Friday, May 27, 2011

The Last of The Yellow Swarm

Those are correct year signal lights (all amber) they just look white with the 4 ways going

What I’m about to tell you is the god’s honest truth.

I’ve kind of rubbed up against it but never really talked about it openly but I should as it’s an important part of the car’s history. When the TR6 was stored in the “TR6 room” from 1994 until 2007 – the room, which after tearing down a wall, adding light and heat became the work area for most of the project; it was taken over by mice.

I hate even admitting it now but those foul little bastards had their way with the car for 13 years. It was a trade off I guess for warm, dry storage but that’s what happened. That’s why you see no more of the interior from the car being used again than the seats. Even the seat rails are going to be replaced.

I even had a bold little bastard move back into the glove box (old glove box) this past winter – between getting the car back from BC and it going for paint – do you believe that?

Mice leave a smell – you don’t have to tell me – I’ve been on the frontlines of this for awhile. When I started this car where there wasn't mice sign there was dirt. There was dirt everywhere on this car. Most of the dirt ended up in my ear. I mean every time I stuck my head under that car I came up with an ear of dirt.

Almost every car guy worth his salt has dealt with mice at one time or another. I actually had a mummified mouse corpse fall out of the rusty rocker onto my face back when I was working on those. You get to the point where it just becomes common place.

Here’s the part you may not believe – the part that is a little bit fantastical but very much true.

First some background: before we moved to the acreage we lived a small town called Blackfalds and during most of our time there (82-93) the TR6 sat in the backyard behind our house. The TR6 was last registered in '81 but it didn't show up at the house in Blackfalds until '86. Somewhere in thos lost years it aquired that thin layer of overspray that coated the entire car.

When it came to our yard in Blackfalds it was back there along with a Steyr-Puch Haflinger (if you don't know what a Haflinger is you should google it or look on Youtube - they're pretty cool), a pea green Volvo 164 and a homemade lawn tractor. All the kids loved playing at our house.

I can't find any pictures of that side of the yard from that time. I think my mom refused to document the caryard behind her house hoping that it would eventually vanish from memory.

You could crawl around on the Haflinger and the tractor but you didn’t mess around with TR6 or the Volvo. If you did you could expect the wrath of Bruce. Although – we did once knock out a piece of flat glass from the Haflinger windshield and that got pretty wrathful.

Being me and having always been the guy who can’t leave things alone – especially things that I’ve been explicitly told to leave alone – I messed with the TR6 from time to time.

One time, dad opened the hood and showed us kids the engine to try to abide our curiosity. After I saw how he did it I had it open almost 4 times a year. I had the top down only once – and it looked so cool – but my mom had to help me close it again as I couldn’t quite get it to latch. Mom was a peace-keeper and would become a helpful, yet hostile, co-conspirator in getting things back to the way dad had left them if it meant a quiet dinner table.

But mostly when messing with the TR6 I would just sit in it. What I remember most is that, back then – before the mice – is that it had this smell. It was a bit of a musty smell and must of had something to do with the wool underlay and the convertible top. It was a great smell but until recently I had forgotten about that smell. After the mice had got to it for awhile that smell was gone and it was replaced by mouse stench. The only reason I started to think about that smell again is that I started to smell it again.

This past weekend while working on the front bumper, front signal lights and installing the tranny cover a familiar smell started to drift into my nose. I can’t tell you why this is happening. I haven’t installed any soft materials that would contain the smell. There is no rationale for it, I can’t explain it but it’s the same smell.

This is too cheesy to make up and I think it’s really kind of cool. I think it's a sign that we are truely in what I have deemed "The Year of the Cat" - in honor of Al Stewart and the birth year of this car.

More than just the smell with the front bumper and signal lights installed I can see the cars personality starting to comeback. Many guys remove the bumperettes from this year of six but I can't bring myself to do it. That's the face I grew up with. It's the face I know and love.

The TR6 had a great past week and weekend as, like I said, I got the front bumper installed and the signal lights frames painted and installed. I also fixed a missing marker light in the back and got the backup lights going. The TR6 now has all it's external lighting in working order short of the headlights.

I attribute most of my success to being hung over on Sunday. We had guests down from Red Deer to meet Hayden and I spearheaded the charge to make copius amounts of rye disappear. It was great to have everyone here and as an added bonus my niece Kessie took her first steps at our house Saturday evening - that was pretty awsome.

I think being hung over balances out my ADD as I have had some highly effective days hung over. I ended up doing 8 hours in the garage on Sunday.

I have the windshield to body seal and rubber for the windshield coming from TRF this week. I'm hoping to get a windshield locally (Mick maybe?) as I would hate to crate one in but we'll see.

Stay tuned...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Rainy Weekend Work

Since the birth of Hayden I keep thinking back to ’79. Not that I remember the year of my birth but I can’t help but speculate.

My parents were living in the apartment in Edmonton – just off of Whyte Ave, my dad was selling real estate, my mother was typing term papers for university students and I was here – just here.

That’s the benchmark – I mean if not the benchmark then at least something I can hang my hat on. My parents had some strife coming towards them with various businesses and a rocky economy but there is something so simple about that.

Catching her in a moment of weakness Friday night I tricked Krista into watching “Dog Day Afternoon”. She didn’t make it to Sal getting a bullet in the temple but she held in there for quite a long time.

We have a love seat in the basement and a couch. God knows why but for most of the movie it was me, Krista, Hayden and the damn dog all squeezed onto that one love seat. My family all tucked into one love seat. This is as simple as this family is going to be. Things are only going to get more and more complex from here.

At thirty-two I can’t begin to fathom the dynamic of my mother and father in the summer of ’79. There is no path from the fall ’08 to there, let alone, from here to there. I’m not sure what I’m looking for in continuously thinking about it but it’s constantly on my mind. Maybe it’s the fact Hayden and I were born at the same time of year or that I have no memory of my father in the capacity I’m in now.

My dad lost his father in early December of ’78 – 22 years to the day I got run over by that train – if you can believe that. He admittedly wasn’t as close to his dad as my dad was to me and my sibs. I’ve been told that they were closer towards the end than they had been in earlier years – somehow I attribute that to my mother – although I have no tangible basis for that.

My Brother Neal’s daughter Kessie and my son Hayden are first girl and boy of the first generation of our family to have not known dad and that’s going to be strange. But maybe it’s just going to be strange for me or me and Neal.

I didn’t meet my grandfather; my father was biggest thing in my universe at the time of all of my childhood. I can’t honestly say that affected me at all and I’m not sure if it affected my father to not have his father around - especially early on. It must have.

I’m not sure my dad ever really reconciled what his relationship with his father was – he reflected on his father from time to time, over car trips, and spoke of him both reminiscently and critically. Unlike my father’s other favorite car-time subjects he didn’t ever have a nice and neat handle on his father – and their dynamic.

For a week that turned out to be a week in the second to last month of my father’s life I sat in his hospital room almost every day. I remember that we didn’t really talk much that week. I read, dad watched the Summer Olympics on television and dozed. I have to remind myself constantly that it never occurred to me at that point that he was dying – but there are so many questions I would ask him now if I had the chance. I wish we would have had the last big Bruce and Angy debate.

I’m not sure what the dynamic between Hayden and I will be. Right now the conversation is a little one sided. I hope like hell he likes cars, football, basketball and hanging out with his dad – but time will tell.

This all only relates to the TR6 in the way that it’s what I think about when I’m working on it – and this last week I spent a lot of time working on it.

On Friday I received a big box from The Roadster Factory. In it was the two front marker lights, the license plate lights, The finishing plate for below the front grill, the space-age plastic glove box (“space-age” always is better than “continuously-mouse-infested”), all the knobs for the heater, wipers and choke and last but not least the Union Jack decals for the rear quarters.

After three beers and “Dog Day Afternoon”, at around One AM Saturday morning, I got real brave and went to the garage and put the Union Jack decals on the car. They look perfect – if I do say so myself.

This passed weekend I also put the tail lights back together (thanks to a Mick at BMI), installed the license plate lamps, installed all the dash knobs, installed the front marker lamps, fit the glovebox by installing the toggle for the amp and the glove box bulb and, finally,buffed the front bumper and most of the back bumper. All and all I spent about 20 hours out in the garage over the last week and the car shows it. I’m very happy with where I’m at. I’m hoping I’m on schedule for late August shakedown drives – but that is a little cash-flow dependant.

This week I’m hoping to have the bumpers mounted and maybe even the tranny cover locked down.

Stay tuned…

Licence plate lights

New Marker Light

New Union Jack logo, Amber corner lamp and rest of lamps installed

Sat Radio Dongle - looks better than an antenna and it's removable

Ashtray Sat radio setup

Close up

Glove box with toggle and light installed

Amp fitted under passenger seat

Rear lights

Can see myself in the front bumper

12 volt power adapter mounted above passenger wheel well

Tranny cover in place (not mounted yet)

New heater knobs

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Weekend Becomes Electric

I must say I do love having the car here in the garage. There is a very cool “think it > do it” connection. This past weekend I got lots of time with the car and, again with the car here in Calgary, I got some great time in with Hayden and my wife.

Although I value my time with Hayden I think right now he looks at me as being at the same level as the dog: “warm – but does not provide sustenance”.

With the car at this point in the project I’m in a weird limbo between having most the parts I need to tackle the next steps but also missing some critical parts.

For example I have the plastic tranny cover but with the help of Shawn I discovered my Angle-drive for the speedo is pooched. I can’t install the tranny cover until I source that (I may have a line on one locally).

Secondly – install windshield frame – can’t do that until I get the rubber for between the frame and the body.

Thirdly – Rear tail lamps – need a left hand side amber lens and new rubber seals for inside the lamp units.

These weird little parts are the detailed items that hold a guy up and also eat up a whack of cash in the end.

The other day I opened a box with struts for the front cowl and the front bumper. I hadn’t looked in this box since the fall of ’09, and also found the horns in there. Of course I then plugged them in to see if they’d work. Not a chance.

I sought advice via the interweb and was told that dropping the horns from nose height is a good way of fixing them. I tried that and also tried a couple of other things and I had some success. I ended up with duck-like noise from one (sometimes) and still nothing from the other.

Another piece of advice I got was to get new horns that were ten times louder from Princess Auto as SUVs, at times have a hard time seeing these cars and have been known to merge through them rather than around them.

I seldom need an excuse to wander around Princess Auto and after an hour of wandering I found these said horns and they were cheap. They don’t look exactly like the originals but neither do the ones offered by the suppliers for TRF and Moss. Plus where they’re mounted (under the radiator shroud) you don’t see them.

I was excited to hear them and plugged them both in right away after arriving home, hooked up the battery and hit the horn…. nothing. No sound at all. I could hear the relay click over but no noise now. I went from some noise (dying duck) to no noise whatsoever. I plugged the old horns in – again no noise. I thought: “Have I insulted the car with my first non-really-expensive-heritage-part?”

I decided the best thing to do would be to walk away and handle other things.

To continue my string of non-original parts I decided to wire in the Blaupunkt amp for the new stereo setup. And while we’re on the subject I didn’t mean to be so harsh on other stereo setups last week – I got a little rant-y. Lets face it, TR6s were basically built with a 12volt power take-off wire for a radio and that’s it – they were all an aftermarket stereos.

To start this process I removed the passenger seat mount from the passenger seat and installed it in the car so I could see how much room I had to work with as the amp is to sit inside that. I feel that’s the best place as: a) hidden but accessible and b) close to the speakers, ignition wire and battery so less wire running all over.

I spent the rest of the afternoon soldering wire connectors on wire and heat shrinking insulators over patches. My goal was to do this installation without both electrical tape and “crimp-on” connectors. Back when I was growing up, mounting a stereo in everything short of the lawnmower, I lived and died by crimp on connectors and electricians tape and it showed. Now that I am an adult, and have burned myself with a soldering iron more than once, I had to show that I could do it the right way.

My install was very simple:

* I grounded the amp to floor of the car (will seal the connection at the floor with Por15 at a later date).

* I ran the power wire for the amp to the battery but did not want to just hoop connect it to the bolt on the positive battery terminal as that looks tacky. I ended up using an empty flat male connector in a rubber junction at the stem of the positive lead for the battery. This looked much better and took advantage for an existing unused power take-off. The flat connector was larger than a standard 12 gauge female connector but I was able to bend one open a little larger with a flat screwdriver. After installed I used a very small amount of black electrical tape to secure it to the starter lead so it didn’t wiggle loose. It looks very correct if not factory.

* Next I ran the remote line for the amp to the power take off from the ignition. This would have been the lead for the original radio and I wanted to use it as it would turn off the amp with the ignition. I also installed an inline toggle switch witch will eventually live at the back of the new plastic glove box when mounted. This way if, for some reason, there is no radio connected, the amp can be off also while the car is running.

* At the same time I ran the amp remote to the power take-off I installed a second lead from the keyed power take-off before the amp switch. This leads to an aftermarket 12 volt accessory connector (for those born before 1990 think: cigarette lighter). I mounted this unit out of sight but accessible on the roof of the passenger’s foot well with two small bolts. This is where the sat radio plugs into.

* I wish I had pictures of this as you won’t believe it until you see it but the sat radio I purchased is that exact width as the ashtray on the dash. I bought two strip magnets from a local craft store and mounted one on the back of the sat radio and the other on the inside lid of the ashtray – works very slick for a mount.

* I drilled two holes in the bottom of the ashtray and that’s where all the wiring for the sat radio comes up. When installed you don’t see a wire. Remove the radio and close the ashtray and it looks stock.

This install took me most of Saturday with a little work and clean up on Sunday. I still haven’t worked out where to mount the volume knob. I’m debating between low on the center console next to the interior light switch or getting creative and mounting in place of the dash light dimmer knob with the original knob button in place to disguise it. Most TR6 owners by pass or jump the dimmer as even at it’s brightest setting the interior lights give off very little light. I have to think about that some more.

Later Saturday Shawn showed up to check on my progress and he helped me diagnose the horn issue. It turns out I had to reconnect the ground at the front of the car. Me and my mechanic had neglected to reattach it when the engine was installed. It must have been grounding out some where from time to time but after awhile I must have knocked it. After I reconnected we had very, very loud horns. They sound correct for the car – they are just very loud.

Hopefully, this week sees my first box of parts arriving from THE ROADSTER FACTORY hopefully (if they are as quick as they are in charging me as they are shipping they should be here) and if I can pick up that angle-drive tonight I can close off the tranny cover finally.

Stay tuned…

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Year of the Cat… Again

I had a great moment the other day. The TR6 is in my garage at the new place (finally) and since then I’ve done a lot of time with the big door open. Most of my neighbors have Lexus SUVs and I just like to turn their crank a bit with the Power Wagon in the drive way and the Six in the garage. I like to represent something they’re never going to fully get.

Anyway the great moment came when I was walking down my driveway to the mailbox (big door open of course) and a fellow walking by commented “is that a TR3 or 6?”

I held back – and tried very hard not be a smart ass as I’ve confused Ford Broncos for International Scouts on more than one occasion – but a 3 and a 6? Google a TR3 – talk about a car that looks nothing like a TR6.

Anyway – I just replied “It’s a six.”

And he replied “Well it looks to be in pretty good shape”.

“Thanks,” I said.

No one – would have said that about that car over the last 20 years. The comment I got the most over the last few years has been – “Looks like a lot of work”.

It has been a lot of work – although I have to admit with farming out the engine rebuild to Mike and the paint to Tony my contribution has resembled something closer to Paul Jr. and Vinnie than Jessie James. Still… it’s been a long haul.

I’ve got the garage close to the level I want it. I still have too much stuff but I’ll figure it out. I think there is a garden shed in my future. It was a lot fun setting up my tool box. Most of my tools have been in storage for the last two years. I was very surprised to see what I actually have.

I had a week off last week with Hayden’s birth and when he and Krista slept I was able to sneak out to the car and get some work done. So far I’ve installed the new hood latches along with the new hood pins, rubber shims, hood release cord and emergency hood release cord.

The emergency hood release cord is an item highly recommended by long tem TR6 owners. I guess when that cable breaks it’s a real bitch to try and get the hood open. There is even one early six in a yard in BC with a hood in two pieces as someone sliced it to get it open – what a waste.

Emergency Release Cord location

I’ve also installed the door handles and have started the dash pad installation. One other thing I’ve done is install the new tach cable which – low and behold - brought the tach back to life. The speedo has the same problem and I’ve installed the new cable for that but haven’t had a chance to test that as I have neither a jack nor jack stands at the house yet.

I’ve been fiddling with the new plastic tranny cover also but I’m not going to install it until I’m sure the speedo issue is resolved. I suspect the cable will clear it up but it could be in the head.

I wasn’t sure I was going to talk about this yet but I might as well. I’ve done a complete 180 on my no stereo resolution. I’ve decided to add a stereo. The idea of driving through the mountains without tunes haunted me. So I thought hard and came up with a solution I could live with.

I’ve been following the forums on 6-pack concerning stereo issues and solutions closely to see what others have done and short of Miata seats (with speakers in the headrests) and sound bars at the back – there isn’t much people are happy with. Those two solutions do not appeal to me at all.

To me the underlying criterion of this car is simplicity – jump in and go. My stereo solution had to incorporate that plus it had to have adequate sound.

Here’s what I’ve decided:

I’ve purchased a Sirius Stratus 7 radio. It’s very, very small. It can easily fit in a front jeans pocket. I’ve also purchased a Blaupunkt ema260 2 channel amp new from EBay. With the amp I purchased two Blaupunkt GTx542 5.25” 2-way Coaxial Speakers. Finally I’ve purchased a Scosche EFX Car Amp Level controller.

If you haven’t figured it out yet. What I’m going to do is mount the sat receiver above the dash using a suction glass mount. run the wiring through a hole in the bottom the ashtray, connect the Sat receiver to the level control unit using a 3.5mm head phone to RCA stereo crossover cable, mount the volume knob in a yet to be determined location near the driver’s reach, connect the level controller-out to the amp-in using a straight RCA cable, mount the amp under the passengers seat, then the two 5.25 inch speakers are connected to the amp and located in the kidney pads as British Leyland intended.

The amp will be grounded to the body. Power from the battery and the remote switch will be run to the original (keyed) 12 volt power take-off for the car stereo. A blanking plate installed where the radio was and that’s it. When not needed the sat radio is disconnected from the windshield and wires are tucked into the ashtray.

Being that there is a 3.5 mm din connection for the Sat radio this gives you the option to connect an IPod/IPhone if desired.

It may not sound like it but it’s a very simple system which I’m hoping will put out a fairly decent sound.

Have I gone a long way to not put in a modern head unit? Yes, yes I have.

Why didn’t I use a Retro Sound solution? Well, I hate terrestrial CanCon-filtered radio and they don’t have a Sat option that doesn’t utilize the 3.5mm jack on the front. That and I’m not in love with their 80’s alarm clock display and the plastic-y fit and finish of their knobs. The knobs remind me of the Audiovox radios from Canadian Tire in the ‘90s.

Yes, I’m picky. AND yes I ordered all Blaupunkt components where I could because the car originally had a Blaupunkt - that’s the way I am. I have strong feelings about some things and I feel European cars should have European stereos.

Most of the parts have arrived – everything except the level controller. This is an untested setup but it works in theory – I’ll keep you posted.

In other news Krista and Hayden are going great. There’s not much to report yet. It’s going to be awhile before he starts mowing the lawn. We’re just starting to get a decent amount of sleep at night – the first few days were tough. I’ve started him out already listening to all the music he must know to be my son. He seems to like it so far.

Yesterday I started to bike to work again. Today makes my second day. November seems like such a long time ago now as my body (especially my ass) is just killing me. I suspect by next Monday I’ll be back into the stride.

…Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fathers and Sons

At 4:48 AM, Friday April 29th, 2011 Krista and I welcomed Hayden Theodore Sutherland into our family... he came to the world in the usual way.

I did not know until the moment I first saw him that he was a boy. I am very, very excited to have a son. My Wife Krista did very well - I am very proud of her.

I started this blog/project as a healing tool to help me cope with my father`s death - to have one more project together. As much as I`ve realized that I never will be completely healed, I`ve also realized that the sun does come up again and life does go on - It gets better.

I've gone through a lot of changes over the last two years, most of which it would be hard to put a finger on what exactly changed. The exception is this instance... I was a son... Now I am a father.

This blog is about fathers and sons.

- Angus Stuart Bruce Sutherland, Son of Bruce Herbert, Father of Hayden Theodore