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New Guy Here With an Old 320


Kev250R

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1 hour ago, 320 Newb said:

Nice work sticking with it. 

Thank you!  Spending the day with my buddies turning wrenches reinvigorated me for this project .  Seeing decent compression numbers also helped.  The bad news is the general opinion among my friends, neighbors even the weird lady who walks her dogs in a stroller who stopped-by to see what we we're working-on is that I can't paint this truck; the patina is too 'good'.  I'm not really a fan of Patina but new paint is pretty far down on my list so we'll cross that bridge later. 

 

Tomorrow's plan is to do some small stuff.  If the weather is better I'll pull my 'Buggy out of the garage for a couple of days and pull the 320 in so I can free-up my driveway again.

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35 minutes ago, mhub91 said:

Don't give up on it. I've owned mine for about 7 years. All It does (mostly) is sit in the garage. I drive it a dozen times a year at most. I got mine for the cost of dirt so it's not an issue for me if something goes bad. You should stick with it. There's something special about these little trucks. 

I agree and for now it's not going anyplace; these trucks are special and the more I work on this one, the more I like it!  Friday was the end of a long week of mechanical drama with a delay on the parts I need to put one of my VW's back together, my two-week old work truck has a leak in one of it's hydro lines, which severly limits the work I can do with it until next week when our mobile wrench can come repair it, bad weather cancelled a riding trip I had planned on for this weekend, etc. so coming home and having my day-old 320 be dead in my driveway was kind of the last straw LOL  I'm feeling better now ☺️

Edited by Kev250R
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I too am a fan of patina, hit the paint with some 2000 grit sandpaper, and a high speed buffer with some mild buffing compound and see if you like it, it may grow on you, at least it will look better for the time being.. 

 

My suggestion would be to either rebuild the radiator or get a cheap aftermarket aluminum one. Probably wont fit exactly but nothing some self tapping screws or a drill bit and nuts and bolts can't fix... At the same time replace the thermostat, water pump, all hoses, and belt so you don't have to worry about the cooling system anymore. None of that is expensive or hard to do besides the radiator (cheap aluminum ones are $100) shops can be kinda spendy...

 

In my opinion this is the first most important thing to do to any old datsun, high temps and leaks are your worst enemy... I've had too many new to me datsuns that had a cooling system issue right away, none of these old original radiators last very long you got something made of metal that had water sitting in it for 30,40,50 years! of course it's going to have issues. 

 

if you keep this truck for the long haul and get it in a condition where it runs and drives good i'd suggest swapping it to an A series or L series engine, parts are more available, more people are knowledgeable about these engines so you'll have a better support system. Not to mention more power for your little daily driver and in my opinion they are much better reliable engines. You would be giving up column shift which is a cool original feature so I wouldn't blame you. 

 

This will be a sweet little driver for sure don't give up. 

 

 

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9 hours ago, sick620 said:

I too am a fan of patina, hit the paint with some 2000 grit sandpaper, and a high speed buffer with some mild buffing compound and see if you like it, it may grow on you, at least it will look better for the time being.. 

 

My suggestion would be to either rebuild the radiator or get a cheap aftermarket aluminum one. Probably wont fit exactly but nothing some self tapping screws or a drill bit and nuts and bolts can't fix... At the same time replace the thermostat, water pump, all hoses, and belt so you don't have to worry about the cooling system anymore. None of that is expensive or hard to do besides the radiator (cheap aluminum ones are $100) shops can be kinda spendy...

 

In my opinion this is the first most important thing to do to any old datsun, high temps and leaks are your worst enemy... I've had too many new to me datsuns that had a cooling system issue right away, none of these old original radiators last very long you got something made of metal that had water sitting in it for 30,40,50 years! of course it's going to have issues. 

 

if you keep this truck for the long haul and get it in a condition where it runs and drives good i'd suggest swapping it to an A series or L series engine, parts are more available, more people are knowledgeable about these engines so you'll have a better support system. Not to mention more power for your little daily driver and in my opinion they are much better reliable engines. You would be giving up column shift which is a cool original feature so I wouldn't blame you. 

 

This will be a sweet little driver for sure don't give up. 

 

 

Good suggestion about the 2000 Grit Sandpaper, would it also be a good idea to have the whole truck cleared in order to prevent the paint (what's left of it) from degrading?  I have to admit, the Patina look is growing on me. 

 

If I can find an Aluminum one then that's probably the route I will go.  I solved a running hot problem I had in my VW Thing (which has had a modern water-cooled engine swapped into it) by switching from a 20 year old plastic-tanked radiator to an all aluminum one.  If I can find one for this 320 I'll get it, if not I'll send the stock (I'm assuming) radiator which is in the truck now to get rebuilt.  That's this weeks project.

 

The plan is to keep it, I was just frustrated in my earlier post.  Right now this engine seems to run well so I don't plan on swapping it out, however if/when that changes then I'll be looking to something a bit more modern.

 

Thanks for the suggestions!

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15 hours ago, Kev250R said:

That is a great looking 320!  I like the comparison of old cars to children.  A former GF once referred to my cars as my 'Mechanical Family' LOL!

 

I wasn't aware that these use a special radiator cap.  Mine looks like a generic parts store unit.  What is the PSI of the special cap and is there anywhere which still has them?

 

We didn't address the brakes today, though I also need to adjust the parking brake since we rolled it onto a ramp we all let go and turned around and the truck rolled back off the ramp and right back to where it had been.

 

I like the idea to let it idle while I'm working in the garage.  My GF is used to coming to my rescue; last summer I swapped a Subaru engine into my VW Thing and while road testing it on two separate occasions a couple of weeks apart something happened and I needed to flat-tow it home (thus the road testing).  For a time she kept the tow bar for that car in the back of her SUV since it was easier then having to drag it in from the backyard, through the house and out to her SUV LOL!

 

The steering and suspension feel pretty good, though that's a good idea to grease all the Zerks.  I have a small lift (Quick Jacks) in my garage and plan on putting it up in the air tomorrow to have a good look around under there.

 

 

If I recall, the PSI rating for the cap was pretty low, like 7psi. I could be wrong. PSI ratings work together with the thermostat temp setting. Older engines run pretty low temp thermostat. Here's a chart.

image.thumb.png.e74704dfa57b1209965b41f11475c73a.png

 

If you have a micrometer, measure the distance from the top of the filler neck (with the radiator cap removed) down to the sealing surface inside the filler neck. I remember somewhere finding a parts listing for a certain manufacturer's radiator caps, and the Datsun cap was listed with measurements and dimensions and PSI. Searching google for "long reach radiator cap", I came up with this - https://www.ebay.com/itm/153629008214 , though I have no idea if it is actually correct for the Datsun rad. One way to resolve the issue would be to have your radiator shop source you a cap (you said you were going to bring the radiator to the shop) or even have them remove the old filler neck and solder in a modern one with a more standard size filler neck.

 

As per your points issue, I might consider replacing the distributor with one of the MG units, like the 25D or 45D. Wayno can walk you through the process. Lucas distributors have a strong aftermarket support so further mods could include ditching the points altogether in favor of a Pertronix. For a classic truck, it would help with the reliability. For that matter, lots of BMC A series or B series parts work on these Datsun motors, and there is a thread here on Ratsun discussing it. Maybe someone else who remembers could point you in that direction, for part numbers and such.

 

Something you said made me think you were new at this game, but clearly not, so I apologize if my tone was condescending or patronizing. I'm glad to hear you're sticking it out.

- Matt

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23 hours ago, Stoffregen Motorsports said:

If I recall, the PSI rating for the cap was pretty low, like 7psi. I could be wrong. PSI ratings work together with the thermostat temp setting. Older engines run pretty low temp thermostat. Here's a chart.

image.thumb.png.e74704dfa57b1209965b41f11475c73a.png

 

If you have a micrometer, measure the distance from the top of the filler neck (with the radiator cap removed) down to the sealing surface inside the filler neck. I remember somewhere finding a parts listing for a certain manufacturer's radiator caps, and the Datsun cap was listed with measurements and dimensions and PSI. Searching google for "long reach radiator cap", I came up with this - https://www.ebay.com/itm/153629008214 , though I have no idea if it is actually correct for the Datsun rad. One way to resolve the issue would be to have your radiator shop source you a cap (you said you were going to bring the radiator to the shop) or even have them remove the old filler neck and solder in a modern one with a more standard size filler neck.

 

As per your points issue, I might consider replacing the distributor with one of the MG units, like the 25D or 45D. Wayno can walk you through the process. Lucas distributors have a strong aftermarket support so further mods could include ditching the points altogether in favor of a Pertronix. For a classic truck, it would help with the reliability. For that matter, lots of BMC A series or B series parts work on these Datsun motors, and there is a thread here on Ratsun discussing it. Maybe someone else who remembers could point you in that direction, for part numbers and such.

 

Something you said made me think you were new at this game, but clearly not, so I apologize if my tone was condescending or patronizing. I'm glad to hear you're sticking it out.

- Matt

Hi Matt, no worries, I didn't take any offense looking-back at my earlier posts I could see why someone would think I'm new to turning wrenches on older cars, which I am when it comes to Datsuns.  Plus a few days ago I was being a whiny crybaby which didn't help LOL!

 

I'll have the radiator out and down to a local Radiator Shop probably later this week and I'll get their input on what Radiator cap is right for this set-up.  It's an old-school Radiator shop which has been around a while so I'm sure they'll have some ideas.  I'll let the forum know what they say.

 

I agree, I've never been a fan of Points so if I can find a Pertonix or like unit for this Distributor then that's the route I'll go.  On my VW Buggy upgrading to a Pertonix ignition was one of the very first mods I did to that vehicle not long after I bought 20 years ago.  In that time I've not had a unit fail, although I am on my third unit in 20 years (a couple of them got leant to friends who needed them then replaced my unit later).  Bonus that since the Distributor is harder to access then the Distributor in a VW, not having to futz with it much would be a good thing.

 

Yes, I'm going to stick this project out, the more I work on it, the more I dig it and see a lot of possibilities for it plus my girl is really into it, so is her son.  It's currently parked in my garage so I can work on it easier.  This week's projects are to sort-out Reverse and get my lights working (at least headlights and Brake lights) and get the Radiator out.  Thanks for following along!

 

Kevin

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I have an electronic dizy from a 78 Datsun 620 pickup (L Series engine also utilized in some sedans) in our E1. There's a thread on here Ratsun by Mike K. installing the Datsun electronic dizy in the NL when he owned that is now Wayno's. I have a link to the thread but I'll need to fire up one of the old laptops that it is stored on. The dizy in the thread is what is known in Datsun circles as a 'Matchbox' dizy due to the ECM attached to the side of the unit that kinda resembles a little bit oversized wooden match box. The 78 dizy that I used utilizes the remote ECM that is under the right side of the dash on our 78 'Longbed'. I changed the module on the 620 to a $13 General Motors (mid-1980's) and also mounted the module under the right side of dash on the 320. The Datsun modules are about $100 if you can find one. The 620 hasn't missed an ignition beat in nine years and the 320 in six years. The main thing that is required in the 620 dizy swap is switching the drive connection from the old 320 dizy to the  620 dizy. Also adapted the alternator from the 620 to the 320 as I did with several other items on the older pickup; cuts down on the spares that I have to keep in the stash when they are same on both vehicles.

 

 

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I think we all need to remember this is a positive ground truck with the original generator/regulator, you cannot use a matchbox in this truck, believe me when I tell you I have tried, but the matchbox case is a dedicated ground that cannot be reversed.

Now if he switches over to an alternator(neg ground), then a matchbox can be used, this is why I posted the link to that thread about MG distributors, they did have positive ground electronic ignition and it bolts right in, mine in my truck is a Crane setup that can be wired both ways(positive or negative ground).

My engine has never started better since going to electronic ignition, I tried and succeeded using a Pertronix 1741, but I had to modify the unit to make it fit in the 320 distributor, but I had to cut the mount plate to mount it, and when I accidently double clicked 2 units and smoked them I gave up on this route, I was just using clips that connected on the battery for testing and if you accidently touch the clip fast twice the unit is dead, and one can not return a modified dead unit either, that double clicking does not happen when using a key in the ignition.

Here are photos of the distributor with the Pertronix mounted, and it does not work positive ground, I was trying to make something for my negative ground I U320, but I gave up on that one, it still has points, but I bought a electronic unit for it.

 

DSC00408.JPG.1aea4207141871ae84bcfcefbeb2c8d1.JPG

 

DSC00409.JPG.f12f2275884ccf5b7c85dce0d6ece4f2.JPG

 

Here is the distributor I bought for the RHD U320 as the distributor is right under the steering column, they do make electronic ignition with stock looking distributor caps in case the Aussies are reading this thread.

 

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If you can get your charging system working I would leave it positive ground, but that is my opinion.

 

Edited by wayno
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18 hours ago, wayno said:

I think we all need to remember this is a positive ground truck with the original generator/regulator, you cannot use a matchbox in this truck, believe me when I tell you I have tried, but the matchbox case is a dedicated ground that cannot be reversed.

Now if he switches over to an alternator(neg ground), then a matchbox can be used, this is why I posted the link to that thread about MG distributors, they did have positive ground electronic ignition and it bolts right in, mine in my truck is a Crane setup that can be wired both ways(positive or negative ground).

 

My engine has never started better since going to electronic ignition, I tried and succeeded using a Pertronix 1741, but I had to modify the unit to make it fit in the 320 distributor, but I had to cut the mount plate to mount it, and when I accidently double clicked 2 units and smoked them I gave up on this route, I was just using clips that connected on the battery for testing and if you accidently touch the clip fast twice the unit is dead, and one can not return a modified dead unit either, that double clicking does not happen when using a key in the ignition.

Here are photos of the distributor with the Pertronix mounted, and it does not work positive ground, I was trying to make something for my negative ground I U320, but I gave up on that one, it still has points, but I bought a electronic unit for it.

 

Here is the distributor I bought for the RHD U320 as the distributor is right under the steering column, they do make electronic ignition with stock looking distributor caps in case the Aussies are reading this thread.

 

If you can get your charging system working I would leave it positive ground, but that is my opinion.

 

Thank you Wayno!  I forgot that my Positive Ground electrical system would prevent my running a modern Solid State ignition.  To be fair, since my friends and I mucked around with the Point Gap on my truck it now starts easy; when it's warmed-up the starter barely makes a revolution or two and it's running.

 

I'm still not a huge fan of the Positive Ground system, but I may keep it; I was studying a wire diagram for my truck late last night and think I know where the loose yellow wire I have goes.  I'm going to connect it and se if that helps at all to get the charging system, well charging again.  My plans for this truck don't include a stereo or extra lights so if I can get the stock system working reliably, I'll probably keep it in-place until it gives me a reason to replace it.

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So quick status update on my 320, I have Reverse again!!

 

I spent a couple of hours last night after work working on the 320, I have a small lift in my garage so I got it in the air and ran it through the gears a couple of times.  Gears 1-4 shifted normally but it still popped-out of Reverse when I tried to engage it.  Next I pulled the inspection cover out of the floor of the truck (I love being able to do that).  Having the inspection cover removed allowed me to work the pedals and watch the linkages moving.  Pretty quickly I found that the nut which holds what looks like the main linkage (the rear-most one) in-place was barely hand-tight!  I made that one snug, and put a couple of turns on the front one as well.  Fired it up again, ran it through the gears and now it went securely into Reverse!  Bonus that all the other gears felt more solid too!  Going-forward checking those nuts will be part of my annual (or maybe semi-annual depending on how much I drive this truck) maintence.

 

I won't know for sure if that was the fix or not until I put the truck back on the ground and, well try to drive it backwards out of my garage but I'm pretty sure that took care of the problem I was having with Reverse.  A test drive will have to wait for a week or so though because while I have it off the ground I'm pulling the radiator out today or tomorrow and taking it down to have it checked/repaired.  The Speedometer cable is laying loose on the frame and there is a mess of wiring under the bed which I'm also going to be working-on since at this time since, call me old fashioned but I'd like to have working lights LOL!

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Kev, You might be old-fashioned but that's part of getting 'Old'; being safe. These little trucks are fascinating for a gearhead that appreciates a variety of vehicles and ,for me, are time machines, but they are tiny and slow in size and heft in relation to the pickups being churned out these days. It's best to bee seen and drive very defensively. Six out of ten vehicles coming at you here in the 'Heartland' are late-model half-ton & larger pickups and they will squash a 320 like a bug if they meet up violently. I added an LED third brake light over the back window.

 

Glad you ran that reverse problem to ground. I think that I posted up-thread that it was likely something simple. Keep on Truckin'.

 

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5 hours ago, Kev250R said:

Thank you Wayno!  I forgot that my Positive Ground electrical system would prevent my running a modern Solid State ignition.  To be fair, since my friends and I mucked around with the Point Gap on my truck it now starts easy; when it's warmed-up the starter barely makes a revolution or two and it's running.

 

I'm still not a huge fan of the Positive Ground system, but I may keep it; I was studying a wire diagram for my truck late last night and think I know where the loose yellow wire I have goes.  I'm going to connect it and se if that helps at all to get the charging system, well charging again.  My plans for this truck don't include a stereo or extra lights so if I can get the stock system working reliably, I'll probably keep it in-place until it gives me a reason to replace it.

 

The only yellow wire I have down by the generator goes to the coolant temp sensor.

 

DSC00419.JPG.f4948babba16d57849b0f9ff20dd3848.JPG

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19 hours ago, Stoffregen Motorsports said:

Sounds like a smoking gun to me.

 

A mess of wiring? That truck only has like ten wires in it total. How bad could it be? ☺️

You're right, it's really not a mess of wire, more like a mess of butt-splices LOL  Shouldn't take too much to clean it all up again and make it tidy.  I still don't think the Generator is charging the battery but I'm going to wait a little longer to tackle that issue.  It may be something simple  as the PO reportedly had the Generator and Voltage Regulator rebuilt a couple of years ago.

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17 hours ago, difrangia said:

Kev, You might be old-fashioned but that's part of getting 'Old'; being safe. These little trucks are fascinating for a gearhead that appreciates a variety of vehicles and ,for me, are time machines, but they are tiny and slow in size and heft in relation to the pickups being churned out these days. It's best to bee seen and drive very defensively. Six out of ten vehicles coming at you here in the 'Heartland' are late-model half-ton & larger pickups and they will squash a 320 like a bug if they meet up violently. I added an LED third brake light over the back window.

 

Glad you ran that reverse problem to ground. I think that I posted up-thread that it was likely something simple. Keep on Truckin'.

 

I completly agree; I have more modern vehicles but I enjoy driving around and working-on older stuff.  Makes me think of a simpler time, which I appreciate.

 

Here in So.Cal. we have no shortage of oversize trucks and SUV's (most of them with add-on 'Raptor' grill lights and Roof Top Tents mounted to them) being driven by people who act like they've never been told what a mirror or a turn signal is for!  I ride motorcycles (mostly 200cc ones) so I'm used to keeping my head on a swivel as it were.  My GF and I live 40 miles apart and getting between our two houses requires a 30 mile jaunt on a major highway (I-5).  I've already told her not to expect me to drive the 320 down there.  I don't expect this truck to be 'highway friendly'.

 

I'm happy that the reverse problem turned-out to be something simple too!  One of my VW's lost Reverse so for the following six months I got really good at finding ways not to have to back-up, which was a fun game, but sometimes ended with me pushing it, which wasn't fun.

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Okay, so not a lot of progress on my 320 over the past couple of days but it's still new so it's getting more attention then the two other vehicles I should be working-on LOL!

 

Got the radiator out last night and will drop it off at a local radiator shop after work today to have it rebuilt or re-cored.  Hopefully that solves my cooling (or lack thereof) issue however even if it doesn't I think it's good to get it done.

 

Quick question about lights and grounding:  My 320 uses a Positive-Ground charging system.  Does that mean that I need to ground things like the tailights differently?  I don't think it does but I've also run it around so much in my mind that I'm now not sure.  Apparently the PO of my truck wasn't either because there are a lot of wrong/odd connections I'm going to need to sort through.

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12 hours ago, difrangia said:

I don't believe that incandescent bulbs care about polarity, but LED's do.

I agree.  Taking a brief look at it tonight I think I have some issues with my ground(s) for the trailights.  This weekend I'm going to clean those up, along with getting ride of way too many butt-splice connectors and see what I've got.

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I have two 320s that are negitive ground, except for the charging system nothing appears to care how it is wired, everything on mine works properly except the coolant temperature on the NL320 which Mike put an aftermarket gauge in for that, I expect he wanted to know the temperature and not be guessing like the fuel gauge, I pulled the fuel sender out and found a float with holes in it, I put a good float on it and the fuel gauge worked fine, I changed no wiring.

Putting an alternator on these is easy if you choose to go that route, and you can use the stock mount bracket.

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8 hours ago, wayno said:

I have two 320s that are negitive ground, except for the charging system nothing appears to care how it is wired, everything on mine works properly except the coolant temperature on the NL320 which Mike put an aftermarket gauge in for that, I expect he wanted to know the temperature and not be guessing like the fuel gauge, I pulled the fuel sender out and found a float with holes in it, I put a good float on it and the fuel gauge worked fine, I changed no wiring.

Putting an alternator on these is easy if you choose to go that route, and you can use the stock mount bracket.

Thanks Wayno, eventually I think my 320 will be getting an Alternator as well as the Charge light (IGN) is on when the engine is running and when I put a meter on it while it was running last weekend and it looked like it was barely charging if at all.  That was with no load on it; I doubt once I get the lights working that it will be able to keep-up.

 

I'm going to do some work on the electrical this weekend; I have a lot of grounds connected to rusty metal so I'm going to clean those up then start tracing-out where a bunch loose wires are supposed to go.  At minimum I'd like to have tail and brake lights by the time my Radiator comes-back in a week.  I live in So.Cal. where use of turn signals appears to be optional for most drivers so I can get by without those for a while LOL

 

Kev

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I was in Sacramento the other day, delivering a body to the blasters, and five cars ran a red light right in front of me. SoCal drivers may be bad, but Sac metro area drivers are the absolute worst. It is an actual statistic.

 

If the grounds are bad, also check the wires going into the terminals. If they are frayed or badly oxidized, snip them off and crimp on some new ring terminals.

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My dad had a 70 Chevy Truck with the 6 banger and 3 on the column.That is what me and my brother learned how to drive with.That was back in 76.I also remember that we would have to pop the hood and adjust the linkage cause of the reverse.First was down and in,second was up and over up.third was down and reverse was up and over and up.He would get mad when we grinded the gear when we messed up and hit reverse trying to go into second.And we just had a Am radio.It had a bench seat,and we never used the seat belts.When we went on vacation to North Carolina,all 4 of us were in the front seat.My dad had empty coke bottles in there so we could pee.He only stopped for gas.We had sandwiches to eat.My dad was from Lenoir,North Carolina.My brother and I were the foosball champs there.We never lost.That was the game to play in the 70's.

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19 hours ago, Stoffregen Motorsports said:

I was in Sacramento the other day, delivering a body to the blasters, and five cars ran a red light right in front of me. SoCal drivers may be bad, but Sac metro area drivers are the absolute worst. It is an actual statistic.

 

If the grounds are bad, also check the wires going into the terminals. If they are frayed or badly oxidized, snip them off and crimp on some new ring terminals.

Wow that's crazy!  I spend a week or two every year in Utah and Arizona and have noticed that in addition to their speed limits generally being higher the courtesy of the drivers is better to, with exceptions of course.  I'm currently helping my GF teach her 16 y/o son how to drive and I find that most of the time when we go driving I'm showing him examples of people driving badly or doing things he shouldn't do.

 

Good idea on looking for bad wire at the connectors.  Surprisingly almost all of the under-hood and interior wiring appears to be original and appears to be in pretty good shape so I think that for the brake/tailights my issue is going to be with a bad ground(s) or or one of the (too many) butt-splices between the body harness and the lights.  I won't have a lot of time to work on it this weekend but am going to try and get the brake lights working while I have people around to help.  The brake light switch appears to be new but I still want to test it.

 

In other news, my re-cored radiator should be back from the radiator shop by the end of next week.  The shop said they hadn't seen as corroded and plugged-up as mine in a long time!  Should be running much cooler after I have it back in the truck.

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