Southeast Texas Cats Mercury Cougar Club

It was about a year ago I met Thomas Folk in person in a Home Depot parking lot. It was during a Saturday evening car show, but neither of us had our Mercury Cougar’s at the event.

When you invest the time and effort into a classic car, you want to talk about it, and it only took about a week before Mary was completely tired of hearing about problems with pulley alignment and my hypotheses as to why the dash lights weren’t working.

Tom and I talked cars and discussed the potential for creating a local club. He stepped up and did the networking with the Cougar Club of America and tracked down other Cougar owners in the area. I put together a logo and a Facebook page, and in December 2018, we had our first meeting of the Southeast Texas Cats.

Our December meeting will mark the one year anniversary, and while our event attendance isn’t breaking any records, I think it’s pretty remarkable that a free organization run by enthusiasts has made it an entire year.

The November event was a cruise I suggested in the Clear Lake area that started at the Seabrook Waffle Company and ended at the Lone Star Flight Museum. Apparently I wasn’t the only person who thought the Seabrook Waffle Company was a great spot for a Saturday morning car meet because the local Volkswagen club was there as well.

We had a nice drive down Nasa Road 1, then up Space Center Parkway around to State Highway 3 to end at the Lone Star Flight Museum, which was having some nice activities in conjunction with Memorial Day.

Here’s a quick video recap of the cruise, and if you’re in the Houston area and want to know more about classic Mercury Cougars, stop by one of our upcoming meetings.

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1960 Crestliner: Phase 2

Last week we headed to Illinois four days earlier than the rest of the family to get the Crestliner running and comfortable for the 4th of July.

While we were gone I had a rebuilt outboard put onto the back of the boat. When the shop installed the outboard, they also replaced the rotten transom board for me.

When we started the project, we had an idea that we would pattern a new floor with painters plastic or butcher paper. This didn’t work too well. It was very difficult to keep the plastic tight on both sides on the curved edge. It was also impossible to reach both sides at once without being in the middle of them. We ended up doing side to side measurements every 6 inches to create a pattern.

Not perfect, but not bad

The subfloor of the boat had been filled with styrofoam, but throughout the decades, it had become water-logged, crumbly and moldy. When I looked up replacement options for closed cell foam, the slick mix and pour foam that would have perfectly formed to the subfloor troughs was far too pricey for this project. After googling several types of closed cell foam, we landed on pool noodles! $50 for enough to fill the whole thing.

We secured the floor over top by screwing it into the metal ribs.

The next step was the front seat. My father had a bench screwed down on all sides, but we wanted to make it open up to provide access to the storage we found underneath. This was obviously the original design since the hinges were actually welded in place.

We decided to cover the seat and the floor with a vinyl imitation teak decking. It’s soft on the feet, non-slip, pretty to look at, and it keeps you from getting splinters. After the flooring we took considerable time to install some swivel chairs. It was difficult because they bolted in both sides.

During the spring we made some cushions for the aft part of the boat using some closed cell foam and sunbrella leftover from our sailboat interior. Our next step was to make some bases for them. We chose to do a rectangular plywood base with 2x2s as joiners in the corners. After we had them all put together and painted, we traced them onto the floor where we wanted them. I then took them out of the boat and cleaned the plywood floor carefully before sticking down the vinyl decking. Then we bolted down the side seats and left the middle seat as a floater, which can be also be used as a step or a coffee table.

The last thing we needed was to get the lights running on the boat. That was fairly simple as the wiring isn’t very complex so we just ran all new. We ended up buying new stern and fore lights as well.

Our last obstacle was some safety concerns on the trailer. Our forward winch wasn’t working at all, so we got a replacement for it along with some new tires at the local farm store.

We did a quick test run in the yard, as well as some backing practice. The yoke of the trailer turned out to be a bit crooked, so pulling straight back involved a sort of S pattern wobble with the steering wheel to compensate.

Finally we got to take her down to the river! I can’t wait to take her out many more times in the future.

Restoring my Dad’s 1960 Crestliner

When we were kids, Sunday afternoons after church were often spent out on the Mississippi in our family boat. We would swim in the gross brown water, fish, tube off the back of the boat, or explore the sandy islands that dot the river. We used to take the boat on vacations with us, and we always took the cousins out when they came to visit.

The 1960 Crestliner was the first boat that we owned. My dad got it from his parents when he was in high school. My mom says it was in worse shape then than when I got it. My dad fixed it up and used to drive it way too fast, ramping off barge wakes.

Our family moved on to other boats, but my dad was not the kind of man to get rid of old things. We started to have more of an Armada in our yard. When he passed away a couple years ago he left us three boats as part of his large “collection” of items.

I chose the Crestliner to keep for myself for three reasons. 1. It’s aluminum and so simply designed that not much can go wrong. 2. It’s small and easy. 3. It was the first and meant the most to my dad.

I’ve had it for a couple years now, but I just got started on the process of restoring it into something that we can use again as a family.

The first step was to rip up the rotten wood floors. After that I had to take out all of the flotation foam because there was years worth of compost underneath. I scooped out six five-gallon buckets of dirt from the bottom of the hull. It turned out that most of the foam was old and rotted anyway, so I threw it all out.

Then we hosed it down and I took it over to a mechanic to get the engine inspected. Phase 2 will be a new wooden floor, new seats and a running engine. Hopefully in time for the 4th of July!

London Calling: The Cruise to Corpus Christi

Sunny skies and open roads

I had to drive to work in the rain. Driving in drizzle during rush hour in Houston is the most hazardous thing you can do in a car. You’re almost guaranteed to get rear-ended sooner or later.

However, I made it to work, and my day ticked ever so slowly away as I waited for the big road trip.

I managed to get out of the office by 4:30 p.m., gassed up the Cougar, and we tackled traffic heading south out of town. She was purring like a kitten.

I noticed an insane amount of police presence along 59, mostly monitoring northbound motorists. It’s as if someone declared there was an immigration crisis at the border and then instructed DPS to make sure they apprehended enough people to prove it. I made sure to stick to the speed limit.

Just before the turnoff onto 77 I stopped for more gas. I probably had enough to make Corpus, but I didn’t want to risk it.

Taste that sweet premium

After filling up, I turned the key, and I got the dreaded slow crank. This was my biggest fear. I JUST replaced the starter last week.

I popped the hood, jiggled the starter cable, and tried the key again. She started right away. I smiled, put her in gear, and headed on down the road.

I had turned off of 77 onto 136 at dusk, and I was cruising down that little road thinking to myself, you did it. You built a reliable driver. Where should we go after this? Maybe we can tour cross-country the way the Bumfuzzles toured in their vintage Porsche. Maybe I’ll make the drive to the West Coast Classic Cougar open house this year.

Then I attempted to speed up, and there was a lurch and a click. I decided that maybe I shouldn’t speed up, and just stuck with cruising at 65. I was only 25 miles from the hotel, no need to rush.

A few minutes later, there was another click and suddenly I lost all power. I guided the car to the side of the road to assess the situation.

She was still running. Temp was great, no warning lights. I tried to put her back in gear — nothing. Reverse — nothing. Overdrive — nothing. Drive — nothing. I was stuck.

I called my Hagerty roadside assistance number. The operator pinged my location and said a tow truck would be there in about 60 minutes. About ten minutes later my wonderful wife rolled up behind me.

I had tried and tried to talk her into coming with me, so we could make a weekend of the event, but she had insisted she wasn’t coming until Friday. Thankfully her FOMO (fear of missing out) got her moving early, and she had left Houston just a few minutes after I did.

We sat together in the Terrain looking up at the stars and petting the dogs until the tow truck arrived.

Sometimes you need a little help to get there

The car got loaded, and we noticed the left rear axle was sliding out. When troubleshooting car problems, it’s usually good to start with the piece that’s falling off. My guess is the transmission is actually still functioning, but there’s nothing connected to the differential to power the car.

We dropped the car off at Greatstate Transmissions. Who knows if that was the right place to take it, but nothing was open at 11 p.m., and I didn’t really want to pay for another tow from the hotel to a shop the next morning. They open at 7 a.m., so I’ll call them early to find out if the Cougar will be moving in time for her big scene.

We’re definitely coming out upside down on this little venture, but hey, it’s already been interesting.

What do we even want?

We have been boat shopping since about 6 months after we bought our last boat.  We’ve gone through a lot of different phases while trying to decide what our “forever boat” would look like.  We knew we wanted more space, we wanted a boat that would hold its value, and appreciate as we added more gear, and we wanted something a little more friendly to open seas than our current boat. 

For about 3 years I was convinced that this boat was going to be a catamaran.  It had more space, they’re in high demand and therefore hold their value, and they are relatively flat when sailing.  Once we started to do some serious shopping we realized that in our price range of 50k-80k the actual square footage we were going to get would be a downsize over our regular boat.  I wasn’t swayed though and we went aboard many the odd shaped catamaran.  In the summer of 2013 we chartered a 40 ft Lagoon in the SVIs.  Being aboard that boat for a week changed my mind completely.  While it was very spacious and comfortable at anchor, while sailing the see saw motion of the boat was jarring and uncomfortable.  So I decided that for the price difference, it was not worth the cost. 

So we focused in on monohulls.  We started to hone in on what we wanted.  1. Two cabins 2. Separate shower stall 3. boat that would hold value 4. A heavy duty boat with lots of displacement. 5. Aft Cockpit.  We wanted to stay somewhere below 42 ft to keep the boat pretty manageable between the two of us, and keep maintenance costs down.  

Tayana 42

As we started to look we found that there are a lot of blue water boats in the 42ft length that have everything we want, but in the 80-120k price range.  As we dug deeper we started to find a few boats under 40ft that had two cabins that might be an option.  The IP38 has an aft cabin that is big enough for two people.  They are normally a little higher in price but every once in awhile one will come down.  The Krogen 38 has two lovely cabins and a separate shower stall.  The Amel Sharki has two cabins and even though its a center cockpit, it convinced me with its overall beautiful appearance.  

Amel Sharki

We started to ask around about some of these models in owners groups on facebook, and that eventually led to us meeting some owners in real life and being able to do walk throughs and even go sailing on some of the of the same model boats.  This really helped us to understand potential issues with certain models and gave us a good idea of what to look for when shopping.  

This early research stage is really essential to the whole boat buying process.  Once you see a boat in person its easy to develop an emotional attachment and be blinded to potential costly issues. 

We’re really excited to say that we closed today on a 38ft Kadey Krogen.  It was not an easy road though.  So much to tell you all about the buying/offer process very soon. 

Putting Gimme Shelter up for sale

It didn’t really hit me until I locked her up for the last time and walked back to my car.  Sitting in my car crying all I could think about was all of the great memories we made in this boat since 2013 when I bought her.  I had bought her myself in an effort to move both my relationship with Fred and our sailing life in a forward direction.

dink05

Our first boat, a 27ft Starwind, was an amazing boat and we stayed on her every weekend for years.  But Gimme, a 34ft Oday offered us a fridge, and a double sink, and so many more comfort items that made our weekends so much easier.

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Over the years we have had a steady stream of projects.  Installing central AC, upgrading all the canvas, upgrading the engine, replacing the fridge compressor, redoing windows and hand rails so that she has no leaks, etc.  All the time we talked about what our next boat might look like but not really getting any closer to making the move.

For the last year or so there have not really been any projects.  The boat is pretty solid and relatively low maintenance by design.  We’ve reached a point where we couldn’t really do any upgrades either, as it makes no sense to put $20,000 worth of equipment on a $20,000 dollar boat.

Fred picked up a 67 Cougar car project, but now even that is nearing is completion and the time had really come.  It was time to get a new bigger project boat.

L1004141web

The first step to that is clean our boat out completely and to get her on the market.  I went to Lowes and got us some giant plastic tubs and we started taking everything that wasn’t specific to our boat out of it.  I then untuffted all of the cushions and took them home to wash and retuft.  It took about four days of two people working with magic erasers to get every bit of the inside and outside spotless.

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Sunday night I was sweaty and dirty from a day of hard scrubbing.  I backed my way out of the boat cleaning all of the floors one last time.  As I locked the door and walked back to the car it felt like we were losing a member of the family.  I gave Fred a call and we reminded each other that no change is ever easy, and that this is the first step to our next great adventure.

Tips & Tricks for Installing a Lokar AOD Transmission TV Cable Kit

The 1967 Mercury Cougar project came with a 1980s Ford AOD transmission. This conversion is a nice upgrade over the original C4 if you plan to do much highway cruising.

OntheRoadAgain

However, the craftmanship of the original conversion left a bit to be desired. The person had used the factory AOD throttle valve (TV) cable, which didn’t really connect correctly to the carburetor. They had also fabricated a cable bracket and spring return that wasn’t holding up too well. I had noticed quite a bit of flex in it, and when I attempted to unbolt it from the intake manifold to investigate, it disintegrated.

TVCableBracketDisaster

The Lokar TV cable kit for AOD conversions came recommended from several different car magazines and forums online, so I decided to give it a shot. I won’t go into detailed instructions for the installation because there are a couple great videos about that already.

However, I will mention a few problems I encountered during the install and my solutions.

The first thing I did was add a Geometry Corrector to the Holley carburetor. While some people said they connected the Lokar cable directly to the carb with no issues, this piece creates an even pull from idle to WOT.

SonnaxGeometryCorrector

Then I tackled the transmission end of the cable. The shift lever went on with no problem, but the cable bracket was a trick. The Lokar kit comes with a longer bolt to replace the original pan bolt. It goes up through the pan and has a nut that goes on the back of it to support the tension.

LokarTVbracket01

On my car there was not enough space between the hole and the wall of the transmission to get the nut threaded onto the end of the bolt. If I had been doing this project with the transmission on a bench, I might have been able to hammer in the housing a little or bend the lip down a little to create enough clearance, but neither of those things were going to happen in the car. Instead I grabbed the dremel and shaved down the back edge of the nut.

ModifiedNut

With the flat side against the transmission case, I was just able to get it to thread. That stupid nut was the hardest part of the project.

Once I had the transmission end put together, I tackled the spring return bracket on the carburetor.

LokarReturnSpringBracket

The Lokar bracket that comes with the kit is really engineered for a throttle cable, so I had to adjust the bracket all the way in towards the carburetor, and it still barely has clearance for the throttle rod. However, the rod has full travel and the bracket isn’t causing any binding, so although I’d like a little more space, it seems ok. In the photo above you can see the Lokar adjuster tool that comes with the kit on the cable between the snap connector and the stop adjuster.

Strange fact, the allen wrench sent in the Lokar cable kit did not actually fit the set screw in the stop adjuster. I had to dig one out of my toolbox. Not sure how Lokar let that issue sneak past QA. Not a big deal, but then again, it’s not much of a confidence builder either.

Once the cable and all the brackets were installed, I screwed the pressure gauge into the TV test port on the passenger side of transmission and started the car up to set the TV cable tension.

With the car in neutral and absolutely no pressure on the cable, I was still getting 40 psi on the gauge. After several google searches and various tests, I finally pressed my finger against the shift lever and found it moved just the slightest bit. The gauge instantly dropped to 0. I let my finger off, and the lever slowly moved back out a few millimeters and the pressure came back up to 30 psi.

I have no idea why the lever wants to move by itself. This was not really discussed anywhere in any of the instructions. However, on some forums people had claimed that the Lokar cable spring wasn’t heavy enough to return their transmission to neutral while others defended it as being great. It definitely wasn’t strong enough for my transmission. I fabricated a little bracket and hung another return spring on the system, and suddenly, all my pressure readings were exactly where they were supposed to be.

LokarTVbracket02

I used vice grips to hold tension on the cable and tighten the set screw with the Lokar spacer in place to 35 psi.

PressureCheck

Then as soon as I pulled the spacer, the cable would snap back and the pressure would drop to 0 psi.

As soon as I removed the pressure gauge I took it for a test drive, and the shifts were much smoother and not as late as before.

One step closer to being on the road.

CougarTagSmall

I wish SeaTow would fix their app

I like SeaTow. I’ve been a subscriber for at least four or five years now. They’ve shown up to jumpstart me, pull me out of the mud, and tow me back to my slip.

HOWEVER, almost two years ago they released the SeaTow 2.0 app for Android and iOS. I can’t speak to the iOS version, but the Android version has an issue — and I don’t mean the fact that it has errors and closes repeatedly. I know how hard it is to program for Android and all the various phones on that platform.

The big problem is with the weather.

Screenshot_20180406-101710

Do you see the issue?

Note that the date I took this screenshot was 4/05. The weather then starts with “Today 04/05.” Then shows Friday … except I took this screenshot on Friday!

Yes, you are seeing that correctly. They have the wrong day/date for all the weather entries.

I have reported this error at least four times, and SeaTow only bothered to reply once and said, “The weather portion of the app is sourced from Weather Underground. It is functioning correctly. We suggest you delete the app from your phone and try reinstalling it.”

Yes, the information you’re sourcing is working correctly, but the genius who re-skinned that information in your app screwed up the date/date labels. It has had this error since it was released July 25, 2016! It’s been almost two years, and you still have the wrong days of the week on your weather report.

Please fix this SeaTow. It’s driving me crazy.