Why are we always preparing? When can I just go?

Flipping through Saab website after website, it seems like I’m picking up a common theme among us Vintage guys.  These cars are rarely just “going”, and the owners are always doing something besides driving.  Whether it’s looking through Craigslist to look for another tired example in need of saving, trying to find some weird & discontinued part to get another one running, or desperately trying to get one back together for a summer of driving; the story is the same.  We’re always preparing!  Now, I know there are a good number of nice, drivable Vintage Saabs out there, but even they aren’t immune.  I see 2 stroke guys struggling with setting up their carbs evenly, other guys fighting off rust incursions, and others trying to pass occasional road-worthy inspections.  So, I feel like this guy:

Resigning my fate, preparations have moved forward.  With the work on the cylinder heads underway (more on that later…very cool stuff underway), I started gathering resources for the main engine build.  I ordered up some top shelf motor oil, Royal Purple.  RP was a favorite of engine-building great John Lingenfelter prior to his passing.  John was really a smart guy, and his mantra was always to build torque in the rpm band where the engine would spend most of its time.  He was so smart, that he didn’t tackle a V4… I’m not that smart, plus my head is harder than Lord Helmet’s.  I also ordered up RP’s special break in oil that I’ll run for the first few miles to let things break in properly before switching to the full RP synthetic.  The break in oil has a high zinc & phosphorus content that is perfect for flat tappet cams.  A pair of oil filters (one for break in oil and one for the full synthetic oil) completed the order.

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Dipping inside the engine, I knew I should go with new balance shaft bearings and new cam bearings.  You don’t want to mess around with these, if the balance shaft bearings start heading south it negatively affects the oil pressure.  So I ordered up new ones from Skandix.  Jack Ashcraft’s V4 handbook shows you the different bearings, their width (all different!) and how they go into the block.  I’ll let my machine shop install them, but I gave Donnie @ RAD the V4 handbook so that he would have the instructions handy if he needed them.

Continuing down this path, next up was the oil pump and driveshaft.  This topic gets beaten to DEATH online.  Old timers insist on going with a high-volume oil pump, and I disagree.  In the old days, you needed a stronger pump to deal with the higher viscosity oil that was needed to run larger bearing clearances.  But, I’m going to run the Royal Purple 10W-30 full synthetic, which is actually easier to pump than the original oil!  And since the RP 10W-30 will protect the engine better than an old school 20W-50 anyway, I don’t see any reason to run a high volume pump.  I ordered up a new Melling oil pump and intermediate drive shaft, which is made of heat treated carbon steel.  The other argument against a high volume pump is that the loads on your cam gear go up significantly.  Ford engines do not have a good history of dealing with those higher loads.  An eaten up cam or distributor gear means metal shards going through your newly built engine.  No thanks!

The crankshaft and connecting rods were dropped off to Donnie @ RAD Machine for some work.  Donnie cleaned the crank, checked it for straightness, and Magnafluxed it to ensure there were no cracks.  The crank cleaned up beautifully and Donnie took a micrometer to the journals, finding that we could run “standard” size main bearings.  He treated it to a balance job (yes, factory job was off…) and bagged it up for reassembly.  On the rods, he cleaned & magnafluxed them as well, resized the big ends so that they would be exactly perfect, and balanced them as well.  But, we were not done there.  On a connecting rod, especially a stock one, the weakest link is always the rod bolts.  By this point you girls and guys know how mental I am about good bolts.  The best of the best is always ARP.  And while they do not make a set of rod bolts specifically for the V4, they do make them for the Ford 289/302 engine that uses the same rod bolts!  It was actually cheaper to get the V8 set (154-6002) than it was to source a V4 set…  When your engine is turning 7000 rpm, ARP is good insurance.  I had Donnie install the new rod bolts too.

Next up was a “new” oil pan.  Mine had see much better days with rust and a healthy dent in it.  Skandix says they sell “NOS” ones but they don’t stock them in the US, so that meant ordering one from Germany.  I guess that my idea of “New Old Stock” is different than the Germans…  This one showed up with as much rust as my old one and a healthy scuff to boot!  But, no dents thankfully.  So I brought it by the powdercoaters and they  blasted it with aluminum oxide with careful attention to the pan rail, as I don’t want oil leaks…  They then powdercoated the outside.  It looks fantastic!  You can still see the original part number stamped in it and the inside is now rust free.

Of course a week doesn’t go by without talking to Jack Lawrence.  He shipped new main bearings to me to go with the freshly cleaned up crankshaft.  But the discussion went deeper this time, as it was time to pick pistons.  The factory cast ones are lame, and sit nearly .080″ “in the hole”, making them prone to detonation.  And cast pistons + detonation equal a very weak motor.  So getting the pistons right are critical.  Not surprisingly, Jack had some thoughts.  He offered a set of 14:1 dome pistons that horrified me (I’m running a turbo after all).  The other option was a set of 10.3:1 flat top Wiseco pistons.  Knowing I had to open up the cylinder head combustion chambers anyway (for my oversize valves), I figured I could get the combustion ratio down to a liveable point.  The factory rating was 8.0:1 and even though I’m running a turbo, I’m bringing that up.  A low compression ratio gives you soggy off-boost power, but if you go too high, detonation can rear it’s ugly head.  So I’ll shoot for around 9.0 to 9.3:1 all said and done.  A few weeks later the new pistons and rings showed up.  They look awesome! The keys here?  Forged construction is much stronger and detonation-resistant than cast.  Plus the pistons will no longer sit “in the hole” and will promote much better turbulence in the combustion chamber.  And lastly, much thicker ring lands resist breaking under boost.  So I dropped those off to Donnie to be hung on the freshly prepared rods.

So with all this work, the gameplan is clear:  get the preparation out of the way so that this car can finally go!  And since I’m making so many changes over the original 75 horsepower, maybe I can go… LUDICROUS SPEED!!!

Coming up clutch

With Opening Day at Fenway today to kick off the 2017 Red Sox season, the New England Patriots stopped by for the festivities.  They had all 5 Lombardi trophies in tow (Super Bowl trophies for you non-US sports fans) and of course, the reigning Mr. Clutch himself, Tom Brady.  While the original Mr. Clutch was LA Lakers great Jerry West (the NBA logo was modeled after him!), I can’t think of anyone in this generation who has come up big more often than Gisele’s husband.  But maybe it’s time for a THIRD Mr. Clutch…?!?

With the transmission at Roger’s house getting disassembled, I received the first email update.  Things looked really good inside, with no failed bearings.  Ring and pinion were good and “no brinneling of the inside surface of the fourth gear”.  I’m not sure what that really means, but I’m assuming that’s good.  Weirdly though, the rear pinion shaft nut was really rusty.  Why would that be the only rusty part in the gearbox, especially since it’s low in the gearbox (and submersed in oil)?  Roger guessed the car sat in an inclined position for a long time, leaving the oil pitched forward in the box and away from the nut.  Thankfully he had a spare nut and sleeve that he is going to substitute in, as soon as I come up with the FIVE DOLLARS that he wants for it.  Can you believe the nerve of that man?  Asking $5.00 for a rare 45 year old gearbox part that can’t be found anywhere?  I can almost buy a loaf of bread at Whole Foods with that money!  Or almost one whole 16 ounce bottle of water at the movies!  Almost being the key word…  Maybe I should shut up before he raises the price…  Jokes aside, I’m glad he has a bunch of spare stuff.  Maybe he is trying to be Mr. Clutch?  God knows how I would have come up with this stuff otherwise.  With the gearbox fully taken apart, Roger sent off a material list to Jack Lawrence in hopes of sourcing the bearings needed.

With gearbox getting attention, it was time to focus on the flywheel and clutch.  It seems like lightening the flywheel is a pretty common practice in the Vintage Saab community to I decided to give that a try.  Knocking 3.5 pounds off a chunk of metal spinning several thousand RPMs seems like a good idea.  The Saab Sport & Rally Catalog gives you a pretty good detail on how to do it but they have a pretty big typo in their instructions.  They tell you to reduce the outer diameter behind the starter ring down to 19.45″ (240 mm).  So, seeing that, Donnie @ RAD had to decline since 19.45″ is a big ring to turn down.  He suggested general machine shop Dyno Machine, also in Ludlow, MA.  Rich there took a look at my flywheel and immediately questioned the diameter stated.  Turns out 240 mm is only 9.45″, not 19.45″…  Rich and his gang at Dyno do a ton of prototyping and fabrication, so turning down the pressure plate mounting ring was laughably easy for him.  If you would like to have this done, just give him a holler.  He came up solid for me, maybe a candidate for Mr. Clutch?

So a couple of days later, I picked up the modified flywheel.  But, it still needed balancing as well as surfacing for the new clutch and pressure plate.  So I dropped it off at RAD and he surfaced the flywheel in preparation for the new clutch disk.  He also wisely surfaced the pressure plate mounting ring by the same amount, so that the clutch take up would not be adversely affected.  Glad one of us was thinking…  Maybe he is Mr. Clutch?  I picked up the freshly surfaced flywheel thinking it was good to go, until I answered the phone…

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On the other end was Jack Lawrence who was asking what my plan for a clutch and pressure plate was.  I was originally planning on just using a standard stock Sachs pressure plate and disk, but when I told him about this plan he sounded about as enthusiastic as I do when my doctor tells me I need to lose weight…  Turns out the stock pressure plate has 785 pounds of force, which sounds like a lot but apparently isn’t.  Jack offers that, plus a modified version with 3 heavy duty springs and shot peaned levers, with 940# of force.  When I suggested that maybe we do that, he sounded like my Dad did when I brought home that “C” in English on my report card in 7th grade…    So I looked at the next option:  a pressure plate with 6 heavy duty springs and 1100# of clamping pressure.  Finally right?  Nope… Jack had other ideas.  He also offers a “custom” option, which is a diaphragm style clutch, with pressure that even exceeds the 6 spring version.  But diaphragm style clutches are noted for being much more drivable, even with more pressure.  They are much more even, and do not suffer from the clutch “judder” that is prevalent in the Saab world.  Turns out I know who the real Mr. Clutch is!!!

 

It requires modifying the flywheel some more, with 6 evenly spaced shoulder bolts.  So, for the third time in 10 days, the flywheel was going to go under the knife yet again!  This thing is going to be more valuable than the Crown Jewels by the time it’s all said and done… So I packed it up and shipped it off to Jamestown, NY.  Two weeks later Flywheel Version 3.0 arrived!  It looked great!

In addition to the pressure plate, Jack sent out his racing clutch disk too.  Frankly, he was pretty concerned that the stock components wouldn’t be able to hold up to what I have planned for my V4.  The new disk has a solid center with 3 velvetouch pads on each side.  Certainly looks the part!

So, it’s been decided!  Jerry West, Tom Brady…and Jack Lawrence.  Congrats to the new Mr. Clutch!

This is why we can’t have nice things

On occasion, I’ll be driving along and wonder why the heck I’m working on a weird ass fake sports car from 1972.  It was invented, went through its years of being for sale, and discontinued…before I was born.  Why don’t I just buy an Aston Martin or Porsche 911?  Then I’ll read an article on one of my new favorite car blogs like Oversteer about how the “average selling price of a 20 year old Ferrari is $70,000… and it needs a $10,000 timing belt change every three years…” and the mystery is gone.  The exotics are just crazy money.  But still, why don’t I have more disposable income?  And my answer came in the form of… Jury Duty!

For my overseas readers, Jury Duty is a random selection by the government that has you sit on a court jury to help decide court cases.  It’s the pillar of democracy that ensures a guilty verdict where it belongs…unless you’re OJ Simpson.  Or Robert Blake.   Or Kobe Bryant.  Or Ted Kennedy.  Or…uh, never mind.  But it’s something you really can’t get out of, and since it had been over a decade since my last summons I figured I would just go to court for my day of service to democracy.  And so when I pulled up, I thought maybe I had arrived at one of Massachusetts’s soon-to-be plentiful casinos that are going up.  This is a public courthouse?

Yep, a $180 million tab to put up a building… where we tell gangbangers and drug dealers that they are going to jail.  Do we really need a gigantic skylight 80′ in the air to shine fresh daylight on the occasional murderer before they go off to the gulag?  I’m kind of thinking we could have probably built a decent building for say…$50 million?  $75 million?  Walk inside and you can see why it was $180 million judging by the *TEN FOOT TALL DOORS*.  Are we trying Andre the Giant for murder?  Why the hell do we need *TEN FOOT TALL DOORS*?!?  For scale, not a single person that walked through there was taller than the top of the white board, so that door is a solid ten feet tall.  And nothing says justice like a 148-year-old giant marble statue of… Moses?  Because when we think of justice in America, we think of a guy parting the Red Sea.  I really wish I was making this up, just like I really wish I had a new Lamborghini!

So with reality setting in, I went back to work on the Sonett.  With most of the suspension done, I figured I’d get rolling on the engine and transmission which will probably also cost $180 million…  I recruited my buddy and Saab guru Roger Harris to rebuild my transmission.  Roger is very detail oriented and has the original Saab transmission press, which is a good thing.  But degreasing was left to me, so I lugged the gearbox out into the driveway, hooked up the hose to the hot water, and bought a tub for it to sit in and catch the “environmentally-friendly biodegradable cleaner”.  I was surprised by just how dirty this thing was!  I’m guessing the engine’s rear main seal or the gearbox input seal leaked and slung oil around the inside of the bell housing for a few years…  Several million coats of cleaner later and things looked good enough for transport.  I was also surprised at how little fluid was left inside…that’s NOT a good thing.    So I loaded the gearbox into my new “Official What On Earth Is A Sonett Parts Carrier” (aka my new Ford Explorer which replaced my recently departed Toyota 4Runner for daily driver duty, and my back has thanked me ever since) since the risk of getting gearbox grease in Mrs. Sonett’s Volvo XC60 (with beige interior) didn’t sound like a good idea.

This was Sunday afternoon, so I figured we’d just drop it off at Roger’s and be on our way.  Nope!  Roger wanted a sneak peak right away, so we popped the clutch slave cylinder off (more on that later) and took the bell housing off.  The magnetic drain plug only had small pieces of metal, and no big chunks thankfully.  It was pretty clean inside which seemed to coincide with the car’s low mileage.  Roger will finish disassembling it and then we’ll make up a full material list of everything to be replaced.

A few things that I knew had to be replaced without even opening the transmission was the input and output shaft seals.  While surfing around the great UK V4 site (saab-v4.co.uk) I found that a gentleman by the name of John Green sells some very good quality seals.  If you contact him privately, he will combine shipping and give you a better buy (vs. his normal eBay prices).  His seals are all double-lip giving you much better odds of preventing leaks, and his prices were great!  I picked up the three gearbox seals, a better version timing cover seal, and some odds and ends to rebuild my clutch slave cylinder from him.  Even better was that Mrs. Sonett bought them for me!  I also decided to buy some RedLine synthetic transmission oil since the general consensus is that it’s one of the very best available.

With the gearbox in progress, I also got rolling on the engine which will probably cost enough to fund a Michael Bay movie (but hopefully with less explosions!).  I brought the really grungy cylinder heads to RAD Auto Machine in Ludlow, MA.  Donnie Wood is one of the most knowledgeable machinists and hot rodders I’ve ever met.  He did my 573 HP Ram Air Firebird about 20 years ago, did my all aluminum 4-cam Cobra engine 10 years ago, and my brothers absolute tire-shredding GTO (630 HP at the rear wheels before he decided to dump another $5K into the motor… Someone has too much disposable income; I think he needs to help build another courthouse) this past winter.  I thought maybe the V4 would stump him, but he immediately said “oh yeah, those are a lot like the 2.8L Ford V6 with 2 cylinders lopped off!”.  He said that he has forklift repair companies dropping off V4 motors for repair from time to time.  I humbly told him that mine was in a “sports car” but nothing I say surprises him anymore.  He already knows I’m insane.  So the cylinder heads were disassembled, hot tanked and Magnafluxed to make sure there were no cracks.  They cleaned up nicely!  I then picked them back up to begin Stage 2 on the heads… more on that later.

With the heads coming apart, I figured the old valves and springs were as expendable as an Empire Stormtrooper.  I called up legendary Saab engine guru Jack Lawrence and we had a great conversation.  His best engines get 175 to 180 horsepower naturally aspirated (vs. 75 stock)!  I politely told him I was going to flatten his 180 number on my first try.  He now also knows that I’m insane.  But he listened to my plan with interest and was happy to join in the insanity!  I have to say, I really expected the elders of the Saab community to be very reserved about some of this stuff but I was totally wrong! I love that everyone has embraced this project.  Really cool!  I ordered up oversized 42mm intake and 36mm exhaust valves replace the old, smaller, stock ones.  Combined with some head work, they’ll help move more air though the motor.  New valve springs with new spring dampers allow upwards of 7500 RPM to provide some margin for error if when I miss a shift… New keepers and a full V4 engine gasket set also joined the ranks.

Lastly for this update, I decided to get going on running a brand new main battery cable since that has to snake under the engine and transmission anyway.  It’s better to get that in place now since it’s way more difficult to do once the engine and transmission are reinstalled.  After doing some *MORE* reading (why do I have to research EVERY DAMN THING I DO to death?) I found that welding cable is a much better choice than standard battery cable due to superior flexibility.  I found a nice 2 gauge welding cable that was made in America that looked perfect.  To take things up a notch, I bought some good quality heat shrink tubing to go over it to keep it looking like new (and prevent any damage to the insulation jacket).  I snaked it into place, slid sections of heat shrink over it, and melted it into place with a heat gun.  Beefy!  I then used stainless steel cushion clamps with stainless screws to secure it down.

If you think I have an obsession with stainless, well…

And since all my tax money is funding the local courthouse, I’ll just have to keep plugging away in small steps on the Sonett.  And since that $180 million was spent in 2007, adjusted for inflation that number becomes $208 million in today’s money, so its better to get this done asap.  And since we’re in Massachusetts, that $208 million adjusted for corruption on Beacon Hill, payoffs of local politicians, and “union dues” is actually $985 gazillion.  I’m just kidding about that last part… I think it’s actually higher…

 

The award I really DON’T want to win…

Anyone else have cats?  If you do, you know they lead to sleep depravation pretty regularly.  One meows her head off all night, because…?!?  It’s been over a decade so I’ve given up hope of ever figuring that one out.  Another one moves around on the bed constantly, and when he is ready for you to get up, will force his head into your hands for pets whether or not you are awake.  And if you ignore him?  You get a friendly “nibble” for your lack of attention.  And we’re currently babysitting our daughter’s two cats as well, so being up at 4:00 AM is more of a common occurrence lately.  Luckily for you, surfing the “interwebs” was the inspiration for this post!  Aside from THREE BILLION POSTS about politics, you get to find some interesting stuff, like… OUR NEWEST WINNERS OF THE DARWIN AWARDS!

First up is the French lady who decided she really needed to take a selfie while in Thailand.  Sounds innocent enough.  But this selfie was going to be taken alongside a sleeping crocodile!  Long story short:  she tripped, startled the croc, and moments later she was rushed to the hospital with a “gaping hole” in her leg…  Bonus points for her since the place was littered with signs that warned people to stay the hell away from the crocodiles.  Second place goes to the “animal loving” vet who was famous for killing exotic animals…(?!?)  He goes on a hunting trip with his buddies, and while hunting birds, misses the 100 foot ravine directly in front of him, and proceeds to fall to his death.  I think there is a lion in heaven giving this post two paws up after reading that…  So, if we’re talking about near death experiences, that can only mean one thing:  time to compress the front springs on your vintage Saab!  But first, the lead up:

I had previously taken the front suspension components, sandblasted them, and had them all powdercoated.  Skandix supplied new inner and outer CV joint boots, and it was time to put start putting things back together.  And since this requires actual thought, I made a visit to my brother Jake’s garage while doing this just to make sure I didn’t screw it up.  First up, grease.  While I had used Mobil 1 synthetic on the wheel bearings, I know CV joints normally want extreme pressure additives.  Skandix includes some CV joint grease with moly (in their boot kit), but I also knew I wanted to stay synthetic, so after some searching around I settled on Red Line’s CV-2 high pressure grease which gave me the best of both worlds.  I reassembled the ball bearings into the cage and into the axle stubs.

With that done, next up is to replace the small, thin, retainer ring that goes at the end of the driveshaft.  When you pull the driveshaft out of the CV joint, the ring generally gets mangled.  Thankfully Skandix gives you a new one with their CV joint boot kit.  So that got carefully worked on, and the hub locked into the vise.  When it comes time to inserting the driveshaft into the CV joint, Saab of course recommends a special tool to compress the ring.  Want to guess who doesn’t own that?  So Jake and I used a few small screwdrivers to carefully compress the ring as the shaft went into the CV joint.   Lastly we took a crimp ring tool and locked down the CV joint boot retaining straps, and I was good to go.

Now, I know I’ve discussed this before, but compressing those front springs makes me more nervous than the bomb disarming robot in the The Simpsons Movie (spoiler:  he commits suicide rather than try to disarm the bomb…).  But there’s just no way around it.  Jack Ashcraft’s books practically have a Surgeon General’s warning on them about getting killed by these springs.  So, carefully as I can be, I compressed them, slipped in the front bumpstops, and slid the spring perch underneath.  I then installed my customized Grade 8 ball joint bolts, and used some red Loctite on them.  Red is probably way overkill, but the thought of my suspension falling apart as I’m driving down the road doesn’t seem appealing.  Oh, and don’t waste your time with the “ball joint bolt kits” that are available online for these cars…made in India and are complete garbage.  I bought Grade 8 bolts with the smooth shank that I wanted and then cut down the threaded portion with Mrs. Sonett’s Dremel.  Perfect!

Next up was my freshly powdercoated brake backing plates, along with new stainless screws (of course).  And I put a thin layer of anti-seize on these screws so that I don’t need an impact driver to get them off next time…  I also bolted up new KYB front shocks as well as new stainless washers and Grade 8 nuts for those too.

So, I’ve stared down potential harm for the second time and came out on top again while working on this car’s front suspension.  Let’s hope my good luck continues when it comes to the fuel system.  Or else some guy whose cat woke him up at 4:00 AM will be pointing his finger at my internet shame and calling me an idiot too…

 

2017, year of the…wall?

Unfortunately, we’ve reached a point in our society where I’m straight-up cringing to even write anything about walls.  As I’ve pointed out in past entries, I try not to make political statements since everyone takes them very personally.  I generally try to make fun of all politicians equally.  And celebrities, for some crazy reason, who seem to think we care at ALL about what they think.  So celebrities are always open season.  But when celebrities AND a wall come up, I think I have to risk it.  On one hand if I piss off the right, they could reach into their pickup, grab their shotgun, and shoot me.  On the other hand, if I piss off the left, they will picket, set my car on fire, and beat me half to death…you know, because they are more tolerant…

We’ve got Trump putting up a wall on the Mexican border to keep Americans safe from the cartels and drug runners.  Love it or hate it, you know where he’s coming from.  And you’ve got Obama, who just commissioned a wall for his new home, presumably to keep his family safe since he’s a former President of the United States living in a busy major city, so you kind of see where he’s coming from as well.  But our nitwit of the month comes from our very own self-made billionaire Mark Zuckerberg.  The almighty one-percenter comes out and rips Trump for his immigration plan and pontificates that refugees should be able to come over at will.  THEN HE DECIDES TO BUILD A WALL HIMSELF.  You can’t make this stuff up.  I guess 750 acres of private land isn’t enough privacy these days.  And then, the cherry on top?  He sues HUNDREDS of his fellow neighbors to force them to sell him their land as well.  Many of these neighbors have ancestral rights to their property dating back to 1850, but hey, who can make do with only 750 acres these days, am I right?  On the other hand, maybe he wants to do THIS with his wall, and if so it’s all worth it:

Since everyone else is putting up walls, I decided to make one of my own!  Only mine was constructed of brake parts…  Since I ran the new brake lines last time, it was time to rebuild the calipers.  I put in a call to a couple of companies but it was the better part of $450.00 with shipping both ways to rebuild and coat 2 calipers!  It seemed insane, and in the words of Jeremy Clarkson; “How hard can it be?”.  So I pulled them apart carefully and used compressed air to pop the piston out.  Honestly, it’s pretty easy.  There are 2 seals for each piston plus a metal retainer ring, so those came out as well.

To make the calipers look like new again, I turned to POR-15 again.  Their standard POR-15 offering was perfect for the floorpan, and they sell a complete caliper painting kit.  So I ordered it up.  They really do give you everything:  cleaner/degreaser, metal prep, POR-15, and high temp caliper paint.  So with everything pulled apart, I popped everything into a bin and soaked it with the cleaner.  After brushing everything down and another couple coats of cleaner, I decided to wash them all off in our new kitchen sink…  Every time I have anything “chemical” related in the house, I can count on Mrs. Sonett to ask what the hell I’m doing.  If I think I’m going to get abused, my standard defensive maneuver is to claim it’s a “water-based environmentally friendly cleaner”, which is this case was actually true.  But I don’t think she believes me…  I think she may be putting up a wall around her new kitchen…

With the parts washed off and dried, next step is the Metal Prep.  This eats any remaining rust and etches the metal.  Nothing fancy here, just keep the parts wet with the Metal Prep for 10 to 30 minutes.  Given that I also did this step in the kitchen, I wisely kept the prep time at the minimum of 10 minutes.  Another wash off and dry, and it was time to build my own wall!  I broke out some unused clothes hangers and cut them up as needed, and used them to hang all my components from the garage ceiling.  I broke out my heat gun and made sure everything was dried well.  The next step is to use standard POR-15 as the rust-preventative base and allow it to just dry (slightly tacky).  Finally, a coat of the silver ceramic caliper paint, and 3-4 hours later the second and final top coat of caliper paint.  There, who says you need millions of dollars to make your own wall?  I spent about $8.00 for new seals and $50.00 shipped for the POR kit, so I think I’m ahead of the game compared to what everyone wanted to rebuild these calipers.

More fix-up work occurred, only this time is was on a brand new part…  the custom fuel tank I had ordered up several months ago.  When a vendor does a nice job, I always give them credit.  And when someone screws up?  I give them multiple chances to do the right thing.  I’m not in a rush to finish this project (obviously…) and just want things done right.  And what about Independent Welding & Fabricating Inc out of Waretown, NJ?  THE WORST.  DO NOT DO BUSINESS WITH THEM, YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!  This tank literally had unfinished welds and multiple holes in a product designed to hold explosive fuel… No fill vent, sending unit on the wrong side, wrong tank vent fitting, not tested for leaks, etc… the list goes on and on (despite my providing Jeff an exact drawing of how to build the tank).  And to top it off, he promised a 2 week turnaround, and it took 18 weeks to receive my tank…  I would have cancelled the order but had already put down a deposit.  The insult to injury is that he would not make it right, even when confronted with his trainwreck of a product.

Thankfully, I ended up finding a great outfit, Roger’s Radiator out of Medford, MA who added the missing fill vent, did a PROPER AND ACTUAL LEAK TEST on the tank, found & fixed the holes and incomplete seams, and retested it when done.  They also added a nice, tough, textured coating since the “new” tank looked like it had survived WWII upon arrival from Independent…  Kudos to the guys at Roger’s, they were awesome!  The new tank has the AN fittings I wanted for my upcoming EFI system, so good news there at least.

Meanwhile, if someone builds a wall around a certain welding shop in NJ to keep customers from getting ripped off…it wasn’t me…  I only use “environmentally friendly” wall components…

Braking Bad

With the rear axle back in place and new handbrake cables run, it seemed like a good idea to finally get cracking on running new brake lines.  The original steel ones were marginally safer than a flight on the Hindenburg.  But, like many of us vintage Saabers, Father Time had ideas that slowed me up on tackling this.  A career change happened, and even though I’ve been working and paying taxes for 24 years, my new employer needed to see my Social Security card so that I could prove that I am who I claimed to be.  Apparently there are a lot of other people anxious to pay taxes in my name?!?  And, like most normal Americans, I couldn’t find my card.  So, no problem, I’ll just go to the local Social Security office and get a new one.  So, late one Saturday night, I get home and decide to hop online and use the office locator.  It was at this very time when any remaining hope for our government was crushed like the New York Jet’s Super Bowl dreams…

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Yes, you’re reading that iPad screenshot correctly… EVEN THE WEBSITE DOESN’T WORK OUTSIDE “REGULAR SERVICE HOURS”!?!  You can’t make this stuff up…  So, since finding the local Social Security office was going to require the type of research normally reserved for, say, finding the Holy Grail; I decided that I had better make sure I had everything else ready to go for my visit.  The Social Security website made it sound like my visit would result in my being deeply questioned about my past and if I forgot something, it would be the equivalent of the Knights of Camelot trying to cross the bridge of death…

So, fast forward two weeks, and by now I’ve found the office and taken my “interview” to apply for a new card.  New card in hand I start my new job and life starts to return to “normal” and I can work on the Sonett again.  The brake line research was actually pretty interesting.  While many online folks opted for plain steel, seeing my old OEM brake lines made me really NOT want to do that.  Steel lines are cheap and readily available.  I think there is a mother-in-law joke in there somewhere…  Anyway, stainless steel seemed to get some love online too.  Fellow Saaber Jonathan Knez had his old brake lines replicated in stainless, but even though they were prebent, they were a pain to install since stainless has zero give to it.  And since I was missing one of the old lines anyway (note to future versions of myself that attempt vintage car restoration:  SAVE EVERYTHING YOU DUMB ASS!), I wouldn’t be able to go that route.  The material that had the most intrigue?  Cupronickel.  This is copper and nickel together.  Copper gives the ease of bending as needed, and nickel provides the superior corrosion resistance.  I run into cupronickel often in the heating industry and usually with great results.  BUT, like everything else, even good material can be bad if sourced cheaply…

Federal Hill Trading seemed to have the most information about using cupronickel for brake lines, and it turns out their office was just minutes from my new office.  Turns out they don’t have a retail store, but the owner Tim Beachboard agreed to help me anyway.  He showed me some Chinese knockoff cupronickel brake lines that are typically sold online, and we got to compare sidewall thickness of that stuff to the UK-made Cunifer cupronickel he carries.  I’m amazed that people are ok putting their lives at risk with Chinese brake lines that have the wall thickness of see-through negligée…  The Cunifer lines were way beefier, and it turns out many OEM car manufacturers like Volvo, Porsche, and Audi have used cupronickel.  So Tim set me up with the tubing and fittings I needed and I was on my way.

I picked up a good set of tubing pliers as well as a tubing bender in hopes of making things look good, and I bought some stainless clips as well.  You’ll need a flaring tool that lets you make both double flares and bubble flares for the ends.  I was able to run the lines in the factory locations with no problem.  I can’t say enough good things about the tubing I bought from Federal Hill.  It really wasn’t much more money than the knock off stuff and the quality is top shelf!

When it came time to transition to the flex lines, I decided against the regular rubber hoses that had I bought previously and decided to go for some nice coated stainless flex hoses.  These flex hoses have a tough clear coating over the stainless braids, and are DOT approved.  I added stainless nuts and stainless washers too, of course…

So, with the lines all run and tied into my freshly-rebuilt brake master cylinder the next focus will be on the front driveshafts, CV joints, and steering knuckles.  Let’s hope I don’t need government assistance to get that project going too, or it may be even longer before my next blog post!

Celebrating Halloween 2016 with a trip to the graveyard…

Things started simply enough.  I took a text from fellow HVAC Engineer (and longtime Vintage Saaber) Roger Harris as he had just bought a ’72 99 from even-longer-time-Saaber (probably not a proper word… thank God these don’t get graded by my 8th grade English teacher…) Dave Hosmer.  “Hey, Dave has a bunch of Sonetts too so you should come down and check it out!”.  Sounded good, so I packed up the 4Runner with a bunch of tools and headed down to Woodstock Valley CT.  When I pulled in the driveway, Mrs. Hosmer invited Roger and I in, and introduced me to Dave.  It didn’t take long to realize Dave has literally been working on Saabs longer than I’ve been alive.  I kept quiet (for once in my life) and listened, thinking that surely this longtime Saab purist would not approve of the plans I have for my Sonett.  Then, Roger excitedly tells Dave about my crazy blog and my car’s progress.  Oh crap…  But, to my surprise, Dave gets a smile across his face and exclaims “That sounds like the way Saab should have made the Sonett!”.  Once he said that, I proceeded to give him all the details of my build up, which undoubtedly cleared up any case of insomnia he might have previously had…  I was told to poke around down back and see if there was anything I needed.  Plus, it’s where Roger was loading up his “new” acquisition.

Coming around the back of the house, I was surprised to see a half dozen Sonett shells laying about.  Continuing around, even more Sonetts!  But it wasn’t really a good thing as these poor soldiers were completely done.  On some, the floorpans were literally gone, simply rusted away.  Father Time had claimed these Sonetts far beyond what anyone will be willing to do to save them.  There was one ’68 V4 that might have some salvageable parts, but as I’m looking at it another car pulls in and the driver gets out and approaches us.  Roger introduces himself and then introduces me.  The guy looks at me, and exclaims “You’re the What On Earth Is a Sonett guy!!!”.  I’ve never been more proud.  LOL.  I think I need to hire Roger as my publicist.  John introduced himself and let me know he was from Lunenburg, MA which is only a half hour or so away from me.  John took the ’68 V4 with the hopes of getting a few parts off for his own V4 restoration.  Good luck John… you’re going to need it!

Back down in the field, Roger and his brother Stuart had pulled his newly bought 99 out into the clear with the hopes of loading it up.  The three of us spent an hour of so getting it loaded up into a dump-bed truck…?!?  I was honestly worried that one of us would get maimed during the process, and I kept checking my cell to make sure I had service in case I needed to call 911…  But a diesel tractor, some rough cut lumber, and a little luck later we had it loaded up.

So, in the end, I didn’t end up loading up anything except for an appreciation of how good of a condition my ’72 had started at in comparison to the ones I saw today.  It was great to talk Saabs with Dave (hope you’re feeling better soon!) & his wife, with John, and of course Roger.  A great day all around, and at the same time a stark reminder that I have to keep the pedal firmly to the floor on my restoration, or Father Time will come for my car too!

Back home, I installed my new bumpstops, new stainless washers  and new national-deficit-level expensive spring seats on the rear suspension, using a little anti-seize on the threads.  Next up, my new custom-engineered springs (with 3/4″ drop), new rear brakes & hardware, and new axle limiter straps & hardware were also installed.  Last, but not least, new KYB gas shocks and new hardware were also installed.  I debated going with fancy adjustable shocks, but at this point, I’m not sure when the car will run and I thought the KYB’s were a good starting point anyway.  Changing the shocks is so easy, it’s not a big deal to make a change down the road if I need to.   While I was at it, I installed the new bumpstops and stainless washers on the front suspension too.

Meanwhile, I had sandblasted the front spring perches and brake backing plates at my brothers house.  After a full cleanup, I dropped them off at Western Mass Powdercoating and they baked on a coat of black powdercoat to match the rest of the suspension.  Looks good!

Here’s where it gets interesting.  I promised my legions of loyal readers something different on the fuel side, and I hereby submit my custom designed fuel tank!  I drew up a plan based on the factory fuel tank dimensions, but with a few changes.  First, I specified marine-grade aluminum instead of steel.  It seems like every issue of Vintage Views has a part where someone struggles with crud in their gas tank.  No thanks!  Going with the marine-grade aluminum should prevent that.  In addition, the aluminum tank is significantly lighter!  That’s never a bad thing.  I also had the tank welded up with -6 AN ports on the back side of the tank to feed my eventual EFI system.  And the tank is approximately 4″ shorter, reducing weight & fuel slosh, and improving access around the tank.  All good stuff right?

Well, on the bad side, the fabricator was awful.  In addition to taking 18 weeks (he promised 2 weeks), he put the sending unit flange on the wrong side.  So I either drill another hole in the top of the “Swiss cheese panel” or just live with it as is.  He also forgot the fill vent, and made the fill pipe way longer than specified.  So now it hits the side of the car and I cannot fit the fill hose onto it.  So, even when you have something custom made, it still has to be customized further to make it work.  The tank gets dropped off at a local shop tomorrow for some more work…  the  moral of this story?  Find someone local you can work with.  The internet is good for a lot of things, but custom-engineered parts is not usually one of them…

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Hope my Sonett graveyard story wasn’t too scary and that you have a great Halloween 2016!  I bought a bunch of Tom Brady-approved Unreal treats (like regular Reese’s and M&M’s but with no GMOs or artificial anything) to hand out to the trick-or-treaters in my neighborhood, but since no one stopped by I guess I will sit here and eat them all…  The only thing scary about this blog post will be my blood sugar levels…

Time to make the bushings…

Anyone remember Fred the Baker?  The OG Dunkin Donuts baker (back when the donuts were somewhat fresh there…)?  Every time poor Fred turned around, it was time to make the donuts…

Well, despite the time invested in creating bushings for the rear suspension, it was time to get back after it for the front too.  Instead of molding them from scratch, I took some good measurements and ended up finding some universal T bushings that I knew would be workable.  So first up was to get the bushing to the right overall length, but then to put a slight pitch on it since the factory brackets were pitched internally.  Jake froze the bushings and then turned them on his lathe in order to get the right pitch.  I then brought them over to my buddy Mark’s for some time on the CNC to get the mounting hole perfectly centered.  And then, I had to sand down the bushing shoulder to get the thickness right, or else the brackets wouldn’t line up with the holes that are threaded into the car.  So, way too much time later, they were all done!  So full poly bushings for both the front and rear suspensions.

With the bushings all set, I picked up new Grade 8 hardware and remounted the upper and lower control arms.  Feels great to finally see this thing go back together!  Both upper and lower control arms were powdercoated by Jake previously, and they look fantastic.

Next up it was time to revisit the handbrake cable situation.  No one sells them!  After a lot of time and searching, Sonett man Mark School found me an old Sonett handbrake cable that could be used as a template.  I sent it off to Inline Tube who made up 2 brand new handbrake cables.  They did a GREAT job.  The diameters, ends, and lengths were perfect.  The diameter of the actual internal cable was a tick beefier too.  So I picked up some stainless straps to secure it to the rear axle and proceeded to route it along and then up into the handbrake location.  The good news here is that Pete @ Inline Tube has agreed to save the template of these, so if other Sonett owners need cables, they are now available!  So this project has resulted in companies that now offer brand new OEM replacement front & rear springs and brand new handbrake cables that can be ordered up by any Sonett owner.  I’d like to think that’s a good thing!

The steering knuckles were powdercoated previously so it was time to install new bearings and seals.  I ordered up both through Skandix.  Although some members of the Saab community had expressed concern about the bearing cages possibly being plastic, I inquired with Skandix who wrote “the ball bearing which is included in our kit 1002803 has a sheet metal cage.  If you carefully scratch the surface you’ll see that the cage is made of black painted metal”.  So, I went ahead and moved ahead with installation.  A key component is the grease, of course.  I went with Mobil 1 Synthetic Bearing Grease.  Synthetic grease will obviously have a much higher operating range and much greater durability in any condition.  I picked up a Lisle Handy Packer which made short work of packing the new bearings (which are huge!).  It was so clean and easy!  I definitely recommend it.  I picked up a 2.5″ socket and lined it up with the outer race, and gently tapped the bearing in.  I then used a cheap seal driver kit from Harbor Freight to get the inner and outer grease seals into place.

With four new ball joints in hand from Skandix as well, I picked up some more new Grade 8 hardware and secured the upper and lower ball joints into place.  Since the ball joint casting is uncoated from Skandix, I coated them in POR-15 to prevent rust.  And with the steering arms bolted back up (after powdercoating of course), the hub assembly is coming along great!

For the tie rod ends? Yep, I ordered up two 1003161 tie rod ends from Skandix.  More POR-15 on the bodies to prevent rust and I screwed them onto the rebuilt steering rack.

With the hubs previously powdercoated, I picked up some stainless hardware to go along with new Skandix rotors.  I put some anti-seize on the new stainless bolts and bolted the hubs to the rotors (after painting the hubs and rotor edges with high temp ceramic paint)  Looking just a little better!

Lastly for this installment, were the upper spring caps for the rear springs.  It’s literally the only thing stopping me from putting the rear suspension together.  But guess what?  After 40+ years, mine were shot.  The rubber was cracked badly on one, and completely collapsed on the other.  This probably explains why my car never sat level to begin with.  These things are really hard to find, and even harder to find in good condition.  The good news here is that Skandix has them but they are SO expensive.  Literally a metal donut with rubber filling, but Skandix wants $175 EACH.  I was able to get them down to $290 for two, but its exorbitant no matter how you slice it.  But I bit the bullet with no other option for such a key component.  And when they new ones arrived?  Yep, already rusty!  Owning a vintage Saab is the only hobby in which new parts show up with rust already on them…  To be fair, they do look a little beefier than the OEM ones, and I will certainly never be replacing them again in my lifetime…  So I cleaned them up with alcohol and coated the metal pieces in POR-15.  So I’m just about ready to put the rear suspension together.

So there you have it!  Just like Fred the baker, I’m up and at it, trudging along toward my goal.  And thanks to this project, the CEO of Skandix now has more money than the CEO of Dunkin Donuts…  Next time up I have a little something special cooked up for the fuel system…

Restoration vs Modifications: Saab Civil War!

When doing my research on how to rebuild this crazy little car, I have noticed a recurring theme:  when it comes to modifying cars people just can’t help themselves!  And it gets ugly, quickly.  Could your car use a little more downforce in the rear of your stock 110 horsepower car?  Here, I’ve got this spare 2×10 that I can use!  Want to customize your exhaust note?  Let’s go for tractor trailer style pipes on my ride!  Trying to get a little more attention from the ladies?  Maybe I should make my car look like IRON MAN! 

After seeing all that stupidity, everyone reading this blog  is now dumber because of it.   I award them no points, and may God have mercy on their soul.

Ok, so we don’t want to do ANY of that to the Sonett.  But, let’s face it, some good stuff has happened since the ’60’s and 70’s.  There has to be a way to get a little of that technology in without ruining the looks and character of my vintage Saab.  In my opinion, the best way to do that is to try new stuff in areas that cannot be seen.  But, not so fast!  There are some who are so fanatical about keeping everything truly vintage…  “Well Son, I’m sorry but the date code on your lower radiator hose is wrong.  Please go have this heap you call a car crushed immediately!  Meanwhile, I will have the Elders of the Vintage Saab Realm excommunicate you.”   It’s easy to go from one extreme to the other.  There has to be a happy medium?  It’s nothing short of civil war:  Purists on one side and speed enthusiasts on the other.  So, I’m going to do my best to keep both sides happy.  Stock looks inside and out, but with upgrades in preferably hidden places.  And anything non-OEM that I do, I’ll do my best to keep it looking like something the factory did (if not better).

One other thing I keep seeing about Sonetts:  they are LOUD.  Which makes perfect sense since they run 1.7 liter 4 cylinders with low compression… oh wait.  That doesn’t make any sense at all?!?  But since everyone is saying it, having the car down to the floor pan seemed like a great time to do something about it.  Turns out there is two ways to get rid of resonance, either a few big heavy patches here and there, or to use thinner material and cover more surface area.  I opted to go for the latter.  I’m hoping this will help with both the noise and heat.  I went with 50 mil noise control mat with aluminum liner.  Make sure the surface is clean and dry, and lay it down using the supplied roller.  This stuff stuck really well, so do your best to get it right on the first try!  A few hours later, I had virtually all the interior and trunk floor areas done.  And its still thin enough where I’ll be able to run fuel, brake, power, etc in the recesses.  Best of all?  It’ll all be hidden once the car is back together.

Time for another change from factory where it will not be readily visible:  the clutch master.  My car came with some weird aftermarket one anyway, so its not like I was starting with an OEM piece to begin with.  The car also came with an old Lockheed one in the trunk, but it was for a 96 not a Sonett.  After doing some reading in my factory manual, there were a few key things to keep in mind before ordering just any clutch master.  The bore should be 5/8″, the stroke is 1.38″, hose connection is 3/8″ UNF-24, and the mounting holes are 2.25″ apart.  Oh, and it needs a remote reservoir…  This would seem to be a pretty tough list to satisfy, but I stumbled onto the perfect solution on Wilwood’s website.  Their part number 260-6087 is a brand new, non-integral compact remote master cylinder!  Mounting?  2.25″.  Bore?  5/8″.  Stroke?  1.4″.  Outlet?  3/8″-24.  It was literally perfect.  List price was a bargain at only $60, and I found a company on eBay selling them brand new for $30 shipped!  For a modern master cylinder that is still in production (and therefore easy to fix or replace) with Wilwood’s performance reputation, it’s an absolute steal!  I called Wilwood tech support and ran my crazy idea past them, and they agreed it should work out perfectly.  They also mentioned that they make a remote mount reservoir, hose, and fitting kit under part number 260-7577.  Unfortunately it was twice as much for the kit as the cylinder ($60), but for $90 all in it seemed like a great deal.  I also like that the very compact design of the Wilwood piece will make it easier to install next to the brake master.  There is just not much room down in that part of the car (or in any part of the car actually…).

Next up was the brake master cylinder.  I looked at all of my options in the aftermarket, and while I could have done a Wilwood unit here as well, it really wasn’t a perfect fit.  The OEM Lockheed cylinder bore is different at 3/4″, and the closest fit from Wilwood would work but it is a 1″ bore.  That will have a dramatic impact on pedal pressure.  With no power brake assist to begin with, making the pedal even harder to push didn’t seem like a good idea.  So I’m going to stay OEM here and use the original brake master.  I’ve seen a bunch of people try to rebuild it, but after 40+ years I figured the bore was probably pitted anyway, and rebuild kit doesn’t help that.  So I packed it off and shipped it to White Post Restoration.  They bore out the master and install a new bronze sleeve.  They then rebuild the rest of the seals and components and give it an OEM-style coating.  It looks fantastic!  And comes with a Lifetime Warranty.  Really hard to complain.  Went right back into place and next up will be new brake lines.

While in the engine bay, and my freshly rebuilt steering rack ready to go, it seemed crazy not to go ahead and bolt it in.  The old grade 5 bolts looked pretty beat, so I picked up some new grade 8 bolts and bolted the rack onto the previously installed mounts.  Looks great!

Lastly (for today), I finally received my new upper control arm bumpers and new spring bump stops.  Restoration Specialties said they had made these before for another Sonett and I gave them the dimensions needed.  And?  Close, but no cigar.  That said, it’s not like I can order them from just anywhere, so I had to make them work.  The bumpstops needed 1/2″ of stud showing, and these came with over an 1″.  You have to be careful cutting the stud, if it gets too hot it could come apart from the new rubber… So when the time comes I’ll probably wrap the rubber in a wet rag to keep it cool.  As for the bumpers, the pull-through portion needed to be 1/2″ and the new ones were 5/8″.  My brother Jake had a great idea in that it would be easier to drill out the mounting holes then to mess around with modifying the bumpers.  So I used a step drill to open up the holes, gave the newly widened holes a coat of POR-15, then once the paint was dry I pulled the bumpers into place.  One more thing off the list!  If you need some, call Jeff at Restoration Specialties.  Just be sure to send him your old ones so that he can match them up exactly.

So with Marvel vs DC making billions of dollars off their “Civil War” and South Park making millions off making fun of Marvel vs DC (upcoming South Park video game which looks hilarious!), I want to think there is some money to be made in the Saab Restoration Civil War!  But judging from my bank account, it’s not me….

Pokemon Go or Vintage Saab parts: Which ones are harder to find?

So, with Pokémon Go taking over life as we know it, virtually every mobile device in the house has this app loaded on it.  Driving down any street in Central MA now consists of “Dad!  Pull over up here!” at random times.  But hey, if it gets kids off the streets and walking around, then that’s a good thing.  But just don’t do what this guy did:

From what I understand, the point of this app is to find all of the Pokemon, and it’s a great feat to do that.  But finding parts for the Sonett makes finding some virtual animals seem downright easy!  I’m not going to lie, I think I’ve made a few questionable decisions while taking apart the Sonett.  The one that has tortured me for the last couple of weeks is a pair of lousy handbrake cables…  While tearing apart the car, I figured the cables were something I could just order new replacements for.  Ha!  And so the search began.

I started by reaching out to noted Sonett “collector” Mark School out in Wisconsin.  At one point Mark was up to around 56 Sonetts if I heard him correctly…!  He may also be trying to “catch them all”!  After chatting with Mark and his son David, I asked them to try and find me a replacement cable.  So after some digging, a week later a cable showed up.  But no matter how I laid out the cable, it was way too long?!?  So, after more digging, I found an old post on The Saab Network that was posted in 2006 that gave the dimensions of the Sonett cable (which the replacement cable didn’t match).  I even tried checking in with Mark Ashcraft, who also told me that no one offers replacement Sonett cables.  So I called Mark School again, and he agreed to take another look.  He found a cable that looked to match the posted dimensions.    The difference was huge!  So, with a correct cable in hand, I sent pictures and dimensions off to a cable rebuilding company.  Keeping my fingers crossed that they can duplicate it for me.

 

Meanwhile, it was time to tackle the front halfshaft & CV joint assemblies.  These were greasy, rusty messes that I really wasn’t looking forward to.  But fellow Saaber Jonathan Knez has a nice posting on his website that helped coach me along.  I was able to get one of the assemblies apart by hanging the setup upside down from my brother’s vise.  It takes a good clean hit to get the CV joint off the half shaft.  The other one would just not come apart… Not wanting to take a chance that it may not be good, I was able to find another halfshaft/CV joint from local Saaber Roger Harris out in Springfield.  This one came apart nicely like the first one, and I taped everything up and ran it through the sandblaster.

 

 

With that done, I dropped off the parts to Western Mass Powdercoating   They coated them all in black and about a week later I picked them up.   Looking a little better than when I started!

 

Finding a handbrake cable has proven to be a challenge, but finding replacement springs was even worse!  And, of course, like a moron I threw out the old springs a while back since I knew I wasn’t reusing them.  Everyone suggested calling MSS, but Jack Lawrence said his old source for springs was dried up.  And frankly, the springs he used to sell were sprung way more tightly than I was looking for anyway.  I prefer to use tighter dampers instead of high spring rates, but now even finding any springs was proving tough.  After making a bunch of calls, I made contact with a factory that was willing to build springs to my specs from scratch!   But, even though I had the original spring specs from the Sonett service manual, they needed the original springs for analyzing….which I didn’t have….

Bruce Turk came to the rescue, with three OEM springs in his stash.  But, he wasn’t sure what was what.  So he UPS’d them out to me and I took my micrometer to them and figured out that we definitely had at least one front and one rear Sonett spring.  So I sent them out to the factory who then checked them out and returned them to me (and I then returned them back to Bruce).  So, with all the info in hand, I could now exactly duplicate the OEM Sonett springs!  But, just to make things even more interesting, I wanted to lower the car somewhat to improve handling WITHOUT cutting the new coil springs.  So I was able to work with the factory to engineer the springs with the OEM specs, but lower the car 3/4″.  Four weeks later, they arrived!  Brand new OEM type springs that previously didn’t exist.  And the good news here?  Any Sonett III owner can now order brand new OEM springs, or get the ride height customized like I did.  🙂

 

Finding a replacement transmission mount has proven impossible since Skandix no longer makes them.  But after taking a close look at my existing mount, I couldn’t find any hint of cracks or damage, so I took some POR-15 to the metal casing.  After that dried I used some dielectric grease to freshen up the rubber, just to make sure that wouldn’t dry out.  I think we’ll be ok (at least for now).  I may add some reinforcement to it when I put it back in though, just to be safe.  The Saab Sport & Rally Manual mentions using u-shaped steel on the back side of the mount to help prevent the mount from tearing.  So I’ll look into that when it comes time to reinstall the transmission.

 

Next up was the steering rack.  It appeared to be working ok, but just to be sure I decided to have it checked out.  So I found a rebuilding company that specializes in restoring vintage components and had them check it out.  The Rebuilding Factory is out in California, and Kobi there was happy to tackle it.   The rack was mechanically sound, and they bead blasted the body of the rack and painted it up.  They added 2 new boots, put in fresh grease, and painted the ends too.  It arrived back home looking much better than it left!  And I’ve since ordered up a pair of new tie rod ends from Skandix that will go back on with the freshly restored steering rack.

 

And since it’s been a struggle to find anything for this car, why stop now?  I needed new bumpstops for the suspension and new rubber stops for the upper A-Arms.  Easy, right?  Nope.  Even bumpstops are hard to find.  Every one out there has 3/8″ mounting stud, but the Sonett uses a 7/16″ stud for mounting, so you can’t use just anything.  Thankfully, after more digging, I called Jeff at Restoration Specialties who agreed to make some up for me.  I took pictures of the dimensions of the old units (that I didn’t throw away for once!!!) and emailed them off.  Keeping my fingers crossed that these get done soon.

 

So there you have it.  We have a bunch of millennials roaming the nation looking for Tauros or Charizard, and I’m roaming the internet looking for Vintage Saab parts.  Its looking like I may have the bigger challenge of “finding them all”!