Friday, November 18, 2016

Fix It: Finishing the Carter AFB Carburetor rebuild

No need for a lot of verbiage.  This is the conclusion of the carb rebuild series featuring the Carter AFB.  The Second video picks up where the first left off and shows you how to reassemble the Carter AFB carb and covers important topics like how to set float level, float drop, and initial setup.  There's also a bonus section on testing the fuel pump.

So enjoy and if you learned something, let me know!  I'm here to help!

Without further ado....

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Fix It: Rebuilding a carburetor

It's been a rough couple of months and after over a year of picking up the slack for the Formula, the El Camino is starting to show the strain.  It started with the brakes getting a little noisy, then 3 of 4 tires developed sidewall bulges.  From there we had battery, alternator and wiring issues.  Most recently I went on the hunt for the cause of some poor performance issues that led me to a bad vacuum advance unit that was doing little more than providing a huge vacuum leak through a ruptured internal diaphragm.

On the bright side it's provided excellent material for my videos over the past few months...

It was successful completion of that last project that provided the catalyst for the latest round of underhood gymnastics.  While we may have succeeded in restoring additional timing to the engine when it needed it via the new advance unit we uncovered other problems with the ignition system.  Problems that led to ripping it apart down to the spark plugs to chase down a mysterious misfire that was cropping up under part throttle loads.  

Add in a tired carburetor assembled in desperation from the best bits of 2 used examples and things get even more interesting.  When that carburetor stops responding to the input of the go pedal we have to address it.  Issues with the fuel system were also making it harder to diagnosis our mysterious misfire.  If the carb is starving the engine for fuel, it could be causing a lean misfire but now we're straying dangerously close to grasping at straws.  We need a baseline.

Time for a rebuild.

That's the thing about classic cars.  No matter how much money you put into them, the more you drive the more work you have to do.

We want to continue driving and to do that we need to fix what's broke.  We can't if we're trying to herd too many cats.

Once we straighten out the fuel system we'll have a better idea of where our misfire problem is coming from.  It's a process of elimination and honestly something that should have been done a long time ago.

Below is the first of 2 videos documenting the process of rebuilding the Carter AFB carburetor currently living on top of my El Camino's engine. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

How to buy a classic car and live with the consequences: Part 2 - Buying the car and living with it.

Last time we left off with some homework...

You had some hard questions to answer.  To answer them, you needed to get realistic about your expectations.  Owning a classic car is much like taking on another family member.  It's not some knickknack you admire on your shelf.  There's care and feeding involved.

So after your own personal reality check if the answer to: "Do I really want to do this?" is an unequivocal and emphatic "Yes!" then read on.  I've got more to tell you...

Research, research, research.

In the last article I went over how important it was to research any car you're planning on buying using all the online and offline sources available to you.  Those same resources are going to come into play in your purchase and ownership of the car.

You'll find a dizzying array of resources to get that sweet ride.  Ebay Motors, Auto Trader classics, auctions, private sales and even specialty dealerships to name a few.

The thing to remember is that you don't always get what you pay for especially if you don't know exactly what you're buying.

This is where research pays off.

Classics are valued by their popularity in the market plain and simple.  Factors like rarity, options and provenance all play a part but emotion has a lot to do with it.  This is why it's never a good idea to buy a classic car for investment purposes.

Yeah, Shelby Cobra's went up in value after Carroll Shelby's passing but Shelby Chargers from the 80's will never reach such lofty heights.

That's an important point.   Just because something SEEMS collectible doesn't mean it is.  There have been countless "special" options and packages available over the years but most of them aren't that "special."

A "Boss" Mustang is special.  A "Pony edition" is not.

Even the most rabid of car enthusiast isn't going to get excited over a pinstripe.  Unless, of course, that pinstripe is proof of something far more interesting like a more powerful engine.

Knowledge is power so time to go on the hunt but where to look?


The most obvious places are classic car auctions.  You may get a deal but after the auction house has taken their percentage you may have immediate buyer's remorse.

Auctions like Barrett-Jackson run for multiple days with the first day usually offering the least expensive cars.  These will be examples that need a little work, aren't popular or may not have their documentation.  Title issues have to be disclosed but it's up to you to investigate the veracity of the owner's claims about the actual car for yourself.

Some auctions will provide a VIN number or a CarFax if the vehicle is new enough ( 1981 on) and may even have services on site to help you evaluate the car.

Barrett-Jackson doesn't call itself an auction anymore, they call themselves "events."  Which is to say that attending one is more like a trip to the circus than a car lot.  There's the auction of course but it's just the big top in the circus.  Auto related services, parts, nostalgia and accessory vendors are all over the place.  It literally looks like an automotive products convention.  In short, lots of neat stuff to look at but you're going to pay for all that "lifestyle" kitsch one way or another.  It's usually in the bidder fees and of course the 20% buyer's commission.

Many of the more popular auctions have copied the format to some degree to draw more of an audience but none approach the carnival atmosphere that is Barrett-Jackson.

Silver, Russo  and Steele and Mecum are some of the more popular and less "circus" auctions.

I won't go into the whole bidding process.  It's an auction meaning the seller and the auctioneer are trying to get the most money for themselves.  The best advice I'd give is to know the real value of the car you're interested in and set a hard limit.  Especially with Day 1 auction cars, you need to be cautious as you don't want to end up buying a LeMans priced like a GTO.

Private Sales

This is where the Auto Trader Classics and Hemmings come in....

Same rules apply here.  Do your research, bring along someone knowledgeable that knows the model you're looking at and don't take the seller's word for anything that isn't obvious.  The nice thing about private sales is that you can get much more up close and personal with the car without fighting a crowd or the distractions of an auction like Barrett-Jackson.  My best advice here is #1 Research, #2 Skepticism.

That said,, be reasonable.  Protect your interests but don't be an ass.  This is a negotiation not a death match.  Put yourself in the owner's shoes and figure out how you'd want to be treated.  If you know a car is worth 25K don't make an offer of $500  you're just wasting everyone's time.  It's insulting and actually makes it less likely to get a good deal.   Once you've made that deal, however, make sure everything is on the up and up.  The seller is not going to take a personal check so either have cash or take a ride down to your bank and draw a cashier's check.

You can also set up private sales through online services like Ebay that will hold the money in escrow.  No matter what, the seller is rightly going to want to know he's getting paid.  As for you, you need to be sure the ownership documents are in order.  It used to be a paper title was enough but these days most states have moved to Electronic titles.  That makes it easier for dealers to transfer ownership and for any liens against the car to be recorded.  You may have a clear paper title but if someone filed a lien electronically against it you won't know till you try to transfer ownership and have to pay off that lien and ruin your day.

There's usually an online mechanism offered by a state's DMV to check the status of a car's title.  All you need to provide is a VIN and a small fee to find out.  You should be able to get this information ahead of time from the seller and know what's up before you go meet him/her.  You could do it on a smartphone when you're there but unless a deal has just dropped out of the sky on your lunch break, I wouldn't recommend this.  You should have as much information on the car as possible before going to see it.  Research, research, research!

Ebay and online ( Not local ).

We've touched on this angle in the last section when we talked about escrow.  Consider these services nothing more than classified ads ( like Auto Trader )  with escrow.  They're just a middleman and most of the same rules apply as the straight private sale.  The thing to watch out for is the fee these services charge. Sellers are more disadvantaged than the buyer in this transaction but there other factors like taxes and escrow fees that have to be accounted for.

Specialty dealerships like this particular angle when they have a vehicle that may be harder for them to sell or want to draw in buyers from a wider area.  They've also got a better chance of getting an inflated price for a lemon since many buyers base their purchase on emotion without doing any research.  All it takes is some good photos.  The perfect sucker bet.  See the next section for why I'm not a fan.  It is an option but in my opinion a bad one most of the time.

Getting it home

Regardless, a lot of these cars won't be local meaning you have to factor in travel, transport and if you're smart inspection costs.  That could make a great deal more expensive than you bargained for.  I can tell you that transport costs alone can be in the thousands.

When I had my 1995 Formula transported from Colorado to Arizona in 2013 using Reliable Carriers (a specialty auto transporter) it cost $1100.  With a distance of 800 miles that's about $1.37 a mile.  Oh and it took 3 weeks to get the car to me...

By the way, I wouldn't try driving a classic car home if it has to go more than 100 miles from where you bought it.  It's an old car, things happen and that tow truck isn't going to be much cheaper than the transport if the worst happens.  That and specialty transporters use enclosed trailers keeping your new baby safe from the elements and thieves.

I have to stop for a moment and say this.  While the idea of driving a classic car home seems attractive know that it's not the brightest option.

Classic cars tend to be less fuel efficient, more temperamental and less reliable than your daily driver.  Why would you want to do that to yourself?  You don't know the car and you don't know its quirks.  Finding out for the first time in the middle of nowhere isn't fun.  I know from experience. Save the road trip for the big cruise when other people are around that can help out if need be.

Specialty Dealers

Unless there's no other option I'd stay away from these guys.  They usually don't stick around for more than a couple of years and won't deal.  They'll stick to the highest market price for the vehicle and all cars are sold As/Is.  This is where you're most likely to find the LeMans prettied up as a fake GTO.  I'm not going to say much about these guys.  Plain and Simple it's a used car lot with a better profit margin.  I've seen more overpriced, bondo Betty's at these places than anywhere else and once someone's on to them they're gone like the wind.

It's all yours.... 

OK, so you did all the research, you're on a first name basis with the car club president and can decode VIN codes and cowl tags better than the guys that built it.

It's yours.

Now what?

Well, hopefully you're basking in the glow but wait.  I hope you called up your insurance company.

Chances are, however, that it won't end up being the same one that's covering the Kia in the driveway.   A lot of insurance companies have divisions that offer coverage for collector vehicles but you're actually better off looking elsewhere.  I've talked to a lot of classic car owners who were actually paying 10x as much to insure their vehicle while getting a fraction of the coverage.

Companies like Hagerty and Grundy are far better options offering features tailored to classic vehicles like agreed value coverage, parts location and premium roadside assistance.   Another nice bonus to using these specialty providers is that the premiums are much lower.  The trade off is that you're going to be far more limited on your use of the car.

So don't expect to be driving it to work every day.  Part of the reason the coverage is so much cheaper is that you're not exposing the car to as much risk as your daily driver.  Most policies require you own another car for daily use.  Yes, there are policies out there that will limit mileage but for the most part specialty insurance companies know their owners are a fussy and protective bunch.

Besides, this is a "classic" car.

Do you really want to sit there on some frigid morning for 15 minutes on ice cold vinyl waiting for the engine to warm up?  Does is sound like fun to jump into morning rush hour in a car with a longer braking distance than the average school bus?

That's another "reality check."  Even with safety upgrades be aware that you're not buying a new car no matter how well preserved or restored.  What you are buying is an old car with old technology that will ALWAYS respond accordingly.

Talk to anyone who actually drove that 69 Roadrunner to work everyday and they'll tell you stories about constantly pulling over to dry off the distributor every time they hit a puddle.

That may be charming for the cruise night but it's intolerable in a world of gridlock and Hybrid cars.

There is no argument.  Classic cars are cool to drive but they're absolute garbage as daily drivers unless all your driving happens on a racetrack.


Nope, reality check and I know.  I've owned A LOT of classic cars and met A LOT of tow truck drivers.

Long Term Relationship

So baby's in the garage,  All your weekends are taken up with car shows and meetups and your significant other has already banned the words: Horsepower and New Old Stock from the house.

A classic car is a family member.  Care and feeding includes things like regularly taking it out for a spin and maintenance.  I've known "car guys" who buy a car and never drive it thinking they'll ruin it's value if another tenth of a mile rolls over on the odometer.

Trouble is, cars are meant to be driven not just looked at.  Unless you own a museum piece, part of keeping it maintained is actually one of the best parts of owning a classic.  That being actually driving it.  Tires get flat spots, batteries go bad (even on chargers) grease dries out and seals start to leak if a car is left to sit.

You didn't buy it to be the next guy's "barn find" did you?

That's another tip.  Yes, you can buy those ultra-rare low mileage cars but they're not much fun.  They are literally the automotive equivalent of a time capsule and even driving it around the block can decrease their value.

Leave them to the museums.

I like nice "driver quality" car.  One that I may fuss over but don't' fear taking on a leisurely weekend road trip.  Among classic and collector circles this is becoming the most popular group since owners can actually enjoy the car as it was intended.

Jay Leno is a great example of this type of owner.  There are few cars in his collection that haven't been driven both before and after restoration.  In fact it's probably a large factor in the rise of the "driver quality" classic.

Look, cars are meant to move, statues are meant to be looked at.

Besides, it's kind of cool to actually know how to start a carbureted engine properly.  It's almost like knowing a secret handshake.  Hey, fuel injection is great but there's something about knowing just how much to crack the throttle to get a warm engine to start without flooding it.

So if you've taken the plunge congratulations!  It's a special experience to be the caretaker of a classic and one no Prius could ever match.  There'll be highs and lows in the course of your stewardship and surprises along the way to keep things interesting.

Thanks for allowing me to share the experience with you.  Take a look at some of the articles on the sidebar too.  They're all bout the gearhead lifestyle and can give you valuable information about owing and loving a classic car.

Drive on!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How to buy a classic car and live with the consequences: Part 1 - Do you really want to do this?


It's a given.

Even for the Millennial generation classic vehicles are alluring.  Sometimes the definition of a "classic" becomes a bit blurred with the younger set but so long as they're enthusiastic about something other than smartphones and Instagram there's still hope.

Yeah, I was around when the Honda CRX was just another weird Civic with 2 seats.  Now it's a holy grail akin to my reverence for 70 454 Chevelle with factory Cowl induction.

At least to some.

Here's the reality.  Any car over 25 years old can by law (in most states) be considered a classic car.  Meaning that CRX would technically qualify; of course your mom's 81 Caprice would too.

However,  that doesn't mean every car is destined to become a classic  just because it's old.  Some cars, no matter how "vintage" will never attain the lofty heights of being considered a "classic."

Simply put; cars become classics because a lot of  people consider them to be that way.  It's the purest expression of a free market.  For better or worse.

For example; did you know that in 1969 you could buy an Oldsmobile station wagon with the same engine as it's muscle car cousin the 442?

Believe it or not the famed 400 V8 (one of the 4's in 4-4-2)  was available along with a number of other stout poweplants.

To which I say, So what....

It's a perfect example of what you need to understand about the classic car market.  For one thing while age is important, it has to be desired by someone to have value and to most of the market A Vista Cruiser with a 400 is just dad's old station wagon.

Meaning you won't be getting much interest (or $$$) from the 442 faithful but that 442 bloodline may peak the interest of the Vista Cruiser crowd, if there is such a thing.  Which is an important factor in getting involved with a classic car.  The halo effect or depending on your perspective; guilt by association.

Buying a classic car is no different than a Sci-Fi nerd paying 100's of dollars for a vintage 1977 Star Wars action figure in it's original packaging.  It's a kind of time capsule.  A door open to the memory of happier times unspoiled by the ravages of reality.

It's like any other collectible market driven by irrational motivations fueled exclusively by the intoxication of rose colored glasses.

All collector markets are built on this.  If we were really being honest all these old cars and action figures would be of more use ground up and recycled for raw materials for a half a dozen Hyundai's.  .


Hey, I'm just putting it out there.  I don't believe it and honestly I wouldn't want to live in such a plain vanilla world.  That would be like using the Mona Lisa as a door mat or living on cup-o-noodles for the rest of your life.      Yuk...

Here's the "How"part...

Your first step toward owning a classic car is to answer the question, " Why do you want to do this?"

If you look at a classic car like a retirement account you can expect the same return as that IRA you took out in 2007.   Don't believe the hype over someone's "barn find" 70 Hemi Challenger with 23 original miles going for a million dollars.  Chances are you're going to end up owning a Fury with a 318 and a lot of Bondo.  You can pump 50K into it and not get back half the money

Remember the Vista Cruiser?

It's a market and markets are not only picky but fickle. Fickle equals volatile which translates into yo-yo valuations only a day trader would tolerate.

Don't believe the reality TV car shows either.

Those wrench monkeys have got resources and
expertise available at their fingertips that you'd have to pay extra for.

The words "cheap" and "restoration" don't go together unless you're aiming to own a "beater" not a "classic."

 Older vehicles are going to have problems that need attention and the cost of dealing with them will vary depending on what they are and how much of the work you can do yourself.  Not to mention HOW you choose to deal with them.

Even if you're Chip Foose it can be expensive if you happen to be working on a vehicle with sparse parts availability or serious rust issues.

So yeah, don't buy a 1974 El Camino....

By the way, be honest and know what you're capable of.  A couple of rattle can paint jobs and a few oil changes does not make you an automotive restoration expert.

Playing the Field

From here you have to take a hard look at the car's market and determine what it (and you) will bear.

Paying 442 prices for a run of the mill Cutlass does nobody any favors.  Meaning you need to do some research.  That doesn't stop at just looking up prices on Hemmings or the latest auction either.  You need to connect with people who've already made the leap not only to see what they paid but the cost of upkeep.

Check the more mundane sources like Auto Trader or the classifieds.  See what's available locally before heading into a nationwide or even worldwide search.  Often the cost of transport of a "perfect" car is trumped by one that needs a little more love found in your hometown.  Only after exhausting local resources should you expand your search outward.  Even sites like Ebay motors can be filtered to listings in your local area and by default Auto Trader sites (including classic) do the same.

Know what you're looking at!

Too much of the word "new" can be the death knell of a classic car's value.  Find out what your chosen model originally came with.  Tires and batteries are irrelevant by the way.  We're interested in things like drivetrain and available options.  Some cars demand original everything while others known for unreliability will offer more latitude in modifications.
For example, nobody is going to ding you for swapping drum brakes for disc brakes on a classic that's actually driven.  Safety upgrades are acceptable in all but the most rare of classics and nobody is driving those very often.

Be aware of "tribute cars" and fakes.

What's a Tribute car?

Simply put, a tribute car is a model upgraded to a more desirable model after the fact.  The only difference between a fake and a tribute is how honest the seller is about it.  Don't be fooled into paying 50K for a fake 67 GTO that's really a 30K LeMans.

That research thing again....

If you really want to get to know a car you're interested in get to know the people who own one.  A quick Internet search can yield dozens of resources and forums where you can learn about a car you're considering.  Use multiple sources and treat it the same way you would as if you were buying a house.  Ask questions like: What are the problem areas?  What are the parts availability?  What's it cost to fix?

Speaking of fixes.  Don't buy someone else's failed project.  Rust buckets will continue to be rust buckets AKA money pits.  Protect yourself and learn what to look for so you don't buy one.  It's never a bad idea to bring along someone who knows what they're looking at.

Don't limit yourself to one information source either.  Online car forums are wealth of information  but realize that not everyone in them is an expert.  Don't just rely on online either.  If there's a regular car show or meetup near you go check it out.  One thing about the classic car hobby is that owners love nothing more than talking about their cars.   It's a great source for finding things like car clubs and good local shops too.

Buying the car is just the beginning.  Living with it is more than just Sunday blasts along the coast.  You've essentially purchased another mouth to feed much more demanding than the Kia now displaced in your driveway.

We'll get into that next time....