Sunday, December 31, 2023

FranktoidTM No. 25 - The Last Post of 2023

 Wow, time really flies! Seems like just yesterday I was making New Year promises that I wouldn't keep. I'm starting to sound like a politician! Well I can honestly say that I got absolutely nothing done on Project Yellowjacket. I did manage to buy more parts for it and squirrel them away but that's about it. As far as the blog goes I have decided to completely turn it over to AI, that way I can claim plausible deniability about all of it's content. I mean AI is going to take over everything anyways, right? By the look of things I think the White House has already converted to AI. Switching gears, the Amberlight is in shambles with major delays on the addition and I have also decided to build a large covered car corral to store future projects, or maybe hide the large alien craft I discovered. Oops, did I say car corral? I meant horse corral. Right honey? Horse corral, that's what I'm building... Stay tuned for details on the car err, I mean horse corral. Now if you will excuse me I have a Zoom meeting with Giorgio Tsoukalos.

Monday, August 28, 2023

North Main - Chapter Five

 Birds of a feather flock together, that would best sum up my friends, acquaintances,and people I knew growing up and especially during my mid to late teens. We ate, drank, and slept cars. Duane had (and still has) a '67 Pontiac GTO with a 400 cubic inch V-8, tri-power carburetors and a 4-speed manual trans. Jim had a '67 Chevy Camaro with a small block 350 equipped with a polished tunnel ram with dual quads. Bob had a '67 Chevy Chevelle with a 327 and a 4-speed, Paul had a '70 Dodge Challenger with a 440 and slapstick automatic, Zeke had a '67 Chevy El Camino with a 327 wearing big 'n little Cragar SS mags, Buddy had a '65 Chevy Chevelle Super Sport with a wicked 327, Roy had a '70 Chevy Chevelle SS 396 with a 4-speed, Dominic had a '70 Chevy El Camino with a 300 horsepower 350 wearing Daisy mags, Francesco had (and still has) a '65 Chevrolet Corvette with a 425 horsepower 396 big block and a 4-speed (that I actually got to drive!), Danny had a '67 Pontiac Firebird with a small block Chevy in it, lil' Erik had a '70 Chevy Chevelle that he equipped with hand controls due to his paralysis, and Rob had a '69 Pontiac Firebird. There of course were many more but these are the ones that stuck with me.

Many of these cars were regulars on the cruise circuit and more than a few raced at North Main. As was common during this era, a lot of guys were referred to by their last name. I also recall Downing and his pro street '71 Chevy Vega, Mix and his '65 Chevy Chevelle Malibu, Hudson and his '69 Chevy Z28 Camaro with nitrous, Lattica and his '67 Chevy Nova with a Doug Nash 5 speed, Atkins and his '70 Plymouth Roadrunner with a 440, Larkins and any number of his race ready big block Mopars, the Cruz brothers who had (and both still have) a '68 Chevy Camaro rs/ss and a '65 Ford Mustang fastback, and the Whittier Boys with their pro street '55 Ford T-Bird and small block Anglia. Like I had said, towards the end more and more purpose built race cars started showing up on trailers which really caught the attention of the local authorities.

Everyone that I knew also worked on their own rides. There was no internet to search for answers so networking among fellow enthusiasts was necessary if you didn't know the answer yourself. If I needed to talk to an expert I would just call them. I picked the brains of some of the best of the best. When I had a question about a Pontiac I called Nunzi Romano from Nunzi's Automotive or Ken Crocie from H-O Racing Specialties (whose son Kevin I would later work with at Super Shops). I called Bill Summer from Summer Brothers Racing when I had a question about my big block Chevy gear drive, George Spink when I had a fabrication question (it also helped that he lived just a few blocks from my parents), for camshaft questions I talked with either Jerry or Don Johanson from Howard's Cams and for high performance parts recommendations none other then Phil Braybrooks from J&M Speed Center. Sometimes you figured it out on the first try and other times it was trial and error. I vividly remember a recurring problem I was having on my '69 Chevelle. Just prior to my big block swap I was trying to squeeze out as much power as possible from the original 307 small block. The engine had been balanced and had a healthy Crane Cam in it. I wanted as much compression as possible so I had installed an early set of 194 small chamber heads that had been surfaced and port matched. To top it off I put on the recently released Edelbrock Performer intake manifold. The problem was that I was oil fouling plugs but only on a couple of cylinders. I pulled the heads off numerous times and had them checked. Each cylinder had good compression and I had installed the rings myself so I was leaning towards a collapsed oil control ring, but on two cylinders? What are the chances of that? More clues were revealed during the subsequent reassembly and testing. I was still getting oil fouling but now it had switched one of the cylinders! One of the previous suspect cylinders was now firing correctly with no sign of oil burning on the plug... what the heck! I was really confused now and needed to consult someone with a lot more mechanical experience than me, but who?

I went over to see my friend Jim as he had a lot of experience with small blocks. After explaining what was happening to my Chevelle motor he was as confused as I was but suggested that we go ask his neighbor Fred. Fred was quite a bit older then we were and was a GM line mechanic. He had decades of experience and always seemed to be working on a car when he was at home. After explaining to Fred what was happening to my motor he sat down and started asking me some questions. He was particularly interested in the heads and how much had been milled off of them. His educated guess was that the intake manifold was not sealing correctly and was pulling oil from the galley below the intake. I had never heard of this before and it never dawned on me that it was even possible. He told me what to look for so I went back to tear down the top of the motor. After removing the intake and carefully inspecting the gasket I spotted it. On the bottom side of the intake gasket, at the end that was closest to the oil galley, the gasket was wet with oil. I checked both the intake manifold and the head with a straight edge and also did a dry fit test on the intake to see how much clearance was between the intake and head mounting surface. It looked good until I put the cork sealing strips on the front and rear of the galley. With the intake in place the cork raised it up too far and there was my problem! Fred had suspected that the milled heads might be causing some problems and when I told him what I had discovered he told me to throw away the cork ends and use RTV silicone. I bought some fresh FelPro blue intake gaskets, a tube of Permatex silicone and the next morning proceeded to button everything back up.

That morning happened to be a Saturday so I got an early start in anticipation of cruising Market Street later that evening. My friend Johnny and his buddy Jose showed up and were soon helping me. After the initial start up and setting the timing I was ready for its shake down run. Johnny had ridden in my Chevelle numerous times so he kind of knew what to expect performance wise. Everyone climbed in and I took off, anxious to see and feel the results. The very first thing I noticed was the power, it was like a whole different motor! This motor was pulling hard! Johnny was shocked at the power difference and Jose was just sitting in the back seat, wide eyed with a smile on his face. I was really feeling good when all of a sudden the motor started losing power. I could feel it as it was happening and then I noticed the smoke. I immediately pulled over, leaving the engine idle while I got out and popped open the hood. It now had a noticeable miss at idle and was running rough, all the same symptoms as before! Man was I pissed off! I couldn't believe it but the same problem was back. All that work for nothing! I jumped back in and started to head back to the house. The motor seemed like it was getting worse and started loading up on me. I was at a red light waiting to turn right on Van Buren Blvd when the engine shut off. As I was cranking the starter to get it started again the light turns green and of course cars start honking at me. I get the engine to fire up, proceed to rev it to about 6500 rpm, and dump the clutch... right across from a Police car waiting at the intersection! Of course I did not see the cop car, I was too engrossed in getting the car started and getting back home. The Chevelle ended up getting sideways as I turned through the intersection and was billowing smoke from both the rear tires and the exhaust, but I'm sure the fuzz only saw the tire smoke. My two passengers saw the cop before I did and tried in vain to get me to lay off the gas pedal but I was hell bent on teaching that motor a lesson. There was so much smoke that I literally could only see the police car's red and blue lights before I saw the car itself so it was a good block or two before I pulled over. 

Now at that point in my young life I had had my share of traffic tickets. Exhibition of speed, speeding, California stop (rolling through a stop sign), engaging in a speed contest, reckless driving, and too many fix-it tickets to count. Heck, I made John Milner from American Graffiti look like a choir boy. I was in serious danger of losing my drivers license and I thought this stunt was the final nail in the coffin. When the officer walked up to my window I felt my heart sink as he was not a city cop, he was a CHP Officer! Everyone knew that the Highway Patrol did not mess around. They did not pull people over to give them warnings or warm hugs, they are all business all the time, or so I was led to believe. The first thing he says to me was "What the heck were you thinking and what's your problem?!" I thought honesty was the best policy here so I started off with "I was not thinking, that's the problem" and then proceeded to tell him the whole story about the engine, which Johnny and Jose collaborated, right up to the very end when I lost my shit and dumped the clutch. The officer was very patient and listened to everything. After verifying that I had a valid driver's license and lecturing me on my disregard of my passenger's safety, he said he understood what I was saying and that I needed to think about how my actions can affect others. He then wished me luck on figuring out what was wrong with the engine and told me I was free to go! Wait, did I just get a "warning" from a CHP officer? No one I knew would believe me so I was glad I had two witnesses with me.

So it was back to the drawing board on the Chevelle's engine problem, or in my case back to talk with Fred. Fred was asking a lot more questions, this time it was about the gaskets. He had worked on more than a few Corvettes and they all had aluminum intake manifolds. He told me they used a different gasket than the cast iron intakes, it was a different material. That got me thinking and after another tear down I noticed the intake gasket had failed again, this time on multiple runners. I knew it was getting sufficient clamping force but the material still failed. Fred suspected it was too hard of a gasket material so he suggested I get a pair of GM intake gaskets that were specifically for a Corvette. I went down to the parts counter at De Anza Chevrolet and picked up a set. I noticed that the material was softer and seemed thicker so I was eager to try them out. It turned out that those gaskets did solve my engine's problem and a few years later Edelbrock issued a technical bulletin saying not to use FelPro blue gaskets on their aluminum intakes as leaks could develop. Go figure, we found that out before they did, the hard way!

Thursday, July 20, 2023

FranktoidTM No. 24 - AI Bloggers, The Future or Fiction?

 Sometimes I really wonder about this blog. I strive to make it free of click bait, sponsored content, and "guest articles" which is really just someone trying to sell something. With the seeming rapid advancement of artificial intelligence, or AI for short, how long will it be before all the folks who are actually employed to write get replaced by AI? Fortunately I do not rely on my blogging for income, I do it as a hobby. I know, hard to believe that I actually enjoy writing, go figure.

Now AI might be able to churn out a fictional story or two, and maybe some technical papers and history based stuff, but how about legitimate classic car stuff? I use the term legitimate because AI cannot read minds or books (unless they are digital), "its" research is based strictly off the internet and human interaction, so therein lies the problem. We all know almost everything on the interwebs is not always true and a lot of so-called "experts" have to be taken with a grain of salt. If the past few years have taught us anything its that you can't always believe what the media is telling you or what you are seeing. (think deep fake and AI videos)

Imagine AI trying to write a story like North Main and pulling all of its research from internet articles, videos, and movies. AI is not real, as the name implies, it is artificial. Its the intelligence part that is controversial. Once I finish writing North Main I suppose AI could could find it, copy what ever it wants to and re-write it artificially, but in my opinion, that is just another form of plagiarism or copyright infringement and that begs the question: can AI even be held accountable? Technically case law does not apply to it, let that sink in for a minute... 

Thursday, March 9, 2023

FranktoidTM No. 23 - Triggered

 A lot of people associate the word "triggered" with experiencing a strong emotional reaction of fear, shock, anger, or worry, especially if they are made to remember something bad that has happened in the past, myself included. The trigger that is about to unfold here is not bad, emotional perhaps, and is best described by another definition of triggered which is a particular action, process, or situation. In my case is was a particular action that triggered me.

I was going through old photographs and ran across one that was taken back in the early 90's. I had completely forgotten about this photo but man, did it ever bring back a flood of memories. To almost anyone else it is just an old, grainy photo. But to me it speaks volumes, as it includes my first house, my first real garage (pre Amberlight), my daily driver '69 Chevelle Malibu, my project car - a 1966 Chevy Impala SS convertible big block car, our '85 Honda Accord family car, and barely visible - another '66 Impala, this one was a hardtop ex-street racer aptly named "The White Whale". I can even see my Craftsman air compressor, still in it's packing crate, that I had purchased at Sears. Who would of thought one photograph could trigger so many memories? 

I think photos are one of the more powerful triggers out there, both good and bad. I sympathize with those that see the bad ones. I am sure that old pictures of the Twin Towers in New York bother a lot of folks, especially if they lost a loved one there. For myself, I do not like seeing photos of the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas. My son was at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in 2017 and almost lost his life in the deadliest mass shooting in United States history. To help deal with the stress I literally wrote about it the next day. Sometimes words have a healing effect, at least for me.

The reason I was going through my old photos was to organize them and put them into photo albums. Remember those? I think it's so much better to be able to access your photos in an album then to keep them filed away in a box. I consider myself lucky that the vast majority of my photos are physical photographs, not JPEG files. Remember that the next time you are searching for a pic on your phone or PC. Digital does come in handy but I think there can be a balance between the two. So if you have some old photos tucked away, go dig them out and trigger yourself, in a good way. 

L to R - 69 Malibu, 66 Impala SS, 85 Accord, 66 Impala Hardtop

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Death of the Firing Order

 Quick, off the top of your head, can you tell me the cylinder firing order of the pre-LS Chevrolet V-8? I have the inkling that only the older generation of gear heads can recite this numerical order by memory. Having worked in the parts industry for decades I knew the cylinder firing orders of GM, Ford, and Chrysler engines by heart, but that was long before a certain device was invented. What is this device that I speak of? None other then the "smartphone" you are holding right now or the PC in your house. Back in the day auto parts stores had catalog racks, not computers like today. To prevent having to look up the same part number time after time, we memorized things, lots of things. One of the most famous examples of auto related memorized data was in the 1992 movie My Cousin Vinny, where Mona Lisa Vito says: "Chevy didn't make a 327 in '55, the 327 didn't come out till '62. And it wasn't offered in the Bel Air with a four-barrel carb till '64. However, in 1964, the correct ignition timing would be four degrees before top-dead-center." Given the fact that this movie was released prior to the availability of search engines like Google,Yahoo, and even AltaVista, plus during the infancy of the internet itself, the writers really did their research and provided an accurate line for the movie. 

Years ago I remember reading this quote by some self-proclaimed expert: "Why memorize when I can Google it?" In reality it was probably an ad hoc created by Google, much like the very early subliminal message in the 2002 movie Maid in Manhattan, starring Jennifer Lopez as Marisa Ventura. In that movie her characters son, Ty, asks her why Simon and Garfunkel broke up. Marisa responds with "You got me, you can Google it at school." In under one generation society has been conditioned to "Google it", or the equivalent, to find the answers to their questions. The aforementioned smartphone is now actually smarter and growing more intelligent with each new version that is released. Remember the CRAY-2 super computer from the 80's? Well your Apple iPhone 12 is 5000 times faster then the CRAY-2 and 5500 pounds lighter! Think about that for a second, or Google it.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

A New Year, Maybe

It is the first day of a new year and I will once again go out on a limb to predict what the rest of 2023 holds in store for us, John and Jane Q Public. I think I can sum it up in just a few words: More of the same. That's the vibe that I'm getting, and if my past predictions are any indication, it will probably be spot-on. The "new normal" is becoming just that and it's a little disconcerting. For all you truthers out there I see a lot of inconvenient proof coming out that will open a lot of folks eyes to what is really going on around them. I'll stop right there lest I wax on about politics and really do a deep dive, and that's not what this blog page is about. 

I will also predict that there will more content posted on this blog for your reading enjoyment and 100 percent free of charge! Now that I am retired it should be pretty easy, right? Ha! I'm still unpacking from our big move. On top of that the new Amberlight Garage is a disaster plus I am in the planning stages of a major addition to it, but not to worry, "good things come to those that wait". For those wondering if they can use that quote on their significant others and their to-do list, the answer is unequivocally NO.

The new year hopefully holds some major progress on Project Yellowjacket as well. Now that I am down to just one project I can put the proverbial nose to the grindstone and git-r-done! The plan has always been to put a 455 in it, which I am still in the process of gathering just the right parts for, but I started wondering about the 350 that is currently in it. When I bought the car back in 2014 I was told that the engine did run but had been sitting for at least a decade due to a major oil leak. I did discover that the oil leak was actually in the transmission. One time when I tried to add oil to the trans, the ATF ran out onto the ground almost as fast as I was pouring it in! In theory the engine should run if everything checks out okay. Time will tell and maybe you will see a "first start in 20 years" video... maybe.