Category Archives: Mechanical

Finding out the condition of the car.

With the Chieftain home, I started to dig into assessment of the condition of the body, mechanical and electrical parts.

First up, to determine what the car is fitted with. The Fisher body plate offers a small amount of insight:

body tag

Paint code 5128, Starmist Blue. Kinda close to what’s on the body right now. Trim code 71- the “deluxe” interior. A dark gray/light gray combination, with broadcloth seats and tufted buttons on the rear seats. Someone has had the car reupholstered, and it’s been done well; they’ve kept a lot of the features, just instead in shades of blue.
The VIN shows it was built in Atlanta, Georgia in 1951. It’s an 8-cylinder car and has Hydramatic gearbox. All pretty much what I found. That’s a good start.

Wires. Frayed.

The wiring is just plain fire hazard. It’s been chopped about, the insulation is all gone in places, it’s brittle and generally in poor shape, particularly as the car has been “converted” to 12V from 6V, badly.

tangle

The interior is in really quite nice shape, just grimy. None of the electrical systems worked. The clock was halfway falling out; I set it to 5 o’clock because, well, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.

5pm

There’s been a fair bit of new metal let into the body and it appears to have been done well.

rot

There’also a few places where it’s gone quite bad- typical muddy and wet locations on the car.

rear lights

the back of the car is in moderately good shape- I applied a little heat to the light lenses, rubbed them down with fine grit paper and then polished them. That made an improvement as they were very hazy and heavily cracked before. PMMA (acrylic) is a thermoplastic, so some of the cracks and crazing will re-melt together with a little heat.

rear lights lit

A little messing about with wiring saw the rear lights illuminate.

chief mascot

The Chief head mascot on the hood is again sun-crazed (PMMA like the rear lights). With the addition of a fresh bulb he lights up.

rusty reflectors

The front park/turn light assemblies were not working. Cleaned them up but the reflectors are very, very bad. I think a rub-down with wet-n-dry and a polish then application of bright shiny “aluminum” finish paint may save them to a workable standard.

wash glass

The glass lenses cleaned up nicely.

parking lights

Between times, the lights do still come on and are visible. I’ve seen worse!

gearshift indicator

I took apart the gearshift indicator assembly on top of the steering column. It’s a cast metal fitting with a nice shiny aluminum insert, through which the position indicator labels fit. I saw on the circuit diagram that there is a light bulb inside, so went take a look see.

lenses

Sure enough there is. A little metal container with a light window on the front, which moves with the lever arm to shine light through the appropriate position window. There were some green circular pieces of plastic stuck in the mechanism, I found two and refitted them.

filters

The N, Dr and Lo positions are now green, with the R in white. I am not sure if all the windows had the green filters and one of them has vanished, but that made sense. The solder joint had also come off the wire. That needs redoing.

illuminated position lights

With my flashlight behind the lenses, they glow nicely.

polished up

The bezel was polished up and refitted, looking nice. It needs to be clean, it’s right in the driver’s line of sight.

jukebox speedometer

I also managed to track down a bad connection and got the turn signals working. Fitting some new bulbs to the dash indicators saw them working also.

Chieftain.

It’s all been a bit quiet here lately. There’s a good reason, though- with a small backstory.
An interesting car pops up in the Facebook classifieds locally. A 1965 Pontiac Catalina. Running condition with a little cosmetic work needed. Sadly due to circumstances I missed out on the sale. The car was well under list price and was snapped up. As such, I had a sulk and started looking for cars (not something I often do). There was very little both affordable and interesting locally and in New Orleans, so I expanded my search and centered on Baton Rouge instead.
A few more cars show up; Baton Rouge seems to have a better following of old cars, plus sadly many in New Orleans were destroyed or moved away after the flood following hurricane Katrina.

However, one interesting vehicle pops up. A 1951 Pontiac Chieftain. The pictures show it to be in cosmetically good condition for its age, looking like it had seen a restoration a number of years prior and was in need of another now. I convinced my wife to let me go see the car, to have a poke about and determine if it was a complete basket case or not.

Pontiac at the dealership lot

The gentleman at the lot grabbed the jump pack and started it up. It sat and idled happily for fifteen minutes. I had a poke around, found a little bit of rust but mostly solid metal and my suspicions that it had seen some restoration work were confirmed. Somebody had converted it (not well) to an alternator and 12 Volt electrics. Most of the electrical parts of the car did not work. The steering was a bit sloppy but the brakes were good, and the gearbox engaged gear without slipping in Dr and R. I thanked him and I went on my way. That, however, was it. I had decided at that point, if I could afford the car, I was going to buy it. Time passed, finally some money (kinda) cleared the bank and I called back to check the car was still on the lot. It sure was! I said that I could bring cash money the next day. Sold.

Collection day set- Labor day, 2018.

coffee brewing

I organized a car transport trailer via U-Haul for the following Saturday. The weather was forecast to be rather unpleasant, but becoming worse for the following week. First things first though. Put the coffee on.

Silverado

Towing weapon of choice. Our trusty Silverado.

Change Oil Soon

Oh. Well, I do know that I need to change the oil, but that timer wasn’t reset last time the oil was changed. Let’s take a look…

Pull out dipstick

Dirty and dusty Vortec hiding under the hood.. GM really got their money’s worth out of that engine.

dirty oil

Err, well yeah. It does need to be changed then. But, there’s enough in there. Checked the ATF, that’s all still pleasantly clean and at the correct level.

breakfast

Coffee and muffin consumed, and we are ready to go!

Interstate

Out up on Interstate 10, north of New Orleans. Trailer was a one-way deal, collect near to the car and drop off near home. The weather was already beginning to turn intermittently rainy, though traffic was heavy through the city it was flowing well. Out the other side and it was nice light traffic all the way.

Loaded up on trailer

Paperwork done, all loaded up onto the trailer and ready to go! It was a long drive home, taking surface highways. I didn’t fancy driving the Interstate in Labor Day weekend traffic at 55mph. Plus, Interstate 12 was busy and I-55 from Hammond down to Laplace is 22 miles of raised concrete bridge which is bumpy and without trailer hitched up sets the truck into a pitching wobble over all the joints in the concrete.

finally home

Unloaded it in the twilight and rain- it didn’t want to jump start due to bad connections but finally I got it running and parked up. Returned the trailer and crashed out to sleep. The following day was heavy showers interspersed with sunshine, not ideal for poking and prodding at a new car, but that’s the way it goes. I took the battery out and put it on the bench- trickle charge on a dumb charger for a day or so saw it begin to take a charge, and it now has enough in it to reliably start the car. Go figure.

More to come!

Driveshafts, bad rubber and grease

I’ve been fighting issues with the GTA for a while- the two that are persistent are the leak from the power steering and the continual habit the car has of busting up CV boots. It will split open the boot around the outer seam and redistribute all its grease all over the wheel and suspension.

old driveshaft

I started out a few weeks ago with the original driver’s side driveshaft on the bench.

hole

It felt slack and horrible and the boot had a hole in.

yuck

The innards were horrible. The grease was a mixture of rust and gunge that had absorbed water and been mashed up into an emulsion that had the consistency of gone-off yoghurt. It smelled similarly bad, too.

clean

Spent a good while with gasoline and brushes and cleaned it all up nice.

other end

While I was at it, I cleaned up and re-greased the other end.

new boot

Stuck a new boot on it. I bought a “universal fit” one from Auto Zone as it was exceptionally stretchy, designed to be opened up wide with a tool and fitted without having to remove the drive shaft. I figured that would assist in the longevity of the boot.

car in garage

Fast forward to today. Lo and behold, there’s a car in there still.

hub nut

First order was to remove the hub nut with the wheel on the ground, handbrake applied. It’s done up tight so a quick application of gravity, momentum and body-weight was required to undo it.

broken boot

Broken CV boot. This joint was howling and you can see why. All the grease is gone and the water’s gotten in and yuck. Irritating because that’s the correct part for the car. People have told me that these cars like to destroy CV joints, and this is likely the reason why- the design of the boot is poor and over-stretches it on full lock.

leaky jack

My jack put up a protest as I pressed it back into service. It’s enjoyed being sat about doing nothing.

wheel off

Removed the roadwheel. It was surprisingly easy to remove, having last been apart in 2016.

caliper removed

Removed the caliper. From here on the job turned unpleasant as everything was covered in a thick soup of grease and road grime.

disc off

Judicious application of large block of wood saw the disc removed from the hub. LEaving the wheel bolts on stops it from flying off and being damaged as it hits the floor.

hub

Hub undone, everything off and out of the way.

breather

Taking a breather, the car all up on a jack, finally being worked on again. Nice to see (relatively).

spring compressors

Reason for the wait? These evil things. Spring compressors, which grasp either side of the coil spring and compress it (adding significant potential energy to the system).

compressed spring

Spring wound up enough to take the pre-load off the suspension.

strut out

Strut removed from the car, allowing the hub to rotate out of the way and release the driveshaft. At this point the work got too greasy and dirty to take many pictures. I managed to knock the bearing off the inner tripod and spilled the roller pins out. Spent a little while trying to reassemble it but gave up. Exchanged the old tripod to the new shaft and went about it that way.

new boot

New boot in, on and turned to maximum. That’s the most stretch it’ll see, and I think this boot can tolerate it.

car down again

Set the car back down having tightened everything back up. Ideally I need to get under there and thoroughly clean it all out but I did not have any solvents available to remove the grease to hand. I think I’ll get some brake cleaner and give it a thorough wipe down under there. At least it’s unlikely to rust.
Other side has split in the same fashion, that’s up next but if you search back here you’ll see that’s a gearbox-drained thing to do. What fun.

Cycle rectification

I had pulled all my test equipment out to align my radio again;

test bench

So, I started my bike up and checked the output of the generator with my oscilloscope.

scope on bike

The output was rather spikier than hoped for into the negative, so redoing the rectifier was in order. Possibly the vibration was too much.

circuit

I finished up the latest revision of the regulator board, with a new Zener to bleed off any excess input voltage, a resistance across the input capacitor to bleed off any stored charge, a mechanically better connection to the board and some adjustment pots.

More generator issues

Checked the output of the generator with nothing connected.

running

With no load it was causing the capacitor to saturate at about 46 Volts. Not so good!

fractured

Also, the main voltage regulator chip had vibrated loose and fractured off. I made a bracket to secure it to the board better.

secured

Bolted down securely, and relocated the capacitor; however with only the rectifier in place I’m reading a fairly significant AC component on my multimeter. I’m going to hook my oscilloscope up to it and see what the output looks like. I have a feeling possibly one (or more) of the diodes have failed.

Ergs

I had originally clamped the new exhaust pipe by cutting a couple slits in the end of the pipe, pushing it over the outlet of the muffler and clamping it down with a Jubilee clip. This proved unsatisfactory as the Jubilee clip could not be adequately tightened without slipping. They are ultimately not designed to be done up very very tight anyway, so I decided a U-clamp would be a better option. I went to the local hardware store and had a rummage around. I discovered a 3/4″ wire rope clamp, which had a decent clamping surface.

clamp

It’s a little oversized, but it has clamped the pipe very effectively. I also polished the pipe up, which came up really nicely.

diodes and coil

Next up was to pull the generator winding out and build up a bridge rectifier. I wanted to get the most out of the coil, so some modification was required. It was wound with one side to ground.

bridge rect

I de-soldered the end of the wire to ground and built a bridge rectifier so the device could use both sides of the wave output.

capacitor

Tucked in a capacitor.

generator fitted

Fitted everything back in and connected it up in a testing fashion.

led

Hooked up an LED on the low beam light, as it’s more efficient and will not drain the battery so much. The color temperature is also acceptable, at a moderately warm 2700K.

voltage regulator

Began work on building a voltage regulator. Built it up on breadboard first and tested with a 12V supply to check it regulated correctly down to the 6V required by the system.

breadboard regulator/charger

Translated the regulator and charger circuit to Veroboard, attempting to keep it as compact as possible.

warning light

I had wanted to have a no-charge warning light, so decided the best way to do that was to have a comparator circuit. Compare the voltage coming in to that of the battery (across a voltage drop, in this case a diode) and illuminate a light when the input was less than that of the output.

switch

The switches I had purchased were set up that the on/off rocker was green with a green LED and the on/off/on rocker was red with no illumination. The front panels were printed with I O II style lettering to show the positions. I took the on/off switch apart and fitted a red LED inside.

new faces

I reassembled the switches after having sanded the old labeling off and adding some new, more appropriate symbols.

lamp test

Testing showed the lamp illuminated adequately.

live test

Hooked the breadboard up to the bike and ran the engine to test operation. That proved successful.

comparator circuit

Completed build of the comparator circuit on the Veroboard.

bench test

Final bench test, under full load of the regulator and warning light circuits.

handlebars bare

Took a break from electronics at this point to clean up the handlebars, which were very rusty and flaking paint that was applied badly in the past (not by me!). Sanded the handlebars back to bare metal.

painted handlebars

Masked up and painted the handlebars gloss black to match the fenders.

handlebars reassembled

Reassembled, the finish is acceptable.

back to wiring up

Resumed wiring up the switches to the lights (with a set of diodes for the rear light so as not to back-feed the front lights.

first test

First test, on battery. Main beam at that point did not have a light bulb, the original was 12V.

wiring diagram

So now, it’s a bicycle, with a wiring diagram. The colors of the wires did not match as I had bought a trailer harness with a nice detachable plug for the back and the wires coming off the switch were all different colors.

leather bag

I fitted everything into the little leather satchel below the seat.

wired up

I need to finish up and cover this up with some looming tape or some other covering but for now it’s tidy.

neat

All set up, neat and tidy.

Reflecting upon red plastic

One thing missing from the back of my bike was a reflector. It likely had a rectangular one under the seat when it was new- that to me is not really very much in keeping with the ethos of the bike so I had a rummage and found this on Amazon:

Reflector

A 1 1/4″ round reflector, metal backed, made in New Jersey. I made up a small metal bracket, painted it black and attached it below the light on the rear fender.

lit

Ordered also a small module housing a couple switches to operate the lights and ignition- the push-button on the handlebar that currently kills the engine is going to be for a horn of some description, something a little louder than a bell.

switch

Annoyingly, it arrived broken. I glued it up and now it’s better. Next up, dismantle, rub down and paint up handlebars… then refit all the parts.

New paint; a stark contrast, illuminated.

Decided to rub down and repaint the fenders on the bike. I had never been very fond of the gray/white color scheme and with the addition of the gloss black fuel tank it started to look out of place. Plus, the white paint was beginning to look in poor condition from being stored out in the elements for years.

DA sander

Started with some 120-grit paper on the DA sander to take the old paint down to a good surface and provide a key.

rubbed back

Once rubbed back it was wiped clean. The paint is really very thick and has protected the metal well.

gloss

Gave the fenders each a couple coats of rust-protect gloss black paint and left them hanging to dry.

polish

Between times I decided to see how the exhaust pipe would react to a bit of polish. As it turns out, really very well.

reassembled

Moved the rear light to the back of the rear fender and reassembled everything. Just needs the handlebars rubbing back now and painting up (again, black).

as-was

It’s quite a difference from how the bike started out. This is a picture of it a few years back.

mag

Next, I turned my attention to the lights. The magneto stator was meant to come with two windings, but only arrived with one. I ordered a replacement but that arrived with one winding and two wires soldered to the output. Utter nonsense.

generator stator

Bought an extension piece to the stator that turned it from a horse-shoe shape into a full hoop with a second winding to generate power for lights.

illumination

At a fast idle it creates enough energy to light the 4.5W bulb in the headlight. I might end up doing what I did not want to and fitting an LED lamp to it instead, as it is significantly more efficient and should power from the generator acceptably from idle on up.

Computer stuff and a motor assisted bicycle

I got fed up of having a mismatched set of drives and a hole in the front of my TRS-80.

neat and tidy

This prompted me to go find some software and find a way to transfer files to and from the TRS-80. Turns out running an emulator, using it to convert binary files to hex, transmitting them across serial and converting them back works well.
Also, on a plus note, have managed to get a word processor software working and printing properly. Real proportional print on the old daisy wheel printer!

snow

It snowed. This prompted good “out in the garage” type work, as it was pleasantly cool.

pile of parts

I decided to try a bit of a fun project. Bolted an engine to my bicycle. A few things needed a bit of ingenuity- the sprocket at the back is clamped to the spokes between two discs of rubber. That pushed it too far out and didn’t let the brake work (hub brake on the rear wheel).

rag joint

An afternoon of adjusting and tinkering and setting up and I got it to run.

motorized

50cc, 1.5hp.. geared to do about 20-25 tops. Decided it needed a speedometer. Ordered an old-fashioned mechanical one. Decided I did not like the face that was on it so redesigned it, in the style of 60’s BMC Smiths gauges.

gauge design

Printed out rough draft and compared to the one it came with.

faces

The gears also had no lubrication, instead relying upon the nylon being inherently slippery- that only works for a short while, so added some silicone grease to try extend the lifespan of them a little.

face

Mounted the face, decided it looked well enough. Painted up the center of the needle with silver paint.

spray paint

Finish is acceptable. Not mirror but certainly shiny.

shiny

All finished up, looking better than it did.

speedometer

Took a while to calibrate, and it’s far from accurate but it’s good enough for the job it’s doing. Also, pulled the trip reset dial off and blanked it, turning it into an odometer.

black chain guard

Painted the chain guard up, made a few adjustments to the way the chains route.

lens

Bought a light set for it, the front lens was all hazy. Polished it up so it was a lot clearer.

clear

All back together it looks a fair bit better.

lamp

All attached to the bike, adding to the look and usefulness.

lights

Next up is an engine driven generator, switchable to the wheel generator. Might add a battery in there someplace but for now it’s all AC lights.