Thursday, June 26, 2008

BBK TPI Intake - Winter 2008

As I continue planning my future engine rebuild for my 89 Formula, I still am not possitive on the direction I will go. Good news is that BBK has a new TPI Intake Manifold that is due out winter 2008, increasing the number of aftermarket options to help my engine breath. Many variables still exist for me, and I haven't completely ruled out going the LS engine route. Also of concern is whether or not this intake will be compatible with Fastburn heads, or if they will build two intakes, so that one of the two will be compatible. The Fastburns seem to be a great set of heads and I was sort of leaning towards them if I built an "old school" 350. I need to sit down and figure out which route would be the most cost effective in the long run. For now, all you TPI fans out there have a new intake on the way!

1985-1991 Corvette & 1985-1992 Camaro/Firebird TPI Intake Manifold

Challenger Sighting

I have heard a few eye witness accounts from friends who have spotted the new Challenger on the streets around Detroit, but I had yet to see them myself. On Monday however, I paid witness to a car hauler carrying 4 new Hemi orange Challengers on top, and 4 Police Chargers on the bottom. It was a beautiful sight, one that put a smile on my face. As for the Challengers, I gotta say, they look damn good!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Scott Kalitta, Mount Clemens native, killed during funny car qualifications

I was both shocked and saddened to hear the news this evening. Scott Kalitta, 46, Mount Clemens, Michigan native, died today from multiple injuries sustained from a crash at the end of his 1/4 mile run at speeds of around 300 mph. The Kalitta family name has been well known within the racing community for as long as I can remember. This loss will be heartfelt among many fans of the sport. My deepest sympathies go out to his friends and family.

Scott Kalitta's fatal crash:

Kalitta succumbs to injuries suffered in qualifying accident

Mount Clemens native, auto racing driver killed in crash at 300 mph

NHRA statement of the death of Scott Kalitta

A.I.R. Pump Removal on a 1989 Pontiac Formula

Last Tuesday I decided to lift the hood of my car and take a gander. I have been pondering removal of the A.I.R. Pump system for awhile, though hadn't decided to tackle the project quite yet. In fact, my plan for the day was nothing more than breaking the fittings loose, which I anticipated being a chore in itself, then remove the system at a later date.

For those wondering what exactly the A.I.R. Pump is, it is an Air Injection Reactor that pumps air into your exhaust manifolds and to your catalytic convertor to help combust unburned fuel when it reaches the cats. It is essentially part of your emissions package, though I've read more than a few examples of inidividuals passing state emissions testing (not required in Michigan) without the A.I.R. Pump system in place. Me, I'm more concerned about the ease of being able to maintain my vehicle. Plus, since my car is nearly 20 years old now, quickly closing in on antique status, which would disqualify it from having to pass emissions testing even if it were in place. I'll recycle a little more plastic products to make up for it. haha

First, I removed the cover on the black distribution block located on the passenger side and unplugged the two connectors. I then unbolted the block from the A.I.R. pump itself and removed that portion of the system. The A.I.R. Pump itself will remain for the time being, as will the fittings that run down to the cats, both will probably be removed the next time I change the oil and have the car up in the air.

At first look, I only noticed 3 fittings per side, which I found to be odd considering it is an 8 cylinder engine. It wasn't until I freed up the other 6 and began to remove the driver side plumbing that I realized the final two rear fittings are actually on top of the exhaust manifold, as opposed to the side like the rest. I had been down this road before, with my first 89 Firebird I had back in the early 90's. I'd changed plugs and valve seals a few times and quickly grew tired of working around the whole A.I.R. Pump system. Not knowing how the car would function without it, I simply made the decision to remove it and deal with the consequences. Back then, the removal was...well...less professional I guess you could say. :) I simply pushed, pulled, pried, and cut the system out, then allowing me to use sockets to remove the fittings as opposed to wrenches that were rounding them out on first attempt.

This time, I was a little more conscious about saving everything I remove from the car. Not that it'll ever be reinstalled for as long as I own the car (I don't plan on ever selling it), but ya never know when the 100 point restoration guru out there will be in need of such a system 25+ years from now, and that's when I'll part ways with it, not for any large profit, but just to help out the car hobbyist that does things a little differently than I. So after fighting with the top fitting of the passenger side for the better part of an hour, I finally broke it loose. I know damn well I bought a set of crow feet for use with a socket wrench, though I looked everywhere and simply couldn't find them, a sure tell sign that it's time to reorganize my tools.

During removal, I'd occasionally fire up the engine, "just to see what happens." With the rubber hose connecting the two sides removed I was able to determine that the valve that was part of the fittings on each side was a one-way valve. Made since, as allowing exhaust gasses to backfeed would defeat the purpose of the system. I fired the engine one more time, once the fittings were removed, and got the expected result. Exhaust gasses shot out the exposed holes in the manifold exhibiting a blue flame, popping and crackling as well. For whatever reason, I was somewhat entertained by the little spectacle, though one time was enough, no sense in cooking whatever was a bit too close when I removed the passenger side system

After both sides were removed I headed up to a Nut & Bolt shop that was walking distance. It was one of them old school places that have been there 75 years or so and would likely have everything in stock. After coming up short the first visit, I returned after searching the internet to find what others were using to plug the holes. Though not a perfect fit, 1/4" NPT is sufficient enough to do the job. It appears that the fittings are some real oddball size, as I never did run across any info on the net stating the exact size, simply what would get the job done

After installing the allen head plugs, I was ready to call it a day. The A.I.R. pump still pumps air and will continue to do so until it's removal. I must decide whether or not to simply buy a new serpentine belt, reroute it, and deal with the slack, or, purchase the pulley that helps fill the void. Either way, I'm probably not going to tackle that project until my next tune-up, which will be much more extensive this time around.

I've also been pondering removal of my catalytic converters, installation of headers, and a new muffler (or two), as mine is getting quite rusted out and I can hear the gases leaking. I've been trying to determine a few things before taking on the installation. First, whether or not I could replace the cats with a set of bullet type mufflers. Secondly, if by doing so I could run a true dual exhaust to the rear. The problem with these cars comes down to ground clearance, as the passenger side floor board has a hump to make room for the cats, and there is little room to run anything more than a single intermediate pipe to the rear to tie into the rear mounted muffler. I'll have to either search the net, or hit a few local car shows, and find a worthy muffler shop able to mandrel bend a custom exhaust.

Pre-wrenching, I soaked all the fittings numerous times with WD-40.

Here you can see 3 of the 4 driver side lines of the system.

A close-up of the fitting at #2 cylinder.

The passenger side is much more of a clusterfuck, and the real reason why removal of the system makes normal maintenance much easier. The big black box with the two gray ear muffs is part of the system as well, a sort of distribution block.

Here's a closer look at the passenger side fittings, which are much harder to access than their counterparts on the driver side.

The green hoses (covered in dirt) tie into the system and attach to your catalytic converters, in my case, two cats. Seems on of the cats lost it's heat shield along the way.

The rubber hose that ties the two sides together.

I was now able to move the distribution block out of the way to make more room to work.

You must remove the cap to the distribution block so you can access the two electrical plugs that tie the system into your ECM. Though slightly concerned about how the computer would respond, I had no problems when I did the same removal of the system on my first Firebird, though it was a 305 TBI, where as this is a 350 TPI. After 4 days of driving, I've had zero trouble codes pop up, so it seems the ECM is happy.

The two connectors, which I still need to zip-tie someplace out of sight.

The distribution block.

Driver side fittings.

Passenger side with distribution block removed.

Here you can see the plumbing (top) that leads down to the cats.

Driver side fittings removed.

The driver side after removal of the fittings.

Here you can see how tight it is getting to the rear fitting.

I had to "tweek" the passenger side a bit in order to get to the rear fitting. The A/C box made access extremely tight.

Passenger side fittings.

Passenger side with fittings removed.

Finished product. A few pounds lighter, and a helluva lot easier to work on!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Roll Cage

Well I’m happy to say that I’ve FINALLY completed the roll cage in my car. HAHA, it’s about time I finished it up as I started this project in 2004!! Sometimes I questioned if it would have been better to pay someone else to do it so that I could get on to working on more fun aspects of the car! But I’m glad I did it myself because I ran the bars right where I wanted to them and where they fit best (taking into account with me sitting in the car). With all things said and done I’m very happy with how it turned out.

This cage started life as a Jegs 10 point kit specifically built for a Ford Fairmont complete with a halo. I eventually ended up adding 2 extra bars to make it the full 12 point setup. Note: I still have 2 main hoop braces that need to be welded in thus making it the full 12. I would say that the kit fit “ok” but it needed help in a few areas. For a do-it-yourselfer without access to a tube bender buying this kit saves a lot of time.

For a long time I was content to have just a 10 point cage without the front end tied into the cage. The reason being was the front bars that tie into the front shock towers go right through the dash, the heater box (not that I’m going to use it much, but I still want it there and functional) and through the hood hinges. Those were three issues what were very important to me, but not having the front end tied into the cage seemed like a travesty of epic proportions! Considering the horsepower I’m going to be generating, the weight of the engine and the flimsy sheet metal subframe holding it all together, I figured I’d tweak the front end of the car the first I’m I dropped the loud hammer.

So, I came up with what I though was a creative solution. I decided to run a bar under the dash through the firewall, into and through the wheel well area and then into engine compartment connecting into the shock towers. I started measuring things out and came up with a game plan how to make it happen. I just so happened to have a pair of door bars that I made but didn’t use because I wasn’t happy with the angle, and those fit the bill perfectly. You would almost think I custom made them just for this application!

About the only issue I had with doing this was how close the tires would get to those bars when in a full turn and with the suspension fully compressed. I managed to route the bars in such a way that they sit so far back in the corner of the wheel well that the tires don’t even come close to touching them when mocked up. A non-issue.

I was happy with how they turned out, but I’ll be the first to admit they are a compromise to just running the bars through the dash (due to the bend in the bars). I think going though the dash results in a stronger, more rigid cage, but like I said before I didn’t want to hack up the dash, heater box and hood hinges to do that.

In the back end I ran the rear bars to the back of the trunk which really doesn’t connect them to the rear suspension. To solve this I ran some vertical bars up from the rear suspension mounting points up to the bottom of the rear bars to tie them together. I added a horizontal cross bar for rigidity.

Another big compromise that resulted from the rear bars was that I ran them through the speaker cutouts so now there isn’t a good place to put any speakers. That’s ok though, I think I’m going to go radio delete with this car anyway!! HAHA, what music could sound better then that glorious BDS 8-71 blower winning along with a Milidon fixed idler gear drive!!!

Without a doubt the biggest casualty of the roll cage was the inability of anyone to sit in the back seat. When I welded in the main hoop cross bar from the back seat area I thought to myself “No one is going to want to sit back here!!! There is NO room!!” The mini-tub job made it impossible for the stock back seat to fit back there anyway so I’m going to have to figure out what to do with that. Even if no one wants to ride in the back seat, I still want to have it there for looks. An added bonus is that the back seat doesn’t weigh much so it’s not really a weight issue.

Also I deviated from my original plan of paying someone to TIG weld the cage and busted out trusty Lincoln SP135 MIG welded and did it myself. I have gotten SO much practice using that welder lately that I was confident I could make a strong weld that would be up to the task. I’ll admit that a professional welder probably could have made a few welds look better, but I wanted to be able to say that I did it all myself.

Here are a few pictures to show you what I did.

Matthew 28:19

Passenger door view

Trunk view

Wheel well with front bar to shock tower.

Front bar connected to shock tower (Note BDS 8-71 blower and demon 735 blower carb)

Front bar connected to shock tower. I still need to weld up the area I cut out.

Passenger side view of cage with door open

Front bar run under dash.