Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Waiting on Parts

Waiting on parts again. The good news is that I see that TRF has charged my credit card. That's their anti-social way of telling me what I ordered is on it's way. The parts will probably arrive while I'm away for brother Lachlan's wedding in Mexico. So no post next week.

See you in a couple of weeks.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

By The Numbers

I’m the type of guy that if there’s a subject that interests me I’ll find out everything about that subject until there is no more information that can be rung out of it. There were two occasions this week relating to “The Little Car That Could” where I had to dig until I got all the answers I needed. One was a win the other was a loss.

Before I put any real mileage on the TR6 it needs an oil change. It essentially still has the break-in oil in it. Being that I haven’t put any mileage on the car it hasn’t been an issue. October is my month to do some driving (hopefully) so it’s about to become an issue.

I have a bad habit of listening but not hearing. Match that with a spotty memory for detail and it’s amazing that I function at all. Everyone has been telling me what I need to use for oil but as I wasn’t ready to deal with it I wasn’t really listening.

It turns out what they were saying all along was “ZDDP”. ZDDP stands for zinc dithiophosphate. To keep it simple ZDDP does two things effectively: 1) it protects flat tappets as they move over the camshaft. 2) ZDDP kills catalytic converters (that’s the thing on you exhaust pipe that’s not your muffler).

New cars have roller type tappets which create less friction at the cam and therefore they do not require ZDDP in oil. With that being the case, and being that all cars have catalytic converters now, ZDDP has been slowly reduced in oils until it’s almost not there. Before catalytic converters oil contained about 2000ppm of ZDDP.

Even the oils that tout ZDDP as an additive don’t have 2000ppm. Most of those oils have between 150ppm and 1500ppm. After a lot of research on what was recommended, what was available locally and what was best I decided to purchase a 20W-50 weight oil from a company called Brad Penn. The oil is their high performance Penn-Grade 1 and it can be found at performance parts store in Calgary. Brad Penn stands for Bradley, Pennsylvania. That’s where the oil is refined. Independent tests put the ZDDP content around 1500ppm. I also purchased a bottle of ZDDPlus. That can be added to any oil to give it 2000ppm. Because I like many of the other benefits of using Brad Penn I’m going to add one forth of the ZDDPlus to every oil change to bump the ZDDP to 2000ppm.

I did a lot of research on oil online. A part of that is reading a lot of car forums. If there is a “third-rail” car topic it has to be what oil guys use. There is some passion for oil out there – to say the least. Dodge v. Chevy. v. Ford doesn’t hold a candle.

The other issue I tackled this week was the fact that shortly after the TR6 left Felixstowe, England in early 1976 bound for Montreal, Quebec and eventually Edmonton, Alberta it disappeared - at least on paper. There are no registration documents on the TR6 – anywhere. I know because I spent the last three days searching. I inquired with two registry agents and someone in the service center at the Government of Alberta Ministry of Transportation. The car doesn’t exist. There are no records in Alberta for cars last registered before 1984. But here’s the kicker: the car may never had been registered anywhere ever. The only document I have from the car is the last insurance document in my mothers name for 1981-82 and the VIN number on the card is incorrect. In the insurance doc the car is listed as 1976 Triumph TR6 CR52431UD. The VIN on the car is CF52431UO. It’s not clear when this mistake was made but if it was right off the hop when the car was first registered then the car was never-ever properly registered. I’m such a geek I find that fascinating.

The downside is that the car is going have to have an out-of-province inspection before I can register it. I insured through Hagerty insurance and because it was insured as a low annual mileage / pleasure vehicle they didn’t require an inspection to be done. For a moment there I was off the hook. But at the same time the car needs an alignment anyway and I found a good little shop that does a lot of British cars that will do both at a really good price. Not a big deal – the car is in great shape – might as well prove it. As a bonus I’ll score points with my in-laws who love checks and balances.

Still there’s a part of me that wanted to reach into that past again and pull back some tidbits of this car, and by extension, my dad’s history. I knew it was a long shot but the dealer name in Edmonton or something like that would have been neat to see on a VIR. It may be sick but I love to dig through those registry records if they existed somewhere – that’s my idea of a good time.

Last Thursday marked 3 years since dad’s passing and funny but I almost forgot about it. From a mental health point of view I’ve come a long way from the panic that punctuated the beginning of this blog. It might not be as interesting reading as it was when I was trying to get traction with this project/life but now is a good place to be.

Stay tuned…

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Techie Week

Maybe to the confusion to most who read this and maybe it plays into those who say that I’m a bit of a strange cat but again I need to talk about the audio system going into this car. I know that it is rather a moot point as a stereo in a convertible is rather obsolete and I know that we all thought I had it put to bed with the Satellite on the dash and the amp under the passenger seat but I wasn’t happy with the volume control.

My plan was to install the volume knob where the dash light dimmer switch resides as the dimmer is not that important and could easily be bypassed without issue. The problem with that plan is that left me installing at radio-delete panel in where the radio used to reside. I didn’t love that situation but it seemed to be the best case at the time – until now…

It came to me in a dream the other night: What if I leverage the Blaupunkt radio to control the volume? I admit it was pretty far fetched but I did once turn a vintage Royal vacuum cleaner into a derby racer so I know I am sometime capable of strange things.

My first plan was to utilize the inline rheostat I had purchased for my system by sistering it to the radio’s volume knob internally. But once I removed the volume knob control shaft from the old Blaupunkt it became clear to be that I could simplify everything by using the Blaupunkt volume rheostat. It also became clear that I could also use the power switch on the Blaupunkt to turn the satellite head unit and amp on and off.

The advantage I had, and what also made so bold, was that I bought a second Blaupunkt on EBay last year just like the one salvaged from the car. This stereo is in great shape, I think it came out of a Porsche, but being that I have it I was able to take the old Blaupunkt apart to test all theory without fear.

Once I had the Volume shaft out of the old radio it didn’t take me long to map the functionality; as in: what was volume, what was, balance, tone and on/off. The hardest part of the whole thing was waiting for the soldering iron to heat up. Within an hour I had the volume rheostat soldered inline between the satellite head unit and the amp. It works like a charm!!! I haven’t soldered in the on/off switch yet but that will be simple compared to the rheostat.

This weekend I’ll install the modded shaft into the new Blaupunkt and drill some holes in the back of the radio casing to run all the wires out the back. The whole thing should look right-proper as the English say.

This past weekend, on the way through Red Deer on my way back from the Stampeders / Eskimos football game and drunkfest in Edmonton, I stopped by the acreage to pick up the remaining TR6 parts and leathers. Part of this pick up was the windshield sprayer jug and pump and the radiator overflow jug. After letting them soak in some CLR and cleaning up the pump motor, I installed them back on the car and they work great. I bought a new length of clear hose for the overflow but windshield sprayer worked with only plugging it in. I had to re-aim the sprayer nozzles but other than that it’s like new. My only issue was that the strap the holds the washer jug crumbled in my hand before I could re-install the unit so for now there is a strip of hockey tape holding the jug to the bracket – it looks not too bad… I’ll change it out at a later date.

To cap off last week’s post: I resealed the rear diff cover with grey silicone “The Good Stuff”. Then I let it to sit empty for more than 24 hours before I filled it with gear oil again. So far my leak is gone. Although refilling it sucked as I had a siphon tube with a bulb on it to do the job. I failed to notice when I bought it that it didn’t have a one-way valve. It took me more that an hour to pump two and a half liters of gear oil into the diff Saturday night. I had to keep pinching the line on each side of the bulb to suck fluid into the line then pinch it again on the other side of the bulb to push it into the diff. This is something I don’t want to do again for awhile.

Still waiting on my backordered dash panel.

Stay tuned…

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Don't Leave Your Car With Bruce

This weekend a lot of good things happened for the TR6. I was able to fix the heater fan without buying a new one. The door and window seals arrived and I was able to install them easily. And a long with the seals the new clutch master cylinder arrived and I was able to install that without issue. Everything went so well that I was able to take it for a drive around the neighborhood late Saturday night.

Since then I have dropped the rear diff cover and am letting it drip clean so I can reseal the diff – to resolve a, not dire but persistent, puddle under the rear end.

As these things get accomplished the car looks more and more like those last 30 years never happened. But those 30 years did happen and that was my life – half of that was my childhood. This restoration is a bookend to period. It only makes sense; the car came off the road shortly after I was born and will go back on the road shortly after dad died. I guess it’s only around when it’s needed – something like the Littlest Hobo (very Canadian reference).

This car is truly an experience in tandem. When it’s done the car is going to tell me the little stories – not dad. If he were here when it’s done and we went for a drive together I imagine the visceral experience of him driving it again would bring back memories and learn-ed insights about the car he would feel compelled to pass on.

Thinking about riding with him makes me remember one night a few years back. My brother Neal had purchased a mid-90s 3 Series BMW Coup. It was a punchy little five speed and was sitting on the acreage as Neal was working up north on the oil sands for the summer. For some reason I was out on the acreage for Saturday night dinner. I suspect I was kidnapped sometime during the day to look at a car or go to a farm auction and was talked into dinner. Anyway before we could cook dinner the barbeque ran out of propane and Dad and I had to run into town to get it filled so we could eat.

I remember dad being coy and saying “What car should we take?” Then saying, “Well let me dig into the key basket and whatever key I pull out that’s what we’ll take.” If he was actually doing that it would have been rather high odds that he would have picked a key to one of the many work trucks he had historically but have long since been replaced, or one of the many crashed Plymouth Acclaims and Dodge Spirits that littered the healing line. The odds of him grabbing the keys to Neal’s Beemer were rather low. I think he cheated.

When we got to the end of the driveway he looked at me and said, “Your brother doesn’t know how to drive this car… I know how to drive this car – hold on!” Before that day and since I have never heard that car, or another car for that matter, scream like that as we peeled out of the driveway. It was a six mile trip into town and we easily broke the record getting in there as his big right paw put the stick shift up and down through the gates and left foot dumped the clutch. At one point he looked at me and said “This reminds me of driving the TR6.” Knowing what I know now I imagine the Beemer was a little quicker.

Sure enough by the time we arrived back at home Neal had phoned home and opened with, “Who the hell is driving around in my car?”

Apparently he had got a call from, his then girlfriend, now wife, Michelle who had just spotted the car in traffic and was wonder why he hadn’t let her know he was back in town.

Bruce caught shit on that one.

And I should end there as that makes the most sense but the ending of that story reminds me of an email I was copied into once that was between Dad and my brother Lachlan. I had just got a company car for work as my work wanted to recoup all the money I was making charging out my truck. Until I decided what to do with my truck I parked it at the acreage. I can’t remember exactly what the email was about but there was a line that said “Lach, if you need to, you can probably grab that white truck. It’s been left here on the acreage for an undisclosed amount of time.” The biggest surprise was that he bothered to copy me.

Stay tuned…