Also: One more thing crossed off my summer to-do list!
Longtime readers will recall I have not one, but two old 1966 Oldsmobile Toronados. One I've had for years, the other I sort of inadvertently acquired back in 2011.
Longtime readers will also know that, despite being a brilliant, world-famous airsmith, machinist and furry-comic author, for some inexplicable reason I don't really make a lot of money, nor have a lot of spare time. So both cars have sat for altogether too many years.
Well, unfortunately, I still don't have any time or money to spare, but desperately wanted to get the damn things out of the deep back yard, where they were being slowly encroached on by the forest, and despite regular replacement of tarps and plastic, were continuing to deteriorate.
Alaska is not kind to old cars.
Well, I didn't have the time or money to actually do anything significant with them, but I had an opportunity to move them into a nearby storage building. Not heated, and really more of just a shed, but something to help keep the rain and snow off of them for a couple more years.
So, earlier this week, I went out with a Weedwacker and cleared some of the brush that had grown up since I parked both cars back there... seven years ago. A bit of gas poured into the carbs and a battery got them fired right up. The white one, however, would only run as long as the gas in the carb held out.
Bad fuel pump, maybe? All too likely in a car this old. First, however, I dumped five gallons of fresh gas in, just to make sure something was in the tank. After that, it fired up and stayed running just fine, so I drove it up front and onto the shop apron in preparation to change the oil.
Then I noticed this:
Yep, that's gas, in a steady stream. And, it should be noted, that when I took the photo, the car was not running. The pump apparently had enough suction to get the flow started, but without it, the fuel in the line siphoned itself out through a leak.
I threw a big pan under there to catch what I could, but there was no way for me to stop it. It quit on its own after draining about two gallons out.
After that, I jacked up one side to see if I could patch the line, or do a proper replacement. Nope. The line is easily visible, but basically inaccessible:
There's a rubber line that comes from the tank, snakes through the frame, and emerges on the outer edge of the frame right in front of the rear wheelwell. It connects to a steel hardline which runs down the side of the frame, and up front, meets up with another section of rubber which then connects to the pump.
The rear rubber section is presumably rotted through, but because the body comes down over the frame and almost encloses it, as you can see from the photo, it's basically inaccessible. I can't even get needle-nose pliers in there to undo the clamp, and even if I could, there's zero room to grab the hose to pull it off, let alone push a new section on.
The only fix I can think of is to actually separate the body from the frame. In this case, the back half is actually a unibody, and the front is a stub frame, but I'll still have to break loose the six big bolts, let the frame dangle a bit, and swap the hose.
Needless to say, I don't have the time for a project like that. I'll tackle it next year, when I hopefully can schedule some time to upgrade the brakes. So for the time being, I was forced to bypass it, as I still needed to drive the thing over to the storage shed, without immolating myself.
To that end, I bought sixteen feet of 3/8" fuel line, a couple of clamps, and got out the zip ties.
That is definitely not what you could call safe, NOT a proper fix, and NO, I will not be driving it any significant distance with that in place. BUT, it was a damn sight better than the two-gallon-per-hour leak from before, and will make it safe enough to at least park under cover for a while.
With that fixed, I changed the oil- first time since I picked it up in 2011- pressure washed off the majority of the moss, fungus and tree sap, and parked it in the sun to dry for a while.
Next up is the black one. My hotrod version. I've had it since I was just a lad, and I've committed some small atrocities to it over the years, usually in the name of thinking "that's the way the guys in the magazines do it!"
One bit was my laughably, almost pitifully poor attempt to repair a bad wrinkle in the driver's side front fender:
It wasn't a terrible attempt, really, but poor metal prep and an additional pile of years left out in the Alaskan weather with nothing but a thin coat of rattlecan paint to protect it, and today the fix is in sorry shape.
Again, I simply don't have time to dive into the metalwork to try and properly repair this thing, but I figured I could at least spare a few minutes to try and at least stabilize this so I can properly repair it later. A few minutes with a wire brush on a 4" angle grinder peeled back most of the ratty Bondo and shaved off most of the rust.
After that and a good power-washing, I then applied two coats of what is basically a form-fitting tarp.
Actually looks surprisingly good, doesn't it? Well, it does, from back here. Basically I picked up two cans of the same alkyd enamel I use on my machine tool rebuilds- nice and thick, pretty durable- and using the same 4" trim rollers I commonly use on those parts, I painted the entire car.
Yeah, up close it has the texture of a mildly diseased grapefruit, contains about 300 insects, and considering I didn't mask a single thing, also encompasses some of the trim, part of the bumper and a little bit of the driver's side window.
BUT, it'll at least help preserve the metal for a few more years 'til I can hopefully find the time to do it right.
Once that had dried (two coats, one coat a day, so by the third day- technically the fourth due to rain) I changed the oil in it, too, getting it ready for re-storage. I'd written the date on the filter I put on the white car, so I knew the old filter had been installed in August of 2011. I wasn't sure when I started doing that, so checked the filter off the black one to see if I'd marked it.
Nope, apparently not. But, there was a trace of metallic green spray paint.
Which means that filter dates back to when I did the big refresh/repaint of the entire front end...
... Back in 2005.
Well, in my defense, I've probably only put about 500-600 miles on it in that time...
Anyway, I got that oil changed too- and dated the filter- and after a little more finagling, finally got 'em over to the storage shed and acceptably ensconced. Not an ideal location by any means, but still considerably better protection than a crappy scrap of plastic sheet held down by some old tires.
Also, for those of you interested in a bit of check-this-out, we have the wheels I put together for the black car, back in 2004 or so:
Now, the story here is that aftermarket wheels basically don't exist for the Toronado. The problem is that they have a great deal of offset compared to most wheels. That used to be an oddity, back in the day, but with so many front wheel drive cars today, and others that use similar steering geometry, it's not as much of an issue now.
The other half of the problem is that the caliper kind of sticks out further than the wheel bolt flange, and virtually no other car does this. Combine that with the old imperial bolt pattern (five on 5" ) and the fact the car is incredibly heavy (almost 6K at the brochure) and it's hard to find a good strong wheel that fits this monster.
People have done it, I've seen lots online. But in almost all cases, they had to use spacers, if not actual adapters, and that kind of thing scares the bilirubin out of me when used on the steering and primary braking wheels of the six-freaking-thousand-pound car.
Plus, of course, I don't have $1,000 to $2,000 to spend on a set of fancy aluminum wheels. But that's beside the point.
So, I did what I could to spiff up the stock wheels. The factory wheels in 1966 had a thin trim ring, and these little "dog dish" half-caps, illustrated here on the white car.
I didn't like those, even if I could find a set (those came with the white one) so I pondered a bit and came up with a different plan.
I took the best set of disc wheels I had, and welded two little tabs to the "dish" area, and bridged that with a strategically-bent bar, attached with some stainless 10-32 screws.
Those, hold on the thin spring-hard stainless-steel discs, which I cut and trimmed out of four mid-70's Toronado full-wheel hubcaps. The hubcaps had a small potmetal Toronado badge in the center, held on by one nut and a pin to keep it from spinning. I drilled those holes out to fit a 10-32, and then made a punch-and-die combo (I used to have photos of it around here somewhere) which "countersunk" the holes.
So the crossbar, when is removable of course so the wheel can be mounted to a tire-changing machine, plus so it won't interfere with getting the lug nuts on and off, is bolted on, and then the cap is screwed down to that using a pair of 10-32 countersunk screws.
The outer trim rings were some cheap plastic chrome rings off eBay, and finish it off nicely.
I'd tried polishing the center caps to match the chrome trim ring, and it wasn't too bad, but I didn't like the look. And that stainless was fabulously difficult to get even a mediocre shine on. I did one, incompletely, and decided it wasn't for me. I reapplied the brushed finish- that was easy - and went with that.
I've occasionally toyed with the idea of painting the wheels black, and seeing what that might look like with the rings and caps as contrast, but like most everything else, I can't really worry about that right now.
Anyway, not really a project, but still something that had to be done. I'm glad to cross that one off my list.
I always thought Toronados of that vintage were cool when I was growing up, but I never really cared to go out and get one like that.
Amazingly, I don't think I've seen any Toronados since I've moved to AZ - which is much more forgiving of a climate than AK. I have seen nearly every other manner of car around here (including all three types of Tesla), but no Toronados from the 60's-70's era.