1970 AMC Hornet, April 2005

April 2005

Finally making headway again! Got the new engine in; had to replace the oilpan (from Jeep to AMC) and add a valve cover; got both from Andre Jacobs. Once the historical flooding rains died down, I got the old '69 232 out (from Joe Fulton; it won't go to waste, both the Rambler and '72 Hornet have 1970 232's in 'em) and the 1983 258 of course just dropped in.

I had a big selection of engine accessory brackets, I've been collecting them for a year. The 1980's brackets are the best, but fit only blocks after 1972 (or later). For the previous motor I had a nice collection of brackets, it's nice to have stock parts just bolt up!

Actually getting things to bolt up took some time though; the 1980's brackets are like logic puzzles, especially the power steering set, which bolts to the block, intake manifold, timing cover, and to the A/C idler bracket, at the same time. It also meant puzzling out belt routing, 1977 Hornet/Gremlin six with air conditioning and power steering layout works best, though I used 1983 belt part numbers; two fit, the A/C-alternator belt was too long.

Of course a week after I figured out the puzzle of all the bracket pieces I found a good drawing in the 1977 TSM.

Still need to get a power steering pump, all I've got is one for the early engine (fits except pulley offset and mounting stud length), and belts, so I haven't bolted everything up tight. No mysterious parts missing (though I have a few extra "mystery" parts left over).

I've also got a lot of work in on the interior. Hornet interior trim parts are hard to find, and most of them are really crappy. They all have the same flaws, particular stress fractures around screw holes, and a lot of what appears to be heat-related warping, which makes the screw hole damage worse. Plus, they're made out of poor quality plastic. It took about three cars worth of plastic (no small feat here in California, there's not a lot of early 1970's AMCs in yards out here) to make a complete set.

They were all the colors of the rainbow, a 1970's American automobile rainbow: beige, shit-brindle, dull green, grey-blue, black...

Doesn't matter -- it's all getting the white and gray SEM treatment the other stuff got. I also lucked out and got a fairly decent headliner -- it's a different style than I've seen, not fiberglas, but essentially cardboard. Few flaws, so it got SEM Warm Gray, and installed without incident. I wish I could say the same about the C-pillar inside trim panels; never did find good ones. These had badly chalked up, I had to wirebrush off a lot of powdered plastic, which then lost a lot of the pebble grain. It's deep into the rear shelf, which is how it got damaged in the first place (sunlight), so it's hardly noticable anyways, except for slight warpage which prevents perfect fit (a common problem with much of my interior plastic).

I've got a lot of night-time, pick-at jobs, one of which is the grille and headlamp doors. And a good thing, because most of the headlamp doors are so craptacular (or NO$) they need lots of TLC. Basically they're all crashed. Again, more of the same: not the best plastic, out in the sun 24/7, chipped, shopping-cart wacked, ... I settled on on a pair that at least weren't missing a lot of plastic pieces.

I think I'm getting the hang of plastic repair. For the large fractures, I simply broke it into pieces, heavily roughed the broken edges, tapering for epoxying, rather than try to fix it in-place. It's tempting to apply glue to the crack, but it never seems to work. The broken edges are smooth; if the crack is old it's dirty. For short fractures I simply ran a hacksaw through the crack to open it up; for large fractures I broke it in two. Further, I suspect there are deformation stresses (eg. warped from sitting in the sun) and breaking in two certainly relieves that. Seems to have worked.

I'm not sure it will hold up, but one of the weak points of the headlamp doors are the three screw holes that mount the door to the grille. They're always cracked. After removing all the cracked and broken plastic and roughing it out, I cut a small piece of teflon sheet to fit into the recess, taped in place, and packed the top with epoxy. It will file and drill to size just fine.

The look I have in mind for this car is a hybrid of three things: late 1960's clean lines and aluminum (faded memory of aerospace early 1960's); import scene modernity, and "vintage" rally. One of the reasons I like the early Hornets is the ultra-clean nose; the car's good looks based upon good design and not decoration. Super-simple wraparound grille is black with aluminum lines extending into silver ribs on the headlamp doors. The current plan is all aluminum. The grilles are bright anodized, painted black. I stripped the flaking black with aerosol gasket remover. I was lucky to be able to straighten this one out just about perfect. It looks good so far, it depends on how well I can "aluminize" the plastic headlamp doors, and sending them out for plating is too expensive. I think I can pull it off with stuff from Eastwood.

For a shifter, I have a B&M StarShifter. Not my favorite device, but I have one here on the shelf. Unlike the Megashifter, the ratchet feature only works for gear changes 1 to 2 and 2 to 3. It's a little macho for my taste, but it'll have to do for now. Obviously here it's missing the housing, boot, cable etc.

This was the easiest transmission install I've ever done. It helps that everything is clean, but I also made this nifty high-tech jack to fit the A904. Trans went on to the jack outside the car, I had to tilt it to get it under the car, but it worked perfectly. The jack was sloppy enough to provide a range of "adjustment". I pre-aligned the torque converter, paint marked the holes, ran a tap through the tapped bosses, a die over the bolts, averything assembled perfectly.

With the transmission in, and rear mount mocked up, the motor now sits at its final angle. I find that the nice cast aluminum valve cover hits the firewall, the protrusion for the wiper motor. (This is an '83 engine, a plastic valve-cover model, aftermarket the only practical option). I'm not sure how anyone else has dealt with this problem. The engine would have to move nearly an inch forward, so I notched the valve over.

The valve cover is definitely the problem; it's well over an inch taller than necessary to clear the rockers, and rises too straight up at the ends, where it should radius or tilt inwards. The bellhousing/block to firewall clearance is fine and correct.

I notched out the top rear 0.75" of the valve cover, screwed a fitted .125" piece of aluminum to fill the bulk of the gap, filled and smoothed with PC-7 epoxy. Worked out OK, though I'm not happy I had to do it.

I'm even less happy about having to remove the wiper motor to insert a long Allen wrench through a drilled hole to get at the rear valve cover bolt.

Got the seats back from Julio's Auto Upholstery (5001 N. Figueroa, Los Angeles), the rears were the original seats, the fronts are '64 two-door Classic. I got the rear panels in, seat back and rear deck in place, the car is looking like a car finally!

The Rambler seats bolt right onto the seat mounts (good old frugal and design-smart AMC), clearance all around just fine. They're great seats, they mocked up fine I missed one detail: when I mocked them up the seat cushions were blown out; after repair they're taller than original -- my head hits the headliner. Oops. After a big freakout I figured out I'll get the cushions modified, worst case. They look great and suit the project just fine. I'll work this out later.

Just a little gloating here: preparing to do some final cleanup and painting I washed a section of the body pan with soap and water, and this is what I found. Clean white paint and insignificant surface rust. There's not as many AMCs on the Left Coast but they tend to be in better shape than those found on the Least Coast. This photo shows typical condition of the car, the other side is the same. As far as I know this car spent most of it's life in the Sacramento area, for what that's worth.

I bought this Weber 32/36, BBD adapter, air cleaner and rebuild kit on eBay for \$202.50 (here I'm applying the kit). It is about 7 years old, but in good shape, the rebuild kit clinched it. It should get me through the year I hope, give me a chance to decide on what fuel-delivery system to use longer term.

Details, details... got the glove box together (though can't install the liner; the aftermarket speaker's magnet protrudes too much), complete with NOS "HORNET" sticker (John Rosa via eBay -- thanks!). The dash gauge cluster here hides the damage caused by chemical incompatibilities in the flat black paint I used to restore the LIGHTS--WIPER lucite. It took 10 months to do the damage, but it appears that outgassing caused damage to the lucite as well as the surrounding dash unit -- very strange. It wasn't sunlight or other external cause; the car was covered and pointed south, so sun never hit the dash. There is no battery in the car. Thanks to Mark Price for selling me a spare dash gauge cluster he had!