Parts one and two of this saga covered how I came to love a boxy little truck, and my pursuit and ultimate acquisition of one to call my very own. If you will recall, I now had a non-running project street parked next to my house. A situation that needed to be remedied ASAP before the mobs arrived bearing torches and pitchforks (my own lovely wife and children would probably be counted among their numbers). The one thing I had going for me here is the utter simplicity that is a 1969 Scout. There are approximately 7 moving parts to the whole thing, and it will still run if 6 of them are broken. There is no power steering, no power brakes, no fuse panel, no hydraulic clutch system, no AC, no electronic sensors, no nothing. Plus, there is enough room in the engine bay that I could probably straddle an engine mount and stand in the bay with the engine without removing anything if I really had to. All of this simplicity and analog technology was great, however there was one hitch. There, on top of the engine, tucked under the oil bath air cleaner (how archaic, I had never even heard of one of those), sat that one piece of old school tech that really intimidated me. A Carburetor. Having never owned anything older that the '83 truck I had traded for the Scout, and the '82 Jaaag XJ6 I had talked my mother into handing the keys over to when I graduated high school, carbs were a complete mystery to me. I'm convinced that carbs are a mystery to everyone, even people who work on them for a living, or even design them. "Ok, we'll put a venturi here, some jets over there, add a throtle plate and pray the damn thing will somehow work." But I digress, carb apprehension aside, it was time to get down to it.
I decided the first order of business was to drain and refill the fluids, and toss the long dead battery on the charger. The coolant was drained and replaced with no problem, as was the super nasty orange gas from the gas tank. Thankfully somewhere along the line, one of the two steel saddle tanks was replaced with a newer poly tank, so rust wasn't a huge concern, at least in that one tank. When I drained the oil though, I got my first hint that something was up. Where there should have been about 4 quarts, there were about 8, and it reeked of gas. Putting that temporarily out of my mind, I spun on a new filter and filled it up with fresh oil. After the battery (thankfully) showed a full charge, I reinstalled it and tried to crank it over. It cranked freely, but wouldn't fire. A dribble of gas down the throat of the carb would produce a few revolutions, but nothing more. I was clearly getting compression and spark, but not fuel. Cranking the engine with the fuel line disconnected from the carb wasn't producing any gas, so there must be a problem either in the fuel line or with the fuel pump. I had a few feet of fuel line kicking around the shed, so I decided to run some to the carb, stick a funnel in the end, fill it with gas and let gravity take over. With that system rigged up, a little cranking and, bam! She was running! Running poorly, very, very poorly, but she was running! I was going to win the game of "did my husband trade a perfectly good (ugly) truck for a pile of scrap?".
Ok, it was time to figure out fuel delivery so I could drive my new Scout on her maiden voyage! Hoking my spare fuel line to the fuel pump and sticking the other end in a gas can resulted in the Scout running as well, so there was clearly an issue between the tank and the pump. I tried blowing out the line with no luck. I tried replacing all of the flexible fuel line between the tank and the pump, and still no luck. Great, the problem was IN the tank. The fresh gas I had added was drained back into a gas can, and the tank was pulled, with some difficulty. As I suspected, there was some obstruction in the pickup tube. After a liberal application of carb leaner and violent assault with some copper wire, whatever crud had been keeping the gas jailed in its polycarbonate prison was cleared, and everything reinstalled, including an extra fuel filter to grab the bits of whatever I had just fought with out of the fuel pump and carb. With everything back in place, and the fuel flowing freely, I could start the Scout at will. It still ran like shit. Any application of the throttle resulted in a backfire and the engine stalling.
On to the ignition system, I thought. The plug wires had clearly seen better days, so I decided to replace all the cheap, easy bits, including all the wires, plugs, cap, rotor and coil. Thankfully, between Auto Zone, O'Reilly's and NAPA, all the necessary parts were available locally. When I was a NAPA, getting the last of the parts, being the cap and rotor, the older guy at the counter asked if I wanted a set of points and a condenser as well. "A what?" I asked? He said a vehicle that old would have a points ignition system, and that I should probably replace them as well. I agreed to purchase points and a condenser. "You got a dwell meter to set those points?" Good lord, this is starting to get expensive. New parts in hand, along with a nice digital multimeter with a dwell setting, I set out to replace all the ignition bits. With that chore accomplished, I eagerly twisted the key, fully expecting the smooth purr of a well tuned engine. Boy was I naive... I was greeted with the same crappy idle, and the same backfire/stall routine as before.
In frustration, I turned to the interwebs. It turns out there are a couple of really good online forums. Some dealing with IH vehicles in general, and a couple for the Scout and Scout II specifically. I got a number of suggestions from people, ranging from the catastrophic (you need an engine rebuild) to the more helpful, like check your timing. I decided to start with the low hanging fruit. I did a compression test (requiring the purchase of a compression tester), which thankfully came out good. I tightened down all the hoses, the carb and anything else that might produce a vacuum leak. I managed to dribble a half a can of SeaFoam through the carb to help clear out any carbon deposits in the combustion chambers. All to no avail. I tried to check things out with a vacuum gauge, but the erratic idle left me with inconsistent results. That left me with timing. Of course, I didn't have a timing gun, so off to the parts store, and yet another $100 bill evaporated from my wallet. Timing was a little tough to nail down without a good solid idle, but I could tell it was definitely well beyond the 0* suggested by the sticker in the engine bay, and even beyond the 8* BTDC suggested by those on the web. I dutifully dialed back the advance to a more reasonable 5*, adjusted the idle and mixture screws on the carb for what seemed like the millionth time, and... It still ran like shit.
At this point, I was having serious thoughts of washing my hands of this whole project. What I wanted to be an enjoyable project had become frustrating. I was angry and fed up with wasting my time and money and not having anything to show for it. I was mad at myself for trading away an ugly but perfectly reliable truck for a big, blue pile of Smurf crap, and most of all, I was angry at myself for failing to be able to fix the problem. I considered having it towed to an actual repair shop, but honestly, I could barely afford the tow, much less whatever huge bill I was sure would await me after their diagnosis. Before admitting defeat, I let a couple of days pass to allow the frustration to dissipate a little bit, and so I could be slow and methodical in my troubleshooting. I know from experience that working angry rarely yields satisfactory results. I went back to square one, and began checking EVERYTHING. I had rebuilt the carb, so I checked and rechecked all the settings, the float level and everything else i could think of. I used my shiny new multimeter to test the new coil, and verified it was wired up correctly. I re-checked the points and condenser. I pulled off the cap and rotor, cleaned them yet again and reassembled them. I pulled the plugs out and verified the gap. I made sure the wires were on good and tight, and were well routed to avoid cross firing. I had gotten all the way through the process when I decided to verify that the wires on the cap were in the right firing order. I had replaced the wires one at a time to avoid just such a mix-up, but I wanted to make sure i had all of my bases covered. This was it. the final showdown. Either I was going to win, or I was going to throw in the towel, and I wanted to verify EVERYTHING before admitting defeat. I checked my trusty shop manual for the firing order, which is listed as 1-3-4-2. I looked at my cap, and saw 1-4-3-2. I couldn't believe it! All of my work and troubleshooting. All of my frustration, and probably all of the frustration of the previous owner and it was because 2 stupid wires were switched! I swapped the wires, hopped in the Scout and twisted the key. Success! The engine instantly fired up and settled to a much, much better, but still not perfect idle! I reset the timing, and idle and mixture screws, and then just sat there and let it run. It was amazing. I had conquered the engine gremlins (more-or-less). I had risen to meet the challenge and I had won. In celebration, I decided to gently, ever so gently, back the Scout up and pull it into its home in the driveway. I mashed the clutch, put it in reverse and eased the clutch out. The Scout moved! It was moving under its own power, for the first time in who knows how long. I backed up, put it in drive and slowly pulled into the driveway only to discover I had no brakes...
In Part 4, I tackle the mysterious drum brakes, and uncover more engine troubles.