20′ Enclosed Race Trailer – Part 3 – Electrics & Winch

As previously discussed, the shore power connection wasn’t exactly high quality. Someone removed the 30 Amp plug and replaced it with a 15 Amp plug that didn’t actually fit in the housing. Since it was on the driver’s side, going down the road every time I looked in the mirror, that thing was flapping at me.

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Since everything had to come off the wall for paint, including the electrical panel, the was a fairly straight forward fix. A new 30A shore power connector was fitted, along with an adapter for use with normal 20A service.

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With that fixed, it was a simple matter of relocating the wiring in a way that was tidier, and positioned in a better place (the plugs were too high on the wall originally, and the E Track too low, so they switched positions). I removed the plug along the front wall, as it seemed superflous. I may re-add that later, but I already have plenty of 120v plugs in the trailer now.

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With the 120v service sorted it, it was time to move to the 12v side of things. My main 12v goals are:
-A winch to load the car
-An electrical jack
-A battery to power all that (and eventually some interior lights)
-A solar panel to keep the battery charged

The main component here is the battery and battery box. A tongue tool box from HF was mounted at the front of the trailer.

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I didn’t realize when I bought it that it was narrower than the outer frame rails, but I figured it was cheap, and it was big enough to do what I needed, so while it might look weird, there’s no real reason to replace it at this point.

I was a little concerned with the front mount bolts chafing the wiring harness from the truck:

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I found that I didn’t have any wire loom big enough to wrap around all those cables, but I DID have loom big enough to fit around the bolt. Stupid? Stupid like a fox!

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The battery box was mounted around the center frame rail:

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I didn’t have much horizontal real-estate to mount the solar panel to, but when parked at home, the panel faces nearly due west, and is in full sun in the afternoon.

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I was a bit concerned it wouldn’t work well like that (since all directions are to mount it horizontally), but it appears to be putting out plenty of juice:

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The battery never sees that much power, thankfully, as the solar panel runs through a 12v charge controller to prevent over charging the battery.

I drilled a few holes through the frame with big rubber grommets for the 12v wires to pass from the battery to inside the trailer under the floor, with marine cable pass-throughs to keep the weather and bugs out.

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I mounted the winch using a Bulldog winch mount. The front 2 bolts are through the frame, the rear 2 are bolted through a 6 x 8″, 3/8″ thick spreader plate.

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The winch wiring runs to the solenoid / wireless control box, and then to a 12v fuse block to provide service for lights and other sundries, then to the battery via a 150A circuit breaker.

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It’s definitely not a professional job (because I’m definitely not a professional), but it’s about probably the tidiest I could do without shortening the winch power cables. That’ll probably happen eventually, but I want to wait for a few months and make sure nothing crops up as a reason to move something drastically.

The electrics are *DONE*. FINALLY. Between drilling holes for grommets through the frame, making cables and figuring out where I want everything mounted, and cleaning up the 120v wiring, it took all my free time for about 3 days.

Oh! Wait…I’m sick or walking all the way to the shop for fresh tool batteries. I’ve got an idea!

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Yeah that’ll work. I think that lives there now.

Continued in Part 4

20′ Enclosed Race Trailer – Part 2 – Jack & Paint

As hinted at in the prior post, the manual jack the trailer came with broke immediately upon arrival home. Thankfully it lived long enough to get the trailer off the ball, but not much further.

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There was a secondary issue, which was with the trailer being longer, I can’t back the Armada as far down the hill, so the ball is effectively higher off the asphalt. Due to that, I had to stack about 8″ of lumber under the jack’s foot to get it high enough off the ball.

Thankfully, they make a “drop leg” jack which has a telescoping foot that can drop down further, essentially increasing the total height the jack can. Shopping around, it turns out that an electric jack with a drop leg was almost the same price as a manual jack of similar spec, so going manual at that point seemed silly. Electric it is!

Here is the new jack. It has a few extra inches of lift over the manual jack right off the bat, and with the drop leg it’s not even close.

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Got it installed on the trailer and did a quick test with a battery. It’s now connected to the hot 12v coming out of the trailer plug, which is convenient. Once the battery for the winch and lights gets installed, it will pull power from there as well so it will be able to run without the truck attached.
You can see here the issue with the hitch ball height.

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With that sorted, it was time to prep for paint. EVERYTHING had to come off the wall. The florescent fixtures, the wiring & outlets, the shore power panel, E-Track, all of it.
It was covered in the usual dust and grime you’d expect from a trailer that’s had a race car living in it, so next, I hosed the hole thing out.
Before:

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After:

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I found that the original shore power plug had been replaced with…whatever this is… so that’s going to get replaced while I have everything apart:

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Next up was paint prep. I taped off as much as possible and put some sheeting down to protect the floor.

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After a gallon and a half of primer…

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…And a gallon of paint, the results are pretty fantastic. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty darn good for a car hauler.

Hey look, a kart fits!

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It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s pretty darn good. A heck of an improvement, and hey, it’s kid approved!

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Continued in Part 3

20′ Enclosed Race Trailer – Part 1

Sometimes the right deal comes along at the right time and you kinda just have to go for it.

With the kids getting to karting age, we’ve added a Kart to the fleet, and very quickly realized we’d be able to take either the race car, or the kart to the track, but not both. A buddy of mine had gotten a new trailer, and his came up for sale at a price I couldn’t say no to, and here we are.

The AC and canopy made it an easy sell to the family, which’ll mean we’ll be able to camp out in it too. It’s big enough to haul the entire fleet, as it were, small enough to still fit in our driveway, and not TOO much weight for the Armada to pull.

The trailer is, essentially, a great blank canvas at this point. A plain 20′ box with an 11,000 BTU AC on the roof.

We’re upgrading from a 16′ ‘home built’ from an RV frame open trailer:

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And we’ve now replaced that with a 20′ Haulmark Race Hauler trailer:

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The interior has a few electrical outlets, and a couple of fluorescent fixtures, and some e-track, but is otherwise a great starting point to start modding.

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The plans in approximate order

1. An electric tongue jack to replace the too-short jack who’s handle broke immediately upon arriving home. I had to stack about 8″ of lumber under the jack to get it off the ball on my hill (more on that later), and that just ain’t gonna cut it. Since I need to replace the jack anyway, and the price for jacks with enough lift is nearly the same, going electric is a no-brainer.
2. Paint the walls white. The plain wood is just dark and dreary. Just like with a garage or workshop, white walls help enhance any lighting that you do have.
3. WD hitch for the tow pig. It pulled it ok on the trip home from buying it, but it’ll need a WD hitch in order to pull this thing loaded.
4. E-Track, just, everywhere.
5. Electric winch, which will require welding a plate under the trailer floor to support it, and adding a tongue box to keep the battery.
6. Solar charger for the battery.
7. Tire rack / workbench.
8. LED lighting in the interior.

Should be a fun adventure, because what I REALLY needed at this point was another massive project, obviously!

Continued in Part 2

Shop Project: Lift

Maff’s House of Wayward Mazdas got a huge upgrade this winter, and this one has been a LONG time coming.

I’ve been pricing and shopping and researching (and measuring my low, low ceiling) for over a year, and the right deal was there at the right time, so we pulled the trigger on a Dannmar M-6 mid-rise lift.

The plan is for a semi-permanent install of the “mobile” lift, ditching the cart for the pump and diverter valve, mounting those on the shop’s wall, keeping the wall-side post permanently installed, while keeping the option to move the off-side post sitting in the middle of the floor should the need for more space arise (like if I need to work on the trailer, as an example).

Delivery was…interesting. The freight company sent 1 guy to move the 900 lbs of lift with only a pallet jack that wasn’t actually tall enough to lift the thing. Fortunately, I have a bunch of lumber scraps so we were able to shim it, and after a mighty struggle, we got it down the lift gate, onto some furniture dollies and into the garage.

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Of course, these aren’t destined for the garage, but for the workshop. So I tore down the ‘pallet’ to get as many of the man-portable parts off and lighten the load, called a friend to help wrangle the thing, collected all my load binding gear and attached the winch to the Armada’s tow hitch.

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Carefully, ever so carefully, we backed it down the drive and into position.

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As you can see in the above picture, I’d spent some time measuring out the shop to position the posts, as they need to be plumb and square with each other. With the posts finally in the shop, I moved them into position to confirm that theory translated to the real world.

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And of course, the Miata won’t be the only vehicle using the lift, so I wanted to make sure it would fit the Dailies in our fleet.

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With everything in position, it was time to start mounting things permanently. I mounted a 2×10 to a pair of studs, then bolted the bracket for the pump and valve to it upside down, using the bolt holes for the diverter valve to mount it. I am mounting the diverter valve in the ceiling, so I didn’t need those holes and they made it convenient.

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Getting the pump mounted was a bit of a bear because it’s BLOODY heavy, but after phoning a friend, again, we got it mounted up.

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Next up were the hydraulic fittings on the posts. Those are a bit of a faff because you need to practically disassemble the post to get to the fittings at the bottom of the hydraulic cylinder. The way they’re designed, is to have 2 45 degree fittings, clocked so they’re “parallel” with each other and make an S-shape out the back of the post to clear the bolt hole back there when the hose, as designed, is installed. I am running the hoses up through the ceiling, so I don’t want that and realised, of course, that two 45s can pretty easily make a 90. Unfortunately there isn’t space at the bottom of the post for that 90 degree bend to pass through, so I had to assemble the 1st 45, put the cylinder in place in the post, then install the 2nd 45 in place down at the bottom of the post, where there really isn’t much room to work. The effort was worth it, however, as it worked a treat. Here you can see the “upgraded” quick disconnect fitting, as the ones the unit ships with are reported to be a little leaky. More a niusance than a real problem, but while I’m here installing it, $30 to fix the issue was well spent.

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I was morally certain that, with the state the shop’s structure was in when we bought the place, the floor was also certainly trash, and had planned & budgeted to cut the floor and pour new reinforced footers for the lift. With this thing holding a ton or more of weight over my head, this was not the sort of thing to take chances with.

My contractor buddy came by and we drilled a few test holes (using the posts’ bolt hole positions to do so, just in case), and found that not only was it thicker than the minimum spec required for the lift, it was in fact steel reinforced and with hard pack below it showing no signs of having settled (which would leave the concrete unsupported). A very pleasant surprise that saved a ton of time, effort and budget.

We drilled the holes and opted to epoxy the wedge anchors in (along with expanding them properly) for the full belt-and-suspenders to make sure they were secure.

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With the posts finally mounted in place, I could start working on the hydraulic connections. Doing my research I found many people who extended 1 or both hoses to the posts to remote mount the pump similar to what I’m doing. That seems problematic for 2 reasons: If you only extend 1 hose, you can end up with the lift not raising evenly, and if you extend both hoses, well…it’s bloody expensive. Some measuring showed that the hoses from the valve to the leg were plenty long enough if I remote mounted the diverter valve in the ceiling, then I would only have to have 1 hose made to go from the pump to the valve, and route the hoses to the posts down from above.

The challenge, however, is that many have reported issues bleeding air from the system when running hoses that high above the pump, so I opted to do that before mounting everything in the ceiling. This made mounting slightly more challenging, as I was going to be dealing with full hydraulic hoses, but it was worth the effort. As I was bolting the fairly heavy valve to a ceiling joist, I also made a load-spreader plate with the bolt hole pattern from the valve to put on the opposite side so that I’m not risking pulling the bolts through and damaging the joist further.

I’ll admit, the first test load didn’t put a lot of strain on the system…

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With the system bled and the hoses and valves mounted and routed up in the rafters, it was time for a real test. The lift is rated to 6000 lbs. I have a vehicle that weighs just under that figure. Let’s see if all the work we did holds!

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With the Nissan being as tall as it is, there wasn’t much head room, but it does look like I could do some minor suspension or brake work on the lift should the need arise. It’s not very high, but the lifting arms are nearly fully extended to reach the frame rails, so there was quite a torque arm on the mounts here. Given that nothing budged, I think it’s safe to say we can put this unit into service!

Job the first was to quiet a noisy power steering pump on the Subaru. There’s an O-ring prone to failure that lets air in when cold, and you need the wheels off the ground to bleed the power steering hydraulics, so why not give ‘er a go? I couldn’t get full height w/ the Subaru (I’ll likely be moving that garage door opener off to one side), but it got it plenty high to be useful for under-car work:

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And now with Papa Bear and Momma Bear having tried out the new digs, it was Baby Bear’s turn. And for that, this lift was JUUUST right. Turns out, I can actually use a measuring tape correctly from time to time!

The first full draft pull on the lift (with a load), and no clearance problems anywhere.

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Ok maybe 1 clearance problem…. I’ll need to make myself a new rolling chair, methinks, but I was pretty certain of that going into this.

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The next fun job is going to be marking out spots for the setup stands and then re-leveling those to each other, as the old spots won’t work with the lift’s position. The offside post is actually directly on where 1 of the pads went in the previous iteration. And next spring, likely, I’ll get my hands on a pressure washer and blast the old markings off of the floor. But until then, I’m going to enjoy using my new toy…er…tool!

Shop Project: LED lights

There hasn’t been a whole lot going on with the car of late, but the off-season upgrades are in full swing. I’ve had a bunch of 4′ LED light fixtures to replace the fluorescent fixtures in the shop for almost a year now, but finally had the time to install them this weekend. 

I replaced 6 x 3-tube, 4′ T8 and 2 x 2-tube 4′ T12 fixtures with 10 x 4500 lumen Honeywell Linkable LED fixtures, adding 2 fixtures over the machine tools at the back of the shop where there really was never enough light

I was not expecting there to be much of a difference in pictures, but boy is the before and after striking. 

Fluorescents:

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LEDs:

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It’s so much less dreary, and the light output is much, much ‘cleaner’. No flicker, no more buzzing ballasts, no more needing 5 minutes for the lights to warm up when it’s cold in the shop, no more each bulb a slightly different shade of yellow / pink / white / brown.

Oh, yeah… there’s a “little” not-so-sneak-peek there to the much bigger shop upgrade happening this month.  

Shop Project – Small Lathe Part 4

I’ve made a minor upgrade to the 30 year old Enco lathe.

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The old Enco was (and remains) a bit of a basket case (and was priced as such). I’ve made improvements to it, but all it was really good for was turning a couple of simple parts, teaching me a lot about how these things work, and teaching me just how much I want to get a better machine. This one was fixes most of the issues the old one had in one fell swoop, and, as it’s a Grizzly, it actually has parts support in the US.

It also has VFD and all the parts & bits it should come with: steady rests, threading change gears, a manual, a quick-adjust tail-stock, a manual. Just about all the actual money I spent on the other one (tooling, quick change tool post, etc) will transfer over to this one.

I was able to re-use the pedestal / chip pan base from the ol’ Enco. I just needed to drill and tap a couple of new holes. I used the Grizzly’s bench-top chip pan (that has holes pre-drilled to bolt to the lathe) as a template to get lined up:

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Used the engine hoist to get it into position on the pedestal:

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Then hung an LED fixture over the lathe.

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Mounted the chuck key holder I made for the Enco on the Grizzly with a pair of rivnuts:

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This thing is SO much nicer than the 30 year old Enco. I mean, it SHOULD be, but the results are telling. On the left side (in the chuck) is the *best finish* I was ever able to get on the Enco on aluminum. On the right is the finish from the new one that I was able to get without adjusting ANYTHING but the slop in the cross slide feed screw, which was really bad out of the box. No gibs adjusted, none of that. Hell, you can even see the stock 4-way tool post is too low, and with the quick change tool post going in before too long, I didn’t really feel like messing with shimming the tool, so the geometry there isn’t even quite right.

The Left side is rough to the touch, right side is smooth as you’d expect out of a machined part. I think I’m going to like this little machine.

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The next big job was getting the QCTP in place. Given that the Grizzly and Enco both have M10 tool posts, it *should* *have been straight forward, but because of that stupid boss on the top-slide that locates the stock 4-way post, it was going to need a bit of work.

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After some research, I found out that the stock tool-post presses out.

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Since some machine work would be needed at the Right Honourable Reverend Dave Hardy, Esquire’s shop, to knock off that boss, we decided to go ahead and forgo the stock tool post all together and drill and tap the cross-slide to 9/16-18 and use the solid tool post that came with the QCTP. This should be QUITE a bit more rigid. Mmmm, girthy.

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So we (…Dave…) machined down the boss, and drilled & tapped the hole wider to 9/16:

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Quick Change Tool Post accomplished!

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Now all that’s left is to cut a cone on the chuck to align the tailstock, and get the gibs adjusted, and I can start making parts!

Transmission Failure

It was bound to happen eventually, but the law of averages finally caught up with me. At the last event, something went very very wrong with the transmission. Not enough to disable the car, but it came in from a run and was stuck in 2nd gear. We were able to reef on the shifter until it popped out and into the neutral position, and got it loosend up to where 3rd and 4th were usable (but really really hard to find at speed). 5th and Reverse were completely locked out.

Upon inspection at home, I expected that there was an exploded shifter bushing inside the turret that was fouling things up, but the one in there is delrin, and shouldn’t degrade and get brittle like the stockers. There was no evidence of debris in the turret, so the transmission had to come out to get the good spare in.

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While I was under there, I realized that there were a couple of brackets protruding into the tunnel that interfere with the transmission going out / in from the bottom, so I did some Prepared things to them and…let’s just say they’re not a problem anymore.

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Pro-tip: there’s a bunch of different bolt lengths and sizes holding the transmission to the block and starter. Organization is important.

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While pulling the transmission, I found a coolant weep from the cap on the back of the head that always fails. I guess it was pretty close to failure when it got bumped by a wrench or socket disconnecting the transmission from the block, so I replaced that while I had everything apart. It’s much easier with the transmission out of the way.

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Now’s where stuff got decidedly un-fun: I’d forgotten, because it’s been an age since anything like this has gone wrong with the car (just before 2013 Solo Nationals, IIRC) that the mating between the Competition Clutch and the transmission input shaft has always been a massive pain. Honestly , it’s nearly a press fit. It’s obviously not, because it works, but ever single time I’ve had to work on it, it was a matter of getting the transmission close enough to start a couple of bolts 180 degrees off from each other in the bell housing and then slowly tighten them to pull the transmission into the clutch. Obviously, that’s not what you WANT to do, but I’m going to keep telling myself it was careful so it’s fine.

I have other friends running the same twin-disk clutch without these issues, so I’m pretty sure mine’s just on the tighter side of the tolerance.

The point of all this is that after one and a half hours under the car, we weren’t able to make any progress in getting the transmission in. We just could never get quite the right angles in 3 dimensions while working on our backs. After being thoroughly exhausted by that, we decided to pull the motor.

….to install a transmission. I know. But it was going to be easier to work on everything out of the car vs under. In about 45 minutes we had the transmission out. We then spent the next hour once again fighting to get it on until it seated JUST far enough to get the aforementioned pair of bolts started and pulled the trans in.

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We stopped for the night after getting them mated and picked back up Saturday morning. From there, it was 2 hours from turning the first wrench to do up the rest of the bellhousing and starter bolts, until firing the engine.  Another 30 minutes and the exhaust, intake, prop shaft, trans fluid, shifter, coolant bled, etc.  were done and I ran the car through a warm-up cycle to make sure everything was working as designed. With the exception of that damn clutch, I LOVE LOVE LOVE how easy this car is to work on.

Less than 3 hours from engine and trans being out of the car to wheels on the ground and race-ready. That *may* be a personal best.

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That afternoon, I took a couple hours to dig into the transmission and a) see how they go together (and realize I’m not cut out for working on them), and b) see what actually broke.
What I found was the counter-shaft (the one offset from the input and output shafts) was *TWISTED* so that the wheels that should move fore and aft on those splines couldn’t, jamming it in gear, and locking us out of the 5th / reverse gate all together.

Click to zoom in, it’s impressive just how bent that shaft is.

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I’m only making 130 whp, but I guess 10 years of clutch-dump launches finally caught up to us. Given that consistent abuse, I’m pretty impressed it held up as long as it did. Because it wasn’t a gear wheel, or a shift fork or syncro, something relatively straight-forward to replace, the transmission has been relegated to the scrap bin. Before I tossed it out, however, it was recommended to me that an actual input shaft makes a FAR more accurate clutch alignment tool than the plastic ones every clutch kit ever comes with, so I cut the last foot or so of the input shaft off to keep as a useful tool, so I guess the transmission failure wasn’t a *complete* loss.

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