Sunday, August 7, 2022

Back to the '68

It's been a while since I worked on my Mustang - having a new house to play with has taken up the better part of four years and it isn't finished yet. Like the car, it probably never will be.

I've owned the my 68 coupe since September 2008, and I started tearing it apart properly in the Spring of 2010. I finally had it running, registered and insured, and filled up with premium gas, by the end of the Summer of 2021. It has been a long-running joke in my family that the car would be ready for the Olympics - we just weren't sure which one! I drove the car to the September BAMA meeting – this marked the 68’s first General Meeting appearance since Fall 2009. I was careful to get photographic proof:

The car was running ok on the trip down to Hayward apart from a strange clanking sound when in third gear. I tried to keep out of third as much as possible on the way back. This plan was worked well for a while, but untimely failed. I was doing about 65 on Highway 13, less than two miles from home, when the car emitted a very unpleasant clunking sound and ground to a halt. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but it was apparent that the car was stuck in gear, probably fifth, given that was where it crapped out. Somehow, I managed to start the engine and get the 68 rolling, but this only got me as far as the freeway off ramp where the car stalled out on the upward gradient. The remaining mile of the journey was completed on the back of a tow truck.

The following weekend we had another couple of pallets of concrete delivered, and while I was working through that it became apparent that all the dust and mess in the garage was not going to be helpful if I started tearing the Mustang’s drivetrain apart. Not to mention that working on the car was the last thing I felt like doing.

So, as documented elsewhere in this blog, I Carried On Concretinguntil we had worked through more than six hundred (600) eighty (80) pound bags and moved out thirty (30) cubic yards of dirt and rock. At the time of writing the basement construction has finally been completed bar painting the concrete floor.

Or to put that another way, now is the perfect time to see if I can get the Mustang back on the road. This is how the 68 looked with the cover removed. This photo does not do justice to how dusty the car was. The car has not moved from this spot since it was winched off the back of the tow truck last year. And how could it when it is stuck in gear? 

At this point, I still didn't know precisely what was wrong with the car - given the symptoms, I was thinking the clutch or transmission - or both - would be a good place to start. It's worth noting that the clutch pedal still goes up and down and the shifter stick can find all the slots in the box. I used the equipment below to lift the car off the ground and began my inspection.

Discovery #1 - a small stain immediately below where the fuel line joins the filter - probably a gas leak. It's certainly something to fix, but unlikely to be the responsible for the drivetrain failure.

Discovery #2 - a much larger stain below the junction of the engine and the bell housing; now we're getting somewhere!

Next step: pull the driveshaft. This was a good opportunity to wipe off all the concrete dust.

Then, remove the shifter stick - it is much easier to do this without a carpet and a shifter boot in the way. I also disconnected the clutch cable, the backup lights and the speedometer cable. 

Time to pull the transmission - or what my grandfather would have called tut gear box. My Dad's old friend Billy Sultana once dropped an open automatic gear box on this left hand. When the injury finally healed up, he had some gruesome zig-zag scars on his fingers where they were sliced by the cogs. I didn't want that to happen to me, so I called in Samuel Sheep to help:

Getting the transmission mount and crossmember out wasn't very difficult - one of the crossmember fasteners was actually missing - oops - but the transmission bolts were tough to access. We had to get creative with a mixture of long socket extensions and a universal joint to get at all the bolts. After that there was a lot of pushing and pulling the transmission and wiggling of the floor jack before we could snap the picture below. I could not have done this without Sam's help.

Next, we had to pull the bell housing and the clutch. The bell housing bolts were very difficult to get at, and I had to use all my strength to get them undone. The clutch was a bit easier. The clutch was one of  very few components which was not either restored to original condition of replaced with a brand new part; one of my BAMA friends donated a slightly used one. There wasn't anything obviously wrong with the clutch, but I already have a much nicer replacement on hand. From what I can tell, the flywheel is still in decent shape. Hopefully the rebuild goes as smoothly as the tear down. Stay tuned to find out!

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Widening The Pathway part one

It's a first world problem, but the bottleneck in my basement/workshop space is the narrow gap between the cinderblock retaining wall and the gas line which serves the water heater and the furnace. Obviously it doesn't help that half of the space available is taken up with some sheets of plywood and a spare hood for the '68 that has been sat in one place or another for the last ten years.

This is the same space a few hours later after I hoiked the hood into the other half of the basement and relocated the water heater.

As you can see from the concrete floor, I only moved the water heater six inches, so the plumbing modifications were minimal, and I didn't have to empty the tank completely - I drained about two gallons and then used my body mass to reposition the tank. I had to move the blocking as well, but that was pretty easy, and I reused the original fasteners. The water heater was still working after this little exercise, you'll be glad to hear.

Now the gas supply line really is IN THE WAY! Stay tuned to see how this problem is solved!

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Basement Electrical

Before I can get going with my soon-to-be-ordered cabinet saw, I need to paint the concrete floor and walls, and install an appropriate 220 Volt outlet. I need lights in this area too, and since the epoxy floor paint has been delayed in transit, I decided to get cracking with the electrical.

I'm installing four (4) LED strip lights which are very similar to those I installed in the workshop a few years ago, and the first step was to hang all four lights at the unfinished ceiling:

This is a considerable time later after the wiring has been completed. Two (2) of the lights you can see in the photo below were already present and are on a different circuit. The plan is that the original two lights are good enough for general use, and the additional four will only be needed when I'm running the cabinet saw or working in this area.

Moved on to installing the outlets - I'm putting regular 110 Volt outlets at five-foot intervals along the exterior wall. It was going to be at six-foot intervals, but the conduit comes in ten-foot lengths, so I just bought two and cut them in half.

I started off by attaching the outlet back boxes to the plywood paneling and running conduit-enclosed 12/2 cable between the boxes. I'm also adding an outlet at the exterior of the building and re-connecting the cable for the outside street lamp that I had to remove when I re-plumbed the hose bibs

This is later after the wiring has mostly been completed and the outlets installed. I was short of cable by about fifteen feet, so I couldn't bring power to the outlets, but they are otherwise complete at this point. 

The empty box at the center of the photo above is reserved for the 220 Volt outlet that will power the cabinet saw.  I will be tapping into the circuit which already passes through this area to service the vehicle charger for Amy Sheep's daily driver. 

The cable I'm using for the 220 V outlet is either 10/3 or 8/3 which was left over from when I installed the EV charger; it's hard to bend this cable without pliers. Somehow installing a 220 V outlet seems like a big deal, even though I used to mess about with wiring all the time in the UK, and everything there is 220. 

This is later after I ran the monster thick cable from the new box and cut into the existing cable. I had to put a 90 degree bend in the conduit so I could work around the plumbing lines we installed a few weeks ago.

I'm also installing a 220 V outlet in the garage, another example of Project Creep. I don't have a need for 220 V in the garage until I get a proper welder or a big compressor, and neither of those are on the horizon. But, since I have all the electrical kit on hand including plenty of cable, I decided to do it now anyway. The hardest part was figuring out where to drill the hole through the wall.

I covered both 220 boxes with tape for the time being because the outlets are on backorder.

This is a bit later after I cleared up all wiring detritus and put away the electrical tools and related paraphernalia. I quite enjoy electrical work because it's not too tiring and I have to keep thinking about what I am doing. 

A few days later I swung by my local home improvement center (you know the one) after work and picked up some more 12/2 cable for the outlets. It didn't take long to hook the outlets into the circuit breaker panel, so I spent the rest of the time before dinner cutting out a two-piece cover for the sump pit from some scrap plywood and giving it a quick coat of primer. The photo below was taken a few days later after the cover was painted with white semi-gloss.

This is how it looks installed: 

Thanks to the new wiring project, the sump pump now has its own outlet. This means no more extension cords trailing across the basement floor!

Coming soon: paining the concrete floor in the basement and installing the cabinet saw and dust extraction system - stay tooned!

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Sprucing up the ducting

The basement area that we spent almost a year excavating and lining with concrete is creeping towards completion. At the time of writing at that is left to do is install the LED lighting and electrical outlets, and paint the concrete floor and walls with the same epoxy or paint I used in the garage. And install the cabinet saw.

Well, it turns out there was one other thing: the insulation at the furnace ducting that passes through this area and through the workshop was in awful condition as you can see below. This is a good example of Project Creep: it was never our intention to do anything with the ducting, but it was so filthy it would have been more work to try and clean it.

After very carefully removing all the old fiberglass insulation, I discovered the living room duct wasn't even connected. And of course, the old white tape is basically asbestos

I re-sealed the detached ducting with modern aluminum tape, and wrapper the same tape around all the old asbestos tape - encapsulation is actually safer than trying to remove it. 

The replacement insulation is essentially plastic bubble wrap which has been very thinly coated with aluminum. We installed it with a lot more of the same aluminum tape. Amy Sheep was on hand to help with the first part of the project.

When I was working on my own, I had Wimbledon 2022 to keep me company:

All done!

I did the ducts which pass through the workshop at the same time.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Hose Bibs

A few weeks ago, I destroyed the hose bib that passed through the area that is now occupied by our front porch. Amy Sheep has been struggling to water some parts of the yard ever since.....

So....time to do something about that! I started off by attaching a new lead-free brass bib to a copper compression fitting (don't forget the thread sealer!) and then soldering that to an overlong section of copper pipe. I need four of these in total, but I just made one to begin with and then went into production later. I've actually never "sweated pipe" before, so it was fun to learn something new. 

The next step was to drill a one inch diameter hole in the wall. The pipe passes through brickwork at the exterior and the rim joist at the basement side, so I had to use a mixture of drill bits. i.e., 3/16 long series masonry all the way through from the outside, then expand the hole in the brick to one-inch from the exterior, and then come back the other way with a one-inch spade bit. The pipe is 3/4 inch internal diameter, so I have a bit of wiggle room. This is the view from the outside with the hose bib in place:

At the basement side, the copper pipe has been trimmed and connected to a new PEX supply line with a push-on brass 90-degree Sharkbite fitting. I used these fittings for all of the copper/PEX and PEX/PEX junctions. The brass clamp in the background is screwed into the rim joist and is designed to stop the hose bib from rotating.

I also installed a pipe which will serve the irrigation system in the front section of the yard. PEX pipe is light sensitive, so this section had to be made from copper. I sweated these joints since I don't want them to rotate like the push-on fittings do. 

I installed two hose bibs at the front of the house, either side of the irrigation line. Later I will install a third next to the garage and a fourth at the interior of the basement close to the sump pump. The plywood paneling that I installed in the basement a few weeks ago was primed and painted before the plumbing lines were installed. 

The opening you can see at the right side of the photo above is an access panel for the electrical junction boxes that I will be installing - this area needs lights, outlets and a 220 V connection for the cabinet saw. This is also where the cables that serve the exterior outlet and the streetlamp pass through the exterior wall.

Sam helped with the painting, and we did the wall between the basement and the garage at the same time:

This is the connection to the exiting plumbing line. The plywood shear wall is much stronger with the pipe passing through it than it would have been if I installed the plywood around the pipe.

That's all for now...

Monday, May 30, 2022

Memorial Day DIY Extravaganza

Memorial Day weekend means different things to different people. Years ago, it meant a trip to the INDY 500. These days it mostly means an extra day off work/school. This particular year I blagged Friday off work too and spent far too much of Wednesday at my local Big Box store, where I exchanged some serious moolaw for a couple of bags of plumbing fittings and a roll of masking tape. Unlike most entries in this blog, which are written days, weeks or more commonly months after the events, this post is a daily blow-by-blow indulge-a-thon of a very memorable Memorial Day long weekend.


As it happens, I had a light-ish week at work and I was totally done by lunchtime on Thursday, which is exactly when the latest 10-yard rock box was dropped off in our driveway:

I wasn't planning on doing much outside on this particular day, but since I was done with my day job and the dumpster was on site, I set to work on the pile of rubble that used to be our front porch: 

If I have any room left in the dumpster, I'll be adding the entrance path too:

First things first: I built a very sturdy ramp out of the forms I had left over from the basement project. I had to dig a passage through the pile of dirt that came out of the basement.

The ramp worked really well:

I found it worked best with a half full barrow - much more weight, and I struggled to lift the barrow upright at the top of the another example of "little and often."

By the close of play on Thursday, the dumpster was just less than half full:

I think I have reduced the pile of rubble by three-quarters or more, so it's looking good for the pathway.

While all this was going on, Amy Sheep was working on what will be out Prize Pumpkin Artichoke Patch. At the start of play it was looking a bit neglected:

This is later after all the weeds have been pulled and the dirt has been turned over with the jackhammer's spade attachment. The pile of ornamental rock in the foreground needs to find another temporary storage location.

The last little bit of our fenced-off enclave has also become somewhat overgrown in the last few months. If this was part of a golf course, it would be deep rough at best.

Most of the weeds were removed from this area just in time for the day's last over.


Friday was another somewhat dull day - perfect for what we had in mind in fact. After a quick breakfast of pain au chocolate and café latte, Amy Sheep picked where she left off with the weeding.

I carried on humping increasingly smaller bits of broken brick and concrete into the dumpster and by late morning I was done, and the tarps had been pulled up.

Next victim: the pathway between the street and the brick porch we don't have anymore. I started off by popping out the brick ribbons - this bit was a piece of cake.

About this time is when the folks from tut' Rock and Soil came by and dropped off four cubic yards of ye finest olde topsoil.

I was feeling pretty good about my progress with the path, so I took a break from jackhammering and helped Amy Sheep dump some of the topsoil on the soon-to-be pumpkin artichoke patch. 

This is later after the topsoil has been spread out to uniform thickness:

This is the downhill area after weeding and after we removed another half dozen or so barrows of infertile subsoil.

At this point Amy Sheep had to run to silly point for a couple of hours so I went back to demolishing the concrete path and transferring the debris to the dumpster. Most of the slab was six (6) inches thick so this turned into quite some effort.

The dumpster was starting to look a lot closer to full than empty by stumps; this is a legacy of the concrete path being so thick!


I was out on the pitch bright and early after just a quick piece of toast and got the ball rolling by building a ramp to the downhill area.

Then it was back to breaking concrete. This was hard work because the concrete was so thick, and I was becoming concerned over whether there would be enough space in the dumpster.

While that was going on, Amy Sheep was depositing more premium topsoil at the downhill bed. The exact moment when the dirt spreading was completed did not make it into the photographic record. What is most memorable about that instant is that it signaled Amy Sheep's rapid departure from the crease in the direction of the Nursery (or tut' Garden Center as my grandpa would have called it).

I carried on plodding away with the pathway. By late afternoon I had got rid of all the big chunks.

Eventually it was done! The pathway has left a scar in the landscape that is four feet wide and almost a foot deep. 

This is what a completely full dumpster looks like:

And this is what a driveway looks like when it is partially filled with broken up concrete:

By this point Amy Sheep had returned heavily laden with a variety of plants, but unfortunately no pumpkins. Looks like we missed the boat this year. Instead, we'll be growing artichokes in the uphill bed and a variety of drought-tolerant plants and flowers lower down.

It is very important to liberally water new plants:


After two and a half days of very hard labor, the plan for Sunday was take it easy. We kicked off by spending two hours on the couch watching the Monaco Grand Prix. After that is was time to pad up and head back to the crease.  We had some topsoil left over which we dumped in the area which until a few days ago was covered with broken up brick and concrete.

We also spread out some coarse gravel in the valley where the entrance path used to be. And that was it. The rest of Sunday was reserved for socializing and relaxing.


If you were paying attention at the beginning, then you may be wondering why I mentioned buying plumbing fittings. The answer is that when we built the porch a few weeks ago, I had to remove to hose bib that was in the way....and the time has come to replace it.

This is view of the hose bib supply line from inside the basement. I fitted a removable brass cap after I cut the pipe back.

This is the same supply line  viewed from further away - it passes through the stud wall which supports the porch. I've been wanting to strength this section of the foundation for a while, and it will be much easier to do so without the pipe in the way.

So....after shutting off the water and draining the system, I used my close-quarters pipe cutter to chop the pipe back a couple of feet in front of the stud wall, and fitted a new shutoff valve. 

With the pipe out of the way I was able to fit a plywood panel and install it with the appropriate nailing pattern. 

I also installed similar panels at the perimeter of the new section of the basement - these panels are not structural, and are just held up with a few screws. After that I decided the plumbing lines and hose bibs can wait until next time.  

There was just enough time left to to check on our strawberry crop - we have been getting tons more fruit this year.