Fuel and Fun

The 90 degree fitting I ordered for the fuel pump outlet arrived on Tuesday, went on to the pump on Wednesday and went into the car, with the pump, shortly after. I cleaned up the coil, which was in the way and had to come out, then reinstalled it this afternoon.

Fuel Pump
A clean fuel pump installation.

Belts for the alternator and the power steering pump were tightened and everything hooked back up. Everything is ready to go, but there are a lot of variables in play: a completely new fuel system, new alternator and numerous smaller parts removed and reinstalled.

This all started, really, with a gimpy starter, so much of that system is relatively untested as well.

Lots of balls in the air and air in the fuel line. I cranked the engine a few times to see if I could get fuel up the the clear filter. Unfortunately, the battery was weak from the last starting attempts and didn’t crank the engine fast or long enough to bring fuel up to the carburetor.


I hooked up a trickle charger, gave the bird a bath and am wrapping things up to let the battery charge overnight. Today it was 70 degrees, but tomorrow should be a nice day for a drive, too.

Some New Parts

A slow weekend for the ‘Bird, but progress on the restoration. I installed a new oil pressure sender (which should get the oil pressure gauge moving again, leaving only the gas and amp gauges dead.) and put in a new alternator.

Oil Pressure Sender
Oil Pressure Sender. Will be nice to see the gauge working.

In addition, I installed new belts and did some prep work for the new fuel pump–including a slick chrome fuel line and new tubing to feed the carburetor. All in all, the new parts went in smoothly–perhaps suspiciously so.

The original line from the fuel pump to the carburetor was metal tubing bent specifically to run from the pump to the original Autolite fuel inlet. Coming out of the pump, that line make a sharp 90 degree bend–something I didn’t want to duplicate with a rubber hose, fearing it would kink or otherwise restrict the fuel flow.

Shiny New Alternator
Shiny new alternator. All the wires got new, clean terminals, too.

After some time online and even more time with the good folks at my local auto parts store, it looks like I found just the right fitting to make the bend and allow a straightaway installation for the fuel line.

The fitting should be in tomorrow. With that, I should have everything I need to fire her up once more.

How We Roll

The evolution of a project. First, car dies at the post office, victim of a $20 part failure. Then, tow truck driver (thankfully) breaks the steering coupler, so I jump into the entire steering column / rag joint / shifter / turn signal project.

Cleaned up Car
Cleaned up after a long sit in the driveway.

That’s a lot of work, it turns out. We finished the under hood work this morning, hooked up the battery and (just for fun) tested the turn signal wiring. Incredibly, every signal with every possible permutation (brakes on, lights on, brakes and lights on . . .) worked, with the exception of the front left, which may have a burnt out bulb. Very satisfying, and a little shocking.

I spent not a little time cleaning and polishing the dashboard pieces before they went back into the car. There’s still a lot of clean up to do in the interior (especially the dash) but this was a good start.

With the dash in place, the steering wheel and horn ring went on. Without any further ceremony, I dumped most of my tools on the driveway, started her up and went for a test spin.

Driving in the correct gear(!), it turns out the transmission is behaving normally. With bearings and stuff all installed properly in the steering column, the steering is more precise and not as light to the touch as it was–a vast improvement. With the new shifter parts, the swing away mechanism also works as designed:

There was only one disappointment: the new turn signal assembly catches internally against the steering wheel–probably the self-canceling mechanism is slightly off. There’s no way to adjust it, so I may have to live with it.

Next up, a tune up (now that it’s safe to stand in front of the car while it’s running), and a transmission rebuild.

Whoo Hoo, It Works!

Got over the hump with this project with the shift column and steering shaft in. Everything seems to be working normally and all that’s left is reassembly of everything that came off to get to the column. (That’s a lot, but it’s always nice when you’re tightening screws, not loosening them.)

Celebration . . . and Frustration

I finished up the last elements of the steering column this afternoon. Attached the neutral safety switch. (The holes were stripped for the stock screws; spent an hour finding and modifying a bigger screw to fit without interfering with the shift column.) Also put on the new shift boot. In retrospect, the rubber boot needed to go on first, long before anything else, but no manual or forum tip mentioned this. Once everything else is in place on the column, a new boot will not stretch far enough to fit over all the appendages. I had to cut it to put it on, which really defeats the purpose of buying a new one.

However, those difficulties were forgotten when the column went back into the car. A twist and a wiggle and it all fell into place. I was able to insert and tighten the nearly inaccessible screws at the bottom of the column with little difficulty. The steering shaft even fell right into its socket. What appeared to be difficult turned out easy!

But, what appears to be easy is often difficult. Thinking I was on the downside, of this project, I slid into the driver’s seat and did a test shift; but the shifter was stuck. I immediately thought that there was something wrong with the detente and shifter I put in, so I began, once again, to disassemble the upper steering column. (Breaking a C-clip in the process, of course. Sheesh, I thought they were unbreakable!) Getting it partly disassembled, I could see that there was something else wrong. It was getting dark, but I think part of the swing-away mechanism is jammed up under the dash.Too dark to work on it now, and hell, it’s cocktail hour anyhow.

Photos, and more, tomorrow.

Almost Ready to Steer

Coming Together
The steering column is beginning to come together.

Yesterday saw the beginning of the reassembly process as the steering column started to come together and the repaired coupling went back into the car. Putting it all back together is sometimes a memory puzzle, especially if there are a lot of pieces. It stands to reason the part you can’t put back together is always the bit the manual skips over. (Luckily, there’s usually some help in the forums from those who have been there before.)

So far, the trickiest part has been the replacement turn signal switch. The ’64 switch is unique, so the one I got is only a “close match.” It came with a wiring diagram and instructions on grinding down the steel bearing retainer plate to fit–not a task for the inexperienced. I was able to test fit the switch itself, so I know that will work. The next step is figuring out the rat’s nest of wires under the dash, which I’m sure will entail a lot of head scratching.

 Cleaned up Chrome
Horn, turn signal stalk and radio face plate, ready to roll again.

I polished up the chrome pieces that came out of the car. They are better, but far from perfect; time has taken it’s toll in minor pitting and rust. Stripping and plating them seems a bit extreme right now, so back in the car they go.

Clean and Paint

Perhaps the best part of restoration work is cleaning up an old, rusty part, giving it a fresh coat of paint and reassembling it. It doesn’t always look as good as new, but it’s (almost) always better than it was.

Shift Tube
The shift tube, freshly cleaned and primed.

Long gone are the days of sheet metal interiors, but the T-Bird was built at the end of that era. I suspect she spent some time with the windows down, stored out in the elements–much of the interior is rusty, especially the unpainted portions.

Inside the steering column, the shift tube was a rusty mess with an accumulation of grease at the bottom. I put it on the wire wheel to shine it up and gave it a coat of primer to keep it clean. It’s mostly invisible inside the steering column, but in the off chance that the next guy to disassemble the unit is me, it’ll be nice to know it’s protected in there.

From the crap-previous-owners-do file, I’ve uploaded a shot of the old shift detente next to the new one. (The detente plate has the teeth the keep the shifter in gear–much like the

The Shift Detente
The old detente is almost entirely gone in the "park" position.

gates you move a shift lever through on a modern car.) The old unit looked ok until I compared them. Up close, I noticed that the groove for “park” (on the left side of each piece in this photo) has been deeply ground away, probably in a failed effort to keep the car in gear without buying new parts. Odd, really, because the repair pieces cost less than $30 in today’s money.

Tomorrow, reassembly of the shift tube into the steering column commences. I’m hoping to be back on the road this Sunday.

Daily (Steering) Column

So, yeah, pulling out the steering column is more work than I figured. Even without the fancy slide-away steering wheel, this is not an easy job, but disassembly is complete.

Inside the steering column
Inside the steering column. Small piece on the bottom was once part of the turn signal.

Most of the difficulty came under the hood, trying to reach and turn four bolts, which took most of the afternoon. Had I been willing to remove parts that were in the way, the job would have gone faster, but I simply didn’t relish taking off the hood (the hinge was in the way) or the brake system. (Criminy, I just put that in!). Eventually, I ended up pulling a brace (easy) and a valve cover (needed to come off anyhow) to get to the last bolt.


Like the carburetor rebuild, I’m glad I dived into this. Some of the things I found:

  1. Behind the dashboard fascia plate, most of the screws holding the dashboard trim together are missing. No wonder it rattles so bad.
  2. Someone had jury-rigged the shifter in the distant past. I was only experiencing the shifter slipping from park to reverse (!) unexpectedly, but the day of complete failure was not far off.
  3. The self-canceling mechanism for the turn indicator was broken and needed replacement.
  4. The rubber boot sealing the firewall opening where the steering column goes through was completely shot, allowing exhaust and fumes to pour into the passenger compartment. (Pulling the steering column is the only way to install a new one.)
  5. The lower bearings supporting the shift tube and steering shaft were gone, replaced by a piece of PVC pipe. (Yeah, the kind you use for lawn sprinklers.)
One Steering Column
Once out, it was like landing a big fish.

All in all, a major safety upgrade, I’d say. There are a lot of pieces off the car, many of them rusty and some in need of paint. I’ll be putting it back together slowly, refurbishing parts as I go.

A complete photo journal of the disassembly process is posted on Photobucket.

Oh, Rust!

Saturday . . . time to spend some quality time with the ‘Bird. Now that it’s running reliably, more or less, I can focus on “real” restoration projects: taking things apart, cleaning them up and reassembling them (and hoping it all works).

Valve Cover Restoration
How are you supposed to sand out the loop in the "R"?

The car came with a couple of aftermarket valve covers that I don’t care for–they’re big, a little clunky and hard to keep clean. I also got two pairs of stock-like covers, one set chrome (and rust), the others pretty much all rust now (though I think they used to be blue). The completely rusty set were said to be original, so I set to work on them.

I buffed off as much rust as I could with a wire wheel, then set to work with coarse and medium grit emery cloth. A little bit of this work goes a long way with me–after about an hour, I set the project aside to be enjoyed another day. As you can see from the photo, I made a fair amount of progress with one.

It rained last night and I knew the trunk seal was a little iffy, so I popped the trunk to see how much water came in.

Turns out, it was a lot. Once a dug down through the spare parts to the trunk pan, there was a fair puddle there. Drying it up, it was hard not to notice that most of the trunk pan had long since rotted away; someone in the past did a crude patch job, but there were plenty of peep holes to the ground below. Disappointing, but not a critical item.

Trunk Pan
I once did a roof repair like this. That didn't work, either.

I got out some “elephant snot” rubber seal adhesive, pulled the old seal off, cleaned the whole shebang and glued it all back together properly. The rubber seal was deteriorating a bit, and the channel it sits in was starting to rust in spots as well, but overall the seal went in snugly, and the trunk lid didn’t get glued down permanently when I closed it. (Boy, that glue just gets everywhere.)

Last thing, I swapped out the taillight lenses for a couple of much nicer spares. Inside the housing, I found a bulb socket that was heavily corroded. A little emery cloth and a new bulb and all the taillight elements are now working (and pretty). The old lenses came off in pieces; the new ones are shiny and bright.

Odds and Ends

While I wait for parts to arrive for the brake lights (and the shifter, but that’s another story), I’m working on some smaller, but still important fixes.

Rear View Mirror

I found the components for the mirror in the center console “glove box”, including the button (normally glued to the windshield), the mirror and the the clamp that holds them together. They are a little worn and rusty, but still better than nothing. I used a Permatex product to glue the button to the windshield, and dropped a bit of cloth adhesive tape in the clamp (which was a little loose) to tighten up the assembly when I put it all back together.

License Plate

This is a black plate California car, meaning that it has the original plates issued in 1964. The front plate is gone, and the back plate was only held on with a single screw. I put in anoher nylon nut, added another screw and straightened the plate a bit before putting it all together.

Wiper Blades

It took three trips to the auto parts store to get the correct blades. Unlike modern cars, the T-Bird’s windshield is fairly upright and requires short wiper blades. The catalog at the parts store said 18 inches, but they were 2 inches too long. The next set I got were narrow (who knew?), but the third trip was the charm (although the correct length and width had to finally be special ordered).

Throttle Linkage

This may need to be the subject of its own post. I noticed right away that the push-rod from the throttle didn’t connect properly with the gas pedal. Indeed, it didn’t connect at all. Taking the assembly out of the car, it looks like a bracket is missing, which is also causing the linkage assembly to bind up. I believe I can fabricate a bracket to set matters straight. More on this item to follow . . .