Friday, May 27, 2011

A Nice Touch

The sun came out unexpectedly today. Perfect for a photo of the Hirschmann jewel-tip antenna that graces the car and whips the winds that stream above the driver's window.

Antenna tip - of course it could be a reproduction but, judging from the visible wear, this is an old item

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Four Rings to Rule Us All

Descending the Cairo Side - a novel of the traveling life
Available as an e-book on

Buy the book on Amazon

After scouring pictures of other BMWs of the same model I began to notice that the best ones had hubcaps that looked a lot better than what I have. I have mentioned the "black hole" wheel rims elsewhere on this blog.

1) The left rear wheel cringes upon direct exposure to sunlight

One of the vendors I have been using - who shall remain nameless - told me he could order wheel rings that would fit my car and thereby provide an easier way to rectify the situation than by having the rims sandlblasted.

I ordered four rings and waited for the courier to deliver yet another package.  It turned up on my front door and I was ecstatic.  Eagerly did I rip the contents open and begin the process of making the car sparkle.

2) Still in its plastic cover, one of the rings quivers with anticipation

As I brought the rings to the car I looked at the inside diameter.  It looked suspiciously small.  Which, of course, it was.

3) Oops

I called my friendly vendor who explained that these rings actually came from an early Bavaria.  I sighed.  In the sixties BMW never ever made accessories, at least not usually, that you could take from one model and put on another.  I explained this to the sales guy and visualized him scratching his head in wonder.

But all was not lost. I sent the rings back in the same box the next day and the guy who sold them to me promised to find the correct items. 

And so the story ends for now... to be continued later

POST SCRIPT:  Just found the correct hubcaps, to be installed as soon as I receive them. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Disengaged Clutch - An Exciting New Meaning to the Term

This morning I was driving my son to school, minding my own business. While approaching the busiest intersection of the 15-minute trip, I depressed the clutch pedal as usual, to downshift into first gear in preparation for stopping at a red light.

Everything was cool. Until I heard a mighty "SPROING."  And the car promptly stalled.  Looking at my feet, I noticed the clutch pedal was pressed all the way to the floor.  Not good.

Meanwhile traffic backed up behind me. I ducked my head under the front seat and immediately saw that the bolt that holds the clutch lever to the mechanism had popped off.  I re-emerged, waved the traffic to move around me, and frantically looked for the bolt under the floor mat.  There it was!

I re-inserted the bolt and got the clutch to re-engage, giving me an opportunity to quickly turn into the last driveway before the light. My son said, "Dad, will you be able to stop?"  I said, "Sure," wondering if I could, not really sure at all. But the car stopped in the driveway just fine, of course.

My son asked for a dollar to take the bus the rest of the way to school (a bus stop was located conveniently at the intersection) and I pondered the situation.  I engaged and disengaged the clutch a few times with my hand, enough to see that the bolt was not going to stay put on its own. Of the washer and nut there was no sign - they had vanished into a void, probably underneath the glued-down carpet.

I looked in the car for a pen, so I could write a note to explain why the car was there should the owners of the driveway and accompanying house become curious.  No pen in the glove box, naturally.

I thought some more and walked down to the main street.  Right there was a Meineke Muffler shop and beside it, a clutch repair place, What luck! But I had to wait ten minutes for opening time. I returned to the car and stared at my watch.

At eight a.m. sharp I returned to the clutch place. They had opened but had neither a bolt nor a nut that I might fit on the bolt from the clutch lever, which looked pretty stripped.

But then another garage door opened nearby and a pleasant Hispanic guy asked me if I needed help. This was a different shop altogether.  I'm still not clear what it was called.  I showed him my bolt and asked if I might buy a similar one from him with a nut to match, so I could rig the clutch to work and at least get home.

He dug around in his stuff and found a perfect match, although longer.  He wouldn't take any money from me.  Amazing!  I returned to the car and installed the bolt, cursing myself for not bringing my camera to document the proceedings.

1) The bolt that rescued me, later on

I wondered now why on Earth that certain factions of our government and population wanted to get rid of working Hispanic immigrants. Look how nice that guy was!  Geez.

Anyway, I called my garage, EuroCar Service of Seattle and drove the car there.  They rethreaded my original bolt back to a workable condition and installed a new nut. Best of all, those great guys didn't charge me, either.

2) All better now

A plastic bushing on either side is supposed to prevent wear. The one on the outside of the pedal was missing and that's probably why the bolt popped to begin with, having caused the assembly to wear excessively. The inside bushing was still in place.  So all I have to do is order one of the these bushings and put it back on.

I called my son and he got to school just fine. The owners of the house never peeked out the door to see what was going on in their driveway, and eventually I drove to the store, picked up some groceries, and went home.

Lastly, I decided to leave the rescue bolt in the glove box, in case this ever happens again.

Just another day in the life of owning a 44-year old car.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Proper Pedals on the Metals

When I first acquired the car it had the most peculiar gas pedal which, as an unwanted bonus, would fall off every couple of miles or jam the lever and rev the engine on occasions decided only by itself.

1) The old gas pedal in place on the car - note that it doesn't properly fit the knobs at its base. This pic was taken before I refinished the wood dash

The clutch pedal also had torn and for a time I continued to use it, too, after applying glue so that it wouldn't fall off, either.  The problem is not really noticeable in the above pic, but believe me, the situation was dire.

2) Old clutch pedal, sporting a coat of glue.  You can see that the flange is torn at the bottom

I got sick of this configuration fast.  Especially unnerving was the gas pedal.

3) The former gas pedal, mercifully removed

I have no idea from what car this accelerator pedal was taken.  Written in relief on the back is "115 49 49 4 3901 BMW" and also "metalastik."  If anyone has a hint of what car this thing fits, please let me know; I would be happy to sell it cheap.  Weirdly, the pedal seems almost new.

I fished around the internet and discovered that the clutch/brake pedals were identical and cost under $10 for a pair, new.  I also found the proper gas pedal, again new, at a reasonable price.

4) Fresh pedals, installed all around

As can be seen in the pic below, the gas pedal requires an e-clip to prevent the rubber cylinder from sliding off the lever (the old pedal lacked one).  In one of life's stranger moments, just as that thought completed formation in my brain, I glanced at the transmission hump and resting quietly on top of the carpet was the clip! Instant kharma or something.

5) The magic e-clip, firmly installed at the end of the lever

So now I have nothing to contend with except the dirt and fir needles that get into the car from driving around the Puget Sound area.

POST SCRIPT: I finally found out what car that gas pedal fits - an e12 or similar  - but now I forget.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Stripper Comes to Town

The weather has turned surprisingly warm here in Seattle and so now I am stripping the black paint from my rims.  To be safe, I first try with the spare from the trunk. It's the same kind of rim as the others and a previous steward of the 2000 painted it with the same black pigment. Full disclosure: I have no connection, financial or otherwise, to the product I use (at left).  But the outside temperature must be at least 60 degrees F or 21 C for the active chemicals to work properly.  Believe me, the stuff is way too toxic to use in large quantities indoors.  I still recall stripping the black paint while in the garage, from the rear panel trim as a nightmare of toxic fumes and improvised breathing devices.  The outside door was open but the air quality turned into that similar to an old Soviet industrial city.

I lift the spare from the wheel well and again admire how pristine is the metalwork inside.

1) The wheel well with original BMW jack to the left but with a better lug wrench over the tire

 Noticing a few spots of surface rust, I sand them down, wipe the dust away with mineral spirits, and spray the well with some handy gold paint I keep around for just such occasions.

2) The wheel well after a quick hand-sanding with 100 grit paper

3) This paint-work won't win any beauty contests, but then I haven't entered one lately.  I think I should have shaken the can more; the paint dries multi-hued.  When I get the car resprayed the paint will match the rest of the floor pan correctly. But that's going to be a big job and so far it's out of sight over the horizon

Now it's time to tackle the tire. First I tape it off with newspaper as a barrier. We don't want the stripper to come into significant contact with any rubber, including the tire valve.

 4) The tire, ready for action

Next I spray a liberal amount of stripper on the paint and wait half an hour for the product to do its work.  I don garden gloves; the stuff burns bare skin as if you stuck your finger into a vat of battery acid. Of course I avoid plastic-type mitts; the stripper will fry an hole in them as surely as the alien in the Sigourney Weaver movies dripped acidic blood through the floors of her spaceship.

To then remove the stripper requires only a few paper towels and a garbage bag in which to dispose them. Or so I fool myself into thinking.  A putty knife might be used to scrape reluctant bits of paint from the recesses of the rim.

 At least that's the theory. Reality has other plans.

I allow everything to dry and begin to scrape. And scrape.  And scrape some more.  I switch to paper towels, watching whole forests get sucked into the project.  I fetch more tools, screwdrivers, razors, 2 by 4s, anything with an edge.  But my efforts are all in vain.

5) The end of the line

The stripper doesn't work. Why not?  Perhaps the temperature is too cold, perhaps the curves in the rim prevent me from getting enough purchase to scrape the paint efficiently.

I will head to a sand-blasting shop when I find one that is neither pricey nor sloppy.  You can put a fork in me; I'm done.

On the bright side, I maintain the perfection of the metal in the car's wheel well, at least until I get enough money to repaint the body.

Those Devilish Oil Filter Gaskets and O-rings

Upon our return to the mainland USA on Saturday I discovered in our mail the great and mighty oil filter accessories, all required to ensure a leak-free filter assembly.

Complete gasket set. Photographing them on a traditional Peruvian faja lends a quality of mystery and magic to the near-sacred relics

Parts diagram

The small copper ring is # 21 and it fits over the bolt.  The widest gasket is # 16 and it forms the seal between the insert and the housing. Meanwhile # 15 seals the tube through which the oil flows into the filter.  Easy to make as an omelette but perhaps less digestible.

The three items cost about $12 for a single set.  If I were a betting man I'd buy a warehouse full of them and watch people grovel in the years ahead as they struggle to acquire and purchase the precious objects.