Sunday, February 17, 2013

Project Update: The Turbo Van runs

Three years after it entered my garage, the Turbo Van project rolled out under its own boosted power. It took five weeks of late night wrenching, lots of frozen fingers, air shipped parts from Texas, and a lot of help and advice from my friends to get it done before I had to vacate the premisis of my old house. Well, done on the day I had to be out. Nothing like a deadline to push a project out of the garage. Highlights and more pictures after the jump.
About the middle of November it became clear I was moving out by the end of December. I had a few weeks clear everything out including the Turbo Van. I hadn't touched it in nearly four months but here's what I had accomplished in the past three years:
  • Engine and trans installed, not connected to anything but wiring
  • Intercooler mounted
  • Wiring converted to 1989 turbo van
So the engine was in the car and other than the fuel pump, everything was wired up.  So to make boost I had to:
  • fabricate fuel system (originally carb'd with mechanical pump)
  • fabricate intercooler piping
  • fabricate radiator hoses (radiator moved to accomadate intercooler)
  • fabricate air intake
  • fabriacte exhaust system
  • install oil pressure, boost pressure, and wide-band A/F gage
  • install equal length half-shafts
Essentially, all the engine plumbing needed to be fabricated from scratch or purchased.  So I got busy in the garage.  First up I decided to tackle the half-shafts and reinstall the front suspension.  Easy enough, but I discovered both front ball joints were impressively failed.  They had so much play I thought I could rip them out with a pair of pliers.  So I pulled the lower control arms out and $120 later the machine shop had new ones pressed in.  On to the fuel system.

Of all the plumbing I had to do, I dreaded the fuel system the most.  The thought of linking together many feet of high pressure fuel line and spending hours on my back under the van put me into dry heaves.  Fortunately, the carb'd fuel system used hard lines from the tank for delivery, return, and vent.  Even more fortunate was their lack of rust.  So, I had to link the existing hard line to the engine at one end and the install the pump between the tank and lines.  The first part was easy, I flared the end of the hard line going into the fuel rail with a brake line flare tool and slipped high pressure rubber hose over it.  The return line got the same treatment with regular fuel hose.

The other end was a bit more work but surprisingly straight forward.  I sourced a ford fuel filter that was reasonably large and had straight tubing at either end.  I mounted the fuel pump and filter to the spare tire bracket less than a foot from the tank and lines.  I found that a Neon steering rack clamp fit the fuel pump almost perfectly and I strapped the fuel filter just below it.  I ran the wiring alonside the fuel lines to connect the fuel pump to the auto-shut-down relay.  In only a few hours, I had 50psi of fuel pressure at the rail.

The intercooler piping was a bit trickier.  The upper hose was nearly straight but the lower had to start at the turbo on the motor's back side and make it to the intercooler inlet where the radiator inlet used to be.  After many hours of cutting and fitting and cutting again, I had the lower made out of five sections secured with electrical tape.  Off they went to fellow Chia-Neon driver, Luke to made into solid assemblies.

The radiator hoses and exhaust were hacked together in the interest of time.  I shortened stock radiator hoses by cutting them in the middle and removing several inches.  Shifting the radiator about 6" to accomadate the intercooler brought the radiator closer to its inlet and outlet ports on the motor.  To reconnect the hoses together I bought "Radiator Hose Repair Kits" made of barbed plastic tubing that slipped into either side of the hose and allowed me to reconnect it.  For the exhaust, I purchased a 2.5" turbo Dodge down pipe and connected a 2.5" Dynoflow muffler to the end of it.  A 45 degree elbow and three feet of exhaust buting route the exhaust gasses out from under the car just ahead of the driver's side rear wheel.  Neither solution is pretty, but it works.

With everything plumbed I filled the engine with oil, coolant and power steering fluid.  Everything looked connected and done so it naively thought it would start right up.  Not even close.  It cranked but wouldn't fire and didn't even sound like it was trying to.  I pulled codes and found code 11 for lack of crank signal.  No worries, I had a spare which also through code 11.  After purchasing a new sensor, and find the distributor was 180 degrees off I finally had spark.  Now the engine sounded like it was trying to run but never quite made it.  After some investigations, only cylinder number 1 was getting fuel as the three other fuel injectors were clogged.  At this point it was 11pm and I really wanted to make it run tonight. 

I grabbed some neon fuel injectors from the Chia parts bin which use the same wiring connector.  I figured the flow rate would hopefully be close enough to allow idling.  On the second crank it fired, and a moment later it built oil pressure.  I was elated, it finally ran!  After a moment I decided to look underneith and check for leaks.  Uh oh, big puddle of something right under the motor.  After climbing back off the ground I saw smoke rising off the exhaust manifold and the massive fuel leak from injector number one.  I shut off the van and grabbed a fire extinguisher.  Some tense moments later the smoke cleared without anything bursting into flame.  I ordered some new fuel injectors from FWD performance the next day and now it runs well. 

Hat tip to Luke for welding all the intercooler pipes together, Ted for taking the pics, and Sean for the fuel parts and advice.

No comments:

Post a Comment