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.

Read More…

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.

Read More…

Posted by: Mark Polk | 2015

Project 426 Street Wedge

coronet on trailer rear viewI always liked the 65 Dodge Coronet 500s, and especially a 65 that came with a 426 wedge engine from the factory. Do not confuse this 426 CI engine with a max wedge; I am talking about what is commonly referred to as a 426 street wedge. Chrysler built the 426 wedge to be more “street friendly” than the max wedges and to compete against Ford and GM’s engines and cars. The street wedge came equipped with a single four-barrel carburetor, hydraulic lifters, and a 10.3:1 compression ratio. The engine was rated at 365 horsepower at 4800 rpm, and 470 pounds/feet of torque at 3200 rpm. It was the largest displacement engine of its time.

I always look on Craigslist and other sites just to see what comes up and recently I saw a 65 Coronet 500 and the ad said numbers matching 426 wedge, 727 transmission and 3.23:1 rear axle. This is not the time or place to get into a discussion on what a true numbers matching car means, but to me it meant a 65 Coronet 500 with the original 426 wedge engine, 727 transmission and rear axle still in the car after 50 years. The best I can tell in 1965 Chrysler sold about 33,000 Dodge Coronet 500s and of those only 440 came with the 426 street wedge engine and automatic transmission. I would venture to say there are only a handful of these cars left in existence with the original running gear.

As an added bonus this Coronet was in North Carolina, about 5 hours from where I live. I made arrangements to go look at the car, and my thoughts were if I could verify some numbers it was coming home with me. When I got there the VIN checked out: W=Coronet V8, 4=Coronet 500, 5=1965, 1=Lynch Rd. Michigan.

I was also able to verify the fender tag displayed an “80” engine code which means the car came from the factory with a 426 wedge engine. The “80” is under AB on the middle line of the fender tag. Other information from the tag let me know it was a Coronet 500, it had an automatic transmission, the original color was medium tan poly and the trim was black vinyl. The “SO” or Shipping Order number showed a scheduled production date of 03 February 65 for the car.

hidden numberThe Shipping Order “SO” number on the fender tag also matched a hidden number on a body panel (package tray) located behind the back seat. If you look closely you will see 20308428 on the panel and the tag. Hidden numbers were put on cars to help identify fraud and it helps in situations like this when you want to verify a cars  provenance. The engine ID pad was marked A426 HP 10 16.

So at this point I was able to verify the car was a 65 Coronet 500 that originally came equipped with a 426 street wedge engine, and it had a 426 wedge engine that was dated 1965. It would take more investigating to verify “numbers matching” but for the negotiated price we settled on it was coming home with me either way.

In my next post I will expand on authenticating the car, engine and other components.

Mark Polk

Auto Education 101

I started the Sweptline Semi-Hemi project in early 2013. Sometimes I was able to work on the truck 2 or 3 days a week, and sometimes it sat untouched for weeks at a time. Now, as impossible as it seems the 71 power wagon is nearing completion. The last major step is the exhaust system, and there are lots of little things to complete and double check, but I see a bright light at the end of the tunnel.

Recently I finished most of the wiring, installed the new tires and wheels and started putting the chrome back on the truck. I want to do one final buff on the paint and when I get it back from the exhaust shop I will test drive it and work out the bugs. I have done everything on this restoration myself with the exception of changing the gear sets in the front and rear axles, the exhaust system and the cab paint, which the guy I paid to paint the cab screwed up.

This restoration was more difficult than most because there are very few replacement parts available for these old Dodge trucks, but that was part of the challenge and the fun. I can hardly wait to get the semi-hemi project truck on the road.

Read about the full build HERE

Mark Polk

Auto Education 101

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Posted by: Mark Polk | 2015

71 Power Wagon – Bed Liner Project

When I painted the bed of the truck my initial thoughts were to have a bed liner professionally sprayed in when the truck was finished. At the last minute I decided to prep and paint the inside of the truck’s bed, but not the floor. I thought it would be kind of neat to do a bed liner on the floor,  wheel wells and tailgate, but leave the inside sides of the truck bed the same color as the rest of the truck.

I have done several bed liners in the past, some were spray in products and others were rolled and brushed in liners. I was going to have it done professionally, but now, towards the end of the truck restoration project, my budget is dwindling fast. I was never a big fan of of the roll-on bed liners because of past experiences, but after visiting three local auto parts stores there were no spray in products available. I was impatient and did not want to order a product online and wait for it to arrive, so after researching some roll-on bed liner products I decided to try a Herculiner bed liner product.

I prepped the bed by washing it really good, welding some old holes closed that were drilled in the floor, and sanding the entire surface. After that was done I taped off the areas I didn’t want the bed liner to get on, and I used compressed air to clean out any remaining debris. The final step to preparing the surface was to wipe everything down using a wax and grease remover. I did the same prep process on the inside of the tailgate.

Next I stirred the bed liner using a drill attachment, to really get the particles suspended in the can. The Herculiner kit included one gallon of bed liner, two textured rollers, and a small paint brush. I used some disposable gloves to keep it from getting all over my hands. I started by brushing the product in all the seams and corners and then used the roller to apply a light to medium coat over the entire surface of the bed and the tailgate. I stirred the product frequently to help keep the particle suspended in the can.

I let the product dry for about 2 hours, until it wasn’t tacky to the touch, and applied a heavier coating over the entire surface. I have used roll-on bed liners before and was not pleased with the outcome, but I really like the Herculiner roll-on product. It covered the surface nice, with an even texture, and the finished product looks great. The only thing left to do is see how it stands the test of time.

Next up: Light at the End of the Tunnel

Read about the full build HERE

Mark Polk

Auto Education 101

Sponsored by:


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The Original Equal-i-zer Sway control hitch has been enjoyed by thousands of trailer owners for over 50 years. Learn more about the Equal-i-zer hitch, and find which hitch will work best for you

When I bought my 71 Dodge Sweptline project truck it was missing the tailgate. At the time I didn’t think much about it, I mean how hard can it be to find a tailgate right? I soon learned that finding almost any part for the power wagon restoration was difficult, but finding a tailgate in good condition, and at what I considered an affordable price was a real challenge.

When we took a trip to Colorado I found a guy in Denver who had disassembled several Dodge Sweptline trucks and filled his entire basement with the parts. He had every part imaginable and I hit paydirt for most of the hard-to-find parts on my list, but he did not have one single tailgate. I still wasn’t too worried about finding one since the project wasn’t close to the bodywork stage yet.

Time passed and I scoured local junkyards and even drove 3 plus hours to a salvage yard that I was told had a Sweptline tailgate. They did in fact have one, but it was beyond restoration. I probably called every salvage yard in North and South Carolina and actually did find another tailgate that was about an hour from where I lived. It had some rust that was repairable, and it was bent pretty bad in the middle, but I thought I could straighten it.

One reason I think so many of these Sweptline trucks are missing tailgates is because Dodge made a camper special model with a tailgate that could easily be removed to put a truck camper on the back of the truck’s bed. I think people took the tailgate off and put it in a shed or barn and forgot about it. On the models without the removeable tailgate it’s not so easy to get the tailgate off the truck, especially after forty some years. When I tried to remove the bent and slightly rusted tailgate I made three trips back and forth, the mile or so into the salvage yard where the truck was located. Each trip I would get additional tools, lubricants and finally an impact screwdriver, a big hammer and a torch to heat the bottom pivot mounting screws up. After spending an entire day working on it I finally got my tailgate. The salvage yard owner only charged me $125.00 and I thought I made the deal of all deals.

I got the tailgate back to the shop and started cutting some of the bad metal out and welding new patch panels in its place. The stamped DODGE letters had some rust that was not going to be easy to fix so I diverted my attention to trying to straighten the bend that was in the tailgate. With the truck on the lift I lowered it placing all of the weight on the bent section of the tailgate. When I left the shop every day I would turn the tailgate over and move it around in an effort to shift the weight to different areas trying to straighten it. I did manage to get some of the bend out, but there was still enough of a bend that it was noticeable, and it was unacceptable for this build, so I was out a few days labor, some metal and $125.00.

After exhausting my search at local salvage yards and on Craigslist I expanded my search to Ebay. I didn’t like the thought of paying for shipping too, but I was at the stage in the restoration where I needed a tailgate. I saw tailgates that were in decent shape but the prices were $400 and $500, and that didn’t include shipping. I contacted several owner’s and made what I thought were reasonable offers with no success. One day when I looked on Ebay I saw two new listings for tailgates. I wrote to both people making offers. One said no and the other one met me in the middle at $250 and $75 shipping. The tailgate was in good restorable condition and I needed it so I agreed. This was by far the most difficlt part to locate and purchase. Now I will probably see a half dozen perfectly good tailgates for $200 or less.

Read More…

Now that the truck is painted I am going down the home stretch. I still need to do the exhaust system and lots of little odds and ends, but right now I am fabricating some side steps for the truck. I had some heavy gauge diamond plate steel and 3/4 inch square tubing  left from other jobs that will work great on the steps.

After deciding where and how I planned to mount the finished steps I started the fabrication. I started by cutting 45 degree angles in the square tubing so I could bend and weld the joints. I repeated the process so I would have four arms to mount the two steps to.

Next  I fabricated the pieces that would attach to the arms and the frame of the truck and I cut the diamond plate into the shape I wanted for the steps. I welded the steps to the frames.

I test fit the steps on the truck and drilled the four mounting holes in the step frames and the truck frame.

When everything checked out I ground all the welds, sanded the steps and frames and sprayed them with a good quality etching primer.

The final step in the process was to paint the steps using the darker color I used on the front bumper and the tailgate. As soon as they dry good I can mount them on the truck and then get started on a bed liner for the truck.

Next up: Searching for a Sweptline Tailgate

Read about the full build HERE

Mark Polk

Auto Education 101

Sponsored by:


Need a sway control hitch?
Learn More about the Equal-i-zer®
The Original Equal-i-zer Sway control hitch has been enjoyed by thousands of trailer owners for over 50 years. Learn more about the Equal-i-zer hitch, and find which hitch will work best for you

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