Fixed the sagging door, and retrieved my Iphone from the belly of the beast.

So I was in the second week of the "fix the sagging door" project.  

I rigged up some 16ft ratcheting tie downs to the bracing of the garage to support the door.  This system worked really well, giving me granular control over the door while it was off. I don't know how I could have fixed the door by myself without this rig. You can see the door off of the car and being supported by the tie downs, which kept it vertical and in a position that could be easily maneuvered back into place.  

I also needed a door spring compressor, I got mine from Summit Racing,, It's absolutely worth the 10 bucks, you'll spend more than that in frustration if you try to use a screwdriver.  (I also wore eye protection).

After removing, and reinstalling, and trying to get the door to close properly for about the fourth time, I got the bright idea to use my Iphone with the Level application to measure the angle of the good door at the hinges, and set the hinges to the same angle on the bad door. (If you are just replacing hinge pins and bushings this is not required, but my door was not hanging properly even after the bushing and pin replacement, so I needed to adjust the hinges as they attached to the car.  If you do not HAVE to mess with the hinges bolted to the car, don't.)

Some times your only purpose in life, is to serve as a warning to others...

During the measurement attempt, where I had precarious hold of the phone, it slipped out of my grasp, skittered down the backside of the fender, and disappeared into a crevasse under the body of the car.

After some encouragement and a couple of ideas to extricate the Iphone without taking the entire front end of the car apart from my friends on; I went back to work.

I ended up taking off the formed mudflaps that the previous owner put on, I was going to remove them eventually anyway. 

Removed the two main bolts on the underside of the fender, then three of the fender well bolts.

I had to remove the trim, and its supporting strip underneath that runs alongside underneath the door. (I cleaned this up, and painted the support strip with primer before returning it to service)

Once I had that done, I could pry the fender to splay the opening out a little bit, then using the mallet-coax technique that was suggested I could move the phone closer to the exit I had opened up.

Victory! It had a few extra scratches in it, but it was otherwise in working order.  

Make note, when working with precarious grip, in tight situations, tie a string to your tool, just in case. It could save you hours of work.

Big props to the FirstGenFirebirds list for recommending the Flex GearWrenches.  I have a good compliment of sockets, and socket accessories. But I'm finding that these GearWrenches are so much easier and faster to use, getting into places that would be next to impossible for a socket set.  If you use tools, you owe it to yourself to at least pickup a small set and try them out.  Lowes, carries them, thats where I bought my set. I'll be buying more GearWrenches.

Lighting the way

Just got done fixing all of my lighting issues in the 73 Firebird.  My rear driver side light was out. The driver side brake light was out, the passenger side backup light was out.  The left side of the dash wasn't lighting up either.

There are 2 brake-lights each side, and 1 backup light. They each use a double pole bulb, but the backup lights don't use one side of the pole. (You can't use a single pole bulb because the pole would be aligned in the center which won't work for the stock receptacles )

The lights at the rear were the easiest to repair, you can reach them via the trunk, just twist the receptacle and it pops out.  My favorite local parts store had the replacement bulbs.  A couple of the receptacles were pretty corroded and rusted. I was able to revive all but one using a battery cleaning brush.  Went back to the parts store to get a replacement receptacle, we found only one that matched, and they only had the ONE.  Bought a crimp wiring kit as well.  Clipped the original receptacle, off, stripped both sets of wires, connected them with the crimp fitting, and reinstalled.  I think a couple of the other receptacles are pretty iffy, if I have any further problems with them I'll just replace the receptacle like I did with the backup light.

The lions share of the time this weekend was spent figuring out how to get into the instrument panel to replace the dead lamps.  After probing the dash and figuring out that it wasn't a press fit, I did some research on how to take it out.

Found a great video of a guy installing a dash cap () that showed how I had to remove the panel underneath the steering wheel by removing two screw like retainers.  With that removed there are two 5/16 Hex #10 2" machine screws that go into the bottom of the instrument panel.  I was able to able to remove one of them without a problem, the other one's head was hopelessly rounded over.  Off to the parts store again.  I found a set of Irwin Bolt extractors that included a 5/16 remover. Finding replacement 5/16 Hex #10 2"'s long turned out to be more difficult.  Checked two auto parts stores, home depot, and then finally Lowes.  At Lowes I found a match, except that it's zinc not black oxide coated like the original, and is slotted as well as hex.  But that would work for my purposes, I certainly wasn't going to put the rounded one back in.

Next step is there are three Phillips head screws that need to be removed to get the face off of the instrument panel, they are hidden at the underside of the top of the dash.  Those were simple to remove with my flex screwdriver and a magnetic bit.  This is as far as my you-tube video would take me.  I next had to figure out where the lamps were.  I ended up taking off more bolts than I needed to, and breaking a little plastic lens thats used to shuttle light from the left instrument bay to the backside of the "washer" label.  There's a number of screws that hold the plastic face on the instruments, and there's a similar number of screws that hold on the black plastic fascia that sits in front of the gauges, and allow the instrument panel to be loose inside the cavity.  I could see some of the lamps but the ones I needed to replace couldn't be gotten to from the front.  I finally figured out I had to get to the BACK of the instrument cluster, they were miniature versions of the trunk lights, I unscrewed  the receptacle then I could replace the lamp.  I couldn't get the instrument panel out at all.  Back to the internet, come to find out the speedo cable needs to be removed to allow you to get enough room to maneuver and expose the rear of the instrument panel.  There is a release right next to the speedo cable, reaching in through the underside of the dash I could push the speedo cable and the release and it came off.  I was then able to maneuver the instrument panel so that I could at least feel the rear.  It looks like to totally free the instrument panel, I would have to take the steering wheel assembly out, and theres a wiring harness that would need to be removed.  Luckily what I couldn't see I could do by feel.  All told theres about 8 lamps in the instrument panel, only about 4 that actually light the compartment, the rest are for things like trouble lamps, turn signals etc.  With the bulbs that were out replaced and tested, I began reassembly.  I started with super-gluing the lens that I broke back together, it had a nice clean break, super-gluing seemed to do the trick.  Put the speedo cable back on, it just snapped back in place.  Put the black plastic mask back on, then the clear plastic face. Putting the dash face back on was a lot harder than taking it off, I can't explain why. Perhaps the contortions I was having to do with my body to put all those screws back in.

Tested all the lights again, and then went on a test-drive.  It was the first time I've been able to see the fuel gauge at night, fantastic.

Optimized Capistrano Bundler 0.9 installation task

The recent upgrade for bundler to 0.9.3 requires removing any previous bundler gems, and if you use Capistrano or another deployment system this will bite you if you haven't already upgraded.

This task was built for Ubuntu, but should work fine for any bash environment where Ruby and Rubygems are setup properly.

namespace :bundler do
  set :bundler_ver, '0.9.3'
  desc "install bundler"
  task :install, :roles => :app do 
    run "if ! gem list | grep --silent -e 'bundler.*#{bundler_ver}'; then gem uninstall --ignore-dependencies --executables --all bundler; gem install -y --no-rdoc --no-ri -v #{bundler_ver} bundler; fi"

Capistrano is a systems deployment tool.

Bundler is the new Ruby dependency management gem that is integrated into Rails 3.

Removing the deteriorated pin striping from the bird.

This weekend I spent a couple hours removing the deteriorated pin striping stickers and adhesive.  I couldn't find anybody who sold the 3M adhesive remover that had been recommended to me so I settled on trying some GooGone Sticker Lifter that I found at my local AutoZone.

The plastic scraper was actually a huge help in getting under the sticker and removing it in large strips. Once the sticker is off and you are just left with the adhesive, I found that just using a new section of the scrap cloth dabbed in the Goo Gone worked best.  Move to a new section of the cloth judiciously because as it picks up the adhesive it becomes slick and doesn't work as well to lift off the remaining adhesive.  The type of cloth matters too, after using several scraps cloth, I found that the ones similar to a flanel worked best. Towel type cloth would soak up too much of the GooGone. You need somethings with some fuzz for the adhesive to cling to, but you don't want the material to be able to absorb all of the GooGone.  I used some choice pieces of a "Pound of Rags" bag I had purchased at Kragens for a previous project.  It's just an assortment of odds-n-ends rags for a couple of bucks that wont have your wife yelling at you for using one of the "guest towels".  Worth every penny.

I also used a soaking wet t-shirt type rag to clean off the GooGone film from the paint on the areas that no longer had any adhesive, and another dry cloth to dry finished areas off.

The GooGone didn't discolor the paint, and unless you get really close you can't see where the pinstriping was.  But if you get close enough you can see the area that was protected from the sun is a little bit darker.  It's perfect until I'm ready to repaint.

My Garage needed more power, So I rewired it.

This weekend I purchased my first muscle car. I believe I'm the fourth owner of this 1973 Firebird 350. (Numbers Matching)

It was built in 1973, purchased around 1975 by the second owner who's done some modifications to the car, then gave the car to his son about 6-8 years ago when he retired from driving.

It's been garaged, and used occasionally but his son just didn't have the time to breathe life back into the car. He always had other competing priorities.  So it finally became time to let the car go.

I'm ecstatic to have the good fortune to have been looking for a firebird when this one became available.

Driving my Chevy Suburban with it's Vortec 350, and even my Jeep with it's 360 doesn't compare to the experience driving this car.

It's got 150k miles on it, and it's still meaner than anything I've ever driven before. I love it, you can just smell the gasoline!  (Insert tool-man grunt here) 

(no really, you can smell gasoline, probably means theres a problem that will need to be addressed, I'll add it to the list)

There's a laundry list of things that this project car needs done, I'll spend tomorrow going through it documenting what I find, and creating my to-do list and prioritizing it.

Priority will be in the order of Safety, Longevity, Appearance, Correctness, then Performance.

This first pass through the car is just going to be to rid the car of as much rust as possible, and as much as practical return it to factory stock condition.  Once that phase is done, then I can begin planning for the powerplant and transmission replacements, and requisite changes to brakes and handling the car will require with the beefed up power plant.

And so begins my journey with Bluebird.  I think I'll keep the name, I like blue.  (It's not the original paint on the car now, but it IS the factory paint color, and when it's time, it will probably be at least the base color when I repaint the car.)