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HFmaxi New Reader
2/14/18 9:49 a.m.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ said:

In reply to HFmaxi :


The new struts will be made with universal housings, a couple machined parts, and standard 40mm inserts and bushings that I can order from a number of different vendors- I'm sick of having to deal with businesses that are difficult to work with, so at this point, much like I did with the diff mounts and adapters, I'd rather do the work myself. 


Have you checked that they are still available? There was a thread on FB about all the universal stuff going NLA recently.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UltraDork
2/14/18 9:52 a.m.

In reply to HFmaxi :

The vendor I bought them from seems to think they (the 40mm inserts) will be around for a while- I know they're not being sold in the US any more, but the UK guys seem to put them in everything.  I also purchased an extra set of bushings and bumpstops so I should be good for a while provided I don't bend them.

Gaunt596 Reader
2/15/18 11:35 a.m.

So, a while back you asked about improvements to make the car easier to service, one thing that popped into my brain yesterday, the camelbacks you keep in the car, it's difficult to get the bladder open, and fill it, as your arms are competing for space with the seats and roll cage. I think it would be easier just to have a spare bladder, and swap them out at service, so you don't have to try and open it, possibly spilling water everywhere when you fill or close it up. 

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UltraDork
2/15/18 12:15 p.m.

In reply to Gaunt596 :

That's a good thought- next time we're putting them back in the car we might also try to find a more accessible position that still lets us drink out of them.

irish44j UltimaDork
2/15/18 5:12 p.m.

In reply to Gaunt596 :

we are still big fans of using longacre thermos-style jugs mounted to the cage behind each seat, with camelbak-style hoses coming out of them. Way easier to fill, empty, and clean than Camelbaks. I work at a ski shop and can get Camelbak stuff for dirt cheap, and I still don't use them in the rally car, if that tells you anything.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UltraDork
2/18/18 4:44 p.m.

Oh look, one of our radiator hoses is letting the brand new coolant and water wetter leak out:  

Let's reuse that coolant:  

Luckily the parts car had brand new hoses on it so I just swapped that one over and dumped the coolant back in.  Then I ground down the weld at the turbo oil inlet fitting, and found this void:  

Cleaned it, cranked the current all the way up, and welded it some more:  

Then I fired up the car, which runs pretty happily now, and let everything come up to temperature.  Looks like the oil and coolant leaks are gone!  Obviously more turbo oil leaks might appear when I get it good and hot, but I'll have to drive it to do that.  After running it, I cleaned the dryflow filter and sock:  

There was no dust inside the filter, unlike the old K&N, so I think I'll be sticking with the AEM product- I relabeled my K&N warning sticker to match:  

I also removed a few more pounds from the hood, leaving parts critical to the hinges, hood pins, and cowl:  

Then reinstalled it- it's nice to see the car looking like a car again:  

Finished things off by measuring some stuff in preparation for the arrival of our new strut parts:  


¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UltraDork
3/5/18 8:53 p.m.

Not much to report in terms of the car- parts are being machined, and I spent the last weekend at Sandblast rally in SC as crew chief (we somehow put a Honda Fit on the podium), but Ford sent me this:

Looks like the Merkur is eligible for contingency after all!

java230 SuperDork
3/5/18 10:29 p.m.

That's awesome! 

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UltraDork
3/18/18 8:02 p.m.

For reasons which will be revealed as you scroll down, I needed the lift this weekend.  Parts for the new 40mm front struts are still at the machine shop, so it was time to bite the bullet and put the stock bits on so the car can roll:  

But oh boy did it roll!  The handling is downright evil with stock suspension up front and rally coilovers on the rear, but the car drives well, the new diff works great and doesn't make any scary noises or vibrations, and the new engine feels good despite still being set to low boost.  Hooray!  

My only complaint other than the suspension is that I need to get the v-band in the exhaust lined up better, since it leaks a bit.

Now, about that lift...

Early Friday morning, I was drinking my coffee and trying to relax after a pretty exhausting week, hoping to have a somewhat laid back weekend, maybe work on the Kawasaki, and get the mountain bikes tuned up in case it ever goes above freezing again.  However, those dreams were shattered the moment I fired up Chief; the normal exhaust note was accompanied by an absolutely unholy racket, it sounded like there was a jackhammer operating somewhere inside the vehicle.  Climbing underneath, I determined the source was inside the bellhousing- with the inspection cover removed, it became obvious that the sound I was hearing was the torque converter ricocheting off of everything in its' vicinity.  Hence the need for the lift.  

So Friday was spent dropping driveshafts on myself, narrowly avoiding dropping a transfer case on myself, and quite nearly catching a transmission to the crotch.  Once all that junk was out of the way, I found this:  

A closer look:  

Holy berkeley, I can't believe this drove into the garage:  

Since the 4l60e seemed tired anyway, and the converter was pretty dinged up, and the flexplate had become a donut, I made a quick decision to try and acquire better versions of all 3 of those things in the next 24 hours.  A guy who sounded like Mike from Breaking Bad assured me that I could pick up a torque converter and freshly rebuilt 4l60e that night, and a local dealer claimed that they would have a flexplate for me the next morning.  So at 10pm Friday Sara helped me hoist the transmission into the back of our 318ti and I set off into the night:  

Somewhere north of the Delaware Water Gap, I pulled up to a dark transmission shop, met a guy, and exchanged an old transmission, a beat up torque converter, and a stack of $20 bills (the ATM doesn't spit out hundereds!) for a hopefully well built 4l60e with a 3 year unlimited mileage warranty, a few gaskets, a new torque converter, and some insider knowledge that I'd better use an OEM flexplate if I didn't want to do this again.  I made it home around 1:30AM Saturday.

When we got up on Saturday morning, we realized that this was the first time the back room of the shop had ever had four vehicles inside, and decided to document that before yoinking the transmission out of the back of the BMW:  

Then we gave the GM dealer a call, and got bad news- they hadn't gotten our flexplate.  So I called around, found a dealer in Philly with one on the shelf, and drove down and got that E36 M3, picking up a bunch of ATF at a parts store on my way home.  I called in reinforcements (GRM user AdventurePiggy) and we "installation is the reverse of removal"d that garbage back into the truck.  Here's a lovely picture of us both wondering why I don't own a transmission jack as we use a motorcycle jack, a piece of wood, a breaker bar, and all of our combined scrawniness to wedge the transfer case into place:  

We called it quits after getting all of the big heavy stuff bolted up.  The next morning, I plugged in the remaining connectors, zip tied wires whose terrible plastic GM clips had long since disintegrated, and filled the thing up with ATF.  It drives well, shifts nicely (except for a slow 1-2 shift which the builder claimed needs to break in for a bit), and seems healthy- Chief is back in action!  

So much for a relaxing weekend.

irish44j UltimaDork
3/18/18 8:18 p.m.

Good God....I'm amazed the thing moved with the center ripped out like that. Well, at least it didn't do that on the way back from Sandblast. One less thing to worry about now, I suppose. Impressed with your "right now" ability to round up all the stuff. I think if that happened to me it would take me weeks to round up the parts and actually get it done.

I guess since you have the awesome shop, you are destined to have to do "the big jobs" now haha..

And to think I spent my Sunday spray-bombing a Miata....

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UltraDork
3/18/18 8:48 p.m.

In reply to irish44j :

Yeah, I really do wonder how long it was only almost cracked all the way around, and I'm amazed that it drove and that the starter was still able to engage.  The downside of having made it to Sandblast was the amount of grit in literally everything- the floor had to be swept every time a rolling tool was needed.

I've come to accept that, while I am really bad at chilling out and taking my time with things (I'm working on it!), the upside is that when stuff needs to be done ASAP I can just let my manic need for progress take over and plow right through whatever is in front of me- it's actually the pace I'm most comfortable with, which is why I would probably end up losing sleep and feeling frustrated if I tried to take my time gathering parts and chipping away at the repair instead.  This is also why I really like my 4daysx10hrs (or 11, or 12) work schedule, and why mid rally repairs are the best repairs cheeky

Patrick MegaDork
3/18/18 9:24 p.m.

I had a similar year truck do the same thing.  It got to sounding like a rod knock, pulled engine and the flexplate came out in two pieces just like yours.  

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
3/19/18 5:36 a.m.

More proof American V8 drive trains will run poorly for longer than most other makes can run at all... cheeky

You know who has a transmission jack?  And lives a little over an hour away? wink  Seriously - remember I'm a tool junky - if there's some obscure special tool you think might make a task easier, give me a ring - I might have it.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UltraDork
3/19/18 5:51 a.m.

In reply to Patrick :

Did yours also have a 4l60e in it?  I wonder if they actually break because something in the pump/input shaft starts letting the torque converter walk, which tears the center out of the flexplate... or vice versa?  Sort of a crappy chicken or egg scenario.

In reply to Ian F:

You were next in line for calling in reinforcements, but it didn't even occur to me that you might have the tool to make installation much easier- next time I need to remember that you actually have two lifts and probably a lot of equipment suitable for working with them.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UltraDork
3/21/18 6:33 a.m.

Chief decided to give me one last little kick for swearing at him so much during the transmission swap- the neutral safety switch took a dump, meaning I had to short the starter terminals to get home from work on Monday.  With a new switch installed all seems well, which is good since Sara has to drive it in like a foot of snow today surprise

paranoid_android UltraDork
3/21/18 4:51 p.m.

Is Chief becoming a bit surly as he ages?  cheeky

You had quite a weekend! 

irish44j UltimaDork
3/21/18 7:19 p.m.
paranoid_android said:

Is Chief becoming a bit surly as he ages?  cheeky

You had quite a weekend! 

Now that the Merkur is getting itself in shape, Chief figures it's his turn to get some fixes.....

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UltraDork
3/22/18 5:41 a.m.

In reply to paranoid_android :

He's just mad that his older brother gets to be a TV star while he's here doing all the really hard work:  

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UltraDork
5/19/18 6:25 p.m.

It has been an alarmingly long time since this thread was last updated- let's fix that.  I finally got my strut ends from the machinist, and they were made exactly to spec and look great... however I discovered upon assembly that I had the wrong length strut housings. 

Checked my order and yep, I berkeleyed up and got the wrong bits, so Rix Engineering in the UK got some more of my money and a week later I had the ones that I should have ordered the first time- try not to be in a hurry when ordering parts from overseas!  blush

I did toy with the idea of reengineering the strut towers and using the longer bits to get a stupid amount of travel up front, but in all honestly what I'm doing should be plenty- I can keep the other parts around for a future project.  Here's how the struts went together once I had all the bits; step one, insert strut tube into machined thingus:  

Preheat with torch so your puny 110v welder has enough penetration to stick them together:  

Make zappy:   

Stick it in a knuckle as a fixture and weld the anti-pullout tab on:  


Paint and assemble:  

What caused me to destroy my struts last time was this threaded end on the insert getting stuck:  

I can't just plug it up, since that little bleed hole needs to be able to breathe, so I crammed a bunch of foam in the ends so that hopefully it stays clean in there:  

Then, for the first time since the JVAB struts came off it for "service" aka "me destroying one and then sending them out for repair whereupon they fell into a black hole" nearly half a year ago, I got to drive the car in full rally trim again.  Suspension feels great, diff is tight, engine seems healthy, I call it a success!  

The car felt a little sluggish to me, so I played with the fancy adjustable cam pulley since it was advanced WAY up by the previous owner- and holy berkeley what a difference!  I'm still running the boost at 15psi since this engine only has like 50 miles on it, but it's faster than the old engine was at 20psi devil

Some numbers in case I forget what the hell I did with the front struts, or in case anyone else cares:  
Springs: 350lb/in
Damping: 300/100
Bumpstop: 80mm rubber (black)
Adjustment: Seat 6.5in above knuckle

These are close to the published specs for the front end of the winning Group N Sierra from 1987, although the spring rate is a little lower and the bump stop a little longer.  I may need to adjust the spring seats a little higher to get the correct ride height.

The plan for the car now is to just drive it a lot, eventually turn up the boost, and maybe play with the cam timing some more.  The engine, differential, rear subframe, trailing arms, and front struts are all new so I'm going to need to put some miles on it before I trust it enough to plunk down big entry fees.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UltraDork
5/20/18 4:44 p.m.

I put about 70 miles on the car today and discovered our first issue- the welds at the turbo feed and return lines leak once the turbo gets hot.  I guess welding to oil impregnated cast iron wasn't the best idea, so I'll have to come up with an alternative solution since the stock flanged lines leak even worse.

Still though, not a terrible problem and the rest of the car feels good so far!

Dusterbd13 MegaDork
5/20/18 7:13 p.m.

Clean real good and pack with jb weld exhaust manifold compound?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UltraDork
5/21/18 6:00 a.m.

In reply to Dusterbd13 :

As much as I love JB Weld and similar products, I'm not sure there's anything available which will survive life on the side of a glowing hot turbocharger cheeky

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
5/21/18 6:10 a.m.

Glad to see that you got your struts back. I think we're going on three months of zero contact. I have confidence that they'll show up eventually. 

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UltraDork
5/21/18 6:33 a.m.

In reply to mazdeuce - Seth :

We're at almost exactly 3 months without contact on the original 41mm JVAB struts- the guy who has them for repair encountered some sort of family emergency and basically disappeared for a bit.  In February he got back to me to let me know that the shop was resuming operations, and since I was already in the beginning stages of piecing together the new front struts I told him he could consider my 41mm units "low priority" since many of the other customers he had waiting on parts most likely didn't have a real backup plan.  I agree that he will eventually get to my stuff.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
5/21/18 6:38 a.m.

In reply to ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ :

I'd still shoot him an email every month or so or you'll never see them.

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