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As mentioned previously, BABE8 has a new wrinkle… a spec theme.  Where in previous years teams had leeway to decorate their cars however they saw fit, this year the organizers in their infinite… wisdom… decided to have all the teams decorate their cars within a single theme. With major points to be had – or lost – THOTC set aside its previous plans to one-up even last year’s zombie car and began puzzling how to transform Dodge into a “facsimilie of a recognizable famous rally car.”

Huh

Continue reading to see how we did!

(more…)

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Untitled

 

In past BABE Rallies, there sometimes has been a specified type of vehicle teams are encouraged to bring. While never quite mandatory, bringing the spec vehicle type has been worth both *serious* points and bragging rights, especially when the vehicle brought is not only of the specified type but also a particularly decrepit example of the specified type.

Also in past BABE Rallies, teams have been encouraged (and often rewarded) for theming their vehicle in some way, whether or not it was of the specified type. Teams historically have been very creative with (and occasionally ticketed and arrested for) their themes.

This year, just to make the participants lives a little more miserable, the organizers have specified not a type of vehicle, but a spec theme. For reasons we can only imagine are driven by pure sadism, the organizers have decreed that vehicles in the 2013 BABE Rally should be:

“…identifiable themes of famous rally cars. We will accept racing themes as long as they are famous, and not NASCAR  famous.”

While perhaps not a big deal for the teams that bring VWs and various other Euro beaters, the spec theme presents a rather serious problem for THOTC… How in heaven’s name are we supposed to make a vintage four-door Mopar banger of the sort we usually bring to the BABE Rally look like a famous rally car??? Keep in mind that, due to the late announcement and early dates for the rally this year, we have only about half the time to identify, acquire, repair [sic], and field our rally car. Up until the organizers inserted this particular thorn into our side, we were thinking that Dodge (the 1969 Dodge Dart that carried us to a second place win last year) might just ride again. Unless…

Does anyone have any ideas about how we can make this…

0316121909_01

… look like this?

Dodge-Dart-rally-car-623x389

(And on a BABE budget?!?!)

 

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Crash and Burn are working on a little movie commemorating the 2012 BigApple2BigEasy Rally. Click the image below to watch the trailer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xi4IbZkS5pE

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A few small victories have lifted our spirits a mere 48 hours before we hit the point where Dodge will be as good as he is going to be for the Rally:

Spare tire

For some bizarre reason, our otherwise stock steed came to us with the wrong sized spare tire. While for most cars a replacement spare is no big deal, Papa Chrysler has over the years made it extremely complicated to source wheels due to the variety and scarcity of its bolt patterns. Nonetheless, we have been lucky enough to obtain not one but *two* spare 14″ 5×4 spare tires — one on loan in Atlanta and another we can keep after we pick it up in New Jersey on the way to the start line. Many thanks to Chris Street and Dave Zatz for their kind and generous efforts.

Windshied wipers

More than just a mere annoyance, Dodge’s nonfunctioning wipers were a potential safety issue and source of endless tickets in certain unreasonable northern states that require “a functional windshield clearing device” in their road codes. After failing to source a replacement wiper motor the team was looking at the prospect of having to go with the old standby strings-through-the-wing-windows-attached-to-the-wiper-arms gambit. Feeling like there was nothing else to lose, Crash applied his meager mechanical skills and removed the three nuts holding the wiper motor to the firewall, pried it away just enough to give access to the cam without dislodging or breaking the wiper motor arm linkages and went to town on the bits of the cam and motor he could see with the team’s old standby, PB Blaster.  A few minutes and wrench turns later, and voila!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sESo0mchkGQ

Now, if we only could address the “big” issues that are still dogging Dodge — oil pressure, venting coolant and underperforming fuel pumps (yes, plural) — any one of which still could leave us on the side of the road at any moment.

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Crash took Dodge on a little road trip this weekend, about 140 miles total all on interstates and state highways, so Dodge could get a little love at the “big” early summer Hot Rod show (update on the show to follow).  Dodge did great all the way up and *almost* all the way back, until two miles from Crash’s pad.  At that point, three seemingly unrelated things happened:

1. Oil light. Crash immediately killed the engine and coasted to a safe spot on the side of the road. A quick check of the dipstick indicated a slight oil loss (less then an eighth of a quart) and while hot, the oil temp did not seem to be critical.  The oil light went off after a brief cooldown.

2. Coolant leak. Once the car stopped, a small amount of coolant began leaking from the bottom radiator hose. A gentle squeeze of of the hose incresed the dribble to a flow, but not a flood. It stopped on its own after a few minutes with less than a quart of coolant lost.  Closer inspection reveals the hose clamp was either fitted incorrectly or had backed off the fitting slightly. Upon repositioning and tightening the hose clamp and a subsequent test drive later in the day, the coolant leak did not reoccur. To be on the safe side, the original and aged radiator cap has been replaced with a snazzy new one.

3. Electric fuel pump.  After the cooldown, Crash was able to restart the car and get a few hundred yards before the engine suddenly died. Once again coasting to a safe spot on the side of the road and popping the hood, the fuel filter was observed to be completely empty. The electric fuel pump, while powered, was unable to fill the fuel filter more than one eighth full.  Crash switched the lines back to the mechanical fuel pump (which conventiently had been left installed) and was able to fill the filter three-quarters full.  Some time later, Crash switched the lines back to the electric fuel pump and it performed normally (with perhaps the slightest reduction in the volume of fuel it is delivering to the filter).

All three of these issues would seem to relate to heat. However, the temp gauge never went above 200 degrees even when the car was going flat out at [Crash takes the fifth here, but suffice it to say an impressively large number] miles per hour for over an hour.

The sleuthing (and banging of heads against walls) continues.  With less than four days before the team is schedule to (for the second time) try to get the car to New York for the start of the Rally, it may be time to figure out how to live with the problems rather than try to solve them.

Unrelated to the above but also of note, Dodge is the *least* convenient and comfortable car THOTC has taken on the BABE Rally, and so the team already has quite enough problems to figure out how to live with already.

More to come.

 

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Crash spent a white-knuckled 90 minutes under the car (did we mention Crash is claustrophobic?) replacing the fuel line between the tank and the fuel pump. It certainly looks pretty, but unforuntately did nothing to address the Dart’s performance issues at or around 45 miles per hour.  The cover is on the car for the night, and there are competing theories about what might be causing the problem:

  1. In the “we’re completely boned” category, there is some thinking that the timing chain might be bad. As there is no way to diagnose this short of replacing the timing chain and  doing so is beyond the team’s means, if the process of elimination leads us here then the Dart definitely will be out of the Rally this year. However, there is an equally strong argument that the car wouldn’t be performing as well as it does at speeds below 45 or 50mph if the timing chain was bad. So, there still is hope.
  2. In the “fixed doesn’t always mean fixed” category, even though the carb was rebuilt two weeks ago, there is some possibility there was some fouling after the reinstallation, the jets might not have been set correctly, or the float might not be set correctly. The easiest way to address this issue would be to put another carb known to be good on the car for testing and the team is reaching out to the local Mopar community to see if someone has a Holley 1920 we could borrow. However, again, the car’s performance at speeds up to 45-ish mph does not indicate any significant aspiration problems.
  3. In the “history repeats itself” category, there is a theory that something partially blocking the exhaust (like an old rats nest in the muffler – ick!) could be creating exhaust backpressure at higher speeds that is interfering with normal engine function. As our long-time fans may recall, we had a performance problem with our ’89 Dodge Shadow in the 2010 BABE Rally that was the result of a blocked catalytic converter and there are some similarities between the symptoms. The Dart was (and still is, to a lesser extent) blowing oil out the oil filler cap and through the PCV, suggesting pressure in the crankcase that shouldn’t be there. This should be easy to test (tomorrow, hopefully) by dropping the downpipe at the exhaust manifold and taking it for a test drive. However, this isn’t a no-brainer as this problem should be accomopanies by a spike in engine temperature that hasn’t been there.

The team is eager for input on the above theories, as well as others we can consider and test quickly.  If we don’t have the Dart sorted by this time next week, it (and possibly the team) will be out of the Rally.

 

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Crash defied his whole “I’m the MacGyver, not the mechanic” disclaimer by replacing Dodge’s distributor (and the cap and rotor for good measure) and getting the timing adjusted all by himself. (Burn still is dumbstruck.)

The car actually starts, runs and drives beautifully… right up to 45mph at which point the same loss of power that has been plaguing the team for a week recurs. The team is at a loss as to where to go next and rapidly is running out of time.

A few observations:

  1. The nylon mesh gear at the base of the old distributor was not visibly damaged or worn when compared to the gear at the base of the new distributor.
  2. The old and new distributors, rotors and caps appear fundamentally identical in design and construction.
  3. There was absolutely no change in performance with the new distributor, rotor and cap as compared to the old ones.

After driving the car a bit more and then allowing it to cool down, Crash will inspect the new rotor to see if it is beaten and bent in the same fashion as the two that were run on the old distributor.

Unless the team is missing something, ignition does not appear to be the issue. As the fuel pump and filter were replaced last week, if there is a fuel delivery issue it is either happening at the tank, in the line between tank and pump, or inside the carb.  Replacing the aged hard fuel line between tank and pump may be the next step. However, the team is open to other ideas…

Additional photos (click to enlarge):

  

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The Dart is dead, long live the Dart!  In a classic “frying pan into the fire” move,  THOTC has replaced its short-lived 1964 NASDart — rescued from sitting five years in a field in Alabama — with Dodge, a 1969 Dodge Dart Custom that sat behind a barn in middle Georgia for *fifteen* years.

After more than sixty hours of effort by Crash,  Burn,  honorary Third Horseman Paul Chambers, and a small army of volunteers, Dodge runs, drives and mostly stops.  Stay tuned to learn more about Dodge and the many,  many preparations for his upcoming dash for glory in the 2012 BABE Rally!

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Meet the Dodge. Our ’69 Dart has been sitting for 15 years in a hay barn before we ressurected her (sorta) for her new BABE and mission specific duties!

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After spending 18 of the last 27 hours working on our plan B car, Crash and Burn are now readying for the big reveal tomorrow hopefully)!

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