T.J. SuperDork
1/25/11 10:07 a.m.

Ever had a project that just kept expanding and seemed to have taken on a life of its own? My project not only has done that, but it has also spawned its own offspring. So far most of the daughter projects haven't reproduced much.

Back in October I agreed to remove my exhaust header from my '75 BMW 2002 so a friend who built a custom turbo manifold for his E30 318 could test fit his manifold on my car for fitment. He posted his project in some forum or another (E30tech I think) and someone from the west coast asked if he would make another header and if it would fit a 2002. To remove the exhaust manifold there are 8 nuts that need to be removed from the head studs and three nuts where the manifold connects to the down pipe. Now it is nearly February and I still do not have my manifold back on. (The turbo manifold did not fit BTW - frame rail in the way)

For some reason, I decided that since the exhaust manifold was off, it was a good time to start my Megasquirt conversion prject that I had been gathering parts for. So I removed the intake and carb. Then I figured if I was going to that much trouble I might as well remove the head to replace the valve guides and stem seals that liked to let oil by under high vacuum leading to a smoke screen if I coasted down a long hill in gear.

To have more room to remove the head, I removed the radiator, hoses, & thermostat. I removed the grilles to have better access to the crank pulley to get the engine to TDC.

I found that my pistons were not the factory flat-topped ones, but rather had a small piano top dome. This meant that the spare head that I was going to put on there from a E21 320i was not going to work because the combustion chamber was way different and the domed pistons wouldn't like impacting the head. So I had to dissassemble the head and take it off to the local machine shop. I disassembled the head on one of those folding workmate thingys. I left my workbench in the old house in Virginia

Concurrently, I decided to mount my Megasquirt box in the center console instead of in the glove box where my Megajolt box used to live. I also decieded I needed to have an AFR gauge. So that led to making a custom gauge panel for my center console that relocated the hazard switch, got rid of the factory dummy switch and deleted the ashtray. Of course during this I saw just how poorly the aftermarket radio was installed - wired by a chimp I think. So that had to come out too. I went through several iterations of my gauge panel design before decieding I needed to add another gauge for symetry's sake. So I bought a boost/vacuum gauge as well.

I'll leave out the long sad story of my fuel system other than to say I know have to external pumps and a surge tank and associated filters that need to be mounted in my trunk and new fuel lines that need to be routed.

When it came to reassembling the head, I decieded that I needed a nice clean work area. One weekend I tried the kitchen table when my wife was out of town for 2 days. I quickly realized that I had the old style valve stem seals and the newer style valve guides. Needed to order more parts. My window of opportunity closed by the time I could get the correct parts.

This lead to building a new workbench for the garIage. My garage is full of a lot of crap so I needed a place to put the workbench. The target was to get rid of an old entertainment center that we bought in 1992 and retired to garage duty about 5 years ago. I tossed out about half of the stuff on the entertainment center. Then got the brilliant idea (from my in-laws and wife) that it could be cleaned up, modifed, and painted, and brought back inside. Re-purposed as a flat screen tv/home theater entertainment center for the flat screen tv we didn't yet have.

After a lot of cleaning and scrubbing, then removing three of four shelves I made a space large enough for a flat screen TV. My Father-In-Law painted it and I put casters on the bottom and we brought it inside. We planned to buy a new TV to finally joing the world of HD flat screens in March or so if I still had a job. (Expect a new contract about then). But the pressure of having this clean and bright entertainment center in my living room just sitting empty while we huddled in a small bedroom converted to a TV room was too much to take. I did some measuring and found that to adequately fill the available space in the entertainment center I'd need a 55" TV. The wife decided that we might as well get a new reciever and speakers while we were at it. I had dreams of playing GT5 in HD with a nice sound system. I found that the entertainment center could use another shelf to hold the reciever, the TIVO, and the PS3, so I made a new shelf out of the scraps of the removed shelves. This part of the project is now complete. I can watch blu-ray movies or stream netflix or watch football games in HD on a nice 55" screen now. But back to the garage.

The workbench I designed is on casters. It is more of a work table I guess. It was just what I wanted and I am happy with it. Like I said before it was to go where the entertainment center used to be out in the garage. No problem, but what about the other half of the junk that was stored on the entertainment center? Where to put that in my overfull garage? I decided to take a shelving unit and remove the lowest shelf so the workbench and my air compressor could fit under it and that would hold the stuff I needed to find a new home for. What about the stuff on the shelf? It was mostly all of our Christmas decorations. I'm no Clark Griswold, but we have a lot of stuff. Really. I was a bit stumped and while standing in my garage I looked up for inspiration and realized that with a 14' high ceiling there was plenty of room "up ther" to store stuff. So, I designed and built a storage loft to keep all the Christmas stuff up and out of the way.

That brings me to last weekend. I decided it was time to put my cylinder head back together using my nice new workbench that so far had only been used to build furniture and a loft. It has been trying its best to act like a real winter down here in the south. We've had more than our normal share of cold and snow and this weekend it was in the low 20's at night and in the 30's during the day. I got all the valves installed without a hitch and was ready to install the rocker shafts and rockers. This is where I ran into trouble. My head took a lot of persuasion to get the old rockers driven out of the head. 5 pound mallet and "a suitable drift". My new rockers were also a tight fit. Internet wisdom is that if they are that hard to get in the head is warped, but my cam can slide in and out easily and the machine shop found the head surface was flat. I couldn't decide which way to drive the rocker shafts in. The Haynes manual tells you to remove them by driving them out towards the front. To re-install it just says to those steps backwards with a few tips and caustions. Should they go back in from the front or in from the rear? I chose to go in from the front as I am a conservative type fellow. The rocker took a lot of pounding to get it going and I got the exhaust side rockers on for cylinder 1 and 2 before I figured out why I should've gone in from the rear. There is a little cutout near the front of the rocker shafts and that apparently doesn't like to repeatably beat upon by my mallet since it broke the end of my new rocker shaft as I was nearing cylinder 3. I removed it and ordered another shaft. I think the trouble was that I was doing this when it was 30 F and the aluminum head contracted more than the steel rocker shaft making a very tight fit. Once I get my new rocker shaft I am going to try warming the head up to a little over 100F in the oven before trying to get the rocker shafts in.

Hopefully before spring I'll get this project finished and get my car back on the road, but I now have a nice new storage loft, and new workbench (including vice and bench grinder), a 'new' entertainment center, a new home theater, two new recliners (forgot to mention them), and I still haven't put my exhaust manifold back on. .

Strike_Zero HalfDork
1/25/11 10:28 a.m.

And I thought I was bad

I think I fall in the category of project frustration. . . I did get a new house and garage out of the deal so I can't be too upset over it

I'm literally a timing bolt kit and driveshaft away from finishing my E36 5.0L project Autoxer . . . I just can't find the time to head down to the Ford dealer to pick up the bolts

92CelicaHalfTrac SuperDork
1/25/11 10:30 a.m.

Oh yes.... my current "project" was bought for $900 to serve as a DD. About a year and a half ago.

It's been down for major surgery 3 times now. Each time started out with a "quick one day fix" that turned into "Well while i'm in there......." every time.

Everytime it's been down, it's been down for literally 2 months at a time. Every time, it comes off the operating table more ill-suited for daily driving, and ludicrous amounts faster.

aussiesmg SuperDork
1/25/11 10:33 a.m.

Oh yeah TJ, imagine that frustration with 15 project cars.....aaaargh

Giant Purple Snorklewacker
Giant Purple Snorklewacker SuperDork
1/25/11 10:41 a.m.

Hahahahahaa .. heh... ha... er... crap. You are further along than I am.

The season starts in 60 days and I didn't even finish taking the motor APART yet. At this pace I'll be shoveling next year's snow by the time it gets back from the machine shop.

That leads to thoughts like... well, I could swap something else in there....

T.J. SuperDork
1/25/11 10:56 a.m.

I left out that I also bought an electric fan to replace the mechanical fan. Then decided that with all the additional electrical loads (2 fuel pumps in place of a mechanical one), the fan, the injectors, sensors, megasquirt, etc. that I'd better upgrade the alternator. So I got a 100 amp delco cs130 to fit in place of the original Bosch low amperage externally regulated unit. That lead to a side project of removing the left over bits and pieces from the 70's era smog wiring and relays. Then trying to find a good place to mount the MS relay board resulted in a project to relocate the windshield washer bottle. I suppose I should fix my broken sunroof cable while I'm at it.

Ian F
Ian F SuperDork
1/25/11 11:29 a.m.

Project creep - yes. But at least you've made progress. Which is better than I can say...

Fun read, tho... thanks for posting.

pigeon Dork
1/25/11 11:54 a.m.

Yeah, better project creep than project paralysis, which is where I'm at with my 951 project. It runs and drives, needs a little bit here and there both mechanically and cosmetically, but I'm afraid of project creep turning a simple job into what you've don. So the poor car's been asleep and left alone for almost 3 months now. Being up the street in a friend's garage instead of mine where I could go at it 20-30 minutes at a time isn't helping.

fast_eddie_72 HalfDork
1/25/11 11:57 a.m.

Great post. I got pissed off at my project and it is now sitting in the unheated garage for the winter while I try to bang out a completey different project at a work shop across town over the winter. Yeah, that's going to work.

T.J. SuperDork
1/25/11 11:58 a.m.

My car was my daily driver until I started this. Now it's been sitting in pieces for about 4 months. Haven't even really done any work on it since the weekend before Thanksgiving when I finally admitted defeat that it wasn't going to be back on the road for Thanksgiving weekend. I need to get my butt out to the garage for some quality time. Especially now that there are rumblings of ripping up the carpet and putting in hardwood floors in two or three rooms.

Raze Dork
1/25/11 12:19 p.m.

I need a charge number at work before reading all that, seriously...

dj06482 GRM+ Memberand Reader
1/25/11 12:29 p.m.

Been there, done that, only no where near as bad. Had a '92 Mustang GT that had a catalytic convertor that was rattling. Emissions were coming due, so I figured I'd replace the catted H-pipe with a high-flow catted H-pipe. The shifter was moving around a bit, so I decided to replace the motor and transmission mounts, as well. I dealt with some seriously seized studs on the exhaust manifold to H-pipe connection that required some serious time spent with the Dremel and a drill. After about two months of stop/start (young kids and a bunch of house projects will do that to you), I fired the car up and poof - an A/C line went and vented all of my beloved R12 into the atmosphere.

Oh, and that rattle on the cat - it turned out to be a loose heat shield, not the cat breaking up. And that damn shifter still moved around, even after replacing all the mounts!

After that project I learned that spending the extra time diagnosing an issue is much better than throwing parts at the problem!

T.J. SuperDork
1/25/11 1:50 p.m.
Raze wrote: I need a charge number at work before reading all that, seriously...

I needed one to type it all at work. It's a slow day.

egnorant Dork
1/25/11 3:04 p.m.

We call it"while I am at it" syndrome.

My sister in law love to add a little perspective with witty sayings such as:

"Painting an alternator bracket properly requires that you shorten the driveshaft one inch...got it!"

"Black bedliner is the best coating for changing a heater core."

"Shane brought a shifter by today....must mean you are fixing my dome light."


grafmiata Dork
1/26/11 2:35 a.m.

I'm kinda in the same boat with The Atomic Hairball.

Towards the end of last summer, the car started to develop cooling issues, as well as some bizarre electrical gremlins. It also had some serious exhaust leaks around the manifold and turbo. So my buddy and I started poking around, and then launched "Operation Speedy Resolution", our comprehensive 3-week plan to put the car right.

This led to brilliant, time-saving ideas like "Well, every exhaust flange is pretty badly warped, so we should probably re-do the bottom-end while the engine's out." Or my personal favorite, "I think the electrical problems can be traced to the fact that every ground wire on this car is loose. Just to be sure, though, we should probably send the head out to the machine shop."

My buddy got the engine rebuilt, just in time for us to have zero desire to work in an unheated shop in a NW Ohio winter putting things back together. Plus we knew there were alot of issues that we would be ignoring if we did reassemble what was there.

The car then sat untouched, except for a pretty nice Sunday a couple months back, when I headed out with a bottle of Soft-Scrub to clean the interior. (Gutted interior, FTW!!!)

Couldn't remember why I had removed the cheap Ebay steering wheel, but there it was, laying in the passenger seat. So I put the wheel back on the hub, and just gave one of the allen screws a couple turns, just to get it out of my way. I then removed the seats and cleaned up the floorpan. Once finished, I simply set the seats on the floor of the car, shut the doors and came home.

A couple weeks later, I went back out to pull the hardtop off, so I could put it on the winter Miata. Opened the driver's door, and plopped into the seat, which I had forgotten wasn't bolted to the floor. So the seat starts tipping over, and while I knew a seat can't tip too far in any direction in a Miata, as a reflex reaction, I grabbed the steering wheel... Which also really wasn't attached to anything. One bloody nose later, the hardtop was on the beater, and I haven't touched The Hairball since.

But, the project car is not forgotten. I called Flyin' Miata on Friday to order my new exhaust manifold to address the exhaust leak... I hung up the phone $4300 later.

But at least I took care of the cooling issues... Oh crap, no I didn't!!! Guess I'll need to order the Afco coilovers to solve that one.

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