Booster Masthead

Restoration Blvd.
August 2005

Columnist — Allen Wright

Making Mistakes and Repairs

Summer is finally here and with daylight savings time and breezy evenings it appears some auto projects may be completed.

The 1962 Plymouth Fury Golden Commando is in the driveway — less its hood and front fenders. The plan is to get the brakes working pretty well — enough to stop it from a slow roll — and replace the dashboard, including the wiring, heater, etc. I need to get the engine compartment ready for the 413 and transmission and install the frame connectors to keep the body rigid with all the horsepower I will be throwing at the wheels.

Speaking of horsepower, Plymouth's May 1962 Owner's Supplement said, "You have just purchased one of the finest automobiles ever produced on an American assembly line for maximum performance, the 413 cu. in. Super Stock-powered Plymouth."

There were two 413s in May of 1962. One was an 11:1 compression model that produced 410 horsepower (one more than the 409 '62 Chevy). The second 413 engine had 13.5:1 compression and Chrysler Motor Corporation stated with a pair of AFB 3447s this engine would put out 420 horsepower at 5400 RPM with 470 pounds of torque at 4400 RPM.

My 413 engine recently was on the engine dyno and produced 423 horsepower at 5300 RPM and 450 pounds of torque at 3400 RPM. All this was done with a single Holley 3310, a Comp Cam, and 9.5:1 compression. I have plenty of horsepower in a very light car that will run on today's gasoline.

Plymouth, in 1962, wanted 102 octane gasoline or higher for the Super Stock 413.

In July of 1962, Chrysler Motor Corporation realized that there may have been problems with the Plymouth and Dodge models with the 413 animal that they had produced. With the Unibody construction, all the horsepower, and all that torque, the back window had a nasty habit of popping out the back of the Dodges and Plymouths. Many a drag racer left the line and also left the back window behind.

Richard Petty raced a '62 Plymouth in NASCAR series and many pictures show the back window taped to his car.

This is why I am installing frame connectors in this two-door hardtop. Frame connectors are cheap — rear windows are expensive. I try to learn from other's mistakes. It is hard enough to explain why at $2.60 per gallon I am driving these cars around, anyway.

Speaking of mistakes, how is this one for a mistake? Last week I had a woman hit my car trailer while it was parked. She was born in 1916 and was 90 years young and I really felt bad about the situation.

The best news about the accident was that no one was hurt. The next best part was that the accident occurred in a body shop parking lot. She was pulling into the body shop to get her car repaired from a prior accident when she ran into my trailer.

The next best part was that a Farmer's Insurance adjuster was there at the body shop working on another customer's claim — and the lady who ran into my car had Farmer's Insurance. That eliminated a lot of extra paperwork.

She apologized for her mistake and called a rental car company that met her at the body shop. The rental car guy that picked her up saw all the bent metal and I'm sure he was wondering what her car would look like once it is returned.

I think Mrs. Jones (not her real name) simply thought she had her foot on the brake to stop when, in fact, she had her foot on the accelerator.

This happened to my Dad when he thought he was hitting the brakes. He ended up driving through the garage door and into the house.

Many years ago, in 1979, I had a similar situation happen to me when I was living in Las Vegas. I was carefully backing my new 1979 Camaro into the garage and somehow I lost control and ended up in the back yard. After paying the claims on my car and my homeowner's policy, Allstate decided that they no longer wanted my business.

There is a lot more to this story including me dating one of the Allstate managers — but that is a story for another time. Mistakes happen and you hopefully learn something along the way.

Here's another classic mistake. After years of loading and unloading car trailers, I finally damaged a car.

Here's what happened. I know that when using a tilt-type trailer extra care needs to be exercised when the vehicle gets close to the center point. I know to move the vehicle very slowly up the ramps keeping one foot on the brake if you are driving it on. It is also a good idea to put the wood stops in front of the front wheels to make sure you don't go too far. Another good idea is to use the winch.

What did I do? Drove the car onto the trailer, a little late on the brake, and ran into the trailer box.

Mistakes happen to everyone.

Here is what I know about electricity in automotive applications: you need a complete circuit to have the device in the vehicle activate. This is true of most systems including auto lighting. You don't need Ohm's Law or resistance measurements. All you need is negative to ground and positive to the light through some switching arrangement.

And when one of my lights went out on my trailer, through the process of simple deduction, I decided a bulb was burned out. But wait! The bulb was in a case that seemed to be sealed.

I recognized the name Grote and remembered that Orange Engine on Ball Road had this brand. They would know how it opens. It has to open. You can see the 1157 bulb in a socket inside.

My buddy, John, at Orange Engine pointed out that this was, in fact, a sealed unit. The bulb does not get replaced. The whole piece is one unit and the whole thing gets replaced.

Okay, I am a dummy and behind the times. I made a bunch of comments about simpler times when you just replaced a bulb and you were all done. Now I replaced the case and hooked up the trailer and all the lights worked. Problem solved.

But that's not the end of the trailer light saga. I thought if I sawed the old unit carefully, I could replace the bulb — the only component with a problem — and then glue the entire unit back together as a spare for another time. All goes well with this project and the bulb is in a standard socket and easily removed.

While doing this "repair," I noticed two things about Grote Unit 1. The socket has a good design and looks fully shock-resistant. This is a good feature with me as the operator.

I also noticed the bulb is made in Taiwan. Therein probably lies the problem. Wrong again, Sparky. The bulb looks good and tests well, even in the case cut in half.

I really hate dealing with negative situations that are unexplainable in auto electrics. If it is working, let it work and forget about any pesky intermittent problems in the past.

I hooked up the trailer last week and one of the guys yelled at me, "Hey, Allen! Your right brake lights are out!" I jumped out and announced, "I have a spare just for these situations." The spare was the one I glued together after being sawed in half — but it was still working.

Then there was another helpful comment from another guy at the trailer yard. He said, "Check the plug. They're usually the problem." A little wiggle at the connector and shazam! The lights worked perfectly.

I knew that, too.

Instead of dwelling on mistakes, it is a lot more fun to think about the engine work and the project this summer. Here's something I'm considering: Chrysler Motors Corporation 413 Super Stock Supplement page 3, "Car Operation for Best Performance," paragraph 3, reads "Do not run engine over 6500 RPM. Wide open throttle bursts must be limited to fifteen seconds in duration."

I won't need to focus too much here. I plan to be through the 1/4 mile in 12 seconds letting the torque flight do all the shifting.

Have a great summer with your family and friends and don't sweat the small stuff! Life is too short.

Originally published in the August/September 2005 Automotive Booster Magazine.
Copyright 2005 by KAL Publications Inc.

Covering the California auto parts aftermarket since 1928.