Finally got the AOD into the car after the engine swap…which I still haven’t posted the pics of getting the new/old motor back in…but they’re at myspace, so find ‘em there in the meantime, I suppose. But the car had started running rough for seemingly no reason.

We adjusted the carb, the timing, retorqued the intake. Nothing looked out of place…until we connected the battery that kept dying not to the fact that I hadn’t driven the car much, but to the fact that the alternator wasn’t charging. We replaced the alternator because the wires on the back looked a little fried, but still, there was a no-charge situation again.

Hmmm…

What about the voltage regulator? That unassuming little box next to the radiator, inside the left fender… what about that thing? As we worked to get it out of the car, it made sense… the dim headlights, the flickering interior lights. Everything finally came together. That thing had been giving us symptoms for at least a year and we had been ignoring them the whole time, thinking something else was the culprit.

Once it was out of the car, it was obvious something was wrong. The prongs on the bottom were kinda fried.

So, of course we popped it open to see the real carnage. Yeah. Fried connection = no charging.

With a new regulator installed, the car runs awesomely.

So, for the past five or six months or so, I’d been having trouble with my ‘68 fastback Mustang missing. At first it was intermittent and I would dink around a little with the carb or the timing and the problem would fade for a week or so, but it always came back. I drove the car less and less because of it. Running on seven in that car wasn’t too bad, until the miss started to get consistent.

I checked all the plugs and they seemed okay. Not the prettiest, but none were fouled or broken. One was a tiny bit loose. For a week after all that, the car ran great again, but the misfire returned.

I wasted a few more weeks, driving my other cars, scratching my head, trying to figure out what could be causing the problem. Everything looked fine. Nothing was fried.

Then, one night, my best friend, Eddie was over and us three wanted to go out to dinner.

Eddie had the back seat out of his ‘68 Camaro, my ‘68 Mustang convertible is still not done from the engine swap because my husband and I have been too busy and the rest of our cars are 2-seaters. I offered up my seven-cylinder wonder and because Eddie is the ultimate car guy, he popped the hood and started inspecting the car as I had, except he narrowed it down to the #6 cylinder by letting the car run for a little and seeing which header didn’t heat up.

Busting out an old spark plug, he put the wire to that one and grounded it on the intake. It was sparking, but very weakly–which explained the intermittent misfiring. He sighed and happened to look down…at the coil…and said, “Did you spill some oil on the coil recently or is it leaking?”

“Huh?” I looked down, too. “Holy shit. No, I didn’t spill any and that looks more like seepage anyway.” And I started to think about that particular coil. I’d had it forever. It was on the car when this pic was taken in 1998…

Come to think of it, that coil was on the car when I moved in 1996…and then I remembered the very day I bought that coil.

For Christmas in 1993, my mom (of all people!) had bought me a Mallory electronic ignition change over kit which I’d tossed the points and installed in the stock distributor a few days later…which fried three cheap stock coils before I realized that they couldn’t keep up with the Mallory.

So what did I do? Well, I marched on down to SuperShops. Yes, you read that right…SuperShops (remember them?!). I’d never been in there before, but I knew they had the best chance in town of having what I needed.

The scent of fresh tire rubber assailed my nose as I walked through the door. Then, I might as well have put a big target on my forehead and a Kick-Me sign on my back because the jackasses behind the counter not only saw some dumbass chick coming toward them, but she’d also driven up in a Ford.

They tightened their bow-ties and looked at each other in horror. I could hear the silent “No, I don’t wanna help her, you help her. Sucks to be you.” pass between them as I made it to the counter.

I suffered through the obligatory, “Of course it’s broken, you’re driving a Ford” comment and got to the matter at hand. What I’d needed was a new coil.

“Well, how do you know you need a new coil?”

“The old one doesn’t work anymore.”

“But are you sure it’s the coil? You should get someone to look at it for you.”

“Look, I need a coil. Can you help me figure out which one? I don’t have a catalog at home.” (Remember those pre-internet days!?)

“Well, okay, but you can get a stock coil at Kragen or Chief, y’know.”

“I’m running a Mallory changeover and I’ve already fried two coils. I need something better than stock.”

All of a sudden, Mr. Bow-tie’s demeanor changed. He didn’t know what to make of a girl driving a car that wasn’t stock. He seemed almost impressed, or afraid or maybe a little glad I wasn’t just another idiot and whipped out the Mallory catalog from under the counter. At the time, there were three coils.

And Mr. Bow-tie, magically turned into a knowledgeable salesperson trying to sell me the right part for my application. He sold me the ProMaster because it was better than stock, cheaper than a race coil, but still sturdy enough that if I ever wanted to do any upgrades, the coil should be able to handle it.

Fast-forward fifteen years and that coil is the oldest component in that engine compartment with the exception of the wiring. Everything else has been replaced at least once since then. Not a bad life on that old coil and while it had started to fail, it didn’t fry and die, leaving me stranded like the stock ones did. Hat’s off Mallory!

For the time being, I took the later ProMaster Coil out of my convertible. That’s one of the best parts about having two of nearly the same car. And parts have gone in both directions these last six years. Both cars have helped each other out.

I’m back in the saddle of my fastback again and life is very good. Now if I can just scrape together the time to finish off the convertible before summer ends…

Okay, so the next day was the big day… The tired 302 was unhooked, unplugged and unbolted…and ready to be pulled.

Oh yeah, check out my favorite hood holder… (There just wasn’t a better place to put the darn thing.):

Since the action was about to get critical, I didn’t get a whole lot of pics for this next part of the engine swap/picker dance.

So, once the old engine was out, it was time to make sure everything was ready to get the new one in. While my husband cleaned the engine compartment (I dunno why, but I really suck at cleaning and hate doing it. Lucky for me, he’s good at it and enjoys it.), I scraped the old gaskets from the headers and made sure everything was ready.

Again, during the dance, I didn’t take pictures because our hands were full, but we got the new one engine in okay. And unlike last time, we torqued the flexplate to 80-85 so that I don’t have to pull the tranny again when the bolts work their way loose. That was not my favorite kind of automotive adventure… (Especially the aspect of someone other than myself fucking up, but I was the one stuck with fixing it. That sucked all around.)

There were a few difficulties along the way, but the darn thing is in there.

It has been a few months and gradually, we’ve gotten bits hooked up and plugged in, but we both got really busy and since we’ve got other rides, this project went to the back burner for the most part. As I write this, we are literally one heater hose fitting and a radiator away from starting the car… Oh, and an oil change, too. Can’t forget that. Here’s hoping for some time to get it all done.

Back in March, I began another engine swap. Big job, but I enjoy it. Welcome to my world:

Those fenders on the roof are for my fastback. After 9 years of being irritated by having ‘67 fenders on my ‘68 fastback, finally having the right fenders is gonna be suweet!!! I’m all about personalization, but I always hated having the wrong fenders. They were what was available at the time, though, so they went on my car after the wreck. My wonderful husband buys me car parts instead of jewelry and flowers and other frou-frou bullshit. How can I complain? He knows how to make me happy…

Since I’m so small, I can slide underneath without needing to jack up the car much… So there I am!:

This next series…I dunno. I just like the way it looked. I was pulling the starter and my husband was snapping pictures. Y’know, leaving the dirty work to me…:

And since I seem to learn something new each time I work on my cars, this time was no different. I discovered that this is the car’s original starter! It still works great, too:

Notice my muscles? Oh yeah… I’m a tough chick. Uh-huh. They’re a whole 7 inches around. Yep. You afraid now? Uh-huh. You know you’re terrified of my wimpy girlyness… Uh-huh… Check out my girly manicure, too:

That’s some scary shit, isn’t it? I’m amazed they stayed so clean!

I’m a little behind on my posting here. Life got busy for awhile and I didn’t have time to do more than a carb adjustment or two.

However, right after my last post, it was decided that the time had come to swap out the tired, seemingly unreliable 302 in my 1968 Mustang convertible with the reasonably new (only had about 5K on it when we pulled it out of my 1968 Mustang fastback), very reliable-feeling 302 that had been sitting on a stand, collecting dust for a few years.

It’s not that the engine in the vert was actually tired or unreliable, it just didn’t sound good. Piston slap, exhaust leaks…and why fix it when you can replace it with something better–which was the original plan when we dropped the 347 into the fastback.

Since my vert is my slow cruiser, it doesn’t need to go fast. It just needs to be reliable and fun. Thus, the reason we pulled the 302 from the fastback to put in the 347. That particular 302 was too smooth. It was a crate motor for a ‘94 Explorer. GT-40 heads and all. Ran great, but just wasn’t the hard, balls-out spanking that my fastback is about.

So, here’s the “Before” picture of my vert:

Yeah, that’s factory a/c. It hasn’t worked since I got the car, but it is factory. For the last 6 years, I’ve been saying I’ll make it work “next year” and you’ll see later why this year might actually be “next year”.

And here I am, ready to work. Got my hair covered already and I’m just sooooo excited to dive in:

Yes, you read that right. I was excited to dive in:

Strangely enough, both first casualties happened within the first hour or so. I wrecked my knuckle because I didn’t leave enough clearance breaking loose a bolt. It was bound to happen at least once and I’m glad I got it out of the way early:

The other first casualty happened to be the only casualty…and the reason why this year very well could be the year the a/c will work. But let me just say for the record, that I was not the one operating the wrench when this happened. This was compliments of my husband and while it was kind of a bummer, he promised he’d buy the replacement and get the rest of the system in working order. I can hardly complain. (I also wasn’t pissed in the first place, but don’t tell him that. He just felt bad and wanted to make reparations, so I wasn’t about to turn down the best excuse to get the a/c finally working! I’m sure it’ll be a team effort when the time finally comes.) I’m still kind of amazed that this was the only part that got broken beyond repair:

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This was a weekend in March. It should’ve stayed cold, but SoCal weather warmed up enough that I had to change my shirt…to something more appropriate and girly…just ’cause. In the background was our ‘92 Camaro Heritage Edition. We sold it a few weeks after doing this engine swap because the car was so awesome and we just didn’t have the space, nor could we take care of it the way a car with only 3K miles on it needs to be taken care of. It has since gone to a perfect home somewhere in Florida. I miss the car, but since we couldn’t drive it, all it did was take up space, so I’m kind of glad it is now with someone who can more fully appreciate it:

After trying to untangle some electrical troubles under the dash of one of my classic Mustangs, I wondered what the under-dash looked like in my new one.

06 UnderDash

Nice and tidy and clean. Everything’s all wrapped up and there isn’t a whole lot under there except air.

My other cars… Well, the fastback has about 250K on it and the vert has about 150K but somehow underneath, they both look about the same.

Here’s the fastback:

LT UnderDash

Notice the overspray from when the interior was painted. I could kill the guys at the shop for that. I mean, is it really that hard to mask it even a little so that I’ll be able to see what color the wires are later on? That kind of shit irks me something fierce. I was unable to do the paint job that time (after a big wreck) due to time and space constraints and boy oh boy am I still paying for it all these years later. When I first got the car, yeah, Mickey Mouse had done a lot of electrical work under there, but I’d cleaned it up through the years. I recall one wire changing color three times between the firewall and where it was going. It was amazing.

I’m quite enjoying the 3-pin connector that goes nowhere (I still haven’t traced what it’s supposed to be for!), the cut-off butt connectors, the bare bullet and all the junk hanging out of the fuse box. And you’d think that with all that overspray, perhaps the bottom of the dash would have more paint on it. Nope. This car did, however, have an electrical fire, so that accounts for some of the bits of electrical tape. It’s gonna be an interesting year for this car… During the cowl fix and paint job, I’ll likely be doing a rewire. Could be fun. I like electrical stuff–but only when I’m forced to do it out of necessity!

Here’s the vert… Mind you, it’s got 100K fewer miles on it.

vert UnderDash1

vert UnderDash2

vert UnderDash3

Not much difference between the old cars, huh? There’s questionable spaghetti plus overspray on both.

The convertible ‘68 does have air conditioning, so there’s less room under the dash, but still. What’s with all the electrical tape, bare bullets and butt connectors?

They’ll likely never look like my ‘06, but that’s certainly something to work toward whenever I finally get around to the big rewire. Wish me luck and hope it’s soon!

I like to think I brought in the New Year right by doing an oil change on my ‘03 Viper and my ‘06 Mustang GT.

This year should be a pretty big year for working on my rides. I might sell one or two as well. I dunno yet. The year is still quite young and anything can happen.

I’m writing this now so that I can look back next year and laugh at how much I accomplished (or not)!

I plan to swap the engine in the ‘68 Mustang Convertible for one I’ve got sitting on a stand, swap the tranny out for the AOD sitting next to it. And unclog the damn radiator!!! I hardly drive the car because of the damn radiator right now. I might also swap the flat hood for one with scoops like my fastback, but mentioning that is just so I can laugh about it next year.

I plan to at least start on all the exterior work the fastback needs. It has been 8 years since the last paint job–which sucked mightily. It’s about time that car didn’t have a primer spot on it for a change. I mean, I’ve owned the car for almost 15 years and during that time, the car has had either a primered panel or a large primer spot on a rear quarter panel for a total of perhaps 9 or 10 months. I figured I was doomed to never have the car one solid color for longer than five months after complete paint jobs.

But, it’s time to buck that curse again, I think. The worst part is that this time around, there’s rust in the doors that needs to be patched and the cowl is leaking, too. This is going to be a monumental task and I hope I’m up to it. I’m also hoping to bribe a friend or two with beer in exchange for a little help for the stuff I can’t do by myself.

And since I’ll have to take the windshield out to do the cowl, I might as well take out the rear window–it’s not leaking, but the seal is ORIGINAL! If I don’t change it while I have this opportunity, I bet it’ll start leaking as soon as the car is shiny again. It’s just my luck. I’ll also have to redo the interior. I’d painted it to match the car last time and not only does it need a repaint, I’m going to go with a slightly different color…maybe even the same as my convertible of the same year…maybe. I dunno yet.

As for my other rides, I don’t have anything major planned. I’m just hoping nothing breaks in the mean time!

I’ll admit the car was down for a few months, but it was in the garage. The windows were down, too, but when I started driving it again, yikes! it smelled funky. I can’t even really describe the scent… Maybe like boiled sweat. I’ve never smelled anything like it. Not putrescent, but certainly not a pleasure to inhale–especially in a car with such a small passenger compartment.

But it didn’t keep the car from running, so I drove it anyway–windows down, of course. LA weather’s good for that.

I was fortunate enough to get a week’s worth of work on a movie and that car is one of my favorites to drive on studio lots, so on the Monday, I kept the windows down until I got there and all was well, but funky smelling.

On Tuesday, as I was tossing my stuff in the car before heading out, I just by chance happened to look behind the driver’s seat. I found the cause of the funky smell, but didn’t have time to deal with it. I mean, I didn’t know how long it had been there and didn’t want it to either come apart in my hand or drip something icky that I’d need to clean off the upholstery right away. I’d need to take precaution. The only immediate thing I felt I needed to do was take pictures!

So, I drove to the studio that day knowing what was stinking up my car and I wished I’d taken care of it because it was kinda disconcerting for it to be there, me knowing it but not doing anything about it. Until I got home.

Yes, there was a dead bird in my Prowler…and it had probably been there for months! I still every now and then chuckle and utter, “There was a dead bird in my car.”

I’ve yet to name the poor thing, but it is now the patron saint of my garage. I’ll mount him on a plaque or something soon, but right now, he’s resting by the door, watching over my cars. Poor little thing. Completely mummified, too.

I went to the LA AutoShow. Honestly, new cars don’t really thrill me all that much, so it’s a pretty quick show for me. I got to relive the exhilaration of the F430s I got to drive over the summer and now that it has been shown, I can mention that I got to drive the Maserati Gran Turismo, too. So, when I saw it at the show, I convinced the gal to let me into the booth so I could show my husband the car I’d thought was so nifty. I think my husband would still rather have an Astin. I can’t say which I’d rather have because I haven’t driven the Astin yet…but oh, how I want to.

Of course, I also stopped by the Lotus booth… I love the Elise. Someday, I will definitely own one. Absolutely. It’s not the fastest car on the planet, but it’s unique, sporty and little: Just like me.

I’m gonna get me one of them thar cute little cars… I love ‘em!

The other highlight of the show for me was the ‘08 Viper. I wanted to see what the new metallic green looked like in person and oh hell yeah, that’s my color for the car.

However, the single most important thing I did at the show was get in the car and ram the seat forward to see if I could easily get the clutch all the way in without sitting on a pillow, without platform shoes, etc.

YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! See how much distance there is behind the seat? I know it screws up the aesthetics, but darn it all, I’m a little girl, so I’m forced to go to drastic measures to drive a big man’s car. I really don’t care how silly it looks as long as the car go, go, goes!

I’m sure I’ll be getting a green Viper at some point, too. I’ll likely swap my ‘03 for it as soon as I can. It’s about time Dodge put an interesting color on the Viper.

I forgot one photo. Due to the nature of the project, I don’t have any shots of me actually driving any of the cars, but I do have this one of the other cars, so you can assume which one I was in…

I don’t foresee being so lucky as to get to do this a second time, but my fingers are crossed and I’m really hoping for another run. It was like a dream come true, except I’d never dreamt of driving so many of that caliber cars within such a short period of time. I suppose that’ll teach me for dreaming small, huh?!

Here’s how this gig worked… I got up at 1:45AM every morning. And, as I drove the hour and change to work, there were days I wondered why the hell I tortured myself like that. Then, I got in to work and saw the cars ready to go and it never ceased to amaze me. I’ve had jobs that I loved before, but never quite like this. It was like a surreal dream or part of a movie or something. It wasn’t supposed to happen in real, waking life!

I was pre-assigned which car I’d be driving on whichever day, so I’d get it and my paperwork ready to roll out the door within about ten minutes of my arrival. We drove about 8 hours on the same course every day… Some city streets… Some freeway… Some canyon roads… A little bit of traffic… Filled out the necessary paperwork with my findings and such and then went home.

Because I was so into my experience, I drove different cars to and from the job in order to compare. My Viper and ‘66 Vette got a workout as did my ‘68 Mustang fastback. But even my Prowler helped me sort out what I liked, didn’t like, expected or didn’t expect. A lot was personal preference and expectations, but not entirely. I was chosen for the gig based on my enthusiasm for cars, probably a few other things on my resume, too, but it was what I’d brought to the table that made my opinion valid and that was pretty freakin’ nifty to me. I got to help shape the future of high end automobiles. If only that one week and a half, I got to do my part and I will likely still be amazed I even had the opportunity to do so years and years from now.

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