For $30 (Advance Auto Parts) they don't sound bad; certainly adequate for the noisy cabin of the Power Wagon.  But, they're a little treble-heavy, requiring some EQ adjustments to the radio.  I subsequently bought a pair of these:

for my Volvo Amazon, which also needed new speakers, and the extra $10, which apparently gained me 50W of additional power handling and a midrange element, was money well spent.  I recommend these Boss units for anyone looking for a low-buck car speaker.  Sensitivity is 92dB/1Watt, which works well on cheap, low-powered stock or aftermarket head units.  The grills provided with the speakers are fugly, but all modern speaker grilles seem to have gone for that over-wrought macho-look.  The best I can say about them is that they're not as hideous as some I've seen.

Brake and audio equipment issues sorted out, it was time for the next load of cars to be transported to the Maryland garage.  This time, it was a motley pair of vehicles indeed:

The lead car is a 1992 Mazda Miata, wrecked all around but, amazingly, a running, driving automobile.  Bringing up the aft of The Duece is a very rare item indeed: a 1959 Simca Aronde.  Simca is, or rather, was, a French auto manufacturer.  In one of their classic questionable moves, Chrysler bought them at some point in the late 1950's, so things like the AM radio in the Simca are emblazoned with "Mopar".  I plucked this well-patina'd example from the Crusher's jaws in a little town in South Carolina named "Waterloo", which, to anyone familair with French History, will be either highly coincidental or slightly ironic, depending on whether or not you agree with Alanis Morrissette.  Regardless, stumbling upon a 50 year-old automobile from a now-defunct French manufacturer in rural South Carolina was amazing in it's own right.  The seller even had a clear title, and gave Rob and I beers when we came to pick it up.  (Yes, I know; wine would have been more apropos.)  I still haven't quite figured out what to do with this little frog-car, but Katie thinks its cute, and I'm inclined to agree.  It's also tiny- a good foot and a half shorter than a Volvo Amazon. 

So far I've transported 2 Volvo Amazons, a Mercedes 560SL, the Simca, and a Miata from SC to MD.  That's about 13,000 pounds worth of cars, 540 miles.  I've also sold a third of a dozen Corvairs.  But this blog is like an iceberg- we've only seen a small fraction of what's to come!

Issue time03:59:00 pm, by volvoclearinghouse Email 2053 views
Categories: All Things Tuna, Tuna Move, The Big Move

A quartet of Corvairs.

That's what I had.  That's what I had to get rid of.

Shortly after deciding to move our lives and everything that entails from SC to MD, _I_ (and, I will stress, _not_ my wife) sat down and made a list of what cars I wanted to keep, and what cars needed to go.  The emphasis on _me_ doing this is important- lots of car guys, for whatever reason, end up with spouses with little tolerance for their automotive obsessions.  You see the eBay and Craigslist ads incessantly: "Wife Forces Sale", "Wife Says it Has to Go", and my favorite, "Wife Says it's Either the Car or Her".  This was not the case.  I realized that between my cars, her cars, and all of the trailers, gypsy caravans, and other wheeled contrivances, we had right at 40 road-going heaps that would need to be dealt with.  Some logic and planning and herd-culling would be in order.

After landing my first Corvair, a red '64 Monza convertible, I suddenly discovered that Corvairs were 1) fun to drive, 2) cheap to buy, and 3) plentiful.  Between my connections with the local Corvair Club (, a great group of guys if you happen to be in the Greenville, SC area and in any way interested in rear-engined American cars) and the aforementioned electronic methods, I gradually acquired:

  • A 1963 2 door

  • A 1961 Rampside pickup

  • A 1966 2 door coupe

  • A 1962 2 door

...none of which ran.  Or had titles.  Or keys.  In fact, legally, I don't think any of them could be considered "cars" by any legislative body in this country.  And while it's remarkably easy to plunk down a few hundred dollars and scoop up these treasures, finding a similarly mentally afflicted soal to take them off your hands is no mean feat.

Luckily, Corvair people are not sane people.

A few weeks after posting my craigslist ad for the fleet of parts cars (I'd decided to keep the '64 convertible, as it is a running, driving, titled, and registered car, fairly solid and in good repair) I got an email from a Corsa member who wanted them.  All 4 of them.  We struck a deal on the cars, and since he'd be unable to come get them immediately, I proffered the services of my newly-begotten two-car hauler (Henceforth to be known as "The Duece") to bring the 'vairs to his land.

But I was not prepared for what would greet me when I arrived there.  It was, in fact, the Island of Misfit Corvairs and Cabooses.  I didn't count, but I suspected there were about 2 dozen Corvairs of all types- early models, late models, vans, and pickups- scattered around 3 huge old railroad cabooses.  The pictures don't really do it justice, but they at least provide an idea of the scene:

(Larger, and more, pictures can be found here.)

No matter how bad you think you are, there's always someone who's worse.  Two trips with the Old Gray mare and The Duece and my concentration of arse-engined 'Murican sporty compact cars was reduced by 80%.

While this made a good dent in the herd, there's still more culling to come.

Issue time06:58:00 pm, by volvoclearinghouse Email 1902 views
Categories: All Things Tuna, Tuna Move

We're moving!

After 5 years in Greenville, SC, Mrs. Chucker and I have decided to pick up and relocate our lives to somewhere in the Baltimore, Maryland area.  We thoroughly enjoyed Greenville; after all, we met down there, and many of our friends are there.  But Maryland offers new opportunities.  New challenges.  Hope and Changes.  All that good stuff.  Of course, it will also mean a lot of work.  The Tunachucker Tigerville Ranch has been ground zero for our 24 Hours of Lemons operations since 2008, and after signing the offer letter for my new career in Charm City, suddenly I was faced with the reality that all of our stuff has to be transplanted some 500-odd miles to the North.  The Tuna Tow Truck, my '92 Dodge Cummins, was about to see a lot of duty.

5 gears, a Panasonic radio, and a right pedal connected to 400 foot pounds of turbocharged, 12 valve, compression ignition muscle.  This old gray mare has seen some serious service in the 7 years I've owned her, but nothing like she was about to be subjected to.  The Class V hitch I'd just finished installing (previous post, I won't bother making a link no one will click on) wasn't simply to replace the Class IV hitch because it was rusted, decrepit, and re-welded (though the old hitch's integrity had bothered me ever since we began hauling a 1970's land yacht to LeMons races twice a year).  To facilitate the transplantation of my sizable collection of automotive history, I'd added a twin-car hauler to my equipment corral.

The inaugural load: a 1986 Mercedes 560 SL (for sale!) and the 1967 Volvo 122 that I use for commuting duties.  Total load: 3500 pounds for the MB, 2500 for the Volvo, and 3000 for the trailer, for a total of 9,ooo pounds.  Combined with the weight of the truck, and the household goods loaded into the bed and cab, and me, there was around 8 tons rolling down the highway.

Very, very slowly.

 My brother Kevin had come down to help with the first load; in exchange for him moving a car (a red 1966 Volvo 122 I'm in the process of fixing up, and which has no clutch at the moment- making loading the car very, um, interesting) and a truckload of boxes, he was taking my single car hauler.  Yup, the old Perone trailer, veteran of 9 LeMons races and hundreds of other vehicle-carting trips, will be moving on to a new home.  She needs a new fender, and possibly some tires/electrical work/ other fixups, and my brother's handy. 

Of course, lil' bro's tow pig isn't quite as stout as my Dodge.  He's rocking a '97 half-ton Chevy with a 4.3 liter Vortec V6 and a set of air shocks in the back.  What the Chevy lacks in mean statistics, though, it more than makes up for with backyard-engineered repairs and upgrades.  The aforementioned air shocks for example- after loading up to trailer and Volvo, the back bumper of the truck was nearly touching the gravel.  But, a mere 18,000 psi of air later, and she was riding flat and level.  The old mechanical fan had been replaced with an electric set, and an oversized aluminum radiator.  There was a trailer brake controller, too, and coolers for just about everything.  Oh, and a GPS.

Still, it's a V6, automatic pickup, and even with all the aftermarket JC WHitney add-on exhausts and whatnot, with 200,000+ miles it's lucky to be pumping out maybe 160 horsepower.  The 5.9 Cummins in my Dodge was only rated at 160 HP (20 years and 280,000+ miles ago by Chrysler) too, but at more tractor-like RPM levels and with over 100 lb-ft more torque.  So, even though we'd lined up a pretty modest burden for the Chevy (about 4,ooo pounds of trailer and Volvo), we still chugged on down the highway averaging fewer than 60 miles every hour. 

Fuel economy comparisons between the two vehicles were interesting, too.  Despite my Dodge/trailer/Mercedes/Volvo load weighing in around 16,000 pounds, compared to the Chevy/trailer/Volvo load's 8500 +/- pounds, both vehicles, traveling at the exact same speed, under the same conditions and the same route, averaged 16 mpg.  A testimony to the inherent efficiency of diesel over gas. 

Over 11 hours after pulling out of the SC home, we arrived at our desination just south of Baltimore.  What should have been a 9 and a half hour trip was definitely lengthened by our Reagan-era-esque highway speeds.  We also had a few longer-than-they-should-have-been pit stops, necessitated by the fact that the Chevy's vital fluids seemed to require refilling every couple hundred miles.  The Dodge?  It started off about a half a quart low on oil, which I topped off somewhere in Virginia simply because I was bored waiting for the Chevy to be adequately serviced.  It was still full when we got to Maryland.  Score another for the big Mopar. 

With moving trip numero uno completed successfully, my brother headed off home with his new trailer, and I started a different job the following Monday.  3 cars moved...only about 183 to go. 

Issue time10:03:00 pm, by volvoclearinghouse Email 2244 views
Categories: All Things Tuna, Tuna Whips

The original Cummins-powered Dodge pickups were known for many things- reliability, fuel economy, and longevity chief among them- but let's face it: the reason folks bought these homely oil-burning utes was simple: to be able to haul or tow as much as physically possible.  My particular W250 (the 3/4 ton model designation) has been doing just that for 20 years and nearly 300,000 miles now (the odometer quit working about 2 years ago just shy of 260,000).  And despite the minor glitches such as, oh, the odometer malfunction, the old workhorse just keeps chugging along.  It's one of the best vehicles I've ever owned.  And almost every time it leaves my driveway it either has a trailer hitched to it, or a load of something in the bed.  Usually both.  This is a real truck, not some fancy poseur Suburbanite image-enhancer used only to haul the owner's ego and a bed full of air.

It's also been essentially another member of the Tunachuckers since we've begun doing races back in 2008.  Every LeMons race we went to, there too was the Dodge, faithfully hauling either the Volvo Amazon (5 times) or the LTD (4 times now and counting), along with all of our tools, coolers, BBQ grills, beer, and other racing essentials.  The other key implement in all of this has been my Perone car hauler, a tidy little 18' unit that's been more often seen hitched to the Dodge than not for the past 6 or 7 years.  But recently I decided to trade up to a 30' trailer, capable of hauling not just one, but _two_ cars at a time.  And that got me thinking again about my tow beast...

No, the Dodge isn't going away.  Despite being out-rated by the newer generations of tow pigs, its 160HP, 400 lb-ft 12 valve mill, channeled through a stout 5 speed gearbox and some tough Dana axles, can still move mountains, just not very quickly.  That's fine by me- a 6,000 pound truck rolling down the road at 70 mph is a frightening enough concept if you think about it; even more so with another 3 tons hitched to it.  I prefer to keep my towing speeds down in the 55-65 mph range, where the engine seems happy enough to spin all day long.  But, with a trailer now capable of toting 10,000 pounds, the Class IV hitch the Dodge had installed by a previous owner wasn't quite up to the task.

Not only that, but on one of the first towing excursions with the LTD Landau behind it, one of the mounting tabs on the hitch broke off, necessitating a field-expedient welding repair with some reinforcement gussets.  It's held good since then, but I've always had it in the back of my head to replace the hitch.  The procurement of the new trailer seems a good enough excuse to follow through with that.

First step: remove the old ACME hitch.  You can see the welding fix I had done on both rear tabs, and the additional gussets.  You can also see how the tabs have bent from the loads.  Yikes!

The new hitch, a Curt, is a similar style, but much beefier, and with 6 frame attachment points instead of 4.  You can see how much thicker the steel is on the new hitch side plate above, compared to the old hitch.

The new hitch is beefier in every way.  Even the safety chain holes are larger.  Also, it's designed to fit the Dodge- those spacer plates on the old ACME hitch won't be necessary- the Curt hitch is the perfect width.

Instructions and hardware.  Pretty straightforward.  The instructions seem to have been written by someone with at least a working knowledge of the English language, though there was one error in the illustration.  The side plates actually needed to be flipped left to right in order to fit properly.  A minor issue.  The hardware was all Grade 5, with carriage bolts and self-locking serrated flange nuts.  Good quality stuff.

Due to it's heavier-duty nature, the new hitch required drilling 4 new holes in the truck frame.  A 1/2" corded VSR drill and a 1/2" drill bit, well lubricated, made short work of this task.  Here you can see the new hitch side plates bolted to the Dodge's frame.

...and here's the new hitch in place!  Looks good, fits perfectly, and should add some extra strength to the frame of the truck, too.  All fasteners were properly torqued with my trusty beam torque wrench.  I had to reposition the spare tire slightly, as it sits between the frame rails in front of the hitch.  But I was able to use the same spare mounting hardware, just reversed, essentially.  You can see the spare tire mounting bar laying on the ground to the right in the above picture.

Don't want the ball and ball mount to be the weak link!  Here's the old setup (top), compared to the new Curt pieces below.  Note the solid forged receiver mount and the larger shank on the trailer ball.  Everything in this setup is rated for 15,000 pounds and 1,500 pounds of tongue weight- twice what the ACME hitch could handle.

Here's a shot of the new trailer we'll be hauling: a 2004 Tennessee Valley 2 Car Hauler:

Next up: The Dodge (finally!) gets a trailer brake controller!

Issue time11:15:00 am, by volvoclearinghouse Email 3902 views
Categories: Work Days, All Things Tuna

We decided to try something new for the upcoming September race- new, that is, for the Tunachuckers.  In most all of our previous racing preparation endeavors, the days - and sometimes, hours - leading up to the green flag were flustered, frenzied, and frenetic flurries of pounding, pleading, and pondering with the racy car.  This led to varying degrees of success on the racy track.  Usually, though, we ended up walking away with some sort of trophy hardware for our efforts.  The "Offishul Tunachucker Trophie Case" (coming soon) contains just about every award to be awarded by the LeMons High Court.

But then, something happened.  Last race, for the first time in Tunachucker history, we walked away from the awards ceremony empty handed.  Not a single trophy, plaque, artistically-welded-pile-of-defunct-car-chunks, or ribbon.  Zilch.  Why were we "shut out of the money"?  Conspiracy theories abound, but as my wise father "Waterwolf" pointed out, the simple maths of the situation goes thusly: There are 80-odd cars at any given race, fewer than 10 of which will end up with any sort of recognition at the closing ceremonies.  That's a 1-in 8 chance at glory for each race, and yet we've managed to beat the odds for 7 straight events.  Basically, we were due for a dry spell.  And no amount of daring Big Block engine building, fancy-brake swaps, crazy oil derricks, or wild 50+ person paddock cruises on Saturday night could change that.

After our thorough drubbing at the March race,we decided to take a hard-nosed look at our racy car and racy strategy and racy drivers and change the way we approach LeMons.  Whether we like it or not, we have to accept that LeMons has morphed into more of a serious racing series than it was when we first rolled our '66 Volvo Amazon onto the short course at CMP back in 2008.  Now, I realize that saying that is a bit like saying Rodney Dangerfield is a bit less ridiculous now that he's kicked the mortal coil.  Caddyshack is still a damn funny movie.  And LeMons is still a damn fun race series.  But, it's also allowed a flock of previously stereotypically incompetant American drivers to hone their skills into something a bit less "License to Drive" and a bit more Ricky Bobby.  We needed to step up, too.

We're not walking away from the Ford LTD Landau, at least not yet.  But we won't be making any drastic changes to the car, either.  After mucking through numerous and varied induction, ignition, and expulsion issues (luckily, the "squeeze" part of the otto cycle never let us down), we can honestly say that we probably have the fastest and best-handling 1975 Ford LTD Landau on the planet.  So, why are we finishing in the middle of the pack in rankings?

Talkin' 'bout the Man in the Mirror, mostly, its because we are a bunch of engineers who really like to work on cars and don't mind turning a wheel in anger on a race track...but we're pretty horrible when it comes to logistics and planning.  I'm the captain, and I'm probably the worst of all of us at these things.  In the months ahead, we're going to work on pit strategy, communications, driver changes, and fueling.  These areas are where LeMons races are truly won and lost.  What happens second-to-second on the race track usually matters significantly less.

That said, the mighty LTD Landau isn't completely race-ready at this moment, so the team agreed we should get the old Ford in good nick with some time to spare before September, and then spend the resulting leisure time pre-race working on the aforementioned logistics.

One of the first things we needed to tend to was our tires.  When we were first scrambling to get the new racer track-ready, we happened across a screaming deal on a pile of Uniroyal tires.  We grabbed some cheap steel wheels, had the Younies mounted and balanced, and largely forgot about them.  2-1/2 races later, those stupid tires are still with us, and they are maddeningly boring.  With a 'B' temperature rating and an advertised 660 treadwear, these 16" roundies were really suited to grandpa turnpike cruising, not mad apex-hitting.  They squealed, they rolled, they developed frightening wear patterns.  And because we had to slow down so much to take turns with any sort of poise, they really beat up the brakes on the car, too.  So for the upcoming race, the decision was made, and the call went out: We need better tires.

These are BF Goodrich g-Force tires.  'A' rated, 380 treadwear, and some aggressive-looking racy tread.  They cost about twice what we paid for the Uniroyals, so we only bought 6 (2 spares).  But they ought to grab the tarmac significantly better.  Having broken the bank on sticky round things, though, we were cash-poor when confronted with having to remove the Younies from the wheels and installing the BFGs.  What's a broke-arse LeMons racer to do?

When presented with an obstacle, our team often turns to its most seasoned veteran for an answer.  There really isn't a single issue that we've had to deal with that a previous racing team or mechanic hasn't come up with a solution to already (except possibly for how to mount a functioning oil pump jack on the roof of a car that has to drive 100mph on a race course- we were on our own for that one).  Rob's been around since before the days when you could just go down the street and have some wrench monkey swap your tires on a fancy pneumatic machine, and of course he had a solution:  Tire Irons!

Tire Irons, like ballast resistors, have been around since the dawn of automotive time, and nobody really knows what either is used for.  Luckily, we had gobs of free labor and almost unbridled enthusiasm.


When tire irons were first invented (shortly after they figured out how to vulcanize rubber, I'm guessing), they were meant to change tires that looked something like this:


We used a large wooden beam and some smaller chunks of wood for leverage against the back of the LTD to de-bead the old Uniroyals.  With the modern low-aspect ratio tires we run, some difficulties were inevitable.  But, as McCall illustrates in the video below, perseverance prevailed.

6 racy tires mounted!  Total manpower expended: 5 engineers (at $50/ hour billable rate) for one hour each, or about $250.  Had we gone to the local tire jobber, we'd have plunked down about $90 for a full mount and balance on the set.  But, the experience was, er, invaluable.

Granted, we still have to balance the tires, but Rob promises us this is super simple (comparatively, I'm guessing).  I'm taking some of the wheels over to his house this afternoon to try it out.  If all else fails I'll just mount the wheels on my '69 Cadillac and head on over to the nearest Discount Tire for their "complimentary" balance and rotate service.

But where would the adventure be in that?

Issue time11:53:00 am, by volvoclearinghouse Email 3090 views
Categories: Race Days

As many posts as I've done on LeMons racing, there's one type of picture that I love the best.  What picture genre is that?  Well, here's an example:

That's right: it's the, "It's late at night, after the first day of racing, there's something wrong with the car and we're fixing it", picture.  What's going on here?  Who knows?!  Look, there's a tire off!  And there's something sparking/illuminated/burning underneath!  Of course, the hood is up, and there's piles of tools and parts scattered about.  Beer is undoubtedly near at hand.  Yep, this is what racing's all about.

Oh yeah, there was some driving on a paved circuit course with 80-odd other cars, too.  So here's my detailed, nothing-left-out account of that part of the weekend:


It rained.  The track was very slippery.  Lots of cars spun out.  Luckily, we did not.


The car did not run very well, which probably helped us not get into trouble.  We were very slow.  Our pit stops were very slow, with lots of hand-wringing and head-scratching over why the car was very slow.


The weather was cool, but at least it was mostly dry.  Occassional spits of weather did little to hamper our performance.  Bad driving and continued lacsidaisical pit stop attitude did more in that regard.

The engine made decent power, we were very fast in the strightaways, but the smaller vehicles (everyone else) beat us around each and every one of the 14 corners.  Luckily, we didn't hit any other cars, which they were all very thankful for.

Anthony had invited some of his co-workers to come watch the race, and Lucie, shown above, decided to try out sitting in a real race car for the first time in her life.  She's French, so I'm not really sure what she's saying all the time, but I'm pretty sure she liked it.

We finished the race!  Brian took the checkered flag, which was fitting considering he had never taken a checkered flag before.  At this point, I believe everyone on the team (with the exception of Stephen, who's only on his second race with us) has taken at least one green flag and one checkered flag.  It's little things like that that makes everyone feel like part of the team.  We have to remember that, above everything else, we're in this to have fun.

This was even more important to keep in mind this race.  For the first time ever, even though we finished a race with a running car, we were completely shut out of the awards.

(On race #4, when we cooked the Volvo's engine and never made it back on the track, and left before the awards ceremony, we didn't score a trophy either, but then, that was a weekend I think we'd rather all forget anyway.  Phil later told us we might have qualified for the "I Got Screwed Award" had we stuck around, but an arguably more deserving team ended up with it.)

Oh well.  We finished mid-pack (48th place?), still have a running car, and are still all on speaking terms.  Above, the ceremonial end-of-race team picture.  Left to right:  McCall, Brian, Mike, Stephen, Anthony, Rob.

Interestingly, this was also the first race that Matt did not attend.  He and his wife were in the process of picking up their lives and moving from western NY to warmer climes, closer to Tunachucker Racing International HQ.  While his wife claims the move was to find gainful employment, I'm fairly certain it was more so Matt could become more involved in the team.

The Future beckons...

Issue time11:33:00 am, by volvoclearinghouse Email 2366 views
Categories: Race Days

Continuing the update of the race weekend, March 3-4, 2012, at Carolina Motorsports Park...

Sunday morning started out much better than Saturday morning.  The skies were clearing, the track was, for the most part, dry, and the car was running better, thanks to some late night carburetor fiddling tuning and a paddock cruise that set a new record of 51 people on the LTD.

You see, once you set a precedent, these things have a tendency of taking on a life of their own...

It being sometime around 11 o'clock at night, the photographic evidence is a little blurry and camera-phone esque.  Of course, this justs adds to the authenticity of it.  Here's my personal favorite picture, illustating the effects of piling 8,000 pounds worth of people onto a 1975 Ford:

Yes, these late night cruises wreak havok on the exhaust system.  But a few pieces of spare pipe and a couple of new clamps and she was ready to go again on Sunday morning!  Here's the only video I could find yet of Saturday night's record.  It's not Youtube, so I couldn't quite figure out how to embed it; just click the link:

For some reason, the LTD Landau always seems faster after the great human anthill events.  Such was the case after the first GHA at Charlotte, and Sunday morning at CMP this March was much the same.  I was the first driver out on Sunday morning, and I was doing a pretty fair job of mixing it up with the smaller, nimbler (and, in the straightways, slower) cars.  I managed to hold my co-workers' Subaru wagon at bay for 5 or 6 laps, and was successfully pacing a Toyota Celica for several more laps.

Then, about 40 minutes into my stint, I was coming off the carousel portion and got wedged to the outside.  A BMW (powered by a Mopar Slant Six) got inside of me and I tried to give room.  Unfortunately, the LTD is wide (understatement) and I didn't quite have enough room to give.  The left two wheels of the Landau took an off-pavement route, causing the back end to begin fishtailing.  At about 80 miles per hour, things start happening really quickly.  Luckily I managed to avoid contact with any of the cars around me (and they managed to avoid hitting me) and with as much grace as possible I steered the land barge off the race track onto the shoulder.  The engine had stalled, and would not restart (we'd had battery issues all weekend) so there was nothing to do but wait for the tow truck.

10 minutes on the side of the track waiting for a wrecker feels like an eternity.  But, eventually the truck came around and got me and the car back to the pits safely.

Unfortunately, I haven't yet been able to find any in-car footage from one of the drivers who would have been directly behind and witnessed the spin (which, let's be honest, must have been spectacular!), but about 2 minutes into this video, you can see the flatbed and the LTD on the right side of the track:

Here's a screenshot of that segment:

It's hard to hurt a malaise-era Ford, and a little rally-cross action certainly didn't.  Back at the pits, we swapped drivers, laughed at the mud and grass now attached to the car, and resumed our dominance of the course's straightways!

Issue time09:57:00 pm, by volvoclearinghouse Email 1879 views
Categories: All Things Tuna

A lot of the more avid readers of this site out there are probably a lot like me.  You grew up reading car mags of every size, shape, and kind.  This was in the pre-internet age, when the printed word was King!  There were your car-focused magazines, like Car Craft, Hot Rod, and others, as well as the more general technology magazines like Popular Mechanics and Science.  But the one thing they all had in common were STATS.  We lived for the STATS!  Curb weight, horsepower, suspension type, braking distance, track, wheelbase, steering lock-to-lock...just about any way to qualify and quantify a car, they had figured out, and it made for interesting readings and comparisons- not to menion raising all sorts of questions and critical thinking.  Is 110 HP at 4500 RPM better than 125 HP at 4900 RPM?  Is a double wishbone suspension worth the extra cost over MacPherson struts?  Do antilock brakes make for shorter stopping distances in real life?

The point of all of this is, I got to thinking recently that maybe the astute reder would like a rundown of exactly what's going on inside our LTD Landau race car, how it differs from stock, etc.  Where things have been modified over stock or left well enough alone, I'll note as such.  So, here you go:  One 1975 Ford LTD Landau 24 Hours of LeMons racing car, Tunachucker-style, in black and white.

Chassis/ Suspension:

  • Base Car: 1975 Ford LTD Landau.
  • Length: about 224", stock.
  • Wheelbase: All of 121", maybe a bit more.
  • Width: 79.5". wide enough to sleep in for most folks.
  • Track: 64", F/R
  • Construction: Body-on-frame
  • Curb weight: Stock, about 4450#.  With weight reduction, and cage installed, estimated about 3900#.
  • Springs: Coil front and rear.  Front springs cut 3", rear springs have two adjacent coils clamped.
  • Front suspension: Upper wishbone, lower pivot arm with drag link
  • Rear suspension: solid axle, trailing arms with center support (3 link) and panhard bar
  • Anti-sway devices: doubled up front anti-sway bars/ Added rear anti-sway bar from 1996 Mustang between left and right trailing arms.
  • Steering: power over-assisted recirculating ball with Pitman arm.  About 25 turns lock-to-lock.  A transmission cooler is used as a Power steering fluid cooler.


  • Engine: Stock, 400 cubic inch V8, "400M" engine.  Replaced with 460 cubic inch from 1968 Lincoln.
  • Horsepower: 153 stock (SAE net)/ 365 HP (SAE gross) with larger engine.  Estimated equivalent to 280 SAE net HP.
  • Torque: 276 lb-ft stock/ 485 lb-ft with larger engine
  • Compression: 8.0:1 stock/ 10.5:1 with larger engine
  • Intake: cast iron 2 barrel manifold (stock)/ cast aluminum Weiand dual plane 4 barrel manifold (upgraded)
  • Carburetion: 4 barrel square-bore Edelbrock carburetor, Primary Jets: .101. Secondary Jets: .104 Metering rods: .070x.036, metering rod spring: 6" Hg.
  • Cam: stock FoMoCo cam
  • Timing: double-roller Summit Racing chain set
  • Exhaust: Dual, with stock manifolds, Dynomax mufflers, 2" pipes.
  • Cooling: Stock water pump.  Summit Racing 30" triple row aluminum radiator, clutch fan, plastic fan shroud
  • Oiling: stock pump and oil pan, Mobil1 15W-50 Synthetic oil, Purolator Pure1 filter.
  • Fuel system: 24 gallon fuel cell, running 93 octane pump gas with octane boost.  Stock fuel delivery.

Transmission and rear end:

  • C6 Automatic, stock ratios
  • Shift kit: Trans-go, Stage III fully automatic with kickdown
  • Cooling: 18" auxiliary cooler from a 1992 Dodge 3/4 ton pickup
  • Shifting: stock column shifter.
  • Rear axle: Stock Ford WEP rear, 2.75:1 final drive ratio

Tires and brakes:

  • Front brakes: 12" discs, single piston cast iron calipers with Hawk HP pads (stock-ish)/ Replaced with dual piston aluminum sliding calipers from 2006 Mustang GT and Hawk DC-60 ceramic pads
  • Lines: stock steel lines, upgraded rubber flex hoses to stainless steel
  • Rear brakes: stock 11" drums with stock pads.  Stock proportioning valve.
  • Tires: 225/60R16 Uniroyal, 620 treadwear, all- season radials (plan to upgrade to BF-Goodrich 245/50R16 ~380 treadwear Summer tires for next race)
  • Wheels: 16x8 steel Jeep wheels, 5x5 bolt pattern

Racing/ Safety:

  • Roll cage: 6 point, dual driver's side door bars, single passenger door bar, "Halo" type construction, full main hoop diagonal, dash bar, gusset plates.  Cage mounted to frame, through body.
  • Seat: Kirky-type one-piece aluminum seat with custom seat cover made from a plaid tablecloth
  • Belts: 5 point harness, anti-submarine belt, all mounting points reinforced with 3" diameter load washers.  All hardware Grade 8.
  • Eletrical cut-off switch
  • Simulated oil pump jack mounted on roof, constructed from steel tubing, OSB, lumber, and lot of Liquid Nails.
  • Weight reduction: Entire A/C system removed.  Doors gutted down to shells and side impact beams.  All glass removed except for windshield.  All interior removed.  Front bumper removed and replaced with lightweight front air dam.  Front inner fenders removed.

Now you, too, have the formula to build an awesome LeMons racer!

Issue time11:00:00 am, by volvoclearinghouse Email 1556 views
Categories: Race Days

My original plan was to update the blog throughout the LeMons race weekend.  That was before we were beset by mechanical issues, multiple apocalyptic weather events, and tempting fire and moonshine gatherings.  So, here we are, nearly a week after the checkered flag flew.  Let's take a quick glimpse back on the weekend...

I need to start off with some photographical credit.  Every picture taken in this post was NOT taken by your humble author.  Anthony proved himself as capable behind the shutter as he is holding the business end of a wrench, so I'll be employing his snapshots in this update.

Artcarchic and I arrived on the scene Thursday night arund 9PM.  After successfully navigating the entrace procedure (an elderly Southern gentleman with a clipboard and a money box), we set up the Esterel camper and recruited some folks to help us get a fire going.  In no time a cheerful blaze was lit, and we were sharing spirits and stories with the NSF'ers, Terminally Confused Bees, Hong Northers, and other early birds.

After surviving the monsoon that engulfed CMP Thursday night, we awoke to begin setting up camp in earnest, preparing the car, and welcomig the steady stream of the team who trickled in throughout the day.

For the first time ever, I think, we passed tech inspection without any hiccups.  All our gear was in order, and we even had wireless gear ready to go for driver-to-pit communications.  What coud go wrong?

Since you've been following this blog religiously, you'll know that we had been wrenching furiously for the past month to get a 98,000 mile 1968 Lincoln 460 Big Block engine into the LTD Landau.  But, save for a few short cruise around the neighborhood, the engine was largely untested.  And after we'd taken care all of the logistical stuff need to race on Saturday, we had to turn our attention to the fact that this 460 was running like, well, crap.

First, Anthony came up with the brilliant suggestion to check the timing as the engine revved up.  Guess what?  No advance!  The mechanical advance was seized stuck, and the vacuum pot on the distributor was leaking.  A can of PBlaster freed the mechanical whirling weight advance, and a call to a Camden auto parts jobber yielded a new vacuum advance mechanism, which was picked up Saturday morning and neatly installed before the green flag fell.  The LTD Landau hit the track with 40 degrees of advance at full W.O.T.  Horray!

Stumbling and popping indicated that timing was not the 460's only issue.  Turns out the crusty Edelbrock square bore sourced from my vast store of seldom-used car parts was (in technical terms) crudded up something fierce.

Luckily, I had, in a fit of foresight, ordered a rebuild kit from Summit Racing.  We cleaned out all the orifices with wire, compressed air, and nasty, cancer-causing chemicals.  We incresed the primary jet size by 0.003", nd put it all back together with fresh gaskets.

OK, _NOW_ we're ready to ht the track!  On to race a future post.  What, you thought I was going to give you the whole story in one post?  Nah, it's a nice day- I need to go outside and get some work done.  More later!

Issue time12:01:00 pm, by volvoclearinghouse Email 1482 views
Categories: General LeMons Stuff, Race Days

Well, the car is ready...ish, the gear is packed, and The race starts Saturday morning.  The excitement is _palpable_.  Of course, so are the sleep deprivation, anxiety, and poverty.

A few last minute items...the new carb and intake were a bit too tall for the stock hood.  So McCall and Rob created a solution, drawing inspiration from those wooden cutout things you see at parks and Old Tyme Western Saloons and the like where you put your head through and it magically appears on some other body.  Except, no one was brave enough to stick their head through the jagged metal cutout in the Landau hood.

Perfect!  Didn't even have to repaint the number!

We loaded the 400M and spare C^ and engine hoise into Rob's comically tiny pickup truck.

Now it's just a simple matter of winding away the next 6 hours at work until I can head off to the track.  There's another LeMons team at my place of employment; we rolled into the parking lot at nearly the same time this morning.  Real Estate agents across the Upstate were reportedly cringing and contemplating suicide as property values plummeted as our tow rigs drove past.

Circling for the kill...

Issue time08:18:00 am, by volvoclearinghouse Email 1271 views
Categories: Work Days

More videos!  Action's happening hot and heavy now.  The car is actually driveable!

4 days until we race!

Issue time10:11:00 am, by volvoclearinghouse Email 2304 views
Categories: Work Days

While the 460 start was a big morale boost for the team, there was another big accomplishment very recently that made everyone quite relieved:  Brakes!

The old single piston front calipers were pretty decent, by 1970's consumer standards.  Folks used to driving 5000+ pound barges powered by fire-breathing and 100 octane leaded fuel burning torque monsters, stopped by Victorian-era technology drum brakes, were absolutely bowled over by these fancy new DISC brake thingies.  Of course, with the new national 55mph speed limit and engines wheezing out less than half a horsepower per cubic inch, few actually required the stopping power provided by the brand new binders.

We, however, pushed way past the capabilities of the OEM LTD Landau brakes and required something better.  Like, say, the calipers from a 2005 Mustang GT.  Of course, these brakes don't just bolt on.  Adaptors were required to mount the calipers.

The mounting brakets for the calipers had to be modified slightly, too; the lower mounting hole was welded over and redrilled in a slightly different location, and some grinding was needed for them to fit the LTD Landau's spindles properly.  But with these simple mods, plus the upper mounting hole adptor bracket, we had a winning combination.

A new master cylinder was fitted, new lines run, and after some bleeding, the brake system was pronounced, "Good Enuf for LeMons!"

Since the new 460 lump outweighed the original 400M by a good 60 pounds (right where you don't want it- over the front axle) we wanted to whip a little Colin Chapman on the Landau's arse.  So, the stock 460 intake manifold was boat-anchored, and a fancy, new, and barely-within-LeMons-budget aluminum Weiand bolted on.

We're hoping the "STEALTH" of this decidedly unstealthy trick manifold allows us to fly under the cheatonium radar of the LeMons judges.  Swapping manifolds shed 40 pounds by the postal scale I used to compare the weights of the manifolds.

We also worked some magic on the front of the car:

LeMons rules require a front bumper and "OEM crash strutures", but we received a waiver from LeMons grand high poobah Jay Lamm to jettison the LTD's front bumper.  He declared the Landau a "battering ram" and actually rather encouraged us to reduce the car's mass and demolition derby capabilities.  So, the 150 pound front bumper made way for this 20 pound custom-made air dam.  As an added bonus, we incorporated brake cooling ducts (3.5" x 10" heating outlets from Home Depot) and badarse-looking mesh grillework (Brian's old dog crate, which also saw use on the mightly Volvo Amazon) into the structure.  It mounts to the LTD's frame using bits of the original bumper from Charlie the Amazon, paying additional tribute to the Tunachucker's past.  We're very cognizant of our history and provenance and culture and stuff here at Tunachucker International Racing.

Speaking of the past, we also look toward the future here at TIR.  And the children are our future, right?  Well, with that awkward segway, meet the new Lil'lest Chucker, Brian's oldest son Nathaniel!

Whether removing lug nuts or testing the flow capabilities of our brake cooling ductwork, Nathaniel enjoys helping out and generally stays out of trouble in the garage, which is more than I can say about some members of our team.

He's also really talented with a broom and shovel and safe-T-dri kitty litter.  He's truly the rising star of the team.

As you've seen from the previous post, the 460 is back to life.  But, it wasn't as easy as just bolting in some cludged up motor mounts and plumbing in gas and electrons.

It leaked.  Not the motor mounts or the washers, but the timing cover.  I won't get into the horrifying engineering design of the 460's front cover and water pump and oil an and fuel pump interface, but sufficed to say the aluminum timing cover was heavily oxidized and didn't seal so well with a gasket.

So, off came the entire front of the engine.

The team slathered the cover and water pump with RTV.

And we put the whole thing back together.  And prayed.

Brian's out in the garage right now putting the cooling system back together; soon we shall know if it actually holds water.  Only 5 days till the race!  Here's to good driving and reliable (we hope!) machinery!

Issue time09:29:00 pm, by volvoclearinghouse Email 1132 views
Categories: Work Days

We here on the Tuna blog like videos of engines starting, so here's another one from the culmination of today's 11-hour long wrench-a-thon.  Good job Rob, Jamie, Anthony, McCall, Brian, and Nathaniel!  6 days to go unitil CMP!

Suck it, Galaxie!

Issue time10:08:00 am, by volvoclearinghouse Email 1833 views
Categories: Work Days

Transmissions are not generally the most reknowned automotive components.  They're kind of the tight end of the automotive world.  Engines, of course, are the quarterbacks- the real glory hounds.  Everyone knows the 409, the 302, the 413, and of course, the 350.  But it take a bit more of a car guy to rattle off names like the 700R4, the 727 Torqueflite, or Ford's powerhouse, the C6.

But were it not for the C6, powerplants like the mighty 429 and 460 Big Blocks would have had no way to funnel their awesome amounts of horsepower and torque to the roads.  And, to Ford's credit, the C6 soldiered on through its decades of dominance mostly unchanged.

Or so we thought.

The C6 on the right came out of the LTD, and was coupled to the 400M.  The one on the left came married to the 460 from the Lincoln.  Notice anything different?  Here, I'll make it easier for you.

400M C6:

Lincoln, 460 C6:

The trans-a-mission was a '75 and the motor turned out to be a '68, and when we tried to put in the bolts some of the holes were gone.  Or something like that.  It seems like the bell housing on the 460's C6 was different from the 400M's C6, possibly to fit inside the Continental's somewhat narrower transmission tunnel.  Luckily, though, the 460 block was drilled for both transmission bell housings.  So fitting the 400M's trasmission to the 460 was not a big deal.  Why did we have to use the 400M's trans?  Because the output shaft on the Continental's unit was longer, and had a different spline configuration...which would have meant fabricating a custom driveshaft for the LTD Landau.  (The Lincoln's driveshft was a different length altogether, and used larger U-joint bearings).

The torque converter added yet another layer of drama to the situation.

The 400M torque converter wouldn't fit the 460 crankshaft.  The centering nub on the center of the converter was larger on the 400M.  So, for those of you keeping score at home, the drivetrain we ended up with consisted of the following:

  • Lincoln motor (really souped up)
  • LTD Landau 400M transmission (looks like a pup)
  • Lincoln 460 torque converter (just won't stall)
  • LTD Landau driveshaft (um...sorry, no Hot Rod Lincoln reference here)

With the E-T-D (engine, transmission, driveshaft) configuration figured out, it was time to slide the whole deal into the race car.  But first, a couple of small things needed to be tended to.


Brian's wife, Maria, kindly made a batch of homemade donuts for last Saturday's work party.  They were extremely tasty, despite being allegedly not fried.  Healthy, good-tasting donuts?  What's next?

Well, the motor mounts weren't _quite_ the same.  The 460 and the 400M used different motor mounts, and the Continental used different motor mounts than the LTD.

Solution?  Drill out the LTD Landau's subframe, relocate the motor mount brackets, procure new motor mounts for a '75 LTD with a 460 (which was an option, even in those malaisey times),  and bolt it all together.

Tack-welding the motor mount brackets in place on the subframe once we'd located them with respect to the trans mounts and driveshaft:

Drilling the subframe for the motor mounts' new homes:


The 460 oil pan was going to be  little close to the LTD Landau's subframe for comfort; a little gentle persuasion with a crescent wrench and my leg provided precious additional clearance:

I realize I'm about a week behind on my updates; we've been doing midweek work sessions and in fact the guys will be over in a couple of minutes today to do some more work on the car.  We've got less than 2 weeks until the car has to be on the racetrack at CMP, so things have been going a little crazy at Tunachucker Garage to thrash it all together.  Time for more coffee!

Issue time09:44:00 am, by volvoclearinghouse Email 2236 views
Categories: Work Days

When last we left...

We got the 460 running and decided to charge full speed ahead with the Plan for Ultimate Displacement. With the 460 successfully extricated from the engine bay of the '68 Lincoln, it was time to work a little magic on the biggest block while simultaneously making some room for it in the LTD.

While Jay granted us a very generous residual at the Charlotte race ($3), there's still only so much you can do to an engine for $497 to improve it's performance.  Headers, for example, unless we get lucky and find some on craiglist, are pretty much out of the question (also: it's surprisingly difficult to find headers that will fit a '75 Ford LTD Landau.  Neither Summit nor Jegs even acknowledges the existence of the Landau in their databases.)  However, there are some nice durability-enhancing basic maintenance items you can tend to.  Like, for example, the timing chain.

This was the timing chain I removed from the 460:

And that's about how much play the chain had in the engine.  Seriously.  Its amazing it hadn't skipped a tooth- or worse.  I give Lincoln credit though- at least they hadn't installed some nylon toothed "quiet" gear like a lot of manufacturers were doing back then.

Thanks to Summit Racing, we replaced this stretched-out chain with a brand new, 'Murican-made, double roller, super-awesome timing chain set for $39.

The timing cover on the Big Lincoln Engine is a bit different from most 460's.  See how big the crankshaft seal opening is:

Doesn't seem like it would seal the crankshaft very well, does it?  Yet, there's a good reason for this super-sized opening.  Ford engineers, having run out of real estate in the surprisingly cramped engine bay of the Lincoln, decided to wrap the power steering pump (an item of some import on a 5000+ pound luxury car) around the crankshaft.

This is the back of the power steering pump.  You can see the keyed shaft collar.  The larger, circular raised boss around it seals against the timing cover.  The keyed shaft spins round with the crankshaft, some magic happens inside, and a hose carries the pressurized Type F fluid to the steering box.  Luckily, the pump works, so we're putting it back together and using it as-is.  I doubt the LTD's steering box will care whether it gets its pressurized fluid from a belt-driven pump or a crank-driven one.

Reunited, and it feels so good:

Oh yeah- new water pump, too.  It came free with the Lincoln.  FREE!

Meanwhile, over in the Northern portion of the Tunachucker garage, the 400M was scheduled to be removed.  Wednesday night the 'Chuckers came over for an evening wrench-a-thon.

The LTD Landau's engine compartment is much more commodious than the Lincoln's; deep into the Malaise era by 1975, consumers and engineers were into that whole Baroque Ostentatiousness Rolling Living Room concept.  Packaging efficiency was out, along with any semblance of power.  Brand dillution was in full effect- the '75 LTD Landau could be equipped within a hair's breadth of a '75 Lincoln Continental, allowing the Ford-driving proletariat to roll in the same luxury as the Wall Street exec.  While ultimately leading to the crisis in the U.S. auto industry that nearly crushed Chrysler, garbage-canned The General, and effed Ford, the massive-rolling roadblock phenomenon makes getting out the tape measure to ensure a particular engine will fit the Ford completely unnecessary (Tuna note: yes, that digression was completely unnecessary, fairly awkward, and more than a bit of a stretch.  I don't care.)

Anthony took care of disconnecting the exhaust, transmission mount, and driveshaft:

And since the engine mounts were already loosened (replacing the blown-out freeze plugs what seems like ages ago), in almost no time the 400M and it's accompanying C6 were on their way out.

We even captured the auspicious moment when the old Ford drivetrain was free of the Landau on video.  A video which I will henceforth refer to as "Three Monkeys, One Football":

Next up: Transmissions, torque converters, driveshafts, and engine mounts!

Issue time10:42:00 am, by volvoclearinghouse Email 1335 views
Categories: Work Days

In poker, there's something known as "The Slow Play".  Basically, it's the opposite of bluffing: in the slow play, you have a strong hand, a tremendous hand, nigh unbeatable, and you attempt to downplay your hand to keep other players (who presumably have weaker hands than yours, and will lose to you) in the hand, betting, raising, and seeing.  Then you crush them with the awesomenicity of your Royal Flush or 4-of-a-kind or whatnot.  (Tuna Note: I am not, nor have I ever been, a professional gambler, or even a marginal gambler, so if my terminology or description is off a bit, please, bite me.)

Earlier this week, I was accused of slow-playing on the LeMons forum when, within the course of a couple of a few posts, I boasted about the hot 460 Big Block I'd found in a '68 Continental, then bemoaned the knocking noise the engine made when we first fired it up, saying we were going to stick with our lowly 400M engine...and then, magically, announced we'd diagnosed the noise to a simple faulty water pump, and the 460 plan was back on.

As sneaky, underhanded, and conniving as that play-out sounds, it's all true.  This weekend the gang came over and we confirmed that yes, we are going forward with the scheme for excessive displacement.  Here' s an ersatz-timelapse video of Saturday:

I even figured out how to embed video!  Horray!

Next weekend, the engine swap continues.  We'll be roughly doubling the horsepower available to the rear wheels in the LTD Landau, and there's a good chance we'll have, in the process, the most powerful car at the race in March.  Of course, it'll also likely be the worst handling car there, with the worst brakes.  And it'll undoubtedly be the heaviest car there, too.  In short, this is possibly the most profoundly perfect plan ever conceived.

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"Whaling on the same old dilapidated crap can." - The "Official" Blog of the Tunachuckers Volvo Amazon LeMons racing team.


The Tunachuckers Are:
  • Michael - Team Captain
  • Jamie
  • Robert
  • Brian
  • Matthew
  • Anthony
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