Why does MY idea of “OLD CAR” differ from YOURS? Introducing the CHECKER.

I am a confirmed old car freak. My love for old cars is not that unusual tho. What might be unusual is the age of what I daily drive. What am I driving as a daily right now? This 1975 Checker.

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My sis snapped this pic of me driving it months back (note the snow). This car is a bare bones model. It’s not even a Marathon. Just a basic A11 model. 99% of which were destined to be ran into the ground as taxi cabs. This particular one was one of THREE A11’s ordered with trim code 30 in 1975. The color could best be described as “Battleship Gray”  Was never a taxi. As Checker offered these as fleet cars (and as police cars and a bunch of other cool variations) it may have served some other as-yet unknown purpose. I’ll be researching this soon..I was rather surprised how few cars Checker made each year back in the “good old days” 4-5000 cars per year were all that were being made. Contrast that against your average Chevy, made in the millions per annum! This car is in just fair shape, it has a fair collection of rust spots, dings and dents having traveled a lot of miles before being parked around 2000. The odometer reads 86k. I’m sure it’s been around at least once or thrice but nobody will ever really know since they only ever put 5 digit odometers in these. Still, the car attracts attention wherever I drive it. You can’t even buy gas without involving yourself in a lengthy conversation. Power is courtesy of a well worn Chevy 250 six cylinder. Cold started, it rattles in a way that lets a person know its days are numbered. Sounds just fine once warmed up so its just piston slap before they expand a little. I’d trust it to drive anywhere. Why? It’s not going to just blow up. It will slowly start consuming oil and do the long lingering slow painful sort of death….it’s coming for sure, but not tomorrow, nor likely this year, but eventually, it will just get too tired. I’ll  have replaced it long prior to that ever happening. People often ask if I’m afraid it will break. I’m not afraid of it breaking tho…It’s made of easily fixed and mostly (more on this in a minute) easy to get common 1975-era parts cribbed from wherever the Checker people were getting stuff at that moment. It has dirt-common and cheap GM electrical parts like the starter and alternator. The gas gauge is more suggestion than fact ( I understand from other owners this is a standard “undocumented feature”). The cars built after about 1965 have straight 6 and V8 engines that were the same as offered in Chevrolet cars. Later cars got V6 engines and the infamous Olds 350 Diesel. There were some propane powered cars as well. Transmission is a GM turbo 400. I’m not terribly worried about it being overpowered by all 100hp that chev six is pushing out. The rear axle is a Dana 44 so parts are simple to find for it. I already added a positrac unit to mine since I had one sitting around. A few parts are somewhat hard (read expensive) to source like windwing weatherstripping and the front steering centerlink but overall, since rescuing the car from a garage back in March, I have put over 7000 miles on it. So far, it has needed a pickup for the HEI distributor, (it never died but it did get twitchy) Replaced the Master Cylinder, (no big shocker as it had sat for 15 years) and a fuel pump (Was still working but I changed it preemptively as I had no faith in a pump that had sat that long)  I put some good used tires on and have been driving the wheels off it for months now without having it strand me.  Proof that some cool stuff still hides on Craigslist.

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This is what $1500 got me. So far, it is the ONLY “ran when parked” car I have ever bought that actually started and ran when I put in a battery and primed the carb. Future plans will likely involve a more modern powerplant and A/C.  The Hoarder in me sorta craves a Checker Wagon. Time will tell. Here is one last pic from a vintage brochure.1965 Checker Marathon-10

Ever worry that cars in traffic can’t see your vintage Jeep Wagon?

Driving old cars in today’s traffic can be fairly stressful. Doesn’t help to have manual steering and drum brakes either. Add into those problems the small taillights that many old cars have. Take for example my  black ’60 Willys Station Wagon.11059349_1577701372510659_1865234932686319816_n

The factory taillights provide a fairly minimal surface area for a single light bulb to shine thru.PART_1470529609293_20160806_163406

A bit tired looking. There is supposed to be a reflector there in that little round piece. I decided a modern LED light might be a better use for this spot.

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These LED lights are fairly inexpensive. These were locally sourced for $6.99 ea. I’ll bet they can be had online even cheaper. But hey, the locals gotta eat too.

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A minute later with a Unibit, it looked like this. The package suggests drilling a 3/4″ hole for the grommet to set in. I preferred the look sans-grommet and used the included grommet to retain the light from the backside and only drilled the hole to 5/8″ instead.

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Here is the finished product. Not bad for a 40 minute project. Next on the list is a LED upgrade to replace the single bulb behind the stock lens. I have tried a few of the commercially available 1157 LED bulb replacements and I don’t like them. Not bright enough. I’ll be adapting something else. Stay tuned!

Homer’s Garage is getting a new home!

Well, I decided to relocate my whole life, garage, and everything to Colorado Springs! I’ll be moving about 60 miles from the current place but the awesome builds, tech and fun will continue!  I’ll be right in the shadow of Pikes Peak, so a new logo was needed to reflect it! There will likely be a few adjustments to it…but I hope to have some stickers made in the next few months. Perhaps some T shirts too! Can’t wait to show off the new place!13115422_272563103080458_1240198274_n

 

Catching up. Time flies so fast. Done some fun stuff. Need to write more.

Lotta changes over the last couple years. Am a single guy again….10 years of  married life came to an end 2 years back….am happier for it in a lot of ways…but what ya gonna do? Still have the following projects….and a couple new ones.

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The M715….Still running some 70k miles and 10 years later….the workhorse truck. Few things make me grumpier than this truck being broken. Irritatingly, the really rare and EXPENSIVE 4.10 gearset for the .500 pinion offset Dana 70 broke last fall. Still looking for a reasonable set. Currently running easier-to-get 4.56’s until I find some.

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This Willys wagon found it’s way into my life a few years back. Has a 283 smallblock Chevy that was swapped into it when it was still nearly new. Recently swapped the 3 speed trans and a noisy, ailing 18 t-case for a slightly more modern TH400 automatic and Dana 20  t-case. Future plans involve swapping the 4.27 gears for something like 3.54 gears to give it some legs on the highway.

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The Mercedes Diesel Comanche is still around….tho owned now by my brother….still getting mid 30’s for fuel mileage. Was recently driven on a 1200 mile roadtrip….did great.

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My ’62 Austin Healey Sprite is coming along. Not finished yet….but is now street legal and have driven it a couple hundred miles. Is now put away for the winter….next summer should be fun.

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Picked up this cute little ’65 A-100 van that had been parked since 1985. Factory V8 3-speed. Probably sell this one. (Can’t keep ’em all)

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Picked up this solid old ’75 Jeep J10. Needs a new motor….otherwise is a awesome old survivor. Can’t wait to get started on it.

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My much beloved flatfender “Frankie” is still around and running great. Frankie was so named because of the Frankenstein nature of it’s construction. Is made from parts sourced from a mess of other old Jeeps. 134 L-head powered, it has dragged itself to places that still amaze me. Transmission is a custom made Borg-Warner T19 granny gear 4 speed and mated to a 18 t-case.  Axles are a 27 front and 44 rear. Both 4.27 geared and powr-lok equipped.  Fun little Jeep.

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Got this poor abused CJ2A. Still 134 powered, it runs good….need to do some brake work and rust repair.

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Got this ’80 Fullsize Jeep Cherokee Laredo. Nice old survivor. So fun to drive. This Jeep is currently for sale.

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Sold my 1924 Model TT truck. Miss it terribly. Had to downsize tho….

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Kept my 1926 t Roadster pickup tho. Still a work in progress.

Lots more fun stuff to post…..but I’m going to save it for another time. Stay tuned!

Willys Truck Continued.. THE SHIFTERS! And covering up big holes!

I’m doing absolutely fantastic and having a lot of fun showing off my Willys  build. I wish I had done this stuff on so many other projects…. Here’s what I did yesterday. I built a transfercase shifter out of the shorter of the two originally used on a Spicer 18 ‘case. There’s a 7/16″ threaded hole on the driver side of the AX-15 trans near the transfercase flange. The hole in the lever was 1/2″ so I had to make a little bushing on the lathe to make it fit nice. Welded a piece of flatstrap to the end of the shifter that originally shifted the 18. Drilled a hole in it and fabbed a short link to the lever on the 231. Need to find a boot to cover the hole that’s about 6″ long. No worries. The Shifter for the AX-15 was much simpler. I had a AX-15 shifter that the top part had come off of leaving just a 4″ long stub. I simply welded an old T-90 shifter onto it and bolted it down. Now I needed some tinwork. Here is what I came up with:Image011120142156481

This is some aluminum sign material from a old carwash I demoed it out of. The stuff is strong tho and takes a bit of work to bend. I clamp a piece of pipe in my vise and form it over that. Otherwise, I just use compound aviation snips to cut the shape out. A hole saw started the shifter hole and I enlarged it from there to a good fit.

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That’s how it’s looking for now. I need to do something with the E brake handle. that’s what is lying on the driver floor. It needs a new cable and a e-brake sure is nice to have. The seat BTW is a Jeep Comanche unit and sits in there nicely…. Next up? A Dana 44 front axle!

The Willys pickup cluch linkage comes together

The clutch linkage on this project was certainly an interesting one to build. I wanted it to be mechanical, in part because I wished to keep the pedals under the floor as they are stock. Having a  NP231 style T-case complicates this a bit as the front  driveshaft needs to go through this area as well.

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This piece of 3/4 bar stock was  machined on the ends for 1/2″ threads then notched and bent for front driveshaft clearance. It’s pivoting on a couple of 1/2 Heim joints bolted through the factory Willys Crossmember. I know, that diff in the background is on the wrong side….It’ll get swapped for a Ford High Pinion unit at some point.

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This mess of goodies is part of what I was selecting stuff from. I’m trying to use only stuff I already have here in my workshop.

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Made this neeto piece on the Bridgeport mill. the 3/4 cutout on the end will get welded to the  3/4″ Z bar. I made lots of holes in this for several reasons. One, I’m not sure just what the ratio is going to be for this clutch setup and secondly, as my projects evolve, other setups may be used. This just covers a bunch of possibilities. I expect to be about in the middle of these possibilities. 3/8 holes at a spacing of .500.

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Here it is Just before welding. When I welded it I got it aligned so its in the same plane and angle as the clutch pedal.

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Here is the other side of the setup. Unlike most clutch setups in these old Willys, I needed a push type setup here to replace the slave cylinder that once lived here. I was surprised that the linkage doesn’t center in the slave cylinder hole to line up to the release fork for the throwout bearing.  Not sure why. I got a few adjustments made and it works awesome! I am going to add a factory cable type motion limiter to keep the motor from moving forward under hard stops.  (Radiator preservation) The factory mount is still on the crossmember and I think that It’ll go thru the bottom left bellhousing bolt hole just like one did from the factory. Next up? Shifters for the T-case and the transmission!

The Willys Diesel Truck is coming along!

So the Dana 53 is now installed under the back of the truck. Re-did the brake soft parts as the shoes and drums looked like new. Well, no sense in throwing away perfectly good stuff. Shortened  a factory driveshaft to connect the 231 transfercase to the 53 rear. The old driveshaft had the original factory style of U joints that have the little strap holding em together so the cups can’t fall off…..still nice and smooth….65 years later…greased ’em and installed the driveshaft. Another $25 bux saved there…and I’m guessing those 65 year old Spicer joints are way better than most of the parts store cheapies…. So, now I’m on to another interesting facet of this project. Clutch linkage. Normally, I would do a hydraulic setup for its ability to work properly as the vehicle twists and moves offroad. Well, that’ll happen eventually…for now, I’m going to build a classic Z-bar linkage out of a mess of factory z bar linkage. With some rod-ends thrown in to make it work as good as possible for the time being. A push rod will be going from the z bar to the hole in the AX-15 bellhousing where the external hydraulic slave cylinder normally bolts. Oughta be interesting using the original clutch pedal and such. Never tried this before. Might be just a big ‘ol mess. Also need to fab up some kind of transfercase shift linkage on the left side instead of on the right as it was before. I have an old T90 shifter stick I’ll weld onto the AX-15 shifter. It’ll  feel like it should. I’ll just have to remember where 1st and reverse are! The 5 speed fits under the factory floor but the shifter is going to come up behind the removable panel that originally covered the T90. No worries, I’ll have it looking good in no time.  Well, someone will. I’m still recovering from my surgery so an awful lot of this really is being performed by evil minions as I direct them to do my bidding….

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These pix are what I started with. Pretty typical Farm-fresh old Willys.

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Complete with some angle iron spring perch lift blocks! Those will be going away… There was no motor/trans/transfercase in this when I got it. Things are  changing fast for this one. Can’t wait!