This is getting to be a routine: make some repairs, push the envelope a bit more, find more issues . . . rinse and repeat.
I did some fairly lengthy freeway driving this week with the Bird and it was pretty cool tooling down the road under sunny skies. I discovered that right around 65mph most of the vibrations smooth out and the ride is relatively comfortable.
It is, however, hardly the epitome of luxury at that speed. Suspension bushings are probably the second order of business. First, there is a vibration in the engine–felt mostly in the steering wheel at certain rpm’s–that I haven’t been able to figure out. Guesses range from the harmonic balancer to fouled plugs to a burned valve.
Also clear now is that the aftermarket carburetor I have on the car is not suited for the type of driving I’m doing. (It would certainly work better in a performance-oriented setup.) I’m still seeing difficult hot starts, some surging at speed and poor mileage, so I ordered a remanufactured carb, correct for my year and model, from a vendor on eBay.
On one of my trips this week, I stopped by a shop that specializes in new old stock parts. There, I picked up a “good used” relay for the interior lights. Plugged it in, and they are working normally, which really helps to bring life to the car.
Yesterday, I also installed the stock throttle linkage, including the transmission kick-down, which has been missing this past year. Today, I’ll be working to refurbish the center console: reattaching a chrome trim element that has broken free (and rattles like crazy) and bringing the “Fasten Seat Belt” reminder light back to life.
I dropped the ‘Bird at a transmission shop that specializes in vintage cars last Monday, where the transmission was removed, torn down, rebuilt and reinstalled over the course of the week. Once we got the unit out, we could see why everything associated fit oddly or worked poorly.
The transmission itself is correct for the car, a medium case Cruise-O-Matic, but mine was originally intended for a 1961 full-sized Ford. The shift linkage and speedometer gear are both wrong for the Thunderbird. Someone had welded an extra length of metal to the shift lever, but it was not enough to make it work right. Fortunately, my mechanic had the parts in stock to bring it all back to spec, including a new rear mount, which was shot (and not even bolted in properly.)
While he had the car, I picked up the drive shaft to install new universal joints. I was able to get both removed using the two-sockets-and-a-vice process outlined in the manual. The new rear joint went in just fine. In front, though, the new u-joint bound up tight every time I got it clipped into place, as if the bracket on the yoke was slightly bent or misaligned. I took that one back to the shop to have it straightened and the installation completed.
The ‘Bird is back in my driveway–the tranny was reinstalled and working late Friday. There are still some minor tweaks to be made–it’s not shifting quite right and there’s a vibration at low speed. But, having it with me means I can do some more work on the map lights and perhaps get the horn working over the three-day weekend. Tuesday, we’ll get the transmission work wrapped up.
The courtesy (or map) lights have never worked since I bought my car. It’s disconcerting not to have the light come on when the door is open, like having the light burn out in the refrigerator. It can also be hard to find the right key in the dark.
The former owner was working on this issue shortly before he sold the car to me. I don’t know how far he got, but I did know that the door activated switches were bad. I replaced both, as well as some faulty wiring on the passenger side door jamb.
Still no lights. Dang.
There was a trickle of voltage at the light sockets, but not enough to illuminate the bulb, so I pulled the overhead console out to trace the wiring. Power feeds into a small switch you can use to turn the lights on manually. The wiring looked fine, so it appears that the switch has failed. I’m not sure yet if I can get a stock replacement, or if I will need to just bypass it.
While behind the dash, I found a collection of loose vacuum lines–supposed to be connected to the power door locks. I reconnected them, plugging a vacuum leak I didn’t know I had and potentially fixing the lock system.
With the ‘Bird quiet and reliable around town now, I took it out for a test at the next level–freeway speeds and distances. At speed, there’s plenty of power, but not a lot of comfort. Besides the howl from the rear end and the normal ash tray rattle, there’s a lot of vibration and none of it feels like a tire out of balance.
I took the Thunderbird out southbound on a weekday afternoon and quickly found myself in a traffic jam. Sitting in traffic, the temp gauge climbed into the high end of the normal range–something I hadn’t seen in a while. I exited, got on northbound and did a longish loop, about 10 miles, that put me back at my house. The car sat in the driveway long enough for heat to soak, then I went on some local errands–multiple short stops, lots of traffic lights.
By the end of the trip, some of my heat soak symptoms returned. While I could sit at idle just fine, the engine hesitated under moderate acceleration and backfired occasionally. I suspected the fuel system, but when I posed the question on a VTCI forum, there was a chorus of voices saying the coil was shot.
Last place I would have looked.
The coil is located close to the fuel pump and has to come off to get to it. Let’s just say that it hasn’t been treated well during the whole fuel system restoration and was a little banged up. I found a vibration resistant replacement on Amazon; ordered it on Thursday, standard shipping. Saturday afternoon a truck pulled up and the driver handed it to me while I was actually standing at my workbench, wondering what to do next.
How sweet is that? I put it in right then. I’ll be driving the car this week, testing it out.