Finn and I stood on line outside the MVA office for 45 minutes in the “appointment” line two Mondays ago. It’s been in the high 90’s here through July and with humidity, the temperatures are in the mid 100’s. There were actually two lines on the concrete sidewalk: “appointment” and “drop-off”. Because there is a limit to the number of people allowed in the building, we all had to wait outside in the heat until the people ahead of us came out. The MVA staff helpfully put up a square awning outside the front door over the “dropoff” line, which was moving much faster than our line, so the net result was that we in the “plan ahead” line stood around and baked in the sun until they could let us in.
My intention has been to swap out the modern Historic plates I’ve currently got on the Scout for a set of vintage plates from 1976, the year the truck was made. I’d found a set at the antique store down the street and got them cheap, and around the time I was ready to go in and do battle with the MVA, the pandemic hit. So I waited until the numbers went down and they opened up on the restricted schedule.
Once we were inside, we had to wait the normal amount of time for the glacial staff to sort out our issues, so even though we had an appointment nothing was different from a normal visit. Finn and I waited a full hour before we were called up to the counter, and when I explained what I was doing—and showed her the proper form, filled out months in advance—she had no idea how to accomplish this mysterious task and told us to sit back down while she asked someone. She called her manager, who called someone else, explained it to the woman I spoke to, and then disappeared for lunch. In the meantime the obnoxious dude who had been standing behind us outside was called up to the counter next, and his wife proceeded to leisurely fill out all her paperwork while standing at the window for the next 45 minutes.
When that was done, I was called back up a full 2 1/2 hours after my appointment time, and the woman put my old tags in the system and voided them, then entered the new (vintage) tags. The system didn’t spit out a sticker, however, so they had to cancel the void on the original tags and told me I would have to drive around with the original Historic plate in the glove box, as the truck is technically registered to those tags (but for some reason they charged me $70 for vanity plates)?
I have no fucking idea what they did or if it’s the right thing, but I went home and put the new (vintage) plates on the truck. Hopefully I don’t get pulled over and impounded for having the wrong plates on the right truck.
They sure do look pretty, though.
I got a big box delivered to the house on Saturday, and inside were two beautiful olive drab ammo cans ready for engineering into lockboxes: one is for Brian and one is for me. The 30mm can is big and roomy and built to be weather-sealed, so there’s a beefy rubber gasket around the top of the lid. One bummer is that they’re not built like the 5.56 can I have in the basement, so both sides are latched instead of being latch/hinged. So we’ll have to figure out how we’re going to hinge the top and make it easily accessible, or just put lock hasps on both sides.
My first thought is that we can get a couple of wire rope clips, cut the threads down, and weld the flat ends to the wall of the can so that the loop feeds through the hole, as above. That would be a nice fat bit of steel to cut through.
The next solution would be to simply buy a metal hasp kit and use the staple, as long as it stuck out far enough. They’re already drilled for screws so it would be pretty easy to use the holes for welding (or, alternatively, just drill holes and screw the staple in place). I’d like to avoid having screw heads inside the box if at all possible, so I think I’ll try welding first.
We still don’t know exactly how it’s going to secure to the bed yet. Another thing to add will be rubber feet of some kind to keep it from banging around back there. But I love the look of it, and it’s just the right size to fit a backpack or a big toolbag or a laptop.
What you see there is an engine after being sprayed liberally with Simple Green and pressure-washed. It wasn’t as dramatic a result as I was hoping for, but then, I knew this engine wasn’t a beauty queen to begin with. I was able to get a fair amount of grease and dirt off of the engine, steering box, front pumpkin and steering gear. The valve covers cleaned up pretty well. The top of the transmission is visible for the first time since I’ve owned her. And the cowl is mostly the original Gold Poly International shipped the truck with back in 1975.
While I had the cowl exposed I pulled it off to see if I could get the wiper motor mounted correctly. Way back in 2012 I was troubleshooting two dead wipers and unbolted the motor without checking the linkage first; this was a stupid mistake. It turned out the linkage had come undone and the wiper motor was all but impossible to re-attach to the underside of the windshield frame without removing the entire frame. I figured I’d fuck with it some more today and even dragged one of my spares out of the garage to help understand the angles and positions of everything, but ultimately I was foiled—it’s just too difficult to align everything upside down and out of reach. So, I buttoned everything back up tight, fired up the engine (it caught right away and idled happily) and Finn and I took her for a spin around Catonsville to stretch her legs.
Before I put her back in the garage, I took a closer look at the lift gate and realized I’d never put any of my spare weatherstripping around the hatch, so I pulled some from my stash and fitted it around the opening, then put her away for the night.
I had an afternoon to myself yesterday with the dog, so I put her on the long lead in the backyard, set up a portable heater, and pulled the soft top off the Scout in the driveway. At this point it takes about 10 minutes to get that off and then about 30 minutes to lower the hardtop down onto the bedrails, adjust it to the bolt holes, and then another 30 minutes to get it secured in place. It’s not easy to do as one person, and as I get older I’m sure it’ll take longer, but I’ve got a system that seems to work well.
I took the time to put the fiberglas panels in on the sides, which I’d pressure-washed this summer, and I was pleased at how clean everything looks in there. I need to pick up another box of stainless machine-head screws for the interior bits.
The other thing that needed attention was the driver’s door window. It ceased to function last weekend when Finn and I made a breakfast run. More generally, it’s always been a pain in the ass to raise, requiring a forward-and-backward method of cranking the window up that was just irritating. I had my suspicions about the reasons for this.
I pulled the door apart to get to the bottom of things. As I suspected, the two round retaining clips at the bottom of the scissor mechanism had popped off, which was a pretty simple fix. While I was in there, I looked over mount for the crank, which has always been missing a bolt since the truck came to me. The metal around the hole has deteriorated for reasons I can’t figure out, and thus never had a working bolt. I rummaged through my bench stock and found a spare, put a thick washer on it, and tightened it down. Then I buttoned the door back up.
Now the driver’s window rises as it should; the missing bolt left enough play in the scissor mechanism to bind it up as it rose, which required the odd method of cranking the handle to both load and release tension. Why I didn’t add this bolt in the scores of times I’ve had that door apart still escapes me.
With that success, I took her out for a shakedown cruise into Ellicott City. I opened the heater valve from inside the engine bay and within minutes the cabin was toasty warm. She’s running smoothly with no stumbles, although it might be time for a new battery.
Bennett is now rocking fuel injection on Mr. Hanky, so he figured he’d ditch all the 40-year-old technology sitting in his garage. As we were beginning to wrap up with the project last week he walked out of the garage and handed me a spare Thermoquad he had sitting on a shelf somewhere. “I’m not going to need it,” he said confidently.
I put it on the bench this evening and looked it over in comparison to the known good International carb I’ve got already. The new one has a bunch of gewgaws and linkages and levers hanging off the body that I’m not familiar with; that’s because it was built for a 1979 California-market Chrysler 360 with an automatic transmission.
For comparison: the one on the right is a carb manufactured for International Harvester. The new one is in pretty good shape, so as a spare it’ll be good for spare parts. I realize at this point I just need to accept that I’m not going to finish the carb I’ve got and call the guy I met who rebuilds carbs for the International dealer up the street.
As shown in the time-lapse I posted earlier, we made some serious progress on Bennett’s injection project. Brian stopped by my place at a little after 8, chilled from a top-down ride over the bridge in the white Scout, so I made him a cup of coffee and we got him warmed up before humping a cabinet up into the new bathroom and then hitting the road.
Bennett had an array of tables set up in the driveway with Brian H, and they’d organized parts but waited for us to arrive before tearing anything down.
The Brians crawled under the truck to start dropping the tank while Bennett and I looked over the instructions for the carb and began yanking hoses and linkage off his mud-caked Thermoquad.
Soon we had the intake open and clean and started test-fitting the mounting plate, got the new throttle-body mounted, and started working out the wiring.
In back, Brian braved buckets of mud and rust falling into his eyes to get the tank dropped and mount new hoses, then installed the fuel pump under the driver’s door.
After a quick lunch, we got back at it and re-hung the fuel tank while Bennett drilled a hole in the firewall to pass the new wiring loom through to the glove box. At about 3 Brian and I had to head out so that we could make it to the junkyard before closing, but we left Bennett in good shape with most of the heavy two-person tasks complete (re-mounting the fuel tank is a pain in the ASS).
At the junkyard, we were looking for an electric steering motor from a Prius, a Versa, or a Kia Soul to modify the manual steering he’s got in the white Scout. Crazy Ray’s was bought by a national conglomerate a while back (it’s been a year or two since I’ve been) which means they now have an app that lists the inventory at all of their yards (!!!) and the stock is all lifted up on welded steel rim jack stands. They’ve cleaned up the operation a ton and it’s much easier to find things now—they even provide rolling engine lifts.
We found the one Prius in the yard but the motor was already gone, so we moved on to the Versa. After some digging under the hood (I figured it would be at the end of the steering shaft in the engine compartment) I was ready to give up but Brian looked under the dashboard and realized it was integral to the steering column. Once we figured that out it was an easy thing to tear down the dash and pull the unit out.
We made it out of the yard at closing time, said our farewells, and headed home. Turns out we left some of the required parts behind—we needed to grab the control module and something else, so he’ll have to go back and grab those things this weekend.
One of the challenges and quirks of driving 50-year-old vehicle is that we are slaves to the fickle black magic of carburetion. Many carburetors before the 1970’s were simple devices with few moving parts, but as emissions and fuel economy standards were implemented by the government, engineers added all kinds of hoses and vacuum lines and secondary linkages on carburetors to eke every last molecule of economy out of them while they scrambled to update their ancient engine designs. My carburetor is one of the last evolutions of this need for economy and power: a Thermoquad, which looks like R2-D2 barfed up a mechanical hairball.
Electronic fuel injection finally came of age in the 1980s and made the mechanical complexities of carburetors obsolete. As carbureted engines are increasingly rare on the road, it’s getting harder to find mechanics who know how they work and what to do with them. It’s also a pain in the ass to get a carbureted engine started after a week of sitting.
So it’s with great interest that I’m headed to Bennett’s this weekend to help him install EFI on his Scout. He bought a premade kit from Hamilton Fuel Injection—the manufacturer whose tech seminar we attended at Nationals this year. It’s pricy to buy outright, but his reviews are impeccable and he tailors each kit to a specific IH engine, as well as helps tune the unit after it’s installed. I’m very curious to see how easy it goes in, and as I mentioned before, I’m seriously considering it as an upgrade to my engine.
Brian and I are also going to hit the junkyard to see if we can find an electric steering pump for his Scout, which came with manual steering from the factory. It’s been a long time since I’ve walked the rows at Crazy Ray’s so I’m looking forward to the day with anticipation.
Saturday morning I made a pile of hash browns for the family, cleaned up the kitchen, and ran a bunch of tools out to the garage to get a long-awaited project started: installing a new aluminum radiator.
I’m always conscious of starting projects that I might not be able to finish in a weekend, and this time I was under the added pressure to getting it done by the afternoon, because we had family plans for Sunday. Additionally, I’ve got an appointment next Saturday across town to have the caster correctors installed, so I wanted to have everything road tested and ready. I have anxiety about having a broken-down truck sitting in the driveway with an appointment on the horizon.
First, I drained the coolant. It came out relatively clean, a little milky from age but not black. I got about two and a half gallons out from the stopcock and the lower rad hose into an old cat litter pan. Then I pulled the lower hose and the upper hose, disconnected the shroud mount and pulled that apart into two sections, and loosened the body bolts. Everything came off smoothly; nothing needed PB Blaster (although I used it) to get started, which was a blessing.
Once that was done, the old radiator came out easily. The bottom was getting corroded but it wasn’t as bad as my spare, where the bottom rail is disconnected from the frame.
Then I pulled the new one out of the box and slid it right in place—this time I stood and straddled the fenders to drop it in from the top. Hand-tightening the body bolts, I put new hoses on above and below. The lower hose needed a 2″ trim to avoid a bad kink in the bendy section but other than that they both slid right on. Next I hooked up the overflow tank for the first time since I’ve owned it: the old radiator was missing the brazed nipple on the cap valve. Then I installed and adjusted the shroud mount and shroud itself, tightened the body bolts down, and checked all of the fittings.
The only thing I didn’t have were two blockoff bolts for the automatic transmission inlet/outlet, so I ran around town to find a set and found them at Advance. They’re brass but I wrapped them in Teflon tape and tightened them into place.
Finally, I put about 2 1/2 gallons of new 50/50 antifreeze in the system, topped off the overflow tank (I need a new one, because the plastic mounting brackets have both snapped off), said a prayer, and started her up. I idled in the driveway for 15 minutes, pausing only to cap off the radiator once the bubbles stopped, and let her get up to temperature.
I had to stop at that point for dinner and other family stuff, so Sunday morning I took a 20 minute ride around the neighborhood to shake the hoses around and see how things held up. I chose a route that featured lousy roads (there are no shortage of those) and lights to stop at and some long stretches and banged her around a bit, and I didn’t see any leaks or steam. The temp gauge stayed pegged to the left side of the horizontal bar. Success!
Should I have flushed the system while I had it open? probably. In the fall I’ll have Jiffy Lube do it for me when I get the oil changed. Could I have saved money mixing antifreeze myself? definitely. But I was in a hurry and I had nothing else to mix it in.
Special thanks go to my pop, whose tools I inherited, which made everything much, much easier. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
Peer Pressure has been running strong and smooth the last couple of weeks; I’ve had her out every weekend since the top came off. She’s hauled bags of dirt and mulch from the store, garbage to the dump, and run multiple errands around town—basically whenever I have an excuse to go out and get something. I’ve been poor at shooting any pictures, because I haven’t ranged far from home, so the sights are all the same. But I’ve got some plans for her in the next couple of weeks, stuff that’s making me excited. The first thing is replacing the old radiator with the new aluminum unit I bought back in March.
This should be a straightforward procedure. I don’t have any extra cooling gear hooked up to what’s there right now (no transmission cooler, although adding one eventually would be a wise move) so it should be a matter of draining the block, pulling the hoses, detaching the shroud and shroud mount, and unbolting it from the body. Hopefully it’ll pull out without any fuss. Next I flush the block with a kit I bought and clean everything out. Then I put the new unit in and bolt everything back into place. Hopefully the shroud I fabricated will install with little fuss; if anything I’ll have to drill two new holes to adjust for the new radiator. I’ve got this coming Saturday blocked off to accomplish this, and I hope it goes smoothly.
Second, I’ve got an appointment with an alignment/front end shop over on the East side of town to put the caster shims in, as well as go over the front end and tell me what’s in need of repair. This will happen in two weeks, and I’m going to wait there while they work on it. Hopefully we won’t need to order out for any parts, but you never know. I have a feeling they’re going to find some bushings and other parts that are worn, and that will almost certainly require new parts. In which case I’ll just Uber home and wait for the work to be done.
With those two things completed I’ll feel much better about a drive out to Ohio for Nationals this year. I’m really hoping the caster shims help out the handling issues, because I miss having a Scout that tracks straight. If things don’t improve dramatically, I’m going to start saving up for some 16″ steel wheels I can mount a skinnier tire on, and I’ll have to take a loss on the wheel/tire combo I’m running right now. But that will come next year.
I took some time to look over the Champion radiator that came in last week and compare it to the stock unit I’ve got out in the garage so that I know what I’m working with. I bought the 3-core deluxe version, figuring cooler is better with a 5.7 liter engine, and also got two new upper and lower radiator hoses to replace the ones that are there.
Overall, it’s a very sturdy radiator and feels solid in my hands, as well as 10 pounds lighter than the OEM version. I pulled my spare fan shroud from the parts bin and test fit it (use M6 x 1.00 x 16 metric bolts) to find that it doesn’t quite line up at the bottom when I started two bolts at the top. I’ve read in some places that it needs to be trimmed to clear the pulley and fan, but I won’t know that until we get into it.
When I line it up side by side with the OEM unit it sits a little shorter in comparison, but I’d need to take more time to measure and compare to see if it’s any deeper.