Posted by: Mark Polk | 2016

Coolest Jeeps at SEMA 2016

Take a look at some of the coolest custom built Jeeps at SEMA 2016

Posted by: Mark Polk | 2016

Coolest trucks at SEMA 2016

Check out over 100 of the custom built trucks on display at SEMA 2016

Posted by: Mark Polk | 2016

Camaro Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Camaro 50th Anniversary Woodward Dream Cruise

Enthusiasts tour the heritage display as Chevrolet commemorates Camaro’s 50th anniversary during the Woodward Dream Cruise Saturday, August 20, 2016 in Birmingham, Michigan. The display includes the first Camaro built, a 60-foot mural, and rare and milestone examples from the car’s six generations, including the all-new 2017 Camaro ZL1 and 1LE models. (Photo by Santa Fabio for Chevrolet) (For editorial use only)

Posted by: Mark Polk | 2016

Collector Car Appreciation Day

On July 8, 2016, the 8th anniversary of Collector Car Appreciation Day will be observed.

This day is set aside each year to raise awareness of the vital role automotive restoration and collection plays in American society. American’s have had a fascination with the automobile since the first U.S. horseless carriage was demonstrated in 1893 by the Duryea Motor Wagon Company.

The automobile appeals to American’s sense of adventure, nostalgia, perseverance and exploration.  The motor companies tailored their designs to a public that demanded a particular style.  With the Ford assembly line came affordability.  We associate each era with a certain car.  Whether it’s a Prohibition-era Cadillac Sedans, 1950s era muscle cars, our grandfather’s pickup trucks, they take us back.


Post photos of your collector car on social media using #CollectorCarAppreciationDay.


Collector Car Appreciation Day is sponsored by the SEMA Action Network (SAN) since 2009. Per request of The SEMA Action Network (SAN), each year the U.S. Senate has passed a Resolution helping to launch Collector Car Appreciation Day. For more information visit

Posted by: Mark Polk | 2016

Jeep CJ7 Squealing Belt Fix

pulley finishedThis article is for the V-belt on a 1981 Jeep CJ7. The jeep does not have a serpentine belt and it does not have an automatic belt tensioner. Belts on an engine are used to power essential items and accessories like the alternator, power steering or air conditioning. My 81 CJ7 has a 2.5L engine and there is only one belt. The Jeep does not have accessories like power steering or air conditioning so the single belt is  used for the alternator, water pump and cooling fan.

About a year ago I drove the Jeep through some fairly deep water during a thunderstorm and shortly afterwards I had to replace the alternator. Prior to that the belt rarely made any noise. After replacing the alternator the Jeep developed an ongoing problem with a squealing belt.

Belts can squeal for several reasons. The belt can slip on the pulley, it can be out of alignment, the belt tension can be out of adjustment and the belt or the pulley(s) can be old and worn out. My first attempt at fixing the problem was to adjust the belt tension.  In the military we would simply press our thumb in the center of the belt, between two of the pulleys, and if there was 1/2 inch to one inch of deflection it was within adjustment. After I adjusted the belt it continued to squeal every now and then.

My next attempt at correcting the problem was checking and adjusting the belt alignment. It looked as though the belt might be slightly out of alignment, so I used washers between the alternator and the bracket until the belt looked perfectly in line with the pulleys and the alternator. After correcting the alignment the belt still squealed periodically.

belt glazedMy third attempt at fixing the noisy belt was to remove and inspect the belt and the pulleys. What I discovered was the belt and the pulleys were glazed. My thought was the heavy glazing probably caused the belt to slip, making the squealing noise.



pulley sandedI rolled up a piece of sandpaper so it fit in the groove of the pulleys and sanded both pulleys unit the glaze and rust was removed down to bare metal.




pulley paintedI bought a can of black high-heat engine spray paint and painted two coats on both pulleys. I wanted to make sure the paint had plenty of time to dry and cure before testing it, so I let it sit for 48 hours.

I bought a new v-belt, installed it, adjusted it and started the Jeep. No squealing. I drove the Jeep and there was no more squealing. Problem solved. I just wish I checked the belt and pulleys first!


Mark Polk

Auto Education 101

Posted by: Mark Polk | 2016

Jeep CJ7 Ball Joint Replacement

While I waited for the engine to get back from the machine shop I decided to do more front end work. I installed the Pro Comp 4-inch lift on the front suspension and thought this would be a good time to inspect and repair the Jeep’s front end, especially with easy access like this.

Jeep CJ 7 front axleBy the look of things I was convinced none of this has been touched since the Jeep was new. I decided to replace the 36 year-old ball joints, the U joints in the front axles, go through the front hubs, repack the wheel bearings and check the brakes. I also want to drain the front axle, replace the pinion seal and refill the axle with new gear oil. I plan to use this Jeep as a daily driver so fixing things now will save me headaches down the road.


Jeep CJ7 front spindleThe first step, after jacking it up and removing the tires, was to remove the brake calipers, the brake rotors, disassemble the front hubs, remove the spindles and the axles. Other than dealing with some rusty bolts it came apart fairly easy, and I was surprised to see a good amount of grease on the bearings and front hubs. But now that it’s apart it only makes sense to clean the wheel bearings and races so I can check their condition and then repack the bearings and replace the wheel seals.


jeep cj7 steering knuckle removedI realized the only way I was going to remove the lower ball joint was by removing the entire steering knuckle. I used a small pitman arm puller to separate the tie rod ends from the steering knuckle. I usually use an old pickle fork but this new puller worked great. I did need to use the fork to break the ball joints loose from the steering knuckle though. Eventually I got the steering knuckles removed and can do the rest of the job at the vice.


Jeep CJ7 ball joint removalI rented a ball joint remover set from the auto parts store and soon discovered it wasn’t ideal for removing Jeep CJ7 ball joints. It took a little creativity to make the tool work and to figure out which ball joint to remove and then install first so I had room for the tool. After getting the new ball joints pressed in I decided to use the ball joint tool to remove the old U joints from the front axles before turning the tool in.


jeep cj7 ball joints installedI got the new ball joints pressed in. Now it will take another day or so to clean all these parts up, sand, prime and paint some things and to do the reassembly. All in all I’ll be glad I did this after the Jeep is all put back together. Next I want to remove the T176 transmission and try to figure out why it’s popping out of gear. I never rebuilt a manual transmission, but I am considering it after seeing how much they charge for a rebuild. I can get the rebuild kit for about $130 and they want $800 to $1000 for a rebuilt T176. That seems ridiculous to me unless it’s a lot harder than it looks.


Mark J. Polk

Auto Education 101



Posted by: Mark Polk | 2016

Winter Jeep CJ7 Project

jeep 80I am anxious to get started on my 65 Dodge Coronet 500 build, but first I need to get my 1980 Jeep CJ7 project finished. I found a good deal on a 1980 CJ7 with a 304 and power steering, so I picked it up. My plan is to do a clone of the 79 Silver Anniversary Renegade. It will be a daily driver, so the restoration does not have to be show quality.

I want to rebuild the 304 engine and install a 4-inch Pro Comp lift I have at the shop. The transmission pops out of gear so I will more-than-likely rebuild it and then go through the brakes, hubs, and axles. When the Jeep it is mechanically correct I will finish the body work and paint to match a 79 Silver Anniversary Renegade.

jeep in shop ft end removedThe first step was to get the front end off the Jeep for easy access to the engine. I made room in the shop for the Jeep and got busy removing the front end. Removing the front end serves several purposes. I can access  the engine easier, start on rust repair on both front fenders, clean and prep the firewall and front frame section for primer and paint, and when I get ready to paint the Jeep I have access to everything so no red paint will be noticeable when it’s finished. The Jeep does not have a lot of rust, but there are a couple spots on the fenders and grill that require some patch panel fabrication and welding.

jeep engine outWith the front end off I got the engine out and disassembled it to have a look inside. I was hoping I could do a basic rebuild and use any parts that were still in good shape. When I got the pistons out I noticed a pretty large ridge at the top of the cylinder walls and my hopes of using existing parts quickly diminished. The cylinders would need to be bored, so the engine will get a complete engine rebuild kit.


jeep engine disasebbledThese old 304 engines did not put out much horsepower, especially by 1980. I am hoping to squeeze a few more horsepower out of it by adding a mild cam, headers and a slightly bigger carburetor. Depending on the budget I might spring for a new intake as well. I loaded the engine parts in the truck and headed to my favorite machine shop.


jeep install liftThe machine work will take awhile so I got busy installing the Pro Comp 4-inch lift while the engine is out of the Jeep. I also started welding some small patch panels in and doing some of the body work. At some point in time somebody painted over the original red color with a lavender color and the paint is difficult to sand. I am not looking forward to sanding the entire Jeep but there is no way around it, especially when you plan to change colors completely.


jeep rust repair patchBodywork and rust repair are probably my least favorite jobs during a restoration, but if you are going to do it you might as well do it right. I learned along time ago if you don’t fix rust the right way it is just a matter of time before it starts coming back through your new paint job. The best way to deal with it is to cut it out completely and weld new metal it its place. This stops the rust from spreading and you use less filler when you do the body work.


Mark J. Polk

Auto Education 101

Impartial Services Group (ISG), now Stericycle, is a large third party organization that assists other companies with services including recalls, retrieval, returns, and audit solutions.  I never heard of ISG prior to November of 2015, but now I have first hand dealings with the organization. One service ISG offers automakers is to manage and facilitate vehicle repurchases, and one of those automakers is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

In February 2015 I purchased a brand new 2014 Ram 2500 mega cab truck. To make a very long story short, after four trips to the dealership, for transmission related problems, Chrysler contacted me with an offer to repurchase or replace the vehicle. This is how I came to know of ISG. The Chrysler representative told me that within 3 to 5 days I would be contacted by an ISG representative who would explain the entire replacement process to me.

Little did I know this experience would turn out to be one of the worst experiences I ever had, when in reality it could and should be a much better experience.

The ISG operation reminds me of typical bureaucratic behavior. I dealt with my fair share of bureaucracy during my career in the U.S. Army, which is quite common in government run organizations. One dictionary definition for bureaucracy is; a system of administration marked by officialism, red-tape and proliferation. When an organization devotes excessive time, reverence and adherence to official procedures and regulations it breeds bureaucracy. And when an organization “is too big for its own good” as the saying goes, good management practices can get lost within the organization itself.

To explain the inexcusable experience I had with ISG would require devoting an entire white paper to the topic. I do not have the time, so I will sum the experience up using bullet points.

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Posted by: Mark Polk | 2015

65 Dodge Coronet 426 Street Wedge

Back in the day Dodge and other automobile manufacturers were building and selling what basically amounted to factory race cars. My 65 Dodge Coronet 500 was one of those Mopar factory race cars. Take a small light-weight car, shove a 426 street wedge big block engine in it, add some bigger brake pads and limit the optional equipment to avoid additional weight and you have early Mopar muscle built with one thing in mind.

My 65 Coronet is a super rare (one of 440) Dodge Coronet 500s that came equipped with a 426 street wedge engine and 727 automatic transmission, and it’s numbers matching. The 426 street wedge was only used in 64 and 65.

To limit weight it came with few factory options. When you decode the fender tag the only optional equipment was variable speed wipers, black vinyl top, heater with defroster, AM radio, back-up lights, and front bucket seats with console.

In my opinion these types of cars were the true muscle cars of the era. This is one car that I won’t let get away.

Mark Polk

Auto Education 101



coronet on liftI got the 65 Dodge Coronet 500 home in one piece and put it on the lift. Now I wanted to try and verify if the car, engine, transmission and rear axle are truly numbers matching. It’s much easier to verify numbers matching cars after 1968. Those cars have partial VIN numbers of the car on components like the engine and transmission. Earlier engines like this one did not have partial VIN numbers on the engine, but they had casting dates and assembly dates. You had to check the block casting date, the engine assembly date and the car’s build date, in that order, when attempting to verify if it is numbers matching car.

engine ID padThe 426 street wedge engine was only used in 64 and 65. The engine ID stamp on the pad located at the front of the engine shows an engine assembly date of 10-16 or October 16th. The “A” on the pad, in front of 426 indicates 1965. The first step in trying to verify if the 426 wedge engine was original to the car was to remove the starter to reveal the casting number and casting date of the engine block. This car had a Shipping Order, or planned delivery date of 203 or February 03 1965 on the fender tag. My thoughts are if the engine was cast in 1964 it was most likely assembled on 16 October 64 for use in an early 65 model car. If that 64 date on castingwas the case after the engine was assembled it would be stamped with an “A” for 1965 rather than a “V” for 1964 because it was scheduled for a 65 model year car, and the assembly date would be 10-16 of 64. I removed the starter and the casting date read 4-10-64. So, the 426 wedge engine block was born in 1964 and used in a 65 Coronet 500.

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