A Reset Of Sorts

How something big became bigger.

Earth Date 2011.03.21

Posted by Rich Wheadon | Permalink

Last year my 1991 Acura Legend began smoking a lot. In the 90 degree summer heat I felt really bad for all the people behind me driving with A/C issues since my daily driver was emitting noxious vapors at every stop-start in rush hour traffic. I knew I was not going to pass emissions so I decided to get a motor swap done on my car before November 13 which is my birthday.

Rewind 2007
Shortly after buying my Legend in 2007 I realized my manual transmission had been damaged by the previous owner and I sourced purchasing one from an individual who ended up selling me the engine, transmission and differential for a low miles 1994 Legend that had been totaled in an accident. Upon picking up and paying for my new treasures I discovered a bracket for the power steering had been broken off of the car and would need to be welded back on. I also drained the transmission of its fluid and found it would be needing its bearings replaced because someone had put the wrong lubricant in it.

Purchasing these items were a logical attempt to prepare for the mechanical failures I would almost assuredly encounter with my aging Legend Coupe. Everything was placed out of the way in my man cave and quietly waited summons to press them into service.

Back to 2010
Now that my old motor was beginning to fail I decided this was a good time to get that block repaired so I could swap the low miles engine into my ailing car. As I began preparing the engine block for repair I realized the broken power steering (pump) mount is also the motor mount! Things are now further complicated when I can't get any sort of convincing answer on someone who can do a quality repair for me.

I began looking for a replacement Legend motor for my car since rebuilding the one in my car was not an option because the car is my daily driver. When the only engines I could find had greater than 200,000 miles and were fetching over $1K I began to search for more affordable options. Within just a few clicks I began to find out that instead of replacing my Legend motor with another Legend engine I should consider doing an RL Swap. For those needing some background Acura did a name change on the Legend in 1996 to begin calling it the 3.5RL. Legends and RLs share almost the same engine design with the RL having slightly more displacement. I also found out that a low miles RL engine would be cheaper than the Legend power plants I had found.

In August 2010 I secured an RL engine from a local salvage yard. Although getting an engine that was close to the year/mileage spec I had paid for took more than one try, the local yard took good care of me and I began preparing for the swap out. My first task was to put as many of my Type 2 engine parts onto the RL block as possible. The Type 2 cams, intake and springs would make the already torquey 3.5 motor breathe much better. It took me appx. 1 month to get all the parts I needed and installed on the "new" engine for my car.

In September 2010 I began working on the 6 speed transmission that would accompany my new engine into the coupe. Very quickly my timeline began to slip because of backordered parts. On November 1st it was obvious that the transplant would have to wait and I began alternate plans. Since the oil burning was only at stop-start I assumed my valve seals needed to be replaced. I ordered the seals and upon their arrival I tore in to the valve train. After two sessions of engine surgery with the car's nose in the garage and cool fall night air on my back the valve seal replacement was done and the car stopped smoking. Another night cleaning and replacing the EGR along with O2 sensors and my car passed emissions gloriously.

Now the heat was off getting a swap done and I rescheduled the swap for my Christmas vacation. I had spent a lot of money on the 3.5L engine and 6 speed transmission swap so I wanted to keep momentum up!

Matt's great deal
A guy at work came to me and mentioned he had a 1995 Legend Sedan with a locked up motor that he would sell really cheap. My buddy was driving a 97 Malibu that was falling apart at the seams and I offered to help him with a motor replacement. The plan was to do my 3.5 swap and then follow up on his car. We got him a 3.5 RL engine and got it ready for an end of the year swap out after we finished mine. At nearly the last minute I decided that perhaps the best idea would be to swap Matt's engine first so that:

What a winning choice I made! Two days before the swap I injured my right shoulder and for the entire week we had planned to do two swaps I was only able to nominally twist wrenches on Matt's car. Since I couldn't do a majority of the work under my own power I had to deal with coaching a largely mechanically inexperienced person. There were numerous struggles including finding and positioning the right parts, tools and especially proper torquing of fasteners. The transplant was a near three stooges experience, but with just two of us.

Matt's swap didn't actually get finished until 6 weeks into 2011 due to numerous weekend setbacks and parts related issues. In February 2011 we drove a very smooth, beautiful and powerful Legend project out of my garage. Now it was time to begin preparing for my Legend projects. Yes, plural.

While working on Matt's Legend I realized that my weekend availability was going to stretch the motor swap across months so I decided to pick up a cheap car to turn into my daily driver. I searched for quite some time from Nashville to Savannah to Jacksonville with no luck finding a 2-3K dollar car that would be reliable and acceptable to me. I was looking at Legends, Rancheros, Miatas and any other car that I found attractive or fun. At some point in January I was contacted by a forum member who gave me a sale offer I could not resist. The car he offered had a locked up transmission and cracked custom wheel but for the most part in fair shape. Enter the mini project car.

Introducing "MaryKay"
Based on the fixer upper's custom paint job with red flecks of pearl in it the “new” coupe got affectionately (or maybe not so much) nicknamed MaryKay. She is a white 1991 Acura Legend Coupe that has been lowered with 18" custom wheels and lots of little touches like paint, tinting, and some moulding treatment. The car has had lots of little changes to it's disposition that I would have to reset to stock so I wouldn't feel foolish getting out of it wherever I went.

Hello MaryKay

Although the transmission in my new ride was locked up there was a used junkyard transmission in the trunk to replace it. Originally I would only replace the transmission and wheel to drive it but a list began to grow including resetting lots of little parts back to stock like:

MaryKay, my 91 Legend L, became a project in her own right.

All of this has really peeled me away from other career related attention like languages and little computer projects, but once the L has been converted from looking like cheap tart with too much makeup then I will put my LS Coupe on stilts and just take my time working through a nice restore project on that one.

So that's where I've been since my last post!

Thanks for stopping by,