Road Trippin' with Jim and Bonnie
By Bonie Mueller
I have always loved to drive! Both of our families never flew anywhere on our vacations (of course airplane travel was more for the well-to-do in those times). We drove everywhere, and I can still remember getting Daddy to stop at some road-side attraction for pictures and souvenirs. I had a collection of little pennants from different states attractions….Four Corners, Trees of Mystery, Grand Canyon, Crater Lake, you name it. Jim had those too.
In 2005 we took a fun road trip for 3 weeks and covered 22 states, 7500 miles- almost exclusively NOT on freeways. We use state and county roads, and many times just by accident we stumbled upon most interesting places. Attractions, parks, cool Americana. You just can’t plan for everything, because you don’t know what all is out there. Along the route we bought those little magnets of every state, to put on our refrigerator. Have enjoyed looking at them and reminiscing….
Well, in September of this year when we drove to Kansas for a reunion, we again attempted to stay off of freeways and found many “Bonnie roads” as Jim calls them. Crossed to central Oregon, down into California on 395, took 299 over beautiful winding Cedar Pass east, then south into Nevada to Gerlach (near Burning Man/Black Rock Desert) and onto Hwy 50, the “Loneliest Road in America”. We pretty much stayed on Hwy 50 thru Nevada, and on into Utah. East to Green River and on to Moab, then south and east to Colorado, and back on Hwy 50. The weather had been beautiful until Colorado where it rained all the way across. One highlight of Colorado was Monarch Pass at 11,300 feet. Seems like the rest of Colorado doesn’t drop much below 6-7K in elevation either! On to Kansas, highlights were the Dwight D. Eisenhauer Library & Museum in Abilene & the family reunion.
After the reunion we headed to Kansas City, found a fantastic Steamship museum (The Arabia) in Kansas City MO, and spent a whole day at the WW1 Museum, learning so much!! Of course barbeque and beer that eve. Did I tell you we found at least 8 wonderful brew pubs along the way? ?? And every morning we had to find a coffee shop for our Lattes and to do Wordle. It became an obsession.
Next, checked out Hannibal MO, birthplace of Mark Twain. On to Illinois, then Indiana. Highlight of Indiana was both the Auburn/Duesenberg Museum in Auburn, and the National Studebaker Museum in South Bend. Checked out Notre Dame University. Oh, stumbled upon a great used toy shop in Romney. You never know.
Next was Michigan, actually my favorite state of the trip. Of course it was beautiful weather – I might not be saying that if I was there right now.. We drove up the west side of Michigan along Lake Michigan. So HUGE. Also went to the east side and took in Lake Huron, saw where Jim’s folks grew up. My favorite part of lower Michigan was the Peninsula at Traverse City. Beautiful- about 10 miles long and narrow – packed with vineyards galore.
Crossed the Mackinac Bridge to get to the “Yuppers” and it is so cool you have Lake Michigan on the left, Lake Huron on the right as you drive north on the bridge. Longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere!
Now, we were on Hwy 2, and our plan was to follow it all the way to Washington, but we didn’t….Veered off to go north to Marquette MI to see some huge docks for the iron ore ships and to check out Lake Superior. Another Great Lake checked off! On to Wisconsin, back on Hwy 2 so we were across WI quickly, but a new state checked off. In Duluth MN got absolutely lost trying to find a route I had read about. It was beautiful crossing MN, brewpubs, statues of Paul Bunyan (kinda wimpy one) headwaters of the Mississippi….lots to see.
Then across North Dakota on Hwy 2, veered off 2 to drive alongside the Missouri River for a way. Next into Montana. Beautiful state! Visited my Sister and niece in Columbia Falls (next to Glacier), then abandoned the Hwy 2 quest in favor of getting home sooner. South to Missoula, onto Salmon Idaho and crossing the Sawtooth Range. Absolutely stunning! Then on to Emmett ID, Ontario OR and cruised on home.
**6740 Miles driven **17 States covered **Averaged More than 30 MPG**Gas is cheaper anywhere other than the West coast***Motels are cheaper in the Midwest!!** More state magnets on the fridge.
We have a beautiful country! Get out and drive it.
An Amateur Mechanic’s Lament
By Jerry Shultz
So about two years ago our little family race team (Manager Licia, daughters Hope and Jamie and I) managed to blow up our beloved 240sx during a track day at ORP. Hope was probably doing about 125 when the engine suffered a complete loss of oil pressure and powdered all the main bearings in about a millisecond. I’ve got the baggie to prove it.
We love the 240, such a well-balanced car, so easy to drive, and she’d been in the family since new, so we decided we had to bring her back to life. We only got one season out of the race-built 4 cylinder we’d spent a gob of money on, so this time, we thought, let’s just put in a chevy V-8! Cheap, almost bullet proof, easily available parts, lots of tuning options, how could we go wrong?
Let me count the ways!
First, I need to admit that none of us, especially me, claim to be mechanics. I’d worked on air-cooled Volkswagens almost exclusively, and I’d become pretty good at dealing with those, having had maybe 10 VWs over the last 50 years. But yanking out the bug motor, bolting on new cylinders and heads, and putting the thing back in could be done between breakfast and lunch. I think I got a little too over-confident – OK, a whole lot over-confident, about my mechanic skills!
My experience with auto mechanics otherwise consisted of changing oil, brake jobs and simple tune-ups only. But the girls and I thought we should give it a try. Hope has natural engineering talent, and Jamie has a very logical mind, along with some limited auto shop experience. Licia approved the budget (foolish girl!), so off we went.
We picked up an LS3 crate motor from GM and a new T56 Magnum from Tremec. A kit from a company called Sikky included some fancy billet motor mounts to fit the chevy into the S13 chassis, along with a nice oil pan that fit around the front clip cross member, an aluminum driveshaft, and some other assorted parts that were going to make the swap a simple plug-and-play - according to their advertising!
And the fun began.
The motor comes without the flywheel, so we had to choose a flywheel and clutch. Turns out, there are about 100 choices for each, and they’re not necessarily compatible with each other. Got the right flywheel after two tries. Got the clutch right first choice – amazing!
Then came the bell housing. Again, many, many choices. Steel, aluminum, different depths – all depending on what vehicle they’re intended for. The LS3 was used in Camaros, Corvettes, sedans, and trucks, but the crate motor was generic, so no guidance on all these other bits. Choosing the wrong bell meant the transmission shaft could be either too long or too short to fit properly into the engine, so with a little research we managed to get that right. The master cylinder for the clutch slave had to be upgraded from the stock Nissan, so we got a Wilwood unit from Summit.
Then we had to choose a new slave cylinder. Again, multiple choices, dimensions, attachment points, hydraulic fittings, - GRRRR! Turns out we needed a very “short” slave to fit the tranny/clutch combo we had, and the first two were too long. We found this one from Tremec, advertised as the lowest profile available, and it fit the tranny – but then it was too short for the clutch, so a number of conical washers had to be added to make up the difference. We had no clue how to choose how many washers to use, so we reached out to a great speed shop, well known to the club, Edge Motorsports, who made a house call to help us out (Thanks Brad!). So now the engine, flywheel, clutch, slave cylinder, and tranny are all together in a lump. Time to get the lump into the car.
The Sikky kit included instructions for beating out the trans tunnel on the Nissan to accommodate the larger transmission the LS required. Just use a hammer and beat it out ½ to 1 inch, it said confidently, then it will fit.
Wrong. I’m guessing we had the lump in and out of the car maybe 10 times, beating out the tunnel sheet metal a little more each time, before we gave up and started cutting out the tunnel where the clearance was too tight. And I mean tight. There is about 2 millimeters of tunnel clearance now that it’s in the car.
The next challenge was getting the transmission carrier bracket from Sikky to fit to the chassis. The holes in the bracket they supplied didn’t fit the threaded, fixed location holes in the chassis, so we had to call Sikky and get a replacement. The new bracket came with slotted holes, so clearly, they had faced this problem before.
With the new trans bracket, the whole thing was finally in the car. Now to install the aluminum driveline. One inch too long! So, we called Sikky again, who basically told us that our Nissan S13 was different than every other S13 in the world and wished me luck. Thank heaven for our local driveline guy, who lopped off 1 inch and re-balanced the thing (for $240!).
And that’s where we’re at today. It’s in the car, we’re starting to hook up the new fuel pump, complete the exhaust system, and figure out how to shield the brake and fuel lines from the exhaust headers so we don’t boil the fluids inside. So, we didn’t get the car ready for 2022, but heaven help us we are committed to Icebreaker ’23 for sure.
I recently had the chance to help my Granddaughter Brailey put together a whole apartment full of furniture in about 8 hours. The next time I think about an engine swap, I’m going to call IKEA!
See y’all next year!
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