Friday, February 29, 2008

The heart of the beast

Having made relatively little progress on my Camaro these past few years, even in regards to collecting the parts necessary to put it back together, I felt it was time to purchase at least something. That something was my solid roller lifters, with a $324 price tag.

I had ordered my cam a few years ago, a Comp Cams special grind with the following specs:

Duration @ .050 = 266/272
Lift = .678/.688
Lobe Separation = 110
Intake Centerline = 108

For those who know engines, yeah, this is one helluva cam for the street. I emailed Comp a few years back, told them what I considered "streetable," and what I was looking for with my engine build this time around. My goal was 650-700 hp, in addition to possibly a 250 hp shot of nitrous from a system I bought from a friend. I wanted the car to possess at least as good for street manners as before, or better. My engine I pulled out of my car was as follows:

454 .030 over
LS6 heads, ported and flowed
Comp Cams solid flat tappet .629/.605 lift, 260/266 dur @ .050
11-1 Cr
Victor Jr Intake
Barry Grant Race Demon 750
TH400 trans (manual)
12 bolt with 4.10 gears

This combo was good for 513 hp and 495 ft/lbs of torque on our SF901 dyno at college. Also good enough to run 11.70's in the 1/4 mile at 116 mph. The car was a beast on the street, so much so that even right up till before I pulled it off the road, it often scared the hell outta me. It was like trying to tame a beast that wasn't meant to be tamed when you jumped on the throttle, yet it never failed to put a smile across my face as I held on, trying to keep things in a straight line.

So why would I want to go faster you ask? Bragging rights I suppose. Anything over 500 hp on the street is a handful in my opinion, and for the most part, unusable. So what I'm building this car for is the drag strip. The desire to hustle down that 1/4 mile of asphault quicker is what led to me parking the car, gutting it (after a total restoration), and having a 12 point roll cage installed.

I'm still going to base my engine on my 454 block, though a new set of heads are in order, as well as some other components. My goal is to keep the car streetable, while dipping into the 9's with it. The finished product is a few years away, and this latest purchase is just one small step in terms of progress. Perhaps I'll try and get some of the smaller purchases out of the way in the coming year, as they can nickel and dime you to death as you near the end of your project.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Barry Grant Mighty Demon E85 carburetor

Since reading a handful of articles over the past year or two regarding E85, it got me considering an E85 friendly engine. The benefits are the ability to run higher compression, it's cheaper than race fuel, is more environmentally friendly (especially when compared to leaded race gas), and the cooling characteristics are also better. I have read up on how to convert a carb over to E85, which entailed some drilling and other modifications. I'd prefer one of the major carb manufacturers take the guess work out of such a conversion as opposed to me taking a drill to the carb myself.

I have been a fan of Barry Grant's Demon carbs since the day I first layed eye on them. They were a clean/mean looking carb, with all of the bolt on features you usually had to pay extra for with a holley. Well, companies made conversion kits for holley carbs, though I had yet to hear anything in regards to the Demon carb until this month's issue of Super Chevy magazine.

Barry Grant has announced that it's line of Mighty Demon carbs will now be available to run on E85. My girlfriend said I looked like a kid on a Christmas opening gifts when I read the news in front of me. The E85 carb will be available in 650, 750, 825, and 850 cfm versions. They will be identifiable by their gold base plate and metering blocks, and will be calibrated for street use.

I looked on Jeg's website to see if I could learn a little more about this Mighty Demon, as my previous carb on my Camaro was a Race Demon, which was on my Challenger R/T when I sold it to my dad. Sadly, it doesn't seem that even the 850 cfm version would work with my planned engine build, as they state the carb is good for cams up to 260 degrees duration at .050, and my roller in which I already have is 266/272 duration. Perhaps by the time I build my engine, more options on bigger carbs will be available. Then maybe I will also know whether E85 is a passing trend, or appears here to stay. Regardless, I was excited to hear BG now at least offers an E85 option.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Coming Soon: 2008 Detroit Autorama

Just a reminder that the Detroit Autorama is just a few weeks away, March 7-9. For more information, click here: 2008 Detroit Autorama. I'll likely take a few hundred pictures, as I did last year. I'll be sure to post them on here as well as my flickr account. If you missed my pictures from last year's show, here they are: 2007 Detroit Autorama.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Replacing the turn signal switch on my 1989 Formula

About a year ago, my turn signals started acting up. They were still working, though the sequence was no long consistent. Sometimes the indicators would flash dimly, other times they would flash erratically. I knew something was going on then, but put off fixing it. At some point, perhaps 5 months ago, they quit working all together.

Life has been busy and I just haven't made time to get around to fixing it. In the back of my mind, I wondered if it wasn't a wiring problem related to the previous owners installation of a keyless entry system. I checked my fuses, saw a few power leads plugged into the fuse block that weren't stock, some in line fuse links that weren't stock, and some dangling wires that appeared to be grounds that were unhooked. I also looked for a relay or turn signal flasher, though found neither.

So, I simply assumed it was the turn signal switch. Made sense, considering the anti-theft device went out a few years ago due to a short in the column, so I figured the same was probably responsible for my current problem.

I could have probably ran up to the local parts store and got a turn signal switch, but I'd bet money it would be made in China. I've dealt with my fair share of subpar replacement parts, enough time to have learned my lesson.

So I turned to Year One, which stocks on the best in parts. I was surprised to find out there was a 3-4 week back order. Oh well, I'd rather wait and get a good product than rush out and buy junk at a local shop. (remember my fuel pump problem?).

So, when the part finally shipped about 3 weeks later, it never arrived. Come to find out, even though I entered my correct shipping address, they sent it according to what I had listed as my profile in their system. I didn't even realize I had a profile to be honest. Anyways, UPS lost it for about a week, though my package eventually showed up. A few more weeks passed, then this weekend I decided to tackle the project.

Prior to starting.

Removing the steering wheel cover.

Remove retaining clip on shaft.

Remove retaining nut from shaft, unplug red wire with white nylon housing (horn power).

Install steering wheel puller.

Remove steering wheel.

Remove black cover on column, this will expose the steering wheel locking plate.

Install tools to compress locking plate, allowing access to remove lock ring on shaft.

The lock ring, located at the tip of the screw driver.


I initially tried to use the proper tool, snap ring pliers. I have several interchangeable heads for these pliers, though none of them got the job done.

I then improvised, using two screw drivers to snake the lock ring out of the groove and up the shaft.

You can now remove the locking plate.

You will now see the turn signal switch.

Remove the large spring, for the locking plate, from the shaft.

Remove the z-shaped bracket in the top left corner by removing the screw. This connects to the turn signal lever.

Z-shaped bracket removed.

Remove the three screws retaining the turn signal switch.

Now remove the hazard switch. Be careful of the spring inside, as it wasn't until reassembly that I figured out what the low compression spring on the floor board went to.

Hazard switch removed.

Now remove the access panel under the dash, this will include two separate panels.

That clusterfuck of a mess was the remove keyless entry installed by a previous owner. Years have taken their toll on the lock solenoids, they no longer have enough power to lock the doors, so I've manually locked them for a few years. Thus, the keyless entry is worthless. In addition, the first owner of this car was paralyzed from the waist down, so it had a pedal on steering wheel conversion at one point, as well as a stereo system or two spliced in. Needless to say, I'm not sure how many electrical issues may be tied to the cars previous history.

The little black box! I've looked for this little bastard that runs the keyless entry a few times in the past, though never spotted it tucked away partially behind the driver's side kick panel.

Black box with the rat's nest of wires. At this point I became very skeptical if my new turn signal switch would fix my problem.

Thought my manual neglected this step, removing the four bolts attaching the column to the column support bracket, then removing the two nuts holding the bracket to the dash frame, make the job much easier. This is especially easier when it comes time to feed the wiring through the column.

I could now feed the harness up through the column and remove the old turn signal switch.

With the new harness taped up, I was ready to feed it down through the column. Ironically, the manual said to feed it up through the column, which is technically impossible consider the switch doesn't even come close to fitting in the bottom of the column.

New signal in place, time to reverse the steps and put everything back together.

New harness fed through, stamped "MADE IN THE USA." Wouldn't have got that at my local parts store!

Reinstall the hazard switch.

Tuck all this shit back up there out of sight and outta mind, at least for now.

Install the spring, then compress the lock plate far enough to install the lock ring. Oh yeah, REMEMBER TO INSTALL THE LOCK RING ON THE SHAFT FIRST, PRIOR TO INSTALLING THE TOOLS! I neglected this step, then had to remove the tools in order to get the lock ring on the shaft.

Lock plate installed.

Install the black plastic cover.

Align the steering wheel onto the shaft so that the splines line up, then use the backing nut to press the steering wheel back onto the shaft.

Place the retaining clip on the shaft, then plug in the red wire (horn power).

Install the center cover and the job is I thought.

After about 4 hours of work, everything was back together. This was moment of truth, one in which was disappointing to say the least. I quickly found out that my efforts were pointless, aside from the learning experience. My turn signals still did not function, and here I was back to square one. I am still very skeptical that the keyless entry isn't part of the problem, though have one other fix I'm going to try first. After calling a friend last night, he confirmed that there was indeed a turn signal flasher some place under the dash, though he didn't know where. He also felt that the signal flasher was the true cause of the problem. Some surfing the net last night, I realized why I couldn't find the flasher, it's tucked neatly behind the console area, conspicuously hidden. So today, I'm gonna pick up a flasher, make another go at it, and hope that it fixes my problem.

Update: Sure enough, the turn signal flasher was what it was. A couple dollar part and about 10 minutes later and my turn signal issues were fixed. Live and learn I suppose, wasn't the first time an initial repair didn't fix the problem, nor will it likely be the last. Funny thing though, I initially looked for the turn signal flasher under the dash, though couldn't find it, and guess I just forgot about it. The damn thing is tucked behind a metal bracket with a metal clip, completely hidden unless you know where to find it. Thanks to the internet, I knew where to find it this time around.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Cylinder Head Porting Part 1

A-429 Motorsports head

I have decided to port my set of Ford Motorsports A429 aluminum Cobra Jet heads. I had initially decided against doing it because of the amount of time involved in performing this operation. Porting takes a LONG time (unless you are Supersport who knocked out his set of BBC heads in one afternoon). I will be the first to admit that another part of it was I didn’t exactly know what needed to be done. Anyone can take a grinder to a set of heads but who knows what kind of results they achieve! With cylinder head porting it’s easier to make things flow WORSE then better (Also I don’t have a Superflow flow bench in my garage either). Another part of me also thought that it would be unnecessary because I’m building a blower motor and the blower will force the air through the intake port as opposed to atmospheric pressure. But the Ford exhaust port leaves a little (OK a lot!) to be desired, so I decided to clean up the ports, bowls and combustion chambers. From what I’ve learned from the 460Ford cylinder head mafia is that the port geometry is basically correct, so I don’t need to re-engineer the ports.

My first observation is that these heads have the worst port wall surface finishes that I have ever seen on an aftermarket performance cylinder head. There is casting flash all over the place, and there is a metric ton of material around the valve guides that is not even remotely centered. A majority of my time will be spent in the bowl area trying to fix this critical transition area. Most of the airflow gains will be achieved right there.

Anyway, I started off by purchasing the correct tools for porting aluminum heads.

First of all I purchased an electric grinder. I had initially though I might just use my air grinder because I already had it and it was ready to go. But after researching it on the net I came to the conclusion that the electric grinder was the way to go. First the amount of electricity that I would using powering my 220v air compressor would be MUCH higher then the amount of electricity needed to power an electric grinder. Second is the electric grinder is MUCH more powerful. Actually, I have to be careful with the thing because I could do some SERIOUS damage to these heads if I’m not careful. Anyway, I got this electric grinder from Harbor Freight for $37 shipped to my door (which just the savings in electricity alone from not using the air compressor will pay for it). One thing I did have to deal with by using the electric grinder is how to adjust the motor speed. This grinder has no such control. After jumping on the net again I found an easy solution. I rigged up a dimmer switch and spliced it into an extension cord. BAM, thing works like a charm.

Second, I got a set of burrs that are designed especially for aluminum grinding. I’m sure anyone why has tried to grind on aluminum has seen how the aluminum tends to “gum” up on the bit (or grinding stone). These burrs have less cutting flutes and will not allow this to happen (Tip – keeping oil on the ports and cutting tools helps a lot). The only negative of these burrs is that they are expensive ($60 for the set of 3) and cannot be used on anything else.

Last, I purchased a polishing set that consists of 96 different cartridge rolls of varying sizes and grits. I got this from Summit for $29 and it was a steal in my book. It really does a good job of making the ports professional looking (and hiding all the little mistakes I’ve made so far!).

I'll keep you updated.

Matthew 16:16
Poor transition areas, guides not centered, lots of work needed.
Intake, casting flash and other obstructions.
Intake port, not symmetrical at all.
Electric grinder and light switch dimmer speed control.

Aluminum cutting tools.

Summit polishing set.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Knight Rider

KITT...the original

This past Sunday, an old tv show made it's remake debut, Knight Rider. Well, it was actually a two hour movie, to test the waters to see if there was enough interest in a modern reincarnation of the black car and cheezy supporting cast back to tv. Gone is the black Firebird known as KITT from the original, though a keen eye may have spotted the first car's TPI engine in the garage during one scene. The Pontiac Firebird ceased to exist as of the 2002 model year, so they couldn't call upon a Poncho to star in the car role this time around.

KITT...the next generation

I have to say, I was skeptical when I saw that a Ford Mustang would be the replacement. After watching the car in action, I feel the car packs plenty of punch and is a worthy car to fill the shoes of the old KITT. After all, it is the 500 hp Shelby GT500KR, and the hood scoop accepts the red flashing lights without missing a beat. David Hasselhoff made a quick appearance at the end, pretty much to tell the new star that will assume his former role that he is actually his father. Who knows why he wasn't a part of the kid's life, but I assume it's because he was too busy spraying his hair with Vidal Sassoon, picking up chicks, and cruising his bird lookin' for bad guys.

Nearly 13 million viewers tuned in to watch the remake, enough that it looks like a series will be made. Fear not, this series will be as cheezy as the one that ran from 1982-1986. Yet like the first, the car will be the star of the show, and likely will be enough to keep the showing going for another few year run like the original. Personally, I'm glad to see it back. Bad acting and all, it's hard to argue the entertainment value of a high powered car doing all the stupid shit we'd like to go out and do in our own cars.

When shopping carts attack!

On Friday, after arriving home from work, I decided to go and take my car for it's much overdue hand wash. I parked my car out front while I ran into the house to unload some things, and grab my shirts for the dry cleaners. It wasn't until I was ready to leave that I noticed the damage.

First reaction when I saw my passenger side fender? "Who the fuck hit my car?!?!?!" I was so pissed off, as I felt I had been a victim of a parking lot hit and run, one in which did a fine number on my car. Then, when my girlfriend came out to the car, she noticed there was also damage on the door. I then started to try and recreate the scene in my head, and I kept coming up blank. I couldn't envision any possible scenario where my car could be smashed in the manner it was, at least not by another vehicle. Plus, there was no paint from another car present. Thinking back, another possibility jumped into my mind, the Meijer parking lot last Sunday.

The weather was bitter ass cold, like 0 degrees with a a -15 to -20 degree windchill factor. In addition, there was a high wind advisory with 50 mph gusts, enough to pack a major wallop with a shopping cart. When we returned to the car after getting our groceries, I found three carts positioned against the side of my car. It was dark, my hands were burning they were so cold, and my car was filthy. At the time, I didn't see any visible damage. Yet now, I was quickly becoming more and more convinced that this was when the carnage took place.

After I hand washed the car last Friday, better revealing just how bad it was, I took a trip up to another local Meijer. I wanted to know for sure, and the best way to verify my theory was to match a cart up to the damage. It was immediately obvious, those three carts from nearly a week earlier were responsible. This being the first real good washing the car has seen in a long time revealed that it's getting to be time for a little TLC anyways. The stone chips on the rockers, wheel well, hood, and other areas are slowly giving way to rust. Right now, it's nothing extreme, but if it continues to be neglected, it will get real bad after a couple of more of our Michigan winters. The time to park it and begin a restoration is quickly approaching. With 131,000 miles on the odometer and 19 years of service, the car has already given it's fair share. Perhaps I'll shoot for 150,000 miles before I park it for both drivetrain and body improvements. It just pisses me off, as the body was very straight for the most part, and this damage is so bad that it may warrant replacing the fender altogether. If fucked up a few of the body lines pretty good.