Friday, July 22, 2005

Welding Primer Article in Make Magazine

Everybody's asking, "why don't you get more done?" Because I have been writing for Make Magazine. Even if I didn't write for Make, it would be one of my absolute favorite magazines. People doing interesting things, getting stuff done, screwing up and smashing their thumbs with hammers. It is an honorable publication that is on the path of the super cool old Popular Mechanics, Mechanix Illustrated and Popular Science.

So, in the upcoming issue number 3, Mister Jalopy teaches a welding primer. These little MIG welders do a surprisingly good job and practically fit in your glove box. The enclosed photograph... all I can say, digital cameras should have adjustable timers. Whatever time my camera allows, it was pretty damn tight to press the button with welding gloves on, run around my welding table, trip over the dog, scold the dog, get the dog out of the hazard zone, put on my welding helmet, turn on the welder and start welding.

Now, if we can just convince Mark to do some of the projects in the old Scientific American Amateur Scientist features. I keep telling him, I will build the home x-ray machine if he will just submit to a couple experimental x-rays. I am sure we will get the power dialed in after a couple tries. And I will supply a lead hat!

Some Dust Removed! Treasures Uncovered! Issues Found!

No wonder so many municipalities outlawed subversive pinball machines. This is the GTA: San Andreas sex scandal of the 70s. Her picket sign might as well say 'Ring My Bell' and the clever placement of the censorship star hides the reach-around about as well as the mosaics of Japanese porn. In 1981, a girl that rode my school bus had that same pair of jeans - which very nearly killed me.

The trash pinball machine is damn complicated. And violent. When you lift the playfield and cycle a game, it is like a Dallas lightening storm of relays and solenoids popping, spitting, sparking and cussing with a little Pigpen dust cloud hovering over the whole enterprise. Luckily, there is the superb PinballHQ repair site that is really a world class and generous effort. This is the greatest aspect of the maturation of the internet - obsessives obsessing. There is a downside, though. It sucks you in, and before you know it, you can't imagine how you have lived without a 1926 Bartlett Nickel Digger , the lung testing 1905 Mills Novelty Weight Blower or the horrifically racist and gory Smack a Jap Keep Them Bombing. I hope I find one of those in the trash.

So what is wrong with the Capt Fantastic? Quite a bit, and at the same time, not so much. The electromechanical games require lots of non-digital record keeping like score, who plays next, what ball is in play, etc. To do this requires the machine to be set to a baseline before each game. That is more complicated than it sounds.

The "Repair Electromechanical Coin Operated Games to 1978" is very robust and includes the key to troubleshooting this complex baseline reset:

Bally Start-Up Sequence.

  1. Coin is inserted into the game. The coin relay will energize. It will stay energized through its own hold-in switch and a score motor switch. If the credit button is pressed (instead of a coin being inserted) and there are credits, the credit relay will be energized which energizes the coin relay.
  2. The coin relay will energize the lock relay (this turns the general illumination on). The lock relay will stay energized through its own hold-in switch and a delay relay switch.
  3. The coin relay will energize the reset relay, through a game over relay switch (if your game won't start, try cleaning the contacts on the game over relay; a very common Bally problem).
  4. The score motor will operate. This will energize the score reset relay(s). The score reset relay(s) will attempt to clear the score reels to zero. This is done by operating the score motor. Each turn of the score motor will operate the reset relay once, which in turns moves a score reel one position, until the score reel(s) are at zero. If the score motor continues to run when a game is started, there's a good chance the zero position switch on the score reel(s) is dirty or mis-adjusted.
  5. The coin relay, through the score motor, will advance the total play meter.
  6. The reset relay, through the score motor, will reset the stepper units (zero the ball count and player units).
  7. The coin relay, through the score motor, will decrement the credit unit.
  8. The coin relay, through the score motor, will energize the game over latch relay coil.
  9. The coin relay, through the score motor, will energize the 100,000 relay latch coil(s) (if the game supports scores greater than 99,999).
  10. If the outhole switch is closed (single ball games) or the ball trough switches are closed (multi-ball games), a ball is released to the shooter lane through the outhole relay (single ball game) or ball release relay (multi-ball game) and the score motor.
  11. On multi-player games, the credit button may be pushed again to add a player. This time the coin relay will not energize the reset relay. Instead it will (through the score motor) advance the total play meter, decrement the credit unit, and advance the coin unit.
Now, try following that without a schematic.

Problem number one. When it is trying to reset the score wheels, some of the score wheel solenoids are stuck as a pig at the Great Molasses flood. So, it never gets reset. There are relays that are triggered when the scoring is reset, and if you randomly poke at them with the eraser end of a pencil, sometimes you can fool Captain Fantastic into letting you play. Clearly, some of these solenoids need to be replaced and Jeremy pointed me to the excellent pinball superstore Marco Specialities.

Problem Number Two. This selector control is not working correctly. It doesn't want to advance to the next position despite an intense desire to do so. It could hardly give it more effort as I expect it to burst into flames any second. It may be missing a spring. Or it may just be stuck with goo.

So, I have a couple hours in at this point, and with the exception of a scrap of 400 grit sandpaper and a little contact cleaner, I am still up a quarter. Anybody have a PDF schematic and troubleshooting book?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

American Garages Available Stateside

Everybody has been asking, how can I get a copy of American Garages outside of Japan? I tried to get a stack to sell to loyal Hooptyriders and, through my superior negotiating skills, I was able to drive the price to more than retail! So much for globalization at Hooptyrides. Now available at Yes Asia!

Prior posts to my schoolboy fascination (1, 2, 3, 4)

Then when Garage Life shot my garage (1)

And when the American Garages issue came out (1,2,3,4)

I have already lined up a couple of garages for Kouki to shoot on his next stateside trip!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

David Carradine! XYZ! Your fly is open, dude!

Coop and I were on our way back from Fabulous Fantasies when we spotted this black Ferrari Mondial with the gas door open and no license plates. I pleaded to catch up so I could take a photo. The case could be made that there is no bad Ferrari and that argument could hold water if it were not for the Mondial. Even the Ferrari 400i is pretty cool in that over the top Italian design sort of way and, after all, even though the 400i was a four seater, it was Enzo's daily driver. There is no excuse for the Mondial. V-8. Four seater. Uninspired design. No wonder they cost less than a new Civic. And check out this sobering thread on Ferrari maintenence costs. Valve adjustment requires removing the engine!

So, who owns a Mondial? With the gas door open? Without plates? A $15,000 car that requires $6,000 tune ups? David Kung Fu-Fucking Carradine! My camera is not discreet and when he saw me taking his picture, a look of pure hate washed over his face. As if I asked if I could take a crap in his hat!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Sweet Rich Abundance!

Clearly, I am powerless against the powers of obtainium. There is a never ending onslaught of really cool stuff and sometimes I am just in the way of it. Last Thursday night, I was on the way out for the evening and a mere block from my house I spied a pinball curbside! I flipped a bitch and sure enough, there was Capt. Fantastic hauled out to the trash! I raced home, got my refrigerator dolly and ran back the block to retrieve my score. There was no possible way to get the complete but disassembled machine back as the head was disattached and I am no miracle worker. With the machine attached and the legs sticking out like a dead beetle, I was too wide for the sidewalk and had to drag down the middle of the street to my house. Quick. I was afraid somebody was going to lay claim to the head and then where would I be?

With the bulk of the machine in my driveway, I raced back down the street in the Country Squire and there was a grizzled alcoholic pawing the Captian Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy backglass. I excused myself as I pushed past him and loaded the head into the back of the wagon. A tired old wino is no match for my pinball desires. He said, 'Ok, you can have that, but I am taking this!' as he thumped his hand on a shit brown file cabinet. Whatever, pruno.

Knowing the pop culture oracle had pinball machines, I called him to gloat and get the skinny on my find. Naturally, he knew everything about the machine, the artist who did the backglass, the complete history of Bally, pornographic pinball bootlegs, the movers and shakers in the San Fernando Valley pinball world. He even had the Captain Fantastic pinball in the his personal pinball hierarchy in the lofty postion of number three (after Fireball and Wizard.) After I was peppered with questions, we figured out this is the ultra-desirable, pre-censorship version with Hitler cheering on the pinball wizard. There is some subversive shit in that backglass. It is like a 1970's Hieronymus Bosch.

Does it work? Of course not! It was free for Christ's sake! People generally don't throw away shit that works (but then again, they don't generally throw away thousand dollar pinball machines either.) It works a little. I replaced a fuse, connected the head, cleaned up the coin mech, retrieved a stuck 1983 25 cents real live quarter, was able to rack up a credit, get the lone ball unstuck and start the game. Sort of. It is stuck in a 'reset the dials' mode and won't start actual thrilling play. I have monkeyed with it for a total of about 15 minutes so the limited progress is to be expected. I have high hopes. And before everybody gets carried away with how lucky I am, nothing like that ever happens to me, etc., it should be pointed out that the C-clamp seen in the lower center of the picture was not included in the -.25 cent price. That was from the Jalopy garage. Just to be clear.

I am not afraid! I fixed a Seeburg DS-160 jukebox that was also terrifically complicated. Just cleaning the playfield, replacing the rubber bumpers and washing the backglass will be a great deal of fun. I haven't disturbed a speck of dust, because the initial cleaning is perhaps the finest minutes of ownership. Getting something out of the trash that looks like garbage and turning into something spectacular is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. After putting in the effort, I am always tempted to show it to the previous owners who threw it away or sold it for a pittance and say, 'You lazy bums! Look at this thing! It's magnificent! It is better than anything in your house and you threw it away! What's wrong with you!?'

You see, I am powerless against junk. I am like a junk magnet. If I am forced to leave my property lines, stuff just finds me. Granted, I am a predatory buyer and relentless trash picker. If given the choice of walking down the sidewalk or the alley, I will always pick the alley as I find what people are hiding in the back is invariably more interesting than what they are proudly displaying in the front. I can't walk past a trash can without looking inside and will turn around the car to retrieve a magazine from the middle of the street. Life is a rich bounty. The things we find in the trash are better than our forebears could have ever hoped to buy.

UPDATE: I would say I found my people, but they found me!!

Beautiful Torrance, California

Without reservation, I can say that I have never seen a better sign. Equal, perhaps, but never better. The fact that the blinking arrow is still working proves that Mr. Schimmick knows he has a good thing going. I'd buy damn near anything he was selling, especially the sign.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Good God! Return the fenders!

Always a sucker for Land Rovers, Keith's Page De Home is a terrific find. He has a spiffy Miata, a decent enough old Cadillac, a Caterham 7 kit and a trusty Subaru, but it is the Land Rover that gets you thinking. These old Rovers reek of the sun setting over the shrinking British Empire, of rhino charging your aluminum fenders, of trudging through mud bogs up to the door handles and careening over alpine mountian passes above the treeline but you don't think anybody is actually crazy enough to take these aging, creaky beasts into the real unknown. Keith is! He is that crazy. And crazier. If the pictures of Basil the Land Rover stuck in giant pools of molasses aren't enough to give you an upset stomach, check out the pictures of Basil stripped to the bone for a frame swap. When the project starts like this, it is officially too big a project.

Comparatively, I appear to be a sane naysayer.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Ford Country Squire Hooptyride

Everybody is asking, what became of the 1965 Ford Country Squire? What about the bare knuckle fist fights? What about the ever-present cooler of cold tall boys? What happened to the glory, the path to the West, industry and the American Way? Have you given up on Ford and, by proxy, the American Dream?

Progress is being made almost daily to the detriment of all other projects. The breadth of projects means even modest progress across the spectrum is impossible and priorities are assigned based on what I feel like doing on any given day.

I removed the F and the O from the tailgate FORD and moved the R and the D next to each other. I welded up the old F and O holes. Using a 60s Corvette Stingray insignia as inspiration, the master Jose Lopez painted the new Hooptyride brand.

Hooptyrides - Honest Cars for Liars

Purchase was difficult and required extensive negotiations. This is no Barrett Jackson auction with assholes in blazers jumping up and down to convince the rich and stupid that Hemis are worth a million dollars. You will not see a Ford Country Squire of this demeanor at Scottsdale or Monterey. To find an automobile's true character, look for giant pools of transmission fluid and often the source is a neglected jewel. In my negotiations, I was pitted against an unnamed bidder that had made a preliminary offer of a small wad of dirty bills, a free apartment carpet cleaning and a bag of grass. Imagine that scenario at Barrett Jackson.
"The fellow in the woody wagon themed aloha shirt has bid $125,000, a case of Mickey's Big Mouth, a carton of Marlboro Menthols, a 27" color television, a halogen desk lamp, a Tweety Bird steering wheel cover, last Sunday's coupon insert, a roll of quarters, a white leather women's fringe jacket, a pair of jumper cables and tub of port wine cheese spread. Do I hear, $130,000, a free apartment carpet cleaning and a bag of grass? Going once..."
- Ford Country Squire put up on open market
- Ford Country Squire removed from open market, back into collection
- Interior and exterior cleaned
- All exterior trim and roof rack removed. Wet sanded entire car by hand. Random orbit sanded faux wood sides
- Cleaned the hell out of the engine
- Tuned up, installed Pertronix electronic ignition, new cap, rotor, plug wires. Back firing resolved.
- Masked and primed the faux wood sides for new super deluxe treatment
- Deliver to Jose Lopez for legendary ghost town creepy paint job
- Asked Jose to paint real extra scary hood ornament and he did
- Completely disassemble third row seats, wire brush foot well, treat with POR-15, spray with trunk splatter paint and reassemble. I think I have photos of this process and it turned out extremely fantastic beyond expectations.
- Replace leaky Motorcraft carb with Holley 750 CFM four barrel. A little big? Sure, but you use what you got! Note: if anybody has any clever ideas of how to get the original air cleaner to fit on the Holley, I would love to hear it.
- Replaced carpet
- Install drag race seat belt
- Fixed exhaust leaks
- Fixed (some) of the trans leaks
- Changed oil and filter
- Tuned up all door handles and lock mechanisms
- Disassembled tail gate and cleaned considerable flora and limited fauna
- Replaced hood chrome lip, hood rubber bumpers
- Replaced battery
- Jose finishes wood sides with coordinating fiberglass wood surrounds
- Reassemble faux wood trim with new WellNuts (extremely difficult to find the right WellNuts)

Still to do
- Replace dome light
- Replace letters on hood
- Rebuild some front end components
- Finish interior
- Replace rear window switch
- Replace Country Squire side chrome trim
- Other trans leak?
- Drag race
- Address crummy looking wheels