Drivability

In addition to working on building a new frame, I also want to get the current “version” of the truck running so I can have some fun with it.

So over the Christmas holidays I worked on the truck trying to get it to pass state inspection. I’ve been carrying tags and insurance on it since I purchased it, might as well finish the last few steps to make it street legal.

On the first day back at the shop my plan was to focus on getting the truck running. When I bought the truck it was running but the owner wanted to keep his carburetor so over the last year I had picked up an Edelbrock 1406. This is a mild carb with an electronic choke. It was easy getting it installed but then I ran into issues with the throttle cable.

I didn’t have the fittings to connect the existing throttle cable with the new carb, so began a search to get all the parts I needed. After several months I had purchased a Lokar Throttle Cable, Lokar Throttle Bracket, Lokar Kick Down Cable for the Turbo 350 transmission and everything mounted, but I was having problems with the throttle petal. It turns out that what I thought was original was in fact the throttle petal from the 1970ish Chevy that the engine/tranny and suspension came out of.

I’ve tried to modify the throttle petal to fit, but I just don’t like the way it mounts and it was affecting the throttle by binding and keeping the throttle return springs from doing their job.

Anyway, while I still have this throttle issue to work out I met one of my shop neighbors. He’s a mechanic and agreed to give me a hand getting the truck to idle correctly. He messed with the mixture screws and the idle adjustment screw as well as timing to get the old 350 running fairly well.

Now I was getting motivated, I had the engine running where it would drop into idle allowing me to put the truck into gear, that’s when I pressed on the brake petal and realized I had no breaks, er brakes.

Jaime, my neighbor, and I talked and we worked out a deal where he’d replace the front brakes. It’s been a while since I worked on drum brakes and while I felt I could have replaced the brakes, I didn’t have the tools and I really needed to make some progress on the frame rail jig.

So while I worked on the frame rail jig, Jaime worked on replacing the front drum brakes. He did this in short order and when it came time to bleed the brakes, we just couldn’t get any fluid out of the bleeders. Trouble-shooting this we realized the flex-lines were bad, so back to the parts store to buy new ones. After arriving we again tried to bleed the brakes – and failed. Trouble-shooting some more we realized the master cylinder was bad. You guessed it, back to the parts store. This time we were finally able to get the front brakes bled and I could now drive the truck in and out of the shop.

The next day since I had a running and driving truck I also had a truck with 3 flats, or slow leaks and the one good tire had sat in the brake fluid from when the brake cylinders went out and I didn’t like the look of that tire. So taking the 4 wheels off, I went to Discount Tires and had 4 new tires mounted and balanced. I’m not going to use the Centerlines on the truck when I’m finished with it, so I just bought some general tires to get me around.

Now things are really starting to come together, until the next day. Went in that morning and noticed that there was water all over the floor. Jaime came over and we went over the engine, we noticed that the coolant was more mud, than water. So we took off the lower hose and flushed the radiator and the engine. Man what a mess. It must have ran for 5 to 10 minutes or so before clear liquid was coming out. So now we were looking at coolant and a lower radiator hose. When flushing the engine we took off the thermostat housing and noticed that it didn’t have a thermostat. Man why are people so cheap. These things are only a few bucks. So off to the parts store to purchase a lower radiator hose, coolant and a thermostat. Also decided to replace the plugs since the previous owner was using a Holley 750 on the old 350 and it was just running too rich and had fouled the plugs.

Once we replaced the lower radiator hose, put in a new thermostat and filled the radiator with coolant, we started the engine and got it up to temperature. This is when it started to squirt out a stream of hot water out of the thermostat housing.

That’s right, back to the parts store for a thermostat housing and while I was there a new radiator cap. One more try. This time everything held and it was looking and sounding much better. Or so I thought.

The next morning, another pool of water greeted me when I went to the shop. Jaime again came over and we traced it down to a leaking water pump. Should have figured with all the mud (rusty water) that came out of the engine when we did a flush.

I talked it over with Jaime and we agreed on a price and he would replace the water pump and while he had it up on his lift he’d look at the rear brakes. I could have replaced the water pump myself but since he had a lift and I was really wanting to get further along with the frame jig, I decided to pay him to replace the water pump. This went without a hitch and the next day I got the truck back with the parts replaced.

Now I’m thinking this is getting close to the point where I can get it inspected. That is until I remembered that the doors were held in place by a screen door eye and hook. No way was this thing going to pass. Good thing that over the last year I’ve owned the truck I was aware of this issue and had purchased new Door Locks and Striker Plates from Mac’s.

Here’s some before shots of what he locks looked like.

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There should be a star shaped gear on that gaping hole. This is what keeps the door closed.

I ended up pulling out the entire side window mechanism. I didn’t need to do this to replace the door locks, but I’m eventually going to replace the windows with single glass and not the glass/vent window combination that is original.

I’m not going to mess with the windows now. I don’t want to get too far ahead working on stuff that I’ll just have to take off when I really start working on the body, that is, once I get the new frame built. For now, I just want to do enough to make the truck safe to drive and street legal.

That about catches me up with the current state of the project. I’ll do a better job of posting more frequent updates to keep these from being so long.

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  1. #1 by Jim Munson on January 15, 2011 - 12:27 pm

    Hey Terry,

    Looks like it is coming along. Since so much gunk came out of the engine, you may want to be sure the radiator is flowing correctly. Mine in the 73 Challenger was not and the engine would get pretty hot. I replaced it with an aluminum one and it works great.

    I feel your pain on getting an inspection sticker. At least with older cars there is no emission test.

    I put three holley two barrels on the Challenger and finally got it run half way decently. After I put oxygen sensors in the header collectors to get accurate air/fuel readings, I was really able to dial it in. The reader I have is by innovative, its portable and has two inputs one for each side of the engine. The sensors just screw into two bungs that are in the collectors and run to the meter. The leads are long enough to set the meter on the fender and look at the readouts while you are adjusting the fuel mixture on the carb. If you need it I can bring it by the shop and show you how it works.

    Good luck and keep posting!

    jim

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