Fine-Tuning ACC

Everything seemed fine when I hit the key on the ACC Mustang. It had been sitting for months — a victim of deadlines, other projects and commitments that kept it parked in its stall after ACC installed Classic Auto Air a/c on the original 289. But that’s part of what I love about the Mustang. It’s an American car, and it just tends to work.

Even after months of sitting, it cranked like I’d driven it yesterday, but it wouldn’t fire. All the fuel had evaporated out of the carburetor.

And then I smelled raw fuel. A lot of it. Evaporated fuel in the carburetor bowls had left behind sticky residue, and the floats had stuck down, flooding the engine and making a mess out of the intake. Oops.

It was a good reminder for me — I know better than to crank up a carbed V8 that’s been sitting without tapping on the float bowls with a screwdriver handle. But we all need a reminder sometimes. I’m just glad this one didn’t include flames.

Tune-up time

That’s what prompted me to take the Mustang to my shop and rebuild the old 4160 Holley sitting on top of that 289. The job is easy to do, but a lot of car guys see carburetors as some kind of voodoo science. So I called up Summit Racing, ordered the proper kit, and tore down the Holley in my garage. My step-by-step coverage is this month’s “Wrenching” feature. It starts on p. 34.

Once I had the carb back on the engine and the engine running, I set about tuning the carb. Some say you can do it by ear, listening to the rpm increase as you back out each mixture screw to the proper amount. I’ve always found the job to be a lot easier with a vacuum gauge hooked up to the carb — reading engine vacuum as you back off each mixture screw. The goal? Setting the highest reading possible on the gauge — and the highest rpm you can get — using just those mixture screws.

Once I had the gauge reading where I wanted it, I gave each mixture screw an extra quarter-turn out, thumped the throttle a few times and called it done.

As I was putting away my tools, I started thinking about a different kind of tune.

Dialing it in

Building a magazine is a lot like building a car. There are components that all need to come together at a certain time, and they all need to be done to a high level of quality to carry the end product. The devil is in the details — sub-par prepwork under paint is usually visible even under a great paint job, and it’s not that different for a magazine idea that wasn’t well thought out, or a profile that missed the mark on the current market. We work hard to make ACC the best magazine it can be, and from time to time, that means it’s time get out our tools and tune things up a bit.

You may have noticed that we’ve made a few incremental changes over the past few issues. Our covers feature cleaner designs, and we’ve tidied up our look on each of the pages inside as well. I’ve tuned our profiles as well as our Market Reports to tighten them up even further, and we’ve added a few new features to make our content more readable and quicker to digest.

But that’s all more of a tune-by-ear sort of thing. I’d like to add a gauge into the mix, and to do so, I’ll need your help. So this August, I’ll be sending out a readers’ survey to get your thoughts on what you like about ACC, what you think needs work, and what you’d like to see more of.

The survey will go out via email to our newsletter list. If you don’t already get the free ACC Newsletter — now weekly — you can sign up for it at www.americancarcollector.com. Or, if you’d rather, you can send your thoughts to us directly at comments@americancarcollector.com. I won’t be publishing your responses — this is purely to gauge where we are, and to help us dial in ACC to make it more of the magazine that you — the reader — wants it to be.

As for the Mustang, it ran great on the way back to ACC HQ — and while I’ve put a lot of miles on it, that day included a first for me. Next to me at a stoplight, a guy in a white van yelled and waved. “I love your Mustang. It looks great!” he said. “I love the way those old V8s smell!”

Score one for the gauge.

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