Archive for road runner

Road Runner Passes Inspection!

 After repair of the leaky thermostat housing yesterday, today was spent topping off fluids, airing up tires, cleaning windows, and checking lights, turn signals, wipers, and horn (beep beep works!). A little idle adjustment and the Bird was on the road to Valvoline Service Center for the annual state vehicle inspection. It passed with no issues!  The real shock was that for some reason the inspection cost went down from the usual $39 to only $7!  This price reduction corresponds to Texas’ first year of combining the registration and inspection stickers of the past into one consolidated unit. It opens up front window real estate and saves the state millions in admin costs. Win win!

To celebrate the victory, we drove up to Roanoke, dining capital of TX, for some T&A (Tacos & Avocados…a restaurant that is). Mucho fun!

Road Runner Thermostat R&R Round Two

In a past post a couple of years ago, the details of the Road Runner thermostat housing R&R was discussed. Upon returning from a leisure cruise around town last fall, a small pinhole leak around the weld bead on the thermostat housing appeared. Finally getting around to repairing it in preparation of the annual state vehicle safety inspection and registration process due this weekend, a Mancini thermostat housing was purchased with the hopes that it was sourced from a different and perhaps higher quality Chinese factory than the last one from Moroso. The 160F thermostat was re-used since it was new last time and a fresh mix of Prestone 50/50 was mix used. Only time will tell if this new part will last but along with some engine touch up paint, the darn thing sure looks good! 


Road Runner Rises!

Leaking Thermostat Housing
Cruised to Jack-in-the-Box for Lunch

Keller, TX – Inspired by the Mustang start up last week, I got up early before the peak of the daily Texas heat and readied the Road Runner for state inspection…it passed!  I drove a few laps around town, had Jason drive it for his first time when he got off work, jumped on it and achieved a nice “chirp” between 1st and 2nd like the good old days, and brought it home to cool down.  Popping the hood revealed the thermostat housing was leaking again – for those of you who follow this blog you know I had this issue when firing up the Runner from a long hiatus a couple of years ago.  I bought a brand new chrome housing and thermostat at that time and wouldn’t you know it leaks again.  More to come on this issue as I tear it down next weekend for repair…

Final Radiator Flush

The starter installation project was stalled last week as I pooped out late Saturday night waiting for the radiator to cool down for final flush. Well, this weekend my energy was back and I was able to complete the task. Going against my long standing belief to avoid additives of any kind to any vehicle system, I took the advice of the local O’Reilly counterman and added Gunk’s Liquid Kool to my fresh refill of Peak Long Life 50/50 Prediluted Antifreeze. He said he used it in his vintage ‘Vette among other project cars and since I need every Fahrenheit of temp reduction that can be found I bought into his sales pitch. I tested this new blend of Gunk and Peak with an extended driveway idle session where the Autometer bounced between 195F and 205F for 30 minutes. While not thrilled with these results they are far better than I was experiencing the last time I drove the car when the Runner stayed on the brink of boil over at 240F during my cruise in the local Lions Club parade. Satisfied for now, I recorded a short video in hopes of letting all of you hear the weee-weee-weee of my new Denso starter in action (as opposed to the waaa-waaa-waaa of the old starter)…enjoy!

Finalizing the New Starter Installation

This is the 2 AWG positive battery wire cable that needed to be installed on the new starter…this was easier said than done as almost every disconnect conducted to install the starter last week had to be repeated to access the battery cable stud on the starter.
Here is the Runner at 1100am ready for the cable install. After jacking up
the car, disconnecting the tailpipe from the header collector, yanking the motor mount bolts, jacking up the engine, and moving the header I could finally squeeze my hand between the engine block and starter to connect the cable.
Look closely and you will see the engine lifted about one inch off the motor mount on the K-member…just enough room for my hand, the cable, and the cable nut.
Next, the cylinder head and header flange gasket surfaces were scraped clean and the Mr. Gasket Ultra Seal exhaust gasket was installed.
This is the final cable setup on the tiny little Denso starter. It sure has very tight clearance to the block – I hope it doesn’t burn up from the engine block or header heat at normal operating temperatures. I needed to splice the new battery cable to the old starter relay cable at the positive battery post. I used a Weller solder gun and rosin core solder but it made a mess of things. I was disappointed with the results because I could not obtain an even distribution of solder throughout the 8 AWG wire. If you have thoughts or know techniques for soldering heavy gauge wire together PLEASE POST THEM HERE as I will conduct a “do over” on the solder job if I find a better method. I used corrugated black plastic tubing to cover the new and old cables / wires together to add good looks as a final touch.
Since the drivers’ side spark plugs had been pulled last week in order to remove the exhaust header I decided to put in the fresh set of Champion plugs on BOTH sides of the engine. Although it was already 730pm I decided this was a necessary step and worth the extra time investment. The old Autolite plugs had been in the engine since 4 years ago and last week went through the wringer during the moth ball startup with raw gases and burning oil. Finally, I put in a couple of rounds on the front torsion bars to help the old Runner regain some of its youthful stance (raises the front end so it doesn’t look like it is sagging over the tires) before dropping everything off the jack.
By 830pm everything was buttoned up and ready for a test run. I turned on the electric pump for a few, pumped twice to empty the Holly carb squirters into the throat of the Edelbrock CH4B dual plane intake manifold, turned the ignition key, and VOILA the beast came to life! This car never started so easy. I could hear the rpm difference between this new hi-torque starter and the old OE version…it is amazing! I found myself stopping and starting the engine just so I could hear this new starter sound.
It is so weird listening to this new pitch as everyone with an old Chrysler product including myself has learned to love the distinctive sound of the old starter. In fact, speaking of the old OE starter Richard Enrenberg of Mopar Action magazine once wrote “The 1962 Chrysler design broke new ground by developing the first starter, anywhere, using a cast-aluminum housing and double gear reduction. The armature spun at much higher RPM than the norm; this feature, combined with the extra helical gearset, served to create the now-famous waaa-waaa-waaa sound that told you, from a block away, it was a Mopar cranking. The solenoid shift assembly and contact setup were designed and built right into the starter, no more bolt-on “piggyback” solenoid. This starter was a giant techno-leap forward, and would be used in production until the late 1980s”. I’ve known this old noise for 33 years
Back to reality, I left this resurrection project last weekend needing to finish the radiator flush.
Too tired tonight for such antics so I’ll leave it for tomorrow or next weekend. Cranking up the Runner once again I backed it out of the garage, straightened it up, and pulled it back into its garage parking spot for the night. Starter mission accomplished!

Parts Are Here !!!

The parts arrived…shown are Duralast Gold 2 gauge positive battery cable, Mr. Gasket UltraSeal header gaskets, Hooker collector gaskets, and…

Champion CopperPlus spark plugs. Can’t wait until the weekend!

Some Fun While We Wait

Recognize these wheels anyone? The top set are my old front ET Mags from my Road Runner which were replaced by newer Boyds wheels.

The bottom set are none other than Timmy Ho’s rear Centerlines which belong on a Challenger somewhere in SoCal…why are they still in Texas? They are calling out to you guys in California…save me, save me, save me…hear them?

R&R Starter

First order of business was to find a new starter. I wanted to upgrade to something more modern with more torque and less amp draw than the old unit. Also, I wanted to know that the new starter would work better than the old design with a hot engine where in the past spinning seemed to struggle the most. I found an online article on hi-torque starters in Mopar Muscle magazine then searched Mancini Racing, Summit Racing, and JEGS comparing brands, torques, and prices. Once I settled on a modern hi-torque starter I “Bing’d” the ‘Net for comments on reliability and satisfaction. I ran across an article which basically stated that most modern Mopar hi-torque starters regardless of brand were really Nippondenso (Denso) designs used on late model Chryslers…so your Caravan has a Denso that drops into your big block B-motor! Searching the ‘Net further I ran across a re-distributor in Florida (“RE” or Rare Electrical) that sold a no-name Denso knockoff for half the price of JEGS or Summit. The company sells direct or through eBay where it enjoys a 99.8% satisfaction rating. Paypal jumped in for me and a few days later my new toy arrived. As shown in the pic, the new version is not only dimensionally smaller but weighs only 8 lbs compared to the OE’s hefty 16 lbs.

As you well know one of the worst repair jobs on a Mopar B-body is replacing the starter especially if you have headers (mine are Hookers). Jack up the car, turn the steering wheel hard right to move the tie rods out of the way, unbolt the motor mounts, disconnect the exhaust pipes from the header collectors, disconnect the battery cables, pull the spark plug wires and remove the spark plugs, unbolt then pull off the driver’s side header, jack up the engine, wrestle the humongous OE starter away from the bellhousing held by two bolts, and check your watch because several hours just got chewed up!
Look closely at the OE battery cables which connect to the side of the original starter. The new connections are on top of the starter body so none of the existing battery cables were long enough to work. I did not discover this little tidbit until AFTER I installed the starter, buttoned everything underneath up, and lowered the car to replace the header onto the engine. I exasperated this “cable length problem” by pre-installing the cables to the starter before bolting it to the trans bellhousing in an attempt to save knuckles connecting them from on top. No such luck was in store for me today so since I was forced to buy longer cables I opted for some heavy duty 2 gauge wire to help carry some serious amps to the new hi-torque hummer…stock cables were 4 gauge. One more fly in the ointment occurred when I realized my header gasket was so brittle it disintegrated when touched…a few phone calls later had me calling it quits for the day as the counter kids at O’Reilly, Autozone, Carquest, and NAPA didn’t know what a header gasket was and couldn’t look up a 1969 anything…back to the ‘Net to find gaskets and more patience as I wait for the UPS man to arrive again sometime next week…
We never had this much trouble getting a job done back in high school or college days…everything we needed was readily available at the local parts house or San Bernardino Racing Equipment (Super Shops). I’m finding that parts availability is quite the challenge for resurrecting the ‘Runner…it’s a good thing I’m not in a hurry!

R&R Radiator Hose

The day starts with firing up the Mustang and backing it out of the garage to make room to work on the Road Runner. Easier said than done! The new battery and a squirt of ether allowed the little 289 to fire right up but as the car was dropped into reverse and the clutch let out a big surprise awaited us – no brakes! Brian and Tim spend about one hour bleeding the brakes on all four corners as the single reservoir chambered master cylinder had somehow run dry letting lots of Texas air into the brake lines. After trying a few wrenches we determined the bleeder valves somehow ended up with metric fittings. Pumping the brake pedal, bleeding the mixture of air and brake fluid into the brake fluid recovery canister and minutes later we had brakes once again…finally the ‘Stang was out in fresh air!

Peeling back the car cover, pushing the Runner back to give elbow room to turn wrenches, and surveying the engine room to develop a plan of attack…

A slight diversion before proceeding with the thermostat and rad hose replacement – we added a billet power steering pump filler cap picked up on the last R66 trip to SoCal as an upgrade to the stock black unit.

Quick drain of the four year old oil and a refresh with some Quaker 10W30 with Fram P8HA filter. Then, a mock up of the new rad hose to ensure clearance around heater hoses, water temp sensor, distributor, and alternator brackets.

The distributor and drive gear were pulled to allow oil pump priming with electric drill motor and a hex shaft that was long enough to reach through the distributor opening in engine block down to the oil pump drive. After liberal gasket surface cleaning and scraping some blue painter’s tape was used to protect key areas from the Hemi orange engine touch up paint.

Installation of the 160F thermostat, a new chrome t-stat housing, and a new upper radiator hose completes the repair. Connecting the new battery, flipping the switch to the electric fuel pump to fill the twin Holley carburetor bowls, a dash of ether, a couple of pumps of the accelerator pedal, a turn of the ignition key, and bingo! The big 440 came to life spewing billows of exhaust smoke as rich gas fumes and oil slipping past the valve seals struggled to burn off. After 10 minutes the exhaust went clear, the engine idled without help, and we watched as the rad temp climbed to 180F before the thermostat popped open. We let the water circulate through the block for a few minutes to allow the Prestone Super Flush to do its job. The Runner was backed out of the garage to facilitate draining the spent water after a short cooldown period. Fresh water was poured into the radiator to rinse the flush out before a final exchange of fluids with new antifreeze. This last step never happened though as the age old engine starter gave up the ghost. Jumping across the starter relay and straight across the starter terminals revealed the starter was truly dead. Four teenage boys later the Runner was pushed back into its rightful spot in the garage banished to sit there once again until starter repairs could be executed.

A very disappointed Brian sits in the passenger seat watching the water temperature gage to drop below 150F before we put the car away for the day. Next up – the search for a starter…hmm, sounds like an opportunity to check out the latest technology for a possible upgrade!

Road Runner Resurrection Part 1

After an exhaustive search on the ‘Net I found the best overall price for a new thermostat and chrome housing at Summit Racing. Ordered on Sunday night, shipped confirmed on Tuesday, and in my hands by Thursday well before the upcoming weekend Hot Rod work day! I went with a Milidon 160F thermostat and a Proform chrome water neck with gasket and new bolts in the kit…
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