Turn the Wrench

In every car project, there comes a time when you stop unscrewing bolts and start screwing them in. I usually notice when I switch the direction on my socket wrench, and it’s a little exciting if the car’s been apart for some time.

New Power Steering Pump
New power steering pump, freshly painted.

Had that moment earlier this week when took a fitting off the old water pump and screwed it on to the new one. Since then, I’ve got the power steering pump partially reassembled, (Yeah, not entirely sure where that last extra piece is supposed to fit.)

I used some heavy duty carb cleaner to swab down the front of the engine, followed up with some water-based degreaser (that works better than you would think–and doesn’t carry warnings about contaminating the world). The engine and bay are not as clean as they could be, of course, but clean enough for me to see where oil might be leaking–in case I want to do anything about it. (Right now I’m thinking not.)

I painted up the power steering pump and there are a number of parts that could use the same treatment. It’s a lot of work, though, and the newly painted parts don’t look that great after a few weeks of daily driving.

Cleaner engine
A cleaner, if not clean, engine.

The last piece I’m going to paint is the fan shroud, which is right out front, very visible. I took a wire wheel to it yesterday and started stripping it down. There were layers of paint, then the original rusty metal down there at the bottom. I looked down while I was working and realized I was still in slippers, so maybe that job isn’t as hard as I imagine.

I had planned to get the water pump back on the car this afternoon, but it looks like I’ve got 10 feet of the wrong size water hoses. Tomorrow, then.

Mission Creep

It’s nearly impossible to start a small project on this car. Everything I do, it seems, leads to more things that could be done. In the case of the cooling system, I had already planned to do a lot: the power steering pump and perhaps a little clean up on the engine (while so many parts are already off). And while I’m at it, what about scrubbing the engine compartment? And getting that sound padding finally installed on the underside of the hood?

Coolant Reservoir
Coolant reservoir, cleaned to the bare metal. Well, mostly

Cleaning and painting the engine, though, is a big deal, and probably off the table if I want to be driving the car any time soon. (Not to mention all those other tasks!) The PCV valve, though, is very accessible with the carburetor off (and is clearly very old), so I may add that to my list as this project progresses.

I did make some progress today, and I expect to be back on the road next week. Today, I cleaned and painted the coolant reservoir, which looks way better (if not quite concourse quality) and made some progress on the power steering pump.

Coolant Reservoir
Coolant reservoir, cleaned and painted.

Unlike a more modern car, the new power steering pump was just the pump . . . not the pulley or the reservoir that holds the fluid. I had left the pump in an oil drain pan, and after a couple of days, it was sitting in a pool of goop.(Nitrile gloves are a godsend in situations like this.)

The reservoir, pulley and bracket came off easily. I was a little surprised to find that there was a filter for the power steering fluid inside the reservoir, so I ordered a new one on short notice–only available on-line, unfortunately. (Chance are, the one in there is old and clogged.) The parts to be re-used are partially cleaned. The plan is to get them stripped, painted and mounted to the new pump tomorrow.

Shear Force

I opened the hood yesterday to start work on the cooling system. Right away, it was apparent why the power steering had failed: one of the two bolts holding the pump had sheared right off. Oddly, I noticed the broken bolt–jammed in a crevice in the motor, before I realized where it came from, and that the power steering pump was hanging loosely.

Snapped bolt
This bolt used to hold the power steering pump in place. No longer.

Chances are that the pump froze, snapping the bolt against the pressure of the belt. Removal of the pump itself was easy. Aside from the last bolt connecting it to the motor, there were two hose fittings to disconnect. Both came apart smoothly.

With that pump off and the alternator disconnected, we started to remove the old hoses and water pump. Most of the hoses were either soft (especially the lower radiator hose) or rock hard (the smaller hoses leading to the carburetor plate, for example).

Disassembly (Almost) Complete
Disassembly is almost complete. Only one hose remains. Need to remove the carburetor to get it out.

There are two oddities with the cooling system right now. When left to idle for a long while, the car will overheat, even on a cool day. When driving at normal speeds, the engine runs too cold. I blamed both conditions on a missing thermostat: without it, the coolant can flow too freely in the motor at speed. At idle, the coolant may not have time to cool off in the radiator, leading to overheating.

There was, in fact, a thermostat installed. I’ll put in a new one, as well as a new radiator cap and see if either condition improves.

A complete photojournal of the disassembly process is uploaded to my photobucket account.

The Door, Part 3

Getting the repaired door panel on was a struggle involving about an hour and some foul language. The top of the panel is supposed to hook over the door, but it was bent and far too tight. In fact, I’m sure the issues with the panel all started because it had not been firmly seated for years.

I straightened the upper lip of the door panel, but it was still tight and required a lot of force to drop in. Once on, though, the door opens and closes smoothly, and it was very cool to be able to lock (at least one side of) the car and roll the window up and down.

The Restored Panel
The restored panel, in place.

The next project was to be the cooling system, including removal and replacement of the power steering pump. The ‘Bird was way ahead of me, though. Just a day or two after installing the door panel, the power steering failed while I was out on an errand.

There was no immediate warning: no noise, fluid leak or other sign from under the hood. Just one minute the steering was feather-light, then next it was truck-like. The rubber rag-joint the connects the steering column to the steering mechanism doesn’t seem strong enough to survive me yanking the steering wheel around (that’s how it got ripped apart last time), so I parked the car mid week.

Disassembly for this stage of the restoration begins today.

The Door, Part II

Today was the day to get the passenger door all put together. Instead, I installed a screen door on the house–and the T-bird’s door still needs a little work.

Fiberglass Application
Fiberglass reinforcement, just applied.

I had no idea how intricate that door panels on these cars could be. The are made of multiple pieces and can be disassembled, unlike that door panels from cars in the 70’s and beyond. Many of the pieces are stapled together, some are held on by bent tabs and others are glued.

The bottom of the panel slides into a small channel at the base of the door. (Later cars typically use clips to hold the panel to the door.) If you’ve been following the saga, you know that the molded cardboard at the base of the panel, which is supposed to sit in the channel, was rotting away. I spent a good deal of time reinforcing the rotted elements with fiberglass this afternoon, and the results were good–the bottom of the panel should slide far enough into the channel to give it some support and hold it in place.

Fiberglass, Cured and Sanded
The fiberglass, cured and sanded.

Once the fiberglass reinforcements were done, I removed the carpet trim and glued it firmly in place. (It had been held on–sort of–with double-sided foam tape.) After that, I was able to install the stainless steel trim between the carpet strip and the vinyl. The trim came with the car and is probably original, but it has been floating around in the trunk for years.

The last piece was the felt strip at the top of the door panel. Aside from acting as a trim element, the window glass rides against the felt, preventing it from rattling around in the door. The old piece was shot and there was a new one–once again–in the trunk. I had to remove a number of old rusty staples to get the old trim off. There was no way to staple the new one on (and I don’t have the right tools anyhow), so I glued the new trim piece on with epoxy.

The Restored Panel
The restored panel

At the end of the day, I left the panel out so all the glue could cure properly. If it all appears solid tomorrow, I’ll take a stab at putting it on the actual door. In the end, it’s hardly perfect, but it’s much better than it was.

The screen door looks nice, too.

Fully Registered

I learned yesterday that there is a Thunderbird registry for all model years. so I signed up the ‘Bird and sent in a few photos. The 1964 model year is one of the most popular, but I like to think that my entry is unique.

One of my photos as added to the Registry’s home page, which was kinda cool.

Apparently, the factory gate sheets for Thunderbirds (“actual, original document which allowed [a] Thunderbird to leave the Wixom factory. . . not  a copy or reproduction”) is available. I’ll be sending away for that soon.

Lock and Roll

The 64 T-Bird was equipped with an automatic parking brake release. Put the car in gear and the parking brake klunks free. The mechanism is a vacuum switch on the steering column. A lever on the shift tube moves the switch, activating a vacuum motor, releasing the brake.

On my car, of course, this was all disconnected. I put a new vacuum switch on when working on the shifter. Getting a new hose up from the switch to the vacuum motor was not easy. Once it was there, I was a little shocked–happily so–that the whole system still worked.

With that done, I put the lock cylinder back in the passenger side door. I had the great folks at Mountain View Lock and Safe rework the cylinder to fit the existing ignition key. Installation of the lock cylinder is simple. Once in, I was able to lock and unlock the car from both the key and the knob–probably the first time in 20+ years that this door has been locked.

The vacuum system that operates the lock is still not functioning, but the issue is not in the door, so the panel will go back on this weekend. More photos from that evolution to follow.


That’s What I’m Talkin’ About

Driving back from an errand this evening, towards the end of rush hour, a guy in a late-model, early 90’s Thunderbird follows me for a while, then pulls up next to me:

“Hey, that’s a clean looking t-bird!”
“Is that a ’64?”
“Sure is!”

I don’t know who that man was, but he has a keen eye for cars.