Saturday, October 30, 2010

At last, back to patch making

After weeks of distraction I finally got to work on the E9 today. I did get a late start because I had to help my wife with her bike, and I am still constrained by short hours, but I did get something done. Even a little progress is better than no progress. What I need is more "visual progress," something dramatic. Like painting that car ... imagine that!

BMW101030-01 BMW101030-02
BMW101030-03 BMW101030-04 BMW101030-05

In the last E9 session I had started working on the next patch, on the lower edge of the LH grill opening. It was rough cut outline, still flat. Today was all about bending and trimming. Along the way I had to determine how much warp was in the body and work that out with a hammer and dolly. I got to where I was ready to weld, but experience has taught me two things: 1) do not weld at the end of a session when you are tired and rushed, and 2) with fresh eyes I will spot more places where the fit is off and needs a tweak. So, next time will begin with touch-up fitting and shaping, then move into welding.

As an aside, the places where I left steel naked along the top edge have still not started to rust. Naked, but treated with POR-15 prep. I see where they changed the name to Prep and Ready. Whatever they call it, it's great stuff.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Lotus runs again!

I was right. I had the static timing completely wrong. Probably because I was "thinking" about the distributor going the other way. Sort of like when you are trying to loosen a bolt upside down. This puts the points on the wrong side of the cam lobe, which puts the body out of position, which is why the primary wire connector was close up against the intake runner.

The ironic thing is, setting up the distributor on this engine is easy. Pull the plugs, raise the rear end, put a 4x4 under the LH wheel and lower the rear so that the tire sits on the board. Select 4th and use the RH wheel to turn the engine. Stick a clean Craftsman screwdriver into #1 spark plug hole and turn until screw driver starts to rise. Turn the screw driver around so that the end of the grip is sitting in the spark plug hole and turn the wheel some more. If air chuffs out of the spark plug hole #1 is coming up on compression. If not, watch the large alternator drive pulley and turn the engine until the pulley has gone half way around. Looking at the flywheel timing mark, set the engine at 9 deg. BTDC.

I position the distributor body with the primary connector at about 2 o'clock and the notch on the shaft at 12 o'clock. This puts the #1 lead at 6 o'clock. Connect a continuity meter to ground and the primary connector, then turn the distributor body until the points just open. Snug down the clamp and double check buy turning engine once around and slowly up to where the points open and check the timing at the flywheel. Repeat until it's right. DO NOT start with more than 9 deg. static advance or you could find yourself in the pre-ignition zone. DO road test and listen carefully for pinging.

The car started right up and flew around the test road with plenty of power. The idle was up, just over 1500, so I dropped it down. The thing about old ignition systems is that the deteriorate slowly. I am the kind of guy who will drive the car as long as it runs, and with this car just being a little off means it won't run. In other words, it needs regular attention.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Got Lotus spark, but no Lotus love

Last week I checked for spark without turning on the ignition. The first thing to do today was to repeat that test, the right way. Still no spark.

Lotus101016-01 Lotus101016-02 Lotus101016-03

Not surprised, I jacked up the rear end, blocked the LH wheel and with the trans in forth and the spark plugs out I turned the RH wheel until #1 was coming up on compression and the flywheel mark was just past the 10 deg mark, around 8 or 9. Then I pulled out the distributor cap and rotor. Both looked perfect. I pulled the distributor and noticed right away that the point gap was nearly gone. Not from badly worn points, but more likely from wear on the plastic cam follower.

After resetting the point gap to .015 in. I installed the distributor, but during an initial position setup discovered the points were not making good contact -- my multi-meter beeper was reluctant to beep as the points closed. Out came the distributor. Removed the points and sanded with #180 wet/dry even though the points were not burned or pitted. After that they were fine.

I had a hard time getting the distributor body oriented the way I wanted. I ended up with the ignition lead way up near the intake runner, where it usually is around two o'clock. I recall having a similar problem the last time I did this, coming out of restoration, and that the cause was I was on the wrong side of the cam lobe. At this point I was running out of time, so I tested for spark and had it, nice and strong. I figured either it would run or it wouldn't, so I put in the new NKG spark plugs I picked up at Larry's and gave it a go. Not a sputter. Net week begins with checking the static timing setup procedure.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Lotus - Not the carbs

It's rough only having three hours to work Saturday morning. The last time the Lotus ran poorly it was one carb -- the rear one -- with a stuck air piston. The difference was that this time it quit cold, while last time it limped along on two cylinders.

I pulled the spark plugs and they all looked wet. #1 looked especially bad, but not terrible. I cleaned them up but I'll look for new ones this week. N7Y.

I went through the Zenith Stromberg carburetors and they look perfect. Pistons dropped without sticking, no tears in the diaphragms. Definite odor of gas on the needles. Very clean.

In order to use the shop's remote starter switch I had to make an extension out of a quick disconnect terminal, because the Denso starter has a male terminal inside a hard plastic housing where the alligator clip on the switch couldn't reach. I should buy one and modify it. Anyway, without plugs the starter turned nicely on the car battery.

I stuck a phillips screwdriver into the #1 spark plug lead, held it close to one of the cam cover studs, and cranked. No spark. There was not enough time to raise the rear end, set TDC and tear into the distributor, so I gave it a quick wash, pushed it back outside and put on the cover. Besides, it could be the vintage 70's MSD box. Or the tach wiring. The coil. It's all about elimination, one step at a time.

It was not until later this evening that I realized that I forgot to turn on the ignition switch while checking for spark. Doh! Fooled by the remote starter. So the spark status is still undetermined.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Great support from my pit crew

This will be a very odd entry. To start things off I changed my profile photo, from my Samurai Champloo character to a current, very plain head shot. At least it looks like me.

The big news is a schedule change. The shop will be closed on Sundays, leaving me only Saturday morning to work on cars. I'll just have to make the most of it.

My wife's Toyota Camry wagon finally died. I have been saying for months that the next big thing to go out will be the end. It turned out to be the steering rack, which I replaced once already. The reason it failed was the poor quality aftermarket parts that are available. The windshield wiper motor I replaced recently in the van is failing, same story. Hard to find quality parts these days.

For a replacement I have been focused on two cars, a BMW 5-series wagon, or a Honda Element. My wife was not excited about either, which is why we put off replacing the Toyota until it actually died. The key criteria was that she could put her road bike inside, without taking it apart, and she did not want a van or a big SUV. This car functions as our "nice" family car, and I thought it was time we showed up looking less like the Beverly Hillbillies.

The Toyota died Monday before last, at Costco. I had it towed back to our place for troubleshooting. When I determined it was the rack I jumped on Craigslist and confirmed what I already knew, there were no suitable 5-series wagons for sale. A nice one in Kona, but too much hassle to bring it home (you can't drive across the ocean). A couple of nice Elements, one real pretty but manual and I want an automatic. Then I stumbled upon a Subaru Legacy wagon. My wife has always had a thing for Foresters and the Legacy wagon. 2001, a little older than I wanted, but when I went to see it I could tell at once that this was an extremely clean, well kept car, worth every penny. Got a great deal on it, too, so all the better.

I decided to donate the Toyota to the shop. Yesterday was the day to tow it in, which they do for free. The Lotus needed a safety check, so my first Saturday would be getting those things done.

The last time I drove the Lotus I noticed the brakes were dragging. This has always been an issue with this car, due to a problem with the design of the rear brakes. The fix is to ratchet back the adjusters by hand. I did that, got the paperwork in order, and drove out to the shop. Passed the inspection without a hitch. The tow truck was supposed to follow me home, hook up the Toyota, and that would be my day. Just as we were about to get onto the freeway the Lotus quit. I rolled to a stop on the shoulder with the tow truck behind me, and after a quick check to make sure the primary wire had not fallen off of the distributor (that has happened before) and that the Holly fuel pump was still running (it was) we towed it back to the shop. It was funny to see; we left with the tow truck following me and returned a few minutes latter with the tow truck towing me.

I am almost certain the problem is with the carburetors. The air pistons get sticky. Old age. I'll figure it out next Saturday.

We did get the Toyota, so my wife can park in our stall, but the Lotus is still at the shop and nothing got done on the E9. The strange thing is I had my phone with me but never thought to take some pictures of all this. I should hand in my journalist card.