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Kerry's '54 Restoration - Part Seven

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Well, I've been goofing off on the writing side of things.  It is now October 21 and a lot has happened since the last chapter.  

Gas Tank Sending Unit.  Sometime prior to the Chattanooga gathering last summer, I had the tank boiled out and a 'liner' put in it by the radiator shop I use.  Cost 80 bucks.  Only thing to check is that the liner will plug up most the vents and gas lines and these must be rodded out.  I use a piece of coat hanger.  The next problem was that my gas tank sending unit was totally wasted.  The small wire 'cone' was missing so rebuilding was not an option.

Several calls to vendors were fruitless and a couple people told me that even if they had one, it would be shot.  Not good.  Running out of gas is not my favorite thing.  This is a 6V system.  I had a unit from a late model GM and when I hooked it up to the wire and ground I noticed it worked, kinda.  It was very out of scale, that is, it read full then empty.  I was not feeling good about this when serendipity took a hand.  My neighbor came over and asked me if I could solder up the float on his VW sending unit.  Turns out the plastic float for the GM unit was a perfect replacement so I gave it to him but before he left, I tested the VW unit in my 54.  Surprise!  It worked pretty well.  Next day I picked up a 67 VW unit for about 20 bucks and after welding it to the 54 mount and bending the arm to approximate the geometry of the 54, I dropped it in the tank and volia, it works.  Certainly not perfect but will keep me from driving blind.  It reads full until about 3/4 tank, then drops to about 1/2 indicatior.  When the tank gets to about 1/4 full, the indicator drops to about 1/8 and starts bouncing off the peg.  When it does this for a few miles, I get gas.  All in all, an acceptable solution to what could have been a bad situation. 

  Couple shots of the VW unit and the bent up arm.

I think I mentioned that my power steering unit leaked like a sieve.  I mean, REALLY bad.  To the point where I did not want to drive the car.  Last Labor Day weekend, Jeff Carrothers, Donald Taccone, and Mark Harris came up to play in the shop and help me start on the 61 saga.  (to be documented shortly)  While they were here, we pulled and replaced a leaking rear end seal and Donald and I determined the leak was coming out of the top of the power steering unit itself (called the gear).  It had to come out.  WHAT A PAIN!  It comes out through the floorboard and the pedals, carpet, pitman arm, and more all have to come off.  Finally we got it out.  I do not think I could have done it by myself.

The 54 had both the coaxial steering used in later model Imperials and something called "Internal Oil Passage Power Steering"  My 54 came with a NOS kit so I was not terribly concerned until I noticed it was for the Coax.  Oh Sh--!

The shop manual has some GREAT diagrams and illustrations and using them I was able to disassemble the top part of the unit where the leaking was coming from.  The shaft seal had the national number on it and when I called Motion Industries ( they told me they had 299 of them in their Birmingham warehouse.  They took a credit card and including shipping the total charge was less than 6 bucks and UPS delivered it the next day.

As I looked at the seals, I decided the seal was probably NOT the problem.  This particular type of unit has 4 piston like things that each have 2 to 3 o-rings.  The existing o-rings had a more or less square cross section caused by years of storage.  This is called 'cold-set'.  New o-rings were easy to find and cost a few bucks.

The only other issue was that I needed to make a gasket for the housing cover. To do this, I used some gasket material I have collected.  (it's cheap, I have several rolls of different thicknesses on the shelf.) I laid the housing flat side down on a spot big enough and traced the outline AND the bolt holes with a felt tip marker (Sharpie)   Then I just took a SHARP utility knife and cut out the internal shape (by trial and error and the old Mark I eyeball).  I then cut out the outside lines.  The bolt holes are easy.  A set of leather punches are cheap and I bought mine at a flea market for about 6 bucks.  I chose the correct size, laid the new gasket on a piece of wood, lined the punch over the marks where the bolt holes needed to be and hit it sharply with a rubber hammer.   the final result is at least as acceptable as a 46 year old NOS gasket.

I was able to replace the unit by myself and to my relief there are no leaks.  The power steering pump now makes a noise but that is easy to fix (yes, I've bled the system of air)

All in all, it's getting close.  I still need to replace the speedometer with the unit I found in Carslile and get the heater control valve replaced (new one came with the car).  One of these day's a working radio would be nice too.

The following are some shots of the car in its current state.  Drove it a lot at Anniston last month and he did great.  In fact, it runs better every time I drive it.

By the way, decided to name him Eisenhower.  Way too stately to be a lady.


That's all for now.  I've decided to sell him.  I'm a builder and don't enjoy the owner side of the hobby that much.  As a super rare original, I just don't want to work on it for fear of damaging the originality.

Click here for a BUNCH of high quality photos. Loads slow

Kerry's '54 Restoration Saga Main...

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