Lock the welder

1972 Dodge Charger

Things are in a state of flux at Efab these days. I am relocating to Los Angeles CA, first seasonally, perhaps permanently. The fate of the Branford, CT shop is uncertain at this time. Without boring everyone with my reasons for moving, let me show you what I will be driving out there: my dream car! Every once in a while I do a car project, and I have a very progressive plan for this one! Ever since I was a kid I looked at the Dodge Charger as the quintessential muscle car. Not based on any particular feature, just the overall design. In particular, the 1971-1974 years. Of course everyone wants the 1968-1970, due mostly to the fact that it has been made famous in so many great movies (bullet, fast and furious, blade, dukes of hazard, etc). I like to be different, and I like the fact that in the later years, the design got a little sleazier.

Of course, I am not going to simply buy a car and drive it stock, its just not me. Also, it doesn't really make sense, environmentally or financially, to drive a car that gets 10 miles per gallon on a regular basis. How can I have my cake and eat it too?

What engine can I put in here that will solve all my problems? I need lots of horsepower and torque, ease of maintenance, decent fuel economy, and low emissions. How about a turbo-diesel?

Modern diesel engines are not what they used to be. They are smooth running, reliable, quiet, have the ability to run a wide variety of fuels (bio-diesels), and make freakish amounts of power.

I am in the process of educating myself on the wide world of diesels now. I have never owned a diesel, or even seen one taken apart. I have a lot to learn before I can make an educated decision on where to begin, but for now I have another task: prep the charger for its cross country drive.

Here she is the day I bought her, coming home from Long Island on the ferry.

charger on ferry


As soon as it got to the shop I dove in. Anyone who has ever tried to restore an old car knows the pain I am talking about. Is it safe? what parts are about to fail? Is it going to catch on fire? how is the motor and trans? So many questions, and only one way to find out- start exploring.

One thing that was immediately obvious- the suspension was not up to par. I knew it would have to be upgraded, not only for the trip out west, but also for the heavier engine that will eventually be installed. A phone call to Firmfeel Inc (a mopar suspension specialist) got me several new key components. New heavy duty leaf springs and torsion bars, heavy duty tie rods, rebuilt heavy duty steering box,  giant sway bars,  a full poly bushing kit, and new stiff shocks. Once these components were installed, it completely changed the way the car drove. Thanks Firmfeel!

Next was the engine, and luckily I have a good friend (Ralph at Kehl Tech), who builds race engines for a living, and is dam good at it. He said the motor sounded good (its a small block 360), but suggested we rebuild the carb, which was a good guess because there was a lot of old gas residue gumming it up, as well as many mismatched parts.

Accessory belts were badly misaligned, so some new brackets had to be made as well. The coil was mounted sideways, so that was relocated too.

charger engine without carb

Next step was the wiring. As you can imagine, a lot of morons had been inside this car since it left the factory, and it seemed as if every one of them added their own special touches to the electrical system! My god, butt connectors, wires that had melted, electrical tape, stereo components that didnt work, old fuses, new fuses, wires with no fuse at all, and breakers that randomly pop. With my trusty test light I went at it, and after a week I had removed about 40ft of wire that didnt do anything, repaired several melted wires, got 3 non-functioning gauges to work, installed brighter headlights, and got all the critical running lights working. Of course all of this will get redone again when the new motor transplant happens, but it should survive the trip out now.

I cant be seen driving an orange car, and it isnt the original paint anyway, so a quicky repaint was in order. Spay bomb time!

charger being painted


I ripped off the old rotten vinyl roof covering, and molded the pitted metal underneath. I never liked those vinyl roofs anyway. The chromed trim and bumpers were in decent shape, but a scotch brightening session gave them a nice matte finish, similar to stainless steel.

charger in shop

I am leaving next month, so I am driving the car daily to (hopefully) bring any other problems to light before the big push west. Stay tuned for more updates, and remember, not all choppers have 2 wheels!


Born Free 5 Trip

I got a phone call from my friend Matt Olson asking if I wanted to ride out to Born Free this year from his shop (Carls Cycle Supply) in South Dakota. We had 4 days and had to travel approx 1600 miles, and would do it on our rigid bikes. I'm not one to pass up something cool, so I was in. I arranged to have my bike (Icarus), shipped from the shop here in CT to SD, and chose AA Motorcycle Transport to do it. Mind you this was over 2 weeks before we were planning on leaving from Matts. The person on the phone assured me that despite the "remote location" Matts shop is located in, it would be there well before the departure date. I faxed in some forms, gave them the credit card, and a few days later the bike was picked up.

Mind you, anytime I ship a bike I spent over a year of my life building from scratch, with almost $35,000 invested in components and materials, I am a little nervous. This time I had reason to be.

A few days after the bike was supposed to be at Matts, I began to get worried. After the runaround trying to get the right person on the phone, and giving them dozens of confirmation numbers and codes, I was told that because of the "remote location" Matts shop is in, the bike was being held at some shipping terminal in Minneapolis, and wouldn't be to Matts for another 10 days or so. No amount of pleading would motivate them to get it there in time, so Matt sent one of his friends to pick it up for me. This took her over 6 hours of driving, but got the bike safely to the shop in time for us to leave. Thank you Terresa!

Lesson learned- FUCK AA TRASPORT. Don't use them, they tell you what you want to hear, take your money, then don't deliver.

Anyway, here we are at our first fuel stop in SD. Matt is riding his mint 1936 knucklehead.

matt and i 1


The trip across the plains of South Dakota and Nebraska are fairly boring, but amazing none the less. Doing this on a bike is an eye-opening experience- so much land. I can't imagine doing this in a covered wagon.

matt and i 2


matt and i 3


We didn't take much, just a few spare socks, and about 50 pounds worth of tools and spare parts. We could go about 100 miles between gas stops, thanks to both of us having about 4 gallon tank capacity.

matt and i 4


matt and i 5


matt and i 10

matt and i 11

We crossed the Rockies in CO, which is the dividing point between tons of flat grass, and tons of flat desert. A welcome change in scenery. The massive changes in elevation and temp forced us to stop often to adjust our carburetors.

matt and i 6


matt and i 7


There was one problem staring us right in the face- heat. The further into the desert we rode, the hotter it got. Mind you it was hot the whole way, but now it was getting really hot. Our rest breaks were getting longer, we had to stay in long sleeves to keep from getting sunburn, and our bikes were on the verge of meltdown. We had no choice though- Born Free or bust.

bikes in desert

matt and i 8


matt and i 9



By the time we got to Las Vegas, it was 120 degrees. Riding into it is like riding into a hairdryer on full hot mode. We adjusted our carbs full rich to keep the motors cool enough to survive.

Any shade was a welcome sight, like this bombed out crackhouse in the middle of nowhere. It was dead silent, except for the occasional gunshot from deep in the desert.


icarus in desert


At this point I stopped taking pics, mostly because I was beginning to see the effects of heat stroke. Once we got across the mountains outside LA, the temp dropped to a survivable 100 or so. I spent the last night before the show curled up in a hotel bathtub puking my guts out and chugging water. Hey, if it was easy everyone would do it!

more pics of the show coming....



B29 Superfortress

While I was waiting for some parts for the new bike, I visited the New England Air Museum to get some inspiration. I met up with my friend Jason who works there, and he allowed me to see the inside of their B29. There are very few of these amazing bombers left. In fact only one, named "Fifi", is still flying today. A little history on the "Superfortress": The concept for this plane was, of course, a better bomber to help the WWII effort. Requirements were more of everything: range, altitude, bomb-load and armament. Boing was given the task. Its name is a result of its predesessor, the b-17 "Flying Fortress", first flown in 1938. By 1942, this monster was having the final touches put on it.

b 29 crowd

Here are some basic stats:

Length: 99 feet

Power: 4 Wright radials, each with 18 cylinders. Turbocharged, carburated. Each producing 2,200 horsepower.

Bomb-load: 20,000 pounds

defensive armament: 12 .50 caliber machine guns, some controlled remotely, 1 20mm cannon.

crew: 10 (pilot, copilot, navigator, engineer, bombardier, radio man, 3 gunners and gun commander)

b29 art

Of the 2,766 that were produced, only 22 are preserved in museums. Luckily for me the New England Air Museum is one of them. When I first saw it, I was amazed by the sheer size of it. This is one huge plane!

b 29 tail

Inside, there are 2 main compartments, connected by a long tube that goes over the bomb bay, through which a man could crawl. This was so that the huge bomb bay could open at high altitudes, and not de-pressurize the entire plane. Imagine crawling through here when the plane was airborn- not for the claustrophobic.

b 29 tube

Here I am in the main rearward compartment:

me and generator 1

The confused look on my face is because the on board generator (used to start the massive main engines) is a little v twin! It looked like a panhead.  Someone was ahead of Harley in the rocker box game...

This compartment also housed the remote gun stations, and access to several of the guns themselves. It also had a little toilet, a shitload of random electrical and mechanical components, and another tunnel that lead to the tailgunners compartment. Here I am at the entrance to it:

b29 blurry

The compartment the tailgunner lived in was barely big enough for 1 man to fit in standing up. It had all he needed to defend the rear of the plane, including a little seat he would strap into, headset jacks,  gun controls, and some thick bulletproof glass.

b 29 tailgun outside

Here is one of the tailgun sub-assemblies being made back in the 40's:

b29 tailgun made

The front compartment housed the navigator, pilots, bombadier, and engineer. It is arranged like a office, everyone sitting at their own little desk doing their jobs. I am sitting in one of the pilots seats here, and you can see some of the other stations in the background:

b 29 cocpit 2

Looking forward, you have a giant glass bubble that gives both the pilots and the bombardier a clear view. The bombardier sits in front of, and below the pilots, right in the very nose of the plane. He has a high tech (for the time), bomb-sight he looks through, and a bomb release button he can hold and activate with his thumb. This is me looking through the scope, pretending the floor was a target far below..

b29 cockpit

I find many aspects of this plane amazing, but the one that ran through my head while I was on board was the sheer simplicity of it. Despite its enormous size, the controls are still cable operated, all with little pulleys and linkages running everywhere. While partially pressurized, it was still un-insulated. The walls are just paper thin aluminum, unlike the plush interiors on a modern airliner. The noise and cold must have been excruciating. This plane did everything we needed it to do and nothing else!

Here are a few more random b29 pics:

b 29 vintage

The famous "Fifi", the only b29 still flying today.

fifi start

There was a lot the pilots had to keep track of, gauge wise...

Boeing B-29

A .50 caliber turret


Dropping a bomb load.

b 29 dropping

Heres a video, a little campy but has some good flying shots:


More to come!

Greatest Tank Battles

If you can accept the fact that this is a cartoon, it's quite amazing. It is all true, and is narrated by the real guys that were there. Tank warfare is sort of a bizarre concept really;  its like a slow-motion fight. It's amazing that this type of vehicle is still used today, almost exactly the same way it was in the first world war! [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Kv9Adb3EuVE]


Coming next- a breakdown of the M1 Abrams main battle tank. It uses a jet turbine engine.....

Want to Fly a Corsair?

I have an instructional video for you. Seems fairly straightforward... http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=5J0BYq3yevs

Then you and your friends can go fly together like this...


Born Free Trip #3

After leaving the show, we headed towards the grand canyon. It is a bit touristy, but non of us had ever seen it. Let me tell you- it is amazing. The size of this thing cant be conveyed on a postcard! The cool part was there didn't seem to be any security, so we could get right to the precarious edge.

F35B Ship Testing

Is this the end of the steam catapult method of carrier takeoff? Think about it, they could mobilize an entire group of these simultaneously, rather than having each one wait its turn for the catapults. Also,  less crew members to manage the launching and arresting gear... [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Ki86x1WKPmE]

Commando Trailer

Movies these days tend to suck for me. Why? Because the bar was set extremely high in my day.... [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=pPhISgw3I2w]


Doug Races Notcher

You old timers will remember a movie made in 1986 called Iron Eagle. This movie, along with Conan and Alien helped make me the grown up I am today. In this scene, Doug races his local redneck biker Notcher in a Cessna vs. XR350 race, while his friends fly overhead. The catch is, Doug cant climb above 150 feet and it goes through a canyon. Its almost viable....  Doug also has an awesome thigh mounted tape deck to keep him in the zone... [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Nrq31J6RbgU]

Tomcat Gun Run

Skip to 1:45 in... An F14 Tomcat lets its General Electric 20mm rip. That short blip  was approximately 200 rounds fired. The M61Vulcan rotary cannon fires 6000 rounds per minute. That was about a two second burst Id say? [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=n81pIulraxY#t=109s]

Pistol Tech

For some reason my brain has been dredging the handgun world lately. I felt the need to understand some of the mechanics behind semi-automatic pistols, beyond what i already knew. I don't presume to be a gun expert by any stretch, but I do enjoy shooting them- so it seems only natural to understand how they work- exactly. A while back I disassembled my 1913 colt, right down to every little spring and set screw.

While a 1911 colt is not the first semi-automatic handgun ever designed, it is about as basic as a semi-auto can be. It is considered a single action. Once set up with a round in the chamber and the hammer cocked, the trigger performs a  single function: letting the hammer go. Once that happens, the same energy that launches the bullet forward propels the "slide" and hammer back, "resetting" the gun all by itself. This way you can fire off 7 rounds (in this guns case) as fast as you want, with a nice easy to pull trigger.

This firearm was designed by John Browning exactly 101 years ago, and it is still used today. It is also the basic "blowback" concept almost all semi-automatic pistols use.

The one thing I don't like, and it may seem silly to most gun buffs, is that the only logical way to carry this gun is with the hammer cocked and a round chambered. If you carried it any other way your odds of surviving a gunfight would be slim because of the time it would take you to "rack" the slide. Now carrying a gun cocked may seem dangerous except for the fact that there are 2 safeties built into the 1911: a manual safety that holds the slide slightly rearward (preventing the hammer from being able to hit the firing pin), and a grip safety. The bottom line- it is not going to go off by accident if you have a brain.

Clearly my discomfort with the cocked hammer is my own personal problem, but it hasn't stopped me from looking for something better. Enter the wide world of double action and single action semi-auto pistols. They are simply referred to as SA/DO. This means that the trigger performs at least 2 functions, usually cocking the hammer and letting it go. Generally this means that the user can rack the slide (loading a round into the chamber), but not have the hammer cocked. The first shot requires a heavy, long trigger pull because you are fighting the hammer's return spring until it gets all the way back and drops. After that the gun essentially turns into a single action because the blowback action takes over, like before.

This is nice because you don't have to walk around with the gun "cocked and locked", making it, in theory, safer. Here are some common double action semi-autos you may recognize....

the classic Beretta. "putting all the holes in your sweata'" as Biggie would say...

The Browning "High Power"...

and a Smith and Wesson 39.

Here is what I found hard to understand: if you have a round in the chamber, and the hammer is down, isn't the hammer essentially resting on the same firing pin it would otherwise hit when fired? I mean, what would happen if you dropped it and it landed on the hammer end? wouldn't it fire? It seems that each gun manufacturer has addressed this with some little mechanism, like a "firing pin blocker" or a firing pin that moves out of the way slightly, etc. To me, it seems as if by solving one problem we run into more complication, and to me when it comes to things that will kill you, complication is a bad thing....

Perhaps if I could see the pin blocker (or similar safety) actually working it would easy my fears, but that is impossible because it is buried inside the rear end of the gun. You, once again, have to assume its functioning properly.

My research has uncovered a lot more info... stay tuned.

As a disclaimer, these are just my personal observations, and may not be entirely accurate frankly. Hopefully by the end I will know exactly how they all work, but until then be careful! These things are designed to kill people, and they don't give a shit who.