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The Corvette Adventure
Continued, part Three
By Steve VandenBerg
I wanted to jump right in it and start working, but things had to happen before I broke out my wrenches. Jo’s brother in-law had brought over some floor jacks, containers for the oils and antifreeze and lights, etc. I can’t tell you how much that made things easier for me.
Jo took me for a little tour of the Carlsbad area and pointed out the parts stores in the area. She even showed me the ocean (we were very close) and the house that Tom Cruise got lucky in when filming the Top Gun movie. The problem with the tour was my mind was thinking CORVETTE, BRAKES, POINTS, PLUGS, WHEEL BEARINGS, CORVETTE, TOY, MUST PLAY! I had only a short glimpse of the Vette and hadn’t even sat in it yet or popped the hood. It was excruciating. It was very hard for me to go through that tour because of my excitement to play with the Corvette. The tour was extremely helpful and was beneficial to my task. Jo made life easy by allowing me to work in her garage. She gave me the remote door opener so I could come and go as I pleased, gave me a pitcher of water and didn’t stop trying to make things more comfortable for me. Thanks Jo. You are a fun gal. Thanks for trusting me.
Now let’s talk about the Corvette. I walked around and surveyed the area. Jo had decided to sell the Corvette so she would have more room in the garage. I was going to make that happen. First I moved some boxes out of the way as they were placed between the car and garage wall. One of the boxes was too big for me to get out of there, so consequently it got shoved back and forth until I got the car off of the jack stands a few days later.
The Corvette was on jack stands so I decided to leave it where it was and work on it at that spot. Jo had also warned me about Black Widow spiders that she was sure were in and around that car. So I was watching for them. She told me it would hurt like Hell if I got bit and that I should get help immediately. Jo also had a longhair cat that lived in the garage. It also lived on the car.
With that in mind, I got back to the Corvette. Cat hair wasn’t in the car but it was everywhere else. There was a liter box under the car. I decided to clear the area and get everything out of the Corvette that was packed in it. The stuff in the car was whatever belonged to it that had been taken off or replaced. There were two carburetors, two starters, two 20 year old cans of transmission oil (they now reside as ornaments in my garage), two repair manuals, two radios, two maps, chrome ignition covers, extra spark plugs, distributor caps, rotor, maps, a chamois, wing nuts, and other stuff relevant to the Corvette. Oh, Jo! I also found a dollar bill, and a 1968 quarter. I actually didn’t find the money until I got the car home and unpacked everything. Thanks for the tip.
While digging out the items from the Corvette, I felt something on my left leg. I jumped back and found nothing but my imagination and wondering if Jo and I were just paranoid of Black Widow spiders. I decided that the fate of the Black Widow spider would be death if I saw one or if it bit me. I wasn’t going to worry about it again. I don’t think I thought of it again until now as I penned this story.
Now that I had everything out of the way, I could get to work. I had this all planned out in my head. The first thing I needed to do was to take the gas tank out. I looked into removing the gas tank before I left , so I remembered how to do it. First, I had to remove the spare tire and tire carrier. Here is where I found out what kind of tires came on the Corvette when new. This original spare was a Firestone Wide Oval Redline G70-15 tire.
My research tells me that 5210 1969 Corvettes came with these tires. The spare still had air in it, so I checked. I added air to it and the rest of the tires to proper pressures. After the carrier came off, I took the exhaust loose from the rear hangers. The tank was very visible so I did not take the exhaust all the way off.
I disconnected the fuel line, and the return line, from the tank and loosened the tank straps. Before taking the tank out, I went up top and pulled the gas cap door off and rubber gas deflector and the gas cap. I peered into the tank and could see 18 years of crud in the tank. This looked bad. I stuck a long screwdriver into the bottom of the tank and it stood on its own. This is the kind of thing you see in a Dairy Queen commercial for thick shakes!
The varnish smell of the old gas had permeated the whole garage. I went below and pulled the tank straps loose and was able to remove the tank with very little trouble. I didn’t even spill much gas.
I wrapped the tank up in garbage bags and took the tank to a radiator shop that I had spotted when Jo gave me the tour. They didn’t think they could help me and I had to ask the boss on Monday when he got back. I needed some parts yet so I went to a parts store and picked up a few items. I bought a new battery for the car along with some other stuff. I went to several parts stores to get a feel for them and asked all the parts guys where to take that tank for cleaning and lining. Many of the responses were a radiator shop in Escondido, which was about 20 miles away. They are open on Monday. Today was Saturday and it will take 48 hours to finish the tank. OK, so that is on hold for now.
My original goal was to get the car running in four days and take off on Wednesday (best case scenario). I could be back to my job on the following Monday and thus only take one week's vacation (best case scenario). I took two weeks vacation in case of trouble along the way back … I mean issues. The gas tank not going into the shop until Monday morning would mean that this would be five days instead of four. If all goes well, I can still make it back by Monday.
I get back to the garage and start digging out my parts and decided that I had plenty of work to do until Monday. I started by taking out the spark plugs and liberally squirting WD-40 into each of the cylinders and a liberal amount into the carburetor throat. I grabbed all of the plug wires and threw them in the garbage. The fan belts still looked good so I left them. Not a big deal to replace them on the side of the road. (I didn’t know that the length of the alternator / waterpump belt isn’t widely carried.) I didn’t want to turn the motor over until I had fresh oil in the car and it would also be beneficial for the WD-40 to work on the rings and cylinders for a while.
I was able to turn the motor over by hand so I wasn’t too worried about getting it started. I drained the oil and tried to get the spin on oil filter off and couldn’t. I didn’t bring my oil filter wrench so I would have to buy one. I pulled the wheels off and set them aside. I think with the late morning start, going out for breakfast, shopping, touring for parts stores and trying to find a place to work on the tank, I didn’t get started until 3 pm. I decided to pack it in a while later and go back to Aunt Louise’s for the night. I wanted to get back in daylight, as my familiarity with the route wasn’t established yet.
Aunt Louise (I call her Aunty Louise) was home and ready to make me something to eat. I decided to get cleaned up first with a bath and get into some comfortable clothes. I scrubbed and scrubbed my fingers and fingernails to get them clean. Almost got there. Aunt Louise made me a sandwich or something and we sat and talked a bit and discussed me sleeping on the couch again to no avail. Kelly was there and we all talked about “What work did you do to the car today?” and “Was it in the shape you thought it was?” and “Did you get it running yet?” We all finally decided that we should get to bed and so we ended the evening.
The next morning, I got up and honestly don’t remember if we ate in or went out for breakfast. I do remember my two middle fingers were sore to bend and my leg was bruising down to the bottom of my foot. My leg wasn’t bothering me as long as I didn’t bump that swollen area.
Anyway, I decided to get going. My rental car was a 4-door Pontiac Grand Am. I had ordered the “economy vehicle” and expected something along the lines of a Yugo. I got lucky I guess. I did wonder if I was going to have to work on it though, because I had to try to start it three or four times to get it started. It didn’t break down throughout my trip so I was happy about that.
I got into the rental car and took off following the directions to Jo’s house. Was I supposed to take a left or a right? OK, I didn’t get lost more than having to go around the block, but I had to think until the surroundings were familiar.
So. I get to Jo’s house and open up the garage door with the remote, and it had a very strong odor of old gas.