Monday, December 31, 2007

Restoration of a 1985 Pontiac Trans Am

A friend from back where I grew up recently started a restoration on a 1985 Pontiac Trans Am. The car recently was subjected to hail damage, and the insurance company ponied up a nice chunk of change for the damage. He then tossed some more money along with the pay out and the car will be seeing about $6,000 in body work and paint. Here are a few pictures he sent me the other day, displaying the car stripped down to bare metal. The finished product should be show quality, and I'll try to pass along any updated photos he sends me.

A look ahead to 2008

Time and time again I've tried to build my automotive blog, yet each and every time I've failed. Just as my car projects sit, so has this blog. For 2008 I am going to attempt to follow through with my promise. First thing was first, it was time to kill off my other blog. It was hard to hit that "delete blog" button, but I knew as long as it existed, I would continue to ignore this blog.

Anyways, what better time to rejuvenate this blog than when the North American International Auto Show is about to kick off? Once again, you will see me focus primarily on what the Big 3 has to offer, with only the occasional import making these pages. To each their own, but the import companies still fail to catch my attention, with few exceptions. Perhaps the most noteworthy, and surprising, is the Mini Cooper. While compact and much smaller than my usual taste, I can't help but see it as a go-cart for grown-ups, as well as how fun it would be to throw through the turns. The Mini has caught my attention ever since I first spotted it at the show a few years back.

A few months after the NAIAS, the Detroit Autorama will take place, in which I will also cover heavily. While I find both shows interesting, the Autorama often proves to be my favorite. Anybody can buy a factory hotrod, it takes creativity (and lots of cash!) to create what is on display at Autorama. The quality of the cars presented has increased exponentially over the past 5 years. It's a rarity to find a car with a Maaco paint job these days. I will also try and remember my camera during my next trip to Henry Ford Museum, as they have several noteworthy cars on display.

As far as the projects go, don't expect much on the Camaro until probably next winter, and nothing more than regular maintenance on the Formula. I'm currently awaiting a turn signal switch that is on backorder from Year One, which will require tearing down the steering column. Nothing too exciting, but I'll document it none the less. Probably fix my headlight that is stuck popped up here soon as well, just been reluctant to drop the required $140-$240 to fix it.

One project I do hope starts to take shape this year is my dad's 1970 Challenger R/T he bought from me. I picked him up a few Mopar books for Christmas, as well as a subscription to Mopar Muscle. I'm hoping it's enough incentive to get him buying parts and get the project underway, perhaps hitting the road in 2009. I have the project almost totally planned out for him, though there are a few question marks that remain. The drivetrain for one, as while I think I have him talked into a 6 speed transmission, I'm not sure what the engine itself will entail. With an aftermarket company just releasing an EFI 6 pack compatible with the 383, it would sure give a unique underhood appearance if he went that route.

So here is to a new year, and new focus upon what is no longer a career, but now just a hobby. Should be a fun next few years for gearheads, with the new Challenger launching in a few months, and the Camaro following next year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Showing her age

Just yesterday old blue turned over 130,000. While not bad for a 19 year old car, she's starting to show her age. While the manual likely states a tune-up ever 36,000 miles, I only waited 10,000-15,000 this time around. As the engine is going through about 1+ quart every 1,000 miles, so the spark plugs start getting fouled out, and the engine starts idling a bit rough. While it wasn't bad, I figured I'd change the plugs when I hit 130,000 miles. The plugs weren't as bad as I expected, and I'm skeptical that the oil consumption is more valve guide related than piston ring/cylinder wear. Makes me ponder whether or not I should purchase a set of AFR heads to see whether it fixes the problem...and pick up a good 80 hp in the process.

Monday, October 22, 2007

My Camaro relocates

Funny how things come about some times. After a few years of apartment living after college, I bought a house. First on the agenda was to tear down the garage and build new. That way, both of my project cars (my Camaro and Challenger) would start to see some progress.

As it turned out, I did move the Camaro up to my new garage shortly after completion. Another year or so passed before I had electricity installed in the garage. Only then did I actually get around to working on the car, though the only work consisted of further disassembly. With everything disassembled, the only direction left to go was progress, yet time and money dictated neither one happening. A major part of it was buying a nearly 100 year old home. Owning an old house is a lot like owning an old car, in the sense that there always seems to be some sort of maintenance needed. The house work took up whatever free time I thought I would have to work on the car, with no end in sight. Then came another variable, a serious girlfriend.

I'll admit, I didn't really like her having to park her car outside on the street, and if not for my Camaro, I'd have room in the garage for her to park. Part of me was sad to see the car leave, but the reality is, no work was going to be finished on it anytime soon. In addition to the old house, I made a serious change in careers recently, saying bye-bye to the auto industry, and hello to law enforcement. I'm in the midst of the academy, 1 month in, and will last for 6 months, and will consume pretty much all of my spare time. So much so that the only house work getting done lately has been thanks to the help of my dad.

It wasn't all bad to move my Camaro back to my parents', well, actually to grandma's this time around. There is some body work that needs fixing before it sees the road again. A few spots in the paint popped, a couple dings have occurred, and plenty of burnouts have left the quarter panels peppered with stone chips. All of which I would like fixed prior to putting the car back on the road. Since my painter resides down where the car is now, it makes the most sense.

I've been eyeing a hoist for the garage for a few years now. I will likely try and install one prior to bringing the car back up here. In the mean time, I have the full powertrain, electrical, interior, and all major components still at my house, so I'm hardly at a loss for things to work on when the time comes. I now fully understand how car projects quickly turn into 10-15 years, as mine has already been off the road now for 6 years! Last time, while in college, I completed a full frame up restoration in less than 1 years time. Things change as you get older, as do priorities, as I've come to realize in recent years.

In the mean time, the girlfriend is happy to have a spot in a garage to park for the first time in her life.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Reminiscing about old driving routes

These past few days have taken me back to my old stomping grounds, Toledo, Ohio. Growing up in Adrian, we used to make frequent jaunts down to Toledo, as it was only about a 30 minute commute...if you drove the speed limit. :)

Back then, driving the speed limit was something I seldom did, nor did most of my friends. In fact, during my recent application to a local law enforcement agency, they inquired about my past driving record. While my current record is squeaky clean, I admitted that back in the day I had racked up a fair share of tickets, always for speeding.

It's amazing that most of us seldom got caught for our stupidity back then. Aside from one time for me, which the officer who pulled me over said "I was going 65 mph trying to catch you, and you were pulling away fast." Little did he know, I had a gear to go yet. He checked the car out thoroughly, as I later found out he was a big time gearhead, and even though was left with a 15 mph ticket, I knew he wasn't fibbing when he pleaded that he could haul me to jail and tow my car for that little stunt.

These past days, I came across several of the old country roads in which I used to travel on my way to Toledo. Travel we did, as you could go for miles without passing a house, and intersection, or even another car. It was upon those very back roads in which I rid myself of all fears from going fast. Those back roads were where I first hit the fuel shutoff in my first car. Let me tell you, when cruising along at three digit speeds and your fuel pump shuts off, first thing that came to mind was "OH MY GOD, I BLEW MY ENGINE!" Those worries soon fade as the pump kicks back on and you resume speed, though I was still left wondering "What the hell was that all about?" Even an aftermarket computer chip didn't omit the fuel shut off, as I found out. Seems you have to sign a waver in order for the company to program it out.

Those back roads where home to many burnouts, leaving your mark on roads traveled. Often, you'd run across the marks from one doing a reverse to drive slam, which is enough to make a person cringe, with deep regards to the short life that transmission will have. These were also the roads in which I perfected the power drift, a fad now amongst the front wheel drive crowd that utilizes an emergency brake. Back then, we drifted with V8 rear wheel drive cars, with only power and momentum as our friends. The emergency brake was reserved for pulling donuts in the winter, or sliding on wet pavement.

The last few days took me through small towns, where nothing much remained aside from old Inns or perhaps a party store amonst the abandoned buildings. Little villages were scattered along the way, though few survived the years to warrant the "historic" label. Crumbling barns, wide open fields, and roads as flat as the eye could see. It's no wonder we'd use these paths as high speed transit to Toledo, it was always so inviting. I believe my quickest time into my chosen spot in Sylvania, Ohio was something like 17 minutes, on an otherwise legal 30 minute commute, you do the math.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

1969 Chevelle SS396

It had been a long time, in fact, I had to stop and think for a second before recalling when the last time was. Earlier tonight, I went for a ride in a classic muscle car with some serious power. After thinking about it, the last ride in such a car was this same owner's 1966 Chevy II, packing a good 400+ hp, though that may be an overestimate considering the car is light as hell, it wouldn't take as much power to get that baby movin'.

Tonight, the power came courtesy of a 396 big block powered Chevelle. My seat-o-the-pants meter concluded that the hp rating must have been in the same ballpark as the little Chevy II parked in the drive, though I may have to give the upper hand to the Chevy II, the sound of a big block was so much sweeter.

It made me long for the day that my car is finished, though that day is nowhere in sight. I've come to realize just how much of an obligation owning a house is. In addition, how discouraging it can be living in a state with the worst economy in the nation, with little relief likely in the near future. I won't sell myself short on my plans for my car, so the day it returns to the road continues to slide back. Nothing less than a 1,000 hp street terror would be satisfactory for the amount of time the car has been off the road. In the mean time, I'll continue to work out the plans for what is now my dad's 1970 Challenger R/T. As it stands, I think I just about have him talked into the six speed transmission, though it seems the 383 will remain at home in the engine bay, though bumped up to a more respectible 400-450 hp. I'm guessing that the car should still be able to knock down decent gas mileage, probably in the upper teens, which would be damn good for a carburated car with that much power.

The guy who owns the 1969 Chevelle was thinking along the same lines. He is leaning towards building up a numbers matching 396 with good power and placing a 6 speed behind it. While nostalgia is great, more and more gearheads are taking routes that will increase their gas mileage, efficiency, and dependability of their classic rides. I've never been one who is anal about all original, numbers matching, era correct cars. So I say let the hobby evolve, keep up with the times, and help continue the hobby's strong following. I'm sure a day will come when the classic cars with efi and overdrive transmissions begin to outnumber those carbed non-od cars...who knows, perhaps that day has already come amongst the street rod scene.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Detroit Grand Prix & Le Mans

This morning, shortly after I woke up, I walked to the back of the house to take a peak outside to see what the dogs were up to. As I did so, I heard a high revving engine, though assumed it was just another race taking place between a few motorcycles on Grand River. The sounds persisted however, and I soon realized that I was actually hearing testing for the Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle. I opened the windows to take a better listen, and was shocked to hear just how clearly the sound would travel. I'm a good 5+ miles from where the race will take place, in addition, numerous multi-level, even skyscrapers, cover the distance.

I had planned on attending the event, though time, money, and other obligations dictated otherwise. I am very excited that racing will make it's return this weekend to the Motor City, for several reasons. First and foremost, it places Detroit amongst international viewers, and during a weekend in which tons of events are taking place. Secondly, and almost as important, racing belongs in the Motor City, plain and simple.

So instead of checking out today's race, I'll be pushing to get the exposed, bare wood on my house prepared for paint before winter is upon us. Also, family obligations will prevent me from attending Sunday's race as well. Still, it's a welcome return, and hopefully the start of another great tradition that will compliment the Gold Cup Race over the summer. While the concrete slab placed near the foot of the bridge is a serious eye sore, I'm sure that as years pass, the Isle will benefit greatly from renovations and improvements thanks to the race. Though I can't attend, I'll be watching the Le Mans tonight as it's broadcast via a delay at 9:30 pm on Speed, and again on Sunday on ABC for the Grand Prix.

Detroit Grand Prix

Sunday, August 19, 2007

2007 Woodward Dream Cruise

What every family needs to haul the lil munchkins in.

Yesterday marked the 13th annual Woodward Dream Cruise. While the event has typically taken place in suburban Detroit, stretching from 8 mile north to Pontiac, the city of Detroit is becoming slightly more involved with each passing year. Already, the event covers some 16+ miles of road. Talks are underway to make the cruise even bigger by promoting events further down Woodward in the heart of the city of Detroit.

For car hobbyists, this is the event to be at. People come from all over the country, and all over the world, to watch as the cars go by and stroll the parking lots and downtowns they are parked in. Estimates range from 30,000-40,000 classics and over 1 million spectators. Now many events will throw out big numbers to make an them sound bigger than they really are, but in this case, perhaps they are underestimating. It is by far the largest car show you will ever see, and the biggest event metro Detroit, or most any other city in the country hosts for that matter. Consider it a Mardis Gras that celebrates the automobile.

Love this Stang!

The cruise itself has changed over the years, and in my personal opinion, this year was by far the best I had been to. Gone are the days when burnouts were allowed with people soaking the lanes with water. As much as I enjoyed those days, I saw a few too many cars get out of control and jump the curb. It's amazing nobody ever got killed back then. I myself was guilty of racking up a few tickets for doing burnouts, even after the announced crackdown. I learned my lesson after a few court dates though. There is at least one local judge that has a thorough understanding of how a line lock functions during a burnout. In addition, he was satisfied with my argument that it was accomplished in a controlled manner, not in a "careless" manner as the ticket stated. Dodged a bullet that time!

Wondering whether or not this car was show without the go, as the cage was simply a 6 point roll bar

It's hard to say whether or not the street rods are less represented than they once were, but there obviously aren't as many cruising the streets. Perhaps they are parked in one of the downtowns of one of the many participating communities. I know last year Ferndale played host to Mustang Alley, which also attracted many other Fords to that area of Woodward. The show is spread out over 16 miles, and I only venture to see approximately a 3 or 4 mile stretch of that.

Mopar winged warrior

A few years ago, it seemed that the cruise had become more of a corporate sponsored event. While corporations still play a huge part, they don't seem to be so in-your-face as they were a few years ago. Another change I noticed, it seems there is an overwhelming muscle car presence now, which I have no complaints about. The SUV's and mini vans seem to be dwindling each year, making way for more classics. Perhaps a growing number are choosing to simply park their cars off of Woodward and either walk the strip, take the free SMART Bus, or set up chairs to watch. Either way, it's a change for the better. I chose to park my ride simply after arriving this year. I didn't car to creep along at 5-10 mph for hours. You can honestly walk this cruise faster than you can drive it.

My 69 Camaro is still no closer to road ready than it was last year, and my Challenger is now my dad's Challenger. I did give my 89 Formula a clean job like it's never seen before and cruised it up there. I wasn't a few miles from home, in Highland Park, when a guy pulls aside me and yells "Man, I haven't seen a t-top car in forever!" I had to look at my girlfriend and laugh, as I pointed out in front of us and said "Hell, there's another right there in front of us," as I spotted a same generation black Iroc.

To my surprise, 3rd generation F-bodies seem to be making a stronger presence. I guess it makes sense, as kids these days have long since been priced out of the classic muscle car market, so 80's-90's Firebirds, Camaros, and Mustangs fill their needs instead. NICE 2nd generation F-bodies are also growing in numbers. The new muscle that has hit the streets in recent years is also blending nicely, such as customized 300's, Chargers, SSR's, GTO's, Vettes, Mustangs, and last built Firebirds and Camaros, even the now 20+ year old Grand Nationals mix nicely with the newer EFI crowd.

When you know your taxes are waaaaay too high

This was the longest day I had spent up on Woodward for many years. We cruised, walked around, and sat in chairs for a solid 9+ hours. Perhaps next year I'll get an even earlier start so I can make a full lap all the way up to Pontiac. It would be nice to know what resides in other areas of the cruise. Here are just a handful of the pictures I took. A link at the end will lead you to all of the nearly 300 pictures.

The wing states that this was THE test car for Chrysler experimenting with the monster wings. The license plate read "1STWING"

I agree with this guy's sticker in his side window, he isn't normal


I'm sure this Mopar has sucked more than a few competitors through that scoop.

No problem with this sort of "in-your-face" advertising!

One of the coolest bugs I've ever seen.

Ummm....I comment.

Is this an example of vehicle evolution? If so, I can't wait until in a few years we'll see the same for the Camaro and Challenger.

I didn't even know VW ever made such a thing.


Did the "good ol days" ever really end?

A few words on this one, as it is the vehicle that started it all for me, a Dodge D100 pickup. One of my friends who was a bit older than me had one, give or take a year, and color it in teal instead. It had an independent suspension out of a Plymouth Volare, slammed on the ground, a 383 stroked, and a tunnel ram sticking out of the engine bay. For me, a 15 year old at the time, it was the epiphany of badass. I helped him around the garage, occasionally being rewarded with the rumble of this beast as he fired it up. The truck is long gone, but the memories are not, nor is the bite from this original bug. If not for this truck, I may have never even learned to change my own oil, who knows.

Never in my life had I seen so many Deloreans. There were over a dozen this year, all parked together.

I can't even recall what this was, so let's just call it unique and rare.

For more pictures from the 2007 Woodward Dream Cruise, click here.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Changing the fuel pump in my '89 Formula...again

As mentioned, the fuel pump I put in 1 1/2 years ago decided to quit on me the other night. So, this weekend's plan was to replace it, this time with an AC Delco unit, as opposed to the piece of shit Carter I used last time. Armed with my trusty Haynes repair manual, I started tackling the job Saturday morning.

Once the car was supported on jacks, I removed the rear tires.

Next, I unbolted the exhaust from the cats, as well as from the rear hangers.

Removal of the panhard rod and frame brace.

Just like the last time I replaced this pump, I found myself wishing I had a few grand to drop into my car to do some performance upgrades. Replacing the pump is a pretty extensive ordeal. You have to remove you track bar, brace, exhaust, unbolt lower shock mounts, stabilizer bar, remove the springs, and then you can drop the tank. Of all the items mentioned, almost every one of them has an aftermarket alternative that would offer increased performance and handling.

Here the rear end is lowered, now only attached by brake lines and the trailing arms.

Once the rear is dopped, I could fully drop the exhaust. The system is packaged very tightly, so until the surrounding components are completely removed, forget about trying to snake the system out from the car. My muffler is an aftermarket Dynomax unit, which is looking pretty rusted. I'll likley go with a Flowmaster muffler when the time comes, as well as update my intermediate pipe to 3 inch, and perhaps omit the cats along with the air pump and fittings.

The stabilizer bar was a riot to try and remove. Just look at the placement of the lower bolt, and you gotta ask yourself, who the fuck did the servicibility study on this car? Get out pry bar for this one, or in my case, a "Ford wrech," aka steel mallet, to drive the socket onto the bolt head. Sure would have liked to swap in some poly bushings, but as it is, I already replaced both sets of nylon bushings a few years ago after snapping the stabilizer links while taking corners a bit too fast.

A set of Koni shocks reside in the front, though the backs have yet to be replaced.

Finally, with the tank removed, I could replace the pump. Getting the tank out was the easy part, getting it back in is what is the real pain in the ass. Granted, it would have been a bit easier had I bought a couple of 5 gallon containers to drain the gas, it's still hard to snake that damn fill neck back in the 1/4 panel and get everything lined up properly so the straps will bolt back on.

As is always the case, I managed to miss a step, which forced me to backtrack a bit. I had forgot to install the exhaust system during the right step, so I had to once again unbolt the panhard brace, the lower shock, and a few heat shield screws so that I could lower the rear again. Once lowered, and the spring removed, I could now snake the exhaust intermediate pipe back through to where it belonged, seen in the picture below. This whole job would have been a helluva lot easier with a hoist, which is in my future plans for my garage. Screw this laying on your back bullshit, there is never enough room to get at what you need to.

Here are a few pictures of the shop dogs hard at work.