Monday, March 17, 2014

Tailshaft - here we go again!

Time has come to get the tailshaft sorted on the car. I want to weld the diff but I first want to be sure that all existing vibrations/harshness in the driveline is gone so I know what to associate with a locked diff.

This means getting a single piece tailshaft made with a front unijoint.

What better way than to simply cut down a donor shaft straight from the same source as the engine, an Australian Ford Falcon

Here's the "biggest" hurdle for the new shaft, it has to clear some tight areas near the rear subframe and floor. For this reason, I am going to get approx 6" back from the rear unijoint retained in the smaller diameter.

Put the car up on ramps and stands with thanks to Fletcher Hazeldine for his assistance in this task

Here's my improvised tailshaft. Note the bent brackets on the centre bearing but complete lack of front unijoint. I think the front part of the shaft is actually slightly off straight also.

The falcon shaft next to it for comparison. Note how long the falcon shaft is despite being a single piece shaft. I should have no dramas with it shortened to fit the E21 especially as I'm running the same diff ratio and shouldn't often exceed 200km/h

The original E21 shaft (and what will be the tail end of the new shaft) is 2.5" or 60mm OD

The falcon shaft is 3" or 76mm.

Something along the lines of this is what I assume is needed to join the two together, in combination with a lathe to square off the ends of both sections, a dial gauge to ensure they are running true before and after welding, and clocking the uni joints to one another end-to-end on the shaft.

I'm not doing the work myself this time however as I don't have a lathe large enough to pass the tailshaft through for machining.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Thermofan Wired

Tonight, I wired up the thermofan.

At first I was going to wire it to the ECU for control, with the dash switch as an override but then once I started looking at what I thought was my ECU pinout, I got very, very confused. First, the pin numbers listed didn't make any sense. Wait... this wiring is for an EF ECU... I never used an EF ECU! How on earth did I get this car running without any sort of written wiring list?

I jumped on the net and found an EB/EL wiring diagram and checked the pin locations in the plug. I never added the pins. I obviously decided that for my uses, manually controlling the fans made more sense, and it probably still does.

As you can see from the video, the fan spins up OK and moves a bit of air. It probably needs a shroud to ensure all the air it takes in is forced through the radiator, but not a catch-all and direct through the fan type shroud; effectively just a tunnel within which the fan will sit. I'll work out the details later.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Oil Pressure Gauge - VDO Retro

Stumbled across this sweet VDO electronic oil pressure gauge on eBay.

Not only is it a cool retro gauge that almost matches the original E21 gauges (except the orange needle, which matches my fettled speedometer!) but it was the cheapest on there by a margin; indeed cheaper than I found similar gauges at the Ballarat Swap Meet.

Pretty simple to wire up, it wasn't long before I had it connected to ignition switched power, ground, the sender on the motor, and the globe hooked into the headlight circuit (I haven't yet illuminated the dash cluster - better get around to that!)

I was thinking about all sorts of neat mounting solutions involving a custom fibreglass pod, purchasing pods etc.... but then I spotted this strap on the ground, bent it into shape, riveted it closed, and screwed it to the side of the dash. Perfect!

This location seems visible enough for a cursory glance, it's not like it's impossible to move down the track if I decide it isn't right.

Tested, and it sits bang in the center of the gauge with the engine at idle. Perfect!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Fixed: Scrubbing Noise

Yesterday I had a bit of an epiphany. I realised that taking video while driving is a very, very handy diagnosis assistant, especially for steering/suspension noises; it's a video data-log of steering angle!

So I watched the video and noticed I was getting the noise only when the steering was rotated to the right part of a turn (bottom of the wheel at 9 o'clock position) - this is what I found when I turned to this with the car sitting static. A quick bounce on the fender showed tyre to guard contact.

A few minutes later with some bars, a big lever, some hammers and some multigrips and I've got clearance both at the top of the tyre (to the detriment of the guard finish!) and at the front where it was most often scrubbing.

Here's a better shot of the punished guard. I've got a bunch of rust on this car to fix so will give this a light skim of bog and re-paint at the same time. It was never going to be a show car (otherwise I'd have never taken on this conversion with this base!)

The inside of the arch has been folded over and hammered back flat to the guard, or as flat as practicable.

Took it for another drive (no video this time!) and it's quite a sensible, comfortable drive. Did a few weaves and low speed transitions and it seems to handle OK, although may still be a bit soft despite the increased spring rate due to shortening of the springs.

The right hand side tyre seems to scrub on the footwell slightly at lock too (heard when performing a u-turn - I can see scrub marks. Nothing a bit of hammer-clearancing can't fix.

I am going to guess that the main reason for the scrubbing is the offset of the wheels; the further out from the hub they sit (positive offset) the wider of an arc they scribe, and so their travel fore and aft is amplified from a lower offset wheel. It wouldn't be a problem at standard height unless hitting a HUGE bump mid corner, but is obviously more noticable in a lowered vehicle on small bumps (or in an excessively lowered vehicle on flat roads!)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Swaybar - Test Drive

Here's a video from a short drive to test the front swaybar. Noticable almost immediately was more steering response (or at least in my head... although this is possibly more attributable to me adding air to the tyres!) and feel; especially when performing a U-turn and when backing the car off the ramps. There's still a noise when turning right on an off-cambered corner. I'm not 100% certain as to what this is; I have already bent the left hand front guard away from the tyre and it's hard to load the suspension up unless driving the vehicle to eye-ball it, but I'm also not happy to drive it far enough to make sure it marks whatever is rubbing without a proper tailshaft.

I guess what I'm going to try first:
  • Get the front end in the air and support the control arms with axle stands.
  • Turn wheel lock to lock and check for obstructions; resolve said obstructions. The guards may need further fettling.
  • Remove the ridge in the top of the wheel arch. Lots of people with lowered E21s have mentioned this as an issue and it's not imperceptible that it's the cause of this issue. It's got plenty of clearance when stationary however without a go-pro to strap to the guard to eye ball it, it's hard to tell how far it compresses under cornering load.
  • The tyres may also be hitting the trailing edge of the front bumper. This needs to be inspected at the same time.
Note: 1st gear goes to 70kph.

Sorting The Front Sway Bar

First and foremost, I have to thank my friend Peter Ward for the donation of this fluro light fitting; while ideally I'd love four of these, even just one has made a dramatic difference to the "engine bay" area of the garage.

I've installed it in this orientation to allow light to get around each side of the engine; if it was centered to the car this would be a little harder. It's only held up with a couple of screws so will be easy enough to move if required.

I put the car up on ramps and thought I should take the opportunity to show this view of the new extractors 

The swaybar in the E21 is also the front caster arms and basically very important in maintaining the geometry of the front wheels while driving. I had to cut it to fit the motor and have been very aware of this fact when briefly test driving the vehicle as it puts a lot of load on the mounts when the bar is not connected.

The photo above shows a 6mm thick bracket I found at Bunnings. Being a public holiday, nothing else was open today and they didn't have any other flat steel, so hopefully this does the job.

It was already drilled with 100mm center spacing so I just made use of those since it still looked like it would clear ok under the car (originally I was going to go for 80mm)

This set of shelves in the back shed is always ready with some spares or donor parts; last month it was the spare head to bolt the extractor flange to while building them - this time they offered up a second hand Ford Laser KC TX3 long side CV shaft as suitably sized donor bar

Stripped shortly after of their CV joints. Conveniently, the CV shaft has an OD of 25mm, while the original bar has an OD of 23mm. The CV shaft is tapered slightly to hold the boots on where I cut; this comes into play later.

Corners of the plate rounded for neatness.

Test piece welded to check compatibility, strength and welder settings.

Seems to be ok. Ultimately if it breaks in the car it won't cause a catastrophic failure, I'll notice it acting strangely pretty quick and will also be checking these parts every time I use them to see how it's wearing.

Took it out and put in the vice and beat the hell out of it with a hammer. Was more in danger of damaging the bench than the weld. 

Car on ramp showing well lit bonnet.

This is what I needed fluro's to solve - extremely harsh shadows making it impossible to see what you're doing when leaning over the top of your work.

Here's what difference the fluro makes.

Tim Knowles tracked down a 15/16" which he graciously lent to me to allow me to complete this job. I only have 1/2" in my own collection.

Because I don't have intermediate drills, the bit chattered quite a bit but ultimately because the material is so thick, made a round hole despite being a bit rough on one side. The roughness on the initial side actually helped when fitting the CV shaft bar as it is slightly broader and allows the CV shaft tapers to fit just a touch better (initially I just wanted a 25mm hole so both CV shaft and original sway bar would fit through entirely)

Here's a hole part-way drilled, you can see the out-of-round chatter results at the top of the hole but also that further down it's rounded out nicely. It's good enough for mig welding anyway ;)

Hole drilled.

One plate finished.

Pushed in until it could go no further, conveniently the taper stops it falling further, and it's in the perfect location. Right angle magnet used to hold for initial tacking on bar side.

Then fully welded on the ends. This means if a weld fails at one end, the bar should actually still stay encapsulated in the flat section.

Hung over the remains of the factory sway bar.

Tied to serpentine belt at desired height. As the car hits bumps evenly, the whole swaybar will turn slightly so I needed to ensure the bar wouldn't hit the ground or the belt assembly/sump in normal suspension travel.

Both ends of the swaybar have 6mm flat steel jammed in the suspension side between the chassis rail and bar, this is to level the bar out as it would have been prior to cutting - the rubber bushes was quite deformed prior to this step.

The test piece came in handy as a lever 

Done as per the other side, tacked on the bar side and welded on the ends. It's not fully seam welded on the bar side as if the weld creates a weakness then it's possible to break off just before the weld. The tacks will not suffer this problem.

Done! I'll have to take it for another quick drive to see it if improves the steering feel somewhat; I imagine the big difference will be the noise I had on turning in the test drive video.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Test driving

Did a quick test drive in the car.

As the tailshaft is yet to be sorted (that's what you can hear/the vibration you can see, for the most part) I didn't give it too much throttle. It's enough to get a bit of an idea though.

Still have to do:

  • Get tailshaft built (single piece, ford t5 1310 uni at the front, bmw diff flange at the back)
  • Modify trans tunnel to fit the front uni, remove center bearing mount, maybe widen to promote fitment (pass side) trans tunnel.
  • Make front control arms to replace sections of remaining swaybar for fore/aft control of lower control arm/front suspension
  • Weld differential

Sunday, March 2, 2014


When I test drove the E21 earlier in the week, I noticed that the steering linkage was binding on the exhaust I made for the car. As a result, I decided it was time for the temporary exhaust to go - and dug out the sacrificial extractors from the parts bin.

Some photos of the existing setup for those who don't remember or hadn't seen it, a standard cast iron manifold (stock part from EA-AU I6 even in XR6 form) along with a rudimentary J section to get it past the steering arm.

The dismantling begins! I thought at first I might be able to get away with retaining one of the collectors but alas, on a falcon the steering arm goes on the outside edge of the engine bay and the collector/exhaust hug tight to the engine and run to the engine side of the steering. Not so in this case due to space constraints.

Cleaning up the cuts ready for re-welding with a flaps wheel (outside) and wire wheel on a drill (inside)

Collectors mocked up into place, clearance on all sides and angle of ingress/egress determined.

A fully dismantled set of extractors to start with.

Here I've used some concretors reinforcement bar to fix the collectors and flange together in 3D space before removing it from the bay. This allows me to work out where I can and can't run pipes and also gives me an outside dimension from measurements I've made.

Shaun helps to clean the outside of some donor pipe from the original extractors using the flaps wheel on the grinder.

Mocking up and tacking in place the extensions to the original pipes. For almost all runners, the original pipes were used in place, except cylinders 4 and 5 which were transposed.

Clamping cyl 2 runner in place to determine positioning for Cyl 3 (which is then tacked as per the image)

Cyl 2 tacked.

Gaps bridged

Cylinder 4 and 5 tacked into place, Cylinder 6 now has a pipe connecting it to the flange.

Here I've made a connection for Cylinder 5 - this was the most difficult part of the whole process as the Cyl 6 curve is very tight to this join.

Test fitting, it had a bit of trouble at first around the alternator wiring, clutch cable and hydraulics for the power steering; later I relocate these to the top of the brake bracket.

A shot of the inside of the collectors

Cutting the tacks to Cyls 1, 2 and 3 for finish welding on the collectors (both banks).

They warped a little during finish welding but a bit of reo-bar as a lever soon sorted that. Here they are with the temporary reo-bar removed also.

Here you can see I've moved the hydraulic lines for the steering to the other side of the steering linkage for better clearance.

 I've also moved and secured the clutch cable and other hoses out of the way.

Secondaries added - I taped nuts to these pipes to give clearance under the car to the floor, then held them up in place and tacked them on the car. A little hard to remove due to the distance between the ends (side to side) as a result of the cross-over (getting them to turn 90 degrees)

Here's a video of how it sounded at this point.

Started making a joiner. Turns out I used the wrong sized pipe (4") so it was never going to fit properly; it was later cut down to fit.

Cutting and bending the pipes to flatten them out and get them closer together to make it easier to put them in the car and so the collector can be made.

Cutting like this allowed the pipes to be opened out to more of an oval shape

Welded on the inside while I can still get to it.

Tacked on the outside before test fitting; always test fit before finish welding something like this!

Here you can see I've welded a peice of reo-bar to the setup when test fitting under the car, the reo bar marks the centreline of the pipe and is pressed up hard against the floor to ensure clearance.

Pieces of the 4" pipe cut up and in place.

Fitted then trimmed to fit up to the flange from the original extractors.

Joined to the flange and then finish welded. Test fit under the car proved perfect.

Here's a video showing the sound coming straight from the rear collector.

Angle of egress from the collectors into the secondaries.

The connecting pipe (formerly the de-cat pipe from my falcon) needed to be curved slightly to fit into the new exit location (this location has better ground clearance than previously)

Tacked with reo-bar with flanges bolted to both parts of the exhaust and bends finalised. Note that the cuts do not go all the way around the pipe, this makes it much easier to handle and bend neatly

Finish welded.

I moved the car to sweep the shed and managed to snap the connector off the oxy sensor wires with the brake linkage. Here I've cut out, bent slightly and re-welded the oxy sensor mount for clearance.

Cleaning up the extractors with a wire wheel is fast, but very dusty, has lots of vibrations, and occasionally you get impaled or pelted with bits of wire. I modified my failed cigweld auto mask as a face shield as it was too painful just using a regular pair of goggles.

Nice and shiny, about ready to go and cover back up again!

Hanging in the back shed, freshly wiped down with prepsol and then a clean rag ready for VHT Extractor paint #998 (cast iron)

At some point I dropped my glasses and chipped both lenses :(

Aaand here's the painted product

Secured using some speaker wire from an R33 rear bumper reinforcement in the rafters of the back shed.

I haven't got a full complement of bolts yet so can't put up a video of the exhaust working all connected as currently it sounds naff (very leaky).