Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Escort Service, Pt. 4 & 5

Alan and I met for the past two weekends to do some minor work to get the car roadworthy1.

We met the weekend before last to do some minor work on the car: attach the sway bar links on the rear suspension, change tie-rod ends in the front, change plugs, put on a different set of wheels (No. 4), change the oil, and test drive it.

Alan changed the plugs and oil easily enough. The oil even looked clean in the pan, so we thought that the car may only have the 53,000 miles on it that the previous owner alleges2.

We managed to change the tie rod end that was in worse shape, but we could not get the old one off the other side. It wasn't in terrible shape, so we left it for the time being.

Then it was time for a test drive. Alan took the wheel and proceeded to brake-check a few time to remove some rotor rust. It created a wonderful, metal-on-metal

We took it through Woodstock to pick up some beer3, and all seemed fine. As Alan made the last turn towards home, though, we heard a loud bang. This perplexed and worried us a bit. Neither of us saw the car leave any debris behind, but a close inspection revealed the front sway-bar links were toast. Alan assured me that the car is quite alright without these functioning, provided you don't plan any performing high-G maneuvers at skull-splitting speed4. We decided we'd fix it when we had the engine pulled for the drivetrain swap. Add that to the list.

Last Sunday, I headed out for a couple quick things to tick off the list so Alan could finally commute the monstrosity. We put a "fresh" set of tires/wheels on the car5. We then took a brief interlude to help one of Alan's friends whose car was having brake problems. After a getting the runaround at two places runaround, we dropped off his scoured rotor to be resurfaced and nabbed some replacement lights for the Escort.

Alan replaced the burned-out brake light, and I proceeded to fashion a passenger-side turn signal out of multiple pieces of clear and duct tape. I should have taken a picture, but I didn't. It is a sight to behold.

After, I took the car for my initial spin in it. Having only driven a manual once in my life, it was a trick to "relearn" it. I suppose I'm pretty typical in that I had trouble not killing it in first gear. But I felt pretty smooth finding the rest of the gears after I got going. Which is actually the important part, as I won't be using first gear much when racing. I think I'll get the hang of it. Alan's friend decided to see if he remembered how to drive a manual, and he proceeded to make our already-tired clutch a tired and melting clutch. But it still works, for now.

This Saturday, I may head back to Woodstock to help Alan rip out the upholstery. The carpeting is likely producing the distinctive and persistent funk, which stinks worse than local politics.

Today, I booked hotel rooms in Benton Harbor, Michigan, for April 17 for Alan and I and our respective smarter halves. That day and the day following, we will be spectating another LeMons race in nearby South Haven to get a taste of what we're in for. Alan suggested to his girlfriend that we take our LeMons car there.

Apparently, she said, "Please don't do that to me."

1 This word is used loosely. While the car runs and operates normally, it sure isn't anything most people would be proud to drive on roads.
2 Old Escorts (and old cars in general maybe?) only have a five-digit odometer. So the car could easily have 153,000 miles on it. The wear on the car is supposedly from it being towed behind an RV.
3 It seemed fitting to take our crapcan for a spin to grab some beer. A car this fantastic deserves a toast.
4 One could easily argue this to be a moot point, as the car never achieves such speeds. In fact, burying the needle (the speed-o only goes to 85) may never happen with the current 94 HP 1.9L in it.
5 Alan has a problem. He buys and sells Escort and Miata wheels like they're collector's items. It's some kind of weird compulsion that he must experience while perusing Craigslist. Anyway, he sold the set we'd put on the week before and instead bought a smaller, older, crappier set. Fret not, we'll be changing them again later, as these are not really "raceworthy." But then again, I doubt the car is "raceworthy."


  1. Did you bust a beer bottle over the car when you toasted it, like launching a ship? I buried the needle in our old '81 Escort wagon once. Sure it only goes to 85, but I considered it an accomplishment since it took a lot of time, a long straight stretch of road, and the jettisoning of the spare tire, several Aerosmith cassettes, and the owner's manual

  2. I don't know if that would be a good idea. We might knock something loose that we'd have to replace then.

    I do know the Nugget's needle was buried on more than one occasion, as well. Again, the speed-o only ticked to 85, but that was a major accomplishment, since that thing never had more than three cylinders firing at any given time.

  3. I definitely hit at least 90 on the commute earlier this week. It's actually reasonably capable, though there's no go above that. I have to believe it's actually running on all 4 pots, otherwise it would never go that fast.

  4. I with Amanda on this one. Please don't do that to me.