Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Chinook Fest 2017 - Festival Report

Taking a break from the Summer of MGB, Boo and I took Hapy the wonderbus to Central Washington for a small music festival. Today's post covers the festival part. I'll post another about the getting to / getting from, like I often do. I should begin with an expression of gratitude to Michelle who awarded us tickets perhaps in part because of our 2 attempts (and failures) to attend Chinook Fest and then Chinook Summit last year. Our only cost was $100 for Hapy to park with the RV's. Michelle and her fellow organizers were really special. Unlike so many festivals, they were very present, approachable and doing the grunt work alongside their volunteers. As Edd China would say, "top work!"

North West Know Where
ChinookFest started in 2012 as the brainchild of 3 people who wanted a party for their friends. 4Peaks started the very same way, so Boo and I were immediately onboard. This group of friends are from the Yakima, Washington area and the venue is a small community park north west of Yakima, outside a town called Naches (pronounced kinda like "nah-cheese"). The park, Jim Sprick Community Park, abuts the Naches River, at the edge of the Chinook Pass along state route 410. The Elk Ridge campground neighbors to the west and a large fire station neighbors to the east. Considering the wild fires this summer, the proximity of the fire station brought a level of comfort to the festival attendees.

Chinook Fest followed a familiar pattern of an opening night using a smaller stage, a full day of alternating from smaller to larger stage and a closing day leveraging just the smaller stage. The music started at 4 on Friday and ended after 1:PM Sunday with the final bands at night completing their sets well after midnight. There was yoga both mornings at 9, similar to 4Peaks, but the event was 21+ for Friday and Saturday. This meant there was virtually no alcohol monitoring in the camping areas, but it also meant there were very few attendees in their early 20's as well, so it wasn't as needed. Frankly, we didn't see anyone over-indulged at Chinook Fest, so our 4-year run of successfully finding Waldo (our label for drunken idiot) at every festival is now over. An unfortunate side-effect of the 21+ rule was the lack of those with kids for whom finding a weekend-long sitter is simply impossible. This created an age gap in the attendees: those without kids and those with grown kids.

festival entrance
Trees, Grass, Gravel and Dirt
The central venue is under a canopy of trees with a tree-lined river bed serving as the rear edge to the festival grounds. The park is set up for events, with permanent structures for vending surrounding a grassy lawn near the entrance. The concert area is served with water-supplied bathrooms, and further supported with port-a-potties and hand-washing stations. The water, while potable, isn't terribly good, but I'm spoiled on the Bull Run watershed. In front of the two stages, the park has packed gravel underfoot. This works well for boots and chairs, but not so well for bare feet and blankets.

Outside the concert-controlled area, the parking / camping is split into 4 sections. Closest to the Elk Ridge campground is a dirt field where overflow parking and free car-camping was allowed. Adjacent to that is a grass and tree area where RV (read: paid extra) camping was set up. Closest to the fire station was day-use parking and additional parking for tent-campers. Last, the tents were located in the grassy areas closest to the entrance, among the play structures and trees. Since we had been given a break on RV parking, we were in the grass, shaded by trees.

We arrived 30 minutes after the gates opened at 8:AM, so we missed the initial rush, though many others had already started setting up. We were directed into the RV corral and after trying a couple of spots, we resolved on a place nearest the fire-lane exit between the RV section and the dirt overflow. By 10:30, we were mostly set up and had waved over the only other VW bus at the festival to park with us. They brought their minivan-driving friends, and the party was on.

The Festers
The other VW was a 1970 green and white high top driven by Zeb and Casey from Wenatchee, WA. They, with their longtime friends Oly and Katelyn, helped set the tone for our weekend, swapping stories, fruit and beverages all weekend. The 1970 high top had a 1.8L conversion done to it by the prior owner, so we had an immediate connection about overheating and managing air bubbles in cooling systems. They had a 1960's era "circus tent" (it attaches to the side of the bus but the bright red stripes have it labelled as the circus tent) so when combined with Hapy's Riviera top and the rest of our semi-custom stuff (camping table, lot couch), we had a way of attracting car people. Oly and Katelyn had 2 10x10's set up like a lounge with a bar and a comfy-couch for visitors (picture below). They were across the "street" from us, so our little corner was pretty popular.

Early on, we met Tom and Liz from Tri-Cities. They, like many other we met, have been coming to Chinook Fest since it's first year. It seemed like every time they passed, Tom had a different tie-dye. We hung out quite a bit, and gave tours of our respective camping rigs. I hadn't crawled around a pickup-bed camper before, and we were quite surprised how much room there was. Very cool.

Daniel and Dean were from Renton, and were big VW guys. We talked quite a bit about Gene Berg transmissions, his performance work and air-cooled VeeDubs. I couldn't tell how they felt about the TDI power plant I had in Hapy, but the love for Volksies was unmistakable.

Inside the music area, we met Steve and Sandy, proud parents of the lead singer of the Wicks. Lovely people. There's something about running into musicians or those directly associated to the musicians out among the "regular people". For example, the keyboardist for the Crooks helped us solve for water that first day. Where does that happen? So often, bands slip in through their designated access gate, hang out in their special section until their turn on stage and then disappear afterwards. That wasn't entirely true at 4Peaks, and it definitely wasn't the case at Chinook Fest.

We had managed to forget both coffee and our french press, so we befriended the proprietors of the coffee place. They run Highway Espresso in Naches, and were pretty amazing, handling the coffee needs of most of the attendees. Well, at least it seemed like most attendees. David, husband of the owner, is another VW guy, and he brought their '65 Beetle up to the festival after we talked about Hapy. Tina is shopping for a VW camperbus of her own so she can start ticking locations off her bucket-list. Driving the 101 is on my list too.

Oly / Katelyn camp
That is just a small sampling of the people we met, hung out with, had drinks with, etc. The people make Chinook Fest what it is. They're open, interested and engaging. Of course, we didn't meet everyone, but based on the sample, we're fans. Based on license plates, and that sample, Boo and I concluded that almost everyone there was from the greater Yakima area, with the rest from Seattle or Spokane. If true, central Washington really represented well. Very nice people.

Stretching the Definition of Country
As great as the people were, most folks go to music festivals for the music. Overall, there were more bands with a country feel than our typical music festival tastes would run. As a festival, it felt like the theme would have been "stretching the definition of country". We learned that the way the bands are selected is through a deep investigative process by the 3 friends. They look for artists who they believe are a couple of years away from discovery by the masses. So, if you don't recognize any of the names of the bands this year, we should look back on this list in 2020 to see if any of them made it into the mainstream. Before we left Oregon, the only band we had heard of (and heard before) was the closing act on Sunday: the William G. Hardings. There were so many good acts, it doesn't seem fair to call out too many above the others. Still, I will. haha.

our setup
On Friday, Shane Smith and the Saints were probably our favorite. After our trialed efforts to get to the festival, we fell asleep before Rust on the Rails got through more than one song, so I can't really comment on them.

On Saturday, there were a few that stood out. Cobrahawk sounded like a blend of Heart and Kim Carnes, but Josh Hoyer and Soul Colossal took the day. They ended their tour with us, leaving for their home in Lincoln, NE after smokin' Chinook Fest. The energy of the band was contagious, pulling us out of our very comfy camp (picture right) to dance behind the stage. Once on our feet, we drifted into the concert zone for The Silent Comedy and watched them rock their set. Their "Dead Flowers" may have been our festival highlight.

festival farm truck
Sunday brought us The Wicks. Their harmonies were really good. Downright spooky-good. While nothing will ever compare to how Vivid Curve started day 2 at the HHH in 2014, the Wicks are in solid 2nd place for how to start a day at a festival. While we weren't drawn to the stage by a didgeridoo (Vivid Curve), we did stop in our camp-breakdown tracks, mid-step frozen to listen. Yeah, they're that good. We had seen the William G. Hardings before, their straight-up bluegrass sound had the dwindled-crowd's toes tapping.

As we slowly broke camp, neighbors shared farewells and pulled out. We left when Zeb and Casey did, hours after Oly and Katelyn had gone. The end of festival is a mixture of sadness and fatigue... and the knowing that there are hours of driving before bed. But that's another post. I'll get to that. Thanks, as always, for following along.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

MGB - master cylinders (Part 2)

Today, we continue documenting the work on the master cylinders, and perhaps more importantly, the pedal box between them. In Part 1, I covered removal and disassembly. Today, I'll cover clean-up, painting and re-assembly. Unlike so many of my posts lately, this one might be a little shorter.

Parts Order
With the various major components apart, its time to consider the condition of your bits and pieces, and place a parts order. We're starting with the 2 master cylinders (MC). The whole point was replacing them, so let's start there. As of today, a clutch MC costs about $35. A brake MC costs anywhere from $60 for an aftermarket (read: Chinese) up to $220 for an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) part. I like OEM, but I don't like spending a premium if I can avoid it. Look around. Moss isn't the only supplier, and you can find the OEM for less than that.... like my new friend Basil.

How does your brake booster look? Does it look like mine, all rusty and nasty? Considering a new one is $250, you may want to consider cleaning and maybe even painting your original.

I get new fasteners when I see rusty ones, and fasteners around brake fluid always rust up, so I encourage new bolts for holding the box to the car, and screws for the lid. You will probably need 2 new cotter pins. I found that the bolts and nuts dedicated to the pivoting of the pedals were perfect, so I didn't replace those. You may want to. Get new pedal pads; they're like $3. Depending on condition, your pedal return springs (which I forgot to mention in step 1) might need replacing. Mine were rusty, so I got replacements. Consider that there is supposed to be a seal both above the box and under the lid. These are also cheap, so get these too.

My parts list was the 2 master cylinders, pedal pads, seals and a couple of handfuls of fasteners. All in, I was under $150. I got the MC's from Basil, pedal pads and seals from Moss and everything else from Ace Hardware.

Prep and Paint
assembled box, from behind
First, complete the dis-assembly, if you didn't as part of your parts order step above. Remove the pedals from the box and then the sleeves from the pedals. Remove the pedal pads if you didn't during the pedal box removal. Remove the seal from the top of the pedal box / bottom of the lid (depending on which one it is stuck to). The pedals, box and lid should now be bare. I scuffed the remaining original paint from those pieces with a mostly-spent 100-grit sanding pad after removing the rust with 60-grit sandpaper. The mostly-spent pad removed the deep scratches from the 60-grit and created and edge for the paint to adhere to. I shot the pieces with Simple Green to get the sanding dust off and then wiped them down with Mineral Spirits before shooting them with a basic gloss black. I have found that shooting smaller pieces in one shot is efficient without sacrificing the finish. For the pedals, I run a short stretch of wire through the pivot hole and hold it by the wire so I get full coverage. I did the same thing with the pedal box and lid, but short the pieces in stages, shooting the inside first and then following with the outside after the inside had dried. I left these pieces cure for a long time since it was about here when I discovered the floors were rusted out... or it was about here when I discovered that the front suspension was bushed with window insulation.

I didn't mention the brake booster in the paint list. When I painted the other pieces, I was still considering my options. I decided I would try to give the original piece some love and see if I could bring it back to looking fairly good first. I started with the same pattern of low-grit paper on the rust and 100-grit pad everywhere. It took a couple of hours, but the rust came off and the whole piece started to glow. After the spent 100-grit pad, I started polishing with steel wool. This was the magic. The steel wool took away the tiny scratches left behind by the spent pad, and removed the little bits of grime that the other efforts didn't. The end result is pretty incredible. I thought about shooting it with clearcoat, and concluded that it survived years in a barn and many more years of weather and still returned to such fine condition without it. It could go another 40 without it.

inside the pedal box
After the paint had cured (sat idle without people poking at it for a few days), I put the new rubber pedal pads on first. You could do this at the end, but the box goes in the same whether the pads are on or not, and (a) I wanted to see how they looked semi-finished and (b) I was able to make sure they were completely seated without having to lie on my back under the steering wheel to do it. I used a paint can opener to help the rubber lip around the edge of the pedal. After admiring the new pads, I mounted the brake booster to the box. Next, I attached the brake pedal to the brake booster with the clevis pin and cotter pin. Then, I attached the pivot bolt, and tightened it down.

The clutch master cylinder is next. For consistency of appearance, I threaded both bolts from the outside of the box in, so the top bolt which threads into a nut, has the nut inside the box. Next, I moved to the clutch pedal, attaching only the clevis pin and cotter pin to the MC, leaving the pivot bolt to last. For this, I put all the parts together and lightly threaded it into the captured nut inside This was just to get the box into position.

I'll cover the install in another post, so that's it for today. As always, thanks for following along...

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

MGB - master cylinders (Part 1)

Another post about the ongoing work on the MGB. Today's post covers the removal of the brake and clutch master cylinders. This got long, like so many of my posts these days, so I split it into two, with the follow-up post covering the re-assembly and re-install. It should be noted that sometimes I revert back to a sworn-at previous owner (SAPO) and start removing things without taking pictures. This is one of those times, so the pictures are from either the re-assembly or the internet. Sorry. Sometimes I suck too.

This is as logical a place to start as any. "After the list of other things that have been done why the (expletive) would you open up yet another system?" Yeah.. that's a really great question. It's not because I'm sadistic. You see, I started with the brakes. Long before I discovered the rust-thru on the floors, or learned about the front suspension having window insulation acting as bushings, I tried to fix the brakes. I completely redid them at the wheels. I even replaced the hoses with nice new ones, but I couldn't get the rear's to bleed. Turned out, the master cylinder wasn't pushing fluid to the rear, so it had to go. After some reading, I learned that for some weird flaw of nature the clutch master cylinder fails within 6 months of replacing the brake master cylinder if you don't replace them at the same time. Rather than tempt Murphy's Law, I figured I'd just get after it. Besides, winter was coming so the little car was going into the garage anyway.....

Remove the Brake Master Cylinder (MC)
my engine bay - before
After I tried all sorts of combinations of efforts to remove things, I figured out that it wasn't nearly as complicated as I (and the internets) was making it. First, remove the electrical bits: the pressure sensor and the brake-light switch. The first unplugs, the second unthreads. Then, remove the brake hard-lines from the master cylinder. There are three, two head to each of the front wheels and one heads for the rear. Put a small catch-pan under the master cylinder before you start opening these or you'll get brake fluid dripping all over the driver side of your engine bay. It is a really small space under there, so I used a washed out yogurt container as a catch-pan. I taped plastic on the brake line ends to keep some water out (and brake fluid in), but after the front end suspension work, the lines are completely clear. If you're just pulling one and slapping a new one in, It might be worth doing. I didn't see the downside except consuming 10 minutes of my time. Once the fluid lines are detached, remove the two nut/bolts which hold it to the brake booster. With a wiggle, it should come right out.

Remove Brake Booster?
not mine, but better angle
With the brake MC out of the way, the next in line is the brake booster. This unit takes vacuum from the engine and uses it to help you stop. Very clever. First thing to remove is the hose from the engine to the brake booster. If your rubber is as old as mine, make a note of replacing it. The booster is held onto what's called the pedal box from within the box, so before we can go any further, we need to pull the lid off the box. It is held on with a bunch of little fasteners. Depending on how much your car was messed with, these could be bolts or screws, Phillips head, slotted or hex. Or a combination. Mad love for prior owners. Someone will be cursing me this way one day. Anyway, remove the fasteners and the lid on top. Inside is the magic where the pedal action is translated into brake or clutch motion. In here, you can see how the brake pedal actuates a lever that runs forward into the brake booster and how the clutch pedal hinges on a pin connected to the clutch MC between the pedal box and the firewall. Whoa. So.. maybe this is why everyone says to replace the clutch MC at the same time as the brake. You have to get so deep anyway, you just might as well.

So, how do you get this thing out? You can try starting by removing the pin connecting the brake pedal to the lever. This is a royal PITA. You need inhuman fingers to do this. Same goes for the clutch pedal/MC and even getting the brake booster off. After the fact, I figured out that you don't need to separate the brake booster from the pedal box at this point. You can just remove the booster with box all at once. Whaaa???

Remove the Clutch Hydraulics and Pedal Box
thank you eBay for your blurry picture
Skipping over the brake booster, we move to the clutch master cylinder (MC). Disconnect the hydraulic line that runs along the firewall. Again, I wrapped it in plastic wrap and then taped it sealed. Now, the only thing that is holding the clutch master cylinder, the brake booster, and the pedals in the car are the little bolts which are holding the pedal box in. Many of them are addressed from the driver footwell. Only a couple (those on the engine-side of the box) are removed from above. They are different sizes, which is a little weird. Anyway, once the box is free, the entire unit can be coaxed out of the car.... but wait: the pedals are too wide to fit through the hole! Lift the box and pedals as a unit and once you have it up as high as it will go straight up, twist it counter-clockwise while you lift and you can get another inch or so. That little bit is enough for you to get access to the clutch pivot bolt. The bolthead is sticking out the left side of the box. 1/2" socket will remove it, and the pedal will be free enough for you to get the unit out. Seriously, it works. The pedal will dangle a little strangely, but the 2 pedals will fit out of the hole this way, even with brand new pads.

With the box on your bench, you can easily pull the various parts off. The brake booster is held on with 4 1/2" nuts, and the pin from the brake pedal is easier to get to when you're not leaning over a wing (fender). The clutch MC is held on with 2 1/2" bolts. One of them twists into a fixed nut, the other needs a wrench on the nut on the inside. Like the brake pin, the clutch pin is easier to get off at this point. I found needle-nose pliers to be up to the task.

Now, your pedal box, master cylinders, brake booster and pedals are all apart. In part 2, I'll cover cleaning, painting and re-assembly. Thanks, as always, for following along.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

MGB - floor pans (Part 3)

Continuing the effort of replacing the floor pans. In Part 1, I talked through decisions about parts and methods. In Part 2, we removed the old pans. Today, we focus on prepping the new pans and getting them welded in.

paint from below, p-side
Remember that the original pans were spot-welded to the rails. This was done at the factory where very long spot-welder arms are available and things like the doors, dashboard, etc aren't yet installed, so there are fewer obstacles. Even with some crazy-long spot welder extension arms, you will not be able to avoid another solution for some of the mounting locations. Your options: seam weld from below or plug weld from above. At least on the right side, the wires, tubes and cable make a seam-weld from below option very difficult. Most do-at-home folks go the plug-weld route. The folks at British Auto Works in North Plains run seam welds around the outer edge from above, but plug weld the inner frame rails. If you're going to do this, they recommend running beads that are about an inch long and space them every couple of inches to prevent warping. It will hold at least as well, if not better, than plug welding the whole thing.

p-side pan prep
The passenger floor fit like it was supposed to fit. It literally dropped right into place. It wouldn't shift too much side to side or front to back, but my hammer/chisel work bent some of the edge along the transmission tunnel, so I had to work the metal back into shape. Once the floor was stable (no wobble or weird clunks from my stepping on it), it was ready to go. The driver (left) side, however, did not fit right. The front right corner on the pan assumed the floor had a squared-off point to it, but my floor had a rounded edge. I had to bend the corner of the pan to test fit and then cut it off with my grinder for welding it in. It would not naturally sit flat either, so I had to be extra careful as I did my first few welds to get the floor to hold flat. You may experience a similar situation, even with the OEM pans. We know the aftermarket ones don't fit without cutting, so be advised.

What's a "Plug Weld"?
A plug weld is performed by drilling a hole through one material, setting that on top of a second piece of material and welding the two pieces together through the hole. In our case, we are making 1/4" holes in the new flooring. The weld is formed by setting the MIG wire into the center of the plug hole, pulling the trigger to start forming a puddle and then extending the puddle into the floor after the puddle has started to grab into the frame rail. Before we can weld, we need to poke holes in the floor, but where? I tried 2 methods. I'll explain them next.

Option 1 - Paint and Measure
Once the frame rails are clean, you just can't help yourself. You just have to drop the new floor on there and admire how nice it looks. It looks so pretty. Looking at the passenger-side pan sitting there, I wanted an easy way to spot the holes. I fiddled with the pan to make sure it was exactly where I wanted it and then set some tool boxes on top so it held still and firm on the rails. Then, I grabbed a can of white spray paint, slid underneath and spray-painted the edges of the frame rails where they met the underside of the new pan. When I lifted the pan off the rails, there were clear white lines showing where the frame rails were. I ran blue tape along those edges and marked drill holes every inch or so with a sharpie. The p-side prep picture on the right shows what the prepared pan looked like.

Option 2 - Use Old Flooring
using old floor, d-side
When I removed the driver (left) side floor pan edges, I didn't crumple them up as I went. Instead, I would separate a section and then cut it free with tin-snips when the trim started getting in the way. Once all of them were free, I arranged them on the ground with the larger sections I had cut out earlier. With the puzzle so completed, I could see where the old spot welds were. So, I arranged the puzzle onto the bottom of the new pan, and shot spray-paint through the taped-on floor-pan edges. When I removed the old edges, I had dots showing me where to drill the plug-weld holes.

Drill Baby Drill
Regardless of which method you choose, drilling the plug holes is a two-step process. First you drill a pilot hole and then you drill out to 1/4". I suppose a step-bit would work so that would be only one drill effort. Similar to cutting out the spot welds, this is time consuming. I understand why British Auto Works (and probably most other shops) reduce costs by seam welding the outer edges. For that reason, I drilled plug welds into the floor to correspond to the inner frame rails, and only a few around the outer edge of the p-side pan. My paint-from-below method worked pretty well, though my alignment slipped a little bit and I had a few holes that didn't align with the rail.

On the driver (left) side, I chose to plug weld the whole thing, so that meant more drilling on that pan. The holes I produced with Option 2 were an exact match. They aligned on the rails perfectly. Unfortunately, the holes that cut all the way through the frame rail were now completely exposed as well. The drilling out of a single pan took me 2-3 hours and overall there really wasn't that much of a difference in time between the two sides, even though there were far fewer holes on the p-side. That doesn't math-out logically, but that's what happened. The all-in time at this point is over 14 hours and no pans are welded in yet.

Plug Welding
If the grinding was the best part of Part 2, then the welding was the best part of Part 3. I borrowed a 110V Lincoln MIG welder from my wife's sister's boyfriend, and bought a small 20# tank of "steel mix" gas for the project (cost me $100 for the tank plus gas-fill on craigslist). I've heard these small tanks have 6-8 hours of gas in them, so that should be enough for multiple pan replacement projects. Once I had the passenger side ready to weld, I hosted my wife's sister and her boyfriend for a welding party. The plan was simple: he shows us how to weld, and I keep a fresh beer in his hand. It worked out well for everyone. While he got the welder set up, he taught us with welding scraps from the old torn-out floor. This gave us opportunity to work on pieces that didn't matter, but were the right thickness and material. We ran the temp / voltage as high as it would go (D) and the feed set pretty fast too (just below 9). Because if the thickness of the rails, the high-voltage setting makes sense. For other work, like repairing the rear bulkhead the previous owner cut a big hole in, I'll need to bring the temp way down. Before we were done for the evening, the passenger pan was in, and 3 of us learned how to MIG weld, including my wife's sister. Very fun.

During the actual weld-in, we had setbacks, of course, like some burn-through of the pan when we novices tried to run a bead, or small fires from grease or paint catching fire from the welding. Not to worry, though, they were small enough to blow out. Still, the decision to weld on the driveway rather than the standard low-ceiling garage turned out to be a good idea. We tested a few of the welds just for curiosity sake by banging on them with a hammer and trying to separate the panel with pressure from below. No dice.

I've gone back and forth about grinding down the plug-weld humps. I know the floor is going to be covered with sound reducer, a carpet pad and then carpeting, so no one would ever really see them. At this point, though, I'm trying to get the car on the road before the weather turns, so maybe I'll grind the humps down under a canopy once the weather changes this fall. Or I may just leave them alone, and focus energy on value-adding efforts, which grinding down weld-humps in an area no one will ever see... frankly isn't.

That's it for today. My final steps are seam-sealing the floor edges, and getting some paint or undercoating on the steel pans. That work may not be interesting enough to warrant a post. After that's done, I am going to focus on getting the fuel system and master cylinders re-installed. Expect posts on those efforts soon. As always, thanks for following along.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

MGB - floor pans (Part 2)

Today we continue the saga of replacing the floor pans in the MGB. In Part 1 (See MGB - floor pans Part 1), we identified the issue, and made decisions on parts and a method. Today, we get into removing the old pans.

Get Safe
$15 at Harbor Freight
This could be a euphemism for something else, but in this case, it is exactly what it says: safety first. You are going to be cutting and then welding steel. This throws lots of sparks. Your car runs on gasoline which is designed to explode when a vapor meets a spark. When you put these together, my best advice is to remove the fuel system entirely and then wait a couple of days to let the fumes leave the remaining lines. That's what I did, and I'll post on that later. Consider too, that the cutoff wheel throws dirt and dust everywhere so wear eye protection at least. I use a face shield, long sleeves, and denim pants to protest myself. And yes that gets hot in the summer when you're working in the sun on your driveway.

Clear Your Paths
Under the right (passenger in the US) side floor, there are small pipes and cables that you don't want to set your cutoff wheel into. These pipes and cables are held to the floor underside with nuts and brackets, and further held into place with some rubber bits. Remove the nuts and the brackets and pull the rubber bits out. Toss all of it into a ziplock and mark it as part of the right floor. You'll want them later. Let the cables and pipes hang as far out of the way as possible. Among these is the fuel feed line, the vapor line and the main power supply from the battery. All super important.

blue tape the cut lines
I had the brake and clutch pedals already removed from my efforts on the master cylinders (post on that coming). I chose to remove the accelerator pedal as well to improve my access. Since it is held on with a bolt and the cable is held on with a pin, this removal is very easy. Now that my floor has been removed, I couldn't imagine how much harder this would have been with them still in place. Mental picture: you're lying down on the door frame, hips-to-feet sprawled out through the driver-door, with your arms extended into the foot-well with a grinder spinning a cut-off wheel at 11,000 RPM. Getting the cuts right without accidentally catching the underside of the brake pedal sounds virtually impossible. I highly recommend removing the pedals, if you can.

Mark the Spot
Before you grab your grinder, you need to find the frame sections underneath. On the right (passenger) side, I followed instructions I found online, where I drilled holes at the corners of various support structures. I then connected those dots with blue painters tape and then drew on those lines with a sharpie so I had clear lines to follow. This did work, but for the left (driver in the US) side, I thought I could do it with fewer steps. The first step is the same: with one had under the car and the other resting on the top of the floor, tap with your bottom hand at the corners of the beams. Feel for the tapping with your top hand, and keep circling in on the spot by tapping until you know exactly where the spot is. Mark it with a sharpie. On the right side, I drilled a hole. On the left, I just marked it and moved on. I ultimately found that the drilling was unnecessary. There are 2 main under-floor rails, one runs from the transmission hump to the edge under the front seat mounts. The other runs from that cross rail between the legs to the front. In the US model, imagine a rail running straight at the brake pedal. These rails are about 2 inches wide, but there is only about 1/2" lip that it spot-welded to.
not-so-fun part

Measure Twice, Cut Once
This phrase has been made famous by arm-chair trades-persons dating back to the stone cutters in Egypt. Still, its a good practice. Double check your marked lines to make sure that you didn't draw a line through a section of frame. Also consider if your cut-path will send you through any of the cables or pipes you moved aside earlier. Cutting through a fuel line, even if it's empty, really sucks. Yes, I did and I'll explain how I fixed it later. Along the rear edge, there are two heavier sections in the corners that are not to be cut out. They create structural stability and should only be removed it they are not doing that job. My bar had a pretty rusty floor, but those sections were fine. Make sure your cut lines take these sections into account.

The Fun Part
The floor is cut out in 3 or 4 sections, separated by the frame rails. Cut the rear out first. The rear section comes out as one large, nearly square piece, and the steel cuts pretty quickly once you get started. With the rear cut and pulled out of the way, you can see the cable, etc on the right side. Next, I cut the outer of the two forward sections. Again, this allowed me to avoid the cables, etc on the right (passenger) side. Last, I cut the inner section, and it was all pretty clean except I nicked the fuel line for about an inch, leaving a nice gash in the metal fuel line. At this point, I was glad I'd pulled the fuel tank, and let the system sit for a week or so.

The Bit
spot weld cutter
With the main sections of the floor out of the way, it feels like you're really on your way. That's until you start to understand what comes next. The floor was attached to the rails at the factory with a big spot-welder, placing a weld every inch or so along both rails and around the outer edge. Those spot welds are what is holding that last inch of steel to the car. I have read where some folks (who are far more skilled with a grinder than I) were able to cut these sections off without any other tool. High praise to them. I am no way skilled enough for that, so I went the more labor-intensive route.

Hit Harbor Freight and buy at least 2 spot-weld cutting bits. They are small, fit in your drill, like a regular drill bit, but they are designed to cut spot welds. The shiny, silver point in the center of the bit is set into the center of the weld, and then you run the drill at a slow speed to cut the sheet metal around the weld. This allows the rest of the sheet metal to rise from the rail. Each bit is reverse-able, so as you burn out the teeth, you can pop it into a vice, loosen it with a 1/4" spanner, flip the bit and tighten. One bit lasts twice as long... which still isn't that long if you run your drill too fast.

So, now that you understand the weld-cutter, slap a grinding wheel or wire wheel onto your grinder and grind on the remaining bits of floor so you can find the spot welds. Between rust, paint and black-tar seam-sealer, you may have to grind a bit to find the spot welds. If you can't find them all or you don't want to grind to find them, there is an alternative; you just need to be willing to use a framing hammer and chisel.

The Not-So-Fun Part
cleaned up
With your spot weld cutter in your drill, and a framing hammer / chisel nearby, pick a spot to start. I went with the easiest to get to: the rear section. The spot welds are easier to find back here too. Pick a spot weld, cut it out (slowly on the drill!). If the metal didn't make a "ting" noise while cutting, it may not be completely free. Given time you'll get the hang of it where you're not cutting too deep (through the frame) nor too shallow (and leaving the metal well attached). If the metal didn't separate, get under the metal edge with your chisel and give it a couple of smacks with the hammer. Eventually, the floor and rail will separate. Now do that about 120 times. Per side. I spent about 4 hours per side doing this, so be prepared. Now, I do things slower than lots of people, so maybe you'll be a lot faster.

As you remove flooring, the remnant will start to flop around. On my first (right/passenger) side, I just crumpled the metal out of my way. While this worked, I found that by cutting strips in straight sections (using tin snips) was more effective. And, ff you set them aside with the larger sections of floor you cut out, you can re-create the shape of the floor later.

Clean It Up
temporary protective paint
Once all of the spot-welded in bits of floor have been removed from the rails, you're ready to clean up. First, look at what you've done. There is a pile of twisted sheet metal lying on the ground next to your car. The rails have some holes drilled through (I know mine sure did). The rails have like 100 little circles of flooring still attached, there's some rusty spots, some paint, and probably some seam sealer. All of that needs to be taken down to bare metal for welding. Grab your grinder, put in a good grinding wheel and get after it. To me, this was the most satisfying part of the process to this point: Simply grinding away the ugly and leaving a nice clean shiny rail. Once the weld points are nice and clean, I switched over to a wire wheel and removed all of the surface rust I could find in the foot well, along the transmission tunnel and the rear, effectively grinding away all of the rust in the seating tub.

Since I was not going to be working on the project for a while, I shot the cleaned up space (including the rails) with primer and some orange Rustoleum so I wouldn't have new rust appear while I was away. This meant I got to grind that paint off later, but if you're not going to jump right into welding, I'd encourage you to consider the same.

That's it for today. More next time. Thanks, as always, for following along-

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

MGB - floor pans (Part 1)

Today's post is the first of a series dedicated to the removal and replacement of the floor pans in my MGB. This process would be the same for any car whose floors are not a critical part of the structure. I believe most cars fit that description, but I'm sure there are some unibody cars out there which have particular demands on the floors requiring a little more expertise. On that note, let's be very clear: I have zero prior welding experience. Nada. Zip. I've tried to play with a stick welder and was unable to strike a spark without getting the stick stuck to the target material. After a few hours of that frustration, I gave up, put the welder under my workbench and moved on. Until now.

The Patient
right side floor - before
I have posted quite a bit about the journey with this little British car since I acquired it late last Summer. After a spirited drive home with no seatbelts, no brake lights and little understanding of how it operated, I've made many improvements:
  • brakes (link)
  • fuse box (link)
  • master cylinder / pedal box removal (link)
  • engine mounts (link)
  • rebuilt the front suspension (link 1, 2, 3, 4) including front wheel bearings, etc
  • new seat belts, rear suspension rebound straps, fixed the brake lights (no links)
While working on the front suspension, I had a volunteer in K2 ask if he could help out. I wasn't in a spot where unskilled hands were really a help, so I asked him to start removing the interior. The carpets smelled bad and were pretty worn, so I'd intended on at least getting the smelly stuff out and putting in a temporary solution until I had the cash to do the interior well. That is where this story begins.

left side floor - before
With a 1/2" spanner and a small ratchet, K2 was able to remove the 4 bolts which hold in the passenger seat and pop them into a ziplock baggie. We pulled the seat, and set it on the floor. I left K2 to the carpet and I returned to the suspension. K2 did a great job pulling the carpet free from the floor, and the transmission tunnel. The floor looked fair, with surface rust, but half of it was covered by the original sound deadener. We split the task of hammering that out with a chisel so we could evaluate what lay beneath. There were some rusty spots as you can see in the upper picture, but only pin-holes through.
Prognosis: fair, but will require some work to have them sealed up. Replacement suggested.

With the limited space in the garage, K2 had to perform some gymnastics to get after the bolts holding the driver seat in, but once removed, he made quick work of the carpet and we cleared the sound deadener much faster as well. Unfortunately, as "okay-ish" as the passenger floor was, the driver floor was pretty bad. There were multiple small holes and the sound deadener came out so easily because of the heavy rust underneath it. Upon further examination, the floor around one of the nuts for the seat had cracks in it.
Prognosis: This floor was toast. Replacement required.

Decision made: we'll replace both pans, one at a time, and hopefully have the MG road-able before the next rainy season starts.

aftermarket pan
When it comes to the floor, there are OEM and aftermarket floor pans. The OEM cost about twice as much, but they have all of the little things that make them easier to work with. They have the nuts for the seat-bolts already installed, and the reinforcements to the floor around them. There are various little threaded studs on the underside that are on the OEM pans. Last, of course, they are heavy British steel. The aftermarket pans do not have most of the fasteners attached, are made with thinner (not British) steel and they reportedly have an extra lip around the edge that needs to be cut off. Based on the pictures, it looks like the aftermarket pans also lack the drains. neat. I chose the OEM pans, and ordered a set through my local MG specialty shop: British Auto Works in North Plains.

Weld or Glue
OEM pan
There is a whole religious war about using a structural glue to attach floors, or other "non-structural" panels. The glue argument goes "modern cars are glued together, and the new glues are far better than anything they had back then so the manufacturers would have used them if they'd had them". Sounds reasonable. The weld counter-argument goes "modern cars are CAD designed with things like cost of materials and time/effort factored into the engineering so the glue is part of the engineering work, the crash testing, etc so gluing anything that isn't purely cosmetic on a non-glue car is a bad idea". This also sounds reasonable. I decided that I'd err on the side of caution and learn how to MIG weld on these floors. I have always wanted to learn how and while floors may not be structural, my seat is bolted to it, so it feels a little more important than, say, a rear spoiler. With this in mind, I reached out to my wife's sister's boyfriend to borrow a welder, and some welding instruction. But, before we get too far down that path, we need to remove the old. We'll get to that next time.

That's it for today's appetizer of a post. More to come on this topic for sure. Thanks for following along.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Almost Frog Lake (Part 2)

Today's post is a continuation of Part 1, but this time I actually get to the ill-fated trip up Mount Hood, vagabonding, and Boo's saving the day. In the last post, I had packed the bus mid-week for our weekend camping trip. We usually do this the evening before, but one of my old friends was getting married that Thursday, so we went a different route. In summary, we had a yard sale over the weekend, then the purchasing / flush fill of the coolant on Monday/Tuesday, packing Wednesday and a wedding on Thursday leading up to the departure on Friday. Timing was tight. Now, on to the adventure-

Up Hill, Up Temps
We hit the road for what was to be a weekend of camping lake-side in the Oregon Cascades. With visions of hiking and floating in a paddle-boat driving us on, we headed west out of Beaverton shortly after 6. We knew we had at least 3 hours before darkness hit, so we drove at a relatively easy pace over the Sellwood Bridge, over OR224 to OR212 to US26. We came upon another bus on the OR224: a nice blue and white 2-tone which the driver had just purchased. He had a flat, and AAA on the way to help, so after exchanging pleasantries, he waved us on. Along the way, the bus temps were staying around 185*, the point where the thermostat opens. But, as we climbed more hills, the temps started rising. We stopped at the Subway for a quick dinner in Sandy and to let the bus cool off before returning to US26. By the time we hit ZigZag, I was genuinely concerned, pulling over periodically to let things cool off. As we passed through Rhododendron our temp was approaching critical, so I pulled into the breakdown / chain-up lane between forest service roads (FR) 24 and 26. With the engine idling, the fans blowing, heat fans on, the temp kept climbing. We passed 206* for the first time, and before I could kill the engine, steam started venting out through the overflow bottle. I turned off the key, the engine stopped and steam eventually stopped venting, but not before a large puddle had appeared under the passenger side rear-end of the bus. We were stuck: never add coolant to a hot motor; the engine needs to cool to ambient temperature or you could crack your block.

WildWood Recreation Area
I was in a form of shock, self-loathing for not doing the job "right", maybe using the wrong coolant or not getting the coolant-to-water concentration right.... but Boo leaped into action. The sun was dropping, and we needed to get off the road or deal with authorities. She scouted FR26, about 100 feet ahead of us, and spotted a clearing just off the road. With an apology to Hapy, I started him up and crept to the turn-out and nosed him into the clearing. While off the road, we were still very visible, so Boo started off down FR26, and returned with a big smile on her face. She found a driveway off to the left, leading to a private property which had been triple padlocked with a barrier, but the barrier was 20 feet off the road into the forest. The entryway was flat, and the locks were well-rusted, telling us that not only was no one home, no one was probably coming tonight either. We moved Hapy, noting an "if you see suspicious activity call the sheriff at..." sign, and while darkness closed in, we put up our curtains... only to discover that when we let K2 use the bus as a tent the night before the yardsale, he had left the cabin lights on, draining the auxiliary battery dead. The day had cratered. Boo, though, was incredible. She pulled out a couple of camping chairs, a couple of beers from the cooler and our leftover Subway sandwiches and served a picnic in the dark. Day saved. No sooner did we put everything away than we saw headlights on FR26.

Solving and Slipping Out
WildWood Recreation Area
Fortunately, the headlights turned to the right and went to a different cabin. We chose to settle down and get as much sleep as we could, expecting to hear a tap-tap-tap of a Sheriff's flashlight on the side of the bus to awaken us before dawn. That didn't happen. In fact, we slept for 9 hours and awoke to birds chirping at a post-dawn sun. I peeked out the window and saw a man walking his dog, and he had a "what's that?" look on his face. Recognizing the man would probably call the Sheriff, we started moving rather quickly. I had a full liter of 100% G12 under the bed, so I pushed the bedding out of the way of my self-cut engine hatch and poured it into the overflow bottle. Luck was on our side as the coolant filled the overflow bottle to the "full" mark, telling me also that we didn't lose that much coolant in the prior evenings debacle. With the bottle full, we packed up for travel and fired Hapy's engine. He started without delay and hummed like nothing ever happened. Recognizing that were were still literally in the woods, we quickly checked that the space looked as we found it and drove to US26. As soon as we were on the public road, we headed for the chain-up area about 100' downhill. With Boo's foot on the brake, I went around back and checked everything. The coolant level had dropped a little bit, but it was still closer to full than fill.

ZigZag and WildWood
Rather than continue to drive away from civilization up to Frog Lake, we chose, instead to lollygag our way back out of the mountains, stopping first at the ZigZag Cafe. Boo and I had driven past the ZigZag Cafe for years before first stopping in a couple of years ago. Since then, we try to include a meal there when we're up at the mountain. It is a mom and pop place where the owners cook and serve some great food. You just need to wait for it. We whiled away our morning, sipping coffee, watching the trickle of the ZigZag River out the window and enjoying an easy brunch. Deciding that we still didn't have great confidence in the cooling system, we continued downhill. Just west of Welches, there is another spot we've driven past for years, but never visited: WildWood Recreation Area. Wildwood sits on the Sandy river with many riverside picnic areas, a group shelter and, apparently, very few visitors.

We turned a weekend camp into a day at the river, selecting food, drinks, and materials for a riverside hang out. We sat in the river and talked, snacked, and relaxed. We encountered only the camp hosts, a young family (who also had a VW bus in their yard) and a tourist from Singapore. The tourist was looking for natural sights so we talked about some of the wonders of Oregon, encouraged a visit to the coast and learned about Singapore. All in, we visited for about 20 minutes, but it really resonated for us.

We had decided that driving up to the camp site was probably a lost cause; someone else probably found the reserved, but unclaimed spot and nabbed it. Besides, we still weren't 100% sure our cooling issues were behind us. So, as the afternoon shifted to evening, we packed up into the bus and nosed towards home. Now, the drive "down" from Mount Hood isn't all downhill. Most of it is, but there is a stretch between Brightwood and Sandy just past the Ivy Bear Restaurant where there is a long uphill pull. That was our first real test. By the time we got there, we were running at 185* (our Normal Operating Temp with the thermostat we have). As we started climbing the hill, the temp didn't really move, so I pushed the speed a little bit, trying to stress the system. That did it. A little bit. The temp rose into the low 190's, but stabilized at 194 the rest of the way up. Once we crested the hill and leveled off, the temp dropped right back down to 185 and then 183 (thermostat closed). Hazah!

There are 2 more meaningful hill-climbs on the way home after that one. The first is leaving Boring heading west towards Clackamas and the other is on I-205 between Oregon City and West Linn. The first, we took from a dead stop at the intersection across the street from the Timber Pub and Grub. We stayed in the slower-traffic lane, but held at speed the whole way and didn't see our temp get above the new high-point of 194*. For the second, we were at highway speed (60mph in the bus) and would have maintained speed except for a slow moving heavily-laden semi-truck in the right lane. Regardless, our temp wasn't a factor, and it appears that our cooling issue has been solved.

Since this ill-fated trip, the bus hasn't seen much action. I have been focused on getting the little convertible MGB into road-ready shape before the nice weather ends. My next few posts will probably be focused on that work. I hope to isolate another weekend day for a day at a park with the family in Hapy. We have plenty of water-side parks here, so it's just a matter of circling the day on the calendar and doing it.

That's it for today. Thanks again for following along-