Something's Not Right

Did you ever walk by a car at a show and think... that car looks confused... it just doesn't seem to know what it wants to be? Well, that happened to me a few weeks ago.

Here's what happened. I walked out in the garage and looked at the Polara and something just didn't look right. Here was a big block, 4 speed Dodge with a huge hood scoop, dual inlet Holley 750, semi radical cam and stock exhaust manifolds. Although it seems to run just fine that way, it just seemed wrong.

If you remember or have been following this build you know I had a set of Hooker headers on the engine before installation and once the engine was installed I removed them. The thought at the time was that I was trying to replicate the stock appearance of an original 426 Street Wedge and the headers didn't fit with that concept. Well, this build has morphed once already so it might as well morph once more and actually look the part... at least in the engine compartment anyway. Since the temps were a little cool for body work I decided to clear up the confusion and re-install the headers. This was not a decision I made lightly. I actually thought about it for several days before taking the plunge and it took a LOT of work to get those things back on too. Luckily I had dinged and dented the headers for clearance before the engine setup was installed in the chassis so I didn't have to worry about clearance issues but installing headers in an early "B" body with the engine in the car is not a simple job. It requires jacking up the passengers side of the engine at least 3 inches and disconnecting the clutch linkage and removing the steering shaft and column.

With all that done the Hookers were re-installed. This took about 5 days working about 3 hours a day. Keep in mind that I was doing my best not to scratch the headers or the engine compartment paint so work went slowly. In the end everything went in smoothly and I was happy with the result. The engine compartment no longer looks completely confused. The only thing left is to swap out the air cleaner. Somehow the stock Street Wedge air cleaner just doesn't work with the new "performance" concept. This air cleaner took a lot of work to make and I'm not looking forward to removing it, but I think that's what really needs to happen.

With the headers installed I new I was going to have to replace the spark plug wiring. On a BB Mopar headers make running the wires difficult to say the least. Because the header tubes in some cases are very close to the spark plugs care must be taken to route the wires to areas where the heat won't melt their insulation. After studying the problem for a couple hours I decided that I could get away with a set of wires that had 90 degree spark plug boots. This was going to require me to fabricate a custom bracket for the #6 an #8 wires on the passenger side in order to run the wires under the headers and then up to the distributor. I like to run the wires this way because it just looks better and is neat and tidy instead of having wires going every which way and cluttering up the engine compartment. Here is the bracket I made. It bolts to the engine using two of the oil pan bolts and holds the #8 plug wire next to the engine block. The #6 wire runs down and is loomed together with the #8 wire and both run along the engine block up to the engine mount and from there up to the distributor. The driver's side was no where near as difficult. Here you can see the #8 wire in the bracket. The second photo shows a better view of the bracket and how it holds the wires away from the header. Although it looks like the wires are close there is actually 2" clearance between the header tube and the wires. The third pic shows how the bracket mounts to the oil pan.

The wires are 8mm Accel and are red to match the interior of the car. The distributor boots supplied with these wires are also 90 degree. I like straight boots for the distributor so I used a set I had laying around from another project and the finished wires seem to fit in with the period performance look I'm going for.

Here you can see an old NASCAR tick to loom wires together. Just four zip ties and you have yourself organized wires.

With the installation of the headers I had to cut the existing pipes and fabricate new connections to the header collectors. Not a big job but had to be done and everything worked out and fit just fine. The headers are currently open so I can run the engine and cure the VHT ceramic coating on the headers. The instructions said to run the engine at idle for 10 minutes then let it cool completely and run it again for 10 minutes at idle to finish curing the coating.

Now for the other "modification" that my twisted mind came up with this month.

One of the problems with today's fuel is that it evaporates much faster than good old "gas" used to. That means if your car sits for a week or two between starts, like a lot of classic cars do, you have to crank the crap out of it to fill the fuel bowls in the carburetor so it will finally fire up. Either that or you have to pull off the air cleaner and prime the carb. Either way, its a pain in the ass. So.... what's the easiest way to solve this problem? For me it is an electric fuel pump which is used ONLY for priming the carb prior to starting the car.

I did a lot of research on this before deciding to do this but I'm very glad I did because it works just as I hoped it would. The first thing you need to understand is that not all external electric pumps are created equal. You must have a pump that will allow the mechanical pump to pull fuel through it when the electric pump is NOT running. If you have a pump that will not allow this it can be used but requires different more complex plumbing. In my case I used an Airtex E8090 12 volt pump rated at approximately 7 psi. I chose this pump after talking to the Airtex tech department. They assured me this pump was a flow through design and my mechanical pump would have no problem pulling fuel through it. They were correct. The first thing I did was to install a fuel pressure gauge so I cold tell how much pressure the electric pump could produce when pumping through the mechanical pump.

Now I'm not going give a tutorial of how to install this pump but I will say two things. First, mount it as close to the fuel tank as possible. These pumps push fuel much better than pulling it so close to the tank is necessary. Second, the instructions say to make sure the outlet of the pump is slightly higher than the inlet. I'm not sure exactly why this is, but do it anyway. People who complain that external electric pumps don't last generally didn't install them correctly so if you follow the instructions generally you can't go wrong. You can see in the pic below the outlet is higher than the inlet of the pump which is what the directions say is required for proper operation. A filter is also used between the tank and the pump to keep garbage out of the pump. The wires you see are the air line for the shock, the ground for the tank sending unit, and the power and ground wire for the pump itself.

The rest of the plumbing for a priming pump is easy. This pump, as well as most external pumps can push fuel through a mechanical pump up to the carburetor. This is because of how a mechanical pump works. Inside a mechanical pump there is a spring loaded, lever actuated "bellows". This creates the "suction". When the cam lobe activates the bellows it pulls fuel through a one way valve into the pump. When the bellows returns to its normal position the pressure of the fuel closes the tank side valve and opens the carburetor side valve and pushes the fuel up to the carburetor. These "reed" type valves are one way so the fuel can only flow in one direction. Fuel under pressure from an electric pump will force open the "in" valve in the mechanical pump and it will also force the "out" valve open at the same time. The fuel will then flow to the carburetor filling the bowls so the engine will fire quickly. In my case this electric pump provides almost 7 psi at the carburetor. More than enough to fill the bowls in just a few seconds.

Now, all this may seem pretty simple but there is a "catch". If your mechanical fuel pump bellows ruptures there is the possibility you can pump raw gas into the oil pan. Not a good thing to say the least. So, if you're going to do this make sure your mechanical pump is in good condition. In the case of using the electric pump only as a priming pump the chances of rupturing the mechanical pump's bellows is extremely unlikely. To limit the chances of this happening I used a spring loaded toggle switch to run the electric pump. This means you have to physically hold the switch in the "ON" position for the pump to run. So there is virtually no chance of accidentally leaving the pump on while driving or for a prolonged period of time. Problem solved. Here is where I located my spring actuated switch. Just under the dash near the parking brake release.

Finally this month, I actually did do some body work. It was warm enough for a couple days to allow me to paint the underside of the trunk and a couple days later the wife and I installed it. There were also enough days when the weather was warm enough that I actually managed to do the entire drivers side of the car. So all the little dings, creases, and dents on that side are now fixed. I'll continue to work my way around the car and finish the rest in the coming month. Then all that is necessary will be to sand the entire car and shoot a full coat of filler primer. Then it will be on to block sanding... oh, joy!

That's it for this update. On to more bodywork and priming. I'm also toying with another idea about the interior, but that will have to wait....

Check back often for more updates...

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