September, 2003 - April, 2004
As I chronicled in the Shows section,
something had gone horribly wrong with
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.