Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The disadvantage of an 18 year old daily driver

I suppose the fact that problems are popping up with more frequency with an 18 year old car should be expected. Even with it's relatively low miles (115,000), time takes it's toll on parts almost as much as miles do. The other day Old Blue left me stranded once again. It appears that my recent repare made over lunch, replacing the ignition module, may have not been the source of my problems after all...even though it started up shortly after the repair. It seems it was gonna be one of them gremlins that would have to be hunted down and killed.

So sitting stranded, I called upon my parent to garner up a friend's trailer to haul it back to his place. In the past, I have also replaced a mass air flow sensor, O2 sensor, and mass air flow relay, all trouble codes that were tripped. Yet looking back, I truly wonder whether or not they were faulty or not. I have also replaced the fuel pump, fuel filter, air filter, and gave the car a couple tune-ups already. Toss in a blown head gasket and oil pump pickup that fell off the pump for good measure. I've also replaced the front struts with Koni struts, the rubber bushing for the front sway bar (as they were dry rotted), and two rear sway bar links (as I snapped them on two occasions taking corners hard). Yet even with all those repairs, seldom has it left me stranded. Twice over the passed two years, one of which after a lunch time fix, it got me home and worked flawlessly for about another month or two....actually, those two time stranded in need of towing happened over the past couple months. I now think both incidents were likely related to my current troubles.

Having got my car back down in Adrian, I had my friend look at it, whom happens to be the best mechanic I know. He began trouble shooting and before long found the problem. 6 out of the 8 fuel injectors were bad, one of which was shorting out by apparently grounding on the intake manifold, causing the no-start situation. I ordered up a set of Accel fuel injectors along with an adjustable fuel pressure regulator. I've read mixed reports that boosting the fuel pressure aids these engines. Some claim as high as 15 hp gains, yet in reality I'd be shocked to see a 5 hp gain. Since replacing the injectors requires removing the intake system to gain access to the fuel injectors/rail, I figured I may as well replace other items that could fail, such as the fuel pressure regulator and EGR valve, as both would require tearing the top half of the engine off once again.

These are definitely the times it would be nice to have either my Challenger or Camaro on the road, capable of getting at least 15 mpg, so that I had an alternative means to get to work. Sure, it may not give the car enough oomph to live up to the muscle car heritage, but it would be a cool ride that could sport 300 hp or so and be used as a back up when called upon.

I've began putting money aside for purchase of a new Camaro or Challenger, a 2009 model or so. That being said, I may try and keep this engine in my Formula going as long as I can. Then once getting a new car, build an alternate drivetrain to drop into the Formula so it would become a second dependable/economical/powerful daily driver. As it is, plans for the Camaro are so over the top I'd have to refinance the house to drive it to work for a week, and the Challenger probably wouldn't end up too far behind in terms of it's gas guzzling skills.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The smokey burnout

Man, it had been a long time. I hadn't even really thought about it to be honest, until last week. I'll drop the hammer quite often in my Formula, take off from a light breaking the tires loose almost daily, but I couldn't recall the last time I put it to the floor from a dead stop and let the tires do their thing. Perhaps the fact that my transmission mount was busted for nearly a month played a small role in it, as your transmission bouncing off the tunnel is like nails screaching down a chalk board to a car guy. I cringed every time I heard it clank off the tunnel. Yet the lack of burnout on my gearhead portfolio seriously predated that.

As one officer called it on a ticket I received a few years ago....ok, like 7 or 8 years ago, what I was looking for was "An exhibition of power." (I need to have that ticket framed). So yesterday, I had to get it outta my system. I was heading towards a freeway to go to some shopping. I spotted a WSU cop car parked just a short distance away, but figured they wouldn't come after me, as trees blocked the show I was about to put on. I got on the ramp, came to a complete stop, then just mashed the pedal to the floor. Smiling ear to ear I thought to myself "114,000 miles, and she's still got the power kickin'." I will have to venture down and check out the nice patches I left, as they give one a sense of pride. Perhaps that mid day burnout is what triggered something in me, that desire to get back working on my Camaro. All I know is that it was fun. haha

I've rediscovered the Car Guy in me

I'm not sure what triggered it, but last night I found myself deeply involved in working on my Camaro. I suppose it could have been one of many things. Maybe it was the announcement that Dodge is bringing back the Challenger, announced just a few days prior. Maybe it was seeing muscle cars cruising downriver last weekend, as I was down there running errands. Possibly it was the mounting stack of car magazines that I simply haven't had time to read that has me feeling guilty. Whatever it was, I'm glad its back, I'm glad I once again feel like working on it.

Last night I found myself grinding, wire wheeling, and welding on it. First real chance I've had to test out my welder. After some inspection, it seems I didn't do so bad when I installed them over 10 years ago. Some of the welds aren't exactly pretty, but they are hardly gonna fall out while driving down the road. I'll likely clean up the welds, touch on the areas that I missed, and call it good.

After a few hours of working on the car, it was getting to be around 9 pm or so, and I figured it was time to dig into that huge stack of magazines and toss back some Stroh's in the process. I came upon an editorial by David Freiberger in regards to "Cars we let get away." He claimed we've all been there, sold a car that we later wished we had back. He went on to list his top 10 cars he regretted parting with. Well, sorry, but I'm not in that bunch. My first car, a 1989 Firebird with a 305/5speed, it got totaled when a lady failed to stop at a stop sign, t-boned her at 55 mph. So that one didn't really get away, it was sent to the grave. My replacement, a 1969 Camaro (maybe an SS, not sure if its a clone or not), well I've had it for 10 years now. It was the first car I really dug into beyond bolt on stuff I did to my Firebird. A few years later I would get my parents well maintained, very reliable 1990 2 door Buick Regal. Two years ago I donated this car to charity. All I have to say is, what a car! It had the 3800 engine and didn't use a drop of oil. The odometer quit at 71,000 miles, but my best estimates put the mileage in the 250,000-300,000 mile range. After that car, I resorted back to my roots, purchasing another 1989 Firebird, only this time it was the Formula. Sucks that I had to give up the 5 speed, since they never put them behind the 350, but I'll take the bigger engine any day. So in a since, I replaced the one that got away. As for the Regal, well, like most car guys, there was a part of me that missed seeing it go. It had never let me down, was still dependable, but the body was looking a bit rough. I once had visions of fixing it up, adding a supercharger to the engine, painting in a menacing black, and adding some rims. You know, a modern day version of the Grand National. Though I was sad to see it go, it doesn't make the list of cars I wish I had back.

Over the years I also picked up a legit 1970 Challenger R/T with 383 and 4 speed pistol grip. While it has remained parked, just like my Camaro, for around 4 or 5 years, I have refrained from selling it. Even warded off a few attempts by my parents to sell it (it's parked in their garage), and even turned down trades by them, for their 1995 Pontiac Formula, which in all honesty was VERY tempting. In the end though, it would kind of feel like leaving a soldier behind, or turning your back on your child. I simply can't do it. I started the project, and damn it, some day I will finish it. So as you can see, I don't fall into the category of "Man, I wish I had that car back." As I sit here pondering, planning to set aside $100 a week until a new Camaro is available, and if that doesn't happen, then I'm picking me up a new Challenger. Yet at the same time, have no intentions of selling any of my cars I got. 4 cars for one guy, that's not that bad is it? :)