.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}
Friday, August 25, 2006
VEV Logs Installment #2; 225,317 miles:

The Compression Test, And Other Stuff

I finally got around to doing a compression test on the VEV. However, as much as I touted the need to do a initial compression test "cold and dry," I wasn't able to follow my own advise. But, it didn't exhibit the cold starting problems that such a test would identify, so I wasn't too worried. It had sat for about 10 hours, before I did the compression test.

The results were rather startling: 150-152 psi on cylinders 1 - 3, and 145 on cylinder 4. Well, I'm not too concerned about the compression being higher than the theoretical "125 or so" psi I stated in inst. #1; this would hardly be the first engine that I've tested higher than theoretical. But it does give me cause to check the engine number, and the camshaft code, when I do the valve adjustment, to see if this is perhaps a non-turbo (9.7:1 CR) engine that has been swapped in. It certainly isn't an engine, even a Volvo engine, with almost 1/4M original miles on it.

I have little doubt that most of this VEV's operational problems have to do with nothing more than poor electrical connections. The 700s - particularly the turbos, were notorious for wiring harness problems. I plan to do a wholesale underhood cleaning of all the underhood electrical connectors, and then doping them all with dielectric grease.

Also, in a coming installment, I intend to do a timing belt and tensioner pulley replace, and a valve adjustment. Volvo only rates the timing belt for 45K miles, and Gates says it is an "interference" motor. And my "edge-i-dated ear" tells me one tappet is very loose, and another just sorta'.

Also up: an oil change, and new air filter.

In any event, fixing these things will at least make this VEV beater worth the money I paid for it. Then, with winter coming, I need to make the sunroof close, as well as the electric windows. In the former case, it is most certainly worn parts - in the latter, more bad electrical connections. Those thing fixed, this VEV should get me to next spring.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
The Volvo I Should Have Bought:

At $13,759.99, this was a little over my head. But I was wondering what a good '94 Volvo 940 or 960 wagon goes for, and found Paul Newman's Kenne Bell supercharged 302 Ford powered 965 just sold last week on eBay.

If you turned back time to 1997 and tried to think of the most conservative "mom-mobile" on the road, the Volvo 960 station wagon was probably high on the list for just about anyone you might pole. In those days, as the SUV craze was still just burgeoning, Volvo's flagship stationwagon represented the safest and most unimposing method of transportation for soccer moms and dads alike. Is it any surprise then that self-proclaimed car buff and actor Paul Newman decided to choose the 960 as the basis of an idea he had been hatching to build what might be called ultimate undercover car. Newman was not new to Volvos. He had in his possession a 740 wagon with a V6 engine that had been transplanted from a Buick Grand National. While the car was no slouch, it also wasn't very sorted out. The actor known for wily acting roles like Butch Cassidy, wanted something more refined. From what we've been told by those involved on the project, Newman had always respected Volvos and had a sweet spot for Ford engines. He'd come across a mention of Ross Converse at Converse Engineering in a copy of Autoweek magazine. Converse had built his reputation shoehorning Ford's venerable 5.0-liter V8 into rear-wheel-drive Volvos for years, and makes his business of doing just that in the grand old state of Maine. For round two of big displacement Volvo ownership, Converse was commissioned to build the vehicle. Newman elected to have one of his contacts, Michael Brockman, handle the orchestration of what was to be one of Converse's most ambitious transplants. Initially, Ross Converse traveled to Connecticut to meet Newman and to give him an idea of what would be created. He had two customer-built Volvos with 5.0-liter transplants on hand for Newman to sample. Newman was sufficiently impressed, though he added that he wanted to start with a brand new 960. Not only would that assure a pristine starting point, but it also meant that the car Converse was to build would make use of the newer independent rear suspension found on newly updated 960s rolling out of dealerships.. Other details were also hatched out. The transplants would use new crate motors. Also, power levels of the car, it had been decided, would be increased through the use of a Kenne Bell supercharger. One week later, Converse received a call from Brockman. As it happened, Newman had been in conversation with late night television host, David Letterman, and had talked him into an identical vehicle. During an interview on a competing talk show, the late night talk show mogul described his communications with Newman as such. Paul Newman calls me up and he says, "Dave, I'm thinking of getting me a Volvo station wagon, and I'm gonna stuff a Ford 302 V8 engine into it. Do you want one?" So you know, I'm thinking a Volvo station wagon looks like something you'd make in metal shop, and every time you see a Volvo it's got three kids getting car sick on a golden retriever, and I'm thinking these cars are so safe because in traffic other motorists slow down to check out how ugly they are. So intellectually I don't want a Volvo, but of course, internally it's Paul Newman. I say, "Yes, I'd like one." So I'm aware of the fact Paul is more excited about this than I am. He calls me up from time to time and he says, "Have you picked out the interior yet?" And I said, "No, I haven't." Then he calls two weeks ago, and he says, "Dave, the cars are ready. WE got two, on for me, one for you. I've got to ask you a question. Do you want a puffer?" I'm thinking, well, is that like a special inflatable seat? And I said, "Well Paul, are you getting a puffer on yours?" And Paul says, "Yeah, yeah, I'm getting a puffer on mine. It's a supercharger. This thing will turn about 400 horsepower, so if you pop the clutch you're gonna tear up the rear end. I tell ya, from 20 to a hundred you can chew anybody's ass." And, you know, I'm thinking to myself, what circumstance would Paul find himself in driving around in a Volvo station wagon where he feels like he's gotta chew somebody's ass? But when Paul Newman offers you a puffer, I mean, you take it. You don't turn down Paul Newman. In the meantime, one of Newman's children was friends with a gentleman by the name of Ian Warburg who worked for a large company in Manhattan. Mr. Warburg was tickled with the idea and talked the president of his corporation into replacing a BMW M5 owned by the company with yet another of these 960 V8s. Now combined with orders from Letterman and Warburg, Converse placed the order for three wagons. Three brand new 960s were acquired from a local dealer; a dark gray one for Newman, a burgundy car for Letterman and the third a navy blue car for Warburg. All three cars were fully loaded, though the blue car was the only one fitted with the third row seat. Converse sourced three new Ford 5.0-liter V8 motors for the cars. Each was balanced and fitted with Edelbrock aluminum heads and a Kenne Bell supercharger. Jim Bell from Kenne Bell, Inc. was instrumental in helping develop the setup to Newman's stringent quality criteria. Newman requested that the engine be dynoed, so each motor was prior to install. Converse experimented with different boost levels, and shared all hardware componentry specs with Bell, and Bell would burn a new chip for the custom configuration. They experimented with several software programs until they had one that worked satisfactorily. With an optimized program, each motor was again dynoed to measure output. Converse tells us that they weighed in at around 380-horsepower and roughly 400 lb. ft. of torque. The transmission installed in the car was a manual Mustang T5 sourced from D&D Performance in Michigan. The tail housing was sourced from the Camaro for its longer length. The hole for the transmission in the floor of the 960 (both 700 and 900 series cars to be exact ) sets back further and use of a standard Mustang T5 transmission and made it so the stub shaft of the Mustang's T5 would measure in at the front of the hole. By mating the back end of the Camaro's T5 to the front end of the Mustang T5, Converse was able to solve the problem. Each of the three 960s was fitted with the same configuration. Since building these three cars, Converse has developed an extension piece that allows the standard Mustang T5 to fit, moving the stub shaft backwards so that it lines up with the hole. To upgrade the suspension, Newman wanted the car lowered and fitted with larger diameter swaybars in an effort to help manage the power and hint to the car's much more sporting nature. At the front of the car, Converse fitted ipd / TME lowering springs from the 740 series. At the time, these springs were the only ones offered as ipd hadn't yet introduced their 960 setup. At the rear of the car, the all-new independent rear suspension presented an interesting puzzle. The setup, a transverse leaf spring system was so new to the market that no aftermarket upgrade was yet available. Converse contracted a local shop fabricate a fiberglass and steel leaf setup that resulted in lowering the car and firming up the ride. As with the springs, the ipd / TME 740 front swaybar bolted on. However, at the rear, it was necessary for ipd to make three custom rear bars for the wagons. Each car was fitted with 16-inch Borbet Type F 5-spoke wheels that, while not overly aggressive, helped to maintain the subtle exterior of the car without giving too much away regarding what lies beneath. Inside, the cars were fitted with a Momo shift knob that was chosen in order to match Volvo's stock wood finish on each car's dashboard. Finally built, each car was delivered to its respective owner. As the blue car saw use in Manhattan, the president of the company that owned it opted to have the stock springs reinstalled into that 960. It was his opinion that the ride was too harsh for the less than perfect Manhattan streets. In the meantime, while pleased with the car, Paul Newman wanted to improve the driveability even more. Kenne Bell, Inc. was again contacted and Bell eventually flew a technician to Newman's home in Connecticut. The tech was able to spend some seat time in the grey car and, with that experience, was able to optimize the software even more. Whether or not the Letterman car or the blue car ever received the newest software remains unclear. In a phone interview with Ross Converse, he believes that Newman and Letterman still own their cars. We were told that the blue car was eventually sold to the chairman of Mobil Oil. He owned it for some time and eventually sold it off. The current owner, Brad Purfeerst in Pennsylvania, bought the car at a Volvo dealership. A car guy and a biking enthusiast, he used it as a chase vehicle for his bike team. According to Brad, the car ran a hotter than he would have liked. He sourced a 3-row radiator from Volvo for the car. Combining that with an adjustable fan switch seems to have cured the high-temperature problems. Brad shared with us that one of the previous owners had also done a few other detail changes. The car's original undercoat was removed and the underbody was detailed in Chassis Black paint. The engine was pulled from car so that it could be refinished in Ford Grey paint. Finally, Aluminum fuel lines were installed and routed through the frame for more exhaust clearance.

George Achorn Swedespeed.com (For more, check the original article.)
Saturday, August 19, 2006
VEV Logs, Installment #1:

Getting Ready

There has, since way back, been a central appeal to a Volvo beyond their rugged construction, and dedication to safety (something which all manufacturers share, in
these days). It’s their stone-axe simplicity. This was a quality that was lost, going into the ‘90s, with the FWD 850 series, and the 4VPC, twin cam, B234 engine.

Now a Volvo is pretty much a Ford, which is pretty much a Mazda. And you can’t work on any of them, or anyone else’s car, so why worry? Just send it to the mechanic (oops – technician).
Actually, the B27/28 V6 engine, which Volvo shared with the likes of Peugeot, DeLorean, Alfa Romeo and other luminary brands, was a complex and unreliable piece of shit as well. But that’s another story. For the most part, up through the ‘80s, Volvos had a reputation for being very simple, and easy to maintain.

My ‘86 740 Turbo Wagon, with it’s B230FT motor, Aisin-Warner AW71 transmission and (I would assume) Dana 30 live rear axle, on leaf springs, could hardly be simpler, unless it was, say, an ordinary 740. But the turbo really doesn’t add that much complexity, or get in the way of maintenance. But it does create specific problems - read on.

Oh, and parts are stone cheap, particularly as European cars go. Like the transmission and rear end, the whole car is all built out of generic stuff. This keeps the costs down. But, like everything else, it pays to know where to shop. This is particularly true with European cars. G_d knows, I saved a fortune (or, more like it, avoided spending another fortune) on my Alfa Romeo by dealing with Alfa Ricambi in Pasadena (I believe they have moved to Fresno, and become AR Ricambi). In the case of this Volvo, it looks like the best prices are generally had at eEuroparts.com. Note that I do not yet have any personal experience with them. But the word on the street seems to be positive.

Oh, but then there’s the electrics – the Bosch electrics. And here’s where the owner throws snake eyes every time. A distributor cap at eEuroparts (the best price I’ve seen) is $40. A rebuilt starter is $115, with a $50 core. I can do a little bit better than this, but only because I know several rebuilders, But then again, this is not unique to Volvo, lots of cars use Bosch electrics, including the lowly Chrysler K-Car, of which I have owned many (and, IIRC, rebuilt starters were over $200 for).

Anyway, as for Bosch, this is at the center of my next few posts here, as the VEV has Bosch LH-Jetronic fuel injection. Again, we are talking simple, basic stuff. The LH-Jetronic is about the standard for all European cars of this vintage, and it is likely the one most auto techs learn first in school. And. If you understand the principles of electronic fuel injection, and engine management, this will present no surprises.

But sadly, there is no OBD II; that didn’t come along until a decade later. Further, I have not yet learned how to query the computer for error codes. [On a K-Car (also Bosch), you just toggle the ignition key a few times, and read the Morse-code-like flashes of the check engine light.]

Well, enough background, on to the meat of the story:

Considering its mileage and cosmetic condition, I paid something of a premium price for this car (north of $1K). This was largely based upon the fact that I just needed a car – any car, and had no means to shop for a car other than public transportation. (Background, for those of you in the hinterlands: a car, almost any car, in LA, with a clean, non-salvage title, current tags and smog certificate, and no gross mechanical problems, is worth about $800 as a baseline.)

This car has got a lot of problems. (I’ll post some pics in the next installment.) But, underneath it all, I sensed a vehicle with some basic mechanical integrity. And, as I stated earlier, I knew it was a car I could work on.

Well, first among those is the general operation of the thing. It had a chronic dying problem when I first got it. That turned out to be a matter of distributor connections arcing to ground. But, it still dies frequently. And further, the conditions under which it dies seem to be totally erratic. This is likely just bad electrical connections. Early Volvo 700’s were known for engine compartment wire harness problems, and the turbo especially, due to the extra under hood heat.
This is all stuff that, as a veteran Air Force technician, electronics engineer, and marine mechanic, I am quite qualified to handle. But this is also a BIG HUGE PAIN IN THE ASS. The only solace is that once it’s done (the way I do it) it is DONE. Yet I am trepidatious, as I know I am likely to find a whole lot of stuff which is even worse than whatever the factory did.

Just sorting this whole car out, electrically, is a job in itself. And I tell you. The Chilton manual I bought (ISBN 0-8019-8786-5), which proudly states, “INCLUDES WIRING AND VACUUM DIAGRAMS” on the cover, is of little use. [I actually got some real good (likely factory) diagrams off some .ru site – I have yet to scan my computer for malware.] If anyone has any good electrical or vacuum diagrams for the ’86 740 Turbo, I would greatly appreciate it if you would pass them along to me.

Now, on to the real mechanics - the stuff I’m sure you all were waiting for. ;)

Volvo only gives the owner of a B230 engined car 45Kmi between timing belt changes, and similar mileage between valve adjustments. Well, the car sounds like a sewing machine. And the previous owner couldn’t tell me the last time the timing belt was changed, so these things need to be done. But, the use of an intermediate shaft, and the RWD configuration of the 740, makes timing belt changes a breeze. Adjusting the valve clearance (on shimmed bucket tappets) is also an easy job, so long as you have the proper tools.

Ant, if you check eEuroparts the timing belt is a $7 part, with about $24 for the tensioner pulley. (And you are a fool if you don’t change pulleys every other belt change.). Valve shims are $2 ea. There (twice or more elsewhere).

But, before we even go there, it is important to determine if this engine is even worth a shit. Here it gets down to very basic tech stuff. And this is where many of our schools have gone astray in their duty to teach… “Let’s start from the very beginning; it’s a very good place to start…”


It is amazing to me how many auto tech courses teach hooking up a diagnostic machine before they teach doing a simple compression check. And it is important that this is done properly. First, the engine must be DEAD COLD AND DRY. That means the car has sat, inactive, for at least 18 hours. This allows all the oil, most particularly that about the cylinder and rings, to drain back to the sump.

Remove ALL the spark plugs. Mark each plug wire’s location with labeled tape or otherwise.

Here you need a compression tester. And, by all means, don’t buy some cheap plastic piece of shit, with a rubber grommet you have to hold in the spark plug hole while cranking. I just bought a very nice, albeit basic, compression tester (#926987) on sale at Harbor Freight. The price: less than $5. Screw the tester into each spark plug hole by hand, finger tight. For each cylinder, crank the engine about 6-10 compression cycles. If you have a remote starter switch, this helps, as you can see when there is no more pressure to be had.

Well, for those of us steeped in the high-compression age of the late ‘60s to early ‘70s, or those new to auto mechanics (who have actually learned the value of a compression check), the ’86 Volvo B230FT might come as something of a puzzle. Because, with only an 8.7 to 1 unboosted compression ration, the motor is doing well to top 125 psi cranking compression.

Going from this number, no cylinder should be under 80 psi, and there shouldn’t be more than a 10% difference between adjacent cylinders.

Well, I’m not going to go into compression testing any further, as there are many very good instructionals on the web. But, as with almost anything else, there is also a whole lot of bunk. But here’s a hint: if what you are reading doesn’t tell you why you started with dead-dry cylinders, it’s likely bunk.

The results of the VEV’s compression test, and more of the general tune n’ troubleshoot, in the next installment.
Monday, August 14, 2006
NASCAR Road Racing:

I haven't been following NASCAR for some years now. Hell, really for some decades. I sort of lost interest after Chrysler won the aerodynamics war against Ford, all the manufacturers dropped out, and the France family decided the cars were going too fast for current chassis and tire technology (although, despite limitations, they go faster now). You see, I've always been partial to cars and drivers (with apologies to Jeff Gordon) meant to turn both directions.

But I caught a bit of the Nextel Cup race at Watkins Glen on Sunday. And I have to say, it really wasn't THAT bad. I mean, it wasn't like watching them race at Sears Point... that is a total comedy! I mean, Sears Point is a real driver's track - tight and unforgiving (particularly with the infield leg, which NASCAR doesn't use) - well given to light monopostos; it's really too tight even for LMP cars. Watching NASCAR Nextel Cup cars on that track is a joke.

But Watkins Glen is another story: It's wide, with subtle, well banked curves, and lots of run-out space. It's really like an oval with a couple of kinks in it. (Actually, for the drivers, it's better - make a mistake at Talladega or even Phoenix, and you best give thanks to Bill Simpson.) It is likely great fun for the drivers. But still, you get the definite feeling that these cars, and (largely) their drivers, are out of their element.

NASCAR should just stick to ovals.
The Alcohol Years:

Damn! I just (very briefly) tuned in to The Alcohol Years (2000), on The Sundance Channel. And here I thought it was going to be about drag racing.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Absolute Crap:

I'm not familiar at all with a blog called General Watch. And I only read this ridiculous post, quoting an idiot named Jerry Flint, from WardsAuto.com, because my good friend, Mark Tapscott included it in his last Carnival of Cars. And I have only to say that, Jerry needs to pull his head out of his ass.

The problem, General Watchers, is not one of having multiple brands at the same dealership; Audis and Porsches have been sold side-by-side for decades, and, long before that, Rolls-Royces and Bentleys. The problem is not one of co-existence, it is one of brand identity, and that transcends the dealer network; it doesn't matter whether badge-engineered cars are sold on the same lot, or in the same auto mall.

So, while a customer might cross-shop a Grand Caravan for a Town & Country (but who cares, as long as they don't buy a Sienna), no-one is going to cross-shop a Grand Cherokee for a Pacifica. I will go one step further, and venture a guess that only a handful will cross-shop a 300C for an E550. DaimlerChrysler is in nowhere near the straights that GM is in this regard.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Gas Tax Controversy:

Over at The Volokh Conspiracy, Todd Zywicki has this post, about suspending the gas tax. Here is my opinion:

We should sharply increase the gas tax! And then (here's the novel part) actually spend the money on our roads!

It's time for the central planning zealots out there to admit that, for the vast majority of things Americans buy an automobile for, nothing does it better than a personal (or perhaps family) automobile. And they should stop trying to make the personal automobile do things it doesn't do well - like being a cooperative jitney (read carpool), or trying to make other things - like railroad trains - do what it does so well.

In fact, the private automobile does what it does so well, that even after three decades of the planners' stealing the money automobile users pay to assure their right to freely use their automobile, and then spending it on all their pet projects - as well as all the planners' efforts to usurp the private automobile users' freedom to use their cars as they please... all these things which, compounded, make operation of a private automobile - particularly in urban areas - a frequently unpleasant, or even maddening, chore, the vast majority of Americans still resist their plans. Further, those compelled to participate in the planners' misbegotten schemes (the overwhelming majority of those who participate at all) aspire, NO! even lust, after joining the ranks of the private automobile users.

So... imagine that folks... triple or quadruple the current federal (and generally, state) highway transportation funds, actually spent on highway transportation! We could have those multiple deck expressways through urban areas (built to the standards of Germany’s Autobahn, not the silly putty crap we have here). We could have those "smart" highways. (Or, more likely, a network of smart cars on dumb highways, with the dumb cars relegated to the slow lanes.) We could even have driver training courses (no doubt privately operated, and funded by vouchers) that actually train our kids to drive - imagine that!
A blog dedicated to the personal musings of Kevin L. Connors - a pragmatic libertarian, engineer, businessman, and journalist.

04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006 / 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006 / 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006 / 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006 / 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006 / 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006 / 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006 / 01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007 / 02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007 / 03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007 / 05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007 /

Powered by Blogger