Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Waiting Game

Well, there's not much new on the Camaro to report.  I did get in my welder, a Hobart 140, and as soon as I pick up a hood, I'll start practicing on that sheet metal.  I also need to pick up a roll of .025/023 wire and some gas.  It's been a bad week for doing much of anything, what with work and graduations and weddings and other crap like that.

Next step is to get a cherry picker, and pull the engine and trans, pull all the front suspension, and then start stripping and cleaning all of it for reassembly.  I'll get the front of the body cleaned up, look for any serious rust/holes.  Then I'll re-coat what I need to in order to get the subframe and front suspension back on.  I'd like to have that intact, just to make the rest of the disassembly go as smooth as possible.

I may be able to get some of this taken care of this weekend.  Stay tuned for some more pictures, and some kind of actual progress. . .

Monday, May 23, 2011

Removal of fenders and wheelhouses, etc. . .

I have not worked on the car for a week, but had made some good  progress I hadn't posted.  Here's the rest of the breakdown of the body parts on the front clip.

Removal of the drivers side and passenger side fenders was fairly simple.  The only trouble I ran into were a few rusted bolts that were easily cut free.

 You can see where the wheelhouse has rotted out.  The other side is about exactly the same.

You can see the problem here.  Actually, the smaller panel underneath can be saved with a little grinding and little or no welding.  The fender could be saved as well, if I knew how to weld sheet metal.  I'm going to give it a go anyway--it'll be a good learning experience.

The back end of the fender's not too bad.

With the wheelhouse gone, it's starting to look pretty bare!

Passenger side.  You can see the radiator and mount still attached.  They came off next.

Now the easy stuff is all off.  Acutally, none of this is too bad.  This car, as others of its era, are very easy to work on.  Next on the list is to rent a cherry picker, pull the engine and transmission, then pull the subframe.  After that, it will be cleaning/inspecting.  I'll be looking for serious rust spots, and other repair problems.

So far, the only real rust has been in those two fenders/wheelhouses.  If the back half is as good as the front, this will be a little bit easier than I've estimated.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tear-down begins

The first thing is the removal of the front bumper, and the grille.  From this point on, I move to the valances on the top and bottom.  The beautiful thing about the front clip on a Camaro is that everything forward of the firewall simply bolts on.

Here we are with the valances and hood removed.  The hood weighs a ton, but wasn't really that tough to tackle, even alone.  But I'm kinda big and dumb, so maybe I just don't know any better.  The next step is to move to the fenders.

Note the antifreeze in the catch pan.  The cooling system gets drained, since the radiator has to come out.  When this goes back together, one of the modifications will be a nice big triple-core radiator and one or two electric fans.  That will go along with the engine swap, which I'll get into later.

Here you can see one of the classic problem areas on the Camaro.  There is a natural shelf that collects water and salt and grime, and eventually rots out the front fender right where it joins that lower trim piece.  The really funny thing is, when I got this off, the trim piece can be saved.  But the fender. . .  Maybe if I knew how to run a welder I could save it, but I have my doubts. . .

Here's another shot of that problem-area.  Nasty.  Some of the bolts and bodywork had rusted into a single mass, and had to be cut away for removal.  But it's interesting:  Most of the rust is just surface scale.  Aside from a few bad spots, the metal is really pretty good.

 Here's that Turbo-Thrift 250.  Really, there are a lot of things that can be done with this motor.  I'll include some links later.  Some folks have this same thing turning 12 second quarter-miles in some early Novas.  I will probably not be using this engine, but I haven't completely made up my mind yet.  I am seriously considering swapping in a 4200 Vortec L6 and 4-speed automatic--hopefully the later version which was rated by the factory at about 300 hp.  There is something very attractive about having a modern engine that retains some of the spirit of the original.  And consider, at 300 hp, it would actually have about the same, or slightly more horsepower than an original, correct 327 V8.

Any dummy can shovel in a small-block V8 into a Camaro.  And frankly, so many people have done it that that route holds no interest for me whatsoever.

Next up:  Fenders, front wheelhouses, radiator and support.

In the Beginning

In the beginning, there's just this car.  The car happens to be a 1968 Camaro, which is a good thing.  And it's been sitting out in the weather for the better part of 14 years, which is definitely not a good thing.

So a little about the car:  Grandma Garnett bought it to get back and forth to work in, shortly after being widowed (as I understand).  She saw a co-worker's car in the parking lot, and loved it so much she had to have one.  She didn't get the SS--she told me once she liked the SS, but at the time could not afford the extra gas.  She got the one with the 250 Turbo-Thrift straight six.  250 cubic inches is right around 4.1 liters, for you metric folks who pay attention to that stuff.  As far as power goes, it doesn't have a lot.  Although the torque characteristics of the inline engine do give it more get up and go than you might imagine.  The transmission is ye olde 2-speed Powerglide.  I am told that for drag racing, a powerglide can be great.  I'll tell you from experience: Around town it's OK.  On the highway it's a total pig.

Something a lot of folks don't quite understand is the niche ponycars originally filled.  These didn't start out as hotrods.  The Mustang and Camaro were more like the Honda Civic (gag) of today.  They were cheaper, entry-level cars that easily and cheaply lent themselves to high-performance modifications.  So grandma's little Turbo-Thrift is mostly just fine.  It's a lesser Camaro, and an original bit of that history.

When me and my brothers were little, we'd go up to Grandma Garnett's condo in Salt Lake for visits.  She was a neat lady who enjoyed life.  The little green Camaro fit her just perfect.  The best memory of this car was sitting on the boiling hot vinyl in the back seat, and getting ice cream cones.  I can close my eyes and see it now.  Kinda makes me itch for the soft-serve as I type this.

Well, at that young age I got two things stuck in my head.  First, I wanted that Camaro.  I never quit badgering my grandma about it.  Had to have it.  The second thing was that I just had to be a Marine like my dad (whom we also visited at my grandmas--but that's a whole different story).  I did end up with both, eventually.

The sad thing is, as a starving university student, you simply cannot afford to restore a car like that.  You can hardly afford to drive one.  Even though it didn't have a 327 or 350 V8, it never got better than 18 miles to the gallon or so.  Not good for the tight, tight budget.  I drove it for a short time, but it wasn't long before I had to park it and find something cheaper.

From that point to today, the poor thing has not had a good life.  I won't make any excuses--most of the work ahead of me on this is my fault.  I would tell anyone in the same situation:  Get rid of the car.  Sell it to someone who will love it.  Because you don't know how long it will be before you can do anything with it, and it's simply a shame to let them sit and rot.

And sit and rot, it did.

At one point it even got violated, when somebody decided to strip it of some hard to find parts.  I lost the rear bumper, the AM radio (???), the guage cluster, and a bunch of chrome trim.  It was obvious that someone had stolen the parts to restore their own car.

Let me just say this:  If you're the monkey running around with my parts on your Camaro, I hope some stupid hoon in a Civic runs you off the road.  I hope you're the guy that gets keyed in the parking lot.  I hope the AM radio shorts out and burns your car and your garage to the ground.  Because you deserve it.

Well, circumstances change.  I finally have a place to start the restoration properly.  And when I'm done, my hope is to have this car be essentially brand-new.  It won't be 100% stock, but it's going to be close.  And any non-stock items I add are purely to make it a better machine out on the road.  It's not going to be a hot-rod.  It's just going to be a great all-around machine.  Good to go down to the grocery store, or good to drive from L.A. to New York.

This Blog is going to be the chronicle of this restoration process.  I hope it's detailed enough.  I'm going to try to include everything possible, with lots of photos and notes.  I'm going to tear the car down completely--down to the last nut and bolt.  Then it's going back together one piece at a time.  It's gonna be fun, folks.