Wednesday, February 1, 2017

2017: Year of the 1972 Dodge Lemon

It's 2017, and time to get cranking on a new car project!

Well, it's a bit old actually.  Myself and 4 others first picked up our 1972 Dodge Coronet back in late 2015 and after a year of focusing on SCCA Solo Nationals we're fired up to get the old boat track-ready again!  For the last 3 weekends we've been cranking away...

 Late Friday night 3 weeks ago we fired the 318 cubic inch V8 up and loaded it onto a trailed to get it across town to our good friend (and expert race car driver, instructor, and fabricator) Chuck's shop.
 We get tetanus just looking at this thing.  The car came with lots of scrap and spare parts. Time to sort it out.
 First and foremost, this car was suffering from an ailing (possibly original) automatic 3 speed transmission that needed replacing.  Thanks to Kyle's awesome research and forum crawling skills, we landed a magic combination of modern transmission parts that would supposedly bolt up to our 70s motor.
 With the engine out, Landon goes to town with the sparks and makes way for a manual shifter.
The project took on a little scope creep when we realized Chuck had a severely flood-damaged BMW 3 series sitting in his scrap pile that could lend a number of parts to the project.  Remembering the Germans like 50/50 weight distribution, we raided the beefy rear-mount battery cable and moved our own battery to the back passenger seat area from the front corner of the engine bay
 Projects continued through the second weekend with a tear down of the shift column to replace a few bushings to keep it from bending even further out of alignment and give it some fresh grease and seals.
 We often were wrenching late into the night.  Here the guys are getting into some details of mating up the new manual transmission with the motor
 Luke, our team electrical engineer dug deep and got us set up with all new wiring, switches and proper soldering and connectors.  The original wiring was a complete rats nest mixed with new wires that seemed hastily spliced together.  We're still impressed the car even ran with the old wires.
 Some new wires in the car, the guys make some connections with the motor back in the car.   Hey, is that a manual shift knob there?  Yep!
 Come on, this is Lemons, it's supposed to be a $500 car and you guys are doing all this work and certainly making this car too nice!  Yeah...but did we highlight the swiss cheese sheet metal that's somehow still attached to the frame?
 The third weekend brought the third pedal!
At the end of the third straight weekend, we finally got it fired up and running with a new transmission, new wires, and a lot less scrap metal hanging out in the trunk. It was an awesome team effort.  Everyone chipped in big time and made it happen. 

To our knowledge, this is the FIRST EVER time this type of transmission has been used with this type of engine.  We've now setup the car to run on mostly stock parts that can be easily found in junk yards or parts stores if anything should fail in the race...and it all bolted up with extremely little modification

The winning combination:

-Original 318cu in Dodge V8
-Bellhousing and Starter from a late 90s Dodge Dakota pickup truck
-AR5 transmission from an early 2000s Chevy Colorado pickup truck
-Custom fabricated transmission mount using stock mounting points and accepting stock transmission rubber mounts
For now the brakes don't work too well, the rear differential is out of fluid, there's no grease left in the rear wheel bearings, the wheel bearings are all about shot, the wiring isn't completely done, it's still rusting away, the ball joints are all about gone, it needs new tires, and generally needs a little bit more love.  

But it runs and drives!

We'll keep up the work and have it ready for a shake down at Carolina Motorsports Park in May with the 24 Hours of Lemons race in September and bring you more coverage all year. 

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