Hot Car Summer

The end of every summer brings new hope of completing car projects throughout the rainy fall and cold winter months. I dream of working in the garage, preparing for the dry July and August that briefly grace the Pacific Northwest. I will throw the covers off the cars and be ready to enjoy the sun, road trips, Cars & Coffee or a quick cruise down to Main Street for brunch. This idealized vision of spending weekends working on my cars when the roads are unfit for classics is seldom realized, however. Instead, I am more likely to spend a ninety degree July day working under the hood while sweating profusely, wondering why I didn’t do this in November.

The primary reason for lack of progress in my garage is football. I enjoy the sport, and it coincides with the time of year I should be working on the cars. Whether it’s the University of Washington Huskies, the Seahawks, one of their rivals, a team who used to be their rival or just a good matchup between two teams for which I could not care less, the TV beckons for me to watch the games. Add the fact that we have Huskies and Seahawks season tickets (going to these games will consume an entire day), and it leaves little time to complete tasks on my cars.

This fact was made clear the past two weekends. I recently decided to burp the cooling system on my 1972 Corvette convertible. I pulled the cover off the car, disconnected the Battery Tender and turned the key to start it. The starter turned the car over very slowly, but it managed to start. Once running, it ran fine, but when I shut it off and tried to restart it, the engine would not turn over fast enough to start. Then a puff of smoke arose from where the starter is. I ceased trying to start the car and ordered a new starter from Summit Racing that has more torque. I am concerned that the battery cables might be due for replacement. I haven’t replaced them since I bought the car twenty-six years ago. The negative cable is easy to replace, but the positive side is quite difficult and may result in broken fasteners in the driveshaft tunnel. The new starter is on the way and will be delivered when our local FedEx decides I’ve waited long enough for it.

On a recent sunny Sunday, I decided to wash my 1972 Pontiac LeMans. Our garage is very dusty and the layer was quite thick on the Pontiac. After washing the car, I popped the hood open for a quick look to make sure everything was in order. I noticed the fuel pressure gauge bouncing between 45 and 55 psi. The Holley Sniper EFI on the car requires the 60 psi that the fuel system had been achieving last time I checked. I surmised that the fuel pump was failing. Why? Maybe the ground isn’t sufficient. Maybe the pumps just go bad after a few years. I realized why the instructions advised cutting a panel in the trunk to allow access to the fuel pump from above. I am now tasked with dropping the fuel tank and installing a the new fuel pump. This will, anyway, allow me to diagnose why the fuel level sender isn’t working. One more summer project.

My daughter reported her BMW 135i, with the turbo N55 straight 6 engine, was running roughly and a mechanic confirmed that a stuck fuel injector wiped out one of the bores. She would need a new engine. My daughter, it turns out, is fairly resourceful. For example, she acquired a set of used off-road tires for free and traded them for a two-stroke dirt bike. From a friend, she sourced a new N55 engine with a bad head. Her cost for this engine? $0.00. We will use the good N55 that she obtained and combine it with the head from her old engine to make one good N55 (theoretically, any way).

Other summer projects I would like to accomplish include installing a new a/c compressor and sound system on the 944. I have new rear speakers, speaker wire and an amp ready to install. The Miata will get a big tune up, including a new timing belt. I have a new fuel pump for the Plymouth Colt. Then there is a whole laundry list of items to complete with our 24 Hours of LeMons 1985 Celica. In addition to the typical race preparation, we’ve had to weld the rear sway bar end link tab back on to the car. We are not sure when it sheared off, but it could have been when the car was rear ended by an e36 at Sonoma in December. The team’s first race of 2022 is in July at Oregon Raceway Park.

Race prep for Oregon Raceway Park

All of these incidents have conspired to make for a busy summer. In the list of pros and cons for owning a lot of cars, this is definitely a check-mark in the “cons” column. The more cars that one has, the more likely it is that one or all of them are broken. How many of these projects will actually come to fruition? I’m shooting for 50%. Oh, and I just bought another car. More on that later.