Adding hydraulic clutch to 2nd Gen Firebird Trans Am / Camaro

Installing a hydraulic clutch into a 2nd gen Firebird, Trans Am or Camaro is not a simple task, but it can be done and the benefits are enormous. The optimal time to make such a swap is when you will be replacing the brake booster, as most of the work will require removal of the master cylinder and brake booster in order to add a new or modify your existing clutch pedal.

I Installed my hydraulic clutch while I was installing a Hydroboost power brake booster install in my 1981 Trans Am, then completed the install when I replaced my 3 speed TH350 automatic with a Tremec T56 Magnum (details of this swap coming in the next post).

I decided on going hydraulic as I was on the fence between doing a T56 Magnum or a TKO500/600 or maybe even sticking with a factory 4 speed. With a hydraulic clutch you can easily switch between various transmissions as well as not worry about the linkage interfering with the exhaust system. Future transmission swaps all I will have to do is connect the 4AN line followed by rebleeding the clutch and then call it done.

Options for 2nd Gen Firebird / Camaro

There are multiple options available for a 2nd gen hydraulic clutch swap. All options use the factory clutch pedal, which can easily be found at your favorite hot rod parts store. As for the hydraulic master cylinder, there are really only 3 options with 2 popular mounting brackets on the market.

Master cylinder bracket options

  • Detroit Speed bracket – It is not as thick as the McLeod bracket but if you bolt or weld it to your firewall it will be strong enough. It will accept a factory hydraulic master cylinder from a 98-2002 Firebird/Camaro, as well as the factory or McLeod master cylinder. The McLeod master will require a plate for sealing.
  • McLeod bracket – It comes with a kit, if you go with this bracket you will also use the McLeod master cylinder that comes with it.
  • Make your own – I wouldn’t bother, the Detroit Speed bracket is not that expensive, just get that if you are on a budget.

Master Cylinder options

  • McLeod master cylinder – This can be used with the Detroit Speed bracket but requires a custom plate to seal where the Detroit speed bracket has a gap.
  • Tilton master cylinder – This can be used with and is designed for the the Detroit Speed bracket.
  • Factory 98-2002 master cylinder – This can be used with the Detroit Speed bracket.

McLeod Hydraulic master cylinder kit for 2nd Gen Firebird / Camaro

I started out with a kit, the McLeod 1434005QD Hydraulic master cylinder and mount kit. The McLeod clutch master cylinder uses a Wilwood master cylinder and works well with a factory or factory like hydraulic clutch, which was what I planned on using.

The McLeod kit came with quality parts and a very nice machine aluminum mounting block for mounting the clutch perfectly with the clutch pedal. Their mounting bracket is very strong and thick and will not suffer from fatigue over time like others have complained about with other brand mounting brackets. The kit moves the clutch pivot point from the factory location which is centered with the clutch pedal to the left about 3/8″. This offset allows for the provided heim joint to be bolted to the side of the clutch pedal. This option is ideal that way the clutch pushrod does not collide with the clutch pedal arm.

Unfortunately I have a 1981 which has a blade style fuse box. I believe 1980 and 81 use blade fuses where-as 70-79 use glass style fuses which should provide more clearance for this kit. For the blade style fuse box the hazard flasher and right most row of fuses are very close to the clutch pedal arm. You cannot use the provided McLeod mounting bracket without relocating the fuse box.

McLeod clutch bracket hits fuse box 2nd gen Firebird / Camaro

Detroit Speed clutch mounting bracket for 2nd gen Firebird / Camaro

Out of desperation, I ordered a Detroit Speed clutch mounting bracket, part number 070430. From my research it appeared the Detroit Speed bracket placed the clutch pedal rod in the same location as factory, which is centered with the pedal. When the bracket arrived, I confirmed it is intended to use with the factory clutch hole, where-as the McLeod moves the clutch hole toward the fuse box by 3/8″.

Detroit Speed (left) compared to McLeod (right) clutch mounting brackets
McLeod on top of Detroit Speed clutch mounting brackets
Detroit Speed on top of McLeod clutch mounting brackets

The Detroit Speed mounting bracket is about 1/2 the thickness of the McLeod bracket. Though I do not foresee a strength issue, if you are concerned about strength along the firewall, I strongly recommend the McLeod bracket if you can mount it.

Interestingly, both the Detroit Speed and McLeod mounting plates can work with a factory 4th gen Firebird/Camaro hydraulic clutch.

The Detroit Speed mounting bracket is designed for the Tilton clutch master cylinder and bracket adapter kit which has a larger footprint when bolted to the firewall. Because of this, the opening is larger. When placing the McLeod mount over top it left a large gab. To solve this, I used sheet metal to act as an intermediate plate between the Detroit Speed mounting plate and the McLeod clutch.

McLeod clutch on Detroit Speed mounting bracket
McLeod clutch on Detroit Speed mounting bracket mounted on car

The final result with bracket painted with a special made plate between the Detroit Speed mounting bracket and the McLeod master cylinder.

McLeod clutch on Detroit Speed mounting bracket mounted and painted on car

Note that I drilled the 2 holes for the master cylinder to accept 1/4″ button bolts both thrugh the bracket and through the firewall to provide a tight fit of the plate against the firewall. I also removed a rubber bumper that was centered for the brake pedal and drilled through the bracket so i could use a button bolt at this location as well. This is seen in the above picture just below the 4 bolt holes for the brake booster.

Drilling new hole in firewall

If there is a section you read from this article, it better be this one. Read carefully. There are two scenarios, either you already have a clutch pedal and a hole for it, or you do not because you are swapping in an automatic transmission. Either way this may also influence which kit you install and how you install it.

If you already have a clutch hole for a clutch pedal, and you do not wish to possibly modify the existing hole, you should go with the Detroit speed bracket. The Detroit speed bracket puts the clutch in the exact same location as the factory did. The McLeod should also clear but it may require filing of the factory hole depending on your situation as it is offset 3/8″ further toward the fuse box.

If your firewall DOES NOT have a hole for the clutch pedal to go through the firewall, you will need to drill one. the firewall has 3 dimples at the location where the clutch hole is located. It may be hard to locate but the dimples are there. The middle dimple will be slightly bigger than the outer 2. The outer 2 are intended for sheet metal screws that will hold a boot to seal against the firewall for the mechanical clutch rod to ride inside of. The center slightly bigger dimple is the centering hole where you will drill out a 1″ or larger hole. I believe the factory made this hole 1-1/2″ wide. The factory boot diameter is 1-13/16″ in diameter, more than 1-3/4″. Factory wise, you have a lot of variance.

WAIT!!! Please read the rest before you put the hole in the wrong spot!

If you went with the McLeod kit, DO NOT drill the factory location. If you already have a hole for your clutch, it should be big enough for the offset of the McLeod but you may need to file the hole slightly larger toward the fuse box.

If you went with the Detroit speed bracket, you can use the factory location without issue and drill it out to 1-1/2″ opening.

With either the McLeod or Detroit speed bracket, the optimal method is to bolt the bracket to the firewall and find the exact center where the clutch rod will go through, offset that slightly upward (as the rod will angle upward), then drilled a 1″ hole exactly where you need it.

I opted for the Detroit Speed bracket and my hole is only slightly about 1/8″ toward the fuse box of where the factory centering dimple was found.

For both brackets you may need to add seam sealer around the bracket to seal-in the engine bay to your mounting plate. I ended up not needing this as I used a smaller 1″ hole and drilled out the Detroit Speed 2 master cylinder mounting holes and also drilled through the firewall and used lockouts within the inside of the firewall to both hold the master cylinder and the bracket tight against the firewall. This added both strength and sealed the plate against the firewall.

Adding Clutch Pedal

Adding a 3rd pedal to a 2nd gen Firebird or Camaro is actually quite easy to do. The factory made it easy on themselves, all they needed to do was mount a 3rd pedal to the left of the brake pedal. Essentially a longer bolt for the brake pedal is used and the extra length covers the width of the clutch pedal. There are differences between the years, though those differences appear to be specific to the pedal size at the bottom, not the pedal arms or how they mount, which means any 70-81 clutch pedal + brake pedal assembly will work, as long as the brake and clutch pedals work together. See my final parts list at the bottom of this post for the pedal assembly I purchased.

Clutch and brake pedal assembly with clevis and heim joint with custom threaded extension that came with the McLeod clutch kit..

Above you can see that I had to add additional threads to the push rod extension that came with the McLeod kit in order to use the fork shaped clevis joint I purchased as the Detroit Speed relocated my clutch centered with the clutch pedal. I had to use a fork shaped clevis to attach to the clutch pedal arm for this situation.

Neutral safety switch

Doing some research I found that earlier Camaro and Firebirds 1970-1978 included a neutral safety switch that easily bolted to the clutch pedal and top of the factory reinforcement for the steering column. Unfortunately you will need to source the switch and switch pivot mount from different sources, no one sells both together for the 70-81 Firebird/Camaro.

Wiring of the neutral safety switch is simple. I purchased 12 gauge purple wire and cut the purple wire coming from the ignition switch wiring to my steering column and ran each end to the 2 connections to the neutral safety switch. The circuit is only complete when the clutch is depressed. Safe and simple, just wish the parts were easier to source.

Since I purchased these items, I now see that Firebird Central has both parts available, though as separate items. I ultimately purchased the pivot bracket and the neutral safety switch from separate eBay vendors.

Firebird / Camaro Neutral Safety Switch

  • GM part number: 3983965
  • Firebird Central part number: DAS-288
  • Ames Performance part number: FM364D

Firebird / Camaro Neutral Safety Switch Pivot Bracket, the harder to find part

  • Firebird Central part number: CLU-72
  • The Stop Shop: TSS263

Hydraulic Throwout bearing for T56

When I opted for a T56 Magnum, I decided to go with a Luk factory OEM throw-out bearing that would match with the volume provided by the McLeod master cylinder (and also a factory clutch master cylinder). The only problem is the factory throw out bearing uses factory style push-lock connections. As I assembled my transmission with the T56 bell housing I quickly discovered clearance issues with using the quick disconnect that protruded from the throwout bearing. To solve this, I converted the lines from the throwout bearing to 4AN with 4AN adapters and used 90 degree elbow 4AN lines to provide clearance.

Changing the line into the throwout bearing requires the removal of a roll pin. Once the roll pin is removed you can slowly pull out the factory quick connector and replace with a clutch to 4AN adapter. There are a few brands that provide such an adapter which can also be used to convert a factory clutch master cylinder to 4AN line as well. I research and tested 3 and decided on the Jegs version as it seemed to fit snug. The Jegs version had the gasket pushed into the wrong location however. If you go with the Jegs version plan on slowly pulling the rubber seal off completely then re-seat it at the tip. For what ever reason whom ever is stuffing the packages for Jegs is not aware how this adapter seals and the 2nd gap is for the roll pin to hold it in place, it is not meant for the rubber seal.

The bleeder screw was also replaced with a 4AN adapter. This allowed me to run a regular 4AN line to a remote mounted bleeder. I used a Russell Hydraulic Clutch Speed Bleeder, it includes a bracket for mounting like a brake hose.

LUK throwout bearing remove roll pin
LUK throwout bearing with 4AN adapters
Russell Hydraulic Clutch Speed Bleeder assembly mounted at the transmission mount to make it easy to bleed clutch
LUK throwout bearing with 4an 90-degree end lines

Parts numbers:

  • 1998-2002 Firebird/Camaro T56 Throwout bearing, LUK LSC265B
  • Allstar Performance Adapter Fittings -4AN Male to 10mm x 1.5 Male ALL50036
  • 18″ and 24″ 4AN hydraulic braided hoses
  • Russell Hydraulic Clutch Speed Bleeder Assembly 641380
  • Earl’s 4AN Clutch Adapter Fitting LS641001ERL (did not like the fit of this one)
  • Jegs 4AN Clutch Adapter Fitting 601132 (ended up using this one)
  • Russell 4AN Throwout bearing fittings 641001 (This one did not come in time but looks almost identical to the Jegs version with slightly bigger opening)

Summit Racing has a Clutch Adapter Fitting as well but it is 3AN.

I almost switched to the
Tilton Throwout bearing

When I first ran into clearance issues with the LUK factory throwout bearing (before I discovered converting the lines to 4AN), I went to the store and picked up the Tilton throwout bearing 60-6105. I loved the flexibility with adjusting this throwout bearing and it has an interesting way to lock in the correct position so you have pretty close to the 1/8″ gab between the throwout bearing and the fingers of the pressure plate when not engaged. Unfortunately while reading the documentation I found that I needed to use the Tilton master cylinder which has much more volume then the factory or McLeod master cylinder,. Going with the Tilton would mean I would have travel issues as the throwout bearing’s hydraulic fluid volume requirements would be bigger than the master cylinder could provide.

Learn from my mistakes!

I learned a lot in the process of using the McLeod kit as well as finding out how the Detroit Speed / Tilton kits work together, and how the factory master cylinder can also be used. Based on my experience, this is what I would recommend for 3 different scenarios…

  1. Budget minded hydraulic clutch: Get a factory 1998-02 F body clutch & factory LUK throwout bearing and use a factory clutch line. If you cannot use the factory clutch line, switch to 4AN lines and use the throwout bearing to 4AN fittings to convert the fittings on the master cylinder and throwout bearing.
  2. 1970-1979 Firebird/Camaro: Go with the McLeod setup, the mounting plate is much thicker and the master cylinder provides the most flexibility with either the McLeod throwout bearing or a factory throwout bearing.
  3. 80/81 Firebird/Camaro: You almost have no choice, either go with the Detroit Speed bracket with a factory throwout bearing with a factory master cyinder or mcleod master cylinder, or go completely Tilton master + throwout bearing.

Remember, if you use a Tilton master cylinder, you need to use the Tilton throwout bearing, and if you go with a Tilton throwout bearing you also need to use the Tilton master cylinder so the volume of hydraulic fluid between the two sides of the system are paired together.

Bleeding the system

At first when I started to bleed the system I was not seeing any fluid coming through. I ended up taking the bleeder screw completely out and then pressing the clutch a couple times to pull in plenty of hydraulic fluid. Once I got the system filled with fluid, i then re-inserted the bleeder screw then cracked it open slightly to utilize the built-in check valve. From that point, bleeding the system went very quickly.

Hydraulic clutch results

Amazing! The clutch pedal is smooth to press and has solid engagement with my T56 Magnum. Once I figured out the bleeding, the process went fast and I have not had any hydraulic leaks or issues with the clutch. Watch for my next post as I write up installing a T56 Magnum into my 1981 Trans Am!

Installing Hydroboost in my 1981 Trans Am

Installing Hydroboost in my Trans Am was rather straight forward once I knew what was involved. Though it took some time to acquire the parts necessary for the swap, I found it was worth the effort ten fold. The amount of brake pressure and confidence hydroboost gives an old car is indescribable.

For those who are curious to see an installation of Hydroboost on video, check out the TV Show Wheeler Dealers episode 162 where Ant installs a Hydroboost unit into a 1971 Chevrolet C-10 Truck.

To get started, you need to assemble the parts necessary to make the swap, select your hydroboost unit, prepare it if necessary, then install. Installing can be tricky based on your situation. In my case, I needed to replace the master cylinder which lead to replacing brake lines and the proportioning valve. I also wound up replacing the power steering pump and hoses. When all said and done the changes were a good thing but required sourcing additional parts during the process.

Parts and Tools Necessary for Hydroboost swap

A Hydroboost swap requires the following parts:

  • Hydroboost unit (Bosch 02040A2121 for 1997-2002 Astro Van for a 2nd Gen Firebird) Other units may be more appropriate for your vehicle, please read this entire post before purchasing parts.
  • Master Cylinder compatible with Hydroboost unit (if yours is not compatible). 1982 Corvette Master cylinder (Dorman M39052 or Cardone 13-1749) for 4 wheel disc brakes works well if you have disc brakes all around.
  • Wilwood 4 wheel disc adjustable Proportioning valve (if your current prop valve is not ideal for your setup or you take my advice and get an adjustable prop valve so you can dial in your brake pressure front and rear)

If you buy a hydroboost unit that is not designed for your vehicle you may need the following additional parts and tools:

  • Mounting plate appropriate for your vehicle (ebay is your friend)
  • Brake clevis / heim joint or other 3/8-24 threaded method to connect hydroboost to your brake pedal arm
  • 3/8-24 thread Irwin hex die
  • 1-7/8″ Crowfoot Wrench (Sunex 97750) for removing Hydroboost nut from back of bracket.
  • Power steering pump for Hydroboost
    • Type 1 pump (found on pre-1990’s vehicles, typical v belt pump): Borgeson 800323 Hydroboost 2 return line power steering pump
    • Type 2 pump Saginaw TC series (found on modern vesicles, LS engines, serpentine belt drive systems): Lots of companies make a Type 2 pump most have a remote reservoir. Your reservoir would need to allow for 2 lines.
  • Custom made power steering hydraulic hoses (6AN lines or custom made with SUR&R PS repair hose)

Acquiring a Hydroboost unit

There are 4 ways you can acquire a hydrboost unit:

1. New with mounting plate for your vehicle

This is the most expensive route but may save you the most time and hassle. There are retailers on the web including Hydratech Braking, Tallon (have to call them to order), and vendors on eBay that sell direct bolt-in units using for various model cars using new Bosch Hydroboost units with adjustable clevis/heim joint. Expect to pay $500+ depending on your vehicle.

2. New Bosch unit for a late model car you will need to modify

This is the route I took. I acquired a Bosch Hydroboost intended for a 97-02 Astro van. This required me to have to use a die to thread the push rod and also a special tool to remove the nut on the back to move the hydroboost to a special aluminum plate I purchased specific for my vehicle. Otherwise this was rather straight forward swap.

3. Acquire a used one from a donor vehicle

If you like junk yard diving or purchasing used parts online, you can acquire a used Hydroboost from the ideal donor vehicle. Same steps as option 2 apply, you will need to modify for your vehicle.

4. Purchase a re-man unit (WARNING)

This sounds like a good idea, and it is except for some reason, reman units seem to not include the rod that is mounted inside the hydroboost that pushes into the master cylinder. Be aware that if you do purchase a reman Hydroboost unit this part will most likely be missing and you will also have to acquire this push rod. If this is the case for you, google “Hydroboost Pushrod Kit” to find one for your application. Depending on the inner bore size you may need a small or large pushrod kit, which includes a spring and a 6 sided start shaped retainer that holds everything in place.

Preparing Hydroboost

If you purchase a hydroboost unit intended for a modern car/truck, it will most likely require you to cut the end and thread it to adapt your own clevis to it. I purchased a quality die (tap and die set can also work) with 3/8-24 fine thread. The 3/8-24 fine thread is the most common used for such clevis joints when you go to an auto parts store or hot rod shop such as Jegs or Summit Racing.

Mounting Hydroboost

In some situations the existing mount plate on the Hydroboost may work for your application. For most of us, it will not work and you will need to remove the hydroboost and find a mount for your vehicle or buy a blank plate on Ebay and retro fit into your vehicle. In this case, you will need the 1-7/8″ wrench mentions above. The Sunex 97750 has been used successfully to remove the existing nut for the Hydroboost.

Depending on the mount plate you acquire you may need a special Hydroboost socket as pictured below. I first purchased one from eBay (furthest to the left) from someone who makes them from scratch. Avoid this version, it is not strong enough and you can visually see the 4 points spread apart if you use this tool. The middle photo is a GM Kent-Moore version, it is a very strong tool meant exactly for this purpose but is hard to find (don’t ask how I got one). The 3rd is what I got with the mounting plate I purchased from Tallon Hydraulics (no longer selling hydroboost units online, you must now call them). The Tallon one on the right is a one-time use only tool, unless you take it to get hardened according to their documentation. I opted to use the factory Kent-Moore tool. Depending on clearance though you may be able to use the mentioned crowfoot wrench.

Since I did my swap last year, I have found a number of other vendors who now make Hydroboost sockets at an affordable price. A quick Google search I found a Hydroboost socket from Maximum Motorsports for $35, it has a good design and will not have the spreading issue as the one pictured on the left.

If you cannot find a mounting plate for your specific application, search eBay for “blank Hydroboost Mounting Plate”. Going this route gives you a couple of advantages: You will not need the special hydroboost socket to attach the hydroboost unit to it (you can use the crowfoot wrench which is much cheaper), and you will have complete control of the mounting position and angle. The only downfall with this option is you will need to do more fab creating brackets and measuring angles to find the optimal position and angle to mount the Hydroboost for your application.

Installing Hydroboost

Installing the Hydroboost unit should be straight forward. I purchased a machined aluminum block designed to put the Hydroboost at the perfect angle mounted to a 2nd Gen Firebird/Camaro. It places it at an angle that puts the Hydroboost push rod centered between the upper power brake mounting hole and the lower manual brake mounting hole.

Hydroboost installed in 1981 2nd Gen Firebird Trans Am

If I had one suggestion, I would recommend to Tallon to position the push-rod angle to center with the power booster mounting hole of the brake pedal. It is recommended not to put too much angle on the hydroboost push rod as it can cause uneven wear within the rear of the hydroboost. Though this angle is not dramatic in this situation, it could become an issue over time. More importantly, the brake ratio dramatically changes when mounted at the manual hole as it shortens the pedal travel ratio in relation to the distance the rod travels into the hydroboost. I created a new mounting hole on my brake pedal at the optimal angle for their hydroboost mount angle which was right between the upper power brake mounting hole and the lower manual brake mounting hole. What I found was the brake pedal travel was aggressive compared to factory. I now have it mounted at the upper brake booster mounting position and my brake travel is perfect. In other words, the factory brake pedal mounting position for a vacuum power brake booster is also optimal for a hydroboost power brake booster.

Master Cylinder, Brake Lines and Prop valve

I will not go into detail how to run brake lines, attach master cylinders and adjust prop valves. I will though mention some very useful resources that helped me.

82 Corvette Master Cylinder

A 77-82 Corvette Master cylinder will bolt right up to the 97-02 Astro van hydroboost unit. Brand new master cylinders from Dorman M39052 or Cardone 13-1749 can be found inexpensively at any parts stores as well as Amazon.com. Wilwood and other popular brake part brands also sell master cylinders that bolt right up without modification.

Wilwood Adjustable Proportioning Valve

The Wilwood 4 wheel disc adjustable Proportioning valve is an ideal replacement prop valve for 2 reasons: adjustable & uses 3/16″ brake lines at all ports.

There are various mounting brackets available for proportioning vales. I used a similar prop valve bracket found on Amazon which allowed me to mount the prop valve on the side of the master cylinder and put it at a slight angle to clear my inner wheel fender.

Note that this prop valve is intended for 4 wheel disc brakes. If you use rear drum brakes you may want to opt for a different prop valve that accounts for the pressure difference for drum vs disc brakes.

Easy to bend and flare copper-nickel brake lines

I decided to re-do my brake lines between the master and prop valve and between the prop valve to the front wheels and rear axle. To achieve this, I relied on Amazon and purchased the following parts and tools:

The cooper nickel brake line is easy to bend and flare. The armor is perfect for where you run lines that may experience rock or other debris, it protects the brake line from getting damaged. I would never run brake lines without it under the car unless enclosed by body panels.

The Eastwood/Titan flaring tool made it very easy to flare 3/16″ lines perfectly every time. The copper nickel brake line is easy to handle and bend, practically by hand but you can also use a simple pipe bender like this one.

Power steering hydraulic changes

Hydroboost requires you to make pluming changes to your hydraulic power steering hoses in order to power the power brakes. Essentially the power steering pump first feeds pressure to the Hydroboost unit, which then “chains” a 2nd line from the Hydroboost to the high pressure entry port of your power steering box. Essentially Hydroboost simply taps into the existing pluming.

It is not quite that simple. Though the high pressure side is in series, the return low pressure is routed in parallel. Many posts in various hot rod forums and sites have conflicting advice on if you can merge the return lines into a T and continue to use your existing power steering pump. GM did do this on some vehicles, but in later years all hydroboost vehicles used power steering pumps that had 2 return inlet ports. I personally prefer to rest on the side of caution and go with a new power steering pump with 2 return inlet lines just to be safe.

Power Steering pump with 2 return inlet lines

I decided to run a power steering pump with 2 return lines. My first attempt was to run a re-manufactured power steering pump for the 1980’s Turbo Grand National. The Grand National came with a Hydroboost unit, though different older version than what I installed, should have had the same requirements for pressure. Unfortunately the reman unit I had was not up to the task of providing enough pressure to both my hydroboost and power steering. I ended up purchasing a new Borgeson 800323 pump.

Borgeson Power Steering Pump mounted using Pontiac brackets
Borgeson power steering pump with Pontiac V8 brackets

For those who are not aware, there are 2 pump styles. The first was typically found in GM vehciles from the 60’s through the 90’s typically paired with v belts. Today they are referred to as “type 1” pumps. The other style is referred to as “type 2” and commonly used with serpentine belts. Type 2 pumps have a lot of flexibility and are typically setup with the reservoir remotely mounted in the engine bay. In this situation, the low pressure lines from the hydroboost and power steering box go to this remote reservoir. There are aftermarket remote reservoir with multiple return line ports available, but it may be easier to add a 2nd port to an existing reservoir by adding a 6AN bulkhead fitting.

Using 6AN hoses and fittings

My final setup I went with traditional 6AN fittings and lines. I will not cover how to make your own lines in this post, but i did make my lines to my desired lengths.

I required the Unisteer Banjo fitting at the power steering pump due to clearance issues. Pontiac Power steering pump mounts in front of the Pontiac drivers side head which only provides about 2″ of clearance. Once the Borgeson 2 return line power steering pump was used, I could not easily use the factory bent hose as it collided with the return lines. The banjo fitting solved this issue.

Making custom hosts with SUR&R Power Steering repair hose

When I first did the swap, I made the hydraulic line that ran from the Hydroboost to the power steering pump with the SUR&R Power Steering repair hose. I took the factory hydraulic hard lines and cut them clean then used the SUR&R repair hose and attached them following the instructions to make new hoses to meet the length needs I had for my setup. I also tried to use this product for the hose from the Power Steering pump to the Hydroboost but had no luck finding starter tube that would clear my situation. When I ended with the banjo solution with the 6AN fitting, I decided to also re-do the other line to 6AN hose so everything matched. Though I do not use this product in my car at the moment, I had no issues with eh line i did make and I think it is a better “factory” looking approach to making custom power steering hoses for your hot rod.

Final results with Hydroboost brakes

The power of hydroboost brakes and the confidence it gives to a muscle car cannot be over stated. This may have been the single most signification upgrade to my Trans Am to date. If you have the patience, money, and desire to upgrade your brake booster to hydroboost, I strongly recommend it.

Final install of Hydroboost brakes in my 1981 Trans Am. You can see the Corvette master cylinder and Wilwood adjustable proportioning valve.

Hydroboost power brakes – how to pick and plan to install in a hot rod

In this post I will explain the Hydroboost swap in my 2nd gen 1981 Trans Am. This swap was not too difficult but took some time to source parts from various vendors. If I did it over again, I would order the kit offered on ebay rather than piece the system together. This guide will help you if you plan to piece everything together.

What are Hydroboost brakes?

Hydroboost is a method of providing power braking by using the hydraulic pressure built by your power steering pump.

Modern cars use engine vacuum, as most engines provide plenty of vacuum during de-acceleration and at speed driving, perfect for filling a balloon with pressure that can then assist your pedal with applying your brakes. These are called vacuum brake boosters.

Cars without power brakes require much more effort to press the pedal. Such cars will move the pivot location of the brake pedal to a position that allows you to use more leverage and foot travel to apply pressure to the master cylinder. In this case, no power assistance is needed, but requires much more effort by the driver.

Some car engines, such as a diesel, or cars designed for performance like the 1987 Buick Grand National or 2000 Ford Mustang GT have little to no engine vacuum. In these cases, car manufactures used the hydraulics produced by the power steering pump to assist with braking. Between GM and Ford, Hydroboost has been installed on a variety of cars and is still used today for large vehicles.

In more recent years manufacturers have opted stick with vacuum style brake boosters with the assistance of an electric pump to keep the internal balloon full of pressure to assist with braking. Prius’s for example, use a brake booster and have an electric pump that you can hear pump up every time you start the car. Brake boosters work great and are still used today in new vehicles. Hydroboost are also still used today but for the most part are reserved for large vehicles where extra power assistance for brakes are necessary.

To learn more about Hyroboost, check out this article: Hydro-Boost: The Non-Vacuum Booster. Want to know more than you need to? Check out this page that explains the history of assisted brakes.

The extra power of hydroboost and the fact that it does not require an electric pump is why many hot rodders opt for setting up such a system in rather than adding an electric vacuum pump in such situations.

For those of us who want the most powerful brake booster, Hydroboost is the only way to go.

Planning Hydroboost swap

Planning a Hydroboost install is straightforward, but requires some knowledge about which vehicles have Hydroboost and for what applications they were intended for.

Identify Types

For the most part there two types of hydroboost systems. Luckily, the style you want is easy to identify: it has a silver or or bronze plated reservoir tube in one corner of the unit. Some vehicles like the 1980’s Grand National had this reservoir as a 2nd piece. I would recommend avoiding this style.

Matching Internals

I believe the internals of a Hydroboost unit is tuned for the application, primarily based on the weight of the vehicle. Though I have not confirmed this, it makes a lot of sense when comparing the vacuum booster variations are also different based on the weight of the vehicle. Because of this, it is recommended to pick a Hydroboost unit from a vehicle of similar weight as yours.

2000 Mustang Hydroboost will be the optimal hydro-boost for a small light vehicle. Motorcraft BRB39

For a 2nd gen Camaro/Firebird that weighs about 3,500-4,000 lbs, the Chevy Astro Van hydroboost from 1995-2002 is the perfect match. Bosch 02040A2121

If you have a truck, you are in luck, there are lots of trucks with hydro-boost systems to pick from and you can most likely find a brand new unit for a late model truck that will work perfectly for your application.

Installing Hydroboost

Installing a hydroboost requires the following:

  • Mounting plate or adapter to mount hydroboost in place of your current brake booster (google for your application as someone may sell something for your model car already)
  • Custom made hydraulic power steering lines (custom 6AN lines)
  • Powerful power steering pump, optimal pump would have 2 return lines
  • Master cylinder compatible with Hydroboost unit
  • Helm joint or clevis, 3/8-24 thread die, and jam nut for connecting hydroboost push rod to your pedal application.

Google is your friend here. If you have a popular model car chances are someone has retrofitted hydroboost and bragged about it on their website, a forum, or on a social site like facebook.

Please see my next post on installing Hydroboost into a 2nd Gen Firebird Trans Am (post coming soon)

FiTech EFI replacement parts

FiTech EFI throttle body fuel injection aftermarket system replacement partsFiTech Go EFI may be today’s the most popular and least expensive aftermarket fuel injection system available today. It is reliable with lots of flexibility and options for installing on various vehicles. I personally run a FiTech Go EFI 4 – 600hp system on my Pontiac 400 Trans Am and knock on wood I have not had any issues with it. I even went so far as to modify my factory Pontiac 4 barrel intake to be able to bolt the throttle body directly to the intake. I was one of the early adopters who ordered directly from FiTech before it was available at stores such as Jegs and Summit Racing.

At a recent car show I was discussing that FiTech claims that many of the parts are off the shelf, allowing them to build a more reliable and less expensive fuel injection system than their competitors. It is true, almost all of the major components are available off the shelf at your favorite auto parts stores. Everything except for the injectors and the handheld controller that is. If you end up with a bad injector or loose your controller, you will need to contact FiTech for a replacement.

Parts that can be serviced/replaced on an FiTech EFI

Here is a nearly complete list of the parts that can be serviced/replaced on your FiTech EFI throttle body:

  • Fuel Injectors (4 or 8 installed on each bank inside throttle body)
  • FiTech hand-held controller (maybe serviceable)
  • O2 / Oxygen Sensor (mounted to your exhaust system)
  • Coolant Sensor (mounted on your engine)
  • TPS / Throttle Position Sensor (mounted on throttle body)
  • MAP Sensor (not replaceable)
  • Idle Air Control (installed in throttle body)
  • Fuel Pressure Regulator (mounted on throttle body)

FiTech Fuel Injectors

I am still learning what is involved in replacement fuel injectors, but it appears these are custom made.

Video how to replace them:

I am doing further research to see if there a factory replacement injector that matches the FiTech injector, as well as what injector LB rate per hour is used with which systems.

Presently the only part number I can find is 173400059-6.

FiTech hand-held controller

For obvious reasons, the hand-held controller is proprietary. If you loose or break it, you will need to order a replacement from FiTech. I recently learned that it is not as simple as getting a new one, it may require you to send the entire throttle body back to them to get a replacement. You have been warned! Do not loose or mishandle the display controller!!!

O2 / Oxygen Sensor

O2 / Oxygen Sensor for FiTechFiTech currently uses a Bosch LSU 4.2 oxygen sensor, also referred to as an O2 sensor. FiTech recommends using a replacement sensor from a “2001-2004 VW Beetle,  upstream o2 sensor”. Upstream is located before the catalytic converter. Part numbers include:

CTS / Coolant Temperature Sensor

CTS / Coolant Temperature Sensor for Fi TechFiTech uses a very common GM engine temperature sensor found from 1985 – 2007 on various models. It is threaded for 3/8″ – 18 NPT (national pipe thread), typical size for engines built for factory throttle body fuel injection.

TPS / Throttle Position Sensor

TPS / Throttle Position Sensor for Fi TechFiTech uses a Camaro/Firebird throttle position sensor from 91-95, GM part number 17106681. Other part numbers include:

MAP Sensor

The MAP sensor is built within the FiTech and is not replaceable.

Idle Air Control (IAC) Valve

FiTech  uses an IAC from a 1995-1997 Chevrolet Camaro V8. Unfortunately at this time I am unable to get exact part numbers due to the various engines those years. If you know of a part number, please leave a comment below.

Fuel Pressure Regulator

Fuel Pressure Regulator for FiTech EFIFiTech uses a fuel pressure regulator from a 1998-2003 VW Beetle (3 bar) or 1999-2003 Passat (4 bar) models.

58 PSI (4 bar) models (most applications):

43 PSI (3 Bar) models:

New firebird in the nest!

I am pleased to report that there is a new Firebird in the nest! Last summer (2018) I acquired a 2000 Trans Am. It is a regular (not WS6) T-top 2000 Trans Am with the 6 speed manual. The color is “Pewter Metallic”, or another word for gray with a gold tint. The car has been modified but only enough to maintain a factory look, which I like.

A little backstory, my current 1981 Trans Am is awesome, but it lacks a couple amenities that I would like in a sporty car, such as air conditioning. I wanted something newer in the stable that I could put my wife and kids in it and still feel safe with airbags and modern technology. Most importantly though, I have had manual transmission withdraw and saw an opportunity to buy a 2015 or 2016 Camaro as a way to fill that void. After test driving a 2015 SS2 and a 2016 Camaro SS2 and feeling like the car didn’t seem like it was designed to be driven with a manual, I paused my search and accepted defeat. Then later last summer my buddy Joel sent me a listing to this 2000 Trans Am. I decided to take a look, it couldn’t hurt. After a test drive and details from the previous owner, I decided I had to have it. The best part, I was able to buy it out right rather than finance the car. The only downfall with this, I would not have any funds to drop into the 1981 Trans Am, but that was ok, I had a busy year in 2018 and for once, I was enjoying two cars rather than fixing 1.

First impressions of a used mildly modified 73k miles 2000 Trans Am: This car is worth every penny! The tires do not grip as well as they may have many years ago, and there is some vibration in the front during braking (slightly warped rotoers perhaps) but otherwise it performs like a new car. The ride is a bit harsh, though I do not think it is bad though I have previously owned a Honda Civic Si, and thought that had a good ride even though I have been told it was a bit rough. Power wise, this LS1 can keep up with the best of them and backed by the 6 speed T56 Tremec with 3.42 rear gears and 26″ diameter tires, it is a lot of fun to row through the gears.

As far as smiles per gallon, this car delivers a lot of them. These cars are 1/4th if not more the price of a comparable (although not quite as much tech) 2014+ Camaro SS with leather. Of course if you have a 2015 Camaro SS2 you may have another 100-150hp, but the fun factor is nearly the same if not better. The 2015 and 2016 Camaros (two different generations) I test drove just didn’t have the same “for the driver” feel that this 2000 Trans Am had. For example, the clutch pedal in the 2016 and more so in the 2015 Camaro felt out of place, like an after-thought by the designers. Another example is the sunroof, it wasn’t above my head in the 2015 Camaro, it was further back and felt out of place from inside the car. This 2000 Trams Am, the clutch is right where you want it. Don’t get me wrong I like the new Camaro’s, but the last 2 generations seem to have focused on the performance and the beauty on the outside of the car leaving the inside not very well thought out for the driver or passengers.

Existing Modifications

The previous owner made a few modifications including a SLP Performance cold air intake, Ram Air Hood (WS6 factory style), Loudmouth cat back exhaust system with quad tips , B&M Pro Ripper shifter with a factory Hurst shift handle, 18″ Helo rims with 245/40 18 Nexen tires, and H&R 2 inch lowering springs. The owner has also installed a subwoofer with amp and a Kenwood CD/mp3 player with bluetooth. The previous owner did an excellent job of maintaining the car. All of the accessories work, air conditioning blows cold, steering is tight and crisp, seats have light wear but no tears or rips, and the dash is not cracked. The only issue with the interior is with the door panel on the drivers side, it is cracked at the top which appears to be a common issue with the 98-2002 Firebirds due to how they assemble the panels. Otherwise, the car is good to go.

There are only two things from above I am not happy about. The Loudmouth exhaust and the B&N Pro ripper shifter. The Exhaust is quite loud when you are on it and when you’re just cruising around the system is still quite loud. From what I can tell it is nothing but pipes, the system has no muffler or resonator after the catalytic converter. The B&M shifter also has problems, it does not fall straight to center like I am used to in other 6 speeds that I have driven. I am not sure how to fix this problem with the ripper, but on a Hurst there are springs with washers that adjust this so the shifter aligns with 3rd and 4th gears. This shifter may have been a great shifter years ago but its age shows today.

As far as all the original parts go, the seller gave me everything he had. Though he did not keep the original exhaust or the hood, the seller did have the original radio, speakers, springs, rims with tires, factory intake duct work, and shifter.

Modifications so far: a skip shift eliminator

I did not change much with this car. The first weeks of owning the car I quickly grew annoyed by the required skip shifting during light or moderate driving. By week 3 I went to Jegs and got a skip-shift eliminator kit. If you are not familiar, the factory T56 transmission forces you to shift from 1st to 4th under light and normal driving. The only time it lets you go into 2nd is when you shift early or you are under heavy throttle.

Future Modifications

for 2019, I am not planning much other than to enjoy the car. I think I may purchase a MGW shifter to replace the B&M Pro Ripper as well as flush the brake and clutch fluid. The Nexen are definitely getting replaced. The current tires are M+S all seasonal tires and they are now in their 11th year of age. Though the tires have plenty of tread and I see no sign of cracks or damage, I think they have dried out and have lost their sticky-ness on the road, I can too easily let the wheels loose. For a car with 3.42 rear end ratio, I shouldn’t be doing a burn out with only a 3,000 rpm starts. Maybe a wheel chirp but these tires will let loose way too easily and I am sure it is due to their age. I have Nitto NT 555 255/50 17″ wheels on my 81 Trans Am and found they grab well. At first I was disappointed with the Nitto tires as it became much harder to do a burn out in the 81, but that is exactly what I need for this 2000.

More photos of the 2000 Trans Am:

Pro Touring F Body GT suspension on my Trans Am

Trans Am with Pro Touring F Body GT suspensionLast summer I purchased the Pro Touring F Body GT suspension kit #2CS-426 to solve the car having a slight upward rake. I did not get a chance to install the kit until this last October. I am pleased the announce that the front springs installed without problems and put the ride height right where I wanted. I did have a hiccup with one of the shocks, but Dave over at PTFB replaced it in a matter of days. Great support over at PTFB!

When measuring 4″ from the rear rocker panel and 4″ in from the front fender toward the rear, I now have a height of 8.25″ at all four corners. Before this swap with factory springs the front was about 8.75″ high with the rear at 8.25″. This slight rake was common from the factory for these cars as it gave the car a look as if it was launching. I did not like the nose up look, even if it was slight. More importantly the front wheels now look proportional under the fenders.

I did not switch out the rear factory springs, and I may leave the factory rear springs after reading other reviews that the Pro Touring F Body rear springs may also lower the rear, which would cause my nose up look again.

Moog 590 next to PTFB GT springRide quality wise the ride is now softer in general than it was when I was running the Edelbrock ISA shocks with the factory heavy duty front springs, Moog spring #590. The rear seems to be a little softer, where-as the front is definitely more noticeable. I think the PTFB “GT” front springs are stiffer than a factory regular springs but not as stiff as the heavy duty factory springs. The Edelbrock shocks were much stiffer as well, now when I hit bumps more of the road is absorbed, but I also notice turns feel as if they now rely more on the anti-sway bars. The car feels more balanced front and rear as well. You can see in the photo that the factory Moog heavy duty spring has about 2″ taller, thicker metal. This is after I cut 1/2 a coil from this spring as well.

I suspect the Edelbrock ISA shocks could have stayed, simply changing the front springs would have solved the rake issue and also give me a little bit more aggressive ride. I do not drive this car aggressively though, I would rather it be like it is now for cruising.

The GT kit includes AFCO 1021 and 1032 shocks. My quick search, these shocks have good reviews. Cost wise, PTFB sells the shocks for the same price as other retailers.

As for the claim that the “GT” kit is on par to a 4th gen Trans Am, I would almost agree to that. The ride definitely feels similar to my 2000 Trans Am, though my 2000 is has 2″ lowering springs, this 1981 Trans Am feels a little more tame with about the same amount of lean into turns, though I think the 2000 Trans Am is overall a lighter car and a little more nimble.

Before GT kit installed at Galena, OH car show July 27, 2018:

After GT kit installed October, 2018:

Trans Am painted!!! Thank you DCI Motorsports!!!

If you have not herd the news, the Trans Am is back from paint and looks great! I took her to DCI Motorsports to be professionally painted, and it is amazing! Don Johnston from DCI used House of Kolor’s Jet Black. There is absolutely no orange peel, the entire car has been buffed and polished to a mirror finish. Check out the photos.

 

 

 

 

 

Trans Am body work and paint by Don Johnston and Brandon Bevies.

Trans Am painted by Don Johnston and Brandon Bevies.

More photos:

Nicholas cannot wait to drive it.

Trans Am in garage safe and sound.

In the garage testing taillights.

Trans Am getting front end alignment.

Trans am with friends’ 69 Camaro.

Thoughts about Craftsman Tools sold to Stanley Black and Decker

Stanley and Craftsman Tools made in USA

Last year Sears quietly announced that the Craftsman, DieHard, and Kenmore brands are for sale. Last week on January 5th Stanley Black and Decker (a very large tool company formed over the past 15 years of various mergers, acquisitions and spin-offs) has acquired the Craftsman brand. Stanley B&D, or Stanley for short, will pay 525 million this year plus additional payments over the next 15 years totaling 900 million. This sounds like a bargain not considering possible inflation that may be coming the next 4 years. But after sleeping on the news I’ve realized that the figurative “wrench” in the deal may make this deal not as good as it looks: Stanley only purchased the brand, not the distribution or existing network of manufacturing relationships. Stanley is not even getting any of the employees from the Sears Craftsman department. Stanley has to start from scratch with the brand name. Actually without seeing the fine print of the deal, they may not even have the rights to use the current logos!!!

The Craftsman brand is such a good brand it is hard to explain to someone who does not care about tools its relevance. Essentially everyone who has ever worked on a car, home, bicycle, or something mechanical has had a Craftsman tool in their hand at one point or another. It is recognized beyond the occasional tool user as well, something that other great tool companies such as Wright or S-K do not have. Mention “Craftsman” to a young couple who just bought their first house and they will say “we’re going to need those tools as we improve our home”. When someone thinks “Craftsman”, usually pictures of a red sign with white letters comes to mind, or shiny diamond plated steel. I personally have memories of my dad changing spark plugs and my grandpa fixing the kitchen sink. This is recognition the brand has earned over time and apparently can be bought for 900 million dollars.

What does Sears get out of the deal?

The deal allows Sears to sell their own existing Craftsman tools in their stores for the next 15 years without paying royalties to Stanley, the new owner of the brand. Sears will continue to get their tools they sell through their current suppliers during this period. After 15 years, Sears will have to pay 3% royalty to Stanley for using the Craftsman brand on what ever products they develop beyond 2032 with the brand.  This is all moot though if you are like me and believe Sears will not exist as a physical retailer beyond the year 2020. If Sears is still around after year 2032, they will have to pay Stanley a 3% royalty for products they sell branded Craftsman. Of course they can always simply sell Stanley’s Craftsman tools like any other retailer and avoid this 3% royalty fee.

Sears and Craftsman 5+ years from now

The Craftsman brand will live to see another day which is great, but once all of the Sears stores close, Sears/Kmart will turn into an online only store like CompUSA or Linens and Things. More than likely they will sell what ever Stanley produces with the Craftsman brand rather than continue to maintain their own versions of Craftsman tools. The way the deal works, this gives Sears the ability to have an extra profit margin on Stanley made Craftsman tools without being involved in the distribution or R&D up to 2032. In theory a sears.com website will have the ability to undercut all of the other retailers when selling Craftsman products, which may give the website an edge to help establish the future sears.com as a destination for online tools.

Sears could take a deep look into its history for an idea how to make it through

Sears has a reputation for acquiring companies and brands. When they acquire brands like Craftsman, they have been quite successful, but when they acquire companies, they usually run them into the ground. One that stands out to me is the acquisition of the Western Auto chain. If you are not familiar, in the 70’s and 80’s Western Auto was a very popular store to not only get auto parts from but also TV’s and other electronics. As I was told up until the Sears acquisition, they were very competitive and in many small towns, the place to get your new TV or VCR. Once Sears purchased them, they were setup for failure, Sears did not want Western Auto stores to have better sales and products. Regardless, it’s gone but what Western Auto had in the 70’s and 80’s is want Sears needs now, small stores and product focus.

If I was Edward Lampert (CEO of Sears), I would be much more aggressive at closing existing stores and instead focus on the hardware size stores or smaller. I would drop most of the crap Sears sells today and focus on tools, appliances and things related to that. In a perfect world, Sears stores would be the size of a Radioshack or slightly bigger, offer some stables but primarily be a store front for picking up online orders. Sears can re-position itself as an online retailer with the ability to provide convenient pickup at store locations. I have a lot more ideas to expand on that but well, hire me as a consultant if you want to learn more!  🙂 One thing is obvious though, Someone other than Walmart needs to provide an online shopping experience tied to a store but provide it in a much more efficient way that online-to-store shopping can become mainstream. Amazon is about to test this in some markets, but I suspect this is where Sears could have an advantage with its existing experience in retail. Who ever does this will not have a big box store presence. Instead they would need many small stores providing the possibility for counter staff to learn the names of their customers in the communities they service. This brings us back to the importance of the relationship between the vendor and its customer, something I have witnessed we’ve lost over the last 30 years. I don’t want rotary phones to come back, but it would be nice to go into a store and actually be recognized for more than the plastic card in my wallet.

Prediction of what will happen with Sears and their versions of Craftsman Tools

Sears will eventually morph into an online only company, similar to what happened to stories like Linens and Things and CompUSA. If Sears makes this transition slowly and/or because of bankruptcy, they will loose the ability to do anything significant with the Craftsman brand. An online commerce store such as this will not have the profit margins let alone the staff to be able to continue the research and development to create new Craftsman products without the direct help of its vendors. I also highly doubt vendors such as Apex Tool Group will develop new tools to sell exclusively for 1 relaunched online commerce site.

As contracts wind down that Sears currently has with vendors creating Craftsman tools, Sears will replace those products with the ones that Stanley Craftsman makes, well assuming Stanley makes those particular products.

More than likely an online only Sears will not have the ability to handle warranty claims for the guaranteed for life tools. It is possible though that they offer a limited warranty like what GM or Chrysler did when they went bankrupt. If Sears survives without going bankrupt though we should all assume they will continue to honor the guaranteed forever warranty up until they no longer produce their own sourced tools.

Stanley Black and Decker’s immediate future with the Craftsman brand

Stanley will develop and sell tools under the Craftsman brand. Immediately after the deal is completed, presuming this summer of 2017, Craftsman tools sold at non Sears holdings such as Summit Racing and Ace Hardware will change to tools made by Stanley branded as Craftsman. Stanley will more than likely have a plan in only a few short months to have existing Stanley tools made where they are made currently to produce Craftsman branded variations. Stanley sockets are currently made over seas, one can assume those will be the same sockets re branded Craftsman. Stanley has to do this in order to ramp up supply quickly.

It is possible for Stanley to use existing US factories to produce Craftsman sockets and wrenches, but doing so may disrupt supplies for their other brands such as Proto. I personally would love to see Stanley re-launch a Craftsman hand tool line that is strictly made in the USA, they could charge a premium and make them overly chromed (like current Proto tools). This could make a lot of sense as it would allow them to leave the Stanley hand tools as a budget line.

What we will not see for up to 5 years is the complete line of Craftsman products that Sears sells. We will not see lawn tractors or snow throwers this fall from Stanley and if we do, it will not be at any significant volume.

We should also expect in the 2017 Holiday season Craftsman memorabilia in all stores such as Target, Walmart, etc… This is low hanging fruit for Stanley to quickly make a buck on the brand.

Stanley Black and Decker’s long term goal with the Craftsman brand

Stanley can do a lot with the “brand”, including re-launching every single Craftsman product that Sears sells and/or launching brand new Craftsman branded products.

It is possible and likely that they split the brand into divisions for future spinoffs (This is the way of a stock market held company after all). I see the tools division sticking around, while a home/lawn and garden division being built up over 5 years then spinned off in order to make the board and CEO look good and shareholders lots of money.

I also foresee Stanley Craftsman licensing out the brand in order to quickly expand the product line and capitalize on the brand as quickly as possible. Similar to how you now see SnapOn stuff (officially licensed products) that has nothing to do with the SnapOn tools at places like Menards. I could see a deal with someone like Samsung to make a Craftsman tablet perfect for use in the garage or just for guys who want a diamond steel plated tablet just because it is cool. A pretty Craftsman logo on the top would easily add a few bucks to a sale.

Stanley could make a lot of money from the brand. Time will tell.

Made in USA Stanley Craftsman, I doubt it but it is possible

Stanley has associated the idea that a new 35 million dollar factory will produce US made products and along with the acquisition of the Craftsman brand. This doesn’t mean all new Stanley made Craftsman tools will be made in this factory or all will be made in the USA for that matter. I personally doubt the factory is only for Craftsman tools. I don’t think you can even build a nice size building for 35 million, let alone the tooling to make tools in it. Either it will be a very modest sized factory or it will be very large and serve as a facility that does not require expensive tooling.

On the other hand, Stanley has brands that have factories throughout the United States. There are enough of these brands such as Proto and Blackhawk that they could easily be the suppliers for most of Craftsman’s hand tool line. The only problem is I do not believe these factories can ramp up production as quickly as plants in China/Taiwan could to supply the market with made in USA branded Craftsman tools, but I may be wrong.
Beyond the Craftsman hand tools, most everything else is already made over seas and I do not foresee that changing.
I personally believe a new line of Stanley Craftsman made in USA branded hand tools would be a smart move, particularly for the essential tools (sockets, wrenches, ratchets, pliers and screwdrivers). If I was making the decisions, I would use the Stanley brand to continue selling the low priced imported tools and use Craftsman as a step up quality brand to utilize “made in USA” branding to help identify as quality and to gain patriotic customers that Sears has lost like myself.
Realistically though I don’t think key Stanley Craftsman tools will be made in the USA. If you look at reviews of the currently imported Stanley socket and wrench sets, they get 4.5+ out of 5 stars and they are priced about the same or only slightly less than current Craftsman comparable sets.

Was this a super good deal for Stanley, no!

At first I thought this was a fire sale, a good deal for Stanley, but timing is everything and it may be too late to take over the brand and start from scratch. I think Stanley should have added another 1.5B to the deal in order to acquire the distribution and existing contracts to the products. I think the current deal is a fair deal with modest risk for Stanley to refill the product line in major stores before Sears goes out of business.

Stanley has a lot of work to do. They now have to start vendor relationships where they never have created products before. Again, Stanley bought the brand, not the relationships or the employee staff that has these relationships. This will take time and may result in quality as well as random supply issues for various products. This will be all of the products which Stanley today does not produce themselves, such as lawn mowers, snow throwers and other lawn and garden products. Attention to detail and picking the right vendors to partner with will be key at every step to replicate what Sears has built up since 1927. I think it will take at least a year to list all of the products and come up with a plan to re-create them let alone start new contracts for producing them.

Just to clarify, when I refer to “Craftsman products”, I do not just mean hand tools, but everything from the lunch boxes to the riding lawn mowers. You cannot just re-create all these products over night.

One other major problem is that Sears can further damage the brand while Stanley tries to rebuild it. For example, Sears could marketing the same titled 200 piece mechanics tool set as the Stanley version. If the Stanley version is $100 and the Craftsman version is $50, that’s a big problem. Stanley has 2 solutions, either they follow the same formula Sears has now for supplying the Craftsman tools over seas, or Stanley has to distinctively market their new Craftsman hand tools in a different way to stand out from the Sears imported versions. Again, I would put my money on stamping “Made in USA” on Stanley’s versions just so they stand out.

One other scenario is that Stanley could produce 2 lines of Craftsman hand tools, one that aligns with the current pricing and products sold at Sears and a new line like the old “Craftsman Professional” line that is branded Made in USA.

Stanley Black and Decker owning Craftsman Conclusions

  • Craftsman products sold at Sears/Kmart will remain as we know them today so as long as Sears is still in business. More than likely how it is now will not change, the tools that switched to made in China (e.g. sockets, ratchets, wrenches, etc…) will remain, and the classic screwdrivers and pliers made by exising US suppliers will remain until those contracts expire. At this point Sears made all the cost cutting they could do to save money, any other changes now to widen a profit margin to help Sears itself is not worth the time.
  • Craftsman products sold in other outlets into the future (such as Amazon.com, WalMart, etc…) will be developed by Stanley. They will most likely be re-tooled products that currently have the yellow Stanley brand on them, most of which are made in China and Taiwan with some specific tools like tape measures made in USA with global stuff. It is possible, and I am hopeful, that Stanley instead uses their existing US based tool factories to launch Craftsman Made in USA tools.
  • It is unclear if Stanley Black and Decker will honor Craftsman hand tool guaranteed forever warranty. Technically the products from Stanley will be “new” products so it can be assumed that if you want your Craftsman ratchet warranted you will need to go to a Sears store to get a Sears made Craftsman replacement.
  • The deal does not indicate that Sears is giving Stanley Black and Decker access to their existing suppliers or that the employees of the Craftsman division will transfer to Stanley. One can assume that a “Brand with Suppliers” and or “Brand with Suppliers and Staff” deal would have been much higher than 900 million.
  • Stanley will capitalize on the Craftsman brand immediately using their current resources to produce Craftsman products. Any product under Stanley B&D and its family of brands could be re-branded Craftsman in short order.
  • Stanley will take time to setup contracts with new suppliers for products they do not already produce such as lawn mowers and snow throwers. Do not be surprised if Stanley does not offer nearly as many products branded “Craftsman” as Sears does today.

Questions about the Stanley Black and Decker Craftsman deal

Will we see Sears Craftsman tools in stores soon?

No! The deal ends the ability for Sears to distribute Craftsman branded tools outside of their stores. Sear’s developed Craftsman tools will only be available at Sears stores. Stanley will not be distributing the current Craftsman products sold as Sears to other retailers. If there is a specific Craftsman tool sold today at Sears, you will have to go to Sears to buy it.

Will Stanley Black and Decker honor the Craftsman guaranteed forever warranty of tools sold by Sears?

I doubt it. Based on the fact that they did not mention that in the initial announcement one can guess that the answer will be no. The fact that Stanley will develop new tools that they sell with the Craftsman brand implies that they will more than likely have new part numbers purposely so it is easy to identify Stanley’s versions to Sear’s versions.

Latest news (see February 2, 2017 update below) Stanley will continue to warranty existing Craftsman tools, so that is great news for us that have made the investment with that in mind.

Will Stanley Craftsman tools be guaranteed forever like Sear’s Craftsman?

I think so. Between the marketing advantage that gives along with the competition having a similar warranties one can only expect this to be the case. Wright Tool, H.J. Williams, Stanley, and S-K have such warranties.

Will Stanley Craftsman improve on existing C3 Power Tools?

I doubt it and here is why. Stanley bought the brand Craftsman. I did not see where they also acquired the R&D or the contracts/relationships with existing vendors. Stanley already has a few other brands such as Black and Decker and Dewalt that makes power tools. If they do anything, they may make a new line like C4 or something, but they will be different and most likely use yet another new battery format that is exclusive to that new model line.

Will Stanley Craftsman Sell lawn tractors, mowers and snow throwers?

I would hope so, but Stanley’s current portfolio of products does not include these large items so they cannot simply have a couple board meetings and make things happen. It will take time for Stanley to work out contract deals with either the same or new vendors who currently make these products for Sears Craftsman. Plus one can assume that most vendors will not be eager to supply Stanley with products that will then compete with their own in non Sears stores. I predict it will take up to 5 years before Stanley can fill most of the product line that Sears currently provides. Time will prove me wrong or right. But, read my thoughts on this above, this is an opportunity for Stanley to build up something then spin off that division to make their shareholders happy. Also more important to note the more they rely on other vendors to provide Craftsman products the higher the risk is that they could damage the brand in the process.

What is your opinion?

I am a strong believer of buying American made tools when possible. There are still some Craftsman hand tools sold at Sears that are made in the USA such as some of the mechanic’s crow bars, pliers and classic handled screwdrivers. Otherwise I have been filling the missing wrenches and sockets with other brands such as Wright, Proto, S-K, Pratt-Read, Klein, and MasterForce (Menards house brand). Since I purchased a Wright 3/8″ drive double paw ratchet I have been a big fan of Wright Tool’s line of sockets, ratchets and wrenches. I’ve also been buying new old stock (NOS) made in USA tools such as Craftsman, Kobalt, KD, Allen and NAPA on eBay over the past few years.

I am not concerned about the Craftsman guaranteed forever warranty. I’ve only used the warranty a couple times on screw drivers from my younger years. I now know better not to use a screw driver as a prybar, or a ratchet to break loose a torqued down bolt. pry and breaker bars exist for a reason.

I am sad to have watched the change of Craftsman hand tools going from a good middle of the road quality tool brand to a brand with some good tools and others comparable to Harbor Freight tools. Many folks who don’t really dig deep into the importance of quality do not think there is a real difference but there is. My best example is the time I used a 3/8″ to 1/4″ drive adapter from Harbor Freight. I was tightening a small fastener to a trailer I was assembling and the tip snapped right off while tightening the 2nd fastener. Trust me when I say this, but it should not have happened, the bolts should have sheared first if I was truly over torquing. I went to Sears and got a Craftsman 3/8 to 1/4 adapter, went back home and finished installing the remaining 30+ fasteners without any issues. What initially cost $1 at one store ended up costing me an hour running back to the store to spend $5 to finish the job. Lesson learned, if you value your time do not buy crap.

It is true you can produce quality tools anywhere in the World, and I am sure there are quality tools coming from Taiwan and China. If you look though the vendors who sell these quality imported tools charge the same amount as the Made in USA competitors, and they are not innovating the space like the USA made companies are. So why support a company that doesn’t have plans to improve their products? If you are not aware, Snap-on, Wright and S-K now produce combination wrenches with extra gripping ability on the open ends. S-K also includes a new ratcheting end to their combination wrenches that has an extremely small amount of ratcheting movement (arch to each click). Watch the videos on Flank Drive plus, WrightGrip and X-frame wrenches, these wrenches will blow your mind that they can shear off the head of a grade 8 bolt without slipping.

Hand tools are ever changing to meet the needs of our world. As newer cars require less repair, the next big innovations coming like the Tesla 3 electric car will require even less mechanical maintenance, while recreational and hobby use will put new demands on the tool industry to provide quality tools. Even though it is sad to watch the industry change, I believe it will also evolve which is a good thing. If the new line of Stanley Craftsman hand tools are made in the USA then awesome, they may just eventually end up in my tool boxes. Either way, I still have other tool brands such as Wright Tools that will be making their way into my tool box in the near future.

UPDATE on February 2, 2017:

According to B2BeCommerceWorld, Stanley has a plan to sell Craftsman products online, more than likely they are referring to Amazon.com.  This makes a lot of sense. It also sounds like Stanley will continue to honor existing lifetime warranty on the tools, which is also great news and a smart move on their part! Hopefully they will bring hand tool production for Craftsman tools back in the USA, but there lies the challenge, there will be owners of newly purchased Craftsman tools that are made in China that now Stanley will have to replace with USA made versions. Perhaps they can create a policy that if you bring in a traditional Craftsman tool made in USA you get a made in USA craftsman replacement, but if you bring a recent Chinese made Craftsman tool they exchange it with a Chinese made Stanley tool. I think that would be fair. What I hope not to see is Stanley release Craftsman sockets that are also not made in the USA, that will continue to tarnish the Craftsman brand instead of inject new life into it.

Modified Factory Pontiac Quadrajet Intake for Square-bore FiTech Throttle Body EFI

I finally got around to modifying my factory 1972 Pontiac Quadrajet spread-bore intake to accept the square-bore FiTech throttle body EFI. The results are in, the car runs smoother than ever and I can now mount my shaker to the throttle body using the factory air cleaner base!

Modifying a Pontiac Quadrajet intake to accept a square bore throttle body

Note that these instructions are for modifying a Pontiac intake designed for a Quadrajet spread-bore carburetor. Modifying a spread-bore intake for other manufacturers will more than likely be slightly different. Please note that your intake’s runners may be positioned differently thus requiring different attention where to modify.

Modifying a factory intake is not hard and only requires a few tools. Here’s the short list of tools necessary:

  • Reciprocating saw (Sawzall) with bi-metal blades
  • WD40 (or better cutting specific oil)
  • Die grinder (powered by an air compressor recommended)
  • Carbide Burr set (you may want to use both a cylindrical shape one as well as a small ball or tree shaped one to finish off corners)

First, do not modify the intake on your vehicle! First think you need to do is remove the intake manifold. For a pontiac, this requires draining (or partially draining) the coolant enough that removing the intake does not cause drainage from the water crossover in the front of the intake. The draw-down bolt will also require you to remove at least the alternator and in my case, power steering brackets in order to access. I spent more time taking the intake manifold off and bagging/tagging everything than I did actually modifying the intake.

Modifying the intake spread bore openings

You want to make cuts with the saw to remove as much material as possible taking into consideration that some locations you do not want to remove too much material and expose the other side of the intake. Remember these intakes are dual plane and the last thing you want is to poke a hole in the wrong location!

First cuts ran along the outsides. Thes cuts clear the outer most portions of a square bore gasket.
First cuts ran along the outsides. These cuts clear the outer most portions of a square bore gasket.

The 3rd cut took place on the left side (right side if viewing from the drivers seat). This one pretty much opened the one side almost perfectly, requiring only some grinding to the secondary to clear the square bore gasket.
The 3rd cut took place on the left side (right side if viewing from the drivers seat). This one pretty much opened the one side almost perfectly, requiring only some grinding to the secondary to clear the square bore gasket.

Here you can see using a square bore 4 hole gasket that only a small section of the secondary (top right of the left secondary and top left of the right secondary) needs to be ground down for clearance. The rest of the secondary openings are fine as-is.
Here you can see using a square bore 4 hole gasket that only a small section of the secondary (top right of the left secondary and top left of the right secondary) needs to be ground down for clearance. The rest of the secondary openings are fine as-is.

The right side of the intake manifold required extra cutting through thicker material. The second cut ran between the secondary to the primary. You may skip this cut if you have a steady hand when using your Sawzall.
The right side of the intake manifold required extra cutting through thicker material. The second cut ran between the secondary to the primary. You may skip this cut if you have a steady hand when using your Sawzall.

The remaining 2 cuts I did at thhe same time. Forming a V, I cut the remaining section between the primary and secondary as close as I could along the centerline of the intake. I was careful not to remove too much material as the walls to the intake runners from the other plane are very close in this area.
The remaining 2 cuts I did at thhe same time. Forming a V, I cut the remaining section between the primary and secondary as close as I could along the centerline of the intake. I was careful not to remove too much material as the walls to the intake runners from the other plane are very close in this area.

With the die grinder carbide burrs I removed just enough material from thetop inner corners of the secondaries as well as smoothed out the areas along the center separating the planes of the intake.
With the die grinder carbide burrs I removed just enough material from thetop inner corners of the secondaries as well as smoothed out the areas along the center separating the planes of the intake.

Once I was done I test fit the square bore single opening gasket to the intake. This is the gasket I will ultimately use with the FiTech throttle body.
Once I was done I test fit the square bore single opening gasket to the intake. This is the gasket I will ultimately use with the FiTech throttle body.

I will not claim to be a porting expert. I got the job done and all of the rough edges removed, I did not spend the time to remove scratches that I may have left along the walls. You could see them but feeling with your fingernail they were essentially not existent.
I will not claim to be a porting expert. I got the job done and all of the rough edges removed, I did not spend the time to remove scratches that I may have left along the walls. You could see them but feeling with your fingernail they were essentially not existent.

Reinstall intake

Once I was done, I washed the intake 3 times then followed the normal directions for installing the intake. The only thing I do that is sometimes not mentioned in manuals is use RTV sealer round the draw down rubber washer (this is the rubber washer that a new intake manifold gasket set will come with that goes between the intake and the timing chain/water pump cover) as well as around the water crossover ports that run to the heads. I am not a big fan of over using RTV sealer, I essentially used enough that when you torque the bolts down you just see a sliver of RTV squeeze out of the mating parts. If you see gobs of RTV sealer oozing out between your parts, then I think you’re using too much.

When I set the intake in place, I just tightened the 10 bolts until they started to grab the intake. Then I torqued the draw down bolt to 15 ft/lbs. Following that I torqued the intake bolts from the center out to 15 ft/lbs, then 30 ft/lbs, then ending with 40 ft/lbs. Everything else I re-connected including the top radiator hose, fuel lines, and wiring for the FiTech.

Modified Intake Results: Shaker fits perfectly!

I can now use the factory air cleaner and shaker with the FiTech!

Shaker with factory intake and FiTech throttle bodyShaker with factory intake and FiTech throttle body

Remounting the Blaster SS Coil

During the process of pulling the intake manifold off the car and modifying it, I noticed that one of the 3 mounts for the Blaster SS Coil had ripped leaving the coil dangling in a not so desired way off of the firewall. Even tough MSD claims you can mount the Blaster SS Coil in any way you like, I determined that the rubber mounts that the Blaster SS comes with are not up to the task of holding the weight of the coil in any other direction but vertically.

At the last minute I created a new mount out of 3/16″ thick 2″ wide aluminum plate and fastened it to the choke side of the intake manifold. I am not sure I will leave it here since I think this creates too much heat in this location, but I will give it a try for a couple weeks at least.

MSD Blaster SS mounted on choke side of throttle body
MSD Blaster SS mounted on choke side of throttle body (I am aware that the throttle body does not have a choke)

The Blaster SS coil clears the air cleaner by over 1/2". This is plenty of clearance for me. My only concern is the possibility of heat build-up in this location, but it may be a good location since it is in the path of the radiator fan.
The Blaster SS coil clears the air cleaner by over 1/2″. This is plenty of clearance for me. My only concern is the possibility of heat build-up in this location, but it may be a good location since it is in the path of the radiator fan.

Custom Made Drop Base for 2nd Gen Trans Am

Last fall I made a custom drop base for my Trans Am. The drop base is needed in order to fit the shaker under the factory hood when using aftermarket parts that raise the intake flange (mounting point for carburetor/throttle body) higher than factory.

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I do not recommend building your own drop base. I spent about $150 on materials, an initial 8 hours making the drop base, plus endless hours afterward trying to make it work. The final product was not as I hoped. See the photos to see the results. Please consider one of the solutions I list next before making your own drop base.

Permanent drop base solution

A permanent drop base solution is to do one of the following.

  • Factory Intake – You can modify a factory intake then use an adapter such as the Edelbrock 2732 (if necessary, was not in my case), assuming the carb/EFI provides mounting holes for spread-bore mounting. FiTech EFI throttle body provides spreadbore mounting holes, so no adapter was needed. Please see Modified Factory Pontiac Quadrajet Intake for Square-bore FiTech Throttle Body EFI.
  • Edelbrock Performer (not RPM) – The Edelbrock Performer intake puts the carb/throttle body at about the same position as factory and provides direct square bore mounting. Note a factory Pontiac intake will more than likely outperform an Edelbrock Performer. Other than weight savings, I would recommend modifying a factory intake before switching to a Performer intake.
  • Other aftermarket factory height intake. There are some single plane intakes but if your engine is designed for dual plane I would not switch.

Alternative drop base solutions

Get a drop base from a reputable Pontiac supplier…

All of the above solutions are a compromise. All of the above require that your shaker is cut in order to function properly.

The Airaid solution utilizes the traditional round air filter method. The good thing about this solution is that other than the drop base itself, the air filter is sealed like factory with a round air cleaner lid. The disadvantage is air turbulence created when the air first flows into the shaker, then around the air cleaner lid then through the filter. I did blow some air with a fan through the filter at angles and could not tell if it was impacting the speed of the air but I think it is a concern none the less. More importantly it puts a smaller clearance between the actual carburetor and the lid top which is restrictive. If you are running a throttle body, that clearance may not be as critical, but if you are using a quadrajet, the secondary walls may be very close to the top of the air cleaner lid.

The rectangular air filter solution requires that your shaker be modified to allow air to flow through the square filter. This solution presents the same issue as the Airaid filter in that the air flows through the filter at an angle. One advantage is the air only has to make one turn, rather than flow around a lid then up and into the carb/throttle body. The biggest drawback to this solution is sealing. Air filtration could be breached around the edges from the plate that is glued to the top of your shaker as well as from the gab between your shaker and drop base.

A solution to the problem no one produces today

One solution to this problem is a re-designed shaker. I have a few ideas but no time to make them a reality.

Another solution is to redesign a completely different air filter lid. Perhaps someone can take inspiration from the K&N filter lid I modified to build something better.

Custom drop base construction

I do not recommend building your own drop base, but for those who want to know how I built mine, here are the quick and dirty instructions.

Custom Drop Base Custom Drop Base

I used a K&N drop base #3549, a 16″ diameter 1.5″ deep pizza pan, and an Airaid #801-452 filter (14″ diameter on the bottom and 10.75″ diameter at the top), and a K&N filter lid #66-1101. I cut a hole in the pizza pan and then used bolts with rivet style heads and lock washer nuts to fasten the drop base to the pizza pan. Other than drilling holes for the rivet style bolts, I did not modify the drop base. I also modified the filter lid with a slight cut in order for it to clear the shaker.

Once I put this all together I was initially quite pleased with the results. The shaker did not rub against the filter lid with my relief cut in the filter lid which was initially my primary concern. What I did not anticipate was the shaker not fitting properly on the pizza pan because the diameter was exactly 16″ in diameter, whereas the factory air cleaner lid was actually 16-1/2″ in diameter. To compensate, I added 4 pieces of metal at four corners. This worked except it allowed the lid to slowly turn. A quick solution was then to add duct tape at each corner to provide enough friction for the top shaker not to move once the shaker ring is tightened. AS soon as I added duct tape to the assembly I realized this was not worth my time.

What I am going to do…

I am going to take the factory intake off the motor and take a grinding wheel to it! The plan is to open up the holes to allow for a square bore to be mounted directly to it with the use of a very thin adapter (Edelbrock 2732). I will post when I do this.

Update: I did what I wanted and modified a factory intake, which is the best solution to this problem. Please see Modified Factory Pontiac Quadrajet Intake for Square-bore FiTech Throttle Body EFI for details.