Hydraulically Actuated Clutches FTW!

A few weeks ago, I began preparing my truck for future upgrades because when I start making real horsepower I don’t want it to explode into a million pieces.  Project #1 was upgrading injectors to larger ones (650cc).  I won’t actually be using this extra fuel yet, so for now I had to tune out about 30% of the fuel to make it run at a normal air/fuel ratio.  Once the injectors were in and tuned properly,  I took it for a ride down the street.  Much to my surprise, my truck felt amazing!  It felt that way right up until the clutch started slipping and smoking. :(  I knew that I was getting close to the limits of my clutch, so I immediately started project #2, which is where this story really begins…. » Continue reading more of this post…

How Many Cars / Trucks / Motorcycles Have You Owned?

My friend and co-worker Scott Young and I have had a competition going on for about 12 years now.  Every once in a while it comes up in conversation and puts the look of shock on people’s faces.  Our competition is “who has owned the most vehicles”.  We have defined “ownership” as having the vehicle’s title officially in that person’s name.  In Massachusetts, getting a title can be a huge hassle, so we agreed this would be a great way to prove ownership.   Now, we have been legally driving for about 12 years now, and the amount (and kind) of vehicles that we have owned could really make you question what is wrong with us.  Some of these vehicles were great deals, and some were huge mistakes, but they were all great learning experiences.

Jeremy’s list:

1) 1964 Chevy Impala Convertible straight 6, 3 speed on the column:

I bought this car when I was 15, and started a body-off restoration to it.  I have driven it 10 miles in 12 years.  I still have it, because it is a lifelong project. Someday I might drive it a few more miles.

2) 1987 Dodge Ram 50 Truck:

I spent about 1 million hours making this truck look discretely custom, super clean, and straight.  Regretfully, I got bored with it and sold it for a mere $800.  It is now in a junkard, completely destroyed.  I visited her often to make sure she was ok, then one day she was gone.

3) 1995 Chevy S10 Truck:

It was ok for basic transportation, but terribly slow with it’s 2.2L & automatic transmission.  I bet I drove it for a solid 4 months before selling it.

4) 1994 Chevy S10 Extended Cab Truck:

I liked this truck a lot. I lowered it, put a big stereo in it and tried to make it loud enough to set off car alarms.  Gosh, I was a real jerk back then, I’m sorry about that.

5) 1994 Dodge Intrepid:

Awesomely big and comfortable car, but it ate up timing belts, water pumps and transmissions like nobody’s business.  If it was a rear wheel drive car with a manual transmission, I would probably still have it.  Unfortunately, it was just way too stressful to own.  It was the only car I purposely did damage to.  I still have nightmares about the timing belt I broke in a snowstorm, that was the absolute worst.

6) 1996 Saab 900 SE:

A fairly fun car to drive with the turbocharged engine, but replacing the clutch cables on a regular basis was getting annoying.  It was also not a cheap car to fix when it needed parts.

7) 1990 Mitsubishi Mightymax:

This was my first truck that I did the turbocharged eclipse 4G63 engine swap to.  I finished the engine swap and thought about driving it on the road legally.  However, after realizing that it was going to take 10 years of bodywork to get the panels straight, I stripped it to a shell, and junked it.  No regrets.

8 ) 1990 Plymouth Laser Fwd turbo:

For $300, I pulled this out of a back yard and drove it home with a bad turbo, running on 3 cylinders.  I cleaned it up, replaced the turbo and the burned valve, and drove it for several thousand miles.  Sold it to another 1A Auto employee that continued to drive it for many thousands of miles. It is rumored to be a full time drag car these days.

9) 1990 Mitsubishi Eclipse AWD turbo:

This car was abandoned in a parking lot, and I had watched it sit there for about 2 years untouched. I hunted down the former owner, and bought it for $500.  I threw a different ECU in it and planned on keeping it for many wonderful years.  Unfortunately, I got pulled over a lot, and decided that it needed to go.  It was also bought by the same 1A Employee that bought my Plymouth Laser.  It was then sold to another friend of mine that is currently swapping a stroker motor into it.

10) 2000 Mitsubishi Galant:

This was the slower, 4 door, replacement car for the Eclipse.  I bought it with an automatic transmission, and swapped it to a 5 speed manual transmission because automatics are awful.  It starts everyday and always gets me where I’m going.  I like it.

11) 1996 Chevy S10 Truck:

I got an absolutely spectacular deal on this and I knew the entire history of it. I drove it about 500 miles and sold it for a nice profit.

12) 1991 Chevy Camaro RS 305:

This car was received in trade for some work on our very own Rob Conlon’s 1975 Corvette.  It really is a clean car, but the clearcoat just doesn’t want to stay on the roof for any period of time.  I recently sold this one to a good home.  It is in good hands.

13) 1989 Dodge Ram 50 Macro Cab Turbo:

This is my current truck that I put a turbocharged Eclipse 4G63 engine into.  It is the cleanest truck that I have ever owned and the free price tag was just right.  I thoroughly enjoy this truck and I hope I  don’t come up with any reason to get rid of it.  It is really quite fun to drive, and it doesn’t scream out “arrest me” while I drive through town.

14) 1988 Honda Hawk GT 650:

This is my motorcycle that I completely customized and ride in the summertime. It has 1964 impala tail lights, viper yellow paint, and a huge list of modifications. I like working on it more than I like riding it.  I’m a car guy at heart.

15) 1998 BMW Z3 1.9L:

This was a good deal like many of the vehicles that I have owned.  Its fun in the sun, and makes me feel more important than everybody else on the road.  I’m going to sell it soon because I don’t belong in this car, and I could use the driveway space.

Scott’s List:

1) 1980 Toyota Celica:

This car was the best off-roading vehicle that either of us have owned.  It was rear wheel drive, had a manual transmission, and the reliability of a Toyota.  If he didn’t total it, I have no doubt that it would be a full time race car right now.  Gosh that car was fun.

2) 1986 Chevy K5 Blazer:

3 speed manual transmission, V8 and an unimaginable amount of rot.  It was truly amazing that the body stayed in 1 piece, because there wasn’t a solid piece of metal on it.  On the other hand, it was quite a reliable truck, I don’t believe it ever let him down.

3) 1984 Olds Delta 88:

A true piece of American history.  This car was no less than 200 feet long, and the 14 additional speakers could deafen people from a 1/4 mile away.  With it’s red racing stripes over the hood, it raced its way to the junkyard under its own power in 1st gear with no brakes.  It was truly hilarious in every way, shape, AND form.

4) 1988 Chevy Camaro T-Top 2.8L (Z28 look-alike):

Scott got this Camaro for free because it had an engine fire, was disassembled, and left out in the weather for several years.  As crazy as it sounds, the car was in great shape other than the engine.  We put over 1 trillion hours of work into this car at the time, and it hated us in return.  The injectors constantly had what appeared to be chocolate brownie stuck in them on the fuel side.  The car had a new tank, new fuel lines and a dozen fuel filters. To our knowledge, the brownie fairy wasn’t filling his injectors in the middle of the night, so we were baffled.  We both learned immensely from that car, and although it was a major headache at the time, I am glad he had it.  I am also glad it is long gone.

5) 1988 Chevy K5 Blazer:

This truck was a value that could not be beat.  It had new everything, looked great, but kids were scared to ride in it.  So Scott bought it for about a 1/10 of what it was worth, and began customizing.  It got a monster truck size lift kit, big tires, a light bar, soft top roof, vinyl floor covering, and a loud flowmaster exhaust.  With all of these things combined, getting a legal inspection sticker became impossible.  It was sadly sold, and the regret is still deep in Scott’s heart.

6) 1986 Mustang GT 5.0L:

This was free to Scott if we helped a friend move to a new house.  The car had been sitting long enough to begin to sink into the PAVED driveway.  After siphoning a few mouth fulls of bad gas out of the tank, we got her running again and drove her to her new home…. hidden at a friends house. Seriously, if Scott brought another junk car home, he may have been kicked out of the house.  This was a decent car and quickly flipped for a decent profit.

7) 1964 Thunderbird 390:

Thunderbirds seem to always end up in Scott’s hands, nobody can explain it, because he doesn’t really even like Fords.  Anywho, he bought this from my family, he did some work to it, and drove it a bit. Then he re-sold it to a friend that sadly parted it out.  This was truly disappointing, because it was a very original car.

8 ) 1995 Ford Windstar Van (The Teal Serpent):

A free van can’t be passed up sometimes, even if it is teal green and was rumored to have a pair of blown head gaskets.  After quickly learning that “head gasket in a bottle” doesn’t actually work as shown on TV, he replaced them the “right” way. It was then that he learned that the radiator was the actual problem that caused the head gaskets to blow from overheating.  It was a learning experience for all parties involved.  Good van, too bad it was so darn ugly.

9) 1998 Geo tracker:

This was passed down through Scott’s family until his sister released the pistons from the engine while driving down the highway.  The carnage was immense, and fun to look at if it isn’t yours.  Scott bought it off his sister and tossed an engine in it so that he had a reliable 4 wheel drive beater.

10) 1963 Ford Thunderbird:

People call Scott and myself all the time with automotive bargains, and this was one of those.  It is a beautiful looking and driving T-bird that had been sitting in a friend’s driveway for a few years because the “family thing” happened.  It is now in Scott’s capable hands and he drives it regularly to car shows and to get ice cream.

11) 1991 Honda Hawk GT 650:

Yes, Scott and I have the same bike… pretty much.  After riding his bike, I knew I needed one too. I can’t say enough great things about Honda Hawk’s. They have a V-Twin, a single sided swing arm, and a short wheelbase to carve corners with.  Both of our bikes are unbelievable fun to ride and extremely unique.

12) 1985 Pontiac Fiero GT:

While trying to sell “The Teal Serpent”, I nonchalantly put a sign on Scott’s windshield that said “may trade for Fiero” because he is a Fiero Fanatic.  We laughed at the thought of a Fiero owner wanting a teal van in trade, but apparently it was nothing to laugh about.   A guy left his business card on the windshield saying that he would sell his 1 owner 85 GT 4 speed V6 for “cheap money” if Scott was interested.  Well, Scott sold the van, and bought that guy’s Fiero.  It is currently in the middle of a fastback conversion.  Hopefully we can get it done soon!

13) 1951 Dodge B Series Truck:

This was a good deal from a friend & fellow 1AAuto employee. It was sitting in her parents yard, and Scott was pretty sure he could do something with it.  That is still yet to be determined.

14) 1992 Chevy Lumina:

The high class Geo Tracker was rear ended and totaled, so a replacement was needed fast.  A few phone calls later, a $1, one-owner Lumina arrives.  It had issues, but they are sorted out, and now he is riding in style.  Temp gauge, oil gauge, voltage gauge? Who needs em!? Not this Chevy Lumina.

So as you can see, we have both had quite a few vehicles.  This is not counting the ones that we have owned and not titled in our names.  You can assume there have been 40-50% more if we included those, but that just wouldn’t be fair.

How does your collection compare? Do you have us beat?

The Reincarnation: My Turbocharged Minitruck

Yesterday we reviewed the riveting tale of the triumphant rise and epic fall of my first truck. Today I am presenting you with what I am calling “The Reincarnation”.  With my first truck solemnly resting in a junkyard far beyond the point of no return, I found myself in desperate need of that missing flame that my Dodge Ram 50 and I once had.  I needed to have the heart and soul of my first truck, but with heaping gobs of horsepower, more interior space, and a clutch pedal.  To me, that would be pure perfection.

Being a fairly typical gearhead, I get a thrill when I open my hood for people and surprise them with a power plant that they don’t expect.  I’m not talking about Chevy engines in Fords though, that is still bizarre to me…  I am talking more about upgrades within the same genre.  Like a Dodge minitruck with the same make fuel injected, turbocharged, DOHC engine where a carbureted loaf once puttered.  Doubling or tripling the factory horsepower and getting more than 1 horsepower per cubic inch intrigues me. It’s even better when it appears like the vehicle came that way.  Onlookers begin to question their own eyes.

As you may or may not know, a Dodge Ram 50 truck is really the same as a Mitsubishi Mightymax truck so most parts are interchangeable.  Mitsubishi built them for Dodge in the 1980′s and early 1990′s using all Mitsubishi parts, and Dodge decals.  So, I figured that if Dodge equals Mitsubishi and Mitsubishi built 220 horsepower turbocharged Mitsubishi Eclipses, then I could potentially get a 4G63 turbo Mitsubishi Eclipse (DSM) engine swapped into a Dodge Ram 50.  Simple! With some bolt on upgrades, I could be in the neighborhood of 250+ horsepower, and I liked that thought, a lot.

One day, many years ago, I was hanging out on some local automotive internet forums when a kid asked if anybody needed parts from a 1989 Dodge Ram 50 Extended cab.  I wasn’t actually looking to buy a truck at that time but I sent him a message anyway asking if he had the whole truck and what was wrong with it.  He quickly responded letting me know that he had the whole truck, it was in great shape, but had a hole in the engine block.  It was currently sitting in a parking lot and it needed to be gone ASAP.  Could this be my new Ram 50? I thought.  “Oh and 1 more thing” he said, “it’s free and has a clean title”.   Yes, everything had officially fallen into place.

I picked up the truck the following weekend, and it was exactly what I had been dreaming about for years.  Clean original paint, macro (extended) cab, low mileage, straight body, very little rust, it was perfect in my eyes.  Within days, I had ripped the junk engine out and grabbed an engine from a 1991 Mitsubishi Eclipse.  I dropped the 4G63 into it’s new home with custom motor mounts, and a variety of other custom accessories.  Wiring, plumbing, cutting & welding was intense for a couple months, and at the 3 month mark, the truck was drivable.

Driving it brings back all the happiness and memories that I had in my first truck, but now with more tire burning gross displays of horsepower, and 5 gears to shift through.  I have been driving it for several years now, and it never lets me down (unless I deserve it).  It starts every time, runs smooth, and generally loves to be a usable truck again.

Current list of modifications:

- 1989 Dodge Ram 50 Macro Cab 5 speed truck
- 1991 Mitsubishi Eclipse 4G63 Engine. DOHC, turbo, intercooled, ~18psi.
- 1985 Mitsubishi Montero Limited Slip Differential, 3:55 gears.
- Cadillac Escalade 17″ wheels
- Custom clutch
- 1987 Dodge Ram 50 2.0L 5 speed transmission
- 1991 Mitsubishi Eclipse FWD Flywheel
- Custom driveshaft, motor mounts, radiator pipes
- 1991 Mitsubishi Mightymax waterpump
- 1993+ Mitsubishi Mightymax Grille + Bumper

After my first truck’s lesson, I can’t see myself ever getting rid of this truck.  The fact that it will get sideways at 40+ mph is enough to scare me to death and make me keep it forever.

The Triumphant Rise and Epic Fall of my First Truck.

I would expect the editor of any automotive blog to have owned and driven a massive number of vehicles to give some kind of legitimacy to the blog itself.  For that reason, I feel that it is my duty to the readers to own and drive as many vehicles as possible, and for that, I thank you.   Between my own personal automotive obsessions and working as a technician, I have driven hundreds of cars, each with it’s own intricacies, oddities, and personality.  How trustworthy are my gearhead opinions though?  Why continue on this automotive journey with me if you don’t even know where I have been?  I think at this point in our internet relationship, it’s time that you learned about the triumphant rise and epic fall of my first daily driven vehicle.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I really loved that truck more than I can explain.  Something about it was special to me, though I am still unsure of what.

Triumphant Rise:

When I was 15, I had about $500 to my name from dogs chasing me my newspaper route days, and I knew that the pinnacle of life was knocking on my door.  I was getting my license soon.  Sure I already owned 1 car, which will undoubtedly come up in future musings, but I needed a car that I could actually drive daily.  A car that moved under its own power, maybe something with wheels and a running engine.   After harassing my parents for a while, they finally agreed to let me get a second car a little early.  (Thanks Mom and Dad).  I immediately ripped through the “Vehicles for Parts”, and “Antique Autos” sections of the local Want Advertiser searching for the perfect older car to drive daily. A Dart would be cool, I thought aloud… or maybe an Iroc, OH how about a 1939 Studebaker, that would be really cool too..

The weeks steadily passed and my parents shot down every dumb idea I had, thankfully.  Then my mom came home one day and said that a person that she knew had a 1987 Dodge Ram 50 for $500 that needed some work.  Initially, I wasn’t so sure, but within a day or two I had found pictures of some Ram 50′s in MiniTruckin magazine that made me fall in love.  I scrounged up every last penny I could find, and I bought it.  It was the beginning of a very special relationship.

The first thing I did when I got it home was to rebuild the carburetor.  That’s what you’re supposed to do right? It took a few tries, but I got the carburetor back on the truck and got it running again, albeit only slightly better than before I had touched it. Nevertheless, I pressed on.  I changed fluids, fixed exhaust, and even fixed the leaky power steering.  After an eternity (a few weeks) had passed, I got my license and began driving my newly improved Ram 50.  We quickly became great friends, and each weekend, I would spend endless time improving different areas of her:

- Removed rust and rot
- Straightened all the metal
- Added bucket seats
- Lowered 3 inches
- New tires, polished chrome wheels
- Absurdly loud stereo system
- Tinted window
- Bug guard (they were cool then)
- Tonneau cover
- Custom frenched license plate in the tailgate
- Painted neon green brake drums and calipers

The Epic Fall:

It was beautiful on so many levels, and perfect for cruising the beaches. Rust free, dent free, and just a really astonishingly clean truck.  Although the local law enforcement were not fans of my tailgate, it really did set my truck apart from the rest. Mine was special.   After about a year of driving the truck, I began thinking irrationally.  For some unknown reason, I decided that I could not handle the slowness of the truck any longer, and I needed a faster vehicle.  What an idiot! I put the truck on the front lawn for sale for $1000 obo, and a guy I knew gave me $800 cash for it.  He then drove away my original $500 purchase price, about $1000 in upgrades, and thousands of hours of making it perfect. All because I was an idiot.

Years pass, and the truck vanishes from sight and everyone’s memory but my own.  It was only a year after selling it that I had realized the mistake that I had made. I constantly dreamed about turning back time, but without a Delorean, I just couldn’t.  I jumped from one car to the next to the next, desperately trying to find the magic that my little Ram 50 and I once had, but the magic just couldn’t be found.  It was gone for good.

Months turned to years, and my brother and I needed something to do one hot summer day. We decided to challenge the junkyards in a game of mud, oil, and grease.  It was always a great time and would have been again, but destiny had other plans.  There she sat, my beloved 1987 Dodge Ram 50.  Smashed on every corner, missing wheels, and another truck sitting on her roof.  I felt sickened.  Something I had worked so very hard on was now crushed right before my eyes.  It was truly an awful feeling that I would not want any other gearhead to go through.  I reluctantly approached the truck knowing full well that I had done her wrong.  A silent heart felt apology was in order as I slowly meandered my way around the back of the truck.  My custom tailgate, the green drums, the lowering blocks, the interior, the tint. It was all still there, just horrified in every sense of the word…. I spent a few minutes thinking about all the great times we had, snapped off some pictures for memories, and then shamefully walked away.

Amazingly, this saga didn’t end that day in the junkyard, but “The Reincarnation” is a story best left for another day.  Anybody interested?

Question: Do I really need 17 wheels for one truck?

While doing a little spring cleaning recently, I began to realize that I had amassed a massive quantity of extra wheels and tires for the 1989 Dodge truck I have. If you combine the number of tires (18), with the number of wheels (17), you can imagine just how much space this takes up. Now, I can look at this a few different ways. I could think positively, and say “Hey, I have 1 set of wheels for each season, plus a spare!” Conversely, I could be a downer, and say “I have 17 wheels, and only 7 will physically bolt on to my truck at this very moment.” Yes, they all have the same bolt pattern, but let’s just say that my truck is weird, and doesn’t willingly accept change.  The question then arises, if the truck can only handle 4 wheels and 4 tires at any given time, do I really need 3 extra complete sets?

Your Car Tires Are How Old??

Did you know that your car’s tires have the week and year that they were made stamped right into the side of them?  Pretty cool right?  On the side of every tire made after the year 2000, there is an oval with 4 digits in it (as pictured above).  The first two digits are the week of the year, and the second two digits are the year itself.  On this 2005 Mazda Rx8 tire, you can see “1009″, which means it was built during the 10th week of 2009.  Not too shabby.

Now, if your tires were made before the year 2000, things were a little more wild and crazy.  They still told you the week and the year that they were built, but they did it with three digits instead of four. (What?!)  Tire manufactures assumed that nobody would have tires more than 10 years, so the numbers could potentially repeat themselves once each decade.  Let’s have an example, shall we?  Pretend you have a super rare, silver 1992 Dodge Spirit R/T 2.2L Turbo.  It’s all original right down to the tires, and with over 220 horsepower on tap, you are looking to burn the meats off in grand fashion before replacing them with M/T ET Drag Radials.  Dangit! You’re shoelace is untied again.  You bend down and catch a quick glance of the oval on the tire with “211″ stamped into it.  You’re a clever cat, so you obviously know that the first two digits mean that the tire was made during the 21st week, and the “1″ is the 1st year of that decade, which was 1991.  You quickly lace up your high-tops, hop in the Spirit, pop your MC Hammer tape in, rip the e-brake, and proceed to shmammer the tires as your friends cheer you on in fits of joy.

…annnnnd back to reality for a quick moment – This tire dating knowledge is not just a great way to impress the ladies, but it is a good piece of info to have when buying new (or used) tires.  Naturally you want the latest and greatest rubber between you and the asphalt.  Whether you can see it or not, old tires just don’t grip like a new set does.

To Do List: Shoehorn Viper Engine into a Cuda.

While flipping through some of last year’s local cruise night pictures, I came across a car that deserves to be swooned over by people other than myself.  Under the hood of a 1970-74 Plymouth Cuda, you expect to find a hopped up 340, 440, or maybe the 426 (since apparently everybody has one these days), but this one is unique.   It has an injected Dodge Viper engine lurking under the hood with all the accessories in place.  I see the car quite frequently at all the local cruise nights and I can’t help but admire it every time.  My absolute favorite part about it is that it clearly gets driven regularly.   It’s spotless, but not spotless enough to be mistaken for a trailer queen.  If I knew who the owner was I would give him a high-five for building such an awesome looking car, but sadly I don’t.  The best I can do is post pictures up for the world to be jealous of.  So, here you go world.  Well done Mr. CudaViper owner, very well done.

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