Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Grandson Update....

The little guy is rapidly approaching SIX pounds now, and is drinking around 90% of his bottle.

Bigger and bigger, stronger and stronger as they days go by. Medical advances for premies are astounding. It wasn't that long ago his chances of survival at 10 weeks early would have been pretty slim.

We'll be seeing him in about a month, and I get to hold him.

Wonder if he'll grab at my beard......

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Happy Earth Day!

The USAF wishes all our terrorist friends a very Happy Earth Day!

Your gifts should be arriving shortly.....

Thursday, April 20, 2017

"The X-Files" Is Coming Back Again....

According to this article over at CNET, Fox has signed up for another 10 episodes.

And that reminds me....I still haven't watched the six episodes I recorded the last time it "came back"....

Something to do this weekend while the wife is visiting her friend.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Busy Day

Spent the day on the Iowa doing radio stuff, and in meetings.

Museum Ship's Weekend is coming up, so I have a few things to tinker together for the Grey Radio Gang, namely another little adapter box so they can interface a "Red Phone" with a laptop to route some audio to the Combat Engagement Center.

But before that, we have the Armed Forces Crossband Test coming up. This is a test whereby we'll be allowed to transmit on approved DoD frequencies, and listen on the Amateur Radio frequencies.

Sometime back, one of our members was able to contact the guys that do USN ship callsign assignments. He also contacted the USCG Heron, which was using the callsign NEPM at the time.

The importance of the USN callsign NEPM is that it's the callsign originally issued to the USS Iowa when she was commissioned.

The Captain of the Heron was more than willing to release the callsign, and in exchange we helped him get NHRN, an exchange that made both sides happy.

We now have authorization to use NEPM, "In Perpetuity", from the DoD, and we'll take the Iowa on-the-air, using the 1980's ship's legacy radio gear, on May 11th this year.

This will be the first time the Iowa has been on-the-air with NEPM in 27 years.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter!

To all my friends....

Cooking a big dinner today, and the wife's oldest son, his GF, and his daughter will be joining us.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Story of an Old Firebird, Part 5....

This section will cover the body/chassis, and the “weight loss program” I put the car on.

The car as delivered handled extremely well. With the 1.25” front sway bar and the .875” rear sway bar, high-rate springs, and Pliacell shock absorbers, it cornered flat. I added Koni adjustable shock absorbers, and set them about half way between very little damping, and break your teeth. The special variable-ration power steering that came with the Y99 handling package, and the small diameter fat-rimmed “Formula” steering wheel made the car steer like a Go Kart. During the course of construction, I cut a full coil from the front springs, and made some lowering blocks for the rear leaf springs. Cutting coils off a spring not only lowers the car, but also raises the effective spring rate. The “best” way to do it is to get shorter springs made, or find some others in the parts book that do what you want, but cutting a coil off is a pretty cheap, effective way to drop the car.

The rear lowering blocks were 3/4” think aluminum blocks I had made at Tubby Gallup’s (I’m pretty sure that’s his name...it’s been almost 40 years!) place, and he also fabbed some longer U-Bolts for me. Adding lowering blocks pushes the rear axle up into the chassis, dropping the body down lower over the axle.

I also ordered some solid body mounts from Herb Adams’ “Very Special Equipment” catalog, along with some front subframe reinforcing struts. The solid body mounts eliminated any deflection caused by the big rubber “biscuit” type body mounts, and moved the front subframe about 3/4” closer to the unibody, effectively “channeling” the body down over the frame. The front struts he sold attached to the pinch-weld area of the firewall in two places, and then ran down to the forward stud for the upper control arm. You loosened the big nut used for front end alignment, remover some alignment shims, dropped the tab on the end of the strut in place, and tightened the nut back up. A trip to the alignment shop was required, as removing the wrong amount of shims had adverse effects on your front camber and caster!

With the cut front springs and the aluminum subframe mounts, the front dropped about 1-1/2 inches. Along with the 3/4” drop in the rear, the car had a pretty mean appearance. Today we’d say it had “Stance”, but back then we just said it was lowered, or had “a mean rake”.

The front and rear sway bar mounts were also changed from rubber to aluminum where the bars mounted to the frame, and the end links were replaced with new ones fabricated using spherical rod ends, or “Heim Joints”. This completely eliminated any deflection in the bar mounting, and made the bars act instantly, rather than having to take up any “squish” or slack in a rubber mount. I didn’t go “Full Race” on the suspension by replacing the front control arm bushings with solid ones, as I’d had before-and-after rides in cars that had that done to them, and it 100% completely ruined the car for street use. You can get away with that on a nice, smooth race track, but solid suspension bushings on the street are completely unlivable. These days we have polyurethane suspension bushings (I have them in my Supra), and while they’re stiffer than OEM bushings, they’re nothing like metal ones.

The only other change I did was to replace the OEM idler arm in the steering linkage with a heavy duty one made by Moog. The arm itself was much thicker, and the bracket where it attached to the frame was twice as thick as the OEM idler arm. It also had grease fittings on both pivots.

So that was it for the chassis. Pretty stock, really, with just a few carefully chosen aftermarket parts.

I already knew that the engine was going to be pretty stout, and without spending a significantly greater amount of money, it was going to make about as much power as I could reasonably expect, which led me to ponder what else could I do to make it faster?

A famous race car designer once said: “More power makes you faster on the straights; Less weight makes you faster everywhere”.

OK, I’ll make it lighter! But how?

There’s an old saying in the aircraft industry: “The best way to remove one hundred pounds is to find 1600 places and remove one ounce”.

I took both sayings to heart, and started looking for “1600 places to remove one ounce”!

Since this was going to be a one or two passenger vehicle, and was not going to be a daily driver, the back seat, seat belts, and mounting hardware could be pulled out. This saved 30 pounds, and got me thinking about how to get more weight out of the car.

Since I was going to relocate the battery out of the engine compartment for better weight distribution, I had to pull the carpet out to run the new cable. I had to pull the front seats (35 pounds each!) out of the car to get the carpet out, and I noticed all these asphalt-and-paper sound deadening pads absolutely everywhere. They were under the carpet, under the seats, under the dash, stuck to the firewall...just all over the place. After I pulled them all out and dumped them on the scale, I realized I’d just pulled another 25 pounds out of the car! This got me really going.

The F60-15 spare tire on the 15x7 steel rim, along with the jack, jack base, handle, and J-bolt and wingnut, weighed in at a staggering 75 pounds.

The new, lighter Corbeau GT bucket seats I was going to use weighed 40 pounds less then the seats the car came with.

All the reinforcing bars and struts, and the mounts and their hardware, for the “5MPH” front bumper weighed 50 pounds. I wouldn’t need them as I was already in the process of pulling a mold off the front Endura bumper so I could replicate it in fiberglass, so out they went.

The fiberglass front bumper replacement I eventually wound up with removed another 100 pounds from the car.

Removing the stock exhaust system, muffler, pipes, hangers, and hardware saved another 70 pounds.

The aluminum intake manifold was 15 pounds lighter than stock, and the aluminum brackets and smaller hardware I used for the rear bumper saved 5 pounds.

There were numerous other brackets that I fabricated out of aluminum, painted them black, and when they were on the car, nobody knew. These saved another 10 pounds.

Any place there was a non-critical fastener, bracket, strut, or other fiddly bit, I either eliminated it, made it out of aluminum, drilled holes in it, and/or used a smaller size bolt to hold it on. Nobody ever saw most of these “little things”, but I wound up with a car that was a real sleeper.

The lighter flywheel and clutch assembly was a wash because I replaced the aluminum bellhousing with a Lakewood scatter shield and block plate. I’d seen cars where the clutch let go, and it did quite a bit of damage, and I wasn’t going to let that happen. Plus, the weight was within the wheel base, and mounted down low, so I didn’t worry about it.

And what’s almost as important as removing the weight was where I removed it from. Most of the weight came off the nose of the car, as in the case of the battery. The 40 pound battery, which was located in front of the engine, and right at the top of the radiator, was moved to the floor of the car behind the passenger seat where the rear seat had been. This got that amount of weight within the wheelbase, and about 24” lower than it had been. A small thing, but “small things” like that can improve the handling of the car, making it easier to turn, and lowering the center of gravity, resulting in flatter cornering.

The total weight savings amounted to over 400 pounds, or more than 10% of the weight of the car.
I didn’t go full-on, bat guano crazy ripping things out, but I did get a significant amount of weight out of the car.

I still had windshield washers and wipers, a fully functional heater, carpeting, my center console, an AM/FM stereo radio, and the side impact beams in the doors of the car, one of the reasons the doors on a second generation F-Body weighed so much.

But it was quite a bit lighter than stock 73 Firebird, and it was worth it.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Story of an Old Firebird, Part 4.....

This section contains information about the cylinder heads, valvetrain, and intake/exhaust systems.

Heads and Valvetrain -

For the cylinder heads and camshaft, I planned on using the tried-and-true Ram Air IV combination. The parts were readily available, reasonably priced, and well understood by people I trusted.

I started with two brand-new 1970 Ram Air IV castings, casting number 614. I remember starting at the cast-in numbers “614” for HOURS as I ported the heads. I don’t think I’ll ever forget them. The valves, springs, retainers, locks, rocker arm studs, rocker arms, balls and nuts, push rod guide plates, push rods, lifters, and cam were all 100% stock Pontiac, purchased over the counter at Bert Adams Pontiac in Joliet, Illinois. The timing chain and gears were a Cloyes “True Roller”, and the cam was installed 4* advanced. When Jack installed the cam he also checked the cam timing from the published specs, and found out the cam was actually a few degrees retarded, as ground. Installing it 4* advanced made it basically “straight up” cam timing.

The first thing I did with the heads was to clean up any casting flash and “dingleberries” in the under-the-valve-cover and oil drainback areas. There was a TON on casting flash on the sides of the intake port runners, and some of it came off pretty easily. The rest took some grinding, and made me glad I’d purchased carbide cutters. High Speed Steel (“HSS”) cutters will remove cast iron easily, but they go dull quickly, after only a few hours use. Carbide cutters stay sharp, but they’re brittle compared to HSS, so be a bit careful using them. I didn’t polish any of the areas with sandpaper rolls as I couldn’t see the benefit vs the amount of time it would take. The nice, sharp carbide cutters did a “good enough” job, and after 10~12 hours, that part of both heads was cleaned up, and I started to work on the ports. I also opened up the machined passages in the heads for the pushrods. I’d read somewhere that it was pretty close with the larger diameter pushrods the Ram Air IV used, so I just “laid over” the upper end of the passage for a little more clearance.

The book I used to guide me in this engine rebuild was published by H-O Racing Specialties, and was called “Pontiac Heavy Duty Parts and Specs”, and had a wealth of information in it. I carefully studied the cross-sectional drawings of the ports in the Ram Air IV heads to see where material had to be removed, and just as importantly, where to leave material. You don’t just go wild and “Hog It All Out”, as the size and shape of the ports, particularly the intake ports, is critical to how well they function. There were a couple of places that needed careful work, like the port wall next to the passage the pushrod went through, and the area under the valve seats. You had to widen the intake port as much as possible in the pushrod area, but you had to be very careful not to break through the casting. The thickness of the casting in this area was about .125” thick (one-eight of an inch), and while H-O said you could thin it down to about .070”, I wasn’t comfortable enough with my head porting skills to go that far, so I opened it up to where the wall was about .080” thick. The book also pointed out areas that definitely needed rework, like the valve guide are of the intake ports, the “bump” in the exhaust port that was extra material for the air injection (“Thermactor”) system, and a few other spots.

The basic philosophy was again to “grind it out if it doesn’t look like it belongs there”, and to keep as close as possible to the OEM contours, opening them up where it would benefit airflow, and leaving material in other places. The valve bowls needed a LOT of work. There were huge “globs” of cast iron sticking out below where the cutters that made the valve seat and bowl bottomed out, and this area needed to be ground out to follow the “natural” contours in that area, and blend it into the rest of the port. The head/intake manifold and head/exhaust manifold flanges were matched to the gaskets I was going to be using, and then blended back into the ports as smoothly as possible, and as far as possible. Based on the 4 to 5 hours “per session” that I spent, times 16 ports, plus the ~10 hours doing the other parts of the head, I know that I had over 100 hours in the heads by the time I finished them, and Jack complimented me on the quality of the work I’d done. The final step was getting a proper “Three Angle” valve grind done, and Jack did that for me. It took some convincing to get him to grind the intake valve seats at the H-O Racing recommended 30* instead of the “standard” 45*, but when I showed him the published data in the H-O Racing book, he agreed, and ground the intake seats to 30*. It cost a bit extra because he had to buy a special cutter, but it paved the way for other Pontiac engines he built for other people.

The combustion chambers were almost “Good To Go” right out of the box, and all I did was break any sharp edges that could lead to hot spots, preignition, and detonation.

I didn’t weigh the heads before and after, but from the pile of cast iron I ground out of each port, I wouldn’t be surprised if I took almost a pound of cast iron out of each head.

Camshaft, lifters, and valve gear -

The rest of the valve train was 100% 1970 Ram Air IV. The camshaft (P/N 9794041) specs were: Advertised Duration 308* Intake / 320* Exhaust, Duration @.050 232/242, lift at valve using 1.65 rocker arms -.520”. Pontiac was at the forefront of “Computer Designed” cams way back then, and the 041 cam, along with the 9785744 (Ram Air III cam) were among the first computer designed cams released by GM. Prior to this, many cams just added duration using the “constant dwell” method, which resulted in what would be called “lazy ramps” today. I’m not a camshaft designer, and I don’t play one on TV, but from all I’ve read, you want the ramps to smoothly accelerate the valve open, and do the same as it comes down the ramp. One of the reasons racers went to roller cams was that the roller lifters allow much more aggressive ramps, to get the valves open, and then closed, right now. Roller cams and lifters were a little too exotic (read: Pricey) for me back then, so I stayed with a flat tappet cam, and what better cam to use than the one designed by the guys that knew the cylinder head flow characteristics? The Ram Air IV lifters were of a special reduced travel design, and after the engine was put together, I adjusted them ¼ turn of the rocker arm nut past zero lash. I had considered using a rocker arm nut with a separate locking screw, like a “Poly Lock”, but that would have required having the ends of the rocker arm studs ground flat to provide a proper place for the setscrew to tighten against, and I just never got one of those “round tuits”. I readjusted the rocker nuts one time after the engine had a few hundred miles on it, and they hadn’t really changed any from the initial setting, so I let it go at that.

It had a strong “rumpity-rump” idle at about 1100RPM, but I most likely had to run that idle speed due to the very light (12lb) aluminum flywheel.

Intake and Exhaust -

The induction system would be a QudraJet, something I understood very well, with a 1971/72 455 H.O. intake manifold. This manifold had “as cast” ports large enough to mate with the Ram Air IV heads, enough metal to safely allow port-matching, was a modern dual-plane high-rise design, and had a separate exhaust crossover which could be left off during warm weather, resulting in a cooler intake charge going into the engine. All I did to the intake manifold was to glue on a set of the intake gaskets I’d be using, and open the ports up to match the gasket. Then I blended that area back as far as I could reach with my die grinder. The only other thing I did was to use an aluminum “heat blocking” plate that had a fiber spacer about 1/4” thick on one side, and a gasket on the other, that went between the carb and manifold flange. I don’t know for sure if it helped any, but it looked pretty neat! This was recommended by the “Rochester Carburetors” book that I had. That book taught me more about carburation than any other book I read, including the “Holley Carburetors” book that I had by the same publisher.

The QuadraJet I used was purchased new-in-the-box through Bert Adams Pontiac, and was for a 1969/70 Ram Air IV with a manual transmission. It required one of the spring type choke coils and pull rod, which I also ordered new. Being a 1970 carb, it was calibrated a bit on the lean side for emissions reasons, and I wound up going 2 or 3 sizes larger on the main jest, along with a corresponding change in the primary and secondary metering rods. I wish I still had my notebooks, as I had extensive notes on how I figured out what a good jet and rod combination would be based on what was in a given car from GM, vs what it needed to be for better performance in various stages of tune. I re-jetted dozens of QuadraJets based on these calculations, and it was unusual that I didn’t get it “right” the first time.

Exhaust duties would be handled by a set of Hooker Headers, part number 4202, the only header available for the round port heads in a second generation Firebird. JR Headers also made a set that fit, and one of my friends had a pair on his 1973 Super Duty 455 Trans Am, but I thought the Hookers were made better, so I went with them. Mufflers were kind of an afterthought, and for years I was running Thrush “header mufflers”. They were cheap, lightweight, and worked “good enough”. Cheap was important, because the Hookers hung down fairly low, and with the lowered suspension I was always grounding them out, resulting in the muffler getting damaged enough to need replacement. I used to buy them two at a time at Sontag Speed Supplies. That way I always had one “in stock” for rapid replacement. I ran the exhaust in that configuration until I drove the car out to California, and which time I had a local muffler shop weld up some 2.5” pipes to the “Hemi” mufflers I’d bought years earlier. It made the car much quieter on the highway, an important consideration since it would be a 2,400 mile trip.

Fuel System -

The fuel system starts at the tank, and in order to provide an “unlimited” supply of fuel, I added a second 5/16” pick up and nylon “sock” filter to the existing stock pick up/sending unit. I just used a piece of 5/16” steel fuel line, bent to match how the stock pick up was made, drilled another hole into the top of the plate that mounted into the tank, and silver soldered the new line to the top plate. These two lines fed a pair of AC Delco electric pumps which were originally used on heavy-duty trucks that I bought from North Side Auto Parts on Ruby Street. If I had a part number, they could usually get what I wanted! The pumps had individual fuses, and were fed by a relay activated whenever the ignition was in the “Start” or “Run” position. The output of each pump went through an AC Delco filter, and then into a Moroso “Y Block” which was normally used to split a single fuel line to be used with a dual-inlet Holley carb. From there, a 1/2” diameter line was run to the engine compartment and connected to one of the blue Holley pressure regulators set at 6.5 PSI. One outlet from the regulator fed the QuadraJet, and the other was adapted down to 1/8” steel line which I ran to a fuel pressure gauge in the console. I know, having pressurized gasoline fed to the interior of a car is not a Real Good Idea, but I used steel line with compression fittings and checked it religiously for any signs of leakage. The fuel pressure NEVER budged from the 6.5 PSI I had it set to, indicating that the carb had an adequate supply.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

RangerUp Video "The Tribute"

Very well done.

Carry on.....

Chuck to the Rescue!

Found on the Book of Farce.

It was too good not to share......

More Pontiac stuff coming soon, tonight or tomorrow.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Grandbaby Update....

Little guy is over FOUR pounds now, growing like a weed, and can finally wear some of the clothing everybody has been sending to his parents.

He's out of his "isolette" and into a regular crib, and is using his pacifier when he's not wolfing down food.

Say "Hi!" to the nice people, Noah....