Sunday, November 13, 2016

Carl La Fong...Adult Idiot™

The bike has been giving me fits for 6 months. In an, ever increasing, quest to spend as much money as I can, here's what has transpired. The carburetor has never been right from day one. I had two, very good, people go through it. One at the beginning and another a few years later. It was OK, but still never ran right. I finally sent it off to a guru in Pennsylvania for his Super Legatz Stage II rebuild. Worse that ever. It spewed gas out of every orifice in the carb. Multiple efforts to determine what was wrong were met with failure. Having had enough, I went to the auto parts and ordered a brand new double pumper Holley spread bore. I stuck it on and fired it. It ran OK, but there was still some problems. This is where it gets hazy. I cannot recall in what order I began throwing money at it. It was a frenzy. I replaced the plug wires. Top of the line set. Very expensive. New Accel Super Coil. New Accel cap and rotor. New Module, New pickup coil. New plugs. Now I have a bike that won't even try to start. Now, I'm sitting on my little stool, dejected and ready to call the scrapper. I look at the distributor and there are two connections. One for the tach, which I don't have and the other is the hot lead. Everything looks fine. I think, "Hmmmmmm?????", so I switch the hot lead to the tach terminal. What can I lose? If I fry something, I have plenty of extra modules. It fires instantly. I had the coil leads, inside the cap, reversed. You would think that there would be only one way to assemble it, but nooooooooooooo.............that would be too easy and make it too simple for guys like me. You would also, incorrectly, assume that the red wire was the hot lead but, again, no that is the tach connection. I guess the upside is, I have good, used cap, rotor, coil, module and pickup coil as spares, that I will never use, I'm sure

Sunday, November 6, 2016

LaFong Lampoon Vacation


We were invited to our nephew's wedding in Boise, Idaho. We both were in the mood for a road trip, so we hitched up the trailer and headed north, up Highway 395 to Reno, where we then drove to Elko and then north, again, into Idaho. Very nice drive. We attended the wedding and took off the next morning for eastern Oregon. We camped along the way for about a week until we found ourselves in Bend. We camped, again, for a few days in La Pine at a nice state park. We thought we would head over the Cascade Lakes region, but after just 4 or 5 miles, it began to snow pretty hard, so I whipped a U turn and drove back to La Pine and got back on the interstate. We decided that we would try Crater Lake. Now, what made me think that it wouldn't be as bad, or worse, weather than we encountered in La Pine will remain a mystery. I'll chalk it up to wishful thinking. As we were going uphill to the park entrance, it began to snow. We were only about a mile from the lodge, so I figured we've come this far, how bad could it get? Wrong question. As we came around a curve, I slowed down a bit, since the road was getting a dusting of snow on it. Once around the curve, I hit the gas to downshift for the grade ahead. The truck lurched hard and there was a loud "POW", and then nothing. There we were, sitting in the traffic lane, dead in the water. I had no gears that worked. I think I snapped the input shaft of the transmission. After a bit, two or three people came by and asked if we needed help. I asked then to notify the ranger at the park of our dilemma. Some time passed and no ranger appeared. There is, also, no cell service, so we couldn't call 911 or AAA. Another person drove up and said he would drive me to the lodge. So I jumped in and off we went. When we got there, it was a ghost town. Closed for the season. We saw UPS delivering something at the store, so we knew there was someone there. We found someone to let us in and I was able to call AAA. We returned to the truck and the Samaritan headed off. After several hours, panic set in. It was pitch black and snowing and no tow truck in sight. Finally, I saw emergency lights in the distance. The driver had gotten bad directions, but looked until he found us. After getting hooked up to the tow truck, we climbed into the cab and he drove us to Klamath Falls and dropped us off at an inexpensive motel. 80 bucks a night, minimal cable TV, worst WiFi ever and cereal, bagels, weak juice and coffee for breakfast. I guess southern Oregon's definition of inexpensive is different than SoCal's. Anyway, the next morning, I called the local Ram dealer and told the salesman that if he wanted to sell a new truck today, to pick us up at the tow yard. About 15 seconds later, he shows up and it's off to the dealership. I finally settle on a Ram 2500 Cummins Diesel, Crew Cab, 4wd with a 6 speed manual transmission. Papers are signed and we write a big ol' check. Now, we still have to get the fifth wheel hitch installed so we can get the trailer home. They tell us a day and a half. Too long, sez I. I go across the street to U Haul and they say 5-7 days to get the hitch and another day to install it. A large U Haul dealer and they don't have a hitch in stock?? So, we head to an RV dealer in town and he says, 2 1/2 weeks!?!?! Now the day and a half is starting to sound pretty good. As promised, the hitch is in and we're good to go. We bid a fond adieu to The dealer and go to the tow yard and fetch our trailer. We make a bee line for home and get there in, about, 11 hours. Now, how to get the old beast home? I go online and find an auto transport outfit that sounds perfect. 600 bucks and they'll deliver it to my door. They have several drivers in the Klamath Falls area and can get on it right away. I say, "Do it". the next day, I hear nothing from them, but I do hear the same BS story from 20 other people in an endless stream of emails and text messages. OK, I see what's going on. A bunch of flim flam men, basically brokers, who have no trucks or drivers of their own, hoping a desperate driver will take the load at their, cheap price. You know what they say about getting a job done right? Yup, do it yourself. I call U Haul and tell the lady on the other end what I need to do. She takes all of my info, what I'm hauling, what I'm hauling it with, where it is, where it's going and so on. She says everything is set and the trailer will be waiting in Klamath Falls. She will text me the location. So, we fuel up and back to KF we go. We arrive late in the afternoon and there is, still, no text. I go back to the same U Haul that I went to for the hitch. "Nope, we don't have it. Gimme your name." he enters it into his computer and tell us the trailer is at another dealer a few miles away. It's too late to pick it up, at this point, so we drive by the other dealer to see where they are. No problem, we'll get it in the morning. We drive to WalMart, the cheapskate RVers campground and try to sleep in the truck. That works about as well as you might expect, but we do manage to get a few hours of shuteye. Back to the U Haul lot to get the trailer. The guy says, no problem, the trailer is here, I just need to get the information from you, again. I give him all of the same info that I gave the lady on the phone when we were home. He says that he cannot rent us the trailer. The old truck won't fit and the new truck won't haul it. I tell him, while pointing at the new truck, that it would pull his building off of it's foundation and why won't a regular cab, long bed truck fit on his trailer. He tell me that his hands are tied and the computer won't allow the deal to go through. This just keeps getting better, moment by moment. There we are, 800 miles from home, without a clue. I go to the tow yard and ask if they ever deal with this sort of thing. Nope, we are just a towing and retrieval service. I go back to the dealer and ask if they do dealer trades and if their guy could help us. They said they could get the truck to Chico in a week. That's only half way home, not good enough. They suggest I go to the RV supply that quoted us 2 1/2 weeks for the hitch. They also rent trailers, he says. Back we go and I tell the guy what I need to do. No problem. I sign a few papers, hand him the debit card and we're off to the tow yard. Of course, by now, it's raining. Still, they get it on the trailer for us, we pull out the debit card again, and we're homeward bound. Again, we drive straight through, just stopping for fuel, food and to pee. We hit the front door around 11 pm. and hit the sack. Next morning, I roll the old truck off of the trailer, safe and sound, though it's seriously wounded. Here's where it gets even worse. The trailer is a two way rental, unlike U Haul, where I would drop it off at a local dealer. You guessed it. The next morning, we're on I-5, headed back to KF. We, wisely, decide to sleep in a motel, this time. A stop over in Redding and we're back at the RV dealer by 11 am. A quick unhitch and we're southbound before noon. An uneventful drive home and we're in bed before midnight. A tick over 3600 miles in one week. I have to say, that this truck is twice the truck as the old one. Quiet as a Cadillac, pretty smooth ride, especially with our trailer hooked up, tons of power, decent mileage, really cool Sirius XM stereo and a back seat to store all of our road necessities. I like the manual transmission. Just feels right. Turns me from a steering wheel holder into a truck driver. Real trucks have three pedals and no spark plugs. In all, it was an expensive, frustrating, tiring vacation. It also was fun and a bit exciting. It all worked out well. I got a spanking new truck. I thought I'd never do that again. Our trips, from now on, should be without incident, at least a far as mechanical issues

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.