Chapter 17: Vulture

Homer and CB

Covid 19 had descended on the economy, meaning no one was traveling. Since the wife and I run a store that is dependant on people traveling, work slowed to a trickle. We decided to shut the store down as standing around in a mask a day for 2 or 3 customers just wasn’t worth it. We ended up being closed for 5 weeks.

Now, you’d think that with 5 weeks off work that I would have had plenty of time to work with my Jeeps. As it turned out, not so much. We had quite a few online orders. We spent several days up at our rustic cabin, doing lots of much needed repairs. We spent 3 days in BLM wilderness avoiding humans in general. And just as it heated up to the 90s, we graveled our back yard which had been only fine sand until now. Just 40 yards of gravel. I lost 10 pounds.

I was able to sneak a few projects in on Homer. If you recall, my last trip in Homer ended with both mufflers held up with a ratchet strap as the headers broke at the collectors.

I had a new set of Headman headers lying around, but they waited for me to have time. I had been trying to find a used sand blast cabinet for cheap, but finally just gave up and threw them on. Luckily, the local muffler shop was still open for business.

We explored a few options, but since I wanted to have the exhaust exit out the back, the only muffler they had short enough was a Flowmaster Super 10. It was super short and had very little baffling. Whatever. After they got the parts in, they called the next day for pickup. When I tried to pay, the guy handed me the key back and asked me to listen to it first.

I fire up Homer and it is a nice low gurgle. Much better than just the open headers I had driven their with. I rev the engine and while not quiet, it sounds nice with a low growl. Cool. The guy mentions that they can always put a resonator in but I thought it sounded good the way it was.

Leaving, I pull out and ease on the throttle. It’s a little louder with a load on it, but not bad. Hit 2nd gear and jump on it.

Holy Angry Gorilla! This thing is now officially rowdy. In 2nd gear, off throttle, it sounds angry. I like it, but doubt my wife will. And 3rd gear, full throttle about 60mph there is quite the noticeable BLAT on the passenger side.

Figuring that the nearly open muffler might not be the best long term solution, especially for my hearing, I buy some motorcycle muffler packing: stainless steel wool and fiberglass matting. I also decide it is time to clean off the new headers and properly paint them. I also throw on some old header wrap I had left over from an old project.

My first attempt at muffler packing lasted great… At idle. Above 2,000 rpm, it just all blew out in one wad. The second attempt lasted a few days before escaping out the tailpipe. Attempt number 3 incorporated a wire mess cage inserted into the muffler inlet to prevent everything else from blowing out the back. Now, the exhaust isn’t the loudest part of the ride!

It lasted about 4 rides before opening back up. Whatever. Hearing is overrated.

Meanwhile, I kept looking over at CB and seeing a lot of cool parts. Knowing it would be a while before CB had a working engine, I figured Homer could use the parts.

First were the tires and wheels. A nice matched set of tires with plenty of tread and some good looking matching aluminum wheels with a nice offset sure looked good on Homer. But they didn’t ride for shit. Uneven wear on the outer tread blocks made for a rough ride on smooth pavement. Shit biscuits.

Then I looked over at Humpty and while he had different tires front and rear, they all looked round. And these wheels had even more offset, so they stuck out noticeably. At least they rolled smoothly.

Next, the disassembled front bumper and winch were on the donation list. Besides having to flip the hi-lift jack mount bolt around (who put the threads sticking out?), it bolted and wired up easily.

New Donor Parts!

I had also gotten a nice used soft top out of the deal with 2 frames. I took most of the mounting rails off HD and then the main hoop off CB and installed it on Homer. It didn’t seem to fit perfect as the windshield seemed to lean too far back. The soft doors didn’t fit well, but modifying the latched eventually worked. And the velcro was tired, so I had to use binder clips to encourage it to stay together. Office supplies to the rescue. While not waterproof, it would keep the heat in on cold nights.

And then it got hot and dry. So I took it back off in lieu of a bikini top. At least I’ll be ready for fall!

With the wider tires up front, Homer’s old front wheel bearings were becoming an issue I couldn’t ignore. I think I spent more time cleaning grease off the old hub than anything. With both sides with new inner and outer bearings, I still noticed a bit of slop in the wheel, no matter how I adjusted the bearings. I took the hub off again and noticed that the spindle was moving in relation to the axle. The locking tabs were not properly installed and 4 of the 6 bolts were visibly loose. Only 1 had any torque.

Clean it up, torque up the bolts, properly bend the locking tabs and magically no more movement. Reinstall the hubs and this time they feel good. The other side isn’t as bad, but still not classified as good.

While I am messing with the sloppy steering, I replace all the steering ball joints. Why not? They are all junk. They are greased, but stiff and clunky. Despite all that work, Homer still wanders around the road. I blame the wider tires and wheel offset. The only part left to rebuild is the steering box. I’ll get to that later.

As more and more placed faced lockdowns and Utah stayed open, our shop got more and more busy. So busy that I hardly did any Jeep work the entire some and fall. But with Homer driving better, I at least had a fun commuter vehicle.

My neighbors must love when I come home later after work.

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