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

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Temperature Gauge.

The capillary tube on the original Bourdon tube temperature gauge had ruptured, rendering it useless. Evidently, mechanical temperature gauges can be repaired, but I opted to convert my 122 to an electrical gauge setup.

original gauge, with weird Bourdon appendix squiggling around in foreground

Figuring I was just going to tear it apart anyway, I bought the cheapest electrical gauge I could find at my local auto supply shop. For $16 plus tax, I got the gauge, sender, and 4 fittings with different threads.

Unfortunately, none of the fittings had the right thread for my B18 head, so I ended up drilling out the fitting from the original sender, and tapping it to 3/8" NPT for the new sender. (Supposedly, electrical senders from B20 heads will also fit, but I decided not to chance it.)

new sender unit on left, original fitting on right drilled and tapped with 3/8" NPT thread

new sender installed

I was able to remove the old temperature gauge while keeping the rest of the instrument cluster in place. I unceremoniously disassembled and discarded the guts of the old gauge, retaining the backplate, instrument face, and needle for the retrofit.

It felt a little weird ripping a perfectly good new gauge apart, but a pair of pliers and some brute force were all that were necessary to free the internals for "re-purposing."

old and new gauge parts meet on my workbench.

Hacking old and new together was relatively straightforward, but required some trial and error fitting. I was hoping to use the standoffs from the original backplate, but they were not spaced far enough apart, so I had to drill them out. I elongated the remaining holes, and made some new standoffs from aluminum tubing. Bolts through the backplate, standoffs, and into the flanges on the new gauge (tapped to receive the bolts) hold it all together. The bolts are a tight fit next to the screws that affix the gauge face, but it all comes together, albeit with minimal room for error. Wires exit through existing holes in the backplate (enlarged slightly).

original standoffs can be used to determine correct distance between backplate and face

In order to mount up the original needle to the shaft of the new gauge, I drilled it out using a miniature wire-gauge bit. In my haste, the hole is neither centered, nor the correct diameter. Because of the loose fit, I had to use some silicone adhesive, rather than friction fit it onto the shaft. I also accidentally drilled through to the front of the needle. Doh. Luckily, the bottom third of the gauge is hidden when the assembly is installed in the instrument cluster.

"Calibrating" the needle to the correct angle and whatnot was a complete shot in the dark. Accuracy will not be a forte.

managed to only slightly damage the original gauge face.

Back in the car, I pulled +12 volts off of the fuel gauge, grounded under the nearby turn signal flasher bracket (where another ground is already located), and ran the sender wire back into the engine compartment along the same route as the original capillary tube.

back in the dash and looking stock

It was surprisingly satisfying to power it up and see the needle jump to action! And now I can tell (relatively speaking) when the car is warm.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Rust, Part II.

Wowsers. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but while doing some other work today, I removed the battery and discovered this:

Yeah, those are gaping rust holes in the battery box. Going straight through to the passenger compartment.

Guess I'll add that to my list of "stuff I need to weld someday..."


Honk Honk.

Evidently, horn failure is pretty common in Amazons. Rather than fix the horn button, or simply disconnect the horns, the previous owner of my car (out of frustration?) went ahead and removed part of the horn switch entirely.

Figuring it'd be faster and cheaper than trying to locate a replacement, I took it as a challenge to fabricate a new switch from scratch, using a diagram from GCP as a guide.

parts 34 through 38 were missing on my Amazon

To form the main body of the switch (part 36), I soldered a 1/2" x 1/8" ring made from copper plumbing pipe to a length of 17/32" brass tubing. I sealed the other end by soldering on a piece of flattened copper pipe (I didn't have any plate handy) and drilled a hole for the wire (part 35). I found a suitable spring (part 37) from my local hardware store, along with a nylon spacer (part 38) that fit snugly inside the brass tubing. I soldered the wire to a rivet (part 34), and soldered an extra glob of tin to the rivet to give the end a little extra "crown."

(As a side note, I whacked the whole thing together in about an hour using only a drill, a pipe cutter, a hacksaw, a butane torch, and a file. I'm constantly amazed at how much you can do with basic hand tools. Then again, they made some pretty crazy stuff back in the days of antiquity, long before there was such thing as an Epilog.)

completed switch

in situ

I proceeded with the standard fix of making a new foam insulator (part 23 in previous diagram) to hold the two halves (parts 22 and 25) of the horn switch apart. I got a rubber overflow washer from the plumbing section of my hardware store and cut a section out to fit the diameter of the horn ring, then glued it back together with hot glue. I had to trim the washer, which was originally 3/'8" thick, down to about 1/4" to get the correct "springiness." Finally, I punched some holes in it to fit the posts and nylon insulators.

ugly, but functional

Because the new assembly is much "springier" with the new rubber washer installed, I had to use some C-clamps to compress the whole sandwich before re-installing the clips which hold it together.

The last step in bringing my Amazon's horns back to life involved disassembling and cleaning the horns themselves. I discovered that one of the contacts inside the horns was severely oxidized. I used electrical contact cleaner and some 400 grit sandpaper to renew the contact, then treated with De-Ox before reassembling.

arrow indicates location of oxidized contact

I ran a new wire to horn switch through the steering tube (much easier to start at the steering box and feed it up through the steering tube) and hooked the whole thing up.

Honk honk! My 122 can sing again.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Fuel Line.

The words "uhh, does it smell like gas to you?" are usually not a good sign.

Jenn and I took the Volvo for a spin out to the old naval shipyard today, where I noticed a strong smell of fuel-- shortly before spying a puddle of gas emanating from under the engine. I popped the hood to the sight of gas flowing from fuel line. Luckily, our Gerber Shortcut allowed us to make some quick field repairs that got us safely back on the road.

It turns out there were two problems. First, the rubber fuel lines had been shredded by "toothed" hose clamps. I never took ipd's advice about hose clamps seriously-- until now. Now, I swear by those smooth hose clamps.

new "smooth" clamp in foreground. engine fire-inducing "toothed" clamp in background.

"cheese grater" effect of toothed hose clamps.

Secondly, the hard fuel line had a mysterious hole in it. (Not sure how it got there, but it had the "burned through" look of a welding accident. Maybe the battery cable to the starter motor shorted on the fuel line at some point? Glad I wasn't around for that...) I removed the offending section with a pipe cutter and extended the rubber line.

Thankfully, no engine fire- but I'm thinking it might be a good idea to keep an extinguisher in the car now...

Saturday, May 3, 2008


I was having a tough time locating exact replacements for the type 12913 bulbs that were used in the glove box and instrument panel lights, so I started looking for other 12V/2W replacement bulbs with a mini bayonet base.

The closest modern replacement I could locate was a type 3797 bulb, but didn't want to mail order just two bulbs, so I kept looking for something available locally. I finally discovered that a type 53 bulb, available at most auto supply stores, should work.

new Sylvania 53 bulb on the left, old Phillips 12913 bulb on the right.

The 53 is technically a 14.4V bulb rated for 0.12 amps (14.4 volts X .12 amps = 1.7 watts), but that ought to be close enough. It's also globe-shaped rather than tubular, but the globe is narrow enough to fit in the openings in the dash.