Thursday, March 5, 2015

Keeping One's Cool.

I was talking to my friend Alden (really, he's more family than friend) a couple weeks ago about this project and said something like "Pretty soon, it'll be time to rewire the forward half of the car and the dash. I'm looking forward to that."


"Uh.... yeah." The kind of "Uh... yeah" that actually means 'that doesn't sound like any fun at all and I might be thinking you're a fool not only for thinking that but also for admitting that out loud.'

Consider, though: wiring a car is one of the cleanest things you can do (besides wash the thing). No oil, coolant, fuel, hydraulic fluid, metal shavings or any of that kind of stuff. There's a Zen quality to it, which to some degree transfers over to the process of fabbing up brakelines.

I had a similar conversation about those (brakelines, I mean) not too long ago (but I can't remember who I was talking with). I like them. I like what they do, and I like the process of bending and flaring them and putting them on the car. I also like the idea of removing the original steel lines from this car and replacing them with something that isn't 58 year old steel that spent a few years in wet mud. Probably overdue.

I was enjoying this process recently, as everything was going really well until I was flaring the very last piece and broke the little flaring fitting thing inside the brakeline itself. Normally, this wouldn't be an issue and I'd just go get another flaring fitting thing and start with a new piece of hydraulic line, but this was the last one I had. They break pretty easily. Instead of going out and looking for a replacement, it became clear that the brakes would wait and that moving on to other things made much more sense.


That little black piece should have a teeny little shaft sticking out of the middle. In this photo, that teeny little shaft is inside the nicely bubble flared brakeline. See the clog in the end? Yeah.

If you don't have this little thing, you can make a single flare, and lots of people do. That's not good enough for your brakes.

As the engine compartment became more populated with 'stuff cars need,' the outside of the car got another change. One of the things that makes Old Volvo Engines really great (and run forever) is that they have a lot of bearing surface. Bearing surfaces generate heat, though, and the oil gets hot, and the hotter the oil is, the less effective it is at 1) keeping expensive and critical things inside the engine the right kind of slippery; and 2) moving heat away from the bearing surfaces it's supposed to protect. The oil still tries to move the heat away from the bearings, but if you're running the engine really hard (like you might while racing), the bearings generate enough heat that the oil never gets to cool down. This kills engines. We can't have that.

Enter the oil cooler. These are really just radiators, but instead of being full of coolant or water, they're full of oil. The oil gets hot in the engine then travels to the oil cooler where it's cooled, then it goes back to the engine and keeps things lubed while dissipating heat like it's supposed to.

Wanting to compare competitors spread my business around, I called Summit Racing and talked to a guy on their tech line. After a few minutes, we had a shopping list and I ordered up an oil cooler, some super sweet high pressure hose that's sheathed in braided gold pressed latinum, an adaptor to mount on the engine side of things and a remote oil filter bracket so I could put the oil filter on the firewall where it'd be easier to access, and a handful of AN fittings to connect it all together.

You really need high zoot stuff for this, because oil is at really high pressures, and the whole system has to withstand those while also being filled with hot oil while being connected to something relatively prone (the chassis) as well as something that wiggles all the time (the engine). Don't go adapting a coolant radiator to your car's lubricating system. I haven't tried it, but my guess is that the result will suck.

When the box arrived, I found that the adaptor wasn't the one I'd asked for, and the AN fittings were the 90 degree angled variety. For one, you don't really want to use a 90 degree fitting in this application if you don't have to; and for another, the fittings screw into the remote filter bracket right next to one another... so after you get one screwed into place, it's completely in the way of allowing the other one to screw into place. I'd have thought the tech guy would have known that he was filling a box with incompatible parts.

I decided to nix the remote filter thing, and put a different adapter (a 'sandwich,' it's called) on the engine. This one allows the original filter to fit about like it used to while also providing for the AN fittings and uber sexy hoses that will lead to the cooler itself.

To ensure that the cooler gets enough airflow, it goes in the front of the car where all the headwind is. Putting it in front of the radiator would be simplest, but it would also block the radiator (only a little, but a little is too much).

First, I measured the size of the cooler itself and then drew an outline on the front of the car where the new hole would go:

The corners aren't simply square, because (as usual) I wanted to make the first hole smaller than necessary. Easier to make a hole larger than to make it smaller:

And that whole 'hard to remove Sharpie from the paint later on' thing isn't an issue this time. I'll be removing these marks along with the paint and metal beneath them. Cue sinister cackling.

I'd been given a Sawzall, so I figured I'd put it to use on this task. Not as messy nor scary as an angle grinder, but every bit as exhilarating. Trouble is, though, that it chips the paint. The angle grinder doesn't do that, because it's busy generating a wicked ton of heat, and that softens the paint so that big chips don't go flying. Into your face.

After the hole was cut, the cooler went into place. A piece of sheet aluminum riveted into place hides the paint chips.

... that silver coil thing in the grille opening is one end of the braided oil line that isn't yet connected. The little blue and red things are the fittings that connect the hose to the cooler.

AN fittings are pretty fancy things. And they use wrenches that are specific to AN fittings, which means you can either gall them with a bench vise and an adjustable wrench, or you can buy the fancy AN wrench. I bought the wrench and found it no more nor less likely to gall the fittings. Save the $14.

Fun fact: the adjustable wrench was invented in Sweden. So was the zipper.

As you probably know, sharp bends for something like an oil line are not recommended. Fittings on the hoses and connected to the cooler:

Quick view to confirm that the grille surround doesn't tangle with the aluminum:


As usual, I've read a whole bunch of articles about doing this kind of thing, and I've got a fair amount of experience working with these old Volvos (curse, or blessing? you decide). But I've also had a whole lot of insight from people whose experience is well beyond my own. As the process continues to unfold, I've been in communication with race organizers (have to ensure that the car is being assembled within the regulations - so far, so good), with Jim Perry (he and I will be switching roles between driving and navigating and breaking things and fixing things) and with Phil Singher. A few years ago, Phil was tasked with putting together a Volvo 122 for La Carrera. The short story is that after Phil gave it some serious thought and a lot of attention, the car won its class.

You can read more about that Volvo - the Apple Farmer 122 - here:

Parts used in this installment came from Jeg's: and Summit Racing: . If you'd like a bargain on some oil cooler and remote filter pieces, let me know. I still have the stuff I can't make use of.

'til then, then. Cheers -

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