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Meet Phyll the Phlatbed
By David Knokey
Some trucks need a little help
Here's a pic of Phyll, freshly bathed and sporting her brand new saddle tank! Oh, by the way...'Phyll' is what a friend of mine officially christened her. It is short for 'Chlorophyll' in honor of her former regal robe of algae. She was christened by smashing a can of Olympia on her brush guard. :
In September of last year, after three years of being a yard ornament and developing a most elegant coat of algae to complement the rust, the 1962 Chevy flatbed once again moved under her own power on Friday afternoon. All she really needed was a decent fuel system.
The old gas tank was behind the seat and so full of crud that every time I drove her, the fuel filter and carb got all plugged and gummed up. I didn't like having the tank behind the seat. I was not enamored of the idea of removing it for cleaning and then putting it back where I didn't want it to begin with.
So, for three years she has been waiting for me to stumble across a good deal on a tank I could mount under the bed. That finally happened last spring and it has taken me this long to get the tank installed and all the fuel lines replaced. I finally got everything all hooked up. The battery had a fresh charge and she was ready to go.
The old gal turned over just fine, but no spark. Starting with the spark plugs and working my way back, I began replacing the ignition system. When I replaced the points, she fired up instantly and purred like a kitten. Unfortunately, the clutch wouldn't disengage. And there were no brakes.
This all started on Wednesday and now it was Friday. After work, I got my wife (reluctantly) to help me bleed the hydraulic clutch. There was virtually no air in the line and the clutch fork was moving back and forth just fine, but still no clutch. The pressure plate was frozen to the flywheel. So, with the engine idling, I jammed it into first and drove it out into the yard, yanked it out of gear, coasted to a stop (no brakes either, remember?) jammed it into reverse, yanked it out of gear, coasted to a stop, jammed it back into first ... you get the idea.
Finally, after a few cycles of this, the pressure plate broke loose and started working.
Bleeding brakes solo
Now for the brakes ... Previous experience has taught me that my wife is the last person you want to enlist for helping to bleed the brakes. After pumping the brake pedal three times, she thinks she should be done and free to go back to her couch. When I try to explain to her tha she will likely have to pump it another thirty times just for this wheel and there will still be three more wheels to go ... well, I'm not going to describe her reaction -- not EVEN going to go there!
I had heard of a way to do it solo. It involves running a tube from the bleeder valve into a jar of clean brake fluid so when you pump the brake pedal, the air exits the tube and rises to the top of the jar. The tube then just has fluid in it so no air can get back into the lines. I had never tried it before because I was too cheap to "waste" perfectly good brake fluid this way. But I decided it was time to give it a try.
Well! It was working absolutely perfect! Air was coming out of the line and none was going back in and I was nearly done with the first wheel. I decided to give it one more cycle of pumps before moving on to the next. I pumped the pedal a few times and then bore down on it. Something was not right. I could see the jar of fluid and could tell nothing was coming out of the tube, but the pedal slowly depressed all the way to the floor. I thought perhaps the master cylinder was low. So I got out and sure enough it was really low. I filled it back up and tried again ... same thing! I filled the master cylinder again and once more got the same result.
Reluctantly, I got down and looked under the truck. There was a waterfall of fluid running out of the frame rail. A spot on the line had corroded and the pressure had ruptured the line at that spot. Back to the local NAPA! They are getting to know me very well there!
Two hours later, I had the line replaced and all the brakes bled! So I took her for a shake-down cruise for a couple miles. She ran perfectly!
Fixing those three things
Ever since I bought her, one thing has bugged me. The return spring on the brake pedal was not strong enough to bring the brake pedal all the way back up. Every time you used the brake, you would have to hook your toe under the pedal and pull it the last inch or so into position or else the brake lights would stay on. At some point, somebody had taken a long coil spring (like the old time screen door springs) and hooked it to a c-clamp on the shank of the brake pedal. They hooked the other end to a hole in the casing of the steering column just below the steering wheel. (Can you say "redneck?")
I really wanted to do a proper fix but did not know how to access the original spring to replace it with a stronger one. Three things I wanted to accomplish that day were to explore the means to replace that spring, get the license plate light working, and deprive the truck of her regal coat of algae.
Right off the bat in the morning, I noticed there was a funky plate under the steering column that was in the way of accessing the spring and that if I could remove it, I might just be able to get to the spring. I removed three bolts but it still wouldn't budge. Finally, I found a fourth one that was hidden and removed it.
To my surprise, not only did the plate drop down out of my way, but so did the steering column! But access to the spring was still anything but easy. Removing it was not bad (it was weak, remember? That was the whole point.) I had to unplug a connector that was plugged into this funky looking thing mounted on the steering column a few inches from the firewal. That gave me room to get my hand in there and muscle the old spring out. But putting the new, stronger, heavier duty one in WAS A BEAR!!!!!! It took two full hours of sweating and cursing to finally get it in there. Then, putting the steering column back in place took another hour of doing a one handed bench-press (I never would have believed the steering column could be so heavy!) while at the same time, trying to get the holes to line up and get a bolt started with the other hand.
Finally it was done! All I had left to do was plug that connector back in and .... uh, what's this broken little piece of black plastic on the floorboard here? And these little shiny tabs of metal?
I found out what that connector thingy was -- the turn signal switch. The switch itself had crumbled into a dozen pieces when I unplugged the connector from it. Back to NAPA I went.
I knew it was more than just a longshot. I was in search of a miracle. The guys at NAPA looked through all their books and computer sources and finally said, "How good are you with super-glue?" Super-glue in hand I went home to attempt the impossible. I failed.
So now, my brake lights aren't working at all. I didn't realize at the time that they went through that connector as well. It took me a long time to trace the problem and figure out which wires in the connector I needed to 'jumper' in order to get the brake lights working again. After a couple more hours, I once again had brake lights.
Time for the license plate light. This was just a straight forward installation of a brand new light. Or so I thought. Long story short, the ground I was trying to use was intermittent. When I tested it, it worked perfect. But when I hooked the light to it, the light wouldn't work. Again it took me a very long time to trace the problem. I finally ended up drilling some holes in the frame to bolt the ground wires to.
By the time I got done with all this, I had a good 14 hour day in already. The daylight was about to begin fading and I hadn't even started scrubbing off the algae. I didn't have much time, but I probably spent an hour or so washing her in the twilight. I don't think I did a very good job, but then again no matter how good I wash her, she is still going to look like dog-sh uh, doo-doo. But at least I can drive her!
I hurt like the dickens. I am exhausted and I just wanna get drunk!!!
Here's the pot of gold
Here is Dave's Gallery page for Phyll . Back in December 2003, he brought her home. His very own IRWIPI truck. ~~ Editor