September, 2003 - April, 2004
As I chronicled in the Shows section, something had gone horribly wrong with Maych's  engine on the way home from the 2003 Fullerton car show.  This happened in June and after having Maych towed back to my garage, that's where he sat for the next couple of months.  The car show season was over, summer was coming to an end and I was disgusted to the point that I didn't want to deal with the problem for a while.

Around September I decided a 4000 pound paper weight sitting in my garage was of little use to me or anyone else.  It was time to face the music and find someone to take a look at Maych and see how extensive the damage was to the engine.

 
My friend Dave and myself had done all the work of rebuilding the current original engine but I wasn't in a position now to do the work myself.  Dave had most of the equipment we used (and a good bit of the technical knowledge) and a nice garage space in which to work.  The home I moved to after completing Maych's restoration does not have the kind of facilities needed to due major engine repair work.  Besides, I wasn't feeling especially confident of my technical ability now that the engine we rebuilt only lasted about 700 miles.  Time to get professional help.
 
I knew I didn't want to take Maych to the normal run-of-the-mill repair shop.  Most of the bigger shops depend on volume-of-work for profit and that means a quick turn around.  I could envision scratched paint, greasy seat covers, and weeks of Maych sitting outside while parts were ordered.  So I was looking for a small shop that appreciated and respected restored vehicles. 
 
I made a list of several shops listed in the phone book that looked promising.  I then drove to each shop to check them out.  I think you can tell a lot about a shop just by driving by and I scratched off all of the shops on my list except one.  No particular reasons, they just didn't seem right somehow.   I was going to call it a day, but decided I might as well take a look at the last shop on my list - Arends Auto Service.  The shop building was nothing to brag about but when I turned to go in front of the building, much to my delight, I saw a beautifully restored 1957 Chevrolet Impala sitting inside.  This was a good sign so I decided to go in a have a talk.
 
The '57 turned out to belong to the owner, Tim Arends, who was also the chief (and only) mechanic in the shop.  I told him about my troubles with Maych and about my concerns of having someone work on.  He told me that he understood how much work goes into a restoration, having done several of his own, and assured my he would take all the necessary precautions when working on Maych.  That include never, ever leaving him outside and even keeping the car cover on while he was in the shop and not being worked on.
 
He said he always liked to have a long-term winter project and if I wasn't in a hurry he would work on Maych throughout the winter, in between his "normal" repair jobs.  I told him I was not in a hurry because I didn't drive Maych during the winter and he could keep him as long as he needed.  I said it would be nice if he was ready by the next Tour Nebraska event in June.  He said he should finish well before that time, so we shook hands on the deal and I had Maych towed over to his shop.
 
About a month later I dropped by the shop to see if Tim had gotten a chance to look at Maych.  He said he had done a little detective work and had even consulted with his dad, who owned the shop before him.  He still couldn't get Maych to start and they had looked at all the usual things - fuel, timing, electrical.  Everything seemed fine but it just wouldn't turn over.  He said his next step was to remove the valve covers and see if the valves were still functioning properly and then remove the timing chain cover and check timing chain and cam shaft ends.  I told him I would check back in a few weeks to see what he found.
 
A few weeks later I dropped back by and Tim said he still hadn't found out why it wouldn't start.  Everything he checked looked fine to him.  He said the next step was to pull the motor and start taking it apart to look for internal damage.
 
A couple of weeks later Tim had pulled the motor and torn it down.  He couldn't find anything that would account for the symptoms I experienced when Maych died on the trip back from Fullerton.  Nor could he understand why he wouldn't start.  The only possible thing he found was that the distributor shaft did not turn as freely as it should.  But even if the shaft was binding, it hadn't stripped any teeth and it was still in time, so he didn't know how that would keep him from starting now.
 
He said one alternative would be to get the distributor rebuilt locally then put the engine back together, put the engine back in, and she if that fixed the problem.  He said the other alternative would be to buy a new crate engine and install it.
 
I told him I'd have to think about those alternatives for a while.  I really liked the fact that Maych had all number-matched original parts.  That was one of the things that sold me on the truck when I bought it.  Somehow, putting in a "bastard" engine seemed sacrilegious.
 
I mulled over the decision for several weeks and finally decided I liked the idea of having a reliable engine more than I liked having an original engine in which I had little faith.  I bought Maych to drive and I needed a reliable engine that would get me to where I was going and back without worrying if it was going to give up the ghost each time I took it out for a spin.  Plus, the labor cost was going to be about the same whether I put the original or a new crate engine back in.  It would cost even more if the original still didn't work and we wound up having to pull in back out and go with a new crate engine. 
 
Besides, even though I entered Maych in car shows, these local shows are mainly "Show and Shine" events and they don't use number-matching as a show criteria and I'm not planning on attending any Concours d'Elegance shows where they do.  However, I do plan on keeping the original engine in case I ever decide to sell Maych and someone wants to put him back all original or I get a wild hair and decide to put it back in myself. 
 
Having made my decision, I went to the local Chevrolet dealer and bought a standard 350ci (5.7L) engine and had them deliver it to Arends' shop. Tim said it would be a couple of weeks before he would get around to it and if I wanted to use that time to clean up some of the parts I hadn't got around to yet, I was welcomed to do it in his shop. 
 
The parts that I hadn't gotten around to restoring, due to time constraints when we put Maych back together originally, were the power steering pump, the air conditioner compressor and all the various brackets associated with these two units.  Restoring these parts while the're mounted on the engine would be nearly impossible, so I took Tim up on the offer.  After a couple of days of work and I had these parts looking much better.
 
Tim also let me paint the new engine in his shop.  The crate engine comes out of the box painted a gloss black and I wanted to keep the original Chevy orange color.  After painting the new engine I installed new spark plugs, and swapped  the heat shields and harmonic balancer from the old to the new engine.  The new engine was now ready to go back in.
 
About a month later I stopped by the shop to see how things were going.  Tim said he had good news and bad news -- not exactly what I wanted to here.  Tim said the good news was that he had the new engine installed.  The bad news was that when he tried to turn the fly wheel in order to line up the bolt holes on the torque converter, the fly wheel would only move about 1/4 turn before it locked up.  Turning it a 1/4 turn the other direction produced the same effect.  After turning it back and forth several times he heard something metallic drop into the oil pan.  Knowing this was not a good sign he said he was going to re-pull the engine and take the oil pan off to see what fell.
 
I few days later he gave me a call and said to drop by the shop when I got the chance.   When I got to the shop he showed me what he found in the oil pan.  It looked like some kind of machined alignment pin used in the manu- acturing process.  Evidently it had dropped into the crank shaft housing and prevented the crank shaft from tuning until it finally dropped through to the oil pan.  I told him I wasn't going to put in a new engine that had parts falling off so I called the Chevrolet dealer and they said they would bring out another crate engine and pick up the other one -- no charge of course.  But, this meant I had to do the paint-and-swap-parts job all over again.
 
A few more weeks passed and Tim finally had the new engine in and ready to go.  He called me up and wanted to know if I wanted to be there for the initial start and I said sure.  While Tim kept and eye under the hood I cranked the new engine.  It started up fine but would only run a few seconds and then die.  Great! Another engine that won't run.  After checking the fuel flow we discovered that the fuel pump was not pumping fuel.  We poured enough fuel in the carburetor to get it started but when what was used up it would die.  Tim said he thought he knew what the problem might be but we needed to take the fuel pump off to find out.  He wouldn't tell me what he thought before we removed the fuel pump, which I thought was a little strange, but I went along.
 
After getting the fuel pump off he discovered the problem and then told me . . . "the rest of the story".  It seem that when they had manufactured this engine they did not properly machine the bolt hole where you insert a bolt to hold the fuel pump rod in place while you install the fuel pump.  The bolt hole was only machined about a 1/4 deep.  Tim overcame this hurdle by placing a small dap of silicone gasket sealant on the end of the rod to hold it in place while he installed the pump.  This worked great but unfortunately we didn't get around to starting the engine until a few days later.  By this time the sealant had set up and prevented the fuel pump rod from moving.  We tried a number of things (vice grips, heat, solvent, etc.) to dislodge the rod but nothing worked.
 
Finally, Tim said let's just put on an electric fuel pump.  He said it was his screw-up and he wouldn't charge me for the pump or the labor.  He said that we could leave the manual fuel pump on and just run the gas through it.  His thought was that after the engine had ran a few miles, the silicone gasket sealant he used on the fuel pump rod would disintegrate and the manual pump would work properly.  By this time we were already into April and I was anxious to get Maych back out on the road so I said that sounded like a good plan to me.
 
After fixing the fuel problem, everything else went smoothly.  We got Maych all buttoned back up and I finally drove him back home -- 8 months after having him towed to the shop.
 
A few weeks later when I had Maych out for a spin one day I kept hearing a knocking sound coming from somewhere under the cap.  I drove him over to Arends' shop to see if he could tell what the sound was.  He immediately identified it as coming from the electric fuel pump.  He said the fuel pump rod had probably worked free and the manual fuel pump was now working and this was causing back pressure in the electric fuel pump which was causing it to make the knocking sound.  He disconnected the electric lead for the electric fuel pump from the fuse panel and the noise stopped.  The engine also continued to run so we knew that the manual pump was working.  He suggested just leaving the electric fuel pump installed.  If something went wrong with the manual pump all I had to due was reconnect the electric lead to the electric pump and I would be back in business. 
 
Having the electric pump as a backup sounded like a good plan to me.  Little did I know how much of a pain in the neck that decision would turn out to be a year later.  If you want to know how this decision turned out you can read about it in the 2005 Tour Nebraska section.
 

 

 

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