Another Saab Story

I’d love to tell you about Mahdee, sailing, or even working on Mahdee.  Alas that’s not to be.  We have been very busy preparing for the Schooner Chandlery booth at upcoming Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival (Sept 8-10). A big box of indoor/outdoor rugs and storage baskets arrived to be part of the show.  Other fun stuff is trickling in including a display of bronze fasteners from our seller, Ron, Adventure Mats, Freebags, some soap, nautical rolling pins, Q Squared NYC nautically themed melamine, brochures, paint samples, as well as other nautical bits and pieces.  Nothing resembling a sail on the water is coming our way until after the festival.  We’ve promised ourselves a month of wandering with Mahdee –with high hopes for October–and I’m beginning to look forward to it.  Along with the Schooner Chandlery bits coming in, we also have a few parts for Mahdee to prepare for our little fall excursion.

Buttercup and rudder

Mahdee reference:  Here’s Buttercup carrying Mahdee’s new bronze rudderstock on the roofracks in 2008 while we were rebuilding the boat.

 

So what about those cars? What’s the Saab Story?

Buttercup

Buttercup, the 1976 Saab 99 GL (above)

Well, it was bound to happen. Owners of these Swedish cars already know that the cars are fiercely jealous of each other and every other car you might happen to own–or drive–for that matter. Wesley (the 1987 900 Turbo that I’d love to throw off a cliff) is out of commission and neither David nor I have the goodwill towards that car to fix it so it’s just sitting for now whilst we contemplate its future. Buttercup, the 76 99GL, is so happy and runs like a champ (usually) during those times when we’ve given up on Wesley for some reason or other. We’ve owned both cars for almost 20  years now and we’ve gone more than a year at a time just letting Wesley sit (and hoping someone steals him) while Buttercup proves over and over again why she’s our primary car. Buttercup just loves being the only child — or only CAR in the household. Happy and reliable.

 Oops — she’s feeling sibling rivalries.

Last week we stumbled upon and then (Thursday) purchased a 1977 5 door (CombiCoup/Wagonback) 99GL with a good body from a salvage yard.  Like me, Buttercup’s body isn’t what it used to be — she’s got structural rust and rather than do a big cut and weld job on her we’ve been in search of a donor body.  Last year I had a donor ligament put into my ankle to tighten up things whilst the joint was also repaired — I tell Buttercup that she and I are just going through the same things as we get older.  In her case, her engine and systems will just be plopped into a largely rust-free body.   She seemed OK with the plan.  Buttercup and I have taken several trips here and there to look over potential cars or parts of cars for the operation.

She’s never faltered.  Always up for the trip.

I suppose it’s all good in theory but then when we got on with it and actually purchased the donor car, both Buttercup and the humans involved begin to rethink things.  There’s always history involved.


The 1977 “Donor Body” car.

Buttercup came to us in the late 1990’s as a donor car: she was $200 and she was intended to provide a spare 4 speed tranny for our hero of a car, Pepe, the 1974 Saab 99LE that David’s family bought new and we purchased from Dad in 1982 when David, the family SAAB mechanic, was leaving home for his first post-college job.  Dad wouldn’t be able to find a local mechanic to keep Pepe going without significant cost so he bought a new car and we bought Pepe.  For us, Pepe ran long and strong and good.  We treated him well but used him in tough backroad conditions for many many miles.  We had over 450,000 miles on him when we ran across the Craigslist ad for Buttercup as she was on her way to the crusher.  We got her home and realized that she was low miles, at 67,000, and could have a long life ahead of her.  So, we cleaner her up, had rust patched, painted her a PPG Saab Monte Carlo Yellow, installed new rubber all around — seals, tires, windshield replaced, did new brakes and shocks and spring inserts–and she did live on and on and on.  Happy days, months, years, and decades. We all recall that in 2006, Pepe quietly slipped away to the crusher himself after 500,000 good miles and a deeply fatigued but non-rusty body.  He literally flexed over almost every little bump.  He was ready to go.

Buttercup knows all about it.

Pepe

Pepe, David’s 1974 Saab 99LE at the 2000 Saabtoberfest in Central Pennsylvania.

Now comes the 1977 Saab 99GL Combi Coupe.  Good body, unknown engine/tranny — we haven’t even started the diagnosis other than to check the pistons aren’t seized up and that with a good battery the start motor has the engine trying to turn over. Funny noises from the fuel pump and we’re now in the mode of clean the lubes and fluids, change the gas, and get it ready to start.

Wait! why are we trying to START the engine of a car that we picked up for the body?  Almost certainly THAT thought was going through Buttercup’s Swedish CPU.

So…what does Buttercup do? Throw a hissy fit, of course! This particular hissy? Well she took that little bit of belt noise of the past few days and turned it into a full blown fragging harmonic balancer (part of the crankshaft pulley) problem. Sure, the model 99 doesn’t usually do this sort of thing — it is always a 900 that’s fragging out the harmonic balancer. Oh, but Buttercup, she’s a smart cookie. Probably been chatting it up with a 900 somewhere in a parking lot while I was in a store shopping.

The bottom line is we’re now down to NO cars until the harmonic balancer (ordered but won’t show up until Tuesday afternoon) shows up AND we manage to pull together the resources to get the job done.  Since when did David and Brenda have to worry about all that? Things we once took for granted, now that we’re living aboard a boat are rather scarce: Space, time, parts, tools… in my mind, Buttercup is joining Wesley in my search for a good cliff.   A friend tells me the levy roads work well.  Buttercup’s in more danger: I can actually DRIVE her to her demise and enjoy a good swim afterwards whereas Wesley wouldn’t make it out of town to the cliff or the levy.

Back to resources.  Time: David’s birthday is on Tuesday.  I know he was probably looking forward to a nice relaxing evening but there’s nothing like a good car-fixing party right?  Relaxing is over-rated.  Besides, he’s always grinning when he’s up to his elbows in grease.

Let’s see…space…Ah, that would be the workshop we rented a few months ago.  It is presently chock full of the new but not working Combi Coupe. Yep, the car without registration and license plates to park on the street, that would be it.  We’ll just play a little roulette with that on I suppose.



Space? Filled.

Parts? On order and showing up 3pm on David’s birthday.  Tuesday. Yep.  Perfect.  I think we even have a spare oil seal for the engine if we want to put it on at the same time.

Oh, yes, then there are the tools. Last time we removed a crankshaft pulley from a 99 it was Pepe’s. Way back in 1987 or so. The engine was OUT of the car and we broke a couple socket extension (cheater) bars. In the end, it took David pounding on the nut with a hammer, after a couple heat (torch) and cool cycles, a Snap-On extension bar inside a 5 ft fence post with a 200lb guy jumping on the end and pushing off the garage door frame with helpers me and another friend pushing down on the cheater at our stations along the 6 feet.
 
Yes, crankshaft pulley removal conjures up an image of the old I love Lucy show. We did it exactly as Lucy, Ricky, Fred, and Ethel would have done.  Bring us forward 30 years. This engine is still IN the car not sitting out in the garage with lots of room all around.  We’re 30 years older, too.  And those young friends who helped us? They’re hundreds or thousands of miles away.  Old and wily is supposed to trump young and energetic but I dunno.  At least we have the internet now. I’ll count that for wily.  Thank you Saab Central: we’ve gotten the advice of experts — or at least other amateurs who have in theory been successful:

It is possible to remove the crank pulley from a B type engined car, but not possible with the later H type. 

B type pulley removal (engine in car)

1. Remove fan belt (also if fitted remove power steering and ac belt)
2. Remove engine mounting nuts and use two wooden wedges between engine and bulkhead to move engine slightly forward.
3. Lock the engine using Saab tool 8392978 inserted into the opening on the bottom of the gearbox primary housing and into the flywheel ring gear, or similar tool, I use a segment from an old ring gear.
4. Raise the car, best to use a proper car lift for this one.
5. Remove pulley bolt using Saab tool 8392961 or a good quality off-set ring spanner.
6. Remove pulley and it’s also worthwhile replacing the oil seal.
7. If using proper Saab tool, torque the pulley bolt to 70Nm if using a 400mm torque wrench.
8. And most important of all, have fun!!!

So back to tools–can you believe we own that Saab tool 8392978? yep.  Not only own it but actually can find it, too.  I’m feeling pretty good.  We have a 27mm socket that was used so many years ago on Pepe’s project. It was painstakingly ground down so it fit over the nut with no extra depth. Ah, a test fit shows us that it might not work while the engine is still in the car. Firewall. On to the Internet shopping and a bike ride to Home Depot gives us a straight 27 box socket that might do the trick but well, maybe not. An offset is actually needed. Offset sockets can be procured via Amazon and other providers to show up…Wednesday. That doesn’t work. I have other commitments all day Wednesday and it would be really nice to not have to rent a car for those.  Tomorrow morning I’ll give the local SnapOn Rep a call.  They have roving trucks and it is possible that between Monday morning and Tuesday afternoon I can nab a really nice SnapOn offset box wrench to do the job.  Maybe. Perhaps another tool place nearby will be open on weekdays as well.

And there you have it.  Stay tuned for the rest of the story.

Masts and Chocolate for the DIY-er

Trader Joe's Chocolate Cube Varnish Container
What do these two have in common?  Very little except those masts need “refreshing” aka repainting or at a minimum a good buff and wax and the chocolates are essential to successful application of paint and varnish.  See the connection? I’ll admit it’s pretty slim.  The masts get touched up with paint, buffed, and waxed next weekend since I completed the varnishing last week.

Now about the chocolate, you see, we tend to buy our chocolate in various forms from Trader Joe’s.  In these seemingly identical clear plastic cubes throughout the year.  If you don’t buy the chocolate, you don’t get the cubes. I keep the cubes because they make a great varnish container.  This one, from last year, reminds me that Trader Joe’s no longer sells the lovely Orange Sticks.  It was our favorite: orange jelly center covered with dark chocolate.  They tell us they’ll have it again someday.  We don’t believe them since it’s been a year now.

Actually, those cubes will give you pretty much a perfect varnish container if you take a couple Popsicle sticks…ummm…let’s digress a little bit more about where the sticks come from:  you get the Popsicle sticks in the summertime when it’s hot and you’ve just got to have a lime-bar.  You save the summertime Popsicle sticks for the fall varnish-fest.  You also save the plastic cubes that your Trader Joe’s chocolate came in for the same varnish-fest.  This really doesn’t take much space–even aboard a boat–just a tiny little spot in my project bin where the cubes can stack and the sticks can stand next to them.

Then, in the fall, you pull these things out because you’re ready for your paint and varnish-fest to protect all the exterior woodwork through a winter of rain or worse inclement weather.  You grab a cube and take a thin plastic baggie–of the sort that nobody buys because it doesn’t ziplock but somehow you’ve got a hundred of them and you’re not throwing them away–and line your cube with it.  After lining, you push the Popsicle sticks into the groove that once held the lid of the cube keeping the chocolate fresh.  The sticks make a press fit–and that’s the ticket to creating a wonderful self-locking-in-place drip edge that you can wipe a paint or varnish brush against as you work.  You’ll feel really clever that you found a purpose for your Trader Joe’s cubes, Popsicle sticks, and those non-zipping plastic bags that you really have no other use for but can’t seem to throw away.

At the end of the day, you let your cube sit so the varnish hardens in the plastic baggie.  In the morning, your Popsicle sticks will have a dry layer of varnish on them so you’ll remove them, replace the baggie with a clean one, push the sticks back in place on top and put your new varnish in your cube for the next day’s work.  Believe it or not, you can do this for days–or weeks in my case–as you work your way around the boat putting on your layers and layers of varnish.  No real cleaning required, either. If you’re really good, you only use one or two of your cubes and 4 to 8 Popsicle sticks.  If you’re a little messy, you might go through twice or thrice the quantity.  If you’re careless and you’ve been eating a lot of chocolate and lime-bars, well, it’s not that big of a deal to go through many, many more.  The baggie is the key to it all though.  A daily baggie keeps everything clean.  During my varnish-fest, I usually don’t clean my brushes but instead I store daily in a container of turpentine.  At the end of the -fest, I can do a cleanup of it or if I’ve been using an inexpensive chip-brush, I can throw it out. For painting, I tend to clean it or throw it out daily.

masts in the sky

Shipmates and Best Buddies

I seem to take quite a few photos of ship’s cat Beryl and David together–this is largely because they are constant companions aboard the boat.  They’re pretty much always looking at the same thing. And, when I say “smile” they both look at me with similar loopy grins.  

Shipmates and best buddies stand watch together.

Beryl the Ship's Cat with David on Watch

Smile! for a photo!

Ship's Cat Beryl with David

Ship’s Cat and the Navigation Rules and Regulations Handbook

Life aboard can be rough if you’re the ship’s cat and Beryl, Mahdee’s ship’s cat, finds that she just cannot get comfortable because there always seems to be something in the way.  In this case it is the organizer bin that hold navigation tools, rulers, dividers, and the obligatory USCG Navigation Rules and Regulations handbook.  We’ve found that we can download the handbook here on the USCG site but we really need to keep that hard copy handy in the charthouse at the chart table.  Thus, Beryl will just have to remain a little uncomfortable.

Ship's Cat Beryl Snoozing against USCG Navigation Rules and Regulations Handbook

Beryl in the picture

Beryl, our ship’s cat, finds it next to impossible to stay away from her favorite person, David.  She follows him around everywhere.  And that means everywhere.  I just ran across this photograph while looking for a good shot of Reid Glacier.  Yep, David’s on the bowsprit getting the photo therefore Beryl is following right along to get in the way–or in this case, in the photo.

 

Beryl on the Bowsprit at Reid Glacier

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