Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What is the correct size carburetor for my engine?

After my recent post regarding the replacement of the carburetor on the 1968 GTO I thought it would be a good time to share some information on the process I use to determine what is the best size of carburetor, commonly referred to as CFM  (cfm = Cubic Feet per Minute of air flow), for a particular engine. I am by no means an expert on carburetion, so the following is only a "shade tree mechanic's opinion," but I do know one of the most common mistakes a classic car owner makes is to put too large of a carburetor on their engine. A carburetor that is too large for the engine can actually reduce the performance of the motor.

There are a number of formulas on the internet that will help get you into the ball park of correct carburetor size. I use one of the more simple formulas and I find it to be one of the most accurate. You will still need to plug into the equation some of the specific knowledge you have about your engine and be realistic in your assessment especially when it comes to Volumetric Efficiency.

A few basic terms that are helpful to know:
  • Almost all carburetors are rated in size by CFM or Cubic Feet of Air Flow Per Minute at Full Throttle.
  • Volumetric Efficiency of the engine is a key factor in any formula to determine the engine's CFM requirements. This is the one that requires some knowledge of the engine and any modifications that have been made or added to the engine. This is not as difficult as it may sound and with a little thought you can probably get it within 40 to 60 cfm. Being that a car engine is basically a big air pump, the figure you are attempting to find is how much air/fuel mixture your engine can efficiently handle at peak RPM. For example, a stock 350 engine with a factory single snorkel air cleaner runs at about 75% efficiency. So, if you install a 650 cfm carburetor and everything else stays factory stock the engine can only handle about 525 CFM at peak RPMs. At this point you have over carbureted your engine and have very likely reduced both low end torque and HP.

Volumetric Efficiency is very important if you are looking to enhance the power and overall performance of your engine. The good thing is there are a number of modifications that can be made to the engine to increase the Volumetric Efficiency at a modest cost.

The following are a few examples of modifications that will increase Volumetric Efficiency.

Air filters: Original snorkel type air filters are very restrictive. Some can reduce the CFM by 100 points or more. By simply changing to an open element filter of approximately 14 inch diameter by 2 inch high you can gain 100 - 125 CFM of air flow.

Intake Manifold: Installing a quality performance manifold such as an Edelbrock or Weiland will significantly improve efficiency of the engine and bring out the true performance of the carburetor.

Headers: What we are attempting to improve by increasing Volumetric Efficiency is the passage of air/fuel gases from the carburetor completely through the engine including the exiting of those gases via the exhaust system. Factory exhaust manifolds are often known to be poorly designed and very restrictive in removing exhaust gasses. A good set of headers will greatly reduce the restrictions built into the factory exhaust manifolds and often increase flow in the 50% range.

This is where the modest cost typically ends, your personal desire for more power and budget begins.

Heads / Valves: A good set of performance heads / valve setup is also a big step in increasing efficiency however this is a area where pricing and budget becomes an issue. So this becomes an area of just how much modification and HP you are willing to buy.

Cam: A performance cam can be very helpful in increasing Volumetric Efficiency as they keep the valves open longer and allow more gases to flow in and out of the cylinders.
Cams are not excessively expensive, however the installation can be unless you are capable of doing the install yourself.

The following is the formula I typically use. I will be using the engine in my 1968 GTO as the sample engine for the formula as it is not stock and most of the enhancements I have mentioned above are in this engine. I will also show the results of the formula as if the engine was factory stock. The change in the two formula's recommended CFM size of carburetor is due to the increase in Volumetric Efficiency.

The GTO engine currently contains the following and I rate it at 90% Volumetric Efficiency.

400 Cu. In. displacement
5200 RPM red line
750 CFM Carb
14 "  X  3"  Open air filter
Edelbrook Pontiac Performance manifold
"16" code factory large valve heads
Pertronix Flame Thrower electronic ignition
Crane mid range performance camshaft
10.75 - 1  Compression
Hedman Headers  to 2.5" exhaust and Flowmaster Super 44, very high flow through mufflers



{   Engine as currently modified and with a 90% Volumetric Efficiency rating. }

                               400  X  2  =  800  X  .9ve  =  720 CFM  

Note: If the formula indicates a CFM carb that is not produced always go slightly higher. In my case it was to a 750 CFM.

As a comparison, this is the data based on the GTO engine in factory stock configuration and a 75% Volumetric Efficiency rating.

                              400  X  2  =  800  X  .75ve  =  600  CFM  

Friday, December 12, 2014

Edelbrock 750 cfm Carburetor for the GTO.

Recently I began to encounter a problem with the 1968 GTO in that it was becoming harder to start and also it would occasionally shut off while idling at a stop light. I tried to convince myself it was due to not being ran on a regular enough basis. During some periods while restoring other cars the GTO is not driven for two or three weeks while I take my most recently completed project to car shows. The GTO has been one tough and extremely reliable powerhouse. As this problem seemed to be slowly and progressively getting worse I finally decided to attempt to determine what was going on.

One of the things that made the diagnosis difficult was the fact that when the car was being driven it appeared not to have lost power or to be misfiring. The only issue was when driving at a slow speed in a higher gear I noticed more of a lobe to the engine. This was nothing new and I attributed it to the performance cam running at too low in the RPM band, but it was becoming more noticeable. With no loss in compression or any evidence of a failure in a head gasket I began to look at the intake and ignition systems. As to the intake it is running an Edelbrock 600 cfm sitting on an Edelborck Pontiac Performance manifold and as to ignition it is running a stock distributor with a Pertronix Flame-Thrower electronic ignition and Flame-Thrower II 45,000 volt coil. After looking at both systems I felt the problem was in the distributor and that it had likely a bearing failure that was causing the shaft to become unsteady and in-turn having an effect on the timing. To make a story short: I was wrong.

The problem turned out to be within the carburetor which was 8 + years old and it appears the ethanol in the fuel had been slowly destroying the gaskets / seal in the carb. This was not something that happened overnight, but rather a slow process of degeneration that I really did not notice until the carb began to actually fail. As a quality rebuild costs almost as much as a new carburetor, I decided to not only purchase a new carb, but also upgrade to a larger 750 cfm due to the addition of other performance items on the engine (cam, headers, electronic ignition etc ). What a difference the new carb made to the engine! Between the old carb slowly losing efficiency and the increased cfms of the 750, I honestly feel the engine gained about 25 HP. I purchased another Edelbrock carburetor, because for the dollar, I feel they are the best carb on the market. They basically run right out of the box. I have owned just about every major brand of carb sold and have had the least amount of problems with the Edelbrock brand. I now use a Lucas Fuel Additive which counteracts the damage caused by ethanol.  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Reflecting on the Gran Sport

As I recently posted the Gran Sport was sold.  One of the nice parts of the sale was that it was purchased by an extremely nice local couple Ryan and Jody. Ryan had owned a V-10 Viper powered Ram truck so he had experience in big block vehicles and knew enough about classic cars that a big block "A" body car with Ram Air and a very low production number of 7,600 units for the year would only increase in value. I am still receiving calls and emails on the car as of this writing so I have little doubt this car will appreciate in value.

This Buick was different from any other GM "A" body cars I have owned or driven. The "A" bodies being the GTO, Chevelles and 442s. It was just better made. Almost all of the drive train was heavy duty.  For example the suspension was heavy duty, it had GM's best and strongest automatic transmission for the period, the Turbo 400.  Still rated as one of the best transmissions GM has ever built. And a 12 bolt rear end. So it was built to handle the very large torque of the 400 engine.
The real surprise cane when you drove this car. It actually drove almost as well as a new car.  The ride did not give a hint of the heavy duty suspension, the seats were very comfortable, the steering had almost no play in it, the power brakes with the aluminum finned drums stopped the car as good as a disk brake car and the visibility was outstanding - very unusual combination for a muscle car that was 45 years old.

The good and bad. The good part of the car was that the previous owners had obviously taken a lot of pride in ownership and maintained the car mechanically to a high standard. The bad was the car had factory undercoating, which is a rough surface and allowed a lot of road grime to accumulate on the under side of the car. To see the real condition of the suspension etc, it is best to remove as much of the grime as possible so that you can get a good view of the ball joints, seals, brakes and even find all of the lube points. This is a 45 year old car that contains very few pivot or rotating parts that are sealed so they still have grease fittings and each fitting needs to be lubricated. This is a job that would be much easier and faster using a high pressure washer, however I do not use one because I am concern that the extreme pressure can easily force water into electrical connections, starters, solenoid and many other places that water is not welcomed.  I actually go under all of my cars and clean them with a wire brush and degreaser and then spray the area with paint to prevent rust. This is a nasty time consuming job and one I do not enjoy, but I feel it is well worth the effort. With the Gran Sport I believe I had over 200 hours in the restoration work which included the installation of the new carpet, interior repair, new windshield and respraying the engine and trunk area. It is this kind of work and hours that created the saying "Buy the most restored car you can afford."

Monday, November 3, 2014

Good News!

I sold the Buick Gran Sport this week. Stay tuned for details on the sale and thoughts about my next project!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Archived Projects

         ******     JUST A REMINDER   ****** 


Friday, September 19, 2014

Buick Gran Sport for Sale

I have decided to place the Gran Sport up for sale. I really enjoy 4-Speed cars and one that I had looked at prior to purchasing the Gran Sport has resurfaced on the market. I have placed an ad on Ebay Motors and the following is the basic information from the Ebay ad.

I am the fourth owner of the Gran Sport and this is the history per the last owner.

The first owner purchased the car in Canada and had the car for many years. I have receipts for maintenance by the original owner showing mileage into the 70,000 + mile range. The car was sold to the second owner, a Fireman in New Jersey, who also kept the car for 8 or 9 years and sold the car due to poor health. The third owner was also a Fireman and a friend of the previous owner. He retired and brought the car to Florida and also developed health issues which prevented him from maintaining the car to his standard and sold the car to me.

All matching numbers. This is a rare big block muscle car as only 7,602 Gran Sport 400's were manufactured in 1969. It is very difficult to find one or see one at a car show in this condition.

It comes with the original GM Protect-O-Plate metal warranty card as issued to the original owner, Owners Warranty booklet showing owner and date of sale and Owners Manual.

Also have the original Buick dealership's booklet of information on their 1969 lineup of vehicles including specifications of the Gran Sport 350 and Gran Sport 400.

The following is an overview of the car.
1. 400 engine rated at 340 HP and 440 pounds of torque ( without Ram Air ). With Ram Air Buick rated the engine at 367 HP and 466 pounds of torque.
2. 10.25 to 1 Compression ratio
3. Engine runs at approximately 75 pounds of oil pressure at driving RPMs.
4. Engine does not smoke, burn oil or leak
5. Does not run hot
6. Turbo 400 Transmission, considered one of the best heavy duty transmission manufactured by GM
7. New Electronic Ignition and spark plug wires
8. Newer hoses and belts
9. 3:31 Posi-Traction rear gears with a 12 bolt heavy duty rear differential
10. Duel exhaust, Mufflers and exhaust pipes replaced at about 79,000 miles
11. Power Brakes, with rare Aluminum Finned front brake drums. Stops straight.
12. Power Steering, no leaks
13. Power Windows, (all work perfect)
14. Tilt Steering wheel
15. Wood steering wheel with Buick Logo on center horn cap
16. Rear window defroster, blower in trunk, not wire in glass. Works great
17. Heater / Defroster and blower fan all work.
18. Cigarette Lighter does not work as a lighter, but has electrical power for accessories
19. Rally Sport Wheels, original factory and in excellent condition
20. BF Goodrich Radial T/A 235-60-15 tires with very good tread depth
21. Original Factory radio
22. Original factory correct GM seat belts
23. Tinted Glass
24. New Windshield installed August 2014
25. Windows, doors and hood weatherstriping in very good condition
26. New trunk weatherstriping
27. All lights interior and exterior in good working order ( including side marker lights and trunk light )
28. New GM certified carpet ( 80% Rayon & 20% Nylon Loop-Pile with 36 oz. jute padding ) Same as factory
29. New matching floor mats with Buick Tri-Shield Emblem. Also GM certified
30. No cracks in the dash
31. Newer vinyl top in excellent condition, no rust under top or around glass molding
32. Parking brake works
33. Trunk has been sprayed and has mat. no rust
34. Original jack ( refurbished to like new ) Full size spare
35. Front suspension is solid with no excessive play, recent lube of all points
36. Newer Gabriel Ultra Shocks
37. Floor pans appear to be solid. No rust found when new carpet was installed.
38. New oil change and Delco filter

When I purchased the car it had an aftermarket JVC stereo AM / FM / CD player with a plug in feature for front and/or rear Ipod / Portable Audio Player type accessory. The owner had the original radio which was in amazing condition. I removed the JVC unit and reinstalled the original Am radio. The JVC stereo will fit in the glove box and comes with the wiring harness and installation and operating instructions. Color coded wiring matching the wiring harness were capped under the dash and would be easy to reconnect to the JVC unit. This is becoming more common for people who like the original look but would like to enjoy a more modern sound system. Also the rear speakers are new. This is an option offered to the buyer.

The Gran Sport is completed!

Here are some photos of the Gran Sport post-restoration. Click on the image below to play the slideshow and 4 arrow button at bottom right to enlarge.

Friday, September 12, 2014

New carpet installation, restoring the armrest and door sills on the Gran Sport

I thought I would share the latest phase of restoring the Gran Sport. That being interior work and more specifically the installation of new carpet, replacing the armrest and buffing the door sills along with a few other small items.

Reworking the interior in a classic car is one of the most important and value added parts of restoring a car. It ranks almost as high as a new paint job.  Unfortunately, it is not as simple as some may think and if you are not willing to do the work and have to send it to a shop it can become very expensive. An extensive interior restoration, which would include new carpet, seat covers, headliner, dash pad, door panels, package tray and various miscellaneous trim items can easily run into the $2,000 to $2,600 + range depending on the car.

Basically there are two types of carpet offered for classic cars.  The first is Loop-pile and as the name implies the fabric is woven in a loop formation. This is the style of carpet that came in the cars of the 60s and early 70s. The second is Cut-pile. This style has the brush look and is the type of carpet found in most modern cars.

Since the Gran Sport is very close to being factory original throughout I decided to install the Loop-pile type of carpet. If you are considering purchasing new carpet for your classic my suggestion is to not be guided by price, especially if you are the one who will be doing the installation. When I am shopping for carpet here are a few descriptive terms I am looking for:

1. I want it to be a custom cut for the specific car I am working on.
2. I am also looking for a carpet that is Custom Molded or Press Molded, this is carpet that has been formed by the factory to fit the indentations of the car's floor pattern such as the drop in the floor area forward of the seats and also to the rear of the seats. Molded carpet will also have a rise in it to accommodate the center hump covering the drive shaft and transmission.
3. One last item on my list is that the carpet has sufficient jute padding attached. The jute padding will help to reduce both exhaust and transmission heat as well as reducing interior noise. The only downside to thick jute padding is that it makes the carpet less flexible. All the more reason to purchase a Custom or Press molded carpet.

So with the above said, what you will see being installed in the GS carries the following description;  Loop-Pile 80/20 ( 80% Rayon and 20% Nylon compound, same as factory and very durable) Custom Molded  with 36-oz jute padding. This is high quality carpet and came with an official GM Licensed Product tag that guarantees it conforms to the original GM quality standards. Purchased through Year One Parts.

When you are looking at the picture of the carpet in the catalog it appears as if it is ready to simply be dropped into the car once the seats are removed. Not really the case. It has been folded and packed for shipping in a flat box that has probably been sitting on a shelf for months before being shipped to you.  As a result, it has creases and lumps from the packing and does not look like the perfect picture in the catalog. Once you receive the carpet I would suggest you remove it from the box and lay it out on a flat surface for 3 to 5 days. This will help to remove some of the unwanted lumps and creases. Placing weights on the worst of the areas will help.

Loop-pile is a heavy duty carpet that is naturally stiff and with the added 36-oz of jute it becomes even more difficult to manipulate. I highly recommend a steamer as it will help to relax the fibers and make the carpet much easier to work with. These are two types of steamers that I have used. I prefer the smaller black unit as it can be brought into the car and also because it is trigger controlled. This unit is made by Singer and can be purchased at stores such as WalMart, Target and Ebay. Obviously, the larger one is a clothes steamer and it can also be used, however I find it bulky and the steam flow is constant.

This is where the installation and fun begins.  Seats, console, seat belts, and door sills have been removed. This is also the time when you may find some unexpected rust holes in the flooring. Fortunately, this car has solid floors and that was not an issue. 

Always start with the front section. This is the most difficult area to work and the most time consuming.   This section is not a perfect fit regardless of what the ad states. You will have to trim areas such as along the front fire wall, both sides that fit under the door sills, headlight high beam switch, if located on the floor, and a hole for the shiftier if a center console is installed in the car. This picture shows the front section just placed in the car. Note some of the creases and lumps are still in the carpet from packing. Before cutting or measuring use the rubber heal protector that is built into the carpet as a guide. Position the carpet so that the heal protector is properly situated under the gas pedal and brake pedal. Once this is done look at the rear edge of the carpet that will be going under the seats (has finished edge) to make sure it is not at an angle and is 90 degrees to the door sills. THIS IS THE TIME TO MEASURE TWICE AND CUT ONCE.

At this is point I have been using the steamer and hand pressure to get the carpet as smooth as possible and molded to the flooring. If necessary, do not hesitate to go over any ridges or creases a few times with the steamer, it will not damage the carpet or cause the jute to separate. With this completed I made most of the major trim cuts for the front section and it is in place. As a note - the carpet needs to overlap into the door sill area about 1/4 inch. When the sill is replaced it will press down on the carpet and hold it in place.

The rear carpet section goes in the same as the front. One area to note is that the rear carpet goes under the trimmed edge of the front carpet. There should be a minimum of about 2 inches of overlap of the front section to the rear carpet. So, make the final cut of the front section along the firewall your last major cut in the event you have to slide the front carpet section back some to achieve the 2 inch overlap.   

As to the screwdrivers - when you are at the stage where both the front and rear carpets are in their final place and you are ready to re-install the seats, seat belts, etc., it is much easier to locate the various bolt holes while you can still pull the carpet up and see and feel their location. If it is a bolt, just cut around it with a razor knife. If it is a hole, mark it with something pointed such as a screw driver and cut an X over the hole. As this area of the carpet typically has the jute backing, I cut out the carpet and jute so I can actually see the hole. This makes it much easier to get the bolt to catch the threads. Never use an electric drill to make holes in carpet as the drill has the tendency to catch fibers of the carpet and wrap it around the bit and in a split second it will pull a run in your carpet and I know of no way to repair it. Also, as you re-install the seats check to make sure that there are no electrical wires that will be under the seat railing.

Some final touches to the interior.

This is the armrest on the driver's side door. With the new carpet and the remaining components in this car's interior being in excellent condition I could not let this eye sore remain.

Even though this Buick is considered an "A" body car and was designed to compete with the GTO,     Olds 442 and Chevy Chevelle, almost everything seems to be carried to a higher level. This armrest for example is made up of four components. There is a chrome back plate. the armrest base, metal trim and the armrest pad. It is the armrest pad that is damaged. On most "A" bodies the armrest pad is 11 inches but on the Gran Sport it is 16 inches. The passenger's side armrest was in good condition but when ordering replacement armrest pads they are only sold in pairs and they only come in one color: black. The cost is $80 for two pads. Over the years I have worked frequently with vinyl dye so I was not concerned with a color change, my main concern was with finding matching colors. The armrest is actually two colors. The pad is Ivory and the base is Slate. I removed the complete passenger side armrest and made a visit to a paint and body supply store that carries my favorite brand of vinyl dye which is SEM. This "Made in the USA" company produces excellent paint and vinyl dyes. If the surface is prepped properly it is as durable as the original color. They also carry a large selection of colors.  

This is the restored pad and armrest. I redyed the armrest pad, put a new coat of dye on the armrest base and polished the trim. As I stated above, the armrest pads are only sold in pairs, so I restored both the driver's side door as well as the passenger side. Now both are like new.

As installed

Being that a lot of components have been removed from the car in connection with the carpet replacement it is the best time to do as much restoration as possible and save the time of removing the same parts again. Door sills are one of the first things you see when you open the door and a large trim piece of the interior. On some of my other cars the sills were in rough shape and had to be replaced. These were actually in good condition, so while I had them out I buffed them out using green buffing compound and a buffing wheel. I also ordered and installed replacement "Body by Fisher" emblems, which gave them the new fresh look. 

This is a list of everything that was done during this interior phase of the restoration.  

New carpet installed, restored both armrest, buffed the sill plates, redyed the seat belt retractor covers, redyed the hard backing on the bucket seats, refurbished the complete console including new bulbs and wiring for the shift selector, replaced the rear speaker covers and dyed them to match the package tray.

The finished product.

Hope this was helpful!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Typical unexpected finds in restoring a classic car.

I thought I would share one of the unexpected finds in restoring the Gran Sport. In restoring any car that has been on the road for 45 years you expect to find issues that need attention. Some require just your labor, but most require your labor and money. The following is just a very small example of why nice Classic Cars are not cheap. People who have never restored a car and are looking to purchase one have no concept of the amount of hours required to bring a car to a good showable condition. I typically put in about 200 to 300 hours in a car's restoration. I work cheap but not for free. With the Gran Sport you may have noticed in the pictures that the car had an aftermarket radio/CD player.

In my opinion these aftermarket units really takeaway from the original appearance of the interior and also value. When I was looking at purchasing the Gran Sport I asked the owner if the dash had been cut to install the new radio and was told no. Cutting the dash in a classic car can create a huge problem in terms of repair cost. With this car the owner still had the original radio and it was in exceptional condition. Very often when a newer radio is installed the original is thrown in the trash. I was very fortunate that the prior owner kept the radio. A radio in this condition that still lights up and works is easily worth $500 + if you can find one.  I am one who does not listen to the radio/CD when driving a classic as I get more enjoyment listening to the V-8 working and enjoying just driving the car. My advice to anyone who is purchasing a classic car is to leave the original radio in the car, even if it does not work, and if your want to upgrade to a modern high performance sound system then install the new unit in the glove box and that way you have the best of both worlds. So with that said I proceeded to remove the aftermarket radio and re-install the original.

I was very fortunate in that the GS had a separate bezel to support the original radio.   Many classic cars have a solid dash with the holes precut by the factory for the knobs and faceplate to fit in and are very specific to the factory radio. As I attempted to install the original radio I noticed the bezel had been cut.

The 1969 Gran Sport with the 400 engine and Ram Air is somewhat of a rare car in that only 7,602 cars were produced for 1969. So trying to find a quality replacement bezel took me almost three hours on the internet as none of the Buick parts catalog stocked them. This little square of plastic cost $75 plus shipping. I will also need to be repainted and lettered.  This is something a typical purchaser may not even notice or understand the value it added to the car. This is the original radio installed and how it looked from the factory.

As I stated above if you would like to upgrade the sound system in your classic the glove box is a great place to install the new unit.  As you can see the JVC Stereo/CD/IPod player fits nicely into the Gran Sport's glove box.

This is a perfect car for this setup as the console has an additional storage compartment for insurance document, CDs etc.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Buick Gran Sport 400 in the works

My next project is underway. It's a '69 Buick Gran Sport 400. Here's a slideshow of some BEFORE restoration shots.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Great pics from the new Trans Am owners.

I just received a message and two pictures from the new owners of the '78 Trans Am. I really appreciate Ben and Jennifer taking the time to share their experience with the new member of their family. The following is the email I received.

First I wanted to thank you for making my wife's dreams a reality, as I mentioned before this was a car she wanted since she was in high school. It's been the talk of the neighborhood since we got it, I also received two offers on the car the two times I had it out. It's definitely an attention getter.

Other than some minor tweaks I've done to the car, overall we are happy with it. And just wanted to thank you for being honest and upfront with me, it really made it easy buying the car unseen. Also thank you for your patience and cooperation with the wire transfer and with the transport company. Overall a great experience dealing with you.

Thanks again,
Ben and Jennifer

click images to enlarge.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Help me find my next project.

The Trans Am has been delivered to its new owners. It was manufactured in Pontiac's Van Nuys, California plant and after 36 years it has returned home. The Trans Am was a real fun car to drive. It sounded great, had excellent handling, a great body style and every time I took it out for a drive I would always have several people give me the "thumbs up" sign and that is a very good feeling.

Now it is time to look for a new project. Over the last few years it has become increasingly difficult to find a quality car at a reasonable price. The pictures you see in the car ads rarely depict the actual condition of the car. Nine out of ten cars will fall into the "20 to 30 footers", those being cars that look good from 20 to 30 feet away, but as you get closer to the car you begin to see the rust, scratches, digs, poorly repaired body damage, cracks in the dash, faded interior and the list goes on. When I first began restoring cars I enjoyed going to see a potential new project but now I go with a very pessimistic eye. Most sellers will not volunteer information about the flaws in their car. If you don't ask they remain silent or if you don't know what to ask you can very easily purchase a money pit. It is not that I am looking for a car in restored condition, I am looking for a solid car that needs to be restored and one that the restoration cost does not exceed the value of the car. The 1964 1/2 through 1968 Mustangs are a good example of knowing what to ask. A decent looking coupe in average running condition can be purchased in the $8,000 to $10,000 range. One of the major problems with this era Mustang is with the air intake cowling. This is the vented area between the windshield and engine bay. Here's a pic to show what I'm talking about.

This cowling is where the fresh air comes into the car for cooling and heating.

Under the vented cowling is a metal box that has tubes to carry the air into the car and drain holes to allow water to escape. After a few years the drain holes typically became clogged from leaves and other debris allowing the cowling box to hold water and moisture. This metal air intake box was not painted, galvanized, or in any way protected from rusting when it was installed by Ford. With no protection from rust the bare metal quickly rusted through and water would leak into the dash area of the car, often causing severe damage to wiring and gauges.
If you are thinking a few hundred dollars to have the body shop fix it you are wrong. This is what is required to repair the box and stop the leak. The windshield has to be removed, the hood has to be removed, both fenders have to be removed and approximately 75 spot welds have to be drilled out. The average cost to have this repair performed at a body shop is between $2,800 and $3,200. Your Mustang still looks like an $8,000 to $10,000 car to everyone, but you just spent about $3,000 fixing a leak. Money that could have gone toward a nice paint job that would have enhanced the appearance and value of your car. In 1969 Ford began to install rust resistant cowling boxes in their Mustangs. This is one of the main reasons I purchased a 1969 Mustang to restore.

With all of the above said I can always use some help finding a new project. The following are the top ten cars I would like to restore. If you know of anyone who has one of these cars and is thinking about selling it please hit the "Contact Me" button and send me a message. It would be appreciated.

1. 1966-1967 Ford Fairlane GT 390 engine
2. 1965 Mercury Comet Cyclone or Caliente 289 V-8 & 4-Speed
3. 1964-1965 Chevy Malibu V-8 & 4-Speed
4. 1963 1/2 - 1965 Ford Falcon Sprint V-8 & 4-Speed
5. Plymouth Duster or Dodge Demon to 1972 340 or 360 engine & factory floor shift
6. 1966 Chevy II V-8 & 4-Speed
7. 1965-1968 Plymouth Baracuda v-8 & 4-speed
8. 1967-1969 Firebird 400 engine & factory floor shift ( auto or 4-speed)
9. 1964 Oldsmobile Cutlass 330 engine & 4-Speed
10. 1967-1970 Mercury Cougar V-8 & 4-Speed

Thursday, March 27, 2014


The Trans Am has been sold! This car gathered more interest than any of my previous cars. It was listed on five classic car internet sites and the attention this car generated was amazing. On Ebay alone it had over 4,000 viewers. And as with the Nova I am still receiving inquires from people interested in purchasing it. I had contacts from as far away as Norway. The purchaser was a very knowledgeable classic car enthusiast from California who owned two of the nicest Camaros I have seen in a while. One was a white SS/RS that looked like it just rolled off the show room floor and the second was a dark green completely restored Z-28. It is nice to see high quality Camaros in colors other than red, black and silver. The restoration workmanship was as good as it gets for these two beauties. The Trans Am was purchased to become his wife's classic car so it appears classic cars are deeply embedded in this family.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Repairs, parts and finish work on the Trans Am

This is a postscript to the introduction of my latest restoration project the Firebird Trans Am. The following are some of the repairs, parts and finish work that has gone into restoring this vehicle into not just an extremely nice appearing classic car, but also one that I feel is safe and reliable. Without a doubt the most important of these items is safety. The truth is, regardless of how extensive the restoration process is, a classic car will never approach the safety features of a new car. A good example of this is my 1968 GTO, which by the way was "Car of the Year" in 1968, has the following safety features; power brakes, padded dash and seat belts. There are no air bags, ABS brakes, steel reinforced doors or energy absorbing crumple zone technology. They are fine for short trips to car shows or events but long distance driving is something I would discourage. From the 1968 GTO to the 1978 Trans Am the safety factor did improve substantially. For example, the brakes are not just power brakes they are power disk brakes with large rotors, the seat belts are three-point design (The shoulder strap is connected to the lap belt), which helps to keep your face from becoming part of the windshield in an accident, the car's body is lower to the ground and therefore the center of gravity is also lower, reducing the possibility of rollover. The suspension was modernized to take advantage of the radial tire design. There is an actual plaque on the dash of the Trans Am stating it has "Radial Tuned Suspension". This resulted in a substantial improvement in overall handling and control of the vehicle. If I had to choose between the GTO and the Trans Am for an extended trip the Trans Am would win out every time.

To move forward with the restoration process a good point to begin is to say the front suspension has been reworked with new bushings & ball joints, shocks on all four corners, no play in the steering and the brakes are in excellent working condition. The paint is approximately one year old and is a base / clear coat using the original color code of the car (Martinique Blue). Eagle Decal graphics along with all Trans Am decals are new and do not have any flaws, blemishes or bubbles. The A/C has the newer style compressor and drier manufactured by Classic Auto Air and the system has been converted to the R134A refrigerant. The seats were originally cloth and have been replaced with new vinyl, which I greatly prefer. The carpet, floor mats, seat belts, console box, rear package tray, rear seat side molding, door panels and dash are either new or like new. New exterior door handles. All gauges work. Dash has factory tachometer and working clock. New gas tank and sending unit. Like new alternator. New battery. Duel exhaust with high flow mufflers. Correct chrome split exhaust tips. New complete 3:42 rear axle gears. New weatherstriping on doors, windows, trunk and hood scoop. When I purchased the car it would start in any gear, a very dangerous problem, I installed a new Neutral Safety Switch which did not correct the problem it was later discovered that linkage from the transmission that controlled the switch was actually missing, new linkage was purchased and installed by Protrans Inc of Tampa and the problem was solved. New headlight dimmer switch was install as someone apparently decided it was not needed and completely removed the switch leaving only the wires hanging. Transmission has a mild shift kit installed (shifts normal under normal driving conditions and quicker when the engine is pushed hard). The ignition is a Pertronix Flame Thrower electronic with about 45,000 volts to the plugs running through 8MM spark plug wires. The tires are Uniroyal Tiger Paws GTS size P245-60-R15 with excellent tread depth mounted on factory "Snowflake" style aluminum wheels with new Firebird emblem center caps.

The car was purchased in a city approximately 60 miles from Tampa, during the drive home I noticed the temperature gauge was fluctuating between 220 degrees and 240 degrees. The fluctuation is typically caused by a failing thermostat that is no longer capable of adjusting to the changes in the cooling system pressure. Once home I flushed the radiator, installed an new 160 degree High Flow thermostat and the car now runs at 200 degrees even in traffic. I tell people all classic cars have their quirks and that is what makes them different and part of the fun of ownership. This car is 36 years old and even with all of the above described restoration work it is not a 100% perfect Barrett-Jackson show car, but it is a very solid car that will get you home at the end of the day and it is a knockout to look at. The attention this car gathers is amazing.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

1978 Pontiac Firebird 400 Trans Am

Another Pontiac restored. My favorite brand of Classic Cars. Classic Muscle car styling and big block torque was the trademark of Pontiac. What a mistake to terminate the Pontiac Division and keep Buick. I would typically not venture into this late model of a car (Like 1972 and older) however this model of Trans Am has always been one of my favorite style of the mid 70s cars. There are only a hand full of older American cars, that when you look at them, they say get in and turn the key and I will take you for a real ride. Cars like the Cobra, Barracudas, some Vetts, Shelby Mustangs and Dodge Chargers are a few that come to mind. I feel this Trans Am is in that class. When you look at this car there is nothing that says this is the family grocery getter. It is "Smokey and the Bandit" in blue. The following is an overview of the car. In 1978 the Trans Am was offered with two 6.6 Litre engine options. The first and by far the best was the "Z" code 400 Pontiac, which was first offered in the 1967 GTO, and the second option was the 403 Oldsmobile engine, also known as the California engine, due to the additional smog emission equipment that was added to comply with California's regulations. The 403 Oldsmobile engine was the only engine California would permit the Pontiac dealers to sell in the Trans Am. Needless to say the more emission equipment that was loaded onto an engine the lower the HP and torque dropped. This car is the "Z" code Pontiac 400. This is also a well optioned car in that it has the following goodies from the factory such as Air Conditioning, power steering, power disk brakes, tilt steering wheel, power windows & locks, full console, rear window defroster, tachometer, clock (actually works), factory Snowflake sport wheels, T-Tops (Two sizes were offered and this car has the large style aka Fisher Body style), radio antenna mounted in the windshield and tinted glass. There have been some upgrades made to the car and I will add those on a later post.

Click on image below to play slideshow and 4 arrow button at bottom right to enlarge.