Another trip tonight, this time much quicker, to pickup a middle seat. Like the rear seat, the middle seat is from a “bay window” bus, but is very close to correct and I could modify it to be an exact match. Since the bus has the “walk through” option for the front seats the middle seat is only two wide. This allows walking from the front to the rear seat without opening any doors. Non walk-through buses typically had full-width middle seats for a total of 9 seats, but the rear cargo door had to be opened to access the back row. I’m now just waiting on mounting hardware and rear seatbelts, then it will be a 7-seater. Also I may or may not have smelled a slight fuel leak tonight, I’ll have to investigate this before driving it again.
Today I fabricated a cup holder basket. It’s made entirely out of the frame from one of those annoying corrugated plastic signs someone had planted in my yard, so it was basically free. There was an original accessory cupholder of a similar design that I got the idea from. The original was more in tune with 1960’s european beverage size sensibilities; I’ve created mine to work with 2010’s US sized cups.
I drove down to Wilmington today (not in the bus though) to pickup a backseat. It’s from a “bay window” era bus, but the only real difference between the bay window and split window back seats is the position/shape of the seat’s middle leg. Lucky for me the middle leg on this particular seat had been cut off. I couldn’t leave it off since the seat would eventually bend in the middle, and this had already started to occur. I bent the seat back to straight, bent some steel tubing to the correct shape; and welded the leg on. After this was complete, I installed it and all the mounting holes lined up! The vinyl is not up to par and is the wrong color/style for a split window bus; it will get re-covered once the rest of the seats are acquired. Now I only need a few more seat belts and it will be a 5-seater instead of a 2-seater.
I’ve been driving the bus quite a bit this week and so far all is well. It seems happier/smoother/quieter with each trip. If first gear is selected it works for a foot or two then pops out; if it’s held in first it works for a foot or two then grinds. Although I did clean and reseal the trans I didn’t do anything with the internals and I think they’re just too far gone. Luckily the 1600 has plenty of torque to just start in second all the time; it’s a little tougher on the clutch but I’ll replace it when I replace the trans. Replacing the trans has been part of the plan anyhow, the stock trans requires 4500RPM (redline) in 4th gear to go 65MPH; the replacement will have taller gearing to both allow higher speed and lower the revs at normal speeds.
It pops out of 4th too, which is apparently a very common problem. Since it stays in 4th if held, I’ve solved this by deploying a strategically placed bungee cord anytime it’s in 4th for longer than I feel like holding onto the shifter.
After a very long night last night and all of today, the bus is running again. There is a very specific order of assembly, and if this order is violated the engine has to come back out to start over. Although this seems obvious, several of the key early assembly parts are not so obvious. Because of this the engine was in and out a few times.
Since I’m again waiting on engine components, tonight I insulated the interior panels with jute insulation and added speakers to the rear interior panels. The rear speakers are lower than I’d like, but the bottom of the wall cavity is the only place thick enough (barely) to allow the speakers to sit mostly flush with the interior panel. I’ll be making era-appropriate covers for all 4 of the larger speakers that should provide some protection.
Today I was assembling the cylinders and pistons onto the engine when a piston ring broke. Normally I would be able to go to the local auto parts place and get a replacement ring set, but since the bus had 88mm over-sized cylinders the rings cannot be sourced locally. The 88mm cylinder set is known to cause alot of problems since the cylinder wall is so thin; so I’m taking this opportunity to replace the cylinders/pistons/rings with the standard 85.5mm size. This makes the engine a ‘1600’ (1584cc) again, with the 88mm cylinders it was a ‘1700’ (1679). No changes had been made to the stock cylinder heads, so the ‘1700’ configuration would have needed racing fuel to run with any longevity. The ‘1600’ will be able to run on regular, or at-worst mid-grade.
The new crankshaft arrived today and tonight I began prepping it for installation. The cam gear and distributor gear both were pressed onto the new crankshaft.