Saturday, August 2, 2008

Windshield Washer.

My Amazon didn't have a windshield washer installed when I got it. (I'm not sure if US-market Amazons didn't come equipped with washers, or if it was removed by the previous owner?) Being cheap, I wasn't about to pay a hundred odd dollars for a genuine Volvo setup.

During my last trip to the wrecking yard, I picked a $10 washer reservoir and pump out of a 70's era Toyota pickup. (Side note: it's surprisingly difficult to find a simple, no-frills washer tank and pump. Vehicles made after 1980 seem to employ incredibly labyrinthine washer tank designs.)

I made a bracket for the washer tank out of some 1/16" steel bar and fixed it to the driver's side radiator mounting.

The wiring harness already had a lead for the washer pump located near the voltage regulator on the passenger side. It supplies +12 volts to the pump when the wiper switch is pulled fully out. I connected the other lead of the pump motor to a good chassis ground.

I ran about 6' of new 9/32" tubing from the pump through an opening in the firewall (I used the temperature gauge sender opening), into a 3/16"x1/8" x 1/8" tee, and then into the nozzles via two shorter (about 3' total) lengths of 3/32" tubing.

I used zip-ties to secure snug down the hoses around the nozzles. (Unfortunately, I managed to flood my stereo before realizing this was necessary.)

I can see clearly now, the grime is gone!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fuse Labels.

A while back, I saw a picture of a fusebox lid with the original cardstock insert.

I thought it'd be handy to have one, since I can never remember which circuit is on which fuse without referring back to my Haynes manual. I fired up the desktop publishing suite and got to work.

Aside from adding an "R" (for "Reproduction") to the Volvo part number, I tried my best to match the original, including the perplexing reference to "Saxomat" on fuse #1 (possibly an electric clutch mechanism on automatic transmission equipped Amazons?).

For best results, print on 80lb or heavier cover stock, and use a 1/8" punch for the hole in the center.

I've uploaded a template for 8.5x11 paper here and one for A4 paper here.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dome Light.

I'm cheap and I refuse to pay $70 for a proper dome light. Cringe if you will, but I don't care that much about keeping my Amazon completely stock.

I'd searched far and wide for aftermarket dome lights, and found nothing that looked appropriate. It's also surprisingly difficult to find an aftermarket dome light with a three-position (off-on-door) switch.

Shamir and I were at the wrecker's last weekend, where I poked my head in a first generation Suzuki Sidekick and spied the perfect dome light. Modest, minimal, with a three-position switch. I boldly drilled a couple of mounting holes for the new light in the original dome light mounting plate (not through the roof), and installed it with self tapping screws.

It's not original, but the new light is functional, and more or less fits the mid-century styling of the car. I think it actually looks quite dapper. (I just hope Jan Wilsgaard doesn't find it an offense to his sensibilities.)

Next, I need to shampoo that headliner...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Headlight Flasher.

I'd read on Ron Kwas's website that the Amazon was originally designed so that a pull back on the turn signal stalk would flash the high beams (as on most modern cars), but that the feature was disabled for the American market during the 60's due to Department of Transportation regulations.

With wiring already in place, the addition of a three-terminal relay is all that's needed to reactivate this feature. Three wires (red, black, and grey) are wrapped into the wiring harness together near the reverse light relay.

I couldn't find a three-terminal relay, so I picked up a standard 30 amp, 12 volt, SPST relay from Radio Shack. The Radio Shack relay has four terminals (coil power, coil ground, and two poles of a normally open connection). I made a "y" harness and split 12V from the black wire to supply power to both the relay coil and the headlight. The grey wire is the "control" wire (grounds when the turn signal stalk is pulled back) and connects to the coil ground terminal. Red connects between the headlights and the other pole of the relay.

I mounted the new relay next to the reverse light relay using an existing screw. A pull back on the turn signal now activates the high beams momentarily, while the foot dipper next to the clutch still switches between high and low.

As Ron Kwas cautions, this setup isn't designed to deal with continuous loads (would need a heavier duty relay, and a dedicated wire from the battery to power the headlights), but works fine for momentary signaling.

Valve Adjust.

Along with an oil change, valve adjustment is probably something I should have done sooner, and certainly before I started messing with my carbs.

Having never done a valve adjustment before, I was a bit intimidated, but I faced my fears and delved under that valve cover.

It seems that every Amazon junkie has his or her own favorite method for adjusting valves, but after reading various articles I decided to go with the "Rule of Nines" method which seemed to be the best balance between accuracy and simplicity:

"To adjust any particular valve, take its number, then figure out the other number you will need to add up to nine. Turn the engine so that valve is wide open, then adjust the one with the first number. For example, to adjust number one, turn the engine so that number eight is open all the way, then adjust number one. Moving on to number two, turn the engine so that seven is wide open, then adjust number two, and so on."

Interestingly, all of my intake valves were 0.018" (cold), and the exhaust valves were all 0.019". An early warning sign of valve recession, perhaps? I set everything so that a lubricated 0.020 feeler gauge would pass, but a 0.022 would not.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Oil Change.

I'd been reading some articles about lubrication that gave me a newfound appreciation for regular oil changes and their profound effect on prolonging motor life. Since I hadn't changed the oil in my Amazon since I got it, it was time.

The old oil was looking positively tar-like and, as my buddy and auto-guru Shamir pointed out, smelling pretty tired, too. It had a heavy odor of fuel that probably meant its lubricating properties were thoroughly broken down.

Out came the old oil and filter...

looking pretty sludgy.

In went fresh 10W-40 and a new Mann filter. Mann filters were Volvo's OEM choice, and have an anti-drainback valve to prevent oil starvation during starting. I also installed a magnetic drain plug to catch errant metallic particles while I was at it.

hoping I don't find a piece of a valve stuck to this the next time I change my oil

See you in 3,000 miles! (Unless I switch to 20W-50 full synthetic before then...)

Monday, July 14, 2008

End Link Bushings.

The Amazon was clunking a bit over bumps, and a quick glance at the suspension revealed some wear in the sway bar end link bushings. Removing the old bushings revealed just how fried they really were.

I swapped in a set of poly bushings from iPd. I found that, because the new poly bushings stand a little taller than the stock rubber bushings, I had to use a longer end link bolt. End link bolts aren't listed in iPd's catalog, but I was able to order a pair by calling them.

I still had to compress the bushings slightly to get the nut on. You could probably get an even longer bolt from a hardware store - just make sure you get one that's strong enough (Grade 8?). I gave the bushings a good dab of Aqua-Lube waterproof grease while assembling

I was able to do the whole job in under two hours using only a socket and wrench. (Didn't even require jacking up the front end, or removing the wheels.)

The car rides 100% better. The results were so inspiring that I ordered the full control arm bushing set from iPd.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Breather Filter.

The crankcase ventilation system on B18 and B20 motors came in a variety of flavors. My 122S happens sport a breather built into the oil filler cap which is supposed to draw fresh air in though the air filters.

Unfortunately, the non-OEM air filters on my motor don't have a hookup for the oil cap breather, so I decided to add a filter directly on the oil cap to prevent airborne nastiness from getting sucked into the valve train. Besides, there appear to be some advantages to disconnecting the oil cap-to-carb connection.

I initially used an air filter from a .21 R/C car engine, which worked perfectly well, but I couldn't resist picking up some "bling" the last time I was at the auto parts store (a K&N replica that set me back about $11).

Chrome makes you go faster, right?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Differential Plug.

The old differential fill plug was a little leaky. I replaced it with an ordinary, galvanized 3/4" NPT pipe plug from the hardware store ($0.98). The plug is taper-threaded, but for good measure I put some Teflon tape on the threads. No more drips!

underbody needs a good cleaning

While I was under the car, I drained the differential and transmission, and filled them with fresh 80W-90 gear oil. (Everyone loves Redline MTL, but the local parts store was out and I'm cheap, so I used a synthetic blend from Valvoline.) FYI, there's no drain plug on the diff, so the fluid had to be siphoned it out.

Friday, June 27, 2008

PCV Valve.

I've been struggling with my SU's for a couple weeks now. I just can't seem to get the mixture right - the motor feels weak under load unless I set the carbs so rich that I can smell strong fuel-ey fumes.

Even though I'm 99% sure that I've got the dreaded throttle shaft leak, I thought I'd replace the PCV valve and eliminate a potential vacuum leak in the crankcase ventilation system.

I was able to pick up a replacement PCV valve at my local auto supply (Fram FV237) and 18" of 5/16" vacuum hose for about $4 total. While I was at it, flushed plenty of gunk out of the flame trap with some carb cleaner.

Well, I've still got carb troubles, but for under $5, I've got a PCV circuit that'll hopefully last me another 500,000 miles.

Sunday, June 8, 2008


OK. I had a moment of weakness. I admit it.

I've been intending to save some of the "fun" parts of the restoration for last. For example, polishing and repainting the "122S" insignia badges. But... I just couldn't resist and I pulled the badges off the car yesterday.

looking kind of rough.

The badges were in pretty rough shape, but being actual metal (not plastic like the brightwork of today's cars), I figured they could be restored.

They had a film of white paint on them - left over from a pretty shoddy paint job which afflicts the rest of the car as well. In addition, they had some pretty deep gouges in them.

I started by cleaning them up with lacquer thinner to remove dirt and all the old paint. Because of the extent of the gouges, I decided to even out the surface by sanding, even though it'd mean having to sand through the chrome plating. Because areas of the chrome had already been worn away, I figured I might as well.

notice different sheen where chrome is worn away at bottom of the "S"

I wet sanded, starting with 320 grit, up to 800 grit, and finally 2000 grit sandpaper. I finished with polishing compound. Because the soft aluminum is now exposed, I'll probably end up re-plating the badges at some point.

I used Testors model paint to color the badges red and black as they were originally. (The smell of the Testors paint reminded me of childhood the entire time I was painting.)

completed badges

I'll probably still wait until the car's painted to put them back on.

Fuel Filter.

I'd read on Brickboard that an often overlooked cause of poor performance is a clogged fuel filter. I'd been experiencing poor power, but I'd checked my filter and it looked clear, so I didn't suspect it was a problem.

Given the fact that fuel filters are less than $3 at the local auto supply (Fram G4164), I figured it couldn't hurt to get a new one. I was glad I did. After removing the old filter and comparing it to a new one, I realized it was dirtier than I'd thought.

notice the dark matter at the bottom of the old filter

While I was at it, I decided to throw an extra filter on the line before the fuel pump and change all the fuel lines (5/16" from the tank to the fuel pump, 1/4" from the pump to the carbs). The old lines, it turns out, were getting pretty hard. Total cost for filters and lines was under $10. Inexpensive fixes that I hope will prevent future problems.

filters before and after the pump, new lines and toothless hose clamps all around

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Piston Lifters.

When I had the carbs off the car to fix the choke boss, I discovered that the piston lifting pins were missing. Apparently, the carbs run just fine without them, but the idea of a missing part (not to mention unfiltered air entering the carbs) was driving me nuts.

Conveniently, while I was digging around inside the car last weekend, I found one of them and was able to use it as a model to make two new ones.

I started with a 1.5" length of 1/8" diameter brass rod, soldered a 0.54" length of 5/32" brass tube over it, then soldered another 0.54" length of 3/16" tubing over that to get the correct diameter "shoulder." I used K&S Engineering's rod/tube, each size of which conveniently nests inside the next successively larger size. It's available at most hobby shops and many hardware stores.

K&S tubing/rod nests neatly inside itself

I don't have a lathe, so I chucked the tube/rod assembly in a drill mounted on the handy Crafstman drill stand I got for my birthday this year, and worked it with various files. I used the tip of a needle file to machine the groove for the e-clip (located 0.20" from the end of the pin).

ghetto lathe

I got a couple of 1/8" brass washers, o-rings, and springs from the hardware store. I couldn't find any small e-clips, so I had to buy a 20-piece e-clip assortment from Kragen.

Everything fit as planned. Now, if I could just figure out how to properly tune these darn SUs...

Friday, June 6, 2008

Fuse Block.

Even after cleaning it with a wire brush and sandpaper, my fuseblock was looking a little crusty, and I knew there was even more crust deep down in between the terminals.

I decided it was time for a rebuild, and while I was at it, I decided I was going to modernize the block to accept 1/4" glass cartridge fuses. (I have visions of blowing a fuse in the middle of nowhere, in the dead of night, and not being able to find euro-style fuses at a gas station...)

As usual, the process started with disassembly:

I wasn't careful when drilling out the rivets holding the terminals to the block, and as you can see in the picture, I ended up damaging a corner of the relatively brittle Bakelite block. I started reading up on Bakelite repair, only to discover it's supposedly impossible. Just as all hope seemed lost, I decided to try gluing the piece back in place with Zap-A-Gap.

Bingo. It turns out that Zap-A-Gap (which I swear is superior to other CA adhesives) mends Bakelite just fine. I glued the piece back in place, sanded the area with 800 grit sandpaper, and the repair is completely invisible. While I was at it, I patched a previously broken corner with some black plastic (I used some ABS I had lying around) as well.

Next, I set to the dull- albeit rewarding- task of cleaning each terminal lug with a wire brush attached to my Dremel. Seeing the amount of oxidation that had developed in between the lugs, and the difference before and after cleaning, made me feel that my efforts would be well worth it for the long term health of my Amazon's charging system.



I had a hard time finding cartridge fuse clips, so I ended up buying a fuse block from Radio Shack, and using just the clips. Because the Amazon's original fuse block is sized for euro fuses, I ended up having to do a good amount of modifying the clips by fitting, drilling, filing, refitting, redrilling, and refiling to get the spacing right for 1/4" cartridge fuses. At first, I was obsessed with centering the fuses in the block, but in the end, I ended up offsetting them.

Before reassembling the block, I followed Ron Kwas's excellent advice, and tinned and soldered all of the terminals to prevent future oxidation between the lugs. Then, I reassembled everything using screws so that future disassembly would be easier, should it ever be necessary (i.e., in another 580,000 miles). I searched to find super-flat pan head screws (necessary to fit between the fuse clip and the fuse itself). After scouring all the local hardware stores, I gave up, bought flat head screws, and countersunk the terminals slightly.

back together - terminals were tinned, assembled, then heated to fuse the solder.

Back in the car, with the cover on, the fuseblock looks stock. Hopefully, this bit of preventative maintenance will save me from having to deal with a charging system calamity or, worse yet, engine compartment fire.

De-Ox was applied to all of the fuse clips and spade connectors

Monday, May 26, 2008


Today, Jenn helped me to reverse the toll that 40+ years of UV took on our Amazon's sun visors.

Restoration of the visors started from the inside out. I used a wire wheel to clean the rust off the visors' wire frames. If I'd been really smart, I would have given them a preventative treatment with POR-15, but I was lazy and skipped that step. (I'll probably regret that decision later.)

Following auto upholstery guru Don Taylor's method, we cut chipboard backings for the new visors using what was left of an old visor as a pattern. I purchased some 2-ply chipboard for the job, but it turned out to be too thick, so we ended up using a frozen pizza box (Amy's Organic Roasted Vegetable No-Cheese).

We glued a layer of 3/8" foam to the chipboard using Super 77, and trimmed it flush to the edge of the chipboard. Next, we cut a piece of vinyl matching the shape of the chipboard, but leaving an ample allowance around the entire edge.

the entire sandwich: wire armature, chipboard with foam attached, and vinyl

The trickiest part of the whole operation was trimming the vinyl and cutting darts to allow a smooth radius around the corners. We ended up doing this by trial and error, using masking tape to "tack down" the straight portions while we cut the corners.

Using Super 77, we glued vinyl to foam, then folded over the loose vinyl edge and glued it to the "inside" of the chipboard. (FYI: as noted on the can, spraying Super 77 on both surfaces to be glued, and then letting it dry for a couple of minutes before assembling produces an extra strong bond.)

After botching our first attempt at gluing the two sides of each visor together, I discovered a better method: before applying adhesive, fold the two sides together and align them with the wire frame inside the sandwich. While keeping everything aligned, tape the wire frame to the chipboard. Then apply Super 77, and glue the two halves together. Everything should remain aligned. (On our first try, we tried inserting the wire armature and aligning after glue was applied, and ended up with a crooked visor that had to be taken apart.)

two sides glued together

The Super 77 bond started pulling apart within minutes, and we decided that it'd be necessary to sew the edges. The visor was too thick to fit in our sewing machine, and we wanted to avoid a top-stitched seam anyway, so we sewed a blind stitch by hand around the entire perimeter of each visor. (This was time consuming.)

I'm reasonably satisfied, and would have been even more satisfied if our hand sewing skills were more practiced. But all in all, I think the visors look pretty good.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Choke Bosses.

Way back, while working on the motor mounts, I discovered that the choke boss on my rear carb body was broken, preventing the choke from operating properly (or at all). At the time, I fixed it with JB weld and a scrap of aluminum, but I'm sad to say that the fix failed. (I'm not necessarily blaming JB Weld, but I haven't had much luck using it in applications involving shear, torsion, bending... well, any kind of stress at all, really.)

Although the idea of drilling holes in my carbs left me with a pit in my stomach, I figured- short of welding- using mechanical fasteners was going to be the only thing strong enough to provide a lasting fix.

broken choke boss

I started by filing the broken remnant of the boss to create an even mating surface for the repair piece.

Next, I "machined" a repair from some aluminum scrap (using a hacksaw and a file), then drilled and countersank it for a miniature machine screw to fix it to the carb body. Finally, using utmost care (and holding my breath the whole time) I drilled the remnant of the choke boss on the carb body and tapped the hole.

repair screwed into carb body

back together

The car starts a lot easier now!

Tail Lights.

Although the Volvo is rarely on the road, much less on the road at night, I thought it'd be wise to improve the anemic tail lights. I'd considered installing some LED bulbs, but after reading more about the pros and cons of LED conversion (unidirectional, current matching issues), I decided instead to improve the stock incandescent setup.

Upon removing the tail light lenses, it was immediately evident that a large part of the problem was simply corrosion rendering the reflector basically useless.

before cleaning. gross.

I started by cleaning off as much oxidation and rust as possible with a wire wheel, and then steel wool. I also used a battery terminal brush to clean out oxidation from the bulb sockets, and gave all the contacts a light sanding.

mostly cleaned and looking much better.

I was originally planning on wet sanding and polishing the reflector to a mirror finish from there, but realized a few minutes into polishing that rust would very quickly render my efforts futile. So I changed courses and "resurfaced" the reflector with aluminum duct tape. After sticking and trimming the tape, I burnished it down with a soft plastic spatula, and then polished it with polishing compound, leaving a pretty satisfactorily reflective finish.

not the Hubble Telescope, but it's acceptably shiny.

Next, I cleaned the lenses (which had been caked with grime) with Simple Green and a soft toothbrush, then used polishing compound to bring it up to a shine.

I was actually somewhat surprised by the efficacy of this approach. I'd say that perceived brightness was improved by about 50%.

dirty on left, cleaned and polished on right