I've owned the Omni for 26 years now, and I'm not going to give it up without
a fight. My real goal is to build an electric car one day, or at least do
a conversion, but the chassis has to be reliable first:-) But I'm not a
restoration guy who's going to strip it to the metal, sandblast, and basically
restore it to new. All I aspire to is safe and effective. So what does the
Omni need? For starters, some serious unibody repairs. Last time I had the
left front wheel off I peeled away a pound or two of rusted, jagged sheet
metal from one of the formed structural members.
What bothers me is that it's the continuation of the shock tower and also
supports one of the motor mounts. There's enough metal left that the car
doesn't sag if I pick it up from the central jack point under the front motor
mount, practically under the radiator on this car. So I moved on to
cutting out the rusty subframe and I'm preparing
to install the new floors as well.
The passenger side axle needs to be straightened out. The last couple years,
I've been keeping the speed under 55, because that around where the vibrations
get really bad, thanks to a inner tie rod that needs
replacing and an axle wobble. Under 50 or so, you wouldn't know that
the axel has wobble in it. What drives me nuts is that the axle itself isn't
bent, it that I have mismatched axles in the car, leaving one too long. While
you might think only an idiot could do that, I replaced both axles at the
same time with rebuilds because the CV joints were going, and the job turned
into a mess because one of the stock rebuilt axles turned out to have the
wrong end on it. Never occurred to me to check the box while I was at NAPA,
but it gives you an idea of the QC on some of these rebuilds. When I finally
found a local supplier with a replacement, I suspect all I did was look at
the end and install it. The problem is there are THREE different axle set
the car can use, and you are supposed to match them and then move the engine
on the engine mounts to get everything centered right.
The front passenger wheel (when it rains it snows) has a nasty horizontal
shake, even when the tire is on the ground. It's not the ball joint, it's
in the tie-rod linkage, and as near as I can judge, it's the inner tie-rod.
The tie-rod is cheap, don't think it cost me much over $20. Replacing it
is a pain, because you pretty much have to take the whole bottom of the car
apart to get good enough access to the rack to put a wrench on it. I might
buy one of the specialty tie-rod replacement tools they sell at Harbor Freight,
essentially a tube with assorted open ended wrench ends that fits into the
housing to keep the rack from twisting and getting damaged as you unscrew
the inner tie-rod. I came across a brilliant
a pinion gear in a rack while checking out existing web pages.
My plan for proceeding is to start by renting a space where I can do the
work and shoot video for this site. Next I pull the engine to get some honest
working room, and while the front end is apart, I'll do some sheet metal
repair work on the unibody. While welding is an option, I have an affinity
for doing things the bizarre way, so I may try to go with steel pop-rivets
(hey, they hold helicopters together) or with nuts and bolts (no nuts jokes,
please). Then I'll straighten out the axle, which might be an interesting
little project, and finally, I'll deal with inner tie-rod. Somewhere along
the line, I'll have to do enough general body work to make it worth putting
the car back on the road, but I have some decent techniques to video there.
The idea is to do the work good enough. I'm not a perfectionist, and if you
just want it to run, you shouldn't be a perfectionist either.