Friday, August 29, 2008

Bling - Gear Drive

I have to admit that every time I thumb through the latest edition of the Summit catalog I usually flip right past the page that has timing chain sets, gear drives and belt drives. I think that most people are like me in that regard too. Slap a timing chain set on the thing and be done with it.

Well at a swap meet a few years back I found a brand new Pete Jackson “noisy” gear drive for $90. Now I knew that a good billet timing chain set cost about that much so I decided to pick it up.

I first learned about timing gears when a buddy of mine who used to run one on the street referred to is as the “Poor mans supercharger.” The “noisy” gear drives make a distinctive whine that you either love or hate.

Personally I love the sound of whining gears. My 1997 Honda VFR750 had a V4 engine in it that had 2 gear driven camshafts. Man, I loved the sound of that thing running! It was very distinctive, but not in an annoying way.

People will debate all day long which is better, the gear drive, belt drive or timing chain.

Those against the gear drive claim that a gear drive transfers harmonics to the crankshaft which can lead to problems. Pete Jackson told me that if those harmonics can damage the crankshaft, then he doesn’t want to run that crankshaft in his engine anyway. He was basically saying it’s really a non-issue. Some also say that the floating dog-bone style gear drive idler gears can “load” up the system under acceleration causing the idler setup to be forced in one direction while the other gear is forced tighter between the crankshaft and camshaft. The resultant of these forces is that it eats up a few extra HP. I actually believe this theory now, but I didn’t when I first heard it.

Others just say they are annoying.

Those for gear drives talk about the accuracy that gear drives offer. Those people usually love the sound of them. (Me).

That leads me bring up the Milodon Fixed Idler setup. This setup has a fixed idler which does not move so therefore does not have to deal with the same forces that the floated idler design has to. Problem is that it costs almost $400 and when faced with other needed items in the trusty Summit catalog most people skip right on past that page.

Belt drives are the cats meow in terms timing accuracy, and the ability to do quick cam swaps or adjustments. Problem is a good belt drive setup will set you back upwards of $900. Not to mention that they not the most streetable things out there. The idea of an exposed spinning timing belt at the front on engine right where all the pebbles and rocks are flying up gives me shivers thinking about. One racer referred to his belt drive as a vacuum cleaner on the front of his engine! HAHA.

I’d like point out that I think that a timing chain is perfectably acceptable for 99% of all performance applications. The only time a gear drive is really needed is when a fuel, oil, or water pump is being driven off the camshaft and there is a lot of force being transmitted.

So when I ran across a used Milidon fixed idler setup a year ago for $200 I couldn’t pass it up.

Here is a video that I found on Youtube of a Charger with the same type setup I’m going to run.

Just imagine what the sound of that gear drive PLUS the blower whine is going to sound like!! It will be sweet music to my ears. I did tell y’all I’m going radio delete right???

1 John 4:10

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Progress (personally, spiritually and mechanically)

I need to apologize for my lack of Fairmont updates. I’ve actually been working SO much on the car that I’ve had little time to write about it. Well I find myself in Metro Airport getting ready for a much needed vacation to Florida and one of my goals is to write a few blog entries about my car. Wow, I just found out I got upgraded to first class on the flight home. Sounds like the start of a great vacation!

I started my Fairmont project shortly after I got my first “real” job out of college. I started my current job in 2001 and the search for a replacement Fairmont quickly began. It took about a year to find but I finally located a prime 1978 Fairmont Futura in Florida for $1150. I then had the car shipped up to Michigan for $500 and that’s when the real fun began.

In 1994 I was given a 1978 Fairmont with a 302/5 speed drivetrain as a high school graduation present. I LOVED that car. It was the first real project “musclecar” that I ever had. But being that I was in college and commuting to Oakland University it was hard to afford the sub-20 mpg at $1.09 premium (!!!). So I sold the car off (and replaced it with a 1989 Ford Festiva!) and vowed that after I graduated I would build a bigger and badder version of that car.

So between 2001-2003 I pretty much just tore the car apart and started collecting parts. I pulled the engine and trans, stripped out the interior and yanked the front and rear suspension. The car has been on jackstands ever since.

In 2005 I had a run in with a friend who was trying to drink and drive and that whole situation caused me to re-evaluate my life and the direction it was headed. The result of that was I started going to church (again), began mentoring high school students, became a discussion leader in BSF (Bible Study Fellowship), and quit drinking and smoking.

Which brings me to now. I have figured out why I’ve made so much progress this summer. In 2007 I had a huge motorcycle accident and I spent most of that year recovering and didn’t make much progress on the car. But 2008 has been different. Instead of nursing massive hangovers on Saturday and Sunday I now wake up and am ready to attack the car! This year I’ve made more progress on the car than all the other years combined. I’ve finished the mini-tub job, installed the mock up drivetrain, welded in the motor mounts, finished and welded in the roll cage, installed the fully adjustable coil-over rear suspension, ran a full 3.5 inch mandrel bent exhaust over the axle, and am almost complete with the front suspension. I’m actually starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Progress is a good thing. Like it’s been said – Today's progress was yesterday's plan.

Matthew 18:2-4

Friday, August 22, 2008

Lean and mean

I recently took the opportunity of having a little extra time while on furlough to do a bit of maintenance to my Formula. I had a pretty hefty list of things to do, which ended up taking longer than the 1 full day I had planned. In the end, I managed to get all plans completed though. I was due for an oil change, so I killed two birds with one stone.

The mods and maintenance I did included: Installation of a throttle body air foil, removal of the stock air box, installation of an open element K&N cone filter, new valve seals/umbrellas, removal of the A.I.R. pump, removal of the remaining A.I.R. pump plumbing, new/rerouted serpentine belt, plugs, MSD cap and rotor, and I plugged off the two plumbing inlets in the cats from the A.I.R. pump removal. Here are some pictures from my few days of work.

Here I have the valve covers removed. The heater control valve ended up with a nipple busted off, apparently from too much flexing it around. The vacuum line leading to it, plastic, also cracked and needed repairing before I was done. 20 years is about the limit for most plastics/rubber it appears.

The driver side, with valve cover removed.

I found a receipt for a new cap and rotor from about 2 years ago, so I wasn't planning on replacing it just yet. A last minute decision to buy a new one while at Murray's proved to be a wise choice. Some how, some way, the inside button for the coil while had broke off, and sat wedged/burned into the rotor when I found it. I'm sort of surprised the car didn't run more rough because of it.

New cap/rotor installed. I also gave my previously installed MSD coil a quick clean up.

New throttle body air foil installed.

Here is where the stock air box, or perhaps I should say cylinder, was located. A rather ugly tray which I will likely remove at some point, a means to lighten the car. Every bit helps, right?

Here is the stock air box. The only opening you see faced right into the back of the radiator support. I can't imagine air flow was all that great. While still not a cold air setup, I'm sure my new installation is getting more air to the engine.

I cleaned up/reused the stock plumbing. Here you can see the K&N in place.

Next I got started on the valve seals, and removed all the rocker arms. Couldn't help but think how nice it would have been to have a set of 1.6 ratio roller rockers to install.

The roller rockers, in order of disassembly.

Here is the hose you need to install in the spark plug port. Without it, your valves will drop into the cylinder once the springs are removed. Not shown, I also picked up a valve spring compressor from Sears for about $15. I already had a flexible magnet, which is a must when it comes time to remove the valve locks.
Though still a little rusted on the exhaust side, the stock valve covers cleaned up well.

The stock o-ring seals/umbrellas were either in very bad shape, or worse, non-existent! In my opinion, both were a very poor design by GM. Neither seal seems to withstand the heat/conditions, and both become brittle and destroyed after a short time.

I've always had great luck with anything by Fel-pro, and these seals look much better than stock. The o-rings however, I don't expect them to hold up any better. I did valve seals on my first Firebird twice during it's 60,000 mile life span. Both times the o-rings were cooked/destroyed from becoming brittle. Ideally, one should have the heads removed and machined for teflon locks, and simply leave the o-ring seals off.

Took me a bit to figure out how to actually remove the A.I.R. pump, as it initially seemed integrated into the MONSTER accessory bracket. I eventually realized there were a couple of large torix bolts hidden behind the pulley. Once removed, I could access them, though I lacked a torix bit large enough. After a run to Sears, I was able to remove them both without trouble. I did used a longass torque wrench so I had plenty of leverage. Last thing I wanted to do was strip the heads, which torix bolts are notorious for...another horrible invention in my opinion.

Once the pulley was removed you could see the pump.

With the pump removed, a big void remains...but a big void weighs less than a bulky emissions pump and plumbing! I figure I lost about 10-15 lbs off the front of the car.

The pump, probably weighing a good 10 lbs in itself.

After some valve lash adjustments with the engine running, the only way I've found to accurately adjust hydraulic lifters, everything was lookin' good and running smooth. 136,600 miles and going strong!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

2008 Woodward Dream Cruise

Fresh from lasik eye surgery the day before, there was no holding me back from my 13th straight Woodward Dream Cruise (I missed the first year). The show was as good as ever, and the weather was about as beautiful as it gets. The stars of the show, the cars of course, did not disappoint. While on the surface I may seem like a Chevy guy, owning a 69 Camaro and an 89 Formula, truth be told, I would own any make out long as it was an American company. Sorry, no imports for me.

I've owned, partially restored, and sold a 1970 Challenger R/T to my dad, and some day perhaps I'll own that car again. My fiance, well she's a Mopar nut, and with her heart set on an early 60's model Polara or Dart, her tastes are right up my alley. Plenty of love for Fords in my heart as well, as I'd love to own either an early 60's Ford, a late 60's Mustang, late 80's/early 90's Mustang LX, or even one of the current late model Stangs. No hate towards my long time nemisis in my book.

I'm a huge gearhead, long time auto enthusiasts, and one who believes even the ugliest cars out there can be made cool with the right stance, good set of wheels, and the right amount of thump coming from under the hood. So here are just a few of the nearly 300 pictures I took from yesterday's cruise, enjoy!
I have an obvious soft spot for these 69's, and this was the baddest of the bad!

Good lookin' Willy's.

Over 20 years old now, are these Buicks classics, or still modern muscle?

Sharp lookin' 60's Ford, one I'd gladly own.

This car just screams "SHOW ME THE 1/4 MILE!"

Pro-Touring to the extreme.

Nice lines, just enough chrome, just about perfect in my book.

This baby shook your inards when it cruised by.

This is what she wants, and I think it'll look nicely next to my Camaro. Oh yeah, she's gonna be a teacher, can you imagine your teacher cruising up in one of these?

Sharp lookin' Pro-Street Ford.

Good old T-bucket, they never seem to go outta style.

An old "Color me Gone" funny car shell.

A whale of a convertible, sweet as hell in my book!

An old and new Mustang.

Pro-Street Nova.

I believe this is a 34 Ford, though could be off a year or two.

Sharp Mustang with some serious motor under the hood...or should I say through the hood?

Good lookin' Mopar, I believe a Coronet.

Hot Rod test car. Front fender stated "475 hp."

Never really understood these, but considering they came out just as the muscle car era was coming to an end, perhaps it makes sense.

One thing about this year's show, I didn't notice as many "odd" vehicles as I have in year's past, and the ones I did, weren't all that "odd." Such memorable ones from years past were the pro-street garbage truck, pro-street concrete truck, the tricked out school bus, just to name a few. Here are a handful that perhaps caught most peoples' eyes this year.

The new Dodge Challenger was out in full force, and seems to be multiplying like rabbits! Already there are numerous different colors hitting the streets, colors I wasn't even aware they came in. Only time will tell how gas prices will affect the production life of these cars, though one thing is for certain, they will become instant classics, cruising Woodward 40 years from now like their historic counterparts they share their genes with.

Perhaps a remake of "Vanishing Point" is in order?

A deep ocean blue...or perhaps Great Lakes blue would be more appropriate.

An orange and white Challenger cruisin' the strip.

Black as night.

The concept car orange.

Perhaps the most shocking at this year's show was the number of 3rd generation Camaros and Firebirds. Over the years I've owned my 89 Formula I've got a growing number of comments on it. Perhaps more so this year than years prior. At one fill-up I had two separate people wondering if I would be willing to sell it. Mine is starting to show her age, and yet I considered it one of the nicest examples out there on the road. I was shocked to see how many MUCH nicer examples were present at this year's cruise. It seems people have taken notice of these cars, as well as Mustangs from the same years, as they appear to be growing in numbers. I suppose it only makes sense, as after a cars reached it's limit in regards to years of service, they are either sold as a beater, junked, or found by somebody willing to resurrect them. Some lucky ones were parked in a garage, safe from the rain and winters, and now seeing more days on the road as they are slowing beginning to be viewed as classics. These Firebirds below are a few of the survivors. P.S., save the mullet jokes, those were a generation earlier.

Though I would have picked different colors, this was by far the nicest 3rd generation F-body (Firebird/Camaro) I saw throughout the day.

Tweety bird.

Though not a Formula like my current ride, this is identical to my first Firebird I had when I got my license.

A perfect looking pace car.

Would the cruise be complete without Kitt from Knight Rider?

Follow this link for close to 300 more pictures: 2008 Woodward Dream Cruise Pictures