Project Trans Am for August, 2013 – Exhaust System, Cooling System & Transmission, and Electrical

This has been another productive month for Project Trans Am!

Exhaust System Installed

This was a major pain in the rear. I think the Pypes brand exhaust makes a quality product, but I have to admit that the amount of tweaking I had to do to make the system work in my car was beyond what I expected for the price I paid. Most of the headaches were from the mufflers back. I purchased a second tail pipe kit in hopes to get the chrome splitter tips lined up better with no luck. I will need to take the car to a muffler shop to get the tips welded on. The stainless steel Pypes tips are not capable of being clamped onto the tail pipes, leaving only welding as an option.

If I had to do it over again, I would get the 2nd Generation Firebird/Camaro dual exhaust system from Jegs or Summit Racing.

Installed all Engine Accessories, Wires and Hoses

This was a rather simple task, or set of tasks. The only problem I ran into was when I tried to bolt on the alternator without the power steering pump. The factory brackets are designed to have both brackets in place, so when I installed them without the power steering brackets, the alternator did not line up. Once I installed the power steering pump though everything went together well. I decided not to run the power steering pump during engine break in and have since removed the power steering belt since I took the pictures below.

Engine Accessories Engine Accessories

Inner Fenders and Core Support Installed with Transmission Lines and Coolant Hoses

Installing the core support and inner fenders was pretty simple task. It took some time though since I am replacing all of the body U nuts and body bolts. The engine bay is really coming together now! Installing the transmission lines was the only annoying part. I had to buy a crowfoot 1/2″ wrench in order to tighten the transmission lines to the transmission because I already had the exhaust installed. Had I thought about this ahead of time, I could have installed the lines on the transmission side before running the exhaust.

Core Support and Fenders Core Support and Fenders

Front Light Harness and Engine Harness

Luckily, the front headlight harness only needed a good cleaning. Unfortunately, I could not say the same for the engine harness. For the Engine harness, I started by identifying all the plugs that needed to be replaced, followed by replacing wire where ever possible. While I was working on the wiring harness, I decided to reroute the positive wires that go to the back of the alternator to a junction terminal on the inner fender. This allowed me to put all of the fusable links in the same location with easy access to repair if needed. Hopefully the fusable links never blow. The end result though is a much cleaner wiring system between the alternator and all of the necessary accessories.

Engine Wiring

Here are some details: I used 10 gauge wire between the alternator and the red power junction box you see in the picture above. The junction box is Caspers Electronics 103004, I got it from Jegs here in Columbus. Not shown in the picture is the factory wiring that I rewired plus the 2 additional wires I added for the AC/heater fan (12 gauge wire) and wire to fuse block in glovebox for the stereo and power windows (10 gauge wire).

What’s Next?

She’s almost ready to start! Stay tuned for September for engine break-in details!

Project Trans Am for July 2013 – Engine is in the Car!

What a significant milestone! The car hasn’t seen an engine since fall of 2010!

Engine is in!

Bryan came down the first weekend of July and helped me get the motor in! Thanks Bryan!!! The process went smoother now we had the right bolt pattern on the flywheel.

Engine is in! Engine is in! Engine is in!

Installing the engine with the transmission was definitely a smart move! I could not imagine installing the transmission afterward.

Lining up the engine mounts with the engine mount brackets on the engine was quite a challenge. I am glad I did some searching on the Trans Am forums the night before, I used about every trick posted. The biggest help was using large phillips screw drivers to align the engine side mounts with the clam-shell mounts on the frame. We did a lot of other things too, including using a 2×4 wood block to keep the clam shell from moving around at one point, a pry-bar to lift the clam shell on one side to line up with the mount, and used the engine load leveler to level out high and low spots. I just wonder how they did this from the factory!

Drive Shaft Balanced

Getting the drive shaft balanced ended up being one of the easiest tasks for the project to date. The folks over at Drive Line 1 here in Columbus, OH got my drive shaft balanced and the U joints replaced within a few hours. Talk about fast! If you take your drive shaft to Drive Line 1, ask for Nick and mention you herd about them on my blog on the “Internet”.

Started Installing Parts and Attaching Lines and Hoses

So far I’ve attached/installed the following since the engine has been installed:

  • Drive shaft
  • Starter shimmed and installed
  • Exhaust manifolds
  • Steering Column lockout mechanism
  • Transmission pan with new gasket and shifter bracket

Taillights Restored

Restoring the taillights ended up being a good weekend project. Nothing too difficult, I cleaned the lenses, repainted the inside area glossy white, then used new gaskets to put them back together. The frames are the only parts that remain to restore.

IMG_20130704_225459 IMG_20130704_225515

What’s Left

I need to finish attaching all the lines, hoses, belts, exhaust system, etc.. to the engine! Followed by the electrical wiring, oil-prime the engine, install the distributor, plugs and wires, then I can finally fire up the motor for the first time! I have a few other events going on in August, so more than likely I will aim to get the motor started over Labor day weekend.

Project Trans Am for June 2013 – Interior and Engine Done!!!

June was a very productive month, though I did not get as much done as I hoped, some major milestones have been knocked off the list including the engine assembled and the interior finished!

Interior Done

Well I shouldn’t say it is completely done, but it is done for now. I will have to go back and permanently hang the door panels, I am waiting to do that until after I get the power windows, door locks tested and working, and the drivers door is going to be replaced as soon as I find a good replacement for it. At this point though, the interior is done as far as being able to drive and such.

Dash Done Interior Done

Melanie and Nicholas love playing in the car, and they both have figured out the seat belts!

Engine is Done! But not without a fight!

Assembling the remainder of the engine actually went smoothly, here are some pictures.

Oil Pan Installing Heads Liftere Installed Valley Pan Intake Engine Ready

My buddy Joel came over to help me install the engine and transmission into the car, we got as far as the flywheel and ran into an issue. Not even 20 minutes into installing the motor and we ran into a roadblock. The TCI Flywheel I got had a sticker that said “this side toward engine”. No matter how we turned the flywheel, the bolt holes just never lined up. We tried flipping it over as well, but our assumption that the sticker was right led us to put the engine back on the engine stand. The following day I called up TCI. After describing them what happened, they did their own research, then called me back about an hour later suspecting the sticker was on the wrong side. I flipped it over and lined it up on the old factory flywheel and the holes did line up. Long story short, the sticker was on the wrong side. The other stickers were also on the wrong side, so they went ahead and replaced the flywheel for me. The replacement arrived the last wee of June, unfortunately with birthdays and 4th of July coming up, I will not get a chance to install it until after the holiday.

While waiting for the flywheel to arrive, I went ahead and installed a few other non critical engine parts like the fuel pump. While installing the fuel pump, I accidentally stripped the thread in the timing cover while bringing it to the recommended 25 ft/lbs. I had that feeling in my gut this seemed like too much torque and then instantly it just stripped out. This lead me to take the timing cover off and tap the hole with a Heli-coil tap and repair kit. The Heli-coil repair is quite easy actually, I just wish I had a drill press big enough to have drilled it with. My hand drill I just went in at a slight angle. Luckly his is just to hold the oil pump on and the angle is so minute I’m not worried about it. The lock washer has much more angle than this drill job. Anyway the engine is back together with the fuel pump installed ready for the flywheel.

Heli-Coil Kit 5/16-18

Interesting, the “How to rebuild Pontiac V-8’s” book says to use 25 ft. lbs torque for the fuel pump, I found a couple other sources on the web that said to use 10 ft.lbs. After doing some research, the aluminum cannot handle more than 18 ft. lbs., and 15 ft lbs is what is used for the water pump that is also bolted to it. The service manual makes no recommendation on toque for the fuel pump, I assume because it is a non-critical engine part. The heli-coil instructions say that a minimum of 7.5 ft lbs is required for the fastener to hold, so I decided on 12 ft lbs, which is also what the oil pan uses into the aluminum timing cover. That is still less than 1/2 the torque from the “how to rebuild” book.

What’s Next

Get the engine and transmission installed! Everything but the drive shaft is ready for installation, so next week I will investigate getting the drive shaft rebalanced and getting the u-joints replaced. Even without the drive shat, I should be able to install the engine with the transmission very soon, pretty much just waiting until I can get a buddy to come over and help me (Installing an engine is not a 1-man job). Once the engine and transmission is in the car, I have a couple weeks of installing the drive shaft, exhaust system, radiator, coolant hoses, transmission lines, wiring and throttle cables. The plan now is to have the car ready to fire by the end of July.

Project Trans Am for May 2013

May was not so productive, between family plans and work, not much got done. Never the less I did get a few things done.

Interior and Wiring

The remaining interior trim is now installed, including the t-top trim, pillar trip and such. I also installed the center console while I replaced the center console gauges (more on that below). This leaves the steering column, seats, and seat belts.

Center Console and Wiring

Replacement Center Console Gauges and Oil Pressure Line

While test fitting the center console gauges I discovered the gauges I got would not adapt to the 1/8″ NTP hose that I ran through the firewall. While searching for a replacement oil pressure gauge, I discovered a brand called ISSPro, which look nearly identical to the factory gauges. I ordered both an oil pressure and water temperature gauge. They look sharp!

I also decided instead of running a 4′ long braided line from the gauge to the engine, I decided to get two 2′ braided lines and a firewall elbow. This gives me more clearance at the firewall and it also looks much more professional.

Gauges with red lighting IISPro Gauges

Engine Work – Measure Head’s CC, Made Throttle bracket adapter, Painted Intake

I learned how to mesure the cylinder head CCs using a kit from Jegs. I made a few measurements in a few cylinders and they avreeage between 93-97 CC’s. I was conservative on my measurements as well, so they are more than likely 2 CC’s more than actual measurements, so 91-95 CC’s.

Painted Intake Throttle Bracket Adapter

What’s Next

Finish the interior and get the motor with transmission in the car, all hopefully by Fathers day!

Piston Ring Filer

My Pontiac 400 engine rebuild requires me to file to fit the top 2 compression rings. In order to make sure the rings keep their true edge, a mechanical Piston Ring Filer is recommended. Because I do not plan on using this tool very often, I decided to purchase an inexpensive clone from Jegs. A quality name brand (KD Tools) version of this filer is available at for only a couple bucks more.

The Piston Ring Filer will come with a bracket to allow you to bolt it to your workbench. Rather than bolting it to my bench, I decided to build my own platform to permanently mount the piston filer to, that way I could mount it in my bench vise when needed. I used a 1 x 6 cut about 14 inches long, with two 45 degree cuts at one end so my knuckles do not hit the wood during cranking. I then cut a 2 x 4 at 3 1/2 inches making a square block to screw to the bottom of the filer platform for pinching with my vise. The result is pictured.


To file a piston ring, place the ring facing up on the tongue end of the filer tool with the open ends of the ring resting within the side by side wheel bearings. With either one or both sides of the ring pressed lightly into the filing wheel, rotate the wheel counter clockwise so the wheel moves against the ring in a down and inward pattern. This will leave the top and outer edge with no rough edges. I’ve viewed one engine builder use this ring filer to file only one end of the ring, leaving the other end slightly away from the grinding stone.  Filing only one end of the ring has the advantage of allowing you to compare the filed end with the non-filed end to verify the edge is true.

You can file rings with a hand file, but you take the chance of filing the end of the ring unevenly. If you’re paranoid like me, drop the $50-70 on one of these ring filers, it’s a no-brainer.