Thursday, August 11, 2016

Things That Go Bump In The Night

Satisfied with the new grille opening, I decided that the original front bumper needed the heave ho. Several reasons dictated this event. First, the plastic upper and lower portions were looking shabby. The black upper was turning a charcoal gray color. Armorall and other treatments were temporary and not really much good anyway. The second reason was lighting. One thing, about this truck, that has never been satisfactory, are the factory headlights. That is giving them the benefit of the doubt. The lighting is the worst of any vehicle that I've ever owned. I ordered a pair of KC 6 inch, round, driving lamps. I do not want them on a light bar or mounted to the top of the bumper. The new bumper will have two 6 inch holes in it so I can put the lamps inside of it. To my eye, this will look cleaner. I am still going for a more heavy duty look but, again, I want to avoid the off road, rock crawler look. While I was at the metal supply, getting the material for the grille, I grabbed half a sheet of 11 gauge steel. Back in the shop, I made another cardboard mockup. The thicker steel does pose a minor problem. Unless you're Hercules, you aren't going to cut it with snips. All the cuts were made with the torch or a cutoff wheel in my power saw. I hesitate to call it a Skilsaw, since it was a freebee, off brand saw. It lasted through about 4 or 5 feet of this abuse before copious amounts of smoke belched out of the motor housing. So, back I goes to The BORG and buy a new Skilsaw. I have a worm drive model 77 but, it too, needs help because of quite a few years of horrible abuse. So, I chose a lesser model, sidewinder style. I'll try not to kill it, but I do need to repair the old workhorse. I made each piece of the new bumper with one, factory cut edge. That way, I could use that edge to align the ragged, torch cut edge of the adjoining piece and, with luck, get a nice straight seam so it would look as if the bumper was formed in a press brake rather that a bunch of weldments stuck together. So far, my plan has worked and the seams are all nice and flat as well as being straight. All total, there will be about a dozen separate pieces going into the completed assembly. The rest of the job will be pretty boring. Lots of cutting, welding and, most of all, grinding and filing. At this point, I have finished all of the cutting and have most of the pieces welded together. The welding and grinding is tedious and filthy, but I hope to have it done soon

Saturday, July 2, 2016

No Turning Back

Well, I went ahead and welded the new surround to the hood. Again, I made a series of tack welds, a few inches apart, from one end to the other. I then connected the tacks, working about half an inch at a time until the entire piece was welded in. After a bit of grinding, to smooth thing up, I spread a coat of  plastic body filler over the entire seam. There were two, very minor, low spots that required a second coat of mud. At no point is there even an eighth inch of filler anywhere on the hood. Just a thin skim coat. I hit it, again, with the epoxy primer and dusted on a guide coat  from a spray can. For those unfamiliar, the guide coat aids in the final sanding, prior to paint. The area is sanded with blocks and long boards until the black is gone. If any remains, then additional work is needed. It might be just a few more coats of primer, some spot putty or, worst case, some more body work. I think I'll get by with minimal extra work. It seems pretty smooth, as it stands. I'll bust out the sandpaper and blocks, later today, and see how my handiwork looks

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Don't You Be All Gettin' Up In My Grille, Dude

The paint prep is going well on my truck. I'm taking my time and doing it right. I used to paint cars for a living but, to be honest, I was never very good at it. I am good enough to do it one more time, I think. Aside from the peeling paint, the chrome on the grille surround has bubbled badly and begun to peel, as well. The surround is made of plastic with a "chromish" finish on it. It held up OK, I suppose and, probably, better than the cheap plating that is used on most steel parts these days. Thanks Erin Brockovich. I could have opted for a replacement from the dealer, But I have heard that they begin to bubble pretty quickly since they've been on the shelves for years. The other choice was a cheepo, eBay, Pacific Rim, knockoff. Yeah, right. So, with a plan in my head and a song in my heart, I went to the metal supply and picked up half a sheet of 14 gauge steel. Back at The Fongderosa, I took some cardboard and duct tape and made a mock up grille surround, Pleased with the way it looked, I transferred the patterns to the sheet metal and cut out the pieces with snips and a circular saw with a metal cutting blade. I made up some tabs that bolted to the hood where the original grille was attached. I then formed, with a hammer and dolly, a little bump up in the center of the surround to match the profile of the hood. I then tacked the new upper portion to the tabs, working from the center to the outside edge of the hood. Two separate pieces were welded to the ends of the upper and bent down, vertically to the top of the bumper. This completed the upper and side part of the grille. Using the same cardboard patterns, I cut out the face of the surround. I cut it in two matching, mirror image pieces. They were then tacked to the completed upper and side portion. Once everything was straight, level and even, I finish welded everything together. I worked an inch at a time and skipped around to keep warpage at a minimum. Once I was finished, I reinstalled it on the truck to check the fit. I needed to grind and file the edge, a bit, where it meets the hood. At this point, I am pleased with the look and the fit. After some thought, I have decided to weld the new surround to the hood. This should give it a custom look and confuse onlookers who, if they know the Dodge trucks, will realize that something is different. My plan, all along, was to paint it the body color, so why not make it all one piece. The actual grille, itself, will be some simple expanded mesh, left over from the barbecue build. Hey, Left over parts from a grill to make a new grille. Seems fitting and the price was right. The mesh will be powder coated in a matte black finish that will match the new front bumper. What bumper, you may ask? Stay tuned, the old factory bumper is headed for the scrap heap. I have a plan, again in my head, for a new bumper that will be very purposeful looking without being overly huge and off roadish. Something that hits a happy medium between stock wimpy and ten ton, Baja 1000, giant winch, overkill. It will have provisions for some high intensity driving lamps. The stock headlights never were, especially, bright, so they will make our roadtrips more pleasurable since my night vision isn't what it one was.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Thanks, Tree Huggers

In the past 6 or 7 years, my old Dodge truck has developed MoPar leprosy. We've all seen it. Trucks, usually silver, usually Dodges, with large patches of paint peeling off. It is relentless and there is no cure. It is because of the crummy waterborne paints that the manufacturers have to use so no unicorns will die. Now, I love my old truck. 300,000 miles and it runs as good as it did the day I drove it home. Unfortunately, it looks like it went through the hammers of Hell. Besides the paint, the interior is shot, as well. We will be addressing that part later on. Paint first. The black portions have held up fairly well, though the clear coat has failed. What remains is easily removed with a bit of judicious sanding. So, I have begun to prep the old girl for new paint. Most of the black has been sanded smooth and shot with epoxy primer. I've never used the stuff, being an old lacquer primer/surfacer guy. I have to say, it went on real nice. It has a long pot life and it cures hard. Yet, it is easy to sand and it fills well. I like it. Ordinarily I would have prepped the entire truck and masked and shot all the primer at once. Not being familiar with the product, I opted to do it a panel at a time. The hood, roof and B pillars are primed, guide coated and sanded smooth, ready for color coat. I will do the fenders and doors in the next few days. As they are, mostly, silver, all of the old flaking, peeling paint will have to come off. No problem, as it falls off on it's own. I do want to properly prep and paint the back of the cab. This will require removal of the bed. I have, pretty much, decided to leave it off and build a flat bed. The old bed is pretty beat and I'd rather not deal with it. I've watched a bunch of YouTube videos showing different bed builds. Some, very nice, some OK, some lousy. I have a plan, in my head, of what I want. Attractive, but functional

Saturday, April 23, 2016

WOT's New

A while back, I modified my throttle shaft to allow my carb to open all the way. It worked well, for a while. I noticed that it still wasn't going WOT, so I moved the ball fitting a bit closer to the center line of the throttle shaft. Much better.......until last Saturday. I was riding along and the throttle stuck in the idle position. I jury rigged a fix and was able to finish the ride. Upon getting home, it was evident that the pull on the cable was almost passing across the center of the shaft. No good, at all. I brainstormed it, for a while and decided that I needed something like most bikes have, a circular drum that allows the cable to pull, regardless of the distance from the butterfly shaft. I tossed a hunk of aluminum in the lathe and whipped up this gizmo. It screws to the throttle shaft via a sheet metal strap that I riveted to it. The cable slips in a radial groove on the edge of the drum and is secured in the open hooked hole. After a few tries, it works slick as snot on a brass doorknob. I only had to deepen the groove a tad more to get WOT. The deeper the groove the quicker the action.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Buttoning Things Up

I finally rode the bike today. It ran OK, but still not what I was hoping for. I returned to the shop, figuring I would tinker with the timing and carburetor adjustment. First, I decided to clean up a bit. Put tools away, sweep the floor, do some light house keeeping. As I was sweeping the floor, I noticed a small object being pushed into the dustpan. Further investigation showed it to be the contact button from my distributor cap. The spark had been jumping 1/2 inch, from the coil to the rotor, instead of traveling through the contact. Not good. I yanked the cap off and put the button back where it belongs. The bike fired right up and ran so much better. The idle was better. I reset the timing and all seems well, at this point. I'm so glad that I noticed that button, as I was cleaning up. I would have chased my tail forever, trying to figure out the problem

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Joining The Reserves

I finally got all of my ducks in a row and fired up the bike. I only ran it for 30-40 seconds. The pump seems to work well now. I was surprised to see the amount of gas that flowed from the idle bleed line. I had it running into a can and it pumped a quart, or so, into it. I thought it was no big deal, and I'm sure it is normal. Normal for a standard installation, that is. As we know, this is far from normal. I soon realized that there was a big problem. Let's back up a few years. When I added the pump, I also added a three way valve. On, off and reserve. It has worked flawlessly. When I run out in thee main tank, I would reach down and switch to reserve. Easy Peasy. Now it is very evident that this will not work anymore. Why, you may ask. The culprit is the idle bleed line. When I switch to reserve, the pump will draw from the reserve tank as it always did. However, and this is a big however, the idle bleed line will still flow the excess gasoline into the main tank. I estimate this will take 2 or three minutes and then my reserve tank will be sucked dry. Now, I could then, switch back to the main tank but this seems ponderous and Mickey Mouse. So, what I did was re engineer the fuel lines. The three way valve went into the parts stash. I ran a line from the main tank to the fuel pump suction side. I teed into that line and ran another hose from the tee to the reserve tank. In between the tee and the reserve tank, I installed a small, electric fuel pump and an electric shut off valve. When I run out of gas, I just flip a switch, the valve opens and the fuel from the reserve tank is pumped into the main tank. After 5 minutes, or so, I can switch it off. That's it. Nothing else to do but to look for a gas station.