Time for my annual post

Has it been a year since I posted here? Oh well. Not like anybody reads this anyway.

TR6 almost done

TR6 almost done

So the car is almost done. Just need to put the new interior in. I rented space from Chris again and drove the TR over there in late September. It runs pretty well, starting easily and idling nicely. There’s a vibration that starts up around 40 but I’m not sure what it is. Feels like a seat of the pants thing, definitely not from the front end. Can’t feel it through the shifter so probably not the drive shaft but what do I know? I suspect rear tire balance. Will check it out in the spring.

Right now I’m inclined to sell the car next year. The restoration was an adventure and I enjoyed it very much but the car is less inspiring. Not that I expected it to match my Infiniti but it doesn’t grab me, you know? No regrets, it’s always about the journey. Will I do this again? Not unless we move into a house with at least a 3 car garage. I hate storing the thing and definitely want to park in the garage in the winter.

I tend to have a short attention span and it is rather surprising that I’ve stuck with this for going on 6 years. Guess the tens of thousands of dollars invested had something to do with it :) So now that it is almost done, my mind is wandering away… Just bought some metal working machines to start a new hobby. Got a 7×12 lathe and a small mill. Cleaned up and painted the garage too so now I have a proper little machine shop.

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Most of the car is in storage

The 6 has landed! Finally got it on the ground and rolling. Haven’t finished the fuel line connections or distributor so the engine hasn’t been run but that’s for the best right now. I refinished the gas tank and installed it. The rear suspension is done but the front shocks are still sitting on the shelf, waiting for some rust removal and touchup. The car came with Konis so I want to just refinish them.

I needed to get the car out of the garage but the local storage shops wanted $300+ per month for heated bays. My painter came through with a friend that had room in his GarageTown storage. Nice guy and a fellow car nut. So I put the 6 up on a U-haul dolly and towed it the half mile to the garage.

I kind of miss seeing the car in the garage but I don’t missing parking outside. It’s -15F tonight…

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The end is in sight!

I’ve been working on the car regularly for the past few months and it is starting to show. The wiring is almost done and the engine is also close. The lights and wipers work. I rebuilt the wiper motor and gearbox and was a little worried about it but it works like a champ. Rebuilt the carbs and powder coated them. They look good. Time will tell if they work :)

I upgrade the alternator to an AC-Delco unit that can put out 78 amps. The 75’s have a low slung alternator under the air pump but I removed all the smog gear and put the alternator up higher like the earlier cars. The bracket is different but fortunately (really?) I had broken the engine and had to get an earlier model to replace it. The bracket is very hard to find so I kind of lucked out :) Lemonade out of lemons…

The exhaust is done with stainless pipes and T-bolt clamps. The pipes were hard up against the t-shirt going through the frame so I wrapped them with header tape to prevent rattling. I hate rattles.

The brake master cylinder and vacuum assist were rebuilt by Brake Materials and Parts, Inc.. The service was quick and the parts look great. Had the booster powdercoated gloss black. I got Toyota calipers for the front from TSI. Also got their stainless braided oil pressure line and kevlar shoes. Good stuff.

I powdercoated the intake manifold and rear drums with high temp silver. The exhaust is high temp black. That was done by Anchorage Custom Powdercoating, another great company that also did my frame and trailing arms. I pc’d anything that would fit in my oven…

My plan right now is to get it running by September and then store the car for the winter while I refurbish the seats and other trim. I only have a 2 car garage and will not be parking outside any more!

I had a Toyota Tacoma which sat outside for the last 4 years and a Saturn Sky that I stored during the winter. Sold them both and bought an Infiniti G37x.
That baby will be in the garage this winter. I park it on my wife’s side for now but she has made it clear that she will be in the garage before the snow flys. She has a nice VW Eos. Every morning I leave before her and put her car in the garage so she doesn’t have to walk out in the rain (she parks in a garage at work too.) It’s the least I can do.

I hope to write a few articles about some of the work here. Maybe someone else can benefit like I have from the work of others.

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Getting wired

The new Advance Autowire harness is going in. I used to do avionics installations on large aircraft so this isn’t intimidating but it is time consuming. This harness is routed a little differently and has a completely different junction/fuse system. All the wires are at least one gage thicker and the insulation is thicker leading to a fatter bundle.

I mounted the relay board in the passenger foot well. This seems to be a popular location.
relay board

There is a large hole in the firewall that you can see above and to the left of the board. I was going to run the harness through this hole but didn’t like the route it would take in the engine compartment. I cut a hole leading directly forward but didn’t like that either. Now the harness goes to the left toward the battery. This was the cleanest I could come up with.

Behind the dash I’ve terminated most of the wires.
Just need to finish the connections in the center console area. Here’s another in progress pic.
dash wiring

Once the dash termination is done I’ll do the external lights and rest of the engine. Hopefully I can do a power test by the end of the month.

Big jobs to do:
Rebuild carburetors
New brake system (really…new Toyota calipers and rebuilt master)

The rest is mainly refinish and reassemble. I’ve got an all new interior. Still need to get a new ragtop but that can wait.

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Much time has passed, but not as much progress…

I haven’t had much time to work on the car until recently. My company has embarked on some new service offerings and I have been busy helping to make them happen. We’re still crawling but at least there is momentum. Back to the car…

Here’s what I’ve accomplished over the last 12 months:

  • Built up and installed the ‘new’ engine
  • Installed the transmission
  • Installed Ratco front and rear sway bars (more on this)
  • Installed a rebuilt R200 diff
  • Installed the shortened driveshaft
  • Installed Ratco coil-over shocks
  • Installed Goodparts CV axles and hubs
  • Started to install an Autowire harness
  • Installed a stainless steel exhaust system
  • Put the body back on the frame!

That doesn’t look like much if you’ve never done this kind of thing before. OK, I had the list in my head before I started and since I had never done this before I figured it was just a couple of weeks work. If I had been able to work full time on it that may have been true but alas somebody has to pay the mortgage on the garage with the attached house. My lovely, generous and oh so understanding wife does have her limits :)

The engine cleaned up nicely and I put the new timing gears and chain on it as well as all the powder coated parts meant for the other engine. I may rebuild the other engine if this one proves faulty or just more anemic than I can stand.

No big surprises here. Just bolt it in. The diff went in fairly easily. The real challenge was the rear sway bar. The Ratco bar goes over the top of the diff rather than under it. The stock diff is not very ‘stout’ where the bar passes over but the R200 is rather ‘chubby’. There is a large bump that is probably a key into the diff mount on the donor car that has to be ground off just to make it fit a standard TR6. The sway bar hits the case even with this ground off flush. I contacted Tony at Ratco and he said that I could grind more off because the case is thick there and any interference between the case and the bar was not a problem. I beg to differ :( Turns out the case is only about 1/4″ thick after grinding off the bump. I cut through long before making enough clearance. Fortunately the diff hadn’t been rebuilt yet so I just welded it up. I also could not accept the bar rubbing. The point of the bar is to transfer a torque to the other side of the car. Any friction interferes with this and reduces the effectiveness. Anyway, I ended up bending the bar to clear the diff. One bend in the middle and a bend just inside each mount point to make it straight again. Hopefully the picture illustrates this well. Oh yes, the Ratco bar is gray with black spots. I had mine powder coated black.

The top of the page shows the current state. I want to write up separate posts about each major component with more pictures. Let’s see if I follow through.

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I broke the engine!

I was checking out the crank bearings and somehow managed to put the #3 cap on backwards. When I was torquing it down, it felt ‘soft’ and I backed off both bolts and tried again. The second time, it tightened fine but later when I tried to turn the crank it was seized :( I pulled that cap and found the bearing was smeared and one leg of the cap was cracked. In several places. And the hole was elongated. Crap!

Oh well, I’ll just order a new one… No such luck. None of the big suppliers even sold the caps. Turns out they are machined in place. This is to ensure that they are perfectly aligned for the crank. This makes total sense but it means that my little oops is going to be costly. Checking with others on the 6-pack forum it sounds like this could cost several hundred or maybe several thousand dollars. If I bother to have the block repaired, I might as well check the cylinders and pistons. No doubt they’ll need some work. Let’s not forget the head either. In for a penny, in for a pound. Just rebuild the whole damn thing. But I hate the idea of dropping thousands on an engine just to end up at the measly 100HP of a stock motor. To get more costs additional thousands. The cheapest way to add 50 horses is a supercharger and that’s only about $4K. I would have rather gone straight to that but was assuming my engine didn’t need major work to prepare for it.

At this point, I seriously considered swapping in a V8. A 302 with aluminum heads would be a little lighter and have a hell of a lot more power, especially in the torque department. Lots of people have done this. I researched for days looking at details of motor mounts and firewall modifications. The cost is comparable to a well sorted stock motor. I think I could do it for under $5000 depending on the engine. If I could find a decent used one, the cost could be considerable lower. But…

But the body is freshly painted and I just got the frame back from the powder coater. I would have to weld new mounts on the frame. The firewall in the body would almost certainly have to be cut. The steering has to be re-routed. All these things are doable but I really don’t feel like starting over.

So I stopped by my painter, KJ Restorations, and asked him for a machine shop recommendation. He told me about a few but when I described my problem, he said he had a couple of TR6 engines :). One was right there in his shop. But this one wouldn’t turn over. By the looks of it at least one cylinder is rusty. It might not be too bad but I don’t need 2 broken engines. The other engine was in a car at a storage area. KJ and I went there a few days later to have a look and so far, it is promising. The engine is easy to turn over and it looks like it’s had recent work done on it. The head is freshly painted blue (the block is not) and there’s not too much gunk on it. The oil is clean. So KJ offered me both engines for $250. Of course I bought them :) It took a few days to coordinate a tow but he brought the car by my house yesterday and we pulled the engine. It wasn’t too hard since the tranny was already gone and there was only one bolt holding it in. There was a block of wood between the head and the firewall. The exhaust manifold was already unbolted.

The donor car is a ’72 so the engine is a CC series. Fortunately it is a late model and has the later block and head. My freshly powder coated manifold will bolt right up. Another bonus is the alternator mount. My ’75 had an air pump and the alternator mounted below it. The earlier cars didn’t have the pump and the alternator mounted higher. The mount adapter on the block is smaller so I can use that on which ever engine I end up using.

Right now I’ll see if the new engine (the good one) is serviceable. If so I’ll just clean it up and install it. Then I can decide if I want to rebuild one of the others. I hadn’t gone very far on the original engine so there’s a complete set of gaskets ready. I have a new timing chain and sprocket set for it. The cover for that and the water pump housing are pc’d. I sent the harmonic balancer off for rebuild. Oh that is another story.

I was cleaning the crank pulley and noticed what I thought was an o-ring on the face. I tried to dig it out but ended up cutting it. Then I looked on the other side and saw the same kind of rubber ring. Hmmm…me thinks this goes all the way through… Crap! I just ruined the harmonic balancer :( Oh well, what’s another hundred bucks.

What got me looking at the crank in the first place is the the thrust washers. These are half rings that sit on either side of the rear most crank bearing block. They provide a sacrificial bearing surface under fore and aft loads on the crank, like when the clutch is depressed. Optimal axial play on the crank is under .005. My original engine had .010. I pulled the washers and measured them. The front was .092 and the rear was .096. So to get down to say .003, I need a rear washer that is .103 thick. I’ve been in touch with Scott of Custom Thrush Washers but will now need to check the ‘new’ engine.

Note to self: get some pictures up here.

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Engine work

I decided to put the engine back on the frame before working on the suspension. The weight will stabilize it and that’s how I took it apart. I took lots of pictures but still wish I had taken more. There’s no such thing as too many especially with digital. The higher the rez the better too.

I removed all the external parts of the engine and am now reassembling it. The timing chain was out of spec (.43 with .40 max) so I got a new chain and sprockets form Goodparts. I’m powder coating everything that will fit in my oven. The block was painted with POR engine enamel. I’m having the rocker cover, sump and exhaust coated at Anchorage Custom Powder Coating.
Here are some pics.
Brake and fuel lines were run first
pipe runs
I polished and clear coated the brass brake parts:
front tee
Engine before
pre cleanup
Engine after
post cleanup
PC’d water pump housing
water pump housing

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Let the reassembly begin!

After several missed dates and 3 weeks overdue, the frame is back from the powder coater. It looks great :)
black frame

Next steps:

  • Install new fuel and brake lines
  • Install front suspension loosely
  • Wait for the trailing arms to come back from PC :(
  • Reassemble the rear suspension with the Ratco coilover mod

That should keep me busy for a while :)

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Finally getting back at it!

I haven’t had much time to work on the car lately. I had to go out of town for a few weeks so I’m just getting back into it. The frame is supposed to be done at the powder coater ‘mid week’. Since it’s Friday, they obviously missed that date but I told them I’d rather have it done right even if it took longer. So far they are keeping up with the ‘longer’ part :)

I’ve modified my toaster oven to get better temp control. Here’s what it looks like now.
Oven wiring
And the front ‘in action':
Oven running
The top number is the actual temp and the lower number is the set point. The actual is higher than the setting because I had just lowered the set point from 450 to 400 per the powder instructions. Yes, I occasionally read those :)

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Approaching the half way point

I dropped the frame off at Anchorage Custom Powder Coating today. Loaded into my truck last night:

In a couple weeks the frame will be done and I can start putting this thing back together! I have to blast and coat the rest of the suspension parts. Next I need to inventory all the parts and plan the reassembly. I have lots of new parts and will match them up with the old stuff so I don’t bother refurbishing pieces unnecessarily.

Estimated time of completion? Spring 2011 :(

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