Monday, May 11, 2009
The Bronco lives!
I hope that everyone that reads this can directly relate because it is a truly great thing to experience. I can't imagine another action that you could take in the old car hobby that would give you so much back. I'm of course talking about the "first drive" made after months or years of a build or restoration. The reason I'm so excited and inspired on this subject is because that is exactly what I got to do today.
As some of you know, I've been deep in a complete rebuild/restoration of my friend and boss Gary Allan's 1976 Ford Bronco for some time now. I've had the truck in my possession since last August and the paint shop had it for about 8-9 months before that. So, although I did get it running when it was delivered to me from California after its almost ten year hibernation, and drove it a little bit then, that was almost 2 years ago and my memory of wheel time with it is foggy at best. Not only that, but it has had a complete drivetrane rebuild as well as an entirely new interior built and installed. That includes a beautifully fabricated dash-board by Kevin Tetz.
So I didn't really have much to go on today by way of comparison, and honestly I was only thinking about how all of my work was going to behave on this first test run. Now, I should say, it has been run before. The engine was assembled by Shaklette Automotive and dyno run and tuned. Then after a couple of days of wiring by my friend Mark Lambert, we started it up and ran it in place for several minutes- enough to get it up to temp. For the most part it behaved. The usual little nit-pick stuff wasn't working; a couple of gauges, two of the outside lights, we had a fuel leak that I finally licked this morning, and as best we can tell... a bad distributer cap. Don't you love it when a new part is bad in a situation like this when you're dealing with everything else on the truck being new as well? Really helps the diagnostic process!
So that was my goal today... drive the truck for the first time since its total rebuild. Once I got the fuel leak taken care of it was full speed ahead. Just taking it off the casters and setting it on the ground was cool. Its a funny thing, when you've been working on the same vehicle, in the same place for so long; a vehicle that hasn't run or moved or made a sound. When you finally get in the drivers seat ( which you haven't really had a reason to do yet ), you have an entirely new view of the vehicle. It all suddenly looks so pretty and new because you're not underneath it or working with a part on the bench or under the hood. Everything is smooth and shiny and clean around you and you can't really believe it's the same machine. Then it happens... you turn the key and it jumps around and vibrates and starts making all of this noise ( In today's case it was a whole lot of noise, as it is still without exhaust and running through open headers ).
When this happens with me I spend a ridiculous amount of time checking and double checking and triple checking every inch of it before I leave the driveway. You've become so incredibly familiar with it at this point that you can envision every part working away and you can remember having your hands on it and assembling it and putting it on the vehicle. It's nerve racking, or is for me anyway, because all I can think of is,"I hope that bracket I had so much trouble fitting is holding", or, "I hope that hose that never seemed to go on the PS pump quite right is not going to pop off ", or worse yet," I hope my torque wrench is accurate... I'd hate for those rod caps to be loose."
And on and on and on. I just start thinking about all of it, every part, moving faster than I can see in focus. But then it happens, at some point you just have to start to trust- or you'll never leave the driveway ( or finish any project ). And you begin a real world test. Treating it like a soccer-Mom would a new car. Throw it into gear, accelerate, brake, accelerate. Run it up to high-way speed. Pretty soon it starts feeling like what it is, a working machine. One that can and will be used and now has a new life. But as much as it can seem like something that can be understood plainly, it's still too exciting that it was all put together by your own hands and it's working... and you're pleased, you're smiling, it's fun, real fun, and this is what it's all about. This is the feeling, the high that you're working towards the entire time you're out in the shop. Every move you make starts with you thinking about how this will work when you start and run it, and therefore you are constantly picturing it and imagining it in your mind until it stops seeming real. Like maybe this thing that has taken on all the personality of a huge piece of furniture sitting on casters that you roll from one side of your shop to the other will never be more than that. A completely frozen structure.
But you know better, and soon you prove it to yourself and the car. It is the biggest daddy of all, in my opinion, and I had a great day around here because of it. For the record, the truck sounds like a top fuel car with the open headers, and the 400hp 351 Windsor under the hood pulls really really hard. Gary's words to me when talking about what he wanted me to do with the engine were these, and I quote,"Man, I want it to be SCARY fast!" Well, I know one thing, he will not be disappointed. Tomorrow morning the truck will be at the exhaust shop at 7am and then I can really get it out on the road for some serious sorting.
Two great things will come from all of this work, Gary will finally have his old Bronco from his youth back in his life, and I can then get back on my long awaited roadster project. Now let me tell you, if you think I'm excited at the first drive with the Bronco, just wait until I fire up that flat-head roadster for the first time. Consider me counting the minutes.