First Repairs

Now I had the car, and it was legal to drive.  It was registered with the state, and I had my license plates installed.  Everybody I knew wanted to check out my new ride.  My friends Jim and Randy came by and immediately started finding faults for me.  Isn’t that what friends are for?  The performance wasn’t quite what they expected.  Randy’s first observation was that the fuel filter was most likely clogged, and that the metal fuel line ran too close to the motor, which would cause the fuel to boil in the fuel line.  His recommendation was to replace the metal fuel line with neoprene and add a larger fuel filter in that line.  Replacing the fuel filter was probably not a bad idea, but in hindsight the metal fuel line was not really a problem and also safer as well.  But based on the sage wisdom of those older and wiser than me I made the change as Randy had recommended.  I don’t think it made a difference from a performance standpoint, but everybody was happy I had made the change.

The next thing Randy did was grab hold of the fan blades and started wiggling them.  When he did so the front bearing on the water pump started leaking.  Randy told me “Yup, you need a new water pump.  Bad bearing”.  With my limited knowledge at the time I wasn’t sure if the water pump had been bad or if Randy’s action had damaged it.  But the bearing was now bad and I needed a new water pump.  Repair number two was performed in short order.  This car ownership thing was going to be expensive.  I just wanted to be able to drive, not spend my time fixing stuff.  But I hadn’t seen anything yet.  This was small stuff compared to some of the fixes coming up next.

My friend Jim had been bragging about my car to some of his friends.  Unbeknownst to me, he had challenged some of them to a race.  We went out driving, and Jim asked if he could drive my car.  Next thing I knew we were at his place of work and he was ready to race in my car against a couple of his friends.  I wasn’t completely pleased with the situation, but Jim was known for being able to squeeze every last bit of performance out of a car, and I was curious to see how my new car would fare against these other vehicles.  So off we went.

My memory is a bit hazy about the other two cars Jim was racing.  I believe one as an early to mid 60’s Chevelle.  I do remember that car had a built up 283, 4 speed, and some very steep gears, like 5.38 or so.  That car jumped out ahead, and I could see the driver shifting furiously through the gears about as fast as he could move.  It was almost comical as the car only spent a few seconds in each gear before he had to shift again.  He made it through all 4 gears in the same time that Jim got through first and was just shifting to second.  At that point the other car ran out of steam and we passed him by.  But for the time it lasted that car was really moving.  If I can remember correctly I believe the other car was a Nova with a small block and 4 speed.  We stayed together fairly even with him just a nose ahead.  Eventually he ran out of gear as well and we passed him too.  As we turned around for another pass Jim started to panic.  He said the steering was getting looser as he drove and that we needed to get home right away.  He wouldn’t even let us switch drivers back so I could see what the issue was.

By the time we got back home there was quite a bit of play in the steering.  Now I knew why the car had come with a spare steering box in the trunk.  The previous owner must have known there was a problem with excessive play in the steering.  He had apparently cranked down on the adjuster on the steering box to take up any play temporarily, but the maladjustment caused the gears in the steering box to wear excessively.  More evidence that this car had been through some calamity during its’ past life.

Replacing a steering box was beyond my ability at the time, although it really wasn’t a difficult job.  In fact I later replaced one myself.  But at the time that was way more than I wanted to handle.  I probably wouldn’t even know what a steering box looked like or where to find it on the car.  I found a local business called Jim’s Mustang Service that I chose to replace the steering box.  After all, he advertised that he specialized in Mustangs.  I think that after I started coming to him on a regular basis he was probably considering changing the name of his business.  I brought the car to him.  He inspected the replacement steering box I had and said he could install it.  He made short work of the job and I was back on the road the next day.

The next incident requiring a repair involved my friends Jim and Randy once again.  While Jim had gotten to ride in, and even drive the car, Randy wanted to see just how fast it was.  So we all climbed aboard and I took them both for a demonstration ride.  Jim had bragged about the car to Randy, but Randy wasn’t very impressed with the performance.  He decided it must be my driving that was the issue.  He may have been right, I don’t know.  But I wasn’t keen on letting either of them drive my car.

Randy pressed the issue, and Jim joined him.  They both kept insisting that Jim drive the car.  A lot of finger pointing and name calling ensued.  I continued to refuse.  Some more insults were exchanged.  I was really boiling mad at that point.  I told them “Fine, go ahead”.  I was so angry that I agreed just to get them off my back. It wasn’t that Jim was a bad driver or that I didn’t trust him.  Jim was a very good driver and a lot more experienced than I was.  He used to be a driver’s education aid at our local high school.  He had taught most of my friends how to drive.  I just didn’t want to give up control of my own car.  That and they had both made me so angry I couldn’t take it anymore.

So now Jim was driving my prized possession again.  He took off and banged a quick shift into second gear.  Unfortunately there was a loud clunk from under the dashboard at that point, and the clutch pedal didn’t come back up the way it was supposed to.  Jim had to put his foot under the clutch pedal and push it back up.  He had to perform this action every time he shifted gears.  He limped the car back to his house and parked on the street in front.

I was even angrier at this point and I let Jim and Randy have both barrels.  I was convinced that Jim was responsible, and I hadn’t even wanted to let him drive.  I said I was holding them both responsible for repairing the damage.  I left in a huff and walked home.  Jim and Randy were apologetic and said they would look into repairing the car.  Randy was more of the mechanic of the group at that time so he looked the car over and ordered the repair parts.  The failed part turned out to be the clutch pedal support under the dash.  The bushings had worn out and metal to metal contact caused the support bracket to break.

What I didn’t know then and do know now is that this was a fairly common occurrence in older Mustangs.  The bushing must have failed long before I ever purchased the car.  The breakage occurring while Jim was driving was nothing more than a coincidence, and was destined to fail regardless of who was driving.  Randy was able to locate a replacement part at a local Ford dealer.  The aftermarket has now developed replacement bushings that are much better than the originals and do not fail so easily.  But at the time original parts were all that was available.  I ended up apologizing and assisting Randy with the installation.When Jim and Randy returned the repaired car it would barely move.  Seems the friction material on the clutch disc was entirely worn down to where nothing was left but the hub.  So I ended up having the car towed away and replacing the clutch disc, pressure plate, and throwout bearing.  Randy said it served me right.  He may have been correct with that assertion.  In the end we moved on and remained friends.