The Truth About Cars » Don’t Try This At Home http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 05 Dec 2014 13:00:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Don’t Try This At Home http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/editorials/dont-try-this-at-home-editorials/ Hacking traffic lights for fun and profit! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/hacking-traffic-lights-for-fun-and-profit/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/hacking-traffic-lights-for-fun-and-profit/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 17:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=875361 In a few weeks, at WOOT (the USENIX Workshop on Offensive Technologies — an academic conference where security researchers demonstrate broken stuff), a team from the University of Michigan will be presenting a lovely paper, Green Lights Forever: Analyzing the Security of Traffic Infrastructure. It’s a short and fun read. In summary, it’s common for […]

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Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 11.00.15 AM

In a few weeks, at WOOT (the USENIX Workshop on Offensive Technologies — an academic conference where security researchers demonstrate broken stuff), a team from the University of Michigan will be presenting a lovely paper, Green Lights Forever: Analyzing the Security of Traffic Infrastructure. It’s a short and fun read. In summary, it’s common for traffic light controllers to speak to each other over a 5.8GHz wireless channel (much like WiFi, but a dedicated frequency) with no cryptography, default usernames and passwords, and well-known and exploitable bugs. Oh boy. And what can we do with that?

We want our traffic lights to coordinate with one another. This streamlines the flow of traffic. If an attacker can mess with that coordination in an arbitrary fashion, then they can for example ensure they always have green lights. They can ensure others don’t. The opportunities for mayhem may seemingly allow your imagination to wander to the low point of Bruce Willis’s career: Live Free or Die Hard, wherein cyber-baddies redirected traffic in a vain attempt to squish our action hero. In reality, probably not. One of the curious things about the computer design for traffic light controllers is that there are really two computers stacked one atop the other. The “MMU” computer has a bunch of basic rules it has to enforce (e.g., minimum duration of yellow lights) and if the fancy controller tries to create panic at the disco, the MMU says “umm, no” and goes into flashing red, requiring somebody to manually come out and reset it. Which is to say, an attacker who wants to do more than a little tweaking here and there is likely to just dump all the lights into blinking-red mode and just piss everybody off.

So… I’m sure you’ve got questions. Let me see if I can anticipate them and act like I know what I’m talking about:

How hard is it to pull this off? Surprisingly easy. About the only thing that’s non-trivial is getting hold of the proper radio hardware, and that’s a pretty low bar.

How hard is it to fix this? Harder than you’d think. These radios do support WPA2 (the same crypto standard used to protect WiFi networks), and cities could deploy it. They’d inevitably end up using the same key material everywhere, but that’s certainly better than doing everything in the clear. More importantly, these signal lights were never really engineered to be easy to apply software updates, unlike your smartphone or something that happily updates itself in the background. This means that latent bugs can be more easily found and exploited, simply by rummaging around in the list of bugs fixed in newer versions of the system.

Come on, nobody’s going to really do this. Sure, you go ahead and believe that, but wouldn’t you like to know that somebody can’t just arbitrarily screw with traffic? I can think of all sorts of nefarious reasons why an attacker might be financially incentivized to create carefully chosen local traffic jams.

This kind of information is too dangerous to be out in public! Whoa there. Just because it’s new to you doesn’t mean it’s new to the nefarious sorts. Sometimes, a little bit of public pressure is a very good thing to push vendors to fix their products and push customers to adopt the fixes. (There’s also an analogy here to the argument that gun control only limits the good guys’ guns. That particular argument is generally stronger when we’re talking about cyber weapons versus the traditional kinetic variety.)

Gosh, what would happen if future traffic light controllers didn’t have the MMU contraption? Arguably the MMU saved their bacon. Otherwise, the U. Michigan team would have been able to do much nastier things. Also, if we ever get autonomous intersections (great work from UT Austin, by the way), where self-driving robo-cars are negotiating their paths well in advance, getting rid of traditional stop lights altogether, then the security vulnerabilities would be a much, much more serious concern. Just watch the video below and cringe a bit.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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EGR-equipped Buick Regal Hits 40 MPG http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/egr-equipped-buick-regal-hits-40-mpg/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/egr-equipped-buick-regal-hits-40-mpg/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 10:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=791809 The current Buick Regal is an excellent car. I know, because I have one parked in my garage (it’s sweet). Still, it could be better- and the guys at the SouthWest Research Institute (SWRI) have figured out a way to enhance the mid-range Buick so that it produces fewer harmful carbon emissions and gets better […]

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EGR Buick Regal Gets 40 MPG

The current Buick Regal is an excellent car. I know, because I have one parked in my garage (it’s sweet). Still, it could be better- and the guys at the SouthWest Research Institute (SWRI) have figured out a way to enhance the mid-range Buick so that it produces fewer harmful carbon emissions and gets better fuel economy.

Can’t beat that!

Far from being pie-in-the-sky thinking, however, the motivation for building this 40 MPG ultra low-emission Buick Regal comes out of necessity. Namely the 2025 CAFE regulations that will force automobile manufacturers to achieve a 54.5 miles per gallon EPA rating across their product range. At the same time, the EPA is also expected to release new, more stringent emissions standards in a bid to improve air quality and save lives. Those two factors mean there is considerable industry focus on improving both emissions and fuel efficiency without incurring huge R&D costs- and the EGR system built into the SWRI team’s 2014 Buick Regal might play a big part in that.

EGR, for those not in the know, stands for exhaust gas recirculation. In the case of the Buick Regal tester, the 2.0 Liter engine was modified so that exhaust from one dedicated cylinder is run with a rich mixture of fuel and air to reform hydrocarbon fuel into carbon monoxide and hydrogen. The reformulated exhaust gas is then cooled and looped into a patented mixer where the exhaust gasses are mixed with fresh air before going into the engine intake. “By running one cylinder rich, the excess fuel is reformed into hydrogen and carbon monoxide,” added Chris Chadwell, manager of SWRI’s Spark Ignition Engine R&D section. “The in-cylinder reformation slightly reduces the carbon dioxide and water vapor while producing large volumes of carbon monoxide, which is a good fuel, and hydrogen, which is an outstanding fuel. That provides an octane boost and a flammability boost, and extends the EGR limit of the engine.”

It’s all pretty trick stuff, in other words- and it’s not that far away from being a production-ready piece. Let’s hope the next generation of Buick Regals- heck, let’s hope they build a new ROADMASTER!- has enough slick SWRI stuff on it to still be legal, then. In the meantime, you can check out an under hood shot of the SWRI EGR-equipped 2014 Buick Regal, below. Enjoy!

 

egr-buick_1

 

Source | Photos: SWRI; Originally published on Gas 2.

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’41 Plymouth Hell Project Puzzle Piece Scored Via Craigslist: Corvette ZR-1 6-Speed! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/41-plymouth-hell-project-puzzle-piece-scored-via-craigslist-corvette-zr-1-6-speed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/41-plymouth-hell-project-puzzle-piece-scored-via-craigslist-corvette-zr-1-6-speed/#comments Fri, 19 Jul 2013 13:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=495712 The 1941 Plymouth Special Deluxe sedan Junkyard Find that I bought from the Brain-Melting Colorado Junkyard last fall now has the body off the frame and is awaiting a Lexus SC400 suspension subframe swap. After much debate about what engine/transmission combo to use in this Hell Project (the plan is to build it to Pikes […]

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02 - ZF Transmission Purchase - Pictures courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 1941 Plymouth Special Deluxe sedan Junkyard Find that I bought from the Brain-Melting Colorado Junkyard last fall now has the body off the frame and is awaiting a Lexus SC400 suspension subframe swap. After much debate about what engine/transmission combo to use in this Hell Project (the plan is to build it to Pikes Peak International Hill Climb specs, while retaining a grimy-looking rat-roddish character), I decided to go with the GM Vortec 4200 aka LL8 L6 engine, with turbocharging added, and that meant that I’d need to find a manual transmission that can withstand at least 400 ft-lbs of torque. Since the Vortec 4200 never came with a manual transmission, and the pseudo-bolt-on Aisin-based 5-speed out of the Solstice and Colorado can’t take the sort of power I’m hoping to get (thus forcing me to go the machine-shop bellhousing-adapter/custome-flywheel route), I was looking for a Borg-Warner T-56 out of a fourth-gen GM F-body, or maybe a Tremec TKO out of a fourth-gen Mustang. Then, an ad for a ZF S6-40 6-speed showed up on Denver Craigslist, with a very reasonable asking price.
14 - ZF Transmission Purchase - Pictures courtesy of Murilee MartinKnown as the “Black Tag” ZF transmission, this rugged German 6-speed was used in C4 Corvette ZR-1s and is rated for up to 450 ft-lbs of torque. Thanks to its square-cut gear teeth, this transmission made more noise than many Corvette buyers could tolerate, and so GM went to a quieter gears and (if you believe the rants of detail-obsessed Corvette freaks) less strength for the 1994 model year.
03 - ZF Transmission Purchase - Pictures courtesy of Murilee MartinThe seller of this transmission had purchased it out of a wrecked ’93 ZR-1 for use in this beautiful ’57 Chevy project, which is getting an LS swap, but the ZF turned out to be too big to fit in the Chevy without major transmission-tunnel hackage.
06 - ZF Transmission Purchase - Pictures courtesy of Murilee MartinI brought along Rich, the guy I’ve hired to do the engineering and fabrication work on the ’41 Plymouth project, to check out this transmission and say yea or nay on the possibility of using the ZF. He’s the captain of the Index of Effluency-winning Rocket Surgery Racing Checker Marathon 24 Hours of LeMons team, and he managed to get a small-block Chevy engine to bolt up to a Ford Toploader transmission and then stick the resulting mess into the Checker using all manner of garage-expedient cheap technology The ZF transmission came with all the little bits and pieces that make a Frankensteinian swap like this a lot easier, including the shifter, clutch master/slave cylinders, bellhousing, flywheel, even a bag full of fasteners. Looks good!
08 - ZF Transmission Purchase - Pictures courtesy of Murilee MartinSo, into the hatch of my cargo-hauling, thief-magnet ’92 Civic with all the goodies.
07 - ZF Transmission Purchase - Pictures courtesy of Murilee MartinDid I mention that the transmission seller owns the nicest Jeepster Commando I’ve ever seen?
13 - ZF Transmission Purchase - Pictures courtesy of Murilee MartinI haven’t bought the Vortec 4200 yet (the plan is to buy a wrecked Trailblazer or Envoy donor vehicle, so I can get all the harnesses, computers, and maddening little bits needed for the planned swap), but we’ve got this block and pan to enable Rich to move forward on the necessary fabrication on the Plymouth’s frame.
IMG_3240For now, the Plymouth’s body sits on wood blocks in the yard, awaiting its modernized frame.

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Potential TTAC Project Car: Jeep Patriotamino http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/potential-ttac-project-car-jeep-patriotamino/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/potential-ttac-project-car-jeep-patriotamino/#comments Fri, 12 Jul 2013 18:31:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=494935 You may have gathered from my posts and reviews that I live in a mountainous and rural area. I have 9 acres of moderately steep to rolling hillside on which I have more chickens than I can count, some crops that need tending and soon a few sheep will be tossed into the mix. Up […]

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Jeep Patriot Pickup Truck

You may have gathered from my posts and reviews that I live in a mountainous and rural area. I have 9 acres of moderately steep to rolling hillside on which I have more chickens than I can count, some crops that need tending and soon a few sheep will be tossed into the mix. Up till now we’ve been schlepping anything that needed to be relocated by hand and that’s just getting old fast. My folks in Texas have tried to convince me to buy a John Deere Gator, but they aren’t exactly cheap or reliable. What’s a car nut to do? How about a backyard red-neck conversion? Before I dive headfirst, let’s run this by the best and brightest for some input.

The need

I need something that has AWD, can accept an aggressive off-road maximum traction tire and is light-weight. Not only is weight an enemy off road but I don’t want to compact the soil any more than is necessary. I want something that’s cheap to buy, fairly inexpensive to repair and easy on the gas.

The Patriot

The Patriot with the CVT and the lower final drive ratio made a positive impression when I had one last year. 19:1 isn’t exactly stump-pulling, but it is lower than most vehicle’s effective first gear ratio. 35 feet is a fairly small turning circle, the wheelbase is short and approach/departure angles are appropriate for my terrain. Most important however is the weight. At 3,300lbs soaking wet the Patriot is light to start with and my plan involves weight reduction.

The Plan

The hair-brained scheme is as follows:

  • Find a 2007ish patriot with cosmetic damage, or possibly a salvage tittle depending on the level of damage.
  • Strip the interior, and I mean everything. Remove the rear seats, headliner, interior plastics, carpet, airbags, dash, etc.
  • Remove the entire rear portion of the body starting after the B pillar. Just sawzall that puppy right off till you have a flat-bed Patriot with a cab.
  • Modify the rear hatch and weld it to the gaping hole I’ve just created after the B-pillars. (This would be to keep the critters out of the cab.)
  • Remove all extraneous weight like the hood, quarter-panels, bumper covers, A/C compressor, headlights, tail lights, HVAC system, heater cores, etc.
  • Re-route the exhaust so it doesn’t go under the Patriot but perhaps up and behind the cab somehow. (We don’t want to cause a grass fire.)
  • Sell all the parts I’ve removed to recoup some of the cost.
  • Swap steel wheels with off-road rubber in.
  • Toss on a 2″ Patriot lift kit.

I suspect that when I’m done I will have an AWD flatbed contraption weighing in between 2,100-2,400lbs depending on how aggressive the weight reduction plan ends up being.

Input

I know the plan is insane. I know the plan is likely to be more expensive than a Gator, but what the heck, it’s has to be more fun. What input do our readers have on this, and most importantly, would it be entertaining to read regular updates and editorials on this insanity? Any other vehicles I should consider for the chop?

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Junkyard-Found Chevy Tribal Sticker Leads To New Meme, Blame Social Media http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/junkyard-found-chevy-tribal-sticker-leads-to-new-meme-blame-social-media/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/junkyard-found-chevy-tribal-sticker-leads-to-new-meme-blame-social-media/#comments Tue, 30 Apr 2013 13:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=486629 During one of my many junkyard trips, I spotted a Crusher-bound Chevy truck with an “EAT’N FORDS/SHIT’N RAMS” window sticker. It wasn’t really worth a separate post here on TTAC, but I figured it would be good for a laugh on the Murilee Martin Facebook page. So, I posted it with the comment “This truck […]

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During one of my many junkyard trips, I spotted a Crusher-bound Chevy truck with an “EAT’N FORDS/SHIT’N RAMS” window sticker. It wasn’t really worth a separate post here on TTAC, but I figured it would be good for a laugh on the Murilee Martin Facebook page. So, I posted it with the comment “This truck will be GET’N CRUSHED” pretty soon.” Next thing you know, a bunch of my miscreant car-writer friends jumped in with their own versions. Within a few weeks, this meme may well be a bigger online car meme than VTEC JUST KICKED IN YO and the debilitating skabsession, combined!
Chevy versus Ford versus Chrysler, ho hum. But creative inspiration sometimes springs from unexpected sources.
Davey G. Johnson (he happens to be the guy who launched my automotive-journalism career by recommending that Jalopnik hire me back in ’06) got all puffed up with Porsche 914 pride— he owns one of those Transporter-engined crypto-Porsches and persists in believing it’s a good car— and created this Fiat-hatin’ design.
Then, Davey made this.
But what about the rivalries of the Prohibition Era? If only cheap vinyl-cut decals had existed back then…
Naturally, I had to jump in with my own creation. Metro pride, y’all!
But what about Iran Khodro owners? They must feel superior to those lamers driving SAIPA 141s in Tehran.
And, well, things just went downhill got better from there.
Our own Sajeev Mehta feels pretty strongly about the Premier Padmini and wanted everyone to know it. What would Vishnu drive?
Sajeev wasn’t done then, though; here’s a sticker that electron-fueled types might use to diss internal-combustion fools.
Then Davey’s coworker Blake Z. Rong Brendan McAleer got into a Canadian frame of mind and made this.
Canadian cars, you say? Tom Anderson of Sub5Zero knows that Asüna rules the Great White North.
Steven Cavalieri, the artist responsible for all those 24 Hours of LeMons T-shirts and posters you see in the more disreputable garages, jabbed jumper cables into his cerebellum and created this nightmarish image— it strays quite a bit from the meme, but so what?
About that time, Texas LeMons racer Dave Mulvey joined the party, as did many others.
LeMons Assistant Perp and blissfully retired car journalist Nick Pon couldn’t contain himself after that, and I think this one may just edge out the Duesenberg EAT’N/SHIT’N decal for the best yet.
Nick remains traumatized by his experiences at various German press-launch events, and so he created this. Check the gallery for even more creations, and be sure to create your own!

2012-07-10_14-22-09_140 295337_183340231819498_1561772965_n 482451_10101014979744306_587367626_n 936940_10101014991425896_214140929_n EatinGeelysShittinChangans EatinJustysShittinExcels EatinSaipasShittinBahmans EatinZilsShittinLadas Eatn Shitn Meme - 1 - picture courtesy of Blake Rong Eatn Shitn Meme - 1 - picture courtesy of Brendan McAleer Eatn Shitn Meme - 1 - picture courtesy of Davey Johnson Eatn Shitn Meme - 1 - picture courtesy of Nick Pon Eatn Shitn Meme - 1 - picture courtesy of Sajeev Mehta Eatn Shitn Meme - 1 - picture courtesy of Steven Cavalieri Eatn Shitn Meme - 1 - picture courtesy of Tom Anderson Eatn Shitn Meme - 13- picture courtesy of Blake Rong Eatn Shitn Meme - 2 - picture courtesy of Blake Rong Eatn Shitn Meme - 2 - picture courtesy of Davey Johnson Eatn Shitn Meme - 2 - picture courtesy of Davey Johnson Eatn Shitn Meme - 2 - picture courtesy of Nick Pon Eatn Shitn Meme - 2 - picture courtesy of Sajeev Mehta Eatn Shitn Meme - 3 - picture courtesy of Davey Johnson Eatn Shitn Meme - 3 - picture courtesy of Sajeev Mehta Eatn Shitn Meme - 4 - picture courtesy of Davey Johnson Eatn Shitn Meme - 4 - picture courtesy of Sajeev Mehta Eatn Shitn Meme - 5 - picture courtesy of Davey Johnson Eatn Shitn Meme - 6 - picture courtesy of Davey Johnson Eatn Shitn Meme - 7 - picture courtesy of Davey Johnson EatnShitnTop- Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Denver Alley Scavengers Scrap-Maddened By Torqueflite Visible In Yard, Camouflage Only Option http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/denver-alley-scavengers-scrap-maddened-by-torqueflite-visible-in-yard-camouflage-only-option/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/denver-alley-scavengers-scrap-maddened-by-torqueflite-visible-in-yard-camouflage-only-option/#comments Thu, 21 Mar 2013 13:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=481885 These days, with scrappers paying $240/ton (the going rate in Denver; I hear it’s similar elsewhere) for cars and steel car parts, we’ve seen an explosion in the numbers of guys cruising around in hooptied-out minivans, pickups and the occasional bicycle with trailer, looking for metal. The older parts of the Denver urban core, where […]

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These days, with scrappers paying $240/ton (the going rate in Denver; I hear it’s similar elsewhere) for cars and steel car parts, we’ve seen an explosion in the numbers of guys cruising around in hooptied-out minivans, pickups and the occasional bicycle with trailer, looking for metal. The older parts of the Denver urban core, where I live, have alleys between streets, and so the scavengers (I call them Jawas) spend their days patrolling these alleys in search of stuff they can turn into cash at the scrapper. It turns out that these guys can smell a transmission as they pass by, even one that’s behind a gate and barely visible.
My ’66 Dodge A100 van has proven to be a useful car-parts-and-lumber hauler, though I still haven’t made much progress on my 70s-style customization project. It has only one major mechanical headache, and that’s a transmission that leaks from every possible location; the van sat for 15 years before I got it, and all the seals and gaskets are bad. Replacing the pan gasket solved about 50% of the problem, but that’s really not enough. Normally, I’d just go to the junkyard and pick up another Torqueflite 727 from one of any number of easy-to-find dead Chryslers, but the A100 used a funky van-and-RV-only top-of-the-tailshaft rear mount. My plan is to rebuild the leaky 727, but I don’t want to immobilize the van while I’m learning the black art of slushbox rejuvenation.
Then my friend Andy, owner of a big yard full of interesting vehicles picked up a rusted-to-hell A100 with a good transmission.
I traded him these catalytic converters (hacked from a Lexus SC400 that served as the suspension donor for my 1941 Plymouth project) for his A100’s transmission, and now I just need to get around to doing the swap.
In the meantime, I stashed the transmission next to my garage. Whoops, forgot to bend the cooling lines up high enough, so there’s a bit of a melted-snow-and-transmission-fluid stain beneath it now.
But then the Jawas started catching sight of the Torqueflite through the (locked) gate. It’s not worth busting a padlock to get $12 worth of scrap, so my doorbell started ringing. “I’ll help you dispose of that unwanted transmission!” Then the notes appeared in my mailbox.
An old sheet will keep the transmission invisible until I put it in the van.
You can tell something is there, but it doesn’t look quite so metallic. What happens, though, when scrap steel gets to $1000/ton?

01 - Alley Scavengers Want My Torqueflite - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - Alley Scavengers Want My Torqueflite - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - Alley Scavengers Want My Torqueflite - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - Alley Scavengers Want My Torqueflite - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - Alley Scavengers Want My Torqueflite - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - Alley Scavengers Want My Torqueflite - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - Alley Scavengers Want My Torqueflite - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - Alley Scavengers Want My Torqueflite - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Looking For an Engine Donor For Your ’53 Ford? Police Impound Auction! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/hammer-time-looking-for-an-engine-donor-for-your-53-ford-police-impound-auction/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/hammer-time-looking-for-an-engine-donor-for-your-53-ford-police-impound-auction/#comments Thu, 31 Jan 2013 14:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=475889 Rich, the mastermind behind the Rocket Surgery Racing mid-VW-engined Renault 4CV, just got hired to install a daily-driver-suitable modern drivetrain in a ’53 Ford coupe. The owner wanted to keep it all Ford, EFI makes for much better real-world drivability, and so a late 1980s or newer Ford 5.0 or 5.8 (aka 302 or 351W) […]

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Rich, the mastermind behind the Rocket Surgery Racing mid-VW-engined Renault 4CV, just got hired to install a daily-driver-suitable modern drivetrain in a ’53 Ford coupe. The owner wanted to keep it all Ford, EFI makes for much better real-world drivability, and so a late 1980s or newer Ford 5.0 or 5.8 (aka 302 or 351W) V8 engine looked to be the best choice. Running donor cars and trucks that fit those requirements tend to go for four figures, so it was time to hit a Denver-area police-impound auction. Here’s what happened yesterday.
I used to buy cheap Civics, Sentras, and Tercels at the San Francisco towed-car auction, and the setup here is similar: the cars are lined up in a lot, none of them can be started, and most don’t have keys. You get an hour or so to inspect them (i.e., try to guess which ones are runners and which aren’t by sniffing engine oil, studying the paperwork inside to see if they were towed off after a DUI bust, warrant-check, or some other situation that indicated a functioning vehicle when it fell into John Law’s hands). The star of this auction was a 1968 Chevelle 2-door hardtop. Lots of Bondo, trashed interior, generic-looking small-block engine, but not much rust. It went for $1,800.
I was tempted to take a shot at this ’07 BMW 335i, because its 302-horse twin-turbo six and manual transmission would have been a fun swap for my 1941 Plymouth project. However, the bidding got way into the thousands in a hurry on this car and I wandered off to go look at potential Ford Windsor donors for Rich.
This ’83 Signature Series Mark VI Continental had a 302, but it was equipped with terrible throttle-body Late Malaise Era fuel injection, so no dice. Meanwhile, some vehicles were selling for surprisingly good money, e.g., a ’97 Volkswagen GTI with an obvious history of hoonage went for $1,900. A manual-trans-equipped Nissan Altima sold for $3,900.
This Honky Chateau Econoline camper had some flavor of Windsor— probably a 302— but it was carbureted, plus the scrapper typically knocks off 1,000 pounds of value from an RV due to all the wood and other non-valuable materials within.
Another friend was considering this Dodge RV, though he felt a little nervous about the prospect of driving it home with this sprayed across the back.
So, the best potential ’53 Ford engine donor of the bunch ended up being this 1991 Ford F-150.
It was some sort of custom conversion, complete with door badges, done by the apparently-now-defunct Centurion Vehicles in White Pigeon, Michigan.
“Sedona” badging, custom paint and stripes, not in great shape but pretty solid.
The 5.8 liter V8 has the tall truck EFI setup, but the ’53 Ford has plenty of engine-bay altitude. The oil looked good, and the truck was a confiscation victim, meaning the owner who was arrested with it would be prohibited from buying it back (and that it was probably running when it got towed off by the lawmen).
There was no arrest paperwork in the truck, but I was able to find evidence of some interesting stories in other auction vehicles. Say, this impressive septuafecta bust.
This truck came with a few full bottles of Negra Modelo (frozen, thanks to the 18-degree temperatures in Denver yesterday morning) and a fairly worn-out interior. No potential bidders seemed to be paying much attention to it, since the truck shoppers were mostly looking for ready-to-roll work trucks younger than 22 years of age.
A $750 bid took it away. That would have been a lot for something like this, five years ago, but these days it’s not a bad deal. The ignition key was on the seat, but the battery was dead. A quick jump-start and it fired up and drove home under its own power. Good engine, good transmission.
Rich will yank the engine and transmission, keep the tires, and scrap the rest at $240/ton.

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Self-Driving Cars: The Legal Nitty Gritty http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/self-driving-cars-the-legal-nitty-gritty/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/self-driving-cars-the-legal-nitty-gritty/#comments Wed, 30 Jan 2013 15:49:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=475368 It’s now apparently legal to have self-driving cars in California and Nevada, and this should spread across the country rapidly. One industry report predicts we’ll have them by 2019. For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that the costs will come down slowly but surely and adoption will grow quickly. Let’s jump all the […]

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It’s now apparently legal to have self-driving cars in California and Nevada, and this should spread across the country rapidly. One industry report predicts we’ll have them by 2019. For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that the costs will come down slowly but surely and adoption will grow quickly. Let’s jump all the way to the end point, where self-driving technology is safe, reliable, and mandatory (yes, mandatory), just like seat belts, air bags, and so forth.

Last time I wrote about robocars, I focused on the computer security threats (and the risk that hackers will steal your car remotely). This time I want to focus on the regulatory and implementation issues. Consider the case of the humble four-way stop. Today, you’re legally required to stop, even if there’s nobody there. Your robocar, however, could send out a message. “Anybody approaching this intersection?” If not, you blow on through. (Saving time and energy!) Likewise, if every car can compute exactly when it will arrive at the intersection, that means they can negotiate with one another. Maybe you speed up a little and I slow down a little and we nicely miss each other by a few inches. Sounds great, right? Extrapolate a little bit more, and traffic lights become completely unnecessary. Instead, you’ll have cars flying through the intersection, seemingly at random, but always managing not to hit each other. Even if a car experiences a tire failure or other catastrophic event, it can communicate that to everybody nearby, and they’ll respond quickly and safely. (But see my caveats below.)

Now consider that all the Google robocars have a big red button next to the steering wheel that forces the computer to disengage and return the car to your manual control. If you freaked out in one of these busy intersections and hit the big red button, everybody else’s scheduled entry to the intersection is now at risk. Nobody can predict what you’ll do next. Consequently, you could be liable for the damage caused by taking manual control of your car!

Of course, in the future, we’ll still have pedestrians and we’ll still have bicycles, roller skates, pets, and so forth. While a car can negotiate a very specific plan to go through the intersection, pedestrians and bicyclists will almost certainly still be subject to their current constraints. This leads to an interesting question of how robocars and pedestrians will relate. We could retain the current press-to-walk buttons and walk/stand signals. We might instead put fancier sensors that detect your pedestrian presence and telegraph it to every car approaching the intersection, forcing them to slow down and accommodate you, even if you’re jaywalking in the middle of the street. We might also require pedestrians to carry beacons that telegraph their location (maybe building this into their super-duper smartphones) and use those phones to tell them “please wait 30 seconds and then traffic will open up for you.” While this will work great for most cases, there will always be exceptions. For example, unless global warming kills off all wildlife, we’ll still have deer and other critters with which to contend.

Recall William Gibson’s famous quote, “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” That tells us a good deal about how we’ll ultimately solve these problems. There will be high-traffic intersections and roads that will be heavily instrumented: Total Traffic Awareness. Likewise, there will be lower-traffic intersections and rural areas where the cost/benefit of modern instrumentation won’t justify it. When our robocars have more information, they’ll be able to drive more aggressively. Without this information, they will necessarily revert to our current, more conservative traffic behaviors.

But what about your award-winning, meticulously restored V8 muscle car? If you want to use it on public roads, and it doesn’t have a robo-drive controller, you may be restricted to only driving off hours. You will almost certainly be required to have a transponder to warn all the other cars, and you’ll pay a lot of money for the privilege of driving it, since you’re slowing everybody else down. And, of course, you’ll be unhappy at the lack of parking spots, since the robocars just drop off their occupants and head off to a remote garage somewhere. Maybe I’m wrong, but you probably won’t want to drive your classic car except on special occasions.

Caveats: One of the many obvious gains to be had from robocars is that they can form freeway “trains” with minimal spacing between them. This improves road utilization and saves energy, since the lead car in the train is breaking the wind for everybody else. But what if something goes wrong, mechanically, with the lead car? Time will pass before the pack has figured this out and has begun to take countermeasures. That might not be enough time, particularly as you pack the cars in tighter. The same problem would occur in instrumented traffic intersections and anywhere else where cars are negotiating over their future locations. What’s the solution? More information and better predictions. Say the car in front reports it has low tire pressure on one wheel and the tire is nearing the end of its rated treadwear; it might still be perfectly drivable, but the cars behind will compute an increased probability of a tire failure and will give the lead car a little bit of extra room, just in case. They might even compute which way the front car is likely to spin and preemptively stay to the other side. Better safe than sorry, right?

For this to work, we’ll need two things: correctness and trust. We need all of these sensors and car-to-car messaging protocols to work correctly, but we also need some assurance that nobody’s cheating. If any car is making stuff up, they could cause all sorts of mayhem for the other cars in the neighborhood. Computer security academics have been working on this problem for almost a decade now (see, for example, this research group in Switzerland), but the legal side of the equation is pretty interesting. Car makers will bend over backward to avoid having liability for crashes. In order to do that, we can predict that they will have standardized, government-approved software (“don’t blame us; you were running the standard package, same as everybody else!”), along with tamper-resistant mechanisms to keep you from monkeying with that software. Maybe automotive tinkering will still be allowed, but expect it to be treated the same as that V8 muscle car. You tweak your car, then you’re restricted in when and where you can drive it. Yeah, this sounds a bit like a dystopian future, but it mostly indicates the transition from cars as a romantic possession to cars as a boring utility to get you where you need to be.

Related reading: science fiction author and computer scientist Vernor Vinge has a great book called Rainbows End. He describes a near-future to our own that’s full of interesting gadgets. His vision of what cars might become is pretty close to what I’ve been talking about here.

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It’s the Weekend, It’s 3 Degrees Out, and It’s Half-Price Day At the Junkyard! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/its-the-weekend-its-3-degrees-out-and-its-half-price-day-at-the-junkyard/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/its-the-weekend-its-3-degrees-out-and-its-half-price-day-at-the-junkyard/#comments Sun, 13 Jan 2013 14:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=473239 Back when Pick-N-Pull and Pick Your Part both operated yards in Northern California, Half Price Day sales used to take place at least every couple of months. Everything was half off on those days, which meant you could get transmissions for something like 30 bucks, complete engines for $75, and so on. Then, back in […]

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Back when Pick-N-Pull and Pick Your Part both operated yards in Northern California, Half Price Day sales used to take place at least every couple of months. Everything was half off on those days, which meant you could get transmissions for something like 30 bucks, complete engines for $75, and so on. Then, back in 2009, El Pulpo packed up and left NorCal, which meant that the competition didn’t have as much motivation to put on such sales. Now that I’m in Colorado, it appears that U-Pull-&-Pay also does the occasional Half Price Day… and this time they chose the coldest weekend of this winter.
Actually, UPAP made this sale a coupon-only deal for those who liked the Aurora yard on Facebook. I need a steering column for my ’41 Plymouth project, so I printed out the coupon and headed up to Aurora.
Thanks to the trapper cap that the Busted Knuckle Garage guys gave me at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill in ’07, I didn’t fall over and die instantly from the single-digit cold, in spite of my inability to get used to this real winter thing that places east of coastal California get.
This guy wanted to take advantage of the 50%-off deals, but apparently the only warm outfit he could put together on short notice was centered on this festive-but-not-so-toasty-looking souvenir poncho.
I can never remember what year range of Toyota Previa contains the supercharger with Mad Max-style electrically-operated clutch, so I decided against freezing all my fingers diving into the engine compartment of this ’96.
For the ’41 Plymouth’s steering column, I’m looking for something simple but modern enough to have a built-in turn-signal switch. Ideally, this column would be from a floor-shift car (so no holes where a column shifter once lived) and would be from the pre-steering-wheel-lock era (so no ugly ignition switch on the column). This DJ-5 mail Jeep looked promising.
The turn-signal mechanism was all busted up, so I passed on this column… for now. I might go back and get it tomorrow, though. Half price!
I was also looking for a BMW E30 with rear-mounted battery, so I could grab the cable for the Plymouth. No dice on that, but I did find this ’02 Subaru Legacy to donate some parts for my wife’s ’04 Outback. 21st-century Subarus are still very rare in self-serve yards, so I was happy to find this one.
Got the rear cupholder and the driver’s-door dome light switch. $4.06 total.
One of the best things about serious cold weather in the junkyard is that the range and striking power of New Car Scent Little Trees— by far the most popular air freshener in the junkyard— is cut down to near zero.

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12 Golden Country Greats: The Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™’s Greatest Hits of 2012 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/12-golden-country-greats-the-murilee-martin-lifestyle-brands-greatest-hits-of-2012/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/12-golden-country-greats-the-murilee-martin-lifestyle-brands-greatest-hits-of-2012/#comments Tue, 01 Jan 2013 19:01:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=472133 I wrote a lot of vaguely-car-related stuff in 2012, and here’s my chance to show off the stuff that made me proudest (or at least took the most work to create). Enjoy. When I Build My Spaceship, It Will Be Equipped With This Cordia Instrument Cluster After years of an unhealthy fascination with science-fictiony Japanese […]

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I wrote a lot of vaguely-car-related stuff in 2012, and here’s my chance to show off the stuff that made me proudest (or at least took the most work to create). Enjoy.
When I Build My Spaceship, It Will Be Equipped With This Cordia Instrument Cluster
After years of an unhealthy fascination with science-fictiony Japanese digital dashes of the 1980s, I finally bought one from a junkyard and began the process of getting it to display its Mars Base 2115 stuff on my garage wall. As 2012 progressed, I obtained this 1984 50th Anniversary Edition Nissan 300ZX digital dash, then this ’84 Toyota Cressida dash, then the Holy Grail: this 1985 Subaru XT Turbo instrument cluster.
1965 Impala Hell Project, Part 20: The End
The 20-part series telling the 10-year tale of my art-car-turned-daily-driver-turned-drag-racer 1965 Chevy Impala sedan, which began in May ’11 and took for-freakin-ever to create (due to the hundreds of pre-digital-camera-era 35mm slides and negatives that had to be scanned), finally came to a close in January of 2012. I plan to make a Very Expensive Coffee-Table Book version of this story, ideally during 2013.
Image by Phillip GredenBored On a Long Road Trip? Bad Car Bingo!
I was hoping to summon up a record-breaking number of fatwas issued by the single-interest automotive jihadists enraged by my inclusion of their favorite vehicles in my sample Bad Car Bingo card (I still get the occasional enraged email from members of the Chevy Vega Jihad who can’t let go of Vega-themed disses I wrote in 2008), but it turned out that aficionados of the Acura Vigor and Cadillac Catera have retreated into world-weary sulking and couldn’t be arsed to fire up Microsoft Office’s Fatwa Wizard.
When Embarrassing Presidential Relatives Got Model Kits: Billy Carter’s Redneck Power Pickup!
When a team racing a Billy Carter-themed Ford Fairmont gave me a judicial bribe of this Malaise Era Revell model kit at the 2010 Arse Freeze-a-Palooza 24 Hours of LeMons, it inspired me to lobby Revell to create a complete series of Embarrassing Presidential Relative kits. Imagine, Onyango Obama’s DUI-enhanced Montero, or the luxury car Donald Nixon bought with not-so-legit Howard Hughes cash!
When You See a Clean Corinthian Leather Bench Seat In the Junkyard, You Buy It!
I shot this ’78 Chrysler Cordoba for the Junkyard Find series, then bought the Corinthian Leather bench seat and made a garage couch out of it. Since that day, I’ve been able to provide comfy, Ricardo Montalban-grade seating for my garage guests.
Possibly the Greatest Badge Engineering Feat In History: Isuzu Statesman Deville!
This car, an Isuzu-badged, Japanese-market version of the Australian interpretation of the Chevy Caprice, is the pinnacle of General Motors badge engineering. Someday, I will own one (and park it next to the Mazda Roadpacer I plan to obtain).
Junkyard Jackpot: The Missing Pieces For the A100 Hell Project Puzzle
When I bought my ’66 Dodge A100 project van, I had some idea that it wouldn’t be so hard to find parts for it. That idea, like so many project-vehicle ideas, proved to be wildly incorrect… but then I got a tip that a complete A100 had been seen at a wrecking yard near me. Unfortunately, that tip came in the night before I was due to fly off to a 24 Hours of LeMons race on an early-morning flight, which meant that I had to do all my parts-grabbin’ on the way to the airport. In Denver in February.
Automotive Lawsuit History Unearthed, Junkyard Style: The Ford Park-To-Reverse Warning Label
Ever wonder what made Ford slap those ugly “Make sure the gear selector lever is engaged in Park” stickers on the dashes of millions of slushbox-equipped vehicles built during the 1966-1980 period? After seeing a bunch of those stickers in junked Fords, I did some research on the problem that was as real as the Audi “unintended acceleration” problem was hysteria.
How Honda Survived the Vigor, the Del Sol, and the Lawsuits: Super Cub!
In March, I spent a couple of weeks in Vietnam and developed a new appreciation for the most-produced motor vehicle in history: the Honda Super Cub motorcycle. It turns out that an 8-horsepower bike can transport an entire family and a bedroom set.
Time Machine Dilemma: It’s 1973 and You Have Enough Cash For a New LTD. What Do You Buy?
The premise of the Time Machine Dilemma goes like this: Your time machine drops you off on Auto Row in a particular year, and you have enough money to buy a certain car. You have many other choices in the same price range. What do you do? ’73 LTD… or ’73 Opel Manta?
My Introduction To Panther Love: Inaugural Police Interceptor Road Trip!
Sajeev Mehta and Jack Baruth have this Panther Love thing going on, but they’re not the only TTAC writers who appreciate the Ford Panther platform. Here’s the story of 400-mile road trip I took immediately after buying an ex-San Joaquin County Sheriff’s ’97 Crown Victoria Police Interceptor at auction.
Corvairs, Kaisers, and Cadillacs: Brain-Melting Colorado Junkyard Is a Mile High… and a Mile Wide
This yard east of Pikes Peak has so many thousands of great old cars that I had no choice but to buy a ’41 Plymouth there. During my visits, I shot lots of photographs of the cars I didn’t rescue.
Kill Switch Thwarts Denver Civic Thieves Once Again, Junkyard Parts To the Rescue
For the second time in 11 months, the homebrewed kill-switch system in my ’92 Civic prevented Denver car thieves from making off with my Japanese hooptie. Once again, I had to grab junkyard parts to repair the steering-column damage.
What’s It Really Like To Obliterate a Press Car?
There was a lot of discussion about car writers and press cars after a Motor Trend writer rolled a Cadillac in July, so I interviewed veteran automotive journalist and 24 Hours of LeMons founder Jay Lamm about the Range Rover he destroyed at a press launch in the Rockies (when it turned out that he couldn’t drive off-road as fast as Baja 1000 winner Malcolm Smith).
Hooptie Harley Adventures: Hell Project Shovelhead Hauls LeMons Judge To Road America In Style
Just when it seemed that Americans had lost the will to limp their half-finished projects several hundred miles in bad weather, my cousin and fellow 24 Hours of LeMons judge rode his nowhere-near-ready Harley from Minnesota to the Chubba Cheddar Enduro at Road America.
Real-World Review: Fleeing Hurricane Sandy Across 8 States In a Rented 2012 Kia Sorento
How a former pro racer drove several 24 Hours of LeMons organizers through the hurricane and to a functioning airport 900 miles away.
Auction To Crusher: 12 Weeks In the Lives of Two Cars At a Self-Service Wrecking Yard
In which I con a big self-service wrecking-yard chain into granting me behind-the-scenes access to their operation, then follow a ’91 Civic and a ’94 Camry during their final three months on the planet.
New Car Reviews
I don’t do many reviews of new cars, because it’s so hard to do anything different with the genre, but I did manage to write up a few new cars in 2012, including the ’11 Mazda RX-8, the ’12 Audi A7, the ’13 Mazda CX-5, the ’13 Scion FR-S, the ’13 Mazda Miata Club, and the Piaggio Ape Europe.
Junkyard Finds
Mostly because I ended up spending so much time at U-Pull-&-Pay Denver while visiting the protagonists of the Junkyard To Crusher story, the Junkyard Find series evolved into a near-daily event. A few of the cars I shot really stand out as favorites, including the ’48 Pontiac Hearse, the ’51 Nash Airflyte, the unintended accelerator ’84 Audi 5000, the Über-Rare BMW 700, the ’70 Toyota Corona coupe, and acres of old Subarus.
Project Car Hell
While most of my keyboard-pounding is done on behalf of TTAC, I do write some stuff for other venues. I began writing the Project Car Hell series for Jalopnik back in 2007, and my old friend and former Year One coworker Andy Stoy at Autoweek talked me into reviving it as a quasi-weekly feature a while back. In 2012, PCH saw such matchups as a ’51 Frazer versus a ’57 Hudson, an all-Malcolm-Bricklin Subaru 360-versus-Bricklin SV-1 challenge, and a Shelby-centric Dodge Spirit R/T-versus-Dodge Daytona IROC battle.
24 Hours of LeMons Ranting
Since the 24 Hours of LeMons managed to hoodwink Eddie Alterman at Car and Driver into inexplicably sponsoring the race series, LeMons HQ has me slaving away as C/D‘s official LeMons Correspondent. During 2012, I covered some real masterpieces of hooptiedom, including LeMons Weddings, Cars That Should Do Well In LeMons But In Fact Suck, Cars We’d Like To See In LeMons Part I and Part II, How Porsche Crapcan Racers Build Character, Epoxy Engine-Block Repair Tips For Celica Racers, Racing AMCs, Beauteous Benz LeMons Racers, Big Fat Luxury Racers, the Twin-Turbo Taxi, and many more individual car features.
Guilty Pleasures
I also wrote a series about “cars you shouldn’t want but do want,” aka Guilty Pleasures, for Motor Authority. This series ran until April and has some decent tirades about such gems as the Asüna Sunfire and Trophy 4-engined Pontiac Tempest.
Then there’s my own site, where you’ll find lots of old and new stuff from the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand. What’s in store for 2012? That’s like asking how long Hindustan Motors can keep building the Ambassador!

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Question: What Engine/Transmission Swap Belongs In the ’41 Plymouth? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/question-what-enginetransmission-swap-belongs-in-the-41-plymouth/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/question-what-enginetransmission-swap-belongs-in-the-41-plymouth/#comments Thu, 29 Nov 2012 19:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=468464 Since my brain threw a code and made me buy the 1941 Plymouth Special Deluxe Junkyard Find yesterday, I need to choose a suitable modern engine and transmission combo for the thing. I’ve hired a rocket scientist and weirdo hot-rodder (the lunatic who built the Rocket Surgery Racing mid-engined Renault 4CV) to execute a chassis […]

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Since my brain threw a code and made me buy the 1941 Plymouth Special Deluxe Junkyard Find yesterday, I need to choose a suitable modern engine and transmission combo for the thing. I’ve hired a rocket scientist and weirdo hot-rodder (the lunatic who built the Rocket Surgery Racing mid-engined Renault 4CV) to execute a chassis modernization program on the old Mopar, and I need to make my drivetrain choice ASAP. Suggestions?
Much as I’d like to go with a 2,500-horse Chrysler IV-2220 engine for this project, I need to stay on a fairly strict budget, say $2500 for engine and transmission. Most likely I’ll buy a complete donor car and truck, grab the engine, transmission, driveshaft, computers, and any other goodies needed for the swap, then sell everything I can on eBay and feed the rest to The Crusher at $250/ton. It would be (slightly) nice to stay within marque and go with a Chrysler engine, but I also like the idea of enraging the purists— you know, the guys who have those creepy Time Out Kid dolls leaning on their numbers-matching Road Runners at car shows. So, before everyone starts yelling about how I should get a 440 and Torqueflite 727, problem solved, let’s go over some of my requirements and preferences for this swap:

1. This car must have a manual transmission. Sure, I’m going to drive it on the street and take it to the drag strip, but this car is going to be set up for road racing and taken to track days at my local track. You don’t need a manual transmission for that, and I’m not a sufficiently fast driver to get the extra couple of seconds per lap a manual transmission might give you, but you’ll have a lot more fun with a stick. Long-term, I plan to enter it at Pikes Peak and, if I get really crazy, the Carrera Panamericana. I’m willing to contemplate the idea of swap bellhousings, weird adapters, and the like, but the easiest solution is to get an engine/transmission combination that came together from the factory.

2. The engine must fit a narrow prewar engine compartment. There’s not enough room under the ’41 Plymouth’s hood for a typical 90-degree overhead-cam V6 or V8 engine to fit without fabrication hassles beyond what I am willing to contemplate. That means the excellent Ford Modular V8 is out, which eliminates the tempting Lincoln Mark VIII DOHC engine/Tremec 3550 transmission idea. The fairly narrow Toyota UZ engine might fit (barely), but bolting a manual transmission to one— as done by many drifters already— requires the application of cubic dollars. The BMW S62 V8 is also fairly compact, and manual transmissions are readily available in crashed E39s, but the computer nightmares with these engines are legendary to put it mildly. The most likely candidates at this point are Detroit pushrod V8s and screaming Japanese or German L6s, though the idea of a hopped-up GMC 292 L6 lurks at the edges of this discussion.

3. The engine must have potential for non-insanely-expensive bolt-on power upgrades later on. This could mean that the engine has a vast aftermarket of quasi-affordable performance add-ons (e.g., turbocharger/supercharger kits, better heads, stronger rods, and so on), or it could mean that related engines can be swapped in without cutting anything. I don’t plan to go above 400 horsepower or pound-feet (the point at which the differential I’ll be using— that’s a secret to be revealed later— becomes the weak link), and 250 horses will be fine to start with.

4. The engine must have electronic fuel injection. Even though I’ve been on this planet as long as my ’41 Plymouth has been sitting in a Colorado field, I don’t subscribe to the curmudgeonly view that carburetors are good. That means the best engine candidates come from vehicles built in the early 1990s or later. If absolutely necessary, I’m willing to apply Megasquirt to an engine, but my very strong preference is to use all the factory computers, sensors, wiring, everything. Buying a complete donor vehicle makes the most sense for this approach, which means that I need to take into account the resale value of the donor vehicle’s leftover parts.

5. No Hemis. No LS engines. The going rate for an LS with T-56 or TR-6060 transmission, yanked from a GTO, CTS-V, or Corvette, is $5000-$8000 and up. Way up. You can get early 5.7 Hemi engines out of Dodge Rams for much cheaper, but they came with slushboxes exclusively and you’ll spend your louie in a hurry getting a sufficiently beefy manual transmission attached to one.

6. I really want an overdrive transmission. I’m going to be running a fairly wild (4:1 or shorter) differential gear and I plan to take this car on highway road trips, which means screaming along at four grand at 60 MPH isn’t going to cut it. Thus, no 833, Muncie, or Toploader 4-speeds. No, I don’t want an overdrive 833 4-speed.

At this point, my top choice is the Chrysler Magnum 5.9 (aka 360) engine, descendent of the venerable LA family of small-block V8s and available in Dodge Ram 1500s and 2500s with the NV3500 5-speed manual transmission. The 360 is a great engine, it’s within marque for the Plymouth, and performance parts are cheap. The problem here is that it is virtually impossible to find a two-wheel-drive Dodge truck with a manual transmission (I’ve been beating my face against an online-search brick wall for weeks, and that’s with a willingness to bring a donor vehicle back to Denver from two-wheel-drive places like Omaha or Lubbock). NV3500s are commonplace in junked V6 Dakotas, so I could do the wrecked Ram Van + junkyard transmission + 360 flywheel + ECM from a manual-equipped 5.9 truck equation, but that’s a lot of hassle for a truck transmission that starts to get explode-y at 350 ft-lbs.

My second choice, but gaining ground in a hurry, is a GM LT V8 engine with Borg-Warner T-56 transmission. In other words, buy some hooptied-out-but-strong-running fourth-gen Camaro Z28 or Firebird Formula for $2500. This gets me a 275-horsepower motor with near-limitless hop-up capacity plus a very nice road-race transmission that can handle big power… but it also means I’ll be the 900,000,000th person to drop a small-block Chevy into this kind of project car, plus there’s the whole Optispark ignition headache. In terms of bang-per-buck, you just can’t beat this setup, and the logic of using it is the same one used by hot-rodders in 1948 who put flathead Ford V8s in everything, but I’d prefer to be a little oddball here.

I’m just beginning to research the idea of a Vortec 5300, 5700, or 6000 V8 with manual transmission, a combination theoretically— though probably not in practice— available in 2WD Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra trucks. The Vortec makes great power, but the manual-transmission options appear to be the pure-truck, granny-gear-equipped NV4500 and ZF-S6-650 and some 5-speed that I’m guessing is either the NV3500 or the even more fragile T-5. Anybody who knows more on this subject, or even anyone who has seen a two-wheel-drive/manual-trans/V8 Silverado on the street, please share your info with us in the comments.

The real wild card here is the idea of buying a bashed BMW 540i with factory 6-speed and facing the horror of turn-of-the-century BMW computers. You can find these cars in ugly-but-running condition for two or three grand, the engine is much lighter than Detroit iron-block V8s, the Getrag 6-speed is a joy, and I know the 282-horse M62 V8 engine will fit in a BMW E30 (there are two of them racing in the 24 Hours of LeMons and, yes, I hammer them with penalty laps despite being butt slow due to handling problems) and thus is quite narrow. On the downside, there is no cheap way to add power to this engine, and the hassles involved with making BMW computers behave are so severe that anecdotes about them are not mingled with ordinary stories of problems with automotive electronics.

What else? Turbo Buick V6 with absurd boost and hope-it-lives T-5 transmission? Big L6 out of a Detroit truck, equipped with centrifugal supercharger? Mercedes-Benz M104 six? Something I haven’t thought of? Rack your brains!

So, here we go! I will be reading your comments and advice closely as I prepare for a new round of donor-vehicle shopping. Mujahideen of the Mopar Jihad (I picture you driving your Oerlikon-equipped Ramchargers through the Khyber Pass while sneering at those fools in their weak-ass Toyota Hiluxes), feel free to inform me of the hair-raisingness of the fatwas to be issued on me by your warlords, should I choose to run a GM engine in a Plymouth.

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Because You Grab This Stuff While You Can: Junkyard Integra Donates Brakes For My Civic http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/because-you-grab-this-stuff-while-you-can-junkyard-integra-donates-brakes-for-my-civic/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/because-you-grab-this-stuff-while-you-can-junkyard-integra-donates-brakes-for-my-civic/#comments Wed, 28 Nov 2012 15:30:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=468195 So I’ve still got an Integra GS-R engine sitting in my garage, waiting to be swapped into my hooptie ’92 Civic DX— because the fifth-gen Civic, with its ease of parts-swapping and galaxy of aftermarket stuff, is to the present day what the ’55 Chevy was to the 1970s— and when that happens I’ll need […]

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So I’ve still got an Integra GS-R engine sitting in my garage, waiting to be swapped into my hooptie ’92 Civic DX— because the fifth-gen Civic, with its ease of parts-swapping and galaxy of aftermarket stuff, is to the present day what the ’55 Chevy was to the 1970s— and when that happens I’ll need better brakes, right? Problem is, whenever a third-gen Acura Integra (which was a fifth-gen Civic with luxury and performance upgrades) shows up at a cheap self-service junkyard, it gets picked clean faster than just about anything this side of a Toyota Land Cruiser. It’s much like a ’55 Chevy owner in 1974, discovering an intact 396/4-speed Caprice 20 minutes after the car hit the yard at the U-Yank-It. When I found an intact ’94 Integra while on a Junkyard Find photo expedition at the Denver yard near my place, I knew I had to work fast.
So, I went back the next day with tools and Rich, team captain of the Rocket Surgery Racing mid-engined Renault 4CV LeMons team.
The junkyard had only been open for about three total hours between the last time I’d seen the Integra and our return to grab parts, but some Civic “tuners” had already torn the crap out of the front suspension and brakes in order to pull… well, I’m not sure what. Somehow, they missed this fart-can custom Magnaflow exhaust, though.
We had to remove the exhaust to get to the rear brake parts I needed. Here’s Rich huffing some well-aged hydrocarbon residue.
The reason the crew who destroyed the stuff on the front of the car hadn’t done the same to the rear was that the rear wheels were held on with those maddening security lug nuts.
Experienced junkyard crawlers know lots of ways to defeat those wheel locks. First, we tried Vise-Grips, which didn’t work.
Then Rich scrounged up a tire iron and pounded it into the lock. That worked, but it was a lot of work to turn the things.
Another approach is to clamp the Vise-Grips inside the hollow part of the lock…
…and then jam the tire iron through the pliers and twist. This worked well.
Success!
Swapping an Integra rear disc setup onto a drum-equipped Civic is a pure bolt-on, but you need the complete trailing arm assemblies from the Integra.
You also need the disc-specific parking-brake cable assemblies, so I volunteered to brave the biohazardous interior to begin that process.
Hondas of this era are very easy to dismantle; almost every component is made to be accessible and Honda used high-quality fasteners throughout their cars. A cordless impact made removal of the trailing arms, control arms, and everything else take a total of maybe 20 minutes.
I left the control arms attached to the trailing arms, even though they’re identical to the Civic units, because sometimes junkyards will just throw in all the attached stuff when you buy major suspension components. Such was not the case at this yard, so I saved a few bucks by removing the parts I didn’t need while at the counter.
Even though aftermarket sway bars are cheap and plentiful, I figured the factory stuff is worth having. My Civic doesn’t have a rear swaybar, so even this pencil-thin one should bring it up to Integra standards.
For $150 or so, I now have everything I need to Integra-ize (Integrate?) my Civic’s rear brakes. I still need to find Integra front brakes (the Civic has smaller rotors), which means I’ll need to pounce immediately when I see a suitable donor car. For now, more bulky Honda parts will be cluttering up my garage, right next to the Chrysler 318 TBI intake I keep stubbing my toes on. Ah, project backlogs!

16 - Pulling 1994 Acura Integra Rear Trailing Arms - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - Pulling 1994 Acura Integra Rear Trailing Arms - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - Pulling 1994 Acura Integra Rear Trailing Arms - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - Pulling 1994 Acura Integra Rear Trailing Arms - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - Pulling 1994 Acura Integra Rear Trailing Arms - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - Pulling 1994 Acura Integra Rear Trailing Arms - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - Pulling 1994 Acura Integra Rear Trailing Arms - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - Pulling 1994 Acura Integra Rear Trailing Arms - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - Pulling 1994 Acura Integra Rear Trailing Arms - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - Pulling 1994 Acura Integra Rear Trailing Arms - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - Pulling 1994 Acura Integra Rear Trailing Arms - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - Pulling 1994 Acura Integra Rear Trailing Arms - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - Pulling 1994 Acura Integra Rear Trailing Arms - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - Pulling 1994 Acura Integra Rear Trailing Arms - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - Pulling 1994 Acura Integra Rear Trailing Arms - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - Pulling 1994 Acura Integra Rear Trailing Arms - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Don’t Try This At Home: How Could Anyone Resist a Subaru XT Turbo Digital Dash? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/dont-try-this-at-home-how-could-anyone-resist-a-subaru-xt-turbo-digital-dash/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/dont-try-this-at-home-how-could-anyone-resist-a-subaru-xt-turbo-digital-dash/#comments Thu, 15 Nov 2012 15:30:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=466967 After I photographed today’s Junkyard Find in a Colorado self-service wrecking yard, I agonized over that digital instrument cluster. I have this crazy idea that I can hack old digital instrument clusters and operate them with an Arduino microcontroller, so that I can have a display on my office wall to go with my collection […]

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After I photographed today’s Junkyard Find in a Colorado self-service wrecking yard, I agonized over that digital instrument cluster. I have this crazy idea that I can hack old digital instrument clusters and operate them with an Arduino microcontroller, so that I can have a display on my office wall to go with my collection of weird diecast toy cars. It started out innocently enough, with this 1983 Mitsubishi Cordia cluster, and then I got the digital cluster out of a 50th Anniversary Nissan 300ZX. Once you have two 1980s Japanese digital dashes, you have a problem collection, right? That was my logic when I bought the digital dash out of this 1984 Toyota Cressida. Even though I’m getting too ambitious with this Arduino-ized-digital-dash project, I felt I had no choice but to go back the next day and grab the XT Turbo’s cluster. So I did.
Someone had already torn up the driver’s-side door-latch mechanism, so I had to climb in through the passenger side and dismantle the latches enough to open the driver’s door.
That’s when I noticed this odd “Speed Alarm” feature, which used a key switch to lock the speed alarm in and out. Oh, Subaru, when did you lose your weirdness?
The instrument cluster in the XT moves up and down with the tilt wheel, which adds immense complexity but is totally worth it for the coolness. It took me quite a while to figure out how to detach the cluster from this Rube Goldberg rig.
Toyotas and Hondas of this era are ridiculously easy when it comes to this kind of job; you can yank an 80s Civic or Corolla cluster in about 25 seconds with just a screwdriver. Subaru had a different philosophy, and so I started removing every 10mm and 12mm fastener I could find.
There’s a hinged bezel above the cluster that resisted all attempts to release the cluster (I could have just smashed the hell out of everything in the way, but I do my best to leave all the parts I don’t want in usable condition for the next parts shopper), and the connectors on the dash harness were fiendishly inaccessible and frozen solid (Subaru went with a much cheaper electrical-parts supplier than did Honda, Toyota, or even Mitsubishi). In the 35-degree weather of a November morning in Denver, my hands took a real beating during the cluster-removal process.
Leaking a little of the red stuff is no big deal, however, when your struggles end with a beautiful 1980s Japanese digital cluster for your collection.
While I was shopping, I also picked up a nice Weber DGV 32/36 carburetor from a car with a strange-yet-familiar engine swap. More on that in a future Junkyard Find!

08 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Don’t Try This At Home: Another 80s Japanese Digital Dash Added To My Collection http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/dont-try-this-at-home-another-80s-japanese-digital-dash-added-to-my-collection/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/dont-try-this-at-home-another-80s-japanese-digital-dash-added-to-my-collection/#comments Fri, 31 Aug 2012 12:55:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=458423 There’s no way I’m going to spot a junked 80s Japanese car with the optional super-futuristic digital dash and not go back and buy that instrument cluster. So, now I’ve got a genuine digital dash collection going on, adding the Cressida cluster to my ’84 Nissan 300ZX Turbo cluster and my ’83 Mitsubishi Cordia Turbo […]

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There’s no way I’m going to spot a junked 80s Japanese car with the optional super-futuristic digital dash and not go back and buy that instrument cluster. So, now I’ve got a genuine digital dash collection going on, adding the Cressida cluster to my ’84 Nissan 300ZX Turbo cluster and my ’83 Mitsubishi Cordia Turbo cluster.
One great thing about Japanese cars of the 1980s and 1990s is that the instrument clusters are almost always easy to remove and install. There’s a fascia that comes off with a few screws, then another half-dozen screws hold the cluster in the dash.
On a Detroit car from this period, you’ll find all sorts of one-way plastic retainers that made it easy for the line workers to smack the cluster into place with a sharp blow from a rubber mallet, Mickey’s Big Mouth bottle, or whatever tool was handy. You’ll break all sorts of stuff while removing the thing, because the low-bidder plastic used for the retainers has a service life of maybe five years. Meanwhile, German clusters are even worse, with all manner of crazy hidden fasteners, in super-overkill quantities. I’ll stick with the Japanese stuff… for now.

Which reminds me: here’s how you remove the clock from a mid-70s Cadillac. No tools needed!
Unlike the 300ZX, the Cressida cluster’s harness doesn’t plug into sockets inside the dash. I cut the wires as far from the cluster as far as I could get away with. I’ll get a copy of the factory shop manual, which will give me the wiring diagram I need to control this cluster with an Arduino microcontroller. My collection still requires a Subaru XT digital dash. Did Honda do any digital dashes in the 1980s?

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Don’t Try This At Home: Yes, I Bought the 300ZX Digital Instrument Cluster http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/dont-try-this-at-home-yes-i-bought-the-300zx-digital-instrument-cluster/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/dont-try-this-at-home-yes-i-bought-the-300zx-digital-instrument-cluster/#comments Wed, 08 Aug 2012 14:30:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=455866 When I saw today’s Junkyard Find at my local self-serve junkyard, I knew that I had to own that incredible digital dash. You see, I’ve already got a Mitsubishi Cordia Turbo digital instrument cluster, which means I’m collecting this stuff now. Someone had already started tearing up the dash before I got there, but the […]

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When I saw today’s Junkyard Find at my local self-serve junkyard, I knew that I had to own that incredible digital dash. You see, I’ve already got a Mitsubishi Cordia Turbo digital instrument cluster, which means I’m collecting this stuff now.
Someone had already started tearing up the dash before I got there, but the cluster appeared to be in good shape. I had only a Phillips screwdriver and a needlenose pliers with me (which I brought in order to grab the headlight switch from a ’68 Dodge D-100, in order to replace the flaky ’78 Dodge camper switch in my ’66 Dodge A-100), but that was all I needed to yank the 300ZX’s cluster. Just $20.99 at U-Pull-&-Pay! The 50 or so connectors on the wiring harness look intimidating, but I’ll grab a factory shop manual and puzzle it all out.
With the help of brainy geek and LeMons racer Quinn Dunki, I’m working on getting the Cordia cluster to function as a wall-mounted display in my office, operated by an Arduino microcontroller. Now, of course, I’ll need to do the same with this 300ZX cluster. After that, I’ll need a Subaru XT digital dash and maybe a touchscreen Electronic Control Center out of a late-80s Buick.

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What’s It Really Like To Obliterate a Press Car? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/whats-it-really-like-to-obliterate-a-press-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/whats-it-really-like-to-obliterate-a-press-car/#comments Sat, 28 Jul 2012 14:30:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=454544 After reading Jack’s “mean-spiritedly annotated” interpretation of Motor Trend’s Scott Evans’ rollover of a Cadillac ATS at a press event and then Scott’s safe-n-sane account of his unfortunate off-road adventure, I remembered 24 Hours of LeMons head honcho Jay Lamm mentioning that he’d rolled a Range Rover in spectacular fashion during his car-journo days. With […]

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After reading Jack’s “mean-spiritedly annotated” interpretation of Motor Trend’s Scott Evans’ rollover of a Cadillac ATS at a press event and then Scott’s safe-n-sane account of his unfortunate off-road adventure, I remembered 24 Hours of LeMons head honcho Jay Lamm mentioning that he’d rolled a Range Rover in spectacular fashion during his car-journo days. With all this talk about upside-down press cars lately, I decided to interview Mr. Lamm about his wreck and the effects it had on his subsequent career.
If there’s anyone who has car writing in his blood, it’s this guy. Jay’s father, Michael Lamm, wrote and edited for most of the car rags back in the day (and still writes good stuff for Hemmings nowadays), and Jay battled in the auto-journo trenches for a good quarter-century before hanging it up to become a race promoter. He’s refreshingly grumpy and cynical about the entire business (to the point of hanging a signed pledge to never write about cars again over his desk), so I knew he wouldn’t sugar-coat anything in this story. Here we go!

MM: A little background first. How long did you work as an automotive journalist before embarking on your current career as a race promoter, and what were some of the publications for which you wrote?

JL: The first thing I ever sold was a piece about Elvis’ metalflake-blue Maserati Ghibli, to AutoWeek when I was 16. Since then I did stuff for Automobile, Car and Driver, the late lamented MPH, Spy Magazine, Popular Mechanics, a bunch of others. And I was editor of Sports Car International in the 90s and Vintage Motorsport and a whole bunch of one-marque mags, some being pretty okay and some just appallingly awful.

MM: OK, now that we’ve got that stuff out of the way, let’s talk about the really interesting part, i.e., your glorious press-car-killing rollover. What was the vehicle, and where was the event?

JL: It was a Range Rover, and the event was The Great Divide Expedition. You still see those stickers sometimes on hooptie-ass Range Rovers from, I don’t know, it must’ve been the very late ’80s. Anyway, the deal was they had a bunch of Range Rovers and you flew into the Rockies and crossed the Great Divide in these sport-utes a whole bunch of times, taking pictures and ogling the scenery and all the while shoveling buckets of airlifted shrimp into your maw. Okay, I don’t actually remember the shrimp, so I’m projecting a little there. I do remember it was pretty swanky for a trip about grinding America’s nature under the British-built pneumatic boot-heel of a luxury SUV.

MM: On the Hella Sweet To Butt Turrable Continuum (HSTBTC), where would you place this vehicle?

JL: About mid-pack. If you accept that the First World’s soccer moms need a short-coupled, leather-lined safari wagon with gigantic hoppy springs under the chassis, it was great. If you think “Hmm, sounds like a great recipe for a rollover if driven by a guy with no talent (ie, me),” it was butt-turrible. So really, that’s open to interpretation.

MM: So, how did the wreck happen? Walk us through the chain of events.

JL: I needed to pee. There were about seven of us up in the high country on these gravel roads, and I DESPERATELY needed to pee.

So I come around a corner, and there’s about four other dudes on this deal all pulled over to the side of the road with their donkeys out, simultaneously studying nature and hydrodynamics. I think “ah, salvation.” I join ‘em.

So now I’m standing there, one-handed for, like, eight solid minutes. Did I mention I really had to pee? Finally I’m done, and by then all but one of the other cars had taken off, and the last one was just piling in and going away as I’m zipping my fly. Now, I don’t want to get lost, of course, and–you know, since I’m an automotive journalist–God forbid I should actually look at a map and find my own way like a grownup, so I jump back in my Range Rover and tear-ass to catch up to the guy who just left. And as soon as I catch up with him, I realize he’s really flying. FLYING. We’re on these gravel roads, going over hills and creeks and stuff, and he’s just ripping. But I say, you know, those classic final words, “if he can go that fast, I can go that fast.”

Turns out “he” was zillion-time Baja 1000 winner Malcolm Smith. If I’m in a Range Rover, Malcolm Smith could outrun me in a golf cart. I could so NOT go as fast as that guy, and about two minutes later I totally bit it. The road went up over a rise and jigged sharp right just on the other side. For Malcom, no problem–he, like, teleported the car 50 yards to the right and putted happily down the road. I rolled mine about four times, corner to corner, and I distinctly remember thinking, as it was sliding along on its windshield about 60 mph, “Wait–who did that? That’s REALLY FUCKING BAD. I sure feel sorry for THAT poor bastard.”

Nobody was hurt, but the PR guy in the backseat got the entire contents of an ice chest down his shorts, which I felt kinda bad about. The guy in the front passenger’s seat was a Motor Trend dude who’d just rolled a new Saab on a press launch in, like, Öbberlikkenflickenhammer a month ago, so he couldn’t say dick…in fact, they were both really kind about it, considering how badly I’d just screwed them.

MM: How trashed was the vehicle?

JL: It was hella-done trashed. Bill Baker, who was the head of Range Rover at the time, came back eventually after we’d pushed it back on its wheels and said “Hey, these things are so tough, it’ll just start right up!” Yeah, um, sorry Bill, not so much. Every corner was rounded off, the roof was caved in, the wheels were exploring new forms of directional self-expression…that thing was messed up. For all I know, there was, like, a nest of endangered snowy plovers sucked up in the air cleaner. It was done.

MM: Did you get sweated by anybody (e.g., press flacks, editors, cops) about the wreck?

JL: Not a soul. Even Bill, who I’m sure would have been delighted to chuck my ass off the nearest cliff, was very polite about it, though he did suggest that for my own sake–you know, rattled and all, probably sore, snakebit, blah blah blah–I should probably take the next goddamn plane out of Wyoming and thus his professional life. Oh, and BTW, they’d happily pay for it. Which they did.

Now, I’ve never worked on the PR side, so this is purely a supposition, but I’ve always assumed that if you hand the keys to a zillion-dollar luxury vehicle to a 22-year-old kid and say “have fun!!” you probably already expect that it might not come back in pristine dealer condition. And that said, I’m not nearly as surprised that some press cars get wiped out as I am that so few get wiped out. Even if you’re talking about some given set of well trained, highly responsible drivers–and, let’s be perfectly clear here, we are NOT talking about a set of well trained and highly responsible drivers–then by sheer probability alone, you’d kind of assume that a lot more would end in a ditch. You’re just talking about hundreds and hundreds of guys who are out there driving constantly, in all kinds of weather, in unfamiliar cars, on all kinds of weird routes, traffic signs in Urdu and shit, and they’re all doing God knows how many tens of millions of miles a year between them. The fact that they’re not stacking them up ALL THE TIME is more amazing to me than the fact that some dude named Darth Bissoon-Vader occasionally shortens a Lambo.

MM: Did you ever mention the wreck in your writing?

JL: Yeah, all the time, in fact. I don’t even remember who I was sent by on that thing, and I know they didn’t say Boo about it, but it came up a lot for a while after that–you know, as in “…not wanting to roll yet another press vehicle, I declined Mr. Moss’s invitation to….”

MM: Did you get blacklisted with that manufacturer or otherwise suffer any negative, career-tarnishing consequences as a result of the wreck?

JL: Not that I’m aware of, but really, who knows? I did so little SUV stuff anyway, they could have said “we’re never letting THAT Jewish bastard in one of our cars again,” and I doubt that I would have noticed. Certainly nobody else seemed to care, except my mother, who is still kinda horrified to this day. But a week later, I was driving a Nissan Pathfinder press car and thinking, “Man, I sure hope Malcolm Smith isn’t around here anyplace.”

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Kill Switch Thwarts Denver Civic Thieves Once Again, Junkyard Parts To the Rescue http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/kill-switch-thwarts-denver-civic-thieves-once-again-junkyard-parts-to-the-rescue/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/kill-switch-thwarts-denver-civic-thieves-once-again-junkyard-parts-to-the-rescue/#comments Thu, 19 Jul 2012 14:30:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=453416 I love my beater 1992 Honda Civic, and living near downtown Denver is great, but the combination of fifth-gen Civic and urban living means that thieves are going to try to steal my street-parked car on a depressingly regular basis. Would-be thieves tore up my steering column less than a year ago, and they did […]

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I love my beater 1992 Honda Civic, and living near downtown Denver is great, but the combination of fifth-gen Civic and urban living means that thieves are going to try to steal my street-parked car on a depressingly regular basis. Would-be thieves tore up my steering column less than a year ago, and they did it again a couple of weeks back. Both times, my homebrewed kill-switch system kept the bad guys from starting the car. Both times, I got the car back on the road with cheap junkyard parts.
The first indication I got that something was wrong was the sight of the open glovebox— itself the victim of many break-ins when the previous owner lived in San Francisco and Chicago and repaired with non-color-matching junkyard parts just recently— and the busted steering-column cover on the passenger-side floor. Not again!
After I had an ’87 Civic hatch ripped off in Oakland back in the 1990s, I’ve installed kill switches on every Honda I’ve owned since; this is the fourth time (that I know of) that such a switch has saved one of my cars from theft. The problem with Civics of the 1980s and 1990s is that any random Honda key has a pretty good chance of starting any Honda; most thieves just carry a bunch of keys with them and keep trying keys until one works. This thief went for the old-fashioned break-the-column-lock/pry-the-ignition-switch-off approach, which tears the hell out of everything on the steering column.
I’m not sure exactly what tools are used to do this, but some major leverage must have been used to crack the tough steel of the column-lock collar.
I’d like to share my kill-switch secrets with the world, but I don’t want to make things any easier for the Honda thieves prowling my neighborhood. What I’ve got is a device that doesn’t look like a switch and requires a certain amount of contortion to reach from the driver’s seat, and it’s a double-pole/single-throw switch that cuts power to both the starter solenoid and the fuel pump. Actually, that’s the setup I had, before this incident; now I’ve got the two circuits on separate camouflaged switches. It would take a very patient thief indeed to find both switches, and meth use doesn’t encourage such patience.
One of these days I’m going to master the art of Field Expedient Ignition Key Making, as seen at towed-car auctions: you jam a key blank in the lock, abuse it cruelly with a pliers, and then file away the areas where the lock pins made marks on the blank. For now, I buy a lock cylinder and ignition switch at the junkyard and get a locksmith to make a key; in this case, I found a great deal on eBay for a 5G Civic cylinder/switch assembly with keys already there, so I went that route.
Since the steering-column covers had been torn to bits by the amphetamine-crazed Civic thief, I headed to my favorite self-serve wrecking yard to do some plastic shopping. Someone had already pulled the ignition switch from this ’95 Civic sedan (nearly every 5th-gen Civic in self-service yards has had the ignition switch assembly removed, which tells you something about the prevalence of theft with these cars), and he or she had been kind enough to not destroy the steering column cover pieces. It’s nice to find that the parts you need are removed and conveniently located.
Success! I’m pretty sure my car had been stolen and recovered several times before I bought it, because every lock and latch in the car was already pretty well thrashed; the steering column cover was already beat to hell before the latest thief finished it off. I’ll have to give the car’s previous owner a call and ask him about the car’s theft history.
Removing the old switch is a medium-grade pain in the ass, mostly because the car is so small and it’s hard to get to anything. To get to the shear bolts that hold the switch assembly on the steering column, you need to drop the column down to seat level.
This is the sort of job for which the factory shop manual is a must-have, and Honda has always done a beautiful job with their manuals. I’m a technical writer by trade, and I’ll use Honda factory shop manuals as course materials if I ever teach a tech-writing class (if I ever teach a fiction-writing class it’s going to be Flannery O’Connor all the way).
Right. So, you center-punch and drill out the two shear bolts that hold the lock cylinder assembly on the steering column, and then you unplug the two connectors from the ignition switch harness to the fuse panel.
Here’s the old ignition switch and harness assembly.
You can install the ignition switch/cylinder assembly with regular bolts and it probably wouldn’t matter; any thief who is willing to remove the half-dozen fasteners required to get access to the switch mounting bracket is going to apply his talents to more valuable targets. My switch came with new shear bolts, courtesy of the eBay seller, so I used them.
It doesn’t take much torque to snap off the heads of the shear bolts; one hand on a short 1/4″-drive ratchet was sufficient.
At this point, punching and drilling of the bolt will be needed to remove the assembly.
In a job like this, there’s always some nickel/dime headache that slows things down. In this case, the replacement switch’s wiring harness didn’t have one of the two one-way hold-downs that keep the wires out of the way of nearby moving parts.
I could have drilled a second hole in the bracket and used a zip-tie, but instead I opted to free up one of the hold-downs on the old harness and install it on the new one.
A quick test showed that the new switch worked fine, so I buttoned everything up.
Ready to go!
I’m glad my kill switches have saved my Civic, which has been the best daily-driver/parts-hauling beater I’ve ever owned, but these constant theft attempts are getting old. To prevent such occurrences— which seem inevitable, given that I park a known-to-be-easy-to-steal car with high parts demand in a nice neighborhood adjacent to a sketchy/tweeker-centric ‘hood— in the future, I’m going to take additional steps:
1. I’ve been parking the Civic (which I don’t drive much since I bought a much more VIP daily driver) in a dark parking space where it can’t be seen from my house, mostly so my ’66 Dodge A100 van can be seen from the house. Since I remove the battery from my hot-wireable-in-10-seconds van when it’s parked, and demand for A100 parts isn’t particularly high, it’s probably safe to let the Civic live in the A100’s spot.
2. Car alarms are pointless and annoying, but the cost of a flashing LED and resistor is about 99 cents. There’s a small-but-real chance that the appearance of an alarm will deter potential thieves, so I’ve installed a blinky LED on the dash. I’ve also added a club-style steering wheel lock, because a thief might decide that the added 30 seconds to hacksaw through the steering wheel isn’t worth the risk of getting shot full of holes and/or bludgeoned with a lag-screw-studded 2×4 by an enraged car owner.
3. I’ve added a second kill switch, so now the fuel pump and starter are interrupted by separate switches. Good luck finding both switches, thieves!
4. Long-term (i.e., before I swap my Integra GS-R B18C1 engine in), I plan to install a racing-style quick-release steering wheel in the car and stash the wheel inside the house. Most thieves don’t carry a collection of steering wheels with all the popular quick-release hubs, and using a Vise-Grip as a steering wheel works poorly on a non-power-steering-equipped car.
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Because Not Every Old VW Deserves To Live: Fetching Crusher Food! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/because-not-every-old-vw-deserves-to-live-fetching-crusher-food/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/because-not-every-old-vw-deserves-to-live-fetching-crusher-food/#comments Fri, 13 Jul 2012 14:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=452542 You don’t need a good reason to visit the Mecca of Colorado wrecking yards on the Fourth of July, but we had one: I was tagging along on a mission to grab a couple of dead Rabbits that could be turned into cash at Denver’s ever-ravenous Crusher/shredder. Here’s how the scrap-metal food chain that (mostly) […]

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You don’t need a good reason to visit the Mecca of Colorado wrecking yards on the Fourth of July, but we had one: I was tagging along on a mission to grab a couple of dead Rabbits that could be turned into cash at Denver’s ever-ravenous Crusher/shredder. Here’s how the scrap-metal food chain that (mostly) ends in a Chinese foundry gets its roughage.
Andy, LeMons racer, automotive entrepreneur, and owner of a righteous yard-o-cars himself, had bought a couple of Malaise Era Volkswagen Rabbits at the Junkyard of Melted Brains a decade or so back, and he decided to celebrate our nation’s 236th birthday by driving 100 miles each way to pick them up. The key to this journey was his recent obtainment of a 1975 Chevrolet Scottsdale flatbed truck with a vintage flame job and a sufficiently low bed to allow Rabbit stacking.
It was 100 degrees out and the air conditioning was broken, but the bigger worry was the 454’s problem with fuel starvation due to bad-gas-induced clogging. Andy had flushed the tank and cleaned out the lines, but bad gas is sort of like nuclear waste; it tends to keep on contaminating for years.
The truck had problems climbing grades in hot weather, and you get plenty of grades and heat on I-25 on the Fourth of July. A stop to replace the fuel filter seemed to help.
Finally, we reached the dirt road that led to the JOMB.
Located way in the back of the yard were the VWs: a light blue Rabbit C Diesel and a gray Rabbit LS.
I was so mesmerized by the acres of vintage machinery that I didn’t offer much help loading the Rabbits. Just as well, because Andy mashed a middle finger right off the bat, and I probably would have found a way to smash the other one.
Rich has a GTI project that could use a radiator, and the Diesel Rabbit had a good one. Out it came!
These guys have a lot of experience hauling cars to The Crusher, so they knew they had to shorten the bottom car of the stack. Rabbits aren’t exactly substantial, particularly when built in Pennsylvania, so the Sawzall didn’t meet with much resistance.
After cutting the pillars and bending the roof back, the second car was ready for its parking space.
The LS got tipped up on its side, so that Andy could harvest the catalytic converter. It turns out that this was a very rare LS with factory air conditioning but not power steering. Is it worth anything? Yes, about $200/ton.
Next, the LS is eased into its position atop the Diesel.
Plenty of space for low bridges!
After the attachment of endless hooks, tie-downs, and cables, we were ready to go.
The truck ran much better in the cool evening air. Here’s my view out the rear cab window.
We stopped for a nice meal during our journey north to Denver.
Meanwhile, property values for the entire neighborhood plummeted. Multiply this trip to The Crusher by several thousand, every day, and you’ll get an idea of how the global steel industry gets much of its raw material.

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Working On a Harlequin Interior For My Civic, One Junkyard Piece At a Time http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/working-on-a-harlequin-interior-for-my-civic-one-junkyard-piece-at-a-time/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/working-on-a-harlequin-interior-for-my-civic-one-junkyard-piece-at-a-time/#comments Wed, 30 May 2012 18:03:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=446763 There’s a liberating feeling when you have to fix some interior component on a beater transportation car (e.g., my destined-to-become-a-track-car 1992 Civic DX) and you don’t care about color matching. Item #3,491 on the list of Parts Whose Failure Doesn’t Stop You From Driving, But Still Drives You Crazy: the glovebox door latch. My Civic […]

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There’s a liberating feeling when you have to fix some interior component on a beater transportation car (e.g., my destined-to-become-a-track-car 1992 Civic DX) and you don’t care about color matching. Item #3,491 on the list of Parts Whose Failure Doesn’t Stop You From Driving, But Still Drives You Crazy: the glovebox door latch.
My Civic led a rough life before I bought it five years ago; its previous owner was a blues bass player who lived in Chicago and then San Francisco, parking the car on sketchy side streets near sleazeball blues clubs in both cities. Street-parked cars in San Francisco get broken into about once every two weeks on average, which meant that every lock on the car has been punched or pried out at least a dozen times, and every storage compartment in the interior has been pawed open by many desperate thieves in the throes of amphetamine psychosis and/or the DTs and/or the hippie hippie shakes (in Denver, they just try to cold steal the car itself). The glovebox in my car was always flaky, with a balky latch mechanism damaged by the scrabbling fingers of so many urban entrepreneurs, and last week it finally gave up completely.
Yes, the plastic handle finally snapped off when I opened the glovebox to grab my cassette of I, Fish Driver. I called my local Honda dealer and was quoted a price of just $17.95 for this piece, but it wasn’t in stock. I planned to do a junkyard run that day and shoot Junkyard Find photos, anyway, so I thought I’d do some glovebox-latch shopping at the same time. If I couldn’t find one, I’d just wait a few days for a new replacement part.
The first yard I visited didn’t have any fifth-gen Civics that hadn’t been completely gutted (I’m still waiting for 1992-95 Civics to show up in large quantities in self-service junkyards, but this hasn’t happened yet), so I looked at Integras, Accords, and Preludes from the same decade. Honda has been known to share components across different models, so maybe the Accord’s glovebox latch will fit the Civic.
This one has a lock, but the overall shape is identical to the 92-95 Civic unit. What the heck, it’s held in with just two screws and the junkyard wanted only $2.99 for the entire latch mechanism. As an added bonus, it’s even the correct gray color!
Unfortunately, the location of the striker is about 1/4″ different in the Accord latch, so it wouldn’t work without a bunch of pain-in-ass modifications. The good news was that I planned to do another photo expedition at a second junkyard that afternoon… where I found this fifth-gen Civic coupe.
The interior of this Civic was a very mid-90s beige, which was sort of horrible, but the latch was mechanically correct. This junkyard charged just $1.49 for it.
30 seconds of work and the swap is done.
In a non-beater, this would be a major fashion don’t, but I’m this car’s final owner!
Anyway, the latch goes well with the only-one-I-could-find replacement for the window crank I snapped off while loading 8-foot 2x6s in the car at the lumberyard. Now I’m tempted to get a green steering wheel.

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Finally, the A100 Does What a Van Should Do! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/finally-the-a100-does-what-a-van-should-do/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/finally-the-a100-does-what-a-van-should-do/#comments Wed, 11 Apr 2012 14:30:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=439284 The 1966 Dodge A100 Hell Project was on hold for much of last year, getting stuck in Front Axle Rebuild Limbo for a while. I scored a bunch of junkyard parts in February, and the van came back home a few weeks back. Now, for the first time since it was parked in 1998 with […]

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The 1966 Dodge A100 Hell Project was on hold for much of last year, getting stuck in Front Axle Rebuild Limbo for a while. I scored a bunch of junkyard parts in February, and the van came back home a few weeks back. Now, for the first time since it was parked in 1998 with a spun rod bearing, it’s a properly drivable machine. I took it on its first plywood run earlier this week! It still needs plenty of work— getting the gauges and door locks working is my priority right now— but it starts, runs, turns, and stops. It doesn’t overheat in traffic on hot days (though my right leg does overheat, being pressed against the hot engine doghouse) and it accelerates with authority. Sure, the leaf-springs-all-the-way-around suspension gives it a bouncy, rattly, oil-canning ride, the 318 wants to break the rear tires loose under any sort of throttle, and only my experience owning a forward-control Econoline lets me know that the scary handling is totally normal for these vans.

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When You Need Garage Tunes Right Now: Field Expedient Surround-Sound Audio System http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/when-you-need-garage-tunes-right-now-field-expedient-surround-sound-audio-system/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/when-you-need-garage-tunes-right-now-field-expedient-surround-sound-audio-system/#comments Sun, 19 Feb 2012 20:20:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=431624 When I moved into a Victorian near downtown Denver summer before last, I finally had something I’ve been longing for since I started messing around with cars: a garage! Since that time, I’ve been (very) gradually upgrading the place, with better wiring, insulation, beer signs, and so on. My long-term plan for the place involves […]

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When I moved into a Victorian near downtown Denver summer before last, I finally had something I’ve been longing for since I started messing around with cars: a garage! Since that time, I’ve been (very) gradually upgrading the place, with better wiring, insulation, beer signs, and so on. My long-term plan for the place involves an elaborate garage audio system, with a serious amp, good speakers all over the place, and a CAT5 line to the house that will provide access to the music collection on my file server. However, my long-term garage-upgrade plan also includes certain items that have higher priority— like, say, a source of heat— and I have been working on those items first. In the meantime, I needed to be able to listen to The Atomic Bitchwax at top volume, and I didn’t want to spend any money on temporary measures. One afternoon, I scavenged up the gear to make an extremely loud four-speaker setup. Here’s how.
I had a pretty serious boombox already, in the form of the 92-pound Turbo II Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox that I built out of plywood and car parts a few years back (go to the Murilee’s Greatest Hits page for the whole Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox saga). It had been just the thing for tailgate parties at Oakland A’s games, but the battery I’d scavenged out of a junkyard-bound Tercel in 2006 had lost the ability to take a charge by the time I hauled it to Denver, and it would be an all-weekend thrash to dismantle the thing and replace the battery. Hmmm… how to solve that problem today?
Easy— just add a battery charger to the crap sitting atop my pinball machine restoration project.
The Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox charges via this PVC-pipe-based adapter that plugs into one of the cigarette lighters. The charging adapter was never meant to be used in a permanent setup, but it works.
OK, so the battery charger leads clamp onto the charging adapter and the boombox now has Wanky the Safety Cat™ approval (provided I remember to unplug the battery charger when not in use).
At that point, I had music… but the junkyard-correct Chevy Beretta cassette deck and ’93 Mercury Grand Marquis 6x9s didn’t deliver enough thump for my favorite Ice-T tracks. How can I improve the situation without leaving the garage?
The cassette and 8-track players were hardwired in and it would be a supreme pain in the ass to add more amps and speakers to them, but the Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox features a wired FM modulator to allow the use of external sound sources through the cassette deck. That means I can use the same iPod I use for the LeMons Macho Man penalty… and it also means that the signal from the iPod can be split and fed into another means of amplification.
From my days in the industro-noise band Murilee Arraiac, hooking up shortwave radios through chains of OD-1 overdrive pedals and so forth, I have every imaginable audio-cable adapter. Putting a one-into-two 1/8″ jack adapter on the iPod was easy, and led to…
…this 900 MHz audio transmitter, which sends its signal to…
…this pair of RCA wireless stereo speakers, which I got at a yard sale and had been storing with a lot of other random crap in a box for quite a while. Every bit of this gear was available right there in the garage. It’s what the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™ refers to as Ghetto Surround Sound 4.0™.
I had to do a little rearranging of power outlets to feed everything, but it all sorted out in typical garage-octopus fashion.
So now I can crank up the Gotan Project loud enough to share with the whole neighborhood, and I didn’t have to buy anything. Wanky approves!

9 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 1 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 2 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 3 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 4 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 5 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 6 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 7 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 8 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 11 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 10 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 12 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden 13 - Field Expedient Garage Sound System - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Wanky the Safety Cat' Greden Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Junkyard Jackpot: The Missing Pieces For the A100 Hell Project Puzzle http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/junkyard-jackpot-the-missing-pieces-for-the-a100-hell-project-puzzle/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/junkyard-jackpot-the-missing-pieces-for-the-a100-hell-project-puzzle/#comments Fri, 17 Feb 2012 16:30:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=431198 My 1966 Dodge A100 Hell Project has been in semi-hibernation since the summer, but now it has a rebuilt front end and I’m ready to get back into turning it into the 8-track-equipped custom van of my dreams. Since I bought my van project, the toughest problem has been finding junked A100s to provide a […]

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My 1966 Dodge A100 Hell Project has been in semi-hibernation since the summer, but now it has a rebuilt front end and I’m ready to get back into turning it into the 8-track-equipped custom van of my dreams. Since I bought my van project, the toughest problem has been finding junked A100s to provide a bunch of bits and pieces needed to get everything working properly. Alex Kierstein of Hooniverse grabbed a window latch from a Seattle junkyard and shipped it to me, which was a big help, but my van still had some bad glass and an annoying assortment of missing pieces. Then, last week, I got word that an A100 had appeared in a self-service yard a few miles from my house.
Unfortunately, I heard about this find late Wednesday night, and I was heading to the airport Thursday morning to fly out to the Yeehaw It’s Texas 24 Hours of LeMons. I knew that the vultures might well pick that rare van clean by the time I got back, so my only choice was to get up early, dash to the junkyard, pull the parts, and then rush to the airport. Bundling up against the 15-degree cold in many layers of Homeless Choice™ brand clothes, I threw my tools in my cargo-hauling Civic and burned rubber to I-25.
The #1 item on my list has been a replacement driver’s-side windshield panel; the one on my van was badly cracked and has the look of a piece of glass that wants to disintegrate into my face at highway speed. The one on this ’69 A100 (in fact, it’s the long-wheelbase A108 version of the A100) was in fine shape, and I actually cackled with glee when I saw it.
The ancient weatherstripping was dried-out and shrunken, in addition to being frozen rock-hard by the Denver winter air, and the locking strip was fused solid in its channel. This meant I was in for 45 minutes of chipping away at rubber the consistency of pine with a putty knife. Fortunately, the glass in these vans is absurdly thick, so there wasn’t much danger of cracking this windshield as I worked.
In a few areas, the glass had fused to the rubber with such tenacity that I had to use my Junkyard Hammer™ (Vice-Grips) to get the blade to bite.
Got it!
Another problem with my van is the window in one of the rear doors. It broke at some point, so a previous owner replaced it with a piece of Lexan. That worked OK, but the plastic has become very scratched and hazy, essentially opaque when the sun (or headlights) shine on it. This A108 had excellent rear door glass, complete with dark tinting.
This weatherstripping was quite flexible, so removing the glass was just a matter of slicing it with a utility knife and peeling the rubber away.
Three minutes later, the glass was out. Good thing I did the difficult glass-removal operation first, because my hands had become thoroughly frozen by this time. Mechanix gloves are great, but not really made for insulation.
Got the glass! Now to harvest some more stuff before my plane leaves DIA.
The A100, like many Chrysler products of the 1960s, used a foot-pump-operated windshield-washer squirter, with a plastic reservoir on a metal bracket. This system was missing most of its parts in my van, but this A108 had the entire setup in perfect working order. It’s almost impossible to find the black plastic washer-fluid reservoir in good shape, so this was quite a score for me. A few twists of the screwdriver and the whole mess was mine.
The heater blower motor in my van is bad. Here’s the replacement.
The instrument cluster in my van is extremely cool-looking, but only the ammeter functions. I’m considering modifying a 1961 Citroën ID19 cluster (which I own) to use in the A100, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a spare Dodge unit in case I want to rebuild the factory cluster. The 1969 version isn’t as vintage-looking as the ’66, but the innards are identical. Four screws and it’s out.
I also grabbed the horn button assembly, a taillight lens, some seat mounting pins, a side-view mirror, a door strap (which keeps the door from swinging open too far and bashing the bodywork), an engine-cover prop rod, and a bunch of small hardware I need. I had pulled all this stuff quickly enough that I had time (barely) to run back home and drop everything off before heading to the airport.
When I got back into town on Monday, I went back and got the other half of the windshield and the other rear door glass, plus some more small pieces. You never know when you’re going to need spare glass for your 46-year-old project!

38 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 01 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 02 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 03 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 04 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 05 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 06 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 07 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 08 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 09 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 10 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 11 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 12 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 13 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 14 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 15 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 17 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 18 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 19 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 21 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 22 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 23 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 24 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 25 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 26 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 29 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 30 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 31 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 32 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 34 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden 37 - Harvesting Dodge A100 Parts - Pictures by Phillip 'Sportsman' Greden Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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When You See a Clean Corinthian Leather Bench Seat In the Junkyard, You Buy It! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/when-you-see-a-clean-corinthian-leather-bench-seat-in-the-junkyard-you-buy-it/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/when-you-see-a-clean-corinthian-leather-bench-seat-in-the-junkyard-you-buy-it/#comments Thu, 26 Jan 2012 18:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=428125 When I saw the interior of today’s Junkyard Find, I knew: I must have that Corinthian Leather bench seat! Maybe I’ll put it in the back of my ’66 Dodge A100 van, or maybe I’ll just convert it into a comfy, Ricardo Montalban-grade garage couch. Either way, I returned to the junkyard yesterday with a […]

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When I saw the interior of today’s Junkyard Find, I knew: I must have that Corinthian Leather bench seat! Maybe I’ll put it in the back of my ’66 Dodge A100 van, or maybe I’ll just convert it into a comfy, Ricardo Montalban-grade garage couch. Either way, I returned to the junkyard yesterday with a sense of grim determination: that seat will be mine!
It’s very rare that you find a 34-year-old car in a wrecking yard with a front seat in this condition. No rips, no cracking, hardly any staining. I’m guessing that the car’s owner kept it garaged and safe from the upholstery-frying Colorado sun, and perhaps he or she even kept a seat cover over the front bench.
Those of you who know old Chrysler products are familiar with this seat-mounting system: studs going through the car’s floor, held in place by nuts on the underside of the car. Yes, where they’re exposed to salt, dirt, roadkill, and big rocks.
I knew what to expect, so I’d brought some deep sockets and my grungiest coveralls. The weather in Denver had been chilly for a week or so, but yesterday got into the low 60s. Hooray, icy mud under the car!
I threw some old floor mats under the car and crawled beneath. The bench seat in a Cordoba is held in with four nuts and big washers, just like all the Mopars of its era. While I removed the first three nuts, I recalled a prank pulled on me while driving a ’73 Fury in high school: some clever friend removed all four seat nuts in my car, so that when I stepped on the gas the seat (with me in it) flew all the way into the back seat. I must say that got my attention; fortunately, I was able to crawl forward and jam my hand on the brake pedal before the car hit anything expensive.
When I got to the nut holding the front of the driver’s side of the seat in place, my heart sank. Yes, that’s a junkyard jack-stand (i.e., two steel wheels welded together) blocking access to the last seat mounting nut. Damn.
By this time, I was pretty well chilled by the semi-frozen mud beneath the car (having spent most of my life in California, this snow-and-ice-at-the-junkyard business is still a new phenomenon to me) and started considering my options. The most attractive option involved finding a jack, preferably of the old-school bumper-ratchet variety, in the trunk of a nearby car and just lifting the car enough to move the jack-stand. No dice: this yard clears all the jacks out of the cars when they show up. I considered asking the yard employees to use the forklift to reposition the car, but I’ve had bad experiences with this sort of thing; lots of times, resentful junkyard workers will not only refuse to help, they’ll come back later and vandalize the part you wanted to get.
However, there was a third option. If I cut the parking-brake cables and bent the brake line out of the way, I might be able to sneak a wrench over the top of the jack-stand and get it onto the nut. Here goes the brake cable.
At this point, I should apologize for the crappy quality of these cell-phone photos; I was in such a rush to get out the door and grab my Corinthian Leather prize that I forgot to bring a proper camera. But even with a phone camera, you can see that it is just barely possible to get a 1/2″ wrench onto the offending nut. It turned out that it was also possible to get about 1/16th of a turn with the wrench before it fell off and clattered into the mud. Repeat. Endlessly.
After about 45 minutes of profanity-enhanced wrench-dropping fun, I was able to get the nut far enough down the threads to get a quarter-drive socket onto it. Success!
My junkyard toolbox doesn’t have the 7/8″ socket I’d need to remove the seat belts (which couldn’t be pulled out of the seats), the driver’s-side lap belt had been cut already, and so I sliced them with a knife. I hate doing this, but 70s Chrysler seat belts are easy to find.
I’d brought a hand truck, an old sheet, and some rope, and I hoped to get the seat out to my car without getting it too muddy. This thing probably weighs 80 pounds.
I couldn’t resist removing and buying the opera lights on the C pillars. These will look good in the interior of my A100.
I should have tied the seat to the roof of my cargo-hauling Civic, but instead I got lazy and brought the Outback. Hey, got to keep that white Corinthian Leather in good shape!

21 - Chrysler Cordoba Corinthian Leather Bench Seat - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Personal Luxury' Greden 01 - Chrysler Cordoba Corinthian Leather Bench Seat - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Personal Luxury' Greden 02 - Chrysler Cordoba Corinthian Leather Bench Seat - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Personal Luxury' Greden 03 - Chrysler Cordoba Corinthian Leather Bench Seat - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Personal Luxury' Greden 04 - Chrysler Cordoba Corinthian Leather Bench Seat - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Personal Luxury' Greden 05 - Chrysler Cordoba Corinthian Leather Bench Seat - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Personal Luxury' Greden 06 - Chrysler Cordoba Corinthian Leather Bench Seat - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Personal Luxury' Greden 08 - Chrysler Cordoba Corinthian Leather Bench Seat - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Personal Luxury' Greden 10 - Chrysler Cordoba Corinthian Leather Bench Seat - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Personal Luxury' Greden 11 - Chrysler Cordoba Corinthian Leather Bench Seat - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Personal Luxury' Greden 13 - Chrysler Cordoba Corinthian Leather Bench Seat - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Personal Luxury' Greden 15 - Chrysler Cordoba Corinthian Leather Bench Seat - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Personal Luxury' Greden 16 - Chrysler Cordoba Corinthian Leather Bench Seat - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Personal Luxury' Greden 17 - Chrysler Cordoba Corinthian Leather Bench Seat - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Personal Luxury' Greden 19 - Chrysler Cordoba Corinthian Leather Bench Seat - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Personal Luxury' Greden 20 - Chrysler Cordoba Corinthian Leather Bench Seat - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Personal Luxury' Greden 13 - 1978 Chrysler Cordoba Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Corinthian Leather' Greden Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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When I Build My Spaceship, It Will Be Equipped With This Mitsubishi Cordia Instrument Cluster http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/when-i-build-my-spaceship-it-will-be-equipped-with-this-mitsubishi-cordia-instrument-cluster/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/when-i-build-my-spaceship-it-will-be-equipped-with-this-mitsubishi-cordia-instrument-cluster/#comments Tue, 03 Jan 2012 18:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=424093 After seeing the intensely early-1980s-Japan instrument cluster in this ’83 Cordia in a Northern California wrecking yard a few weeks back, it gnawed at me that I hadn’t brought the tools to pull the thing on the spot. I kept thinking about the amazing big-nosed climate-control humanoid diagram, and the even-better-than-the-280ZX-Turbo “bar graph” tachometer. Finally, […]

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After seeing the intensely early-1980s-Japan instrument cluster in this ’83 Cordia in a Northern California wrecking yard a few weeks back, it gnawed at me that I hadn’t brought the tools to pull the thing on the spot. I kept thinking about the amazing big-nosed climate-control humanoid diagram, and the even-better-than-the-280ZX-Turbo “bar graph” tachometer.
Finally, I broke down and called a member of the LeMons Mafia who lives near the junkyard in question: “Please go and grab that Cordia cluster for me!”
Shawn, who races the fast-but-fragile Bunny With a Pancake On Its Head VW Rabbit in West Coast LeMons events, did the parts pulling for my Junkyard Nightmare Build Quality Challenge: Speedometers piece last year, so I knew he was the right guy to yank and ship my much-dreamed-about Cordia cluster.
A couple days back, a big box shows up on my front porch. I’m really impressed by the component quality and workmanship on this unit; it’s obvious that Mitsubishi’s consumer-electronics experience helped them a lot here. The only clusters of this vintage I’ve seen that look more solidly built come out of W126 Benzes.
Yes, the rest of the Cordia fell apart in a hurry, but I’m sure Honda and Toyota engineers were a bit envious of the car’s instrument cluster.
Even though it has a digital speedometer, the Cordia still used an old-fashioned speedometer cable to provide the speed signal to the cluster’s brain, rather than a solid-state sender at the transmission. This allowed Mitsubishi to use a mechanical odometer and trip counter, in addition to avoidance of designing too many new electronic components.
With all the analog processing and whatever else goes on inside the Cordia cluster’s black box, Mitsubishi decided to punch these snazzy louvers in the cover over the nerve center.
Did the JDM version of this climate-control diagram feature such a big nose, or is that just for us gaijin?
From a user-interface standpoint, only the locations of the “door open” indicators on the car-shaped diagram make any sense; the designers apparently thought “let’s pack the little car picture with all the idiot lights, so they don’t clutter up the Big Nose Climate Control Man’s area.”
I try my best to avoid being a crazy car-parts hoarder, especially with pointless stuff like instrument clusters. I’ve already got this 1961 Citroën ID19 cluster, pulled from this car a few years back. I’ve got several silly junkyard-parts-based projects in the works, inspired by the happiness my Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox brings me in the garage. There’s the big box with 50 car clocks, and another box with several hundred “Fasten Seat Belt” warning lights, and yet another full of car horns. Someday, these ambitious projects will join the Junkyard Boogaloo…
As for the Cordia and ID19 clusters, my plan is to frame them and hang them on the wall of my office, wired up so that the lights and gauges function. The Citroën cluster will be pretty simple, with just a clock and some lights to wire up (I’ll leave the speedo at zero, since a motor to move the needle would make irritating noise), but the Cordia unit is going to be a greater challenge.
I’ve bought the Cordia factory shop manual on eBay, which will give me the wiring diagram for the dash harness. Armed with that information, I should be able to get all the idiot lights and— probably— the Big Nose Climate Control icons to work. What I’d really like to do is get the tach and speedo cycling through their paces, and for that I’d need to spoof their inputs using simple digital electronics. I’ve always wanted to mess around with the Arduino microcontroller, and now I have an excuse!

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When You Need a Sensible Tow Vehicle: Cab-Over Ford With Nowhere-Near-Finished Toronado FWD Drivetrain Swap http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/when-you-need-a-sensible-tow-vehicle-cab-over-ford-with-nowhere-near-finished-toronado-fwd-drivetrain-swap/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/when-you-need-a-sensible-tow-vehicle-cab-over-ford-with-nowhere-near-finished-toronado-fwd-drivetrain-swap/#comments Wed, 21 Dec 2011 16:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=423030 It’s always good to have friends with way crazier more ambitious vehicular projects than one’s own not-making-much-forward-progress Hell Projects. Rich, captain of the Rocket Surgery Racing mid-VW-engined Renault 4CV, has a snake pit cornucopia of such projects at his place, not far from Chez Murilee in Denver. Rich, last seen by TTAC readers helping me […]

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It’s always good to have friends with way crazier more ambitious vehicular projects than one’s own not-making-much-forward-progress Hell Projects. Rich, captain of the Rocket Surgery Racing mid-VW-engined Renault 4CV, has a snake pit cornucopia of such projects at his place, not far from Chez Murilee in Denver. Rich, last seen by TTAC readers helping me Nader-ize the brakes on my van, has big racing plans for 2012… and for that he needs a flatbed truck that can haul a race car and tow a camping trailer. Oh, and it also has to be a beautiful vintage machine, yet capable of prodigious load capacity. The original plan was to use the ’47 Ford pickup he bought at the amazing Seven Sons Auto Wrecking auction last winter, but then this fine vehicle danced into his field of vision.
I don’t know the first thing about non-light-duty Ford trucks, but I have a vague recollection that this is a ’46. Early postwar, at any rate. For power, it has a 1969 Oldsmobile Toronado 455 front-drive setup. The engine and suspension are installed, sort of, but the steering system hasn’t been worked out yet.
This setup worked just fine on the front-wheel-drive GMC motorhomes of the 1970s, and it should work fine here.
Another part of the project that needs some work is the rear suspension. Right now, there isn’t one. I keep suggesting a pair of early Eldorado rear axles, for that cool six-wheeler look. That’s because I don’t have to do the work.
The steering setup is going to be a total nightmare, because there’s not much room for anything up front with the Olds running gear. Rich will have to fabricate something with a lot of strange bends and joints, or else ditch the super-cool front-drive setup and convert the truck back to its original rear-wheel-drive setup. You do what you have to do.
Whatever happens, the truck will look great in the paddock with this vintage “canned ham” trailer. Rich drove the length of the Great Plains to pick it up this summer.
Then, of course, there’s the engineless Autobianchi Bianchina Hell Project and more 40s Ford truck parts in the back yard.
Not to mention the sawed-up 4CV parts donor.
And the garage full of weird VW parts, including the long-idled GTI with every possible performance upgrade and a floor full of junkyard turbocharging gear for the 4CV.
On top of that, Rich has his 289-powered ’47 Ford coupe (which we used as a Judgemobile at the ’10 B.F.E. GP 24 Hours of LeMons) and a newly-acquired ’49 Ford sedan for his wife, who is a very, very understanding spouse to allow her back yard to fill up with all those rusty old car parts. Now I feel like a total loser for not getting much work done on my Civic engine swap or A100 Hell Project this year.

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