Sunday, August 10, 2008

So close!

Anyone who knows me also knows that I have two cars in the garage that haven't run in a long time. The one that I refer to as 'the 2G' (for second generation) is a 1995 Eagle Talon TSi AWD. It was running just fine when I pulled it into the garage last October to undergo surgery. It has not run under its own power since!

The initial plan sounded so simple--basically just upgrading the puny stock T25 turbo to an MHI EvoIII 16G, plus a few supporting mods. Those few supporting mods rapidly grew, however, as it often makes sense to make multiple changes at once to save money and effort in the long run. Thus, a quick rundown of some of the changes that are taking place with this round of modifications includes:
  • upgraded turbo (EvoIII 16G), ported compressor outlet, clocked and polished compressor housing, ported hot side, welded for external WG
  • FP Race Manifold, ceramic coated
  • 2.5" SS O2 housing w/ recirculated external wastegate
  • 38mm Tial wastegate with upgraded 'racing' valve for race gas compatibility
  • port-matched extrude honed 2G intake manifold, polished plenum
  • 1G NT 60mm throttle body
  • phenolic spacers for both intake manifold and throttle body
  • Treadstone TR6 FMIC (22x6x3.5", small by most standards)
  • Custom 2.5" SS IC piping
  • Custom 1" valve cover vent
  • ProVent 200 air/oil separator rerouted to intake pipe
  • Custom cold air intake (places S&B dual cone filter in stock SMIC location)
  • HKS 264 cams, degree'd per cam card
  • Fidanza adjustable cam gears
  • EvoIII oil filter adapter (to replace water/oil cooler with air/oil cooler)
  • Setrab 625 oil cooler w/ -12AN plumbing
  • Stacked plate power steering cooler to replace OEM "cooler" (line)
  • polyurethane front and rear engine mount inserts
  • Kosei K-1 TS 17x8 +35 Gunmetal wheels
  • Hankook 245/40R17 Ventus R-S2 tires
  • Red splined Gorilla lug nuts, for bling
  • smoke colored bumper lights, again for bling
  • A/C removal (weight savings for AutoX)
  • Cruise control removal (again, weight savings plus simplicity and less clutter)
There may be others I'm forgetting, and there are tons of details that are glossed over in a bulleted list like that, but it's pretty obvious that it's taken a long time to get this far...and the car still doesn't run!

Thankfully, my friend Bert gave me some motivation to make that last push to get it running this weekend, and we almost made it! Bert offered his services for a workday on Thursday, so I took Thursday and Friday as vacation days at work to make for a continous long-weekend work block. The two biggest obstacles keeping the car from running at the beginning of the weekend were the intercooler pipes and the O2 housing. On the last workday (many moons ago, it seems) Bert helped me to cut and fit the upper intercooler (UIC) pipe, which has remained in its taped-together state since then. It just needed to be welded...simple, right?

The thing is, I don't know how to weld. I bought a TIG welder from Harbor Freight a long time ago, but that was the easiest part. I subsequently had to purchase a tank and regulator, figure a way to get 220V in the garage, buy welding rod and tungstens, bought a stainless restaurant table to use for welding deeds, bought a bandsaw for cutting deeds, blades and lubricant for the bandsaw, fixed the grinder and belt sander (WIP) that my Dad gave me...and oh yeah, still had to learn to weld!

Long story shortened a bit, the Harbor Freight welder is not the easiest welder to learn with. Namebrand welders have features like foot pedal controls, and more importantly high frequency or lift starts. I'd take either--the scratch start used by the Harbor Freight version has a tendency to contaminate the tungsten easily if you don't get it just right, which makes it very hard to weld unless you go grind the tungsten to a good tip again. The thing is, the Harbor Freight welder was only $200, versus the $1000+ one would pay for a namebrand welder. Yes, cost alone was my motivation!

I've taken some time to practice over the last few months, and I've made some progress, but I'm still not very good. Nevertheless, at some point I was going to have to break this stalemate. So, thanks to Bert's encouragement, I finally broke out the welder this weekend to do some "real" welding. We started by tacking together the turbo compressor outlet elbow and the UIC. Sounds simple, but I was having major problems relearning the scratch start and it took much more time and energy than such a simple task should have required. Ah, the joys of learning!

We then cut and fit the LIC, which required a blade swap on the bandsaw. I've learned the hard way that not using the correct blade pitch will quickly result in a busted and worthless blade.

With the intercooler piping all tacked together, we took a break for lunch. Bert was in the mood for sandwiches, so we hit Silvermine Subs on the east side of Longmont--where we just happened to run into his wife Alex and daughter Lily, who had just come from a manicure at a neighboring nail salon in preparation for the wedding of Alex's sister on Friday. Small world, eh?

After lunch, we decided to move on to the O2 housing. This proved to be a rather frustrating end to the workday. We deliberated about our cuts for a while before making the first cuts on the $100 stainless "donut" that we had purchased for this project. The cuts went as expected, fortunately. We then spent a great deal of time deciding how to "cheat" one of the cuts (meaning cutting it on a bias relative to the centerline of the tube), since the stock O2 housing isn't a simple bend. The cut went as planned, but this is when the frustration began as we realized how difficult it was going to be to meet all of the requirements with only one cheated cut. Bert had to take off, so I spent a few more hours cutting from a scrap bend and fitting small tubing "slices" before finally setting it aside for later.

The last thing I did was to remove the cam gears from the Galant to be used on the 2G. They started out as anodized red, but they turned a bleached pink color when I was cleaning the head with brake cleaner a while back. I bought new red gears to put on the Galant, but I wanted to remove the rest of the pinkish red anodization from the old gears before putting them on the 2G. Bert had suggested hydrogen peroxide, but a quick test confirmed our thoughts that the weak 3% drugstore solution had no effect. So, I exercised my Google Fu and came up with oven cleaner and Drano as alternate solutions. Our oven is self-cleaning, so Drano was the top choice.

I initially cut the solution with water a good bit to slow down the chemical reaction, then slowly added Drano to increase the concentration once I was comfortable that the reaction was relatively slow. I used a Scotch-Brite pad to help remove the anodization, soaking the cam gears for a minute or two at a time, and in the end it turned out quite nice--all silver, at last! Of course, with the anodization removed the aluminum is prone to oxidization; but fortunately, I like the dull grey color of oxidized aluminum and the gears won't be exposed to elements that will make it a structural concern.

The gears done, I pulled the stock cams...then realized I don't have spare cam seals. Honestly, it was a bit of a relief to realize that there was no chance the car would run this weekend, as I was a bit overwhelmed with how much was still left to be done. At this point it was 4am, so I decided to call it quits for the "night".

The next day didn't start until almost noon for me, and a lot of the work is all blurred together in my memory. I welded up all of the intercooler piping, tapped the holes on the BOV flange, and ground the end of the stub pipe for the BOV flange using a piece of software called Tubemiter as a cutting/grinding guide. Welding the BOV flange proved to be the hardest part of the project for me--on one end because I wasn't used to welding to a thick flange (let alone a 90-degree joint), and on the other end because I didn't think things out well ahead of time and had a very hard time fitting the gas cup and tungsten between the 2.5" pipe and the flange. D'oh! After welding the stub pipe to the UIC, I drilled a hole in the middle and hogged it out with a carbide bit on my air grinder.

I just have to mention my air compressor here--the new 60 gallon compressor my wife let me buy last winter has no problem keeping up with my tools, and that absolutely rocks! Pair that with the auto-retracting hose reel that Michelle bought me for Xmas and the super-flexible Flexzilla hose I used to replace the super-stiff hose that came on the reel, and I'm super happy! The only questionable part of the setup is the "universal" quick couplers that I bought from Home Depot, as they occasionally stick open when removing tools and have a tendency to pop off the industrial style connectors if they're even slightly worn. I think I may be headed back for other connectors.

Somewhere in here I took the time to modify a couple of OEM hydraulic lash adjuster (HLAs) to work as solid lifters for the purpose of degreeing the cams, installed poly engine mount inserts front and rear, installed the intake manifold and (rebuilt) NT throttle body with phenolic spacers, and attached the coil pack and power transistor to the manifold. I also trimmed the stock radiator intake shroud to fit perfectly between the FMIC and radiator, and attached a foam rubber strip to the fiberglass inner bumper to seal against the upper edge of the FMIC. I purchased some smoke colored bumper lights on eBay as a reward for my hard work this weekend, so I popped those in to make me feel good about my weekend progress.

So, now that the weekend is over, I finally have intercooler piping! I still need to have the pipes beaded to prevent them from blowing off under pressure, but that's a minor concern. The O2 housing is the last real obstacle to getting the car running, so I'm going to have to mull that one over a bit before attacking the problem again. In the meantime, I need to purchase a few parts to complete my cam degreeing setup and place an order for some OEM parts like the cam seals. It's great to see things coming together, and at last I feel like I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. Once it's running, I'll have to make sure I enjoy it for a little while before starting the next round of modifications (I have shelves' worth waiting in the wings...).

So close...just need to build up for one final push!

(pics to's a bit late to get them transferred and uploaded)


Scott said...

Holy moly! So close! Will it run again soon? Wish I could have been there to help, we had a fun weekend of staining a deck...

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