The Truth About Cars » A100 Hell Project http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:26:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 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 » A100 Hell Project http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 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 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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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 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 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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A100 Hell Project: Finally, the Right Tachometer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/a100-hell-project-finally-the-right-tachometer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/a100-hell-project-finally-the-right-tachometer/#comments Thu, 30 Jun 2011 18:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=401199
The thing about my ’66 Dodge A100 van project that makes it a challenge is that I’m going for an early 1970s customization job, not the far easier late 1970s routine. My van won’t have Aztecs On Mars airbrush murals or a wood-burning stove (not that there’s anything wrong with those things), but it does have a telephone-handset-style 23-channel CB radio, (faux) Cragar S/S wheels, and now it has a Watergate-burglary-era cheap aftermarket tachometer.

You could buy this type of no-name tach from J.C. Whitney or Manny, Moe, and Jack for at least two solid decades. It’s got the right blend of 50s industro-chic and Early Malaise Era plasticky cheapness to go with my Sportsman Custom’s instrument cluster, which probably cost Chrysler about $4.17 to make. It will look just right bolted to the steering column.

I’m pretty sure the 4-6-8 selector feature on generic tachometers didn’t appear until the 1980s, but the Japanese factory that made these things probably didn’t change the essential design from its early-60s original until Gulf War I.

I picked up this gauge at the same yard that gave me the TBI intake for my van’s eventual Megasquirt conversion. Right now, the fuel tank is getting cleaned and having a return-line fitting added, so an EFI 318 should be powering my van in the not-incredibly-distant future.

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A100 Hell Project: Red Metalflake Naugahyde… or Reproduction Dart GT Vinyl? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/a100-hell-project-red-metalflake-naugahyde-or-reproduction-dart-gt-vinyl/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/a100-hell-project-red-metalflake-naugahyde-or-reproduction-dart-gt-vinyl/#comments Thu, 07 Apr 2011 13:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=390327
As the 1966 Dodge A100 Hell Project progresses (slowly), I’m finally at the point at which T-shirts and towels draped over the trashed seats— nuked by over a decade of outdoor storage in the Colorado sun— no longer cut it. It’s time to fix ‘em up!

The framing and foam rubber are in beat but usable condition, but the original vinyl covers are totally hopeless. I could find some junkyard seats narrow enough to fit (e.g., Miata or MR2 seats), but that just won’t cut it in an A100. Now I face a dilemma: Do I go all-out custom and find some totally stony red metalflake Naugahyde, then get a custom upholstery shop to make my seats look like something out of a booth in an upscale Wisconsin bowling alley, circa 1964? Thick red piping, the works? Or do I call up my ex-coworkers at Year One and order me up a set of 1965 Dart GT seat covers? The Dart GT and most of the Chrysler factory drag race cars of the era used light and simple A100 buckets, so I could be all vintage-correct and get some colorful Dart covers sewn onto my van seats. What to do?

For now, I need a temporary solution, so I can drive the van without getting covered with crumbly foam-rubber chunks. Hey, Tradesman-based RVs of the 1970s use very similar seats to the A100′s!

This junked 1975 Dodge RV had seats that were first cousins to the ones in my van; the external dimensions are identical, though the spacing of the tracks are narrower in the A100. For 20 bucks, though, I’ll take one!

All I need to do is remove the RV’s seat tracks and drill new mounting holes for the A100′s. Fortunately, the front-to-back distance is the same for both, so I don’t need to fabricate funky brackets to get the A100 tracks installed.

Here’s the A100 seat.

The old tracks come off easily; they’re not even particularly grungy. Sometimes junkyard seats have narsty petri-dish-grade biological material packed into the track hardware, but not these.

The A100′s tracks are spaced about 9-1/2″ apart.

Measure once, cut 15 times!

After drilling fresh holes in the RV seat’s frame, I used nuts and bolts to attach the A100′s tracks.

Ready!

Installed, the new seat is a bit grimy but a huge improvement over what was there before. This temporary measure buys me some time until I can decide between wild custom or semi-factory-correct (I’m not even considering getting repro A100 seat covers, since they came in boring solid neutral colors only). What would you do?

A100_Seat_Track_Swap-1280px-14 1966 Dodge A100 Van Seat A100_Seat_Track_Swap-1280px-02 A100_Seat_Track_Swap-1280px-03 A100_Seat_Track_Swap-1280px-04 A100_Seat_Track_Swap-1280px-05 A100_Seat_Track_Swap-1280px-06 A100_Seat_Track_Swap-1280px-07 A100_Seat_Track_Swap-1280px-08 A100_Seat_Track_Swap-1280px-09 A100_Seat_Track_Swap-1280px-10 A100_Seat_Track_Swap-1280px-11 A100_Seat_Track_Swap-1280px-12 A100_Seat_Track_Swap-1280px-13 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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A Little Help From Hooniverse: Leaky Van Window Fixed With Long-Distance Junkyard Parts http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/a-little-help-from-hooniverse-leaky-van-window-fixed-with-long-distance-junkyard-parts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/a-little-help-from-hooniverse-leaky-van-window-fixed-with-long-distance-junkyard-parts/#comments Mon, 04 Apr 2011 13:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=389565
The A100 Hell Project really isn’t very hellish, since the van is rust-free and still has most of its tough-to-find trim parts. However, the list of really irritating minor problems that must be solved to bring a project vehicle up to real-world-enjoyable status is always long. One of the most maddening was the busted window latch on one of the right-side windows. Chrysler changed the design on this latch— which probably cost about 14 cents per unit new— in the late 1960s, which means they’re very rare in junkyards, and nobody seems to be selling them on eBay. Snow and rain were getting in, the window clattered while driving, and anyone who wanted to rummage in the van for crack-exchangeable valuables could reach right in and pop the side door lock. What to do?

Ford Econolines of the 80s and 90s used a fairly similar window-latch design, and I could have modified one to work on the A100 without too much hassle. I’m trying to keep the correct trim components in the A100, as part of my 1973-style custom-van project, so the Econoline hack remained a last resort.

The super-low-budget pot-metal construction of the old latch failed at the bracket that mounts to the door frame. No way I could fix that and have it come out looking right.

But then Hooniverse writer Alex Kierstein dropped me an email, saying that he’d found an A100 in a Seattle wrecking yard. It was fairly well picked over, but still had a little meat clinging to its gnawed bones. Did I want anything? I sure did! In addition to the window latch, Alex grabbed me another item on my list: a non-trashed factory radio antenna. The stuff was on the way to Denver right away. Thanks, Alex!

Chrysler’s penny-pinching with sub-low-bidder parts suppliers, coupled with damp Pacific Northwest conditions, meant that the channel that mounts the latch to the window glass was hopelessly rusted and got pretty well mangled during removal. Fortunately, I only needed to replace part of my latch.

Some quick work with the drill on the rivet holding the lower bracket…

…and I’ve got the part that I need to fix my latch.

I had to be careful not to break the latch off the window, but this part of the job wasn’t difficult.

But a job like this always has at least one unexpected headache. All I need to do to remove the rest of the broken mounting bracket is remove three screws. What could go wrong?

Ka-tink! Wait, why did something fall inside the door when the last screw came out? Yes, Chrysler saved 0.4 cents per van by using an unsecured backing plate with three threaded holes, so that the bracket could be adjusted to compensate for flaky tolerances, rather than just eliminating the flakiness and screwing the bracket right into the door. The line worker simply set down his half-pint of Granddad, reached inside the door to hold the backing plate in place, and screwed the bracket down. Then the next line worker set down his flask of peach schnapps and kicked the door panel into place with his steel-toed boot. Meanwhile, Chrysler hired several new layers of management to find new ways to cut corners on parts quality, another layer of management to write reports on parts-quality corner cutting, and yet another layer to find ways to lower the quality of life for line workers, which jacked up their booze consumption to even more disastrous levels in the 1970s. The upshot of all this was that I had to remove the inside door handle, pry off the door panel, reach through a sharp-edged access hole, and root around in a bunch of 45-year-old schmutz to find the backing plate, which had fallen into a totally unreachable crevice. This was the most time-consuming part of the latch replacement process.

A quick trip to the hardware store and the rivet replacement goes on.

All fixed! Next on the list: do something about the disintegrating seat vinyl.

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Buying Into Nanny-State Safety Diktats: Dual-Circuit Brakes For the A100 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/buying-into-nanny-state-safety-diktats-dual-circuit-brakes-for-the-a100/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/buying-into-nanny-state-safety-diktats-dual-circuit-brakes-for-the-a100/#comments Thu, 24 Mar 2011 14:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=388340
Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at Any Speed was published in 1965. For the 1967 model year, cars and light trucks sold in the United States were required to have a dual-circuit brake system, so that a single hydraulic leak anywhere in the system would not result in total brake failure. Real drivers knew that they could come to a complete, safe stop using the emergency brake— that’s right, for emergencies— but that wasn’t enough for the feds. They rammed dual-circuit brakes down the throats of the American public, adding at least several dozen dollars to the cost of a new car. My Dodge van is a ’66 model, which means it was the last year for the single-circuit brakes that gave our forefathers their moral strength (though not as much strength as their forefathers, who relied on mechanical brake actuation instead of hydraulics), and a lifetime steeped in Naderite propaganda has convinced me that I’m better off with some margin of hydraulic safety. Upgrade time!

Rocket Surgery Racing Renault 4CV team captain Rich gave me a coupon for brake-line assistance for my birthday, so I decided it was time to take him up on the offer.

The new 1967-grade dual-circuit master cylinder cost well under 50 bucks, and new brake hoses plus some line and fittings didn’t add much more to the cost of the project. This would be an all-sweat deal.

More sweat than we expected, because the A100′s forward-control setup necessitates a funky linkage-and-backward-mounted-master system. The master cylinder, which is actuated by a system of rods and pivots that appear to have been adapted from a piece of 1897 mining equipment, is located directly below the driver’s seat.

I’d assumed that Chrysler, once all their lobbyists had failed to fend off the dual-circuit brake demands of the US government— headed by arch-liberal integrationist Lyndon Johnson at the time, as if I needed to spell that out for you— would have found some cheap, bolt-in way of installing the slightly longer dual-circuit master cylinder, but it turned out that the ’66 master cylinder’s tack-welded-in-place splash shield didn’t have room for the ’67-and-up components.

So, the Sawzall had to be brought into play. This involved jarring loose 45 years of built-up crud, not to mention the opportunity to slice important stuff ranging from the wiring harness to the throttle cable.

Hacking this piece of sheet metal away means that some air destined for the radiator will slip past, so I might fabricate a replacement that fits the new master. I’ll see what happens when summer heat comes along; for now, the engine runs quite cool with this small opening next to the radiator.

With the help of a $2.99 tube bender and some coat-hanger wire as a template, Rich starts work on the replacement brake lines.

I’ve never been able to do a double flare correctly, in spite of several very frustrating afternoons spent trying to do so in the past, so here’s the part I was especially glad to have Rich take on.

Modifying the plumbing was pretty straightforward; plug one port on the original four-way tee that once split the line from the master cylinder into one line to each front corner and one to the rears, using it for the front circuit only. Add another tee to send pressure to the rear brakes and signal pressure to the hydraulically-actuated brake light switch.

Bench-bleeding the new master cylinder.

To add fluid to the master cylinder in an A100, you must remove an access panel located on the floor just in front of the driver’s seat. Naturally, the access panel doesn’t quite fit the larger dual-circuit master cylinder, so a funnel must be used to get fluid to the rear reservoir. This process got brake fluid all over everything beneath, which made finding leaks a real challenge.

I didn’t trust the parked-for-12-years brake hoses, so I sprang for new ones all the way around.

After some bleeding, the new setup works fine. I’ll probably convert to front discs at some point, but for now I’m satisfied with drums that are less likely to fail. Anybody want to buy a genuine single-circuit A100 master cylinder?
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Dodge A100 Hell Project: You Want Luxury? Here’s Luxury! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/dodge-a100-hell-project-you-want-luxury-heres-luxury/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/dodge-a100-hell-project-you-want-luxury-heres-luxury/#comments Fri, 18 Mar 2011 17:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=387714
These days, we’ve got endless choices in plush, comfy trucks. Back when my 1966 Dodge A100 project van was built, the top trim level of the A100 was the Sportsman Custom, and that was one of your few luxury-truck choices at the time. Naturally, I insisted on a Sportsman Custom when I went shopping for a vintage flat-nose van. With the Sportsman Custom, you got such creature comforts as ashtrays, an AM radio, and— best of all— a steel step that popped out when you opened the side doors. The one on my van wasn’t exactly working when I bought it, but some bashing with a sledgehammer careful adjustment and hosing down with Liquid Wrench judicious lubrication fixed it right up!

Check it out in action! I still need to scrounge up some nice minivan bench seats, or maybe four La-Z-Boy recliners, in order to haul my passengers in true 1966-grade truck luxury; I don’t want them to think that, say, an IHC Travelall would be more comfortable. Independent front suspension? Don’t need it! Sound-deadening insulation? Slows you down! Air conditioning? Plain ol’ windows were good enough for Grandpa, and they oughta be good enough for us!

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Welcome To The Future: Needle In a Haystack, Long Grade 8 Bolt In Denver http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/welcome-to-the-future-needle-in-a-haystack-long-grade-8-bolt-in-denver/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/welcome-to-the-future-needle-in-a-haystack-long-grade-8-bolt-in-denver/#comments Fri, 11 Mar 2011 00:30:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=386931
The Home Depot-ization of all forms of hardware retailing continues unabated, as I found out this afternoon. I needed a pair of 7″ long 1/2″ Grade 8 bolts, today, so that I could get my Dodge A100 Hell Project back on the road. Easy, right? Maybe ten years ago it was. Not today.

It all started when Ununquadium Legend of LeMons winner Rich offered to help me convert the A100 from its pre-1967 better-hope-nothing-leaks single-circuit brake system to a mandated-by-meddling-nanny-state dual-circuit system. That part went fine (more on the project later), but I figured I’d install new shock absorbers while I had the thing up on stands with the wheels off.

See the difference between the lower mount on the old shock versus the new one? That meant that the mounting bolt wasn’t going to fit. Just get one that’s 3/4″ longer and everything will be fine.

My van has an aftermarket sway bar installation (as far as I can tell, Chrysler didn’t put factory sway bars on any A100s), which uses a long bolt through the axle beam to mount the shock absorber on the rear side and the sway bar end link on the front side. I suspect that the sway bar installer used shocks with a narrower bottom mount in order to make his sway bar hardware fit… oh, and he also used crappy bolts that got bent and corroded over the years. Ack! So, I headed down to the Ace Hardware in downtown Denver, confident that I’d find what I needed. As it turned out, Ace no longer stocks nearly as extensive a selection of Grade 8 fasteners as it once did (though the store did have quite the assortment of shiny chrome bolts), and I could find only a handful of 1/2″ shoulder bolts in Grade 8, none of which were anything close to the required 7″ length. Fortunately, the hardware guy at the store knew where I might find what I needed.

Less than a mile away, AAA Metric turned out to be just the old-school hardware supplier I needed (sorry about the crappy cellphone-camera photo). A tiny office in an industrial neighborhood in the shadow of I-25, AAA Metric (which also stocks non-metric stuff, despite the name) is staffed by real parts guys, and they hooked me up with just what I needed in a matter of minutes. Two G8 bolts, two G8 nuts. $8.06, and I’ve got what I need. I hope that a few expert-staffed, independent places like this manage to cling to life. Otherwise… well, not every retail problem can be solved by a resentful $6/hour “associate” who knows how to push the button with the picture of the hamburger and nothing more.

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Down On The Mile High Street: 1966 Dodge A100 Sportsman http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/down-on-the-mile-high-street-1966-dodge-a100/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/down-on-the-mile-high-street-1966-dodge-a100/#comments Sat, 05 Feb 2011 01:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=382939
It just occurred to me that my own A100 Hell Project hasn’t been featured on Whatever I’m Calling The Series Of Photographs Of Old Street-Parked Vehicles These Days. It’s a total nightmare to drive in the snow (particularly for a snow-country n00b like me), but it looks pretty good with the white stuff.

I think a limited-slip differential and some snow tires would make this thing much a much more civilized winter driver, but Denver snow usually doesn’t stay around for long and I’m not all that motivated to drive my van on the ice (though a limited-slip would be fun for 318-powered smokey burnouts). Did I mention that I still haven’t gotten around to fixing the heater?

Right now I’m building up parts for a suspension rebuild and shopping around for an upholstery shop that will do the seats in the proper metalflake-red Naugahyde with gold piping. I’m also hoping to find some seriously sci-fi-looking 1970s speakers for the 8-track sound system; those Mandrill and Montrose tapes need to be heard!. When the warm weather arrives, this van needs to be ready!

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Brake Work Birthday Gift: How Many Mistakes Can You Find Here? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/brake-work-birthday-gift-how-many-mistakes-can-you-find-here/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/brake-work-birthday-gift-how-many-mistakes-can-you-find-here/#comments Mon, 31 Jan 2011 15:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=382312
Since I’ve got ungodly quantities of top-shelf booze thanks to my other job, I figured I’d celebrate my 900th birthday by having a party and pouring said booze down my guests’ throats. A couple of them went overboard on the gift department, including one who made me a coupon for free brake work on my Dodge A100 Hell Project.

2010 Ununquadium Medal and Index of Effluency winner Rich has been haranguing me for endangering innocent lives— and my own— by driving a van with single-circuit, four-wheel-drum brakes, so here’s his very thoughtful birthday gift. Yes, he’ll help with the brake-line bending and flaring (two skills I’ve never been able to master, despite many expletive-filled attempts) when I upgrade to the nanny-state-approved dual-circuit master cylinder, and he’s even got me halfway convinced to do a disc-brake conversion as well.

Can you find all the mistakes?

That wasn’t the only great birthday surprise from an Ununquadium Medal winner. Cadillac Bob of Speed Holes Racing AMC Marlin fame handed me a gift box that turned out to be full of Brezhnev Era Soviet 1:43 diecast-car awesomeness. How about a USSRDM Fiat 125?

Bob spent a couple years of his childhood in Moscow, when his engineer father had a contract job there, and he brought back a bunch of toy cars made for glorious workers’ children. I was stunned by his generosity in giving up several of them, but he says he’s still got plenty more.

A Moskvich 412!

Would you believe the Soviets honoring the Renault 16? Fiat, sure, but Renault?

Believe it! These cars now have a place of honor in my office, right next to the diecast Leyland P76 and the diecast GAZ-13 Chaika I picked up on eBay.

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5th-Gen Civic: Cargo-Haulin’ Workhorse! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/5th-gen-civic-cargo-haulin-workhorse/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/5th-gen-civic-cargo-haulin-workhorse/#comments Sat, 18 Dec 2010 20:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=377709
Some folks will tell you that you need a big ol’ truck to haul a grimy cast-iron V8, but those folks are wrong! My beater ’92 Civic, which stood up well when compared to the Audi R8, not only sports a trailer hitch (no doubt suitable for hauling popcorn carts weighing up to several hundred pounds) but the cargo-area capacity to take a disassembled Chrysler LA engine.

When I pulled the rod-knockitty 318 out of my ’66 Dodge A100 Hell Project, I thought that I might rebuild it for later use in the ’49 Plymouth sedan project I keep threatening to do… but once I opened it up, I changed my mind. Crank bad. Block bad. Smog heads. Plan B: give the engine to my friend who makes regular scrap-metal-for-cash runs, so he can turn it into a few bucks for his ill-advised car projects.

The key to making large objects fit in your pre-Model-Bloat Civic (the current Civic has packed on the bulk like Ozzy Osbourne after his infamous motel-room whiskey-and-donut binge) is the tailgate. Even though the car is a total cheapo beater, I laid down an old sheet in the cargo area to keep the worst of the grunge off the interior. Block, heads, intake, exhaust manifolds, accessory brackets, everything. It all fits just fine, even with the back seats up!

The rear doesn’t sag too badly with all that extra weight, although the handling did get a little funky. As for the engine for the ’49 Plymouth project (which will use this car as a role model), I’m thinking supercharged Slant Six.
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Wheels Make the Van! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/wheels-make-the-van/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/wheels-make-the-van/#comments Wed, 15 Dec 2010 23:30:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=377355
As the Dodge A100 Hell Project proceeds in fits and starts, I’ve been so wrapped up in making the thing streetworhy that haven’t gotten around to doing anything about the external appearance… until now!

Yes, that’s a full set of Cragar S/S clones, in the proper anachronistic 14″ diameter and shod with big fat Grand Am Radial GTs (225s in front, 245s in back).

I got them from the owner of the cleanest ’74 AMC Javelin AMX I’ve ever seen; they came with the car and he decided he wanted to go with real Cragars.

The van looks so much better than it did with the white steel spokes that I may have to jump right to the Cherry Bomb exhaust upgrade, because a van that looks this mean needs to sound mean!

The Grand Ams are pretty old and I don’t quite trust them on the highway, so I’ll be shopping for some Mickey Thompsons in the near future; there’s room in the rear wheelwells to go to at least 255s out back. And for you aficionados of annoyingly vintage features, left-hand-thread wheel studs are right up there with mercury-based syphillis treatments and radium-enhanced toothpaste when it comes to the “dumb stuff they did in the old days” department. To make things even more fun on my van, only the left rear wheel has lefty studs; either the previous owner upgraded to righties all the way around and then did a rear axle swap, or he replaced the front studs and then lost motivation for the project.

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Entire Universe of Chrysler Products Available For Replacement Headlight Switch On A100 Hell Project http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/entire-universe-of-chrysler-products-available-for-replacement-headlight-switch-on-a100-hell-project/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/entire-universe-of-chrysler-products-available-for-replacement-headlight-switch-on-a100-hell-project/#comments Sat, 11 Dec 2010 16:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=376568
When we last saw the A100 Hell Project, I’d junkyard-engineered a new gas pedal as part of my “get this thing on the road as quickly and cheaply as possible” initiative. The lack of headlights, due to a corroded-by-12-idle-years switch, was the next big annoyance I needed to tackle.

It appears that Chrysler used the same headlight switch for damn near every motor vehicle they built from the time of the Bay Of Pigs to the time of the Iranian Hostage Crisis. The knob changed over the years, but the low-bidder, 11-cent guts remained the same. You can buy new replacement switches pretty cheaply, but I shudder at the certain horribleness of a Chinese-made knockoff of a component that started out as a hammered-together-by-drunks piece of crap. Fortunately, the late-70s camper van that provided the donor gas pedal was still at my local self-service junkyard, so I headed over there. This intriguing business is a block away, so I’ll be paying them a visit soon.

Before I grabbed the switch from this van, I decided to snag the driver’s seat as well; it’s the correct size for the A100 and will serve as a functional butt-rest until I can get the factory seats recovered in red metalflake Naugahyde with maroon piping. You think I don’t have that much style? Think again, sucka!

The original 1966 A100 switch looks like this. No touchy-feely European-style graphic symbols for those who don’t know English here! This one is frozen completely solid; even in Denver’s bone-dry climate, 12 years of inactivity don’t do low-end electrical components any good.

Here’s the switch from the ’78 van. The big “L” has been replaced by a tiny-font “Lights,” but otherwise not much had changed during the preceding 12 years.

Back at my garage, I contemplated just swapping the switches straight across, but I really wanted the headlight switch to match the “W” wiper switch. Knowing Chrysler, there’s probably a Neanderthal method that allowed the Imperial assembly line to swipe switches from over on the Valiant line.

Hmmm… what’s that little button for?

Yep, pushing the button makes it possible to remove the knob and shaft, though not without a lot of persuading and cursing.

And here we go! The quality of the components makes even 60s GM stuff look sophisticated (though, to their credit, Chrysler didn’t use cardboard gloveboxes in their vans), but who cares?

Ever wonder where the term “Mopar” came from? Yeah, we all know, but it’s still cool to see it as two words.

The new switch works just fine. Next step, now that winter is here: fix the heater!

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It’s 10:00 PM And Your Van Needs a New Gas Pedal: FrankenPedal! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/its-1000-pm-and-your-van-needs-a-new-gas-pedal-frankenpedal/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/its-1000-pm-and-your-van-needs-a-new-gas-pedal-frankenpedal/#comments Thu, 25 Nov 2010 19:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=374395 The ’66 A100 Hell Project van came to me in shockingly good shape for a 44-year-old vehicle that sat dead for over a decade, but it still needed endless a few repairs before being really roadworthy. Some get-this-thang-onna-road-now fixes are temporary, while others start out seeming temporary but then win me over.

The Hell Project A100 came to me with a hole-in-the-block-coming-soon rod-knocky 318, so the first order of business was to drop in a replacement 318 (the 273 was the only A100 V8 option in ’66, so the bad engine wasn’t the numbers-matching original unit— sorry, date-code-worshiping Mopar purists!). Then the top priority was the strange soup of former hydrocarbons in the fuel tank, with associated rust/varnish/radioactive electroplating solution clogging the rest of the fuel system (more on that later). After that? The goddamn duct tape hinge on the floor-pivoting gas pedal, which required exact foot positioning and careful movements to avoid binding up the throttle linkage while driving. Unacceptable!

The A100 has a throttle-linkage mechanism that appears to have been designed, on cocktail napkins, over shots of happy-hour well bourbon at some Keego Harbor dive. I’m picturing a trio of junior Dodge Truck Division engineers, all decked out in cheap 1962 suits and chaining unfiltered Pall Malls, looking down the barrel of a tomorrow deadline. “If I don’t have a throttle linkage design to bring to the meeting tomorrow morning,” thundered their boss, a bullneck who ground out his cigars in an ashtray made from the skull of a Japanese Navy cook he offed with his teeth on Tarawa, “You’ll be lucky to find jobs scraping the calcium deposits off the urinals at the Greyhound station!”

So, after the 11th shot of Schenley’s, our heroes came up with a design that placed the moving parts of the linkage just inside the van’s grille, where mud, debris, and the occasional walnut-sized rock pummeled it during every drive. This promotes corrosion and associated character-building frequent repairs. The end of the throttle cable (which runs back and up to the engine) faces forward, ensuring that schmutz will build up inside and lead to frequent snapped cables. Then, to top things off, there’s a finicky, knuckle-shredding arrangement of jam nuts (repeated at the carburetor end) to enhance the collection of 3/8″ wrenches in the splash pan. The upshot of all this— other than a lesson in Chrysler Corporation’s history of cheapo corner-cutting techniques dating back to what some allege were its glory days— is that any irregularity in the arc of the gas pedal’s actuation will lead to… problems.

Right. Fortunately, Chrysler’s hallowed tradition of low-bidder cheapness means that they used variations on the same bottom-hinged gas pedal theme on many of their trucks for decades, and I managed to find a similar pedal in this late-70s camper van at a well-stocked self-service Denver junkyard near my house.

I said similar, because while the overall shape and all-important metal-backed rubber hinge at the pedal’s bottom was identical to the A100′s pedal, the newer van used a Stone Age lever-sliding-on-plastic-backing-plate connection to the throttle linkage, while the A100 used a ball-and-socket/down-through-the-floor connector that must have cost 11 cents more per unit. The whole mess, in both cases, involves a Soviet-grade crude-yet-sturdy rubber-molded-around-steel construction method, no doubt stamped on a press in Indiana that stood five stories tall, shook the earth, and polluted the groundwater for generations to come.

Once I tore the duct tape off the old hinge, I identified the problem: the metal had rusted and the rubber had torn. The screw holes that mounted the pedal to the floor— using unreachable nuts on the back side, of course— had also become hopelessly enlarged. At this point, a new factor came into play: I had promised my wife that, when the first snow fell, she’d be able to park her nice Outback in the garage. Now I’d disassembled the entire throttle mechanism… and the weather report called for snow the next morning. I could just work the carburetor by hand (one of the the benefits of forward-control vans) and park the van outside that way, but I decided— at 10:00 PM, in my freezing-ass garage— to fix this now! Later, I’d find a correct pedal and replace my “temporary” installation (the usual door-hinge-on-scrap-metal method was out, because I’m doing my best to avoid cutting new holes in my relatively unmolested van’s steel).

I thought about hacking off the ball-and-socket portion of the old pedal and somehow attaching it (JB Weld? Small brackets?) to the new pedal, but that would have broken immediately. The problem is that the inherent wonkiness of the throttle linkage requires a certain amount of side-to-side flexibility, which requires a ball-and-socket linkage, so I couldn’t just rig up a new arm that permitted motion in two dimensions. Since I was doing this project tonight, with no access to junkyards or hardware stores, I couldn’t fabricate anything too complicated, anyway.

The all-important bottom hinge and screw holes in the new pedal were in excellent condition. What I needed to do was swap that part onto the old pedal’s top portion. That way I could use the original mounting holes and avoid ruining the sacred originality of the van too irrevocably. Of course, long-term I’ll be painting it in some ghastly two-tone metalflake getup and bolting 1974-vintage Sparkomatic organ-pipe speakers all over the interior, but who says logic should be used when making such decisions?

Anyway, I’ll be installing one of these soon enough, so the appearance of the gas pedal will be less important than its function.

The plan: cut both pedals in half and rig up some kind of bracket to hold the halves together. Mmmm, there’s nothing like the smell of burning rubber and steel when you get to sawin’ with the cutoff tool. No, it’s not easy shooting photographs while you do this sort of thing, but I emerged from the process with all my fingers still attached.

Remember, lawsuit-minded readers, Murilee Martin says: “Always use eye protection when you cut gas pedals in half!”

Once I’ve filled the garage with vile-smelling smoke, its flavor no doubt enhanced by decades of foot-juice buildup on the pedals, the inner steel structure of the Dodge truck accelerator pedal becomes apparent.

Here’s a cross-section view. Very crude, very strong, from the era before Detroit learned how to cut every possible corner.

Next, I’ll need to fabricate some sort of bracket. My new pad’s garage isn’t wired for 220 volts yet, so there will be no welding. Cruder measures will be called for here; break out the sheet of street-sign aluminum I used for the Black Metal V8olvo’s instrument panel!

About seven seconds of crude Sharpie sketching later and I’m ready to hack away with the jigsaw. Hey, this thing needs to be done tonight! At this point I’m channeling the get-this-shit-done attitude of the drunken 1962 Dodge Truck Division engineers.

A few taps with the dead-blow hammer— a a LeMons Supreme Court bribe, courtesy of a Detroit team, by the way— and the bracket assumes its very precise configuration.

Bending the side tabs around the pedal’s bottom half to fix it in place, I drill some holes to attach bracket to pedal. Note that I’m going between the foot-juice-collecting ridges; I don’t want screw heads interfering with my ability to control tip-in with masterly acumen.

On the top half of the pedal, I use a spade bit to eat some screw-head-sized holes in the rubber, so that the screw heads will be quasi-flush with the rubber surface. Again, without a good sense of tip-in a man cannot drive his van at 11/10ths.

Meanwhile, garage tunes are provided by the Junkyard Boogaloo Turbo Boombox; since its car battery went bad, I’ve fueled it with some computer UPS gel-cells, and they require battery-charger help when the temperature drops below 40 degrees.

Two screws on each half, some more pounding of the bracket’s edge flanges to crimp them over the pedal, and the resulting assembly is quite sturdy.

Hmmm… those screws are going to hit the floor when I mash the gas… and I don’t have shorter ones in my junkyard fastener collection. What to do?

Time to go all Red Green on the offending screws! I’m sure glad I have a garage now; in the old days, I’d have done this sort of thing in the driveway. At midnight.

And there we have it: fully functioning gas pedal (though the “fully functioning” part didn’t really happen until I’d finished 45 minutes of futzing with linkage adjustments and lubrication). It looks a little odd, but just wait until the Foot Gas Pedal (with matching dimmer-switch foot) arrives!

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