Friday, February 24, 2012

Bonneville - Speedweek 2011

I'm not one of the guys who goes to Bonneville to take picture of their car on the salt then complains about how hot it is the rest of the time.  Well, I don't have a car worthy of that photo yet, anyway.  I don't go just to say I've been, or as an excuse to go to the casinos in lovely West Wendover.  I go to Bonneville to see the most varied group of vehicles you'll ever see in one place all try to accomplish the same thing:  Go faster than anyone else (in their individual class) has before.  I go to talk to the folks who are trying to break records about what they think is going to do it for them this year.  I enjoy the contrast and camaraderie;  million-dollar machines against shoe-string budget entries, and how one will help the other at the drop of a hat.

This year, I was lucky enough to assist Paul Heady in his try at bettering the Vintage Fuel Altered class record that he currently holds.  Paul is a friend of Clay Slaughter, who, with Mike Galli were going to meet me at the Salt Flats anyway, so when Clay found out Paul needed a hand this year, he volunteered us all as crew.  Unfortunately, we came close, but didn't quite beat it.

Paul Heady's '34 Coupe 

The Pit 

Clayton quick-changin'

After a few days of tryin' we exhausted all our available options, so Paul decided to throw in the towel.  With my time free, I was able to check out what others were up to and get some photography done.  Here's some of the stuff I shot on the salt and in Wendover:

Okay, okay: the flames might be a bit much, but I liked the shot anyways. 

On Sunday night, it pissed down rain, and on Monday, there was a pretty deep lake at the end of the access road, so a bunch of cars were left there, rather than salt dipped.  Gee, darn:  That won't make a good photo at all! 

Always been a favorite of mine 

Sorry there's so may shots of this car, but it just kills me.  Couldn't be helped. 

Salt bath aftermath. 

Thanks tons to Paul and crew for putting us up, (or should I say putting up with us).  Months later, I'm still thinking about what a great trip it was.  But then, I suppose that I could say that every year.  Yet another thought to keep one warm through the winter months...  Next year.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My '24 T Roadster Project, Part 1

So, in the fall of 2010, one of my oldest friends Clay calls me up and says he's got a 1924 Ford Model T body, a Model A frame and enough other stuff to scrape together a budget-beater project for me, and why didn't I come down to Santa Cruz to start working on it with him?  How could I say no to that?

Well, I didn't, and in late January 2011, he was pickin' me up at the airport for the first week of work.  Task 1 was sorting through all the extra stuff he had and separating the stuff for myself, items he wanted to keep, and things to take to Turlock later that week.  That done, we had set aside a collection of body panels which would make a '24 T Roadster, a Model A frame with no front or rear cross members, a '38 Ford truck grille, a set of wide 5's, and a 21 stud flathead V8, as well as various other bits and pieces.  We spent the next couple of days driving from one corner of the county to the other, collecting more items:  450 series tires from Tim in Aptos for front rubber, a Model A rear end from one of David's stashes in Lompico, etc.  We basically found donations for most of the stuff we needed, so it was worth the leg work.

 Most of my car was in this shed.

Body panels, what would become the front cross member, etc.

As the front end seemed the appropriate place to start, we lopped off the haggard old horns from the frame and used an early Model T rear cross member to create the arch for a suicide perch.  A sturdy chunk of angle iron with a little reinforcement made up mount for the front spring.  The front end is a Model A spring, unmodified '33-34 Ford axle and juice brake backing plates mated to the Model A spindles with adapters.

 Model T rear member doin' it's new job up front

With the perch

Front end assembled

On the other end, we pinched the frame so that it'd fit under the Model T's turtle deck, which lead to the discovery that the distance we needed to span across the rear was exactly the same size as a Model A rear cross member that Clayton had laying around.  Clay had always said, "sometimes these cars just build themselves," and I was beginning to see what he meant.  We then fashioned chunks of that same old Model T frame as braces over the ends of the rear cross member, giving it a pseudo-Z'd effect.

We also bolted up the body and did some rudimentary repairs thereon, so we could see what it was that we were working on and how everything would go together.  I liked the way things looked already.

Body on the frame

That was about it for the first build trip, but in the summer of 2011, I made another trip down with the family, and on that trip, I sorted out the rear end which was all full of gravel, (doesn't it make you wonder where all these old parts have spent their lives?).  Then I cleaned up the wide 5 wheels and got the big and little rubber mounted to 'em.  We scrounged up a pair of rear wide 5 drums, bolted juice brake backing plates to the rear axle, (upside-down, as we realized that they wouldn't clear the rear spring perch otherwise) then added those drums and finally the wheels and tires. 

Rear end on the frame

Clay had discovered an F1 Ford truck center cross member in one of his sheds, and knowing that F1 pedals are easy to place and mount, we decided to remove the Model A center cross member and replace it.  I tried to get that frickin' stock cross member out of there, but it was stubborn, so that was going to have to wait until the next trip.

And actually, that puts us squarely in the present.  I just got back from Clayton's, and it was a successful trip.  We finally managed to get the stock cross member out and dropped the F1 unit in.  That done, it was time to get the front drums that George Antoline provided, (see the post George and I) on the rest of the front end, and get the front end mounted to the frame.  After that, I yanked the torque tube and drive line from the rear end and mounted that to the frame as well.  Thankfully, Clay has a plastic flat head mock-up block, so instead of busting our backs trying to mark out where the motor mounts would go, figuring all that out was a cinch.  We set the plastic block in place and quickly realized that the F1 cross member put the transmission a bit too high, so sectioning the cross member to drop the transmission mount down seemed to be the best bet to remedy the situation.  Cut out, trimmed down, and welded back in, it was a good time to get all of the body parts out of the shed and see what the whole picture was going to look like.

Yeah, I was pretty happy with how it looked, so we got that chunk of plastic out of there and positioned the real motor in place so that we could start making the motor mounts.  Since the transmission mount was still a little high, this gave us another issue to deal with:  How do we keep the engine level when it's so far above the frame?  Clay picked up some scrap tubing that was within arms reach as well as the motor mount bushing and held it to the gap we needed to fill.  "What if we made little towers to put on top of the regular mounts to take up the space?"  That sounded good enough to me, so I went about creating the little podiums as Clay welded in the standard motor mounts.  Once all that was completed, we bolted the motor in and checked it out.

Our solution to the engine height problem

Now that the weight of the engine was on the frame, we could figure out where to attach the front wishbones.  Clayton gave me an early aftermarket bolt-on split wishbone mount to copy, so I got busy making myself a pair.  Though they didn't come out as nice as the old cast one Clay had, they were definitely sturdy and would do the trick, so we squared up the front end and figured out where they needed to be located.  Clay got those welded in, so what else did we have time for on this trip?

Not much, as we were also going to the Turlock swap meet again for the last couple of days.  We shortened the torque tube and got that bolted back in, as well as took a look at where the pedals were going to mount up, but that was about it.

Motor in, bones attached, this is how I left 'er

Turlock was a good time, and was actually pretty warm this year, for a change.  The running joke was "First Summer Turlock meet ever!"  I scored a set of F1 pedals, (so I could return the ones I borrowed from Tim) a pair of front fender irons and a light bar.

And now I'm back in Washington.  In some ways, it's difficult to be 845 miles away from a project you really want to be working on, but in other ways, I suppose it's good, too.  I save up all my motivation for when I go down there, and when I'm there, I can focus without a whole lot of distraction.  But I will say this:  If you run into me and I have a distracted look on my face, chances are that you could guess what I'm thinking about...