Monday, June 30, 2014

A day with the wagon

I spent the day with the car in a mix of city and highway driving. The engine is great, I love the brakes, I'm still not thrilled with the clutch. However, you're all collectively right. It would not have been as much fun with the weaker engine mated to a slushbox.

I stopped by the local dealership to see if they carried wheel caps. I got it for $12. Who would have guessed that the part was made in Spain? I also didn't know that this dealership is extremely popular with the Overseas Delivery crowd.

I then went to the local independent shop to make an appointment for an inspection. I broke my own cardinal rule and bought the car without a pre-purchase inspection. I was not going to lose a potentially great buy to someone else. The service records that came with the car give a pretty comprehensive history of the car. I think I'll be okay. The inspection is on Thursday.

There are old Volvos all over the shop, including this one.

The groaning doors groan no more thanks to generous amounts of white lithium grease. My next target is this dent. I'm not convinced that a paintless dent removal guy can fix this. The paint is chipped and it's not readily accessible via a window. We'll see. I sent the dent eraser guy an email.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pictures of the wagon

This is it. Lots of little things to learn and to do.

First, this is a 2006 Volvo V50 T5 FWD with 68,000 miles. I had given up on finding a manual. A day after I lost out on that barents blue automatic, Chris D. sent me a link to this manual-version for sale in Mendocino County (about three hours north of here). The seller was having no luck (other than spam) and was about to delete the ad on Craigslist and post in San Francisco Craigslist when I called. I lucked out because the car would have been gone. This car ended up being $3,000 less than the manual-version I lost on eBay that was for sale in Connecticut. Plus, the Connecticut model had 10,000 more miles.

The previous owners are a really nice couple with a small wool farm. They had to special order this car because no manuals were available at their closest Volvo dealership. The manual version was available for 2006, 2007, and 2010 model years only. My guesstimate, based on overall sales numbers in America, is that there are approximately 1,000 manual V50 wagons here.

Because they didn't have a truck, this wagon did all the heavy lifting on the farm. They took good care of it (I am going to go through the maintenance records later today) and the superficial blemishes really add to the car's character. The car runs strong and quiet. In fact, I foolishly drove through two counties on the way home in fourth gear, thinking that I was in sixth. D'oh!

Because this was a rural car, there are no signs that the car was parallel parked much. There is this one scuff mark.

The carpets look new because the previous owners used the rubber mats almost all the time. They transported their wool to a processor in Taos, New Mexico, in this car regularly. There are still bits of wool inside.

I am debating about whether to keep this cargo cover in the car. On the one hand, taking it off would give the dog more room. However, during the week, I would often have to leave my briefcase in the car and I don't want it exposed.

The interior is relatively clean, but there are quite a number of scuff marks, especially around the driver's area. And look, mtc and Alan, no wood trim!

The interior design is modern and sleek. The fit and finish is also above average. But the feel of the materials is average at best.

As I said, the car runs like a champ. Just a few miles from home yesterday, after driving three plus hours, the "LOW BRAKE FLUID" message briefly flashed on my dash. I checked the level and it wasn't too low. Nevertheless, I picked up a small bottle of DOT 4 fluid this morning and will top off the reservoir.

The engine compartment, by the way, is tiny and cramped. The hood itself is light as a feather.

Another issue is the groaning of the doors. I bought a bottle of white lithium grease today as well.

The "high performance" tires are Les Schwab brand Granadas (essentially generics). They are about 4,000 miles old and installed in Oregon. I suspect the owners had a flat during a road trip and just bought these at the closest tire shop because they were in stock. I'm probably going to keep them until the tread is gone.

The rims are in really good shape. I will have to find a wheel center cap for the driver's side rear wheel though. I can't stand to look at that void.

This is the only other flaw outside. That dent is from a dropped kayak. The car comes with a Thule rack.

Another blemish. The prior owner was carrying metal pipes and had to make an emergency stop. And, bam!

Compared to my TSX (NA 4-cylinder), the Volvo feels torquier and stronger. The TSX's shifter continues to be the most precise and smooth example I've ever experienced. The V50's transmission is from the S60R. The clutch pedal feel is hard to get used to.

The gauge cluster is a bit spartan. I was kind of hoping for a boost gauge to fulfill my secret desire to be a character in the Fast and the Furious.

I just had to park next to this S40 sedan this morning on the way to get coffee. Can you tell I'm paranoid about scraping my front bumper?

David Chang Momofuku Audi A3 ad

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Taking apart a Porsche 996

I wish I was as handy as some of you.

As you may remember, Edvin al-Helsinki-i bought a 911 last year. He has shared some pictures and background of some recent work.

Did a bit of preventive maintenance on the car. The car came with a one year warranty on the engine and drivetrain when I bought it. Since that was almost a year ago, I decided to tackle the infamous IMS (Intermediate shaft, if the bearing goes, then so does your engine) issue just for continued peace of mind. It made sense to also renew the clutch simultaneously. It also made sense to deal with the RMS (crankshaft Rear Main Seal) while I’m at it. Also, since I’ve already renewed my engine mounts and replacing the transmission mount requires dropping the transmission from the car, now was a good time to do that as well. I rented the required special tools from a fellow Porsche enthusiast and ordered the following parts:

- IMS bearing update kit
- Seals and plugs for IMS replacement
- Clutch kit
- Clutch fork update kit (to 997 style)
- Bolts for clutch and flywheel
- Transmission mounting bushing
- 9 litres of Mobil 10W40 & original filter 

While waiting for some parts to arrive I also removed the Aerokit side skirts that had been retrofitted to my car. I prefer the cleaner original look. Pics to come later as I get the proper OEM plastic bits to cover the holes left by the side skirts.

I didn’t have access to a garage with a lift, so I chose to jack the car up on stands and crawl under the car, which wasn’t too bad really. I had intended to document the job better, but once I started working I was too impatient to constantly be removing my gloves to take pics. Removing the transmission was fairly straightforward and now that I’ve done it once I could probably do it in a third of the time spent. Anyway, here are a few pics of the procedure.

New clutch kit and clutch fork.

Pelican Parts IMS upgrade kit. The new bearing has been assembled in the installation tool (the cylinder on the left).

The transmission has descended.

Old clutch in the car.

Old clutch fork mechanism.

New and improved clutch fork design.

Dual Mass Flywheel. Luckily this one was still in perfect shape. No scoring worth mentioning and it did not move more than the intended 15mm in both directions. I’m happy I didn’t have to replace it.

Removing the flywheel revealed a surprisingly tidy sight. All the pics I had seen so far had the RMS leaking very badly, whereas mine was still in perfect nick. According to a date on the old seal, it has been replaced after 2010. Because of that and the fact that they are notoriously difficult to install so that they don’t leak (may require 2-3 seals and tries), I decided not to touch it. At least I have the new seal bought if it starts to leak in the future. You can see the IMS cover has leaked a bit. 

Old clutch assembly. These were actually still had some life left in them and didn’t really need replacing, but I did it anyway seeing as I had the parts.

New IMS bearing installed.

Old transmission mount. Not completely destroyed, but has noticeable cracks in the rubber. I’ve heard that Porsche recommends all rubber bushings to be replaced every 6 years despite whether they look perished or not, because the dampening properties of the rubber has decreased noticeably at that point. Makes sense. 

Pressing out the old rubber mount. We had to fabricate a special tool for this job. Not the prettiest one, but it worked.

New bushing going in.

If you’re gonna do this job, don’t forget to run the shift cables between the body and rear transmission mounting. NOT like in this picture, because then you’re gonna have to lower the transmission again. Sigh…

The clutch slave cylinder had been assembled incorrectly by the previous mechanic, which caused it to disassemble when I removed it from the car. This gave me the opportunity to overhaul the cylinder and bleed the clutch. Correctly assembled and cleaned cylinder in the pic.

Was it worth it? Yes. The main point in this undertaking was to deal with the IMS issue. Peace of mind has been restored and the car will be easier to sell when the time comes (not any time soon, I think). To be honest the new clutch parts haven’t made much of a noticeable difference in clutch feel, but increased reliability is the keyword here too. The transmission mount had a noticeable positive effect, not huge, but clearly better. Now it’s just like the factory intended. So that’s a few big things ticked off the shrinking to-do-list. Next up, a set of new tyres, at least for the rear. And maybe a few refurbished control arms. 




I could hardly sleep last night from the excitement. Here is the ad, before it is taken down.

It's over three hours away, so I'll pick it up either this weekend or the next.

Big thanks to Chris, who found this gem in a haystack.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Beach bunkers in Albania

I was having lunch with a colleague this week when she told me she vacationed in Albania(!). I vaguely recalled Zach mentioning on his blog that the malevolent dictator there built 700,000 concrete bunkers over the span of four decades. Talk about paranoid.

She shared these photos from the seaside town of Sarande. The bunkers have been converted into cafes. Plus, you can see at least one of the ubiquitous Mercedes W201s in the second picture.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I will get this

68,000 miles, one owner, complete records, turbo, stick, local-ish. H/t to Chris.

Dusseldorf airport robot valet "Ray"

Monday, June 23, 2014


I spoke to the mechanic who worked on the car last month. The oil filter housing was replaced and the rear brake pads as well. The front brakes vibrated when used at high speeds downhill. The repair would cost $350-$450 and was not performed.

The mechanic says it's a good deal.

It is really inexpensive-- $2,000 to $3,000 less than what used car dealers are charging.

I'm going to sleep on it.

Flying Citroens!

More pictures here. H/t to Peter.

Dick Cheney's 1994 predictions on Iraq

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Need your input

When you're not in a hurry to buy a car, every decision is like the debate on what to do to save Iraq and Syria. I go back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth. So here is the car I checked out this afternoon. Tell me what you think.

It's a 2007 V50. 2.4 liter normally aspirated engine. Front wheel drive. Automatic. I've given up on finding a manual. And having driven a manual V50 and a manual C30, I don't care much for the feel of the light clutch anyway.

This one has 64,000 miles. Low. And it's for sale by a private owner. Only about two private owner cars show up on Craigslist locally every month. And the price is great. Blue Book is $8,900. This one is listed for $7,800.

It started life as a European delivery car. Its first home was in Washington, DC. And there are plenty of scratches on the bumpers to prove that it had been parallel parked a lot. That's one concern, as I would want the plastic bumpers either repaired/repainted or replaced.

The first owners also failed to fix these two large-ish dents on the passenger side. The current owners, a nice couple in their 40s, who bought the car three years ago, never fixed them either. That's a bit odd, because the car is otherwise well taken care of and comes with full service records. Can these dents just be popped out?

The car is now used by the couple's nanny. They are replacing it with a new car.

I really like the barents blue exterior and the light interior. I don't know what the seating surface material is, but it's breathable and looks easy to clean. I also like the wooden center console (most V50s have a metal center console). The interior is in excellent shape. It is missing a little plastic piece that sits on the base of the rear driver's side door's lock tab.

Another slight concern is that the owners hesitated about letting me take the car to an independent shop for an inspection. They offered to let me look through the service records and encouraged me to call their mechanic, who just installed new brakes a month ago. The mechanic is very highly rated on Yelp.

So should I buy it? My wife likes the car and trusts the current owners. The Carfax report came back clean.