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Can't keep a Stovebolter still
The Corvette Adventure

Continued, part Six

By Steve VandenBerg
Bolter # 6449
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII

  Vacation, Family, Deals, Thoughts, Troubles
Planning to bring her home
Seeing the sites
Getting into it, finally!
Let me tell you about Parts Chicks
Talk of marriage
Ready to hit the road home

Part IX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII
Part XIV
  How hard can it be ...
Doom, despair and agony on me
Good ol' bailing wire
Surrounded by help
Lord, just get me home, pahlease!
Interesting people and places
Home Sweet Home


Part Six ~ Builder's talking marriage!

       I was desperate to make more progress on the Corvette and I didn’t want the gas tank to hold me up. I decided to put the wheels on and get it off the stands. I needed to get the coolant system and the engine flushed. I also needed to get the engine oil changed again to get the tranny fluid I had put in it replaced. I put some SeaFoam transmission medic stuff in the tranny and filled it up. I was going to replace the filter but elected to leave it in and fill the tranny with fluid. Jo told me that the transmission had leaked oil when she parked it. So I expected to be dumping oil in it all the way home. I figured there was no sense dumping it now. I started the car and drove it out onto the driveway. It drives forward!

       I broke out the water hose and started to flush the engine, heater core and radiator with fresh water. I really didn’t see much crap come out of it and just tried to be thorough. When I drove the car out of the garage, I had to take the fuel lines out of the gas container. This just pumped the gas right out onto the floor. So I had to clean it up after I drove it out and again when I backed it in. Hey, it works in reverse, too!

       I elected to reuse the heater hoses that were on the car. They were getting a little hard, but they were still flexible. I put new radiator hoses on and even found a used set in the Corvette when I unpacked it. Spares I guess. The bottom hose was a total pain in the butt, but I finally got it in place. I added new coolant and started it up. Now I could run it for greater lengths without worrying about overheating. I ran it for several minutes and watched the gauges. Oil pressure was up. Temp came up to 180 degrees and held. The Amp gauge was reading 30 and coming back to 0. The clock didn’t seem to work. The radio cracks in the speakers but no other sound. I guess I could live without the radio and clock.

       I asked some kid about 15, that happened by, if he would help me bleed the brakes on the Corvette. I sat him in the car and had him pump the brakes while I ran the bleeder screw. The front went OK but the rear just didn’t want to pump up. I went to the other side and noticed that there was a lot of brake fluid on the floor. I took the wheel off and then took the caliper off and one of the seals had popped out. I tried to put it back in place but it popped out again. I bought that caliper in Sioux Falls, so I was going to have to buy one here and get my money back when I got home. I give the kid $5 and thanked him for helping. I go to the NAPA store to my favorite, cosmetically ironic but pleasing for me to see parts girl and she tells me she can’t get one until tomorrow. She must have seen the shock written on my face of being let down by my favorite parts girl and started making phone calls. She found one on her first try at a competitor of hers and the price was better too! This girl made me happy! “God? Do you suppose you could make her more employable in a more competitive job market?”

       I got the part from the other store and went back and replaced the bad caliper. Now where is that kid??? I heard someone talking next door and introduced myself to Jo’s neighbor Phil. He said he had seen that I was working on the Corvette and he would be happy to come over and give me a hand. Phil was about 6’ 7” tall and I thought to myself that I was glad I wasn’t that tall and came all the way out to California with the intentions of driving a Corvette to South Dakota. I think Phil would look into buying something with a little more leg, arm and head room. We got the brakes pumped up and now I was felling a little better.

       I thought I had better get the old gas tank sending unit off of the gas tank and get it ready for the gas tank. The sending unit was held in place by a large washer that locks into place when turned counter clockwise. I managed to get the washer off but the sending unit was quite glued to the bottom of the tank. I finally got it out of the tank and it made me wish I had ordered a new sending unit, too. I honestly didn’t think that I could clean the sending unit good enough and decided to call the Chevrolet dealer.

       “I’m sorry but you will have to come in and pay for it first or I can’t order it. We close in 20 minutes.”

       “Oh come on! I’ll give you my credit card over the phone.”

       “Well, we can’t do that anymore. You will have to come here and pay first.”

       “I’m at least 45 minutes away.”

       “There is no way I can get there in time and I really need that part. I want it!”

       “Well have you bought anything from us before?”

       “Why yes, I have. I bought parts from a gal there this morning. Ask her. She will remember. I’m the guy with the 1969 Corvette that has been sitting for 18 years and I’m going to drive it back to South Dakota. Please, I need and want that part tomorrow morning. I can’t wait another day!”

       “You talked to the parts girl huh?”


       “Ok, I’ll have the sending unit here by 7am.”

      Well, I guess verbally abused parts girls come in handy when you need something and you are on good terms with them. All I had to do was bring her up in conversation and the men just get with the program. God bless all women parts persons! I’m going to marry a parts girl one of these days. I’d bet I could give her a list of parts to bring home and she would do a better job than a man could with a grocery list. She probably wouldn’t complain because I spend all my time in the garage and she might help too!

       “Honey …….. Did you get that synchromesh transmission gear installed in my ’63 Ford Fairlaine?”

       “I sure did Sweetie. How was NASCAR today? Would you like me to climb up on the roof and re-adjust the TV antenna again?”

       “Wow, you’re a total babe. Come here and give me some sugar.”

       Well, after I woke up from my nap, I decided to get the timing straight on the Corvette. I brought a manual for the car and found two manuals for the Corvette in one of its cubby holes. One manual said four degrees before top dead center and the other two said eight degrees before top dead center. (Top dead center is how many degrees before the piston reaches the top of its stroke. I know that many of you reading this are not well versed in engine theory, or you may not be a parts girl, so if it doesn’t mean anything to you…… you don’t need to know.) Now what do I do? I read through the procedures and found nothing to clarify the difference. Four degrees before top dead center didn’t sound right and I had a hard time with it. I set the timing according to the majority of the manuals specs -- eight degrees before top dead center. Sounds like a reasonable way to decipher specs for a car engine.

       I had to set the dwell (the point gap) by hand because my dwell meter wasn’t working for some unknown reason. I set the timing at eight and the RPM at 750. I just had a question mark floating in my head about that. The transmission lurched into gear and something just wasn’t right with the way it was running. I had to do something else for a while to clear my head.

       I had taken off the filler neck of the gas tank and it was a little rusty and gunked up. I took the filler neck down to a motorcycle shop named Kennedy’s (one of the parts girls helped me find a shop in the area with a bead blaster) and they put it in their bead blaster. I talked with the guys, while the kid blasted my part. He seemed interested in my project. The kid comes back and asks if that was good enough. I inspected the part and told him that I needed all of the rust off so I could paint it. I’m so picky I guess. When he came back, I felt like I wanted to stick around and jaw with these guys for a while, but I knew I needed to kick butt to get out of there at a decent time. The kid came back and I approved of his work and asked, “How much do I owe you?”

       “Ahh, nothing. Forget it. Good luck with your car.”

       “Hey, thanks a lot man.”

       I guess bikers aren’t so bad after all.

       When I got back to Jo’s garage I took all those little bolts from the filler neck and ran a die over them to clean the threads and I was tired and getting cranky, so I decided to call it a day and get back to it when the gas tank and sending unit came in the morning.

       I drove back to Aunt Louise’s house and got cleaned up. I brought my filler neck along and some gasket material I had picked up at one of the parts stores so I could make a gasket for the filler neck. Kelly came up with a scissors and a hole punch. That gasket looked like a professional gasket. I guess I was pretty proud of one of the simplest things I had to do.

      I was getting a little embarrassed because I could smell that old varnished gas on my hands the next morning. I really tried to scrub my hands clean, but was having less luck each day. I had some coffee (thanks again Kelly) and decide to get going because today was the day -- Day 5. The gas tank won’t be in until 10:30 and I can pick up the sending unit at the Chevrolet dealer in Escondido at the same time. “God, please let those parts be in this morning.”

       I went to Jo’s garage and gave the tune up some thought. I didn’t like not knowing for sure what the answer to the timing issue was. I retraced the spark plug wires and found that I had the number 3 and 5 wires crossed. I had pulled them off, for some reason, before and, for some reason, just wasn’t paying attention when I put them on again. The engine ran much better now that it didn’t have to lug them two dead cylinders around. What a silly thing to happen to me. It wouldn’t have happened if I had one of those parts girls handy!

      Well, I wanted that gas tank. They hadn’t called yet, so I decided that I would just start driving and I might get there about the time it gets in. I had to drive past Hot Rods on the way to the Chevrolet dealer so I would just go to the Chevrolet dealer first and come back to Hot Rods on the way back giving them more time. I get to the stop light about 200 feet from Hot Rod and my cell phone rings.


       “Yes, this is Hot Rods and your tank just came in.”

       “OK, I’ll be right there.”

       And I wheel right in to the parking lot just in time for the lunch wagon. I was standing in line with the counter person who had just called me. He seemed surprised to see me there so quick. I ate my lunch while checking out the hot rods in the lot and then went in and examined my new tank. It was an almost perfect replica of an OEM tank, even the stamp on the bottom side. And it had all of the gaskets and bolts. He credited my account the $75 for shipping and I was on my merry little way.

       I got to the Chevrolet dealer and there was my parts girl waiting for me with my gas tank sending unit. There was another gasket like I had bought the day before and she let me return this new one in exchange for the one I bought the day before. I like this girl. Too bad I’m so far away from home.

       I drove back to Jo’s garage and start putting the gas tank together. I taped up the filler nozzle so dirt wouldn’t get into it when I tipped it in place. I got that done and put the gas tank back in the car. I tightened up the tank straps, tightened up the exhaust, put the tire carrier and spare tire back in place. I got the gas lines hooked up and dump some gas in. While I was under there, I checked and filled the rear end with Hypoid gear oil. I’m rolling now!

       I started it up and let it idle. I checked the lights and blinkers again. I check the oil pressure, Amp and temp gauge readings, and roll the windows down. I put it in gear and roll out of the garage for a test drive.

On to part VII

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