Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash

Team Black Metal V8olvo was fortunate enough to get some track time at a Volvo club event at Thunderhill last week, and so we got the car all put together and trailered it on up to Willows. It worked pretty well, with our modified Thunderbird springs and swaybars and 242 Turbo brakes giving the car decent handling and stopping, and while the Ford 302 couldn't keep up with the wild-ass super-boosted turbo four-bangers on the other cars, it was able to get out of its own way. But then the car started running hot...

Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


You see, we'd been inspired by Team Two Wheels Too Many and the rear-radiator setup they'd put in their '85 Cavalier, and we figured we'd do the same in our Volvo. Well, actually, I was the one who thought it would be a good idea, if we're going to be placing blame for ensuing badness.


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


Just get the biggest truck radiator we could find at the junkyard, put it in the back seat, and add some big electric radiator fans. Run some muffler piping forward to the engine, cut some holes in the trunk, and we become invulnerable to battle damage!


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


Piping through the firewall bulkhead and along the passenger side, inside the rollcage. The whole setup was ridiculously cheap, and seemed like it should work well.


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


I picked up a couple of fans from early-80s Mercedes-Benz sedans, and grabbed another from an 80s BMW 7-series.


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


Cut out a template from cardboard to make a nice aluminum shroud...


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash

...and a third fan in the trunk, blowing air out through a reverse scoop cut into the trunk lid.


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


Should be airflow aplenty here!


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


Seal up the gaps between the passenger compartment and trunk with aluminum tape and Foster's cans.


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


Cut some holes in the doors and add some Toyota MR2 side scoops for added cooling. What could go wrong? Nothing, or so I thought.


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


So, the car gets to the racetrack, and everything seems fine.


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


But after a few laps, the water temperature kept climbing past the danger point, regardless of speed or number of fans operating. At this point, the primary theory among the team members was that the 302's tired water pump wasn't moving enough water, since the three German fans moved air like a hurricane. But there was no way of knowing.


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


And no way of testing, because at that point disaster struck! Team member Jesse (you might know him as triple-DOTS owner WhatWouldJesseDo) was behind the wheel on the track when the engine suddenly died and wouldn't restart. Track adventures ceased at that point.


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


Once we got the car back to the shop, it turned out that the oil pump had seized and snapped off the roll pin holding the distributor drive gear in place. We were actually fortunate that the Ford engine drives the oil pump from the distributor, because that meant that the engine quit immediately (rather than continuing to run at full throttle with no oil pressure). But at this point we were worried that our worn-out well-seasoned engine might not be able to handle the rigors of a long endurance race (especially after seeing the Sin City Lemons LTD throw a rod in its 302 at the Thunderhill race in December).


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


Anyway, the weekend became a grueling all-out, bloody-knuckled wrenchathon. We had to get the engine out of the car, swap in an oil pump and distributor from one of Crew Chief Hellhammer's collection of old Ford 302s, then convert the car from a radical rear-radiator setup to a standard front-radiator rig... all with a week to go before the race! Oh yes, and paint the car if we had time (cue madhouse laughter).


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash

It's not trivial pulling an engine and swapping an oil pump while it hangs on a lift, but Hellhammer has the chops to get it done pretty quickly.


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


All the work on that nice shroud, discarded! That stung, bad. We probably could have made it work, if we'd had time for more testing... but we didn't. Off to the junkyard with me, to search for a V8 radiator that would fit in a Volvo 240, preferably with the inlet on the passenger's side of the car.


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


Hmmm... a great big Mercedes-Benz 560SEL should have plenty of cooling capacity, eh?


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


The width was just right for our car, but the height was about 3" too tall. But we had a workaround planned for that issue.


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


First, a frame to support the new radiator, tied into the strut tower brace we'd already built out of square tubing.


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


We rigged the Mercedes mounts to work with our frame, and it's all nicely isolated with rubber bumpers.


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


The pair of Mercedes fans we'd had in the rear of the car (and, of course, new wiring to control them from the existing circuits) go in the front now, along with an engine-driven fan. Perhaps the engine-driven fan would be enough, but we don't want to take chances with overheating at the race.


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


The Benz used a remote radiator tank, so we had to find a place for it.


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


As for hood clearance, we just cut a big slot for the radiator and upper hose. Folks who swap V8s into street-driven Volvos usually use Corvette radiators (because they're short and wide, like the radiator space in a Volvo 240), but we weren't going to find a Corvette in Pick Your Part with the clock ticking.


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


Is this right out of the Lord Humungus' motor pool or what?


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


Hellhammer broke out the welding gear again and fabricated this cowcatcher-esque radiator-protection cage that goes behind the grille. Not quite as indestructible as a radiator in the back seat area, but still pretty tough (especially with that huge Volvo bumper in place).


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


Looks pretty good! Note the Volvo seat belts as hood hold-downs.


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


A solid 3-day weekend of 12-hour days for us, reminiscent of the panicky last hour's thrash you'd see teams doing in the old Junkyard Wars... only ours went on and on and on, for day after day. I considered trying out for that show, back in 2001 or so... even talked about putting a team together with a cubemate at a dot-com job who had a part-time gig as a welding instructor, but- as usually happens- we never went anywhere with the idea. Well, we got laid off from the job and went our separate ways... and next thing I know, she's on the Metal Maidens, winning The Great Race (that's her on the left). The jealousy! But now I think I know what that sort of fabrication-against-deadline adrenaline feels like!


Broken Engine, Bad Cooling System Dictate Last-Minute V8olvo Thrash


The out-of-town team members are here, and we're ready for some wheel-to-wheel, Scandinavian black metal-inspired action at Altamont this weekend. From left to right: Necrobutcher, Mr. Blöödwrënch, and Count Chocunakh (aka Señor Loverman, yours truly, and Jack Baruth). I'll be pretty busy at the race, but will try to get some live coverage for y'all. Oh yes, our Black Metal V8olvo Mission Statement (cue Opeth): Most Grim and Frostbitten Necrowrenches Bloodlustfully Blaspheming the Forbidden Forsaken Fjord Sacrilegiously Perched Atop the Unholy and Inverted Mountain of Altamont.