The Joys of Hot Rod Wiring

There’s nothing like rebuilding your hot rod save for that wiring job you now have to take on. In my case this is Elvira right now and with the circuits that I am changing, adding and deleting all at once, the wiring looks like a colorful pile of spaghetti – and I don’t like spaghetti, just ask the missus.

I cannot remember really which car was the first that I even worked on as far as the wiring but an early one that I remember was my mom’s car. I was slowly taking the car over and had added a couple of gauges to the car, one of those oil and ammeter combination deals. Everything worked just fine until she was shopping one day and the car refused to start. After getting a mechanic to look at the car, it seems that one of the wire connections I had made to the ammeter had failed which cut all of the battery power to the car. Not long after this, I learned how to properly crimp a wire connector – squeezing it with a pair of pliers just doesn’t get the job done.

Over the years I have added different electrical items to cars including gauges, ignition systems, stereo units, speakers and fuel pumps. I have wired hot rods from the ground up; they didn’t have the first piece of cable in them and when I finished there was an operational vehicle with all of it’s electrical functions functioning. One car that I am still a little proud of was a NHRA/IHRA stocker. It was basically a complete wiring job from front to back but just to throw me a curve ball, the owner wanted his power windows to work. They do.

I am lucky in that I grew up in the phone system so basic electricity was actually a course I took at one time and that as the job situation required, I became very familiar with different kinds of electrical components. I learned that assembling things in certain ways, connecting the circuits and using special bits and pieces as you needed let you customize a solution to obtain the results that you want. I was also trained to read electrical schematics and can normally follow the flow of a circuit from A-Z.

One of the most recent wiring jobs I performed was on the Monza. If you have looked at any of the photos of the car when it was first purchased, you can tell that the wiring job in it was more of a miss than a hit. The car had everything from 110v light switches in it to solid house wiring. Grounds were simply holes drilled in any roll cage pipe that was close by. Simply put, electrical wiring in a vehicle, whether a race car or not escapes a lot of people. These same people can assemble a race engine, weld a complete chassis together and tune the daylights out of a race car but tell them they have to wire it and they will give you every excuse in the book not to do it.

So back to Elvira. Right now I have about 70%-80% of her wiring completed right now. I have moved some components around a bit which has resulted in shortening the wiring to them and in other cases I am making improvements in the way I connected something before. I have also run a total copper ground system in the car to reduce the amount of electrical resistance that might have been in the frame. While the chrome moly frame was a convenient point to make ground connections, I have learned that it is certainly not the best route to take. I have also added additional grounding to some components in an attempt to reduce any resistance in those particular circuits. I am not sure any of this is going to make the car perform better but at least I will know that each circuit will be at it’s best. There is also some additional items that I am adding that I did not run before and of course these will need wiring connections too. I hope to have all of the wiring completed over the coming week and once everything is tested I will be ready to actually fire Elvira up.

 

Slow, Slow Progress

I suppose any progress is better than none at all but I am thinking that glaciers are moving a little bit quicker than my progress on Elvira.

Since the last post about Elvira, we managed to get the engine mounting T-Bolt straps corrected, the engine/transmission and rear end coupler aligned, the chute checked out and repacked, all new mounting for the transmission cooler and a few pieces touched up with paint. I am actually excited about the transmission mounting as it allowed me to reduce the amount of stainless steel hose used for the fluid connections. I probably saved all of 5 ounces but anytime you can take weight out of a racecar, it just seems like such a huge achievement! Once we get some room in the garage – more on that later – I hope to work my way forward on the car completing systems as I  go along. Next up would be the fuel and cooling systems on the engine.

On the other hand, we made a trip to the beach house to make a few repairs there as we decided to do some minor renting of it this summer. My youngest son recovered his rental house in Wilmington which was trashed and we spent several days there pulling out carpet and padding, a destroyed bathroom door, made multiple truck load runs to the dump with “their” trash, repaired a sliding glass door and went shopping for replacement stuff. A lot of cleaning products were used up trying to get the place back to a decent state. It’s sometimes amazing how inconsiderate people can be just because they do not “own it”. Another trip is coming up to re-do the bathrooms and lay tile for those areas and the foyer entrance. I also started opening the pool at home but immediately ran into several problems with the pump and water lines. Even though I insulate the piping every off season and do so by wrapping it down to ground level with thick insulation that is then covered in plastic and aluminum foil, either a deer stumbled into it or the low temperatures we had for a day or two this past winter snapped some of the plumbing. So it was fix all of the plumbing first only then to find that the pump was screaming its guts out when I powered it up. Normally this is the ceramic pump seal that is making the noise so I pulled the pump, replaced the seal and of course that didn’t fix it. So right now I am in the middle of replacing the pump bearings and should have it back in place today. Hopefully that takes care of the pump and I can get back to completing the pool opening.

And of course that’s not all that has happened. Our little rocket ship the MR2 Spyder that my wife keeps at the beach decided to take a dump on us. It has now thrown engine codes several times resulting in the replacement of various sensors but this last time I decided it needed to come back to my garage so that I could go over everything. We have had a mysterious engine sound since the end of summer and I really want to determine what that sound is. I had to take the open trailer down to the beach, pick it up and bring it back here which sounds easy enough but it never is. The car sits so low that it was a bit tedious to get it loaded and unloaded without tearing anything up on the chassis or body. It will also be getting a new convertible top once the repair work is completed. Of course I can’t get the repair work done because my garage currently is home for 3 cars (MR2, Monza, Elvira) along with a nice quantity of my youngest son’s stuff which we have yet to find other storage space for at this time. To say its cramped in there doesn’t come close. And the reason the Monza is here is that on its last trip to the track, it destroyed its transmission again. Seems the stator decided to rotate slightly in the brand new pump cutting off a large amount of the transmission fluid that normally gets pumped through the transmission. The pump was covered with a warranty which was helpful and our buddy James Smith at Mountain Road Transmissions helped us out with the rebuild. While re-installing the transmission, I discovered that we had an alignment issue with the aftermarket bell housing. This housing had been cracked and repaired in the past, it bolted up okay but depending on the converter being used, either gave us a minor problem or none at all. I took some measurements and found that it was off from one mounting side to the other by almost an 1/8 inch. So we decided to replace the housing which in itself turned into a multiple week event. With the new housing in place, everything looks good and now we are just waiting for the transmission fluid and trailer to show up and take the Monza out of here.

On another note, my littlest guy Theo (he’s our little Yorkie) has been fighting a very bad skin infection for months now. Multiple trips to different veterinarians, multiple drugs, baths and hair cuts later, he’s still dealing with it although it looks like we are now turning the corner on it. The last 24 hours have been pretty good for him which is major progress and I know he is glad to get some relief. We all hope it continues and that he can get this behind him.

 

Meet Elvira

Well, it’s March of 2017 now and I have made some progress on my race car. Per normal other things have come up that interrupt the work on it but I am not complaining. Some of this is money producing while other stuff is just a choice I make at the moment.

We took advantage of some good weather down south this year and took the Camaro to Coastal Plains, NC for their Valentine’s Day race. $2000 to win in the Mod class was looking pretty good to us as we worked our way down to the semi-finals with just three cars left. We lost a close match in the 7th round to end up finishing third for the night. But the car was consistent and we were able to dial it pretty well as the temperature, humidity and density altitude moved around on us all day long. Unfortunately, one of our other Richmond friends did not have the same luck and lost oil pressure on his second time trial run of the day. Sad to have to put that one in the trailer as we always enjoy getting down to the final rounds with him.

Our Camaro on a time trial shot at Coastal Plains, NC.


Back home, the dragster has a good part of its wiring figured out now as I made some additions that I hope will improve my consistency with the car. In bracket racing it’s not how fast or quick you are, it’s being able to repeat your runs on a given day that really matters. The engine is completed and with Phil’s help is now in the car along with the transmission. We did some maintenance work on the transmission, changing the filter to a Chrysler 727 type filter which is about 25-30% larger than the stock Powerglide one. We also installed a temperature sensor in the fluid pan and installed one of Moroso’s reusable silicone pan gaskets. We had used their gaskets on the valve covers before and they worked out really well.

The funny part of this day is the amount of blood-letting that occurred. I was seriously running out of band-aids at an incredible clip. So in honor of one of my favorite ladies who happens to be a vampiress, Elvira – Mistress of the Dark – I now have a name for my dragster, going forward she will be known as Elvira.

  Not sure if we will make the opener but we should be really close. Test and tunes were supposed to start a few weekends back but cold weather has kept all of the local tracks closed. I wanted to get some testing done before the season opened but that’s not looking like much of an option right now. At best we might try a few Friday night test sessions to sort things out and get reacquainted with my seat. Going back to old logbooks and with the previous combo, the last 3 good runs on the car were all 4.92’s @ 140 mph. My goal is to improve that to at least 4.80 numbers and pickup 3-4 mph.

New Year – Same Stuff

Well the new year arrived a few days ago, Ms. Carey made a mess of it and did the typical thing – lets blame someone else so since Dick Clark isn’t around to defend himself anymore lets pick on his business. Sound familiar?

Moving on, with the jeep project completed and delivered we again started freeing up space in my very busy garage. For the first day or two after getting it cleared out, I almost regretted putting anything back in it. My dragster made it out of the box finally and into the smaller garage stall. It barely fits, has to be angled a bit and the rear wheels removed but it’s in there. So this will let me get two things done. One I can get back to finishing up all the little details in the enclosed trailer and two, put the dragster back together. Weather of course is going to play a part of this winter time game but today it’s nice, sun is out and the temperatures are up. This weekend they call for snow but we’ll see if it really gets here.

The dragster needs to have it’s engine and transmission reinstalled, some changes made to the electrical wiring and the panels painted. I started on the engine just before the holidays and I received a really nice gift from my wife for the engine – a new Moroso billet aluminum oil pump! Now, how many people do you know that actually get excited about an engine oil pump? Right. But if you knew that big block Chevy engines especially mounted in dragsters have a knack for breaking the stock style oil pump, which leads to other really bad, bad things – you would be excited too. So the oil pan that I just installed has to come back off but that’s okay. I can deal with it. A couple of other things that had to be done was getting the mandrel for the vacuum pump machined correctly and some work on the Brodix intake manifold to match up with the new carburetor spacer that I want to use this year. I am about 50% finished with that work. Other stuff was installing the valve train which included the new cam roller lifters, pushrods and the installation of the Jesel rocker arm assemblies. My son Phil spent a day with me to get all of that done. We also took some time to take the Camaro out to the New Year’s Eve race at Richmond Dragway. A couple of 1st round wins (entered both classes) were a great way to start the new year but 2nd round didn’t treat us as well. Oh well, on to the new season and I am looking forward to having my own car out there again.