OK, I’ll start with my own “Cross-Threaded” adventure. The one major event that my car buddies have never let me live down.
Don’t get me wrong, this was not the first time I ever regretted starting a project. When I was a kid I took apart a wrist watch that I thought I could put back together before anyone noticed and as a young teen I had completely disassembled my Yashica 35mm camera. Both of these projects proved to me that the best of intentions could and would come back to bite you. But I digress.
The Olds was, and still is, one of my favorite cars. I bought this pristine Rocket 88 at Reedman Motors in Pennsylvania on my way out of my 6 months at Fort Dix in NJ for the NJ National Guard. It had very low miles and rattled like a baby toy. For the first few weeks of ownership I familiarized myself with every nut and bolt on this beauty and in very little time I had the Olds as quiet as a nap.
This getting acquainted time created a false sense of “I know this car intimately”. Other than the usual maintenance items I did not have a day’s problem with this car. Then one afternoon, at about 60,000 miles, on an entrance ramp to Route 22 in Hillside, NJ, the tranny decided to have only one gear. Sadly it chose neutral. This was that moment in time where one door closes and another opens.
Had I known what was behind door number two … Well there would be no story, no learning experience and no Cross-Threaded Blog. So the Olds gets towed to my cousin’s driveway for the impending repair.
I do a little research and find out; that my problem was fairly common and easily fixed if you had $800 and did the work yourself. Ouch, more money than I could come up with but I did have plenty of time to do the work. So after much discussion with a few of those same friends that never let me live it down, I came up with the brilliant idea to change out the automatic for a stick. Not just any stick but a ’37 Cad-LaSalle three speed floor shifter. Brilliant!!
Some more research told me that I would need a few parts to make this work. I would need a flywheel, a clutch fork, standard shift bell housing,, a stick shift pedal assembly, a throw out bearing, a pilot bushing, a ’37 Cad/LaSalle tranny and various and sundry other hardware. No big deal.
I was off to one of many local Junk Yards in the Newark, NJ area. Actually it was relatively easy to get most of the parts since the Olds was very popular and came with either a stick or automatic and there was a good stock of wrecks in our local yards. Finding a tranny was a bit harder but in a while I had one and all the needed bearings to rebuild it. I bought the rest of the needed parts from some local dealer and had, so far, spent about $300.
I was all ready to get to work. And sure enough the beginnings started out pretty smoothly. The old automatic, the torque converter and the flex plate came out easily and I got the pedal assembly in with the normal cursing and hammering. Next was the install of the flywheel, no problem.
We have now come to the part that forever changed my life. The next item to be installed was the pilot bushing. I learned more in the next five seconds then I had learned in my life up to that day. The 1957 Olds engines had two different crankshafts; the one for the stick had a nicely machined receptacle for the pilot bushing. The crankshafts for an automatic had a rough cast, shallow hole.
Well this was my first “Cross-Threaded” diversion. I had three options. Abandon this project, get another crankshaft or make an acceptable pilot bushing hole. The first two choices were out of the question, so I began the long difficult job of hand grinding the rough cast hole in the crankshaft into a pilot mount. It took what seemed like forever, but eventually (about a week of grinding and cursing) I had made a pretty good replica of a mounting hole. Now of course, since it was handmade it was probably not perfectly centered. That part took another week of getting a machinist to make me an Oilite bushing the size of the hole I made, but with no center hole. We set the bushing in place, marked its position and using some straight edges and other black magic we found the true center of the crankshaft and had the proper size hole drilled in “our” center. One “Cross-Threaded” diversion handled and only two weeks wasted.
Finally I could continue.
I installed the clutch, bell housing, clutch release arm, throw-out bearing and transmission. I had already installed the clutch pedal assembly in the car. The next “Thread” was about to be” Crossed”. It came in the form of “How was I going to actuate the clutch release arm?” For some reason that I can no longer remember I could not hook up the pedal to the arm with the original linkage. Well, why not do a hydraulic setup? So I did. Talk about “Cross-Threaded”. This little diversion not only took another two weeks but it also revealed how little I knew about hydraulics. So brute force and absolute ignorance prevailed and I had a working clutch system.
Again, I could continue. Between having a drive shaft custom made and adapting a speedo cable, I was pretty much done. I lowered my “Frankenstein” to the ground and cranked her up. My first indication that my hydraulic clutch system was a bit off was that it almost took all my leg strength to push the pedal to disengage the clutch. My response “I’ll get used to it”.
When I engaged first gear and let the clutch out, my ignorance of rear end gear ratios made itself apparent. The car needed to be revved to about 1500 R.P.M. and the clutch released slowly so as not to stall the engine. The rear on the cars with an automatic was a 2.73:1 and was so not right for a stick. Well the combination of the 2 ton clutch and the rear end ratio was the reason my “Cross-Threaded” project would live forever in the hearts of my comrades.
I had a left leg like Popeye and a reputation for rarely needing to shit out of first. It was good for at least 60 MPH. I never did get to find out what it would do in third. I had run out of money and patience but I drove that beast for another year or so and I now know all about hydraulics and rear end gear ratios and am much more of a “planner” when I do a project, and I still build a project once in a while. The results are much better and my legs are finally equal in size.
Please share some of your stories on my blog and we all get to laugh or cry but we will learn something.