Productive Saturday

My friend Jimmy and I finally got to work on Freya this weekend. It was rather productive. :D

Freya, for those who don't know, is a 1983 AMC Jeep Wagoneer, that's been neglected, abused, and finally has been getting some much needed work done, if not TLC. I used her to tow my trusty Escort back from ID when I moved down here, and while she did the job admirably, the engine was on it's last legs. It overheated all of the way across the country (Thank God for rest stations with water. It had become ritual to fill about 6 gallons every few hundred miles, or after every hill, whichever came first), and used oil almost as fast at it used gasoline, (14 quarts of oil IIRC) a feat in itself.

When Freya made it to FL, she got parked, while I mulled what to do with her. I hated to turn it around, as I picked it up for such a steal ($400 purchase + some coin to get her running "right", which it never really did), and it was kinda unique. I liked the look (I have a thing for square vehicles. I don't understand it either), and had some friends who had started looking at off roading as a hobby. It seemed like a fun thing to at least try, and why not, since I had something that would be capable with a little bit of work.

I had talked to Jimmy (my boss, at the time) about Freya, and he said he'd think about it. While he was thinking about it, I discovered that the tired AMC 360 was getting "difficult" to get parts for. This is completely understandable, as the engine hasn't been produced in almost 20 years. Chrysler basically killed AMC when they bought the brand, taking the good bits such as the Jeep name and the inline 4 liter 6 cylinder, which are both still being used today. There are still some people who use the engine, and there are a small collection of parts *available*, but most of them are for racer types (AMC Javelin, AMX, and The Machine), and not well suited for offroad use. The rest of the parts that *are* available for offroad use (a small collection) are for those who have more coin than I do. :)

So anyway, I tossed rebuilding and repairing the AMC motor right out the window after my research, Jimmy agreeing with the findings. He mentioned using a GM smallblock, but after seeing the price of transmissions (large coin. Local short track racers almost exclusively use GM smallblock stuff because of the same reason Jimmy had suggested it: Parts are generally easy to come by), I dismissed that as well. I wanted a budget build, since I wasn't even shure I was going to enjoy off roading.

I had decided that I wanted to move away from carburetors, as I feel that carbs are more voodoo than science, so I was looking at fuel injection. The Dodge motors with the Multiport EFI seemed like a great idea to me. Jimmy mulled it, and agreed, as the electronics for the trucks were *all* in the engine bay, allowing us to just find a complete harness that we don't have to worry about getting through the firewall. I decided that I wanted to use a Chrysler 360 instead of the more common 318, just to kinda keep in the spirit of the vehicle. Plus, it has a curb weight of over 4000 pounds, so anything to help the vehicle move a little better would be a welcome thing.

Jimmy and I found an engine that had been in an electrical fire that was on it's way to the scrap bin because the engine couldn't be tested. We pulled the info on the truck it came from (a 1997 D1500 HD w/ Automatic Transmission) and discovered that the vehicle was a higher mileage unit (106k, IIRC), but was owned by a business. This is a good thing, as these people who use the truck to work with will usually keep up with the maintenance. I pulled the valve covers and discovered no sludge, and then put the engine on a stand while we located other parts.

The 5 speed transmission that we found for the vehicle came out of an 1999 Cherokee with 6000 miles. We also found the matching transfer case. These were on the way to the scrap bin because they had simply been on the shelf too long. The shop would cull that kind of stuff for the simple fact that if it's been on the shelf for over a year, (these had been on there for more than 3) it's probably not going to sell. These both went into the back of Freya awaiting more parts.

Jimmy's been scrounging stuff ever since then (a little over 2 years now) since then. He's come up with about 90% of it... engine management computer, wire harness, other under hood bits like the alternator, power steering pump, AC compressor (hey, if you're going to do it, do it with style. Besides, Freya came with factory air, so all of the other bits are already there), and such. I've been purchasing the stuff we can't get from junk vehicles, or are just easier to get over the counter new, rather than relying on a used bit. This has been mostly sensors and such. The engine went in about 2 years ago. We cut the engine perches from a Dodge Dakota frame and welded them in with some 2"x2" square steel tube to get the distance right. I'm using the factory engine mounts on the engine, so I don't have to worry about replacements being hard to come by.

Last Saturday, we finally got the transmission and transfer case in. Getting a flywheel for the 360 engine was a bit more difficult than I had expected, taking almost 2 months by itself. Chrysler wanted $560 for one, and being the cheap bastard that I am, I went looking for a used one. I had to get one from a dealer in New York, shipped from a scrapyard in Arizona. I certainly hope that I don't have to replace this at any point in the foreseeable future.

We've still got some technical hurdles to jump through for shure. The transmission mount doesn't hit the AMC crossmember anywhere we can stick it on there easily, so we're going to have to do some drilling or fabbing there. We haven't decided which. Also there's no clutch pedal in Freya, but Jimmy thinks he has that one hammered out, using a bit out of a newer Ford pickup that has a brake pedal, clutch pedal, and both master cylinders as a unit. The power steering pump wasn't an issue, as it's already mounted in the truck, hooked up using the Dodge hoses on the AMC steering rack. We have the wire loom already laid out in the truck, so that's not a problem. The AMC accelerator cable is too short, but that shouldn't be a problem. It looks like we're going to have to relocate where it comes through the firewall anyway. The driveshafts aren't going to work either. We know the front shaft is about 3" too short. The rear driveshaft on the AMC had 2 u joints, while the Jeep transfer case has a slip yoke on it. We didn't check it for length, but I suspect that it will be wrong as well. We're far from out of the woods, but the heavy lifting (literally and figuratively) is done.

I'll quit blabbing now.


Sometimes, the simplest things....

I just want to quote Shawn here. The specific line is the following:

Incidentally, after spending a year living with my father, Eric moved down to Florida to pursue a closer relationship with *his* father, and it seems that things worked out marvelously, as they seem quite close now.

I had never really thought about it until Shawn put my year or so in Idaho into this context.

Shawn and I go back several years. He was a transfer Frosh when I was on my second year at college, and something just clicked. I think the initial thing was the mutual appreciation that we both had for Rush. It's been quite the roller coaster (Literally. Remember that Shawn? The Mustang, you, Melanie, and I? 2 12" subs in a massive box? About a zillion miles an hour too fast on a hilly two lane county road?), and we've both grown and become... I hesitate to use the words "men" or "mature"... how about a little more sane? That's not quite right either, but it's all I can think of at this point.

The thing is that on the way, we've both pulled each other's asses from the fire more times than I can count. Shawn was one of those people who I bounced things off of to get a completely different opinion on. Shawn helped out creatively more times than I can count, through contacts and noodleing. We both discovered the joys of being a musician, and the pains that real life bills can bring. I *still* miss my ancient Mesa Boogie 1516 cabinet that I had to pawn to make a car payment. "That was one of the best sounding bass cabinets I've ever heard", If I recall the quote correctly. I'm in *complete* agreement on it. Huge as hell (cab was about the size of a classic Ampeg 8x10", except about 6" deeper), but it could do *anything* I needed. Unfortunate that Mesa Boogie decided to quit manufacturing it.

I miss Shawn. Hell, I miss *all* of my college buds. Ben, Jon, Don, Angie, Robbin, Kelly, Mike, Phillip, Ed, Dave (Dave was *particularly* nice to me by letting me live under his roof rent free while I was recuperating from my time with AOL), Josh... These people were my life for those years I was out in OKC. They were my family.

We've all moved on now... Shawn and Angie got married to each other. Jon married a girl from college. Robbin married. Phillip and Mike are now brothers in law through marriage. Don's munging code and data for a firm in ID. I'm married... All of these things have changed, and yet I still miss them all. It's kind of bizarre. Shawn's recent blog entries have reminded me of a lot of things that I'd forgotten.

I've moved on as well. I grew tired of ID and working for Microsoft by proxy. Coming down here has allowed me to remember some of the good things that happened during my childhood, and fix a few things that I needed to before time moved on too far. I won't say that it's all gold and flowers, but it's been good for me to be here for a while. Dad's a tough nut to crack. Maybe I'm just trying to dig too far into a man that's just who he is because of what's happened to him, and how he's dealt with it. He's an intelligent thinker, tho. He understands what it is to cut through all of the crap in a situation and get the nuts and bolts out.

Some boys say "when I grow up, I want to be just like my dad". I think that life's finally come around to where I can say that too.

JoeSixpack that sounded sappy. I can't think of any other way to put it tho.

So Shawn, Shawn's dad, thank you both. Immensely. You've done more for me than I previously realized. I'm shure that more will eventually come clear as my path continues.


Quintessential Radio Tunes for the Bass Player, part 1.

I was thinking about this on my way in this morning, and figured this could be an interesting exercise in musical thought processes.
Now, I will be the first to admit that my *current* radio exposure is extremely limited, most of it being political talk radio anymore. In the past, however, I was at least tracking trends. Usually I was also playing bass several times a week as well, which helped fuel this need/desire.
My rules that I'm laying out for this exercise are thus:
  • The tune must have gotten a reasonable amount of radio play at some point.
  • The tune must give some musical insight or exercise for the bass player.

That being said, there are many pop tunes that have both of these requirements. These requirements might evolve over the course of the experiment, but these are what I start with.
Now, my friend Shawn probably expects me to start out with one specific tune that we both know and love. That's not where I'm starting, but it will be included, but for now, I propose the following:
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones: The Impression that I Get, from the album "Let's Face It".
This is really the tune that helped teach me how to have *fun* while playing. I was working with a ska group at the time in Oklahoma City, and the lead singer from the group said "I love what you're playing, but you're too serious about it. Lighten up, move around, smile, have fun.". I took that description to heart and to this day I have a hard time *not* moving to whatever I'm playing.
Now, there are many better ska groups to choose from. I am not, nor was ever, really very savvy to the style or scene though. I leave the discovery of these as an exercise to the reader.
The things that are really relevant to the bass player in this tune are really, really big, tho. Inherent in most ska music is the lack of coverage "down south" in the audible spectrum, this tune exemplifying this. A small brass/reed section, a guitar part that consists of mostly the bottom 3 string up-beats, the drummer and the bass player. So what you end up with is a huge amount of business up top with the wind instruments and guitarist, and the bass drum down underneath. This leaves a *huge* gap in the sonic soundscape that a bass player can play in, without fear of stomping on someone else's part. It *needs* to be filled as well, or the entire bottom just drops out of the music. While you can drive with offbeats (from the guitar), it's obvious that it's missing something without a foundation to build on.
The second idea presented here is the idea of a flowing motion in the line. With the amount of exposure that the bassist has in this tune, all of the lines *must* really flow well with the rest of the tune. You can't chop up the notes in this tune and have it work well. This can apply in most situations that the bassist is having to fill a lot of sonic canvas, or is carrying the tune via what they are playing.
Thoughts, opinions?