Racing is fun. It’s said that racing makes heroin seem like a mild craving for something salty. Thank goodness I never experience heroin, but I can say that racing gets in your blood. The preparation for racing can get to you in a different sort of way. For a team like us, where the owner-driver does most of the between-race maintenance, it can be all consuming.

Last fall following the September VSCDA’s Volvo Nationals at Road America I thought we were pretty much good to go for 2017. I went on my merry way shifting from racing season to bird hunting season) AKA ‘the holy season’.) As we were planning to head off to sunny southern Arizona for the winter I decided it might be a good idea to do a compression and leak-down check on the engine.  #1 – great; #2 – great; #3 – great; #4 whaaattt? Significantly lower compression. The leak-down check was equally disappointing. Damn! Now the head must come off! What I saw caused one of those “Oh crap” moments. The top of #4 piston was badly beat up. And so were the valves.

That’s not what it’s supposed to look like!

                      #4’s valves took a beating

When I put the car up on the lift and took the wheels off I immediately noticed a hole in the air intake duct leading from the headlight to the carbs. We had ingested some nasty stuff. I convinced Steve Blom (Competition Specialists) to make a very rare visit to one of his customer’s where he determined that the pounding had collapsed the top ring groove. Now the block needed to come out.

                        The avenue for carnage

The block was off to Steve’s place for piston replacement. We buy five pistons when we have them made. Until now, we have never needed that spare. At that point we were off to AZ where I had the winter to think about it.

New piston installed. Nice ‘n shiny.

Late April rolled around and we headed north. I knew that it was going to be intense once we got there because we needed to be ready for the season opener on May 18. I was not, uh, disappointed.

A day-by-day, blow-by-blow saga

Tuesday – The Day after Arrival:  Let’s start slowly. I repaired the damage to intake duct and decided I would go with a fresh engine, setting aside the repaired one as a backup.  Engine A came off the cradle and onto the crane. Motor mounts were changed from the storage to the racing variety.

Wednesday: I decided to create a new oil breather port plate (the stock fuel pump blocking plate) so we do not need to change between motors. This required a very large diameter hole and tap that I don’t have so I went to Competition Specialists to borrow both a drill bit and tap. When I got home I found I did not have a tap handle larger enough for the tap, so I tried an adjustable wrench, which resulted in a non-90-degree hole. I had to start over with another blanking plate. Fortunately, I have a stock of those on blocks in the barn.

Oil breather port – a modification of the fuel pump blanking plate

Thursday: A trip into Competition Specialists to use the correct handle with that large tap for the  oil breather port. I’m sure I did something else but the trip into town takes a couple hours no matter what I am up to.

Friday: I got the motor and transmission in today. It sounds simple, but getting the transmission to lone up is always an issue because there is about a millimeter clearance between the tunnel and the tranny.  I have a transmission jack that eliminates some lifting off my chest. It took a bunch of efforts getting that adjustments on the jack just right. That was the day’s work so the linkage and drive shaft is not connected yet.

All of my safety equipment was out of date so this is the year of replacement. Ordered a VERY expensive ATL fuel cell from Summit and a new FIA-approved window net from Stroud.

Saturday: It was slow today. The goal was to get the driveshaft in and as much else as possible. But the shift assembly must go in first. Should be simple. Now let’s look at the shift lever assembly. Hmmm … where’s the circlip that holds things in? That spacer washer is really loose too. Better make a new one that fits better. Start with a fender washer and rig something up to hold it in place for the drill press. Of course, the washer is a little too big so it needs to be ground down some. The circlips I have work, barely. Really a little too small. Need a bigger one. That means another trip into town.

Shift lever. The bracket is part of the reverse lock-out mechanism,

Let’s do something else. While in AZ I bought a T fitting for the oil pressure port so I can have the idiot light sender facing forward instead of upright. That sender fails all too frequently, and I would like to be able to replace it without taking off the carb assembly and header, But the Autometer oil pressure gauge line is attached at an angle and the idiot light sender runs into the side of the block when I try to swivel it. Need to make a trip into town to get something to extend the oil pressure fitting out from the side of the block. And get that shifter circlip.  And I need a 27 mm deep well if that is to work, so a stop at Northern Tool for one of those.

Oil pressure fittings

Let’s do something simple — put on the alternator bracket. But this is a ‘75 block. So, are those threads metric? Fiddle around a lot and decide that a 3/8″ bolt will work, if the split lock washer is replaced by a thinner one. How can two bolts take 45 minutes?

OK, let’s try to get the driveshaft in before the day is over. Of course, the first thing is to connect the shifter linkage to the back of the transmission. No which way did those bushings go?  OK, got that figured out after putting them in the wrong way and, at least being smart enough to see if the lever hit the lower roll bar before I buttoned that up. (It did.)

Well, at least the water pump pulley was not so hard. But all that safety wiring takes time.

Fellow 1800 aficionado Sam Seward drove up from Milwaukee to drop off his snowplow and pick up his Triumph from P & B Motorsports storage. There’s always something in the way in the barn that needs moving. And an old Triumph does not just fire right up after 6 months in the barn.

Back to the driveshaft. Oh, hell. I must have dropped one of the new all metal locknuts that I bought yesterday so I can’t put on the rest of the transmission mount assembly until I have another. Tomorrow is another day …

Sunday: A lock nut. My kingdom for an all metal lock nut! A trip into hardware store for a single damn lock nut. Well, today I went after that elusive lock nut for the driveshaft and picked up some additional brass fitting for the oil pressure devices. Then finally got the driveshaft connected, the transmission supports on and safety wired in place, clutch fork installed, transmission filled with fresh oil, oil pressure fittings onto the block and oil pressure line attached, and oil temperature sender reinserted into oil pan.

Also got the spare motor on the cradle and rocker on back in place. Ready to go if need be.

Tomorrow the header goes on and carb assembly.  Also want to install the new oil temperature data sender.

I’ve long wanted in-car communication, but not spend $1000+ for it. There’s a new cell phone ap called Zello that allows phones to be used as walkie-talkies. Pretty neat. And better yet free. Need to deal with earphones and order push to talk button for the steering wheel.  I want to call Speedy Metals to see what I can come up with for wheel hub pedestals for suspension set up.

Monday: Why does everything take so long? Big (maybe even small) plans seem to evaporate. So, what did the day accomplish? Well, I got the pilot bearing into the spare motor. Had to make a trip to the barn to find a spring clip and retainer ring since the one that had been in that motor disappeared. Got the alternator on (safety wired, of course), filled the steering box (had I EVER checked that?). Connected the oil lines after once again (i.e. for the 4th time at least) checking to make sure the lines were going to the correct ports, and then drawing the circuit out (for future reference, when I doubt myself the next time.) Put the headers on to see if the new oil temperature data sensor will have an interference (it does not).

Tuesday: I’m ready to install the carbs and headers, spin up the oil and give her a go to break in the new motor. Took the 123 distributor apart to inspect it, got the oil temperature data sensor installed in the oil pan, reoriented the AAV cover plate so I could insert the water temperature data sensor, sent in a new On the Racing Line article to the editor of Volvo Sports America magazine. Had to make a run to the hardware store again for some shorter bolts for the header. Good thing is that I have discovered the hardware store in Hortonville is a real hardware store.

New oil temp sensor in oil pan on right. This goes to the data system.

This is my oil pump priming tool, an old distributor with the guts removed and a oil pum shaft with the cam-mating gear ground off. That’s a drill chuck attached to it.

Wednesday: Installed radiator, ground off lower A arm washer to increase header clearance, installed header, installed carbs.

Thursday: Started the car and adjusted the carbs. Lots of fiddling there!

Friday: Crew member Doug Senk drove down from Iron River, WI. We replaced fuel cell, with a few surprises about the pickup that required a couple calls to ATL. The pickup on the new cell has a fitting that the old one did not, so we put the duckfoot pickup back in and said if it worked before it will work now.

Fuel cell pickup and breather

Saturday: The B in P and B came out and did some work to satisfy the tech inspectors of SVRA. They don’t like our open headlight ‘ram air’ arrangement, and I want to be in Group 3, not 8. In the meantime, Doug fitted the new window net, requiring some modification to the mounts. I put in the new harness. There’s lots of fiddling there with the body in an unnatural position to get the harness adjusted close to where it should be. Roll cages make everything a bit more difficult.

Sunday: Today: I bought a two-ton engine crane from HF with my 25% coupon. Joy bought a 1/4″ drive inch pound torque wrench with her 20% coupon. I got some microfiber towels and she got a head lamp FREE!

She cut the rest of the grass and tried to get the Ranger Extender connected. No luck with the latter. I fixed the light in the barn (several trips up and down the ladder),  got a dolly for the spare motor and put the motor on it, assembled the crane, changed the oil and filter on the race car (need some more oil), changed the main jets, put the correct tire on LF, installed the inner fender well plugs, cleaned and reorganized the trailer, put the car in the trailer, changed the oil on the Prius — an idiot at the Tucson Toyota dealer tightened the oil filter cap so tight I had to use a breaker bar to get it off, rotated the tires, and got the salt out of the shop.

Now we’re ready for 2017, I think. It’s easy to see why you need to be very wealthy to be an arrive and drive type. You said you wanted to own a race car?

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