Thursday, June 22, 2017

Home Depot Being Sued Over "Two by Fours" That Don't Measure 2" by 4"

Just heard this on the radio....

Some dolt has brought a class action lawsuit against Home Depot for selling 2x4's that "only" measure out to be 1-1/2" by 3-1/2".

And people wonder what good shop classes do when *everybody* should get a "College" education.....

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Happy Father's Day

To all the Dads out there.

Enjoy your day!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

My Dear Brother In Law Passed This Afternoon

His Doctors took him off the ventilator earlier today and he passed within the hour.

My poor little wife is devastated.

Light blogging to follow.....

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Brother-In-Law Update's not good at all.

My wife stopped in to see him on her way home from work, and she was able to talk to the two neurologists that are monitoring his condition.

They were very frank with her, and said they doubted if he'd ever regain consciousness. When she asked them what would happen if they took him off the ventilator, they told her that he'd stop breathing on his own after "a short time".

They didn't quantify how long a "short time" would be, but she got the distinct impression it would be less than 24 hours.

I'm greatly saddened by this..............

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Home "Repair" Progress

The handyman guy is doing a bang up job, wife keeps finding more things, and adding more to his list, and wondering why he isn't finished yet.....


He's fixed up the big gap between the brick front porch and the house that was caused by the porch settling due to the drought here, sanded/filled/primed and then repainted ALL the trim/fascia, repaired all the cracks in the stucco, and repainted about 3/4 of the house.

I've got our bedroom all cleaned out, with most of the furniture stashed around the house so he can scratch out and fill all the cracks in the walls and then paint it. She settled on "A nice, clean, bright Navajo White", BUT I don't think she realizes how badly the color blinds are going to clash with white after the window sills and walls are white.

The bathroom, front bedroom, living/dining area and kitchen have all been repainted in the last year, sooooo......that means the Radio Room will be in her sights very shortly, meaning I'm going to have to pull EVERYTHING out of here so it can get patched up and painted.

And after that's done I can see her really squawking about putting anything back in here, no matter how nice and clean the equipment is, or how well it's displayed.


No word at all about her brother, other than it's "Day-By-Day, and Hour-By-Hour" per the duty nurse, and his case nurse.

I just went through the "What do you want us to do if you're severely incapacitated" paperwork with my primary care provider, and I think I said to give me a week on life support, and if the prognosis looks "really, really bad" to go ahead and pull the plug. I know they can keep the body alive almost indefinitely, but if there's no brain activity, and no hope of any in the foreseeable future, then is it worth it? I guess that's something that can only be decided on an individual basis, but I hope I never put my wife in that position......

Friday, June 9, 2017

Life Sure Has A Way Of Intruding When You're Busy Making Other Plans.....

Or however that old saying goes.

My wife's dear brother, and her only remaining sibling, suffered a serious accident yesterday.

His wife called me last night night to inform me, and specifically requested that I withhold the seriousness of it from her, as it was my wife's birthday and retirement party day. She told me what had happened, and that they obviously couldn't make it to my wife's birthday dinner tonight.

Dave walked my wife down the aisle the day we were married, and welcomed me into the family. The four of us always said grace when we had dinner. We were both "Boeing Guys" at the time. and while I could talk about what I worked on, he couldn't. He served proudly in the Army, enlisting at age 18 to get away from an uncomfortable relationship with his father. He was in the Army for quite a few years doing "Something in Security" that he didn't talk about. He started working for McDonnell-Douglas shortly after an Honorable Discharge from the Army, and stayed with the company after it;s acquisition by Boeing.

This poor man has suffered mightily the last few years. First, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, which caused him to take an early retirement. He had quite a collection of woodworking tools, and was looking forward to that in his retirement. Those plans had to be canceled as it simply wouldn't be safe for him to operate large power tools.

He accepted it, and continued with his life.

He had the "experimental" surgery done where they implanted an electrical stimulation device in his brain, and for a year or so it was working well. As with all "experimental" surgeries, the results are not guaranteed, and he had to start taking his medications again.

He accepted it, and continued with his life.

Last year he required a procedure to place three stents in his cardiac arteries, like I had done several years ago. With all the medications you're required to take when you have this condition, it knocked him down some from his previous level of activity, just like it did to me.

He accepted it and continued with his life.

Yesterday as he was getting out of the car after returning from dinner with his wife, he started to fall, as he's had trouble walking the last year. His wife said he tried to speed up to catch his balance, but tripped and took a header onto his concrete driveway. He was taken to Long Beach memorial Hospital last night, and at this time is still in the ICU. He has a "brain bleed", causing pressure on his brain, and the bleeding is quite significant due in no small part to the blood thinners he was taking.

They had him pretty sedated to calm him, but he's no longer responsive, and he's on a ventilator.

The CAT scans taken show extensive bleeding and pressure on his brain.

Today his Doctors had The Talk with his wife concerning what his wishes were if he was ever in the situation of possibly never regaining consciousness.

We haven't heard what she and his two sons had decided, if anything. We talked to the staff at the ICU unit an hour or so ago when we went to visit him, and they said it's one day at a time right now, literally hour-by-hour, and far too early to make any diagnoses, prognoses, or decisions on future care.

My poor wife is devastated by this, and I just have one of those Bad Feelings you sometimes get........

House Prepping.....

The handyman guy is doing a bang-up job for us. He's matched the paint perfectly and spotted in all the faded/peeled areas.

He's sanded all the trim and repainted it, finished off my garage side-door installation from several years ago (just needed some exterior caulking and trim painting), replaced some wood that had deteriorated, and helped me pull all the antennas on the South side of the house.

I have one coax and the control cable for the autocoupler to remove today, and then I'll drop the weather station/VHF/UHF antenna on the North side of the house. That leaves only my VHF "eggbeater" antenna that I've been using for receiving weather satellite pictures from the APT weather satellites. That one is mounted on a non-penetrating roof mount sitting on the ground, so all I have to go is get some help tipping it over, and then I can take it all apart.

He might be done this weekend if I get my rear-in-gear today, but since he's self-employed, he'll hang around doing stuff until the wife decides the work she wanted is finished.

New drier got here yesterday and I hooked it up, tested it, and did a load of laundry. It seems to dry much better, but that might have to do with how I shortened up the flex hose from the hot-air exhaust and got rid of a couple of bends in it....with less restriction it should dry better!

We received "preapprovals" from two lenders in Colrado, so we're good-to-go as far as the minimal financing we'll do for the new house.

We told them we were going to put down about $275k cash on a $400k house, and they both bent over backwards to give us good rates on either a 30 year or 15 year mortgage.

Cash is still king, and although we won't be "all cash" buyers, we're financing a small enough amount, and have good enough credit and "cash reserves" that they're both very anxious to get our business!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

"End of an Era" here for me.....

Well, I pulled down my 33' vertical, auto-coupler, and Line Isolator today so we could demolish the little patio/porch on the back of the house, thus ending 8 years of fixed HF operation.

I can still get on HF, but it would be using a much less efficient antenna, so I probably won't operate much HF until we get settled in Colorado.

And I pulled down my semi permanent VHF/UHF antenna that was on a 5' tripod and three 5' sections of mast and got that all ready to pack up. I still have the Discone scanner antenna to drop, my 'eggbeater' weather satellite antenna, and the mast holding the instruments for my weather station. When that's all done our house will look "normal" again, and not like remote monitoring outpost!

The patio/porch had become termite infested a couple of years ago, and as soon as I saw the little critters I went and bought a couple of gallons of termite-specific insecticide, and absolutely soaked all the wood in that structure, and then doused all the wood on that side of the house. The termites were eradicated, and never came back, but the damage was done. The 4x4 timbers for the vertical supports were hollowed out in spots, and the 2x12 stringers also had some spots that were pretty well bored out.

We found out just how bad it was today when we started taking it apart. One of the stringers split into about three pieces when we pulled the cross-braces off, and one of the 4x4 support columns came apart shortly after that! Our "Handyman" guy does a lot of framing work and carpentry, and he gave the eaves and surrounding area a good look over to see if there was any other termite damage, and said that whatever I sprayed got 'em before they had a chance to spread to the house itself, so we ducked a big one on that.

Wednesday he'll be doing some finish work on the side door to the garage that I installed a couple of years ago. The "door" that was there was pieced together out of two or three interior doors, and had deteriorated due to the weather exposure it gets. You quite literally could have knocked it off the hinges with one good kick or shoulder block! So, I bought a prehung, METAL exterior door, and spent a couple of days getting it framed into the existing opening. I know, a "pro" could have done it in 4 hours or less, but it was the first exterior door I'd ever installed. I caulked the inside seams with expanding, fire retardant foam, but never did the finish caulk and painting, which he'll do Wednesday. He'll also rehang the door on the little "shed" extension off the back of the garage, and hinge the one vinyl fence panel we have as a gate to the space between the back of the garage and the block wall. And he'll began the process of sanding/touching up all the trim on the house, fixing a few spots where the stucco popped off, replacing and repairing any other woodwork that needs it, and spotting in faded/thin spots in the paint on the house. When my wife's oldest son "painted" the house right before we met, he did what Dan The Handyman called a "Spray, Pray, and Scoot", also called a "Blow and Go", i.e., a real quick and dirty "paint job" on the house. I've been noticing thin spots in the paint for several years now, but oh, well.....just another thing I tell my wife that gets ignored.

Wednesday afternoon I get my root canal done since it's already scheduled and really needs to be done, and then I'm going to do a bit of dental "shopping" to try and knock the $15k~$18k price they quoted me down to something manageable.

Thursday the new drier gets here and the old one gets dragged away. This afternoon I shut the gas off to the old one, disconnected it, and with the help of Dan The Handyman, we wrestled it out of the side door on the garage, and then I cleaned out the area behind the washer and drier and made sure everything was ready for the new one to start it's tour of duty.

I'm not sure what's going on Friday. I'll probably let Dan do his thing while I clean up the aftermath of the previous three days.

The wife has a little over a week left in her career with the school district, and then I'm sure she'll try and put the spurs to me to get things done at warp-speed. I'm not sure if I can operate at that speed for a sustained period, so I'll try and keep things going at a decent rate, but there's no way I'm going to run at "Ludicrous Speed" to get this stuff done!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Battleship Iowa NI6BB to be On Air to Commemorate D-Day

NI6BB will be operating from 0900 to 1700 PDST in commemoration of D-Day.

Look for us in frequencies ending in "61" on 40 Meters through 10 Meters.

I won't be able to be there this year because we *finally* have a handyman guy showing up to do to needed repairs to get the house ready for sale.

And I can't be there this Wednesday either, as I have (oh, joy...) a root canal scheduled.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

75th Anniversary of the Battle of Midway

Admiral Yamamoto, who may or may not have made the quotation from which this blog's name came from, told his superiors before Pearl Harbor that if the Pearl Harbor strike was successful, he "Could run wild in the Pacific for six months. After that, I do not know".

Six months after Pearl Harbor was the Battle of Midway, considered by many Naval historians to be the "Turning Point" in the Pacific Theater of WWII.

Wikipedia has a very good article on the battle here, and many fine books have been written about it.

Saturday Humor

Just taking a break from garage cleaning....


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Thursday Already??

And the clock is counting down towards The Great Colorado Move.....

We've been "pre-qualified" for far more than we want to borrow on the purchase of a house, the wife has checked out the insurance and tax situations, we're still trying to get a handyman service scheduled for the work on the house here, and the clothes drier went kerblooie the day before we left on our latest trip.

The replacement dryer is the same size as the old one, which is 2" smaller than the side door in/out of the garage, so at least I won't have to pull half the garage out to do the R&R.

I'd almost rather get this one fixed, except that after I found out it was "broken", I asked her how, exactly, it was "broken". The last time it just wouldn't heat up, and a $75 service call to replace a $25 temp sensor fixed it in about 15 minutes.

Well...not so lucky this time. She said "Oh, made a burning smell, then went 'POP!', and quit working".

Groan......I'm going to pull the inspection cover off and take a peek inside, but I don't think it'll be $100 to fix it this time!

eBay sales are going well, with half the items I have listed having bids, and the other half destined for either my curio shelf or the junk man.

The next round getting listed Sunday will be some (more) partially restored radios, some radio "basket cases" that were work-in-progress until some of the parts disappeared, and some "Vintage Computing" items, like video cards, sound cards, a couple of Super Socket 7 motherboards with CPU's and memory installed, and whatever else I can quickly drag out of the garage, photograph, and get listed.

And I haven't even gotten to the boxed up / bagged up stuff under the workbench yet.....

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Battleship Iowa Memorial Day Activities

It always bugged me, even as a kid, when people talked about "celebrating" Memorial Day.

You have to be a pretty strange person to "celebrate" the deaths of large numbers of our military!

No, people....we Commemorate Memorial Day. It's a solemn day, or should be, a remembrance of those who gave it all for our country. Flags should be flown at half-mast, and when you hoist a cold one this weekend, make sure you hoist one for all those who never came home.

There's music and food trucks, and free admission for Veterans this weekend down on the Iowa. I'd normally be there for the whole weekend, but with The Great Colorado Move looming, I'm sorting, cleaning, and photographing stuff to list on eBay. After this round the Radio Room will be pretty empty of "surplus" items, and I'll start in on the sellable things I have in the garage.

I'll be on the Iowa all day Monday, as we'll be on-the-air in commemoration of Memorial Day. I think there's a few guys down there today, so look for NI6BB in frequencies ending in "61", like 14.261, one of our favorite frequencies to sit on.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Colorado Trip "AAR"

Only been back an hour or two, and still getting normalized, but I thought I'd dash this off for all my friends who are pulling for us in our escape from The People's Demokratik Republik of Kaliforniastan.

First off, little Noah and The Kids are doing well. He's still on supplemental Oxygen, and has a monitor connected to him, but the monitor stays consistently at 95% or above. They "test" him a couple of times a day, per instructions from the NICU, by turning off the O2, and seeing how fast and how far the monitor drops, and then turning the O2 back on. The monitor goes to the NICU weekly, where they download the data from it for analysis.

I forget what the exact parameters are, but they say he's getting better, and will most likely be off the O2 for good in another month or so, but that's entirely up to the Doctors at the NICU.

The "bachelor" apartment in the "shop" building on the property where The Kids are living should be finished in the next month, and that's where we'll be staying when we first move to Fort Collins after we sell this place, and pack up what's left.

It'll be good for the kids. as Grandma #2 will be on-site to take care of Noah while his Mom and Dad are at work.

And of course, Diamond, Coco, and Obie went completely nuts when we got there, and took a couple of days to get used to having us around again. No idea how they'll get along with Pebbles when we get there, though. I think she and Diamond will become fast friends, but Coco gets on this "Alpha Dog" kick every so often, so we'll have to watch that closely. Obie is a complete unknown.

Our in-laws (Noah's other grandparents) are doing great, and it was fun catching up on local news with them while we were there.

The house search is progressing, and my wife has come to grips with the reality of the market in Fort Collins and the surrounding areas. Things I've been telling her for the last two years that were completely ignored coming from me were magically accepted as carved-in-stone facts after the Nice Young Guy real estate agent we spent some time with on Sunday told her the exact same things, and then complimented me for "having a good handle on the local market while living in another state".

She also significantly increased the price cap on properties to search for after FINALLY coming to the grim (for her) realization that we would NEVER be able to buy something that meets her criteria by using only the profit from the sale of this house.

No.....Freaking.....Way would we be able to buy a place with $270k.

Just aint gonna happen.

So now we're looking at the $400k and under market, and there are some stunning places available in the price range.

Older, established neighborhoods with big trees, 12,000+ sq ft lots, and a pride of ownership in the houses and neighborhoods that just shows.

As we were driving through some of the neighborhoods looking for addresses, or just gawking at the houses, people would wave to us! Not shake their fist in a "Get out of here!" attitude, but a big "Howdy neighbor!" kind of wave.

I think we're going to enjoy living up here......

Monday, May 22, 2017

Headed Back To The Land of Fruits and Nuts

Headed back Tuesday morning after a nice restful, productive, and joyous time here in the Fort Collins area.

Restful because the traffic is about 90% less by volume than back in SoCal, productive because my wife has finally realized all the things I've been telling her about the real estate market out here is true, and joyous as we got to spend some time with little Noah, the kids, and Diamond, Coco, and Obie, the three dogs the kids took when they moved here.

We're expecting to walk away with around $275k from the sale of the house in SoCal, and my wife has finally realized we're NOT going to be able to buy a house with just that amount. Well....there are houses out there at that price point, some with very large lots, but the houses are best described as "livable, but need a bit of updating". So, she's raised the house finding price cap to $400k, and that means it's a whole new ball game.

I've been trying to pound that into her head the last two years, but she was completely deaf to my "research findings".

Sunday we met with a different realtor, a very nice young guy who appears to know his stuff, and she listened to him. The little light bulb in her head finally started to glow a bit, and by dinnertime she'd accepted the fact that we're going to have to get a mortgage of about $140k to really make this happen.


So I was up until well after 0100 last night / this morning going over the results of my modified search parameters on the real estate sites I use so we'd have some addresses to go check out today.

The Nice Young Guy had her convinced that we'd find paradise in either Wellington or Loveland (I know better, but she flat-out ignored my advice), so today we checked some properties I thought were good matches for us at $400k and under, and then blew the rest of the day bu first going up to Wellington, and then South down to Loveland. She declared Wellington to be "desolate" (huh?) Loveland to be "too far" (no shit, Sherlock), but was absolutely bowled over by the places I found.

Then she started babbling on about "Well how come YOU can find these houses and the agent can't?" at which point I told her she had the agent searching for stuff at $350k and under, AND searching in Wellington and Loveland, etc, etc, etc, but she still didn't get it.

Double Sigh........

Several of the places I found were out off Mulberry where it crosses Interstate 25, and they were knock-outs. Big lots, very well maintained, big trees, and just a very nice, livable looking neighborhood.

And I found a couple of places in the Laporte area at the new price cap, but we didn't have time to see them after wasting THREE HOURS going down to Loveland even though I knew she wouldn't be happy AT ALL going that far away. There's some nice houses down there, but that area is exploding with new growth and houses, and the roads are NOT capable of supporting the volume of traffic that's going to come.

So, it'll be back to dumping more of my stuff on eBay, giving some to the Iowa, some to friends, and some to the recylce / eWaste people.

She has three weeks until retirement, and then I think she'll really start chomping at the bit to get out of SoCal.

I'd post some of the pix I took, but I can't get them off my phone and on to this blasted laptop. It sees the phone, and that's it, even when I switch the phone from "USB Charging" to "File Transfer Mode".


Friday, May 19, 2017

I Finally Get To Meet Little Noah!

And my wife said I was holding him"Like you were afraid you'd break him"!

Yeah, well.....if I broke him he's one of the few things I couldn't fix on the spot, so yeah, I was pretty careful with him!

He's still on supplemental Oxygen (the tubes by his little head), and wired up to the monitor (wire by his little foot), which you can see behind on the shelf.

Sunday and Monday we'll be driving around with realtors to look at properties. My wife has two weeks left at work before she retires, and then we'll kick it up to warp speed to get the house ready for sale.

Now she's thinking we'll be out of Kommiefornia in September. If I would have suggested that time frame even a few months ago she would have slapped me silly.

Oh, well......

eBay sales over the past couple of weeks went very well, and the Radio Room is about half cleaned out now. As soon as we get back I have several more "basket case" radios I'll drag out of the garage and photograph so I can list them. They're all in good condition, in various stages of restoration, and I'll list them as such. Most of the "hard to do" repairs are (properly) finished on them, and for a couple it's simply a matter of reassembling the box of parts that will sell with each, so several people will get some bargains.

We're also planning on having a yard sale, but I think she's expecting *me* to provide the bulk of the items!

She was looking at my 8' tall Glen Martin tower with the azimuth/elevation rotors on it the other day and said something like "You're not planning on taking that thing when we move, are you?", to which I replied "Only if YOU'LL replace it when we get there!".

After she found out the tower, rotors, thrust bearing, mast, and assorted stainless hardware I used to build it would cost, oh, say $2000 to replace, she backed right off. She remembers me building it, how happy I was to get the rotors working with laptop control, and how much I used it for Field Day and other operations. She had no idea what it all cost, and still doesn't realize that some of things I have, and she sees me use, are sometimes irreplaceable, and a bit pricey if I did have to replace them. This has been an ongoing issue between us in "deciding" what's going with us, and what *I* have to dump to keep her happy.

Oh, well.......I'm sure our little house in Long Beach will sell pretty quickly once we put it on the market.

At this point the concept of "Logistics" is finally dawning on her.....

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Arrived In Fort Collins

Got into Denver about 1530 local time, and was met with 40* temps and rain.

Took almost an hour to get our rental car. The agent told us there had been some bad hailstorms in the last week, and a lot of the rental car fleets had half their stock in the shop being repaired. The daughter-in-law confirmed this, saying a few older malls sustained so much damage that they'd most likely be torn torn rather than repaired.

About 30 miles North of DIA, the rain turned to sleet, and then to snow. I've driven in this stuff before, so it didn't bather me too much, but the wife was white-knuckled until we got to the hotel.

Called the kids, and then ordered some pizza to take with us for dinner.

The dogs went completely bonkers when they saw us, as expected, and I got to meet little Noah tonight.

We left their place about 2130, and the snow had tapered off quite a bit.

The Denver Tee Vee stations are in "ZOMG!!! SNOWMAGEDDON!!!" mode, predicting up to 7" overnight.

It's 2245 here, and I'm trashed from the flight and the drive.

More tomorrow........

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Light Posting Ahead

As if I could get any "lighter" than I already am.....

We're head out to Colorado Thursday morning to see the grandbaby, hang out with the family, and do some serious house hunting.

Here's the little guy all dressed up for his first Mother's Day:

I've got about 12 items from my eBay sales to get packed and shipped today, and then have some chores around the house to do before we get out of here.

And I have to get my rolling duffle out of the garage and pack it up.

I'll be on the Iowa all day Wednesday doing some meetings and a recap of our Armed Forces Day Cross-Band test where we had the Iowa on-the-air as NEPM for the first time since 1990.

I went pretty well, with a few operator error snafus, and a few technical problems, but we had a great turn out, plenty of operators, and some great food from one of our new members whose wife owns a sandwich shop, and makes killer potato salad.

Had some "family issues" yesterday that shot the whole day (Rev. Paul knows what I'm talking about), but that seems to have settled down for now.

Pix from the Iowa NEPM ops might be posted later today, God willin' and the crick don't rise!

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Dentist Said...HOW MUCH?!!!?

Oh, boy......

I got back from the Dentist a while ago and I'm still reeling from "Sticker Shock".

I knew I need some dental work as I've been getting food trapped between my rear most molars on the bottom on both sides, and a month or so ago I had a chip break out of one on the lower right side. Plus, I need a really good cleaning as I haven't been to the Dentist since I retired 3 years ago and lost my Dental coverage at the Dentist I've been going to since 1995.

My wife's dental plan didn't cover her, and while I'd been to my wife's Dentist during my lay-off between Boeing and Energia, I just kinda-sorta "never went" back since I started retirement.

WELLLLL.....I need a bit more than I anticipated.

A LOT more, in fact.

About $18k more......

To start, I need a crown on one tooth, but at least that tooth in good enough shape that it doesn't need a root canal.

And I have three fillings that are "leaking" and need to be replaced. The X-Rays show those three teeth are in good condition except that the fillings are shot.

The real kicker is I need THREE teeth extracted, and implants placed there or the teeth above them will soon get all weirded out, and I'll lose them.

And because of a night-time problem of grinding my teeth when I sleep, my lower front teeth are worn to the point that if I don't get all of them crowned, they'll be going bye-bye in a few years....

Looks like my "Colorado Garage Fund" just took a major hit.......

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Little Noah Finally Goes Home!


The natal ICU was happy with his progress, and he hasn't had any "incidents" in a long enough time to be released, so the kids brought him home Tuesday.

Here's the happy Mom with the doggie nannies in attendance:

And here's a short video of the little guy snuggled in his car seat on the way home.

We're headed out there next week to spend a week with the kids and Noah, and do some house hunting.

My wife has TWENTY DAYS of work remaining before she retires.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

President Trump Finally Says "You're FIRED!" to Comey

I was hoping he'd do it in his first 100 days, but hey...better a bit late than never!

Trump Fires Comey

Stand by for a deluge of liberal tears, and the inevitable leftist meltdown.....

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Rainy Day Sunday, Moving Preps, and Other Stuff

Getting some "Spring Rains" here in SoCal. Got about .15" last night/early today, and it just cut loose again.

That's a bit unusual here for this time of year, but not unheard of.

Total as of right now is about .38", and it's slowed from a pretty good downpour (for out here) to a nice steady drizzle.

I'm sloooowly getting the Radio Room cleaned out, and I've gotten rid of about 1/3 of the stuff that was stacked up in here. A lot of it is going on eBay, some on QRZ and eHam, some has been given away, and some of it is outside on the back porch on it's way to either the eWaste place, or the recycling place for anything aluminum or copper. It kind of pains me to scrap some of it as it's older, but perfectly functional, stuff that I know somebody could make use of, but that nobody wants.

Some of it's heavy, and not too many people will bid on a good, usable $10 item if the shipping is $25!

I haven't sold much on eBay in the last year or so, and when I took my latest bunch of stuff to get shipped I got hit with "sticker shock" when I had to pay the tab to ship it. Stuff that used to cost $10~$15 to ship cost $20~$25 this time, and I wound up losing money on a couple of items. The items I put on eBay last Sunday had shipping prices that I thought were a bit high, but people have bids on them, so I guess I'm not out of line.

I don't use the eBay Shipping Calculator as I've found it to be grossly low on the actual cost of shipping, even when I "padded" the dimensions and weight, and ADDED 10% to that! I lost my 10% discount at the place I use as my friend sold the business to a nice young couple so he could go full time into the coffee roasting/selling side business he had going, so that accounts for a small cost increase, but geez.....I'm paying DOUBLE what I did just a year or so ago.

As far as The Great Colorado Move goes, we talked with a couple of handyman guys to get some things done here that I can't or won't do ( I do NOT paint! Long story there....), and one guy never called back, and one guy has a big project remodeling the bathroom at The Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo that's paying him big bucks, and he can't squeeze us in within the time frame my wife wants.

We need some wall repair/painting inside, a driveway gate replaced, and a bunch of other stuff done. This week I'm pulling some antennas down and packing them up, and then the patio area is getting taken down due to dry rot and termite damage. The top of the patio area is where I have my 33' HF vertical, so I have to get that off the "roof" of the patio, pull down my elevated radials, and remove the remote antenna coupler, coax, and a bunch of stuff so my son and I can disassemble the structure.

My wife thinks she can just take my SawzAll and chop the thing down, but I know better, although there's been a few times in the last couple of weeks when I've been tempted to get the SawzAll out, and tell her to have at it........

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Battleship Iowa Armed Forces Day Military/Amateur Cross-Band Operation

The Battleship Iowa will be operating with her original US Navy callsign of NEPM on 11 May 2017 from 0900PDST to 1700PDST, 1600UTC to 2359UTC.

The ARRL announcement is located here, and the official MARS announcement is located here.

Frequencies used to transmit from the ship, and the frequencies we will be listening on, are shown below.

The transmit frequencies have been assigned by Army MARS for exclusive use by NEPM, so you shouldn't have any trouble hearing use as nobody else will be transmitting on these frequencies.

We'll be using our "regular" Commercial Amateur Radio gear and the Disc/Cage antenna on the bow of the Iowa, and the Trussed Monopole located on the top of the AFFF station near the helodeck on the stern of the ship.

The "Grey Radio Gang" WILL be operating the ship's "legacy" on the 75/80 Meter and/or the 40 Meter frequencies.

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’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....

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Story of an Old Firebird, Part 3...

This section of “Jim’s Old Firebird” will cover the engine I built for it, why I made the choices I did, the parts I bought, and how it worked out. This section covers the block and rotating assembly, commonly called the short block.

Design Philosophy -

In deciding what I wanted (It HAD to be a Pontiac engine!), I looked at what was available for my intended purpose, which was high-performance street usage, and road racing. Since I didn’t want maximum torque at minimum RPM, I went with a 400 CID engine size. This gave me what I considered the “best” bore-to-stroke ratio, allowing good torque at midrange RPM (important for exiting corners), while winding high enough to produce good horsepower for the straightaways.

Durability was to be paramount in this engine build, so I had to look carefully at certain items, namely the crankshaft and connecting rods. Good, reliable pistons were easily available from companies like TRW at very reasonable prices, along with high-quality piston rings, main and rod bearings, oil pumps, timing chain and gears, and other things, and the block was deemed suitable by several knowledgeable people. I’ll cover the crank and rods decision, and why I used those pieces, in the “Rotating Assembly” section.

My selection of parts, and this design philosophy, was guided by the wisdom of the guys at H-O Racing Specialties in Hawthorne, California. They had run a series of NHRA record holding cars, and published a book that laid out everything they’d learned about making Pontiacs run strong and last. They also knew the difference between squirting down a quarter-mile, and competing in a road race, and were great guys to talk to on the phone. My selection of a machinist/engine builder was based on reputation and recommendations from several local guys who knew what they were talking about.

Block -

All good structures start with a good foundation, and an engine is no exception. After consulting with H-O Racing Specialties in Hawthorne, California, and my engine builder Jack Waldvogel, I decided to keep the two-bolt main block that came in the car. H-O confirmed that for my intended application, the stock block was plenty “good enough”, and my engine builder confirmed that he’d never seen a two-bolt main Pontiac block fail except under the most extreme use, and then it was almost always a rod letting go, and ventilating the block. This was also a “seasoned” block, having gone 24,676 miles in a street car, and numerous heat/cool cycles which help stabilize the cast-iron in the block.

I spent many hours with my Sears die grinder deburring the block of any and all casting flash and “dingleberries” inside the block that could possibly break off and contaminate the oiling system. There were several small pockets of casting sand/cast iron mixture inside the block that I knocked out, and a ton of casting flash. My strategy was if it didn’t look like it belonged there, it probably didn’t, so I ground it down. The lifter gallery in particular had a huge amount of casting flash which I ground away. I also “radiused” all the oil drainback holes and passages, and broke all the sharp edges inside and outside of the block to eliminate any possible “stress risers” where cracks could start. I didn’t go to the extreme of polishing things inside like the NASCAR and Road Race guys do, as I didn’t see the benefit of it. It was pretty shiny by the time I was done, though. I also didn’t paint the inside of the block with either General Electric “Glyptal”, an oil-resistant electric motor paint, or Rustoleum, as I’d heard too many horror stories of the paint coming loose and causing extensive damage to the engine. Unless the surface is EXTREMELY clean, the chances of the paint peeling off were just too high for me to accept.

As soon as I’d collected enough parts for Jack to get started, I took them all down to his shop so he could get started.

Jack was a great guy, and it’s sad that he’s no longer with us. He was a first-class machinist, welder, and assembly guru, as well as being an all-around Good Guy. My Dad knew his Dad from the Navy, and my Dad sold Jack his Bridgeport milling machine, a variable speed “2J” head, and a ton of tooling; a first-class Bridgeport setup. Jack had also served in the US. Navy, and served time as a Machinist Mate on a nuclear submarine.

Jack bored the block .060” oversize, honed the cylinders on his Sunnen machine, and also decked the block to “square it up”, and align-bored the main bearing bores. He drilled and tapped one of the small press-in plug holes in the block so he could install an Allen setscrew in there that had a small hole drilled in it to squirt oil on the distributor/cam gears. This was a modification suggested by H-O Racing to keep the gears properly oiled. “High Tech” stuff at the time, and in common use these days. All other “small” pressed-in plugs were replaced with Allen setscrews, and the “freeze plugs” were replaced with brass ones. The completed short block was painted black after final assembly. I requested Jack leave the oil pan off the engine, as I wanted to get some pictures of the bottom end, with those pretty Carillo rods. Sadly, I lost those pictures many years ago.

Rotating Assembly -

Since the connecting rods are generally considered to be the most highly-stressed parts in the engine, getting “good” rods is a must. The rods alternately get stretched/pulled apart when the piston is being yanked down the bore during the intake and power stokes, and then squeezed together as the piston goes back up the bore during the compression and exhaust strokes. So, you need to make the rods out of a material that can withstand both tension loading (“stretching”) and compression loading (“squeezing”) without failing. Forged steel is the ideal material for this application, and it’s what almost all “good” connecting rods are made from.

Unfortunately, Pontiac didn’t make most of their rods from forged steel, opting instead to save some money and make them from CAST steel, which they called “ArmaSteel”. For most purposes, like the 400 2-bbl in Mom’s Catalina station wagon, it’s plenty “good enough”. For a 400 CID engine spinning 6,500RPM it’s borderline, and for a 455 turning anything more than 5,700RPM, it’s a disaster. The bad thing about cast materials is that when they fail, they FAIL, almost always by coming apart, a Real Bad Thing to happen to a connecting rod.

So, what choices did I have? Well, I could try and hunt down some 389 Super Duty rods (somewhat available), I could try and beg, borrow, and spend my way into a set of 455 Super Duty rods (chances were slim to none, and Slim just left town), I could get some aluminum rods (NOT! Aluminum lacks the cyclic fatigue strength needed), or I could bite the bullet and order some Carillo Rods. These rods were absolutely the best you could buy at the time, and had an unbeatable reputation. I was told by my engine builder that he’d sent one back that was bent due to an engine failure, and Carillo straightened it, Magnafluxed it, installed new bolts, completely checked it out, pronounced it fit for service again, and sent it back to him “NO CHARGE”. That’s about as good as it gets!

So, taking some advice from H-O Racing, I went ahead and ordered a set of rods through Sontag Speed Supplies but had them made .230” LONGER than stock. The advice from H-O was, as long as you’re paying to have these rods custom-made for you, why not take advantage of the fact that they’ll make them any way you want, and get them made longer? This way, you get the benefits of a basically indestructible connecting rod, AND you get the benefit of a “better” rod length-to-stroke ratio. The rod length-to-stroke ratio is one of those things that you never hear talked about much, especially “Back In The Day”. The benefits are lower peak piston speed and acceleration (reduces stress on the piston, pin, and rod), longer piston “dwell time” at TDC and BDC, and lower piston side loading, which is how hard the piston pushes against the cylinder wall.

Why the importance of longer dwell time? Well, for one, it lets the cylinder both fill better, and evacuate better, making the engine more efficient, and maximizing the cam timing it has.

Since I’d be using longer rods, I’d have to buy special, custom made pistons, right? Wrong! I chose the length to be .230” longer than stock, which is exactly the difference in where the piston pin hole is located between a 400 piston and a 455 piston. I was able to get a set of “30 over” 455 Super Duty forged pistons ordered through Bert Adams Pontiac. These pistons were made by TRW, and had the advantage of having a single “eyebrow” valve relief in them, rather than an “upper” and a “lower” valve relief. This raised the compression ratio slightly, and was proven to flow better than having two valve reliefs in the piston. Remember the longer “Dwell Time” I mentioned? Since the piston is now spending more time at TDC, the piston crown essentially becomes a part of the combustion chamber/intake port “system”, and things you do here can have a big impact on the “Total Flow” in and out of the engine. All I did to them was break the sharp edges with a Dremel tool. The rods needed exactly ZERO work done to them. Jack told me they were balanced as good as he could do it right out of the box. The day they came in at Sontag’s, Bill Sontag asked me if could open the box so he could check one out. He looked at it, smiled, and said “Yep, it’s a Carillo rod”. About the same time Ron Menzer came running out of the back like a kid on Christmas morning, and asked if he could hold one. He oohed and ahhed for a few minutes and then handed it back and said “THANKS”.

So, with rods and pistons covered, I moved on to the crank, flywheel, clutch, and harmonic balancer.

There were few Pontiac cranks made from forged steel that had the required 3.00” diameter main bearing journals. The 389 Super Duty had one, as well as the mythical Ram Air V engines, but that was it. Moldex was about the only company at the time that would make you whatever you wanted, but that wasn’t in the budget for me. I looked around and contacted a few people, but nobody had any 389 SD cranks for sale. SO….turning to H-O Racing again for guidance, I decided a 1970 Ram Air IV cast nodular iron crank would be my choice. It was made of a better grade of cast iron than my 1973 crank, had better heat treating, “rolled” journals, generous “fillets” on the journals, and some other nice things I forget now. Best of all, it “only” cost about $135! Jack “micropolished” the journals after he radiused the oil holes, and did some deburring of it, but that was it for the crank.

I wanted to use an aluminum flywheel because a lighter flywheel has less rotational inertia, meaning you can accelerate it faster which translates into faster acceleration once you’re moving. This means you can accelerate harder out of corners, a perfect fit for a car I planned to road race. Why do drag racers use heavy flywheels? Because a heavy flywheel can store a lot of energy which gets released when the clutch gets popped, making the car accelerate harder from a standstill IF you have the traction (Slicks) to use it. Otherwise you’ll just blow the tires away. The first flywheel I bought didn’t fit the crank, so I talked to Tony at the parts counter, and he confirmed that the early and late flywheels all the had the same number of teeth on the ring gear, so I told Jack to go ahead and machine the flywheel to fit the crank. BIG mistake! It turns out the older flywheels were “flatter” than newer ones, and the first time I tried to crank the engine in the car I was greeted with the stater going “ZIIIING!”, and not engaging the flywheel. I checked the part number I ordered with Sontag, and sure enough, it was for a very early Pontiac V8. I should have suspected something as the box it came in looked older than me, and had an inch of dust on it. Oh, well, order another flywheel, and this time make sure it fits a 1970 Pontiac!

In order to keep rotating mass small (because….Road Race!), I stayed with a 10.5” pressure plate and clutch disc. The pressure plate was a Borg-Warner “Power Brute” unit, and the disc was for an L88 Corvette. I used a Borg-Warner “Power Brute” clutch release (throw out) bearing as it had a different bearing design than an OEM release bearing, which was supposedly longer lasting when used at high RPM. I never had any trouble with the clutch, and it engaged solidly, never slipping. The pilot bearing in the end of the crank was a standard GM pilot bearing.

The harmonic balancer was for a 1970 Ram Air IV engine, and I had Jack “degree” it, cutting timing marks and stamping numbers on it so I could easily set the initial timing, and check the total timing.

Other Engine Related Parts -

I used an OEM Ram Air IV oil pump along with an H-O Racing higher pressure relief spring. I took the pump apart and brazed the pickup tube and screen into the body so it couldn’t fall out, and also checked the clearance between the gears, the gears and the body, and the gears and the end plate. I carefully sanded the open end of the pump body using some 600 grit wet-or-dry sandpaper on a glass plate, with plenty of oil, and did the same to the end plate to make sure they were FLAT, and had a polished finish. This ensured there was no gap between them, reducing any chance of losing oil pressure.

Since this engine didn’t come with one, I ordered one of the “3/4 length” windage trays listed in the Pontiac parts catalog. I used the stock oil pan as it had a baffle in it to keep the oil in the pan near the pickup, but it only worked well in left turns! The car cornered so hard that I constantly had to watch the oil pressure in right hand turns, as I could make the pressure drop just “twitching” the steering wheel hard to the right! Even running a quart over didn’t help too much, and this was an issue that plagued me the entire time I owned the car.

The water pump, was a Moroso aluminum unit that saved a little over two pounds. As I mention later, weight saving was another big item to me, and eventually the car wound up about 400 pounds lighter than when it rolled out of Norwood. The front cover was the one that came with the car. I had Jack check the timing badge to make sure it agreed with the degreed harmonic balancer, and it did.

In the end, the only parts that I used that came with the car were the block, the valve covers, the valley cover, the front cover, the oil pan, and the oil filter adapter. I had a set of chrome valve covers from a GTO, but they didn’t have the oil “dripper” rails inside. Since I read that this could cause your rocker arms to fail from lack of lubrication, I painted the stock valve covers wrinkle finish black, and put them back on the car. I also kept the Unitized Ignition distributor. I carefully shimmed all the end-play out of the gear at the bottom, and replaced the stock gear with a bronze driven gear I bought from H-O racing. This turned out to be a mistake, as about 1,000 miles after I got the car running, the teeth wore through, and the engine quit running when I was at the Car Craft Street Machine Nationals in Indianapolis. I was lucky that it was my last night at the hotel. My friend Marvin gave me a ride home, and then took me back the next day to fix the car, and get it back to Joliet.

"Car People" are good people, always willing to help a buddy in trouble!

The Story of an Old Firebird, Part 2....

The base engine that came with the car when I ordered it was a 400CID 4 barrel lump rated 230HP @ 4400RPM and 325lb-ft @ 3200. It had an advertised 8:1 compression, “Big Valve” (2.11 Intake, 1.66 Exhaust) heads, a 750cfm QuadraJet, and dual exhaust.

Heads and Cam -

Pontiac used many different heads over the years, but after about 1967, and up through the end of Pontiac engine production, the biggest changes were in the combustion chamber volume, and whether they were “D Port” or “Round Port” heads, referring to the shape of the exhaust ports. The “D Port” heads were the standard heads, redesigned for better flow in late 1967, while the “Round Port” heads were high performance only, and were first seen on the 1968 “Ram Air II” engine. The Round Port heads would go through several designs, culminating with the 1973/74 Duper Duty 455 heads, the best heads Pontiac ever released to production. There were some other differences, like whether they had screw-in rocker arm studs, or pressed-in rocker arm studs, with the 4-bbl engines almost universally getting the screw-in studs. The porting was pretty good on the “4X” heads that came on the car, and except for the large combustion chamber to lower the compression, they were very good street heads for 1973. One change Pontiac made in 1973 was to reduce the exhaust vale size from 1.77” to 1.66”, primarily to cut down on exhaust flow out of the combustion chamber, allowing them to use less recirculated exhaust gas in the EGR system.

The cam used was the “067” camshaft. This was almost a “performance” cam, as the next one up was the fabled “068” cam that was originally used in the “TriPower” GTO motors. The 068 cam definitely had a “rumpity-rump” idle, and the 067 had just a trace of it. I helped a buddy put an 068 cam in his ‘74 T/A, and he called it his “Mini Super Duty”.

The 068 cam had an advertised duration of 288* Intake, 302* Exhaust, and a “Duration at .050” of 212/225. Valve lift with 1.5:1 rocker arms was .408”/.407”, and it was rated as being good for “Idle to 5,000RPM”.

The 067 cam had an advertised duration of 273*/289*, a duration at .050” of 200*/213*, with a valve lift of .408/.407. It was rated as being good for “Idle to 4500RPM”.

One thing to note is that all Pontiac “performance” camshafts had about 10* more duration on the exhaust side. This was used to overcome the inefficiency in the stock Pontiac exhaust ports. If you look at a cross sectional view of a Pontiac cylinder head, you’ll notice the exhaust gas has to travel quite a distance inside the cylinder head from the combustion chamber to the exhaust manifold flange, almost 180*. The extra duration on the exhaust side helps to alleviate this restriction by allowing the exhaust gas more time to exit the chamber.

The first time I ran the car with open exhaust I was amazed at how freely the stock engine pulled to 6,000RPM, which is getting a bit scary with the stock Pontiac cast “ArmaSteel” connecting rods.

Intake and Exhaust -

The stock engine had a 750cfm Rochester QuadraJet carburettor on a cast-iron intake manifold. Except for the facts that it was a) cast iron, and heavy, and b) it had an EGR system, this was a “good” intake manifold, as “good” as any earlier Pontiac stock 4-bbl intake manifold with the exception of the aluminum “455 H.O” intake manifold.

The exhaust manifolds were terrible. A simple cast-iron “pipe” (a “log style” manifold) bolted to the cylinder heads. They were heavy, and didn’t flow very well. The OEM cross-flow muffler at the rear of the car was generally considered to be an effective “cork”, even though it had 2.25” pipes to and from it. A fairly quiet muffler, with a decent sound, but pretty restrictive.

Block and Rotating Assembly -

In 1973, all Pontiac 400 CID engines had two-bolt main bearing caps. Pontiac blocks were pretty beefy, and even though the main bearing caps “only” had two bolts holding them down, they also had large steel dowel pins pressed into the block that the caps mated to. This kept the caps from moving around under high RPM/high load situations, and made the blocks with “two-bolt” mains nearly as good as the ones with “four bolt” mains.

The stock crankshaft was nodular cast-iron and very durable.

The stock pistons were cast aluminum and very durable.

The stock connecting rods were cast steel (“ArmaSteel”) and not so durable. They were generally considered “safe” for ~6,400RPM in a 400, but were pretty much guaranteed to fail at that speed in a 455. The extra HALF INCH (actually .461”) of stroke in a 455 pushed the stock rods well beyond their design limits, and they’d snap.

The stock flywheel was cast-iron, and weighed about 40 pounds. The stock clutch disc and pressure plate were 10.5” in diameter, and of a diaphragm design, pretty standard GM stuff.

Drivetrain -

Muncie M-20 wide-ratio 4-speed transmission (2.52 first gear) with an OEM “Hurst” shifter. The OEM versions of the Hurst shifter were quite a bit different than the aftermarket ones you could buy from your local speed shop. The shift rods were smaller diameter (more flex), and where they connected to the transmission shift arms, and the shift mechanism at the base of the stick, had larger, softer bushings to keep them quieter (more slop). The stick was also attached by two injection molded plastic pins, rather than being a bolt on stick. I’d heard stories of the stick coming off in the driver’s hand after repeated slam-shifting, which caused the plastic pins to fracture.

The rear axle was a GM “10 Bolt” with a 3.42 ratio, equipped with Pontiac’s version of GM’s Positraction, called Safe-T-Track. Combined with the M-20 transmission, this combination gave excellent gearing for acceleration in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, with 4th gear being a great cruising gear on the highway. You could think of it as a “3 speed with Overdrive”.

That pretty much covers the engine and drivetrain the car came with. Next section will cover the engine I built for it.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Story of an Old Firebird.....

A lot of my Facebook Hot Rod friends have been asking me questions about my 1973 Firebird, so I thought I’d get this down before the sands of time drift any higher on my memories of it. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of it, so you’ll just have to Google for pix to satisfy your curiosity…...

1973 Firebird Formula 400

VIN: 2U87T3N119585

Decodes as follows:

2U87: Pontiac Firebird Formula Sport Coupe

T: 400 4bbl dual exhaust (230HP @ 4400 RPM, 325 lb-ft @ 3200)

3: 1973 model year

N: Norwood, Ohio assembly plant

119585: Unit number

4,622 Firebird Formula 400’s were produced in 1973. Hagerty currently values these cars (1973 Firebird Formula 400) from $7900 in “poor” condition, to $39,500 in “concours” condition, with stops along the way at $14,300 for “good” condition, and $26,800 for “excellent” condition examples. They have no adders/subtractors for auto/manual transmission or “rare” options like mine had.


Codes listed are GM Regular Production Option (“RPO”) codes and/or any other relevant product codes.

Cameo White Paint (Paint Code:11), Black Standard Interior (Trim Code:361), M20 Wide-Ratio 4 speed transmission (Transmission Code:36E/M20/UA), 400 4bbl Dual Exhaust Engine (Engine Code:35S/L78/WP), 3.42:1 Safe-T-Track (positraction) rear axle (Axle Code:371/G80/CM), Unitized Ignition (Code:694/K65), Ram Air Hood (Code:634/WU3), Formula Handling Package (Code:342/Y99), Variable Ratio Power Steering (Code:501/N41), “Formula” Steering Wheel (Code:464/NK3), Rally Gauge Cluster with Tach (Code:714/WW8), All Tinted Glass (Code:531/A01), Front Console (Code:431/D55), Concealed Wipers (Code:432/C24), Rear Deck Lid Spoiler (Code:632/D80), AM-FM Stereo Radio (Code: 415/U58), Front Floor Mats (Code:621/B32), Rear Floor Mats (Code:622/B33), Heavy Duty Battery (Code:692/UA1), Heavy Duty Radiator (Code:701/U01), and Lamp Group (Code: 344/Y92).

The options totaled $1240, and the base price of the car was $3270

The list price for all this Pontiac Goodness was $4582, and the other salesmen at Bert Adams Pontiac in Joliet were stunned that it was almost $4600, and “Didn’t Have Air!”, to which I replied “Yeah, but it’s got Ram Air!”.

The “Unitized Ignition” was only offered in 1973/74. It was the precursor to the GM “HEI” (High Energy Ignition), and as far as I know, was only offered on Pontiacs. The coil, cap, and plug wires were all integrated into the distributor, and it looked a bit like a “3/4 Scale” HEI unit. This was a significant upgrade at the time, and even worked perfectly after I put the rebuilt engine it. It never misfired, and worked all the way to 6800 RPM, where the valves floated. Normally I shifted the rebuilt engine at ~6500RPM, but a couple of times I goofed and went “just a bit” higher.

The Ram Air hood consisted of opening up the front scoops of the standard Formula hood, and inserting some metal grilles, and adding some rubber boots on the bottom of the hood that mated with a special air cleaner base. There was a vacuum flapper assembly in each one of the snorkels that mated with the rubber boots on the bottom of the hood, and they only opened to allow cold air from the scoops into the air cleaner at wide-open throttle. The rest of the time, the inlet air to the carburettor came through the cardboard hose that attached to a sheet metal “heat stove” bolted to one of the exhaust manifolds.

The “Y99” Handling Package included all the specific components that the Trans Am used, such as the 1-1/2” front sway bar and 3/4” rear sway bar, special mounting hardware for the front bar (it used BF Goodrich “Rivnut” inserts in the frame and cap screws instead of just large, self-tapping screws), special rate springs and shocks, 15x7 rims with 60-series fiberglass belted tires, and a few other things like different suspension bushings. If you ordered this with the power steering option, you also got the special variable ratio power steering gear box that was used in the Trans Am.

The “Heavy Duty” cooling option came with a gigantic “Four Core” radiator and a “Flex Fan”. The car NEVER overheated once, or even came close to it in traffic, after I installed the rebuilt engine, and was well worth the pittance GM charged for it, a staggering $21!

They car was delayed for “Release to Production” several times for the Ram Air components, as well as several times for the Unitized Ignition, as these were very low production options.

I took delivery of it on 26 February 1973. It came with an OEM “Hurst” shifter, and Firestone “Wide Oval 60” F60-15 white-lettered fiberglass belted tires. I didn’t order the optional styled steel wheels, as I had already purchased a set of American Racing Equipment “Torq Thrust 70” aluminum rims in the 15x8 size. The standard rims were 15x7 plain stamped steel rims with little “Dog Dish” hubcaps.

Before the car was a week old, I had the Americans installed on it, and had a set of Doug Thorley “budget” headers on it. I got the “cheap” headers because they fit very easily, and with a stock engine running into the restrictive cross-flow muffler at the rear of the car, spending the big bucks on a set of equal-length, hard to fit Hooker Headers would have been foolish.

A few weeks later I installed a set of Koni shock absorbers on it, set about half between “no damping”, and “bust your fillings loose”. The OEM shocks were actually pretty good, and were a new GM design called “Pli-A-Cell”, which used a small plastic bag full of Nitrogen at high pressure inside the fluid reservoir to reduce foaming of the fluid. It was an early attempt at a modern “Gas Charged” shock absorber, and was a hybrid between a gas shock like a Bilstein or KYB, and a “regular” shock absorber. I gave them to a buddy with a bone-stock 1974 Camaro, and he noticed an immediate improvement over his worn out shocks. He also wound up with the OEM 15x7 steel rims which he put a set of Goodyear “PolyGlas” tires on when his OEM tires wore out. A few weeks later he put a set of Trans Am sway bars on the car, and had a pretty good handling Camaro. Still had a 307 2bbl and an automatic, but he had a lot of fun with his car, and that’s what’s important.

The only other engine modifications I did to it were to increase the initial spark timing, “curve” the distributor to bring the mechanical advance in faster, and rejet the 750cfm Rochester QuadraJet carburettor. Many people bad mouthed the Quadrajet as being junk. They weren’t. They were a very adjustable carburettor, and once you understood them, they were excellent units. My car with the rebuilt engine ran a best of 13.01 @ 118 MPH in the quarter with street tires and the Q-Jet. And yes, I experimented with a 750 Holley Double Pumper and the Q-Jet on an Edelbrock Torquer intake manifold. The Torquer killed some bottom-end, which made the car hook up easier, but the ET and trap speed stayed basically the same (low 13 seconds, 114MPH headers closed, 118MPH headers open) compared to the GM OEM “455 H.O.” cast aluminum intake I preferred. This intake looked almost identical to the famed Chevrolet “Z28 Dual-Plane High Rise” intake except it was for a Pontiac, fit a Q-Jet, and had a separate cast-iron exhaust crossover under the main aluminum body of the manifold. It was absolutely the best intake manifold you could get for a Pontiac back then, and it blew the Torquer away on the street with more midrange and better throttle response.

Next: Base Engine specifications and my mods to the engine and car…...

Thanks to the magic of the Internet, the son of one of my best friends asked his Dad if he had any pictures of the car, so here you are.

Me, in full "Hot Rod Hippie" Mode:

Getting cooled off by my friend's wife:

Driving the car ON THE TRACK at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

These pictures were taken at the Car Craft Street Machines Nationals in 1979.