Tuesday, September 14, 2021


 After a looong pause thanks to weather, I'm back to working on Alice.  This time, it's the dashboard.

Not everything works.  Most things do, but there's some funky behaviors that can only mean one thing- the ghost of Joe Lucas!  I decided the best thing to do was to pull the dashboard and take a look.

Boy, I'm a masochist.

The first thing I did was remove the console and center console.  Those went surprisingly easily - a few screws, some delicate maneuvering, and out they came.  the center console is pretty fragile and will require some reinforcement with glue to keep it intact until I can replace it, if I ever do...

But my fears were not alleviated when I got the consoles out... the PO didn't do me any favors...

Not all of these wires actually go anywhere.

After a little work to remove the dead wiring and a couple of easy patches, it looks much better.

All of these wires go to something.  I hope I can remember what...

On to the dash board itself.  Ugh.  This was held in place by being cobbled together, and not well.  The most difficult part is the nuts under the top of the dash that you need to be Ant-Man to get to, and one of the studs was twisted when the PO (or his mechanic) tried to install the nut and it didn't fit.  I spent two hours in various body configurations trying to get those nuts off... nevertheless, I persisted, and the dash came out after disconnecting and removing the tach and speedo.

It doesn't look so bad from here.  But it's not good.

Here's why I think I have a case of Lucas-itis.

"Well, there's your problem."

So I have a new dash harness on order.

I also pulled the heat and vent controls, and they're functional but gummed up.  At least, they were.  They work great now!  The cables don't, of course - so they're on order too.  Lots of stuff is on order.

I did get the dash dimmer switch unstuck too, but I don't know if it actually works.

Once I get the new harness, I'll test things and if successfully will reinstall the dash (properly). I will also be replacing the radio with something a little more modern, and running the speaker wires properly.  And that will take care of the interior wiring--but there's some more patch work to address under the car, namely for the fuel pump and brake lights, that I have to spend some quality time addressing.  Later.

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Saturday, July 3, 2021

Brakes Done

I made a quick trip to the Northwest to pick up some parts.

Well, the trip was a vacation… but I stopped by Tom’s Import Toys and picked up my front brake kit. Now that I’m back, they’re ready to be installed.

There’s not a whole lot to do, really. I pulled the hubs off the car (one side at a time). I replaced the wheel bearings because one side was definitely worn. Here’s a handy tip: if you don’t have a press, you can made a drift by grinding down the old outer bearing race enough to slide in without resistance, and use it to install the new race.

After that, it’s as simple as bolting on the new rotor and installing the hub back on the car.

The calipers bolted back in place easily, and new pads and hoses finish off the install.

Bleeding the system from ground zero was interesting. It took a while to pull fluid through the lines (I used a vacuum bleeder).  At one point I was sure I had a blockage. But I did finally get fluid through and then it went fine. I have a reasonably firm pedal and the car stops when I push on it.

So I went for a short drive.

It wasn’t great—something’s making noise in the right rear around corners. I’ll have to investigate. And I’m pretty sure all the tires are out of round, but I know they all have to be replaced. But she does go and stop, and that was my summer goal. I’ll fool with the dash and get the speedo reinstalled, and do a little cleanup to make more things work. Maybe I will work on suspension or steering if I get a cooler day (and buy the parts).  Anyway, whoooo!!!

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Sunday, June 27, 2021

Brakes III

More parts means wore work. Rear brakes are up!

Other than cleaning years of grime, there’s not too much to it. I started by doing that cleaning. While I would love to make everything perfect, I’m going to get Alice going and work on pretty a bit later.

I installed the cleaned up and lubed adjusters and the slave cylinder. The little clip flummoxed me until I found an old circlip pliers, and was able to spread the clip just enough to fit. One cylinder didn’t have a groove for the circlip!  So I cut one, no problem.

Time for brake shoes and new springs and retainers.

Boy, fitting those springs is a pain. I finally did it all on the workbench, including the parking brake “spreader”, and it went much more easily.

Top it off with a new brake drum and retaining screws, and that’s it.

The other side went faster, aside from having to grind down a lip inside the drum that just barely touched one of the springs. 

I also replaced the brake hose. I don’t think it had ever been done… the lines themselves look okay.

Front brakes are next, as soon as I have parts.  Then I can bleed the system and voila!  Alice will go and stop. 

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Monday, June 21, 2021


I'm a little suspicious of the mileage showing on the odometer.

I'm pretty sure that a few miles were put on this car after it was essentially rebuilt back in 2001.  Receipts for things like tires tell me that it was at least driven to get those tires installed, but the mileage hasn't changed.  So I decided to test the speedometer.  I pulled the cable from the trans and spun it with a drill, and sure enough - the needle moved, but the odometer didn't tick.

Okay.  This means I don't have exactly 43569 miles on the clock, but I don't think it is that far off given the condition of items like the brakes (which look almost new aside from years of sitting).  That means I need to repair the speedo.

The first job was to get the thing out.  This isn't exactly easy in a 1975 given the construction of the dash and the extra bracing behind it.  To get to it, you have to remove the bottom dash cowl, then the defrost control knob and control.  I found that a very specific size of 5/8" deep well socket was needed to get the control's nut free. I also found that I had to (gently?) pull the dash out while sliding the control out of the hole, because it won't just drop out.  But it did eventually work free.  Then you need to make your hand really small to get to the nuts that hold the speedo in place, manage to not lose them behind the dash, and then remove the brackets.  Finally, you can pull the speedo forward and unhook the cable and lights, and remove it from the dash.

I do not want to put this thing back in.

But here you go.

Once it's out, the fun begins. I removed the mechanism and spun it with a square bit in a drill.  As it moved, I could see a couple of things:

  1. There was a periodic dip in the needle.
  2. The odometer was not advancing when the little arm came around to push it.
  3. The gear that moved the arm was cracked, likely because the odometer itself got stuck.

The crack is slightly visible at the 6 o-clock position.

Of course, none of this matters if the odometer itself doesn't work.  So I futzed with it, and while I am not exactly sure why it stuck, I got it free and it appears to spin okay.  I hope it stays that way.

The gear needed to be replaced as it's not repairable.  Fortunately, gears are available from Odometer Gears Ltd. for Jaeger/Smiths speedos.  The gear has to be fitted to the shaft, and it's a bit of a delicate operation.  Fortunately, I have a few spare (broken) gears from Gidget's various adventures into speedometers.  I just pulled one of those and removed the gear.

I very carefully increased the diameter of the hole where the gear fits the shaft to allow a press fit with only a little effort.  I didn't want to add stress to the material.

Then, I used a little superglue (Gorilla Glue, to be exact) on the tip of the shaft, and pressed it into place making sure the gear was properly and fully seated.  I compared to the original and the heights matched, so I think I got it right.  Be very careful here, as that little knob is easily broken off.  Ask me how I know.

I installed the new gear and spun everything up.  The needle stayed stable at 70 and the odometer ticked over nicely.  The mileage has changed!

I cleaned the dial and reassembled the mechanism into the case, and now it waits for cooler weather to be reinstalled into the dash.

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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Brakes II

It's a good time to get the calipers done now that the master cylinder's sorted.  So that's what I did.

The calipers are a two piston design and very effective.  Rebuilding isn't all that hard as long as you start with good cores.  All the parts needed for a rebuild are readily available and of good quality.

Disassembling the calipers is easy enough.  First, take them off the car.

Ugh.  But this car has sat for a long, long time, so accumulation of crud is a given.

After a little cleaning, the next step is to remove the pads, and then the pistons.  These should pop out under a little air pressure.  Fortunately, mine did; that good-luck train keeps on rolling for me.

Once the pistons are free, the calipers get split apart by removing the two bolts holding them together.  Many people say you should never do this - but I have done this when rebuilding Gidget's brakes, and it's no big deal.  There is a seal that fits between the two halves, and that seal is readily available.  Here, I have done this for both calipers and cleaned the bores, which thankfully look good.

That's it for disassembly.  Now, it's time to meet Master Blaster for a good cleaning (protecting the bores, of course).  Here's a before-and-after shot.

Once both are clean and washed, a coat of caliper paint makes them pretty and will keep them from rusting.  Be careful not to get paint in the bores...

The rebuild kits include all the seals and the pistons, which unless the originals are prefect are definitely to be replaced.  The kits do NOT include the little seal between the caliper halves, so don't forget to order them!

Assembly is straightforward, but requires care.  Here's where I started.

There are two seals per piston; an inner and an outer seal. The inner seal is the solid one, and the outer is the grooved (it is a wiper seal).  The inner seal does all the heavy lifting.  The wiper seal is held in place with a retaining ring, and the two halves are joined by that little seal in the bottom of the image.

Each half gets a piston.  Lubricate the seals with a little brake fluid and insert the inner seal.  The wiper seal is tricky to install and takes serious care to keep the retaining ring from being distorted, which is way too easy to do.  My trick is to chamfer the bottom of the ring a bit to help it locate in the opening, and to gently tap into place with a block of wood just wide enough to span the ring.  If the ring does not want to seat with gentle taps on the block with a light hammer, STOP AND RESET.  With a little care, a good result is obtained.  If the ring is distorted but not badly, it can be gently massaged back into shape with a small hammer (not pliers!).

Once the seals are fitted, the pistons can be inserted.  Lubricate the pistons and seals with a little brake fluid and gently press the pistons into place.  This should not require too much pressure, so if the piston does not feel like it will go in, STOP AND RESET.  It is easy to pinch the wiper seal.

Also note that the pistons have an orientation.  The indented part faces in towards the hub, which is towards the mounting holes.  In the image below, you'll see that the indented parts face each other when oriented correctly.

Once the pistons are in place, install the caliper seal and fit them together, then bolt them up.  I used a little Loctite (blue) on the bolts since they do not have lock washers.

And there you have it.

All I need are the rest of the parts for Alice's whoa-ers (rotors, pads, drums, shoes and wheel cylinders).  These are all easy to obtain and low cost, so there's no real reason not to replace everything else in the name of safety.  I was hoping to save the wheel cylinders, but they're trash, so that's where they went.  I did manage to save the adjusters, which just needed a good cleaning.

I'll do some cleanup on the car before installation, and then it's time to bleed the system.  Stay tuned!

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Saturday, May 29, 2021

Brakes I

Now that the clutch is sorted, the next big job is being able to stop what can go.  So, brakes!

Rebuilding master cylinders (brake and clutch – I did that one too) isn’t difficult if the parts you start with are in good shape.  However, if the bores are damaged in any way, toss it and buy a new or rebuilt unit.  Brakes are safety items, so don’t mess around.  But a good core will yield a good result and be as good (and safe) as new.

I started with the master cylinder, which was not doing anything other than being a lump.  Removal was pretty easy - I've been having good luck with taking things apart on this car.  The lines came off easily and the master unbolted from the booster with little drama (other than having to take the intake off that I had just put back on).

The first step was to remove the reservoir, which was actually the hardest part.  The screws that hold it in place were very stubborn, but enough penetrant and a large screwdriver-with-visegrip-handle made it happen.


The next step is removing the primary port adapter and secondary port seal, to get to the insides.

Then it's a pretty simple job to remove the pistons, starting with removing the circlip that holds them in place, then extracting the primary and its spring, followed by the secondary and its spring.  The secondary is held in place with a little pin, which is removed by compressing the piston/spring using a long 'soft metal rod' (long 3/8" extension) and pulling out the pin.

The last part to remove is the pressure differential assembly.  Okay, so I fibbed a bit before - this was the hardest thing to remove, though those screws were knuckle-biting.  Anyhow, this is done by first removing the plug that holds the pin in place.  That took a long 1/2" breaker bar and steady pressure while clamped in my trusty vise.

Now the real fun begins.  The manual states to remove the pin with air pressure, but guess what wasn't moving.  I did finally coax it into a bit of movement after soaking in penetrant, and then I was actually able to pop it out with air pressure as recommended.  But it was a hard battle for a while, because I was afraid to bend or break things.  It turns out this was an abundance of caution, and the bore was intact.  Here's a couple of pics of the pin centered, and then moved... then the little bastard itself.

Once apart, inspection showed that the bores were all clean and undamaged, so my trusty rebuild kit was going to get put to good use.

But first, a thorough clean and rubber replacement!

As the Haynes manual says, "assembly is the reverse of disassembly."  So in went the differential pin and cap, followed by the secondary spring and piston, and that little pin I mentioned before.

Next in is the primary spring and piston, held in place with the circlip, with everything lubricated before assembly of course.

Finishing the job is to simply replace the primary port adapter, fit the new seals into the bottom of the reservoir and attach it to the body.  Top it off with a new vacuum seal and cover on the front, and it's complete.

I don't have a pressure differential switch, as it's make of unobtainium for 1975 (only).  The later switches are apparently constructed a little differently, though I cannot see how.  I may buy one anyhow to try out, or keep hunting unicorns.  The switch is mechanical and not fluid-activated, and all it’s going to do is light the light on the dash – but by the time the light goes on, you’ll be looking for the grab handle and checking the glovebox for a clean pair of undershorts.  So I may just plug it to keep the weather out like so many people do.  A properly bled system won’t have issues.

Refitting to the car is simple, and took less time than removal.

And there you have it.  Next job is rebuilding the calipers, which ought to be fun.

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Now that the car will run without leaking vital fluids, it's time to make it shift and stop.  I started with the shifting part, because it's easier.

The paperwork I have indicates the clutch master cylinder was replaced, so I figured it would be okay inside and that a rebuild would bring it back to life.  So that's what I bought.

First things first as always is to get the thing out of the car.  Wow.  I wouldn't want to do this twice.  I am sure I did it the hard way, but I can't see an easier one...

To remove the clutch master cylinder, I popped the firewall plug to gain access to the fixing bolts.  Then, I removed the banjo from the back.  Nothing leaked out, but that's because it leaked out the bottom (slave) long ago.  

Then I removed the box cover and the clevis pin attaching the pedal to the master.  That was the easy part.

Getting those two nuts and bolts that hold it in place was a bear.  The top one was easy since it was right on top.  The bottom one was horribly difficult, even with passing a long extension through the hole in the firewall apparently designed for this purpose.  With the dash in place, it was really hard to get the extension/socket and wrench all together, but I eventually did get it done and got the master cylinder out.

I also found the lead to the brake master cylinder pressure failure switch, which isn't hooked up because there is no switch installed (it's plugged with sealant).  I'll deal with that later.

The master cylinder is really simple and easy to rebuild.  The bore is spotless, but one of the seals looked like it failed or was failing.  No matter - the rebuild kit has all the stuff.

Reassembly is simple and just means putting all the stuff back the way I found it, with the new parts of course.

Installation into the car was not as difficult as removing it.  I found the right angle to get a socket on the bottom nut, so I didn't have to go through the hole in the firewall.  Easy-peasy.

On to the slave cylinder - 

This of course means getting under the car.  Ugh.  This is what I saw.

Fortunately, everything came out relatively easily.  (I continue to have good luck in this area.)  Replacement is simple - after a good clean, a new hose and cylinder fit right in place.  The cleaning took the longest.

I only cleaned the half I worked on, so there's definitely more to make nice under there.

I think I have a little problem though, easily remedied, but wow.  Take a look at the pin and pushrod.  There's been "some wear".  They'll work for the moment but need replacing.

Once assembled, I bled the system.  This took a while even with my vacuum bleeder, but I did finally get a good first bleed done (and the fluid is clean - so nice.)

I have a clutch!  I can push the pedal and move the car while in gear, and for a final test I fired Alice up and "drove" her about 2 feet.  She moved under her own power for the first time in at least a decade.  Once I replace the pin and pushrod, the pedal will be where I expect.  I'm also happy that the clutch disc wasn't frozen and there was no juddering.  One more thing I don't have to do!

I'll bleed the system again eventually, but for now I have one fully functioning clutch, and Alice is one step closer to being on the road.
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