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Old 02-20-2003, 01:31 AM
marinmbfan marinmbfan is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 54
Just checking in with a quick update. I'll do a more detailed one later with details like part numbers. The bottom line is, the car is back on the road and driving very well, with just one drive line problem to sort out. Although I took to heart the advice of TXBill who did a similar repair and had a car that "never drove quite right" afterwards, I couldn't easily walk away from the car when I'd put so much effort into the running gear already. Here are a few tidbits I picked up...

Any airbag deployment is going to be costly. Not only does the airbag fire, but also the pre-tensioners in both seatbelts, and most SRS control units (according to the factory manual I have on CD) consider the deployment to be a one-shot, unclearable fault, meaning that even if you replace the airbag and other widgets, you need to replace the control unit, too. Replacing all these parts could add up a hefty bill quite easily. In my case, I had bought a parts car, but individually they are probably expensive components. After I carefully replace all the parts, I will probably bring it by the local dealer I know fairly well (after I get the SRS light to go back out) for them to give it the once over. They might resist. The detailed repair procedures surrounding the SRS system combine the best elements from pyrotechnic safety and chain-of-evidence preservation. For obvious reasons, they don't make it easy to cut corners, so if the airbag deploys, its going to cost you.

Like TXBill discovered, it looks like any solid hit to the front of the car is ultimately absorbed by the engine itself after crushing through just a few light duty items. The engine and entire driveline shift rearward by some distance. In my case, by about an inch. Although you can manhandle things back into place with a light winch or come along, it is very, very difficult to tell with all the rubber components in the driveline mounting exactly where all the movement took place. I got my transmission and motor moved back about half the distance it needed to be by just loosening up the rear mount and shifting things so that the bolts sliding in their longitudinal adjustment slots went from the extreme rear limit of their adjustment to the extreme front, but once that limit was hit it was not clear how any more could be obtained. After a week of no trouble after this adjustment (and a related adjustment to the shift linkage so that the shift lever really indicated drive when it was in drive and so forth) I thought things were OK but I am now getting a very serious clunk clunk when the transmission shifts from first to second and second to third, so some rubber driveline component must have been in tension after the adjustment and has now failed. I can tell that I have some horsing around yet to do with the driveline.

That one clunk clunk on shift problem aside, the car drives wonderfully. None the worse for its adventure. I had to replace the hood, hood springs, fender, both headlight assemblies, one blinker assembly, radiator, air conditioning condensor, top radiator support and both light buckets. On the front of the motor, I had to change the fan, fan clutch, fan bearing bracket, and the power steering pump. I also had to replace the automatic transmission filler tube because my old one got crushed between the block and the firewall when the motor got pushed back.

Driving the car home from the body guy's distant shop was an electrical adventure, with one working headlight, and one dim headlight, and the windshield wiper coming on of its own volition on every bump until I pulled the fuse. Those problems were all traced to the two ground connections on the newly welded in radiator support and light buckets. The body guy didn't scrape off the new paint when he put the ground lugs on. Other than that adventure, the car came home under its own power, driving well from that first trip, and I even took it back a few days later for a little extra fiddling with the hood fit.

Now that the car seems to be driving well, It's over at the local discount Maaco paint shop for a not-quite-MB spec $500 paint job that will at least return it to a monotone appearance, and give it some gloss for its remaining years. The old paint was strong, but had some very visible flaws, so we opted for a full repaint.

Stay tuned for more details and perhaps pictures.
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