Monday, November 14, 2016

In Search of Gusto.

Hey, guess what's different this time?

Yep: it's not been a few months since last time. Don't get used to it.

It's been a busy time with the shop and my beloved three-and-a-half-plus year old tyrannical kiddo, so time spent on the ol' 444 hasn't been well documented, and it often seems that there's hardly any sensible documenting to be done. It's always an hour or so one week, then another hour or so a week (or two or three or six weeks) later, with the poor old car either: 1) sitting alone and neglected, or 2) getting robust exercise at every opportunity. We prefer the latter.

Back when the car was to remain a regular daily driver, we first wore out an old 2130cc B20 that had been used in not one but two prior Volvos - this was the very first Volvo engine I'd ever assembled, a job which was completed in my bedroom before being wheeled out the front door on a skateboard and carried down the front steps by hand with the help of my two stout roommates. That was 1993, and that engine served me well without any major failure for more than 300,000 miles before being traded for a rebuildable 1971 B20E that was destined for use in my fabulous wife's fabulous '57 445.

We got the 444 back on the road with a well built but unremarkable B18. It was a low compression version, .040" over, fitted with a D cam, neoprene seals, HD oil pump and reinforcing ring, and some of those Cloyes aluminum/steel timing gears. Nothing super exotic, but easily capable of a hundred thousand trouble free miles. It got DCOEs partly because they were on hand and partly because DCOEs. I love them.

Simple B18. Back to our roots and stuff.
Then that whole endurance racing notion started, and every single thing about the car was changed except the engine (well, that and the transmission, which you heard about last time). And we talked about and thought about and hemmed and hawed about what engine would eventually live in the car. Our needs are simple, really: must run on pump gas at all elevations while making tons of torque from idle to redline. The B18 became a functional placeholder while the thinking and talking went on, and then a few magical things happened kind of all at the same time.

First, a guy I don't know found my number and called to see if I wanted a factory rebuilt AQ130 that had only 4 or 5 hours of running time before being stored since the late 1970s. For you who might not know, an AQ130 is a marine spec B20, which means it has some weird stuff on it that doesn't work with a car, but the insides of the engine don't care what the outside world does or does not include. Initially, I planned on finding someone with a boat who'd want to buy this engine, and I sort of tried to find that person for about an hour a very long time. And didn't.

B18 getting undressed.
Then I offered this marine engine to the car people, and none of them wanted to buy it either, so I thought I'd go ahead and repurpose it myself for use in the 444. Maybe it'd be good enough for the long term, and maybe it'd only be good enough to last until the "real" engine manifested itself (whatever that means - we still don't really know). So I took it apart to see what a factory built engine looks like on the inside. And also to remove the not-car-compatible stuff.

B18 removed.
The minor bummer: It wasn't built by anyone who was trained by Volvo. All the gaskets were heavily slathered with orange RTV, and there were blobs of the stuff floating loose inside the crankcase. The major awesomeness: aside from sloppy gobs of cheap sealant, everything else inside the engine looked brand spanking new. Like really 4 or 5 hours' away from new. And the marine engines all came with steel timing gears, which is plenty cool enough.

Marine camshafts aren't the same as automotive cams, and rather than find out what shortcomings the former might have when applied to use in the latter, we removed the boat-spec bump stick from the thing and sent it to Schneider Racing Cams down in California and asked them to regrind it to their "274 degree" spec. They did that, and sent it back to us. It's a lot less money to have them regrind your cam (if yours is good enough to regrind) than it is to buy one outright.

Marine heads aren't the same either, but they can easily be modified for use in an automotive application. This is really cool, as they have the biggest factory valves, and lots of material to work with should [ahem] anyone want to go about porting one for high performance use. The marine head (plus an NOS head that was part of the deal) went onto the shelf, and for this engine, we sent an old and well used head out to the machinist for reworking. This is a head that we ran on the 2130cc B20 mentioned earlier. It got new seats, guides and valves, and new double valve springs.

Ready for its new home.

We also managed to score a new valve cover by bartering away a copy of Swedish Iron. Good deal. A few teething pains - like the fuel pump flange warping and leaking 2 quarts of oil all over the underside of the car in about 40 miles, and having to rejet the Webers, but other than that, it's been a very decent (and more oomphy than expected!) pushrod mill.

2 liters of fresh goodness.
This still isn't the long term permanent engine for the old 444, though. If we manage to take it to Mexico for racing, we might have to run a B18 to be class compliant (or run against much newer and more powerful machines). If we can run a B20, this one might do the trick except that despite being pretty fresh and assembled with some good stuff, it's probably not quite the caliber we'd need.

And about the time that this boat engine got functional, we came into possession of a very rare old performance engine that we're now in the process of slowly rebuilding. We'll get into the details later, but for those of you familiar with old hotrod B20 stuff, stay tuned as we bring a 2400cc B20 stroker back to life.

'til then -


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

More Is Better. 5 Is More Than 4.

Dear Reader. Very happy to be back in the blogosphere, and happier still that you're along for the ride.

We've got a lot of catching up to do, and there's a lot of work yet to be done on the car. Funny thing about these old cars - you never really run out of things to do just to keep the thing on the road even when you aren't trying to modify every last thing that makes the thing go and steer and stop. Add to this the not-so-smart notion of getting the thing on the road only to then take apart something that you haven't taken apart yet just because it's next on the list as part of your sensible approach to a rolling restoration kind of long term project. At the rate I'm going, I'll have to replace worn out modified stuff before I finish modifying the rest of the stuff.

Smart way: take it all apart, collect all the bits, assemble, enjoy.
Our way: not the smart way.

Since our last session, a whole bunch has happened with the car. And in keeping with our tradition, it's not all getting into pixels in exactly the order that it's all going down. Alas. We've replaced the rock solid B18 with a slightly modified AQ130-converted-to-B20 with a nicely ported head and Schneider 274 cam (more on this later!), and we ditched the cute single Cibie Tango fog lamp in favor of a pair of Cibie Iode 45 long range driving lights. Thank you, ebay France!

We are not afraid of the dark. There is no dark.
As you know, one of the very best upgrades you can make to an old Volvo is the addition of an overdrive transmission to replace the original 4 speed... actually, though, this car started life with a 3 speed, but that's not the point. Simply put, the result is that you have the same four forward gears that you had before, but you also get a 5th 'gear' (not really a gear, exactly) that drops your highway rpms by 20 or 25 percent (depending on which version of overdrive you end up with). This is a big deal and it's all kinds of awesome. Example: cruising at 3500rpms with a 4.10 rear and a 4 speed in the 444 we're dealing with results in a highway speed of 62. With an overdrive, that same rpm speeds us along at about 78 mph. At 4000, the difference is 71 versus 89 mph.
This won't necessarily increase your (my) top speed by 20%, because torque and horsepower and wind resistance and a bunch of physics related BS conspire against us in our quest for unadulterated velocity. With a relatively standard B18, the top speed would likely be higher in 4th than in overdrive. And much as it pains me to say it: top speed isn't the point here - engine rpms while cruising on the highway is what we're tweaking.

I'm leaving out a bunch of stuff related to changing the rear axle ratio when converting to overdrive so that you can tailor your effective final drive ratio such that your engine will reach redline in overdrive. We're not worried about that just now.

Anyway, let's jump in.

The organ: M41 taken from a 1975 240 series Volvo.

The recipient: our venerable 1957 PV444.
The reason a lot of PVs don't have overdrives is that their transmission tunnels are too small for the thing to fit. 122 and 140 series have big cavernous tunnels. PVs do not. Proof:

Originally, this car had an H6 (3 speed) transmission. The one in the pic is an M40. It barely fits.

4 speed as viewed from above.
To accommodate the larger M41, we collected a transmission tunnel from an 1800 (bottom of the next pic). Then we removed the 4 speed from the car and tossed everything on the floor to get a good look.
The M41 is about twice the size of the M40.
Next, we cut out most of the old tunnel and some of the floor. I was super happy to find that the floors were much thinner than when they were new - all that metal that's rusted away results in a lighter car overall. It also ensures that any welding you might do will either blow holes in the old metal; or the weld slag will plop itself about in messy blobs.

Mind The Gap.

Test fit with 240 shifter.
The initial plan was to use the 240 shifter and its dandy overdrive switch that's built into the shift knob, but the dry fit demonstrated that the tunnel would have to be 3 inches taller than if we stuck with the original shift lever. And the original, nearly a meter long, is cool.

Tunnel dry fit.

Rough fit.
We made another change along the way: the brakeline that feeds the rear wheels used to tuck nicely into the tunnel alongside the transmission. The new tunnel, though, is placed such that there's no room at all to spare under there and we want to be able to remove the transmission without worrying about bonking a brakeline. So the brakeline is now routed inside the cabin, connected to important looking things with knobs and stuff:
Bias valve on the left, line lock on the right.
Two coats of Gloss Smoke Grey Rustoleum, and the new tunnel looks like part of the old car. The next step will be to add a platform atop the existing floor that will bring the driver's feet up about an inch and will also ensure that nobody steps on the brakelines. Because that would suck.

And now we wait. The driveline is away being shortened and balanced, so we can't test the new setup until that comes back. And we don't know anything about this 'new' M41. Condition unknown, other than that it looks ok inside the gearbox, and the solenoid works. Unknown quantities keep us on our toes.

Here's hoping.

'til then -


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

At the Cellular Level.

Irrelevant Intro Begins Here. To skip this part, please scroll down to the next bit of red text, found 5 paragraphs below.

I've started my blog entries off with so many different versions of "It's been a long time since the last time" that I'm having trouble coming up with a new phrase that doesn't sound like a broken record. A broken record. Record. And if that's not enough, now I've gone a step further and started this "here's a bunch of writing you'll probably want to skip." The absurdity that I'm doing exactly this same thing yet again is not lost on me. I appreciate your concern.

I need to convey the same old tired sentiment that I always say, but it has to sound innovative and sexy. Because that's the high standard to which we've become accustomed. Alas, the only expertise from which I can draw inspiration seems to be that offered by those mythological beasts we collectively know as "candidates." And though I'm desperate, I can't allow myself to be conflated into that social clique.

If I were, I might still be able to live with myself. But my reputation would suffer because you, dear reader, would instantly think less of me. On a personal level, that's okay. But now that I have the shop open and I'm playing adult games and stuff, I have to act like other people's personal opinions actually carry some weight in my corner of this vast universe. And if I'm wrong about all of that, then I'm wrong about my own opinion that lovers of Old Things Volvo are people of a high enough caliber that they aren't dulled to the point of apathy by this every-four-year-election-circus. We notice things. We think critically. This is not an endorsement of any candidate nor an invitation for political debate. Comments are moderated.

See what I did there? Paid you a subliminal compliment in order to foster a positive assessment and silently bolster my standing.

Now that we're all thinking about how much we don't like at least one of the someones who is working to become the leader of the free world and our moods have most certainly risen to something between Giddy With Excitement and Pure Bliss (no need to thank me), let's get back to the car thing.

The shop is legit: we got the stickers to prove it.

Irrelevant Intro Ends Here.

One of the things about this car that I've never wanted anyone to know (Hi Mom! Hi Dad! Hi Beloved Wife!) is that it's been limping along on a crummy old original fuel tank for a few years. This isn't so bad, exactly, except that the pickup tube (you Volvo folks already know where this is headed) rusted and became perforated. The pickup tube is a metal straw that enters the tank near the top, and pokes down toward the bottom. Just like your soda straw does when you're sipping on a cola.

Anyway when these tubes get holes in them, they can't draw fuel from the bottom of the tank, and you end up basically running out of gas even though you might have several gallons sloshing around in there. With this one, I could fill the tank to its astonishing 9 gallon capacity, and after using about 3 gallons, the car would coast to the side of the road. For a long distance endurance kind of car, a range of 50 miles per tank is unsuitable. Eventually, 3 gallons became less than 2, and I was managing about 30 miles between fillups. I was not popular with gas station attendants (we don't pump our own here in Oregon) who, after being asked to "fill 'er up!" barely got things started when it was already over with.

There's an analogy in there somewhere, but I just can't find it.

See the shiny spots? That's where raw gas ends up.

I will not disclose the method by which a faulty fuel pickup tube was circumvented. Either you shouldn't know, or you already do.

There were also some pinholes in the top of the tank that allowed small amounts of raw gasoline to exit the top of the tank and stink up the whole car. We thought about what we need from our replacement tank.

It had to be bigger than the original, needed a provision for a fuel gauge sending unit, had to have a rollover valve, and had (this part is obvious) to fit into the trunk along with a lot of other things. Though a proper FIA certified fuel cell (that's bonafide race car stuff) is a really smart thing, it's also a thousand dollar plus kind of thing. For the events we're looking into, the cell need not be FIA certified.

So there was a lot of thinking about capacity and dimensions and how other stuff would stow in the trunk. Do we want a tall skinny fuel cell? A low flat one? How important is the filler placement? Sump or no sump? We finally settled on a 17 gallon piece that would tuck nicely* into the floor, included a fuel gauge sending unit, and had its filler located pretty close to the original fuel filler hole in the left rear fender. I don't know if we'll use the original fuel filler hole, but that seems more likely if the tank filler isn't on the opposite corner of the trunk.

*tuck nicely: 1. stow neatly within a small enclosed space in an aesthetically pleasing and functional manner. 2. the garish - but appropriately concealed - result of angle grinders, hacksaws, welders and various other devices of irreversible alteration applied to an otherwise perfect foundation with the robust intention of accommodating the absurd.

One of these is the old tank. The other is the new one.
The new tank is pretty flat, so it won't take up a lot of trunk space. If this were a track car, the cell would drop down into a recess ('the cell sits in the well') and we'd have a lower center of gravity (good thing) as well as more available trunk space (irrelevant on the track). But for this car, we really don't want a box of gasoline acting like low hanging fruit out underneath the car's stern. And this way, we can drop the original tank right back into place if we want; or we can quickly put a proper race cell in place should the opportunity arise.

Fuel tank hole gets bigger. Hard to tell with all the crap on the floor under there.
Another round of Irreversible Changes That Get Me Hate Mail, and the 59 year old Swedish sheetmetal trunk floor is adjusted to accommodate the new feedbag.

Adding a flange to the newly cut side.

Doesn't have to be pretty. Luckily.
One super-important aspect was the fuel sending unit. There are a few different kinds, none of which is advertised as having the proper resistance range to match the 444's original fuel gauge. This is no surprise. So we ordered the "GM" sending unit, then bought a gauge that would communicate with that. Then we spent a LOT of time figuring out how to fit an aftermarket VDO fuel gauge into the original instrument panel. Because that's how we want it.

The idea was to use sheet steel (right) and then...
... drill a hole for the gauge.
The issues with this: only one 2 inch gauge will fit on either side of the speedometer. And fitting one gauge per side requires irreversible mods to the instrument housing. The trick is to recess the gauge such that it's behind the lovely chrome fascia, but not all the way in the back of the housing where you can't see it. Thus, the plate shown above.

Because I practice full disclosure: if you've read my prior blog entries already, you know that I'm not always ever very any good about getting X to completion before starting in on Y. One result of this is that I sometimes do things that turn out to be completely worthless less valuable than I might choose. Another result is that I have a big stash of cool stuff to use when I make other cool stuff someday. All that fiddling with the new gauge and making up a panel fits into both of these categories. Because here's the thing I never could have predicted: not only is the mounting plate for the GM sending unit the exact same diameter as the Volvo piece, it also has 5 mounting holes like the Volvo piece. And though the holes aren't equally spaced from one another on the GM part, the unequal spacing is identical to the unequal spacing on the Volvo part.

In short, the two sending unit mounting provisions are identical. The Volvo sending unit fits perfectly. This wonderful news has delightfully rendered many hours of fettling irrelevant. Woot.

GM, top. Original Volvo, bottom.
The other happy coincidence is that because we chose a fuel cell that's about the same height as the original tank, the only thing we had to do to make the sending unit float span from the very bottom of the tank to the very top was bend the arm a little. In the Volvo tank, the sending unit mount is recessed (this keeps it tucked nicely* below any cargo that would be stowed in the trunk). Because it's recessed, the float actually reaches higher than the mounting plate when indicating 'full.' This new tank isn't like that, so the float reach doesn't need to go as high - by about a half inch. It does need to reach lower than before, though. By about a half an inch. Maybe this coincidence isn't any big deal, but I'm pretty stoked. Wouldn't have been possible with any other fuel cell that I was considering. A quick test with the ohmmeter tells us that we're good to go.

*See prior reference. Or ibid. I don't know.


I'm really pleased that we'll be able to use the original fuel gauge. And because we can do that, I've decided to not install a new VDO temp gauge and to run with the original. We aren't using the original oil pressure gauge nor the ammeter. It might seem like a minor thing, but despite evidence to the contrary, we want this car to stay old. We're changing it for a specific purpose and many of these changes call for modern elements. But these bits of modernization are side effects resulting from a primary goal that relates to vintage authenticity.

That's the Volvo sending unit on the right.
 Because the tank isn't secured the same way as the original, we added a ground wire to the sending unit cover. That's a simple thing.

There are a few things to keep in mind if you install a cell, even if it's a Not-Actual-Race variety like this one. Ensure that it's adequately supported from below, for example. And there's a vent, which you'll want to connect to a fuel-compatible line and then route well above the filler level before fitting it somewhere outside the trunk (and also outside the passenger compartment) so that it can draw clean air into the tank as the fuel level drops. Our vent tube leads up, then loops around and comes back down with the open end hiding behind the license plate and fitted with a small filter to keep the big chunks of dirt out.

And that's it for now. There's less trunk space than before, but there's enough. For comparison, here's a 544 that's run La Carrera 8 or 10 times and hasn't run out of gas:

That's 22 gallons of awesome, plus the spare/jack/tool kit, fire extinguisher and first aid kit. Photo courtesy of Michael Sharp.
We've done a few other things along the way that are kind of cool (and maybe a little silly) but they're minor and not worthy of their own blog post. So we'll just add them here.

First: based on advice from LCP veterans, the car now has windshield squirters:

That's the bottle. Keen eyed readers will notice that the coil and Crane box have been moved.
... and some exterior hinges that allow the trunk to open all the way:

The hinge pins are held in place with hitch pin clips so that we can remove the trunk lid altogether in about 20 seconds without tools. The original latch stays locked so you won't steal it.

And that's about it. We're looking forward to taking the car up to the Swedish Car Day event at the XXX Drive In up in Issaqua (that's sort of near Seattle) on Feb 14th. Hope to see you there!

'til next time -

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Shortest Post, Biggest News!

A few months ago, we opened a shop. A Volvo fixin' shop. And last week, we got a website!

Check it out!

'til next time --


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Terra Trip Fermanente

It's funny how everything [like a certain blog I know] ebbs and flows.

Actually, it's really not funny, and not everything does that. But that's the best opener I could come up with just now.

In our previous action lacked episode (and least half of the ones before that), we did the thing we're best at at which we are best: We undid something that wasn't done completely or correctly the first time, and we put stuff back together better than before. It's not lost on me that if I were to go about altering another 444, that the next one would be a lot more polished than this one. Fortunately, that's completely irrelevant, because this isn't a show car and it's not destined for an easy old age that includes being put out to pasture (or whatever the automotive equivalent of that might be).

Instead, we're going to slather weld beads all over the underside and inside of this one that look like they were performed underwater by someone wearing a blindfold who is also being attacked by an underfed school of barracuda. As soon as that's done, we're going to spend a few months trying to break stuff. Sort of. Mostly. Besides, this car was already out to pasture and all but abandoned before I retrieved it out from under a maple tree where it had been sitting - in a flood plain - without tires for some number of years. I wouldn't do this kind of thing to a car that warranted a proper restoration.

You'll recall the Terra Trip Rally computer that went into the car a few months ago. It's the device that keeps track of ground speed, date, time of day, elapsed time, ETA, and has something like 4 internal stopwatches, each of which can be started and stopped independently and can count up or down. If we can figure out how to use this thing, it's going to be really helpful.

Initially, it was attached to the dash with the included suction cups. That's fine, except that those suction cups aren't as suction-ey as I might like, and the thing came undone a few times just while driving around. Pushing any of its buttons guaranteed that it would come loose, and the last thing we need at 80mph while we're looking for some landmark and watching out for livestock is to have expensive things shaped like bricks pulling loose from their wires flying around inside the car. So I decided it was time to ditch the afterthought-looking suction cups and permanently affix it to the dash. Securely mounted = harder to steal. Win.

The codriver is the one who has to see it, so it made sense to mount it onto the glove box door. I have a LOT of extra glove box doors, so I don't feel bad about drilling holes in this one. And I have a LOT of extra glove box door chrome trim pieces, so I don't feel terribly bad about cutting one in half. A little bad, for sure. But not horribly bad. Marginally horribly.

First, the TerraTrip gets unplugged:

This plastic thing that holds the teeny little wire terminals is, I'm told, a "Molex" connector.

Try to not laugh: here's an example of what to not do with wiring: run it through a small hole that makes it impossible to remove once the terminal block is in place. Because if you do that, you have to remove teeny wire terminals from the Big Plastic Chunky Thing That Was Invented By Demons.

After learning that "Molex" means "pain in your ass," we won the battle with wire snippers.

Next, the super pretty chromed brass fascia comes off the glove box door.

I didn't really use a screwdriver. But it's fun to use photos that make the process look scarily hamfisted.

I'd considered just going without the fascia. Until it was removed and I remembered how boring a flat piece of flat black metal really is.

Unsexily nekkid.

We took the yuckiest piece of replacement chrome out of the 'glove box parts' box, scrubbed it with Four-Ought steel wool, and sliced:

Rant: Knowing that these little wiring terminals aren't proprietary and are just some product that the TerraTrip people buy from a store somewhere, I headed over to the local Radio Shack to pick up replacements. And I learned that though Radio Shack has all the nicely labeled drawers with words like "electrical connectors" and "terminals" and "diodes" and a whole bunch of other things, the bins inside those drawers are empty. EMP. TEE. They sell speaker wire and cell phones, and you can pay your utility bills there.
Not only that, but the good people who work there aren't smart about what used to be inside the bins. Nor can they call the other nearby Radio Shack to see if the bins in the other nearby location might be stocked. Remember when Radio Shack was staffed by geezers who made their own HAM radios and X Ray machines and knew everything about stuff? Extinct, yo.
Fortunately, everything Radio Shack gave up on is now located at Surplus Gizmos. This might be the coolest find in the last decade (Parkrose Hardware and Wink's being the others). They've got robot parts, chemicals, computer parts, etc. Check 'em out, if you're an uber geek:
Most importantly, they have the terminals I needed. They don't keep them in little bags or anything - they're on a big spool that's a yard in diameter. The spool probably holds a quarter million of these things. 2 1/2 cents each means I spent a dollar for a lifetime supply.
Also bought the "Molex Release Tool" but it wasn't the right one.

Because I had the wrong tool to remove the terminals, I grabbed a bunch of other pointy things. Tweezers, dental picks, a child-safe pumpkin carving knife...

The fun part that gets me hate mail: drilling holes in old cars:

Brackets mounted:

... TerraTrip mounted and fascia back in place:

And the glove box still works like a glove box. Race cars don't usually need those, but I like having it, and we'll certainly make use of it. Wires come up from below the dash and are secured to the glove box door so that they won't strain when we open and close the thing, and it easily tips up or down to suit the codriver's preference/height/slouch factor.

The only other thing that's happened with the car this week is that we're now revisiting the exhaust, which has to be larger than the current 2.25" ID setup. And the front swaybar is back where it belongs.

Next, we remove the interior. All of it. I've been putting that off, as it will definitively mark the actual point after which there is no turning back. That'll be the end of this being a marginally suitable street car. Enthused as I am for the project as a whole, this step is a tough one.

'til then -

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Suspension Of Disbelief.

Hey Friends --
[Largely irrelevant and long winded intro begins here. If you don't care about that, skip ahead to the next red section and start there.]

Welcome back to our sporadic and disorganized blog. Or maybe it's you who should welcome me back to interaction with the outside world. This is about where I'd start off with some bogus rationale a sensible explanation about being away for a while and not attending to the ol' blog and stuff -- but given that I've used that tired refrain a few too many times already, I'll have to come up with some other excuse for leaving you hanging. In anticipation. With bated breath. Because my narcissistic self and its inflated ego just knows you've nothing better to do that while away your time here with me.

... or maybe you just need a laugh, and my continual false starts provide exactly the comic relief your life is missing. Or maybe this fails to be either informative OR entertaining and I'm just chasing my tail and pretending this is interesting for people other than myself. Either way here we are. Thanks for that.

Since our last update, I've continued to drive the car all the time. Naturally, I neglected to make a note of the odometer when I got the thing back on the road, so I don't know how many miles we've logged. Whoops.

Last May, I was invited to display the car at the annual ipd Garage Sale and Show, and to my complete amazement, we came home with the 'Best in Show' award. About the same time, Part 1 of a series about the car that's to be published in the VSA (Volvo Sports America) quarterly magazine showed up in the mailbox. [For some reason unbeknownst to me, Part 2 didn't make it into the following issue. Maybe this Volvo isn't sporty enough.]

The other thing that's kept me away from here is that, for several months, I've been looking for a shop to lease so that I can take on more customer cars and have a place to continue to maintain our own old Volvos. I finally found a place, and am happy to announce that Swedish Relics is now a legitimate, insured, taxed and licensed 1800 square foot enterprise here in the Portland area. We even have the domain name - - although there's nothing on the website. I don't know how to do that website stuff.

We also have a telephone number, so if you need anything for your old European car, please do call. 503-703-4366. Thanks.

Things got super messy and crowded after this.
... anyway, it took almost a month to get through all the paperwork, get a business license and a Federal Tax ID thing and insurance and utilities and stuff, and then I had to put up cabinets, build a workbench, set up the stereo (duh!), move all my tools and parts into the place, which meant unloading a very full garage at home as well as a very crammed 10x20 storage unit plus two cars before I could do anything. About the time that the dust settled, we left town to visit my wife's family and we were gone for three weeks.
As soon as we returned, I got back to work. One good thing is that there are people in Portland who have old European cars in need of attention, so we've had a Jensen-Healey come through, a couple Volvo 1800s, an ES and a '58 Fiat Multipla.
The 444, though, is why I'm typing and you're reading and now I've gone completely off topic. Let's get back to it.
[Largely irrelevant and long winded intro ends here.]
One of the things (there are a few, but I'll only admit to them as they're addressed) that we did in a bit of a rush when putting the car together initially has to do with the front sway bar. We can't use the ipd PV series front bar, because the moment arms (those are the ends where the holes are) aren't the right distance apart to align with the endlink mounts (that's what those holes are for) in the lower A-arms on the 140 front suspension. So, as mentioned in an earlier post, we'd mounted up an ipd 140 series front swaybar. That's all well and good, but the bends in the new bar are closer together than in the old bar, which means that we can't use the original factory mounting holes for the saddle brackets that secure the center section of the swaybar to the chassis of the car. This is that scope creep thing that Phil told me about.
Did that make sense? Here's the short version: we had to change the sway bar mount locations.
The simple way to do this was to drill through the box section of the chassis and use really long bolts to hold the sway bar in place. But with the new steering box, these bolts had to come in at something other than a nice right angle, which looked sloppy while also making removal and replacement of the bar itself a complicated process involving someone with a wrench leaning over the engine compartment and holding the bolt head while someone else with a wrench was under the car loosening the nut. We need this to be serviceable by one person, we need it to be simple, and we need it to be solid. We also need to not have bolt heads on the top of the frame member next to the radiator, because there will be some structural reinforcement anchored there later on.
Here goes:
A piece of flat steel, cut to length. Drilling pilot holes.
Enlarging holes...

Comparing new 'base plate' to saddle bracket.
The idea here is to have threaded studs (well, bolts) welded to the chassis such that we can slide the saddle brackets into place and then secure them with nuts. This is simpler to perform than threading bolts into captive nuts that are welded inside the frame (which is what the original design included) because we won't have to probe around in the dark. As much. Plus welding nuts into the inside of a steel box is magic well beyond our scope.

Flat steel gets bolts.
Bolt heads welded to steel, and we've added a 3rd hole in the middle.
Crap on the floor. We do this exercise a lot.
This next photo (I hope) makes the idea more clear: the two threaded holes toward the side of the chassis member (toward the right in the pic) are the original swaybar saddle bracket mounting holes. The larger holes below and to the left of those are for the new swaybar. The welded bolt heads fit up into these holes, which allows the steel plate to sit flush against the chassis. That hole on the left of the pic was already there and doesn't play a role.

You're looking up from below here. As am I.
Test fit.
Second plate for the other side.
Lousy blurry photo. Lousy blurry welding.
I really enjoy welding, though I'm no expert. I can weld things together such that they're really strong, but they're never pretty. And every time I weld, I learn something new. With this project, I learned that lying on your back under a shower of welding sparks probably looks sexy and macho at first but those elements are likely offset by the horizontal thrash dance performed when the shower of sparks melts your polar fleece shirt into your delicate skin all over your torso. A thousand points of light have become a thousand little scorch marks. Which is probably pretty macho but I could really do without it.

And there we are. Now the swaybar is held in place with hardware larger and more robust than original and it's easily removed and installed by one person working alone.

[Largely irrelevant and long winded extensive deliberation related to the future of this build begins here. If you're not interested in my overthinking, ignore the following and just tune in next time.]

One of the absurdly frustrating recurrent themes with this whole endeavor has been "overthinking everything and worrying a lot about every last detail." A good example of this was the process of selecting front springs. It took a couple weeks of asking questions, screwing around Googling, using math [shudder] and finally making a best guess on what to put in the car. And as far as I can tell, that worked out well. Many other aspects of the project are dictated by the rules, which makes those decisions much simpler. Wheel size. Which transmission to use. Cage design. Stuff like that.

The thing that we (Jim Perry and I) are now struggling with is the engine. There are as many variables in an engine as there are in the whole rest of the car, and an engine for LCP isn't really suitable for typical racing, so we aren't really looking at something that can later be used in his race car. For example: we'll run on pump gas, so we can't run a high compression ratio nor a crazy cam profile. Of course, the engine has to be as reliable as we can make it and it has to be fast enough that we're competitive. And then there's cost. We're now thinking about how much custom rods and forged pistons cost and trying to balance that with how reliable we think an engine with stock rods and cast pistons would be.

A big consideration here is, of course, cost. We're not wealthy, so we're not able to simply toss several thousand dollars into something that's only useful for two weeks in the next year. And though it sounds fun to consider LCP as an annual event, that's not part of the plan either.

We know people who have spared no expense and didn't finish the race, and we know people who have run engines that are built with standard 'off the shelf' parts and run the event several times without a failure and without a rebuild. We've been told it's the most demanding race on Earth, and we've been told that it isn't really a race but more of a high speed tour.

The only thing everyone seems to agree on is that we need something that can run at redline for extended periods of time. I guess what we're trying to sort out is whether we can justify the cost of a full blown race engine that's tuned for this event and won't be of much use after that, or if it makes more sense to build something less exotic and to bring a spare or two. Three simple engines cost less than one super duper engine. And we have three simple engines on hand. Tough call.