Thursday, August 14, 2014

X-11 Progress!

It's been about 4 weeks since I dropped a different distributor into the X.

Holy crap, what an improvement.

It could just be a matter of ignition timing. I was never able to turn the other distributor far enough either way to get better timing. It turns out there was a metal vacuum line in the way in one direction, but I couldn't find an obstruction that would keep it from turning the other way.

Could have just pulled that distributor out, turned the case 60 degrees, adjusted the rotor back the other way--all to make what was the #6 spark tower #1. Just swap the plug wires accordingly.

But then, I wouldn't have been able to use this other one I had, would I? =)

The replacement item came with a box of goodies shipped from a guy down near Orlando, Florida. He had a little Holley 4160 4-barrel carb, an Edelbrock intake manifold to fit the X-11's 2.8L V-6, and some miscellaneous bits to make it almost a drop-in weekend project. I paid him $300 and waited. He had the parts in his barn and needed some time to get them together, box them up, etc.

I didn't sweat it. But it did take nearly 2 years.

I could have gassed up the Tracker and taken another road trip...

Nah. No way. According to the Google, the drive down and back would have been even longer than 10 hours there/ten hours back.

No. Way. I don't think the Tracker could make the run, with its engine so close to overhaul time. The little guy deserves a rest.

Fed-Ex did the work instead. The carb turned out to be from a 1972 or so Ford 302 marine engine. It's a little larger than I'd like; the 2.8L V-6 calls for about 350 cfm of air flow. The smallest Holley 4-barrel flows 390 cfm, which is fine. My Holley pulls 450 cfm. That shouldn't be an issue, really.

The intake is Edelbrock's aluminum 2-piece--the manifold itself plus an adapter casting to match a 4-barrel carb. There's also a 2-barrel adapter which would let me either go back to the existing Rochester 2SE carb I'm running or to a Holley alternative. For that matter, with the 4-barrel adapter in place, I could even install one of the all-in-one fuel injection systems from Holley or elsewhere. All it takes is a thousand bucks or so. (heh)

Both the carb and the intake are just going to stay in the box for the time being. To swap it all in will take some planning and some parts I don't have yet. Because the intake was intended for rear-wheel-drive vehicles like the Camaro and S-10/Blazer, the coolant outlet will end up on the passenger-side end of my front-wheel-drive car, so I'll have to work up a long, long, long top radiator hose. I'll also have to design a different air intake. The Holley is huge compared to the little Rochester 2-barrel. There's not a lot of room between the top of the engine and the underside of the hood, so the existing air cleaner would have to go.

The distributor is a mechanical and vacuum advance version of the 2.8's all-electronic item. The car's existing power and tach connectors plug right in, so I went from this:
...with the coil mounted on an ugly homemade bracket and the wiring spliced to plug into the X-11's factory this:
...a factory installation that looks like what the car came with. Except for the computer-controlled stuff.

The past 4 weeks have been amazing. I've gone from a struggling starter to an enthusiastic one for the first time since I got the car in 2009. I'm still getting a little hard-starting trouble when the engine's hot, but I haven't been stranded so far.

Next project is to dial it all in: get the timing set, get the carb adjusted, and hopefully get a little more power out of the thing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

RIP Robin Williams

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”
-- Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. Yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.
- David Foster Wallace

I'd usually add my usual Rush song, "Afterimage," which is my go-to song for someone dying. It's appropriate, given the opening lines--"Suddenly you were gone / From all the lives you left your mark upon."

But they have a much more powerful song, 'The Pass,' on the "Presto" disc that hits pretty hard, the way news of Robin Williams' death did:

Here's a link to the Songfacts page for "The Pass," in which Neil Peart says of suicide that "I just can't relate to it at all, but I wanted to write about it. And the facet that I most wanted to write about was to demythologize it - the same as with 'Manhattan Project' - it demythologized the nuclear age, and it's the same thing with this facet - of taking the nobility out of it and saying that yes, it's sad, it's a horrible, tragic thing if someone takes their own life, but let's not pretend it's a hero's end. It's not a triumph. It's not a heroic epic. It's a tragedy, and it's a personal tragedy for them, but much more so for the people left behind, and I really started to get offended by the samurai kind of values that were attached to it, like here's a warrior that felt it was better to die with honor, and all of that kind of offended me. I can understand someone making the choice; it's their choice to make. I can't relate to it, and I could never imagine it, for myself, but still I thought it's a really important thing to try to get down."

I like Peart's modification of an Oscar Wilde quote in the chorus:

 All of us get lost in the darkness
 Dreamers learn to steer by the stars
 All of us do time in the gutter
 Dreamers turn to look at the cars

...but I disagree that there's some heroic battle here. Depression is a pain unlike anything physical. When it combines with despair, nothing else in life matters. It all goes away--family, friends, accomplishments. Dawn Summers posted this on Twitter--"How depression makes suicide look:"

 I haven't been this close to it, but I've seen the view. It fucking sucks. There aren't many famous people I care that much about, but only three make me choke up when I think of them, for the way they touched so many people's lives: Johnny Carson, Carl Sagan, and now Robin Williams.