Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ummm...has it really been over TWO YEARS since my last blog post??

I'm quite ashamed to say it's been so long since my last post. I can reassure you that no, I did not sell my car. No, I did not wreck my car. Yes, it's still sitting in my garage alongside a very large pile of unfinished projects. So what the heck have I been doing for the last two years??? I have done some work on the car, but just didn't blog about it. As you'll recall, back in 2012, I was having cat overtemp issues with the new converters I installed. After farting around with it for a really long time, I decided to pull the converters back out and just install bypass tubes for now. I think this is just one more indicator that a full engine rebuild is in my future. Someday that day will come and it will cost a pretty penny. A whole boatload of them, probably. This past weekend was unseasonably warm and I took the car out to warm up the engine and get some fuel. I neglected to fill up the tank when I last drove it months ago. I also neglected to put StaBil in the tank, clean off the road grime and put the cover back on. Oops. When I was driving, I pulled out of my street and drove about three miles where I took another turn. At the second turn, I reached down to flip on my turn signal only to realize it was already on. Great. Now I AM one of those idiots who is "turning right around the world" leaving his turn signal on. My steering gear is out of alignment leaving the steering wheel not centered. As a quick fix, I loosened the MOMO wheel at the hub and just turned the wheel 60 degrees. As a result, the turn signals don't cancel correctly because the steering wheel isn't centered. Since I have new ball joints, tie rod ends and bushings for the front end, I decided I'm going to start tearing down the front end. I'll rebuild the steering rack at the same time which should fix everything at that end of the car. Stay tuned for some updates!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ferrari Day 2012 at E@RTC

I'm happy to report that yes, I got the car back together, yes the cam cover does not leak (as far as I can tell), yes new plugs seem to be working out well and yes I made it to Ferrari Day 2012!

The day before E@RTC, I went for a little drive to make sure I had no leaks. The slow down light did flash on a few times but it wasn't on very much. When I got back, I pulled one of the rear bank plugs and it looked pretty clean. I'll pull it again after a few hundred miles to see what's what.

Here's part of the scene at RTC Center Court. We had about 200 cars total and 80-90 of those were Ferrari. We took up the entire center section from stop sign to stop sign. It was amazing to see a sea of Ferraris.

After the event, SL and I took a little drive and he snapped this shot out his side mirror. What a great day for a drive. The best (and strangest) part is that the slow down light did not come on at all. Not even once. At one point, I even pulled off the road and turned off the ignition, just to have the slow down system go through it's power-on test to make sure the light was still working. I expected to see that light though some spirited driving but the light stayed off. I'm not going to make any declarations yet but rather I'll just keep an eye on it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Putting plugs in the front bank

Here's the part of the job that's really no fun -- getting access to the front bank to change the plugs. Don't let the photo fool you, there's not nearly as much room as it looks. Getting to the front plugs is by feel only. You can't see a darned thing and you can only get one hand in there at a time. The only way you can even reach up there is by pulling the air cleaner. As you can see, I haven't put the new spark plug wires on the front yet.

I think the this job would be a little easier if I had the original spark plug tool that came in the early 308 tool kit. I've been trying to find one for a while and I'm unwilling to pay the outrageous money that people are asking for OEM tools. Oh well. I made do with a spark plug socket, universal joint and short extension. I should also point out that I must have gotten lucky in finding a spark plug socket that works. It seems that a lot of sockets that are the right size for the plug are too large a diameter to fit into the 308 spark plug well. The socket I have just barely fits down the hole.

Here are the front plugs. They look very much like the ones in the rear, although there aren't any deposits. One is definitely more oil soaked than the rest.

After taking much more time than it should really take to change 4 spark plugs, that deed is done. I now have a brand new set of NGK Iridium plugs. Hopefully, what I've read is true and they will be more resistant to fouling.

Here's a shot of the trick I do whenever I need to remove the air cleaner. Rather than remove the engine cover, I remove two of the three bolts from the passenger side engine cover hinge. This allows me to pivot the cover up which yields just enough extra room to get the air cleaner off. The remaining bolt holds the cover in place. When I'm done, I move the hinge back and tighten up everything.

Look at that red overspray on the inside of the engine cover! Yuk! I hate people who do a crappy job. Painting is a tough job. Tougher yet to good a really good job. You can always tell a bad paint job by the amount of overspray. It just points to bad preparation and a rush (read cheap) job.

It's been two days since I put the cam cover back on and the directions on the Hondabond sealant say three days until final cure. Still, I went ahead and started to engine to make sure I had hooked up everything correctly. Sure enough, it fired right up and I let it idle for a few minutes before shutting down. Tomorrow night, I will take the car for a drive (weather permitting of course) to make sure the cam cover is leak-free. That will leave Friday for final cleaning and detailing.

Ferrari Day 2012 on Saturday!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Trying out some new plugs

My old plugs were all due for replacement, so I decided to try something different. I was using NGK BP6ES plugs and I read that carb 308 owners have had luck with NGK Iridium plugs. The Iridium plugs have a narrow pointed tip which creates a hotter tip and are supposedly more resistant to fouling. Many people use the lightly cooler plugs in the 7 heat range, but I decided to stick with the 6 so I went with the BPR6EIX plugs.

Compared to the BP6ES plugs, these Iridium plugs really do have a narrower tip. We'll see how resistant they are to fouling. Out of the box, the gap was way too large so I had to narrow them to the spec of 0.025". I only had time tonight to install the 4 in the rear bank. I'll tackle the more challenging front bank plugs tomorrow night.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tick tock...getting the cam cover back on

Now that I've checked the valve clearances, it's time to button things back up. I'm got a bit of a deadline here. Ferrari Day at E@RTC is this coming Saturday and I need to get back on the road before then.

Putting the cam cover back on is no big deal, right? Well, it's not a big deal but it's more involved than say a small block Chevy valve cover. First, I scraped off the old gasket material and cleaned all the mating surfaces. When I got out the new gasket, I realized that it need to be cut to fit. Huh? Isn't that why we pay top dollar for die cut gaskets, so we don't have to do any cutting? As you can see, the gasket needs to be trimmed around the cam openings and the distributor base.

For sealant, I've used Permatex RTV Blue for the past 25 years. It's only recently that I've tried other sealants on advice from other people. A lot of people in the F-car community have had good luck with Hondabond, a sealer product made by (you guessed it), Honda. On his way by last week, SL dropped by a Honda dealership and picked some up. What the heck, I'll give it a shot and see if it works better than the tried and true RTV Blue.

A little trimming with a pair of scissors and the gasket (now three separate pieces) fits well. I put a little dab at the corners where the gaskets meet the cam seals and bolted the cam cover back on. According to the Hondabond packaging, the sealant takes a full 3 days to cure completely. I'll wait until later in the week to fire up the engine just to make sure.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

More troubleshooting

Ok, next step in troubleshooting -- pull the plugs to see what they look like. Unburnt fuel in the exhaust means either too much fuel or incomplete ignition. I already checked the carbs and I think the mixture is good. Now let's check the ignition. Below are the plugs 1-4 (right to left).

Plugs 1/3/4 look ok, but have some deposits on them. Yikes, what's going on with plug #2? It's gotten really fouled from either running rich, leaking oil or a little of both. The original plugs I removed three years ago did not look like this. Perhaps they got fouled from all the fiddling I've done with the carb mixture. Anyhow, I'll replace the plugs and now's a good time to finally put in those new Accel 8mm ignition wires that have been sitting on a shelf. Perhaps I had a bad ignition wire leading to poor combustion.

The wire connection a the plugs is pretty much standard, but the way the wires attach to the distributor cap is very unique. The wires fit into a hole in the side of the cap and there is a sharp screw that enters the post and pierces the wire to make the connection. There are 2 different lengths used at different thickness of the cap.

The main reason I got these wires was they allow elimination of the OEM spark plug extenders. The stock setup is the ignition wire connecting to an extender which then reaches way down into the spark plug hole to connect to the end of the plug. These extenders are notorious for going bad. Someone on Fchat posted about this Accel wire set which I think is originally for a Honda Vtec engine. The only thing is that they are too long out of the box. All I had to do though was to cut off about an inch on the extension. It fits pretty well in the plug hole and this solution is about 1/10 the cost of OEM wires.

With the plugs out, it was a good time to do a compression test. SL and I did the test with me doing the cranking and him looking at the gauge. The numbers we got seemed a little low, but I realize now that I forgot to hold open the throttle while doing the test. Anyhow, I was less interested in the actual numbers as I was consistency across cylinders. The difference between the high and low values was only 7% so I'm going to call that good.

One other thing to check while I'm back there is the valve clearances. Another possibility for running hot and incomplete combustion is too tight of clearance on the exhaust valves. So, off comes the rear cam cover to gain access to the valve train.

The factory spec on a 2-valve engine is 0.008-0.010" on the intake and 0.012-0.016" on the exhaust. I checked all the valves twice and the all the exhaust valves are within spec. All the intake valves are a little tight by about 0.002-0.003".

Lastly, since the cam cover is off and I can see the cam position, I did a leakdown test. I'm using a cheapo Harbor Freight leakdown tester, which is really hard to calibrate to get a leakdown number. However, like with the compression test, I was less concerned about the actual numbers than I was consistency. All 4 cylinders in the rear bank showed about the same level of leakage. With a garden hose to my ear, I could tell that all cylinders showed leakage out the rings and little to none out the exhaust valves. No detectable leakage out the intake valves, except for #1 which I could clearly hear leaking out the carb throat.

Conclusion? Aside from the bottom end being tired and some leakage in one intake valve, things seem to be ok (not good, not great, just ok) in the rear bank. I can't explain the ugly #2 plug so all I can do it put in new plugs and put it all back together. Maybe the new wires and plugs will reduce any incomplete combustion and keep the cat cooler.

to be continued...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Airbox off again

Overheating cat means unburned fuel so the next thing to do is to check and adjust the mixture. Originally, this car had 55 size idle jets and 120 mains. I fiddled with different sizes before settling on 57/125. Figuring that the cats added more exhaust backpressure, I decided to lean out the mixture to see what would happen. As it turns out, I was able return to my original jetting with no popping or hesitation. However, even though it's running much leaner, I'm still getting an intermittent 1-4 slow down.

While I had the airbox off again, I remembered an FChat post talking about how restrictive the US carb airbox is. At the inlet, there is a bunch of wire mesh tack welded to the inside of the airbox and a bunch of fiberglass insulation. I decided to go ahead and remove it to try and improve inlet airflow as well as remove the sound insulation so I could hear the carbs better.

I used a hammer, chisel and snips to pry out the mesh. As you can see, this opened up the inlet quite a bit and you can actually hear the carbs better. I'd say this was a pretty good modification!

One thing which has really bugged me are the air intake ducts on the sides of the car. The guy who did the paint did not mask off the black intake ducts and there was a lot of red overspray. It just made it look like bad cheapo paint job.

I pulled the intake ducts from both sides, cleaned them up and sprayed them with some VHT high temp flat black. I'm really happy with the way they turned out and it makes the outside of the car look much cleaner.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Testing out the "Slow Down" system

After having been on a dozen or so drives, it's clear to me that I need to get to the bottom of this "slow down" light issue. A month or so ago when I installed functional catalytic converters, I started getting an intermittent slow down light on the 1-4 cylinder bank. This means that the 1-4 cat was getting hot enough to trigger the alert system.

First I needed to know where was the problem. The first thing to check was the actual alert system itself because I didn't know if the light was a false alert or an actual overheating situation. The alert system consists of a K-type thermocouple in the outlet of each catalytic converter. A thermocouple measures temperature by generating a very small amount of electricity as it heats up. The thermocouple is attached to an ECU, which monitors the voltage and turns on the light when the voltage reaches a set point. My goal was to test the ECUs and test the thermocouples themselves. To do this, my buddy SL brought over an instrument meant for testing thermocouples.

The thermocouple ECUs are mounted to the end plate in the passenger's side footwell. I unscrewed this plate to expose the ECUs and the wiring. First, we tested the ECU operation. My putting the instrument into output mode, we could simulate the microvoltage as output by an actual thermocouple. After the first round of testing, we could see that the ECUs were good and behaved within 10 degrees F of each other. Using the instrument, we piped in a test signal of 36.05mV, which corresponds to a temperature of 1630 F. At this temperature, the slow down light begins to flash at an interval of about 13 seconds. As we cranked up the test temperature, the slow down light flashed faster and faster until it goes solid at 1710 F or 37.84mV. Wow, 1710 degrees. That's hot!

The next test was to check the output from the real thermocouples. We touched tester leads to the thermocouple wires and read 59 degrees F from each side with the engine not running. So far so good. The ambient temperature output was the same from both thermocouples at ambient temperature. Next, we started the engine and let it come up to temperature. Switching from side to side, we could see each thermocouple output increase at roughly the same rate. After a few minutes, we brought the engine up to 3000 RPM and held it there. As the temperature increased past 1000 F, it was clear that the rear bank was reading about 150-200 F higher than the front.

All in all, we spent probably 2-3 hours in testing. Our conclusion is that the slow down system is indeed working as intended and the rear bank is actually running hotter than the front. The next question is, what to do about it?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Another Italian Superstar

My father passed away not too long ago and as our family was looking though some old photographs, I saw a few from "the early days" of my folks on my Dad's old Vespa scooter. I started thinking about how cool those images were and that it would be nice to have a scooter just like the one he had. I posted an old photo online and found out what model it was and started my search. In the end, a local Vespa club member found one for me -- a 1959 Vespa 150 VBA.

It was imported from Italy probably 10 years ago and has been in storage ever since. Surprisingly, it runs (although not well) and I've ridden it around the block a few times. Even though it's only 150cc with a three-speed manual transmission and in need of restoration, it's a blast to ride. The body is pretty straight and the only major bodywork is the floor needs to be replaced. At some point I'll strip it down and have someone do the body and paintwork while I redo the engine. It'll be nice to work on a vehicle where the engine and transmission together only weigh about 80 pounds.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Tech Session

After an entire month of cancelled E@RTC sessions, one was finally scheduled for the first Saturday in July. Unfortunately, this was the same day our local chapter of Ferrari Club of America had a tech session set up at the local Ferrari dealership. I absolutely love geeking out on car tech so I opted to skip E@RTC this week. The tech session topic was maintenance on the F355 and 360 (neither of which I own, btw).

We started off with the F355. There was one in the shop for a major service. The F355 is an "engine out" car, which means that a major service involves removing the engine. What's cool is that on this car, the entire drivetrain (engine, transmission, rear suspension, etc) is mounted on a cradle that is removed as a single unit. To remove it, you drain the coolant, disconnect all the wiring connectors and hoses, unbolt the cradle the lift the car up.

Seeing the drivetrain cradle on a dolly is a pretty impressive sight. It was sitting a comfortable working height and you could wheel the thing around. Here the techs have replaced the belts and tensioners and the engine is set up with a degree wheel and dial indicators for final adjustment of the cams. The techs in this shop are required to be within 1 degree of the factory spec. After this is done and the motor buttoned back up, it'll go back in the car and have the 8 throttle bodies synchronized.

Next we moved on to a 360 Modena in the shop for the same major service. In the case of the 360, the engine does not have to be removed to do the work. Instead, they remove a bunch of stuff from the engine bay and pull the seats out of the interior and remove an access panel to get to the front of the engine. Nice to not have to pull the engine, but it must be tough working in this position.

I'm sure you've heard people talk about the importance of changing your fluids. In cars equipped with an F-1 transmission, it's apparently critical to stick to the recommended fluid change schedule. Here are some fluid samples with new on the right and used on the left.

What about brake fluid? Brake fluid is hydrophilic, which means it absorbs water. That water then separates out in a milky goo. How do would you like to have that fluid on the left in your brake system?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Center court at RTC

Early in the morning, SL and I headed out to E@RTC. This was my first drive with working catalytic converters and I was anxious to know if they worked to reduce the exhaust smell. I'm happy to report that they do seem to work. SL drove behind me in his 360 and he said that the stinky smell was gone. Hurray -- just what I was after.

However, having operational cats brought on another problem. Every now and again under acceleration, the 1-4 bank slow down light comes on. When I back off the throttle, the light goes out. I seems like some unburnt fuel is passing through one of the cats and it's getting too hot. I'll need to do some work to figure out what's happening here.

Today was a special event at E@RTC. We were expecting a Bugatti Veyron and a Lexus LFA. Sunny Saturday and center court at RTC means lots of cars and people. We were at one end of the road with Ferraris on one side and Lamborghinis on the other. As VT said, "boys on one side, girls on the other." I'll let you decide which is which. We set a record too at over 250 cars.

Here it is, the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport

Here's something most people have never seen before -- a Lexus LF-A. I must say, I was not terribly impressed. I mean, it looks like any other Japanese sports car. And really, who would pay $378K for a Japanese sports car? For that money, you could get two Ferrari 458s.

This is unusual. It's a replica vintage Ferrari race car. I don't know what's under the hood, but if the clear hood bubble covering the 8 Weber carburetor throats were any indication, I'd say it was a Ferrari 250 V12. I heard a rumor that it was for sale for about $200K.

Here's something truly rare. A 1957 Aston Martin DBR2, chassis number 2. Only 2 of these were ever made and this one belongs to Greg Whitten.

There were lots of other cool and unusual cars including a 1960s Ford GT40 and other old race cars. Here is something that caught my eye. I actually have no idea what it is, but it's very cool. It's got an air suspension and when parked, it sits right on the ground and you can't even see the wheels. I wandered over just as the owner was about to leave and saw the car rise up a few inches, then float away.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Catalytic converters -- part 2

I thought that I was done with one catalytic converter. I was wrong. When I fitted it to the car, I realized that the threaded nipple for the thermocouple was in the wrong place. Because space is really tight at the back of the car, the cat had to be installed at a very specific orientation. Turns out I welded in the fitting 120 degrees from where it needed to be. Oops. I wish I would have realized this before welding it in place. I well, out with the grinder to make a small modification. I cut the fitting back out and put in the correct place. I then had to weld a patch to fill in the old hole. My welds are no stacks of dimes, but I think they'll do.

Here's how the new cat looks compared with the old. Because the new cats are oval, and the old one offset, the main challenge is how to orient the new ones so nothing touches anything else.

Here's the dry fit that I should have done earlier. It fits pretty well so on to cat #2.

Doing the work on the other converter was pretty straightforward. However, I had to be much more careful with the orientation to make sure everything fits.

After a bit of final welding, new exhaust donuts and tightening bolts 1/8th turn at a time, everything was back together. I started the car and the first thing I notice is that the exhaust note is different. The car used to have a really deep rumble at idle and now it's not quite as deep. Just as I'm about to head out for a test drive, it started to rain. Guess my drive down to E@RTC will be the test drive.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mission: Eliminate the Stink

My mission, whether I choose to accept it or not, is to try and reduce the rich exhaust smell. I realized that while I love driving this car, I don't really love the smell from the tailpipe. That rich exhaust smell wafts up from the back and just gets into everything. After a drive, my clothes and hair smell like exhaust. I think this is part of the reason TK doesn't really like to ride in the 308.

So, how to get rid of the smell? I figured I can start with the catalytic converters. Rather, my lack of cats. That's not entirely true -- my cats are still there but they just don't work. Somewhere in the past, they've been hollowed out rendering them useless as a catalyst device. Putting in some cats that actually work should help.

The OEM cats are NLA so I have two remaining choices. There's a company called Hyperflow that makes high performance direct replacements. However, these are REALLY expensive ($800 EACH!) The other option is to get some universal cats that are about the same size as the originals (less than $100 each). I can't justify spending almost $2000 on cats so needless to say, I chose door #2.

Here's my starting point. I got two Magnaflow 94103 stainless steel universal cats. These are pretty close to the same size as the originals, although they are oval vs the original offset egg-shape.

I started by building a jig out of wood and bolting the original cat to it. This would ensure proper alignment of the flanges on the new cat.

My plan was to cut off the original flanges and weld them on to the Magnaflow. I also had to cut out and weld in the threaded nipple where the "slow down" thermocouple attaches.

Next came the chop saw to cut off the original flanges.

Lots of grinding was needed to remove the excess metal around the thermocouple nipple.

I had marked on the jig the location of the nipple on the OEM cat. I transferred my marks to the new cat and drilled a 1/2" hole to accept the nipple.

Ok, looking good so far. Here's the Magnaflow bolted up in the jig with the old flanges. This model has an 1 3/4" inlet and outlet, which happens to be exactly the right diameter. The old flanges slide perfectly inside the Magnaflow pipe. All I had to do was to trim off about 1/2" off the length.

After some welding, here is the final product. I have one day left to get the other cat cut and welded and the exhaust put back together in time for E@RTC on Saturday. Hopefully, I'll make it!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Over a month of updates

Shame on me. I've been driving the 308 for over a month with no blog posts. 30 lashes with a wet noodle. We had a string of sunny weekends (which ended last Sunday) and I've been able to get out and about. I haven't had much of a chance to do any long drives so it's been mainly a few hours a week at E@RTC. Here's a brief photo diary.

April 22nd, All Italian Car Show at the XXX Root Beer Drive-in. Weather started off cool and cloudy with not a lot of cars in the early morning. However, by late morning the sun came out and so did the people and cars.

An old Fiat 500 next the the new Fiat 500. I had never seen an old 500 before and this was pretty cool. It's amazing how much the new 500 looks like the old 500.

Old Jaguars at E@RTC

Maserati Merak SS

Citro├źn 2CV with a roll top. I had no idea they only had three lug-nuts per wheel!

Here is a car I saw for sale locally a while back. The it's got the most unusual color combo I've seen on a 308. The outside is called Chiaro Verde and the inside is beige with red carpet. I can't say I'm too fond of the color, but no denying that it's very unusual.

Early 1970s Saab Sonnet III. What the heck is that? I've never heard of this car. With a V4 engine too!

Yeah! 1957 Cadillac convertible with a fairly young guy driving it. This thing is so big you can play half-court basketball on the trunk.

Ahhhh, one of my favorite cars of all time -- a Ferrari F40. I've seen several of these in collections and shops, but this is the first time I've seen one "out in the wild." The owner (who has an Enzo and a 599 GTO among others) was good enough to bring it out so we could drool over it.

KTM's reply to the Ariel Atom -- The KTM X-bow

Have an extra $110K laying around? How about this electric Fisker Karma? Check out the solar cells built in to the roof panel.

Porsche 356 racer

The obligatory shot of me in "Ferrari Row"

Series I Lotus Esprit

Finally, me coming back from the local propane distributor to get my propane bottle re-certified. Who knew that they needed re-certification after 12 years?