Firebird 81 to 78 tail light and rear bumper conversion

To convert my 81 Trans Am to a 78, both the front and rear bumpers and lights need to be swapped. The front bumper, headlights and grills are quite easy to swap, simply unbolt the front bumper, brackets and hardware and bolt-on a 77/78 front bumper and hardware. Specifically, the metal bumpers, foam inserts, front urethane bumper cover, headlight and grill header, headlights, grills and brackets. If you have a Trans Am, you will also need a lower center spoiler. Though it sounds complicated, it’s an easy swap.

The rear bumper and taillights on the other hand, is far from an easy swap. There are really 3 basic ways you can do the conversion: swap the tail panels (body work), add new holes to the existing tail panel, or make brackets to adapt the older taillights to the newer tail panel. I opted for the 3rd option this way I was not adding more holes to the body and this allowed me the option to switch back to the 79-81 style bumper if I changed my mind later.

Making brackets for the taillights is only part of the conversion. Let me cover what’s necessary…

1. Gas tank filler neck

The gas tank filler neck on a 79-81 Firebird / Trans Am is longer so it protrudes further out. When you open the taillight center door on a 79-81 the gas filler neck is right there, easy to get to. The 79-81 gas filler door is flush the the taillights. When you convert to a 77/78 (1976 is also the same rear bumper style but not as ideal, will explain that shortly), the gas filler neck is now covered by the license plate door. This door is recessed (not flush) in relation to the taillights. The inner sides of the 77/78 taillight housings hold the bezel for the lights that light up the rear license plate. The depth is enough that you cannot use a 79-81 gas tank. It is possible to get only the filler neck for a 77/78 Firebird and get that swapped by a gas tank repair/radiator shop. In my situation I decided to replace the entire tank with a 78 length filler neck since I suspected my old tank leaked anyway.

2. Rear bumper and license plate gas filler door

The rear bumper may require slight modification in order to fit at the tail panel center portion. I did not have to modify the 78 donor bumper I had, but the fit was very close, maybe 1/16″ gap between the bumper and the tail panel. I read somewhere that someone had to cut 1/16″ off their bumper cover to make it fit at the center portion of the bumper cover, so your mileage may vary.

The license plate gas filler door will be tricky to figure out where to locate. I went by pictures of other cars to locate mine. The 79-81 trunk sheet metal includes a bit of extra metal just above the trunk key hole, mine had a band of rubber that the 79-81 gas filler door used as a stop. This will cause clearance issues, so watch as you mount your rear license plate gas door that it clears this lip. I may grind/cut this lip off once I decide to commit to this swap permanently.

It is possible to use a 76 rear bumper, but I would recommend looking for a 77/78 instead. The 76 rear bumper was a 1-year only design. Rather than use a Styrofoam or plastic grate mesh to fill the gap between the bumper cover and the actual steel bumper, they filled the entire void with polyurethane plastic. These bumpers have a reputation for not keeping their shape due to the extra weight in them.

3. Wiring of the taillights

Depending on the taillight harness your car currently has, you may or may not have to modify your wiring. My car, a 1981 Trans Am, had the rear harness that included 2 harnesses that took style 1157 bulbs and 2 harnesses that took interior style 194 bulbs for the parking and brake lights. The harnesses that take the larger 1157 bulbs will need to be modified slightly in order to get them to plug into the older 77/78 style taillight fixtures. In the process of going through my wiring I ordered a replacement pigtail and found the replacement pigtail fit without modification. I decided to order 5 more and replace all of the pigtails that the harnesses would plug into the taillight fixtures without issues.

Note: I do not know how many variations of taillight harnesses there were between 79-81, but I do know that the Trans Am’s, Formula’s and regular Firebirds had different rear taillights. I believe the Trans Am’s had a smoked look and the parking lights were lit almost all the way across (minus the fuel filler door).

The 79-81 license plate light harness is different than the 78 as well. 79-81 only use one light centered over the plate, where 78 and older use two lights in fixtures on either side of the license plate. Since I was replacing the pigtails for the parking/brake lights I decided to run new pigtails for the 78 style as well. I got all the pigtails from RockAuto, which had the best price on them. Here’s the part numbers:

  • Dorman 85832 (qty 6 for turn signal and parking lights)
  • Dorman 85866 (qty 2 for backup lights)
  • Dorman 85814 (qty 2 for license plate lights)

One other advantage of using the existing 79-81 wiring rather than getting a 78/79 rear harness is with the gas tank fuel gauge wire. By modifying my existing harness I was able to maintain the same connector for the 79-81 gas tank sending unit.

I wrapped all my new wiring in fleece electrical tape then covered everything with new 1/2″ wire loom and purchased new wire loom clips (Dorman 85656) to use the existing 79/81 wire loom mounting locations.

4 Modifying 78 taillight housings to fit the 79-81 tail panel

The taillight housings you decide to use will need to be modified in order to make them fit within the confines of a 79-81 tail panel. More specifically, the passenger right side tail light fixture will need to be modified (as pictured) in order to clear the tail panel. Note that the mounting holes on a 79-81 tail panel are not uniform, the holes are offset differently on the left than the right because the left/drivers side also held the hinge for the taillight gas door.

Once I had the taillights modified enough that I could hold them into position, I proceeded to cut the studs off the aluminum outer housing then drilled and tapped each mounting location with a 1/4-20 tap, approximately 3/4″ deep. I drilled and tapped all of them just in case I decided I needed them for mounting.

I used 3/16″ thick aluminum plate (picked up a bar for $10 at a local hardware store) and cut pieces to fit different areas to relocate mounting holes appropriately. Each taillight mounted to the original tail panel with 8 mounting studs. My new brackets only mount with 3, so it was critical that the three mounting locations I picked were strong. I used 1/4-20 threaded rod cut to specific lengths for the new taillight studs. when I determined where to locate the studs in the aluminum stock, I drilled the holes, test-fit then tapped each hole with a 1/4-20 tap.

Once I had all of the aluminum stock cut, drilled and tapped to my needs, I threaded the 1/4-20 bar stock into the holes ten secured them with nuts to act as a jam nut. I then used 2 additional nuts to locate the final positions against the rear tail panel using the 2nd nut as a jam nut. Washers finish the job, with the plan to add rubber washers between them and the body when done to make a water tight seal.

The remaining holes left uncovered will be plugged with rubber body hole plugs. Ames Performance sells the size I needed, which I believe was 3/8″ (don’t quot me on that diameter). The factory used large holes in the body, it is forgiving for this modification.

Remaining Details

I currently have a buddy painting my 78 bumpers starlight black to match the rest of the car, that way this summer I’m not driving around with a Frankenstein Trans Am.  It is important to note that an 81 to 78 conversion is not 100% complete just by swapping front and rear bumpers alone. To truly convert the car, the following items will also need to be swapped:

  • Outer whale tail (rear spoiler) corners will need to be swapped with 70-78 styles. Take a look at some rear pictures of a 78 and compare with a 79, you will see the 70-78 sweep down into the rear panel to a point, where the 79-81 come down evenly with a square edge. 70-78 (that I have found anyway) are hard plastic, just like the center spoiler section of my 81. The 79-81 corner spoilers are urethane, so if you don’;t know what you have, take them off and look under them. If there is yellow, you have 79-81 rear spoiler corners. I am definitely swapping these, the 79-81 tails just look out of place with this rear bumper (see my pictures below). The will be swapped when I take the car in to get painted in the fall.
  • Lower front and rear side wheel spoilers will need should to be swapped with 70-78 styles. 79-81 rear side spoilers have sharper turns in them, they look slightly more aggressive. The 70-78 style have a more gradual rounded corner to them. Look at pictures to see the difference. I am going to use my 81 wheel flares this summer. If it drives me crazy then I will order a set of Danko brand 70-78 wheel flares before I get the car painted.
    Note: I changed “need” to “should”, mainly because you can use the 79-81 wheel spoilers. Since I put larger wheels with lower profile tires on the car, I’m beginning to prefer the 79-81 spoilers with the wheels. If you decide to go this route, you need to use the lower chin center spoiler from 79-81 with the 79-81 wheel spoilers, as the 77/78 lower chin spoiler is designed to mate up to 70-78 wheel spoilers. Also important to note that the 79-81 lower chin spoiler bolts on along the core support, it may possibly work for all 70-81 cars that use 79-81 wheel spoilers.
  • Rear drum brakes. I am going to keep my rear disc brakes, but technically there were no 70-78 Trans Am’s with rear disc brakes. Purists will just have to deal with it! 🙂

Here are some pictures of the 78 bumper and taillights mounted to my 81:

78 bumper 78 bumper

Here are some close up pictures of the back of my custom made 78 taillights:

Customized 78 taillights Customized 78 taillights Customized 78 taillights

35218 Magnaflow Stainless Exhaust Tips vs EVT10 Pypes 1976-1981 Trans Am Splitter Tips

If you haven’t followed this blog, for Project Trans Am I decided on the Pypes brand header back X exhaust system. One of the finishing touches is to add dual chrome exhaust tips. This dual tip look was used from 1967-1969 and from 1976-1981. It is one of the subtle but unique details for any late model Trans Am of the era.

Originally I purchased a set of EVT10 Pypes exhaust splitter tips (retail for $75-$100) to connect to the splitter adapter kit TGF10E to convert my Pypes X pipe kit from a Camaro exhaust system to a Firebird Trans Am exhaust system. Though the web site advertises these to have a 2-1/4″ exit tips, the tips are actually both 2-1/2″ in diameter. The extra wide tips make it harder for them to tuck under without hitting either the rear leaf spring or the body. On top of this, the band clamps they came with are not strong enough to clamp the stainless steel. I then decided to try drilling a hole in the tips to try to use a screw to hold them to the exhaust pipe without any luck. Basically, the stainless steel used is so strong, the only way to attach these tips is to weld them on.

In addition to the problems with the tips, the TGF10E kit did not fit well with the piping portion that bridges the mufflers to just over the axles. Modification was necessary in order to get these pipes from the kit to fit without rubbing against the under body. I will still have to take my car to a muffler shop to tweak the pipes over the axles if they don’t settle away from the under body this Spring.

I decided to order a pair of the 35218 Mangnaflow exhaust tips (retail for about $125-$140) after seeing them in a previous episode of Detroit Muscle (TV show from the folks of PowerBlock TV and Muscle Car). Two days later (they came fast) I had them in my hand and I was impressed. These actually have an inlet of 2.5″ and outlet tips of 2.25″. They are also polished stainless steel. They have a straighter profile so you can tuck the tips under the car better. There are 4 relief cuts made along the collar so they can be clamped on easily. They look more like factory tips than the Pypes tips.

With all the problems I’ve had with the Pypes system from the mufflers back, if I had to order an exhaust system today, I would buy just X pipe portion and downpipes from Pypes, Texas Trans Am or Magnaflow mufflers, then Magnaflow muffler back exhaust piping and tips. I wonder if it’s even possible to buy such a combination of brands?

Here are some pictures:

IMG_20140507_192736  IMG_20140507_192408  IMG_20140507_192339 IMG_20140507_192333  IMG_20140507_192326  IMG_20140507_192257  IMG_20140507_192247  IMG_20140507_192232  IMG_20140507_192147

Project Trans Am for March, 2014 – Ram Air Manifolds!

Project Trans Am has been on hold over the Winter while I work on the house. This  March the weather broke enough to get back to it!

Ram Air Manifolds!

I purchased a set of exhaust Ram Air manifolds from Ram Air Restorations in February. I’ve had my eyes on these manifolds for a couple years, now that I’ve made additional changes to my engine setup I took the advice and got a pair of the over-sized 2-1/2″ exit  D port Ram Air manifolds. They are beautiful pieces, lighter than the factory logs and they do minor porting work to match the ports to D port heads. I spent about $400 on them, $30 in Eastwood cast gray hi-temp paint and another $10 in new grade 8 bolts. The folks at Ram Air Restorations include detailed install instructions with a chart of the recommended bolt lengths and hardware.

IMG_20140311_132016 (Large) IMG_20140314_112443 (Large)

The second photo is after my buddy Joel baked them over night in an industrial oven. This means the paint is fully cured and I don’t have to worry about them smoking when I fire up the motor in May.

Next month I will get new down pipes to match up with these manifolds.

Motor Status

As I said in the fall I took my motor to Don at DCI Motorsports, he reviewed my engine build and discovered the problem with my oil pressure. In a nutshell, if had I purchased a blueprinted oil pump from the beginning I would not have had issues. The plate at the bottom of the oil pump did not make a complete seal against the oil pump casting, allowing oil to bleed out at the plate. The pressure was fine when the oil was cold, but was off by about 10psi across the rpm spectrum when warm, so the gap must have been very small since cold oil was not able to bleed out. This more than likely happened either because the casting wasn’t completely true/flat from the factory and/or because I took the plate off to clean the inside of the oil pump and my re-assembly didn’t get the plate on correctly. Either reason, Don blueprinted my pump this time around, so I should be good to go. He did find a couple other problems such as I used the wrong length push rods for the valves I got and the viton 2 piece rear seal was leaking, most likely because the crank wasn’t intended for that type of seal.

Since he had the engine, I decided to have it converted to a roller. I will be running a hydraulic roller cam with solid roller lifters. Solid lifters are used primarily because the hydraulic lifters for Pontiac’s are not reliable. I also switched to Harland Sharp 1.5:1 true roller rockers (rather than roller tip rockers), and to match the setup better, I am swapping out the log exhaust manifolds with Ram Air manifolds pictured above. I’m also going to get a different torque converter to match the new engine setup.

UPDATE: When I picked up the motor Don explained that he was suspicious of the connecting rods I used as the source of the pressure problems and during re-assembly we swapped in my original cast connecting rods since they checked out ok. Don did replaced the factory rod bolts with ARP bolts. The pressure problem was less likely because of the the oil pump. Regardless, I am now running a blueprinted oil pump with an OEM W72 oil pressure spring, I am seeing 25 psi at hot idle now.

What’s Next

I’m going to be working on my front and rear bumpers next. I have a buddy who’s going to paint them black, all I have to do is fix any cracks then get them in his hands so he can do his magic. I’ll also be painting a few parts, working on the inside of the trunk and installing a remote trunk release. Factoring in Easter and my planned trip to Carlisle the following weekend, this should be plenty to keep me busy. Early may I will be re-installing the motor and tiding up the remainder of the car so I can get her on the road. But don’t, worry, I still have a ton of things to do, including wheels and tires, sub frame connectors and some wiring changes.

If you are selling Wrenches on ebay, please read this first!

There’s one thing that drives me crazy when searching for wrenches on eBay, when sellers miss-label a tool or wrench. I’ve seen folks label an open end wrench as boxed end, combination wrenches as open ended wrenches, and even flare wrenches mistaken as “fancy wrenches”. But it doesn’t just stop there, I see a lot of wacky mistakes, usually ones that if I catch, means I get a great deal on a tool.

To education yourself, first take a look at the massive list of wrenches on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wrench

Now that you’re familiar with what some styles look like, here’s the skinny on wrenches you need to know for listing them on eBay:

Note Country of Origin

If you know where the wrench was made, put it in the description. If it is made in America, Canada or somewhere in Europe, if you can mention the country in the title that will help you sell the wrench.

Do not be afraid of the origin. There is a tendency to shy away from tools that are made over seas, specifically China. Some tools though have a solid reputation that go hand-in hand with their origin. Take the brand TrueCraft, most of their line of tools are made in Japan and also having a reputation for quality.

Describe the Wrench sizes in ascending order

For example, if you are selling a box end or open end wrench that is 3/8″ and 5/16″, write the sizes in order: 5/16″ –  3/8″

Utilize the size abbreviation standards

Inches are noted by following the size with one double quote. For example, 1 inch is written 1″. Metric sizes are referred to with two letter m’s following the size number. For example, 10mm.

For the sake of maximizing your listing titles, put these size abbreviations right after the size, do not bother adding a space. ebay’s search is smart enough to separate the number from the double quote character and double m letters.

If your tool is using inches, include the words “SAE” in the title, and also include the word “Standard” in the description. If metric, use the word “metric” in the title. Don’t forget to spell check as well, my last great find was from someone misspelling the word metric.

Make sure you spell the manufacturer’s name correctly

There are a lot of tool brand names out there that are of value, but only if they can be found. Misspelling the tool brand name will only prevent your listing from getting the proper exposure that it deserves.

Don’t be fooled by symbols in Logos. Kobalt brand tools sold by Lowes are quite good tools. Their first generation made up to about 2002 are highly sought after because they were made by Williams, same company that makes SnapOn tools. Plomb is another brand that is no longer made, but has a cult following. Believe it or not, many folks who don’t know better list Plomb tools in eBay as “Plumb” tools, simply because the middle letter in their logo is an upside down triangle. There are other brands that were spelled wacky from the beginning too, such as PowrKraft, a house brand for the Montgomery Ward department store.

Be up front with condition

If you don’t know how to access the condition of a wrench, say as such in your listing and let the photos speak for themselves. If there is a ratcheting mechanism, try to test it. If it clicks smooth, or makes a weird sound, describe that in the listing. Even a broken tool has value, don’t be afraid to sell and describe a tool as broken, there’s some geek like me looking for parts for their ratchet and what you have may be the solution.

Don’t over price

The biggest thing I see are tools way over priced.  I recommend doing some searches both on eBay as well as on the web for the specific brand and wrench you want to sell. Find out what folks are asking and use a price slightly lower than that. If you truly believe in the auction system, you will have multiple bidders raising the price of your wrench, so there’s nothing to worry about.

Consider the language of your audience

Lastly, if you plan on selling tools outside of the United States, consider doing some research on the vocabulary for the countries you are targeting. For example, folks from England refer to a wrench as a “spanner”.

 

Hopefully these are enough tips to keep you from listing the wrenches so folks like me can find and buy them!

Review of Pypes Exhaust Band Clamps

Last summer I installed my Pypes brand dual exhaust with crossover. As I noted in August I installed the system and had some headaches. This post is going to explain the frustration I had with their band clamps.

12 of the 14 clamps I ordered from Amazon.com, the remaining 2 came from the tailpipe tips kit (which I had fitment issues with). Not all of the clamps are the same (see photo). The ones that use yellow zinc (gold color) hardware are really good quality clamps. The remaining ones appear to use a combination of cheap hardware and poorly cast middle H washers. One H shaped washer broke apart on me, as well as two of the nut washers sheered as I tightened the nut. The high quality clamps have the Pypes logo stamped onto them, where the cheap band clamps have the letters PYPES etched onto them. The stainless steel appears to be of higher quality with the yellow zinc hardware. The head of the yellow zinc bolt has 10.9 stamped on it, an indication that it truly is high-strength hardware.

Pypes Band Clamps Pypes Band Clamps

Clamp on the right is worth it’s weight in gold. The clamp on the left is not even worth $1.

When using these clamps I was able to get the exhaust to seal regardless of the washers sheering, but I have no confidence in being able to re-use the hardware on the non-zinc coated clamps. The zinc coated clamp I was able to tighten confidently, where once I had one of the cheap clamps sheer a washer I took my time tightening them. I also added copper anti-seize to the threads and used a torque wrench to try to not to exceed 10 ft/lbs (I just picked a torque I thought would be safe with the cheap hardware).

I suspect Amazon.com sent me either counterfeit or old stock Pypes band clamps . I hope this is not a bean counter move by Pypes / Performance Years, as that is a company I expect better from.

 

 

Project Trans Am for September, 2013 – Engine Broken In and Taillights with Rear Bumper Installed

September was an exciting month for Project Trans Am. With summer coming to a close, we finally got the motor started and broken in!

Engine Break-in

Labor Day morning between 9am and 1pm was our scheduled break-in time with Joel. Before we broke in the motor, we did all the normal work priming the motor, setting the distributor and running the spark plug wires. The wires I got are molded specifically for a Pontiac V8. It took a few swaps before we finally got the right lengths to the correct cylinders. After checking fluids, we were ready to go. Unfortunately this ate up a good 3 of our 4 hours.

You know the saying, second time is a charm? Well that applies with the engine break-in too! When we tried to start the motor, it back fired once, then we had a fuel leak. Then after fixing all the little problems, we just never got any spark. We had limited time available due to the labor day holiday, so we had to put off getting her started till Tuesday. That night though I discovered we did not have the distributor shaft pointing at the number one spark plug wire on the distributor cap. That night I repositioned the distributor so we were ready to go the next day. You can see from the pictures, we were off a good 150+ degrees.

Distributor Before Distributor After

The next morning Joel came over, within 10 minutes we had the motor fired up and in break-in mode. We let it run for 30 minutes between 2,000 and 3,000 rpm, not keeping it too long on one particular rpm. then once we were done, we got the idle set at about 700 rpm.

Engine Break-in Engine Break-in Engine Break-in

The Good News

The engine runs strong! Touching the gas pedal, she responds instantly. The exhaust sounds really good, inside noise is low thanks to the deadener on the floors, and all the electronics, gauges and switches appear to be working properly. Electrical wise, the only problem I saw was with the dome light flickering when the door was open. I never tested the door jam switches, so hopefully they are just worn out and replacements will fix that problem. Otherwise, the car electrical is good to go! Water temperature was right at 190 degrees, which is perfect. I am running a 180 degree thermostat, so this is right on par with what I wanted temperature wise. Everything was better than I expected, except for the oil pressure.

Last year I was able to test all of the gauges except for the tachometer. I am happy to report the tachometer works! it appears to be off by about 200 rpm, but that’s acceptable. Even the brake light, choke light and seat belt lights worked!

Gauges Working Gauges Working Gauges Working

Low Oil Pressure!

During engine break-in, oil pressure was between 30-40psi, which is ok. But when we were done and started setting the engine for idle, we noticed oil pressure was below 10 when the RPMs hovered down around 700. We promptly turned off the motor, let it cool, then changed the oil filter and 30 weight break-in oil with 20W50 (the weight motor oil I plan on running). Cold oil pressure is strong at 65psi, but once it was warmed up, pressure at idle was at about 15 psi.  revving the engine increases oil pressure, at 2,000 rpm I see about 25-30psi, and close to 3,000 rpm I am seeing about 35-40psi. So the oil pressure problem appears to be related to idle. I expected to see 20psi at idle with 10psi added for every 1,000 rpm.

The following week Joel came over and helped me pull the motor to replace the oil pump to see if we can get that oil pressure up where it should be.

I decided to take the motor and new oil pump to DCI Motorsports to replace the oil pump with a blueprinted pump. At this point I am pretty pleased with my engine building skills, but in the future, I will have my engines built so all I have to do is install top-end components and focus on the other car details.

Taillights and Rear Bumper Installed

The rear taillights are now wired, mounted and ready to go! Switching from a 79-81 rear bumper to a 77/78 style is not a simple task. There are many ways to approach the problem. One way is to replace the entire tail panel with an older tail panel so the taillights mount right up (this way is requires a lot of body work). A second option is to drill new holes into the existing tail panel to allow for the older taillights to mount to (simplest way, but modifies the tail panel). The third option (which I did) was create brackets on the taillights to relocate the studs to line up with the existing 79-81 tail panel (leaves the tail panel unmodified). This was a time consuming task that involved 3/16″ thick aluminum stock, a lot of tapping and threading, and even more patience. the result is what you see, without taking the taillights off you would not be able to tell it’s bolted to a 1981 tail panel.

IMG_20130922_185925 (Large) IMG_20130922_185916 (Large)

In the short time I had, I put a few light coats of Krylon Fusion gloss black paint on the taillight frames. Next year I will take them off and properly paint them, but for now it’s better than what they looked like before.

What’s Next?

October and November I will be switching gears and working on the house before winter sets in. I may get to do a little wrenching here/there, but it will be minimal. Hopefully I will get the motor back from DCI before Christmas so I can get the remaining front fenders, front bumper and hood installed and finally take her for a spin before the first snow fall!

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!