Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Put Your Home Where Your Sign Is

Limited bus (or car) content today, and this will be rather short.

Yard Sign
A couple of years ago, mr. trump started making changes about which countries could source travelers into the US. This was met with protests at airports and in front of government buildings. Eventually, some states sued, and the restrictions were relaxed. Remember all that? Well, the day after that started, my neighbor down the street put a yard sign on her front lawn declaring "Refugees Welcome". It wasn't a home-made sign, so I figured there was some political movement she subscribed to which gave her the sign to raise awareness. Honestly, unless you were without access to any media, pretty much everyone knew what he had started. After all the lawsuits and protests, her sign persisted. We had neighborhood barbecues (yes, our neighborhood does that) and picnics and her sign was a point of conversation. Oddly enough, no matter the general political tilt of the folks who lived on the street, the underlying sentiment was "we're all from somewhere else" and the huddled masses phrase from the Statue of Liberty still resonates.

Refugees Really Welcome
it kinda looks like this
Fast forward to a few months ago. Our neighbor who started the conversations with a simple black and white sign kicked it up 5 notches: she adopted a family of refugees from Syria. That is taking "putting your money where your mouth is" to a whole 'nother level. This family was bombed out of their home and have been on the move in one form or another ever since. When they last had a home of their own, their youngest son (now 4) was in his mother's womb. As the weather has gotten nicer, the boys are playing outside, using the street like a soccer field, complete with the hooting and hollering that comes with 3 boys playing outside.

Consider this short street with a cul-de-sac has, maybe, 20 houses on it. Most of them are occupied with older couples with grown children or families with teenagers. It's quiet. There is no thru-traffic people drive super -slow down the street waving at each other, and everyone pretty much knows everyone else. Yes, it is like Smallville, but it is actually a fairly good cross-section representation of the ethnic diversity on Portland's west side. I can count the number of young families on 2 fingers, though. So, the new family is changing the dynamic and increasing the number of young families by 50% along the way. How the neighborhood is responding is quite telling, and heart-warming.

We have one neighbor, she's single, retired and has 2 Corgis. Rather than just throwing the ball for her dogs as she used to, she encourages the boys to play with them too. I saw another neighbor bring out some cups of juice one warm afternoon. The younger families now have more kids on the street to play with, so the games are getting bigger and louder and longer.

Boo and I hosted the three boys for a couple of hours this past weekend. While Boo entertained the younger 2 with games, toys and snacks, the 11 year old older boy (M) helped me get Hapy back down off jack-stands following an unsuccessful attempt to get the rims off. There's a post in the works on that saga. He loves cars ("second only to family" he said), and is interested in our collection of mid-project pieces. I can totally appreciate where he's coming from. I loved cars when I was 11 too, so I'll be welcoming our new neighbor whenever he wanders over and is looking for something to work on. Our corral is definitely a target-rich environment for car-mechanic-ing.

Our involvement has been very light, and depending on what they need, it may remain so. This post is really not about us, though. I am humbled by our neighbor's huge leap from posting a yard sign to hosting a family of 5. So many others, myself included, will wring hands or shake a fist at the news, but will do very little otherwise. Some will vote with their feet and not go certain places or vote with their wallets and not buy certain things. Fewer will make donations. Our neighbor is that extremely rare person who opened her home. That's every day, every night with a family of 5 people you don't know with kids ranging in age from 4 to 11.

2 Sentence Bus Content
I have uncovered the bus for the summer, and expect to do a great many things before camping / festival season starts. I expect my new friend M will be helping when and however he can.

I think it is much easier to want to close the border or refuse refugees when you haven't ever met one. M is my friend and I would like to believe he now has an opportunity to achieve his great potential. He and his family endured difficulties most Americans, including me, couldn't imagine. Maybe learning of their perils will help us realize just how blessed we are, and how truly "first world" our supposed problems are. I think the steady introduction of refugee reality over generations has traditionally kept we Americans humble and appreciative. I hope we can remain that way, and not react with walls and policy intended to protect us, but will only further isolate us from our neighbors.

I guess that's it for today. Thanks for following along. You know I don't usually get political, and this wasn't meant to be. I am just amazed by our neighbor's capacity to give, and needed to share it. Thanks-

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

MGB Trunk Carpet (Part 2)

Today, I complete the journey of carpeting the trunk of the MG (Oliver).

In my last post on this topic, I had papered the trunk to create templates. I drew lines with a thick marker to help identify the cut lines and then cut along those lines with a razor blade to create rough templates. I was able to collapse the rough templates for the wheel arches as well as the inner sides (referring to that area as the hip-walls) into a single reversable template for each. I cut the little dome into its own template as well as the little shelf into one. This left the rear firewall and main floor as the final templates.

Get Flat
The trunk, obviously, isn't flat. The wheel arches, for example are roundy, so once the paper molds came out, I needed to plan for making that 3 dimensional object flat. This meant careful cutting, removing v-shaped wedges from the outside pointing toward the axle so the paper (and eventually carpet) could curve when pulled back together. Since I had used small pieces of paper, I was able to leverage the seams as visual cues to what could naturally be formed. Ultimately, the wheel arches and the little dome were the only hard-to-flatten pieces. Since I had drawn the cuts along natural transition points, most of the templates fell flat without modifications. I decided to leave the main floor carpet until all of the rest of the carpet bits were completed. I know the main floor will require some different treatment, so I'll get to that at the end, or another post.

Template Test
one last "before" look
As a means of validating the templates, I traced each onto some of the U-Haul packing foam sheets I had used as a carpet backer for some of the carpet in the cabin. The sheets are super inexpensive, but if the templates applied well, I could use the foam both as a cleaner template for the carpet as well as a backing for it. Before I started tracing, though, I considered the points where the carpets would intersect and planned for overlapping tabs. This would prevent any gaps from appearing between the sections. For there, I simply added some blue tape along the side where an overlap would be and then taped sticky-to-sticky on the other side. This added about 1/2 an inch along those edges.

Once the overlaps were accounted for, I laid them out on the kitchen table and one by one traced with a marker. I needed to clean up a line here or there with a straight-edge, but generally I just traced and cut along the lines. As I completed each cut, I test fit the foam piece into place. Over the course of a weekend afternoon, I was able to form and test fit all of the foam pieces, including the rear firewall. The paper'd in rear firewall was unwilling to work well, though. So, I took the old panel from inside the cabin and traced that instead, figuring I could trim if I needed to. The foam fit perfectly, though. When I think about it, that makes some sense: it is the exact same pattern, just a tiny fraction of an inch more rearward. It should have worked.

wheel arch and hip wall done
Finally, the big fun could begin. I started with the 2 foam pieces for the wheel arches. I had planned the overlap tabs so I could work from the outside, in, and the wheel arches were the furthest out. The process was simple. First, trace the foam edge onto some carpet with a pastel (I decided that pastel made less dust-mess than chalk would have). Cut along the lines, glue the pieces together and then glue them into the car. That took less than 10 seconds to type and a sporadic weekend to do. Okay, it was really only a few hours, but dedicating that much time in one chunk can be difficult sometimes. So, it was wheel arches, then the side wall / rear side decks followed by the small shelf and little dome with the rear firewall last.In each case, there were overlap tabs from the prior section into the current section so no trunk paint showed through.

I used spray adhesive to get the foam and carpet to mate. I sprayed onto the foam, and then aligned one edge, lightly flopped the carpet onto the foam and then pressed firmly from the center to the edges. Once all of the foam-to-carpet bits were done, I cleaned the trunk with tacky paper cleaners that sell in a little plastic tube. Once clean, I considered that there were bits of trunk that were not going to be carpeted, but were not the right shade of orange, as painted by the prior owner. As I mentioned in another post, the Ace-brand rattle-can orange paint actually matches really closely, so I covered up the car with tarps and shot the inside of the rear quarter panels and the outer edge of he wheel arch. The paint dried quickly enough that I was able to continue the carpet steps later that afternoon.
carpet deum

To apply the foam/carpet to the trunk, I used brush-on contact adhesive. This is the same nasty smelling stuff I used to adhere the carpet to the speaker box. I simply brushed on a thin, but cohesive layer at one end, and applied the carpet as I went. This allowed me to make small adjustments as I went. This was especially important for the hip wall and fire wall carpet sections.

Trunk Floor
All of the story above applied for the carpet everywhere except on the floor of the trunk. I wanted to be able to remove that carpet section so I could clean or get to the fasteners for the fuel tank. So, while I was at Home Despot getting the brush-on contact adhesive, I picked up the end of the roll of rubber sheet. Being rubber, it will help keep the carpet dry if water gets into the trunk. It is only a few mils thick, but it worked perfectly as a carpet underlayment. I used the paper as a guide to start with, cutting the rubber sheet wider than the template at first. I test fit, trimmed with a straight edge and repeated that process until the rubber sheet fit perfectly. To cut the holes for the spare tire mount, the fuel tank filler and filler vent I traced a small paint can (for the first 2) and a quarter with a razor-knife. Once the rubber mat was set, I transferred the pattern onto the carpet. I found that the carpet did not want to move around once it was on top of the rubber so I didn't bother to adhere them together. For now, the carpet just sits on the rubber mat.

finished, box installed
So, that's it. Like so many of these projects, I spent much more time than I intended. It looks really good now, though. I re-installed the speaker box and it all looks like it was made to go together. I just have the trunk lid to resolve and the trunk is complete. I suppose I should find an old Honda donut spare so I have one that fits.

As always, thanks for following along. With the approaching nice weather, I think I will be shifting my attention back to the bus, and leaving the MGB in this state so we can drive it this Summer. Maybe I'll get to the interior next winter.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

MGB Trunk Carpet (Part 1)

When I did the speaker box, I bought 2 4-foot by 6-foot rectangles of relatively inexpensive carpet designed for carpeting a trunk. With the speaker box completed (See Car that Goes Boom 1 and 2), I had most of the carpet left. So, I figured I would use it for it's originally intended purpose. Today's post covers the fun of forming templates.

For those of you in the US, hapy day-after-tax-day. If your 2018 taxes were anything like mine, you are also wondering where that rumored tax cut went. I can't believe how much higher my tax burden was this year. Thanks for nothing mr trump. Anyway, back to carpet templating.

When I did the speaker box, I used a roll of yellow poster paper to construct a template. I carefully covered the 5 sides, trimming and fitting around the various weird shaping I did to make it fit into the trunk on that little shelf. Once fit, I carefully cut the paper off of the box with a razor-blade. I transferred the template onto the carpet, cut it out and it fit just as I'd planned. It worked so well for the positive 3-dimensional object, I wondered if it would work for a negative 3-dimensional object... and a larger one at that.

Forming Templates
I started with the firewall. The old interior had a black cardboardy cover that was wrapped with vinyl. I figured it was a fair approximation so I traced it onto some of that yellow paper and cut it out. It fit fairly well, only it was wider, which makes sense. The cockpit is wider than the trunk. So, I cut one end off and I was able to get it to fit. I made up the difference with more paper and then moved to the wheel arches, papering and attaching with blue painters tape. I did small sections so I didn't have to wrinkle the paper, rather, I cut so the template would be more accurate. I decided to stop at the weld seam that runs up the center of the wheel arches, knowing that I could attach carpet scraps on the other side of the seam if I wanted to.

Once the arch reached the rear floors, though, I extended the template all the way to the rear quarter panels. I thought it would have a more finished look with carpet there, even if the tire jack or a toolbox sat on top of it. Last, I addressed the little shelf, the side hip bits and the central floor. I made cut-outs for the various things that stuck out, like the little cap where the speaker cable came through, the wiring harnesses, the spare tire mount, the fuel tank vents and filler. When I was done, I had a bright yellow and green trunk (I ran out of yellow so I switched to green) looking like it was some kind of homage to the University of Oregon. Then came the fun part: deciding how I would section out the carpet so it could be installed, but also so a section of the main floor could be removed for easy cleaning.

I decided to use the inner edges of the wheel arches as one dividing line. Then, the little hip wall along the edges extended all the way back to the rear made the next section. I also marked around the little shelf and the rectangle that run over the little dome and then around the rear firewall. The rest, from the bottom of the shelf back was one large section, so it could come out as one piece. The other pieces were going to be glued down, so they need to fit well and not have obvious seams. Since the trunk is symmetrical, I had matching pieces for the 2 sides (wheel arch and hip-wall). From these 2 cut pieces, I was able to make one good, reversible template. The dome and shelf carpets were solid templates as well. The large main section needed some tailoring, though, so it would have a nice rounded edge at the rear.

That's it for today. I know this seems a little short, but really, this took a great deal of time. I need to complete the foil-backed noise reduction installation as well as some thin foam before I get to the carpets, so it may be a little while before the next post on this topic comes out. Thanks, as always, for following along--

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Wagon Returns

Quick post today, I think. Before I start, Hapy 21st birthday to T. It has been an amazing ride, and you have grown into an incredible person. So hapy to have had you in my life, my friend.

Some Background
Late last fall, I remarked on how many cars we removed from our driveway in a short amount of time (See Herd Thinning). One of those cars, K's 2004 JettaWagon has returned. Back then, it had sat for almost 18 months because of transmission problems. He was collecting money to do a 5-speed swap, but that proved too elusive. Between the changing prices for a kit from folks on TDIClub to difficulty finding someone willing to do the job (much less at a reasonable price), he resolved to fixing the transmission and selling it. $1500US later, the transmission is better than new and one of the front axles has been replaced.

On the inside, the driver seat had lost some of the leather on the seat bottom cushion. Based on his conversation with an upholsterer, that was probably caused by a faulty seat-heater. This news gave me immediate pause, since I have just completed the seats in our beloved Oliver. I will just make sure that the seat-heaters are on an ignition-switched circuit so they shut off when the car does. Anyway, K had the driver seat re-upholstered in a fairly-close color match. It's not perfect, though, and both Boo and I can see the difference. Which wouldn't matter if we hadn't been the ones buying K's car.

Snow Flashback
You see... years ago, when Boo and I shared that old condo we hit the mountain a lot. Pretty much, if we had the boys, we were going to play in the snow. The condo was just too small for anything else with 4 boys. One of those night-ski nights was especially icy at SkiBowl. I wiped out trying to navigate off of the Lower Bowl run onto Low Road when I hit solid ice (See Holiday approacheth). I landed on my left elbow and even now, over 6 years later, it still doesn't feel quite right.

That same night, Boo came flying down Lower Reynolds and as she entered the "whoopdies" near the bottom she hit some ice and landed on her back and backside with her right arm reaching back, hurting her shoulder. Like my elbow, her shoulder still isn't right. It was so close to the holidays, but we wanted to have her shoulder checked out. By the time she could get on-schedule for an MRI, it was Christmas Eve, so we didn't exactly get the A team. I have long concluded that the initial scan and scan reading was not done well, but every subsequent discussion starts with a specialist saying "they didn't find anything on the MRI", not bothering to look at the results themselves. That's the American medical system at work. Anyway, since her shoulder acts up from time to time, driving a stick-shift in rush-hour bumper-to-bumper, rubber-banding traffic greatly aggravates it.

For a short time, we had a nice Jetta sedan with an auto-tranny, but the hated 2-dot-slow engine See Welcome 2dot0). Boo drove that, and greatly appreciated the non-stick for her shoulder. She loves to drive a manual, mind you, just the hurt shoulder really took away a lot of that joy. Remember that I failed to recognize the state of the timing belt and it snapped days before we were scheduled to move (See Oh Snap). So, we sold the car pretty much for what I'd paid for it, leaving Boo back in a stick-shift car. Until now.

When K started talking about selling his car, Boo and I talked about helping him out, and helping ourselves along the way. Flash has over 210k miles on him. His interior was a horrible mess when I bought him, and the body has taken a lot of abuse. The JettaWagon, on the other hand, had about 130k miles on it, and was in incredibly nice shape; much nicer shape than Flash was when I bought him. So, we bought it. Now, Boo has a auto-tranny TDI JettaWagon.

Like with any new acquisition, there were a few things that needed to be fixed. The battery in the remote is dying. The brake lights all fire up when the headlights are on. The leather seats don't match. That's it so far.

I replaced the single-filament bulbs that had been installed with dual filament ones and the brake/tail lights work properly now. I did note that in the book for bulbs at NAPA, they incorrectly reference a single filament bulb. So, this is probably common for DIY folks.

Anyway, rambling post today. More car content is being generated. Maybe, if the weather is willing, I'll be able to pull the cover off of Hapy and evaluate him for Summer fun. Thanks, as always, for following along-

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Speaker Box Install Finish

I left off the sound system with some test fires and some lingering to-do's. Today's post covers the completion of those steps.

Shorter RCA Cables
The first and easiest to-do was replacing the RCA cables from the head unit to the amp. I originally used cables that were thick and over a meter long (about 4 feet total length). With the head and amp so close together, this left me with lots of extra cable looped all around. I found a vendor on eBarf and had 18" cables delivered. These were perfect, leaving me enough extra cable to maneuver things, but without a bunch of extra to deal with.

Ring Terminal Ground
original light location
note the fuel tank vent / hinge springs
When I first put things together, I didn't have a ring terminal for the ground wire. We were in the middle of a late-winter snowstorm, so getting to the corner hardware store was not in the cards. I didn't want to stop my efforts so I slapped together a ground using a washer and some electrical tape. It did the job, and once he weather improved, trading this hack-job for a real ring terminal was easier than trading out the RCA cables.

With those two things done, the front end of the system was complete. I had a couple of nagging issues in the trunk to deal with, though.

Trunk Light
Back in the boot, I had the speakerbox fit onto the little (less than 4 inches deep) shelf, and against the lots-of-holes-in-it rear fire wall. The speaker was propped up by an old sub woofer that I wasn't going to use. It served the purpose of showing how the speaker would sit, but that wasn't a viable long-term solution. What it revealed was that the trunk light, which sits in the center of the trunk opening furthest forward, would be mostly blocked by the box. It lit up the top of the box beautifully, but the trunk was now mostly dark. So, I moved it.

new light just above latch
The trunk light housing is held to the "beam" that runs over the top of the little shelf by 2 Phillips head screws (picture at right). With these removed, and the purple-circuit fuse pulled, the housing can be lowered. I set the bulb aside and pulled out the feeder-wires from the housing. Those wires were then back-fed through the openings in the body until they were hanging loose by the right-side hinge where the switch is. I cut the 2 wires around the midway point, and then started experimenting with new locations. I decided to mount it to the underside of the trunk lid, just aft of the mount-points for the MG medallion which sits on the trunk top side. There is a cross-member here which provided a place to put the screws through without creating through-holes.

I sent the wires from the housing through the trunk-lid cavity, and found I needed about a foot of wire to re-connect it to the switch. A few minutes of scrounging, cutting, wiring and taping later and the circuit was reconnected. I stuffed the wires into the trunk lid cavity and cable-tied the wire bundle closest to the hinge to the hinge so they wouldn't get hung up on future parcels in the trunk. I replaced the bulb, put the plastic cover on and replaced the purple circuit fuse. Tada! Light fills the trunk better than it did before and the light itself is not in your eyes anymore. I will need to take care with objects shifting in the trunk, though, since the housing is now down near the latch.

Strapping It Down
With the light solved, I needed to create a means of attaching the speakerbox to the car. I want the box to be easily removable, in case we want good sounds at picnics, or if I ever want to use it in Hapy. I also wanted to minimize ant further impact into the storage space in the trunk. So, adding to the little shelf or adding drop-feet to the box were not options. Instead, I thought through options to hold the rear top edge up and forward rather than extra support from below.

I got a spool of 1" nylon strapping. These are used on backpack shoulder straps or gym bags and are super strong. I cut 2 1-foot lengths, and looped one end of each around the tank vent / hinge-springs that run the width of the trunk opening at the front edge. These looped from above, with about 1" of overhang below. I super-glued the edge of the 1" overhang to the longer side, and tested by pulling on them. To these straps, I threaded on the female side of a nylon strap buckle. Now, I had something to attach to in the car, the speakerbox needed something too.

I bought some footman loops for the box-end. I put one footman loop on each end of the rear side of the box, 1.25 inches from the top and 2 inches from the edge. I repeated the nylon strapping process I did in the trunk with the overhang hidden against the box. I threaded the male end of the strap buckle onto these. After a little wrestling and fiddling, the box sets and is free-standing-ish. To install the box, I put the bottom front edge on the little shelf and then lift the box upright while holding the car-side straps to the sides. Once the box is upright, I click the buckles together.

There are always little things that could be changed or improved, but I think, for now, the work is pretty much done. I changed the way the wires connect through to the speaker for greater ease of install, for example, by adding in RCA connectors between the speaker and the speaker wires. That hardly warranted a post, but it was completed once the parts arrived.

Top Down Test Drive
We had a taste of spring with sunny skies and temps in the upper 60F's (about 20C) so Boo and I took Oliver out for a quick spin. I had installed the passenger seat (not post-worthy, it was a basic install with no discoveries nor bungles), so we were ready. Boo hadn't been on a ride except for a short drive down the street and back last summer so we were way overdue. I dropped the top, and pulled into the drive where Boo hopped in. We drove around the local neighborhood and easily chatted over the slight wind noise. We tested the sound too, and while it doesn't sound as good when it is sitting still in the garage, it sounds way better than I expected. The bass is full, the highs are present and the mid's cut through. Yes, there is wind shear, and some of the signal is lost, but most of that loss is filled back in when the volume is turned up. Boo and I agreed that the new seats are super comfortable, and the car would be perfect for a road trip. We just need a reason and a destination.

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