Welcome to the Cosmic Lobster's Automobile page

Hi everyone.
I am a bit surprised that this page is the most popular page on my site!!
Everyone must be here to see the smashed piston . . .

To go down to the pictures of the damaged piston, click  here

I have had owned 11 cars (and 10 motorcycles).
Each of them have their own personality and character.
  • 1964 Dodge Half Ton pickup
  • 1966 Volkswagon Karmann Ghia
  • 1968 Triumph Spitfire
  • 1972 Subaru GL coupe
  • 1978 Subaru GL 4WD
  • 1981 Chevy Camaro
  • 1986 Volvo 740 Turbo Station Wagon
  • 1990 Volvo 740 Turbo Station Wagon
  • 1997 Volvo 960
  • 2002 Mitsubishi Montero Sport

    And the newest, the best, the greenest and the most technologically advanced;
  • 2007 Toyota Prius 5, with Touring Package

My Volvo 960 project
In the summer of 2006 I bought a 1997 Volvo 960. It was the top of the line Volvo for 1997 and a luxury car in every respect. It's also the last pure Volvo before the company was divested to Ford. I got it for 1/3 of it's blue book value because of a problem with the engine. It's in excellent condition and only has 114 thousand miles on it.

Pulled the timing cover off of the 97 Volvo 960 today. As I suspected, the timing belt slipped and the cams were off by a tooth or two. The ball bearing of the timing belt pulley has several of it's balls missing and the tensioner pulley also had major problems.

It was a depressing day for auto repairs. One cylinder had a severely mashed spark plug. Using a flashlight I could look into the chamber and see a gaping hole in the top of the piston. A good portion of the piston is now swimming in the sump somewhere. :(

Had a hell of a time trying to get the cylinder head off!! I broke 2 sockets and it took both hands on the torque wrench pulling with all of my strength to get the bolts out. The torque wrench only goes up to 200 foot pounds and I had it pegged for several seconds at a time!! After working up a good sweat, I finally did get the 14 cylinder head bolts out!!

Note to self:
Get a good long breaker bar if you plan to remove any more Volvo cylinder heads!!
The cylinder head bolts were a bit too much for my torque wrench - it now reads 40 foot pounds when it's sitting in the tool box!!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.
If you are thinking about changing your own timing belt, make sure you have the marks set correctly when you put it all back together!! Here is what your engine might look like if you don't!

Here's what the spark plug looked like . . .
mashed plug

This is what the cylinder head looked like . . .

and last but certainly not least, the piston!

I bought a Volvo 960 engine on-line from Car-part.com. I got a complete engine with 70K miles on it from a 1996 Volvo that got T-Boned. I had it delivered to a local Volvo repair shop and let them have the fun of swapping out the engines.
I did save some cash by stripping down and disconnecting everything from the old engine so it would be ready to be yanked. I also saved some cash by having them just drop the new engine in without reconnecting everything.

VOLVO UPDATE 12/28/06:
It took me about 12 hours and I got 14 cuts on my hands and fingers, but I got finally got everything reinstalled and reconnected. The moment of truth was at hand. Put the key in and cranked it. After about 8 seconds, it started right up!! There are still a few loose ends that need tending to, but I was quite thrilled to hear the engine fire up, even though I only ran it for 10 seconds - there was no oil in the engine and no water in the radiator at the time!

My "new" Volvo is up and running like a champ. If feels like a new car and it was well worth all of my efforts.
I had planned to sell this one for profit, but it is such a NICE car - I don't think I can part with it just yet.

THE FINAL CHAPTER of the Volvo 960 story:
Because of the negligence of a driver who changed lanes in an intersection when the Volvo was in his blind spot, The Volvo's driver swerved to avoid an emminent collision and the Volvo went up on to the start of a median in the middle of the road. The front tires were still on the road on either side of the median, but the concrete curb sheered off the bottom of the radiator, the oil filter and tore a hole in the oil pan. A solid blow to the steering mechanism finally stopped the car and left the front tires with a crosseyed stance. A sad and untimely death for a great car. Many of it's parts helped to keep other Volvo's on the road so it wasn't a total loss.

Here is the history of the cars I have owned.
To visit the motorcycle page, click  Here

The Karmann Ghia was a gift from my brother-in-law because it would not start most of the time. I devised 4 alternate ways to get it started and drove it for many years. My girlfriend and I packed everything we could into it and drove it from New York City to San Francisco. Several years later it broke a valve on the way home from Lake Tahoe and got sold as junk for $100.

The Dodge pick up was bought as scrap for $200. It needed major repairs to almost every system it had! It took 6 months and several hundred dollars in parts to get it in good running condition. After it was repaired, I took it on a 4 week vacation to 3 National Parks in Utah and to Yellowstone National Park. I kept that truck for 14 years.

I got the Triumph Spitfire for $500. It was painted a god awful looking brown and dark yellow. The engine was only 1147cc but it was a very light 2 seater so it moved pretty well. It was "restored" when I bought it but nothing was done quite right, so I had to re do most of it. I fixed everything and it ran great until some stoned jesus freak ran into it and destroyed it.

My first Subaru had 169,000 miles on it and it needed tires and a few repairs, so I got it cheap. It was amazing how easily that small car could burn rubber!

I bought the second Subaru because I had just moved to Reno, Nevada and I needed a car with 4 wheel drive. I got it cheap because the fuel filter was so clogged that it would only get up to 50 MPH on the freeway. A new fuel filter was all it needed to do 80+.

The Chevy was bought from a friend who drove it until it overheated after a radiator hose ruptured. It needed 2 new head gaskets. It took a lot of work and it was a challenge more than anything else.

I bought the Mitsubishi because of their promotion of zero down, zero interest and zero payments for a year. I had just gotten my real estate license and I planned to worry about making the payments after I got rich from selling real estate. Pretty funny in retrospect.

Next was a 1986 Volvo 740 Turbo Wagon. Some of the wires in 1986 and 1987 Volvo's had insulation that would flake off of the wires. The previous owner took the Volvo to a Swedish auto mechanic and they told her that it needed a whole new engine wire harness for $600 and the labor to put it in was another $600. I got junkyard wires from a newer Volvo for a few dollars and only replaced the wires that needed it. It had another intermittent problem that would cause the engine to die at apparently random times. It took a few months and many parts from the junkyard until I found the problem. I bought it for $600 which was 1/3 of it's blue book value. Here's a picture of what some of the wires looked like:
Volvo wires

This is the 1987 Volvo 740 Turbo Wagon:
1987 Volvo Wagon

Click Here to ask the Cosmic Lobster about anything on 4 wheels


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This counter was started on Nov 11, 2006
This page was updated on Dec 24, 2010