We are a couple of weeks into work on the Great Pumpkin, our 1980 Mustang Ghia, and it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride, to be honest. We’ve had good days where we make progress and we’ve had bad moments where we’ve really reconsidered whether or not this was a good idea in the first place. So, let’s catch you up to speed on what’s happened since our last update.
When we left the Ghia, we were still sorting out a braking issue that had left the rear drums seemingly AWOL under braking. After a couple of test drives to make sure we weren’t just being paranoid, we threw the car back up on the jackstands and started disassembly. When the drums come off with almost no exertion whatsoever, that’s a bad thing. On the passenger’s side, it was a simple fix: the locking tab for the self-adjuster wasn’t making contact with the toothed wheel, so the shoes were backing off. We adjusted that with a set of pliers until engagement was solid, then readjusted the shoes with the brake drum back on for a little bit of drag. The driver’s side drum, however, had plenty of surprises for us: the forward shoe had managed to shift off of it’s pin and upward, driving the upper edge of the shoe into the wheel cylinder just enough that fluid was seeping out under braking. Adding to the fun, the self-adjuster was not the correct one. On a Fox Mustang, the rear brake parts are different on each side, so somehow the left drum managed to get a right-side self-adjuster and we never noticed. Luckily, no damage had occurred, not even to the wheel cylinder, so we replaced the adjuster, set the adjustment, and what do you know…functioning brakes! They still aren’t great, but now I can drive the car in traffic without holding my hand on the emergency brake lever just because.
For about a week straight I drove the car daily, and overall there isn’t too much to report. It starts, runs and drives as well as you could expect a stock 4.2 car to perform. At least the engine is still running smooth. The 12-gallon fuel tank isn’t offering up much in range, though…after over 180 miles, you are looking for a gas station, but our calculations say that the worthless lump is drinking fuel to the tune of about 17 MPG average, which isn’t too bad at all for an engine that has to be heavily booted just so we don’t get ran over in traffic.
Fast-forward to this weekend: with some time on my hands to kill and some decent weather in the area, I concentrated on fixing small stuff like the reverse lights, the key buzzer, and an issue with the voltage regulator that caused every light on the car to strobe. The voltage regulator was easy: a quick cleaning of the contacts, which were covered in grease, grime and other assorted unwanted materials cured it’s ails. The buzzer’s issue was a broken wire inside of the plastic box, probably burnt out after years of annoying people at start-up. With a jumper wire between the two broken strands, it worked perfectly. I’m actually hunting for another now, because I think it’s cool that it still works. With that determined, I went to track down why the reverse lights, which had worked fine before, suddenly quit. At first I suspected it was a contact inside of the shifter, so I disassembled the top and cleaned up spilled, dried-up soda off of everything. That made the shifter indicator light glow better, but that still didn’t fix the issue, so I crawled under the car…and promptly forgot about the lights altogether.
Count ’em: that is three cracks in the floor, at the forward/outboard seat mount on the driver’s side. There’s no rust, so why did the floor crack? The Fox platform is known for having all the rigidity of a slightly cooked lasagna noodle, and when you combine that with age, the V8’s torque (HA!) and it’s use by adults, it was bound to happen. Honestly, this might have occurred when we shoved a 4.10-geared 8.8 rear axle under the car a couple of years ago…the gearing meant that even the weak-suck smogger would launch like a street hero, and the near-nonexistant corrosion level backs this theory up. Whatever the case, that means that most every other project we had planned is now on hold until the metal gets patched up and we get some subframe connectors under this car at the minimum. Meanwhile, the interior is being pulled out of the car and is being addressed, piece by piece. I have some Dynamat that hasn’t been used, so we may go ahead and sound-deaden the car, and I’ll try to push out the dent behind the driver’s side door while I’m in there. I’d like to get new carpet in here too…I can even get that color. After that…well, we will see. But for now, that’s all down the road, because by the time you read this, I’ll be loading up a car trailer and driving back home.
I told you last update that we had something planned, and we finally are making it happen after a month of phone tag: we have a donor motor AND overdrive automatic for the Mustang! The rub was, in order to get the running gear, we had to drag home the rest of the vehicle it’s attached to, so we are going to be owners of this 1998 Ford Explorer XLT for a little bit. We found it on Craigslist for a couple hundred bucks and couldn’t pass it up. The Explorer had been in the care of it’s original owner for years and it’s been treated well, but sometime last year, he loaned it out to a family member and a small rollover accident occurred. Luckily, nobody was hurt and the worst of the damage looks to be sheetmetal only, so we are hoping that with just a minor bit of attention that the 302 underhood will fire up, which we are planning to put up live on the BangShift Facebook page sometime in the afternoon/evening on Thursday, the 9th. If we’re lucky, we will just pull plugs and coils, crank the engine over to get any unwanted fluids out of the cylinders, then hit the inertia cutoff switch button for the fuel inside and we will have a running Explorer…that looks like one of the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park had used as a scratching post, but whatever. If the Explorer doesn’t run, we will have the engine checked out, and if it does…well, all the better!
Dead truck walking…