Changed the oil. That was the extent of the work I did on the car this week. After my hard work last winter, it’s time to get in a few hours behind the wheel.

There’s something about a working, good-looking interior that inspires more confidence in the car. Maybe it’s that gauges are accurate. Maybe the music is drowning out some of the squeaks and rattles. Or perhaps it’s psychological. Whatever the reason, with an obligation across town in heavy rush hour traffic last week. I didn’t hesitate to fire up the ‘Bird and set off.

It’s not something I would have done last summer, though the mechanicals underneath are essentially unchanged. It ran great, and I had a blast both coming and going. (More than I can say for everyone else out there, stuck in their daily traffic jam.)

Oh, there are still a few minor things to catch up on this summer. The light sockets in the rear are failing, slowly. Oil is leaking rapidly from the motor. (But this is a good thing–meaning that oil is also getting around in the motor better too.) and if I really want to tackle a project, I’ve got new rubber bushings for the rear leaf springs. None of these are pressing, however.

I had to put off the windshield sealing–it’s a three-day process and I had places to go. I’ll drop he car for that tomorrow, should have it back in plenty of time for a wash and wax before the weekend.

Doing Stuff Twice

Wrapping up some of the dash project items this week:

The flipper, all flipped into place.
The flipper, all flipped into place.

I pulled the lower dash and radio access to rewire the stereo after the speaker wires checked out. Sure enough, once I ran clean power and a good ground to the stereo, the sound cleaned right up. Nice.

With all those panels already off, I readjusted the “flipper” panels (honestly, don’t know what else to call it) behind the swing away mechanism, as the push nut had popped off, making the flippers stop flipping (and just flopping). The whole area look empty and sad.

I just tell people I'm trying to cut down the weight of the car and save gas.
I just tell people I’m trying to cut down the weight of the car and save gas.

And, since I was on my back under the dash, I loosened the neutral safety switch and moved it a millimeter or two. Where it was, it was almost, but not quite, in place to close the vacuum connection to the e-brake in park.

Buttoning it all up, I hooked up the battery, cranked the tunes and went for a little joyride.

The flippers flipped, music sounded good and when I came to a stop in the garage, the parking brake engaged without a fuss.

Last week, I took the bird down to the body shop that painted the dash to have them look at the windshield leak. Turns out, the last place–shock!–botched the job, and I’ll need a new windshield gasket. The new part should arrive this week, with the work done before next weekend. Had to pull the cowl for the inspection, so I’m running around for a while without it.

Punch List

The next time I begin restoration work on a vintage car, I will completely revamp the brakes, booster-to-shoes, at the very beginning. Though they never failed me, until this week, it seemed like the brakes were never right.

Driving the races out of the hub. You can feel when they start to move. "Ah, I've got you now!"
Driving the races out of the hub. You can feel when they start to move. “Ah, I’ve got you now!”

I spent a good portion of my time early this week replacing the drums and shoes on the front axle. Getting the old drums off the hubs is an adventure in hammering–trying to get just enough force to break them apart while not quite enough force to damage the parts that are still useful. I got some great advice from the forum, which made the job manageable, if not all that fun.

Replacing the races in the hubs also required a heavy hammer–I got quite a workout this week–and a lot of patience. I was dreading this job, fearing that the hubs would get damaged or that the old races would prove immovable. As it turned out, it was one of the most satisfying jobs I’ve done on this car. Once the races get moving, the pop out pretty easily. The new races were easy to drive in (with a race driving tool borrowed from the local parts store), and from there the assembly goes together very neatly.

The new drums need to be pressed or drawn onto the hubs. It’s possible to do this on the car when installing the wheel. I tried this on one side, but it’s a process you have to take on faith–there’s no real knowing whether or not everything is drawn up tight unless everything is taken apart to check again. I figured I’d give it a couple of miles at slow speed, then disassemble to see if it’s working properly.

Test fitting the new bearings. Probably not necessary, but fun to see precision parts fitting nicely together.
Test fitting the new bearings. Probably not necessary, but fun to see precision parts fitting nicely together.

I paid extra–about double–to get a new master cylinder that was really new (not rebuilt), then bench bled it exactly as the instructions stated. It installed easily, and I enlisted the aid of my son to help bleed out the brake.

One. More. Time.

I have bled the brakes so many times and with so many poor results that I didn’t even dare test them when we were done. Instead, I walked away for an hour to work out how I might handle it if they didn’t work. When I finally got up the courage to get back in the car and press the pedal, they were nice and firm–better than they had ever been, which was a tremendous relief.

Somewhere in the middle of the week, I took the time to install the three panel “flipper” fascia on the steering column for the swing-away mechanism. I should have put this in much earlier, as it’s a real pain to manipulate into place once the dash is assembled. I had to pull the left radio access and loosen the lower trim on the dash to get enough room to work.

With it finally in place, I installed the last trim panel and the aftermarket stereo, buttoned the dash back up (not for the last time, though, I’m sure), and went for a short drive, music blasting.

It was awesome. Still.

The finished product. I snapped this photo as an afterthought. I'll take a better later.
The finished product. I snapped this photo as an afterthought. I’ll take a better one later.

More things work now than they did before I started the project: all the gauges, the heater/defroster, left and right side vents, not to mention the audio system, improved turn signal and a vastly better looking interior.

A few things can be made to work now that the dash is in good order: the central door locks, door ajar warning light and the rear, vacuum-operated vent. When I get around to them.

Still, there are a few things that should be working, but don’t. Fortunately, I can tackle these minor issues one-by-one on a “let’s have some fun working on the car” basis instead of “sheesh, what’s it going to take to get this thing running”?

Most important is a water leak. Somewhere in the dash (dis-)assembly process, the seal around windshield was compromised. When I washed the car, a lot of water ended up on the driver’s side floor. (That’s something I plan to have fixed professionally this week.) Of lesser importance, the fender-mounted turn signal indicators don’t light up (though the regular signals work), the stereo needs to be wired to a different source (can’t run the heater blower and the music at the same time on the same circuit), and the horn brush needs to be installed (which I can do when I pull the steering wheel to center it.) Oh, and it couldn’t hurt to change the oil.

As a punch list goes, that’s a lot less than I expected. Right now, though, I’m going out for a drive.