Having solved the starting issue last weekend, I figured I’d better move on to the brake system and start sorting that out. I pulled the wheels off and put the truck on jackstands to get things ready for new tires as well as expose the drums for an overhaul. This truck runs 11″ drums with 1.75″ shoes, which appears to be a somewhat unorthodox combination. I tore the driver’s side wheel down on Tuesday night and cleaned up the backing plate, then attempted to disconnect the brake line with a cheap set of flare wrenches from Hobo Freight; this just stripped the extensively rusty brake line fitting so I cut it off with a hacksaw.
Everything inside this drum was rusty as hell; the self-adjuster was fused into one lump of metal, and the shoes were paper-thin. The new brake cylinder went in easily and the front shoe connected up with the parking brake lever, but I was stopped short at the hold down pins, which were 0.5″ too long. Looking around online it appears that 2.25″ shoes are much more common, so I had to order a new set for the ones I’ve got. And now that I’m looking at the photo, it’s clear to me I put the adjusting screw in backwards, so I’ll have to get in there one more time to fix that.
Another, more alarming discovery, is that 16″ diameter wheels 8″ wide with a 4.5 bolt pattern and 3″ backspacing are pretty rare on the ground; apparently I’ve got three of something that don’t come around often. I put the word about my wheel issue out on BinderPlanet and someone sent me a link to a listing in a Marketplace group I wasn’t already a member of with what look like the wheels I need in Idaho; I’m in contact with the seller and we’ll see how much it will cost to ship.
I had a spare fuel pump in the Scout emergency kit that I put on the Travelall Wednesday night. The old pump had an integrated fuel filter with fittings that hung off the side, while the new one has two long cylinders which hang down off the housing—and which bump directly up into one of the body mounts. After mounting it, I noticed the pump isn’t fit snugly to the engine block. It would be very easy to have SendCutSend make me a metal shim, so I’m not worried yet.
Thursday night I ran out and drained the oil from the engine to get it ready for some Rotella 10-W40 diesel oil (it’s formulated in a way that makes it better for old flat-tappet engines than modern oils) but quickly realized I’d bought the wrong oil filter: the one on the truck has a much thicker nut than the filter was willing to accept, so I had to order the correct one: a WIX 51261. Also interesting was the size of the drain plug: a fat 1 1/8″ nut instead of a 9/16″ like I’m used to. (I’ve begun a list of odd sizes and parts and tools that I’ll have to pack in the emergency kit for this rig.) Luckily I saw no metal shavings on the plug at all. While draining the pan, I collected a container of oil halfway through the pour for a trip to Blackstone Labs, where they do a full chemical analysis of the oil to see what shape the engine is in. With this I can get a sense of how much wear is actually on the rig and if they see any issues with bad bearings or other hints as to its health.
On Saturday I had some time before rainstorms to dig into a box of parts to continue on the brake job: A new set of holddown pins arrived, and while they were still a little too long they worked for what I needed. I spent a bunch of time trying to figure out what Carlson meant for me to do with their version of an adjusting lever, said fuck it, and hooked it up the way it came to me. With the driver’s side done, I moved over to the passenger side and knocked that one out in a quarter of the time it took for the first one. Returning to the fuel pump, I took the unit I had off, shimmed it with three gaskets, scavenged an outgoing metal fuel line from a spare on the shelf, and put it back on. The fuel line now snakes up next to the dipstick tube (which is on the passenger front of this engine, not the driver’s middle) where I can attach a fuel line and run it up the passenger’s side to the carb and not over hill and dale the way it was. I put the new fuel filter on and filled the engine up with Rotella.
So next up is to get the fuel system plumbed and tested from the boat tank, and from there I’ve got to see what shape the actual gas tank is in. I have the new master and clutch slave cylinders in hand, and all the mounting bolts on the truck are soaking in PBblaster. They’ll get replaced next, and then I can push fluid through the lines to see if they’re worth saving or need to be completely replaced.
I’ve got to get Peer Pressure in to a mechanic to look over the power steering pump, but I don’t want to do that without having several of the specialty fittings I need for the Hydroboost setup in hand. I dug out the seller’s information from my archives and ordered a new set; their prices have gone up since 2010 when I got the last pair, but having them is cheap insurance if my mechanic needs to tear the whole unit apart. With those in hand, I’ll get her in for a checkup ASAP.
My Scout friends came back on Sunday to help me button up the rear drum brakes on Peer Pressure. When last we left off, we’d put new pads and hoses on the front discs but when we pressurized the system one of the rear cylinders blew out under the increased pressure from the hydro-boost. It was getting late, and everyone was tired, so we agreed to meet again to finish it up. In the week following I bought a new set of drums to match the shoes I got with the Scout, as well as a full spring kit and two adjustable valves.
Bennett and Dennis came by in the early afternoon, bundled up for the freakishly cold weather (the day before, it had been sunny in the high 80’s) and we set to work. First we jacked up the rear and put the axle on jack stands. Then we pulled both wheels. I told Dennis I’d never done drums before, only discs, so he sat with me on one side while Bennett had the other side to himself. We pounded and pried off the drum on the driver’s side, mangling one of the clips in the process, and tore down the drum.
Dennis stepped me through the rebuild process patiently until we got to the clip that had been mangled, and then I had to get on the phone to find a new one. Luckily a local parts store had the kit we needed in stock, so we ran out to grab it.
I had inherited a set of brake shoes when I bought the truck, so it was a bit of a toss-up whether they would fit in the drums I got from NAPA. It turned out I needn’t have worried, and they went in without a hitch. Somehow Bennett got his side’s clips, springs, notches and pins aligned correctly and installed before Dennis and I did.
The shoes on the truck were still in excellent shape (as were the drums, actually) but we replaced everything while we had it open. Bennett had to reflare both brake lines because the fittings had rusted to the cylinder, which took time. Then we bled the whole system out, reflared a leaky fitting, and bled it again. At that point everything was holding pressure so Dennis fixed the brake light switch and we opened the barn doors for a test ride.
The difference is immediate and dramatic. The pedal throw is similar but the brakes dig in and hold a lot faster than they ever did before; the whole truck comes to a stop much faster and with purpose while the old system took a lot of frantic stomping and swearing to work. It’s going to take some getting used to, but that’s the kind of progress I like. It’s great to finally have this project completed.
I’m continually amazed and humbled at the generosity and patience of my friends, and I am thankful for their time and expertise. And they’re a lot of fun to hang out with. I really don’t know how I would pursue this hobby without them.
Last night’s cold and gusty weather continued into today, freshly piled leaves cluttering up all the places I’d raked in the rain last weekend. I had guests coming to the ghetto garage, so I tried to church it up as much as possible. Ray arrived from PA early, and stopped to pick up coffee and donuts for me. Bennett arrived soon after, and then Brian, Dennis, Brian H, Carl, and Alan.Â We stood around and shot the shit for a little while, and then dove into our list.
The Hydroboost unit went in with little fuss, although I can’t take any credit because I wasn’t doing much of the work. Bennett, Ray and Dennis are the subject matter experts, so the rest of us sort of stood around in my crowded little garage and watched as they worked their magic. Bennett pulled the battery, removed the stock brake booster and cleared the lines.
Ray set up the aluminum standoff block and drilled new holes in the Astro mounting plate while Dennis pulled the assembly under the dash apart. Within an hour the main unit was bolted in place and the hoses were run. There was some concern over the hard lines going from the pump to proportioning valve but Bennett showed his skill with a flare tool and had new ones bent and fitted in an hour.
While we had the brake system pulled apart, it made sense to pull the wheels and go through the brakes. However, NAPA failed me on Thursday and did not put my order through for pickup on Friday, so the pads, calipers, cylinders and other parts I’d ordered never arrived. Bennett raided his considerable parts stash and brought a new set of front pads, but when we pulled the front wheels off and looked at the calipers (and banged on them with a hammer) it was clear we would need replacements. I started working the phone, and a different NAPA came through for us. Somewhat stalled, we took a break for lunch at the local diner, and by the time we were done the parts were waiting for us.
Back in the garage the new calipers went on smoothly, and we bled the brake system from the front to the back. A few adjustments to the pedal were made, a legacy vacuum hose to the old booster was plugged, power steering fluid was procured and added, and the truck was idling smoothly with no squealing from the pump. However, Brian noticed the rear passenger brake started leaking heavily, so we shut the truck back down again. Apparently the brake cylinder blew up with the increase in pressure from the pump.
It was 6PM, getting cold, and already dark, so we called it a day at that point. I’ve got a list of parts to buy for the rear brakesâ€“mainly a spring refit kit and two new soft brake lines, because I have shoes and bought cylinders today. We’ll pick up part two in a couple of weeks.
I got a really nice letter from Bennett, one of my local Scout friends, when I was laid up last month. He offered to get our local group of IH guys together and get some work done on Peer Pressure while I was laid up, the generosity of which blew me away. We set up a date in early March and he had me put together a list of stuff I’d like to tackle: Hydroboost, fuel sender, and maybe something else if we have the time.
The Hydroboost project involves removing the big stock brake booster and replacing it with a GM hydraulic unit sourced from an Astro van and hooking it into the power steering pump. What this does is improve overall braking power, allow for added stopping power in the event of an engine shutoff, and make more room in the engine bay. Back in 2013 I assembled all of the parts but stalled out, because I don’t trust myself enough to follow the sparse instructions found online or bleed the brake system correctly by myself.
Clockwise, from upper left: Astro brake unit, power steering hoses, power steering adaptors, aluminum standoff block, brass fittings.
[Update]: some more specific information about the specialized bushings:
They’re made by Lee Manufacturing: 818-768-0371
Pressure bushing 40620 $3.97
Return bushing 40630 $3.97
So I’m sending this photo over to Bennett and Ray, the acknowledged experts, to make sure I’ve got everything I need. I’ve got to pick up new brake fluid for sure, but hopefully everything else is correct.
Peer Pressure is squirrelly. Suspension mods installed by the previous owner make the ride stiff; at highway speeds expansion joints and large bumps render the steering vague as the body floats up over the springs and back downward. Braking has gotten dicier since I bought the truck. Moderate pedal pressure these days sends the front and rear in different directions as the pads and calipers grab at different points.
Among the many repairs and upgrades I’d like to do is one of the (I’m told) easiest and most inexpensive improvements to the braking system: the Hydro-Boost. A system originally installed in GM products the world over, it’s an improvement on the old big round booster design Scouts were installed with, because it does away with vacuum-powered braking in favor of fluid power supplied by the power steering pump. It seems to be a pretty popular mod for a lot of vintage cars. Following a thread on the Just Internationals forum, I ventured out to the junkyard with my brother-in-law in search of an Astro Van with ABS brakes. We found four with and two without—the difference being the ones without ABS have the big round brake booster we’re looking to discard. I found an ABS Pontiac Safari already propped up on tires waiting for me, so early this morning I got to work.
I disconnected the hose running across the top, then the right-side hose that ran to the power steering pump. Thankfully, someone had already pulled the radiator, so I had a ton of room to work with.
The left-side hose running down underneath was very difficult to get off (I didn’t have metric wrenches) so I punted and cut the hose as close to the top of the metal line as I could. I used a pair of channel locks to snip the coiled metal hose running to and from the ABS computer (the big box directly below the hydroboost assembly) below the proportioning valve because those bolts were not coming off for love or money.
Finally, I crawled inside and used a long 15mm metric socket to take off four mounting bolts on the bracket. Hopefully other used Astros will be cleaner under the dash than mine was.
Then, a bunch of wrestling, tugging, pulling, and twisting got the whole assembly free. GM didn’t leave a lot of room in the engine bay to work with, so I removed the top fitting to clear the cowl and put it back on when I was done.
Stay tuned. Next I’m going to assemble all the parts needed to retrofit the assembly.