Saturday, September 13, 2008

Day of the Dead - Deadly Resurrection

Sounds like a low budget horror flick, doesn't it? In reality, it is a real B-movie that was made in the 90's. Do you know what is really scary? I was actually in the movie! My first and only acting gig. My old Chevelle was also in the movie. I think it actually did a better job of acting then me! While that movie was total fiction, I recently discovered that getting a derelict old car road worthy is a lot like resurrecting the dead, it's impossible.

I decided to take on the impossible and put my '72 Cutlass, Number 1, back on the road. Now keep in mind that Number 1 has been out of commission for at least three years. I use to start it up every other week, but that lasted as long as a bucket of KFC chicken. So I decided to do a visual inspection to assess the mess that Number 1 had become. Both front tires were now flat and most of the trans fluid had leaked out. The engine hadn't been started in at least a year, and it seemed to be leaking from anything that contained fluid. The front rotors were rusted badly and were wafer thin, it needed new front tires, the trans needed to be serviced, engine oil had to be changed, front end lubed, gas tank hoses replaced, carburetor rebuilt, possible tune up, wiper blades, and let's not forget washing years of dirt and grime away. I was afraid to even look in the interior, suffice to say it needed help before I parked the car...

First things first, I had to see if the engine would still run, as this would give me some kind of indication of how bad things were. I decided to charge the battery and then see if old Number 1 would start up. Of course I did the basic fluids check to make sure I didn't damage the engine. To my utter amazement the engine fired right up. All I did was prime the carb with some gas! A true testament to the durability of Oldsmobile engines and synthetic oil. Hard to believe? I caught the whole thing on video. Check it out:


Pardon the camera shake, I'm kind of new at this. Come to think of it, it kind of reminds me of the horror flick I was in! Now that I know that Number 1 still runs pretty good, it's time to dig in. Gee, I can't wait...


Here it is all raised up and ready for me to start working. Hey, I don't have a lift yet so I use what works. Besides, I have to be able to get all of my girth under this beast.



I figured I would start from the bottom up, so I started with the front brakes, then did the trans. After that I replaced the fuel tank hoses, changed the oil and lubed the front end. To wrap up the underside, I did a complete visual inspection just in case I missed something. All I needed now was a couple of front tires so I could lower Number 1 back down
Ok, the new tires are mounted and Number 1 is back down to earth. Now it's time to dive in under the hood. The carb needs to be rebuilt, spark plugs changed, and I need to inspect the cap, rotor and wires.




When I was removing the carb I remembered that the passenger side valve cover had been leaking before I parked the car, and that leak had gotten considerably worse. I had done the drivers side a few years before so it was nice and dry. Oh well, I'll just add it to the list of repairs!







After removing brackets heavy enough to be on a Sherman Tank, I was able to get to the valve cover to remove it. Your looking at a valve train with over 300 thousand miles on it! The benefits of running synthetic oil are clearly visible.





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When I was done rebuilding the carb (the subject of a future blog) and replacing the valve cover gasket, it was time to replace the spark plugs and then fire her up. Now we know that it ran before I started all this work, so it should run great now, right?




Wrong! I couldn't get the engine to idle. It kept hunting for an idle and running rough. This picture is after I had remounted the carb after removing it to double check the float level and check for vacuum leaks. My experience told me it was a vacuum leak because the trans was not shifting correctly. Plus, I replaced the vacuum modulator when I serviced the trans so that ruled it out. After checking a few things with my vacuum pump, I discovered the leak in the distributor vacuum advance. One more thing that now needs to be replaced!

I am beginning to sense a pattern here, a parts replacing pattern! As I write this Number 1 is running good and is streetable. It may not look the best right now but I will be addressing that very soon. Next up is installing some bucket seats and cleaning up the interior. Stay tuned as Number 1 begins it's slow transformation from side yard fodder to a clean looking street machine.

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