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    Mon, Dec 3rd, 2012 - 5:14PM

    Ranchero - new interior -- part 7

    In this part 7, I will describe the tasks of putting a new interior in the Ranchero. To backtrack a bit, when I purchased the Ranchero it did not have an interior. There was some funky seat that was not for the car just sitting on the floor (not bolted to anything), a 'boy racer' steering wheel and huge combo tach gauge piece screwed on the dash, a hole in the dash where the radio once was and no carpet or headliner. What was there (and salvageable) were the original door panels and sun visors. I purchased a headliner kit on eBay for less than $40 along with a large roll of FatMat insulator matting. The FatMat was used on the underside of the roof; floors and spare tire well. The headliner install was described in part 6. Also in part 6, I showed photos of an original 1966 Ranchero bench seat that I obtained from MnMFalcons. So we begin this part with assembling all the components for an interior.

    My Ranchero (it turns out) was a Custom model with upscale trim. This included an upholstered panel that fit behind the front seat. The panel was long gone but the upper attachment rail was still in place. I had a carpenter friend make me a 1/8 inch plywood panel to fit the space. This panel, the bench seat, and my sun visors were sent to O & R Upholstery in El Sobrante, CA for a custom roll and pleat job in heavy black vinyl. Their work is well known around here and they did a great job.

    Matts Classic Bowties (on eBay) supplied the black carpet kit specifically made for 4-speed Rancheros. Laurel Mountain Mustang supplied the seat belts and fasteners. Eckler's Dearborn Classics supplied the kick panels and Summit Racing supplied the steering wheel and tachometer. So now I had all the parts and the install could begin.

    The first step was to clean, prep and paint the bare metal interior. I used Rustoleum flat black rust proof paint (rattle can) to spray the floor, spare tile well and storage well (behind the driver's side). The floor was full of holes drilled to mount lord-knows how many different seats in the Ranchero over the last 46 years. Rather than trying to weld shut (and then finish grind the welds) all the holes, I opted to cut strips of aluminum duct seam tape (not to be confused with duct tape). This tape is metal foil on a roll. It adheres and seals very well. After all the holes were taped, I cut and applied the FatMat insulation material. This material is a rubber seal with a foil upper surface and adhesive lower surface. It bonds very well and makes a great sound deadener and heat insulator. The FatMat roll came with a small wooden roller to roll out and really conform to the shape of the floor. I used both a large pair of shears and a small razor knife (supplied with the FatMat) to cut the roll to the desire shapes.

    The next job (and the biggest) was to install the carpet. The carpet kit was a molded carpet that conformed to the shape of the floor pan. I waited until we had a few days of warm sunny weather and laid out the carpet on the back deck to relax the folds and get it ready. The carpet had a front and back half and you install the back section first. The carpet is deliberately made slightly oversize to allow for fitment. So the hardest part of the install is cutting the corners where the carpet goes into nooks and crannies of the floor pan. The best way is to use a piece of white chalk (for a dark carpet) and draw a line that is the center of the corner fold. Then you cut on this line to ease the carpet into place. You will have excess overlap in doing this and this must be trimmed away. I used the razor knife for this trimming. After I got a reasonable fit for the back carpet I laid in the front carpet and maneuvered it into place. Now, however, I decided to install the front seat. This held down both the front and rear carpet halves so that I could trim the overhang where the carpet meets the door sill covers and kick panels. While it was a great idea, I was forced to be bumping and tugging on the seat to pull the carpet where I wanted it to go. After it was in place, I used 3M spray adhesive to tack the carpet to the floor and FatMat material. Once dry (the next day) I used the razor knife to trim the excess from the sills, attach the sill plates and kick panels. Job done !! Another true confession - I messed up my first few corner cuts. Fortunately, they are behind the seat and I patched them with left over carpet pieces. But not too bad for a first timer !!

    When I went to place the new custom upholstered back panel piece in the top attachment rail, I found it was too thick to slide in the rail. A trip to my local Home Depot brought a nice piece of 3/8 inch aluminum channel rail used to mount mirrors. I cut this to size, drilled mounting holes to match the original rail and - bingo - it looks stock and nice as well. The bottom of the custom panel screws into the rear sheet metal in defined holes. I used upholstery screws (they have a large washer-like head) to fasten the bottom of the panel.

    Next was a new shifter boot (A Mr. Gasket part) with a nice custom wood trim made by my carpenter friend. I mounted the replacement steering wheel and tach from Summit, and secured the seat belts. Screwed in the re-covered sun visors and a new dome light surround and lenses and I was done. What once was a very industrial inside was transformed into a real car interior. The sounds like I'm inside a 55 gal drum was replaced by a quiet interior. The only loud noises heard are the Hooker headers and FlowMaster 40's on the 5.0. But that's a sound I like.

    Now the Ranchero looks good inside and out. The last installment will describe the front suspension replacement and lots of little bits and pieces. But I'm out and about in a nice truck !


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    Wed, Nov 7th, 2012 - 8:17AM

    Ranchero 5.0 body work -- part 6

    Good grief, I thought it would be about a month to get the final bodywork done and bring the Ranchero home. But there is one indisputable fact about body and paint -- you need to sand, sand, sand , and sand some more. Then after the color is on, you need to buff and buff and buff some more. But the results are worth it !! The Ranchero now sports a beautiful antique Prairie Bronze Gold color with all new repop emblems, freshly chromed bumpers and refurbed grill and trim. What a difference !!

    The bed was sprayed with Rustoleum Satin Black then the bed floor and tailgate inner side was coated in RhinoHide for protection. After all-- this is a truck and my new daily driver. Remember to remove the front of the bed floor (this part covers the access to the rear shock upper bolts) and coat that separately. You need to have a nice smooth surface when re-installing this part of the bed floor. A couple of mentions on the emblems. All of the repop emblems came with the inserts that go in the body holes for the emblems. Yet, while the inserts fit tightly in the body holes, the emblems felt loose. So I bought a tube of silicone cement and put a dollop in the mounting inserts and pressed the emblems in. Now they are very secure and the silicone gives a nice seal.

    The windshield was cracked when I got the Ranchero and a call to SafeLite Glass had a very professional service installer show up at the appointed time and did an absolutely perfect job of installing the new tinted windshield. All for around $300. Best deal in town. And they came to me !! Before the windshield was installed, I had to install a new headliner. If you've never done this, you really need 2 people. This is because you need to stretch out the headliner equally side to side and front to back. I used 3M weatherstrip adhesive to keep it in place. Not a bad job (for a first time effort) and careful use of my heat gun should take care of a few ripples (I hope).

    So the Ranchero came home. The drive did reveal a few little "gotchas". The first was that the lower clutch rod -- which was with the car and correct for a 289 installation -- was too short to completely adjust the clutch. I am guessing that this has something to do with all the mix and matched parts I used (see the engine and transmission blogs). I ordered a lower clutch rod for a 6 cylinder Mustang, which is about 2.5" longer than the V8 rod and this solved that issue. The swap took 15 minutes. Next, the windshield wiper motor was shot and a call to Matt Murphy at MnNFalcons got the correct single speed motor. So I have wipers.

    So, what's next for the Ranchero ? Two jobs -- the interior and front suspension. I sent out the original seat to be recovered as well as a new back panel made. The headliner kit came with extra fabric to recover the sun visors so they went to the upholstery shop as well. I ordered a complete front end rebuild kit and brake parts. This will be my next effort.

    But the Ranchero is drivable and runs great. That 5.0 and 3:55 posi rear make for a nice "scoot" when pushed. Soon the inside will look as good as the outside. Hopefully it won't take two months. Stay tuned.


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    Sat, Sep 1st, 2012 - 11:06AM

    Ranchero 5.0 install -- part 5

      

    Let me start this blog by saying -- It's Alive !! The 5.0 fired up and is running like a champ. Here's the final details --

    I purchased a used 1967 small block Ford distributor that had already been converted to a Petronix electronic pointless module. A great deal at $ 50 !! Here is a very important modification that MUST be done in a "back-dating" conversion like I'm doing. The later roller cam 5.0 engines require a steel distributor gear. The stock (circa 1967) iron gear is for a flat tappet cam and will be chewed up by the roller. Mallory makes a nice steel gear that can be had through Summit. The gear must be pressed off and on so this was another job for my local machine shop. I installed the distributor by bringing the engine to TDC and pointing the rotor to the #1 position (marked on the cap). I gave the newly installed steel distributor gear a liberal coating of Molly grease and with a bit of wiggle, it dropped right in. A pause for a "true confession" - I actually installed the distributor 180 degrees out. Double check that when the timing mark is at TDC, the engine is on the compression stroke.

    I have added a photo of the custom carb linkage rod needed to link the pedal assembly to the Holley.

    I then installed a set of standard spark plug wires. Key point here -- The 5.0 engines use the 351W firing order. Do not use the firing order for the 1966 289. The correct firing order is 1-3-7-2-6-5-4-8. A battery and two cables were purchased from my local Pep Boys for under $100 and installed. I disconnected the coil wire and let the engine crank to build up oil pressure and to make sure I was getting fuel to the carb. Side note, the 1991 starter that I used worked perfectly. Then I hit the key and - BOOM - she fired on the first twist. What a lovely sound was coming through the Hooker headers and FlowMaster 40's. I let it run for a few more seconds and then set the timing at 10 degrees BTDC. This is the stock setting for a 1991 5.0 HO engine. I'll play with the timing after I get the entire car done. Next I checked for leaks - water, oil, exhaust and vacuum. Again - no leaks and the engine is finished.

    So what's next ? The body has been completely sanded down (save for the bed) and all little dents and dings repaired. To my pleasant surprise - no rust. The tailgate showed signs of a previous hit that was not repaired just filled in with a ton of bondo. After grinding out all that bondo, Vic pulled the dent and it looks great. I went and purchased primer, paint and clear for the car. All for around $500. The color will be a 1966 Mustang color called Prairie Bronze Gold. Just nice enough to show off the lines but nothing flashy. The seat is off to the upholster and bumpers to chrome. Hopefully the car will be back in my garage in a month. I'll have final photos and comments then.


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    Tue, Aug 21st, 2012 - 4:58PM

    Ranchero 5.0 install - part 4

       

      

    Seems like once the engine and transmission were in place, the "easy stuff" could go fast. And compared to the engine/trans install it did. However, as in any semi-custom engine swap - the right combination of parts and pieces need to come together. So here's the "straight scoop"

    As I mentioned in Part 1 on the swap, I have used an aluminum intake manifold from a 1985 Mustang GT 5.0. This manifold takes a 4 bbl carb and I purchased a new Holley 600 cfm 4bbl. from Summit. Test fitting the carb to the intake revealed two small issues. First, it seemed like the throttle "butterflies" were slightly rubbing in the bores of the intake. Also, the studs on the intake were too long. So I solved this with a 1" spacer kit. Now the carb functioned smoothly and the studs (supplied with the spacer) were a perfect fit. Now two more issues became apparent. First, the stock pedal linkage arm hit the rear bolt on the intake. Why this happened is another Henry Ford ghost story, but it did. The solution was to use the pedal linkage from a big block 1966 Ranchero. See the photos of the "curve" in the upper arm where it meets the manifold. I had purchased a stock Ford 4bbl. linkage rod that went from the pedal arm to the carb. However, this rod was made for a stock Ford Autolite carb and not a Holley. The problem was solved by finding a guy on eBay who sold custom hiem joint rods (only $35) to solve this issue. So, the carb and linkage is done.

    I had purchased a chrome thermostat housing for the car. This comes with an "O" ring gasket and cannot use the paper gasket supplied with my rebuild kit. Bottom line - it leaked like a sieve!! So, a stock cast iron thermostat housing was purchased and seals perfectly. This housing takes the stock small block Ford heater bypass hose and upper radiator hose. The LOWER radiator hose was an altogether different story. Again, as I mentioned in part 1, I had the stock radiator re-cored and the bottom tank outlet moved to the driver's side. The 1970 Mustang water pump complimented that move. However - no one makes a molded hose to fit this custom set-up. So I was forced to use a flex hose until I find a molded hose to fit.

    The car had most of the engine bay wiring harness intact. It was missing the harness from the solenoid to the alternator and the ignition to the coil and oil & water sending units. I purchased two reproduction 289 Mustang solenoid to alternator harnesses. One was used for the alternator and the other to use the special Ford connector and rewire it for the coil and sending units. Worked like a charm ! I shortened the starter cable that came with the engine and installed it. Pep Boys supplied the positive and negative battery cables. Rock Auto supplied the coil, voltage regulator, and solenoid and spark plug wires from their vast catalog of parts.

    The engine was filled with oil and the cooling system topped off. We were ready to fire !! However, before the engine was fired, the opportunity came to get the car into a friends "barn garage" where he does his own car work. He has a super body man - he did my Scarab Z - and was between projects for a few weeks. So my Ranchero could get in for bodywork and paint ? Was I ready ? You betcha !! So we towed the car there and will fire it in a week or so. But, the work is progressing smoothly and no rust has been found anywhere on the car !! Sometimes you get lucky ! Stay tuned.


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    Mon, Aug 13th, 2012 - 2:35PM

    Ranchero 5.0 install -- part 3

       

    It's been a month or more since my last blog and significant progress has been made on the Ranchero. Shortly after I finished the engine, I enlisted the help of my neighbor and his friend to drop the engine/trans into the Ranchero. Here's where the "fun" began.

    For those of you unfamilar with Ford's "Toploader" series of 4-speed transmissions, they are considered indestructible. One reason for this is that ALL Toploader 4-speeds have cast iron cases. This means they are HEAVY ! For this reason, I decided to install the engine and transmission as a unit into the Ranchero's engine bay. Huge problem - my engine hoist with "tilter" could not lift the combined engine/trans combo high enough to clear the radiator support and "dive" downward into the bay. After a lot of effort, some very bad words, and the rubber gloves I had taped to the rear of the transmission coming off (dumping about a pint of trans gear fluid on my drive), I gave up and pulled the transmission off the engine and just put the engine in the car.

    If you want to test your strength, try this. Lay flat on your back with your arms extended over your head. Then try and lift a 75 lb Toploader. NOT !! I ultimately borrowed a big strong guy from my friend's construction crew and we got the transmission on my floor jack. It took two hours to manuver the trans into the engine -- literally on inch at a time. But finally, the engine and transmission were in the car. Now the "easy stuff.

    A set of Hooker headers and tailpipes and Flowmaster 40 mufflers came with the car. These were installed in the car when I bought it. No problem, I'll just bolt on the headers -- easy peasy -- and then re-attach the tailpipes. Only the ghost of Henry Ford knows why the flange of the driver's side header hit the trans crossmember. But, a short session with my 4" angle grinder and a beautiful notch was made to secure the pipes. The Hurst shifter was dropped into the hole in the floorboards (Ford has a detachable "hump" which enables full access to the transmission from inside the car) and hooked up. Plugging in the speedometer cable and e-brake wrapped up the "bottom side" work and the car came down off the stands.

    All this effort beat the stuffings out of me for several weekends while enduring comments from my wife such as "Look at your brusies, cuts and scrapes-- this is what you call fun ?" But now I can focus on the "topside" jobs to include wiring, carb and fuel, hoses and misc. bits and pieces. We're very close to starting the beast. Hopefully it won't be another month before I blog with the results.


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    Sat, Jun 30th, 2012 - 3:23PM

    Building the 5.0 for the Ranchero -- part 2- done !

    begining engine phase 1 complete alternator set up

    flywheel and block plate clutch kit pivot ball bracket

    In my last blog, I described the build/modifications to a 1991 Mustang 5.0 "roller" engine that I am adapting to drop in my 1966 Ford Ranchero. Since that time, I've completed the "back-end" of the engine to accept the Ford Toploader 4-speed tansmission. As with the early build, the correct mixing and matching parts is the secret to success. Here's the low down.

    The Ranchero came with a 1966 Ford Toploader 4-speed transmission and bellhousing. In acquiring the 5.0 engine, I got a flywheel from a 1984 5.0 Mustang. Using the correct flywheel is critical. Ford small blocks are externally balanced. Ford made two versions. The early (1964 - 80) engines used a 28 oz. balancer (the small one) and a corresponding 28 oz. flywheel. After 1980, 5.0 engines used a 50 oz. balancer (large one) and a corresponding 50 oz. flywheel. You MUST match the weights. Very bad things happen if you don't !

    Next, Ford small blocks use a plate between the rear block face and flywheel. This plate spaces the starter correctly and acts as a dust cover for the bellhousing. Since the bellhousing came from the 1966 Ranchero, I found a correct block plate on eBay for $40. After a resurface of the flywheel I bolted it on using new ARP fastners. Next I ordered a clutch kit from Summit Racing. Here was my first issue. Ford used two different bolt patterns for the pressure plate. Early flywheels have the 6 bolts in a "Y" pattern - two by two by two. Later flywheels have the 6 pressure plate bolts spaced evenly. Fortunately the great folks at Summit have a super return/exchange policty and the correct kit was obtained. The final issue was the pressure plate bolts themselves. Ford (again) used three different threads on these bolts from 1965 to today. There is a 5/16 x 18 and 5/16 x 24 and an 8mm x 1.25. I tried all three before I determined I had the metic thread. Again a quick call to Summit and the ARP fasteners were in hand and the clutch kit bolted on.

    A final check was made to determine if the starter that came with the 1991 5.0 would be correct in the "mix & match" flywheel and backplate combo. It lined up perfectly ! So, job done.

    I've been cleaning and painting the transmission -- all Ford Toploader 4-speeds have cast iron cases and they are HEAVY ! One more note on the build - late 5.0 "roller" blocks do not have a boss to install the equalizer bar pivot bolt. MustangsUnlimited makes a great bracket that bolts to the bellhousing/block interface to provide the pivot.

    So, I'm ready to drop in the engine/trans combo and focus on wiring and (hopefully) fire the beast up. Wish me luck and Happy 4th !


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    Wed, Jun 13th, 2012 - 9:18AM

    Building the 5.0 for the Ranchero

    It's been many moons since my last blog. I've been busy with car projects and haven't had time to collect my thoughts until now. In my last blog, I told of my latest car project a 1966 Ford Ranchero. I acquired the car without an engine and found a nice 1991 Mustang 5.0 engine for a fair price. Once the engine was home, cleaned and on the engine stand, several big questions and decisions needed to be made. Here were the issues facing me -- and anyone who is thinking of putting a late model 5.0 "roller" engine in an early Mustang, Ranchero, Falcon, etc need to consider. Here they are with my thoughts:

    1. Should I keep the 5.0 an EFI engine or retrofit a carburetor setup ?

    2. Should I keep the serpentine drive set up and alternator or retrofit to the 1966 configuration ?

    I should point out that my Ranchero -- although it had no engine -- did come with complete wiring, bellhousing, clutch linkage and Toploader 4-speed transmission. Answer # 1 -Given this, I decided to retrofit the engine with a carburetor setup. This avoided the need to re-wire the car for the EFI controls. I horse traded the EFI setup for a 1984 Mustang aluminum 4bbl intake. Answer # 2 - Next I decided to retrofit the engine with a 1966 type alternator and drive belt set-up. Again, this avoided any rewiring issues.

    Here are my step by step modifications required to complete the swap.

    1. The early Ford cars have the front cross member in a different location than the later Mustangs. You need to replace the 5.0 oil pan and pickup tube with ones for your year of car. Most 1960's Fords used the same parts. I got a new oil pan and pickup tube from Summit for $ 76. More horse trading -- I sold the 5.0 pan and pickup tube for $ 50. Along with the pan and pick-up tube, you will need to relocate the dipstick to the front timing cover and plug the hole in the side of the 5.0 block. I used a short piece of 3/8" dowel rod. The hot oil will expand the wood and seal the hole tight.

    2. You will need to have a front timing cover that has the boss to accept a mechanical fuel pump. All standard small block Ford covers from the late 60's will work. They are around $50. Once you get the cover, you will need to drill out the boss (or in my case remove the plug from the boss) where the dipstick tube mounts. Dip stick and tube (again from Summit) was $ 15.

    3. While the front cover was off, I decided to replace the timing chain and gears. I used a double roller set which meant that the oil slinger (that washer-like part that was in front of the old timing chain on the crank gear) is not to be used. It will hit the chain on a double roller set. No bad things will come from removing it.

    4. Since I'm using a mechanical fuel pump, a cam eccentric is required. Use the later 70's two-piece eccentric not the single part from the early 289.

    After buttoning up the timing cover, the next BIG decision is facing you. In late 1969 early 1970 Ford changed the location of the water pump intake (lower spout) from the passenger side to the driver's side. This also meant they scribed the crank dampener timing marks to be seen from the passenger side. Here are your choices. If you use a water pump that has the inlet on the passenger side (as was stock in my 1966) then the radiator bottom tank outlet is correct. However, you must then get a new pointer for the timing cover AND either re-scribe the crank dampener or use timing tape -- this requires you to set the original pointer on TDC and then scribe the TDC mark where the new pointer lines up. Alternatively, you can use a 1970 - 1975 water pump. This pump has the inlet on the driver's side. This keeps the original 5.0 pointer and timing marks intact but does require the radiator bottom tank to be modified. Thankfully, I had the radiator re-cored and the shop did the tank swap at minimal cost.

    Now that all was going smoothly, it came time to put on the accessories. All my Ranchero needed was an alternator so I purchased a set of standard alternator mounting brackets. Here I ran into my first "fabrication" problem. The 1970 water pump does not have a mounting boss for the lower adjusting arm on the stock alternator configuration. Second, the crank dampener on the 5.0 engine is tapped for 4 pulley bolts and not the three pulley bolts for a stock 1966 crank pulley. Fortunately March makes and beautiful aluminum "V" belt pulley for just this application. Using their 1611 pulley and a .325" spacer (also from March) solved the bottom pulley issue. After a lot of measuring, I determined that if I mounted the adjustment arm on the lower top mount bracket bolt -- this is important -- behind the bracket to act as a spacer, then the belt was in line on all three pulleys -- water pump, alternator and crank. The arm now came in behind the alternator adjustment bolt hole as opposed to the stock position in front of the hole. This did require a bid of bending of the adjustment arm and grinding a notch to clear the bottom of the alternator. But the net result was a factory stock looking installation.

    So the engine was now "buttoned up with the front accessories functioning. Next blog will cover the back of the motor -- flywheel, clutch etc.

    Stay tuned.


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    Fri, Mar 30th, 2012 - 6:05PM

    Another Back from the Dead project !!

    It's been a long moth since my last blog. If you're wondering what I've been up to, remember the Back From The Dead series that described my restoration of my 1967 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442. Well, I've gotten another dead pony to restore. This time it's a 1966 Ford Ranchero. My wife sensed that I was getting a bit bored (as well as bugging her) so she gave permission for another "project car" purchase. I've always wanted an early Ranchero so my quest began. Most of the 1960-63 Rancheros were either too far gone (rust) or already restored (what fun is that ?) so I focused on the 1964-65 and the 1966-67 Rancheros. Finally found one close to home -- I live outside the San Francisco Bay area -- and this was in the city. It was rust free and without major body damage. A real find !

    Now the ugly part. The Ranchero was owned by a "boy racer" who stripped off all the trim; screwed a monstrous tach -- that has oil, amp, and water temp gauges in the face -- on the dash; put 15x10 rims on the rear and 15 x4 on the front with corresponding "big 'n little" tires; and a bench seat that is not for the car. If that wasn't enough, he blew the engine ! So, I picked it up for a song -- after politely declining to buy the engine. Decoding the VIN I determined that the Ranchero was an upscale trim edition and a real 289 V8 car equipped with a 3 speed floor shifted transmission. Thanks to the boy racer, the car now has a Ford Toploader 4-speed -- which is worth what I paid for the whole car -- with Hurst shifter. He even left in the bellhousing and clutch fork. Also, in the car are a set of Hooker headers and Flowmaster mufflers. So the performance part of me will be having some fun.

    After coercing my neighbor to donate his pick-up and a friend's flat bed trailer, we drove into San Francisco and picked up the car. It now sits proudly, but forlornly in my drive next to the garage. So what have I been doing ? Chasing parts - what else ! Since the purchase early in March, I've found all the trim save for a single piece that goes around the passenger side of the roof and the radio faceplate. Also, just today, I scored a complete 5.0 (302) engine from a 1991 Mustang GT with only 83,000 miles. I'll convert the engine to a carb set up to avoid all the hassles of wiring the FI system. Tomorrow, I'll meet a guy who has a hoard of Ranchero parts and get all the missing trim AND a real 1966 Ranchero seat.

    So, in the coming weeks and months, I'll be having a ton of fun rebuilding the Ranchero. The goal is to make it a nice driver car -- just like my 1967 Cutlass 442. I had a nice set of American Racing Torque Thrust mags from earlier projects and they're now on the car with white lettered tires in place of the drag set up. The entire car is in black primer and after I get it sorted will be given to a friend for a nice paint job. Haven't decided on the color but the interior will be black and the bed covered in black Rhino Hide. So a nice blue or gray seems right. Any suggestions ?

    I won't be doing any new Back From The Dead articles any time soon as I'll be taking my time and having fun putting the Ranchero back on the road. And as I found out with the 442, who knows what parts will be bad or fail as I get the thing moving. But, that's part of the fun (?) of restoring these 60's cars. The Ranchero now becomes the chief parts chaser, go to the dump, haul stuff from Home Depot car in the Sparkes household. A welcome addition and my new project.

    Wish me luck, I'll need it.


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    Thu, Mar 1st, 2012 - 2:01PM

    Different points of view

    Recently, I've been involved in a lively discussion regarding two sides of the automotive "restoration" motivation. By that I mean what are the aims and enjoyment of folks who restore their muscle car or sports car or Jeep or truck. Seems like we have two vastly different schools of thought.

    The first is the increasing popularity of "frame off" "rotisserie" restorations. A car owner meticulously restores or replaces (with original parts) virtually every nut and bolt on his car --- even down to paint overspray and chalk marks in an attempt to make the car look exactly like the day it was assembled. In many cases far better than the day it was assembled. What is the purpose and joy in this ? Talking to folks who've done it, it boils down to looking at the car as a work of art. And like a work of art, the car will be displayed -- both in a custom garage at home and at car shows where it will be judged. After a time -- like all works of art that are collected --- it will be sold and another "work of art" will be purchased and the cycle repeats. For the serious and wealthy collector, this can lead to private collections housed in public or semi-public showrooms.

    The second school of thought is the car owner who restores their car, truck, Jeep whatever to new or "two year old" condition. These owners are not concerned with re-creating chalk marks, or using correct hose clamps or even using non-OEM parts such as newer exhaust systems, tires and wheels, or correct paint code colors. They want to re-create and experience the essence of these cars -- the driving experience. They will drive their cars frequently and even, in the case of a high performance car, take it to the track and run it hard. These cars will be maintained as they were when new. They will be washed, waxed, tuned and vacuumed. The interiors will be cleaned, but the under sides will accumulate the normal road dirt, grime and oil. The exhaust system may have some surface rust. The tires will wear. After a time of enjoyment, these owners will sell their cars and start the process anew. Some will own more than one but most will never have a collection.

    So, and this is the debate, which group is "better" ? The answer is both. The serious car collector is enjoying the car as an object of art and an investment. It could be a rare coin collection or painting or vase. It just so happens the collector is into cars. And because of this, more shops have experience in working on older cars. Reproduction parts are readily available and even the most woebegone relic can be saved. The second group takes advantage of all this and keeps these beauties on the street. So now the car enthusiast can see neat rides at car shows -- in all their restored beauty -- or on the street/track doing what they were made to do.

    Now, it doesn't matter if we think one or the other side is wrong". We need to understand their motivations and take advantage of their efforts. As someone once told me -- "Whatever blows your skirt up" !!


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    Mon, Feb 13th, 2012 - 5:01PM

    Don Garlits Rat Roast - I was there !!

    For those of us who grew up with the smell of burning rubber, mixed in with the pungent fumes of Nitromethene and the roar of supercharged Hemi dragsters, there is no name more revered than "Big Daddy" Don Garlits. Named the greatest racer in the first 50 years of the NHRA, Don Garlits is a true living legend. His Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala Florida should be on any car lovers MUST SEE list. I could write a book on the cars and drag racing material in those buildings.

    When it was announced that the Quarter Mile Foundation was hosting a dinner for Don Garlits' 80th birthday on the Saturday of the NHRA Winternationals I had to go! The dinner was actually a "Roast" of the famous "Swamp Rat" by a panel of his contemporaries. These included Ed "Camfather" Iskendarian (a spry 90 years old !), Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, Ed "The Old Master" Pink, Jerry "The King" Ruth, "TV" Tommy Ivo, Dave McClelland (The voice of the NHRA) and Sid Waterman. This was just the panel. In the audience were more drag racing luminaries and hot rod heros than I've ever seen in one place. Miss Linda Vaughn (Ms. Hurst Golden Shifter), sang Happy Birthday to Don (Oh sing that way to me Linda !!) Gene Winfield, John Force, and on and on I could go. There were also drag racing memorabilia and personalized items for a silent auction and really great items for a live auction during the Roast. I could go on and on, but here are the highlights from my perspective:

    Prior to the start of the dinner, I met TV Tommy Ivo. Thanks to a very gracious introduction by Lee Schelin, Tommy Ivo had emailed me prior to the event and agreed to meet. I've been a fan ever since my cousin Sonny took me to Alton Dragway in Alton Illinois in the summer of 1960 to see Tommy Ivo's twin engined injected Buick dragster. He ran 180 mph that day for a new gas dragster speed record.! I've wanted to meet him ever since. You will not find a more classier gentleman in the sport than TV Tommy -- and he's funny as hell too !! Thank you Tommy for making a 50+ dream happen ! Then I met Ed "Isky" Iskendarian and asked for his autograph -- I mentioned that I bought my first racing camshaft way back in the day -- an Isky E2. He immediatly said to me that I must have owned a Y-block Ford V8 -- right on Camfather -- he's sharp as a tack !! Don Prudhomme also stopped to say hi and sign my book -- another classy guy!!

    The Roast was a howl ! Don Garlits has a thing for flying saucers and aliens -- and his pals never let up on that ! TV Tommy Ivo brought the house down again and again with his tales of the tricks and practical jokes he played on Big Daddy. Like filling his "zoomie pipes" with confetti and scaring the pants off Big Daddy when he fired up and blew confetti all over the place !! Or convincing Big Daddy that he had a "wounded engine" (by pouring a can of STP down a header pipe to make it look like a smoking dead cylinder) This caused Don to leave "gently" while Ivo blasted off and won the match race. also, Ed Iskendarian is known to be a "pack rat" and somewhat cheap. We died when he was "tricked" into buying one of the auction items. A great story was told by Ed Pink on how did not help Don at a meet in 1966. Subsequent to that, Don responded. Garlits had bought an Ed Pink engine and burned it up. So he shipped it back -- freight collect ! Another story was how Don and his crew chief Herb Parks (who was a big tough frightening man) had words and Herb tore off the mirrors on the push truck and stormed off. Don was in his rail being towed back from a run when he spied Herb coming up. In his haste to get out of the rail -- he fell over and was run over by his own car ! That accident probably saved him a good thumping by a very upset Herb !!

    I want to share a very special thanks and mention to John Force. John bought many of the items in the live auction for some serious money. All the proceeds were to the Quarter Mile Foundation and John decerves a lot of praise and thanks for his generosity. He is a fine example of the sport. At my dinner table I met Jeff DeGrandis who is the official Ed "Big Daddy" Roth artist. We all remember the "Rat Fink" shirts and sketches and Jeff will do them all. Check him out at www.dragfink.com . One final thought. As I was leaving the Roast, I met Miss Linda Vaughn in the entrance to the hotel. I told her that she probably had no idea the effect she had on us young 16 year old hot rod guys when she was at the drags. She smiled and said "Oh yes I did" !! Still love you Linda.

    I've got a few pictures (but they were from the back of the room) but memories to last forever. Don Garlits stayed very late signing autographs for all who asked -- a truly great racer.

     Happy Birthday Don !!


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    Sun, Jan 29th, 2012 - 9:44AM

    Swap Meets

    I just returned from my annual trek to the Turlock Swap Meet in Turlock, CA. Technically the meet is sponsored by the Modesto Area A's and held at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds in Turlock. However it quickly became known nationally as the TURLOCK SWAP MEET and become one of the premier events in the hobby of restoring and collecting cars. This is a real "old school" swap meet in that the vast majority of the "swap spaces" in the fairgrounds are manned by folks selling off their inventory of parts, tools, do-dads, gee-haws and what-nots. California businesses also have spaces/booths displaying steering wheel restoration, jet and chrome plating and a vast variety of services we car nuts will eventually need. Finally, there is a "cars for sale" area where you can find everything from a "project car" to finished or restored muscle cars, hot rods, or what ever. Need a car book or old magazine -- you'll find it there. Need real wood spoke wheels -- you'll find them there too.

    I have a friend who is rebuilding a 1968 Buick Riviera. Not a show car restoration but a back-to-nice driver status car. He needed the top lid for his air cleaner. Sure enough, I found one--$ 2.00 bucks !! Many of the "spaces" look like someone backed in a pick-up truck full of parts and swept out the bed. But, looking through them you'll find jewels. Need a set of period correct mag wheels? Just about any mag made will be there someplace. The "hard core" Turlock visitors all have wagons to haul their finds around. These wagons are works of hot rod art. I saw wagons that looked like scaled down '23 T bodies on wheels with flame paint jobs. On guy had go kart mag wheels and tires on his stake bodied wagon. Most had nicely done "little red wagons".

    If you were looking for intake manifolds-- Turlock is intake heaven. Almost any thing you can think of -- some rather rare -- were there. I saw TWO complete 1963 Stage II Dodge cross ram manifolds. At $ 1,000 each they were not cheap but when was the last time you saw any ? Dual quad, three deuce, log ram , blower and fuel injection set ups were everywhere. If it were not for the fact my wife absolutely forbids me from building or owning a front engined fuel dragster, I could have bought several 392 Hemi's, blowers and set-ups as well as narrowed rear ends.

    Now, to be sure, hunting eBay or CraigsList can find lots of this, but strolling around a fairground looking at tons of "stuff" and finding some got-to-have-it parts is a lot of fun for us car guys. A word of caution. Turlock is always held on the last weekend in January. It has been cold, wet and rainy some years. This year was warm, sunny, dry and spring-like. But I have my waterproof hiking boots, rain hoodie and warm clothes in case. Bad weather never stops the true car guy !! So, if you get to California in January, try Turlock. If not, check out swap meets in your area. They can be fun.


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    Mon, Jan 16th, 2012 - 2:22PM

    News, News -- who's got the News ?

    It's been a month since my last blog. In that time we've had the Christmas and New Year celebrations and a lot of changes here at Wild About Cars. First, I've been appointed (as in I was volunteered !) to temporaily be the Daily News and Features Editor. This new set of tasks prompted me to buy a new computer over the holidays. There were screaming deals and I got a really powerful desktop machine. This should allow me to be more efficient and timely when it comes to searching for news and placing it on the site. The only drawback is that it postpones the purchase of those twin 500 cfm Edelbrock carbs for the dual quad manifold for the 442. Oh well -- spring will soon be here ! We will name a permanent Editor in the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

    Next, we've formed several new committees within the membership of WAC. They are the Brand Managers/Content Committee -- made up of those WAC members who will help out in adding to brand content on the site. The Events Committee -- made up of WAC members who will help identify, coordinate and participate in automotive events around the country. We're looking at the Back To The Bricks event -- for example. If anyone is interested in volunteering their time to be on any of these committees, send me an email

    We are also expanding our efforts to cross publicize car clubs for every brand and make within brands. If you are a member of a brand club , drop us a note with the contact for the club. We want to place them in our listings and trade links with them.

    Finally, you're going to start seeing more member surveys in our newsletters and site. We want to get your input about what you like and want on the site. This will include everything from articles, technical content, member car features, advertisers and anything in between. Wild About Cars is your site and we want to be the best automotive site around. So don't be shy ..

    Talk to everyone soon -- Craig


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    Sat, Dec 17th, 2011 - 10:03AM

    Winter Projects -- where all the fun begins

    Here we are in December getting ready for the holidays and bracing for colder, wetter weather. For us car guys, this means starting all those winter projects we have been planning (or putting off) all summer. Like a lot of you, I've been gathering parts and pieces; buying some special tools; and figuring out just which one I'll do first. Here's my "short list".

    For the 1967 442 - I'll finish refereshing the 3:55 posi rear and bolt that in. While I'm doing that (and since I'll have to disconnect and bleed the rear brakes to do it) I'm replacing the power brake booster with a new chrome booster. I do have a small vacumn leak in the booster and since it has to be replaced -- why not chrome !! I also picked up a dual quad intake and will try and assemble it with carbs, linkage and air cleaners. I won't install it until the summer, but get it ready to drop in.

    For the Scarab Z -- It needs a new throwout bearing (I'll check the disk and pressure plate at that time). To get at the bearing I've got to drop the exhaust and transmission. The car currently has a set of Sandersen block hugger headers and I've found an original NOS set of Hooker long tube headers that we made for Scarab Z sbc conversions. So, I'll bolt them on and then it's off to the muffler shop (very loudly) to get new pipes.

    Sounds like a big list, but actually these are fairly simple "wrench spinner" projects. Just what we hobby guys enjoy. I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year. We've updated the Garages here at Wild About Cars and encourage everyone to post pictures of your cars. If you're bringing one "back from the dead" we'd all love to see photos of your progress. The fun part of this site is seeing what everyone is doing with their cars. After all we are Wild About Cars.


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    Sat, Nov 26th, 2011 - 11:03AM

    Engine swapping is alive and well

    I was watching an old DVD on the beginnings of hot rodding and was struck by the amazing diversity of engines swapped into the early cars. Chevys, Olds, Caddys, Pontiacs, Fords, Lincolns, and Chryslers were swapped into all brands of cars. Some even had nicknames like the "Studillac" - a Studebaker with a Cadillac V8 swapped in. As we got into the 60's, engine swaps were still very popular but seemed to run in "brand families". That is - small block Chevy upgrade swaps from 283 cu. in. to 350 cu. in. engines or swapping in a "big block" 427 into your Camaro, Nova or Chevelle. The decades' of the 80's and 90's with stricter emission laws narrowed down the car enthusiasts' choices to 'bolt ons" such as turbos, EFI systems and hot chips. Mustang 5.0 lovers got a lot of aftermarket heads, intake systems and cams to rival the choices of small block Chevy fans. But engine swapping using different brands of engines seemed to lag somewhat from those early days.

    As you can see from my icon and if you visit my "garage" here at Wild About Cars, you'll notice I own a Scarab Z. This is a Datsun 240Z with a small block Chevy (Gen 1) and Borg-Warner Super T-10 4-speed swapped in. In looking at Datsun/Nissan forums and sites, I was struck by the huge diversity of engine swaps going into these iconic cars. In addition to Chevy small blocks (Gen 1 & 2 and the LS/LT series) Z-car owners are swapping in Ford 5.0 and newer 4.6 V8's; Toyota V8's (1UZ); Toyota straight 6's (1JZ & 2JZ) and a host of Nissan engines from Skylines (RB20/25/26) the newer 300ZX V6's (VG30/35/38) as well as the latest V6's from the 350/370Z (VQ series). Datsun 240/260/280Z owners are also upsizing their engines with newer 280ZX models and adding in a hefty doses of turbo charging as well.

    Looking at the Datsun 240/260/280 Z car scene it feels like the early days of hot rodding all over again. This makes sense as Nissan made hundreds of thousands of Z cars in the 1970's and they are plentiful, inexpensive and seem to take just about any engine swap you can think of. I've even seen big blocks in them (although for drag racing only). These cars make great performance platforms as they weigh in from 2,400 to 3,200 lbs. and with 300+ HP engines, the HP to weight ratio is highly favorable.

    The bottom line is that traditional hot rodding is alive and well in the ranks of Datsun Z car owners. Engine swaps, different transmissions, wheel/tire combos and rear diff assemblies are even more diverse. Other makes such as Honda and Toyota have lots of swaps as well, but these tend to be more in the "brand family" line with Acura and Lexus engines finding their way into the lower priced economy car lines. And to be sure, these make for some pretty hot rides.

    So, if you are thinking of getting into a "project car" and want the best bang for your buck - the Datsun Z makes a good starting point. Watch out for rust and you're going to have a blank canvas for building your project with the greatest amount of engine choice.


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    Thu, Nov 17th, 2011 - 8:48AM

    What's wrong with today's muscle car magazines ?

    We were having a typical Wild About Cars staff BS session the other day and the subject of the current crop of "Muscle Car" magazines came up. A universal gripe was that these magazines have lost the very essence of what made the muscle car era magazines so popular to read. Our most popular feature on Wild About Cars is the Back in the Day series which reproduces road tests of the actual cars in the day with the tires they had back then as well. Speaking for myself - and it is my blog - I really don't give a fig about "rotisserie" restored cars or how somebody "claims" to have an original less than 200 miles 1966 whatever or a "Day 2" car, or a "survivor" or any of these "investor" categories.

    What I want to know is - How well would a new Camaro LS7 stack up with a 1966-69 Camaro with a 427 or 454 big block swapped in and current wheels and tires ? Or a new Mustang Boss 302 against a 1969 428 Mach 1 ram air with current technology. Or a new Hemi Challenger against anything from Mopar in the 1960's with a Hemi. Our staff room BS felt that the current muscle cars would beat the "Back in the Day" cars - but not by much !! The biggest limiting factor of the 60's muscle cars were tires. When you could run low 12's with 7" wide "cheater slicks" What could you run today with today's tires and wheels ? Interesting thought !!

    So why don't these muscle car mags find some "Back in the Day" cars - not priceless "numbers matching" one-of-one cars (these are for coin collectors and other investors) but cars like we all know someone who has - A low buck model that has been "upgraded" with a big fat motor and go fast parts. As our esteemed operations chief said - "Horsepower is horsepower it's how you get it to the ground" - and he has a 2001 Mustang GT with a swapped in Aussie 5.4 liter "Boss 290" AND a 1968 Oldsmobile 442 Ram air W30 conversion car. An engine swapper and hot rodder for sure. My 1972 Scarab Z has a smoking Gen 1 small block Chevy 350 and it will run.

    So drop a line to these mags and tell them to get a "shoot out" going so that we can see the best muscle cars from today and yesterday - side by side. Let the tire smoke begin !!


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    Thu, Nov 10th, 2011 - 2:42PM

    The current state of our hobby

    My responsibility here at Wild About Cars keeps me in constant contact with the advertisers and potential vendors who want to advertise on the site. One thing that really hits home is how very much alive is our auto enthusiast's hobby. Members' interests run from Classic cars, muscle cars, trucks, drifters, to a wide range of new model "muscle cars". The vendor community has seen that interest and provides virtually everything imaginable to support us. Just a quick browse thought the main sections of the site (and we have more than 38,000 pages !) will find ads for tires, exhaust systems, wiring, interiors, car care products, insurance, a huge inventory of parts suppliers, stencils, hi performance shops, and even books and literature suppliers for our hobby, Soon, you'll be able to purchase the current month's issue of your favorite car magazine through our Digital Newsstand.

    The complimentary part of this activity is the increasing amount of new technical and factory publications being added to our library. We've just started loading in Datsun/Nissan materials and a new NorCal Z club will soon be on line.

    Want even more reasons to visit the site-often!! We've now placed links to internet forums and parent clubs for your favorite car manufacturer and brand. No more searching around, just click on the "Forums" or "Clubs" link in the brand box and you'll find them all.

    So here's what you'll be seeing from me and my blog in the coming weeks. I'll be writing about the latest from our advertiser community -deals, discounts and new products. I'll also be talking about our hobby and all the exciting parts of it. And-most importantly-I'll try and post about those things that interest you - our members. You can see from my icon that I like cars from a lot of different manufacturers. So drop me a line at craig.sparkes@wildaboutcars.com and tell me what you'd like to see me talk about. Keep it to cars please. Let's leave politics, Hollywood, and sex to other sites!!


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