Saturday, February 28, 2015

Stripping the Engine Room.

Now that the rear axle was mostly in the car (panhard rod bracket notwithstanding) and the front crossmember and suspension was mostly dealt with (as much as it could be without road testing the stuff), attention moved to the engine compartment.

... kind of. To be honest, the overall approach to this car hasn't been as orderly as it might seem (if it does seem orderly, which is probably not the case). I want to convey the steps within the process in a way that makes more sense than the how things actually unfolded, so this isn't all in chronological order. And though I'm touching on most of the steps along the way, you've probably noticed that this doesn't pass for instructions (you were warned) and that there's a lot of detail that's absent.

That said:

Everything in and around and under and related to the engine compartment that isn't the engine itself had to come out of the car. The heater went away, the brake reservoir, the coil, fusebox, all the wiring, radiator and hoses, the battery (actually this was removed a while ago), the fancy heim joint clutch linkage and the brake master cylinder. Outta there.

The steering box had already been removed and replaced with a 140 box that I picked up from Marc Williams (local Volvo guy who has a few 140s, a couple of which are race prepared). The PV box and steering shaft are all one piece that I wanted to be rid of, as it really just equates to a spear that's anchored at the front of the car and is pointing at your sternum (unless you aren't driving, in which case it's pointing at someone else's sternum, which is also not cool). So a large part of the rationale for the 140 steering box was to gain a collapsible steering shaft. This is important.

The reasoning behind changing the clutch mechanism is simple: that heim joint linkage that worked perfectly for more than a decade was the lowest point under the car, and LCP travels over a lot of bumps. Race organizers claim that cars need a minimum of 7 inches of ground clearance, and seasoned veterans of the event are pretty assertive about needing a minimum of 5. Many cars have skid plates installed so that once the front tires crest a speed bump, the belly of the car scrapes across the thing until the rear tires cross over. Mexican speed bumps are pretty serious. I'm not putting skid plates on this car. Extra weight = slower. Slower = bad.

Because we had to rework the clutch mechanism and we wanted a dual circuit master cylinder for the brakes, it made sense to set the car up with hanging pedals rather than the old tractor style pedals that pass through the floor (charming as they are). Adapting a dual brake master into the original location isn't such a tough thing, but the original location in a 444 is directly under the starter (if the car has a B18 or B20, which this one does). This means you have to remove the starter if you need to peek inside the brake master cylinder. A remote reservoir helps a lot as far as ensuring that you aren't low on fluid, but the brakelines and the master would still be lower than we wanted. Also, having hanging pedals in a PV adds to the Wow Factor.

I read up on Wilwood and Tilton pedal assemblies, found the Dover Brothers blog on their preparation of an LCP 444, and spoke some more with Christopher Georger, who put 122 pedals into a 544 and later put an aftermarket Tilton setup into a 444. Again with the firsthand experience and comparative data between my two options. Between the two approaches, Christopher was totally clear that he preferred the Tilton approach over the stock 122 parts.

Even still, I didn't decide exactly how I was going to do it right away. I have pretty good access to used parts (this is Portland, which is pretty awesome in that regard) and I wasn't sure about making aftermarket pedal assemblies, which are designed to mount to a vertical surface, fit onto a firewall that's close to 70 degrees without more cutting and welding. Cutting and welding is fine, but if I'm going to do that, I like the idea of using Volvo parts instead of the more generic stuff.

So with that bunch of thoughts rolling around in the back of my head, I started stripping the engine room.

Last pic with the old stuff in the engine compartment:

The original hood hinges had to come out to make room for the DCOEs and long intake manifolds [NOS Volvo Competition Service goodies!] and the larger radiator, so those went away. The pile of extra parts was growing.

The lack of hinges dictate that the hood either be removable and held in place with pins, or that it hinge at the rear and that the front be secured with pins. I went with hinges at the rear, as I don't want to be required to carry the hood around and set it down gently in gravel by the side of the road in high wind. Or at the gas station. Or at my house. Or ever, really. Much nicer to have a hood that opens and closes without having to take it off the car and deal with a big piece of sheetmetal.
Of course, finding a pair of hinges that would allow a bit of swiveling while they pivot to accommodate the curve of the hood and cowl that mounted to the outside of the car wasn't as simple as a trip to the local hardware store. In the end, we made up some simple hinges using PV door limiting strap bolts (these went through holes in the cowl) and some 90 degree angle aluminum, bolted through the reinforced part on the aft end of the hood. Big fender washers on the backside fore and aft, and it's done. We'll still add pins at the rear - these aren't terribly robust hinges, after all - but at least we don't have to deal with removing the hood just to check the oil.
Hinge on the far side is in place. Drilling through what used to be a pretty decent hood for the hinge on the close side:
... and now it opens from the front. Rear axle and new wheels are in place in this photo; original front crossmember with 122 disks and calipers is still under the front end:

Hinges in place:

Now that the hood can flip back out of the way, everything in the engine compartment can come out. First removed is the heater. See? Here it isn't:

 ... then the fusebox and wiring. Note: if you label wires with masking tape because it's late at night and you aren't thinking clearly and then you pull the wires through the holes in the firewall into the cabin, all of the masking tape instantly comes off the wires and you end up with a big mess of unlabeled spaghetti.
Clearly labeled wires immediately prior to their demise:

Aside from sloppily taking things apart, the process of putting things into the car continued. The larger-than-original (and sealed!) radiator - from the same '74 142 that had surrendered its rear axle, found its place. To get that done, the first thing to do was buy another mess of cutting wheels for the angle grinder.
I don't really like angle grinders, having used one to open one of my hands a few years ago. I was under a Volvo, the thing attacked me, I jolted and hit my forehead on the underside of the car, then recoiled and banged the back of my head on the concrete floor. The grinder, its "stays on like it or not" switch still in the active position, had bound itself up in my shirtsleeve and was humming something that sounded like "just release me, and your face is next." On the upside, though, if you do grind away some tissue, the quarter inch wide wound will be instantly cauterized and you won't actually lose any blood and you can just keep working. Very handy.
First, we closed the hood and drew a line around it with a Sharpie so we'd know how much material could be removed without ending up with a weird hole emerging out into the fender from below the hood; then we measured the new radiator and traced out where to make more irreversible cuts. FYI: Sharpies make nice clear lines which are not so easily removed from lightly oxidized paint later on.
Roundish outer line = hood footprint. Square cornered other line = radiator swaddling:

... and then started cutting:

Dead weight goes away. I have a big pile of stuff like this now:

... and the new radiator slips into place:

The bottom of the radiator sits in a bracket a lot like the original 140 piece - basically a piece of flat metal with a hole in it. The upper brackets (shown) are made of aluminum.
The rest of the stuff that came out doesn't really merit photos (good thing as I don't have any). Removing the SUs and intake manifold, for example, is something everyone who likes this kind of thing has already seen.
The end point for this section leaves us with a naked engine sitting in a similarly naked engine compartment. Not quite a blank slate, but pretty close. This was about the time I started feeling like the project had transitioned from 'mostly taking crap apart' to 'mostly putting crap together.' That's a crucial step if you want to retain any level of optimism.
Of course, the most significant and irreversible cutting is yet to come.
'til next time, then. Cheers -


  1. Thanks Sean - really glad you like it. Hope to have it on the road before long, but setbacks are plentiful. All the best --