We finally got the upper case I key on the old Underwood typewriter fixed, so now is the time for a first person missive pertaining to recent developments. You may have noticed a break in the action around here at the mighty Clunkbucket. No, I have not sold out to clandestine publishing interests in Moldova. The bad news is I won’t be hanging out in California as much as I have been over the last 25 or so years. The good news is I have accepted the honorable position of Associate Editor at Hemmings in scenic Bennington, Vermont. Is this the end? Not at all. This is a new beginning. Clunkbucket will continue on, with the probable inclusion of vintage snowmobiles. [now, with bonus gallery - ed] Read the rest of this entry »
As we approach the beginning of Mitsubishi Astron engine rebuilding season, it is time for the first in a series of tools that can help get the job done. A quality step in transforming a salvaged engine block into a working short block is checking the deck for flatness. One might think they could lay any old reasonably straight thing across the deck and mark it good, but unblown head gaskets on boosted engines depend on a perfectly flat deck. Measuring this kind of flat requires not just any straight edge, but a super straight edge – machined super straight. There is little room for error. The standard value of deck flatness on the G54B Astron turbocharged engine is 0.0020 inches, with a limit of 0.0039 inches, or one tenth of one millimeter. Checking for flatness requires a super straight edge and the right thickness of feeler gauge. Run the super straight edge across the deck in as many X and H patterns as possible, and see if the feeler gauge goes under the edge at any point. Looking close for any cracks at this time is also a good idea. The super straight edge is also useful for measuring flatness of intake and exhaust manifold surfaces, oil pump gear clearances, and countless other things where flat must be wicked flat. While you might be able to get away with using a belt sander and a vice to get that old Alfa Romeo exhaust manifold surface flat, this same method is not advised for engine block decks. Support your local machine shop to fix warped decks. Listening to SS Decontrol or Minor Threat and using the super straight edge is OK, but using that old McMetrics conversion ruler you picked up from the McDonalds in 1973 as a super straight edge is not.
From the what can’t it fix division of Tool of the Week comes the ongoing miracle of duct tape. This sturdy and versatile tape is indispensable weapon in the Clunkbucket Arsenal of Tools, rivaling even bailing wire in its utility. The water repelling adhesive tape was originally made of cotton duck in green for the military. Duck tape was used to help keep ammo cases waterproof, and was also found effective for holding jeeps together. A post-war heating and ventilation construction boom had tape factories making lots of duck tape to hold metal duct work together. Green became silver. Duck became duct. Duct tape is now available in many colors.
Black duct tape has in fact held together the seven pieces of the original three-piece front air dam of the Starion for many years now. Not the same duct tape. Research has proven that a well placed strip of duct tape lined up with the painted black stripe on the lower part of the air dam is good for about three to six months of stock appearing durability. A roll of black duct tape now rides with the Starion at all times. Be advised. Going up on two wheels to get to the drive-in window before they run out of Shamrock Shakes may markedly decrease the effectiveness of duct tape on low-mounted front air dams.
Even though there is most certainly a guy wearing a Members Only jacket and acid washed jeans that might disagree, 1982 was a long time ago. In that same year was the first production run for a car closer to the heart around here – the Mitsubishi Starion. This month’s Santa Clara gathering brought a collection of newer and older players along with an impressive number of Mitsubishi Starions, Chrysler Conquests, and a lone Starion turbo-engined Dodgmitsu Mighty Max pickup truck. This might have been the largest gathering of StarQuests seen in Santa Clara since the then new Specialty Sports Coupes were lined up at local Mitsubishi dealerships and Chrysler Import Centers. Post-gathering driving excursions involved some tire smoke, aimless GPS-inspired motoring, dislocated intercooler hoses, and a number one with grilled onions at the local In-N-Out Burger. Thanks to a forum post and those answering the call, there were good times and turbocharged forklift engines for everyone.
While seeing a Starion and a Starlet together in the same driveway may be something we’re used to around here at Clunkbucket, rarely are the two cars ever seen together in the field. Andrew Layman is the only other person we know of that has not only a Starlet, but also a Starion. In this case the Mitsubishi is a 1986 Conquest-by-Dodge version Starion, and the 1982 Starlet packs a twin-cam mill from an eighties Toyota Corolla GTS under the hood. The narrow body, or flatsider Starions were sold alongside the wide body versions for 1986, and featured the same intercooler as their box-fendered cousins. Both cars are street driven to work and car shows alike on a regular basis, with the Starlet winning the commute champion title. Besides seeing occasional sideways drifting action on the race track, the Conquest holds the distinction of having the only known Peter Griffin aluminum radiator in any car.
Changing a set of spark plugs is a task that always sounds like an easy job, because most of the time it is. Swapping out a crusty spark plugs for a freshly gapped set is one of the few routine things left to tune up on modern engines – with modern being a relative term around here. Problems start with certain engines and spark plug designs that can turn changing the spark plugs into everything but easy or money saving. Fear not. Spark plug disaster is the exception rather than the rule. A little research can prevent a lot of headache.
Fuel. Air. Spark.
The obvious task of the spark plug is to light up the fuel and air mixture when the piston reaches the top of its compression stroke. The resulting burn pushes the piston back down in the cylinder. So it goes. The less obvious function of the spark plug is to transfer heat away from the combustion chamber as a heat exchanger. The spark plug wicks combustion heat through itself into the metal of the hole it’s screwed into, and into to the engine coolant surrounding that metal. Spark plugs are rated from cold to hot based on the speed at which they can transfer heat away from the combustion chamber. At the correct heat range combustion byproducts burn away. The spark plug cleans itself!
When it comes time to dismantle suspensions or any other monkey wrenching agenda where the wheels come off the car, a sturdy jack and jack stands are the tools for the job. A set of drive-on ramps can be the answer for less involved chores like changing the oil and filter, greasing the chassis, or replacing a leaky lower radiator hose. Thanks to the miracle of space-age polymers, drive-up ramps are now made of light yet strong injection molded plastics, and an inexpensive solution for those who like hanging out under their cars.
Drive-On Ramps E-Z Instructions
Common sense rules should always be followed anytime you intend to crawl under thousands of pounds of anything. So it goes for rolling automobiles up on steel or plastic ramps. The first and most important rule of ramps is to make certain the automobile in question does not exceed the rated capacity of the ramps! Next is to always work on a hard, level surface. Last is to take care not to drive over the top of the ramps. Don’t ask how we found out this was a bad idea in 1980 with a 1964 Volkswagen Bug, snow tires, and a set of Macho Ramps.
As most all of us have discovered when the tank ran dry, an engine requires fuel to run. As this fuel is flammable and generally explosive, it is kept in a tank away from the combustive action going on inside the engine. This setup presents the problem of how to get the fuel from the tank to the carburetor or fuel injectors that feed the engine fuel. Enter the fuel pump. The fuel pump draws fuel from the fuel tank and delivers enough to the engine to keep things moving.
When cars used carburetors, the fuel pump was usually a mechanical deal bolted up to the side of the engine. Carburetors are now about as common as console black and white console televisions with built in hi-fi phonograph and stereophonic sound. Fuel injection is the fuel delivery standard. A modern fuel pump is capable of maintaining the pressure and flow required by the electronic fuel injection system, itself powered by electricity created by the alternator. If the fuel pump quits? Game over.
Step-by-Step Gallery with E-Z Captions