Monday, September 28, 2009

5-speed transmission road trip

Alright, I am back home in San Francisco.  The 5-speed transmission swap went absolutely smoothly and I made it back in record time.  Just kidding.

I definitely had a plan and alotted a significant amount of time but the project nearly wound up a disaster.  In fact, it would have been if it wasn't for the huge amount of help and support from my good friends Jason, Mira, Eric, Seth, and Brant.

The basic idea was to fly up to Jason and Mira's house in southern WA state and replace the broken automatic in my Bavaria with a rebuilt Getrag 265 5-speed gearbox, using a mix of mostly new factory parts and an occasional used item as needed.  My friend Brant would then fly up later in the week and buy Jason's 1969 2500.  We would then leave on Saturday or Sunday and caravan together to San Francisco (and, in his case, Santa Cruz).  The 2500 runs well but its cooling system was weak and the car had some wiring problems that we wanted to address before the drive home.

The transmission swap took a lot longer than I thought: removing the automatic took up almost an entire day, the horrible thing was really stuck in there and we used all maner of creative hacking to finally free it from the car.  I then installed the flywheel and found that the clutch pressure plate doesn't fit.  I had accidentally been sent a flywheel for an M20 motor, which has a 1/4" smaller diameter for the pressure plate.  Having figured that out, I bought a proper M30 flywheel from Jason and we continued with the install, but this put us into late Friday night for the driveshaft installation.  At this point we realized that the guibo (drivesahft-to-gearbox coupling) that Jason has for me was already installed on Brant's car two months ago when I was up there -- we both had forgotten about that.  It's not really possible to get one of those on a Friday night or a Saturday, but we found a BMW dealer that at least had the E28 5-series version of the part in stock and for sale on Saturday morning.  The part, however, didn't match the drawing in the parts book and therefore was a bit too short for the drive shaft that I had.  We hacked around for a while and Jason finally came up with a very clever way to adapt it.  Finally, with the driveshaft installed and with Seth and Eric's help, we buttoned up the car and were ready to test-drive it.  Seth and Eric also addressed the cooling problems on Brant's car by adjusting the belt tension and upgrading its magnetic fan clutch and five-blade fan to the more modern viscous coupling design with an E12 fan.

It was late on Saturday night, the day before the long trip home, that I finally put the car in reverse, pulled it out of the shop, and really drove it for the first time with the new gearbox.  Everything seemed to work great, so I got in the back and gave Jason and Brant a turn at the wheel.  We heard a weird noise followed by a few scrapes and the car started stumbling and then promptly overheated.  We limped back to the shop and popped the hood to find that a metal support piece that ran vertically up the radiator in the very front had somehow detatched and caught up in the fan.  The radiator was leaking due to a gash from the piece of metal, the fan blades were broken, and one of the plug wires was broken off at the distributor cap.

We worked late into the night to replace the damaged radiator with a decent spare from another Bavaria for the trip home.  We also installed one of Jason's spare fans and replaced the damaged plug wire set.  The car was finally buttoned back up with the cooling system bled at quite a bit past midnight and test-drove rather well.

Brant and I started off on Sunday morning for the long trip back home.  We fueled up, merged onto highway 5 South toward Portland, and kept an eye on our respective coolant temperature instruments.  I heard a stange noise somewhere near Vancouver, WA and then Brant swerved to avoid my radiator fan and fan clutch assembly, which had been thrown from the car.  We pulled off the highway into a gas station parking lot and I popped the hood to inspect the damage.  The fan clutch was indeed missing but, this time, there was no damage to the radiator or wiring.

Jason suggested an electric puller fan strapped to the radiator to cool the car for the trip down and looked up a nearby Schuck's auto parts store to visit.  Brant and I walked in the moment they opened and a helpful employee found us a suitable fan, helped us test-fit it by looking at Brant's car, and made sure that I remembered to at least buy a toggle switch to wire it.  Brant and I removed the remaining fan clutch mounting hardware to maximize clearance and then installed the electric fan which I wired straight to the battery via the toggle switch.  It worked amazingly well: the car ran nice and cool at city and highway speeds, we were back on the road.

We proceeded South after a breakfast and coffee stop in Portland (we randomly chose Blitz's in the Pearl District, I highly recommended it).  The weather warmed up and Brant's car started overheating but we carefully pressed on.  Both engines started running hotter as we got in to Medford so we decided to stop and wait until dark when the weather would cool down again.  This left us with nothing much to do beside finding the nearest Irish pub and eating dinner and having a few beers.  Shenanigan's in Medford fit the bill nicely, in fact it's a really cool place and I'll definitely be back next time I pass through Medford.

We continued on our way to Califronia after the sun set.  The cars ran without much trouble once the weather cooled down and we cleared the Siskiyou mountain pass and continued through the Shasta area.  Brant's car still ran a bit warm so we took it easy through highways 5 and 505 and finally wound up in San Francisco early on Monday morning.  Brant continued to Santa Cruz later in the morning and made it home fine, I parked my car and took the bus to work in the afternoon.

There's still quite a lot to fix on this car, including an exhaust leak I caused by breaking a stud on the rear downpipe.  I still need to pass the DMV brake and lights inspection to get license plates.  It's running and driving well though and the five-speed manual works great.  This has been a horribly stressful experience overall, especially the journey home which was "suboptimal" to say the least.  I'm really thankful for the help and support of my E3 friends!

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