Repairing the Driver’s Side Fresh Air Vent

Last year, we reconditioned the heater core, replaced the hoses from the plenum to the vent, and the removed, cleaned, and repainted the plenum itself.  We had also removed the fresh air inlet (vent) on the driver’s side.  Like the plenum on the passenger side, it too had been packed full with mouse nesting material.  We cleaned it out but in the process, when we opened the door, we actually cracked and broke the plastic where the (metal) door was riveted.  The result was a hole, I suppose about 8 inches in diameter, under the dash.  This meant air went straight into the cowl and then through there into the car.  During the summer, that was fine, but now that we’ve turned to fall, not so nice.

So, what to do?  Well, one option is discussed here, which is to retrofit one made for the later Ford Mustang.  We didn’t want to spend the $110 plus shipping, so I took a look at the situation and decided to glue a crack that had developed and cut and bolt in a piece of wood to reinforce the plastic.  I then screwed two new holes in the hinge and bolted it through the wood.  Micah got the PB blaster and a vice and sprayed and worked that hinge until it turned freely.  The rusty hinge had been the problem in the first place.  So, note to other car restorers–learn the lesson from us!  Spray those vent door hinges.  The plastic housing cannot support them if they don’t open freely.

Once we got it put together, we painted it so that it was off white and matched the exterior and seats:


No, it’s not pretty, but it will work and the bolts will all face the driver’s side fender and so won’t be seen.  The stock color had been black but it was faded and the off white looks better.  Along the top, we used window insulation:


It works just fine and helps seal out the air.  We had already replaced the foam seal/gasket on the inside of the door.  Here it is installed:


It’s not perfect and certainly isn’t concours but that’s not our goal.  Our goal is to look nice and serve as a good cruiser.  This Comet is well on it’s way toward that end!

Replacing the Comet’s Thermostat

Replacing a car’s thermostat isn’t typically a difficult task and certainly isn’t on a 1963 Comet (or any other inline six vehicle).  In the case of our car, it was the one thing we hadn’t replaced last year when replacing the hoses and reconditioning the radiator and heater core.  Well, the heater quit blowing hot and judging by the temperature gauge (which was very close, barely above, the “C” for cool), we suspected a temp gauge that was stuck open.  So, first step was to drain the radiator below the level of the top radiator hose (in this case, there’s a plug on the bottom of the radiator on the passenger side, which can be loosened and tightened by hand):


Then we disconnected the top radiator hose:


Once that is done, only two bolts have to be removed (as Micah was doing here):


With that done, you may remove the thermostat housing.  Here is a shot of the old housing with the old thermostat and gasket removed.  I placed the new thermostat in there for the picture but ultimately, we replaced the housing too because the interior of the old one had a little corrosion from all those years of just sitting in that quanset).  Here’s the thermostat in the housing:


Finally, we put the new housing with the new thermostat and new gasket into place and filled up the radiator:


Make sure to burp the system after filling.  Our heat worked at first and then blew cold.  To burp it fully, we drove it onto jack stands and ran it a while without the radiator cover on.  Some rather large bubble burped up and once they were out of the system, the heat was back to working.  Although not a regular driver in the winter, it’s good to know we’re well on our way to still making use of it in the fall.

A Rebuilt Carb for the F100

As you might recall, we pulled the 2 barrel carb (an Autolite 2100) off the F100 earlier this summer.  Our summer has been busy so not wanting to take up mom’s dining table with a torn apart carburetor, we turned to our friend Thom Lawrence for the rebuild.  He did a great job and got the carb back to us a couple weeks ago.  How do I know he did a great job?  I know because Micah and I put it on this weekend and the truck started and ran great!

Here it is mounted on the intake, waiting for me to install the fuel filter so I can connect the fuel line:


Here’s a shot of the linkage:


All in all it worked well and Micah loved it.  With a 360 V8 and RWD, what’s not to love about this thing?  This truck screams vintage hot rod!

New Front Shocks!

Well, this past Saturday, we completed our shock replacement on the Comet.  We went to Living Hope Baptist Church for donuts and camaraderie with Bret and his fellow car buffs (Art and Jeremiah were there).  It didn’t take too long and we were home watching the NDSU Bison take it to the Iowa Hawkeyes.  Replacing the shocks on an older Ford Co. car is relatively straight forward.  Place the car on jack stands, place a small jack under the A-arm, or the ball joint right behind the drum.  This is done because if you don’t, the assembly will drop once the old shocks are loose.  Once that’s all in place, loosen and remove the lower nuts holding the shock in.  When they are removed, loosen the nuts on the upper shock brace (the shock itself goes through the middle and is bolted to it.  Then lift the shock out.  Remove the shock from the upper brace and reverse the steps to install the new shock.  Be sure to use the new rubber bushings and nuts and washers that should be included with the new shocks.  Here are a few pictures of Micah digging into this project.


Replacing Rear Shocks

We had started out intending to replace all four shocks a couple weeks ago but ended up replacing only the rear shocks because we also inspected the rear brakes and decided to do rear brake work just as we had up front.

First, we loosened the lug nuts and then jacked up the car and placed it on stands and removed the tires.  Here’s Micah getting ready to do that:


Once that is done, the lower nut is loosened so that the shock is hanging only by the upper mounting bolt.  Micah crawled into the trunk and removed the tabs in the next picture and then used a wrench to loosen the upper nut:


Installation is simply the reverse.  Mount it at the top and then connect it at the bottom.  Hardware should be included with each shock.

rear-shock-install-1 Here is the driver’s side shock installed.

leaky-wheel-cylinderYou can see here how much the driver’s side wheel cylinder was leaking.

The car now has fully rebuilt brakes (front and rear) and the rear shocks really helped a LOT.  The old ones were so bad, I could just pull them in and out without any effort.  The rear springs, which will also be replaced someday in the future, were the only things doing anything back there.  Next post will cover the front shocks.

How to Install Seat Belts in a Classic Car

Well, the ’63 Comet didn’t come with seat belts.  Back in 1963, seat belts were still optional.  So, one of the easiest things a person can do to improve safety is to add seat belts.  For our Comet, seat belts are the first safety improvement we will be making.  The second will be installing headrests (you can survive a broken nose, but not so easily a broken neck and surviving the latter still might mean serious lifetime incapacity).  Both of these improvements are in addition to the brake rebuild we did and the suspension renewal we’re in the process of (as evidenced in the last post on replacing an outer tie rod).  Recently, Micah and I installed the front seat belts.  The installation of the rear seat belts will happen in the next 2-3 weeks.  For those interested in what it took for Micah and I to do this, especially if you’re considering doing this to a car of your own, read on.  For our Comet, we used lap belts from RetrobeltUSA, including their hardware kits.

The first thing we did was find the position we wanted behind the front seats.  Make sure you space your anchors at least 15 inches apart.  In our case, it was easy, due to going with the width of the bucket seats.  Also, makes sure you install the short end of the belt on the inside of the car.  Once you have your places marked, use a carpet knife to cut a crosswise pattern that can then be peeled back:

Carpet Cut

You’ll also notice the beginning of the second step, here–drilling the hole.  To do that, use a metal punch and mark/indent a spot in the center of the carpet cut.  That prevents the drill bit from “wandering” or sliding across the floorboard.  Start with a small bit and slowly work your way up to the 1/2 inch bit, in order to prevent the bit from binding.

Once the hole is drilled, place the buckle mount and bolt through the top, while the large washer, lock washer, and nut fasten from underneath.  The large washer acts as a backing plate so that the bolt (and belt) won’t pull out in the case of an accident.  Here’s Micah tightening one on the driver’s side:

Tightening Anchor

Once installed, it should look something like this:

Front Seat Belt Installed

As you can see, it is a very clean installation.  I forgot to remove the loose strands of carpet there in the picture.  It looked even cleaner once I’d done that.  This is a project that anyone with a classic car can easily do and there’s no reason to hire this out to a body shop.  Save yourself the $ and put it toward some other modification.  In our case, I just ordered some new shocks for the front😉

How to Replace an Outer Tie Rod on Early Comets and Falcons

When Micah and I were renewing the front brake system on the ’63 Comet, we noticed the boot on the outer tie rod on the driver’s side had been split open.  We had heard some occasional clunking while going around corners, so this was not a complete surprise.  Well, Macrina and I finally had a chance to get to that this week (Micah was out of town).  If you haven’t done this before but you’re interested in giving it a try, read through the steps below, with the picture from Macrina and I, and you’ll learn it’s really not all that difficult.  With some basic tools you can save yourself the $150 or so that a garage would charge you for doing it.

Here’s what we started with.  If you look carefully, you can see the split in the boot:

IMG_1094  After taking this picture, we soaked down the castle nut and the nut and bolts on the clamp with some PB Blaster and let it sit for a few hours.  Then we began.

Macrina removed the hub cap and loosened the lug nuts:


Once that is done, jack up the car and put it on a jack stand.  I keep the jack on the car as well, for some redundancy, even though the jack stand is holding the driver’s front corner up.  Here is what you’ll then see.  Remove the cotter pin:


Pin removed, loosen and remove castle nut.  Then use ball joint separator to pop the tie rod down and out.  Put the forks in there, and then hammer on the end of the handle [HT: Thom L for letting us borrow his forks]:


Once out, this will be your situation:


At this point, I had to loosen the nut and bolt holding the clamp together.  The tie rod, as you can tell from the next picture, is threaded, and screws into a threaded sleeve that is held tightly by the clamp.  It was too corroded to loosen at first, so we soaked this really well in PB blaster for another hour.

IMG_1109 The threaded portion that goes into the sleeve is pointing down in this pic.  The end with the threads and hole goes up into the knuckle and is where the castle nut and cotter pin go.  So, once the PB Blaster had soaked in, Macrina marked where on the threads the old tie rod had screwed into the sleeve:


This will let us compare the old to the new and mark the new, so we get the alignment at least close to where it had been.  The tie rod was still a bear to get out, but with a pipe wrench and some elbow grease it came loose.  Do note:  the tie rod had a left handed thread, which meant is unscrewed by turning *clockwise* (i.e. “righty tighty, left loosey” did not apply in this case).  Here’s the old one removed and the new one, just started:


Once screwed in to the marked position, line up the tie rod with the knuckle and gently tap it up into place.  Once done, tighten down the castle nut and insert new cotter pin:


Now, the new tie rod came with a grease zerk to be screwed in.  Here you can see the zerk and the hole on the back side of the tie rod:


So, with everything hooked up, screw the zerk in until snug.  Don’t overtighten.  Snug is good:


That’s all there is to it!  We put the tire back on, removed jack and stands and were set.  Now, it is wise to add some grease to the zerk.  Our grease gun was at the farm, so we’ll be buying a second for here in town in the next couple of days and adding some in before doing any extensive driving.  The car is still in need of alignment, but at least we save ourselves the expense of an outer tie rod.  One thing to consider, is that often when replacing the out tie rod, it makes sense to replace the inner and replace them as a set.  In this case, we replaced the one with the split boot, but an argument could be made that we should’ve replaced both and if pressed, I’d have to admit that would be a good recommendation.  In that case, both ends are similar and the steps will be essentially the same.