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'51 Chieftain


PhilAndrews
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Well, I have to say... Since fitting the new tail light lenses, I haven't had anybody behind me give the "OH HECK HE IS BRAKING!" sharp jab on the brakes.

 

That's a good thing. Makes me feel a little safer on the highway particularly in the long evening sun.

 

20210513_194424.jpg.252a7e012cd5e0dfb045811f661df235.jpg

 

Drive safe!

 

Phil

 

 

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Pontiac dashboards from this era are some of the sharpest looking from any of the American manufacturers.  This trend continued into the 1960s.  Mom had a '59 Bonneville, I had a '60 Bonneville, while a relative had a '63 Grand Prix and a '64 Bonneville.  Loved them all, but the '49-'54 Pontiac with that dramatic speaker grille surrounding the clock is very memorable.

 

Sorry, don't want to get your thread off track, but I love these dashboard shots.

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Not at all, it's great that they inspire thought and comment.

I do think that the 1950 Pontiac dash was better than this one, they tired the shapes of the dash together better (the hoop up from the steering into the speedometer, the circles of the gauges into the speaker grille etc) but it's far from an unpleasant place to sit and look at.

 

Phil

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  • 2 weeks later...

Went out last night to get a milkshake. Driving home my brake pedal decided to go to the floor.

 

This morning I jacked the car up to find out why.

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Discovered the brake pipe was interfering with the fuel pipe on full suspension compression because the fuel pipe had a kink in it shouldn't have.

 

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Made up a new line that keeps away from rub and bump areas.

 

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Bled up and tested. Satisfactory.

 

Phil

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Glad you were able to get home safe and sound. Reminds me of a suggestion a fellow enthusiast gave me at a show. He asked if I had a single or dual chamber master brake cylinder. I of course replied, "the single original one." He said, "good luck if you ever blow a line! At least if your front goes, you've got back brakes and vice versa. If I were you, I'd change that cylinder out!" Told the wife and she asked, "what are you going to do?" I replied, "be very, very fast on the emergency brake!" One of the many reasons I replaced the entire system. 

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Dual brakes are nice to have, yes. 

 

However, years of driving single systems has me give a test push on the brakes well in advance of when I need them, to check that something stupid like a drum hasn't bound up and has faded the shoes or boiled the fluid.

 

I do try maintain the system well but as you say, emergency situations arise and there's always a mechanical backup.

 

Phil

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Thinking on his well brakes work, I look at that photo and see I left those skid marks on the highway after a hard jab on the brakes (the "it either works or something goes pop" test) from about 15 mph.

It's the era of car which gives us our stopping distance from speed X. Imagine a modern car taking that distance to stop from what is essentially a very fast sprint. That's 3300 lbs of vehicle on dry tarmac, both front wheels locked so dynamic friction on a very small contact patch (skinny tires) and "panic held" until the car stopped. At that point, Sir Isaac Newton is in the driver's seat, not you, and you need to know it, too.

 

I was taught to anticipate mechanical failure, feel the vehicle, drive it according to its limits and expect any use of the controls to have a potential issue. Also that if you need to use the steering and pedals, drive knowing they are opposites; if you have to steer for a maneuver, don't plan on using the brakes or accelerator during the time you need to steer. Brake first, slightly ahead of needing to. Because if you need your brakes and they don't work then that little extra time you can use to change down a gear or two or use the handbrake if it still works too in order to scrub off enough speed that you can either turn or safely abort. Flip-side, you press on the brakes while turning too fast and you'll exhaust the static friction of the tires and lock the wheels up during the turn- again Newton replaces you as driver.

 

Now, granted in an emergent situation the rules change. You are likely to have to slow down first or swerve, or both. The car is moderately good at the Moose Test- I've actually had to swerve hard loaded 4 up before (granted, usually the first thing you want to do is brake) at about 35 mph which isn't much fun but in terms of retaining control of the vehicle is not bad at all. If the brakes quit you need to swerve; alternatively if you swerve hard and lose a front tire in the event then you'll similarly lose control of the vehicle, so that's also something you rely upon.

 

If I can be taught this, it can be passed down. As a young driver, no, my experience wasn't as rich as it is now but understanding the physics involved in driving a car is important.

 

You may look at me strange when I say my kids will be learning to drive in a car from the 60's. It's a much more forgiving vehicle. It'll lunge and squeal long before it breaks traction, and if it does, it'll give you fair warning beforehand. It's quite easy to feel what's going on in a big barge of a vehicle. They'll also be learning in a modern vehicle with all the mod-cons as the mirror image of that car, to get a flavor of what a car can actually do when the car does a fair bit of the driving for you as you approach its limits.

 

So yes. Scary that it occurred, glad it happened when it happened and who it happened to, but on the flip-side, learning that things can and do go wrong is important. I've had brake failure in a car with dual circuit brakes, in the first year of getting my license. The first press of the pedal returned less braking effort than this did even with a sizeable hole in the pipe. Granted, subsequent pumps brought the brakes back to life in that situation but who would try pump the brakes if they didn't know? It took 5 pumps to get pedal back and even then the brakes were terrible- the handbrake didn't do much because one rear wheel was faded already (rear right brake jammed on going downhill, faded the shoes and boiled the brake fluid).

 

So yes, I agree. Modern cars are safer and that takes into account that drivers, old and new often lack knowledge or skill- road fatality statistics over the years show that- but I plan on trying to instil in my kids that a) it's only a machine and it can and will break b) other people are blithely piloting their cars about completely unaware of the existence of anything around them c) and that nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

 

Hopefully that's enough to prevent them from becoming a statistic.

 

Phil

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Well said Phil. Feeling your drive more than just going through the motions. I shake my head when ever I see car commercials where the car can stop itself to avoid an accident or parallel park itself. A driver needs little experience for this. Ever Canadian winter I have to bare with advertising and near preaching for special winter tires for driving in cold, snowy conditions. Made of softer compounds to aid in stopping and control. One needs to purchase tires and rims just for that season's driving. I believe in the province of Quebec it's the law. If you need them and can afford them, by all means. But don't tell me I need them. I was raised on driving with bias ply's and the last I remember....our winters haven't changed but apparently the drivers have. Cheers!

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Posted (edited)

Well, winter tires if you expect your car to drive similarly to the way it would in summer rain, perhaps... I know snow throws most modern traction control and other driving aids for a hoop.

 

I was taught your standard, clean dry pavement stopping distance doubles in summer rain, quadruples in winter rain and is 10x in snow, 15-20x on ice.

 

Not that we get a lot of cold weather down here, mind you.

 

Phil

Edited by PhilAndrews (see edit history)
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Not much to report.

20210530_100715.jpg.73f4c562e937b6b3bc86b774417f56a8.jpg

I seem to have for the timing right, it's not burning any oil, not too many bangs, squeaks or thumps and generally just having fun driving about.

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It's getting used for all the little local trips (under about 20 miles) because the weather turned pleasant for a few days.

 

Up soon, valve lash, couple of the lifters are getting noisy.

 

Phil

 

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2 hours ago, Summershandy said:

Did you ever end up greasing your leaf springs? 

I did, but there's so much caked up old grease and mud and junk stuck in there that it was difficult to get the leaves to accept any. Plus, as is wont to occur, the leaves have been used as jacking points over the years and the metal outer parts are a bit distorted.

Ideally I need to take the leaves off, dismantle, clean and reassemble them with new bushings.

 

Phil

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I have a '51 Chieftain and I always wondered how it would work to take that metal covering off,take the springs apart,and take out those wooden shims from in between the leaves.Then put it back without the wooden shims and the metal covering.It is just about impossible to get grease in between the leaves and I don't see why it wouldn't work.I'm not concerned about it being original.I am looking for function.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Andy J said:

I have a '51 Chieftain and I always wondered how it would work to take that metal covering off,take the springs apart,and take out those wooden shims from in between the leaves.Then put it back without the wooden shims and the metal covering.It is just about impossible to get grease in between the leaves and I don't see why it wouldn't work.I'm not concerned about it being original.I am looking for function.

I think the original greasing machine worked as much on hope as it did sheer volume of grease.

The main source of noise on mine comes from the bushings.

Edited by PhilAndrews (see edit history)
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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi Phil,

 

Fantastic work mate and what a great read. I hope this is kept on here so other people like myself can use it as a guide. Being in the UK makes it a little harder and more expensive to source parts, so it is great to see how to do some home repairs. Although many of the repairs you have done I wouldn't dream of attempting as i just don't have the skill set.

Question, Have you done any work on your vacuum washer system as i can't get mine to work and would appreciate any advice or help in doing so.

I have two washer bottles, one that was on the car when i bought it and a NOS one that i recently purchased but can't get any flow from either. My car is a 51 also so obviously will be the same set up as yours but i don't know if all the parts are there so some pics of an operating system would also help.

 

Thanks

 

Joe 

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I've spent (or better yet wasted) quite a few hours way back when trying to get these early 50s GM glass jar windshield washer systems to work. I bought new parts, substituted parts from other cars, replaced controls, lines & hoses etc. with no luck and no permanent fix. The best I could do was get one to work for maybe a day or so. I gave up and removed those *&%$#@!! systems from all my cars. If you absolutely MUST have a jar system in your car fill it with fluid and route the hoses so it LOOKS like it works. Just my experiences. 

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Hi 55er,

 

Yep i done the same with my Cadillac but as this is in a more original state I thought i'd try again and i also thought Phil appears to be able to "make the dead walk"😀so maybe he could help.😀

 

Sorry Phil not meaning to hi jack your thread.

 

Joe

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  • 2 weeks later...
Posted (edited)
On 6/24/2021 at 3:59 AM, 47FordCoupe said:

Hi Phil,

 

Fantastic work mate and what a great read. I hope this is kept on here so other people like myself can use it as a guide. Being in the UK makes it a little harder and more expensive to source parts, so it is great to see how to do some home repairs. Although many of the repairs you have done I wouldn't dream of attempting as i just don't have the skill set.

Question, Have you done any work on your vacuum washer system as i can't get mine to work and would appreciate any advice or help in doing so.

I have two washer bottles, one that was on the car when i bought it and a NOS one that i recently purchased but can't get any flow from either. My car is a 51 also so obviously will be the same set up as yours but i don't know if all the parts are there so some pics of an operating system would also help.

 

Thanks

 

Joe 

Joe,

 

Completely missed this, I'm sorry!

 

After much pfaff I have managed to make my pickle jar washer reliable. 

 

Which type do you have? The one with the little UFO on the top or the bakelite one that has all the working parts inside the jar (like mine)?

 

The two main things I had issues with were:

The main seal was dried up and very hard. I took the metal O ring out of the bottom and it all came apart. There are two seals, the bigger one that just seals one way (vacuum) and the smaller one at the bottom (pump).

I forget what I used- might have been brake cleaner but that brought the rubber back around again to being supple. I also squashed it between two pieces of plywood with a heavy weight on top to get it to flare back out again.

Once that's done, if you put your finger over the vacuum port you should not be able to pull the piston out of the bore. If you can, check the valve on the top of the body, there's a rubber seal that on mine was completely perished. It was drawing in through there instead of pulling the piston up.

What's *meant* to happen is if vacuum is held on, the piston is drawn up compressing the spring. Once it reaches the top, the little plastic rod inside pushes the fiberboard flapper inside at the top against the vacuum port, closing it off and at the same time pushing the valve open to atmosphere, meaning the vacuum is blocked and air can get back in, making the piston be pushed down by the spring, pumping fluid to the screen.

Let go of the vacuum and the valve is pushed off the port and the vent valve is closed.

 

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If those 3 rubber pieces are good it should pump.

 

Phil

Edited by PhilAndrews
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Hi Phil,

 

Thanks very much for the explanation and the drawings.

 

I did take one of mine apart last week and spray all parts and rubber with WD40, reassembled it but still no joy.

After reading this last night i took the same one apart to check the rubber parts and all were soft and flexible except the larger seal which was hard and unfortunately brittle as it fell apart as i tested the flexibility!😣

Am i right in thinking this "plunger" is a single part and can't be separated to replace the seal?

 

I do have another which was apparently NOS, That one is on the car at the moment but still doesn't work so i will take that  apart at the weekend to check the rubber with a bit more of a delicate touch.

 

Thanks again, your help is very much appreciated.

 

Joe

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20210708_175950.jpg.3babe20c2883574c35750baf33909239.jpg

Went for a quick drive and the gearbox is actually better now, which is nice.

 

The plunger is a single plastic piece, but the big rubber seal pulls off with a great deal of trepidation. It just sits in the groove.

 

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After having done about 50 miles in it today, doing the valves makes the most noticeable difference to the running. At 45 (pretty much bang on 2000 rpm) it's near silent and progression is made deftly.

In other news I'm now pretty sure I've got something sticking in the throttle modulator circuit on the gearbox to cause the gears to act weird.
Mind you, twice today it changed gears perfectly, through all 4 from a standing start. The throttle modulator is meant to do 2 things: First it modulates the line pressure going to the servos and clutches, making a full throttle gear change much more violent and positive than one at light throttle. That is a simple bleed valve that's opened.
Second it changes the road speed at which the gears change, by putting part of the bleed pressure behind 3 pistons that boost the gear change springs.

So, a catch up on that- the governor spins with road speed, and increases pressure behind the 3 main gear change pistons. Each has a spring (or springs) which are each harder to compress than the last, meaning as road speed increases, pressure against the springs rises, the weak spring is overcome and the valve shuttles, causing the gears to change to 2nd. Then again to 3rd as the second valve shuttles, and then finally 4th. The valves are prevented from shuttling also by the pistons which have force in proportion to gas pedal position behind them meaning a higher road speed pressure is required to shuttle them if the gas pedal is pressed down.

So, the incorrect behavior is thus:
First gear will hold until 3rd gear engages, often missing 2nd or engaging it very briefly. 4th then will not engage until high road speed is achieved. Sometimes releasing the gas pedal makes it shift, other times not and it'll hang in 3rd.
As road speed decreases, it'll sometimes go 4-3-1 and then suddenly to 2 with quite a jerk.
Reverse often engages the parking pawl with the engine running.

Things to bear in mind, the throttle modulator piston is not sprung. It is only returned by hydraulic pressure against the lever arm that actuates it.
There's a secondary shuttle for the line pressure modulator.


Either one of the pistons that push against the gear change valves is sticking open and preventing correct movement or the throttle modulator valve is acting janky.

The throttle modulator valve has been recipient of minimal attention because it's in the top half of the valve block.

I think I'll start there, so perhaps this weekend if the weather allows I'll drop the oil and pull the valve block off again and check the modulator valve assembly in great detail.

It's proven it can change smoothly and correctly. It just needs to do it more often!

Phil

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1 hour ago, john hess said:

you will figure it out Phil..... if anyone can, it's  you...we're rooting for ya... I've got a manual.. sorry,no help. John 

There's a couple of likely culprits, but I'm fairly certain it's something in the throttle modulator circuit that's sticking.

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Posted (edited)
On 7/6/2021 at 8:23 AM, 47FordCoupe said:

Hi Phil,

 

Thanks very much for the explanation and the drawings.

 

I did take one of mine apart last week and spray all parts and rubber with WD40, reassembled it but still no joy.

After reading this last night i took the same one apart to check the rubber parts and all were soft and flexible except the larger seal which was hard and unfortunately brittle as it fell apart as i tested the flexibility!😣

Am i right in thinking this "plunger" is a single part and can't be separated to replace the seal?

 

I do have another which was apparently NOS, That one is on the car at the moment but still doesn't work so i will take that  apart at the weekend to check the rubber with a bit more of a delicate touch.

 

Thanks again, your help is very much appreciated.

 

Joe

 

 

I had a few minutes, so here's a quick rundown of the pump.

 

Phil

Edited by PhilAndrews (see edit history)
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20210724_101242.jpg.271964e1a55200e573747272f4d4a137.jpgoh look, here we are again. Took the valve block apart to clean and polish. 

Fixed the issue where it was engaging the parking pawl when reverse engaged.

No longer drops to 1st from 3rd when slowing down then gently accelerating at about 5mph.

Still sticks in 1st occasionally but can be persuaded to change to 2nd by tapping the throttle.

 

Imperfect but better.

 

Phil

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This popped up in Hemmings a few days ago. Same color as my Dads 1950.

https://img.hmn.com/900x/uimage/80635433.jpg

 

BTW, Ever try using CVT Automatic trans fluid? It has a ingredient your transmission was designed to use that was in Type "A" ATF. It's a bit expensive though I just changed fluid on one of my cars with CVT, $ 180.00 for a case of 12 QTS, and you can't use anything else in that trans.

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8 hours ago, Pfeil said:

This popped up in Hemmings a few days ago. Same color as my Dads 1950.

 

BTW, Ever try using CVT Automatic trans fluid? It has a ingredient your transmission was designed to use that was in Type "A" ATF. It's a bit expensive though I just changed fluid on one of my cars with CVT, $ 180.00 for a case of 12 QTS, and you can't use anything else in that trans.

That's a nice car, looks like it's been kept indoors most of its life. Well outside my price range!

 

I had considered using CVT fluid (Toyota particularly has a very similar composition to Type A) but it's not really a band/clutch issue. My problem appears to be down to the fact the bores are worn and do not slide as freely as they need to in the valve block. I've done as much remedial work as I can to it but it still likes to stick. The tolerances just aren't there any more.

 

Phil

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  • 2 weeks later...
12 hours ago, EmTee said:

 

I like the way you're thinkin'...  ;)

The car has completed 2800 miles so far in my stewardship. 

It's not been parked up and polished, it's been driven about and enjoyed.

 

Phil

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  • 2 weeks later...

20210815_162754.jpg.573919568dfc734e66b5fa1fc6502d4c.jpg

Wrench time! (7/8").

 

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Dropped the oil, it had lost a good portion of its viscosity and was moderately dirty. That said, it's in a lot better condition than it was at 4700 miles when it was done last (now 6000 miles on the odo).

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Refilled with 30W diesel oil, which has many vitamins and minerals in.

Oiled the linkages, greased the suspension, oiled the carb and needles, set the points, set the idle mixture. 

Definitely a car that doing a service makes a noticable difference to how it drives.

 

Phil

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  • 2 weeks later...

Don't know if the car is wrecked after this hurricane. We evacuated to Texas, my house was right in the line of the storm.

I'm trying to find out if the house is not too badly smashed or not. 

I'm expecting the car to be under the garage.

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