Spring Repairs

I won’t bore anybody with the details of the insurance claim for the damage incurred when my car got backed into in the motel parking lot in March. In summary, they said they’d pay for me to have the front clam replaced, then they sent me a check for less than they said and it took some back-and-forth to get that explained. I’m still waiting for them to deal with the other party’s insurance, so I should be getting another $600 from them to cover my deductible.

Of course, that money started burning a hole in my pocket right away. Before I even had the check, I was exploring the possibilities.

A new clam would use up all the money, plus some (which, theoretically I’d get reimbursed). But I’d have a nice, shiny clam installed and painted by a professional. I might be without the car for six or eight weeks (or more?) while the work was done.

But I have a list of other work I’d like to do to the car. I replaced the transmission not long ago. The third gear synchro was going out and it was cheaper to replace than to have repaired. Supposedly. I don’t know if the transmission I bought (online, from an individual rather than a company) was bad when I bought it or went bad very quickly. Same issue: third-gear synchro. For a while, it was okay when everything was warmed up, but when still cold, third would grind. So for the last year or more, I often skipped third gear and went straight from second to fourth.

On the second day at Barber, though, third gear was crunchy all day, even when well warmed up. I need to either repair or replace the transmission. Again. Sigh.

If I’m going to go to the trouble to replace the transmission, I should also replace the clutch. We replaced the clutch when we did the last transmission, so it only has about 25,000 miles on it.

When we installed the previous transmission, we had to make some adjustments to the shifter cables. It seemed to me that we had reached the limit of the adjustments we could make, but I could be in error. I found there are cables I can get that are upgrades – they have heim joints on each end. While we’re in there doing the transmission and clutch, we may as well replace the cables, too.

Finally, I’ve decided that my solid motor mounts are the cause of my electrical issues on last spring’s trip to Atlanta. With the solid mounts, the entire car vibrates and buzzes and I’m blaming this vibration for the electrical short.

I decided to return to stock motor mounts for the left and right sides and leave the solid mounts in for the front and rear.

I discussed all this with Mike and the guys on my LeMons racing team. Mike seems to get his jollies by working on cars with Toyota engines and transmissions. It turns out that he also has some experience with fiberglass repairs.

Not long ago, Mike bought himself an Elise. It needs some work on the front clam. So Mike and I came to an agreement: If I bought a replacement transmission, clutch, cables, and motor mounts, he’d do the work in exchange for keeping my old, bad transmission. Also, if I buy all the materials and supplies needed to repair both clams, he would do the bodywork. He would also show me how to do fiberglass repairs if I wanted to learn. When it was all said and done, I should have a few dollars left over from the insurance settlement. What’s not to like?

Two weeks ago, I took the car over to Mike’s place. We He worked on it all day Saturday (from about 10am to after midnight) and for a few hours on Sunday. Driving it home, I noticed two problems. First, I had to use the reverse lockout to get the car into first or second gears and second, the parking brake indicator light is always on now.

The first problem was relatively easy to fix. This involves adjusting the cables. I started in the back, on the transmission, but that wasn’t working. Adjustments can also be made to the shifter mechanism. This was the solution.

The brake light is another story. Somewhere along the line, we lost a part. When you release the parking brake, the handle comes down on a little part that is then pushed forward to press a button. We’ve looked everywhere, but can’t find it. If the part was a little bigger, I’d suggest I’ll find it as soon as I buy a replacement.

It’s been two weeks since the repairs were complete, but today was the first time I’ve had the car on the highway. The transmission is a straight swap for the original equipment: Toyota C64 transmission with LSD. Except that this one has the Toyota Celica sixth gear, which is a little taller. In sixth gear, the engine is revving 11% less. It will have no effect on the track, as I’ve never used sixth on track. Heck, some tracks I don’t even get into fifth. I’m expecting that on my next road trip, I may be able to top 40 miles to the gallon of gas.

The motor mounts also make a big difference. I still have the stiffness I want under acceleration, but the car is a lot more civilized. You can hold a conversation without yelling and your fillings don’t want to vibrate right out of your teeth. I’m pretty happy about that.

We don’t have a definite schedule for the bodywork yet. My only request is that we get it completed before LOG, which is late September. Mike’s car currently has an orange front clam on it. That’s not the bad one. When we do the bodywork, we’ll put his orange clam on my car so I can still drive it while. I’m sure it’ll look fairly hideous, but all-in-all, I’m happier driving a hideous-looking Elise than not driving an Elise at all.

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